Archive for Jun, 2015


First Swim

Over the edge. A jump into the unknown. This young Guillemot ‘glided’ down to the sea as we watched it from the boat off Staple Island in the Farne Islands earlier this month. ‘Glided’ is a bit strong really; it was more like ‘plummeted’. Anyways he was on the sea and out of the nest. Being looked after by his parents he had escaped the attentions of the marauding Herring Gulls when we left him.

The place and surrounding area is just utopia for Wildlife Photographers. Next years tour will be advertised very soon.



Thunderbirds are go!

Something broke my concentration. It took me a while to realise it was a commotion in the garden. The panicky alarm call of a Blue Tit took me to the back window. I could see an adult alarming in the back sycamores moving from one side of the garden to the other. She was worried about something. I was looking for the Stoat or perhaps the neighbours cat. Nothing. What was she alarming over? It took me a while to see the splashing in the corner of the pond. A bit of an International rescue was called for. When I perched her recently fledged youngster in the sunshine to dry off it wasn’t long before his mother came down to gather him up.

Blue Tit




Bottlenose Dolphins in Wales

… and here are some of the Bottlenose Dolphins we saw on our ‘Wild Weekend in Wales’ the other week.

Bottlenose Dolphin 2 Bottlenose Dolphin


Two a penny

At one time finding a Buzzard in East Anglia was akin to finding the Koohinor; and I don’t mean the local Tandoori. It was a red letter day. Now … two a penny; just like Wales … where this photo was taken.



The Welsh Dragons

Our Wild Weekend in Wales last weekend saw us photographing Red Kites and Bottlenose Dolphins in Wales. Don’t you just love these birds. The photo below is not a composite … just happened like this!

Red Kite




A bird with expensive taste

On Mull last month we watched a Hooded Crow fly upward and drop something onto loch-side rocks. The bird would then fly down, pick up the object and drop it again; Lammergeyer like. Upon closer inspection the object was seen to be an oyster. The crow repeated the process until the oyster cracked open; it then ate the contents and then started the procedure all over again with another. Damn clever these corvids.

Hooded Crow Hooded Crow 1


The silence of the Lark

Walking across the heath laden with yellow gorse flowers amid the scent of coconut I caught a glance of something small flying over me. Silent but direct in flight the short tailed bird landed on a bush. I’m guessing the Woodlark had either finished nesting or was a non-breeder. I watched it from a distance and it didn’t appear to be collecting food. Hopefully they have done well despite the cold spring.



A Warbler and a raptor

There are two things when watching wildlife that always run true.

Firstly, the longer you stay in one place the more you will see and secondly, when searching for one thing you almost invariably find something else of interest; and so it was the other week.

We walked up a nettle covered track aside the River Nar to listen to a rendition erupting from a patch of phragmites. Nightingale, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Curlew were just some of the compendium voiced by the songster we went to see. Marsh Warblers are excellent mimics and this bird was no exception. Always tantalisingly just hidden from view we had to wait quite some time for it to show well; which it eventually did. However it was something else that stole the show.

Swinging in high above us was an avian delight. Here was a bird you don’t see all that often in Norfolk … for the time being anyway. The pale raptor hovering over the adjacent lake was an Osprey. Bearing a dark necklace it was a female. Again and again she returned to try her hand at fishing and on her third visit she managed to catch a fish. Her subsequent absence was our cue to move on.

Marsh Warbler





Sat in the repository of the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge is a box. It’s not an unusual box, nor is it very large. It’s much like any of the many thousands of others in the building. In the box is a little lady. For the moment let’s call her C.95.G. Not a catchy name by any standards but it’s the only one she has ever had. Her providence unknown; all that is attributed to her is she heralded from the coast at Great Yarmouth over a century ago. Pretty she isn’t; but beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

Some months ago I acquired a book. Arthur H Patterson wrote ‘Notes of an East Coast Naturalist’ in 1904. The book was written by this amateur naturalist in a time when collecting was done with a gun rather than careful observation. On page 271 sandwiched between notes on Mole behaviour and observations on Toads is trapped a story; the story of our little lady.

Arthur Patterson was taking a walk along the quay at Great Yarmouth on the cold morning of the 14th November 1894 when he saw something that grabbed his interest; a seven foot 5 inch Grampus. A Grampus was a seafaring name formerly applied to any small whale or large dolphin. The Grampus was being exhibited by two quiet, well behaved fishermen that had dragged the carcass from Lowestoft after it had been caught offshore in a Herring drifters net. They were apparently doing good business from their impromptu exhibition. Cetaceans always carry an enigma that is difficult for the public to resist.

It was four days later when Arthur Patterson purchased a similar Grampus on the fish wharf in Great Yarmouth. This animal was similar in every regard to the first, but two inches shorter. It could be said they were peas in a pod! (excuse the pun) Patterson took the Grampus by horse and cart to Norwich Museum where it arrived on the 20th and was inspected by Thomas Southwell a noted Naturalist of the day. Southwell’s description within the transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society accurately describe a very young female Orca. The cadaver was however deemed too abraded to be of use as an exhibit at the museum.

A telegram was sent to Dr S F Harmer at the University Museum of Cambridge and at his request the Orca was despatched to Cambridge. Dr Harmer found the teeth had not yet been cut but they could be plainly felt in the upper jaw and there was no solid food content in the stomach. This animal had not yet been weaned.

So the flesh was stripped and the bones crated and until this month that’s where our little lady lay.

Grampus has been incorporated into the nomenclature of Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) and indeed until the description within the transactions was uncovered, given the small size of both animals, it was thought Pattersons’s notes could have referred to that species. It’s just incredible the skull and bones are still with us.

These records constitute the first proven (so far) proven occurrence of Orca for both Norfolk and Suffolk.

Thanks to Matt Lowe, Collections Manager at the University Museum of Zoology for allowing access to photograph C.95.G and to his kind and considerate staff for their attentions and help during my visit.



Butter wouldn’t melt.

The pale green rosettes of Common Butterwort have appeared all over our marshy heaths. Less obvious is the fine stalk topped with the tiny vivid Cornflower blue blossom. This flower is the insect attractant; the bait. Some unsuspecting victim flies in expecting nectar or pollen only to become thwarted by all those fine sticky hairs. Dropping to the leaves the insect will be held fast by sticky foliage that will curl up around its victim and digest it!

The places Common Butterwort grow are so lacking in nutrients … it just has to obtain them any way it can!

Common Butterwort

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Jun 2015


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