Thursday, 25 May 2017

Yellow Wagtails at Blofield Heath!

I've walked dozens of miles this spring and visited every regular site looking for a Yellow Wagtail to photograph. Today my Big Bro' came up from Kent to join me for a run round the Yare Valley resorts: Yellow Wag was very much on the agenda!

First port of call was Cantley: like everywhere else in the Valley at the moment there was  far too much water for any waders and there were hardly any ducks or gulls either. The two most interesting birds were a Red Kite dozing on a distant windpump and one of the Peregrines sitting on its nest atop the silo elevator. A Hot Cross Bun was steaming on one of the paths!

A move northwards produced the lovely sound of two - possibly three - Turtle Doves purring away at a traditional site, but we never got a glimpse!

Last stop was Strumpshaw, where the only subjects we found  at which to point a camera were the clump of Twayblade Orchids. It looked as if Rob's visit was destined to be a little unproductive, but at the eleventh hour a pair of Yellow Wagtails dropped onto the road in front of us! Within a mile of the front door, these beautiful sprites flirted with what little traffic uses the road before flying off into the wheatfields.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Leucistic Pochard and other goodies at Cley

It's that time of year again: if anything new turns up, it's likely to be something extra special: that didn't happen today! However, Brian, Norman and I had a morning at Cley and enjoyed the sunshine, the craik and the cheese scones! The birds weren't bad, either!

The walk out to the sea along the East Bank produced a few family groups of Bearded Tits (around 20 in total) including some amusing youngsters: Reed and Sedge Warblers were fairly showy, as were the several Little Egrets and Marsh Harriers. Most interesting find was an amazing leucistic Pochard that shared its pool with four or five more orthodox birds!

Several times we bumped into local artist Rachel Lockwood: her on-the-spot sketches were beautiful! She pointed out a group of three Hares chasing each other along the shingle ridge - by the time we reached the sea, they were quite distant but actually on the beach!

Sandwich, Common and Little Terns were passing by, as were a few distant Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes...
After coffee we moved on to Kelling Quags: lots of Butterflies, including Green-veined White, Orange Tip and Gatekeeper, but no Yellow Wagtails - just a few Whitethroats.


Image by Norman Tottle

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Fabulous Strumpshaw Fen: Swallowtails, reptiles, birds, plants and odonata!

As I may have remarked in the past: if you're at the Fen early enough, there's almost always something to see: today was no exception! I met Brians S & T in Fen Hide at around 7.00, where we were entertained by some close Marsh Harriers and a flock of eleven Black-tailed Godwit flying through. Cuckoos were calling and the summer warblers were tuning up nicely!

A walk along to Tower Hide produced Variable and Azure Damselflies, as well as Banded Demoiselle: birds were represented by Garden Warbler, Hobby and Cuckoo. Tower Hide wasn't particularly fruitful - Suffolk's beached whales would have been OK in the lagoon today - but Chinese Water Deer and Marsh Harrier came close.

Lackford Run gave Brian Tubby and me our first Swallowtails of the year: two or perhaps three flew in between us too close for a photo-call! The 'Boardwalk' gave us a really green-tinged Common Lizard and a Buzzard, while the Broad and two dipping pools near Reception added Grass Snake, Kingfisher and a closer Hobby. And so off to Wex to pick up my Pentax K3!

Monday, 22 May 2017

More Hobbies, and book update.

This year I'm being spoiled by Hobbies! Sixty-plus at Lakenheath, six at the Fen and six more at Buckenham: today four were chasing Swifts over the Heath!

Is it a particularly good year for these dashing little Falcons, or have I just looked up at the right time? With a few days sunny weather forecast (right up to, but not including, Bank Holiday Monday) I reckon I'll see a few more yet!

The PDF of the new book is at the printers and - fingers crossed - should be available online or from a link on this blog in under a week.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Buckenham Marshes: a great morning, marred by a thoughtless dog-walker...

Linda and I grabbed a quick couple of hours at Buckenham before lunch today: almost the first bird we saw was a Hobby, which was quickly joined by five more and a Buzzard! I have never personally seen six Hobbies together in the Yare Valley (though doubtless others have!) A red Kite drifted over the river to Claxton, where two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were already hunting.

Two drake Garganey brightened up the large pool on the right of the path, while Reed and Sedge Warblers were everywhere! Avocets were defending their nests, with greater success than the Lapwings, which lost chicks to the 1cy Great Black-backed Gull, a Heron and a Little Egret while we watched.

Lots of insects: Variable and Azure Damselflies and a Banded Demoiselle were nice: but here's one for James: what's this beautiful Bee-fly (?)

As we walked along towards the hide, a van drove far too quickly to the anglers' carpark: once parked, the driver opened the back doors to release five large dogs, with which she strode away towards the mill. Now and then one or another would rush into a dyke, scattering the wildfowl. As Linda and I sat by the wind pump, three of the dogs came rushing at us through the long grass and nettles, snarling and barking: the woman didn't apologise or even acknowledge that her dogs were causing us alarm. Now the woman was perfectly entitled to be on the path with her five dogs, but by the level crossing is a large sign informing people that the area is a Nature Reserve and asking them to keep dogs on a lead. This woman obviously walks dogs for a living, and you'd've thought she could have found somewhere else to do so where she wasn't frightening young calves and disturbing breeding birds. I met the Marshman by the gate: he was pretty hacked off, having seen the dogs swimming in dykes and running loose off the paths! Now although the footpath is a public right of way, the dykes and marshes certainly are not!