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Good afternoon. Finally, we have had some cold weather! I escaped down to Dorset for the weekend this past weekend so thank you very much to Emma for here fantastic blog post from Sunday. If you haven’t read it yet, it can be found here.
A bittern swimming across the pool in front of Mere Hide:
Image credits: Mali Halls
Two otter cubs playing on the riverbank on Sunday morning:
Image credit: Ian Gillies
Thank you very much to Mali and Ian for sharing their great images with us.
Mark, one of our volunteers went up to the Washland viewpoint yesterday afternoon and saw a good selection of birds. A great white egret was showing well in front of the viewpoint and two stonechats were showing well nearby. A marsh harrier and a common buzzard were also hunting in the same area.
My morning walk was rained off this morning but I did catch a glimpse of a barn owl hunting in front of the visitor centre shortly after I arrived. Shortly after everybody else arrived, an otter appeared in the visitor centre pond and fished in full view for a couple of minutes. What a great start to the day!
Simon, our local bird ringer spent some time in Brandon Fen this morning. He saw two bullfinches feeding near the visitor centre along with around 40 lesser redpolls.
He also spent some time at the Washland viewpoint and he saw a large dog otter. He also saw a great white egret, at least 84 shovelers and two redshanks.
As the morning went on, two jays were feeding at the edge of the visitor centre pond which was nice to see. Dave and Suzanne headed down the reserve for a meeting. They saw a bittern and a common snipe at the far end of the reserve.
I went for a walk around Brandon Fen at lunchtime. Despite the fact that it was raining, I saw a water pipit and a kingfisher so it was worth getting wet.
I will leave you with a little bit of fun just to brighten up a dreary afternoon. We were one of only three RSPB reserves to receive Visit England’s Welcome Award last year. In recognition of this, we received the coveted Golden Gnome from colleagues at our regional office. As we are sharing the award with RSPB The Lodge nature reserve, they have had it for six months and now we have it for six months. I couldn’t resist sharing these two pictures:
The Golden Gnome posing with me and me feeble attempt at a moustache:
Image credit: Suzanne Harwood
The Golden Gnome posing with a willow reindeer, that Warden Emma made to guard our Christmas tree:
Image credit: David White
Anyway, I think that’s quite enough of that nonsense for now! We hope to see you on the reserve soon!
Posted by David White
What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was mostly spent sheltering from the rain, sleet and wind, with only a few people braving the elements. Fast forward to this morning and whilst there was a definite chill in the air, it was a perfectly calm sunny morning – great for being out and about on the reserve.
Saturday’s view from the centre – it doesn’t quite capture the strength of the wind (Image: John Wightman)
Despite the weather throwing all it had at us this week, we still have some great wildlife sightings to report:
Myself and Katherine headed down to Joist Fen viewpoint late Tuesday afternoon and it was a marsh harrier spectacular – we counted 25 in the air at once before they came into roost in the reedbed.
It’s also a great opportunity to watch the sunset over the reserve, whilst listening to the slightly eerie sound of the corvid roost beginning to build up in the woods surrounding New Fen.
Sunsets at Joist Fen (Emma Cuthbertson)
The great white egret is being seen on a daily basis from the washland viewpoint – hopping over onto the river this morning, having found it’s usual haunt frozen over. It’s been regularly joined by at least two little egrets and good numbers of shoveler were around yesterday, however the strong wind made counting them more than a little difficult!
During the breaks in the rain yesterday we watched 10 siskin and at least two lesser repolls feeding on the alders just outside the visitor centre. We are certainly starting to notice an increase in winter visitors; our local bird ringer Simon was out in Brandon Fen again on Friday and ringed 97 lesser redpolls – a record for the site!
But the stars of the weekend have most definitely been the otters. A family party (two adults and two young) were seen first thing this morning by two lucky visitors. They were playing around alongside the river and then near joist fen viewpoint. At one point they were a mere 10m from the camera – it must have been an amazing experience!
Saving the best for last though, I return to Wednesday and a very showy bittern on the visitor centre pool. Typically most of the staff were out of the office and didn’t see it (why does it always happen that way?!), but John managed to get some brilliant photos and I can’t resist posting a series of them...enjoy!
All images by John Wightman – thanks for sharing John!
Posted by Emma Cuthbertson
Good morning. Without any further ado, I will start of where I left off on Thursday. Simon Evans, our local bird ringer had another successful ringing session in Brandon Fen. I have attached his ringing data to this blog post.
One of our locals saw three cranes from Joist Fen viewpoint during the morning and Suzanne saw a common buzzard on the entrance track. As the day went on, a bittern and a kingfisher were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint.
