Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow Ponies

Ponies in today's snow at Snettisham
Normal service isn't resumed just yet but maybe over the Christmas break I will find some time to update this blog properly. In the meantime you can always look at my Flickr page for some up to date images of North West Norfolk.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Summer on delicate wings

Clouded Yellow, Courtyard Farm, NW Norfolk, August 2009

Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich, August 2009

Been a summer of grabbed moments between work and baby care duties. Despite these restrictions its been a good one for butterflies. Starting with the phenomenal Painted Lady invasion, then an unexpected emergence of Small Tortoiseshells, then in the last couple of weeks I have seen my first Clouded Yellow for a couple of years and added Hummingbird Hawkmoth to both my year list and Rosary Cemetery lists. It just goes to show what you can see when you keep your eyes open.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Damsel in the Bog

Emerald Damselfly, Dersingham Bog, Norfolk

I managed to get out for a few hours on Sunday and headed for Dersingham Bog with my friend Jim. This wet bowl of heath and bog is managed by Natural England is perhaps best known as the location of the infamous 'Sandringham Harrier' incident a couple of years ago when a couple of Hen Harriers were seen being shot out of the sky. Rather unfortunately this happened at the same time that Prince Harry was out shooting with some chums. You decide whether this was a worrying coincidence, a security lapse with armed criminals loose on the bog, the figment of the wardens imagination or something else.

Anyway there was no shooting going on Sunday and we had the Bog pretty much to ourselves. Although quite warm, cloud cover kept the sun from breaking through and this seemed to depress Odo activity. Did see some nice Four Spotted Chasers, Black Tailed Skimmers, Emperor dragonfly's, Black Darters and lots of these little gems Emerald Damselflies.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cley for Spooners and Demoiselle's

Spoonbill Cley Marshes NWT

Managed to get out with the family yesterday for a drive east along the coast road to Cley, to visit the NWT reserve and to see the flock of Spoonbills that has been feeding on the scrape there for a couple of weeks now. There were 15 birds present yesterday and they spent most of the time doing what Spoonbills do best, sleeping. However a light aircraft did spook some of the birds and this bird flew overhead, not the best of shots, but not to bad given I had a camera in one hand a and a three month old baby in the other.

Banded Demoiselle, Cley Marshes NWT

Standing on a small bridge over the clear channel that separates the reserve from the coast road we were able to do some Dragonfly watching. The beautiful azure blue Emperor Dragonfly never stayed still long enough for me to grab a shot, but this Banded Demoiselle did land briefly enabling me to take this 'record shot' of what to my mind is one of our most beautiful Odo's.

We even found time to have lunch in the new NWT Visitor Centre, great view but slow service and not the most generous of portions. The ride in the lift up from the car park to the Visitor Centre was good fun. Really rather disappointing that in this new eco friendly building there was no baby changing room.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Norfolk Butterfly Tick

White Admiral, Holkham Pines, Norfolk.

Sometimes it pays to pay attention when a friend tells of a conversation with a complete stranger. My friend Rob was telling me last week about a birder he bumped into, who asked whether the White Admiral's were showing at Holkham Pines this year. This was the first that Rob had heard about this rather splendid insects presence here and he did wonder whether the bloke had got his butterfly id right even though "He did seem to know what he was talking about".

Today with a sunny afternoon free, I popped along to the spot described to Rob and after a few minutes of watching large numbers of Whites flying around, I caught a glimpse of a White Admiral. Even a brief view was enough to tell me what I was looking at, the whole way it held its wings stiff and in a shallow upside down V was very distinctive compared to the floppy handkerchief flight of the Whites. I wasn't able to spend long at the site, but did manage to grab a few celebratory record shots including this one.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Return of the Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell, garden in Titchwell, Norfolk.

