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Thursday 30 June 2016

Northumberland bloggers! Help wanted!

Brian and I are off to the Farne Islands soon: we've booked the ferry and hotel and are looking forward to grabbing lots of frame-fillers of Puffins, Arctics, Eiders and Shags. We're also hoping to catch up with Roseate Tern at Whitley Bay.

While we're in the region, it'd be really excellent to catch up with species we don't meet very often in East Anglia. On the insect side, this would include Common Hawker and Large Heath, but do any of you have other suggestions of 'unmissables' we might reasonably hope to find in the day and a half we have free? On the orchid side, if there's time I'd personally like to add Lindisfarne Helleborine to my smallish list: any other orchids we might look out for?

Birdwise: are there any spots for either species of Grouse or Merlin on our journey north or south on the A1?

We'd be really grateful for any help: do e-mail if you'd prefer! And, of course, if you're ever down this way, we'd be more than happy to reciprocate!

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Quote of the decade!

I generally steer clear of politics and sport on this blog, but - let's face it - Sir Bobby Charlton's comment about England's shameful defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016 was too good not to share!

He was asked how he thought the 1966 England squad would've fared against the Icelandic part-timers: he replied that he believed they would've won 1 - 0

The journalist was surprised by the response, expecting a greater margin of victory..
Sir Bobby replied: " Well - most of us are in our seventies, you know!"

Hickling Broad: an Elephant in the room!

The Summer Wine Crew decided on a morning at Hickling, more for the walk and the company than the expectation of anything special.

Lots of Little Egrets graced the scrapes: fascinating to see them by the side of Carrion Crows, showing how teensy they are! Plenty of newly-fledged Swallows on the wires - what excellent little birds: how we miss them during the Winter!

A couple of Marsh Harriers hawked over the reedbeds: the male had an incredible white rump patch..

On the walk round to Stubb's Mill we came across a newly-emerged Elephant Hawk Moth: I have to admit, this was a first for me! Again: what a gorgeous creature...

No Cranes at the Watchpoint, but we met a charming couple from Chesterfield on a walking holiday: the husband had jammed in on some excellent rarities in the past, but hadn't gone to see the Crag Martin!



Tuesday 28 June 2016

All we need now is the Summer!

Our patio is now completely finished and furnished and is already a source of great pleasure to Linda and me: we can sit out in the evening and watch Buzzards, Red Kites, Hobbies and Marsh Harriers crossing the Heath from the Bure to the Yare Valleys.

It would be nice to have a bit of evening sunshine once in a while, though, if only to take our minds off the football!

Monday 27 June 2016

Caspian Tern at Breydon Water: back for seconds!

On my way to post a few parcels, I detoured to Breydon Water for another look at the long-staying Caspian Tern. It's been around nearly as long as the Great Knot, so a lot of people are enjoying the chance to catch up with the species.

I walked along to the hide on a falling tide, meeting Steve Smith outside. The bird hadn't been seen for a while, so we had a 'mardle' before someone popped their head out of the hide to say the Caspian was on a distant sandbank.

After a good look through Steve's scope, I realised the bird would be much nearer if viewed from the south shore by the tern platforms, so I made the mile and a half walk. Of course, birds are almost always a long way away and in the heat haze at Breydon, but I was quite pleased with my pictures.

By the side of Breydon there were several clumps of Salsify - this time the purple colour variety. As I stopped to grab a photo, I heard the unmistakeable call of a quail of some kind: much softer and less staccato than 'our' quails, I guess this must have been the reported escaped bird.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Just in time! Return to the Lizard Orchid

Linda and I had business north of Norwich so we decided to stop off at the site where Norfolk's only Lizard Orchid was discovered a couple of years ago. On the last occasion we visited this splendid plant two weeks ago, it hadn't fully erupted, and Linda was keen to see it in its full glory!

Today we were delighted to find that most of the individual flowers were still in good condition and Linda took these splendid pictures with her 'phone.

Saturday 25 June 2016

Fen Orchids and Marsh Helleborines

Like me, Martin is interested in all wildlife (except slugs!) and, having found the Greater Butterfly Orchids at Foxley for himself, was keen to visit my local Fen Orchids.

Following the recent torrential rain, the marshy area where these delicate little plants are growing is a real quaking quagmire: I was wearing boots, but Martin had to wade in bare feet! We found even more Fen Orchids than on my previous visit and growing alongside them were two newly-erupted Marsh Helleborines. Although not yet fully open, they were a delightful addition to the daylist!

If you know the location and decide on a visit, do be careful where you tread: the Fen Orchids are very easy to overlook and not all are indicated with garden canes...

On the way back home, two Little Owls allowed close views in an ancient oak tree. Always a pleasure to encounter, these were particularly cute!

Friday 24 June 2016

Back to Titchwell: Great Knot seconds and other nice bits and pieces!

Since Martin hadn't caught up with the Great Knot yet (although he's seen plenty in China & Australia!) we thought we'd have a bash this morning.

There was a decent flock of Red Knot in front of Parrinder Hide, but no GK: two Little Gulls and lots of Med Gulls, however. Other birds included Ruff, Spotted Redshank and Kingfisher, as well as a few Red-crested Pochard.

A move to the beach coincided with the arrival of wave after wave of Knot from Scolt Head. Eventually the Great Knot put in a brief appearance before the whole flock was dispersed by a marauding Peregrine. I think I snatched a picture: saw it well through Martin's scope!
Good to meet old mate John, his wife and their friends and chew over old times...

On the way home, we saw innumerable Buzzards and two Red Kites, as well as Kestrels and Sparrowhawks.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Once in a lifetime!

Many years ago (before HQ hand-held digital equipment was  available!) Linda and I used to make rare bird videos: we made five in total, as well as a Butterfly tape that included such rarities as Camberwell Beauty and Queen of Spain Fritillary. The quality of the end product was not, to be frank, particularly high, but we sold quite a few and most purchasers enjoyed having a moving memory of the year's rare or unusual birds. My favourite - which I still watch from time to time - is the Scillonian Pelagic tape, which includes Wilson's Petrel, Great, Cory's, Balearic and Sooty Shearwater as well as more expected species like Sabine's Gull, Great, Arctic & Long-tailed Skua and Grey Phalarope.

As I was looking through the master tapes today, wondering if it would be worthwhile copying them onto DVD, I reflected how many species I've seen that I may never encounter again. There are quite a few birds on my list that I've only seen once: Red-eyed Vireo, Franklin's Gull, Oriental Pratincole, Red-throated Thrush, Redhead, Little Whimbrel, Gyr Falcon, Canvasback and Ancient Murrelet to name but a few, and there are even more that I've only seen two or three times. (Laughing Gull, Squacco Heron, Black-throated Thrush, Black Stork, Little Bunting etc)

What does the future hold? This spring's Lammergeier and last year's Citril Finch and the suppressed Short-toed Eagle suggest that almost anything could turn up. My best guesses? I'll go for Black-shouldered kite, a twitchable Wallcreeper and a Black Woodpecker! See you there!