Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen
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Lakenheath Fen

  • 15/06/18- 17/06/18 recent sightings

    Good morning. I will start this morning with a picture of something that we have been seeing quite a lot of recently here:

    It is a mullein moth caterpillar and large numbers can currently be seen feeding on the mullein in front of the visitor centre. Please ask in the visitor centre for more information if you would like to see one!

    I went for a walk before work on Friday morning and saw a mistle thrush in the sandy area in Brandon Fen. A grasshopper warbler was singing just east of the Washland viewpoint and a cuckoo was calling in East Wood.

    I had a quick look for the water voles that have been feeding near the pond dipping area recently. Although I didn’t see one, I heard one nearby so it was good to know that one was around!

    I had my camera with me so here are a couple of pictures that I hope you like:


    Variable damselfly in the shade:

    The visitor centre pond:

    Greater spearwort in the raised pond bed in front of the visitor centre:

    Image credits: David White

    I walked around Brandon Fen with a colleague from another reserve mid-morning and we saw a large red damselfly sunning itself. We also saw a female common lizard under the reptile tin near the bug hotel.

    As the day went on, a kingfisher appeared at the edge of the visitor centre pond and red kite flew over New Fen viewpoint. Site Manager Dave also saw three cuckoos chasing eachother from New Fen viewpoint.

    There was plenty of marsh harrier activity in front of Joist Fen viewpoint yesterday, with food being passed between males and females. A bittern was also showing well from New Fen viewpoint.

    A kingfisher was fishing at the edge of the visitor centre pond when I got here this morning. Two stock doves flew over Brandon Fen and I disturbed a female roe deer that was feeding at the edge of the path.

    Volunteer Paul came in and had a look from the Washland viewpoint mid-morning. He saw an oystercatcher, a redshank and a couple of lapwings.

    We hope to see you soon!

  • 09/06/18- 14/06/18 recent sightings

    Good afternoon. Here are some recent sightings from Saturday afternoon onwards:

    A peregrine that was soaring over the visitor centre on Saturday afternoon was a pleasant surprise. A barn owl spent most of the afternoon roosting in Trial Wood, the middle poplar wood. It was visible from the main track near Mere Hide.

    On Sunday, a red kite flew overhead. Our first emerald damseflies of the year were also seen on the wing. 

    An adult Mediterranean gull flew over Brandon Fen early on Monday morning. I saw a mistle thrush in the sandy area of Brandon Fen and two common terns flew east along the river.

    On the way back to the visitor centre I met a local photographer who had just seen two water voles from the bridge near the pond dipping area. It is great to know that these elusive mammals are showing themselves to some people!

    As the day went on, a bittern appeared at the edge of the visitor centre pond. At one point, you could literally only see its beak. Talk about being elusive!

    I led a guided walk in the evening and just before the group arrived, I went and had a quick look for the water voles mentioned above. Although I didn’t see them, I heard some very distinctive chomping so it was good to know that they were around.

    A kingfisher was showing well from New Fen viewpoint and a cuckoo flew over the viewpoint while we were there. A group of four lapwings flew over and four noisy oystercatchers also passed overhead.

    Bitterns were showing very well on Tuesday morning and several individuals were seen over the far end of the reserve. Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, Suzanne heard a willow warbler at the edge of the staff car park.

    This bittern was photographed from Mere Hide yesterday:

    Image credit: Ken Clegg

    It is very likely to be the ringed individual that features in this blog post. Thank you very much to Ken for sharing this image with us.

    Suzanne also heard a grasshopper warbler reeling in Brandon Fen, just east of the Washland viewpoint.

    Suzanne and I did a survey around Brandon Fen this morning and we heard presumably the same grasshopper warbler singing that I have just mentioned above. We also saw a muntjac deer and a roe deer in its attractive summer coat.

    As the day has gone on, there has been plenty to see from the visitor centre window. This has included a bittern and two kingfishers.

    We hope to see you soon!

  • A bittern's unusual tale

    The following blog post is based on a media release that was sent out this morning. 

    RSPB and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) staff are celebrating the fact that a bittern that was taken into care and released at RSPB Rye Meads in Hertfordshire has been seen alive and well at RSPB Lakenheath Fen!

    Bitterns are scarce and secretive members of the heron family that only nest in reedbeds. In 2017, there were 166 “booming male” bitterns (males in breeding condition) in Britain. This number has increased from a low of 11 booming males in Britain in 1997.

    In mid-September 2016, a female bittern with minor injuries was found by a roadside pond near Letchworth, Hertfordshire. It was taken into care near Stevenage by Caroline Huxtable at Wildlife Welfare.  After a couple of days, it was moved to nearby RSPB Rye Meads, a wetland nature reserve near Hoddesdon.

    Once it was decided that the bird was in good enough health, permission was sought from the BTO to fit a metal ring with a unique number to the bird, as very few bitterns are ringed in Britain each year. The bird was ringed by the Rye Meads Ringing Group and then released on the reserve. The bird was resighted at RSPB Rye Meads five months later on 22 February 2017.

    Almost two years later, a bittern with a ring on its left leg was seen and photographed from Mere Hide at RSPB Lakenheath Fen on 7 May this year by Dawn Balmer from the BTO.  The bird was then photographed by l photographer and regular reserve visitor David Gowing on 20 May. Interestingly, a bittern with a ring on its left leg was photographed at RSPB Lakenheath Fen in June 2017, and was very likely this individual.

    David Gowing's image can be found here:


    Image credit: David Gowing

    Thank you very much to David for sharing this image with us. 

    RSPB and BTO staff received an image of the bird on 31 May and part of the unique combination on the ring could be read for the first time. Staff in the Ringing Unit at the BTO were then able to confirm that the bird photographed was the individual that was ringed at RSPB Rye Meads in September 2016.

    David White, Visitor Experience Officer at RSPB Lakenheath Fen said: “Bitterns are not known for flying very far during their lives so it is incredible to think that this bird has come all of this way. If this bird hadn’t had been ringed by the Rye Meads Ringing Group, we would have never known where it had come from and how far it had travelled to get here.

    What is even more incredible is that it was found by the side of a road! What could have been a sad ending for a scarce and beautiful bird has now been turned into a wonderful story, as this bittern is now happily skulking around in the reedbeds at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. This year, we know that there are at least 10 booming males on the reserve, so hopefully, this bird will breed on the reserve with one of those males. ”

    Dawn Balmer from BTO said: ”It was exciting the see the bittern had a metal ring on but sadly my photos weren’t quite good enough to read the ring. David Gowing’s excellent photo of the bittern in flight enabled us to read part of the ring, and identify exactly where and when the bird had been ringed. Only a handful of bitterns are ringed each year (three in 2016), so this has provided valuable information on survival and movements”.

    Alan Harris from the Rye Meads Ringing Group said: ”This is a wonderful example of the value of rehabilitating birds, and by ringing the bird we have been able to show this was a great success, and provide some unique information on the movement of bitterns’.

    RSPB Lakenheath Fen is open at all times. The visitor centre and toilets are open daily 9am-5pm. RSPB members visit for free. There is an entrance charge for non-members: Adults £3, students £2, children £1.50 (first child free per family group) Please ring: 01842 863400 or e-mail:; for more information.

    RSPB Rye Meads is open daily from 9am - 5pm or dusk if earlier. RSPB members visit for free. There is a charge of £4 per vehicle for non-members. Please ring: 01992 708383 or e-mail: