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Recent sightings

  • 31 August 2014

    31 August recent sightings: Early afternoon update

    Good afternoon. I am not going to be here for most of this week, so I thought I would provide an early afternoon update of what has been going on here over the weekend so far.

    When I arrived yesterday, I was unlocking the date and a marbled orb weaver landed on my hand which was lovely to see. As the morning went on, a barn owl was seen from the Washland viewpoint and a kingfisher was seen from New Fen viewpoint.

    It proved to be another "red letter day" for kingfishers yesterday as not only was one seen from Joist Fen viewpoint, another perched on one of the window ledges in Mere Hide! The lucky couple who spotted it sat transfixed as it perched there for a couple of minutes before flying off. How lucky was that?!

    As the day went on, a black tailed godwit flew north over the reserve and a sparrowhawk flashed low over the visitor centre pond. The great white egret was also seen on the washland north of West Wood, the furthest poplar plantation. 

    It was a lovely morning this morning so I decided to go for a walk around Brandon Fen before work. I spooked a female roe deer at the edge of the path and a treecreeper was calling at the end of the new trail ramp. As I walked along the riverbank, a juvenile marsh harrier was hunting in front of me. As It flew over the grazing marsh, it flushed a redshank which flew off towards the washland, calling as it went. 

    As I walked towards the Washland viewpoint, a group of bearded tits popped up at the top of the reeds next to the path. This included at least one adult male, which I got a really great view of. A little egret flew west along the river and two swallows were feeding over the large pool. 

    A meadow pipit flew south over the Washland viewpoint and there were plenty of common darters on the wing near the pond dipping platform. Volunteer Roy headed down the reserve and saw two kingfishers from Mere Hide. There were also plenty of migrant hawkers on the wing, including several that have perched up obligingly like this:

    Image credit: Tim James

    The great white egret has also been seen from the Washland viewpoint which is a great sign, as it hasn't been seen that close to the visitor centre for several weeks. Here is a picture of it that was taken a few weeks ago:

    Image credit: Ian Tulloch

    The weather forecast for this week isn't looking too bad so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 30 August 2014

    30 August recent sightings: Late summer fun

    Good morning. The weather has been fairly kind this week which is good news for everybody enjoying the last week of the summer holidays. There has been plenty to see over the last week and here are some great images that we have been sent:

    A red admiral:

    A female common darter:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    A juvenile water rail:

    A male roe deer:

    A kingfisher:

    Image credits: John Gamble

    Thank you very much to Matt and John for sharing these images with us!

    On the subject of kingfishers, these beautiful little birds have been showing really well on the reserve recently. The two current "hotspots" are New Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide. You may also be interested to hear that we have two "kingfisher quest" events next weekend. One is on Saturday and the other on Sunday. Please click on the links for details about how to book places.

    I have a large list of sightings in front of me so I will do my best to pick out as many as I can! Despite the weather on Monday, two stoats were gambolling around in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and a bittern was seen in flight nearby. At least two bearded tits were seen from Mere Hide and at least 50 swifts were feeding over the far end of the reserve.

    On Tuesday, there were six little grebes on the washland and at least four common terns feeding in the large pool. There were dragonflies everywhere and the skies were just full of migrant hawkers. I saw a late black tailed skimmer near the Washland viewpoint and when I reached the viewpoint, a male clouded yellow flew right past me. This was a reserve "tick" for me so I was really rather pleased! 

    I had a walk around Brandon Fen on Wednesday morning and a muntjac deer ran across the path right in front of me. A meadow pipit flew from the washland into the grazing marsh and a common buzzard flew south over the visitor centre. 

    It was really rather dreary on Thursday morning but it did eventually brighten up. Roy saw a kingfisher and a water rail from Mere Hide. He also saw two hobbys over West Wood. The great white egret was also seen in flight near Joist Fen viewpoint. It has been pretty elusive recently so it's good to know that its still here! 

    There were at least 80 coots on the washland yesterday along with three little grebes. Two swallows were feeding over the large pool and a kestrel was hovering nearby.

    We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 25 August 2014

    25 August recent sightings: A sign of the times

    Good morning. I hope you are enjoying the long Bank Holiday weekend! I will begin with a selection of photos that have been taken here in the last week. Thank you very much to local photographer Matt Walton for sharing them with us:

    A cryptically camouflaged roe deer:


    A lovely barn owl:

    A female kestrel:

    Two lovely shots of kingfishers:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    I will start where I left off on Friday. There were three swifts and three swallows over the visitor centre. A common buzzard also flew over the car park. Although the weather deteriorated in the afternoon, volunteer Lawrence saw a marsh harrier from New Fen viewpoint and a charm of around 40 goldfinches near Joist Fen viewpoint.  

