Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Norfolk Review (Part 4) - Pensthorpe Wildlife Park

Day 6 saw us visiting Pensthorpe Wildlife Park, near Fakenham.
Lots of interesting areas to encourage the large number of school children who were also visiting including the 'Bug Trail'. As you can see some of the specimens were far larger than expected!
There was clear evidence everywhere that the BBC Springwatch was in residence; hides on the scrape occupied by wildlife cameramen monitoring the breeding Avocets and Little Ringed Plovers; seat and bridges with posters stating 'BBC Property - Not for Public Use'; camera and sound system with its own brolly top being set up over the stream plus many visitors eagerly scanned any occupied vehicle moving around the park in case it contained a well known personality!
Evidence that some breeding species have been very successful this season; Canada and Greylag Geese...
.....AND an Oystercatcher with chick nesting in the water garden which was cordoned off.
No excuses for showing more images of one of my favourites....Barnacle Geese.
Plus masses of Ox-eye Daises everywhere.
I must admit that I didn't stop to take many pics of the 'collection' species apart from a few in the 'endangered' pens but I'll leave them for a quiet moment sometime in the future.  If you haven't visited it is certainly worth making the effort if you are in the vicinity of Fakenham. I can definitely recommend the very reasonably priced on site catering. I ordered traditional sausages and mash which was served up with an unexpected additional side dish containing peas, green beans, carrots and red cabbage..delicious.   FAB.

Nature is beautiful AND brutal.

When I go out somewhere locally for one of my regular 'strolls' it is often without any pre-planned objective and indeed I just let my legs take me wherever they want. Whilst I enjoy company when watching wildlife; having another pair of eyes is always helpful; I'm also very comfortable in my own company with my own thoughts. If something takes my interest I will stand or sit for ages and just soak up the atmosphere around me. Today was no exception when I headed out to Bookham Common late morning with still a hint of rain in the air but hopeful of some sunshine and decided to walk into Hill House Wood which would provide overhead leafy cover from either of these elements. I was not expecting to see much avian activity now that many species are feeding young, often well hidden, but there was the occasional call from a Nuthatch, Wren and Blackbird that interupted the near silence. 
Initial fluttering activity both high above and around my feet was from White Admiral, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, many Meadow Browns and then I spotted a recently emerged male Silver-washed Fritillary, a speciality of large broadleaf woodlands in southern UK feeding on a Bramble, its favourite food source.

Walking slowly into one of the open glades my attention was drawn to some more frantic orange fluttering activity and using the bins I located three Silver-washed Fritillary about 50 yards away and two of them appeared to be settling together on a bare stem.

I carefully stalked a little closer to capture a pair copulating and took one quick shot (below) that I have cropped before starting to creep closer for a better shot....BUT.... 

...neither I or the camera were ready for the next saga....a blue predator dashed in and grabbed both butterflies, dragging them into the grass. 

My reactions and the camera settings where a little too slow but I watched the predator fly off with one Fritillary, the other one was initially motionless beneath my feet but after a few moments fluttered awkwardly to another area about 30 yards away.

I relocated this individual, a female, and you can clearly see damage to one of its antenna and much more noticeable is the lack of its abdomen, obviously torn away in that brief but catastrophic encounter. I have no idea how much longer this lady will mate is already dead.....
.....nature is often beautiful but sometimes very brutal.

I eventually located the predator, Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) hidding in the grass. Not the best picture as this individual didn't like me getting very close.....presumably in case I could ID him! 

For more close-ups of the Silver-washed Fritillary please go to the post on my FABirding blog..FAB. 