The reserve headed down the reserve later on in the day. They saw three great white egrets and 13 little egrets flying to roost north of the river. They also saw a barn owl hunting neat Joist Fen viewpoint.
I walked down to Joist Fen viewpoint before work on Friday and as I walked along the riverbank, a water pipit flew over and a kingfisher dashed across the river. When I got to New Fen North, the first area of reedbed, a female merlin dashed low over the reedbed before disappearing over West Wood.
A very pale kestrel was perched up north of the river and I flushed a common buzzard from the riverbank. A barn owl was also hunting north of the river near Joist Fen viewpoint.
As I walked back through the reserve, a brambling was singing in East Wood and a small group of lesser redpolls flew over.
A grey wagtail appeared at the edge of the visitor centre pond shortly after we opened and a great white egret was seen from the Washland viewpoint along with two water pipits. A bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint later on in the day.
Emma and I went down to Joist Fen viewpoint in the afternoon and we saw a Chinese water deer on the riverbank. A great white egret flew along the river and a barn owl was hunting north of the river.
The weekend was really rather windy and wet so I will now jump to yesterday for some more sightings! Wardens Katherine and Emma did the WeBs count yesterday morning and saw a female merlin over the far end of the reserve.
Suzanne walked around Brandon Fen at lunchtime and saw a common buzzard hunting. She also saw eight long tailed tits and a goldcrest.
I returned in the afternoon and took this photograph of the visitor centre pond looking quite stormy:
Volunteer John went up to the Washland viewpoint and saw two dunlins in flight over the large pool. I popped up there shortly after. I saw a great white egret and a female barn owl which was rather nice.
It was a bit gloomy this morning during my morning walk but a water rail was skulking at the edge of the visitor centre pond and a barn owl was hunting north of East Wood.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Good morning. Despite the fact that it is still very mild for the time of year, there is now definitely a wintery feel to the wildlife that is calling the reserve home at the moment. On Monday afternoon, Emma saw a female stonechat near Mere Hide.
A male hen harrier was photographed at Joist Fen viewpoint on Tuesday lunchtime. We then saw it again later on in the day. It was hunting over New Fen North, the first area of reedbed and it was seen shortly afterwards at Joist Fen viewpoint.
Katherine and I had a surprising encounter with a mammal on Tuesday evening: We were at Joist Fen viewpoint when a Chinese water deer wandered down the track past us, seemingly in its own little world. It did eventually notice us, before scarpering down the hard track towards Mere Hide! This was a reserve first for me, so I was really chuffed!
Meanwhile, further down the reserve, a flock of 16 little egrets flew down the river and two bitterns were seen at the far end of the reserve. A great white egret was also seen in flight in the same area.
Yesterday, a green woodpecker was seen at the far end of the reserve. Much to everyone’s surprise (apart from me who wasn’t there, boo!) an otter appeared in the visitor centre pond. Here are some of Dave’s pictures of it:
Image credits: Dave Rogers
This is the first time that we have seen one of these enigmatic and elusive mammals from the visitor centre window for several years, so it’s great to know that they are nearby!
Suzanne saw a barn owl from New Fen viewpoint and Katherine saw at least 21 marsh harriers from Joist Fen viewpoint later on in the day.
It was a lovely morning this morning so I went out armed with my camera before work. Here are a couple of my pictures:
A very delicate fungi sp.:
Image credits: David White
A great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint and two water pipits were feeding nearby.
There were lots of lesser redpolls around. This included around a dozen in Brandon Fen and at least 25 feeding near the visitor centre. There were also at least four goldcrests feeding in front of the visitor centre.
It’s work party day today and the reserve team have just headed down the reserve. They heard some cranes calling just west of Joist Fen viewpoint, so it’s good to know that they are around.
Good morning. The weather hasn’t been great this week so I thought take a brief detour back to last Saturday when I lead the twentieth birthday Long Walk in glorious sunshine. Here are a couple of pictures that Emma took on the way round:
Image credits: Emma Cuthbertson
There was plenty to see on the visitor centre pond on Thursday including a kingfisher, a grey heron and a lapwing.
I had a surprise when I drove along the entrance track on Friday morning. A common buzzard was feeding on a rabbit right in the middle of the track!
I had a walk around the reserve and I saw six little egrets and a water pipit on the washland. A kingfisher whizzed along the river and a large female sparrowhawk flapped steadily over New Fen North. There were also some bramblings feeding in Trial Wood, which were nice to see.
As the day went on, a kingfisher appeared at the edge of the visitor centre pond and Emma saw a good selection of wildfowl in front of New Fen viewpoint. This included 20 mallards, 24 gadwalls, two teals and two mute swans.
