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Recent sightings

  • 26 September 2014

    26 September recent sightings: Kingfisher quest indeed!

    Good afternoon. The local hobbys have been out and about this week and here are a few pictures that were taken here earlier on in the week:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Matt for sending these great images over. 

    I have been elsewhere for most of the week but I returned today to lead a special guided walk for a couple who wanted to see the kingfishers that are currently calling the reserve home. Although the kingfishers played hard to get, we did eventually see them (more about that later though!)

    We started off at New Fen viewpoint and there were no kingfishers! It was very breezy which provided us with good views of a female marsh harrier and a distant hobby over West Wood.

    When we reached the gap between Trial Wood and West Wood, there were two hobbys overhead being mobbed by a carrion crow. We had also had a quick look from the south west corner of New Fen North, where we found large numbers of migrant hawkers and ruddy darters feeding in the sunshine. 

    We got to Mere Hide and there were still no kingfishers. However, we saw two bearded tits flying low over the reedbed and a kestrel hunting in front of the hide. We also saw probably the same hobby and marsh harrier that we had seen previously from New Fen viewpoint.

    We decided to head down to Joist Fen viewpoint for one last throw of the dice and suddenly, there were kingfishers. Thank goodness for that! Two birds circled around the pool a couple of times before disappearing off again. We could see a couple of marsh harriers hunting in the distance and a meadow pipit flew over, calling as it went. 

    We walked back along the river and got good views of a little egret fishing at the water's edge. There were also two common buzzards circling nearby along with a hobby

    All in all, it turned out to be a great walk and we (eventually!) saw what we were hoping to see. If you are interested in hiring a guide here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen (it doesn't have to be me, just so you know!) please ring the office on 01842 863400 or e-mail; We hope to see you soon. 

    Posted by David White

  • 22 September 2014

    22 September recent sightings: The Long Walk

    Good morning. I went and did a recce for yesterday's "Long Walk" on Saturday. Although it was quite damp, I heard lots of bearded tits and saw plenty of roe deer. There was also a very damp ruddy darter resting on some riverbank vegetation:

    Image credit: David White

    I lead the Long Walk proper yesterday, which is a roughly circular 10 kilometre walk around as much of the reserve as possible.

    Things started well when we took the path south of Trial Wood. There was a lovely patch of common toadflax alongside the path and this garden spider was watching us closely as we went through the barrier at the western edge of the wood:

    Image credit: Simon Morley

    As we walked through New Fen South, there were at least three marsh harriers hunting overhead and a couple of hobbys were tearing around the sky over West Wood.

    When we reached Humphrey's Paddock, the area of grazing marsh near Joist Fen viewpoint, a stoat was scampering up and down the safety bank in front of us. We walked down through the middle of the reserve and as we got to the grazing marsh in Norfolk Fen, a bittern flew across the reedbeds in front of us. I also spotted a four-spot orb weaver by the side of the path. Here I am admiring it:

    Image credit: Simon Morley

    We stopped for lunch in the black barn and a barn owl flew out and disappeared north of the river. I also spotted a common buzzard circling high over Botany Bay.

    As we walked between Botany Bay and Joist Fen viewpoint along the riverbank, we saw several kingfishers. One flew east along the river and at two others flew between Joist Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide. We stopped briefly in Mere Hide and saw another kingfisher and another hobby

    There were lots of migrant hawkers patrolling the sky as we walked along the hard track back through the reserve. There was time for one more surprise just before we got back to the visitor centre: one of the sharp eyed walkers spotted a common newt on the path in front of us. I gently picked it up and moved it to the edge of the path. After a moment's hesitation, it made a dash for freedom into the surrounding vegetation.

    All in all, it was a great walk and we are hoping to run several Long Walks next year. Please keep an eye on the events page on our website for more details. We hope to see you soon. 

