Monday, 21 August 2017

Willow Emerald at Upton Fen and much more besides!

Willow Emeralds are pretty easy to find in the Yare Valley these days, but I'd never seen one at Upton Fen (Bure Valley) until today! I came across a copulating pair right at the end of a five mile circuit of this splendid reserve, having already encountered multiples of Emerald, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselfly.

All the expected species of Dragonfly were present in numbers: Migrant, Brown and Southern Hawkers, as well as Common and Ruddy Darter. Still no sign of any Common Hawkers: if anyone comes across one of these elusive odonatids in Norfolk, I'd love to hear about it - I've been trying to photograph one for six years now!

Other interest came in the form of a decent patch of the beautiful white-flowered Grass of Parnassus, several Chinese Water Deer and a hunting Hobby.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Caspian dip!

Well: you can't get them all! Linda and I took an enjoyable stroll from Potter Heigham church to the hide on Weaver's Way that overlooks Rush Hills, in the hope of catching up with the recently-present Caspian Tern. The first photo below is to prove that I still have a 'scope and still use it when necessary!

The water levels seemed quite high (although the woodland path was dry) and all the birds were on the far side. Lots of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and Avocets, as well as ten Dunlin and a couple of each of Green Sandpiper and Little Stint. Despite a two hour watch, the Tern failed to materialise: good to chat with Stoke birder Nick who seems to have seen many of the same birds as Linda and I back in our twitching days. Lunch at Latham's and then home!

Friday, 18 August 2017


An exciting day: my new book 'Birds of the Yare Valley' has now been accepted by Hickling, Cley, Ranworth, Jarrold's, Waterstone's and Smith's! Quite why the RSPB hasn't shown any interest when several of their reserves feature in the book is beyond me...

I'm a time-served chef (I used to own a hotel and did most of the cooking!) so, as a celebration, I treated Linda and me to a somewhat lavish supper: a dozen langoustines each, garlic mayonaise, fresh bread and some decent wine. It was scrummy!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Glossy Ibis at Salthouse and decent birds along the coast

Now that Linda has totally retired, she has become a full member of the Summer Wine Crew: I'll leave it to others to decide what her 'nom de guerre' might be! We headed north, arriving at Salthouse by 8.00am: following a few false starts, Linda and Brian located the Glossy Ibis poking its head above some distant rushes. After a spot of hide and seek, the bird obligingly took off and flew around for a minute or so before dropping out of sight again.

We moved westwards to Cley, where Bishop's Hide provided views of good numbers of waders, including Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits etc, which were scattered by a marauding Hobby. After coffee and scones at the reserve centre we carried on to Titchwell (memo to self: don't drive from Cley to Titchwell on the coast road in the Summer!)

As we were leaving the car park, Sue Bryan kindly told us that the Turtle Doves had been showing earlier. We scanned the indicated trees, but, despite hearing a bird purring loudly nearby, didn't manage to see one! To be honest, the pools weren't really worth the tedious drive from Cley, but we enjoyed our packed lunches while watching twelve Spoonbills and a Little Gull asleep on the freshwater pool.

Last stop was Choseley, where high winds made finding a Corn Bunting difficult - impossible, in fact! - so we called it a day and threaded our way through the hordes of ten mile-an-hour holiday makers in their Audis and beamers. Final good bird was a Red Kite at Stiffkey (Memories of watching one here with Bill Oddie about 25 years ago when they (and he!)were much more noteworthy!)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Finally! Interesting waders at the Fen and lots of Water Rails!

Strumpshaw Fen is currently the best place I know to see and hear Water Rails and Kingfishers: lots of both today! Additionally, the muddy fringe in front of Tower Hide pulled in a pair of Black-tailed Godwits (albeit briefly)... now if only there were a muddy island further out!

Also present were several obliging Little Egrets and a Shoveler with a 'Blue-winged Teal' face pattern. I've seen this before on Eurasian Teal - perhaps it's some recessive gene. Lots of Migrant and Southern Hawkers as well as a late Norfolk Hawker by the new dipping Pool. This spot is fantastic for glimpsing a family of delightful Water Voles at the moment: just patience and a bit of quiet observation required!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Random Ali G reference!

Strange to relate, I'm a big fan of multi-talented, highly educated performer Sacha Baron Cohen. I readily accept that his output is often very close to the knuckle (or, let's be honest, way past some of the time) but he can be a refreshingly courageous iconoclast: his legendary interviews with people like Donald Trump, Buzz Aldrin and the Beckhams are, IMHO, really worth watching.

He once had some success in the music field with his recording of 'Me Julie', with US-Jamaican singer Shaggy. In this amusing offering, Ali G claims descent from Bob Marley, stating that his nan had a fling with the reggae legend '...round the back of the Crooked Billet, Iver Heath, behind the bins, during his world tour of Staines and Egham in '75' Here's the Youtube clip:

When Linda and I were staying in Maidenhead recently, we passed this landmark and just had to take a photo. I wonder if there's any reference to Ali G inside the pub?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Perseids: worth looking out for!

The Perseids are one of the few genuinely reliable meteor spectacles: they are bright, slow and - unlike some 'showers' - frequent enough that a thirty minute skywatch will produce enough 'shooting stars' to make it worth staying up late for!

Last night started off cloudy here in East Norfolk, but about the time the GB mens' 100m relay team were winning their gold, the clouds parted for an hour or so. Linda and I are lucky, in that our patio has a northern aspect, so we could stand and look north east towards the W shape of the constellation Cassiopeia. (Meteor showers appear to originate from a certain point in the sky: this is called the radiant, and, in the case of the Perseids, is the constellation Perseus. Looking towards the instantly-findable Cassiopeia gets you in the right part of the sky)

In an hour we counted seventy or so bright meteors and numerous fainter ones: using our night vision scopes we could see hundreds that would have been invisible to the naked eye (as well as a surprising number of satellites!)

If tonight is clear (and it's supposed to be) it's well worth having a look around eleven o' clock.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Baird's Sandpiper and other odds and ends at Potter Heigham.

Having blogged about this terrific new reserve earlier on today, I had the chance to whip across first thing: not having had much of a chance for a walk recently, I parked in the village and did the whole circuit, collecting Migrant Hawker on the way. No other birders were looking for the Baird's, which was perhaps a little surprising: in the event, it was comparatively easy to pick out, with its short, fine bill and 'weetabix' plumage. It was loosely associating with Dunlin and Ringed Plovers on the first large muddy pool, but allowed only one record shot before it (and the other waders) were scattered by a Hobby.

A pair of Green Sandpipers were feeding just past the tin hut and a Wood Sand flew through. I decided to follow it eastwards, but failed to relocate it. However, the 'Stilt Pool' held three dozy Spoonbills and dozens of Little Egrets: always good to see. The wires over the path had so many Swallows and Martins on them that they resembled a musical stave: if I'd had my guitar, I could have played them!

Linda and I had to return to Potter later in the day and were pleased to see a second Hobby hawking over the road near Oby.