Showing posts from January, 2016

Watch the Birdie

I spent yesterday helping the RSPB with their Big Garden Birdwatch event held in the impressive setting of Norwich Castle. What a delight to be able to contribute to such an uplifting occasion; to see so many enthusiastic volunteers, so many excited children with parents happy that the offspring were getting involved in something so worthwhile and positive.
The event, spread over the whole weekend, has been organised by the employees of Strumpshaw Fen. If you read this blog regularly you will know Strumpshaw is a place dear to my heart, so a bonus was being able to chat with friends, both staff and volunteers, who give up so much of their valuable time to make these things work and deliver. Strumpshaw is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a formal RSPB reserve so it is fitting that they were able to share this milestone with the public and show off what a fabulous place it is and showcase the exceptional wildlife that thrives there.
My morning was spent helping to build nest boxes from…

Something Out of Nothing

The conversation, if such a brief exchange could be termed such, went thus. Me: ''Morning chaps, lovely day".
One of them: "Yeah, but there's nothing about"

‘Nothing about’. What exactly does that mean? I briefly entertained the notion of nudging them gently into the river, this brace of morose humanity, or perhaps suspending them by their thumbs from the nearest willow, but elected instead to smile lamely and plod on. Birders, especially those obsessed with photographing ‘rarities’ are impossible to please. On such a fine, crisp winter’s day it was a joy to be alive; a blessing to be fit and well enough to get out and embrace the fresh air. Better surely to celebrate the fact that you still have a pulse and are occupying the right side of the grass than lament the absence of that elusive ‘something’ without which the enterprise is deemed a failure?
‘Nothing about’. What did they expect? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain? Krakatoa erupt…

A Bird in the Bush

Birds of prey in general but sparrowhawks in particular can invoke strong emotion with the general public. It is not uncommon for outraged citizens to write letters to the local press savaging these essential members of the food web for decimating 'their' songbirds. The fact those very same people concrete their drives, manicure their lawns, spray insecticides liberally about their prized begonias, litter the ground with slug pellets, and keep cats is overlooked. It is this illogical scramble to keep things tidy that deprives 'their' songbirds of feeding, nesting and roosting opportunities, but that inconvenient fact seems not to enter into their consciousness. No matter: despite regular tirades by Mr & Mrs Angry, the hawks, ace predators that they are, seem to be doing relatively well. And they couldn't thrive if they created a situation whereby there were insufficient songbirds upon which to prey.
Their very welcome presence in our midst was brought home to me…

Jeepers Creepers! OR Whistling Down the Wind

Is there any sound more evocative of wild winter landscapes, windswept and worn, than the piercing whistling of wigeon? It is a cheery sound but always conjures images of open spaces; coastal marshes where the calls of curlew vibrate on the still air, estuarine vastness where myriad probing beaks puncture the shining muds, or as today the lush green of valley marshland caressed by a watery January sun. But more of that later. We must first undertake my regular midweek visit to Strumpshaw Fen, on this occasion hoping to connect with a treecreeper; a species that has eluded me and my camera for far too long. I discovered recently that the RSPB do not actually own Strumpshaw fen, in fact the land is leased. The terms of the leasing agreement allows shooting to take place on the reserve a few times during the winter months, which in some ways seems anomalous but in the overall scheme of things is a small price to pay for the pleasure of having such a fantastic resource available to all. In…

Heathland Haven

There can be few cities in the country that has an area of lowland heath contained within its boundary: in this respect our fine city of Norwich may well be unique.
Mousehold Heath is a wonderful natural resource with all of its 184 acres surrounded by busy roads, housing estates and industrial areas, yet it remains a green haven right on our doorstep; its south western edge dovetailing almost into the very heart of the city centre. It is of course only a shadow of its former self, when its windswept wilderness stretched in an unbroken swathe between Norwich and the Broads, but it still has potential to contain a small scale mosaic of diverse habitats and associated wildlife. The fact that it remains at all is testament to the foresight of previous owners who gave the remaining land to Norwich City Council to look after on behalf of the populace of our fine city. Without this covenant, whereby no one entity has ownership, it is highly likely the area would now be under concrete. The p…