Trip reports

Lakenheath Fen - coach trip on 24th Mar 2018

Lakenheath Fen - coach trip on 24th Mar 2018
Water Rail - Graham Broad

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Thanks to Havering for the write up of the trip.

"All 28 members safely on board, off we go, we are travelling in one of Swallows brand new coaches, what a pleasure. The weather looks a bit grey as we travel up the M11 but the forecast is for a fairly mild day with low winds, so fingers crossed.

After a convenience stop at the Birchanger Green Services we continue with our window watching list - Buzzards, Kestrels, a Red Kite, Pheasants and Red Legged Partridge even some Brown Hares. Not long to go, now passing the RAF Lakenheath air base, looking to see if there are any fighter jets taking off, but I guess with the misty start to the day any action will occur later.

He we go, it's around 10:00am and we have reached the reserve, slowly moving along the approach road and into the car-park - quickly ensuring we have all of our kit and into the centre for a briefing on what birds are possible sightings today. Birds listed were Spoonbill, Great White Egret, Whooper Swans and Bittern, we were hoping that the Cranes might be on the list.

First area to check was the area in front of the centre and along the river and the return path through the wooded area, called the Brandon Fen Family Trail. We spotted the Great White Egret, a pair of Bearded Tits, some Brambling, several Mistle Thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfare, Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers as well as the regular wildfowl on the river and lakes.

We had completed the outer trail and it was time for our lunch, so we settled onto the picnic tables and chatted about our sightings and what we might see inside the reserve. We had another talk with the reserve staff before leaving the centre and as we checked the feeders at the Visitor Centre Pond, we saw several species including Siskin, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Dunnock and a quick show of a female Bullfinch.

Off we go along the Main Circular Trail, a call, that of a Cettis Warbler, deep in the reed-bed, we could see the twitching of the reed stalks, but unfortunately the bird did not show itself, typical. Further down the track we pass one of the wooded areas, crowded with Rooks, what a noise.

Onto the New Fen Viewpoint, what can we see, Tufted Duck, Coot, a single Great Crested Grebe spending most of the time asleep with its head tucked onto its back. A calling Little Grebe, but could we find it, no, it was deep in the nearby reed-bed. Further down the trail we had views of two Common Snipe resting at the edge of a small mud bank along with Teal and Wigeon.

We continued along the trail towards the Mere Hide. I was just commenting to friends, as you do, what I would like to see, I actually had just mentioned that I would be satisfied today with a flying Bittern and within seconds a Bittern was flying towards us and we all gasped at how close it traveled past us and gave us the best view that one could hope for - what an experience, one you don't forget.

On towards and into the Mere Hide and two of our members were already there and had just experienced the same Bittern flying past. Nothing else to see we continued our journey towards the Joist Fen Viewpoint, with a hope for a sighting of Cranes. First sighting was a Marsh Harrier, then another. One of our group got a distant view of another Bittern which I failed to locate, never mind. After several sightings of Marsh Harrier and Mute Swans we decided to move on to a location where the Spoonbill had been previously reported.

We were prepared for a long walk along the river and had started along the river bank when we were contacted by friends, by phone, that the Spoonbill was showing across the river, an area we had passed without checking. After retracing our steps we could see the Spoonbill and there was a Great White Egret, close-by.

The higher viewing from the river bank we could now see a pair of Whooper Swans in the company of several Mute Swans in the open area inside the reed-beds which we were previously scouring from the Joist Fen Viewpoint. Across the river in the fields, were several Lapwing fighting for territory, as they are at this time of year. We could hear Oystercatcher calling and we spotted a pair further along the opposite side of the river. Some of our members had seen a Kingfisher flying along the river, so we were on alert as we made our way along the river bank towards the centre.

We were now looking over New Fen and spotted a single Redshank busily feeding, along with Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard. Deeper into the lakes were a couple of Grey Herons standing, watching for any chance of a feed. In the air was a flight of 21 Common Snipe, whirling over the lakes several times before disappearing as quickly as they appeared.

As we walked along the river bank, a Little Egret was feeding along the river's edge as we approached it took flight and moved further away only to repeat this action as we continued walking.

We were now back at the centre and had news from friends that they had just seen a Water Rail from a new hide by the centre which had been created for photographic work - lucky them, it is a bit of a bogey bird for me.

Finally, a thank-you to the centre staff and back onto the coach for our journey home."