Katherine went up to the Washland viewpoint during the afternoon and she saw two great white egrets and three little egrets. She also saw a kingfisher.
It was a bit damp on Saturday morning but it did clear up during the afternoon. One of our locals went down to Joist Fen viewpoint. He saw two great white egrets in flight and there were a good selection of birds of prey hunting. This included at least 12 marsh harriers, a female peregrine and a female merlin.
He also saw around 130 fieldfares north of the river and water pipit on the washland. A late migrant hawker was on the wing, which is a good record.
The day started well yesterday. Site Manager Dave was briefing the visitor centre volunteers shortly after he opened the visitor centre when a large female sparrowhawk tore past the visitor centre feeders, scattering everything in the process.
I came in for a while yesterday afternoon. A great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint and a kingfisher flew across the large pool.
There were at least 18 marsh harriers hunting in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and two woodcocks flew over. Two little egrets flew past just as it was getting dark and a possible long eared owl flew along the river. Unfortunately, it was too dark to identify the latter species so it will have to remain a possible unless somebody sees it again.
I went for a walk around Brandon Fen this morning and a great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint. There were plenty of finches on the moved including at least 12 lesser redpolls and at least eight siskins.
Good morning. Due to work commitments, this will be my last recent sightings blog post until the beginning of next week so here we go again.
This post will follow a similar format to Tuesday’s post, beginning with a ringing report followed by some recent sightings and pictures.
I have attached local ringer Simon Evan’s latest ringing report from Brandon Fen and here is an excerpt from his report. I hope you find it interesting:
“A good ringing workshop session today with most of our target species putting in an appearance and allowing for some great comparative views. Good numbers of new birds just three days after the last session, as forecast weather conditions dictate, clearly illustrating the passage of birds through the site, as well as its importance to the local tit population! Good to see a few blue tits returning, ringed around five or six years ago.
Interesting to note a number of the goldfinches with high fat scores and weights indicating their intent to travel. Our longest distance recovery for the reserve to date is from the Highlands of Scotland.
Of the controls (birds that had been ringed elsewhere previously), two of the siskins were from High Lodge and one from Brandon. The blue tit was from Thetford. The lesser redpoll rings I don't recognise, so we'll have to wait to hear about them.”
A golden plover flew over the Washland viewpoint on Tuesday afternoon and as Katherine mentioned in her habitat management blog post from yesterday, there were two great white egrets down in Botany Bay at the far end of the reserve. It’s good to know that there are definitely at least two around!
It was really rather damp yesterday morning but I popped up to the Washland viewpoint before work nonetheless. A great white egret was present along with 12 little egrets. A kingfisher also flew along the river. Later on in the day, Suzanne saw two stonechats in Brandon Fen.
I went for a walk down to New Fen viewpoint before work this morning and a great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint. A grey wagtail over the viewpoint itself and six lesser redpolls were showing well in East Wood.
I walked back via Rightup Drove, which is the path that runs behind New Fen viewpoint through East Wood. Several bramblings were feeding in the poplars and there were plenty of roe deer and otter footprints alongside the path.
I got back early so I walked around part of Brandon Fen, which is looking very autumnal at the moment:
While I was out, a skylark flew over and I spooked a green woodpecker. Shortly after I got back to the visitor centre, a very late four spotted orb weaver descended down its web in front of the visitor centre which was nice to see.
We hope to see you soon!
Good morning. It has certainly been mild for the time of year recently, hasn’t it?! I will start off with a detour back to Saturday, when ringed Simon Evans was ringing in Brandon Fen. I have attached his ringing data below.
I have also included a short except of his ringing report, which I hope you find interesting:
“Four stunning adult male bramblings were amongst the catch with one equally impressive adult male chaffinch of continental origin with a wing measurement of 92mm. The local studies into moult extent in juvenile siskins has been fairly interesting, with one female caught showing an unusually extended moult limit. The annual trend for our senior great tits to return for the autumn continued with two retraps from 2011 being caught.”
Thank to very much to Simon for providing this summary.
There were also some interesting records from Saturday morning, with three green sandpipers and two black tailed godwits flying over Joist Fen viewpoint.
Once the mist had lifted on Sunday, it was lovely day and it was a great one for photography. Here are a few pictures:
An assortment of fungi:
Image credits: Denise Chappell
Thank you very much to Denise for sharing these great images with us.
A female bearded tit was seen on the approach to Mere Hide and we had a real treat from the visitor centre just after lunch: A bittern strolled right around the edge of the pond, in full view of several very surprised staff, volunteers and visitors. At one point, it was overtaken by a kingfisher, which was just incredible to see.
There were several people up at the Washland viewpoint during the afternoon hoping to see the short eared owls. Sadly, they didn’t show themselves but a barn owl did, so their search for owls was not entirely in vain!
