My first post this month and an interesting one to report as a number of the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team visited RSPB Lakenheath today.
After a very damp drive across into Suffolk this morning our first stop was Foxhole Heath, an area of heathland near the village of Eriswell which has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its biological importance, the reason for our visit was to catch a glimpse of the breeding Stone Curlew population (pictured).
We were not disappointed as the weather cleared once we entered the county and the sight of at least six of these magnificent birds really set the day up. In fact some quite close views and the chill in the air allowing some good scoping without the usual heat haze to contend with. Also on the heath were good numbers of Mistle Thrush, Skylark, several Curlew, two Yellowhammer and a lone Green Woodpecker.
On to RSPB Lakenheath Fen, my first visit to this site, with high hopes of some excellent birding. At Lakenheath Fen, the RSPB has converted an area of arable farmland into a large wetland, consisting mainly of reedbeds and grazing marshes. The new reedbeds have attracted hundreds of pairs of Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers, as well as Bearded Tits and Marsh Harriers. Our first stop was at New Fen Viewpoint with some good views of male and female Marsh Harrier and by the time we arrived it was already noticeable that a good amount of Cuckoo's were also on site with both males calling and females bubbling. The sun had started to break through too and as the day was beginning to warm up it wasn't long before Hobbies began to appear.
Next stop was Trail Wood viewpoint and the unmistakable call of Golden Oriole deep within the Poplar dominated woodland. Unfortunately and as ever with this particular species the bird remained elusive throughout our visit. During the walk down towards Joist Fen viewpoint Bearded Tit were heard calling on several occasions, and once again as with the Oriole's I just never managed any good views, the strong northerly wind probably not helping here.
We spent a good deal of time, including lunch, overlooking Joist Fen and were amazed by the amount of Marsh Harrier seen during our stay, we estimate that around seven or eight birds were constantly overflying. The highlight for me though was the two Bittern seen during our stay and the several times I heard one of the males booming. An albeit brief and distant view too of a couple of Crane flying towards the River Little Ouse but unfortunately that was the best we could muster. A final walk back to the centre along the River produced more Hobby and Marsh Harrier, plus the one solitary butterfly of the day, a Painted Lady.
A really cracking day out but the brisk northerly wind probably didn't help on our quest for Oriole and Bearded Tit, plus any Spotted Flycatchers in the area. Other notable species recorded today were : Many Swift, Sand Martin, Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Common Tern, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Egyptian Goose, and Red Kite, a grand total of 64 species after leaving our meeting point at Brandon Marsh this morning.