Friday, 12 November 2010

Much ado about the weather

It's been unbelievably wet and windy here this week.  There has been rain every day and it has been dark most of the time.  This time last week there were still quite a lot of leaves on the trees but in the past few days they have all been stripped off and scattered over my lawn, it looked like a leaf patterned 1970's carpet.  If you can call it a lawn that is, it's more like a patch of grass, weeds and fungus which just happens to be outside my back door and that's just how I like it.  Anyway, the wind.  I have laid in bed every night listening to the trees being thoroughly whipped by the wind, hearing watering cans and other small objects going crashing across the patio.  It's actually been quite dramatic but it was really getting beyond a joke.

This morning I got up to a lovely sight.  Bright sunshine coming through the bare trees.  It was still windy but it had changed direction.  After strewing (is strewing a word?) the leaves all over the lawn it had blown them all neatly to the edges of the wood, just as if Mother Nature had been out there with her garden vac/blower all night.  Very tidy.  Even better it was not raining!  It was however still howling a gale and the trees were thrashing about in all directions.

I did my usual dash out into the garden to see a flock of about 100 Pink-footed Geese come over at about 10am.  I still can't stop myself dropping everything and dashing out to see them, they are just wonderful.  It was still blowing strongly and I stood frozen, battered by the wind, staring upwards with my hair blowing in all directions.  Then after I went indoors the strangest thing happened.  Within about two minutes the wind totally dropped.  It was really eerie, we actually saw it stop.  I can't say I have ever seen anything quite like it.  After a while a breeze came up but not proper wind like it had been.  All very strange.   Another of Nature's mysteries.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A sunny window

It was a horrible day today, the only time it stopped raining was when it was drizzling.  Then just before sundown the rain cleared and suddenly everywhere was bathed in the most beautiful lemon light.  This prompted a mad panic, grabbing my camera, hauling on a coat and unsuitable shoes and running down to the broad as fast as possible. 

As usual there were people in the way.  I waited for them to pass but they decided to come almost up to me then turn round and go back again!  Grrrr I need a delete button for people!

After that I had a go at photographing some unhelpful swans.  Sadly they were camera shy but I did manage to get one or two that were almost good.

If only he had held his head up

Then I photographed an alien spacecraft.  Well, obviously I know they are not but just think of the fun I could have with them!  Check out the local news tomorrow for other sightings....

Spacecraft approaching....

Just leaving......
 Just time for a few more shots, purely gratuitous but it's been a while since this blog has had photos!

As soon as darkness fell the rain resumed.  I think I was lucky to get that little window on such a rubbish day.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Percy the frustrated Pheasant

There is a very frustrated Pheasant in my garden at the moment.  I decided that the smaller birds needed some assistance getting their share of the food.  The Pheasants are basically greedy eating machines and have their own food left out by the gamekeeper, so as much as I like to encourage them they are not exactly 'in need'.  Recently they have been stripping everything I put on the ground for Robins, Chaffinches and Dunnocks.

I have been thinking about this problem for a while.  The obvious solution is one of those posh cage things The RSPB sells but at over 25 quid each depending on which model you would like to spend your life savings on they are out of my reach.  Honestly you could spend a fortune kitting out your garden with just the basics!  I had toyed with stealing a basket from Tesco's and putting it upside down over the food but decided theft was going a bit too far.  Anyway I had a flash of inspiration this morning that the box type squirrel proof (shhh don't listen butterfly) fat ball feeder I have hanging from the laurel tree (he hasn't noticed it) might just work on the ground too.  Obviously it's not ideal but I am hoping it will help.  The bars are too close for blackbirds and thrushes but at least it will keep those greedy Pheasants off some of the food.

So I dashed down to the local shop and purchased another feeder for the affordable sum of £2.49.  I can't understand why they are so cheap but am not going to argue.  It is now proudly sitting under my laurel tree with a fat ball in the middle and assorted seed inside the cage.  I also put plenty of seed down elsewhere for Percy & Co.  No small birds have ventured near it as yet but the Pheasants found it right away.  Apart from Percy (perseverance) they all quickly realised that they were not able to get into it, so got down to the business of munching all the other seed.  However Percy has spent the last 15 mins walking in circles round it pecking at the ground in a most self pitying manner.  His friends found him embarrassing and left but he has stayed alone, walking round and round.  I am sure there will be a bald circle around the feeder when I go out there! 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Havoc the Kestrel

I had great fun at The Haven yesterday.  The Kestrel which was new in last week has found his feet and come to life.  He is far too tame to be a real wildie but I am told does not seem to be trained to the glove so it would appear has not been used by a falconer.  It seems he has had a bleed behind his eye at some stage so can't see well enough to hunt.  When he first came in all that was in his pellets were beetles.  Not good food for a Kestrel but no doubt all he could find, poor thing.  He is now wolfing down day old chicks like they are going out of fashion.  It was great watching him tearing at them with his wonderful beak.

