Archive for the 'wildlife' Category


Tree top visitor

The cold Northerly and grey skies over East Anglia of late have made for limited Butterflies on the wing. However, there’s always something to see. Indeed the cold windy weather had perhaps driven a usual tree top dweller down to eye level on one butterfly tour last week.

I’ve always wanted to see the unusual looking Snakefly. However, they rarely come down from the tree canopy. Thanks to Tim, friend and guest on a tour last week, I eventually crossed it off my bucket list when he found a couple one of which was this female. It was friend James that ‘keyed it-out’ for us to identify it to Oak Snakefly, one of the four British species.

That neck – just amazing.



A trip into Suffolk … just. A quest to photograph Fen Raft Spider. First you have to find them. Easier said than done. It’s one of those tasks where you have to ‘get your eye-in’. What that means is staring at muddy pools until you see one. We found about half a dozen in the few hours we were on site. None were close enough to get the detailed photo I wanted but all sat with their front legs touching the waters surface … waiting to pick up the vibrations of a passing meal.



My customers, particularly those that visit Scotland with me, often ask about Mountain Hares and Hen Harriers. Both species are in conflict with human occupation. Over the many years I’ve been visiting the Highlands I’ve seen the numbers of both decline dramatically. Both species occupy the same moorland habitat as Red Grouse. In the past a great deal of effort has been put into eliminating any threat to Red Grouse shoots; money is the driving factor. Profits from Grouse shoots can be substantial.

Hen Harriers will take the grouse. Mountain Hares help spread a tick which will carry a virus that can have detrimental effects on grouse numbers.

It’s always been illegal to shoot Harriers and it’s now illegal in Scotland to shoot Mountain Hares without a licence. However it still happens.

Even the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) admit “Despite evidence that illegal killing does occur, and at a large enough scale to significantly impact numbers of some birds of prey….”

They however caveat the situation by further stating “… the extent to which they are illegally killed and the number remaining (to determine the accuracy of the claim that all predators are killed) is not known.”

I don’t think I’ve ever explored an organisations website that is so full of crap. Take a look for yourself There’s even a separate site headed ‘What the science says – the UK’s conservation fact checking resource’ run by the GWCT that purports to be based on science fact. However, it defends at all costs, what we’ll call ‘game farming’.

Even the recent article on Capercaillie majors on the cause of the decline in this rather special bird as the increase in Pine Marten numbers and yet even within the article they state ‘Recently modelled data suggest that in the absence of deer fencing, capercaillie numbers would be 16% higher and the risk of extinction within the next 50 years would fall from 95% to just 3%’.

It’s worth pointing out these two species have developed alongside one another for millennia.

Very poorly written articles that don’t conclude correctly based on the ‘evidence’ they present.


Oh Deer!

Red Deer at Minsmere often pop out of the reedbed quite unexpectedly. A small party of four trotted by us the other day as we waited for bittern to fly-up. I guess I might sound a bit elitist if I say I was quite disappointed to hear the crowd in the rather full hide call them ‘Roe’ or ‘Fallow’; even ‘Muntjac’ was called more than once.

We all have to learn. We all make mistakes. God I’ve made a few howlers in my time, but if someone from the other side of the world who has only lived here in the UK three years can put a name to the beasts surely it’s not too much to ask someone who has lived here all their life to know a little about the wildlife they might encounter? Do you think this is why we have such a decimated ecosystem in the UK … because the general public just don’t know or care enough to know what they have around them?


Minsmere Odonata

Tania had never been to Minsmere and I was keen to show her what is probably the RSPB’s showcase reserve. So we had a trip down into Suffolk last weekend. Some good birds as well as insects. Probably the cream of the insect crop was a few Hairy Dragonflies. This individual picked up by Tania perched in a bramble was a newly emerged Hairy Dragonfly. Notice the incompletely unfurled wings. However, the note the yellow costa and antenodal cross-veins that help to identify this species even at some distance.


Hair of the cow?

I’ve spent a few mornings recently down at Water Lane Car Park here in West Runton. Patiently awaiting arrival of Spring migrants. With the recent Northerlies they weren’t coming in ‘thick and fast’. To pass the time the other day I was watching a few Jackdaws collecting nesting material. If you see any bald bovines about … you know why!


