Minsmere Odonata

Tania had never been to Minsmere and I was keen to show her what is probably the RSPB’s showcase reserve. So we had a trip down into Suffolk last weekend. Some good birds as well as insects. Probably the cream of the insect crop was a few Hairy Dragonflies. This individual picked up by Tania perched in a bramble was a newly emerged Hairy Dragonfly. Notice the incompletely unfurled wings. However, the note the yellow costa and antenodal cross-veins that help to identify this species even at some distance.


Hair of the cow?

I’ve spent a few mornings recently down at Water Lane Car Park here in West Runton. Patiently awaiting arrival of Spring migrants. With the recent Northerlies they weren’t coming in ‘thick and fast’. To pass the time the other day I was watching a few Jackdaws collecting nesting material. If you see any bald bovines about … you know why!


A spot of Gardening

Whenever you hear Garden Warblers it’s inevitably from deep within vegetation. Not always but most often. Hidden away, to be heard and not seen; the exact opposite to expectations of a Victorian child. It was with some surprise then when I looked out from the car park and saw one sat atop a bramble bush. I had a good look, and it seemed to be singing without opening its bill. There was in fact another singing close by! The more I listened, the more I heard. When I counted up there were four birds singing from the tops of brambles and trees within an area of 50 square metres. All out in the open like they had attended some sort of Stonechat schooling course. What was going on?

The only thing I can think of is the territories were so close to one another they were having to force the situation and show themselves off in an attempt to dominate the competition. What the male of the species does to attract a mate … ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



A scarce bird these days. Spotted Flycatcher last week.


Cetacean Course

Details of a cetacean course in June at Cley NWT are here – https://mailchi.mp/2d1a83cdfb2b/cley-nwt-cetacean-course everyone is welcome, booking essential.


The Proposed Barrage over The Wash

I went to Wells earlier this week, to visit the theatre. There was a debate being held on the ‘Future of The Wash’. The debate was primarily between Dominic Buscall of Wild Ken Hill and James Sutcliffe CEO of Centre Port Ltd.

Dominic is a modern farmer and conservationist who has developed a well-known regenerative agriculture and rewilding area, at Wild Ken Hill, in Northwest Norfolk. He is rapidly becoming a hero of mine.

You may already be aware that Centre Port Ltd wish to privately fund an 11 to 15 mile long barrage between Norfolk and Lincolnshire. The barrage would effectively be a road across The Wash between the two counties. Situated on that road would be a container port. The barrage would house a number of turbines that would generate electricity from the incoming and outgoing tides. The barrage was also being heralded as the answer to rising sea levels brought about by climate change that would protect the low-lying areas of land adjacent to The Wash.

The developer’s website claims that a core aim of the development is to provide guardianship of the ecology of The Wash and Fenlands, its agriculture and the preservation of the natural habitat in the face of escalating climate change. Needless to say the effect on wildlife, particularly birds, within the most important estuary in North-West Europe had hardly been considered. The effect on the wildlife, particularly birds in this important area would be tragic. Just where Centre Port Ltd have been for the past few years is unknown but wherever they were they failed to hear we are in a biodiversity crisis.

Mr Sutcliffe made some astounding claims during the evening regarding consultation with environmental bodies which were not only proved by several in the audience to be fabricated but he also seemed to get rather confused over the costings of the project.

Mr Buscall retorted to Mr Sutcliffe’s presentation with some well thought through arguments against the barrage that were confidently and well delivered.

At a time in our history when we are advocating ‘buy local’ a new container port in the UK, shipping goods from and to distant parts of the world, can be judged nothing more than a White Elephant. Although the project was being heralded as a ‘green’ project because of the production of tidal electricity the increase in greenhouse gas emissions on site and in distant parts of the world supplying business for the container port would add to the effects of global warming and thereby add to increasing sea levels.

The electricity production naturally takes energy from the tidal water. That water replenishes the silt and sand within The Wash. One expert in the audience stated the project would turn The Wash into nothing more than a ‘green, fetid lake’. Mr Sutcliffe seemed to think that a sandy beach along the dual carriageway atop the barrage would be a boon to the leisure industry. He even sited the port could be used by Cruise Ships for visits to York and Cambridge.

I’m just dismayed that once again wildlife comes second; the effect upon this important flyway, feeding and wintering ground for migrating birds is considered after the event. For Christs sake just leave The Wash alone and let the birds thrive and prosper as much as they can.

