Trip reports

Visit to Lakenheath

Visit to Lakenheath
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus Lakenheath Fen (Photo: Steve Nikols)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

We arrived at Lakenheath at 9.30am and already the car park was filling up. At the Visitor Centre the staff enthusiastically pointed out on the site map the best spots to hopefully see the birds.

We set off towards New Fen Viewpoint where we joined many other visitors to observe the major 'twitch' of the day, a red-footed falcon. Sure enough, there it was perched on the only dead tree stump in the reedbed. Although distant, it was clearly identified through the heat haze and a 'lifer' for many of the group.

Moving on to Joist Fen Viewpoint we joined an even larger throng of birdwatchers and with so many pairs of eyes looking in different directions, were rewarded with numerous sightings.

A couple of bittern skimmed low over the reed tops while the hobby, up to fifteen in the air at any one time, entertained us with their aerobatics. Marsh harrier, up to five in the air, constantly quartered the reedbed. A pair of marsh harrier carried out a 'food pass' the male dropping the prey and the female just retrieving it just before it hit the ground. It must be time to get the sandwiches out!

The warm sunny weather prompted many birds including cuckoo, garden, sedge and reed warbler to sing continuously throughout the day. What a cacophony of birdsong, simply stunning!

"Cranes!" Came the call, three common crane flew low in line across the far end of the reserve from right to left before setting down. "Crane!" Went the shout, another crane flew past us to the left giving excellent close views. The bird landed within view and proceeded to feed on a patch of open grassland near a flock of greylag geese. Then yet another crane was spotted circling high above the reedbed.

Returning to the Visitor Centre along the Little Ouse bund another raptor was recorded; a hovering kestrel. Two common tern were fishing on the Washland Pools and a grey heron was statuesque on the river bank.

With another hour left before our coach (now incidentally one of three) was due to depart, we took the opportunity to have another look at the red-footed falcon.

On returning to the New Fen Viewpoint, the bird was soon seen sweeping back and forth in front of the distant woodland along with several slightly larger hobby.

A single hobby flew towards us and swept low over the open pool in front of the enthralled watchers. The red-footed falcon, now minus the midday heat haze, showed the silver sheen on his wings and red talons, now crystal clear as he snatched the insects in the air and devoured them in flight. Brilliant!

Last raptor of the day was the now usual red kite on the A14 between Huntingdon and Kettering.

Peter and Lesley Berrill