Hello and welcome to the latest blog. I thought i'd give a brief round-up of the sightings from this past week, for the benefit of visitors who might be paying us a visit over the weekend and into next week...

We've had some changeable (!) weather but a mild, sunny day (if a little breezy at times) tempted a large red damselfly out of the raised pond bed in front of the Visitor Centre, and during the process of drying its wings it attracted quite an audience of admirers. Peacock, small white, brimstone and orange tip butterflies have all been seen during the fairer weather of the past couple of days- along with comma, red admiral, green-veined white and small copper, they make up the eight species of butterfly currently recorded here in 2021. Common lizards have been seen on occasion basking on the timber edging of the raised beds opposite the Visitor Centre entrance, and the skies directly above this area (where it is relatively sheltered) have attracted large numbers of mixed flocks of swallow, sand martin, house martin and swift who are all back with us now in good numbers. The Brandon Fen family trail and the Washland are two other good spots to look for these- it is amazing to sit and watch them dipping and diving for food in such good numbers now. Other highlights of the Washland include;

Common tern- one fishing along the river between the viewpoint and the Wilton Bridge on 6 May.

Curlew- at least two birds around the fringes and banks of the Washland, daily.

Avocet- twelve were on the Washland on 3 May; numbers fluctuate each day.

Ringed plover- three briefly on 5 May

Dunlin- a high count of 8 on 6 May; 3 on 7 May

Oystercatcher- here most days but one was here on 7 May, but you could easily see two or three

Black-tailed godwit- 9 on 7 May, again numbers fluctuate, with four being more usual

Curlew sandpiper- one on 3 May, briefly

Whimbrel- two on passage on 7 May

Greenshank- one on 3 May

Yellow wagtail- one on 3 May, briefly.

Keep an eye on the sky above the Washland too for hunting common buzzard and marsh harrier. An osprey put in a brief appearance on 5 May, as did a red kite on 3 May. Red kite sightings are increasing in frequency, much to our delight, and seeing one is thankfully no longer unusual but still a highlight in our day! Other terns such as little tern, arctic tern and black tern could use the Washland as a mid-migration pit stop so do keep an eye on the elegant white birds... not all of them may be gulls! Two Mediterranean gulls were on site on 7 May- one over the Washland and one close to Joist Fen.

In terms of other migrants, we keep hearing cuckoo and believe there to be at least two birds here- one in Brandon Fen and one at Joist Fen (there's probably a few more knocking about) and we now have at least three grasshopper warblers. The convention for this species is to mainly sing at dawn and dusk, and remain quite quiet during the day, but these three are singing often during the daytime if they can be tempted to do so by fairer weather. They are nicely spread out with one in New Fen, one in Joist Fen and one in Botany Bay. Sedge warbler, reed warbler and Cetti's warbler are easily heard from within the reedbeds and today (7 May) we spotted a pair of bearded tits at Joist Fen during an excursion! These are usually tricky to see but calm, clear mornings offer you the best chance. 

Hobbies are back too- numbers haven't yet peaked, when we might expect 40-50 birds in the skies at once later in May and in early June, when they are often mixed in with a handful of black terns if we are lucky. It can seem at that time as if the sky is FULL of hobbies, it is a wonderful sight. At the moment we have between five and ten, with more coming in each day and they are much more obvious during warm days. At the moment they are feasting on the abundant St. Mark's flies whilst they wait for the dragonflies and damselflies to build in number. St. Mark's flies are everywhere... they are harmless, black flies (the males are larger and have dangly legs) and you will struggle to visit at the moment without seeing one lazily drifting by. They are a critical food source for early-nesting insectivorous birds such as warblers, when little else is on the wing in good numbers.

When you arrive or leave (especially if you are visiting early or late in the day) keep an eye out for roe deer in the trees lining the entrance track. We have a social group of about eight which can often be seen, sometimes mixed with a muntjac deer or two. Brandon Fen (this area) also offers you the chance to see barn owl (again early or late in the day is best), kestrel, great spotted woodpecker and a variety of smaller birds such as marsh tit and goldcrest.

I hope this is useful! We are expecting good weather on Sunday following a bit of a wet forecast tomorrow, but come rain or shine we'll be here with a smile, a map and an ice-cream for our visitors! 

Hope to see you soon,

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

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