15
Sep
14

Defensive Chiffchaffs and Robins

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The Hill gave up very little on Sunday morning. A Whinchat and a trio of Wheatear were the best it could offer and we’d probably been acquainted with those birds previously.

Even an early morning call from Paul regarding Dolphins heading my way unfortunately came to nothing. It wasn’t until late afternoon that things came to life with the easterlies gaining momentum

A visit to the valley bottom gave the first surprise. On exiting the car I heard it shout. The eruptive call of a Yellow browed is unmistakable. Although elusive the distinctive olive green upperparts, silky white unders and wingbars gained a piecemeal confirmation. A defensive Chiffchaff making claim against invasion soon saw off the northern sprite. Despite an hour of patient listening I didn’t hear him shout again. Perhaps he’ll call more when he’s rested.

I went to the cliff top to re-photograph the coneheads and Bush crickets – this time taking a bat detector!

We had often talked about the wood on the cliff and how nothing was ever found there. As I walked through the trees I was surprised therefore (for the second time in the day) to see a bird perched. It was nothing more than a silhouette but before I raised my bins I knew what it was. The drooped winds and cocked tail all screamed Red breasted Flycatcher. The white I saw at the base of the tail made me smile. I reached for the camera and the bird dropped from sight … replaced by a Robin; two birds in the wood! I didn’t see it again despite Rose, Paul and Greg quickly on site. Elating but frustrating. Damn Chiffs and Robins.

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Chiffchaff

The damn Chiffy – one of the offending defenders.

I could hear the rain in the night drumming on the skylights. Surely both birds would stop and I’d get more prolonged views next morning. I resolved to get up early.

As I exited the door this morning there was a detonation of red from the laurel hedge that could have been nothing other than a Redstart. It was. This bode well. I watched it quiver a while and then made my way to the clifftop. I had not gone far before the heavy moist air was punctuated by a shape in the mist. I expected a large gull. I raised my bins and squinted. The form of an Osprey materialised; making it’s way laboriously east. I heard later it was seen mid morning further south at Horsey. The phone went and I was called away by the promise of a Paddyfield Warbler. Sadly despite much looking and listening it came to nothing. It had moved on.

I looked later for the Yellow browed and the RB Fly, but saw nothing. The wood and everywhere else was emptied of everything but a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.

Ah well! … it was good while it lasted.

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_Z5A3755 

 

 

14
Sep
14

A Bush but no bird

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I couldn’t hear them. I’ve not lost the top end of my hearing range as yet; I’ve just never been able to hear frequency that high. I can still hear Goldcrest and Firecrest as well as Savi’s Warblers. My friend Andrew however has the hearing of a dog. He could hear them.

Staring into a tuft of grass he’d say “yep, here’s a Roesel’s calling and there’s a Conehead stridulating to your right”.

Really?

I’ll be buggered if I could hear them. I need to take a bat detector next time.

Both Roesel’s Bush Cricket and Long Winged Conehead are recent immigrants into Norfolk (first seen in 1997 and 2000 respectively) and I have to thank Andrew for pointing them out to me.

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Long winged Conehead

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Roesel's Bush Cricket

 

 

12
Sep
14

The World Wide Web of Wildlife

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We were only saying at the weekend how good it was to see so many insects on the ivy flowers. The sound of bees and hoverflies was almost deafening. It was good to see.

Here at Falcon Cottage we don’t use chemicals in the garden and try to stick to native plants. We want wildlife to be at home here and one of the key factors of this is getting the environment right. Why does this sometimes get overlooked out there, beyond the sycamores at the end of the garden, in the wider world? Sure it’s ok to (re)introduce the large raptors but would it pay better dividends to start closer to the base of the food chain rather than the apex; get the foundations right and everything above will be of sound construction. Get the environment right and nature will move in. She will do the rest. The whole web of life means everything relies upon something else; everything is connected. Everything joined by fragile and sometimes tenuous links to every other living thing. Us included.

Despite walking the whole hill here on Wednesday I couldn’t find a single migrant passerine. It was only later during the afternoon did a Pied Flycatcher drop by to feed at the larder of insects that were themselves feeding on the ivy.

One of the Hoverflies gorging on the pollen was a Death’s Head Fly – Myathropa florea; named because of the so called death mask on its back. I think it looks more like the ‘batman’ symbol. Maybe nature is sending up a signal calling for a superhero to come along and rescue us from insecticides and over cultivation.

