02
Jun
21

Whale Whispering

Just finished the penultimate day of our UK mammal tour. We went whale whispering to the East of the Isle of Staffa. Managed to call up three separate Minkes feeding in what was obviously a food rich area.

15
Sep
21

Conflict with Nature

There are a lot of good people in the world. People that wouldn’t dream of causing suffering to others humans or animals. Sadly there are people who care not for life in any form. They are capable of deeds that right thinking individuals could not contemplate.

The Faroe Islands are not British but they lie just outside British waters north of Shetland. The Faroes belong to Denmark.

The Faroese people periodically hold something called a grind. It’s a traditional method of hunting where dolphins are driven onshore by a flotilla of boats. About 600 pilot whales are caught every year on average. White-sided dolphins are caught in lower numbers, such as 35 in 2020 and 10 in 2019. The islanders have been warned not to eat cetacean meat because it’s invariably toxic with heavy metals. However, they continue to run the grinds.

On Sunday night a super-pod of 1428 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins was driven 45 km by speed boats and jet-skis into the shallow water at Skálabotnur beach where every single one of them was killed with knives. This is said to be a record catch. Again … 1428 animals.

You will have no doubt have seen this on the news and read about it in the newspapers? No? … Why? Let me tell you why. Because it has not been covered widely by mainstream media in any sort of depth that’s why. Yet we have headlines for a week over a single Alpaca that was humanly destroyed … all be it sadly incorrectly. Sometimes I don’t understand the press and the media I really don’t.

Each Atlantic White Sided Dolphin would have been 2.5 to 2.8m long. Take a look at the door in the room you’re sat in. All the animals would have been as long as that door is high … and some. That’s a lot of flesh. What in Gods name are they going to do with that lot?

It saddens me. The dolphins are now dead. We can’t bring them back. There’s nothing we can do for them. It saddens me that there are people who do not realise the true nature of their role on the planet. People who don’t realise they are the custodians of all life on Earth. I feel sad for them.

I can’t bring this to the attention of as many people as mainstream media. However if everyone reading this article shared it … it may gain a little traction. Remember most people are good. We need to spread the story of the antics of these sad sad people and persuasively, legally and calmly stop this happening again. After all it’s wrong … isn’t it?

Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd website https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/
05
Sep
21

One Day

It doesn’t often happen that a customer cancels a tour but occasionally everyone gets ill. So it was last Friday. The day was mine to do with as I wished.

I thought I’d have a go at the Red breasted Flycatcher that had been around Trimingham churchyard the previous day. Busmans holiday and all that. As soon as I arrived a Pied Flycatcher flipped into an eye level branch of a beautiful open Cherry tree. It stayed just long enough for me to un-clip the camera bag and get the camera out. It had vanished by the time I’d raised the camera to my eye. I waited another hour before I saw it again. It perched just above an old girl kneeling at a gravestone, whispering to herself or maybe her interned loved one. Rather than disturb her I went for a walk to the sea. The scene was grey. The wind was whipping in from the North off the water. There was a smell of rare bird in the air. It was palpable.

By the time I returned to the churchyard I had it to myself again. I heard the Pied call and followed the sound to a spreading oak, before seeing it in the canopy and firing off a few record shots. As I was watching the bird something caught my eye. It was a bat circling the church. A Natter’s Bat. I tried to take a few pictures but as soon as I’d altered the settings on the camera it disappeared under the church eves. Presumably it was late in from a night shift. I never did see the Red breasted despite assistance from Paul and Rose that popped in for a quick look, so I presume it had moved on. Curiously a good number of Speckled Wood butterflies were alighting on gravestones. Not sure why; absorbing salts maybe?

I used to visit this area a lot when I lived at Falcon Cottage. It’s grown up a little and the trees in the churchyard are now ideal habitat for migrant birds. The area suffers from an absence of parking. Something to consider if anything truly amazing turns up there. In fact when I returned to the vehicle I had a polite but lengthy note on my windscreen asking me to consider where I parked as they couldn’t reverse into their drive opposite when approaching from the main road. Well my lovie, if you couldn’t reverse into your drive given the space I’d left …. I think it’s about time to give up your licence. It did occur to me they could have rung me in the time it took to write the note, the mobile number is on the side of the car. I was only yards away. I’d have gladly come and moved the damn thing. I did think I’d leave a ‘counter-note’ where they could read it but thought better of it. Some of my friends still watch this area. I didn’t want to escalate anything that would reflect upon them when they visit. I resolved not to park there again.

Home for lunch and then I though I’d take a drive West to Cley. As I pulled away from Sheringham a beautiful green locomotive was steaming its way towards Holt. I got ahead of it and took some photos of the stately beast as it crossed the road. Steam engines still hold a thrill. I guess it comes from having a father who gave most of his life to British Rail.

