Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The foggy coast

Back from a long weekend in Norfolk, in which we enjoyed different climatic conditions to the rest of the region. Winds blew mist in off the North Sea and kept the cloud cover to 100% for much of the time. The result was we didn't suffer the sweaty heat that everyone else did, though it was still fairly humid.

Stiffkey Fen
Stiffkey Fen

Titchwell in the fog
The beach at Titchwell

Strumpshaw Fen
We camped at Reedham, right next to the Yar, and not far from Strumpshaw Fen, where we started Saturday.

There were orchids-a-plenty. This might be a Southern Marsh Orchid, or apparently it could be a hybrid. I have no idea. To me it's just a pretty pink flower.

Small Tortoiseshell
Loads of butterflies about, with Small Tortoiseshells most common
Emerald damselfly
Female Emerald Damselfly
Black-tailed Skimmer
Male Black-tailed Skimmer
Very Hairy Caterpillar
Very Hairy Caterpillar, probably a Vapourer moth

Upton Broad
Next, Upton Broad, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve. Here we skored Swallowtail butterfly - a mighty impressive beast, the first I've seen since a holiday to France when I was 11! - Norfolk Hawker dragonfly and...

Variable Damselfly
What appears to be a Variable Damselfly

Large Skipper
Lots of Large Skippers, too.

Herb Robert
Another pink flower, which might be Herb Robert. Remember, I don't know anything about plants

After that, we went up to the north Norfolk coast, which was somewhat less productive, but still enjoyable: Ruff, Spotted Redshank, lots of cute, fluffy Avocet babies
Lane at Kelling
and a Hobby being mobbed by a Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull mobbing Hobby

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM or with Canon Powershot A640

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Bempton Cliffs
Bempton Cliffs






Today I've been to Bempton Cliffs, on Yorkshire's east coast. Took a lot of photos; deleted a lot of photos. Here are the excuses: camera ignorance; too much sun; birds too white; birds too fast; grass too long; sun in wrong direction. Etc etc etc.

Whingeing aside, it was fantastic. As we arrived, a party of schoolchildren was doing the same. 'Wowwwww!' they went, which is the correct response. The air was full of birds of different sizes; it's hard to get a feel for the height of the cliffs, but the tiny specks on the sea below - auks and Kittiwakes - give an idea of scale.

The sight of Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets and Kittiwakes wedged onto tiny ledges, high above jagged rocks and rushing waves, never fails to boggle the brain.

There's a constant racket of raucous calls.

'Kitti weeeekkk!'
'Gah gah gah gah!'
'Klaaaaa kla kla kla kla kla!'

The most common human 'call' is 'Is that a Puffin?'

It also smells a bit, but you get used to that quickly.

Here's Bempton, the movie (with sound). Prepare to be underwhelmed by my camera work once more...

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

digiscoped photos taken with Canon Powershot A640 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Baby birds, dragons and damsels

Swallow fledgling
The year's first brood of Swallows is now on the wing (and on the wires) at home

Female Emperor laying eggs on the pool at The Lodge

Four-spotted Chaser
Four-spotted Chaser

Small Red-eyed Damselfly
My first Small Red-eyed Damselfly of the year at The Lodge

I saw the first ever dragonflies to emerge from our garden pond this morning - Common Darters.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Monday, June 22, 2009

Macro macro

Damsel in distress

Damsel in distress
I spotted this newly-emerged damselfly trapped in a spider's web, so I rescued it while the spider wasn't looking. Not sure what it is - maybe Small Red-eyed?

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser wing
Broad-bodied Chaser and its wing

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our survey says...

An early(ish) start this morning saw us gathering information for the Bedfordshire Bird Atlas... in Northamptonshire.

Since the 10 km square sits on the border between the two counties, records from it can contribute to both. Or something. Anyway,  our allotted patch was around Newton Bromswold. We were after any birds showing signs of... well, anything. Found Spotted Flycatcher, Whitethroat, Buzzard, Wren, Swallow, Moorhen, Whitethroat and all manner of exciting things.

We might have found even more, were it not for a Longhorn bull, his cows and calves which were in a field. They blocked our route to the opposite side of the field, so we opted out. That was after we'd negotiated the live electric fence which ran round the perimeter, including the stile! Ouch!

