Hello and welcome to the latest blog- and there is an awful lot to mention! We have nearly all of our Spring migrants back now, and the arrival dates are below:

Avocet

8 February

Dunlin*

9 March

Bittern (booming)

13 March

Garganey

19 March

Ruff*

21 March

Black-tailed godwit*

23 March

Sand martin*

6 April

Swallow

7 April

Sedge warbler

8 April

Willow warbler

11 April

Little ringed plover*

12 April

Wheatear*

12 April

Grasshopper warbler

14 April

Whitethroat

15 April

Cuckoo

15 April

Reed warbler

16 April

House martin

17 April

Nightingale

17 April

Greenshank*

17 April

Hobby

21 April

 If the bird has a * next to it, that denotes that it is a 'passage' visitor to us- i.e. one we probably won't have breeding on the reserve this summer, but that stops off with us for a short time- anything between a few hours to a few weeks. Birds like house martin and sand martin may well feature here all summer, but the reserve habitat isn't suitable for supporting them as a breeding bird so they will breed nearby, such as in old house roofs in Hockwold or Lakenheath, or farm buildings on Cowles Drove. The birds we are still waiting on include the below:

Species

2021 arrival date

Green sandpiper

30 March

Wood sandpiper

28 April

Swift

1 May

Ringed plover

2 May

Garden warbler

2 May

Common sandpiper

3 May

Yellow wagtail

8 May

Spotted flycatcher

8 June

In 2021 we sadly didn't record either turtle dove or black tern, but the last year we had turtle dove here (2018) we heard one on 28 April. Most years we get a scattering of black terns in with the hobbies during May, and in 2020 we first saw one on 23 April.

Our resident birds have been showing well too- bitterns have become much more visible, as well as the increase in booming lately. Look out for them in flight across the reedbeds at Joist Fen and New Fen, as well as for solitary or pairs of common cranes too. Our cranes are busy breeding and if you see a two birds, they are likely to be a pair that haven't settled down yet, and if you see a single bird this is likely to be an individual 'off-duty' from caring duties and moving to and from feeding grounds. Unusually several visitors reported a white stork on 21 April, flying past them, in front of West Wood as viewed from Mere Hide. We have no way of telling if this white stork is an escapee or a truly wild bird, as it is un-ringed, although we have a history of escaped birds roaming locally, quite regularly in the Spring of last year. A kingfisher put in an appearance at New Fen on 21 April, and a pair of great crested grebes have been displaying, nest-building, fishing and mating at Mere Hide for several weeks now. These lovely photos have been shared with us by visitors recently:



Photo credit: The Mere Hide pair of great crested grebes, taken by Peter Brown on 12 April.





Photo credit: More lovely images of the grebes, this time taken by Roger Collorick, the next day on 13 April.

Mere Hide has also been good for water rails recently, with four and then three seen on separate occasions and it will soon be a good place looking for both reed warbler and sedge warbler, to see and hear from there. As I write this, one of our volunteers has popped his head in the door and reported the first hairy dragonfly of the year, seen with a large red damselfly on the sheltered, sunny track south of West Wood. Our first and only other large red damselfly in 2022 was seen here on 15 April but today was our first dragonfly sighting. He also saw a common tern flying along the river which is our first of 2022 too, marking bird number 113 on our year list!

The Washland continues to provide a good selection of waders with 30-50 avocet most days, a couple of ruff seen this morning (24 April) include a very white 'satellite' male, several black-tailed godwits and a handful of redshank, lapwing and oystercatcher too. Garganey have been spotted again this morning, with a pair on the small flooded pool north of East Wood. It is about the right time for us to see green sandpiper and possibly wood sandpiper on the reserve and this pool is a favoured spot so do check the muddy edges when you next find yourselves there.

Wildlife with more than two legs...

It is that time of year again when we can at long last report good numbers of insects on the wing- orange-tip, comma, brimstone, peacock, small white and green-veined white are all common on a warm day such as today. Most recently added to our list was three green hairstreaks and five speckled wood seen in Brandon Fen on 17 April on our WCBS survey done by our volunteers. Our list now sits at 11 species, having not mentioned holly blue which is a spectacular little butterfly, silvery-blue on the undersides of the wings and small in size. We don't have many here but if the weather is good, keep an eye out on the gorse bushes behind the raised beds at the Visitor Centre for one of two flitting about in the sunshine. Our first of the year was seen on 15 April, a day after the first orange-tip and small white.

If you're interested in flowers, there's a few species out now to enjoy, including marsh-marigold in the raised fen bed (the middle of the raised beds) at the Visitor Centre, and wild grape-hyacinth which is just finishing it's flowering season in the Brecks bed next door. In the wild garden by the Visitor Centre, cowslip, shining cranes-bill, dusky cranesbill (a widely-naturalised garden escape) and white dead-nettle are in flower too. Out on the Brandon Fen trails, common stork's-bill is now out, as well as garlic-mustard and ground ivy is adding a little purple to the scene too!

On the mammal front, roe deer and muntjac deer continue to be spotted across the reserve, especially on the entrance track and the riverbank. David White saw a stoat swimming this morning (24 April) and the first common lizards have been seen basking in the sun on the raised beds in recent days too.

Our work parties have continued with their potholing and next week are mixing it up a bit with some water sampling on Tuesday. The sampling is being organised by the Freshwater Habitats Trust and the samples we take will be analysed for eDNA, a type of DNA that is more resistant to being degraded, so it lasts longer in the water. The idea is that when it is analysed, the Trust can tell us what animals have been in the water! It will provide a welcome change from potholing and it will be fascinating to see what animals have been using the ditches and channels here. We have also had a tradesman in to do some work on our decking area, where parts of the wood are rotting away, especially where the beams extend beyond the balcony railing, and he'll be back for another visit to finish the job soon. Work on cleaning and painting our damaged workshop (following the March burglary and fire) is complete and repairs can now get underway in the next couple of weeks- it is hoped that soon hot water and heating will be restored (along with our gas supply) and that we can bring our usual toilets back into service and do away with the port-a-loos. It shouldn't be long now and we would like to thank all our visitors for their patience whilst our facilities have been not what they usually are!

With best wishes,

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

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