25
Jul
16

Bog Orchid

Almost imperceptible. Completely hidden. In the words of others; ‘If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t see it’.

Bog Orchid is a rare small plant just a few centimetres tall found amid boggy ground. Seeing it is always difficult. Getting near enough to photograph it is a wet feet and knees job.

Bog Orchid 2

Bog Orchid 1

23
Jul
16

Orca – an organisation worth joining

It’s always difficult to see everything when you go on an organised tour. Inevitably someone will see more than you do and the group as a whole will always see more than the individual. Sharon, Andrew and I travelled down from Portsmouth to Santander last week with ORCA – a worthwhile charitable organisation that takes the care of the seas, whales, dolphins and porpoises to its heart. Their website is worth checking out www.orcaweb.org.uk

Although the group saw more than us, we saw the following:

1 Fin Whale

4 Sperm Whales

2 Cuvier’s Beaked Whales

Circa 200+ Common Dolphin

Circa 20 Striped Dolphin

10+ Bottlenose Dolphin

3 Ocean Sunfish

Cory’s Shearwaters coming out of our ears

Gannets Galore

30+ Manx Shearwater

4 Sandwich Terns

1 Common Tern

2 Cormorant

1 Shag

Loads of Herring Gulls

Loads of Yellow Legged Gulls

2 Mediterranean Gulls

10+ Black Headed Gulls

2 Common Gulls

 

In our 2 hours in a Santander Park we had

2 Black Kite

Wood Pigeon

2 Swift

4 White Wagtail

Blue Tit

Black Redstart (heard only)

Robin

Chiffchaff (heard)

Starling

House Sparrow

Goldfinch

Bullfinch

In terms of what is usually seen it was a relatively poor crossing with low numbers of cetaceans and no Killer Whales or Pilot Whales seen at all along with very few seabird species. However, these cruises take place all summer and numbers do increase later in the year. We’ll be doing at least one next year (in one form or another) so if you are interested in joining the same cruise as Sharon and I let us know.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale 2

Fin Whale Common Dolphin

Sunfish Gannet Corys Shearwater

Sunset_Z5A8891

21
Jul
16

A clifftop rarity

It was Andy – self confessed ‘Non-Botanist’ – that put the flag up. He’d found some unusual Broomrape here on the cliff tops. Tony got excited, and after some research made a positive identification. Although it’s the scare Purple Broomrape it is a very rare yellow variant. A rare, bright and beautiful plant.

Purple Broomrape (Yellow form)

19
Jul
16

At last

We had been walking over the heath at Arne RSPB on the third day of our tour to Dorset. The Jurassic coast has lots of wildlife delights that made themselves available to us but none so much appreciated as on that day at Arne.

Written on the sightings board was a ‘Nightjar heard to call from the cafe garden’. Intriguing I thought. Upon enquiry with the warden on duty it had apparently been heard to churr at around nine o’clock that morning. It was now 5pm. Upon further enquiry I gleaned people in the cafe thought the churring had emanated from the car park. Those in the car park thought it came from the cafe. By my reasoning it had to be between the two, somewhere in a number of tall trees. I was told the trees had been scoured all day for a roosting bird without any luck.

Not to be deterred by the time elapsed since it had been heard, or the fact the area had been searched already, I explained to my ladies on the tour that we should take the opportunity to walk slowly to the cafe and shop looking carefully on all horizontal branches as we went. We completed a thorough search and … nothing!

As we got to the shop concentration broke and attention began to be diverted into buying bits and bobs. As purchases were made I thought I’d have a last look. Sitting on a bench I rose my bins and the first branch I checked … there it was. About 60 feet up in a tall oak. It sat, as they are inclined to do along the branch and intriguingly as the wind moved the surrounding vegetation it swayed. A master of disguise the Nightjar.

A sighting of a daytime roosting Nightjar has been a long time coming for me; more than 40 years. I was elated. After telling the warden, reserve staff as well as late leavers visiting the reserve came along to see him. I understand at the time of writing (9th July) he’s returned to the same branch and is still putting on a display to visitors.

Nightjar

 

18
Jul
16

National Whale & Dolphin Watch

Over the past forty years, whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) around our coast have been monitored by Sea Watch Foundation scientists as well as volunteer observers all around the coast. For the past 14 years this has been spearheaded through an annual event, the ‘National Whale & Dolphin Watch’. This years’ event takes place between 23rd and 31st July.

Sharon and I will again be present this year on Sunday 24th at The Promenade in Overstrand – on the east slope. Park at Coast Road at NR27 0NG from 9am to 4pm – we look forward to seeing you. Everybody welcome.

Minke Whale

17
Jul
16

A lottery

The Bay of Biscay is a large place. Travelling at 25 knots on the French ship the Pont Aven this week it took us 12 hours to cross from the Ushant Isles in the north to the port of Santander on the north Spanish coast. We were looking for whales. We found some.

It has to be said we didn’t find many. However, we’re talking quality here not quantity. We were seeking Cuvier’s Beaked Whales. These denizens of the deep are one of nature’s curiosities. Able to dive and feed at depths we can only imagine, these are the free-divers of the deep seas. One has been recorded at a depth of almost 3km – deeper than any other mammal. Finding one is not easy. They spend relatively little time on the surface compared with the time they forage in the deep oceanic trenches and canyons offshore. Seeing one next to our unstoppable ship close enough to photograph was against the odds. Having a little time with one as it swam with the ship rather than against our direction of travel was asking a lot. Being on the correct side of the ship when one appears you would have to be lucky. It’s a lottery.

Having been on deck since 5am it was now 3:30pm. We had almost given up. We were in sight of the Spanish coast and I was beginning in my mind to plan next year’s trip to Santander.

Then, as is inevitably the case, something happens when you least expect it. Friend Andrew and I were staring down at the rippling sea being parted by the bows when an object rose just below us. As the waves and the gloom parted it became the unmistakable long shape and tan colour of a male Cuvier’s Beaked Whale. It raised its white head from the water revealing the two small tusks at the distal end of its lower jaw and arched its back to show the myriads of white scars from jousting with other males. It was travelling with the boat and gave us opportunity to observe the animal in some detail. What a marvellous sighting.

They say lightening doesn’t strike twice … but it did. Another male rose up from the deep 10 minutes later. Sometimes you do win the lottery.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

15
Jul
16

‘Ere be dragons

Some excellent Dragons on the Swallowtail and Norfolk Hawker day. Although in a thunderstorm finding a Swallowtail was quite challenging turning out a green eyed Norfolk Hawkers was a little easier. A Hairy Dragonfly also put in an appearance.

Hairy Dragonfly Norfolk Hawker




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