Friday, 16 March 2018

Yellow-legged Gull - amongst others - at Cromer

Linda and I had business in North Norfolk today, so we stopped off at Cromer Seafront for coffee at the excellent Rocket House CafĂ©. I always have my camera with me, so was pleased to see a good group of large gulls congregated on the beach. These were predominantly Greater Black-backed Gulls with a few Herrings and Lessers, but among the flock was what I take to have been an adult Yellow-legged Gull. There was also a gull with a long and very clean neck as well as others that might have been Caspians in various plumages....

Later on, in Holt, I bought Linda a rare piece of Wade porcelain for her collection from an absolutely charming Antiques dealer called Anthony: he runs an incredibly well-stocked shop called 'Baron Art' - well worth a visit!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

This year's targets!

With Spring around the corner (allegedly!) and a Large Tortoiseshell photographed on the south coast (see 'Lyon's Den') one can't but start to think about what would be good to see (and hopefully photograph!) in Norfolk this year.
Top of the list are two insects:

Large Tortoiseshell / Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, naturally, followed by:
Common Hawker,
which I'd still like to come across in my home county.

Like many old timers, I've seen (and videoed!) a lot of decent birds just once or twice, all before the advent of affordable DSLRs and decent lenses: some of these - in no particular order - would be great to catch up with again:

Slender-billed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Black-throated Thrush
Black Stork
River Warbler
Lesser Short-toed Lark

These are all birds I've only seen once: to them I'd add three I missed last time:

Trumpeter Finch
Black Lark
Great Snipe

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Hidden agendas and mixed messages...

In a previous post I mentioned that the BTO's recent statement about feeding garden birds could be misunderstood by some and interpreted as a reason for not continuing to do so. Predictably one or two mindless souls e-mailed me with insulting (and in one case biologically impossible) suggestions! And here we go again!

Last night Linda and I accompanied good friends Sue, Peter, Joyce and Andrew to a lecture by 'Songbird Survival', a registered charity that states that its major aim is to promote more rigorous investigation of the causes of the decline of our resident songbirds. So far, so good...

Now I'm no apologist for cats and their predatory habits, but the speaker continually called for 'the guilty cat-owners to put their hands up.' He must have repeated this half a dozen times, thus alienating a fair percentage of the audience. (No mention of the problems caused by unleashed dogs on beaches and bird reserves!)

The speaker failed to acknowledge or address several points raised by the audience (shooting / trapping of migratory birds, over-use of agrochemicals, illegal keepering / grouse moor 'management' etc) preferring instead to suggest that the way forward was to cull predators such as foxes, badgers and Grey Squirrels. He continued by claiming that 'scientific evidence' proved that  all Corvids, Muntjac Deer, Sparrowhawks and Hedgehogs were major factors in songbird decline and should be culled or eliminated!

The gentleman displayed several slides of himself chatting with ex-PM Cameron, and said enough to suggest that he was broadly in agreement with the policies of the 'Countryside Alliance'.

If conserving songbirds means eradicating raptors, I want no part in it....

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Best ever Little Owl, Raven, Woodcock and other great stuff!

Not a case of bolting the stable door: Brian and I fancied a drive out to the north-west of the county to look for Short-eared Owls (And, of course, there was just a chance we might be in the right place if the Snowy turned up again.)

First stop was Abbey Farm, Flitcham: a delightful little private reserve that produced a distant Little Owl and several jaunty Oystercatchers. A move to Sandringham failed to add Golden Pheasant to the day list, but a Raven gronk-gronking from a tall conifer was a pleasant surprise. (Not so pleasant was an extremely rude and abusive couple who let their Gordon Setter off the lead right by two 'All dogs on leads' signs.)

Snettisham Pits provided some good exercise and views of a drake Pintail and plastic Barnacle Goose, as well as all the regular waders.

An enforced detour via Docking gave Brian and me our best-ever views of a second Little Owl in a roadside tree! We carried on to Titchwell for lunch, adding Woodcock, Red Kite (complete with big rat!) and Bearded Tit to our satisfyingly full day list.


Amazing Pallasites

If I had to pick a favourite class of meteorite, it would probably be the Pallasites. 

Generally believed to have originated at the core / mantle boundary of small, disrupted planets, they consist of a nickel-iron matrix in which are suspended fragments of crystalline minerals such as olivine and pyroxene. Very rare (making up less than 2% of meteorite falls) the whole class is named after German naturalist Peter Paul Pallas (of warbler, eagle and rosefinch fame!) He was the first person to describe the group, following his examination of a meteorite he found near Kransnojarrsk, Siberia in 1772.

The best-known members of the group are those from Seymchan and Pallasovka (a city named after our hero PPP!) Imilac and Admire. This month I managed to import a decent amount of a new find from Kenya which is generally called Sericho or Habaswein after its place of discovery.

Until you cut and polish a pallasite it looks a bit like a potato: inside, though, the beautiful structure is revealed!

Monday, 12 March 2018

You couldn't make it up....

A couple of boffins from the BTO have just been on 'Look East' blaming the decline in the numbers of Greenfinches and other songbirds on garden bird feeders.

I can see the validity behind the science: dirty feeders and rotting peanuts are certainly likely to be vectors of pathogens (particularly fungi) but with so many species in crisis, it's not, IMHO, the best time to be putting people off feeding wild birds.

Carefully selected foods presented appropriately in clean feeders is vital to make up for the dramatic losses brought about by modern agriculture and the burgeoning cat population of the UK: Linda and I get dozens of House Sparrows, Starlings, Blackbirds and Tits in the garden: species you'd struggle to see at many nature reserves!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Always a silver lining....

The removal of an old Leylandii hedge by our neighbours has opened up our northern and eastern vistas: this means we can now watch both Buzzards and Little Owls in the trees across the fields towards Pedham.

In the past there have been Ring Ouzels in this field, so fingers crossed!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Goshawks (and other raptors!) in the Brecks...

A fabulous - if somewhat damp - morning in the Brecks with Brian. As soon as we arrived at the regular watchpoint we began to pick up raptors: groups of Buzzards, pairs of Red Kites, a possible Hen Harrier. Then Brian picked out a fast-travelling Goshawk: the first of three or four we saw in an hour or so.

After lunch at Brown's, we took a walk around Lynford, adding the usual woodland species as well as large flocks of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls, finishing off at Santon Downham, where the best we managed was a flighty Grey Wagtail.