Wednesday, 28 October 2015

24th October - Lakenheath Fen and Lackford Lakes, Suffolk

Half term week so we were off on our travels once again.  This time it was back to Suffolk to experience this wonderful county in the autumn.  We were staying in the same apartment we used back in May, so our route was exactly the same, starting at the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath.

We arrived at Lakenheath while it was only just getting light, when I got out of the car I could hear and sense Redwing above me.  Once the light was good enough we set off around the reserve. Huge flocks of Jackdaw passed over us, coming from the Poplar copses and I could now see as well as hear the Redwings as they burst from the silver birch trees.  Around the visitor centre there were also large flocks of Siskins wheeling around the tops of the trees calling as they went.

As well as the Jackdaw there were Rooks and some solitary Crows calling from the trees.

We then disturbed three Roe Deer close to the railway line, and one changed direction and climbed up the bank.

On the open water there was a large group of Mallard which all flew off leaving the less nervy Gadwall.

From the main track we turned off to visit the Mere Hide.  When we opened the windows there was nothing going on, it was deadly quiet.  We sat and waited, then Helen picked up a large raptor cruising along the top of the distant poplars.  I thought at first Peregrine but it was adopting a slow secretive tactic moving in and out of the tree tops.  The tail was also quite long but it was a big bird.

In the photographs it has a barred tail, and a definite white eye stripe so I thought maybe it could be a Goshawk, but there was no pale vent, so I could only consider that it was a female Sparrowhawk.

As we watched the hawk Helen once again pointed out a Kingfisher that flew across the water then called.  As it was out of sight I returned to the hawk which now was chasing Jackdaws further enforcing the identification as a Sparrowhawk.

The Kingfisher then returned and very obligingly perched on the sticks stuck in the water in front of the hide.  The close one first.

And then one a little bit away, but still close enough for some excellent views.

The Camera coming into its own in the very gloomy conditions.

From the red on the lower mandible it was a female.

Just wonderful views.

Once the Kingfisher had gone we waited to see if anything else would appear, but after awhile, nothing had showed so we decided to move on.  Back on the main path we could hear the rustling of the Poplar trees.  No matter what season these trees seem to sing all the time, there noise a lovely background to the reserve.

A single Marsh Harrier crossed the reeds, but seemed to notice us and turned back never giving any good views.  At the New Fen viewpoint it was very quiet with only a few Cormorants.  As we walked up to the benches Helen saw a bird fly from a tree close by.  We searched the surrounding trees, but could not find anything, then Helen found the bird on a distant platform.  

It was a Kestrel and it was pulling apart a vole or something similar.

We made our way back to the visitor centre, and then walked around the Wash Land area where there were many Mute Swans, and a surprise when a Stoat appeared on the footpath.  We walked around the Brandon Fen, finding a male Stonechat, and coming upon a large flock of Siskins feeding in the Alder Trees.

Back at the car park the Redwing were almost everywhere, but preferring for some reason the Silver Birch trees. 

They were joined by Siskins and maybe a few Redpolls but I could not be sure.

Robins were singing from the gorse and in the conifers around the car park there were several Coal Tits and a couple of Goldcrests.

The weather was closing in, the rain that was forecast was due about midday, there had been some drizzle but as we left it was dry, so we headed off to Lackford Lakes.  On arrival there were more Siskin flying around the visitor centre, and a Pied Wagtail called from the buildings close by.

We walked out to the hides, following the path to the furthest point.  In a small tree covered spot we stopped to look at some superb Earth Star fungi.

Earthstars belong to a group of fungi called Gasteromycetes, or "stomach fungi". Their fruiting bodies are a stomach-shaped sac filled with dry spores. They are related to puffballs. 

When it rains, the outer two layers of the peridium split and uncurl, forming a "star" here with 4 rays but could be up to 12 rays. The rays spread with enough force to push aside leaves, raising the spore-filled sac above surrounding debris.

The path goes alongside a golf course, an in one of the small pools were a pair of Egyptian Geese always an interesting sight.

We walked to the furthest hide on the reserve, and as I opened the window all the duck flew up from the water.  The window though only looked out onto a grass bank so we moved to the left where we could see the water.  As we did so a Kingfisher called and then flew past us and away across the water.

On the water were Gadwal, Mallard, Shoveller, a few Teal, and a Tufted Duck.  As we watched these another Kingfisher called and then flew across in front of us.

We moved back along the path with more Siskin calling above us, these were not just an attraction to us, but to a Sparrowhawk that dashed past us and into the trees.

We made our way to Bess's Hide where there was a little bit more activity close to the hide.  A Moorhen fed just below us choosing to alternate between walking on the bottom, and swimming.

A juvenile Great Crested Grebe came close and begged to an adult bird that eventually gave it a fish, but despite that it kept begging.

Much to the annoyance of the adult bird.

A Little Grebe appeared as well, and gradually made its way swimming over to us, It paused briefly to pursue an insect, across the water.

It settled in front of the hide.

It then started to dive, the first dive being successful.

Then after swallowing the first fish it dived again, and almost immediately came up with another fish.

Having swallowed this one it dived yet again, and yet again came up with another little fish.

The clouds were now looking quite threatening so we decided to make our way back to the car.  By the time we reached it the rain was quite hard, so we headed off to Thorpeness.  The forecast tomorrow looks a lot better and the east coast over the last week has been excellent for birds.

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