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Recent sightings

  • 3 March 2015

    3 March recent sightings: A right old song and dance

    Good morning. We have had another great couple of days here. I will begin though with a picture I have not shared yet:

    A roe deer grazing alongside the entrance track:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

    Roy and Emma spent most of the day out on the reserve on Saturday. They saw two great white egrets on the washland along with three little egrets. They also saw a water pipit.

    There were at least eight marsh harriers hunting in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and a single barnacle goose was feeding alongside the river near the viewpoint. This is a very unusual bird for here indeed. Perhaps it was the same bird that was here in late 2012/ early 2013:

    Image credit: Dave Rogers

    The excitement didn't end there for Emma. As she was leaving, she saw two muntjac deer and four roe deer alongside the entrance track.

    Emma C (our new Warden) was in on Sunday and she saw a stoat alongside the Fen pools. Volunteers Roger and Janet went down the reserve and were lucky enough to see one of our resident pairs of cranes dancing in Humphrey's Paddock, the grazing marsh in front of Joist Fen viewpoint. 

    I went for a walk before work this morning. A hungry barn owl was hunting persistently over Brandon Fen and I saw it catch and eat a water shrew. A song thrush was also singing nearby. It was obviously a great mimic as I heard it doing impressions of a greenshank and a stone curlew. Clever bird!

    I spent some time up at the Washland viewpoint and a great white egret was right in front of the viewpoint. A water pipit was also showing well nearby.

    The weather forecast isn’t looking too bad for this week so why not come and visit? I will leave you with some pictures of a partially ermine stoat that were taken on the reserve recently. We hope to see you soon!:


    Image credits: David Mackey

    Oh, and thank you very much to Matt and David for sharing their great images with us!

    Posted by David White

  • 27 February 2015

    27 February recent sightings: So much to say, so little time!

    Good morning. This week has been great as there has just been so much to see! I will start with some photographs that have been taken in the last week:

    Firstly, we have these lovely images of a long tailed tit that were taken by eight year old Amber Wallis:

    Image credits: Amber Wallis

    Secondly, here are one of our resident pairs of cranes, Little and Large, coming into land in Humphrey’s Paddock:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

    Thirdly, here are two species of herons...

    A great white egret:

    ... And a bittern:

    Image credits: Ron Smith

    Thank you very much to Amber, Matt and Ron for sharing these wonderful images with us.

    I will start off by returning to Sunday. A red kite flew low over the visitor centre and a male sparrowhawk was perched at the edge of the visitor centre pond.

    Meanwhile, further down the reserve, four cranes were showing from Joist Fen viewpoint and a bittern was seen in flight. There were also at least five marsh harriers hunting in front of the viewpoint.

    On Monday, a pair of cranes flew over the visitor centre and there were 46 tufted ducks on the washland.

    On Tuesday, a red kite flew over the visitor centre and a common buzzard flew over Brandon Fen.

    As Dave mentioned in his blog post on Wednesday, everybody (apart from me) went down early to listen for bitterns. As well as the bitterns that Dave mentioned, Katherine was lucky enough to see two otters playing near New Fen viewpoint.

    Meanwhile, Suzanne was stationed at Joist Fen viewpoint. She saw at least 10 bearded tits and two barn owls. I popped down later on in the day and saw an oystercatcher on the washland just north of New Fen North. I saw a great white egret in flight heading north of Joist Fen viewpoint and a common buzzard was perched up close to the viewpoint.

    On the way back through the reserve, a cheeky stoat was squaring up to me on the hard track near Mere Hide and I was following a barn owl that was hunting between New Fen viewpoint and the visitor centre.

    I saw seven roe deer alongside the entrance track as drove in yesterday morning and a muntjac deer was skulking around in Brandon Fen. A barn owl was hunting over the grazing marsh and a great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint. 

    Emma and I went down to listen for bitterns early this morning and we heard probably two birds booming west of Joist Fen viewpoint. I also saw two individual birds in flight.  One of the pairs of cranes flew over and seven whooper swans flew north across the river. Emma saw 51 lapwings in one of the areas of grazing marsh at the west end of the reserve.

    As you can see there is plenty to see on the reserve at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 21 February 2015

    21 February recent sightings: A bit of variety

    Good afternoon. I've got a busy day planned tomorrow so, slightly earlier than usual, here are some recent sightings.

    Suzanne went for a walk at lunchtime on Thursday and saw two great white egrets from New Fen viewpoint. She also saw a stonechat perched up on the riverbank.

