Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Hemblington Church: archaeology and botany-blitz!

Good friend Sue gave a talk today about the history and archaeology of our little church. As expected, the morning was an absolute delight: well-attended, beautifully delivered and followed by tea and cheese scones!  I learned a great deal that I hadn't suspected about the church and its surroundings, much of which was discovered during various renovations and building projects over the past few years.

The event was organised by the Bure Valley Conservation Group, under the stewardship of David Savory and Tina Woodrow, and two local botanists were on hand to undertake a mini-survey of the churchyard. As usual, I carried out a bird count, finding;

Blue Tit,
Great Tit,
Long-tailed Tit,
Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Wood Pigeon,
Collared Dove

The three in red are new for the churchyard (as far as I know!) Flying across the neighbouring fields and in the trees by the 'carpark',  I saw Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Treecreeper: not a bad haul for an isolated patch of hedges and poplars. Some of the more interesting plants are shown below, and include Oxlip, Cowslip, Meadow Saxifrage, Pig Nuts and Yellow Rattle.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

First Damselfly of the year and some hot Marsh Harrier action!

Tuesday is Brian's Ranger Day at the Fen, so I generally try to meet him for a walk round: despite the icy wind and threatening clouds, today was no exception.

The only obvious new migrants were hordes of Swallows, House and Sand Martins and the usual warblers. To be honest, very little came in range for a photo, although several beautifully-coloured male Marsh Harriers flew close by Fen Hide. Other birds included distant Cuckoo and Kingfisher, while the woods held a splendid carpet of Bluebells.

The first Odonata of the year were, predictably, several Large Red Damselflies: no sign of any Hairies yet!

Back home a smart Jackdaw has begun visiting the feeders regularly and Linda's Trailcam revealed that a large Hedgehog is back on nocturnal patrol: most welcome!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Savi's Warbler at Hickling and a few other decent year ticks..

The weather forecast was, to say the least, unpromising, but I thought I'd dash out to Buckenham at 7.15 to see if I could catch up with Yellow Wag or Garganey: I didn't! However, the first half dozen Swifts of the year were most welcome, and there were a few photogenic Linnets and Water Deer along the path. As I was leaving, I bumped into a pleasant guy from Essex - Richard, I think - who'd just seen the Savi's at Hickling. Since it still wasn't raining (even after we'd enjoyed a longish chat about the various good birds we'd seen in Essex and Kent!) I thought I'd try my luck.

Parking at Potter church, I walked round to the hide overlooking Rush Hills Scrape, where a couple of birders were listening to the distinctive reeling from, perhaps, fifty yards into the reedbed. Eventually, after a few frustratingly fleeting glimpses, we all managed somewhat obscured views. Other interesting birds on site included two Spoonbills, two Whimbrel and a Hooded / Carrion Crow Hybrid. Several Bearded Tits and Groppers flitted about, and the other two picked out a distant Wheatear.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Jupiter and its four large Moons

Jupiter is a beautiful object in the eastern sky just after sunset: I thought I'd have a try at imaging it with my 500mm telephoto lens and 1.4 converter. Putting the camera on a robust tripod, I tried a range of ISOs and exposure times: some combinations produced good images of the satellites, but caused Jupiter to be over-exposed. Other settings gave the opposite result! In the end I stacked a good exposure of Jupiter over another of its satellites: the various stages are below! I tried hard, but couldn't capture any cloud belts - for that I reckon I'll need to use my telescope!

Incidentally: the Moon and Venus will be close in the dawn skies tomorrow morning...

Saturday, 22 April 2017


Five years ago we bought three Koi carp fingerlings and four tiny Golden Orfe for our small garden pond. Every winter I fear for their survival, as the die-back of the water weeds and marginal plants expose them to predation. And indeed: last year one of the Carp was stabbed by a Grey Heron. Amazingly, the remaining two of each species reappeared today: the carp must weigh around a pound at least: they're about a foot long now!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Cuckoo on the Heath!

As I was shaving this morning (with the bathroom window open!) I heard the unmistakeable sound of a Cuckoo calling close by. Still covered in foam, I walked through to the backdoor: from here it seemed that the bird was quite close, possibly on the phone wires just beyond the hedge that separates our garden from the fields beyond: so it proved!

A couple of weeks ago Sue (our birder friend from two doors down!) e-mailed to say she'd heard a Cuckoo: I casually dismissed this as a Collared Dove. It's been three or four years since I last heard a Cuckoo on the Heath: even so, perhaps I was a little hasty - if so, a thousand apologies, Sue!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

North Coast: Dartfords, Ouzels and winter geese!

Norman, Brian and I made an earlyish start and were at a well-known heath on the North Coast by around eight o'clock. Despite the frost still on the ground, it was a warm day and the Woodlarks and Dartfords sang and flew around, although never near enough for photography in the heat haze! A Buzzard and Rook put on an aerial show, at the end of which the Buzzard emerged triumphant. Other birds included five distant Ring Ouzels, lots of Linnets and a few Stonechats.

After coffee at Cley we carried on to Burnham Overy Staithe, from where we walked out to Gun Hill. At least five more Ring Ouzels shimmered in the heat haze, while Sedge Warblers and Wheatears performed obligingly. Still lots of Brents and Pinkfeet: I imagine many of the former will over-Summer out in the Wash.

And so home to cut the lawn!