Archive for Aug, 2013


Almost Tame

A family of Kestrels played a part in some of our recent tours.

The young got so bold that they allowed quite a close approach as they sat on fence posts. They were quite oblivious to us as they pounced on beetles and grubs before returning to their perch.



Out Swallowed

We were photographing tiny hairstreak butterflies the other day when the opposite end of the size spectrum flew by. A Swallowtail passed right under my nose and alighted on flowers nearby. it continued to feed and allowed a close enough approach for a few shots, I even had time to change to a macro lens.



A Content Day

As we drove back in very misty conditions from the Foundry Arms on Saturday night we were full of good food. I said to my mother in law “Conditions look good for a fall tomorrow” Having explained what that meant I think I managed to convey a picture of some good bird watching on the coast. I didn’t realise how good with some excellent classic fall species in terrific numbers.

A family day had been planned on the broads in a boat on the Sunday. I got up early and walked the hill. Whinchats and Wheatear were a plenty; even a Whimbrel had made landfall. In the reeds there was a mystery warbler. It just wouldn’t show in the time I had available. The few calls it did make were not enough to give it identity.

The trip on the boat was good. I even managed to see a Bittern and a handful of Marsh Harriers. Late afternoon Tony’s phone call gave me the news that he’s managed to put a name to the mystery warbler (if it was the same bird). He’d seen an Icterine. I was elated for him but it had done the dirty and disappeared.

When I got back home there was a Reed Warbler in the garden. I walked the fields. More birds still. Wheatears, Whinchat had all increased in number. Sedge, Reed and several Willow Warblers flitted around. A Peregrine parted the air and flushed a grunting Snipe but no sight or sound of an Icterine.

I had to be content with the Willow Warblers that played around me … like dancing children.

Willow Warbler


Is a Hen Tern a viable term?

I took a group of ladies out on a Wildlife Tour the other week that were up in Norfolk on a ‘Hen Weekend’. I was impressed with the level of knowledge that some of them had about the natural world and all were keen to get the most from our day out.

Seals, Deer, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Birds were all on the agenda but this recently fledged Little Tern flew right passed our boat giving a great photo opportunity.

Little Tern


Common Seals

Some great sightings of Common Seal on our recent tours as many are easily seen at regular haul outs. Unlike the vertical nostrils of Grey Seals the nostrils of Common Seals point together more ‘teddy bear’ like. In profile they have a dog like snout rather than the sloping forehead of Grey Seals.

Other than Grey and Common Seals in Norfolk there are several vagrant seals that have occurred in the past; Ringed, Hooded, Bearded, Harp and Walrus.

I keep looking … but nothing so far.


Common Seal


More on that possible Italian Sparrow

Is this a first for Britain or just a throwback? See previous post

Anyone is welcome to come along and see the Sparrow on Hungry Hill. If nothing else it is interesting and if you have seen it you can always tender a first-hand opinion. A steady trickle of people have already been as word of the bird gets around.

If you do visit I would ask you to park sensibly in the village of Northrepps close to the Foundry Arms (not in their car park) and walk the 800m east up Hungry Hill. At the row of cottages on the north side of the road stand just inside the drive out of the way of passing traffic and watch for the Sparrows visiting for food being placed out and perched on the roofs of the houses. Please do not wander into any gardens … they are private.

Hungry Hill is a narrow lane with passing places. If anyone parks in the passing places the Police will be called and cars removed. Harvesting is currently taking place and the road is being used by heavy plant machinery. PLEASE DO NOT GET IN THE FARMERS WAY.

The bird’s plumage is changing slightly each day as its moult progresses. Some more photos of the bird below.

2013 08 18 Sparrow sp Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A5946

2013 08 18 Sparrow sp Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A5874

2013 08 17 Sparrow sp Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A5806

2013 08 17 Sparrow sp Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A5667

2013 08 17 Sparrow sp Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A5497


Coin of the realm

In many of the places we have been this last spring; Wales, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Scotland we have encountered Thrift. Especially in Wales and on the Isles of Mull we were sat among large drifts of the plant which so loves sea cliffs. Anyone who is old enough to remember the old thre’penny bit (for our American readers … it’s a coin) Thrift was depicted on the reverse. Perhaps it was designed to encourage another kind of ‘thrift’.



