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Wednesday 30 October 2019

Otter-ly gorgeous!

This otter cub came up to look at me by the sluice at Strumpshaw this morning... What an absolute thrill (for us both!) Back-up (!) came from a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a pair of Little Grebes - the only birds in front of Tower Hide...


Taverham Aquatics come up trumps!

The LED tile of our TMC 30L marine tank began to fail a month or so ago: one by one the LEDs grew dim and faded. This not only spoiled the look of the set-up, but also deprived the corals of the intense light they need (Most corals are photosynthetic to some extent)

Taverham Garden Centre's aquatics section have been fighting our cause and have obtained for us a perfect replacement: as you can see from the photos below, the tank is now even brighter and more beautiful!

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Snettisham wader spectacular, followed by pipits, twite and other goodies!

Brian and Norman were keen to catch the high tide at Snettisham once more, so we met at mine for a pre-dawn drive through the frosty lanes to North West Norfolk. As we pulled into the car park the first birds we saw were Fieldfares and Redwings - perhaps 30 or 40 in bare trees by the ticket machine.

A brisk walk out to the far end of the reserve revealed that the wader flocks were already leaving their high tide roosts on the pits: nevertheless, the clouds of Knot, Golden Plover, Redshank, Godwits and Oystercatchers were still great to see. A friendly crowd from a west-London RSPB group called us over to see a confiding Snow Bunting - always a delight. A Rock Pipit popped up briefly, as did a few Linnets, Reed Buntings and Stonechats.

Next stop was Holme NNT Reserve. We were the first arrivals, so we strolled eastwards along the dune ridge. Not much about until we reached Thornham, where half a mile before the usual car park we came across a small flock of six or seven Twite. These were almost all 'blinged up': some in red/pink combinations, some with plain metal bands. Nearby was a Water Pipit, the third pipit species of the day!

We slogged back to Holme (meeting a delightful Dachshund on the way!) before continuing on to Titchwell, Here things rapidly went downhill: the reserve was crowded with non-birders - dog walkers, noisy family groups, joggers: every path was jammed! One middle-aged woman by the lunch tables was trying to control five hyperactive terriers, while nearby another visitor was encouraging his dog to try and catch a large rat under the feeders. I know the RSPB has massive overheads to cover (quad bikes, salaries, TV ads etc) but I fail to see how attracting hordes of non-birding dog owners, joggers, Nordic walkers and rowdy children has anything to do with conservation. We left, silently fuming....

Last stop was Stiffkey saltings. This was much more like it: quiet, plenty of birds (Brents, Egrets, Curlews and so on) and no cyclists, dog walkers or footballers.

Monday 28 October 2019

Fieldfares over the Heath

This morning there was a good passage of winter thrushes over our garden: not just Redwings (which we've seen daily in some numbers this week) but also several large flocks of Fieldfares. Despite having numerous trees and bushes covered with fruit and berries, none have so far stopped!

Sunday 27 October 2019

Not every buzzy thing is a wasp!

Being married to a beekeeper, I suppose I'm more acutely aware of the misapprehensions that many people have about the Hymenoptera group. This order of insects includes bees, wasps, hornets, sawflies, ants and many other familiar creatures. It's true that a lot of these do possess stings, but they tend to use them either to incapacitate prey or for defence: Linda has been stung perhaps twice in the past year, and she spends a lot of time covered in bees!

Personally speaking, I find that Bumblebees are particularly docile: as a young kid I used to stroke them (Until a 'well-meaning adult' told me I shouldn't!) Honeybees are also pretty friendly, unless you come too near their nest or hive: it is incredible to watch how they attack wasps or hornets. I have watched a 'ball' of honeybees swarm over a hornet until their combined body heat suffocates the intruder!

There is no doubting that both wasps and hornets are in a different category: they can sting as often as they like and seem aware of the fact! European Hornets, IMHO, are not as aggressive as wasps, but their sting is more painful! The Asian Hornet is a far more dangerous beast: they have killed people and attack beehives: they are a genuine threat to the honeybee. Worryingly, swarms have been discovered in several southern counties...

Friday 25 October 2019

More Starlings than I've ever seen!

All day flocks of Starlings (and the odd Fieldfare) have been streaming over Blofield Heath: we are talking numerous flocks of over 1,000 birds. They all arrived from the east and kept going westwards.

Meanwhile, I've been preparing an Italian supper for two friends: fingers crossed it tastes OK!


The International Astronomy Show, Coventry

Spacerocks UK - the largest, oldest and only full-time professional meteorite dealership in the UK - will be at the International Astronomy Show, Stoneleigh Park on Friday & Saturday, 15th /16th November. We'll have well over 1,000 meteorites available: something for every pocket, from £2 - £500.
We'll also have our beautiful meteorite jewellery, all with .925 silver findings and chains, in luxury boxes with gift bags and CoA!

It's a terrific day out if you're interested in Astronomy: you can even get up close and personal with Patrick Moore's old car!


Thursday 24 October 2019

Heathlands Jam!

Colin, Tim and I once again got together to play some Clapton, Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Zeppelin and Stones at Heathlands tonight: only ten or so people in the club on a wet, cold Thursday night, but we received much fulsome praise - most gratifying!

I have to say: playing with two genuine virtuosos is an immense thrill and brings the best out in me too! Next Thursday it will be the King's Head at Lingwood....

Wednesday 23 October 2019

A wintry morning at the Fen produces some decent bits and pieces!

Today was Brian's Vol Ranger day at Strumpshaw, so Norman and I rocked up at 7,30 to keep him company! Fen hide was already half full with some of the regulars: Tina, Karen, Kevin and Sean and we passed a pleasant hour chatting and comparing our recent sightings. It was pretty gloomy, so the photos I managed are not great: four Chinese Water Deer, a Peregrine chasing a Marsh Harrier, a flock (!) of five Stonechats that included two males, a Snipe and a pair of Green Sandpipers. We also saw one or two distant Water Pipits.

We moved around to the Sandy Path for Bearded Tits: two eventually showed very briefly, together with several Reed Buntings) While we were waiting a Great White Egret flew overhead through the mist and an otter swam past in mid-river. And that was about it! The final two images need no comment...