Showing posts from May, 2015

A Warbling We Will Go

It was a day of warblers at Cley Marshes. Just after lunch I was strolling along the footpath adjacent to the coast road when I movement in the reed scrub caught my eye. There for a second was a grasshopper warbler in full view a mere two metres from where I stood. Without thinking and like a well drilled infantryman I shouldered my camera and fired a few rounds. A seamless, silky movement that Eastwood, Stallone or Schwarzeneggar would have been proud of. Problem was I had set the exposure to +1 to compensate for earlier photography of a sedge warbler against the bright sky and despite making a mental note to alter the settings had failed to do so. My muttered curses were also something the aforementioned movie icons would have been equally proud of. No matter. Photoshop enabled me to darken one of the images sufficiently to get something useful.

Whilst I was standing stock still waiting for the grasshopper warbler to reappear (it didn’t) I noticed a pair of whitethroats feeding their…

A Willing Volunteer

There are pockets of Broadland that are almost inaccessible and cloak their secrets in a veil of thick reed or a screen of dense willow scrub. 'Move on, there's nothing to see here' is the message, 'do not disturb, no trespass, leave us in peace'. And for the most part these areas are pretty much left to their own devices. The otters, deer, foxes and water voles live out their short span without a human eye ever witnessing their daily struggles. The reed warblers, cuckoos, bitterns and harriers claim their territories, make their nests and raise their young seldom encountering the unwelcome sight of man. In this 21st century whirlwind we have created it isquite astounding that such areas exist, but they do; I know they do because I squelched my way through one earlier in the week.
As part of the Trinity Broads Partnership, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is working closely with Essex and Suffolk Water and the Broads Authority to manage and improve the area around Filby, Orm…

A Goodie the Sad and the Cuddly

Did you know that adult cuckoos only spend about 6 weeks with us here in the UK every year? Nope neither did I, but thanks to the remarkable work of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) who have attached satellite tags to a few of these charismatic summer visitors (including ‘Chris’ the cuckoo made famous by BBC’s Springwatch) we now know this to be an indisputable fact. Cuckoos folks, and brace yourselves for the bad news, are not really British birds. They are an African bird that chooses to spend a short spell in our green and pleasant land for the sole purposes of mating and depositing their eggs in the nests of host species such as reed warbler, meadow pipit and dunnock (females can lay over 20 eggs in a season). This and many other interesting snippets could be gleaned from an engaging talk delivered by Ieuan Evans at the Norfolk Bird Fair which took place at Mannington Hall over the weekend.
A Goodie This is the second year the event has taken place in this most wonderful of …


Most of our summer migrants have now arrived in force. Some species, the warblers and swallows, started to arrive a few weeks ago; some species, nightjars and spotted flycatchers for example, have only now turned up. All will soon be engaged in the hectic task of reproduction. Standing on the North Norfolk coast with eyes watering in the teeth of yet another spring gale does make you wonder why these small vulnerable birds make the arduous journey from mainly warm and food rich parts of Africa to spend a couple of short summer months with us. It can’t be the scenery, as lovely as it is, it certainly isn’t the weather, so what drives these lightweight bundles of feathers to risk life and limb to seek out that small copse, patch of reeds or windswept moor and set up a seasonal home here in the UK?Beats me!
I’m joking of course. There are very clear and logical reasons for this migration, since nothing happens by mistake in the natural world. The answer lies in the long hours of daylight…

Raptor Rapture

Walking wearily back to our apartment in Eilat two weeks ago after most of the day spent at the Marine Park looking at the wonderfully varied and abundant inhabitants of the Red Sea coral reef, we noticed a raptor, probably a Steppe buzzard, flying low over the street. Thinking that maybe some kind of mini-migration event was taking place we brewed a cuppa and sat on our balcony and waited to see what would happen. Boy oh boy! Were we in for a pleasant surprise. For the next couple of hours until the sun began to set, turning the sky a deep gold, we saw streams of honey buzzards, black kites, the aforementioned Steppe buzzards and smooth, streamlined Levant sparrowhawks flying purposefully north between the mountain ranges of Israel and Jordan. Most of these birds passed at little more than rooftop level affording excellent views.
Over the next couple of days we spent quite a bit of time, early in the morning and later in the afternoon repeating this experience (much better prepared th…

Fen Magic

Strumpshaw Fen (RSPB) is a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours. It always surprises me how few visitors it gets given it is only a few miles from a large city, but then that's the essence of its charm; an oasis of calm and tranquillity amidst the hurly burly of the 21st century. I've been visiting pretty much since it opened to the public in the late 1970s, in fact probably before then if our trespassing teen selves had anything to do with it. In those early days I helped lead a YOC group and we took the kids to the reserve every spring for a good trek through the woods and along the river bank. Our group raised quite a bit of money for the reserve by undertaking various fundraising activities such as a sponsored birdwatch. This helped to purchase various implements for the warden to use in his endeavours to pump mud from the silted up broad and generally look after the place. I got to know this hard working individual, Mike Blackburn, quite well but to this day am not …