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Culture: It’s been quite a year on the fen says David White and Emma Cuthbertson

DAVID GOWING (4592743)
DAVID GOWING (4592743)

The highlight, so far, of the season here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen has simply got to be the success of our bitterns. The year started off well with us being able to confirm 10 booming males across the site, a reserve record and a very promising sign for the breeding season to come.

Many hours of surveying later, we were able to confirm six nests across the site. What made the season so special was the two juveniles that were being fed right outside Mere Hide, with a very busy mum constantly feeding two hungry mouths, providing both amazing views and photographic opportunities.

Another very interesting thing that happened this year in regards to bitterns was the fact that we finally managed to read the ring on the ringed individual that has been present here since June 2017. This was made possible by the fact that we were sent a photograph of it by local photographer and regular reserve visitor David Gowing.

With a little help from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), we found out that this bird, which is an adult female, was the individual that was found by the side of a road in Hertfordshire in September 2016. After a brief period of rehabilitation, it was ringed and released at RSPB Rye Meads in Hertfordshire. A couple of years later, it arrived here in West Suffolk and it looks like it has nested on the reserve. What an amazing story.

It’s been quite a year for our resident pair of cranes as well, a real tale of survival against all the odds.

It was business as usual for them, until we started to see the youngsters for the first time. Reports were coming in of a crane chick, looking as expected for its age, alongside a chick half its size, still with downy feathers. Had a long-legged goose joined the family?!

The question then became what would happen to little ‘Minimo’. Would he survive? Would he ever be able to fly? Would he be abandoned? The worst was suspected when three cranes, two adults and a juvenile, were seen in flight in early July, as all reports had said they wouldn’t abandon Minimo.

However, in mid-August, all four were seen in flight over the reserve, which was a relief for all of us. The family can now be seen flying around the reserve and although the smaller chick isn’t quite as good at flying as its sibling, it is getting there, so here’s to happy endings.

Emma Cuthbertson and David White

RSPB Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen reserve is open at all times. The visitor centre and toilets are open daily 9am-5pm. RSPB members visit for free. Entrance for non-members is: Adults £3, students £2, children £1.50 (first child free per family group). Please ring 01842 863400 or email lakenheath@rspb.org.uk for more information about the reserve.

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