Archive for Mar, 2013


Expect a Cull

As we waited for an Otter to show last week we encountered this little chap. Completely oblivious to us at the other side of the river he was slowly munching his way through sprouting bluebell leaves.  Muntjac, although native to Asia have now spread widely through Britain after escaping from wildlife parks.

They are regulars in the garden here at Falcon Cottage and we even saw one a few years ago on one of our tours to Scotland, well beyond their reported range. They are set to be the UK’s most common deer. Given numbers of deer generally are said to be at their greatest ever within the UK (a claim to which I do not subscribe) undoubtedly Muntjac will be swept up within the proposed recommended deer cull. It would be a shame to loose such a charming little animal but it has to be said they do a great deal of damage to the understory of woodlands that would otherwise support breeding Warblers, Nightingales and the like.

Muntjac 1




The wind was so cold I lost the feeling in my hands earlier this week. On the open beach the relentless easterly swept a curtain of sand a metre above the dunes. A large flock of six to eight thousand gulls of nine species in east Norfolk has few precedents. I suspect there was a gathering of fish just offshore and within the surf, the gullfest which developed was taking advantage of a feeding bonanza.

Among the foray were large birds standing head and shoulders over much of the flock; Glaucous Gulls; three of them. These white winged monsters should really be gathering within Icelandic and northern Europe waters ready to start their breeding season. No doubt they will soon leave as warmer weather ensues.

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull


Breeding Brents??

It was getting late in the day when there was a knock at the door. It was Andy, he’d been walking the dog and found a Brent Goose in the corner of the next field and thought I may need it for my garden list. Indeed Brent Geese on the deck in this part of Norfolk are few and far between although they frequently fly by at sea. It was late the following morning before I had the time to venture out into a very cold day to go and take a look at it. At first I couldn’t find it where it had been the preceding day but eventually I saw it tucked away under a tangle of branches on a small pool. I would have needed a roof ladder and a good telescope to get it on the garden list where it was now! It was an adult bird and looked quite well but was obviously reluctant to fly. No doubt the very strong wind had exhausted it.

As I stood watching, it became aware of my presence and laid flat on the water. When I have seen Canada and Greylags doing this they have had a nest close by. My word that would be a turn up wouldn’t it? … breeding Brent Geese in Norfolk. Who could blame it though; with a minus five windchill and snow on the ground it must have seemed as though it was back on the tundra in Northern Russia!

Brent Goose


The Coldest of Springs

The cold spring had my mind wandering back to last month on the Canaries. OK we had bad weather but it wasn’t trying to snow. We do seem to have had an eighteen month winter here in the UK.

Around Erjos, where we stayed in the mountains of Tenerife, the hedgerows were full of Wild Pea and every post had a singing Canary. I so wish it would warm up here. Sigh!

Wild Pea



What’s in a list

Deep within the Forests of Canary Pine that reached high up the slopes of the dormant volcano Mount Teide I found something I didn’t expect.

Last month we paid a visit to Tenerife and had travelled high up into the mountains. The road was not much more than cobbled and the rental car was groaning at it pulled us up above the cloud line and into sunshine. The day was suddenly full of blue sky. We were searching for the birds of the high slopes, within the very last of the trees before the open lava fields. We were miles from anywhere… and I found … a chicken! Yep, a chicken; not a residence or farm in sight but here was what was obviously an escapee that had become feral and was living in the forest. This got me thinking.

I know of several areas in Norfolk and neighbouring Suffolk where chickens run wild as they do in Asia. They live and breed as wild birds. They have constructed themselves into self-sustaining populations. Should they therefore be on the British list? Pheasants are. What’s the difference? What a conundrum.


A Chicken scratting a living under the Canary Pines on Tenerife – A wild bird?


Just passing through

I spent a day or two last week feeding builders coffee. We’re having a window put in the gable end of the extension. The intention is for it to eventually overlook a pond so we can sit in the warm and stare out onto our own little bit of wild Norfolk. What seemed like an endless conveyor belt of cups to and from the garden at least gave me the opportunity of breaks from the laptop. It was on one of these breaks while standing back and admiring with the builders their work I heard a familiar distant call. It got louder and even before they came into view I called out “Waxwings”

This resulted in one or two quizzical looks and I had to explain that the sixteen birds that flew north west over the garden were Waxwings heading back north to their Scandinavian summering grounds. Their yellow tail tips were so obvious against the blue of he sky as they quickly moved through.

This is the second occurrence of Waxwings seen from the garden here at Falcon Cottage. One individual spent a few minutes examining the crab apple tree last November. Hopefully one or two more will visit for a while longer in years to come as the bank of Hawthorns, Pyracantha, Crab Apples and Cotoneasters I have planted mature and bear the red berries which Waxwings find irresistible.

The photo below was taken on a Birding Tour last month when we found a small flock on the coast.

Waxwing Norfolk_Z5A9958



Taking a dip

As we were watching Otters the other day an old friend we first encountered in January made himself known. The Black bellied Dipper that has overwintered in Norfolk flew down the river and alighted nearby. The opportunity was just too good to ignore.

Black bellied Dipper


Too close to ignore

There are only so many times you can be told something before you are obliged to do what you are asked.

Before I went to Tenerife three people sent me e-mails saying I really should go to south Norfolk to see a family of Otters that had seemingly lost all inhibition and were showing very well. Upon my return I attended a meeting at which a very good photographer said if I had not been I should visit the Otters. At that point I thought to myself I ought to go and see these Otters. I’m glad I did.

Walking down the river bank the sun was intermittently exchanging places with snow clouds; warm then cold. Greetings of ‘You should have been here half an hour ago’ weren’t encouraging but we stood our ground and the Otters eventually showed. Showed? … that’s an understatement really. The Otters ‘invaded’ would be more appropriate. Three animal swam up the river, left the water and were around my feet. Too close for focus. Too much lens! Then they were gone. Enigmatic and transient they left as quickly as they arrived; but not before they offered a shot or two.



Island Races

When a species is isolated and population numbers reduced evolution takes a hand. It sculptures the appearance and sound of a species and gradually changes it to be different form the original.

Here in the Canaries our familiar birds all take on a different guise. They are familiar, but different.

The Chaffinch has altered colours, the Chiffchaff has a song more like a Cetti’s and the Blue Tit has lost wingbars but gained a blueness about it that would make any self-respecting brit tit green with envy. The Goldcrest has a thinner less strident song and an unfamiliar face pattern. The Robin is less of a redbreast and more of a red-throat and has gained grey flanks and it has to be said a more melodic song. Even the Great spotted Woodpeckers pale underparts have been sullied into a greyer plumage. All sub species; species in the making.

Blue Tit (teneriffae).

Blue Tit race teneriffae

Chaffinch (tintillon).

Chaffinch race tintillon

Chiffchaff (canariensis).

Chiffchaff race canariensis

Great Spotted Woodpecker (canariensis).

Great spotted Woodpecker race canariensis

Robin (superbus).

Robin race superbus

Tenerife Goldcrest

Tenerife Goldcrest or is it a race of Firecrest … authorities disagree as to its status.


Cetacean City

Off Tenerife the upwelling of deep currents create the ideal habitat for cetaceans. We went to sea on a couple of occasions during our stay last month. A fantastic find of three Cuvier’s Beaked Whales was perhaps the best but most fleeting sighting. The Bottlenose Dolphins and Common Dolphins were all doing what dolphins do and performing well. Perhaps the most special occasion we had however was the time we shared with a pod of eight inquisitive short finned Pilot Whales. They were endearing creatures that were trying hard to step into our world. Something that will be hard to forget.

Short finned Pilot Whales


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Mar 2013


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