Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

02
Dec
21

Escaping the weather

I could tell our second trip to Wales in November was going to be a bit chancy with the weather. Even the week before the forecast was showing there was going to be heavy winds. When we set off last Saturday morning we didn’t realise we had perhaps missed the worst of it.

As we wended our way across the Midlands, through snow, conditions gradually improved. By the time we got to Powys it was bright sunshine. Judging by the bits of trees scattered around the worst of Storm Arwen had already passed through.

As usual lots of Kites to photograph.

The weather on Sunday was better still. It even felt warm in a few sheltered spaces.

26
Nov
21

Look-up

On Saturday I held a ‘cetacean workshop’ in the reserve centre at Cley NWT. It was a good interactive group of interesting people. The morning was classroom based and after lunch we went down to the ‘beach hotel’ to look for a few porpoise out at sea. We unfortunately didn’t see any and guests gradually bid their farewell, but there were a few birds passing to keep interest high. As the light was failing the Black Guillemot that had been moving up and down the coast for the past week or so sailed-by. All the remaining guests managed to get onto it and have a good look through the scope. Some compensation at least for the absence of porpoise.

I took a few record shots as the bird bobbed and dived in the swell. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular given the distance and the failing light. I put the camera away and took the opportunity to look at the bird through the scope myself. It was then I saw it tilt its head sideways and look up. I’ve seen many birds do this over the years and it’s always indicative of them seeing a raptor above. However, I’ve never seen any species of auk do it previously … and I’ve seen a lot of auks.

Following the guillemots line of sight I looked up myself and very high above us was a Short eared Owl coming in off the sea. Seeing an owl come in-off is always good; a treat in itself. The owl spilled air from it’s wings and steeply dropped down onto the marsh behind us.

I pondered on the fact that the two species, Black Guillemot and Short eared Owl, would rarely be in the same environment and have a chance to interact. So how did the auk know the Short eared Owl was a threat? I guess it is just hard-wired into most birds that birds of prey, whatever the species, are just not good news.

24
Nov
21

Proud

So proud to see Holly graduate, with honors, last week. She’s come a long way … but was always ‘the performer’.

21
Nov
21

A little history and a bird and site revisited.

It’s been a long, long time since I was at Blacktoft Sands on the Humber; perhaps thirty years or more. A visit to Leeds to see Holly graduate was an opportunity to call at this RSPB reserve I once so frequently visited.

Blacktoft is an hours drive from Darrington on the A1, where I used to live. Fairburn Ings, Potteric Carr Blacktoft and Spurn were regular haunts.

The White-tailed Lapwing that had been seen briefly at Stodmarsh, Kent in June this year had made its way to Blacktoft on the 26th August. It more or less took up residence but was no longer being reported however I guessed it may still be in the area. So, a visit was planned to break up the journey North last week.

This is a species that has only ever occurred in the UK a handful of times, but I had seen one that previously turned up at Leighton Moss in Lancashire during June 2007 after I had missed it at Caerlaverock in Dumfries and Galloway the previous week. However, it would be a new bird for Tania.

Visiting the reserve brought back a lot of memories. The hides and layout of the place hadn’t changed much. It didn’t take long to find the Lapwing feeding and sleeping in front of Xerox hide. I saw it much closer that I’d seen one previously, so managed to get a few acceptable photos. We concluded that it was one of the best birds we had seen for a while and spent a couple of hours in its company before heading off West.

We also took in a little bit of history by calling in at nearby Whitgift to see the Church. Lord how we laughed … Ha Ha.

19
Nov
21

Fallow

A wonderful fallow stag on the ‘Wild Ken Hill’ estate the other week. Even if he was a little lob-sided. Tours are available here https://wildkenhill.co.uk/

24
Oct
21

Well watched

I had to stop watching the Grey Phalarope today at Titchwell. It was making me dizzy. This living ‘clockwork toy’ of a bird was certainly popular and was attracting a constant stream of admirers.

09
Oct
21

A trip to see a trip

A slow walk north along the full length of Tresco is like drinking a fine wine. It has to be done slowly and enjoyed. Overcast with rain was gradually replaced with warm bright sunshine and the Scillies excelled at what it is best at … being beautiful.

In our annual trip to the archipelago we took a boat to Carn Near from St Mary’s, where we are staying, and made our way up the island to Castle Down. It’s years since I’ve been up to the North end of the Tresco but it was just as special as I remembered it. Gosh it was warm. A flyover Siskin reminded me it was October. Three Dotterel were thrown in for free with an added bonus of a pod of Harbour Porpoise offshore. What more could we ask for …

02
Oct
21

Creepy Crawlies

A good visit to RSPB Lakenheath last week gave a few good insects including this rather attractive Garden Spider found by Tania. The Goat Moth caterpillar was found by Richard one of my guests. Initially given the size I thought it must be a Hawk Moth but James Emerson put me right. Not a commonly seen larva or imago in this part of the world.