    The reserve team were also busy building a willow fence between the path up to the washland and the pond dipping area. Here is the finished product:

    Image credits: Emma Greenacre

    It wasn't too bad a day yesterday and one of our regular visitors was lucky enough to see an otter from New Fen viewpoint. He also saw around a dozen redwings in Brandon Fen. 

    I came in early to do a radio interview for BBC Radio Suffolk this morning (at around 07.50 if you really want to listen to it by clicking on the link above!) I did my interview at the Washland viewpoint and I had a great view of a great white egret right in front of the viewpoint. There was also a song thrush belting out its song from Brandon Fen. 

    A coal tit was on the feeders in front of the visitor centre which was nice to see. I had a quick walk around Brandon Fen at lunchtime. A marsh tit was singing and a female marsh harrier was hunting over the washland. There were also at least 30 tufted ducks on the large washland pool, which is a good count for here.

    Meanwhile, further down the reserve, three cranes have been showing well from Joist Fen viewpoint for most of the day, although a telescope has been helpful as they have been fairly distant.

    This leads me neatly on to a few pictures of the cranes that were taken recently on the reserve:


    Image credits: Ron Smith
    Thank you very much to Ron and Emma for sharing these great images with us.
    The weather forecast isn’t looking too bad for the next couple of days so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 19 February 2015

    19 February recent sightings: Breezy days

    Good morning. With the exception of Monday, the weather has been really good for birds of prey this week. It has been sunny and breezy which have meant that we have had great views of them.

    The conditions were especially good on Tuesday morning and local photographer Matt Walton was out and about taking photos:

    Some very variable common buzzards:

    A hunting marsh harrier:

    A perched up kestrel:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    Staying on the theme of birds of prey, Suzanne and Dave went down the reserve on Monday (before it started raining). They saw a peregrine over Joist Fen. They also saw four cranes and a stonechat.

    I escorted a colleague from Devon around the reserve on Tuesday. We saw a single crane high over Joist Fen and there were at least five marsh harriers hunting over the reedbed.

     A great white egret was on the washland along with a good selection of wildfowl. A little bank vole was also scampering around underneath the bird feeders behind the visitor centre.

    I went for a walk around the reserve this morning in the sunshine. There were two great white egrets on the washland and there were two different species of grebe on the river. This included two great crested grebes and two little grebes.

    A water pipit was showing well alongside the riverbank and around 20 fieldfares flew south over New Fen North. There was some excitement when I heard a bittern “grunting” in New Fen North which is a great sign. One of our volunteers saw seven roe deer alongside the entrance track as she arrived.

    The weather forecast for the next couple of days is looking slightly changeable. We hope to see you soon nonetheless!

    Posted by David White

  • 15 February 2015

    15 February recent sightings: What a difference (two weeks) can make

    I returned to the reserve yesterday after two weeks "down south". I was amazed by how much things have changed: lots of our resident birds are now singing and both pairs of cranes have (finally) returned! 

    Before I get on to some recent sightings, here are some pictures that were taken recently on the reserve by local photographer Ron Smith:

    Two robins having a territorial dispute: 

    A group of "wild swans" on the washland (they all look like whooper swans to me but if anybody has any other ideas, please comment below!):

    A great white egret:

    A male stonechat:

    A grey heron:

    Image credits: Ron Smith

    Thank you very much to Ron for sharing these great images with us.

    I will start where Emma left off in her recent sightings blog post on Tuesday. Suzanne saw a great white egret on the washland and a marsh harrier hunting over Brandon Fen. Excitingly, Emma and Katherine saw a juvenile rough legged buzzard from Joist Fen viewpoint looking towards the railway line. Presumably the same bird was also reported on Thursday.

    I returned yesterday to hear a common curlew calling south of the railway line and a song thrush singing in Brandon Fen. There were also at least seven roe deer skulking around at the edge of the entrance track as volunteer John drove in. 

    Volunteers Roy and Emma went out on the reserve and saw a great white egret on the washland. They also saw two grey herons in flight from New Fen viewpoint. 

    Later on in the day, two cranes were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint along with a bittern. At least ten marsh harriers were hunting together at dusk along with two barn owls. There were also at least 10 little egrets feeding alongside the river and at least 25 whooper swans were feeding north of the river west of Joist Fen viewpoint. 

    I will return at some point later on in the week with a more comprehensive recent sightings report but until then, have a great week and we hope to see you on the reserve soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 10 February 2015

    10th February recent sightings – Counting cranes (and other birds!)