    Posted by David White

  • 19 September 2014

    19 September recent sightings: Stars of September

    Good morning. Two species have definitely dominated the headlines this week: kingfishers and hobbys. Both species have been showing very well and have also been performing in front of the cameras. Here are some great pictures that we have been sent this week:

    Some action shots of kingfishers:

    Image credits: Clive Bowley

    Two images of hobbys:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Matt and Clive for sharing these great pictures with us!

    After my mammal spotting antics on Saturday that I talked about in my blog post on Wednesday, I spent the day in the office on Sunday. It was a good job that my office doesn't overlook the visitor centre pond, as I would have been distracted by a kingfisher that spent most of the day fishing and posing at the edge of the pool!

    Paul, one of our volunteers spent some time up at the Washland viewpoint on Monday. He saw at least 261 coots, 63 mute swans and five wigeons. He also found a goat moth caterpillar near New Fen viewpoint. If you are not familiar with these large caterpillars, please click on the link above as they are really rather impressive! 

    It seems that hobby numbers have been gradually building up all week and on Wednesday, there were at least six birds present. This included two over Joist Fen viewpoint, two over East Wood and one over Mere Hide. 

    There was plenty going on yesterday and I started off the day at the foggy Washland viewpoint. A stonechat was flying from perch to perch in front of the viewpoint and a juvenile reed warbler was bashing around in the reeds nearby.

    As the fog lifted a kingfisher appeared at the edge of the visitor centre pond and at least four hobbys were circling over the Washland viewpoint. It turned out to be a great morning for bearded tits. A flock of at least 25 were seen near New Fen viewpoint which is a great count for this time of year. 

    Despite the fact that it was really rather warm, there were a few signs that autumn and winter are not too far away. A small flock of lesser redpolls were in the alders behind the visitor centre and two pochards were visible from the Washland viewpoint.

    I will end on a summery note though as several grass snakes were seen basking in the sun yesterday. We were also treated to the sight of a red admiral and a painted lady feeding on the same flowers in our wildlife friendly plant bed outside the office window. 

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

    Posted by David White

  • 17 September 2014

    Its "bat" time of year!

    I last blogged on Saturday afternoon, just before I had a very successful evening looking for bats with the Lakenheath Fen Kingfishers Wildlife Explorers club. As I said in my post, I had already been lucky enough to see an otter earlier on in the day and a lucky visitor had also seen one from New Fen viewpoint. Sadly, no photos of it were forthcoming so here is a picture of one that was taken very early one morning in June this year:

    Image credit: Nick Patterson

    I didn't know it at the time, but my chance encounter with an otter was the start of what would turn out to be probably one of my best days of mammal watching in Britain ever! 

    We headed out on the reserve with local bat enthusiast Bill Landells, 11 children and their associated adults. It didn't take us long to find our first bats. There were at least two common pipistrelles whizzing around overhead at the eastern edge of East Wood. It was even light enough to catch glimpses of them as they began their evening's feed.

    We then reached the gap between East Wood and Trial Wood, near New Fen viewpoint. Here we were treated to the distinctive "clip-clop" sound of a noctule flying back and forth. When we got to the viewpoint itself, there was a feeding group of common pipistrelles close overhead. 

    We decided to walk back via the grassy path around East Wood. Although there was a large feeding group of soprano pipistrelles feeding overhead, the children seemed more interested in the large variety of spiders that they kept finding! These were mostly marbled orb weavers, with a few garden spiders mixed in for good measure. 

    Just before we got back to the centre, another noctule was flying around overhead and a few more common pipistrelles were feeding nearby.  

    When we got back to the veranda overlooking the visitor centre pond, the view was just phenomenal with the sky full of stars. There were also large numbers of bats feeding over the pond. These were mostly common pipistrelles, with a few soprano pipistrelles mixed in. 

    Although we didn't hear any Daubenton's, this was more than made up for by a "swim past" of a water vole that swam right across the pond, illuminated by Bill's red torch.

    All in all, it was a great evening and it was fantastic to see and hear some of the special mammals that call the reserve home. Please keep an eye on our events page for details of mammal watching events in the future.  

