Hello! We have had an interesting week here at the reserve, thanks in part to an exotic visitor in the moth trap on Sunday night- a big, beautiful, blue clifden nonpareil! It's an odd name which originates from the first British record coming from the Cliveden estate in Berkshire (in the 18th Century) and the French word 'nonpareil' means 'without equal'- a suggestion of how beautiful it is! It drew in crowds earlier this week from many people keen to watch the release of this rare beauty, one that we may never catch again on the reserve! Cooler days have meant lower insect numbers generally, although the stalwart red admirals, comma and migrant hawkers are still out in force and can be enjoyed throughout the trails on a dry day.
Photo credit: Clifden nonpariel moth by Emma Cuthbertson
One lovely bird we begin to see more of again in early autumn is the snipe- the Washland is a good spot to look for these, and other waders possible from here include ruff (between three and four have been seen regularly lately) and plenty of lapwing! We now have well over 100 of these iridescent birds staring aimlessly into space for most of the day (with the odd burst of feeding activity or flight typical of plovers!). They are joined by lots of gadwall, teal, wigeon, mallard and shoveler and the males of these species are slowly emerging from their eclipse plumage and starting to be recognisable from more than just their body shape! Last night on the Washland (20 October) I found at least thirteen snipe and a surprise turnstone too, as well as five ruff.
Photo credit: Snipe from RSPB Images
We are still getting regular sightings of hobby over the Washland and three cranes were seen on Joist Fen on 16 September by a lucky visitor- it’s likely they’ll be off to join the winter feeding flock at Ouse Washes soon but for now they’re still with us! Bittern and kingfisher have been seen too, with Mere Hide and Joist Fen good areas to see these and possibly hear bearded tits ‘pinging’ too. The volunteers on our weekly work parties on Thursdays normally return to the Visitor Centre not only covered in bits of plants, soil and happy faces but also with wildlife reports- and last week they heard lots of bearded tits while they were out reed cutting. This week around Mere Hide there were several groups of them.
The change to Autumn is reflected in the action on the feeders too- long-tailed tits are beginning to visit again and most of the young plain-faced goldfinches have now moulted into their adult plumage with smart red masks! Coal tits have begun hoarding seed like they do- taking a few away one by one to hide somewhere only known to them. We still get daily sightings of marsh tit on the feeders and a single tree sparrow graced us with its presence on 7 September- we are keeping an eye out in case it makes a return visit!
Photo credit: Long-tailed tit by Alec Wallis
Bats don't normally feature in our blogs, but on Saturday evening we had a dusk walk with our Wildlife Explorers (young RSPB members) around the site and we saw good numbers of Daubenton’s bats swooping and twisting over the Visitor Centre pool, a few pipistrelles flying high and fast around us and even a few noctule bats along the southern edge of East Wood. It was a very special atmosphere, under the glow of a full moon, with the group immersed in the peace and stillness of a summer night on the reserve. We’d highly recommend a walk around 7 to 7:30pm, and the best sunsets will come following sunny days with a bit of cloud- tonight, Saturday night and next Monday night look promising, though check the forecast on the day as we know how changeable it can be!
Photo credit: Last saturday's sunset by Heidi Jones
I hope this blog has been useful, and we look forward to seeing you this weekend- our volunteers inside the Visitor Centre will be happy to show you where is best to go to see what you want!
by Heidi Jones
Visitor Experience Officer, Lakenheath Fen
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