15
Sep
21

Conflict with Nature

There are a lot of good people in the world. People that wouldn’t dream of causing suffering to others humans or animals. Sadly there are people who care not for life in any form. They are capable of deeds that right thinking individuals could not contemplate.

The Faroe Islands are not British but they lie just outside British waters north of Shetland. The Faroes belong to Denmark.

The Faroese people periodically hold something called a grind. It’s a traditional method of hunting where dolphins are driven onshore by a flotilla of boats. About 600 pilot whales are caught every year on average. White-sided dolphins are caught in lower numbers, such as 35 in 2020 and 10 in 2019. The islanders have been warned not to eat cetacean meat because it’s invariably toxic with heavy metals. However, they continue to run the grinds.

On Sunday night a super-pod of 1428 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins was driven 45 km by speed boats and jet-skis into the shallow water at Skálabotnur beach where every single one of them was killed with knives. This is said to be a record catch. Again … 1428 animals.

You will have no doubt have seen this on the news and read about it in the newspapers? No? … Why? Let me tell you why. Because it has not been covered widely by mainstream media in any sort of depth that’s why. Yet we have headlines for a week over a single Alpaca that was humanly destroyed … all be it sadly incorrectly. Sometimes I don’t understand the press and the media I really don’t.

Each Atlantic White Sided Dolphin would have been 2.5 to 2.8m long. Take a look at the door in the room you’re sat in. All the animals would have been as long as that door is high … and some. That’s a lot of flesh. What in Gods name are they going to do with that lot?

It saddens me. The dolphins are now dead. We can’t bring them back. There’s nothing we can do for them. It saddens me that there are people who do not realise the true nature of their role on the planet. People who don’t realise they are the custodians of all life on Earth. I feel sad for them.

I can’t bring this to the attention of as many people as mainstream media. However if everyone reading this article shared it … it may gain a little traction. Remember most people are good. We need to spread the story of the antics of these sad sad people and persuasively, legally and calmly stop this happening again. After all it’s wrong … isn’t it?

Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd website https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/
03
Aug
21

Saving the best ’till last

I’m privileged to have some good customers. A tour to Cumbria with some experienced butterfly hunters this last weekend was great fun.

As we drove up through Lincs, Yorks then Lancs the weather looked somewhat imposing. The forecast didn’t look much better; uncertain at best. Every whiter cloud prompted comments of ‘it’s looking brighter’ or ‘it’s definitely brightening up’. I’ve been here before with butterfly tours and grey skies. You just have to look a lot harder!

It didn’t take us too long to find one of our target species. In fact several SCOTCH ARGUS showed brilliantly. This surprisingly large bright butterfly was quite mobile but we managed to tie a few down and take a few photographs. We searched meticulously for the main prize, High Brown Fritillary, without success. It was quite difficult walking too with loose limestone scree tiring on the legs. We retired defeated to our luxury hotel to have a welcome hot shower and a wonderful meal overlooking a bay of silver water slithered with golden sands backed by beautiful mountains.

The following day we searched again. Eventually as morning turned to afternoon we turned up a CASTLE EDEN ARGUS the subspecies of Northern Brown Argus we had been looking for. And then another. Result.

At this point the sun broke through the clouds and it was if the ground became alive. I have never seen as many Grayling butterflies. The number we saw in the next hour doubled the figure I had seen during the last five years. Incredible. A supporting cast of twenty something species and despite no High Brown Fritillary, we were happy hunters.

We opened up the flasks to imbibe a final coffee and decided to prepare for our drive back to Norfolk. As we chatted and drank up a last shaft of sunshine cracked the cloud and lit up the limestone cliff above us. Down the ray of golden sun descended a number of fritillaries. All flew immediately away but one was tempted back by the budleia beside the car. What happened next is difficult to convey but coffee and biscuits were abandoned; cameras just packed were brought back into use and there was lots of stumbling around to get a view. We all took a close look – our visitor showed the arched fore-wing and rusty under-wing spots of a HIGH BROWN FRITILLARY. Our third target was in the bag. What a finale. This wonderful little creature gave us a 20 minute pirouetting ballet before ascending back to the heaven from which it came.

Look out for next years tour. You’ll regret not being involved even if it’s just for the good craic.

Scotch Argus
salmasis’ – Northern Brown Argus
High Brown Fritillary



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