Lakenheath and Lackford 19.05.2013
Leaders: Gi Grieco & Dave Pearsons
A good turnout of 18 members including two new ones, Neal and Pauline, convened at Hockwold Wash lookout for the annual visit to the great RSPB reserve at Lakenheath. With the weather warm and sunny, some were over cautious with the waterproof clothing, although reports all week had forecast wind and rain.
Heading along the track to New Fen, several Reed Warblers were singing with the occasional Reed Bunting, Cetti’s Warbler and Whitethroat joining in and the first of a few Cuckoos around the site were heard too. Past the first plantation with a couple of Garden Warblers present, some insect interest from both male and female Orange-tip, a Peacock and a couple of Large Red Damselflies, although insect numbers seemed generally low.
One of the main targets for the day was a male Red-footed Falcon, a rare raptor from Eastern Europe. It had been at the reserve for the last two weeks, so we were relieved when news reached us that it was still present and showing well. From the lookout at New Fen, after initially seeing our first Hobby of the day, the Red-footed Falcon flew in to view, at times flying close by and overhead. A fantastic bird to watch, especially so well and to compare with the Hobbies present, we marvelled as it caught and ate insects on the wing.
We reluctantly carried on, hoping for another target bird, a speciality of the reserve, Golden Oriole. With the recent cold weather there had been no sign until a couple of days earlier and we found out one had been heard early that morning. We were unfortunately to have no luck in hearing or seeing this sadly declining species, which seems that is now a lost UK breeding species.
One bird that some of us heard, or initially thought so, was a Bearded Tit. The typical ‘ping’ of that species pricked our ears until we realised it was a Reed Warbler singing with mimicry included, although it was the first time we could recall it mimicking Bearded Tit. At Joist Fen viewpoint we had a welcome stop for a drink in the hot weather and scanned the reedbeds ahead. Initially half a dozen Hobbies were noted but in all over 20 were counted. Other raptors included a fly over Buzzard, a distant Kestrel and a number of Marsh Harriers, some flying by wonderfully close. Just a few members were lucky to be looking in the right direction at the right time to see a brief Bittern fly in to the reeds.
We continued to search, hoping to see another star bird, Common Crane, but had no luck although we were told later on by fellow SOG members, Barry and Dawn, that we missed them by about 20 minutes when two Cranes flew in.
A Common Tern flew over the reeds and the same or another was seen hunting along the river on our way back. Amongst the Mute Swans along the riverbank was the Whooper Swan that we had seen last year, still present due to a broken wing, but at least able to survive. Back at New Fen we indulged in further fantastic views of the Red-footed Falcon before heading back to the car park for lunch.
Our next port of call was the Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Lackford where, upon arrival, we were greeted by a Nightingale singing by the car park and a couple of Hobbies overhead. Whilst scanning the sailing lake we were lucky to see a mass emergence of Common Blue Damselfly, all lacking in their vibrant blue colour, as they took their first flights and to land on nearby vegetation. On the Slough a number of ducks including some Gadwall and along the muddy shore a Little Ringed Plover was picked out. A casual stroll along the tracks visiting other hides resulted in coming across several Blackcaps in the scrub and a variety of ducks and geese out on the water including a male Red-crested Pochard. We returned to the centre to the sound of screeching of Swifts, both from the skies above and from the artificial Swift nests on the side of the centre, which are used to entice the Swifts to use them as a nest site. All agreed that it was a great day with some good birds and that the superb Red-footed Falcon would be long remembered.