This past week on the reserve has seen an appearance of our elusive cranes- a visitor saw three flying together over Trial Wood on 9 October. Because they are so tricky to see at the moment, it’s unclear whether this is our breeding pair and their mature youngster or not, and we are waiting for a positive ID! Norman Sills used to be our site manager here and knows the cranes individually, by sight, and regularly visits to check up on them- one of these days we are hoping he’ll come in and tell us he’s found our family. If you want to see a large number of cranes, at this time of year WWT Welney is worth a visit as our birds usually join a large wintering flock of 40-50 birds there at some point and that population is building up now.

 Photo credit: Four cranes bugling (calling) from Spring 2019 by Robin Johnson

Back at Lakenheath though our bearded tits have been showing well! They can be seen most days, especially on calm, clear and colder days in any of the reedbeds but especially down at Joist Fen. They will now have switched to their winter diet of reed seeds and this is part of the reason they can be so conspicuous, as they feed on the tops of reed stems in loose groups, calling to each other. Talking of reedbeds, our warden Katherine found a couple of disused harvest mice nests in New Fen North and in the plant pools along the side of the main track as you leave the Visitor Centre. Harvest mice are resident here but so rarely seen that it’s always nice when you find signs of their activity.

We are still getting daily hobby sightings, though we have fewer birds on site now. One of our volunteers saw one on our Brandon Fen family trail on 10 October and they have been favouring the Washland and New Fen areas too. Also on the Washland are a few stonechat, generally perched up on the top of bushes bordering the riverbank, and it seems that we are starting to get a few whooper swans coming in to roost in the evenings here too now. Their numbers should build in the coming weeks, perhaps with a few bewick’s swans mixed in too. Further down the reserve around Joist Fen, our great white egrets dwell and we have had up to five birds seen together down here.

 Photo credit: A pretty whooper swan on the reserve by Allan King (2012)

Back at the Visitor Centre our lone male house sparrow has become quite regular, and there are several siskin mixed in with the goldfinches now- you can often hear these twittering in the tops of the alder trees surrounding the feeders. Our local kingfisher continues to delight on the pool at the Visitor Centre, fishing sometimes from perches right in front of the balcony! Whilst you walk the trails it's worth listening for redwing, whose numbers are growing and we seem to have more and more every day. Long-tailed tits and goldcrests are becoming more noticeable now too.

We’ve had a week of very autumnal weather, plenty of rain with some cold and blustery spells too so insect life is quite subdued now on the reserve. However fungi are beginning to spring up in all sorts of places and I am eagerly awaiting the fly agarics in the car park (under the silver birches). However, while I wait patiently I have been finding others such as this one. I’m having trouble identifying them but they’re attractive nonetheless! When I remember to bring my fungi book with me i'll find out what they are exactly and update the blog with a name!

 Photo credit: A little group of toadstools in the car park (yet to be identified) by Heidi Jones

If you see anything interesting on your walks around the site, do let us know- whether bird, mammal, fungi, insect or anything else, we love to know what's out there. Hope to see you soon!

by Heidi Jones

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