Archive Page 2

05
Sep
21

One Day

It doesn’t often happen that a customer cancels a tour but occasionally everyone gets ill. So it was last Friday. The day was mine to do with as I wished.

I thought I’d have a go at the Red breasted Flycatcher that had been around Trimingham churchyard the previous day. Busmans holiday and all that. As soon as I arrived a Pied Flycatcher flipped into an eye level branch of a beautiful open Cherry tree. It stayed just long enough for me to un-clip the camera bag and get the camera out. It had vanished by the time I’d raised the camera to my eye. I waited another hour before I saw it again. It perched just above an old girl kneeling at a gravestone, whispering to herself or maybe her interned loved one. Rather than disturb her I went for a walk to the sea. The scene was grey. The wind was whipping in from the North off the water. There was a smell of rare bird in the air. It was palpable.

By the time I returned to the churchyard I had it to myself again. I heard the Pied call and followed the sound to a spreading oak, before seeing it in the canopy and firing off a few record shots. As I was watching the bird something caught my eye. It was a bat circling the church. A Natter’s Bat. I tried to take a few pictures but as soon as I’d altered the settings on the camera it disappeared under the church eves. Presumably it was late in from a night shift. I never did see the Red breasted despite assistance from Paul and Rose that popped in for a quick look, so I presume it had moved on. Curiously a good number of Speckled Wood butterflies were alighting on gravestones. Not sure why; absorbing salts maybe?

I used to visit this area a lot when I lived at Falcon Cottage. It’s grown up a little and the trees in the churchyard are now ideal habitat for migrant birds. The area suffers from an absence of parking. Something to consider if anything truly amazing turns up there. In fact when I returned to the vehicle I had a polite but lengthy note on my windscreen asking me to consider where I parked as they couldn’t reverse into their drive opposite when approaching from the main road. Well my lovie, if you couldn’t reverse into your drive given the space I’d left …. I think it’s about time to give up your licence. It did occur to me they could have rung me in the time it took to write the note, the mobile number is on the side of the car. I was only yards away. I’d have gladly come and moved the damn thing. I did think I’d leave a ‘counter-note’ where they could read it but thought better of it. Some of my friends still watch this area. I didn’t want to escalate anything that would reflect upon them when they visit. I resolved not to park there again.

Home for lunch and then I though I’d take a drive West to Cley. As I pulled away from Sheringham a beautiful green locomotive was steaming its way towards Holt. I got ahead of it and took some photos of the stately beast as it crossed the road. Steam engines still hold a thrill. I guess it comes from having a father who gave most of his life to British Rail.

A message on my phone regarding a Sykes’s Warbler was going to change my afternoon. This is a bird from the Middle East that winters in the Indian subcontinent. It’s occurrence here is accidental with less than twenty previous UK records. I missed the first one in Norfolk in August 2002. It would have felt churlish to ignore the second.

The bird acquired its name from William Henry Sykes, a naturalist serving with the British Army in India. He discovered fifty six species of bird new to science and several species, including the warbler, bear his name.

The bad news is this individual was on Blakeney Point; well half way up Blakeney Point to be exact. Another avian progeny of James McCallum and Kayn Forbes. I hate Blakeney Point. Three steps forward and two back. All that calf burning shingle. I took my time walking out there; a bit like a reluctant kid going to the barbers. Walking along the suaeda edge was no fun at all. The only passerine I saw in the two mile walk was a single Reed Bunting.

When I arrived at Halfway House the bird was still being watched at the end of ‘the runway’; a short turfed area amid the shingle and suaeda bushes where I’ve seen several rarities over the years. It was periodically being glimpsed by a line of optic toting admirers as it flew over the sea of fruticosa. I joined them and managed to watch from a high point and get one or two distant photos but I wanted to get a good look at the bird rather than photograph it. Over the years I’ve found in these instances it’s better to give the bird room and wait for it to show. Some in the crowd even voiced this … but it fell on deaf ears. Bush bashing, drive type twitching in my eyes is impatient bird watching and no longer appeals to me. I would rather the birds welfare came first. The bird needs to rest and should be left to show on its own terms. However, this sort of habitat, deep bootlace ripping growth, doesn’t promote the bird being seen without some intervention. I left slightly disappointed, with mixed feelings and perhaps earlier than I would have normally.

I dragged my feet walking back as I contemplated the day. Would it be better to make a ‘second plantation’ at Half Way House duplicating the area at the point to make observation a little easier for bird and birdwatcher alike? I don’t know.

I decided to make the return journey on the seaward side, along the beach; still shingle but maybe a little firmer and a bit of sea to look at too. It was good to have Ian’s company for part of the walk East. When Ian strode out ahead I was joined by a Grey Seal curious enough to follow me for a while; although she wasn’t up for much conversation

All in all … a mixed day.

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.

31
Aug
21

Small but perfectly formed

No more than a few millimetres. A perfectly formed Heath Snail.

27
Aug
21

On the Web

Tania found a Wasp Spider the other day when we were on tour. It’s intriguing why the web would have such an interesting zig-zag patterning, called a ‘stabilimentum’ always weaved into its lower half.

23
Aug
21

Adonis in the rain

It’s no coincidence that probably the most stunning butterfly we have in the UK carries the name of the god of desire and beauty.

We were once again up against it with the weather. This time in our search for Adonis Blue Butterflies. A gun metal grey sky and occasional drizzle didn’t put us off taking a small group to Hertfordshire on Saturday. The day was brightened considerably by us finding about 20 males and a few females of this metallic blue beauty.

Here’s Tania showing off the finer points of a male Adonis Blue which took to her hand for the warmth. Even the underside of the wings on this creature go above expectations.

14
Aug
21

A little skip

I’m not sure what species of seaweed or pine cone the BBC are using for forecasting these days but I’ll give them some information for free … it’s not working. When the weather app says sunny all day for several days in advance and with 12 hours to go they change it to cloud with rain something ain’t right. The clue is in the name. It’s supposed to be a ‘fore-cast‘.

Anyways, it’s sufficient to say finding butterflies on the Silver Spotted Skipper day in Buckinghamshire wasn’t as easy as it could have been on Thursday. However, even with the drizzle, even with the cloud and even in the rain we managed to find 18 species of butterfly on one south facing slope. Included in the list were some dazzling Adonis Blues and of course a couple of Silver Spotted Skippers.

11
Aug
21

Leporids

A few Leporids around on tours the other day.

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)
06
Aug
21

A few More

A few more butterflies from the last couple of weeks.

Silver Washed Fritillary
Dark Green Fritillary
Gate Keeper showing some additional spotting and a blemish on the left wing
Wall Brown
Small Copper showing unusually long ‘tails’ on the hind-wing – tails are not unusual on males of second broods but these are quite long.
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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