Already this year we have seen a miraculous butterfly event the invasion of the UK bu millions of Painted Lady butterflies. This weekend an almost equally miraculous event happened the return of the Small Tortoiseshell. This butterfly has declined by 80% in recent years the victim of a small parasitic fly [Sturmia bella] that has spread north in recent years on the back of our warming climate.

So it was good to see large numbers of freshly emerged Small Tortoiseshell's at all of the three sites I visited this weekend; a back garden on the coast road, a nature reserve and a country lane. The picture is of an individual feeding on Lavender in a back garden in Titchwell.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Butterfly Punctuation

Comma, Butterfly, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

I managed a half hour walk around the Rosary Cemetery at lunch time today, a beautiful clear blue sky and screaming Swifts added to the atmosphere. From the dense foliage recently fledged Green Woodpeckers called as they pestered their parents and a Jay upset the local Blackbirds. White Sp butterflies fitted around the Gravestones alongside newly emerged Meadow Brown's and this splendidly immaculate Comma.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

House Sparrows for Lunch

Male House Sparrow, Snettisham, Norfolk

I can remember as a kid going to St James Park in London and being amazed by the Sparrow Man, who hand fed the large flock of House Sparrows that lived there, he even had some feed on food he held between his pursed lips. Since then Sparrows have disappeared from much of London and much work has been done to try and understand the reasons for their decline. As is often the case with song bird declines part of the answer at least is a lack of suitable insect food in the breeding season to feed their young. So it is good to see this colony of House Sparrows in Snettisham doing well and a quick look at their surroundings rich in food and nesting places provided by the horsieculture explains why.

These shots were grabbed in a twenty minute session with my camera yesterday lunchtime outside the office I was working from.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A Psychogeography Field Trip along the Thames

Thames Barrier looking towards the City of London, June 2009

Work took me to London today and a trip along the Thames from Embankment Pier to the International Cruise Terminal at Tilbury and back. Like most of the people on the boat I like to consider myself relatively well travelled and having a reasonable knowledge of London. However as we followed the sinuous course of the Thames, a route most will be familiar with in outline from the opening credits of Eastenders, a new view of London emerged.

I've always known that London in reality is much more compact than it might appear on a map or that journey times via its overburdened transport network would make you think. But by following the Thames you see how close together major districts are. You also see sweeps of the city and country's history from the ultra modern docklands developments back through the Royal Naval college at Greenwich and back even further to the Tower of London.

As we passed along the Thames it was also possible to observe major differences to the river today compared to the one we would have experienced before the 1950's, gone is the hustle and bustle of one of the worlds great ports, moved down river closer to the sea or across the sea to Rotterdam. Gone to is the stench and pollution , its impossible to imagine this river catching fire or being the source of outbreaks of disease. Indeed I saw plenty of evidence of a clean river, evidenced by the presence of fish eating Cormorants and some rather wonderful Common Terns.

The very embankment of the Thames of course points at possible future changes. Surge tides forced up river and a sinking east coast allied with the effects of climate change could have a serious impact on this city and the Thames Barrier is a visible reminder of that possible fate. To me the Barrier reminded me of the walls around a medieval city with the tidal gates ready to be closed shut in the face of the enemy, not this time marauding Vikings but a surge tide threatening London.

Will Self writes a column in the Independent called Psychogeography [The study of the effect of geographical factors on the mind or on behaviour ] and today felt to me like a very enjoyable journey into my own Psychogeography of London and the Thames.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Minsmere Hobby

Hobby, Minsmere

Spent Sunday volunteering at Minsmere, initially parking cars in the rain and then taking pictures of visitors. Finally at 4 pm I had some time to myself and headed for Bittern Hide. The birding was great, in the hour I had in the hide I saw Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher and four Hobby's.

The Hobby's were hawking for insects over the pools in the reedbed and seemed intent on making up for the time lost to the rain earlier in the day, this meant they put on a great show for those of us in a packed hide.