He is now happy to fly around free in the hospital, landing on whatever and whoever he feels like.  It was so mad having a Kestrel whizzing past your head!  At one point he landed on my chest and sat picking at the logo on my fleece.  He must have been there quite a few minutes and it totally made my day.  He landed on the new volunteer's head and 'blessed' her and also on the shoulder of a visitor who was bringing in the cutest fluffiest pigeon I have ever seen.  He flew into the kitchen and landed on a plastic beaker of water, spilling it all over a bag of chick crumb.  He has now been christened 'Havoc' which I think is an absolutely brilliant name for him!

Monday, 25 October 2010


It was a gorgeous morning so I decided to go for a walk around Rush Hill Scrape and follow the path along the wood where I had never explored before.  I set off with my bins and camera on the seat next to me, ready for anything.  I had only been driving a couple of minutes when I had to do an emergency pull in to a layby.  Well actually the entrance to a farmers field but he wasn't there so what he does not know will not hurt him.  This is what I had seen.

Pink Footed Geese

There were about 1000 - 1500 of them grazing in the sugar beet field behind the field where I went strawberry picking earlier this year.  Obviously I have seen Pinkies en masse before but never within spitting distance of my home.  What a treat!  Hopefully this is just the start of seeing them grazing locally.

My walk was fairly uneventful, although very enjoyable.  I had been craving the smells of Autumn and this was the closest to a forest I could think of locally.  Having grown up so close to Epping Forest I have taken Autumn walks through the leaves for granted and have really been missing it this year.  There are just not any forests round here.  There is my wood of course but I am still banned.  I will either have to find somewhere localish to crunch through the leaves or make a long pilgrimage back to High Beech to get my fix!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hairy hairy quite contrary

"Dinner's in the garden"  said Hairy Hubby as we drank our coffee.  I knew exactly what he meant, he has been waffling on and on about eating Pheasent ever since the shooting season started.  I looked out of the window to see what seed the bird was eating. 

I am currently doing my own little survey of which seed the birds eat.  They don't seem very keen on anything but Black Sunflower seed and I am hoping to attract a wider range of birds to the garden with a wider range of food.  Owlmomma at The Haven gave me some of the seed they use their for the wildies to see if that was better than the floorsweepings they sell in the shops.  Up to yet nothing has touched it apart from Pheasents and only then if it is strewn all over the lawn. 

I was knowledgeably telling The Hairy One about my survey and that the Pheasant would eat every seed put out except what I had put in the tray when typically the dratted bird called me a liar and began to clear the plate.

The Hairy One thought this highly amusing and started musing about his air rifle again.  I told him that as soon as he opened the window the bird would be gone, they are very skittish.  I should have known better with this bird.  Hairy Hubby quietly opened the window, mimed cocking his rifle, aimed and pretended to fire.  The soppy bird just kept eating the seed I said he wouldn't eat and didn't move a muscle.    Even when I slammed the window with a bang he kept right on munching.  Dratted bird, at least it amused His Hairiness!

Monday, 18 October 2010

The villan, The Lads and the leaves

Well I think I have met the culpret of last weeks slaughter.  While sitting in my study chatting to Hairy Hubby and gazing out of the window at the feeders (as I seem to spend half my life doing) a massive juvenile Sparrowhawk landed in the big Sycamore.  Honestly it was huge, it looked like a Golden Eagle sitting there.  So massive that when I grabbed my bins, which were conveniently on the desk for once and looked for it I couldn't see it.  Muttering curses I scanned the tree.  The Hairy One helpfully jabbed his finger at the window saying 'Look there it is' and of course it flew off.  I think it should of been me who wrote the book 'How to be a bad Birdwatcher'

We are having increasingly frequent visits from a band of male Pheasents who I now call 'The Lads'.  They come in a few at a time, very cautious and skittish.  If they see a mere shadow of you through the glass they are gone, running away with that comical gait they have.  They are mostly young, a couple of them barely have tail feathers but one is a fine old gentleman dressed in full Pheasent finery.  I like to see him as the wise old man of the group, teaching The Lads the ways of pheasentry.  Showing them the best places to feed (my garden being top of the list of course) and how to avoid the perils of shooting days.  I have been told by Hairy Hubby via The Tree Surgeon that The Gamekeeper is not allowing shooting of the Pheasents just yet because they are too young and can't fly.  Shooting is confined to Red Legged Partridges at the other side of the wood, which explains why I have seen no signs of it.

Autumn seems later here in Norfolk.  I know for a fact that Spring was so I shouldn't be surprised really.  Most of the trees are still green.  There are a couple which are shedding their leaves, making my garden look very autumnal.  I love it but Hairy Hubby keeps muttering about playing with his garden vac.  Personally I think he should leave it a while yet until there are more leaves.  To save his back you understand, not because I like seeing the leaves!  I am really looking forward to the wood being in full autumn colours. 

