Archive for Feb, 2015


Hiding away

We were looking through a load of ducks and swans up at Caerlaverock the other day and this little chapess was swimming among the maelstrom of feathers, beaks and webbed feet. Scaup are not unusual in the area. We found several on the estuary. More about the tour to the Solway and what we saw in future posts.




A bit of Spring Movement

The wind was in the east for a day or so last week and here on the hill the fields filled with Reed Bunting. One or two even spilled into the garden for a while. Is spring at last on its way?

Reed Bunting




I do love Snipe. They are such unassuming little creatures; beautifully pattered. How on earth can people shoot them? Unfortunately being a quarry species they do, so no wonder they are so cryptically plumaged. This one however was a little more brazen; out in the open and not caring, but still alert.




In a small sunlit pool tucked away among the reeds this Ruff fed up on anything it could find in the mud. With just a jittery Redshank for company he started off quite close but soon moved slowly away when he heard my shutter go off.



Shortie goes the long way around

As we chatted on the sea wall a Short eared Owl flew towards us. It was certainly more conscious of us than we had been of it. You would have thought that three bird watchers stood haplessly musing over the day would not have posed a threat to the owl. It saw the world differently and took a detour out over the water to avoid us.

Short eared Owl



“Where is it?” was the question.

“The Garganey?” I replied.

“Yes!” which was said in a slightly incredulous tone; as though he couldn’t have possibly meant anything else.

“It’s way at the back of the scrape … among those Teal” I volunteered.

“Ah! I see it. The one doing an Anne Boleyn?”

This was no doubt a reference to the ducks amazing propensity for losing its head. For the main part tucking it beneath what would be a snug warm wing. Indeed, this bird spent so much time sleeping you would be forgiven for thinking it may well have been hibernating; and who would blame it? The whistling north easterly wind here on the Norfolk marshes was a little sharp. Not the sort of weather you would expect an early spring migrant to use as a returning vehicle to its breeding grounds. The earliest date for returning Garganey in Norfolk last year was 18th March so maybe this bird has overwintered among a seclude flock of teal somewhere in an undetected backwater. Several others splattered through the UK have over wintered this year.


A record shot of a very distant bird in a rare moment of consciousness.


Plastic and Otters

I didn’t get chance to watch a lot of the BBC’s Winter Watch broadcast from the Highlands of Scotland earlier this year. In truth although there are good sections I feel it is getting a bit ‘samey’. Anyways, one bit I did get to see was a piece where they examined the stomach contents of Otters. Salmon and Trout were obviously high on the list; but so too were plastic pellets. As far as I can recall they never did state how the pellets had got into the otters but as I say I didn’t get chance to watch all the programmes.


Ladies the next time you buy your facial scrub take a look at the ingredients. Is it just ladies that use facial scrub or am I not quite hip enough? In fact take a look at the soap and toothpaste in your bathroom too. Chances are one of the ingredients is a polycarbonate or other type of plastic. These micro beads, the gritty polishers and sparkly glitters used in a plethora of home products are actually designed to wash straight down the drain and invariably flow out to sea because they are too small to be filtered out during sewage treatment.

These micro beads get eaten by organisms as variable as the tiniest plankton and filter-feeding molluscs to crustaceans, fish and even foraging seabirds. The Salmon feed on them in the sea, travel up the rivers and then get eaten by Otters. So at the top of the food chain the Otters end up collecting the indigestible plastic beads in their bodies.

That’s unfortunately not the end of it. These micro beads have been found to attract toxins when they are in the sea. The beads become small toxic pills. Not only do the beads collect in the Otters so do the toxins… remember we eat fish products too.

So what do we do about it? Don’t buy products containing plastic! – Here’s something to help you.


Otter – not in Scotland. Home grown variety – Norfolk.


Barnie’s Back

With one thing and another I seem to have been constantly on the phone of late. Bookings for hotels, bookings for tours etc … etc

It’s strange isn’t it, when I’m on the mobile I tend to stand up and I have a habit of walking around for no apparent reason. Maybe it helps me think. Anyways, I was ambling from foot to foot in the dining room here at Falcon Cottage the other day deep in a conversation when something moved at the top of the garden. It was dusk so light wasn’t good. I tried to ignore it for the sake of fluency but I couldn’t. The call ended and I was able to grab my camera to get a shot of this little beauty sat on the back fence. A bit grainy given the low winter evening light but still nice to see.

Six species of owl have graced the garden since Sharon and I have been here. We only need Snowy to complete the list … The sixth? Oh! That’s Teet Owl … plenty of those in the kitchen. ;0)

Barn  Owl


Stars of the sea

Nothing is so sure in life as death.

Something my daughter has to get her head around at the moment. She will have the good times to remember now her mother is gone. Her memories. I remember when my mother passed away. That feeling of emptiness I thought could never be filled, but I can still hear her guiding voice most days, she’s always with me; inside my head. Memories are strong evocative and emotional.

Something draws both Sharon and I to the sea but more so Sharon. I’ve been dragged along the tideline beach combing more times than I care to remember. After a small wreck of shellfish and starfish she was again out grazing the shingle for jetsam at Salthouse. Eventually she found what she was looking for … or rather I did. Crossaster papposus is the Common Sunstar. It was dead of course. Perched high on the tideline it could be nothing else. The evening sun caught it and it glowed. An evening star full of light. Lifeless, gone … but no less appreciated.



Prince of Waders

On tour the other day we were out on the coast doing a little photography. The best thing about Norfolk is the big skies and the light. The light. It’s just … fantastic. On the north coast looking out to sea the light is always over your shoulder. Ideal for photographing waders.

Amid the rocks were hiding a couple of Purple Sandpipers. So intent they were at feeding one in particular allowed close approach; pecking intently at the rocks taking something imperceptibly small to eat.

It was one of those days we get here on the coast; a little sun, a cutting wind and the occasional wintry shower. As it started to rain I couldn’t help but notice how the raindrops gathered in little domes on the sandpipers back. Does that make it The Prince of Waders?

Purple Sandpiper _Z5A8532


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Feb 2015


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