Photographing them was a real challenge and I am not really completely happy with any of the shots I took [you can see a couple more at ] If anything I found them harder to photograph than the Swifts I have been working on at Titchwell. Still the pictures I managed to take give me something to work on and hopefully I'll get at least one more go with these dashing falcons this summer.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Evening Shift at the Staithe

Little Egret, Brancaster Staithe
This evening took a dusk ride along the back roads near Ringstead and then down to Brancaster Staithe and back along the coast road. Highlights were this Little Egret in Brancaster Staithe harbour that I saw catch a small flat fish and presumably the same Tawny Owl I photographed just outside Ringstead a week or so back.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Hunting Barn Owl

Hunting Barn Owl, north Norfolk

Another early Saturday morning drive around the back roads of North West Norfolk with the baby lulled to sleep by the motion of the car and my camera to hand in the passenger seat. This owl regularly hunts over this meadow and provides reasonable photographic opportunities.

Sharing Swallowtails

Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Dr Martin George Swallowtail Garden Sign, Strumpshaw, Norfolk

I managed to find half an hour yesterday afternoon to pop into Strumpshaw Fen RSPB nature reserve in the Norfolk Broads. Or more accurately I spent my 30 minutes skirting the edge of the reserve in Dr Martin George's garden. The main trail around the Fen passes here and for as long as I can remember Dr George has planted nectar rich plants to attract Swallowtail butterflies from the reserve into his back garden. Then in an act of generosity each year he puts up a little hand written sign inviting folk to wander around his private garden to watch and photograph Swallowtails. A wonderfully kind and public spirited way for this retired conservationist to share his love of nature with visitors.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Catching Quick Silver

Common Swift, Titchwell Marsh

Mallards, Titchwell Marsh

Spent a fun hour late this afternoon at Titchwell Marsh photographing the Swifts, a past time that is a bit like trying to catch Quick Silver. Grabbed a few shots, but still some work to do to get a picture I'm really happy with. Of the 200 or so frames I shot, there are about three or four I am moderately happy with. I'll post these on my Flickr page later In the middle of the Swift action I grabbed this shot of the Mallard mating party.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Invasion of the Painted Lady's

Painted Lady, Courtyard Farm, Ringstead, Norfolk

Last weekend on a work tour of the Broads I noticed a few early Painted Lady butterflies, this weekend they seem to be everywhere locally. During a walk around Courtyard Farm this afternoon I saw over 50 and on returning to a friends garden in Titchwell there were at least another ten there.

Painted Lady's are migrant butterflies, as I understand it they start their journey in North Africa and fly north stopping to breed in southern Europe, they then die and the new generation picks up wher their parents left off, heading north on the next leg of the journey. Many of the Painted Lady''s I saw this afternoon had quite a 'worn' look. As well as these I saw another eight species of butterfly on this organic farm.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Two Owl Day

Tawny Owl, Ringstead

Started and ended the day driving the baby round North West Norfolk's back roads in an attempt to get him to sleep. This worked much better this morning when I saw a number of Barn Owls, than it did this evening. Nonetheless just as the light was going this evening I did stumble across this Tawny Owl perched on a dead roadside tree just outside Ringstead. Even in poor light its shape distinguished it immediately from the more often seen Barn Owls. I used an image stabilised lens and a 1600 ISO setting to take this image.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Marsh Orchid at Titchwell

Marsh Orchid sp

The Fen Meadow area at Titchwell Marsh RSPB nature reserve has come on a lot since it was first opened up about ten years ago. Then there were a few flowering spikes of Marsh Orchids and Ragged Robin flowers. Now after a decade of meadow management by RSPB wardens cutting and taking the sward away there are many tens of orchids in bloom and a good showing of Ragged Robin, all just to the side of the board walk and easily photographable. This picture was taken with a Ricoh GR2 digital compact.