It is noticeable now how much more of the sky can be seen through the trees and how much more light is in the forest just from the few leaves which have fallen.  We were even able to see a Muntjac out there last weekend.  That is the first time for months.  I would love to know if they have been there all the time or not.  Maybe we just could not see them.  Because I can't go out into the wood I don't have a clue if they still lie in the blackcurrant field in the afternoons.  I would love to know.  I was told there are Red Deer out there in the winter.  I won't know that either.  Ok time to stop and give myself a slap on the wrist for moaning!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Right time wrong place

Hairy Hubby and I walked Action Dog down to The Broad today.  Himself wanted to have a look off the bridge for pike.  We think there was one lying there but it zoomed off in a cloud of mud as we approached.  More stealth needed next time!

As we got near the bridge (before the pike) I noticed that the gulls on the other side of the road were going mad circling and the ducks were all making a racket and sploshing about.  I assumed that someone was feeding them.  Wrong.  When we crossed the road there was a fisherman in waders standing up to his thighs in the water.  Why do they do that when there is a perfectly good platform to stand on.  I will never understand the logic.  Anyway, Hairy Hubby asked the man if he had caught anything and he said no and doubted that he would because an Otter had just gone through.  That was what all the commotion had been about.  Oh bum I missed it!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

There's a killer on the loose!

There was a fine sunset last night.  Very moody and dramatic.  But sadly it was the last sunset one local resident will ever see. 

You see, there is a killer on the loose.  You would think that in a rural village such atrocities would not happen but it seems nowhere is safe from violence and truly this poor resident met a violent end.  I came out this morning to find carnage everywhere, a trail of poor little white feathers led me to the victim who was in a sorry state.  His neck had been plucked and eaten, just leaving the spinal cord, one leg appears to be missing along with most of his innards. 

I will be asking the Nature Detectives who they think the killer may have been.  Perhaps Forensic evidence may give some clues, or maybe a Psychological profile.  I need to know who committed this terrible crime in my garden because I am hoping to have some new residents soon.  Some lovely white Doves in a pretty Dove Cote.  If there is a killer on the loose I may have to take some action or my new lodgers will be murdered!

I hope this was a random ariel attack, there are several suspicious characters in the area who I am sure would be very capable of such a deed.  I pray it was not a land based attack, I fear that may be more difficult to defend.  I know The Gamekeeper takes care of land predators for the good of her Pheasants but maybe one has slipped the net and is on the loose.

Now it is left for me to clear away the grisly remains before the start to stink out my study.  One thing I do know is that everyone must be on their guard!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Mixed feelings

I have been told via Hairy Hubby that shooting starts in the wood today.  As yet I have seen or heard nothing but I would imagine they start at the other end.  My end is the most distant point.  I am told the beaters may come down here with dogs to flush the birds back to the main part of the wood so I am being careful when Action Dog goes out incase there are any stray gun dogs in the garden.

The whole shoot thing stirs such mixed feelings for me.  It seems so horrible to shoot such daft, soppy birds who really have no clue about life in general.  Most of them are this year's babies and are not even fully grown.  The are so stupid they run rather than fly and dart out of cover when you approach making themselves an easy target.  If they stayed lurking you would not even know they were there.  I still have not forgotten poor old Hoppy who hid behind a tree in my garden because he knew he could not run with his bad leg.  How can anyone shoot something that dopey. 

I also keep telling myself that the birds would not even exist if it were not for the shooting.  That is what they are bred for, rather like cattle and sheep.  It is not like fox hunting, which I am totally opposed to, where the poor things get torn to bits by dogs.  At least they just get shot and then hopefully eaten so it's not all a total waste.  I apologise to any Veggies out there but I do eat meat so I can't be a hypocrite about people eating game birds.  If they were wild creatures being shot, like they do on The Continent I would not agree with it at all.

My other feeling is rather shocking.  I am a bit envious of the people out there with guns.  Not because they are out there shooting things but because they are out there in my beloved wood.  Why are those b*****ds allowed to go tramping around shooting the birds when I am not allowed out there quietly walking incase I scare them!!

So in all very mixed feelings.  Feelings which do not really make sense, but then feelings often have no logic. 

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Fungus fungus everywhere but not a thing to eat

I wish I was one of those clever (and brave) people who know about fungus.  I have some crackers growing in the garden at the moment and I would love to know if they are edible.  Wild mushrooms have always fascinated me since I was a child.   We were a boating holiday and my parents bought some wild mushrooms from a lady working at a local windmill.  She had picked them in the fields that morning.  When they got them back to the boat they decided not to risk it and binned them.  Since then I have had aspirations about gathering food from hedgerows and taking it home for a free meal.  I have never had the courage to follow it through, apart from a few apples and blackberries of course.  I don't even think a good field guide would help, I would still not trust myself.  Sickness or death is not terribly appealing so I will continue with Asda's own brand!

Mmmm yummy....maybe.....

Probably not....although they do remind me of bread rolls

The least appetising looking, rather like dead flowers.  Probably the only edible ones of the bunch!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Excitement in the village!

