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Riverbank Tales

Apologies for not posting for a while. Things have been hectic here for reasons I’ll explain another time.

During a tour the other week I’d seen this rodent sneaking about in the undergrowth on the walk to the beach but didn’t get any good shots. It was far too quick for me. On the walk back in poorer light it was slightly more accommodating. I’ve never seen a Water Shrew with dark underparts before. It through me a little. Normally they have white underneath. However, the white ear tufts are conclusive enough.

Charming little creatures these. I think the ladies that stepped over me as I was photographing it laid flat out on the ground thought I was a bit loopy. Maybe they’re right.


Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreaks seem to have had quite an extended season this year. I’ve been finding them since early May. Our only green butterfly. A photo doesn’t quite do them justice. The iridescence on the wings is something quite special.

Green Hairstreak



Sometimes you can try too hard to find something. For many years now every time I’ve walked the paths across the heaths on the north Norfolk coast my eye is drawn to the horizontal branches and stumps in the hope of seeing a roosting Nightjar. To see one of these enigmatic birds in daylight has always been something that has been a wish during any walk in suitable habitat. Viewing them and attempting to photograph them in failing light when they come out to churr is ok but it’s hard to get a decent image and make out detail.

Let’s make it clear here it would be unethical as well as illegal to wander across the heaths and search for a bird. The risk of disturbing a rare breeding bird would be incalculably damaging. The idea is to find one viewable from a path, sat basking in bright sunshine well away from its nest.


We were watching a singing Woodlark the other day. A late one at that, but maybe it was a bird trying for second brood. It was flying high above us and belting out a song in the early morning light. Unexpectedly the moment was punctuated with the flypast of a Nightjar … in daylight! I thought it was a Kestrel at first. Very raptor like, appearing much bigger than a silhouette raking the gloom at dusk. Marvellous. It was there … and then it was gone.

Still not seen one on the deck … but I’ll keep running my eye over those logs and branches.



A Chinese colourfest

Always colourful and able to cheer up a drab day. Mandarins are just so well named. These were in Suffolk the other week.

Mandarin 1 Mandarin 2


A volery of Long tailed tits

Some of the most charming Long tailed Tits I’ve seen in a while came down to some feeders when we were in a hide last week. All the feeders were inside a chicken mesh cage which excluded squirrels and larger birds. I counted around 25 in or around the cage at one point.

Long tailed Tit



Hold on …


This young stoat was being held back by his mother as we walked passed them yesterday evening. These small endearing mustelids are persecuted, even on our reserves, so she was reluctant to let him out from their hiding place until we had gone by.




Ratty and Hammy

If you have enough years behind you to remember the Woodentops, Bill and Ben and Captain Pugwash then you will undoubtedly remember Tales of the Riverbank. a nostalgic view of the English Countryside (and some) with Johnny Morris – It’s difficult to believe this kept me cross legged in front of the TV every day.

On the last few tours we’ve encountered Water Voles feeding in among the reeds around the pools – just made me think of Tales from the Riverbank.

Water Vole


Probing Deep

Butterflies came into their own during late summer this year after a slow start in a cold spring. We watched a Painted Lady sipping nectar from a buddleia flower the other week. It was if she, and we must call all painted Ladies ‘she’ (it doesn’t work any other way) was sat in the sunshine chinking glasses, tasting the purest champagne of the floral world.

Painted Lady


Bit of a stink

I was told of a site for Stinking Hellebore last week. Not the best name in the world is it? It does have others; Dungwort, or Bears’ Foot, but gets its commonest name from the pungent smell when the foliage is crushed.

The plants occupy lime rich soil which is not often at the surface in Norfolk. It takes a cutting, cliff or escarpment to expose the underlying chalk. This site is therefore the only place (as far as I’m aware) where this plant occurs in the north of the county.

This early Hellebore is heaven sent for the early bees. It has yeast that lives within the plant and it’s the resporation of the yeast that raises the temperature of the flower just a little above its ambient surroundings. The slight heat generated helps to disperse the flowers scent to attract the few insects around in early spring. What an intricate reliance.

Of course being early flowering if you are one of only a few plants obvious on the forest floor you have to have some built in protection and every part of the plant is quite poisonous despite having quite beautiful green bell shaped flowers edged with purple.

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Jun 2023


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