Archive for Sep, 2012


Not so Common

In the past if you saw a seal in North East Norfolk you could pretty much guarantee it would be a Grey Seal. Common Seals are better known for occurring on the North Norfolk Coast.

With increasing regularity on our tours I’m seeing Common Seals further east. I wonder why?

I photographed this Common Seal in East Norfolk on the edge of a group of Greys this week. there were a further five on the beach

For the uninitiated Grey’s are usually larger than Common’s with a more roman nose rather than the dog like snout of Common Seal. A Common Seal also has Teddy Bear like nostrils pointing together whereas the Grey has a larger nose with the nostrils parallel to one another. A feature that is useful when all you can see is the nose pointing out of the water.


Booted Warbler Revisited

A revisit to Burnham Overy yesterday saw a merry throng of birdwatchers sneeking fleeting views of the Booted Warbler. I wanted a better picture in the better light the day offered. The bird had other ideas.


Caterpillar stop play

Trying to rule nature is a fruitless task; however I took a day in the garden at Falcon Cottage this weekend in an attempt to do a little ‘taming’ before the colder weather sets in. Among the pruning, cutting and uprooting there was a little refurbishment. Painting and creosoting of the garden furniture was on the agenda. That was until I saw the garden bench had a vulnerable occupant in situ.

The Poplar Hawkmoth Caterpillar put paid to any further brushwork. Hopefully he’ll move on soon and work can continue.


Bootiful Norfolk

As we looked out of the window this morning the weather vane had moved around to the north east. It screamed rarities.

A quick call to the South of Northrepps; a good 10 yard walk from the car and we were greeted by the coal tit like drawl of a Yellow browed Warbler – untypically  elusive this Siberian traveller did not show again. We moved on.

Given the weather Blakeney Point seemed like a good idea. It was dismissed as some of us didn’t like the sound of the 4 mile walk on shingle. After we changed destinations several times Gun Hill further west on the coast won the vote. We were looking for a Pechora Pipit – for no other reason than it seemed like a good target to have in mind.

Having worked hard in the garden yesterday I was aching and it seemed appropriate to leave my heavy camera behind. As we dressed for the weather at the back of the car it could have been one of my companions or a voice in my head that said “you’ll regret not taking your camera”. Do birds know when you haven’t got your camera?

Walking along the sea wall it was Tim who first saw a pale warbler skip along the path side vegetation. It looked interesting. Twenty minutes and several brief sightings later it still looked interesting but we were no further forward with what it was. It changed genus several times before Booted Warbler was settled upon. It was decided to put the news out as a probable Booted Warbler … just in case we’d made a horrible blunder and misidentified some eastern race chiffchaff.

Leaving the warbler ranging over a 100m stretch of vegetation we went back to the car to have a warm drink … and to collect the camera before returning along the seawall. This was a little in vein as it never showed as well as it did originally but a nice bird to see never-the-less.



Breaking the surface

We watched from the cliff tops more in hope than anticipation on Wednesday. Overstrand is not sat on the best seawatching promontory but it has some reasonable cliffs where you can perch to look north out to sea. A steady south westerly had been gently blowing all day; no conducive to anything rare but we were just after a few bits and pieces … and it was nice just to sit and watch the sea in a gentle warm breeze and chat occasionally with passers-by.

A Shag was first to appear on the sea. Scarce in these parts it was joined by Red throated Divers most showing the summer plumage feature that gave them their name. A steady passage of Gannets was punctuated with Dark Phase Arctic Skuas chasing Arctic and Common Terns. The odd Guillemot on the sea diving under the surface as the Skuas passed overhead. In the distance a formation could be seen coming in over the horizon – were they Cormorants or Geese – head on they were difficult to discern. It wasn’t long before their short dark necks and heads gave the game away. Pink footed Geese are a sure sign winter is around the corner. As we were about to go home a dark arc broke the surface of the greyness in front of us. It was one of those occasions when you think did I see it or didn’t I?  A little concentration on the same patch of water saw another fin break the surface and then another. All together we counted five Harbour Porpoise one of which was a smaller young animal; always nice to see.