We had great excitement here today for about 2 mins!  The Tour of Britain cycle race came right past our door.  There have been notices up warning about it for a few weeks.  I had read about it being the UK answer to The Tour de France so I was well looking forward to it.  I made sure I would not be going out because I knew the roads would be chaos and also because I wanted to see it go past.  The signs said 2pm - 4pm.

While I was waiting I made some Plum jam and Green Tomato Chutney to while away the time.  From 2pm onwards I kept looking out for signs of cyclists.  The Hairy Hubby told me there were crowds on Rollesby bridge so I was getting pretty excited.  The traffic seemed to be moving as usual outside so all seemed fine.

Just after 3pm just as my jam was ready to bottle there was a massive commotion outside.  Horns blowing, police sirens, you name it.  I looked out to see streams of police bikes going past the house at speed with sirens blaring.  I have to say I am not sure I have heard a motorcycle siren before, it's a funny noise.  There was so much racket we thought there had been a major accident!

I ran to the top of the drive and looked down the road, all I could see coming were more streams of police bikes with lights flashing.  This must be it I thought.  "Oh hell, my jam...oh lord where is my camera?"  I ran back in to grab my camera yelling to the hairy one that if he was not interested would he take care of the jam please?  He is a very versatile hairy man I have to say and did manage to save the jam.  I legged it back to the road took about two photos and the camera went flat!  Grrrr why does that always happen!!!  Then I had to sprint back in to find my little camera (yes, I ran, it really was a special event!)  Luckily that one had some charge and I was able to get back to the road just before the cyclists arrived.

First there was some sort of support car, a bit like they have on the F1 after a crash, followed closely by two cyclists pedalling like fury and having a chat, well more like a shout, with each other.  Then some more police bikes.  I hope there were no criminals in Norfolk today because every police bike owned by the Norfolk Constabulary was on the A149!  Then in the distance I could see a crowd (flock, gaggle, bunch???) of cyclists streaming down the road.  I have to say it was very impressive, the noise their wheels made was incredible and they whoooshed past me so fast I felt the need to step back a pace even though I was on the pavement.  There must have been about 50 of them, all bunched up.  They were past in about 2 seconds, I was barely able to get any photos because the camera I used takes ages to reset after each shot.  Following on from them was a fleet of cars, all with bikes on top.  I am assuming they were the riders support teams.  They streamed past.

After they had gone it was straight back to business as usual on the road, not a police bike in sight.  I had imagined streams of bikes going past for ages, a bit like you see when the London Marathon runners go past.  It was all over in seconds, I was a bit disappointed really.  The whole thing must have cost a fortune with all that police presence.  I am sure four bikes would have been all that was needed really. 

PS There are THREE Butterfly squirrels in the garden tonight, I bet the little rotters are all flushed with excitement over yesterdays spilled seed and are planning an fresh attack on my feeders!T

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Seasonal wind

It's been howling a gale here today.  I had intended to go to Breydon for high tide but thought better of it.  The last time I went there in the wind the tide was all messed up because of it.  Plus the hide was swaying like a palm tree.  Not that I am a coward you understand, usually with things like that I tell myself its perfectly safe but lets face it how do I know that anyone has checked the safety of that hide in the last hundred years.  It's planted there on stilts in the mud wobbling away in the wind.  It could be a death trap.  The whole thing could collapse into the mud at any moment, with me inside it.  Even worse with my scope inside it, and that does not bounce and does not heal.  OK, I admit it I am a coward!

The wind did cause me other problems too today.  It blew over my feeding station.  It's only the second time that has happened.  Luckily the big ugly squirrel baffle survived again, lord knows how, but one of my seed feeders broke.  Well actually the crash finished off what Butterfly the Squirrel had started when he was raging his terror campaign on my feeders.  So that's more money I have to find for the birds.  Honestly they are eating me out of house and home.  I hope they show their appreciation soon and invite one of their rarer cousins for tea!  At least I was able to get everything put to rights before Butterfly spotted it and thought it was Christmas come early.  I think he had a lovely time with all the spilt seed on the lawn though, I hope it does not give him ideas.

Mostly I rather like the weather now I live here.  By that I don't mean its always pleasant because its not but somehow you feel more part of it than you do in a town.  When it's windy the trees in the wood rage with it.  When it rains it lashes with venom.  When it's hot its just great!  There seems to be more power behind it, you can really feel the force of mother nature and what she is doing.

I am also noticing the seasons more.  Not that I haven't always taken an interest but again you feel more part of the changes, more connected.  I am watching crops being harvested that I remember as tiny shoots out of bare soil.   On Sunday I went Onion picking in a field I watched grow all summer.  There are fruits everywhere you look.  As you drive down the road there are various coloured plums dropped all over the road and pavement.  One stretch was striped purple then yellow then red.  The garden opposite us has trees dripping with pears.  What a waste, they live in The States and are rarely in residence, oh the temptation to scrump them!  When I go birding along the dunes I feast on blackberries, the sweetest I have tasted in years and no I am not being over romantic, it's true!

