Monday, 15 March 2010

Wild Crocuses, Norwich's best kept secret

Crocuses, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

The short amble around the Rosary Cemetery in Norwich is one of my favourite walks, not only because it is close to the office and offers me a chance to get away from the computer at lunchtime but primarily it is a great place for wildlife. You need to take your time and look for the details on the gravestone's where White Lipped Snails come out after rain, or in the summer months search for the gold and black Hoverflies.

But it is the early spring that I think the cemetery is at its most wild and alive. In the small pond Common Frogs and Smooth Newts return to breed in an enthusiastic amphibian orgy. But best of all are the Crocuses, thousands of them gone wild and growing not where any gardener wants them but wherever they find conditions that are suitable. Each spring I try and capture this display and never feel that I have done it justice. the picture above is one attempt to do so this spring and I will make many more lunchtime attempts before the crocuses turnover and fade back into the earth.

You can see more Rosary Cemetery pictures on my Flickr page at

Friday, 12 March 2010

Baited Buntings

Snow Bunting at bait, north Norfolk

Snow Buntings are a classic winter bird in north Norfolk, their flocks are often described as looking like a flurry of snow flakes as they take flight. Normally you would need to walk some of the quieter stretches of coastline to find a flock [Holme has been good this winter]. However at Salthouse the birds come to seed, I believe that this was originally put down by ringers so that they could catch and ring birds as part of a scientific study. I'm less clear as to who feeds them these days, certainly this afternoon a couple of photographers looked as if they had been putting out some millet.

You would think that this might be considered a harmless, even beneficial activity by all birdwatchers, however some concerns have been raised that not only are the Snow Buntings being fed but that local birds of prey will also notice the concentration of prey items in this one spot and that this will lead to increased predation of wintering Snow Buntings. As far as I am aware this has not happened and the Snow Buntings have become something of an attraction in their own right.

I managed half an hour with these lovely little birds today under a cloudy grey sky with low light and so didn't manage any amazing shots, nonetheless it was a fun experience and I'll see if I can get back before the Snow Buntings disappear in the spring.

I wonder what other birds it would be appropriate to bait in like this, there are plenty of traditional peanut feeders hanging up around nature reserves and gardens along the coast to attract Blue Tits, Greenfinches etc, what else could we responsibly bait in, Water Rails with fish, Bearded Tits at Grit trays?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hare Today?

Brown Hare near Anmer

So far this early spring I have seen very few Brown Hare's compared to last year, perhaps the cold weather has dampened their ardour and they are just being less conspicuous of perhaps the cold winter weather has knocked the population back. I know also that one or two local shoots refrained from shooting Hares in the first part of the winter as their numbers were low following a disease outbreak.

This individual was feeding by the side of a quiet back road near Anmer and allowed me to take just one picture.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

An Orwellian view of Spring

Naturalised Crocuses, Norwich
Took the baby for a walk this morning, lovely blue sky with two Common Buzzards wheeling over the woods behind Hunstanton and a Dunnock singing in a garden at the end of our road. Spring is coming and these words written by George Orwell 70 or so years ago feel appropriate.

"So long as you are not actually ill, hungry, frightened or immured in a prison or holiday camp, spring is still spring. The atom bombs are piling up in factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply though they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it." George Orwell

With acknowledgment to Richard Mabey quoting this passage in the March issue of BBC Wildlife magazine.