Monday, 28 June 2010

Norfolk Review (Part 3) - Cley Marshes

On day 4 we met up with our friends Tony and Jean for an anti-clockwise walk around Cley Marshes.
At least the sun shone for most of our walk although again there was no protection from the strong north-easterly wind except for when we dived into two of the hides to view the usual ducks but very few waders.
Male Marsh Harrier. (Circus aeruginosus)
Black-headed Gull. (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Distant shot of a male Bearded (Tit) Reedling. (Panurus biarmicus)
Happy family of Mute Swans.
I need more shade Mummy!
Common Tern. (Sterna hirundo)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) taking a brief rest from catching insects.
No apologies for posting another (Pied) Avocet. (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Painted Lady. (Vanessa cardui) looking a little worn.
After a late lunch [I had a baked tatty with cheese and a mixed salad] in the eco-friendly Information Centre we headed off to to CleySpy in Glandford for some retail therapy. Tony wanted to look for a new harness for his bins but we both ended up buying a new hat to shade us from the sun....or the rain!
Anita and I took a short walk through the model village, built by Sir Alfred Jodrell a century ago, admiring the reddish-pink waves of Valerian; the buildings including the Shell Museum, (regretfully closed)  built using local Norfolk red brick and flint with Flemish gables.We then headed down to the River Glaven, overlooked by the watermill (built in 1907), and then onto the water meadows.....
......where I finally got a chance to capture a resting male Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines).....FAB.

Predator or Prey.

Black-tailed Skimmer (male)
Black-tailed Skimmer (female)
Wolf Spider 
Speckled Wood
Grasshopper Nymph
White Admiral
Small Skipper.

All shot at Bookham Common using 70-300 lens hand-held and cropped....FAB

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Norfolk Review (Part 2) - Titchwell

No holiday to the North Norfolk coast would be complete without spending some time at Titchwell RSPB Reserve so here are some images from our two seperate visits on day 3 when we met up with our friends Jean and Tony, also on holiday but staying further east near Wells, and day 6 when Anita and I dropped in for a late afternoon stroll. Once again there was a very fresh and breezy north-easterly wind and rain on the radar so we had to wrap up and protect ourselves from the elements in the middle of June! 
The resident friendly Robin very quickly perched on the car wing mirror to see if we had any scaps. My friend Keith at holdingmoments had this chap eating out of his hand earlier this year. As we headed out onto the reserve we had our first sightings of Marsh Harriers quartering over the reed beds plus a Red-Crested Pochard was located on one of the reed fringed pools with Teal, Gadwall, and Tufties.
Plenty of activity overhead with Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. Reed Buntings occasionally perched on the swaying reeds. From the hide Tony and I scoped out the distant ducks and waders including Gadwall, Shoveller, Shelduck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Cormorant, Little Egret, Knot, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Little Gull, Black-headed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common and Little Terns. Elsewhere we also saw Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Linnet, Meadow Pipits, Starlings, Wigeon, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler (heard only) and fleeting glimpses of a Bearded Tits flying into the reeds.
The main activity alongside the path were young Sedge Warblers perched precariously in the reed bed constantly begging for food from their overworked parents.
As expected there were lots of (Pied) Avocets on the freshwater lagoons. A very windy walk out onto the beach produced Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Oystercatchers feeding along the tide line. With a rain front approaching and Tony getting hungry it was soon time for us to head back towards the Reserve Centre for much needed refreshments.
As we crossed the boardwalk a pair of Skylarks noisily alighted on the handrail allowing me a few quick shots.
Check out the length of those hind claws!
Another birder stopped us and asked if we were any good with wader ID to which Tony immediately responded by pointing at pressure I thought!  Through his scope I located the distant objective....larger than a Dunlin; showed large primary projection; a very slight decurved bill and the heavily streaked breastband that is sharply demarcated against the white unmarked underbelly...a PECTORAL Sandpiper. I reported this sighting at the Reserve Centre and was immeditely referred to the resident warden who suggested that it might be the same bird that was recorded at Frampton Marshes on the other side of The Wash and definitely an unusual record for Titchwell in the spring. (Usually only seen during Autumn return migration). Just a pity I couldn't get a photo as the bird didn't stop long after feeding and I think we were the only 3 people to spot this individual. 
The final encounter on our second visit was this Pheasant eagerly waiting for help from the Pigeon to cadge a titbit that may fall out of the feeder.

