This week has given visitors almost daily sightings of cranes on the reserve, especially in the afternoons, with Joist Fen being the most reliable place to stop and look for them. Today,  approximately eighteen were seen by Cat on the track beyond Joist Fen, and this follows a count of seventeen by our previous Site Manager Norman in Hockwold, the village just north of Lakenheath- so it looks the same group that is fairly mobile at the moment. Each evening we have between two and four coming in to roost around Joist Fen- often they are heard calling to each other before they are seen. Another bird Norman found was a little owl, on Cowles Drove, on 26 January. Cowles Drove runs along the length of the reserve, and to get on to it, take a left turning just after the Wilton Bridge (which spans the Little Ouse- the northern border of the reserve) and follow it along. There is a line of large, gnarly old willows that border a field margin where it can often be seen, perched out on a limb staring back at you! The track is very uneven, so a 4 x 4, on foot or by bicycle might be your best way to get down and have a look! 

Another bird which has been quite conspicuous this week has been the great white egrets, with up to three visiting the Washland. We have up to six birds on site, and although they prefer Joist Fen where between one and three can often be found feeding in the river or the Washland. Their smaller cousins, little egret, can often be found on the Washland too and seeing the birds side-by-side really highlights the size difference between them. This photo was taken recently by our digger driver after he'd recently cleared a ditch- five minutes later he had these two fly in, keen to have a look at what he'd been doing! It's likely the ditch was full of recently disturbed invertebrates and perhaps the odd frog or fish which they were feasting on.

  Photo credit: Great white egret (rear bird) and little egret, taken by Paul Farnish

Our elusive male brambling has been spotted again! One of our wardens Emma saw it while out walking the Brandon Fen (family) trail on 27 January, in a mixed flocking of chaffinches and tits. Brandon Fen is an excellent place to look for smaller birds at the moment, including long-tailed tit, coal tit, goldcrest, marsh tit and wren. While these smaller birds tend to move along the hedges in rolling groups, bouncing ahead of each other, redwing and fieldfare (also common here at the moment) tend to be perched up quite high in the poplar trees, waving a bit in the breeze. Yesterday (30 January) I only noticed them because I happened to look up- they don't always call, especially when stationary- and saw them all watching me! Check the large open clearing, near the hopscotch- for green woodpecker, too. Kestrel and buzzard have both been spotted regularly here in the past week.

Photo credit: A beautiful female green woodpecker (female due to no red patch inside the black moustache) taken by Les Bunyan

In terms of waterbirds, the Washland has been a good place to look for ducks- with a handful each of shoveler, wigeon and gadwall most days, as well as two shelduck which have been there for a while now. The Washland is a good place to visit if you only have an hour or two to spare towards the end of the day- our evening roost of whooper and Bewick's swans have been flying in to roost from about 17:00 onwards, though the later you leave it, the better! Last week I only found the Bewick's were here because I popped up there between 17:00 and 17:30 and heard them calling. Most of the swans- of both species- fly in after dark but they have such beautiful calls it doesn't really matter if you can't see them! For me it only adds to the magic- their calls seem so clear and haunting against the backdrop of near silence- almost every other bird is quiet, apart from the water rails. They have been very vocal around Brandon Fen and the pool at the Visitor Centre, especially early and late in the day. On our feeders at the Centre we have been treated to good numbers of reed bunting, chaffinch, greenfinch, long-tailed tit and goldfinch.

Photo credit: A beautiful male gadwall from RSPB Images

Best wishes for a nice weekend and we hope to see you on the reserve soon! Do pop in to the Visitor Centre when you arrive for the most up-to-date sightings!

Last minute edit: Visitors reported a single ringtail (female / juvenile) hen harrier flying in to roost at Joist Fen this evening. There's a chance it'll be back tomorrow- fingers crossed!