It was a foggy day yesterday but the great white egret was showing well from the Washland viewpoint. A bullfinch also flew over the visitor centre, which is a good record for here.
I went for a walk around Brandon Fen this morning and several bramblings were feeding in the poplars near the car park. The great white egret was showing well from the Washland viewpoint and a meadow pipit flew over. Katherine went up to the viewpoint shortly after we opened and saw eight little egrets and three grey herons.
Good morning. I will start off where I left off on Thursday with some recent sightings. Emma saw a sparrowhawk from Joist Fen viewpoint and ex-Site Manager Norman saw a selection of egrets on the washland pool north of East Wood. This included the great white egret and 10 little egrets.
Volunteer John Ingham also took this picture of the great white egret:
Image credit: John Ingham
Thank you very much to John for sharing this picture with us.
Suzanne also caught a glimpse of an otter from the Washland viewpoint at lunchtime.
It was really rather wet on Friday morning but I persevered and went for a walk around Brandon Fen before work. As I walked past the car park, I could hear some “wild swans” calling on the washland. They sounded like Bewick’s swans, but unfortunately, by the time I got to the Washland viewpoint, they had gone. However, I did see the great white egret and a kingfisher from the viewpoint, so it was worth getting wet after all!
As the day went on, two short eared owls were seen on the washland, so it’s good to know that they are still around.
Yesterday was a special day as it was 20 years since the first sod was dug to begin the creation of the reserve. In order to celebrate this, we had a special 10 kilometre “Long Walk” around the reserve. We saw two stonechats near Mere Hide and heard some bearded tits just west of Joist Fen viewpoint. A corn bunting flew south overhead and possibly a second great white egret flew east along the river.
We stopped at Joist Fen viewpoint and it was lovely in the sunshine:
We saw a roe deer from the riverbank near the viewpoint and shortly after the walk; a barn owl was seen from the Washland viewpoint. There was one last surprise when a bittern flew over the visitor centre just before we locked up.
It was really rather misty this morning for my morning walk so here are a few pictures of the reserve:
There was also a good selection of fungi to be found. Here is my favourite picture from this morning:
A kingfisher was calling near the Washland viewpoint and a grey wagtail flew over. There were at least nine little egrets on the washland north of East Wood along with a green sandpiper. A golden plover flew over New Fen North, calling as it went and a roe deer was skulking near the visitor centre.
Once the mist lifted, a kingfisher flew across the visitor centre pond and the great white egret was seen from the Washland viewpoint. Three stonechats were also seen from the same area.
Good morning. It’s been another busy week and there have been some interesting sightings out on the reserve. Over the weekend, a lucky couple saw a barn owl and a short eared owl hunting in the same area over the riverbank.
There was also a lovely sunrise on Sunday morning:
Image credit: Peter Sharpe
Thank you very much to Peter for sharing this great picture with us.
There was also some excitement on Monday afternoon when volunteer Nigel Taylor found a great grey shrike on the riverbank just west of Joist Fen viewpoint. Although it hasn’t been seen since, I suspect it is still around so if it reappears, we will let you know!
On Tuesday, Emma saw a water rail at the far end of the reserve and Suzanne saw the great white egret on the washland. A common snipe flew up in front of the Washland viewpoint and a common buzzard was hunting over Brandon Fen.
I returned from a couple of days off yesterday to find the great white egret in front of the Washland viewpoint along with 12 pintails, which is a very good count for this species here. A water pipit flew up in front of the Washland viewpoint and two stonechats were feeding in the same area.
It rained for most of the morning so our Wild Wednesday session of family activities was mostly indoors. We did get out for a little walk though in the end. After lunch, I spent some time carving a pumpkin for our Hallowe’en display under the close supervision of Emma. I couldn’t resist sharing these amusing photos of me:
Anyhow, being serious once again, I went for a walk around the reserve early this morning. The great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint and a flock of around 25 lapwings were wheeling around overhead.
The washland pool north of East Wood was very productive. A group of 11 little egrets were feeding on the pool along with a couple of lapwings and a green sandpiper.
I walked around the interior path of New Fen North and saw a male marsh harrier being mobbed by two carrion crows. A male bullfinch flew south overhead which is a good record for here. A further three individuals flew south just before I got back to the visitor centre, so there must have been a little passage of this species through this morning.
The reserve celebrates it’s twentieth birthday on Saturday as it was on the 31 October 1995 that the first sod was dug to begin the creation of the reserve. We have a special twentieth anniversary 10 kilometre Long Walk around the reserve and there are still a couple of spaces available on it. Please follow this link for information about how to book places. We hope to see you soon!
Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)
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