You may already be aware I have started a Norfolk Cetacean Website at  ; what you may not be aware is that you can register to receive e-mails to update you on recent sightings and if you’re into social networking you can receive Tweets for sightings too! All this however depends on people submitting their sightings … so if you see anything interesting break the surface of the sea around Norfolk let me know!



I’m Badgering Nobody

One good thing about the current government is they will listen to majorities.  If 100,000 signatures are collected in response to particular subjects they do get debated in the House of Commons.

One bad thing about the current government is they do not listen to common sense. Natural England has issued the first Badger Cull licence this week. What an ill conceived idea based on bad science that will mean the death of hundreds if not thousands of healthy mammals with no bettering of the bovine TB situation. As I’ve said many times before I don’t coax others to the signing of petitions – I’ll leave it to individual choice. I just can’t help thinking I would be responsible for letting this cull proceed if I didn’t raise my hand in objection. There are currently half of the number of signatures required on the petition.

I take customers on Badger Watches quite often through the summer months although I don’t advertise the fact. I find them charming creatures that fill an important niche. If you’re interested in coming along on one give me a shout … while there’s still some to watch!


Effortless Travellers

One of the most enigmatic of bird families has to be the Shearwaters. Their gliding seemingly effortless flight on straight wings makes them instantly recognisable.  Britain’s only breeding Shearwater is the Manx. Last weekend we saw several around the boat. Not as prolific as they sometimes are the few we did see showed quite well … one in particular; enabling a shot or two.

A single Sooty Shearwater also put in a brief appearance. This is a bird that breeds no nearer to us than Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic. Having left there in April this individual would have travelled up the east coast of South America, the USA, Canada and then travelled across the northern Atlantic and pushed by South Westerly’s over the top of Scotland into the North Sea. When we saw the bird it was travelling north as it tried to retrace its flight path to re enter the North Atlantic and make its way south following the west coast of Ireland, Portugal and then the African Continent before making its way back to Tristan da Cunha completing an epic circum-Atlantic migration. As our bird left the water in front of the boat it took us by surprise. It was gone and away almost before we had chance to raise cameras. Swinging along on long slender wings the Sooty Shearwater is well named being dark all over apart from the centre of the underwing which sparkled white in the late morning sunshine.


A Good Year for Gannets

A trip into the North Sea this weekend paid dividends. More about the sightings later however one species we saw in abundance were Gannets. We were surrounded by them. Not only dashing white adults but lots and lots of darker juveniles; first year birds, giving an indication of a good breeding year on the Yorkshire coast and beyond. As the birds first hung in the wind and then plummeted into the sea targeting a Herring Shoal the sea became peppered with the plumes of their splashes.


Thirty Something

Stone Curlews are habitually sociable birds. We are used to seeing them in pairs or littered sparsely across heaths. They are part and parcel of our Breckland landscape in Norfolk; their eerie call resounding out around the fields on moonlit nights. Like some other birds such as Hirrundines and Ducks they accumulate into large flocks prior to migrating.

We ventured into south Norfolk the other day to find such a flock. After staring at fields in all manner of likely places one or two Stone Curlews suddenly materialised among a Sugar Beet crop. No sooner had we seen these then others appeared as if from nowhere. Two, four, eight, ten and so it went on. We ended up in the mid thirties in this tight little group. Undoubtedly there were more we couldn’t see. The majority will no doubt stay for another few weeks until early November when they will fly south to southern Europe and North Africa. A few may stay to sit out the winter … if it’s a mild one.

Click to enlarge



A few weeks ago while driving we came across a fox curled up at the side of the road. I pulled over expecting the cunning little chap to quickly move on but he remained allowing me to photograph him. Quite bold he was. Confident he could take his leave whenever he wished.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Sep 2012


%d bloggers like this: