Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Couple of Days in Norfolk

I visited some friends in NE Norfolk for a mid-week break but not expecting any ornithological wonders. However, a visit to some sandy wooded  areas revealed some Dartford warblers plus big numbers of silver-studded blue butterflies that seemed to love the young heather and gorse on the wide pathways. The butterflies were early this year so their condition was a bit grubby, I couldn't find a fresh one to photograph!

 A brown female


They are supposed to show tiny blue 'studs' in the black marginal spots on the hind wing but due to their age they were hardly visible. What I did notice was the very pale blue along the front of the forewing. A few tiger beetles were scampering about on the sandy areas allowing one quick photograph.

 Tiger Beetle - one of the fastest runners in the insect world

A few Small Skippers

Another day we visited Hickling Broad hoping to see the swallowtails which came up trumps due to the weather. It seems the sun is so important as when it was out they were on the wing over the reeds but when it went in they all dived into the reeds out of sight every time! Photography was almost out of the question due to their distance but my keen spotting accomplice found one on a thistle fairly close but was away after two shots! 

A few Norfolk hawkers were seen but better seen in Kent now I think! The usual black-tailed skimmers, common blue damselsflies etc. were about plus some nasty biting insects. Something bit my neck which I pulled off not knowing what it was but really stung coming out in a large rash requiring a visit to a pharmacy for antihistamine and cortisone cream (still not fully gone). Nothing normally bites me!

 One of the paths at Hickling

A few birds seen were, avocets, blackwits, egrets, chiffs, willow warblers etc. a nice reserve but charges a £4.50 entrance fee unless you are a member of the NNT..

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Last Few Days

Sunday 22nd.  I drove out towards some local woods stopping to see two distant  buzzards circling overhead. I jumped out of the car not expecting to see them over fields and fired off a couple of shots. When I looked at the back of the camera I realised they were honey buzzards, what luck. Apart from that and several common buzzards not much else to report.

Honey Buzzard

Common Buzzard for comparison

Honey Buzzard

Saturday 21st. A couple of hours to spare so I nipped down to the beach at Seasalter, the tide was just leaving the beach. On the high tide roost a few herring gulls plus 8 curlew and on the sea 9 common terns and 1 Sandwich tern. Inland, a group of 11 lapwings were flying west but not much else.  I tempted myself to walk along the S.Swale LNR which as expected was dire, although the other week I did see a cuckoo there. The reedbed sported a few reed warblers and two reed buntings but no sign of beardies. Thank goodness the 36 cattle have been removed, no doubt they have trodden any nesting skylark and meadow pipit into the ground or deserted. Why do the KTNC persist in putting cattle on the thin strip of land at the beginning of the breeding season and leaving them for a couple of months to devastate the area. I walked through the sea of grass looking for a flower but it wasn't until I had walked half a mile to the white post when I found a buttercup that the cattle had somehow missed. I saw one small heath, two tortoiseshells, and a white (on the entrance track by the Sportsman PH), two emperor dragonflies and one blue-tailed damselfly in one of the ditches. Apart from that nothing! The reed bed is almost dried out after the farmer ripped out the dam to keep the water levels raised a couple of feet a couple of years ago. Its dying.

Just a sea of grass- no flowers, no insects, no birds.

The only patch of flowers managing to survive were salsify but even these were finally nipped of. 

Friday 20th.  A visit to East Blean woods didn't prove very rewarding although there were a few heath fritillaries about but not as many as in previous years. The 'rides' seemed very overgrown, not many open areas as in other years plus cow wheat  appeared in short supply. I managed to see a few ringlets and large skippers plus a chiffchaff and green woodpecker betrayed their presence. Other than that fairly quiet!

Heath Fritillary

I tried a few shots at some of the hoverflies, this big one you see often hovering above your head with a pale saddle finally settled allowing a photo and also through boredom, a common housefly!

Leocozona lucorum


Common Blue Damselfly

Large Skipper

Thursday 19th. I visited a local wet area near Reculver looking at dragonflies and insects. It was encouraging to see well over ten tortoiseshell butterflies and plenty of common blue damselflies, black-tailed skimmers plus a possible lesser emperor. Whilst getting down close to things I noticed a strange waspy looking insect that turned out to be a moth, a six banded clearwing.

 Six Banded Clearwing

 Common Darter
Upon leaving I walked down the track noticing a couple of ears sticking out of the grass, a hare. I lifted up the camera and waited. Seemingly, it didn't appear to realise what I was and started to come towards me but stopping occasionally to check me out again. Finally it came so close that I thought it best to come clean giving it time to dash off in the opposite direction.


