More Lakenheath magic

Today we headed to Lakenheath Fen for an afternoon and evening there, with an initial visit to Weeting Heath on the way. We arrived at Weeting at about 3pm, just missing a torrential downpour! Weeting Heath is known for one of the most specialised of the Breckland bird species, an odd looking bird of the thick-knee family – the stone-curlew. These unusual birds are now expanding their numbers in east Anglia, but are still fairly rare. The heathland at Weeting has been a reliable stronghold for many years. The birds are usually a little distant, and I didn’t get any particularly good photos, so I recommend looking them up as they are quite remarkable!

Once at Lakenheath we had time before sunset to cover quite a large area of the reserve, and what a joy it was. Despite being a bank holiday we saw very few people and at times it felt as though we had the whole area to ourselves. Initially we had good views of several reed buntings, but also managed close ups of greenfinch and a reasonable view of a reed warbler – our second new bird species of the day. We heard many of them (along with several other of the common warblers) but only saw this one bird at all well.

A male reed bunting at Lakenheath

Of the few people we saw two were photographers training their cameras intently on a tree near one of the reed beds. They were attempting to photograph the small bird that was hopping around in the branches and generally being difficult to see well! However it was worth spending several minutes watching it as it was a female pied flycatcher, a bird I don’t often see, and another new one for 2023.

A sedge warbler today in full voice

By this point we had already heard a couple of cuckoos, but we didn’t manage to see any today, so they remain off the list for now. We also heard common crane today and several “booming” bitterns – an extraordinary sound.

Almost at sunset we managed to see our final new bird of the day, a hobby hawking for insects over the washland area of the reserve. I love the story (which I really hope is true) of the games inventor who wanted to call his new miniature football game “Hobby” but was refused a copyright on that name. So instead he named it using part of the scientific name for the European hobby. And what is the latin name for hobby? Falco subbuteo!

A hobby at Lakenheath Fen (photo taken 2019)

We had a really lovely time at Lakenheath and the soundscape was, as always, captivating. We even spent a little longer there after the sun had set than we intended, as when we got back to the car the battery was flat and so we had to wait for a breakdown truck to come out and get us going!

Brenda writes: “There were a few more moths in the trap today including two which are masters of camouflage. The first is an exquisite moth called a waved umber which look just like a piece of wood bark. Steve was trying to take a picture of it when unfortunately it flew off – but do look it up. The other is the Chinese character. This is a delicate and very beautiful moth but when it settles it folds up its wings and hey presto it becomes a small lump of white and grey bird guano!

Chinese character

I saw one new flower today from the car; lords and ladies. I also saw my first horse chestnut flower but can’t really count that as it is a tree! Later, as we were heading back to the car park after a wonderful walk at Lakenheath Fen, I saw lots of coltsfoot now gone to seed. You may recall that the flowers appear before the leaves, which are surprisingly large given the size of the flower.”

coltsfoot leaves with the flower head gone to seed

New species for May 1st:
Birds: reed warbler, pied flycatcher, hobby, stone-curlew
Moths: Chinese character, waved umber
Flowers: lords and ladies