Friday, 15 May 2009

New pictures

Dusk flight of Little Egrets, Titchwell Marsh

I've added a couple of new 'sets' of pictures on my Flickr page including one on birds in flight, take a look at

Monday, 11 May 2009

Joy of a rush hour Red Kite

One I made earlier, Red Kite, Spanish Pyrenees

I keep a small black notebook in the car, in which I scribble sightings of birds and mammals to send to the county recorder at the end of the year. Today I was able to note that I 'had' a Red Kite fly over my car as I drove to work along the A47 heading towards Norwich.

This was my third Norfolk Red Kite and the one that has given me the most pleasure, not only because it was a great, well lit if brief view looking up underneath it as it circled overhead, but also because of how I picked it out, first as a brief silhouette against the sun, with a fleeting twist of its tail giving its identity away. Then a few minutes later confirmation of my earlier instinctive identification a Red Kite, for my money perhaps our most spectacular raptor.

I don't know where this bird was from, I couldn't see a wing tag so it could be either a continental migrant or from one of the successful English reintroduction projects. Either way it was a pleasure to see and for me it threw into focus how such a simple pleasure as this has been denied to generations of birdwatchers and ordinary people who would take enjoy it. Denied because of the prejudices that we had and still have against birds of prey. Prejudices which still manifest themselves in illegal persecution and knee jerk reactions against the idea of looking to put back Sea Eagles in our East Coast wetlands.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Lunchtime in the cemetery

Common Frog

Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

I've managed to get over the Cemetery twice this week at lunchtime. Rosary Cemetery is divided neatly into two halves a modern section where burials still take place and which is well maintained and a wonderfully wild Victorian half where the gravestones are surrounded by brambles and mature trees. This is a great place to observe life's thrusting progress amongst the memorials to the dead. Today I heard a Green Woodpecker's yaffling call and since Christmas without the aid of a pair of binoculars I have recorded thirty species of birds here during lunchtime walks.

Today I stopped first at the small garden pond in the remembrance garden, although quite overgrown this is a great spot to watch Common Frogs and Smooth Newts. Moving through into the older part of the Cemetery there were Speckled Wood, Orangetip and Holly Blue Butterflies on the wing and the Bluebells were at their peak.

To find out more about the Cemetery visit the excellent

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

St Mark and other Flies

Male Orangetip


St Mark's Fly

A lovely sunny day at the end of which I managed a forty minute walk around part of Courtyard Farm near Ringstead. I went equipped with my macro lens in the hope of getting some butterfly pictures. Unfortunately it clouded over and there were relatively few on the wing.

A male Orangetip did pose briefly and allow me to get a better image than that in my previous post. The Cowslips have spread really well in the road side meadow and even though they are starting to 'turn' they still present a great splash of colour.

The St Mark's Fly would have been too active to take a picture of on a sunnier evening so it was good to find this pair hitched together and immobile. This large midge gets its name due to its habit of appearing on St Mark's Day [25 April], here on the north Norfolk coastal strip it can be very abundant particularly in the vicinity of Alexanders.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Organic Butterflies

Male and female Orangetips

Holly Blue

Our son turned 18 today [18 days not years] and we managed to get out for a family walk around Courtyard Farm near Ringstead, this is an organic farm with a progressive access policy and a great place for a walk. I hoped that as well as enjoying some time together as a family outside of the house, we would also see some butterflies drawn out by the spring sunshine.

Although quite windy we were able to plot a route that took us along a lane and round a patch of woodland known as Wharton's Belt. As we walked up the lane and got out of the wind we started to see butterflies, with Green Veined White's feeding on flowers on the edge of the lane, lots of Holly Blue's had emerged and were feeding on the white blossom of Hawthorns. A tatty Peacock appeared, presumably an overwintering insect. Splendid new buttercup yellow Brimstone's flew past and Speckled Woods sunbathed. One of my favourite butterflies the Orangetip was on the wing, this pretty little insect only flies for a month or so each spring and is always worth seeing, it is though on of the more active of our native butterflies and I wasn't able to get a particularly brilliant shot of one today.
The highlight though was a single Green Hairstreak that stopped very briefly on a Hawthorn, I have seen this well camouflaged butterfly here before, but not in last years terrible wet and cold summer so it was good to see that they are still present.