The butterflies were better than the birds, on the whole. An area in an environmental stewardship scheme held loads of butterflies - more than I've seen all year so far. Large Skippers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Common Blues ran riot. There were pleasing numbers of Small Tortoiseshells, too.

Large Skipper

Common Blue butterfly

Before you accuse me of turning into a church-spotter...

Newton Bromswold church

...it was lovely to see the village churchyard was being managed sympathetically. Someone in Newton Bromswold cares about wildlife. There were patches of long grass, nestboxes on the trees and these Common Spotted Orchids. It was full of life.

Common Spotted Orchids


And, unless I'm mistaken, this is a young Ostrich. There wasn't room for it on the survey form, though. Oh well.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, or Canon Powershot A640

And in the garden

This Six-spot Burnet moth was a garden tick. Which reminds me, really must get mothtrapping started again.

Green Woodpecker

Green Woodpeckers

A male Green Woodpecker brought his fledgling offspring to the garden yesterday (excuse the fuzzy images, they were taken through the window)

Bumblebees are lapping up nectar at the moment

The Badger has been back every night so far since we first noticed it on Tuesday.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brock is back!

Appalling photo, exposure of 2.5 seconds and 1600 ISO! But you can see what it is...

After last night's badger-related excitement, tonight we were prepared. Turned the dining room and back bedroom lights on - to illuminate the garden - and stood in the dark kitchen, waiting.

At around 10.40 pm I saw movement in the darkness and a Badger squeezed under the fence and strolled calmly up to the area I'd baited with a few sunflower seeds (since we guessed that's what it had been eating before).

It spent the next two hours feeding in the garden.

The Badger must have been doing this for a while. It looked as cool as a cucumber. It snuffled around, apparently oblivious to our presence in the house. It spent most of its time lying down, stretched out like a dog as it fed among the clover, totally chilled-out.

A few times it had to stand up to scratch itself, and once it did that thing like they do on Springwatch, where they lie on their backs and scratch their tummies. It didn't fall off any logs as we haven't installed any yet.

I'm pretty sure it must have polished off all the seeds I'd put out. Inspection this morning showed it hadn't been digging. So I did a bit of research and it looks likely to have been eating earthworms from the surface.

I can't be staying up til 1 am every night, though...

While researching Badger eating habits, I found the Badger Trust website, and this very-cute-but-also-rather-surreal video. Who could resist them? Enjoy.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Holy... badger!

Well... that's a turn-up for the books.

D was sitting on the back step, smoking and watching a Barn Owl float by, when he suddenly spotted movement in the dark underneath the bird feeders.

Is that a Pheasant? he thought...

'And then I saw it had a black and white face! A badger! I can't believe it!'

This is the first time a Badger has been seen in the garden. A cause for celebration. We've seen them not-too-far-away but never on our premises. I was more than a bit sceptical when I read that one in ten participants in a recent RSPB survey had seen badgers in their gardens, but maybe it is true!

In other news, a Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing distantly this evening, thus adding itself to the number 93 slot on our garden bird list.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

They're not orange anymore

Another visit to the banks of the Great Ouse at Roxton. I nearly didn't go because it looked like it was about to rain. But...

Scarce Chaser
Male Scarce Chaser

Scarce Chaser
Female Scarce Chaser
(Well, there's only a little bit of orange on some of the females now)

Banded Demoiselle

Banded Demoiselle

Banded Demoiselle
Banded Demoiselles were frolicking everywhere

Along with
Blue-tailed Damselflies mating
Blue-tailed Damselflies

Common Blue Damselflies
Common Blue Damselflies

White-legged Damselfly
and a White-legged Damselfly

Large Skipper
While butterflies included this Large Skipper

Painted Lady
Painted Lady (a worn adult, from north Africa)

Small Tortoiseshell
and Small Tortoiseshell

Harlequin Ladybirds
There were quite a few Harlequin Ladybirds getting busy, too...

Mute Swan and nine cygnets
Good to see this family still stands at a total of nine cygnets

Compared to the last couple of times I've been there this year, Scarce Chasers have now become harder to find. They're not orange anymore, and they weren't perching quite so prominently. Maybe they're busy with other things...

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II or Canon Powershot A640