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Culture: And so it begins at RSPB Lakenheath Fen

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Bearded tit
Bearded tit

Happy New Year to you all. Now that the festive season is over for another year, why not make it one of your New Year’s resolutions to visit RSPB Lakenheath Fen in the near future?

Although the weather can sometimes be less than ideal, there is plenty to see, so here is an indication of what you might see if you visit.

Although it is only January, you may be surprised to hear that many of our resident birds are already busy getting themselves ready for the coming breeding season. The local male reed buntings, with their black heads and white collars, will be singing their simple song from reed stems and bushes.

Meanwhile, secretive and elusive water rails will be squealing like piglets in distress from deep in the reedbed.

Towards the end of the month, our resident cranes usually return from their winter holidays out in the Fens. Although we usually have two pairs, only one of our pairs was present during the breeding season in 2017. They fledged one young chick on July 7.

I am pleased to say our other previously resident pair, that we know as ‘Little & Large’, have been seen several times over the winter. We are therefore hoping they return to nest on the reserve this year. If you would like to see cranes on the reserve, your best bet is to spend some time down at Joist Fen viewpoint, which is around 1.5 miles from the visitor centre.

Our resident bitterns will be present and can be seen in flight regularly, low over the reedbed. Although in other parts of the country the males sometimes start booming as early as January, our birds tend to be a bit later. We don’t tend to hear our first boomers until mid to late February. This is thought to be due to the fact it tends to be a bit warmer down south where the January boomers are heard!

If we are treated to some sunny and still days in January, the local bearded tits will be showing themselves and they will be moving around in flocks between feeding areas. These charming little birds tend to start nesting in March, so we still have a little bit of time to wait for that!

If this article has inspired you to come and visit the reserve, we are open at all times. The visitor centre and toilets are open daily 9am-5pm. RSPB members visit for free and there is a charge of £4 per car for non-members. Please call 01842 863400 or email lakenheath@rspb.org.uk; for more information. We hope to see you on the reserve soon!

David White, Visitor experience officer, RSPB Lakenheath Fen