Archive for the 'Dragonflies' Category

31
Dec
21

Happy New Year

This year has been a strange one. A year of two halves and contrasts. The first half, once again like 2020, became a period of sedentary incapability. Tours and trips had to be cancelled. Unpicking the arrangements with boat operators and hotels is never easy. Indeed, sadly some of them financially went to ‘the wall’ as their business slumped.

I always said that because of the way I run the business, and my financial affairs, WT&E would front out anything thrown at it no matter how long the lockdown, without the help of government handouts. Little did I know that the business levels in the second half of the year would bounce back so strongly and so quickly.

Guests were keen to get back into the countryside and I couldn’t blame them, having been isolated and restricted for so long. However, safety of guests was paramount. Local day tours were conducted by guests following in their own vehicle and longer tours when we shared a vehicle were carried out against a background of testing by both guests and me. As a consequence, we had some good local tours and some effortlessly successful tours away.

A good relationship this year with ‘Wild Ken Hill’ and involvement in a small way with some of the good things they are trying to do there was very pleasing. Long may their rewilding and regenerative agricultural development continue.

Still no trips abroad. I feel it would be foolish to commit to these yet. To do so in the current environment is inviting difficulty and potential unnecessary expense. Maybe in 2023. The wilds of Australia, North and South America will all still be there; as will the Atlantic Islands. All on our agenda.

A single new bird for me during the course of the year was the Syke’s Warbler on Blakeney Point in September. The supporting cast of other birds, dragonflies, butterflies and cetaceans were many, but perhaps the pick of the crop was the Sei Whale in the Firth of Forth.

The accompanying photo I took of a Sanderling last week, a bird renowned for running up and down beaches, perhaps summarises the year; a lot of backwards and forwards.

All in all a good year. 2022 promises even more. I hope above all hope the coming year gives you your needs and desires. Happy New Year.

21
Sep
21

A Stained Window

Perched up in a sunny bush … a handsome mature male Migrant Hawker. Lots of them around at the moment.

03
Sep
21

In flight

A Southern Hawker in flight showing those bright yellow/green headlights behind the eyes that make this species so distinctive in flight.

08
Aug
21

Dragons Den

A couple of photos of dragons taken last week. Firstly a Southern Hawker at Foxley Wood and a Black Darter (female) taken on the recent Cumbria Butterfly Tour.

Southern Hawker
Black darter (female)
23
Jul
21

Odds and Sods

A few photos from this spring and summer, taken on tours around the county and country, that I haven’t had time to post previously …

20
Jun
21

Making a difference

This last few days Tania and I were transported 200 years into the past. We spent a few days at Knepp.

Back-to-back Nightingale territories, Turtle Doves purring from every bush; a songbird density the like I have never seen in the UK and more woodpeckers than a cider carnival were all on offer. In addition, throw in a few attractive, big, eye-catching species like nesting White Storks, Beavers and you have an area that emulates what some of our countryside was like in years gone by. Achieved by incorporating old English longhorn Cattle, Exmoor Ponies, Tamworth pigs, Roe, Red and Fallow Deer the former 350 acre West Sussex farm is prevented from reverting into woodland. The resulting scrubland enables species to thrive.

We were impressed. We were very impressed.

I won the trip in a photographic competition some years ago; but it wasn’t until now that it was practical to cash in the gift certificate. We stayed in a Shepherd’s hut. No electricity and, no bathroom couldn’t really be said to be our scene. Another 200 year throwback. However, over the couple of days we were there this basic form of ‘glamping’, getting up with the sun and going to bed after sunset, became appealing. A slower life. As close as we can perhaps get to sustenance living. Showering under the sky and using communal washrooms wasn’t our cup of tea. However, we found oddly we didn’t want to leave. Maybe it was the cacophony of beautiful birdsong surrounding us as we woke in the mornings or the lulling evensong that put us to sleep; I don’t know, but this simpler life we found appealing.