Less expected than the butterflies here was a calling Tawny Owl in the middle of the afternoon and a couple of 'boxing' Brown Hares.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Wagtail on the roof

Pied Wagtail, Titchwell

Yesterday was beautiful sunny day and a so week after he was born, we took our new son on an outing to the coast to see his Grandad who lives in Titchwell.

As I walked down the West Bank path on the reserve at Titchwell, there was a lovely spring feel to the afternoon. Peacock butterfly's flitted by the side of the path and in the sky high above the reedbed Marsh Harriers did their roller coaster sky dance. A Sedge Warbler sat up in a clump of Bramble on the edge of the reedbed giving its discordant jazzy song and a male Red Crested Pochard loafed in the pool in the middle of the reedbed, it's ginger head and bright red bill standing out even at a distance. A Little Gull hawking for insects over the far side of the Fresh Marsh was the most interesting bird I could locate there.

On the way back to my car I noticed this Pied Wagtail feeding on the roof of the Visitor Centre.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Flicker of a Redstart

At tea time today the sun at last started to chisel through the layer of low cloud that has sat over 'Sunny Hunny' this weekend. I decided to enjoy this break in the weather with a quick trip to Titchwell. On arrival in the car park I bump into Trevor, who told me that a male Redstart had been showing well all day along the Meadow Trail, so I thought that I would focus my visit there.

By the end of my second circuit of the Meadow Trail I had almost decided to cut my losses and have a look at the Fresh Marsh, when a passing birder pointed out the bush he had seen the Redstart feeding in the middle of. Patience was going to be needed. Still it was a pleasant wait as I could hear singing Chiff-Chaff, Willow, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers.

At last I caught a flicker of movement deep in the Sallows and it was a cracking if elusive male Redstart, this then flew across the meadow and into another bigger clump of scrub. By now I had been joined by a trio of birders one of whom had a very big lens and announced that he was determined to 'zap' the Redstart with it. Not sure if he got his wish as after 10 - 15 minutes during which I had a series of brief but good views, I headed off for a quick look at the Fresh Marsh before going home for tea.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Pheasant on the Picnic Table

All I've had time for today has been a quick shoot down the coast road this evening to Titchwell. Often of an evening this can be an idyllic spot. With the sun setting behind you as you look out over the lagoons, the light is great and most of the crowds that throng the place during the day have left. However this evening the low grey cloud that has sat over this corner of Norfolk all Bank Holiday weekend, kept the sun at bay and the temperature down.

Still the relatively low temperature of 10C hadn't stopped a hatch of insects that a flock of c 100 Swallows [with a few Sand and House Martins mixed in] were feeding on over the Fresh Marsh. Here a range of dabbling ducks could be seen sifting for food in the shallows, in particular Shoveler and Teal, whilst in the distance a pair of Red Crested Pochard snoozed by an island.

As I headed back to the car this male Pheasant posed on top of a picnic table and provided the only real photo opportunity of a light less dusk.

Groppers and other early migrants

Spent most of a grey Easter Saturday with the family, so by about 5.30 pm I was ready for a fix of fresh air and birds. As I was going to pass Snettisham on my way back from King's Lynn, I gave my mate Jim a call to see if he fancied coming out to play for an hour. He couldn't, but he did say he'd had a few good birds down the Coastal Park recently including an Alpine Swift earlier in the week.

The large car park was almost empty when I arrived just a few dog walkers braving the chilly grey evening. Heading into the scrub almost the first bird I heard was a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away from an area of reed and brambles. Standing here for a few minutes I was also able to hear Chiff-Chaff, Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler. Great, but where were they, hard as I tried even the Sedge Warbler normally a bit of an exhibitionist kept its head down and carried on its improvised Jazz routine from deep in the cover of a clump of Brambles.

