Archive for Dec, 2012


Roll on 2013

I guess it’s time to contemplate and review; to look back, to look forward. The end of one year and the start of another; the fulfilment of some dreams and the formation of others.

So what was the best moment of 2012 for me? Lots of moments to choose from. The four trips to Scotland, the tour to the Farne Islands in Northumberland, the North Sea Pelagic and the trip to the Isles of Scilly all rank highly. The destinations, the birds, the wildlife and the company all made for memorable times. Many of the day tours here in Norfolk had sightings that would rank highly, perhaps some to top all others like the great fall of thrushes in October … that would surely be top … and it would have been had Canada not been on the agenda. The trip across the Atlantic was truly memorable.

The four hours plus we spent on a zodiac skipping across the St Lawrence River was an occasion that is burnt into my memory. This was an indelible experience that saw us seeing no less than fifty individual cetaceans of six species. Unforgettable.

However, the moose a few days later topped the whole show. The silence of the forest, the quickening heartbeats and the appearance of a shadow among the trees that manifested into a larger than life male made for the realisation of a childhood dream. The pent up expectation, the relief of eventually having such a sighting after a long wait and sharing this experience with Sharon was nothing short of emotional; perhaps one of the best experiences of my life.

So what of 2013 – aside from the usual tours Sharon and I have a fortnight on Mull planned. I want to spend time photographing Corncrake. There may also be a trip south to see and photograph Pilot Whales.

Wherever we go it is no doubt the Norfolk day tours that will play the biggest part in our agenda. I wonder what we’ll see during the coming year … whatever it may be I have no doubt I’ll be watching with open eyed child like amazement. You see, every day … for me … is Christmas day.

Happy New Year.



Christmas is for Families

It’s always nice to happen upon something by chance.

As we approached a field on one of the tours last weekend it was obvious from a distance there was something large within it. As we grew nearer it became apparent that the large mass in the centre of the field wasn’t a single thing … it was four. It was a family; a family of cranes; two adults and two young – young of this year.

The juveniles were dancing … as cranes do. Stretching their wings and rising above the ground in leaps of slow motion as they practiced take-off and landing skills, no doubt impatient to take to the air as every youngster would be. Even the beautiful bugling calls were full of impatience, a little rushed and not as far crying as those of their parents.

As we watched them you could just imagine the restrained patience of the parents. Patience every parent needs to show when faced with excited children … especially at Christmas.




Famous old Friend

A trip into Suffolk the other week gave an opportunity to see an old friend, A Famous old friend at that. This Tawny Owl has been photographed widely in Newspapers and blogs. Sat roosting in a city park for many years and for all to see it was amazing how people passed below her in complete ignorance.

Tawny Owl




Attracted to the Bright Lights of Northrepps

With the current wet weather comes milder temperatures. Around the entrance porch light the other day was a cluster of moths. Around a dozen male Winter Moths were sitting on the walls and doors. This is a species that has found a niche during the winter months when predators such as bats are not a threat. Although they are not the worlds most interesting insect to look at they are fascinating in having a natural form of Anti freeze for blood, enabling them to withstand very cold temperatures. The flightless females attract the males by scent. However it appears the bright lights are more of an attraction in Northrepps!

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish a Merry Christmas to all readers of Letter from Norfolk and all customers of Wildlife Tours and Education. Sharon and I hope you have a good one.

Winter Moth


It’s Raining Again

So much rain. Here in Norfolk we’ve not had it as bad as others but the ground is still very wet. At Falcon Cottage despite being on one of the highest points in Norfolk the fields that surround us are waterlogged. The gulls are using a pond that has developed in the field at the back of the cottage to bathe before roosting on the plough. A few Common Gulls, Black Headed, Herring and an occasional Mediterranean have been visiting. Nothing rarer so far… but I keep looking. A rare gull would make a nice Christmas Present wouldn’t it?



Splash of Colour

The winter days are almost at their shortest now. Light is at a premium and the least little bit of cloud starves us of any bright colours. It was during a walk around the lake as the late afternoon was forcing the last little glimmers of brightness for us that we were blown away with a splash of colour.

From beneath the trees hanging over the water swam a Mandarin drake. Originally a species of wildfowl collections Mandarins are now widespread but uncommon wild breeding birds in the UK.

Pushing the cameras capability to its absolute maximum I managed a few photos. It really did add colour to a drab mid winter.







In the cold weather last week the water at Whitlingham Great Broad had frozen. Ice pushed the wildfowl closer to the bank giving opportunity to observe many duck at close range. Among the tufted duck was an interloper; an American one at that. This Ring necked Duck was swimming around and diving along with her British Aythya cousins. There was talk of her parentage perhaps not being as pure as could be; her crown not being peaked enough and her flanks being too dark, but she looked like a little cracker to me.

Ring necked and Tufted Duck

Ring necked Duck


Suffolk Shingle Snowball.

A trip into Suffolk was on the cards the other day. The second mainland record of Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll was the reason. Named (by Carl Peter Holbol – a keen explorer of Greenland) after Jan Wilken Hornemann a Danish Botanist, this high Arctic species is mostly an occassional  visitor to Shetland and the northern Isles but it was Suffolk that was blessed this time.

There being no trees in its usual northerly haunts, the Hornemann’s habitually inhabits the ground and indeed this individual at Aldeburgh was sifting for seeds among the sparse vegetation on the beach. It was eating almost constantly, it must do to surive. The gut of this particular sub species of Redpoll is designed to take in vast quantities of seed during the short winter day which is then digested through the long winter night.

Adapted to the Arctic in every way evolution has given it snow camouflage – it was a pleasure to see this proper little Snowball.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll


Natures rich Milk

Walking down the beach at the weekend I was surprised at the number of Grey Seal pups – already well over 500 at one of the rookeries.

Although the northerly was screaming off the sea and nipping at our faces, pups were littered along the beach sleeping. When they weren’t sleeping they were feeding. One particular mother was shielding her young from the skin shearing sand that was filling the racing air up to half a metre above the beach. The pup fed until it had its fill or perhaps she tired and needed a break. With such rich milk some of the youngsters were already quite round. After three weeks from birth they will be 35kg heavier and will be learning to find food for themselves.

Grey Seal Mother & Pup 1

Click eo enlarge


Runny noses all round

The sun was dropping low in the clear blue sky. The air was cold and still and the light was slowly turning everything a shade of orange. As we sat in the hide patiently waiting for an Otter to appear a female Shoveller swam by. It was getting colder and it appears I wasn’t the only one with a runny nose.


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Dec 2012


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