Wildlife to look for this autumn

Group of wigeon taking flight

Rich autumnal colours are breaking out across the fen and the days are getting shorter. Here's a few species to look-out for and the best places to spot them when visiting Wicken Fen.

Wigeon

Wigeon are a medim-sized ducks with round heads and small bills. The male's head and neck are chestnut in colour with a yellow forehead, pink breast and green body.

They can be seen all year round, but in autumn large numbers arrive at Wicken from Northern Europe and Siberia to escape the harsh winters in that part of the world.

Look out for them on the wet grasslands of Baker's and Burwell Fens.

Winter thrushes

Redwing at Wicken Fen
Redwing feasting on alder berries
Redwing at Wicken Fen

Redwings and fieldfares start to arrive in large flocks in October. Redwings have a creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches. Fieldfares are larger and have a very distinctive grey rump. They tend to flock together and can be seen along the hedgerows feasting on the juicy berries.

Hen harriers

Hen Harrier
A hen harrier in flight
Hen Harrier

Britain's rarest bird of prey spends the summer months breeding in the upland areas of Britain before heading south in autumn. It's likely that our native birds are also joined by harriers from continental Europe during the winter.

Males are a pale grey in colour, whilst females and young birds are brown with a white rump and barred tail, hence the name 'ringtail'.

The harriers roost overnight amongst the sedge on Sedge Fen. They can generally be seen towards dusk gliding over the fen looking for a safe place to roost.

A good place to see them from is from the Boardwalk, or from the warmth of the Visitor Centre. 

Short eared owls

Wicken Fen - Short Eared Owl in flight
Wicken Fen - Short Eared Owl in flight
Wicken Fen - Short Eared Owl in flight

Short-eared owls are medium sized owls with mottled brown bodies, pale underwings and bright yellow eyes.  They have tufts of feathers resembling mammalian ears.  Their main food sources are small mammals such as voles, so their nomadic nature is due to the need to find suitable prey.  In the colder months, ‘shorties’ from Scandinavia, Russia and Iceland arrive in parts of the UK, including eastern areas like Wicken Fen.  Shorties are most often seen on Baker’s and Burwell Fens.   

Starlings

Starling mumuration
Starling mumuration over Tubney Fen
Starling mumuration

Starlings have a pointed head, triangular wings, short tail and feathers with a glossy sheen of purples and greens. In winter large flocks arrive from continental Europe. 

They form large flocks, or mumurations, and typically perform dramatic twisting & turning flying displays before settling down to roost at night in the reedbeds.

The best place to see these dramatic displays are the reedbeds at the junction of Wicken and Burwell Lode or Tubney Fen.

Spiders 

Dew covered spiders web
Spiders web covered in dew
Dew covered spiders web

The colder misty mornings reveal the intricate webs spun by spiders amongst the vegetation. A great place to spot the webs is on Sedge Fen and the reeds along Wicken Lode.