There was much talk during the evening about the extreme weather events that we are experiencing. Events that discharge flood water into The Wash. Water that would be prevented from leaving the area due to a barrage as quickly as it was hoped would in itself create a flood risk.

We do have to deal with Climate Change. We will have to make changes to combat effects of rising sea levels; I feel a barrage over The Wash just isn’t the answer.

The legal protections offered to The Wash are many and varied. It is a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). The area has also recently been added to a list of areas in consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Every single local and national wildlife body that has made comment is against the project.

I cannot believe anyone would want to invest in something that is so clearly doomed. Sadly, the effort required to halt construction and the distraction it will provide for environmentalists is tragic. Anyone connected with the greed for money that is so obviously driving the Centre Port Ltd project should hang their heads in shame.


“Pigs in Space”

I have seen Wild Boar in Europe and also Asia but have never encountered them here in the UK.

Tania and I planned and booked a weekend away to the Forest of Dean to see and photograph boar long before the King decided on the date of his investiture. This worked in our favour. The area was relatively quiet. The rain only accentuated the lack of people.

Although the signs of Wild Boar digging are literally everywhere in the forest, getting a glimpse of them doesn’t reflect this. Getting a decent photograph is hard.

They don’t find favour with many of the locals. These are persecuted animals and are therefore quite shy. They can definitely be almost ethereal. Wild Boar were hunted to extinction in the UK during the 13th century. Their meat was and still is prized and were therefore farmed. Escapes led to several areas within England, Wales and Scotland having reintroduced populations. The densest is said to be in the Forest of Dean. What is not widely realised is they do a damn good job of regenerating the forest. Rooting for tubers and roots they form ideal seedbeds which help in tree and plant regeneration. They form wallows beloved of dragonflies and other insects. Boars provide vital disturbance to the ground which is crucial in maximising species richness and diversity. Although if they were turning over my lawn, that fact might pale into insignificance. So I guess negative attitude to them is perhaps understandable. They have no natural predator here (roll on a wolf reintroduction programme?) numbers can and have in the past risen unchecked; so a culling regime is required.

Culling has made boar wary. Naturally. Who wouldn’t skuttle into the undergrowth at the first glimpse of a raised gun. We had to work hard to find the newest routing and get ahead of foraging herds. The piglets were much less wary than the adults, but were still a challenge.


Stoately Wonderful

Sitting in the hide last week we watched the antics of a couple of Stoats. The lady next to me in the hide expressed how cute they were. I said to her that pound for pound they are probably our fiercest predators. Her retort made me smile when she said ‘it could hardly take down a Zebra!’ Maybe not but I did once see one take an adult Marmot in the French Alps, weighing in at 5 to 7kg, and then carry it off over a drystone wall. They are truly powerful little mustelids.

As we watched last week I was quite surprised when one emerged from the water, having swum out of the reedbed. When I’ve watched them around water previously they certainly didn’t like getting their feet wet.

The lady was absolutely right they are cute!


A lovely day out

Those of you that receive my emails regarding new tours – https://www.wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk/tours/ – will be aware I planned a tour to Minsmere on the last day of April. The forecast was good and had a definite feeling of rare bird about it; I felt we were due a promise of something special.

There was a supporting cast during the day of Bitterns, Mediterranean Gulls, Stone Curlews and Bearded Tits with Adders, Emperor Moths, Red Deer and amusing Stoats too! Migrants were back in good number with Lesser Whitethroats, hirundines and Blackcaps in good number. However, the lead character was without doubt the female Black winged Stilt that dropped in for the day.

As that relentless temperature contour creeps North through climate change birds like this long legged beauty will continue to arrive and stay to breed more often. Perhaps they will get to the situation where they are as common place as their forerunners such as Little and Great White Egrets. However, for the time being the one we saw at Minsmere was a real treat.


In flight stripe

Not quite on our lawns … but not far away.

Tania had been down to the cliff top earlier in the week and seen our smart visitor but I’ve been tied up working. So this evening after we had both finished work we had an amble on the cliffs. Although the little chap was being disturbed by dogs, walkers, joggers and a young lady with a camera he kept finding refuge in fields away from the cliff top path. He appeared to be finding plenty to eat and seemed happy enough.

I always find it amazing Hoopoes can fly several hundreds of miles; given their flimsy butterfly flight it hardly seems that they can make it over the next hedgerow let alone the English Channel. I wonder if it is the same individual that turned up in the same field last Autumn?

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May 2023


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