Archive for Jan, 2015


A firey vision

Looking at holiday footage of ‘birdy’ friends’ the other day prompted me to look back at some of my own photos taken some years ago in South America.

Swinging in a Hammock on the veranda of a rainforest lodge high in the Andes of Ecuador I remember opening one eye and glancing sideways. The vision of a Flame faced Tanager met me.

Flame-Faced TanagerIMG_2369



Smiling Gull

At Sheringham last week a Herring Gull landed in front of me that sported jewellery. Not a nondescript, lets camouflage it ring but a bright orange slap your face ring that brightened a very dull day. He acquired his bling in London the ‘T’ standing for North Thames Gull Group, so not that far travelled. He posed for me, first the right side then the left. He even smiled for the camera.

Herring Gull


A Dead Fish and a Lively Weasel

A beached Sunfish at Titchwell the other week had me combing the tideline for the corpse. I had been requested to take samples for DNA analysis so I was keen to photograph it, measure it and package up samples. The tide had taken it or the sand had covered it so I never did get to play with my scalpel and collection jar.

Consolation came in the form of a rather wick mustelid running down the path to the sea. Short tail, small size and a wiggly demarcation between the brown back and white belly told me it was a Weasel. Always nice to see.




Make like a rock

As the Snow Buntings rose like a drift of flakes on the wind a darker mist followed them. No white on these birds, nondescript and silent they landed on the shingle and disappeared. As the flock of Twite rolled out onto the sea wall they took on that invisibility that small birds have when they are on the ground. Unless they moved they were undetectable. They were still there of course just unseen and so flighty there was no way they could be approached. I decided the best tactic was to let them approach us; which they eventually did.

2015 01 17 Twite Salthouse Norfolk_Z5A7802


Another pop at Maltese Hunters?

The oldest piece of European legislation applicable to wildlife is ‘The Birds Directive’ and was passed into law in 1979.

The Birds Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds, such as the deliberate killing or capture of birds, the destruction of their nests and taking of their eggs, and associated activities such as trading in live or dead birds, with a few exceptions. The Directive recognises hunting as a legitimate activity and provides a comprehensive system for the management of hunting to ensure that this practice is sustainable. This includes a requirement to ensure that birds are not hunted during the periods of their greatest vulnerability, such as the return migration to the nesting areas, reproduction and the raising of chicks. It requires Member States to outlaw all forms of non-selective and large scale killing of birds.

You see. I’ve never quite understood exactly why Malta has been able to get away with the spring hunt. They seem to have some sort of immunity cloaking device more effective than that used on a Klingon ship. They are breaking European Law and getting away with it.

Anyways, shelve that thought for a moment.

Earlier this month all the pressure on the Maltese Government made by all our letters sent to our MP’s has paid off. The Maltese prime Minister has announced they are to hold a referendum to ask the Maltese people if they should continue with a Spring Hunt. As long as there is a 50%+ turnout the result will apparently pass into Maltese law and the Spring Hunt will either continue or it will stop. That is if the referendum is not rigged. A 2012 study revealed that 88 percent of Maltese saw corruption as a major problem in both politics and business.

The Maltese economy is heavily dependent on tourism Over 1.5 million tourists visit the island each year. What’s your largest expenditure each year? Is it your holiday? We’re talking about a lot of money.

I must admit when all this rawcuss kicked off years ago I was all for campaigning heavily against anyone visiting Malta for a holiday. That was until I was reminded that the majority of the Maltese didn’t want the shooting to continue and those people had a livelihood to maintain. However if the population of Malta does vote to continue the spring hunt … does that put a different slant on the argument?

The photo is from last summer and taken in Norfolk. Pertinent don’t you think?

Turtle Dove


A lone bather

Where streams enter the sea is a good place to look for gulls and waders, they often come to drink and bathe in the fresh water. We stood and watched such a stream here in North Norfolk the other day; a steady trickle of bubbling life wended across the beach only to be swallowed by the expanse of the sea.

A procession of Herring, Black headed and Greater Black backed Gulls took it in turn to visit. Amid the thirty or so Turnstones was just a single Ringed Plover that bathed and then preened carefully.

Ringed Plover


Who will you vote for?

Given the impending election I decided to see what the main political parties were promising around the things I see as being important; Wildlife and the Environment being the key areas. If your priorities lie in a similar plane, here’s a summary of what I found. Obviously if you see other areas as more important you will have to do your own bit of research.



I couldn’t find a copy of their manifesto – which says a lot. I enquired. They replied that one would be available in the next few months! Remind me. When’s the election?

After the Badger Cull, the Fox hunting fiasco, the Buzzard ban and the threat of losing our forests I don’t believe the Conservative party have fulfilled their promise to ‘Protect the Environment’ and I helped vote them in to power on the back of that promise.