N.B. If anyone is thinking of visiting Titchwell later this year the path to the sea will be closed from August to October as work on the Coastal Change Project continues...not sure what effect this will have on all the returning migrants and wintering species that use this stretch of important marsh......FAB. 

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Skip and Skim.

A relaxing stroll around Bookham Common yesterday in the sunshine produced some pleasant sightings including lots of Small Skippers plus an obliging female Black-tailed Skimmer.
Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

Female Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
Both shots taken with the 70-300, hand-held, F10 and cropped. 

 I also saw my first Silver-washed Fritilary and White Admirals flying around this more images to follow on my FABirding blog very soon.  FAB.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Night Birding.

On two seperate evenings while on holiday in North Norfolk recently I walked out onto a nearby heath with large areas of conifers to listen and wait for the unmistakable 'churring' of the Nightjar. While I waited the sun slowly completed its disappearance over the treetops for another day. The air temperature dropped considerably and a Woodcock flew overhead but too fast for me to react with the camera.  
A small flock of Gulls headed out towards the north Norfolk coast as the sky slowly got darker and darker loosing its pinkish tinge and then the reeling 'churring' began. First one individual from some distance and then another and another much closer.  
During the next 30 minutes or so with a darkening curtain as a background their 'krruit' call heralded movement above the conifers.......shapes began to appear as several Nightjars fluttered overhead accompanied by wing clapping as they performed their nighttime arial acrobatics. Just a pity the camera couldn't cope with the conditions but it's always a wonderful sight to experience......FAB.

For more SkyWatch this link.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Norfolk Review (Part 1) - Dersingham Bog

After a 3 hour drive eastwards two weeks ago we set up camp on a site within the Sandringham Estate which has been vastly improved and expanded since our previous visit many years ago. The Site Manager asked if we wanted to be in the open or close to the wildlife.....silly question....we chose a shaded spot amongst the trees where we were constantly serenaded by cooing Woodpigeons, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, the occasional noisy Black-headed Gulls and a very vocal Garden Warbler imitating other 'Sylvia' species by day plus hooting Tawny Owl and roding Woodcock by night.
Just in case anyone is interested the folding camper has many 'mod-cons' including mains electric hook-up with 12v transformer, interior lighting, 3-way fridge with a wardrobe above, gas cooker with 3 hobs, grill and oven, sink with drainer, hot water heater, blown air heater (hot and cold), wash room with cassette toilet and hand basin, 2 settees with under seat storage, 2 extended double beds plus room to sleep 2 more using the folding table and seat cushions as a mattress....AND it all folds down to a third the size of a caravan and much easier to tow. The awning doubles the floor space available so there is plenty of room for the two of us to spread out......just like being at home.

Dersingham Bog NNR was only a 30 minute walk or a few minutes by car from the camp site. This bog covering 159 hectares forms part of the Sandringham Royal Estate and is managed by English Nature. A mixed habitat of dry and wet lowland heath, acid mire plus deciduous and coniferous woodland. The mire lies on shallow peat, bordered on one side by a steep escarpment containing large areas of dry heath and woodland and it marks the edge of the ancient coastline. Specialised plants include bog asphodel, round-leaved sundew, cranberry and white-beaked sedge. It is also an important site for breeding Shelduck, Woodlark, Tree Pipit and the Nightjar, a migrant visitor plus the Black Darter Dragonfly.
A distant view of Shelduck that breed on the bog.
Bird sightings were thin on the ground but included Linnet (see photo above), Tree Pipit, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Skylark, Swift, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow and Green Woodpecker BUT no sign of any Woodlarks.
A surprise find was this small pond hidden by trees and shrubbery with rhodos in full bloom where I watched various 'Damsels' including this Large Red plus a basking Common Lizard on the boardwalk.
Whilst the weather conditions were not ideal...strong cold easterly winds and a damp overcast sky.....I did manage to find a female Four-spotted Chaser who eventually rested briefly for a photo-call. A late evening visit to hear and see Nightjars is a must if you are in the vicinity but I didn't have to go that far for my treat....more of that in a future post.......FAB.


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