Walking on skeins of Pink Footed Geese numbering perhaps a couple of hundred birds flew overhead and onto Ken Hill Marshes on the other side of the river and a second Gropper sang from a patch of scrub in the middle of a wet reedy area.

With the light going and no sign of the setting sun being able to break through the blanket of grey cloud I headed back to the car skirting the piles of dog turds as I went.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Magic of Wallcreeper's

Something a wrote a while ago. Picture is of the rock face at Gabardito

Sunday 21 May 2006

Why is Wallcreeper the most sought after bird on every trip I have led to the Spanish Pyrenees, the bird that seems to sum up these wild mountains. The species that on the first day of the holiday we take the group in search of under the towering rock face of Gabardito, so that we have time to try again here later in the week should we fail?

Wallcreeper the bird that each year without fail members of the party will sidle up to me in the departure hall at Stansted, and ask in a whisper “Its not that I’m a twitcher or anything, but I’d really like to see a Wallcreeper. What chance have we got?”

I feel that part of this birds appeal must lie in its association with high, wild, inaccessible places like the Pyrenees. To have seen one means that you have joined a small select club of birdwatchers.

The walk to Gabardito starts in a small car park next to a Refugio, on the edge of an alpine meadow ringed by mountain peaks that are over flown by Griffon Vultures and the occasional Lammergeir. From here it is an uphill walk along a narrow side valley, gaining height as we pass through Beech woods and Pine clad rocky slopes. The surface of the path is a little uneven in places and has a steep drop on one side. Choughs fly overhead their metallic calls echoing around us. Different members of the group handle this ascent in their own way. For some it is an easy uphill walk, others describe it as ‘hard’ as much for the overwhelming and unfamiliar mountain scenery as the physical exertion involved.

Even when you are in the right place you have no certainty of success and again even when the bird has been spotted you, the individual who has been guided to this time and place, have to work hard to follow the directions across the almost featureless rock-face so that you can spot a small, well camouflaged and distant bird. To have done this gives you not only a buzz but also a sense of ownership of the sighting a sense of satisfaction of having worked for your bird.

So after all the exertion of the climb, the giddying drops to the side of the path, the wait whilst you and the guide scan the vast rock face for this small well camouflaged bird, followed by the anxious moments whilst you try and find the bird in your binoculars. Then you get onto it and can enjoy the moment, watching a small purple, black and grey bird with scimitar beak and butterfly wings, the shared excitement with your fellow travellers and of course the anticipation of being able to tell friends back home of your successful journey into the Wallcreeper’s mountain home.

Yet after all this I am often surprised, that when it comes to the end of a week full of wonderful wildlife and landscape experiences in this amazing corner of Wild Spain, and I ask the group for their bird of trip or Champagne moment, Wallcreeper will often not feature on either list despite having been seen by everyone. Is this because this unique bird’s legend out does the reality of its appearance, or is it because in the guests hearts they expect to see one and it is the unexpected surprises that really etch themselves onto folks memories?
For a picture of a Wallcreeper see my earlier post

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Singing Robin

The 'tame' Robin's in the car park at Titchwell are as much a part of the birding experience as the Avocet's on the lagoons. Pull up, open your door and wait for them to land on your wing mirrors. Or as has happened to me wait, for one to investigate your cars foot well. If you are feeling generous you can buy a tub of meal worms in the visitor centre to take back to the car park to feed the Robins with.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Titchwell Teal

With the sun setting behind you the light at Titchwell is always at its best in the evening. Yesterday I had a hour in the Parrinder Hide mostly with good light. A small flock of half a dozen Sand Martins hawked for insects over the west bank path and an adult Mediterranean Gull rubbed shoulders with the Black Headed Gulls on the Fresh Marsh. A Common Snipe fed right below the hide a few feet from my camera lens but as I have recently shown pictures of bird doing just this I thought I would post a couple of shots of a male teal.