Would I pay £110 a night to stay in a garden shed with a bed in it? Well, I find it incredible I’m saying it … but maybe yes, I would.

I know some of you will be interested in the White Storks. A number of introduction methods have been used. There are 7 nests this year. We saw around a dozen birds and saw three nests. These are non-migrating mainly rehabilitated birds, although at least one bird is thought to have arrived under its own ‘steam’ as it were. Next year will be the first year that birds will (hopefully) return that may be thought of as being truly wild. These birds were encouraged, by the way they were introduced, to migrated away with a view to them returning after at least two years maturing on the dark continent.

Normally, I’m not a big reintroduction fan. I believe if you get the land and its use right, if you get the foundation of the pyramid nice and solid, life will find its own way there. In this instance however ‘I get it’. Something big and bold reintroduced to eye-catch and bring in the punters was required. Although don’t be surprised if village rooftop nesting storks hit the headlines in the non-too distant future and the ‘householder-noise’ it creates is not all positive. However, there would be no objection from me if a bill clapping White Stork nested on my roof! What an alarm clock!

(female Banded Demoiselle, Scarce Chaser showing mating marks, Club tailed Dragonfly photographed close to Knepp, Fallow deer, Tamworth sow with piglets, Beautiful Demoiselle, Exmoor ponies, Red Deer, White Stork, Common spotted Orchid, The Tamworth hut where we stayed and ground turned over by the pigs.

31
Dec
20

Goodbye 2020

It’s always difficult to give the best wildlife moment of any year. Usually because there are so many to choose from. 2020 has been made no less easy due to there being less travel and fewer occasions when wildlife has presented itself. A pauper’s choice? Maybe, but we forged a few worthwhile memories.

The year opened with a Black necked Grebe within photographing distance at Holkham. The only one we saw all year. The Eastern Yellow Wagtail continued to present itself on an inland muck pile throughout January and was more photographable for the habituality developed by the proximity to its steady stream of admirers.

Ever since a raw February day in 1991, almost 30 years ago, when I first distantly saw an American Bittern in a ditch on the outskirts of Blackpool, I have dreamed of finding my own. I’d have preferred finding it at Cley or Titchwell but I guess the Everglades will have to do. We watched an individual as it stalked its way through a reedbed in Florida. The best thing about it was it was close. So close we could have touched it. My guests always say to me the best things they see when they are out with me are the birds and animals they see well. They are right.

Many other delights presented themselves in Florida and a small selection of photographs is included here.

As the year went on a few good birds presented themselves in Spring. Perhaps the pick of them was the Blyth’s Reed Warblers splattered about the East coast. We were lucky to have very good views of one in North Walsham.

Heath Fritillary Butterflies and White legged Damselflies to the South in June were a welcome break from local walks here in West Runton.

In July I saw my first comet with a tail. I couldn’t get enough of it. Another wonder of the natural world marked off the bucket list.

Southern Migrant Hawkers in West Norfolk gave me a good opportunity to study the species. We stopped and watched them for a full day. I’m sure they will become more frequent in future but getting so close to them at Thompson Common will live long in the memory.

It took two trips north to see the Lammergeier. I was pleased to see it despite not getting the front row stall seat views others obtained, but that didn’t make it any the less exciting. I hope to see more Bearded Vultures within Spain during 2022.

Silver spotted Skippers and Adonis Blues were on the menu in high summer and as October dawned a Hoopoe gave excellent views, again on an inland muck-pile, in Norfolk. Can you see a trend developing here?

On Scillies this year, as always, it was a treat; but one bird stands out for me as being particularly close and obliging. It’s not rare, but still special to see on this side of the Atlantic. A Pec Sand on Tresco gave itself to us. It has been a few years since I’ve had one that has been so confiding.