    Posted by David White

  • 13 September 2014

    13 September recent sightings: Sun, fun(gi) & much, much more!

    Good evening. We have had a nice couple of days here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen so here is an update on what has been going on.

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen yesterday morning and it was a lovely, sunny morning. The Brecks part of the reserve looked really rather autumnal:

    Image credit: David White

    There was plenty of activity over the washland with singles of green sandpiper and common snipe flying over. There were also six wigeons wheeling around overhead. I was at a meeting for most of the day but volunteer Lawrence headed out on the reserve in the afternoon. He spent some time up at the Washland viewpoint and saw two common buzzards, two hobbys and a kestrel. A bittern was also seen from New Fen viewpoint that evening. 

    I went for what turned out to be a very productive walk this morning and saw a female marsh harrier hunting over the washland. It flushed two common snipe as it flew towards the poplar woods. I also caught a fleeting glimpse of an otter just east of the Washland viewpoint which was a nice surprise. 

    While I walked through the curiously named "Field 5026" (which is between the visitor centre and East Wood by the way!), I spent some time watching a four-spot orb weaver spinning its web. Here it is suspended in the air, looking like it is floating:

    When Roy came in, he showed me this curious looking fungus that is growing at the edge of the car park:

    Image credit: David White

    After much head scratching, we decided that it was most likely to be a pestle puffball. However, if any of you don't agree, please comment below as we are not experts!

    While we were puzzling over it, a tiny goldcrest popped out right in front of us which was a treat. Roy then headed up to the Washland viewpoint where he had a great view of a hobby.

    The local kingfishers were showing well from New Fen viewpoint and three hobbys were circling over Brandon Fen at lunchtime.

    As the afternoon went on, Roy spotted at least seven common lizards near New Fen viewpoint and a grass snake behind the visitor centre. He also saw four sparrowhawks over East Wood and a lucky visitor saw presumably the same otter from this morning at New Fen viewpoint. 

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

    Posted by David White

  • 11 September 2014

    11 September recent sightings: Sunny September

    Good morning. I won't be here for most of the day tomorrow so this week, you get Friday's update earlier! 

    It definitely feels like autumn outside and reserve sightings have reflected that. There were at least three hobbys over the washland and Brandon Fen on Monday. Katherine did her first Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS count) of the autumn on Monday morning. Volunteer Mark also spend some time up at the Washland viewpoint in the evening and saw:

    He also saw a barn owl and two kingfishers.

    Local photographer Matt Walton was also around and took these lovely images:

    A long tailed tit:

    A water rail:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    A bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint on Tuesday and there were also several bearded tits showing nearby.

    There was plenty to see yesterday and Suzanne saw two hobbys over Brandon Fen. Nigel T headed down to Botany Bay, at the far end of the reserve. He saw a hobby over Joist Fen viewpoint and three common buzzards over West Wood. He also saw at least five bearded tits towards the far end of the reserve.

    It turned out to be a great day for bearded tits all over the reserve. Matt Walton spent some time in Mere Hide and got this cracking picture of a male:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

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

    I returned to work after another hectic couple of days away (I won't bore you with the details!) and went for a walk around Brandon Fen. The hybrid-black poplars on the reserve have been suffering from poplar rust since August but now they have started shedding their leaves. It was therefore a very "crunchy" walk along the ramp up to the riverbank. Although it made me very noisy to any rare birds that might be hiding nearby, it did make me feel very autumnal!

    A little egret was present on the large pool in front of the Washland viewpoint and several common snipe flew overhead. I also flushed a couple of meadow pipits as I walked along the riverbank. Meanwhile, further down the reserve, a bittern was seen in flight from New Fen viewpoint. 

    The weather forecast for the next couple of days is looking quite good so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 7 September 2014

    7 September recent sightings: Plenty of signs of autumn

    Good morning. It turned out to be an interesting day here yesterday. Things started well when  a yellow wagtail flew over the visitor centre, calling as it went. A chiffchaff was also singing in the car park, which was nice to hear. 

