Monday, June 09, 2014


With boat maintenance taking priority at this time of year my birding time becomes a little limited. Fortunately this often occurs at a time when the birds have settled down to breeding anyway and finding things to blog about can also become somewhat difficult during this period.

Brandon Volunteers Away-Day!
That said I had use of the Wildlife Trusts minibus on Monday and took a number of the Brandon volunteers on a visit to Weeting Heath and RSPB Lakenheath Fen. We began at Weeting Heath, which is probably the best site in the country to watch Stone Curlews. On arrival we each parted with our £3.75 ( no concessions here) and made our way around to the two hides which overlook the open stony ground of this Breckland habitat, which makes it ideal for these amazing birds. We weren't disappointed, as almost immediately after opening the hide flaps two birds were located, producing good views in the cooler morning air, a visit later in the day is often hampered by heat haze.

Stone Curlew - Personal Library Photo
Weeting can often be a good spot to see Mistle Thrush and Woodlark too and despite connecting with (4) Mistle Thrush during our stay sadly none of the later were recorded. While taking a walk along the woodland trail it's worth stopping for a while on the opposite side of the road to the reserve itself to scan the fields. These fields can be quite lucrative and to be honest yielded far better than the reserve itself. Here at least a half dozen Stone Curlew were viewed, including juvenile birds and Curlew, Shelduck, Buzzard, Skylark and a couple of Roe Deer were also seen. A few of the guys also had both Red-legged and Grey Partridge.

Marsh Harrier - One of several during the visit.
By the time we reached Lakenheath the temperature and the humidity had soared dramatically but we managed to avoid the predicted thunderstorms, which simply didn't materialise. Mind you by the time we completed our tour I would have gladly taken a soaking. Sadly there are no Golden Orioles to be found this year but Cuckoo's were around in good numbers, with several heard and three flying across the reserve at one time. The new hide, which is the first and only fully enclosed hide on the reserve, was I'm sad to say a real disappointment! The hide itself is well built and offers good viewing opportunities but unfortunately by the time you've walked along the boardwalk, where there is screening but on the wrong side, you've spooked anything that may be feeding on the peripheral of the reedbed which surrounds the small area of open water and a backdrop of large trees. In my view a complete waste of funding on behalf of the RSPB and suffice to say not a single bird in view.

Reed Warbler - Very few photographic opportunities today!
Stopping off at the viewpoints which overlook these immense fens produced some excellent moments, with Bitterns in flight and also booming, one of my highlights of the day. Marsh Harriers are a real success story here with at least two food passes observed but only two Hobby over the reserve during our visit was a mystery, Lakenheath boasting up to twenty on occasions in previous years. Another sad note is the predation of the young Cranes which had successfully nested this year, and despite a good search along the River Little Ouse we never managed to connect with any of the adult birds. Another bird we dipped on today was Turtle Dove, which apparently nest on the opposite side of the river. Other birds of note included Buzzard, Cetti's Warbler, Kingfisher, Common Tern, Sedge and Reed Warbler. A number of butterflies were also recorded: Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Small Skipper and Red Admiral.