We are even eating the seasons more than ever before thanks to our local farm shops.  They only stock things which are in season for obvious reasons and when they have things they are so fresh I just have to feast on them.  The latest addition is sweetcorn fresh from the fields and speedily onto my barbecue!  Through the year I have picked my own Strawberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries, Plums, Runner Beans and Onions.  According to the notice at the onion field it's spuds next month. 

Until this week I have been buying home made jam from the local farmer too but now I have my own massive pan which was delivered this morning I can at last make my own jams and preserves.  I made Beetroot and Orange Chutney today with Beetroot and onions from the local farm of course.  The whole house stinks of vinegar now but I am sure it will be worth it in a couple of months when we taste it.  Tomorrow it will be Plum jam made with the Plums I picked today.  I like picking plums, you don't have to bend over for them.  I am a slacker as well as a coward!  At this rate I will be joining the Women's Institute and learning how to crochet those horrible tacky pretty little dolls you put over toilet rolls!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Once in a lifetime

Today was a long day, I had been up at 6am to go to the Wing and a Prayer Wild Bird and Owl Haven Open Day.  I was on face painting duty.  When I finally arrived home  the Hairy Hubby wanted to go to Asda, it was the last place I felt like going but I was so glad I did.

When we came out I saw the most panoramic sunset I have ever seen in my life.  Our Asda is next to Breydon Water and is very open all around so you get pretty much a 360 degree view of the sky.  I will not be able to do justice to what I saw but I will try.  The sun was low, almost gone.  A great burning ball on the horizon over the estuary, if you call it an estuary.  What was totally amazing was that the sunset covered the whole sky.  Everywhere I looked there was sunset, all around me and above me.  It was as if the world was on fire and I was in the middle of it, feeling very small.  The colours were incredible, peach, amber, purple, gold, pink, and an amazing aqua blue in addition to the classic blue sky.  There were dramatic cloud patterns, huge mountains in the distance, wispy streaks above me.  Swirls of colour shooting through the clouds as if by laser.  I felt as if I was inside a giant painted dome.  You can keep your Sistine Chapel I will take the natural world any day.  If I had painted it the only thing I would have added was a skein of geese flying across the sky but a lonely Gull sufficed.

I watched the sky driving home and the colours intensified as the sun slid away.  I knew that by the time we arrived home the show would be pretty much over.  As we drove across Rollesby and Ormsby Broads the colour had gone from most of the sky, just leaving the area around the sun a blazing orange and purple.  The water on Rollesby Broad was totally still and glowing gold and peach.

It was one of those experiences you just know is once in a lifetime, never to be repeated.  You could never plan to see something like that, it just finds you. 

By the time I ran back with my camera it was too late to do it justice

Monday, 30 August 2010

Foiled again!

I realised that high tide at Breydon was actually about 2pm today so my arrival at 10am should have been very early.  Wrong.  Yet again there was no mud.  Honestly I am going to burn the tide table book and take pot luck in future.  It is starting to feel hopeless.  Or maybe I should arrive at low tide and take lunch!  I am dying to pick through lots of waders.  It has always been one of my favourite ways of birding.  Mind you today sitting in the raised hide was a bit hairy to say the least.  With the high winds it was rocking and swaying something chronic.  Quite scary if you thought about it too much.  I did think about it too much so I went back to the car and off to Winterton for a seawatch!

When I arrived at Winterton I was pleased to see a small collection of birders standing by the huts.  That was a first in itself.  Even more pleasing was seeing the man I have chatted to twice before, once at Rush Hill and once at the Nelson's Head track, so at least there was a familiar face.  There were some other birders there who I was told were local experts but they were not very chatty and seemed to keep themselves to themselves.

Aparently there had been streams of skuas past before I arrived but typically wasting time at Breydon looking at naff all I had missed the good stuff.  After the other birders left I got onto a Bonxie and a Sooty Shearwater.  I am positive about the Bonxie but the Shearwater was a probable.  Either way it was very satisfying to pick up and ID some nice birds by myself.  Especially the Bonxie because it was really good in the sunlight, you could see the white on the wings glowing.  All in all I had about an hour and a half of quite nice seawatching.  It was howling wind but the sun had come out and it was dry for the first time in days.  Result!

Now I must get out my 'Flight ID of European Seabirds' book and start swotting up!  I am at The Haven tomorrow so there will be no seawatching or mud spotting until Wednesday.  Fingers crossed for a law abiding tide and dry weather!

There are TWO male Pheasents in the garden!!!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Still getting it all wrong...

Flushed with previous success I have made a few trips to Winterton this week hoping to get better at the ole seawatching lark.  Sadly things have not lived up to expectations despite promising weather conditions.  On Friday I was sitting watching Gannets Gannets and more Gannets.  I got home and checked Birdguides to find that Rainham had been having a fantastic day, Scoter, Bonxie, Sandwich tern, all sorts up and down the river all day.  I texted H to say that they had been having a better day there than here on the coast.  He replied 'I am in Norfolk....'  I felt his pain! 

