Archive for Apr, 2012



Those of you that regularly read Letter from Norfolk will know I have found photographing Short eared Owls always a little difficult. An obliging individual has never presented itself.

If they landed on posts they didn’t stop long enough; if they did stop they were too far away. If they flew close it was too dark, if it wasn’t too dark they were practically in the next county.

We were on a birders tour last week when not one but four or five Short eared Owls were out on the marsh. They were close and the sun was low but bright. Ideal; but you do have to have your camera with you to get a photograph! Everyone who has a camera will know if you have it on you, you see nothing. If you don’t the entire British list of birds and mammals file passed as though they are entering the ark.

I decided to revisit the marsh a couple of days later. Waiting patiently for around three hours, Owls appeared and duly disappeared. I got some shots but not the one I wanted. It took a further two visits and secreting myself inside a rather thorny bush before I had a set that were half decent. The photograph below is one. That leads us on to the other trait held by anyone who has a camera  … they’re never satisfied with their own results.

The Owls will be disappearing for Northern territories soon so we won’t be able to see them on many more occasions until their return next autumn.


Missions of Mercy

It’s the heat, the damn heat.

During last summer one of the two local ponds dried out. The other is deeper and has a larger area and appears to be ground fed so remains viable in hot weather.  The smaller of the two was again looking decidedly depleted at the end of last week and it was in this one that every Frog and Toad on the hill had chosen to lay their spawn.

It was obvious the eggs would die unless there was some intervention. After discussion the plan of action was to move the spawn from the now small ‘puddle’ to the larger pond. Operation ‘Spawn Shift’ was born.

If you have ever tried to pick up Frog Spawn you will know that trying to move a large amount is like trying to plat fog! Nevertheless with buckets and nets we managed to move much and hopefully save a generation. We even had time to re-unite a lost dog with its owner that turned up at the pond during the operation. All in all a ‘Good turn’ day.

I liked the way the tree overhanging the pond is reflected in the surface of the water in this shot … a sort of ‘Tree of Life’ theurgy.


April Mystery Bird

Most people’s perception of Gull identification is perhaps best summed up by one entrants submission “It’s a Bl**dy Gull”

Gulls can certainly be a challenge but March’s mystery bird should not pose too many problems if features are looked at carefully.

The gull is obviously one of the white winged gulls either Glaucous or Iceland. The other options of Kumlein’s or Viking Gull (a hybrid Glaucous x Herring Gull) would show darker edges to some primaries. Glaucous Winged Gull a relatively new addition to the British List would show greyer primaries.

On perched gulls the ratio of the bill length to eye diameter is conclusive (Iceland has a bill under 4x the eye diameter while Glaucous is over 4x quite often 5x or more). The difference between Glaucous and Iceland Gulls can also be done simply on structure. Iceland is a smaller more compact Gull with a relatively shorter bill. Glaucous is a brute of a gull with a big head, bill and fierce expression. In flight it would look full-chested and bigger bodied than Iceland. Our bird is indeed a daintier, slimmer bodied benign looking Iceland Gull photographed appropriately in Iceland during February.

All answers were for Iceland or Glaucous with twenty two answers for Iceland Gull. Phil and Jan Thorpe did it again and now have four successive correct answers. Once again well done.

There has been an invasion of white winged gulls into the country this last winter and I’m hoping on our Scotland trips this month we catch up with one or two as they move back north.

April’s Mystery bird is pictured below and should be quite easy. Please submit the id by email to The rules of the competition can be found in a previous posting here. Give it a go … it doesn’t cost anything and you could easily win as successively correct answers mount up!


Bending Light!

The late morning sun was streaming in through the branches that surrounded us within the open copse.

We were looking upwards, methodically searching the flock of Lesser Redpolls for something a little more special. Our necks were craning and binoculars were being lifted and then rested at regular intervals as we inspected each bird dangling from the alders. To my left I heard movement among the leaf litter.

I could see something quite large … well … larger than the redpolls we were watching moving around among the dense vegetation. I repositioned myself and refocused my bins. It was a Muntjac, or Reeve’s Muntjac to give it its proper name, quietly grazing on new buds. Our silence had enabled it unwittingly to venture close to us.

I slowly moved the camera from pointing at the canopy and attempted to get a clear line of sight to the deer. To avoid foliage, branches, twigs and an assortment of brambles I would have to seemingly bend light! With a degree of bobbing, ducking and at one point kneeling I got some sort of shot as the sunshine lit one side of the deer’s face.


Possible Great Auk sighting

This week I have been working my way through the last of the photos I took in Iceland during late February and was surprised to see this image. I was photographing a Guillemot colony on the Snaesfell Peninsula and had not noticed this odd looking Auk at the time.

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Apr 2012


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