Norfolk Wildlife

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Re: Norfolk Wildlife

Postby Easternbushchat » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:21 am

New blog post - watching harriers come into roost at Hickling....

'It is cold here. Bitterly cold. A raw easterly wind whipping in from the North Sea a mile or two away; the boundary between the flat lands of eastern Norfolk and the miles of cruel grey water marked by a line of raised dunes seen as a smudge of dull green on the horizon. The scene before us a patchwork of reed bed, course grazing marshes and fen, interspersed with twisted and stunted hawthorn. The closest you can get to a barren wilderness in this part of the world for there are but scant traces of human activity: a forlorn and long abandoned wind pump, its skeletal sail arm pointing defiantly skywards; a single distant house rendered almost invisible by its light coloured walls blending seamlessly into the gathering murk. Nothing else, just the wild open landscape unique to this Broadland haven.....'

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Re: Norfolk Wildlife

Postby Easternbushchat » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:02 pm

New Blog Post - a day spent wildlife watching from a car in Eastern Norfolk....

'Ranks of rooks and jackdaws, splattered like notes on a musical stave, probed the soft earth of a field containing several shaggy horses. Above those of their number intent on ridding the marshland of invertebrates, courting pairs flew. I watched some of these lovers twisting and cavorting in the fresh February air, flinging themselves through the void with abandon. The dancers would career towards one another, banking to avoid a collision at the last possible moment, before plummeting earthwards, regaining full control a few metres above terra firma to land sedately amongst their brethren. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously watched this behaviour before and admit to being quite taken with their aerobatic prowess. Corvids are a common inhabitant of the Yare Valley with many thousands littering the fields throughout the year. This culminates in the amazing spectacle of huge numbers flocking to roost at Buckenham, where in my youth, I used to like listening to their caws and yelps as they commenced nesting during the lengthening days of March. The memory of idly strolling across the damp marshes in the dusk of a late March day, the sun slowly sinking into a wash of pinks and greys, the distant sounds of the rooks and courting lapwings echoing across the expanse, will always be with me. Perhaps it was some kind of heightened sense associated with youth, but I remember almost being able to taste the changing season. When those kinds of sensations fill your mind and body it leaves a mark; in this case a deep affection for these lowland areas that still evoke feelings of space and the wild. '

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Re: Norfolk Wildlife

Postby Easternbushchat » Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:00 pm

New Blog Post - a windy day in East Suffolk....

'It’s been a breezy few days. After the spring like conditions we enjoyed early on, tempting robins to begin building a nest on the ivy covered wall just outside our kitchen, we were brought abruptly down to earth in midweek when winter returned to blow us, together with countless fence panels, briskly towards the weekend.

Wednesday saw me and a fellow nature lover traipsing across the sandy paths of Dunwich Heath hoping to find Dartford warblers to photograph. This area is managed by the National trust and in summer is ablaze with bright purple carpets of heather stretching as far as the eye can see; today the acres of heather were barren and bare, their crown of brown, empty flower spikes rattling in the unrelenting currents of air blasting across the gently undulating landscape of east Suffolk. Stands of gorse, bedecked with coconut scented blooms, provided small oases of colour, but otherwise all was bleak. The birds were obviously in no mood to cooperate, hunkering down in the low growth where they search diligently for insects and spiders amongst the dense fronds. It is only when one pops up and perches briefly atop a sprig that there is any chance of getting a look at these fragile and vulnerable birds that are really far better suited to a dry, hot, Mediterranean habitat. We did catch sight of one of their number, no more than a small dark projectile, as it whirred away from us to dive into the impenetrable, featureless ranks of thick cover. And that was that. After 90 minutes or so we gave it up as a bad job and headed south to Minsmere, but not before bumping into a holidaying couple from Kent that had watched several Dartford warblers singing brazenly in the sunshine 24 hours previously. ‘You should have been here yesterday’ they said. They were right, we should have.....'

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Re: Norfolk Wildlife

Postby Easternbushchat » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:23 am

New Blog Post - Hawfinches at Lynford....

