This is my first blog post and the wildlife has been kind to me in giving me something to write about- what a week it has been for sightings. Some of our star species have been showing well and the reserve is sitting somewhere between late summer and early autumn now, with wildlife and sights from both seasons sharing the days, so it’s an interesting time to visit the reserve. There’s ripe berries and early fungi starting to pop up everywhere and the mornings can be a bit cooler now.

During yesterday’s volunteer work party, two adult cranes were seen in flight moving between Cowles Drove (the farmland opposite the western end of the reserve, north of the river) and Joist Fen South. The cranes made themselves known to us again with a sighting of four adult birds from the train window on the 21st, and there’s been intermittent sightings since. No sign of the youngster that belonged to the more mature pair, but then given the low profile the young bird from last year kept, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has come to any harm and could well ‘reappear’ at some point with Mum and Dad.

Bitterns have been showing almost daily for visitors that make it down to the wilder western end of the reserve, and around Mere Hide, whereas kingfisher have been turning up almost anywhere. Yesterday I went for a lunchtime stroll and saw one zip across the water in front of New Fen viewpoint. As usual it announced its arrival with a high pitched ‘seep’ and I saw that flash of blue! Bearded tits have been keeping quite a low profile but have been heard pinging in the reeds around Mere Hide by the odd lucky visitor. Little egret and up to three great white egret (on Joist Fen North yesterday) are showing well too.

 Bittern by Stephen ReevePhoto credit: Bittern by Stephen Reeve

On the Washland, the water level is a little higher than of late and the response from the birds are building numbers of ducks and lapwing- yesterday when I went out at midday there were a good 80+ lapwing, and quite a congregation of mallard and gadwall. This is a really interesting area at the moment, with small groups of passage birds such as green sandpiper and yellow wagtail seen there regularly lately. A surprise sighting yesterday came when Katherine saw a cuckoo fly over Joist Fen North- this is a late record which is typical of young birds who migrate later than their parents.

In terms of birds of prey, we have been lucky too- a pair of red kites were seen circling over the visitor centre on a very hot day last week (23rd), as well as a buzzard. I think the heat and stillness of that day allowed for strong thermals which they couldn’t resist soaring up on! Kestrel, sparrowhawk and hobby are all showing well too, with four hobby seen on the 15th and just ones and twos since- this may reflect them beginning to slowly filter out of the reserve, south on migration, and the disbanding of family groups as the youngsters get a little older and more experienced.

 Photo credit: Hobby by Tim James

Marsh harriers have been a little thin on the ground but this is quite normal at this time of year; after breeding the adults and young tend to disperse to new feeding grounds for a little while, as they have often exhausted the local food supply in raising their families. In a few weeks’ time we should see their numbers build and they will return to us for in winter. And in time for our Raptor Spectacular on 17 November if you can join us for that one (to book, or find out more, e-mail us at lakenheath@rspb.org.uk). If we are lucky we may also see hen harrier on the night too though these are less predictable and much scarcer.

Back at the Visitor Centre, marsh tit, goldfinch and the odd visit from a young great spotted woodpecker have been highlights on the feeders, which are easily viewable from inside the Centre where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and a sit down after your walk round!

 Photo credit: Goldfinch by Nigel Wallace

Tomorrow I shall post part two of the blog- all about the insects we have on the wing at the reserve at the moment... watch this space!

Enjoy your weekend, and I hope to see some of you if you pop and visit us soon.

- Heidi Jones (Visitor Experience Officer)

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