A spot of Gardening

Whenever you hear Garden Warblers it’s inevitably from deep within vegetation. Not always but most often. Hidden away, to be heard and not seen; the exact opposite to expectations of a Victorian child. It was with some surprise then when I looked out from the car park and saw one sat atop a bramble bush. I had a good look, and it seemed to be singing without opening its bill. There was in fact another singing close by! The more I listened, the more I heard. When I counted up there were four birds singing from the tops of brambles and trees within an area of 50 square metres. All out in the open like they had attended some sort of Stonechat schooling course. What was going on?

The only thing I can think of is the territories were so close to one another they were having to force the situation and show themselves off in an attempt to dominate the competition. What the male of the species does to attract a mate … ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



A scarce bird these days. Spotted Flycatcher last week.


Cetacean Course

Details of a cetacean course in June at Cley NWT are here – everyone is welcome, booking essential.


The Proposed Barrage over The Wash

I went to Wells earlier this week, to visit the theatre. There was a debate being held on the ‘Future of The Wash’. The debate was primarily between Dominic Buscall of Wild Ken Hill and James Sutcliffe CEO of Centre Port Ltd.

Dominic is a modern farmer and conservationist who has developed a well-known regenerative agriculture and rewilding area, at Wild Ken Hill, in Northwest Norfolk. He is rapidly becoming a hero of mine.

You may already be aware that Centre Port Ltd wish to privately fund an 11 to 15 mile long barrage between Norfolk and Lincolnshire. The barrage would effectively be a road across The Wash between the two counties. Situated on that road would be a container port. The barrage would house a number of turbines that would generate electricity from the incoming and outgoing tides. The barrage was also being heralded as the answer to rising sea levels brought about by climate change that would protect the low-lying areas of land adjacent to The Wash.

The developer’s website claims that a core aim of the development is to provide guardianship of the ecology of The Wash and Fenlands, its agriculture and the preservation of the natural habitat in the face of escalating climate change. Needless to say the effect on wildlife, particularly birds, within the most important estuary in North-West Europe had hardly been considered. The effect on the wildlife, particularly birds in this important area would be tragic. Just where Centre Port Ltd have been for the past few years is unknown but wherever they were they failed to hear we are in a biodiversity crisis.

Mr Sutcliffe made some astounding claims during the evening regarding consultation with environmental bodies which were not only proved by several in the audience to be fabricated but he also seemed to get rather confused over the costings of the project.

Mr Buscall retorted to Mr Sutcliffe’s presentation with some well thought through arguments against the barrage that were confidently and well delivered.

At a time in our history when we are advocating ‘buy local’ a new container port in the UK, shipping goods from and to distant parts of the world, can be judged nothing more than a White Elephant. Although the project was being heralded as a ‘green’ project because of the production of tidal electricity the increase in greenhouse gas emissions on site and in distant parts of the world supplying business for the container port would add to the effects of global warming and thereby add to increasing sea levels.

The electricity production naturally takes energy from the tidal water. That water replenishes the silt and sand within The Wash. One expert in the audience stated the project would turn The Wash into nothing more than a ‘green, fetid lake’. Mr Sutcliffe seemed to think that a sandy beach along the dual carriageway atop the barrage would be a boon to the leisure industry. He even sited the port could be used by Cruise Ships for visits to York and Cambridge.

I’m just dismayed that once again wildlife comes second; the effect upon this important flyway, feeding and wintering ground for migrating birds is considered after the event. For Christs sake just leave The Wash alone and let the birds thrive and prosper as much as they can.

There was much talk during the evening about the extreme weather events that we are experiencing. Events that discharge flood water into The Wash. Water that would be prevented from leaving the area due to a barrage as quickly as it was hoped would in itself create a flood risk.

We do have to deal with Climate Change. We will have to make changes to combat effects of rising sea levels; I feel a barrage over The Wash just isn’t the answer.

The legal protections offered to The Wash are many and varied. It is a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). The area has also recently been added to a list of areas in consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Every single local and national wildlife body that has made comment is against the project.

I cannot believe anyone would want to invest in something that is so clearly doomed. Sadly, the effort required to halt construction and the distraction it will provide for environmentalists is tragic. Anyone connected with the greed for money that is so obviously driving the Centre Port Ltd project should hang their heads in shame.

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Jun 2023


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