16
Oct
17

Elusive

I’m not sure if the term ‘elusive’ is always applied properly or not. On Scillies last week the Spotted Crake took some seeing. It was broadcast as ‘elusive’. Now does that mean only showing distantly? or does it mean it only shows briefly and is somewhat furtive? Well, neither applied to the Spotted Crake. It just didn’t show for long periods. It took us around four visits to connect. But when we did see it … the thing was all over us for what seemed like ages.

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10
Oct
17

Portuguese Man O’ War

Massive influx of Portuguese Men O’ War into Scillies waters at the moment. We’ve seen them on the beaches, in harbours, between islands and out in the open ocean on the way here. A very painful stinging jellyfish is not something I would like to come across on my morning swim in the sea … as if!

 

07
Oct
17

Love of life

Whenever dolphins appear it shines a light into peoples lives. So it was yesterday.

Travelling out to the Isles of Scilly on the notorious Scillonian III conditions were flat calm. Ideal for seeing cetaceans. Bottlenose Dolphins were the first to appear; slow methodical, bulky dolphins these, we had around four of them. Harbour Porpoise were almost omnipresent and numbered in the 30’s. As we were watching them a large dark animal broke the surface. A Minke Whale gave four or five opportunities for us to get a glimpse…. and then they arrived!

In typical spectacular fashion Common Dolphins gatecrashed the party; leaping and bounding into centre stage. Everyone loves a playful dolphin!

 

04
Oct
17

In flight

A good number of eclipse duck at Cley marshes the other week. Their true identity a pitfall for those new to birding, as new feathers, with their brown tips, mask the full colours beneath. The full splendour of our ducks doesn’t come to light until the brown tips wear away revealing fresh new colours. In flight however the speculum colours within the wing are bright and diagnostic. This Shoveler and accompanying smaller Teal were just two among many.

28
Sep
17

Regular

It seems to be a regular occurrence at this time of the year that we get a smattering of Phalaropes along the north Norfolk coast. This Grey Phalarope (or Red Phalarope if you are at the other side of the Atlantic) was at Salthouse when we were on tour a week or so ago. This individual seemed to be suffering a little, perhaps from being wind blown in the Autumn storms; it just wasn’t as active as it should be. However, it was feeding and wasn’t there the following day. So it either succumbed or left!

24
Sep
17

Wanderer

I’m not sure if there’s more than one Black browed Albatross in the North Sea this year or if it’s just the one that’s been sitting on cliffs in Germany’s Heligoland Archipelago that’s been on ‘fly-about’.  Having been sighted off Ireland, Scotland and the south coast of England this year they are true wanderers and beautiful flyers; masters of the air. Over the years friend Tony has now seen three of these brutes from the Norfolk coast … or could it be one bird three times?

The attached photo wasn’t taken off Norfolk – I should be so lucky – but off Chile earlier this year.

21
Sep
17

Looking for Whales and finding butterflies

It’s not every day you get a message stating there’s a whale 14 miles inland. From photos sent to me it was obviously a Minke Whale – maybe quite a young individual and obviously quite dead; although earlier in the day it had been seen alive. Oh what the hell, I needed a few photos of buildings in King’s Lynn to complement the chapter on whaling in the book I’m writing, so a trip to the other side of the county was on the cards anyway. So I might as well go and have a look at this whale in the Great River Ouse at the same time. Perhaps take a few measurements and maybe try and sex it for the records. To be honest I’ve enough on at the moment but it was an opportunity to have a break.

When I got to Downham Market there was no sign of the damn whale. I confirmed with a local chap exactly where it had been the previous evening. Tell me again … exactly how do you lose a whale?

Overnight there had been a hell of a south westerly blowing, it even woke me up it was that loud. Combined with a high tide the wind had obviously dislodged the animal and it was floating free somewhere. The question was, upstream or downstream? The tide was running in and all floating objects were going upstream. However the strong wind had been pushing downstream overnight as had the tide. I decided to check both. I climbed in the car and ventured forth on rolling fen roads for mile after mile. The thing is, fen roads are built on a peat subsoil that absorbs and loses water through the season; so the ground ends up swelling and shrinking. It rises and falls like a bride’s nightgown. You end up travelling on tarmac something akin to the world’s longest fair ride. Anyways, I checked the length of the river from bridge after bridge between Denver sluice and Kings Lynn – nada, nothing, nil! All I found were a swift, which clipped my ear as it flew southwards against the still strong wind, and a Common Seal which was almost as lost as the whale. It stared at me with one of those sorrowful big eyed looks and I’m sure it shrugged its shoulders and raised its eyebrows at one point.

For my troubles I got a good chastising from an Anglian Water worker for parking in a gateway but even that was preferable to the bull which headed at a not inconsiderable pace in my direction causing me to beat a hasty retreat. Next time I see a sign saying ‘Bull with Cows in Field’ I might take more notice.

However, as I was packing up and heading for my photographic foray in Kings Lynn I spotted something small in the grass. It wasn’t a whale. It was a blue butterfly. A Common Blue. Not that unusual sure, but a very contrasty Common Blue. A late one too.

Forever looking for whales and finding butterflies.

 




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