    As the sun started to rise on Sunday morning, myself and Katherine were ready and waiting at Joist Fen viewpoint, in order to see how many cranes had roosted on the reserve the previous evening. There had been regular sightings of two pairs during the week, but we weren’t sure if they were heading off elsewhere at night...

    The early start was definitely worth it though, as we were able to confirm that both pairs had indeed roosted on the reserve. After leaving their evening haunts, creating a bit of noise with their distinctive calls, both pairs settled on to the river bank. 

    First light is a great time to be out and about, watching (and listening) as the wildlife wakes up and the reserve steadily comes to life. The rooks, jackdaws and crows made a racket leaving the wood in their thousands, marsh harriers emerged from the reedbed (even managing a little bit of early morning sky dancing), a bittern flew right past us at the viewpoint and the bearded tits started calling, idyllic really!

    Sunday was also the monthly WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey – organised by the BTO) and after a brief stop at the centre for a hot drink, we headed back out to continue counting.

    First stop was the Washland, which at first appeared quiet, but on closer inspection had plenty to see including a great white egret, 2 little egret, 43 teal, 11 gadwall, 21 shoveler and the highlight for me, a kingfisher perched on the reeds.

    From there onward we headed down the reserve and, once again, the ducks provided a challenge to count - they have a tendency to hide themselves away and then fly off whilst you’re in the middle of counting! However, we managed to get some fairly good totals including 202 mallard, 37 gadwall, 48 coot, 40 tufted duck, 21 wigeon, 28 mute swan and 126 teal.

    Other highlights included 7 snipe (we’re planning a full site survey soon), a second great white egret in Botany Bay, a single woodcock, 4 grey heron and a stonechat perched nicely on a fence line.

    The cranes were showing off well throughout the morning and also spending time in the areas of reedbed we have recently cut and cleared – it’s nice to know all the hard work has paid off!

    They have also made some more starring appearances on the trail cameras – I’ll post another blog about this soon, but here’s a taste for now...


    Finally, the recent beautiful, frosty, sunny mornings have provided some brilliant bearded tit viewing opportunities. A big thank you to Matt Walton for sharing these amazing photos. Now, where's my camera?!




    (Image credits - Matt Walton)

    Posted by Emma Cuthbertson

  • 7 February 2015

    Up close and personal to a bittern! (and roadworks are complete)

    Firstly, the roadworks on the B1112 are complete, and access to and from the reserve is now much nicer!

    Now on to more interesting things!  I'm quite lucky working as a Warden on a fantastic nature reserve.  My job means that I have, fairly unrestricted, access to every nook and cranny of the reserve, and this can often provide opportunities for getting extremely close to wildlife. 

    Take last Monday for example.  I needed to go and get a water level from a sluice at the western end of the reserve.  After crashing through the undergrowth to get to the sluice and then measuring the water level, I turned round to head back, and noticed a shape on the edge of the reeds behind me.  On closer inspection, the shape turned out to be a bittern, and after a few moments of me looking at it, and it looking at me, I began to wonder whether it was sick or injured.  So I did what I'm sure anyone would do, I reached out my hand with the intention of checking its state of health, but before I could touch it, it issued a croak of disgust and flew off into the depths of Norfolk Fen - oops!  As I stood watching it, I felt quite astounded at how close I'd come to touching a bittern, and at how I'd managed to walk right past it to get to the sluice. It was a fine tribute to its amazing camouflage and incredible ability to mimic a reed!  And no, I didn’t have a camera – bah!

     It's not just staff who get good close up's of bitterns though, as this photo from Tim James, taken last year, shows!

    In other birdy news, I'm delighted to say that after an absence of many months, both pairs of cranes are now back on-site, and can be seen and heard almost daily from Joist Fen viewpoint.  One pair has been around on and off for the past few weeks, but the other pair have been absent for nearly six months!!  Emma has been using a trail camera near Humphreys paddock to try and get some crane shots, hopefully she'll be able to post some soon!  Up to two great white egrets are still around, and quite often can be seen from the washland viewpoint.  Marsh harriers are starting to warm up in preparation for the forthcoming breeding season, with one bird recently spotted carrying around bits of reed!  He's obviously keen to get started!

      Great White egret by Matt Walton

    That's all for the moment.  It's the monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey - organised by the BTO) count tomorrow, so I'll update what's around with a recent sightings blog then. 



    Posted by Katherine

  • 1 February 2015

    Happy World Wetlands Day for tomorrow!

