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.