On Monday 16th, I took a trip out of the county to see the short-toed eagle at Ashdown Forest. Luck was with me and I saw it straight away at the Gills Lap car park circling about half a mile away and too far for photos.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Back On The Patch - 10th June

It was the first time could I could get out for a decent spell, duties a home etc. with grandchildren have changed my life somewhat. Anyway Tuesday as a lovely sunny day a a short seawatch didn't produce much except a couple of common terns and a great crested grebe. I watched a seal eating a fish just offshore and also noted good numbers of oystercatchers and gulls on the Shellness high tide roost.  I then turned my attentions to a slow walk around the plots where I could heard a cuckoo sounding off. The two coot nests were empty, one seen around the reed edges with five youngsters, so they have had some success. Further in a couple of whitethroats came up on the wires and a reed bunting jumped up out of the tall vegetation. Over the bridge I took the SE track seeing just common stuff, a few goldfinches, linntes, 1 cetti's, 1 egret, 1 marsh harrier, 3 swifts, 4 house martins but no swallows. There used to be two breeding pairs but they have now been moved off as their homes have been demolished, progress!  It was refreshing to see 10 plus tortoiseshells, by far the commonest butterfly, also 2 large skippers, a red admiral and a painted lady.

Further on a couple of sedge warblers, 1 blackcap, 4 wrens, several blackbirds, 1 egret overflying and a chaffinch.

Oedemera nobilis

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Isle of Mull. LAST PART

On another day we went to 'Grasspoint', yes, very grassy, hoping to see hen harriers and also a good spot for short-eared owl. Watched for half an hour but no luck, mind you it was a little drizzly so we pressed on in search of otters as I had seen one but my wife missed it! As we approached Glen More we noticed a stag on the hillside and to our surprise, a female hen harrier flew past. Going through the glen, a whinchat appeared on a fence then buzzards in the sky and one sparrowhawk.

 At Pennyghael stores and P.O. we were able to get some rolls for lunch and headed to the shore of Loch Beg which is at the top end of Loch Scridain (a loch in a loch) and searched in vain for otters. 

 People told us they are common but not easy to see, many not seeing them at all. We pushed on around the shore of Loch Beg when my wife saw a head of something in the water disappear. Stopped the car and waited and watched and sure enough an otter appeared from then on we observed this individual for two hours catching fish and resting along the shore of the photo above.

We followed along the coast for a good mile, several people stopped to have a look and take photos. Two photographers stopped and were eager to get some good shots and when it seemed to have disappeared we searched and found it later dozing on the end of a small rocky spit, out of sight. We didn't scare it, on the contrary it wasn't worried too much by our presence and we finally left to itself and eating and catching more fish. 

We drove back towards the hotel via the scenic route again which you takes you through some superb landscapes, the road opens out near the mouth of Loch Na Keal where several wheatears and oystercatchers etc. were along the shoreline. The road took us past another parking area which is where all the mountain climbers start their trek to the summit of Ben More (968 m) which still had some snow in places!  

The last day was spent at Iona again hoping for a better view of the corncrakes which did not disappoint. It required a wait one hour wait before one came close, again only two hundred yards from the ferry and at one point c.20 people were looking and listening to the 'calls'.  Luck would have that two birds came quite close giving everyone reasonable views but as usual just heads and necks in the grass, except once.

A couple of sedge warblers were seen in people's gardens plus song thrushes which were common all over the island for some reason. Maybe the fact that we, and others didn't seen one magpie all week had something to do with it. Returning via Loch Scridain again we caught up with a couple of close mergansers, half a dozen Arctic terns and our one and only redshank.  

I only saw seventy five species, not seeing, black-headed gull, kestrel, coot, which I thought would be there plus just a couple of guillemots and a few black guillemots when I thought there would be lots. 

Next day it was the ferry to the the mainland and an overnight stop near Carlisle then home, about a twelve hour drive if you want to do it without stopping!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Isle of Mull, PART 2

The next day we took a narrow road (they all are) following a river and across moorland to a village called Delvaig seeing a few stonechats, curlews, lapwings, cuckoos, lots of swallows (heaps of them across the island) and one dipper flying down the river. Delvaig is by one of the sea lochs but has a reedbed just inland which held a couple of sedge warblers. Met one chap who said he heard a reed warbler, not much else but on the 'creek' 8 goosanders, a couple of mergansers, curlews and common gulls nesting, no black-headed's seen during the week.


Drove the eight miles to Tobermory for a look around and lunch, busy with tourists but plenty of room, no parking charges!  Just a few shops that seemed to sell everything.

Later we went back to the eagle site at Loch Na Keal, this time on the other side where the sea eagles are, several people there at the viewing spot. Also saw 6 arctic terns, great northern divers and a few shags.



Went out most evenings after dinner looking for otters but never found them although 1 wigeon was a surprise at Aros Bay, other birds were a couple of eider and mergansers plus the usual greylags that were everywhere.


The next day was my day on the boat to get close to the sea eagles. There was a half hour drive to the Ulva port where I boarded the 'Lady Jayne' operated by Martin of 'Mull Charters' for a three hour cruise into Loch Na Keal.  There were twelve people on board, not all photographers and the sea was calm and lots of sunshine. First some bread was thrown out to attract the gulls which no doubt wakened the eagle in the trees about a mile away. He then flew in, putting up the gulls, after which a fish was thrown out and duly seized after a bit of circling during which was time to do some photography.  This was done only three times, regulated by the RSPB. 


So many sea eagle shots taken, I've not looked at most yet. NB. In the morning we had a quick look around a woody area finding a beautiful demoiselle damselfly, the only member of the odonata family. Lots of white butterflies and a couple of peacocks not much else.