The website has a very ‘them and us’ theme – easy to see why many label them as racists. No official Manifesto but they do have a ‘Policies for People’ section on their website which states the following loosely related point.

  • Foreign trawlers would have to apply for and purchase fishing permits to fish British waters when fish stocks have returned to sustainable levels.


Liberal Democrats

Didn’t mention Wildlife but the environmental policy was summarised as follows:

  • Creating 200,000 new green jobs by investing in renewable energy. We have already doubled the amount of electricity generated from offshore wind.
  • Planting 1 million trees in England, the first government tree planting programme since the 1970s.
  • Introducing a 5p plastic bag charge to help clean up our environment and protect Britain’s natural habitat.



  • Set a target for decarbonisation of our electricity by 2030.
  • Strengthen the Green Investment Bank with borrowing powers.
  • Prioritise flood prevention and introduce a new climate change adaptation plan.
  • End the badger cull and maintain the ban on hunting with dogs.


Green Party

  • Promote landscape-scale conservation, using reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the planning system to encourage restoration of heathlands, woods, marshland and other important habitats.
  • Reduce dramatically the use of pesticides and introduce measures such as ‘buffer zones’ around sprayed fields to protect humans as well as wildlife.
  • Oppose the introduction of a non-elected Planning Commission, particularly for new roads, runways, incinerators and inappropriate housing developments, and ensure that sustainable development, not just economic development, is at the heart of the planning system.
  • Press to extend the amount of land covered by the EU Habitats Directive in the UK, and ensure that protected sites are in good condition.
  • Set up a national Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) to promote and integrate research and development on public health and environmental protection.
  • Protect wildlife abroad by cracking down on the illegal trade in wildlife products such as ivory, protect biodiversity in British Overseas Territories, and oppose all forms of commercial and ‘scientific’ whaling.
  • Increase the tranquillity of our urban environments, with less litter, less noise, reduced light pollution and more green spaces. Everyone should live within walking distance of natural green space.


I guess manifestos can’t state everything. None of these go as far as I would go in protecting the environment but I know where my cross is going. Do you?

2015 01 17 Avocet Cley Norfolk_Z5A7911a

Overwintering Avocets on the North Norfolk Coast this week – a sign of the temperature gradient moving North? How long before groups overwinter in the Scottish Estuaries? Global Warming is here. What are we doing about this single problem among so many concerning the basic water we drink, food we eat and air we breath?

I’m already fed up with politicians knocking seven bells out of each other over things that are comparatively unimportant and we still have four months to go before the election. I have lots of conversations with like minded friends, guests and others about changes our countryside and wildlife need.  It’s pretty plain to me and many others that we need to make changes … and make those changes fast. If we are not to sign our own death warrant the environment should be at the hub of all political manifestos.


Larking around

Amid the sand and shingle and in a dying sun we photographed confiding Shore Larks the other week. These birds are so charming. Hiding in the Marram grass we waited for them to come closer along the tide line until they were but a few metres distant.

Shore Lark




Looking at the Wigeon out on the marshes in the dying light the other day I could swear they were laughing at me.



Shoot and ask questions later

When I was knee high to a grasshopper and God was but a boy things were different. In the corner of my uncles lounge stood a piece of deadly Ironmongery no longer found in the homes of sensible householders. Not subject to today’s security next to the shotgun were boxes of shiny cartridges; irresistible to a young boy. If I told you what I did with them it would make you wonder how it’s possible I didn’t prematurely meet my creator. Guns; … tut! Now, it’s my firm belief a gun is only fit for a criminal or a policeman. It has no business in the hands of anyone else. Sadly however in reality that’s not the case.

I met the local keeper the other day. He was pleased when I told him I’d seen the Grey Partridges he’d laid down last year. He hadn’t seen them of late … but they were still around. As I sit here in Falcon Cottage writing this post I can hear the sound of discharging shot no doubt whizzing around the head of the birds here on the hill. Something’s don’t change. I’m not someone who believes all meat arrives vacuum packs from Sainsbury’s and I’m not naive enough to believe the copses and game crops so important to our wildlife would not be under the plough if pheasant shoots didn’t take place but why do some people cherish the taking of life? As I’ve said before here on Letter from Norfolk if gun owners know what they are shooting at I guess I have to be satisfied as long as they limit their attention to what they have reared.

I was talking to a guy with a gun last year and when I questioned him he had no idea how to tell a Bean Goose from a Pinkfoot at distance. One is (legally) fair game the other is a protected species. Wouldn’t it be good if everyone who wants a shotgun licence underwent an eye test (not currently part of the health considerations for a firearms or shotgun certificate) and importantly a quarry identification exam?

… and if you are still wondering; even the best of birders with a state of the art spotting scope will have difficulty in telling a Bean Goose from a Pinkfoot … when it’s on the deck … let alone in the air!

Grey Partridge

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Jan 2015


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