Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Lakenheath Fen, Norfolk/Suffolk border, 21st July (with Bob Wright)

Gone are the recent temperature highs of 33 degrees Celsius and high humidity to be replaced by a pleasant 23 degrees and a refreshing northerly wind.
During the evening of 20th July my cousin, Bob Wright, who lives in Southern Spain, stayed with us for the night in readiness for a days birding together at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. 
We departed my home at 0800 and duly arrived at Lakenheath for 0830.  Our plan was to initially check the area close to the car park before making off to do a large circuit of the reserve, this would take in a walk along the bank overlooking the Washland, the River Little Ouse (Norfolk/Suffolk county boundary), and the vast wetland habitats.

The departure from the car park started with a check of the wetland and woodland habitats close by, one of the first birds seen was a single Lesser Whitethroat moving between Hawthorn cover.  We then discovered a family party of Whitethroats with one of the adults giving an alarm call due to our presence.  Also within this immediate area was singing Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, and Reed Bunting.
Whitethroat in Hawthorn at Lakenheath Fen 21/07/16
We made to the bank to overlook the Washland (Norfolk) where both Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were found.  The Washland held 30+ Mute Swans, a pair of Gadwall, Coot with young, Great Crested Grebe with young, a single Little Egret in the shallows, a couple of Black-headed Gulls, and a single hunting/hovering Common Tern.  A small flock of 30+ Lapwings approached and settled on the Washland.  On the far bank of the Washland a single adult and three juvenile Grey Herons were standing motionless.  A pair of Stock Doves flew past showing off their mostly grey plumage with black wing borders.
Whitethroat in Hawthorn at Lakenheath Fen 21/07/16
Continuing our walk along the bank Sedge and Reed Warblers were in song.  I then heard an attention-grabbing "swee-swee-swee" call, the caller was a single Common Sandpiper flying along the Little Ouse, it landed briefly before flying off with a second Common Sandpiper.
A long walk along the bank was then dominated again by Sedge, Reed Warbler, and Reed Bunting song.  On a sad note, what a pity that the Poplar woodlands we passed along the route no longer hold the stunning Golden Oriole.
Myself and Bob decided to sit and overview the reed-beds and wetland from Joist hide.  By now the sun was very warm but thankfully the north wind remained pleasantly refreshing.  We didn't have to wait too long before a Bittern rose up from the reeds just yards in front of us, it settled in reeds deeper into the marsh but later flew out again.  A second Bittern soon flew from the same marsh.  A Water Rail was heard to give its 'pig-like squealing call.  Bob called to me "Cranes Paul", we then watched for some time as four Cranes flew circuits over the marsh before settling to the ground.  Whilst watching the Cranes a high Marsh Harrier circled, whilst very distantly two Buzzards soared low over woodland.  A second distant flock of 60+ Lapwings arrived. A single Kestrel hunted nearby whilst a further 3 Common Terns were seen flying along the channels.
After our productive visit to this section of the reserve we then walked back along the track taking in visits to a couple of hides along the way.  The ubiquitous Reed and Sedge Warblers continued to be seen and heard and a darting Kingfisher provided glorious colour as it flew along a channel.  A single Blackcaps song echoed through a Poplar wood where once the fantastic fluty song of Golden Oriole used to be heard.  Also seen in the top of a dead Poplar branch was a singing Stock Dove, a small compact and well proportioned member of the Pigeon family.
We then stopped at a raised viewing point over another area of wetland where we saw several Bearded Tits flying between reed cover.  Even in flight the males distinctive black moustache is clearly visible.  Also at this location another Water Rail announced its presence on a couple of occasions with its strange call.  Bob and myself then headed back to the visitor centre following what was a great days birding.
Lakenheath Fen is a stunning RSPB reserve which will now forever be the home to an array of birdlife, mammals, reptiles, and insects.  I congratulate the RSPB for creating what is a beautiful site.
Bob and I met several members of RSPB staff today, all were very nice, pleasant people who always had time to stop and talk.  We also met some lovely people visiting Lakenheath today.
Finally, I offer my thanks to my cousin Bob for visiting and taking me to Lakenheath during what has been a busy schedule for him.

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