Posts Tagged ‘wildlife tours and education


Shrike a light

Why would I need a scope? This was a mammal tour and we were going to walk down the dunes and look at some seals. Absolutely no need for a scope and tripod. Why on earth would I bother to cart it all the way down to the seals?

Each spring I run a mammal day in Norfolk. We start at around midday and finish close to midnight. It’s normal to get a dozen or so mammals on the list sometimes more, sometimes less. On the walk down to the seals we had the weather to our backs and to be fair it had improved from the persistent rain of the last couple of hours but the wind was gathering speed. I was scanning the hedgerows and fence lines to see if I could pick up on a Water Deer sheltering from the wind, when a flash of white caught my eye. It was a distant shrike sat on the fence. It was seemingly feeding constantly; dipping down to the ground then returning to the fence. I could make out through bins that it had a black forehead and a rose tinted breast. Time of the year told me it was more likely to be a Lesser Grey Shrike than anything else but I had heard an unseasonal Great Grey Shrike was in Cambridgeshire. I really needed my scope to get a closer look. …Ooops!

I put the word out, with a cautionary caveat, to a few local birders and friends as well as RBA (Rare Bird Alert). This was the only potential Lesser Grey in the UK at the moment and I didn’t want to state it categorically was a Lesser Grey without a closer look. I fired off a few distant record shots and tore myself away to take my guests down to the beach to photograph the Grey Seals.

It was as we were stood on the beach I took a look at the photos on the back of the camera and realised it was undoubtedly a Lesser Grey.

As we returned to the dunes the first local birders were arriving and I told them where it had been but said by now it was probably sheltering from the wind in the bushes … which on examination it was.

A nice bit of icing on the day which we finished at around 10pm with a couple of adult badgers along with two rather large cubs.



Herts Bucks Butterfly fest

A good day trip into Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire this last weekend. Good weather, good company and good Butterflies … plus a few Orchids thrown in. Thanks to Tony for the subsequent identification of the Duke of Burgundy aberration.

Dingy Skipper

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy form Leucodes

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy

Greater Butterfly Orchid

Grizzled Skipper

Small Blue


Greater Butterfly Orchid


A spring upwards?

My heart has been lifted over the last few weeks. It’s not often one feels positive about something and it’s purely anecdotal of course. However, I have been bumping into Cuckoos a lot on tours lately. In fact I’ve been hearing and seeing them on almost every ventures outside, in some random places too! I even went out to put rubbish in the bin the other day and one flew over the churchyard opposite. Let’s hope this is the start of a turnaround in the decline of perhaps our most iconic bird.



On the Scottish Tour earlier this month one of the several key species we aim to see is Snow Bunting. They breed high in the Scottish mountains so their plumage is far different from the somewhat drab wintering birds we see in Norfolk. We found this skulking male in among a rock wall sheltering from the wind.

Next years tours to Scotland in April are now advertised. Two trips to choose from. Details are here and here


Nothing but a streak

You might be forgiven for thinking a Brown Hairstreak is an unsightly slight soiling of underwear. However you’d be wrong. It’s a butterfly. Correction. It’s an elusive butterfly. Living almost the entirety of its life in tall Ash trees feeding on the sweet sap excreted by aphids they are hard to find; and I mean really hard to find. A good deal of patience is required to see them, let alone photograph them. I managed this shot of one in flight the other week. It’s better to wait until a little later in the season until females come down lower to lay eggs; but I guess I’m just impatient.


Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby

They have been described as ‘living jewels’. When you see your first they certainly make you draw breath;, they are quite beautiful however they could easily pass unnoticed. Ruby tailed Wasps are small; As parasitic wasps go it’s smaller than what you would think at only 8 to 10mm long and only a couple of millimetres wide. Their speed and agility as they inspect other wasps nests into which they lay their eggs is astounding; a photographers nightmare. They aren’t common either. So scarcity, size and restlessness makes them an ‘interesting‘ photography subject.


Mammal Tour 2019

The 2019 Mammal Tour is now open for bookings – full details are available to download here

Take a look at just a few of the mammals we encountered this year … and it’s not just about mammals either … some amazing birds to be seen too.

The Scottish Badger is a smaller race than the English version.

We saw two pods of Bottlenose Dolphins on the east coast.

We saw around 150 Common Dolphin – always the most entertaining of mammals and everyone’s favourite – this was taken from the boat before the animal surfaced..

Porpoise were in good numbers around Ardnamurchan. I stopped counting when I got to more than a hundred.

One of seven Minke Whales we came accross

We watched this Osprey displaying with a fish. One of nine birds we saw during the week

The most enigmatic mammal of the Highlands this Pine Marten really entertained us

A surprise interloper at a bait ball we came across was this Pomarine Skua sporting full ‘spoons’ – always good to see.

Prolific in the Highlands we saw some good herds of Red Deer

Never as easy to find during late May as they are earlier in the year we eventually saw a few Red Squirrels

Several Storm Petrels were seen during our boat trip to the Cairnes of Col

One surprise mammal was this male Walrus. Something we REALLY didn’t expect to see.

We saw several White tailed Eagles while searching for the 22 mammals we eventually saw

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June 2019
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