Bitterns in flight

Lakenheath Reserve is one of our favourite places and on a visit back in June it was again the venue for a wonderful wildlife encounter. Leaving the car-park shortly before dawn, we made our way out at a steady pace through reed-beds alive to the sound of sedge and reed warblers and the occasional cuckoo echoing through the poplar stands.

We settled on the benches at Joist Fen and contemplated the scene; a wetland alive with activity, yet peaceful to the eye – visual and sonic landscapes polar opposite in nature. Spits and spats of drizzle passed through on the breeze. Then, as a family of Coots dabbled in the fen to our front, a distant call could be heard from behind us. We turned, watched and marvelled – three bitterns were heading our way, flying in close, occasionally squabbling formation. I trained the Telinga reflector on them, hoping for the minimum of handling noise as I panned with them across the sky. Just in front of us one of the birds called again as almost simultaneously another began booming in the reeds below – call and response I wondered, though this seemed unlikely, the birds moved on and headed out over the water and towards the Great Ouse.

We finished our drinks and continued our walk, circuiting up to the bank that follows the Ouse Washes back to the visitor centre. Legs wearied by the early morning walk prompted forced bravado in our encounter with the resting families of cattle that had taken occupation of the path – some of the cows were kind enough to rise and move aside. We didn’t ask the bull out of deference to his status, but passed successfully if circuitously on the bank below.

A morning sun started to break through the clouds at our return to a slowly filling car-park, the day on the reserve now beginning. Another cuppa at the van and then we departed – another marvellous morning at Lakenheath.

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