'Pausing on the path, sluggish as an emergent wasp from its winter dormancy, I took stock of the day so far. Reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Cley, Nightingale serenading us at Salthouse Heath, Woodlark and Golden Pheasant, violently contrasting songsters, at Mayday Farm as part of a grand total of about 40 species, mostly heard in darkness or the dim light before sunrise; some dazzled in the headlights of the car. 5.30am on 17th May 1991, Lynford Aboretum, time for our annual 24 hours birding marathon and we were doing alright. But I was cold and keen to warm my sluggish body from the numb of pre-dawn chill. Why on earth was I here? Damp feet, freezing hands, no sleep; images of being curled up in a nice warm bed pervaded my dangerously dozing consciousness. Taking a deep breath of fresh May air fragrant with the scent of pine, I once more scanned the ranks of firs, larches and assorted exotic shrubs and noticed a trio of dumpy looking birds fly into a nearby tree. I raised my binoculars to be greeted by the wonderful sight of three Hawfinches perched brazenly in front of me. As I marvelled at their beautiful colours, a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and bathed the birds in early morning gold. '

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Re: Norfolk Wildlife

Postby Easternbushchat » Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:48 pm

New Blog Post celebrating the best of a wonderful spring so far....

'One advantage of working at a nature reserve is that eventually you will see just about everything that turns up. Even, if like me, you only appear for a morning every fortnight you still have a good chance of connecting with the unusual. So it was a few weeks ago at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen when after a few abortive attempts the long staying Jack Snipe decided it had toyed with me long enough and gave itself up. It wasn't so obliging as to flaunt itself unashamedly; heaven forbid that one of its kind should make things easy. No, this bird still required a bit of work as it hunkered down amidst a raft of cut vegetation, facing away from onlookers so that the lateral striping on its back looked for all the world like the reeds it surrounded itself with. But with a bit of effort the tiny wader could just be made out and formed a talking point for visitors all day, the challenge: spot the Jack Snipe. Once or twice hunger drove this diminutive visitor from Arctic Russia to venture closer in search of sustenance. Then its habit of perpetual bobbing, dark plumage, short bill and distinctive head pattern - no central crown stripe - could be seen to good effect. It helped immensely when a Common Snipe crossed its path to allow direct comparison. The habitual bobbing actually served to locate the bird as it shuffled through the reeds, which struck me as something of a dichotomy. Why have cryptic plumage and secret yourself in reeds only to jump up and down as if sitting on a coiled spring? Might as well wave a flag and tell any passing marsh harrier this is where you were hiding. I resolved to discover why the birds do this. Google drew a blank, reference books came up short. The one time this bouncing seemed to serve a purpose was when the bird sheltered amongst breeze rippled reeds. Then its synchronous movement rendered it all but invisible. On the basis nothing happens in nature by accident, there must be a sound reason for this behaviour, but I can shed no further light........any ideas greatly appreciated.'

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Re: Norfolk Wildlife

Postby Easternbushchat » Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:06 am

New Blog Post musing on the pivotal moments of life....

'The little boy was lifted up, firm grip from large hands on his skinny torso, to a bewildering height. Slightly scared but equally excited he was able then to peer over the rim of the carefully woven collection of grasses and small twigs into a smooth cup of the nest. There shining back at him were four orbs of the most brilliant blue he had ever seen. Eggs; radiant and iridescent, the colour pierced his eyes and bore into his nine year old mind. He wanted to reach out and touch them, to feel these heaven sent jewels that until this moment had never entered his consciousness. But before he could it was over, lowered to the ground and whisked away to trudge in the adult’s footsteps to other parts of the wooded heathland, the details of which never impressed upon his memory and were lost almost as they were formed. The only thing that mattered was those dazzling, sky blue eggs, spotted lightly with deepest black, out of sight and out of reach and all the more tantalising for it. He would dream of those shining pearls, would lust after finding more, would tell his semi-interested parents and friends about them, and they, the eggs, would in turn lay the foundations for the path his life would take. Thirty seconds of boredom-easing activity by a chum’s dad spawning a lifetime of delight, exhilaration, joy and beauty. Sometime in the spring of 1965 and a young boy has had his first encounter with a wonder of the natural world.....'

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