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Recent sightings

  • 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

  • 6 August 2014

    Au revoir Lakenheath Fen!

    After nearly two and a half years here at Lakenheath Fen, the time has come to say “au revoir” – until we meet again.  I’m moving on to pastures ‘old’, back to the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) where I started my career in conservation, to take on the role of Berkshire Reserves Officer.  This is an exciting move for me but I’m also very sad to be leaving Lakenheath.  It’s an amazing place to work.  The staff and many volunteers are all such great people and make up a really good team – it’s been an honour to be a part of it!   

    Below are photos that show or represent some of my highlights from Lakenheath:


    Photo credit: Suzanne Harwood - Katherine and I on the boat

    Funnily enough, as a wetland site, some of our work involves using the boat.  I have enjoyed paddling through our channels in the sun, seeing and hearing bearded tits on all sides.  Work we've carried out with the boat includes opening up views for people, work on islands and attempting to stop reeds completely taking over in places!


    Photo credit: Ali Blaney - volunteers working in the frost

    Back in winter 2012/13, a lot of our time was spent down in Botany Bay.  The work had started the previous year and the overall task was to open up two new areas of overgrown fen for grazing.  This involved many volunteers and us spending many hours down there, with fires and chainsaws (always fun!)  If you think the photo above looks cold, it got even colder....


    Photo credit: Ali Blaney - snowy excavations

    I really enjoyed this work, even if it did involve lugging lots of heavy equipment up and down the footpath!  I have some very fond memories of us all gathered around the fire, eating our lunch and warming our fingers and toes.


    Photo credit: Ali Blaney - Bittern fledgling!

    Bittern watches have been a big part of my time here.  Last year was particularly exciting as I saw some bittern fledglings from the nest I had been watching!  I have quite mixed memories of the bittern watches, mainly due to the weather - some have been absolutely freezing while for some I have basked in the sun.  Those moments (in the sun!) have been pretty special - gazing out across the reedbeds, surrounded by amazing wildlife. 


    Photo credit: Ali Blaney - cranes in the snow

    Cranes have played a huge part in my time here.  It's been so interesting learning about crane ecology and observing them.  I've had the joy of seeing both of our resident pairs fledge young in 2012 and the sadness of failed attempts since.  I remember hearing cranes for the first time during my interview for the post here, we all dashed to the window to see them flying over!  I even managed to see two cranes today which was nice to see before I leave.


    Photo credit: Ali Blaney - garden tiger moth

    This photo represents a huge amount of memories covering visitor work such as guided walks, events, school visits and campouts.  Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm on peoples faces when they get involved in new things is always great to see and it's very satisfying being involved in this kind of work.


    Photo credit: Ali Blaney - the boardwalk!!

    I couldn't not put up a picture of the boardwalk.  What a task this was!  This represents such an amazing amount of teamwork with us and our volunteers, we are all so proud of this achievement and how we worked together.  It was great being part of this.  It does of course have slightly mixed memories for me as my thumb got a bit mangled during this task and I missed out on the final stages, but I'll have a constant reminder of our achievement in my misshapen right thumb! 

    Finally, one of my last tasks was rather poignant.....


    Photo credit: Dave Rogers - Me waving goodbye!

    Dave and I finally got around to digging in the new branded 'Thanks for visiting' sign.  We clearly picked the worst place in the fens to dig a hole and it took us two sweaty hours to complete the task! 

    So there we go - I could have put in many, many more photos and memories but simply didn't have the time (plus my first attempt at writing this resulted in an error message, lost work and a very restrained reaction from me!)  If you've visited Lakenheath in the past couple of months and bumped into me, you should have spotted how much my time here has meant to me - in April I got a nice Lakenheath Fen related tattoo on my left arm, featuring a crane, a bittern and a hobby in a nice reedbed scene.  A daily reminder of the reserve and everyone I have had the pleasure of working with (well I like it anyway!)  I hope you've enjoyed reading my blog over the past couple of years, it's been a pleasure writing it and often learning new things while researching my topics.  Thanks for reading and commenting folks!


