We are now up to 63 species for 2020 so far, with the latest being almost the smallest- the wren. Sparrowhawk, treecreeper, great spotted woodpecker, yellowhammer, barn owl and brambling are new ones too.

Lately our cranes have been showing very well, and two pairs were seen earlier today flying in and out of Joist Fen South by our Thursday work party. This is just one of the highlights of venturing down the reserve at the moment, and you could well see several great white egrets (we have up to six) and plenty of marsh harriers too, especially if it's a windier day. On 2 January our ex-site manager Norman saw six cranes likely flying in to roost on New Fen North.

Aside from the marsh harriers, we have had a pair of buzzards showing very well on the reserve, especially around Brandon Fen and the Washland. One of the pair was semi-skydancing to the other last week, on a particularly mild day. Kestrel and sparrowhawk have been regular too, with the kestrels especially liking the railway line and the Washland.

Brandon Fen is also a good place to look for mixed tit flocks at the moment too- these comprise groups of blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit and marsh tit, sometimes with more unusual birds following behind. In the past week on the reserve these extra birds have included treecreeper and brambling, and so far this is the only way these two species have been seen on site. It's worth keeping an eye out for siskin and even redpoll too, in flocks of their own flying around Brandon Fen, the visitor Car Park and the alder trees around the Visitor Centre. We had our first redpoll seen on 22 December- a pair of birds- and the odd sighting since but as usual there are many more siskin than redpoll! According to official migration figures, in the winter in the UK there are around eleven siskin for every redpoll- and redpoll are never as conspicuous or as vocal as siskin either! Other highlights on the bird feeders include plenty of reed bunting and chaffinch, as well as two great spotted woodpeckers- a female tends to use the feeders at the Visitor Centre while a male bird seems to prefer those at the Photography Station! Our confiding water rail is still often out under the feeders there, picking through leftovers dropped from the feeders above, and one of our regular volunteers got this lovely photograph on 10 January:

 Photo credit: A beautiful water rail and it's reflection, taken by Mark Grooms

Our male house sparrow was last seen on 11 January and keeps reappearing- we are going to try and encourage him and others to settle on the reserve by building a sparrow terrace nest box, which is a long box with several compartments and entry holes- almost like four or five nest boxes stuck together. Sparrows prefer to nest socially so these multiple boxes can encourage them to colonise a new area. We'll site it near to the Visitor Centre too as they also like to be close to human habitation.

Up on the Washland, duck numbers seem to be building up a bit- I counted twenty-five shoveler and six shelduck up there today (16 January) and there is an impressive daytime gathering of gulls up there. It consists of several hundred lively and noisy black-headed gulls mixed in with around 50-100 more lethargic lesser black-backed gulls. While you're there keep an eye on the river right in front of you- this has been a good spot to look for kingfisher, little grebe and little egret, as well as up to three pairs of stonechat. Water pipit and meadow pipit are very common here too- the water pipits especially like feeding in the flooded patches of riverbank. 

In terms of non-wildlife related news, we were gifted with a clear sky last Friday (10 January) so we could appreciate the beautiful Blood Moon in all it's glory, right from the moment it rose up over the horizon. Here is a lovely photo taken by two visitors of ours on that day- Gail and Ray Baxter:

I hope you've enjoyed the blog and I am sorry it's been a little while since the last one! As always, we really appreciate it when our visitors come in and tell us what they've seen during their visit to the reserve, as it helps us build a picture of what is about and we can keep future visitors better informed of what they might see and where!

I hope you all have a very happy 2020!

Best wishes,

Heidi

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