    There was definitely a seasonal flavour to Saturday's sightings, with migration very much in evidence. The Washland viewpoint was the place to be with at least 30 house martins, 12 sand martins, 10 swallows and 10 swifts. There were two hobbys over the poplar woods and kingfishers were very conspicuous. At least two were seen from New Fen viewpoint and two were seen from Mere Hide. 

    As the day went on, an adult and a juvenile water rail were seen from Mere Hide. Suzanne and Roy also saw two sparrowhawks from the visitor centre window.

    It was a pleasant day yesterday and the great white egret was seen from various places along the riverbank over the course of the day. There were two hobbys feeding over the washland and a bittern flew very close to Mere Hide. 

    An eagle-eyed visitor spotted some hare's-foot clover growing alongside the hard track and he also saw several marbled orb weavers. This is the first sighting of this species of spider this year. Please click on the link above for a picture of this attractive species of spider. 

    I popped in with my parents yesterday afternoon and we spent half an hour at the Washland viewpoint. We saw at least two garganeys on the large pool and a yellow wagtail flew over. There were plenty of dragonflies on the wing including several migrant hawkers and large numbers of common darters.

    I returned to the Washland viewpoint with my father this morning and a kingfisher flew right past us just as we got to the viewpoint. There were at least 70 mute swans present on the pool along with over 100 coots and at least 10 little grebes.

    Although the weather forecast isn't looking great for today, it looks set to improve for the rest of the week so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 22 August 2014

    22 August recent sightings: Bank holiday bonanza!

    Good morning. I will start a sequence of action shots of the great white egret catching a fish that were taken earlier on this week:

    Ready to pounce:

    Pouncing in a blur of white:


    Lunch on the wing:

    Job done, looking rather proud of itself:

    Image credits: Ken Allsebrook

    Thank you very much to Ken for sharing these great images with us!

    The great white egret has now been present for over a month and seems to favour either the washland north of the river, or New Fen North (the first area of reedbed.) It has been seen every day this week so if you are planning to come and look for it, please ask in the visitor centre for the latest information on its whereabouts. 

    There has been plenty of other things to see this week. At least two bitterns were seen on Sunday. This included one from Mere Hide and one that flew over New Fen North. I accompanied a family for a session of pond dipping and our movements were being carefully monitored by an extremely inquisitive female emperor dragonfly. We also saw an azure damselfly and a male common darter

    A couple of late swifts were lingering over the visitor centre on Monday and a kingfisher was seen from the visitor centre window. Dave also saw three kestrels over Brandon Fen. 

    On Wednesday, we had a meeting in the morning and while we were outside looking at the plant beds, I got distracted by a lovely brown argus butterfly that was fluttering around nearby. Just as we left, there was news of an Arctic tern over the washland, but more about that below!

    When I popped up to the washland mid-morning yesterday to look for said Arctic tern, I couldn't find it. I saw three common terns and a hobby. However, volunteer Steve and his grandson lingered at the viewpoint. Sure enough, moreorless as soon as I got back to the office, Steve phoned saying "Arctic tern on the washland!" I eventually got a chance to go up there, ( I reminded myself how unfit I am by jogging up there!) I did see the "Arctic" fishing gracefully with the local common terns. Thank goodness for that!

    Meanwhile, volunteer Roy went for a walk down to Joist Fen viewpoint and he saw at least four marsh harriers hunting in front of the viewpoint. He also saw kingfishers from both Mere Hide and New Fen viewpoint. 

    The weather forecast is looking quite nice for this weekend so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 17 August 2014

    17 August recent sightings: Whatever next?!

    Good morning. I will start of where I left off on Friday. Two adult kingfishers were perched up at the edge of the visitor centre pond and a water rail was skulking about in the same area. The great white egret was seen from New Fen viewpoint along with two kingfishers. A common buzzard flew over and a bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Dave popped down to Mere Hide during the afternoon and spotted a water rail preening at the edge of the pool. 

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen yesterday morning and heard a marsh tit calling alongside the new trail. A male marsh harrier was hunting over the washland and a bearded tit was calling in front of the Washland viewpoint. As I followed the grassy path around the side of the visitor centre, a juvenile cuckoo flew across right in front of me.

    As the morning went on, the great white egret was again seen from New Fen viewpoint along with a kingfisher. A whinchat was spotted alongside the riverside Public Footpath which is a good record for this time of year. Several bearded tits were showing from Mere Hide and two hobbys were keeping low over New Fen North, the first area of reedbed. 

    I went and had a quick look for the whinchat in the afternoon and although I didn't see it, I found the great white egret on the washland north of East Wood. It positively dwarfed the little egret that was feeding next to it! I also saw a lovely green veined white feeding on some purple loosestrife on the way up to the Public Footpath. 