Today Hairy Hubby was watching the F1 and I was bored stiff so I decided to head off for the coast again.  It was howling with wind and I thought I might be in with a chance.  Sadly I spent more time in the car with the scope poking out of the window than I did outside and all there were guessed it Gannets!  When I got home there was a late entry to say that at 10.30am (when it wasn't raining...) someone had seen Barred Warbler AND Pied Flycatcher at Winterton Dunes.  Isn't hindsight wonderful!

I have also decided to try and get Breydon Water right.  Friday morning looked a good timed tide so I headed off, this time a good two hours before high tide thinking that should be ample.  After all everyone tells me to get there an hour before.  Typically there was no mud left at all and all the birds were huddled in the undergrowth.  I did manage my first Golden Plover of the year (that is sad) and a few other nice birds but it did not fulfill it's promise.  You can see a pattern emerging here.  High tide tomorrow is about 1pm so I am going to get to the hide for 10.30.  I bet there is no mud.......

The garden is continuing to get busier.  Not busy but busier.  Monty the mole has been visiting again.  I like to see his little piles under the Laurel tree.  Hubby snarls every time he sees one but, well...tough!  Butterfly the squirrel has visited a few times too.  I have not seen him much since I barricaded the feeders.  So long as he does not find a way to eat all the bird food again he is welcome.  I have also seen The Jays and Woody the Great Spot so fingers crossed for a busy winter in the garden.

I do enjoy the drama of the weather now I live surrounded by trees.  You really notice the wind and rain from what the trees are doing.  It's nice to feel surrounded by the elements.  Well when it's not messing up your birding that is.  When you sit indoors on a windy day the trees are a constant background roar, it's very dramatic to listen to.  We went and got a quote for a log burning stove yesterday so I am looking forward to winter curled up in front of the fire with a good book listening to the trees singing.  I would have liked a fire today...some August Bank Holiday!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sunny seawatching off Winterton

In a moment of madness today I got up early, went without my normal marathon hairwash etc and took myself off to Winterton for a seawatch.  I managed to get there for 8.30 which is late for most birders but a bloomin' miracle for me at the moment!  It was a gorgeous morning and I felt very smug when Hairy Hubby rang from London where he is working to tell me it was horrbile and overcast.

At first the sea looked very quiet and as there were no other birders there I thought I had probably got it wrong again.  Mind you no doubt all the 'proper' seawatchers had already ticked everything and packed up by the time I arrived.  Any of them who are reading this are probably throwing their hands up in horror at my laziness.  Either that or saying 'why did you go to Winterton, it was much better for Horsey today'  or that sort of thing.  That's the trouble, I really just do not have a clue where to go and when.

Anyway, I had a decent couple of hours, I spotted my own Black Tern and I am 99% I also had a White Winged Black Tern.  Lots of Gannets were out there, mostly immatures to confuse me at a distance.  My seawatching is so rusty it has siezed up.  I think its been pushing two years since I have had a proper seawatch.  What I need is a seawatch buddy.  If I could find the local birders and find out what time they go to Winterton it would help!  I could just latch onto some poor unsuspecting soul and hope they help me.

I also saw another Harbour Porpoise.  I am really surprised to have seen two in so short a time, I suppose that must mean they are always out there but you only see them when the sea is calm.  Other stars of the morning were Arctic Skua which I really had to think about until it decided to harrass the terns, at which point I muttered confidently 'Arctic Skua' like I knew what I was doing. 

I got onto the two female/immature Velvet Scoter which I have seen on Birdguides for a couple of days.  I was well pleased with myself, that is the first time I have seen one all by myself.  I really must start that 'self found' list.....!  I decided to do the right thing and report the sighting to Birdguides when I got home.  I typed in the details, adding the harbour porpoise for good measure and hit send.  Then I got a message telling me that my news was 'local' and they might not use it!  Well, cheers Birdguides, considering you have published two reports of the birds by others in the past week that made me feel really good.  Maybe next time I will just tell myself that I live in Norfolk so I don't have to bother with reports!  Hmmmmf!!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Lottie, Smartie and Mr Dunnock

The little residents at Wing and a Prayer are always entertaining.  Take today, Lottie the Little Owl was flying free in the hospital.  Lottie is almost mature, as far as I know she has been in the hospital about 3 months but don't quote me.  She has a damaged retina so her eyesight is not so good and therefore will not be able to hunt for herself in the wild so will no doubt be looking for a home at some point. 

I was changing the water for one of my favourite little birds Smartie the House Martin and his room mate Dunnock.  Smartie as usual was all mouth and feathers, clamouring to get out of the cage and climbing all over my hands.  While I was trying to get him off my hands so I could close the cage door Mr Dunnock (sorry I am sure he does have a real name but I don't know it) decided to make a bolt for freedom and flew out of the cage door.  He looked very pleased with himself flying round the hospital and eventually came to rest smugly on top of the baby Pigeon cages. 