    Posted by Ali Blaney

  • 2 August 2014

    2 August recent sightings: Moments of high drama

    Good afternoon. Along with two colleagues, I will be representing the RSPB at the Wayland Agricultural Show tomorrow. Here, therefore, is the recent sightings post that would usually come on Sunday morning!

    Local photographer Matt Walton was out and about early yesterday morning and captured some striking images of the great white egret:

    Here it is having a tussle with one of the local grey herons:

    Here it is coming in to land:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you to Matt for sharing these "great" (sorry, I couldn't resist!) images with us. The bird was visible from the riverbank for most of the day but it was rather mobile. 

    Volunteer Les Bunyan also popped in for a walk and here are some of the pictures that he took:

    A kingfisher at New Fen viewpoint:

    A black tailed skimmer resting on the path:

    A ruddy darter doing likewise:

    Image credits: Les Bunyan

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

    Meanwhile, elsewhere on the reserve, a juvenile common tern was on the washland and a hobby flew over West Wood. A single crane flew over Joist Fen viewpoint and two bearded tits were seen in front of the viewpoint. A stoat was also seen alongside Trial Wood. 

    This morning, a green sandpiper flew over Brandon Fen and a single crane landed briefly on the washland. The great white egret was on the washland north of West Wood and there were at least nine little grebes in front of the Washland viewpoint. 

    The weather forecast for this week is looking good for this week so why not come and visit.  For the more adventurous amongst you, we have out last "Wild Camp" out of the year on Friday evening. There are still several places available so if you are interested in coming along, details on how to book can be found here

    We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 1 August 2014

    1 August recent sightings: I love this time of year!

    Good morning. It has been another great week at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. I have been sent some fantastic pictures this week so here are a few that have been taken on the reserve. Here is a painted lady butterfly taken by Tim James:

    Image credit: Tim James

    Local photographer Matt Walton captured these two lovely images this week:

    Two red eyed damselflies:

    Two juvenile bearded tits on the boardwalk approaching Mere Hide:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Ian Tulloch photographed these fantastic dragonflies on Wednesday:

    An emperor dragonfly:

    A brown hawker:

    Image credits: Ian Tulloch

    Thank you very much to Tim, Matt and Ian for sharing their pictures with us!

    I lead "The Long Walk" on Sunday, which is a 10 kilometre walk around the vast majority of the reserve. On the outward journey, we came across two cranes, a great white egret and a green sandpiper feeding around the same pool. Although they were not visible from paths that are open to the public, they would have been very visible to anybody who happened to be passing the reserve on the train at that particular moment!

    When we returned from our trip "off piste", we had a great view of a bittern in flight from Joist Fen viewpoint and two juvenile bearded tits were feeding on the grit tray in front of New Fen viewpoint. We also saw a stoat gambolling along the track alongside East Wood and several roe deer browsing at the edge of the poplar woods. 

    The next "Long Walk" will take place on Sunday 21 September and details on how to book places can be found here.

    The great white egret was back in public view on Monday. it was on the washland north of West Wood along with a green sandpiper. 

    There was plenty to see on Wednesday and the great white egret was seen from various places during the day. Katherine went up to the Washland viewpoint and lunchtime and found six black tailed godwits feeding in the large pool. Unfortunately, they didn't stick around as they were flushed by a passing peregrine

    I came down for a walk after work on Wednesday evening and had fantastic views of two barn owls hunting near Joist Fen viewpoint. I also saw a juvenile cuckoo perched up between Joist Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide. 

    We were treated to a slightly bizarre sight from the office window yesterday afternoon: Six jays were hopping out on the lawn outside the visitor centre. They were obviously a family party and certainly helped to brighten up our afternoons!

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


    Posted by David White

  • 30 July 2014

    And the winner is....