With one's attention drawn to the first flush of spring migrants, it can be easy to forget how splendid wildfowl can look at this time of year. The Teal at Titchwell glowed in the evening light and when not busy feeding the males would occasionally fight.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


I've never had much luck with Adders [Vipera berus] before and have resolved this spring to 'get my eye' in with this rather elegant reptile. When I saw the weather forecast for today, clear blue sky's and a weak but warming winter sun, I decided to head for Kelling Heath a well known Adder hot spot in north Norfolk.
After an hour and a half of carefully walking the heath with my friend Jim and neither of us spotting a snake [we did manage a couple of Common Lizards, Zootoca vivipara] we were heading back to the car park when I saw another friend and his wife staring through their binoculars at the base of a tree trunk. When we wandered over to them they pointed out two Adders basking in the dead bracken and then took us to another spot a short distance away where two more Adders could be seem.
A wonderful result and I hope time and weather permitting to get back here again this spring and summer to improve on the pictures I took today.

Friday, 27 March 2009

You Looking at Me?

Now when the birds are back at their nest trees but before they can hide behind new leaves, is the time to suss out where the local Little Owl's are nesting. This bird is at a new site for me, a small, gnarled old oak tree in a hedgerow along a quiet back road.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Hare & The Harrier

This afternoon we were driving a back road through Hare country. I was busy scanning the trees in a hedgerow for Little Owls, when the wife said "There's a Harrier". Sure enough a ringtail Hen Harrier flew down the road in front of us and into a stubble field, where it landed next to a hedgerow. As it flew we could see that it was carrying prey.

Within a minute of the Harrier settling in the long grass, a Hare came down the side of the Hedgerow and 'flushed' the Harrier, which then flew low across the field. At this point the Hare appeared to give chase with the successful intention of preventing the Harrier from landing in the field.

It would be easy to suppose that the Hare was the mother of the Leveret that the Harrier had caught [on blowing up some pictures the Harrier is either carrying a young Rabbit or a Leveret] chasing away its killer. It could though be that the Hare just wanted to be rid of a large and possibly dangerous predator. This would be a similar strategy to that adopted by flocks of small birds that come together to mob Raptors and Corvids. A risky strategy, but an effective one, as the harassed predators tend to move on far enough away from the scene of the mobbing so as to cease to be an immediate danger to the birds. Whatever was happening it was an exciting couple of minutes.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ringo's Back

The weather this week has been on balance grey and rather poor for photography, but every now and again the clouds blow away and the sun breaks through for a little while. Yesterday evening was just such an occasion and I headed down to Brancaster Staithe for the last 45 minutes of daylight. I had the harbour almost to myself and as the tide dropped away down the hard, this splendid Ringed Plover fed close to my car.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Hare field

Early start to avoid the weekend crowds and to try and get some photos of Brown Hares. I found this field one afternoon a couple of days ago, it looked promising but the hares were a long way off. I liked the fact that unlike a lot of fields it had no hedgerow down one side so I could get a clear arc to move my camera through and its on a quiet road with little disturbance. What I didn't bank on was that where I parked my car was opposite a gap in the hedge of the field on the other side of the road and that I was in a perfect spot for hares to cross the road in front of me. An hours quiet sitting and waiting was rewarded with several close views and at one point a group of six hares ran past the side of my car a few feet from me. Really top quality wildlife watching and nice when a plan comes together, I hope to spend more time at this location over the coming days.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Gypsy Morning

Monday morning, half an hour to spare so I wandered down Gypsy Lane [or Gypsy Drove if you prefer] at the east end of Titchwell village. Great to hear the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits in song, and in the small patch of wet woodland at the start of the path 3 Bullfinches were as ever a delight.

