Hello and welcome to this week's blog. We've had a variable week in terms of weather, but on the warmer days we have been seeing plenty of dragonflies and butterflies. Bitterns in flight are one of the current highlights as females fly short distances across the reedbeds to find food to feed their youngsters. While they don't 'boom' like the males, they will sometimes make a grunting sound as they fly- have a listen on the link below to familiarise yourself with this:



Another bird to look out for over the reedbeds at the moment is the majestic marsh harrier- they are busy looking after their broods, and unlike the bitterns, males will play a key role in rearing the young. For all of the first few weeks of the chicks' life, the females will not leave them unattended at all, so the males do all the hunting. When the chicks are a good size and well-feathered, the female may feel able to leave them for short periods to hunt for herself or for them, especially if the male isn't catching as much as she would like. Males sometimes have two or even three separate nests with females on the go at once, so he can really have his work cut out! The reedbeds are very musical at the moment- they are full of singing reed warbler, sedge warbler, reed bunting and a few Cetti's warblers too. A lot of our visitors are keen to see bearded tits when they visit, but this is a trickier species as they tend to be quiet, creeping and are very well camouflaged. It is very often the case that you hear them before you see them, so it is key to know what they sound like- have a listen here:



If you want to try and see bearded tits, then visiting in the morning- the earlier the better- and in calm and sunny weather, will give you the best chance. Other highlights at the moment include the waders on the Washland- at present we have 10-15 redshank (with three fledged young), 11 black-tailed godwits, around 15 avocets, 2 curlew and over 140 lapwing (around 20-25 of which are chicks from this year at various stages of development). On 19 June we had a single green sandpiper and most days we will see a common tern or two (also keep an eye out on the larger reedbed pools for these too). It's a real pleasure to spend some time watching all the activity on the Wash from the riverbank footpath, and you can often see larger birds such as marsh harrier, little egret and great white egret up there too. Keep an eye on the river itself (between the Washes and the footpath) for kingfisher, little grebe and grey heron.

The Washland is a superb place to look for a variety of colourful wildflowers at the moment- meadow vetchling, red clover, tufted vetch and creeping cinquefoil (see photos below). On these flowers on 23 June we found our first meadow brown butterflies- four- and they were flying in Brandon Fen too- Suzanne got the very first ones earlier in the day. I suspected a ringlet too but it wouldn't keep still for long enough for me to be sure! We are now on 16 species for 2021 thanks to our first painted ladies on 3 June and the first brown argus around that time too. We still have a few places left on tomorrow's Butterfly Guided Walk (26 June) here at the reserve (11am to 1pm) so if you fancy coming along to that to enjoy what's on offer, you can read more and book tickets here. One of our knowledgeable volunteers will meet you at the front of the Visitor Centre at 11:00 and the walk will last approximately two hours, taking in our best butterfly spots on the route.







  Photo credit: From top to bottom: Tufted vetch, creeping cinquefoil, common knapweed and red clover on the riverbank footpath. Photos by Heidi Jones.

There are lots of dragonflies on the wing too and this week saw our first ruddy darters of 2021! A visitor kindly showed me a photograph of what looked like a common darter, taken yesterday, but the angle meant checking whether it was common or ruddy wasn't definite. We are now on 12 species for the year, and we can expect willow emerald damselfly and brown hawker to come yet, and we may get one or two others such as Norfolk hawker if we are lucky. Easiest to see at the moment are species such as four-spotted chaser, azure damselfly and banded demoiselle- you will see more of these the closer you get to the river.

Back at the Visitor Centre, we have seen some young blue tits and great tits on the feeders, and reed bunting and greenfinch are regular visitors. He wouldn't have been able to fit on a feeder but on 23 June we briefly had a male marsh harrier on the kingfisher perch at the back of the Visitor Centre pond! Other feeder birds include coal tits and chaffinches. Cuckoos are still calling, both males and 'bubbling' females on a daily basis, and these are worth stopping to listen to if one starts calling near you- it is such an atmospheric sound. We have also ben setting our moth trap, twice this week- on 22 June a chilly night (8c) produced just 10 moths of 9 species, whereas last night's trap (24 June) caught much more variety including elephant hawkmoth, one pine hawkmoth, eyed hawkmoth and plenty of small elephant hawkmoths. Four-dotted footman, double-square spot, pebble hook-tip and the first white satin of 2021 featured this week too.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this weeks' blog. Here's a reminder of our facilities at the moment:

Car park, Mere Hide and trails open daily, from dawn until dusk. We have a small path closure south of Trial Wood, but this does not affect a visitors’ ability to do the long circular trail to Joist Fen through the reserve and back via the riverbank).

Toilets (including an accessible one) and Visitor Centre open from 09:00 to 17:00 in the week, 09:00 to 16:30 at the weekend and bank holidays.

Takeaway refreshments, pin badges, greetings cards and local wildlife prints available to browse and buy from our Visitor Centre during opening hours.

Binocular hire and disabled parking facility (at New Fen) available during Visitor Centre opening hours.

Thank you for reading the blog and we hope to see you soon!

Heidi Jones (Visitor Experience Officer, RSPB Lakenheath Fen).

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