    This blog post has been inspired by several factors:

    1. It’s my last blog post for a couple of weeks
    2. Its World Wetlands Day tomorrow
    3. It’s the year of the reserve’s twentieth birthday

    If you are not familiar with World Wetlands Day, it celebrates the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971. This agreement was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The aim of the day is to celebrate and raise awareness of wetlands.

    I decided that my contribution to this would be to share some aerial photos of the reserve that were taken by Darren, one of our volunteers, back in August. I will also weave in some recent sightings here and there for good measure.

    I will start with an aerial view of the washland and the area near the visitor centre:

    Image credit: Darren Thompson

    Yesterday, a bittern was wandering around at the edge of the visitor centre pond and there were four bramblings behind the visitor centre. This morning, there were six roe deer skulking around in Brandon Fen.

    Next, here is a close up view of the large washland pool:

    Image credit: Darren Thompson

    Yesterday, there were two great white egrets at the edge of the pool and a sparrowhawk caught a common snipe over the pool, only to drop it. Fortunately for the common snipe, it lived to see another day!

    Moving west, we have New Fen North, the first large area of reedbed:

    Image credit: Darren Thompson

    The viewpoint in the south west corner of this area of reedbed, New Fen viewpoint, has been very reliable for bearded tits recently and it is the best place on the reserve to see kingfishers.

    The next view is west from Joist Fen viewpoint. The viewpoint can just about be seen at extreme right of this picture:

    Image credit: Darren Thompson

    This is currently a great place to see roosting birds of prey. This includes at least fifteen marsh harriers and three hen harriers. There is also a peregrine and a merlin on the area.

    Last but not least, here is the west end of the reserve:

    Image credit: Darren Thompson

    This area is home to our two pairs of cranes. Hopefully, they will be back for good soon as the breeding season is now on the horizon!

    I hope you have enjoyed this insight into what the reserve looks like from above. Happy World Wetlands Day to you all and I look forward to blogging again in a couple of week’s time. 

    Posted by David White

  • 31 January 2015

    31 January recent sightings: It's getting lighter!

    Good morning. Apologies for the slight delay in providing some recent sightings, I have had a busy week.

    Fortunately, the reserve has also been busy with wildlife as well! Starting on Monday, a great white egret was on the washland along with three wigeons. A drake pintail was also present, which is the first record of this species on the reserve for over a year.

    Suzanne was lucky enough to see a red kite over the Washland viewpoint on Tuesday. Presumably the same bird was seen over nearby Hockwold village shortly after.

    I decided to walk down to Joist Fen viewpoint from Lakenheath village on Tuesday (which is around an 11 mile round trip) I saw a green woodpecker in Botany Bay, at the far end of the reserve. There were also a lot of wild swans feeding north of the river. These were mainly Bewick’s swans (around 200 in total) with a few whooper swans mixed in for good measure.

    It was a bit of a mixed day weather wise on Thursday. Before it started snowing, volunteer Phil tool this picture of Joist Fen bathed in sunlight:

    Image credit: Phil Hammond

    Thank you very much to Phil for sharing this image with us.

    Dave, Suzanne and volunteer Darren went down to Joist Fen viewpoint late in the afternoon to look out for roosting birds of prey. They saw at least 15 marsh harriers and two barn owls.

    Once the freezing fog lifted yesterday morning, a common buzzard was circling over the visitor centre.

    A birdwatching group came in during the afternoon and spent a very productive hour up at the Washland viewpoint. They saw a great white egret along with three redshanks. There were also two yellow legged gulls present and two corn buntings flew over. Their icing on the cake was provided by views of up to five barn owls, which is a great count for here.

    There was a slight dusting of snow on the ground this morning and I went out with my camera:

    Image credits: David White

    A great white egret was present right in front of the Washland viewpoint and a little grebe was on the river. There were several bearded tits showing well on the riverbank in Brandon Fen. I also spooked a muntjac deer near the visitor centre which was nice to see.

    If you are planning to visit this coming week, please read this blog post about access to the reserve. We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Great White Egret ()
22 Feb 2015
Rough-legged Buzzard (1)
12 Feb 2015
Kingfisher (1)
4 Mar 2015
Cetti's Warbler (5)
3 Mar 2015
Marsh Harrier (1)
26 Feb 2015
Green Sandpiper (1)
21 Feb 2015
Barn Owl (1)
21 Feb 2015
Gadwall ()
3 Mar 2015
Buzzard (1)
3 Mar 2015
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
3 Mar 2015

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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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