I ought to start with the sensible stuff- and let you all know that if you are travelling to us from the Ely direction there is a road closure which might be relevant- it is the Highbridge Gravel Drove / Newman’s Drove / Farthing’s Drove road between the Mildenhall Road (A1101) and the B1112 that runs from south to north through Lakenheath village and up to the reserve (see below).
The closure is in place 24/7 for the foreseeable future as the embankment (edges) on the road have collapsed and the underneath of the road surface is disintegrating too so it is unsafe to drive on. If you need to reach us from Ely, it will be best to head north on the A10 to Southery and then east to Feltwell and then south to Lakenheath. Do phone us though- on 01842 863400 if you come unstuck and need help with directions!
Now for the exciting bit- we have started the day with a bittern sighting- our administrator (and daily hero!) Suzanne saw one on the Wilton Bridge washes at about 08:30 and we have had a beautiful male redpoll on the Visitor Centre feeders, making a few return visits this morning. He was later joined by a female siskin as well as plenty of reed bunting, long-tailed tit and dozens of goldfinches... a whole 'charm' of them! In fact this end of the reserve has been particularly good for wildlife lately, with green woodpecker, two singing song thrush, a sparrowhawk and a barn owl all on 24 February. On the whole we have had seen a big increase in the number and variety of singing birds on the reserve as we approach March, and it is lovely to hear! Blackbird, song thrush and great tit have been especially vocal. We also had twelve corn bunting recorded by one of our regular volunteers flying in the roost in Brandon Fen near the river on the evening of 17 February. Do look out for these anywhere along the riverbank vegetation though as we have had sporadic reports from some regular visitors in areas such as the Washland viewpoint and the northern border of New Fen, where it joins the river. When the light begins to fade will be the best time to look, and keep an eye for barn owls too. One place that is especially reliable at the moment is the rough vegetation at the back of the Photography Station- most evenings at about 17:00 to 18:00 one can be seen hunting here.
Photo credit: Hunting barn owl by David Mackey
Another bird that has recently popped up on our radar is the curlew- it all began a couple of weeks back with two in flight over the Visitor Centre on 15 February, with two (possibly the same birds) recorded on the Washland two days later, and several sightings of single birds since including two in flight over the Visitor Centre. We are getting to the time of year when curlew begin to move inland to their upland or moorland breeding grounds- and we at Lakenheath are about twenty miles from our nearest bit of coast at Kings Lynn. It’s quite possible that these birds are ones moving through from the Suffolk coast to the north of England, stopping off at the Washland for quick snack of a few worms to keep them going! In a similar manner we had two mediterranean gulls in flight over the car park on 19 February- these are likely also to be moving towards their coastal breeding grounds.
Photo credit: Two curlew in flight by Les Bunyan
One of our star species- cranes- have been seen almost daily in a pair that we believe could be the same breeding pair from 2019, coming in to roost in Joist Fen. We are lucky enough to have our previous site manager, Norman Sills, keeping an eye on their movements and habits on a regular basis- information which is so useful in seeing how the birds use the reserve and in updating our visitors on their behaviour. Although bitterns have been tricky to see lately out on the reserve, one was spotted by one of the Environment Agency staff on 25 February- the EA were here on a tree planting away day- a nice reward for their efforts! I hope this sightings update has been useful. As usual, please let us know what you have seen during your visits here, as it your sightings are invaluable in helping us build a picture of the wildlife using the reserve at the time and in keeping other visitors informed too. Best wishes, Heidi Jones Visitor Experience Officer
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