    Cast your minds back to June and you’ll remember the RSPB held the Big Wild Sleepout – a national camping event urging everyone to spend the night in nature’s home to raise money for wildlife.  Here at Lakenheath Fen our Big Wild Sleepout lasted for two days and nights, with all sorts of activities going on.  We also held a raffle, with the fantastic prize of a brand new four-man tent, kindly donated by Blacks.  We can finally announce that the winner was.......Mary Grimmer, from King's Lynn!  The family came to collect the tent last weekend and said "We're looking forward to camping again at Lakenheath - Thomas enjoyed moth trapping last time and seeing garden tiger and poplar hawk moths.  Daniel will be coming next time too".  Next time will no doubt be in the great new tent!  Thanks to everyone who took part in the raffle, to raise more money for wildlife.

    You've probably realised it has been a topsy-turvy couple of weeks here, with training courses aplenty.  In between training we have been as busy as we can be around the reserve with the volunteers, while also trying to avoid getting sunstroke!  Ragwort pulling is one of our main tasks at this time of year and we have spent mornings in various grazing marsh areas pulling up this plant.  It is great for invertebrates, particularly cinnabar moths but toxic for grazing animals so we remove it from grazed areas.  We still have a bit of ragwort to be pulled so thank you to our volunteers who have been helping us so far, it's not been a pleasant task in this heat but we couldn't do it without you!

    Cinnabar moth on ragwort by Ali Blaney

    Dave, Katherine and I have also been out with the quad bike and flail mower, keeping our visitor trails open.  Last week I spent one lovely morning cutting the riverbank public footpath, all the way from Joist Fen viewpoint down to Botany Bay.  It took quite a long time to get all the way down and back, ensuring a nice cut all the way but it does now look really good up there (even if I do say so myself!) and I had stunning views all the way out across the river and the reedbeds.  Some of our visitors who venture down to Botany Bay have noticed that the stretch of footpath through that area is rather overgrown. This is unavoidable at this time of year unfortunately due to the presence of a certain caterpillar - the larvae of the marsh carpet moth, a nationally scarce species.  The larval foodplant for this species is common meadow-rue and our best patch grows along the edge of the public footpath.  We therefore have to wait until the caterpillars have made full use of the plant before we cut the footpath - we also have to attempt to count all the caterpillars before they disappear.  This isn't an easy task, as you can see from the photo below they are very well camouflaged!

    Marsh carpet moth larva by Ali Blaney

    Katherine has been out counting and this years total is 99, slightly down on last year so we'll be looking into why this might be the case.

    A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the rudd activity at Mere Hide (I bet you thought I'd forgotten!)  Dave had reported seeing good 'bittern-sized' rudd as well as the smaller 'fry' swimming about quite clearly in front of and to the side of the hide.  He recorded some footage which you can view by clicking this link:   Mere Hide rudd action.  Visitors are still seeing bitterns from Mere Hide and no wonder with all this food clearly visible!

    The countdown begins.....

    Finally, it is with mixed emotions that I'm announcing this to be my penultimate blog for RSPB Lakenheath Fen.  I am soon to be moving out of the fens and back to the shires of Berks, Bucks and Oxon where I started my career in conservation.  I'll be very sad to leave Lakenheath and everyone here but am moving back to family and friends.  So I'll endeavour to make next weeks blog a good'un and aim for it to be a tribute to how amazing it is here at Lakenheath - for people and for wildlife!

    Posted by Ali Blaney

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Great White Egret ()
14 Aug 2014
Kingfisher (2)
20 Aug 2014
Marsh Harrier (1)
19 Aug 2014
Turtle Dove (2)
19 Aug 2014
Cuckoo (1)
13 Aug 2014
Bearded Tit (1)
11 Aug 2014
Buzzard (7)
20 Aug 2014
Little Egret (4)
19 Aug 2014
Common Tern (1)
19 Aug 2014
Stock Dove ()
19 Aug 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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Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.