Saturday, 22 July 2017

'Tree Fair' at Strumpshaw Hall

Linda had seen this curiously-named event advertised and, interested in gardening as we both are, we thought it might be worth a look. In the event, the eight pound entry fee each was a bit of a rip off: most of the stalls were aging hippies selling cr*p, while the few wood carvers attending were charging top prices but didn't take card payment: welcome to the modern world, guys!

However: a couple of traders made all the difference: one guy was selling excellent wicker-work bird sculptures (of which we bought two!) and another - Panache Plants - had a fabulous stock of unusual specimens: air plants, sensitive Mimosa and insectivorous plants. Since these were all hardy, I bought a good number to add to the collection.

I attach photos of Panache Plants delightful display! (Oh! Amazing to bump into David and Jane Dibb, with whom I used to work at a school in Yarmouth)

Another milestone reached!

Well: Linda has actually retired! She took her job (as Bursar of a large primary school in the city) when she split from her first husband: we got married a year later: that's 23 years ago, now! As you'll imagine,  it has been quite a wrench for Linda, saying goodbye to so many friends and colleagues, so - kind of on the spur of the moment - I bought some nibbles and champagne and invited friends Sue and Peter to join us in a low-key celebration. In the event, the weather was kind (although we did need to use one of our patio heaters!) and we had a thoroughly enjoyable soiree... We were also joined at the table by a Brown Hawker and a Migrant Hawker: sadly, for P & S, no sign of our 'daily' Hummer!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Garganey and Small Red-eyed Damselfly at Strumpshaw Fen

A very quick circuit of the Fen this morning, because I had to get home to prepare a few surprises for the retirement Queen! Nevertheless, despite the wind and scudding clouds, I managed some decent images of a confiding Garganey in front of Tower Hide, as well as Migrant Hawker, Scarce Chaser and Small Red-eyed Damselfly in their usual spots. Hundreds of Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Torts and more views of the Sparrowhawk family.

Nice to have a long chat with Warden Ben: he really does think deeply about his job and I'm sure his responsibilities at the Fen (and parenthood!) have curtailed his twitching instincts somewhat: nevertheless, a relaxed chat reveals how passionate he remains about wildlife and his local patch... About time he made an entry in his blog, though! It seems like all the other bloggers (apart from Penny and me) have gone over to the dark side (Twitter!)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Holt Country Park: the best site in Norfolk for Butterflies!

Friends Sue & Peter had yet to enjoy the Silver-washed Fritillaries at Holt CP, so, dodging the thunderstorms, we dashed northwards for a walk around this delightful reserve. While I was buying the (incredibly cheap) parking ticket I noticed that the nearby Buddleias held perhaps a dozen Silver-washed Frits as well as Peacocks, White Admirals, Red Admirals, Commas, Brimstones and Small Torts: incredible! Our walk around added Painted Lady, Small Heath, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Large and Small White, Common Blue and Meadow Brown: fifteen species! (One of the SWFs was nearly a valesina!)

A detour to the marshy valleys on the heath gave us good views of lots of Keeled Skimmers, as well as Emperor, Brown Hawker, Common Darter and Southern Hawker: the sphagnum pockets were full of Sundews, many in flower.

S and P are keen students of church architecture, so, after lunch in the excellent Earle Arms, Heydon, we investigated Wood Dalling Church: some terrific brasses and grotesques.

And so home: a lovely day out (even if Sue wouldn't let Peter and me have scones!)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Black-winged Stilts: back to see the youngsters and a possible Caspian Gull at Cley.

Brian and I had a morning free, so we threaded our way through the flooded byways to Cley. The scrape in front of Bishop's Hide held large numbers of Avocets, Ruff and Godwits, but nothing out of the ordinary. A walk out to the sea along the East Bank was even less productive, so we retreated to the VC for coffee and scones. I noticed that a few large gulls had dropped onto the scrape, so we returned to check them out: we thought the individual below was a reasonable candidate for Caspian Gull....

With the sudden arrival of a coachload of Y6 schoolkids, it was time to leave: we decided on a drive home via Potter Heigham for a look at the fully-fledged Stilts. After a pleasant walk in the sun, we located first the adults and then, one by one, all four juveniles. A low-flying C130 spooked the family, allowing decent flight views. No sign of any Spoonbills, but dozens of Little Egrets were prodding away at the mud. As we drove south along the access track, a large dog Otter stood and looked at us for a second or two: magical! Is there really no way we can persuade Natural England to leave this fabulous new resource as it is, rather than letting it turn into yet another reedbed sanctuary for the odd Bittern?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Garganey and Swallowtail caterpillars: must be Strumpshaw Fen!

Another great little session with Brian and Kevin at the Fen this morning. First stop was Fen Hide which was largely unproductive for half an hour, before I managed a couple of photos of an adult Water Rail. They are almost always to be heard squealing away in the long reeds, but not seen that often in the Summer.

Brian and I moved round to Tower Hide where Adrian and new regular Paul were already ensconced. Right in front of the hide was a Garganey, which obligingly woke up for photos. A careful search revealed three more, including a couple of well-marked eclipse drakes. A solitary Ruff flew around before landing on the spit: frustrating that there are over a hundred waders of several species just a mile away at Buckenham...

The walk back via Lackford Run revealed that there are still plenty of Scarce Chasers around, but little else, until we reached the Boardwalk. Here we quickly discovered seven Swallowtail caterpillars in various stages of development, but didn't manage to find any Willow Emeralds.

Last enjoyable moment was watching the antics of the Sparrowhawk family to the left of Reception: such neat little accipiters.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Small Red-eyed Damselfly: a Fen year tick! Lots of other surprises too!

I had a few items to post today, so I carried on to Buckenham for a walk down to the river (more in hope than expectation!) picking up some nice Linnets on the way. I have to say: whoever decided to build the 'birdwatching hide' half a mile from the scrape must have been pretty clueless. No mud at the Fen, so no waders, while at Buckenham there were Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits (60+) Avocets and what were probably Dunlin: but everything is too far away for decent scope views! It's like looking at the centre scrapes at Cley from the windows of the Reserve Centre! I took a few record shots and enjoyed chatting to a couple of Brian's neighbours walking their improbably-named dog Anys!

Walking back to the station, I drove round to the level crossing and took the short walk onto the reserve. Quite quickly I added Red Kite (2), Buzzard (4) and Green Woodpecker, the latter infuriatingly in dark shadow. In the 'fritillary glade' I sat and watched for a while, chatting with a Fen regular, Adrian (but not that Adrian!)

After a while, I carried on round to the new dipping pond and hung out the appropriate pheromone: you won't be surprised to hear that, in an hour and a half, nothing showed any interest in them! I did watch a delightful young Bank Vole, a Common Emerald and a female  Banded Demoiselle. I also saw, but didn't photograph, a Willow Emerald.

Last stop was Reception, where a pair of recently-fledged Sparrowhawks were enjoying the Sun, while two mint-fresh Small Red-eyed Damselflies rested on the old dipping pool.