This past week on the reserve has seen a rise in the number of whooper swans on the reserve- on 22 October we had over 200 recorded on the Washland in the early morning. These seem to be leaving at about 09:30ish in the morning, having flown into roost after dark the evening before, to feed on farmland in the local area. They are joined on the water by increasing number of teal (forty three recorded on 19 October, wigeon, about a dozen shoveler in small feeding groups, little egret and on some days lapwing and redshank too.

The Washland also turned up another sighting of a water pipit on 19 October. There’s always a lot of meadow pipit and pied wagtail around the fringes of the riverbank, and a kingfisher whizzes up and down the length of the river several times daily! Not much was visible up there today given the heavy mist but it was very atmospheric:

 Photo credit: A misty washland at midday today (24 October) by Heidi Jones

Yesterday (23 October) our reserve team attempted the annual autumn bearded tit survey but it looks like it was a little early- they are still feeding on insects and haven’t yet switched to their winter diet of reed seeds, which is what makes them conspicuous enough for the survey- the mild autumn we have had so far is probably what is behind this. Sightings of them should get better the colder the weather gets! The odd fieldfare is now on site, and sightings of these have been coming from West Wood (the poplar plantation just west of New Fen North). They are mixed in with redwing which are popping up anywhere there are berries, hawthorn berries in particular.

In terms of birds of prey, marsh harrier have been showing well, especially on windy days and in the Joist Fen area. Whilst they should be visible daily, our peregrine visits are a little more sporadic- last recorded on 17 October, it tends to favour the course of the river or the New Fen reedbed. Kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard are daily visitors to the reserve too!

For kingfisher fans among our readership, birds have been frequenting the Visitor Centre pond for a spot of fishing, and they always like the river too- so head here if you are keen to see one. If you stay a while at the Visitor Centre and watch the feeders you should get marsh tit, siskin and perhaps great spotted woodpecker.

 Photo credit: Female siskin on the reserve by Dave McGouth

Whilst I write this it’s wet, misty and gloomy outside but if the weather warms up in the coming days and we see the sun (!) there is still a chance of late butterflies such as red admiral, peacock and comma, or dragonflies such as ruddy darter, common darter and migrant hawker. There’s a variety of fungi about too, including parasol mushrooms and giant puffballs on the Brandon Fen family trail.

I hope this has given you an overview of what you could see in the coming days if you visit the reserve, and do let us know in the Visitor Centre what you have seen. Next week (28 October) for a few days we are having some work done in the car park to install solar panels, and a portion of the car park will be cordoned off for this and for safety reasons. There might be a few workmen or women about too, but there will still be plenty of parking space and access to the Visitor Centre and reserve will be unaffected.

by Heidi Jones

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