Being Blown Away

We’ve had some wonderful sightings of Chalkhill Blue Butterflies on our Norfolk Safaris of late. Thousands of the tiny blue creatures hatched on turf covered chalk to create a moving carpet of butterflies that blew us away! Undoubtedly one of the best wildlife spectacles that understandable ‘choked up’ some of our guests so beautiful was the display.

Chalkhill Blues


A Chance Glance

A chance glance out of the window yesterday saw me reaching for my bins. The House Sparrow that was exiting stage left was a little more chestnut than it should have been. A tree Sparrow … I bet!

All the Sparrows had gone. I waited for them to return bins in hand. There it was again then it was gone. Mmmm, perhaps Tree Sparrow; but it didn’t look quite right.

Andy arrived. It showed just as briefly again. “No cheek spots” he said. It was only after he left it showed well. No it wasn’t a Tree Sparrow. The photographs indicate it is some type of hybrid … maybe showing characteristics of Italian Sparrow.

Italian Sparrows are hybrids between House Sparrows and Spanish Sparrows and have never been recorded in the UK. Some authorities treat them as a separate species.  It’s all rather up in the air. I’ve seen Italian Sparrows in France and they are quite variable so maybe we have something special here. Or maybe not … who knows.

Today it was realised the bird was breeding with a House Sparrow and was bringing food to a nest under the tiles on a neighbour’s house.

We all know that Spanish Sparrow is a rare vagrant to the UK. I’ve seen a male in Cumbria many years ago and there was a male at Landguard in Suffolk a year or two ago. These were easily recognised because they were male. Pick up a copy of Collins and look at Spanish Sparrow. It actually uses the word ‘Impossible’ when talking about differentiating female Spanish from female House Sparrows. So supposing we had a female Spanish Sparrow that turned up locally and it bred with a male House Sparrow would the resultant ‘Italian Sparrow’ look like this bird?

Whatever it is … it is interesting.

Confused? … wait while the young fledge!

Sparrow sp

Sparrow sp 2


We’re all Gods Creatures

As we were walking back from watching a large group of Common and Grey Seals earlier this week I saw a chap pointing his camera at some umbels of white flowers. Nothing is surer to grab my attention than someone pointing a camera at something. It always make me wonder just what I’m missing. As I passed him I noticed something on the flowers; small and black.

“Photographing Bees?” I enquired.

“Tachinids” came the reply.

“Ah … Hoverflies?” I said, having taken another less than close look at his subjects.

“No … TACHINIDS” came a perhaps tad impatient reply.

At this point I stopped walking and made a move to see just what a Tachinid was … because being honest about it, I’d never heard of them. It turns out these are one of the groups of true flies. They sort of looked ‘fly like’ but with bristly appendages; as though they had grown their own miniature toiled brushes. Which I guess comes in handy if you’re a fly… sorry, Tachinid.

I was reliably (and enthusiastically) informed that normally these scarce creatures were solitary however there were at least half a dozen present and that he had been keeping his eye on this small colony for some time. I was told the Latin name which despite constantly repeating to myself until I got back to the Landrover I managed to forget; and unfortunately even after a lot of looking I’ve been unable to find an image that matches mine below. So the Tachinid remains nameless… to me at least.

Therefore a number of apologies are due: Firstly to the knowledgeable gentleman in the dunes photographing Tachinids for forgetting which species of Tachinid he showed us.

Apologies also to the couple whom I took out that day for obviously having passed these little gems without comment on our way out to see the seals and knowing nothing about them when we did see them.

… and apologies to the Tachinids for not having the correct lens on my camera to photograph them properly. I was geared up for seals you see, which are somewhat larger.

Bizarrely in trying to find out which species of Tachinid we have here I must reluctantly admit to finding them quite interesting … I really must get out less!

Tachinid sp#

Update: I have just been told by Mick Saunt they are Tachina grossa – thanks Mick

Also John Goldsmith after consulting Tony Irwin kindly stated the following: The picture is of Tachina grossa. There has been a bit of a population explosion this year with hundreds seen on hogweed flowers – apparently something that’s never been recorded for this species before.

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Aug 2013


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