Lottie's reaction was instant, she was so interested in him, her eyes were following him everywhere and she started head bobbing and all sorts, you could almost see her mouth watering while thinking 'Mmmm Dunnock for lunch'.  So maybe her eye is not as bad as it seems!  It was so fascinating to see such an instinctive reaction from her, as she would in the wild.

Mr Dunnock of course had no clue of his close shave and was most put out when he was returned to his cage.  Apparently he is about ready to be released.  Smartie sadly is not, he is so keen to get out but for reasons unknown he is not a good flyer.  He was released a couple of weeks ago but was brought back the next day after being found in the mouth of next doors dog!  When we let him out in the hospital he ends up on the floor.  The same goes for the two Swifts, they just don't fly.  Goodness knows what will happen to them because all the other Swifts have gone back now and the House Martins are gradually going.  They can't really be released in winter with no other birds of the same species about.  I am told that all the ones who were left behind last year just seemed to pine away and die because the urge to migrate was so strong they could not bear it.  Poor little Smartie I will be so sad if he suffers the same fate.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Never have a birder for a mother....

I had a little excitement today in the form of a mini-twitch.  I read on Birdguides this afternoon that there had been an Osprey at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB at lunchtime and also yesterday.  After muttering curses that no news had been put out yesterday (it would have been out within 5 mins if it was Rainham) I sweet-talked my darling daughter into coming twitching.

Poor Bonnie has had a few twitching experiences with me over the years.  The first being the Spotted Crake at Cornmill Meadows where we waited 3 hours for a 3 second view.  Then there was the time we were heading off to Lakeside shopping when I dropped it into conversation that we were going on a diversionary twitch to Rainham for ...oh what was it now...oh yes another Spotted Crake.  So she now had a list of two rarities but they were both the same.  Then there was the Grey Phalerope at Abberton.  That was a 'lets call in on the way home' job, which involved racing down the A12 from Clacton chasing daylight at 80mph, getting low on diesel, blagging a permit for the dam and then (this is the bit she has not forgiven me for) having to climb fences to see the bird.  We also went to Rainham and saw a Spoonbill from the centre.  That one she enjoyed because a) the bird was hilarious to watch feeding and b) she did not have to walk far.

Anyway in typical style Bonnie has already seen an Osprey in Scotland years ago, before her mother turned into a monster who drags her all over the place in search of birds.  That day was eventful too.  She and I were watching the bird through the Centre's scope when one of the wardens came in rather flustered saying he had just had to throw two blokes off the reserve for Pike.  Bonnie and I gave each other horrified looks and said 'please God no don't let it be them'  We dashed back to the camper van to find Hairy hubby and son looking most fed up.  Yes they had been trying to fish in a nature reserve and could not understand what they had done wrong.  Apparently there were no signs telling them not to fish there.  The fact that it was a nature reserve and that you would have to be a moron to think you could fish it did not enter their heads!

Thinking about it I was lucky she came with me today!  We were lucky though, the bird showed after about 5 mins, flying right over our heads giving lovely views.  I think she rather enjoyed it, I know I did!

Saturday, 21 August 2010


It's been so quiet recently in the garden that there really has been nothing to write about.  Thankfully I am noticing a few small birds returning, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch.  Still nothing larger though, Jason the Jay has vanished, I can hear Pheasents out there but no sign of them yet.  I keep sprinkling a trail of seed into the garden in hopes they will pick up on it.  I put a whole loaf of stale bread out the other day and it just sat there going mouldy until the lawnmower picked it up.  Mind you I should not be surprised because that lawnmower has eaten just about everything else!

I have seen a grass snake a few times along the fence line.  The first time I was on a morning nature trail round the garden with the Grandkids when Dylan and I both shouted 'snake' at the same moment.  The second time he was in just about the same place so I am intending to put a few more mats about to attract him.  I have one sad little Tesco's value brand rubber car mat at the moment but as the Hairy Hubby has finally tarfelted the Summerhouse (hoooooray!) there are lots of offcuts of tarfelt so I will be liberating some of them tomorrow and dotting them round the garden.  It will be interesting to see if I find anything but beetles.  I know some people find beetles riveting but they are not my favourite wildlife.  Especially after finding one in my sleeping bag on a school trip at the age of 8, but that is another story.

My excitement recently has been volunteering at Wing and a Prayer.  Mostly I am cleaning out birds but I have been able to handle several species including, House Martin, a ducking (awww) lots of pigeons and Doves and also Crow and Herring Gull who were a bit scary.  Last week the young Herring Gull had got so big I asked the owner to get her out of her cage incase she bit me fought me too much and hurt her broken leg.  I have also hand fed some baby blackbirds and seen a House Martin Released. 

It's not all happy though.  There is a viral infection in the area affecting the local population and also some of the birds in The Haven.  Last week when I was there a little blackbird, one of the ones I had hand fed, was fine one minute, collapsed 10 minutes later and was dead within another 10 minutes.  It was so shocking how fast he went.  I know he was fine when I arrived because I had a little chat with all the birds before I started work and he was chatting back to me. 

