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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
25
Jul
21

How to identify a Sei Whale

Since I published the post on visiting the Albatross in Yorkshire and the Sei whale in Scotland I’ve had a couple of conversations about how to recognize Sei Whale from other similar cetaceans. I did a composite photo with some tell tale detail for another social media site, so I’ve repeated it again here. I feel sure some Minke Whale sightings in the UK are in fact Sei Whales and perhaps this species is being overlooked and is not as rare here as we may suppose.

Minke is much smaller than Sei. So size is important but is so difficult to judge at sea. However, there are three other important differences that are easier to judge

1 The Blow – A Minke’s blow is rarely visible. Sei blow habitually.

2 The dorsal fin – A Sei whale has a scythe like fin on its back and although a Minke whale’s fin is similar it is never as ‘hooked’ as a Sei Whale.

3 The dive sequence – A Minke will bend in the water, arch over and ‘dive’. A Sei Whale will just ‘sink’ horizontally as shown by the progression of photos.

Oh! and while we’re talking ‘cetacean’ a reminder the Sea Watch Foundation National Whale and Dolphin Watch is in progress. Tania and I will be on the cliff just east of Weybourne car park on TUESDAY 27th JULY from 10am to 4pm if you care to join us at any time. The weather is forecast to be mixed so please bring wet weather clothing just in case.

05
Jul
21

A few good birds

Lots of tours at the moment. Busy, busy, busy. A few good birds have cropped up en passant.

15
Jun
21

A Tern for the Better

On the ‘East Coast Seabird Tour this last weekend I expected to see several tern species; Arctic, Common, Sandwich and Little. Even a Rosette or two. However I didn’t expect a velvety summer plumage Black Tern. One showed extremely well in Beadnell Bay and we took advantage of the opportunity. We also saw a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins which did what Bottlenose Dolphins do and were attempting to bow ride our boat. Great weekend with great company and some fabulous birds.

24
May
21

Tigers and bees

Cliff Mining Bee … active on the cliffs at the moment. Green Tiger Beetle active almost everywhere. Been seeing lots of them the last couple of weeks.

18
May
21

Migration

A few migrants were making themselves known on the coast this last week. Seeing the Lesser Whitethroat was particularly nice.

08
Apr
21

The Birds and the Bees

We all have our nemesis. Even the humble bee.

Thanks to information from friend Cieran I visited a little hub of bee activity this week. The nesting site of a colony of Hairy footed flower Bees was buzzing with activity including some of the Hairy foots cleptoparasites Common Mourning Bees.

Now, Hairy Footed Bees give you more or less what it says on the tin. Well at least the males do. The females however are a dark round miniature football of a bee without the hairy feet. Well, how many females do you know that want hairy feet? They do wear orange stockings though.

The Common Mourning Bees however have go-faster white spots down their chassis. These guys sit and wait, then creep into the burrows of the HFFB’s and lay their eggs. When the grubs hatch they eat the eggs of the HFFBs as well as the stored pollen put there for the offspring of the HFFBs to feed upon.

You would think with all this coming and going, creeping and subversive tactics it would be enough. No. There were hundreds if not thousands of Yellow-legged Mining Bees amid the colony. Again, you get what you pay for with these small andrena bees; bright yellow legs! Their nemesis is the sleek ‘wasp-like’ Painted Nomad Bee, sporting orange legs and antenna. Yet another bee with cuckoo like tendencies. The male’s green eyes are quite a sight. Not known in Norfolk until 2006 I found a singleton roaming around the colony looking for a partner in crime no doubt. He’d even chosen her a nice big flower to tempt her into a bit of cold outdoor mating. Buuurrrr!

If cold northerlies halt the birds in their tracks … there are always the bees to look at!




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