Archive for Jul, 2013


What a Howler

The Local Little Owl was looking quite inquisitively at me as I tried to photograph him the other day. I’d wait under the Oak and he’d fly to the Sycamore. I’d slowly and carefully walk to the Sycamore and he’d fly to the Oak. He was having a laugh at my expense. I eventually just sat in the Landrover and waited for his curiosity to get the better of him … which it eventually did.

Little Owl


Why developing a thirst can be a good thing

Occasionally there are irruptions of species, particularly birds, out of their normal range.

At the end of last month Two barred Crossbills (a sort of Crossbill with insignias) started to occur in small numbers on the east coast between Shetland and Kent. Norfolk had its fair share. Initially to see birds it was about being in the right place at the right time but as birds moved away from the coast into more Crossbill friendly habitat they became a tad easier to see.

One juvenile bird took up temporary residence with its Crossbill cousins on Kelling Heath. A hastily conjured drinking puddle gave a centre for attention as the bird called occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, for water. It took a couple of visits but we managed to get a record shot in the few seconds it took for bird to quench its thirst.

Two barred Crossbill


Every Day is a School Day

It was over a pint in the Foundry Arms that the idea was hatched. It had been done before in Yorkshire. It had even been tried in Norfolk many years ago without success but we thought we’d like to give it a try ourselves.
The luring of Petrels close to shore at night has been done at Filey in Yorkshire for years. We thought we’d ask them for advice and set up a rig of our own (thanks guys). It took us over a year to get things together and then built. When we tested things out Andy could hear it loudly from his garden when I played it in mine, some half a mile away, so we knew the rig was up to the job.
This week we gave it a try for real. Standing under the cliffs we blasted out a selection of Petrel calls into the North Sea.
A few beers added to a beautiful night. The waning moon rose over the sea and distantly over Lincolnshire a lightning storm flicked and sparked among towering clouds. Satellites screamed across the sky above and a surprising number of moths entertained us.
If you exclude the fox that came to see what the hell was going on and the couple of bats that flicked by after three hours we hadn’t attracted anything; but we learned a lot. What we should do next time, what we could do and what we mustn’t do all added to our knowledge. Every day is a school day.
No Petrels this time … but watch this space.

If you can’t get the above video to play please try this link


The Second Coming

As we walked through the reedbed last week we could hear the distinct sound of one of our summer warblers.
Hardly a song and not often recognised by the uninitiated as emanating from a bird; many think an insect is the culprit. The reeling of the Grasshopper warbler is so called because of the similarity to the winding of a fishing reel. This is a secretive bird, heard but not seen; a denizen of the thickest reedbeds and vegetation. Just a voice.
More than a little patience and a movement was glimpsed. It was “the reeler”, perched, bill agape throwing his voice; defending his territory and staking his claim. This first claim of the year was staked many weeks ago. This was a second coming; a new brood to raise a new territory to hold, a new mate to lure.

Grasshopper Warbler


E.L.E. Prediction

I may well not live as long as many. I have an innate anxiety that will supress longevity as sure as the sun rises each morning; I have a gnawing worry.

In relative terms my time on the planet is but a blink of an eye but I have seen enough to know the world is spiralling into decline. Increasing populations and CO2 levels, climate change, shortage of water, the pressures of food provision, an ever increasing need for power generation, chemical and biological pollution, depletion of the planets raw resources and the looming inadequacy of antibiotics all contribute to this decline. I don’t worry for myself you understand; my days will be well gone before these problems really start to bite. However, our children will endure a single insurmountable inevitability.

Despite us surrounding ourselves daily in irrelevance we have the technology to rid ourselves of these problems and where the technology doesn’t exist I have no doubt we will invent it. We also have the ability to organise the political will (eventually) to make these things happen. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that everything in our world is finely balanced. If we correct one thing it affects another. If we take action to modify a problem another will wriggle out from the woodwork. All we will ever do is delay the inevitable. You see we are no more than a species individually and collectively defending our ability to survive. That survival comes at a cost and that cost is at the expense of the other occupants of our planet. As we rid the planet of life we seal the fate of our own species. Our own success will be our eventual downfall.
Every day between 35 and 150 species of plant, insect or animal become extinct. As we hurtle headlong towards a world of a mono-species we exclude species after species from survival.

That is … until Mother Nature presses the restart button.

Turtle Dove

I predict in the next ten years we will lose the Turtle Dove as a breeding bird in the UK and it will become extinct in the next thirty… but that’s some half a million species down the line.


Sometimes it pays to look twice

Tufted Ducks nest on the smallest of farm ponds so to see a family party swim past me the other day was not too out of place. But wait a minute. That lead drake isn’t a Tufted at all. It’s a Scaup.
Now an inland Scaup in July in the UK is not unknown but it is quite scarce. A breeding Scaup, all be it with a female Tufted Duck, is not unheard of in the far reaches of Northern Scotland … but this is Norfolk!
I haven’t been to this small private patch of water for over a month so I’m unsure if the Scaup is the father. It may be the drake Tufted Duck is absent and the Scaup is just seeking the company of other Aythya ducks. We will just have to see if the Scaup hangs around and if youngsters grow up with hybrid qualities.


Scaup 1


The Love of a mother

Anyone that has the love of their mother is lucky. They have something they should treasure. However sometimes we can all take things for granted. I remember as a teenager my tea coming to me on a tray as I watched TV. When I’d finished the tray disappeared and more often than not without the true thanks it deserved.
Last month during our East Coast Birding Tour this young Shag on Inner Farne was complaining and moaning no matter how much food his mother gave him. So ugly he’s almost cute this youngster perhaps has a face only a mother could love!

Shag Chick


That is the question

In a chance conversation it was my friend Tony who said he had a couple of Tree bee nests in his garden. When I expressed an interest I even got a cup of coffee and a pair of step ladders to get closer to them thrown in.
Not found in Norfolk until 2008 Tree Bumblebees are quite a distinctive bee and there was a constant stream of them entering and leaving the loft and an air brick but by far the best place to see them was as they fed on a Snowberry at the top of the garden. Thanks to Tony for the opportunity to photograph them.

Tree Bumblebee 2

Tree Bumblebee


Bog trotting Hare

On our ramblings around Mull last month we came across one or two hares. They were quite different from either Lowland Brown Hares or Mountain Hares. In fact they are Irish Hares Lepus timidus hibernicus which are a subspecies of the Mountain Hare. It seems they were introduced onto Mull and other islands in the Western Isles in the early Twentieth Century.
They have a few distinguishing features such as shorter white fringed ears, white on the rear legs and on the under-tail. They are a lot cuter than both mainland Hares and apparently rarely turn white in winter.

Irish Hare


All fluffed up for the camera

When you are the smallest thing on the beach despite having a big mum you have to keep your eyes on the sky for danger. This very young Eider was one of a small flock we saw on the recent East Coast Seabird Tour in Northumberland.

2013 06 22 Eider Seahouses Northumberland_Z5A7973

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Jul 2013


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