A biggish tide filled the saltmarsh creek, a reminder of the fact that Titchwell is a place on the edge of the land and the sea, and the value of saltings such as this as a sponge protecting the land, as well as being great places for wildlife and a wonderful landscape to enjoy being in.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Spring on the way

Pleasant weekend of sunshine and a cold wind. Yesterday [Saturday] had a brief visit to the bird hide at Abbey Farm, Flitcham. Always a great place to stop to have a quiet birdwatch on the way back from shopping in King's Lynn. Highlights were a Common Buzzard, singing Chiff Chaff, half a dozen Bramblings and a Tree Sparrow.

A herd of a dozen Fallow Deer on the edge of a wood between Flitcham and the Anmer turnoff was unexpected. Popped into Titchwell for an hour before dusk and got my second spring migrant of the day a Little Ringed Plover on the Fresh Marsh. Also saw and then briefly saw a Bittern in the reedbed.

Today popped down Dersingham Bog with Bricker and Phil for the Great Grey Shrike which we had good scope views of plus lots of fly over Crossbills and Siskins.

Got this grab shot of a hunting Barn Owl over a field on the south side of Barrow Common yesterday afternoon. If Norfolk has a signature bird species surely this is it.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Frog on Frog

Had a chance to pop over the cemetery for half an hour earlier in the week. The Common Frogs in the small pool are now well and truly consumed by lust and there were a couple of mating balls of randy amphibians, plus at least half a dozen lumps of spawn. Other highlight was a Rosary Cemetery mammal tick in the form a of Fox, apparently a two were also seen last week by some folk from the office.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Stunning Snipe

Spent an hour at Titchwell late on Saturday afternoon with this beauty. Feeding on the Fresh Marsh right underneath the Parrinder Hide window, less than six feet from where I was sitting. Even better most of the time I had the hide to myself so didn't have to worry about anybody else accidentally flushing the bird. Did get to share it with a couple of ladies who wanted to know if it was a Water Rail as they thought Snipe were much bigger ;-)

Took lots of photos with my Canon 100 - 400 Zoom at 400 ISO. With its tail spread showing those wonderful orange tail feathers this is my favourite.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Crocus awakening

The Rosary Cemetery in Norwich is a wonderful little oasis close to the centre of the city and a couple of minutes walk from my office. The cemetery falls into two parts a wild older section full of mature trees and Victorian tombstones on which the inscriptions read like CV's fro the afterlife and a newer section which is still in use. Cross a road from the new part of the cemetery and you are in Lion Wood. Visit the excellent for more information on the Cemetery.

Its a great place for a 'birds without binoculars' lunchtime walk or potter with the camera. See to see a small of selection of photos taken here over the last couple of years.

Today was my first visit for a couple of weeks and it was good to see the changing season in the shape of the naturalised crocuses that have spread, seemingly randomly through the cemetery, no boring municipal lines here. For the next month these wild crocuses will be an absolute joy. Not to be outdone the small pond was full of frogs with at least ten 'pairs' of copulating amphibians. A large female Sparrowhawk was my first over the Cemetery this year.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Walsingham Snowdrops

An annual event in Norfolk are the February Snowdrop walks held around the County to raise funds for charity. One of the most popular of these is held in the grounds of Walsingham Abbey, here the Snowdrops carpet the ground interspersed with smaller clumps of yellow Aconites. The bare branches of the trees carry large clumps of Mistletoe.

For the last couple of years the mild winters have meant that by late February the Snowdrops have been turning over, but this year presumably thanks to the cold weather we have had this year, they were at their best. An additional bit of atmosphere was provided this year by a small girl playing her violin below the ruined arch.

Prior to our walk around the Abbey we had lunch at 'The Pie Pub' aka The Three Horseshoes in Warham This pub sits just inland from the north Norfolk coast and has escaped the tarting up that has befallen many Norfolk pubs. The words 'fusion' and 'sitting on a bed of' don't appear on the menu instead they sell a range of home made pies and old fashioned puddings alongside Norfolk Wherry bitter, a great place for a winter pub lunch.