Monday, 1 June 2015

June 1st Weeting Heath and Lakenheath Fen

Weeting Heath
I have returned to the Brecks and to Weeting Heath with my mum to see how the stone curlews are doing. There is good news, two chicks have hatched recently and were seen close to one of the hides in the past few days. However, it seems not today as we scanned for them. That goes for any adult stone curlews too. We failed to see a single stone curlew this visit, but on the plus side, we did manage to hear them. They were sounding quite close, possibly hidden just behind the dips in the ground in which we can not see. So they were there, somewhere. No stone curlews, but there were plenty of rabbits, lapwings, skylarks, rooks, jackdaws and a few linnets out in the hazy landscape.
Another Rabbit
A Kestrel in the haze

Outside, in the woods, we could hear a firecrest singing above us. Annoyingly, they too avoided us from seeing it. Frustration was starting to build from not seeing much excitment here at Weeting, so we decided to move on to Lakenheath Fen for a picnic.

Four-spotted chaser
It was quite windy at Lakenheath today, so much so, that it was hard to hear anything and was likely to ground anything we wanted to see. Of course, the key bird here would have been the golden oriole. Unfortunately, for what I believe is a third year in a row now, the orioles have failed to arrive and breed on the reserve. It is sad news, but there is something better that has arrived at Lakenheath for the last couple of weeks. A little bittern (I think it is only the third ever recording in Britain) has caused a lot of excitment lately and I was glad to hear that it was still here today.

I took Mum for a bit of a walk and visited the only hide on the reserve, seeing a family of coot and several minibeasts, including a four-spotted chaser. Mum was getting a bit frustrated and had enough at this point, so she went back to the visitor centre (finding a huge grass snake on the way, which made her jump out of her skin, apparently).
Nursary Web Spider (has an egg sac under her abdomen)
Black Slug
Cardinal Beetle
Coot feeding it's young
Coot chick

I, meanwhile, carried on and found a large crowd of twitchers lined up along a short reedbed overlooking a small pool. I could hear a series of short 'barks' coming from the reedbed from the other side, just audible over the wind. This was the calls of the little bittern, a moorhen-sized bird from Europe.
Looking for the Little Bittern

The bird I could hear was a male. Apparently, he made a brief appearence while I was there with the crowd, but I had missed him. If I had seen him, I would have seen a black back and cap and buff-coloured body with a pale white wing patch. I might not have seen the little bittern, but I did get to see it's bigger cousin fly past in the distance.

Another cousin, a Grey Heron in flight
After I while, I gave up and started to head back to Mum at the visitor centre. On the way, I saw a hobby swooping over the reserve like a fighter jet amongst the squadron of swifts. Then I noticed there was a hobby in a tree alongside the path I was on with a cuckoo calling in the background. I love hobbies and to get this close and with such a great view is something to treasure. You could see the spots and stripes of it's breast and the red vent (the area around the base of the tail - the crotch, in other words) quite clearly. I could see it's eyes staring down at me. A magical encounter! A great way to end a windy day full of frustration.
Hobby in flight


  1. Great pics of the hobby Sean. We went to Lakenheath on Sunday but didn't see any hobbies although we had a good view of cuckoo and a bittern. We too missed the stone curlews at Weeting, better luck next time perhaps.

    1. Its ok, I saw them in April and got a pic of one too.