A remarkable soundscape

On my way to another rehearsal with Ely Sinfonia I once again visited Lakenheath Fen today. I remember a wonderful evening at this reserve about ten years or more ago, when the soundscape of bird song was absolutely incredible. Today saw the reserve building toward that – I think in a couple more weeks there will be a huge abundance of song, but even today I was able to sit in one spot and hear chiffchaff, sedge warbler, reed warbler (a new species for the year but I didn’t manage to see one, so not on the list yet!), great spotted woodpecker, rook, jackdaw, wren, Cetti’s warbler, chaffinch, wood pigeon, mallard and more!

RSPB Lakenheath Fen this evening

I also saw three marsh harriers and got a glimpse of a bittern flying over the reeds as I accidentally disturbed it whilst walking along one of the paths. I hoped that I would see it again, and was in luck as, a couple of minutes later, it flew up again in front of me and I was able to watch it for about ten seconds as it headed over to a different section of the reed bed.

On my way back to the car I heard the call of a common whitethroat, and – determined to see it! – I waited and watched until I caught sight of a movement in a bush by the railway line, and there it was – my 170th species of 2023.

A little further on I heard the unmistakable call of common cranes and spotted a group of five flying over toward the washland area of the reserve – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen five before at Lakenheath. There is something very special about the fenland habitat and the very special birds that live there: To have such species as marsh harrier, bearded tit, common crane, bittern and a host of warblers in one place does make it quite special, and I always enjoy being there.

Common cranes at Lakenheath

Brenda writes: “Today I had a funeral at Cromer crematorium. Driving the coast road through Stiffkey, Cley and Sheringham still brings back memories of lock-down – going to Cromer on empty roads to take funerals, the bird reserves devoid of humans, and all the paths and carparks closed with barriers. Today’s funeral was that of a man who had been the caretaker and warden for the Quaker Meeting Room in Wells and was also a very keen birdwatcher. Some of his birding friends arrived at the chapel with their binoculars around their necks. His daughter had created a wonderful floral tribute.

A cleverly made floral tribute

On the way home I had a ten minute breather on the east bank at Cley. I didn’t have my binoculars with me but didn’t need them to enjoy the sight of a swan sitting on her nest. In the evening I had a walk through the lanes to the Wells gate of Holkham Park. I was pausing to take a photo of a clump of hoary cress growing in a rather less dangerous position than the edge of a busy road when a barn owl swooped over the bramble thicket behind, took a look at me and went on its way. Hoary cress grows in clumps, the leaves clasping the upright stems, and likes being near the sea. I guess that’s why we see so much of it along the coast road here.

hoary cress

I remember being very excited when I found coltsfoot growing in the edge of the field by the park gate. A couple of years ago the farmer trashed the area trying, I think, trying to eradicate the alexanders. Hoping it had recovered I had a look today. The alexanders is thriving and has been joined by a luxurious growth of nettles so there is no bare ground and therefore no coltsfoot. It shows just how easy it is to destroy a habitat. It was so cold and windy last night that there were no moths in the trap! But today we were delighted to see an orange tip butterfly fluttering through our garden.”

New species for April 25th:
Birds: common whitethroat, bittern