    Volunteer Roy was out and about updating our reserve signs and he found several common lizards basking alongside East Wood. He also found lots of brassica bugs, which are very conspicuous at the moment if you know where to look.

    Meanwhile, back at the visitor centre volunteer John witnessed a moment of high drama: A water vole attempted to swim across the visitor centre pond, only to be "put off" by a pike that made an almighty splash from beneath the depths. Needless to say, the water vole retreated back the way it came rather quickly! 

    The weather has not been ideal for photography for the last couple of days but here are a couple of pictures that have been taken on the reserve recently:

    A posing peacock butterfly:

    Image credit: David White

    A female southern hawker:

    Image credit: Ian Tulloch

    There is currently plenty to see so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 15 August 2014

    15 August recent sightings: Still full of surprises

    Good morning. The weather has continued to be rather unpredictable over the last couple of days but there has been plenty to see nonetheless.

    If I start off where I left off on Tuesday, volunteer Paul counted 124 coots on the washland which is a pretty good count for this time of year. I lead a guided walk in the evening and we were very surprised to see an albino house martin feeding in amongst several other "normal coloured" ones. I have certainly never seen an individual like this before so it was a real treat.

    We then started walking down towards East Wood and a juvenile cuckoo flew out of a bush right in front of me. We went down to New Fen viewpoint and enjoyed a lovely sunset. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me but as they say, "here is one I took earlier" (or last week in fact:)

    Image credit: David White

    A kingfisher flashed across the pool in front of us and a female roe deer wandered across the hard track in front of us as we walked back.

    It seems like Wednesday was definitely a day to see kingfishers. They seemed to be popping up all over the place. At least three were seen from New Fen viewpoint and singles were seen from both Joist Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide over the course of the day. Several bitterns were also seen, with the majority of sightings coming from Mere Hide.

    Yesterday started well with the surprise appearance of presumably the same juvenile cuckoo from Tuesday perched on one of the perches at the edge of the visitor centre pond. It was soon replaced by a kingfisher, which spent most of the morning fishing in the pool at perching at the edge of it.

    I went out for a short walk up to the Washland viewpoint with the attendees of the Wildlife Explorers summer club meeting. We saw two common buzzards and a red-banded sand wasp. If you are not familiar with these slightly scary looking parasitic wasps, here is a picture of one:

    Image credit: Tim James

    Meanwhile, elsewhere on the reserve, the great white egret was seen from the Washland viewpoint and there were several painted lady butterflies on the wing. Local photographer Matt Walton also photographed this kingfisher in front of Mere Hide:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

    If you are planning to visit this weekend, the weather forecast isn't looking too bad. Sadly, most of the planned events won't be taking place tomorrow but please see this blog post for what you can do if you come and visit. We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 12 August 2014

    12 August recent sightings: Stormy clouds

    Good morning. I will begin this morning with a correction from Friday's blog post. The dragonfly image is actually a migrant hawker as opposed to an emperor dragonfly as I originally stated. Apologies for this mis-identification and many thanks to Ian Tulloch for putting me right. 

    The weather has been really rather unpredictable recently but there has still been plenty to see. I lead a guided walk on Sunday morning and despite the ominous looking clouds, we did see plenty. A sparrowhawk flew out of West Wood and flapped steadily over New Fen North towards the visitor centre. A kestrel was also hovering over Mere Hide. 

    When we got to Joist Fen viewpoint, at least four bearded tits were flying around at the edge of the pool and a yellow wagtail flew over. Just as we left the viewpoint, a kingfisher flew low in front of us, calling as it went. When we reached the edge of Trial Wood, two reed warblers were perched out in the open which was lovely to see. 

    Although it rained for most of the morning, a juvenile kingfisher kept appearing at the edge of the visitor centre pond and posed on the various perches at the edge of the pool. There was also a "band" (yes, that is the collective noun!) of five jays in front of the visitor centre that kept squabbling over the peanut feeder.  

    The few visitors that braved the weather were rewarded as they saw the great white egret on the washland north of West Wood. It was accompanied by seven little egrets. They also saw a bittern land right in front of Mere Hide and at least one hobby was flying low over the poplar woods. 

    The great white egret was again seen yesterday. This time, it was seen flying along the river towards the west end of the reserve. Suzanne also saw a hobby was also seen over the west end of the reserve. I came down for a walk in the evening. I saw a red-eyed damselfly resting along side the public footpath and two sparrowhawks over New Fen North. 

    The main reason why I came down though was to capture some images of the stormy clouds. These were taken sequentially with the first image being taken just before 7pm:

    Image credits: David White

    I hope you like them! 

    Before I go, here is a plug for our Fenland wildlife bonanza of events on Saturday. We have events going on throughout the day and it is open to everybody. Please click this link for more details. 