A message on my phone regarding a Sykes’s Warbler was going to change my afternoon. This is a bird from the Middle East that winters in the Indian subcontinent. It’s occurrence here is accidental with less than twenty previous UK records. I missed the first one in Norfolk in August 2002. It would have felt churlish to ignore the second.

The bird acquired its name from William Henry Sykes, a naturalist serving with the British Army in India. He discovered fifty six species of bird new to science and several species, including the warbler, bear his name.

The bad news is this individual was on Blakeney Point; well half way up Blakeney Point to be exact. Another avian progeny of James McCallum and Kayn Forbes. I hate Blakeney Point. Three steps forward and two back. All that calf burning shingle. I took my time walking out there; a bit like a reluctant kid going to the barbers. Walking along the suaeda edge was no fun at all. The only passerine I saw in the two mile walk was a single Reed Bunting.

When I arrived at Halfway House the bird was still being watched at the end of ‘the runway’; a short turfed area amid the shingle and suaeda bushes where I’ve seen several rarities over the years. It was periodically being glimpsed by a line of optic toting admirers as it flew over the sea of fruticosa. I joined them and managed to watch from a high point and get one or two distant photos but I wanted to get a good look at the bird rather than photograph it. Over the years I’ve found in these instances it’s better to give the bird room and wait for it to show. Some in the crowd even voiced this … but it fell on deaf ears. Bush bashing, drive type twitching in my eyes is impatient bird watching and no longer appeals to me. I would rather the birds welfare came first. The bird needs to rest and should be left to show on its own terms. However, this sort of habitat, deep bootlace ripping growth, doesn’t promote the bird being seen without some intervention. I left slightly disappointed, with mixed feelings and perhaps earlier than I would have normally.

I dragged my feet walking back as I contemplated the day. Would it be better to make a ‘second plantation’ at Half Way House duplicating the area at the point to make observation a little easier for bird and birdwatcher alike? I don’t know.

I decided to make the return journey on the seaward side, along the beach; still shingle but maybe a little firmer and a bit of sea to look at too. It was good to have Ian’s company for part of the walk East. When Ian strode out ahead I was joined by a Grey Seal curious enough to follow me for a while; although she wasn’t up for much conversation

All in all … a mixed day.

03
Sep
21

In flight

A Southern Hawker in flight showing those bright yellow/green headlights behind the eyes that make this species so distinctive in flight.

31
Aug
21

Small but perfectly formed

No more than a few millimetres. A perfectly formed Heath Snail.

27
Aug
21

On the Web

Tania found a Wasp Spider the other day when we were on tour. It’s intriguing why the web would have such an interesting zig-zag patterning, called a ‘stabilimentum’ always weaved into its lower half.

23
Aug
21

Adonis in the rain

It’s no coincidence that probably the most stunning butterfly we have in the UK carries the name of the god of desire and beauty.

We were once again up against it with the weather. This time in our search for Adonis Blue Butterflies. A gun metal grey sky and occasional drizzle didn’t put us off taking a small group to Hertfordshire on Saturday. The day was brightened considerably by us finding about 20 males and a few females of this metallic blue beauty.

Here’s Tania showing off the finer points of a male Adonis Blue which took to her hand for the warmth. Even the underside of the wings on this creature go above expectations.

14
Aug
21

A little skip

I’m not sure what species of seaweed or pine cone the BBC are using for forecasting these days but I’ll give them some information for free … it’s not working. When the weather app says sunny all day for several days in advance and with 12 hours to go they change it to cloud with rain something ain’t right. The clue is in the name. It’s supposed to be a ‘fore-cast‘.

Anyways, it’s sufficient to say finding butterflies on the Silver Spotted Skipper day in Buckinghamshire wasn’t as easy as it could have been on Thursday. However, even with the drizzle, even with the cloud and even in the rain we managed to find 18 species of butterfly on one south facing slope. Included in the list were some dazzling Adonis Blues and of course a couple of Silver Spotted Skippers.

11
Aug
21

Leporids

A few Leporids around on tours the other day.

08
Aug
21

Dragons Den

A couple of photos of dragons taken last week. Firstly a Southern Hawker at Foxley Wood and a Black Darter (female) taken on the recent Cumbria Butterfly Tour.

Southern Hawker
Black darter (female)
06
Aug
21

A few More

A few more butterflies from the last couple of weeks.

Silver Washed Fritillary
Dark Green Fritillary
Gate Keeper showing some additional spotting and a blemish on the left wing
Wall Brown
Small Copper showing unusually long ‘tails’ on the hind-wing – tails are not unusual on males of second broods but these are quite long.



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