Archive for the 'plants' Category

11
Jan
23

Fools dancing before an abyss.

It dawned on me quite early in my life that the way to protect the wildlife and birds in an area is to protect the area itself. Protecting the environment is key to having a safe home and area for creatures to live and breed. It’s not bloody rocket science is it? Cut down a forest for agriculture and everything in the forest will die or have to move elsewhere. Concrete and tarmac over a wild area and the insects that are key to supporting our wildlife will die or move on. Insect life supports everything above it like a Jenga tower. Pull out too many bricks and the whole lots clatters downward. The problem is we are running out of areas for our creatures to move to and we are loosing wildlife habitat and consequently our wildlife at a rate of knots.

Those of you that live locally will know of the area that is just to the West of Cromer on the South side of the A149 coast road. A wild piece of land full of bushes and scrub, often referred to as the site of the old zoo; not only important for breeding birds but also for migrants. Scrub is such an important habitat. It is not waste land. It’s essential habitat. I’ve seen Ring Ousel here, Red backed Shrike, Citrine Wagtail, Barred Warbler as well as commoner migrants. Those of you that have lived here longer than I will know of more rarities found here on migration. Well no more!

The area has been cleared. It’s gone. bulldozed and cut away to nothing. Some, self-important, pound greedy, cretin of an imbecile, has ordered the whole area to be cleared. We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis and some idiot did this.

A few years ago I was just one of the individuals that objected to a building development on the land. For all the reasons outlined above, it did not seem like a good idea. Well take away all the ideal habitat and all the reasons to object are swept aside. Ruthless.

It was friend Andy (his photo below) that told me of the clearance. I went that morning to take a look. I was so so dejected. When will people understand that we are sawing away at the branch of the tree we are sat on. Bloody fools. Complete and utter … BLOODY FOOLS!

Photo credit: Andy Hale

31
Dec
22

Happy New Year

Well, the end of 22 is just about upon us and 2023 is about to open its doors. It’s been a more relaxed year here on the North Norfolk coast with restrictions fading into memory and life returning to somewhat like normal.

Throughout 2022 there have been several low points. Leaving Scillies in October the day after the Blackburnian Warbler turned up was one. Visiting Manchester and seeing the amount of litter both in the city centre and surrounding countryside was another; seeing such disregard for the environment was not just disappointing, but stomach churning.

Thankfully there have been some outstanding high points; including several ‘firsts’ for me. Eleonora’s Falcon, Cape Gull, Glanville Fritillary and Late Spider Orchid being a few examples.

Episodes with Broomrape, Bee Eaters and Little Buntings were entertaining and far reaching.

Despite foreign travel being shunned by Tania and me until next year we’ve had a number of trips here at home and tours have been UK wide. Scotland appeared on the agenda four times with Dumfriesshire, Sutherland and the Spey Valley twice. Scillies was visited twice with Spring and Autumn breaks. There were also tours to Knepp in West Sussex and the East coast including the Farne Islands. A very successful trip to Cumbria was enjoyed for its butterflies and dragonflies. We had a personal trip to the Isle of Wight which was very productive. A short trip to Kent with Tania and Tony took some topping; the range of Orchids we found coupled with time watching an Eleonora’s Falcon would take some beating. By a hair’s breadth however my moment of the year was in October on the island of Tresco. The day I spent with Tania photographing a Swainson’s Thrush was for me just the biz!

It’s been a long time since I have seen this diminutive, subtly marked species, so well. Seeing American Thrushes in the Americas is wonderful. Seeing one in the UK is always a thrill; but actually spending an extended period of time with one at close range was just exhilarating.

We are both looking forward to the New Year and what it brings, and hope you are too. Happy New Year from us both.

21
Jun
22

You never know what you might find.

I’m often asked before a tour what we might see. My answer is always the same

‘Rule nothing in, rule nothing out’. You never know what you might see or find.

Tania and I were on the Isle of Wight last week. We were seeking out Glanville’s Fritillary … but more about butterflies in a later post. Tania pointed out a hillside of Broomrape. Broomrape are parasitic plants with particular species having a particular association with various host species.

Now those of you that know me will know I’m no botanist, but I could see this species of Broomrape was not one I knew. A quick text to friend Tony revealed we were stood amid a host of Oxtongue Broomrape (Orobanche picridis), a parasite of Hawkweed Oxtongue. A rare plant indeed.

However, it’s what we saw next which was so incredible.

Amid the throng of spikes was a very pale one. Now I’ve seen the pale form of Purple Broomrape previously, but this was subtly different. Another text to Tony took a few days to generate a reply. Tony had referred the find to ‘Mr Broomrape UK’ Author and botanist Chris Thorogood.

Here’s what he had to say:

“How intriguing, it’s a pigment-deficient form of O. picridis – forma rather than variety (but I don’t believe the official combination e.g. ‘forma lutea’ has ever been made for this species). Nice find 👍🏻

Chris Thorogood”

You never know what you might find.

17
Jun
22

Orchids

One of the rarest orchids in the UK is the Late Spider Orchid. At the beginning of this month Tony, Tania and I stumbled among a hillside full of them. The yellow tongue on the lower lip of the flower instantly distinguish it from the Bee Orchid with which you will no doubt be familiar. Orchids are such beautiful flowers.

03
May
22

Flowers

A walk at Wild Ken Hill among the Spring flowers. Shepherds Cress, Common Storksbill, Greater Stitchwort and Rhododendron.

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.

18
Jun
21

Man o man

On our Photographing Norfolk Orchid tour last week we had some damn good orchids. The man Orchids were showing better and in greater numbers than I have seen them before. Each flower a perfect little man. A fabulous display.

14
Jan
21

Hope

It’s no coincidence that the Blue Whale, hanging from the roof of the Hintze hall at the Natural History Museum, is named ‘Hope’. Hope is a feeling of expectation and longing. The largest creature ever to have lived deserves a name that captures the emotion of desire.

Tania and I were on our exercise walk at the weekend and just outside we came across these Snowdrops pushing up through cold dark soil and leaf litter. A sign of Spring.

I hope you are keeping well in these dark days. I hope you, and you family, are safe and well. I hope beyond hope that you know better days are ahead. Spring and better days are on their way.

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.




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