    I went for a walk around the interior path of New Fen North, the first area of reedbed. This path is only ever open in the winter months, so it was good to reacquaint myself with it. I saw lots of garden spiders along the riverbank and a four-spot orb weaver by the stile 

    As I walked around the reedbed, I found this shaggy ink cap by the path:

    Image credit: David White

    A kingfisher shot low over the reedbed and several bearded tits were "pinging" in the south west corner of the trail. A treecreeper was also calling in West Wood.

    As I walked back past East Wood, I found this lovely female common darter perched on one of my seasonal interpretation signs:

    Image credit: David White

    Shortly after I got back to the visitor centre, I got a phone call from Simon, our local bird ringer saying that he had caught a female sparrowhawk in one of his mist nets. I went and had a look and took some rubbish photos of it (I will spare you all of them this morning!)

    Simon and Lee reported a green sandpiper over Brandon Fen earlier on in the day and a brown argus on the wing at the edge of the car park. Lee also spotted a blood vein moth resting in the long grass.

    We had a pleasant surprise at lunchtime when a yellow wagtail perched up on a willow bush at the edge of the visitor centre pond. This was a very welcome "visitor centre window tick" for me! One lucky individual came back reporting a male goosander on the river near Joist Fen viewpoint which is a very early record for this species on the reserve. 

    Meanwhile, further down the reserve, bitterns were seen from both viewpoints and Mere Hide over the course of the day. There were also at least five bearded tits and three kingfishers showing in front of Mere Hide.

    There were at least three hobbys showing from the Washland viewpoint and a yellowhammer was a nice surprise on the riverbank north of East Wood. There were also plenty of butterflies on the wing, with plenty of commas, speckled woods and red admirals around Trial Wood, the second poplar plantation. 

    The weather forecast for the coming week is pretty good so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 5 September 2014

    5 September recent sightings: Mind the fog!

    Good morning. Its been nice and mild here this week (once the morning fog has burnt off that is!) Here are a few pictures that have been taken here this week:

    A grass snake swimming:

    Two common darters omniposting in an extremely graceful manner:

    A lovely male bearded tit:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    On Monday, volunteer Paul spent some time up at the Washland viewpoint and saw a marsh harrier. He also saw a group of nine wigeons, which is definitely a sign that wildfowl are starting to move south for the winter. Meanwhile, further down the reserve, a visitor saw a kingfisher from Mere Hide. 

    There were a couple of interesting wader records on Tuesday. Simon and Lee were ringing in Brandon Fen and saw a ringed plover flying east. It was closely followed by at least one spotted redshank. Neither of these species are seen here very often, so they were very welcome indeed!

    Also on Tuesday, the two Nigels spent time out on the reserve over the course of the day. Nigel Malcolm went up to the Washland viewpoint where he saw 96 mute swans and one hobby. Meanwhile, Nigel Taylor had his regular walk down to Joist Fen viewpoint. He saw at least three hobbys over the washland and a common buzzard over Joist Fen viewpoint.

    On Wednesday, Suzanne went for a walk at lunchtime. She saw a common snipe from the Washland viewpoint and a kestrel was hovering over Brandon Fen. Nigel T was down at Joist Fen viewpoint in the afternoon.  He saw a bittern in flight near the bog oak and a bearded tit was showing itself in front of the viewpoint. 

    I returned yesterday after several days elsewhere and shortly after we opened up the visitor centre, Katherine spotted a red underwing moth roosting near the visitor centre door. It turned out to be a lovely day yesterday and I had a great view of a common blue damselfly feeding near the Brecks raised bed. Meanwhile, further down the reserve, a garden warbler was seen in the bushes near Joist Fen viewpoint and at least three hobbys were feeding over the poplar woods.

    Finally, if you are wondering what the slightly unusual title to this blog post is all about, I encountered quite a commotion when I got to work this morning. There seemed to be a large flock of greylag geese circling the visitor centre, seemingly lost in the fog. The fog was so dense that I couldn't actually see them. They were certainly making a racket though! 

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

    Posted by David White

  • 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

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Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Marsh Harrier (2)
24 Sep 2014

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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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