Monday, 20 February 2017

5. Lakenheath Fen

Reed bunting
A pale sky, blanket cloud filtering the Sun’s light as it tried to break through. The songs of robins, blue tits and great tits serenaded visitors as they tumbled out of their cars and into the reserve. Chatting to one of the volunteers in the visitors centre, we were told that bearded tits were showing well around the reserve, as were marsh harriers. With optimism, we set out to see what we could find. The staccato shouts of wrens coming from the sides of the visitor trails guided our way towards New Fen Viewpoint. A serenely calm pool awaited us, the surface disturbed only by two coots dabbling and diving, a few mallards and gadwalls and a great crested grebe proudly showing its red mohican above a white cheek. A trail through the reed bed, adjacent to the main path revealed more wrens. Cetti’s warblers began their appealing song whilst remaining deep within the vegetation. The whistling calls of a coil of wigeon passed overhead. Canada geese and mute swans graced the neighbouring pools and a great spotted woodpecker could be heard drumming in the surrounding trees.

Stonchat (m)
Despite listening keenly for bearded tits on our way to Mere hide, we were not in luck. The pool at the hide was just as calm as the previous viewpoint, this time with a coot, a moorhen and four mallards disturbing the placid water. A pair of wrens burst from the reeds, chasing each other along a corridor through the vegetation. Never before today had I really believed that the wren is the UK’s most numerous breeding bird. Almost as if they were respecting the silence, a flock of lapwings flew over the hide as we made our exit, their chunky square wings silhouetted against the brightening sky. At the hide and on the trail leading away were empty platforms offering grit to the invisible bearded tits.

On the trail to joist fen viewpoint, instead of bearded tits, we found a reed bunting picking grit from the path, flying only a few metres ahead each time we approached before eventually veering off into the safety of reeds and trees.

Great white egret
A footpath parallel to the reserve boundary, following the River Little Ouse gave an elevated view over the reserve and surrounding countryside. A pair of stonechats flitted between tall grasses and reed heads, almost bouncing up and down as they transferred from one stem to another. A kestrel hung in the sky, hovering, and then, missing its meal, rested in the woodland trees. The lakes beyond the river, looking away from the reserve boasted jewels of colour: shoveler, teal, lapwings, little egrets. The largest was the tall, yellow-billed great white egret, towering above the little egrets, despite being further away. Broken oyster shells littered the sides of the path. Back in the reserve, a whole gang of long tailed tits decorated the heads of tall reed stems and a single leafless tree amidst the rustling golden stalks. They jingled through like early blossoms drifting from the tree.

Re-entering the reserve trail, blue tits and great tits littered the feeders by the visitor’s centre and a kestrel perched on a tree in the car park. A pair of roe deer bade us farewell at the reserve entrance.

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