A ‘first’ is always memorable and in October, between tours, an Eastern Rufous Bush-Chat made landfall on a muddy saltmarsh a few miles down the road. We watched it along with others as it fed and spread its tail within the suaeda. Much more satisfying however was the Pallas’ Warbler not but a few hundred metres away that picked insects from the underside of sycamore leaves like a miniature trapezist right in front of our faces.

November was all local. A corking Desert Wheatear and a Lesser Yellowlegs that had no fear were both within walking distance of one another. It looks like the opening months of 2021 will also need to be local. However this wont be forever.

I’m looking forward to what 2021 will bring.

25
Dec
20

2020 – my best year yet.

I’ve been receiving cards over Christmas from family, friends, neighbours and customers and they all have had something in common. The wording has been different in each, but the sentiment has been the same … ‘better year in 2021’ … ‘hopeful for change’ … ‘can’t wait until restrictions eased’. You get the drift.

Well, Tania and I must have been on a different planet. We’ve had a great year.

We went on holiday to Florida, we got married, we’ve had the longest honeymoon in history and Tania got a visa to stay and work in the UK and got a Job in the middle of a pandemic. What’s to hate?

Sure, to be wrapped up in ourselves and completely insulated to the misery that is cruelly thwarting the world would be wrong. However, we have managed by careful and thoughtful practice to avoid crowds, be mindful of others and from day one wore gloves and masks when shopping and stayed at home when appropriate. These are OUR rules, not those of some twat in Westminster that can’t even comb his hair. We haven’t extended our liabilities up to the limits of recommendations. We’ve always worked within them. Long before Christmas restrictions my daughter and I decided that she wouldn’t join us this year. Because it was the sensible thing to do. Distance. Distance. Distance. If anyone decided otherwise then they are doomed to disappointment.

So, the best moment of 2020? There have been a few. I’ll cover some in a future post but one moment springs to mind where we shared an evening with a calling Barred Owl. Disappointingly it never did emerge from its hole in a large tree. We were within Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades. As darkness crept through the trees and shapes turned into imaginations a lightshow emerged. A million diamonds flashing in the dark. Fireflies, here there and everywhere. It was like being in a scene from Avatar. I was spellbound.

In reality, the best part of the year has to be spending so much time with Tani. I would guess you would think I have to say that, but to be honest who could not think the world of someone who takes with her a bit of grated cheese or muesli every morning. Just to feed the Robin that greets her in the dark on the platform of West Runton Station. A little Antipodean with a big heart.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

15
Aug
20

Getting anal about damselflies?

Sometimes in Nature it’s easy to overlook things. We have three clear-winged Emerald Damselflies in the UK. Two of them, the common Emerald Damselfly and the much rarer Scarce Emerald Damselfly, are not easy to tell apart – especially the males. In fact it was thought until the 1970’s that the Scarce ED was extinct here in the UK. In reality it had probably been overlooked. Here in Norfolk both species can appear together at the same sites.

The key to telling the males apart is by a close examination of their inferior anal appendages. I know. Sounds disgusting doesn’t it. However, with a good close focus pair of binoculars the tail end of these little odonata can, with practice, give their identification away … without any use of rubber gloves! :0) Looking at the tail end there are a pair of superior anal appendages on the outside and inferior anal appendages within them. On Scarce ED those inferior anal appendages are club shaped and on ED they are straight.

I promise that’s the last time you’ll hear the phrase ‘anal appendages’ today!

06
Aug
20

Old Blue Eyes

We ignored a White Tailed Eagle and a White Stork on the coast and headed for South West Norfolk today.

The name ‘Southern Migrant Hawker’ does not beligh in any way the beauty of these delicate dragonflies. Perhaps the alternative name of ‘Blue-eyed Hawker’ that has slipped into use is more appropriate. It does sum the beast up quite well. However I’m reluctant to use it because what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and I’ not sure I could bear to call Norfolk Hawker ‘Green-eyed’

Anyway we came across about six of these smart dragons today. In the future they will become a regular part of our fauna here within Norfolk. I feel sure of that!

 




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