Now we are well into autumn we have good numbers of redwing on the reserve, and they especially like hawthorn bushes at the moment. Brandon Fen family trail is a good spot to look for these, but anywhere with berry bushes is giving sightings. One of our regular visitors found our first fieldfare of the season mixed in with some redwing down near New Fen, on 17 October. This day also gave us our first water pipit (on the Washland) of the season and we had another sighting at lunchtime today (19 October). West Wood is another area to check for fieldfare as we had a sighting there today, but, like redwing, anywhere with berry bushes could attract them.

The Washland is a good spot to go first thing in the morning too- our numbers of whooper swans roosting here overnight have been growing and are usually still here until around 09:30 each morning. Yesterday (18 October) a visitor had 174, quite early on, whereas today I found 54- but was looking later on. A female pintail was amongst the swans yesterday too- this is not a bird we frequently get on the reserve- perhaps one or two records a year. In the vegetation surrounding the Washland it’s now possible to see stonechat who are wintering here, and kingfisher are frequent zipping along the river in front of the viewpoint too.

 Photo credit: Whooper swans by David Mackey

Further down the reserve, bearded tits continue to delight with most sightings coming from Joist Fen and Mere Hide. At the hide we have started filling the grit tray again for them, as the birds (at this time of year in family groups) will visit these trays to pick up grit particles as part of their diet. In winter bearded tits feed exclusively on reed seeds and the grit helps to grind the seeds up in their crops- useful for an animal that cannot chew! They tend to be more visible on cold, calm, clear days. On 18 October Dave had a brief view of a bittern in Joist Fen as it flew into a reedbed edge- just before the heaven’s opened! Perhaps it knew what was coming…

 Photo credit: Bittern in flight by David Gowing

Although our hobbies seem to have left now (with our last recorded sighting on 14 October), sparrowhawk, kestrel and marsh harrier are frequent and a peregrine was recorded by our first Site Manager Norman Sills on 17 October. An evening walk could well reward visitors with a sighting of a barn owl, especially over the Washland or hunting over a reedbed- they should be hunting more in daylight hours now that the weather is cooler and the days shorter.

Smaller birds of interest include a late swallow on 17 October, flying over the Visitor Centre, and growing numbers of siskin in the alders next to the Visitor Centre feeders too. They are often in mixed flocks with goldfinches. Goldcrest and long-tailed tit are becoming more noticeable and David White (my predecessor) had two hawfinches and a yellowhammer calling in flight over the reserve earlier today (19 October).

There’s a variety of fungi out on the reserve such as this bracket fungi on the Brandon Fen trail, and a pair of young parasol mushrooms too (these could be over 20cm across when they are fully open! Butterflies recorded this week include red admiral and peacock, and there are still good numbers of common darter and migrant hawker around.

 Photo credit: Parasol mushroom by Heidi Jones

 Photo credit: Bracket fungi by Heidi Jones

Hopefully this update has given you a good overview of what we have on site at the moment, and we hope to see you soon!