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2014 09 10 Death's Head Fly (Myathropa Florea) Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A3250

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2014 09 10 Death's Head Fly (Myathropa Florea) Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A3242

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2014 09 10 Pied Flycatcher Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A3161

 

 

10
Sep
14

Gullfest

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Some great gulls around the pier in Cromer at the beginning of September. This 1st year Caspian Gull and an Adult Yellow legged Gull keeping the Larophiles entertained. 

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1st Year Capian Gull

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Yellow legged Gull

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There was also an adult gull showing characteristics of a Caspian. When we attracted the bird close with a little bread the seemingly dark eye turned pale. The lack of a prominent tertial step was perhaps because the bird had a moult worthy of a bald dog. Others were also seeing a ‘snouty’ appearance as well as long legs. I couldn’t really see this but tried hard to see what they meant. The gull ‘morphed’ every time I looked at it. I eventually got a series of shots that showed sufficient detail to convey the shape and size of the bird. It started to look more likely there was some Caspian in it … but I couldn’t be sure. The upshot was I didn’t know.

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Adult Caspian Gull Cromer Norfolk

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Adult Caspian Gull

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I have been referring to the paper on ‘Identification of Caspian Gull’ by Chris Gibbins et al. which states that ‘non calling birds  can be identified using head and bill shape alone (call and calling posture are diagnostic – but this bird remained silent): other structural features vary and so are less important’

To be fair the bird in the above photo of it running looks long legged and snouty with a parallel sided bill so I guess on that basis alone it’s a Caspian. Other photos  however show it with a rounded head. I just couldn’t help feeling it’s not so straight forward and I couldn’t make up my mind. The books weren’t enough. I wanted someone with much more experience than I to take a look.  Via Mark Golly, Chris Gibbins, who is currently in Georgia, has commented as follows:

“Plenty of birds here just like this in fact.  I appreciate your point – its not the minds-eye image of cach, but I can find many birds (I’m guessing females) that really are like this structurally. The pale eye is of course not entirely unprecedented in casp but I can see why in combination with the jizz it gives you trouble.  This type of more rounded head is something I see frequently; but if you look at the structure of the bill it is really good for Casp.  Many at the moment have this light head streaking which, as with mich, soon wears off. The moult and wear dont help in assessment of primary pattern, but the P10 tongue seems long, square ended and whitish – paler also than the upperparts.  So seems fine. Black just on outer web of P4 is fine.  Leg colour is also no problem for me.”

“I think it really is a case that when you are a saddo like me and looked at many many casps, this bird is not out of range of acceptability.  BUT it really would be worth throwing bread out to get birds fighting, and listen out for its call.  With some birds this really is the only way. I will look again properly at the pics once I’m back and give you a second mail but my first impression is that it is actually OK.”

My thanks go to Chris and Mark Golley for their comments and to Simon Chiddick for finding the bird. 

It boils down to experience. I was certainly being too conservative. If it had looked like a bird I saw at Cley the other month I would not have thought anything but Caspian… no doubt about that one!

Now where’s that bread?

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2014 07 31 Caspian Gull Cley Marshes Norfolk_Z5A7894

 

 

 

 

08
Sep
14

The very moment of conception.

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On the pond here at Falcon Cottage we have had small delicate visitors in the latter part of summer. When the sunlight went they disappeared, vanished, I know not where. When the sun broke the clouds they basked on the lily pads, usually in isolation; their red eyes making them look like fancy blue unstruck matches.

Small Red Eyed Damselflies, the younger brother of Red Eyed Damselflies were unknown in the UK until 1999. Since then they have become established and are continuing to spread north.

I photographed this couple just at the point of conception forming their copulative heart.

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Small Red Eyed Damselfly

 

06
Sep
14

All Quiet

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As I was taking a few photos the other day this Rabbit came hopping along. I was stood quite still so was totally ignored while it sussed out the area and began to feed. He eventually hopped off none the wiser for us making an acquaintance, all but for a few quizzical looks and perked ears when he heard the shutter fire off.

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Rabbit

04
Sep
14

One long holiday

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This little fella was hanging around on the hill here at Northrepps the other day. He had not long fledged and still thought he had to wait for his parents to come by and feed him so they were trying to coax him into the air to catch his own dinner.

Very soon he’ll be making his way south through Europe across the Mediterranean and into Africa. From there he’ll cross the Sahara and down through Angola and Namibia into South Africa for the winter. I hope he makes it.

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Swallow

 

 




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