    The good news is that the weather forecast is looking better for most of this week so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 10 August 2014

    Bee kind

    As the weather has been decidedly dodgy for the last couple of days,  I will tell you about an exciting discovery that was made on the reserve last week. A recent sightings post will follow on Tuesday morning. 

    Botany Bay, at the west end of the reserve has been home to a rare species of solitary bee for several years. Its given name is Macropis europeaea, or the slightly more user friendly moniker of the: yellow-loosestrife bee.  As its name suggests, it is closely associated to yellow loosestrife, which looks like this:

    Image credit: Katherine Puttick

    The yellow-loosestrife bee is restricted to southern Britain, so we are very lucky that this species of solitary bee calls the reserve home.

    The exciting discovery that I mentioned above was that at the beginning of last week, Katherine our Warden photographed a yellow-loosestrife bee  less than half a mile away from the visitor centre. Here it is:

    Image credit: Katherine Puttick

    The reason why this find is so significant is that this is the first time that this species has been recorded on the "newly created" part of the reserve. Botany Bay is actually an area of original fenland so has never been drained. It is therefore fantastic news that several individuals have found there way to an area that was arable farmland twenty years ago. 

    Incidentally, it is an interesting story of how the yellow loosestrife found its way "back" here while the reserve was being created. This plant would have been widespread in the area before the drainage of the Fens. While the Fens were being drained around 400 years ago, the seeds from all of the plants retreated to the seed bank, only waiting for some water to be "reintroduced"....

    Sure enough, while the reserve was being created and water was being "reintroduced", around 100 species of fenland plant sprung up out of the ground and yellow loosestrife was one of them!  It is now widespread across the reserve and its attendant species of solitary bee has found it close to the visitor centre! 

    If you would like to come and see this species for yourself, the good news is that it will be on the wing until early September. Several individuals have been seen feeding on a patch of yellow loosestrife between the visitor centre and East Wood, the first poplar wood. More detailed directions can be found from the visitor centre on arrival. We have even put a little sign next to the best area to look.

    If you would like any more information about this exciting discovery, please ring 01842 863400 or e-mail; we hope to see you soon!


    Posted by David White

  • 8 August 2014

    8 August recent sightings: Beetles and much more

    Good morning. It has been another warm week which has meant good news for our local invertebrates. Here are a few pictures that have been taken here this week:

    A dor beetle:

    A mint leaf beetle:

    Image credits: Richard O'Brien

    A migrant hawker:

    Meanwhile, "back to the birds", water rails have also been rather photogenic from Mere Hide. Here is one scuttling across the pool:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Richard and Matt for sharing these great pictures with us.

    The great white egret is still present and has been seen most days this week. It has been very mobile though. It has ranged from the washland to right at the far end of the reserve. 

    There were five common buzzards circling over the visitor centre on Tuesday and a kingfisher was fishing in the visitor centre pond.

    Ali and Katherine saw two cranes near Joist Fen viewpoint on Wednesday, along with seven little egrets and two green sandpipers. There were also at least two kingfishers showing well in front of New Fen viewpoint. 

    It was really rather warm yesterday and while we were pond dipping, we could hear a nightingale calling in the bushes nearby. Needless to say, we didn't actually see it. It was good to know that it was there nonetheless though! A juvenile whitethroat was hopping about on the visitor centre lawn and at least three jays were squabbling over who got to feed on the peanut feeder! 

    Those of you who read our blog regularly will know its Ali's last day today. You can read more about where she is going next in her blog post from Wednesday

    I don't want to steal her thunder but I would just like to say that it has been a pleasure working with her and sharing the reserve blog with her. I have found her reserve management posts really informative and I hope you have to. My personal favourite post was "Exposing the copy cats" from the beginning of July this year. If you haven't read it yet, it is well worth the read. It still makes me chuckle a month and a bit on! 

    I will finish off with a picture of a personal memento from Ali's time here:

    Image credit: David White

    This was a place mat that Ali made from me using something called: "pyro crafting". It sounds like quite a scary process but it created a fantastic looking result! 

    Good luck in your new job Ali from all of the team here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen! 

    Posted by David White

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
20 Aug 2014
Marsh Harrier (5)
29 Aug 2014
Turtle Dove (1)
29 Aug 2014
Kingfisher (1)
29 Aug 2014
Water Rail ()
25 Aug 2014
Bearded Tit ()
25 Aug 2014
Cetti's Warbler ()
25 Aug 2014
Barn Owl (3)
20 Aug 2014
Little Egret (6)
29 Aug 2014
Stock Dove ()
29 Aug 2014

Contact us

Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 52.44839,0.53250
  • Postcode: IP27 9AD
  • Grid reference: TL722864
  • Nearest town: Brandon, Suffolk
  • County: Suffolk
  • Country: England

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