Guest blog by Laura Harbard, RSPB Communications Volunteer

Well, it’s been an exciting first week of the Springwatch broadcast period on the reserve, with a huge array of wildlife to keep both first-time and regular visitors happy.

The bitterns have been a popular species this week following the nest-cam coverage on Springwatch. Viewers were privileged to gain access to what was quite possibly the first on-film record of adults cannibalising a youngster who had perished. With two bittern chicks remaining in the nest, the nest cam footage offers a fantastic opportunity to have a peek into the lives of these secretive, rare birds.

Bittern Hide is also living up to its name, with both young and old visitors getting their first glimpses of the iconic species from the heights of the hide. Multiple bitterns have been showing well, and have even been booming at each other in full view of spectators.

Bittern (Oscar Dewhurst)


Stars of the scrape were the avocets, many of which have nested successfully and are still visible on the nests from the hides. Sadly one of our breeding pairs did not plan for the rainfall and subsequent rising water levels and lost their nest, but many other parents have been proudly showing off their new broods, some visible from Island Mere Hide.

Avocets (Oscar Dewhurst)


A flurry of excitement followed the arrival of a golden oriole on the reserve at the beginning of the week, with visitors and film crews alike scurrying to get a glimpse of the bird. As few as 85 of these unmistakeable exotic-looking birds pass through the UK every year, with less than half a dozen pairs stopping to breed. They can usually be found making a pit stop in the poplars of RSPB’s Lakenheath Fen, which may well be where our visitor was headed.

The temporary short cut along the beautiful vista of Whin Hill proved to be an ideal place to spot another unusual visitor this week – the common crane. A pair flew over the visitor centre and decided to take refuge not far from Island Mere hide, much to the delight of those dining at our cafe’s picnic benches.

A red-backed shrike has taken a liking to an area south of the sluice on a couple of occasions this week, and cuckoos have been calling from all corners of the reserve, with nightingales and various warblers still vocalising too. About half a dozen hobbies have been spotted, and have even been visible from the visitor centre, darting over the woodland, while sand martins are still busy near the pond dipping platform.

With the sun escaping from the clouds’ clutches this weekend, insects like Norfolk hawkers and small red-eyed damsels have been identified, as well as cream spot tiger moths.

The Springwatch team have been keen to showcase some of the reserve’s variety of mammals too, with cameras on a number of badger sets. We hope to find out a lot more about the various individuals and their habits as the programme develops. There were also reports of a pipistrelle bat near Bittern Hide on Sunday afternoon, and water voles remain visible from the hide.

Despite the slightly graphic demise of the rabbit kits near the Springwatch backstage area, there are plenty of others nibbling their way around the reserve, but we have only had a handful of otter sightings this weekend – perhaps they’re camera shy?

We’re looking forward to what week 2 has in store for us on Springwatch and across the reserve, and hope to see you here soon!