I have managed a bit of seawatching this week.  Sadly I missed out on what I have heard was a seawatch bonanza last weekend but never mind (actually I do mind)  I just am not familiar with what is good conditions for which place yet.  It is a different style of birding round here to what I am used to.  At least that's how it seems.  I have had contact from a couple of local birders via a Yahoo group so fingers crossed I may have some birding buddies in the area before long.  Lord knows I could do with some contacts.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A glorious midsummer afternoon

It was a glorious midsummer afternoon at Hickling yesterday.  Almost devoid of birds but totally gorgeous anyway. Everywhere I went there was the sound of seed pods popping.  There were butterflies and dragonflies in abundance and it was a good chance for me to test my photographic skills.  I came home realising I need a lot more practice both at the photography and the Butterfly ID!  Even with my photos in front of me I am still struggling to ID them.  Were they Gatekeeper or Small Heath?  Was that a Small Skipper?  Sadly there were no Swallowtail about, I can do those!

It really was very hot and I had to rest by the tower hide.  I spotted this poor crow suffering from the heat.  He really does look comical trying to cool off with his wings spread and beak gaping.

Hot Crow

              View from the Observation hide

There has not been much about in the garden recently.  Butterfly is still about although not as much since I stopped him abusing my bird feeders.  The main birds I see now are juvenile Great Tit and Blue Tit.  I have seen the Jay on occasion but he does not come down as much as he did.  I just hope the lack of birds is not due to my moving the feeding station.  That Butterfly has a lot to answer to.

We discovered a wasp nest under the roof yesterday.  This time we are sure they are wasps, they are nowhere near as large as the hornets.  Hairy hubby put his extermination skills to the test again by standing on the wheelie bin and attacking them with fly killer.  I don't know how successful he was but you could hear they did not like it one bit!  When it's a bit cooler he will have to get into the loft and see if there is a nest in there.  At the moment I think anyone who ventured up there would die of heat exposure within minutes.

We did have one new visitor yesterday.  At least I have never seen one in the garden before.  A lovely Comma butterfly down by the Silver Birch where the Hornets nested.  He was having a lovely time winding me up when I was trying to take his portrait.  I wish I had taken more notice of the butterflies in the garden earlier in the year.  I know we had Orange tip and there were some lovely small blue ones which I meant to get around to identifying.  I suppose now I have lost my wood I am focusing more on the garden again.   


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

My delivery did not arrive!

I whizzed over to Rush Hill Scrape this morning to see if the White Tailed Plover that I had ordered had been delivered.  Sadly it is obviously running late and has not arrived yet.  Maybe tomorrow?  Honestly you just cannot rely on delivery services  nowadays.

While waiting for it to drop in I kept myself amused by talking to a local birder.  Yes you did read that right, a LOCAL BIRDER!  It is true they do exist!  I was starting have serious concerns that they had become extinct, only appearing as the stuffed version for twitches.  Anyway this rare breed was happy to chat to me about local paths and access to reserves etc and generally share some local knowledge with me.  What a nice way to spend a morning.

There were some nice waders there too.  No megas (due to the delay) but several Ruff in various stages of moult, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Avocet and Greenshank.  Not to mention two lovely Little Gulls, one juvenile and one adult.  There was also a very young fluffy Black Headed Gull chick wandering about on the mud.  Surely he should not have left the nest yet?  There was no way he was going to get back in because the nest is on a platform 3 feet off the ground.  I fear the little fella will be gone by morning.

It was a lovely walk to and from the hide.  The path goes through several different types of habitat, starting with cornfields, then a wood, then the reeds fringing Hickling Broad.  I was amazed how much the vegetation had grown up since I was there last which was only a month ago.  Some of the paths were very overgrown, one was impassable.  Nature amazes me how fast it gets on with the cycle of renewal every year.  No matter what, you can always rely on it.  We all witness it every year and yet people still keep asking to see a miracle.  The true miracle is out there under our very noses and most people don't even see it.  What a criminal waste!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Not what I wanted to hear

I had a text from The Gamekeeper today.  As of today would I keep out of The Wood till February.  I had to read it twice before it sunk in what I was reading.  I knew I would be asked to keep out for a while but never in a million years thought it would be for seven months!  Words fail me.  I am even more gutted about this than I am about missing out on the White Tailed Plover.  I have been saying all along that it was like a dream and that I couldn't believe my luck.  Well, now I am back to earth with a bump and a big 'no entry' sign.

It's always the way with me.  I always play by the rules and it always backfires.  If I had just gone off wandering in there without permission none of this would have happened.  But typically I had to go and ask permission which has now been withdrawn.  If I just go ahead and walk over there anyway I will doubtlessly find myself banned for life or done for trespassing.  I am sure that the various people I have seen over there who and heard of that go over there will continue to walk over there all through the winter.  They will enjoy all the Autumn leaves and Winter frost and snow that I was looking forward to seeing.  They will no doubt see the Red Deer I have been told go there in the Winter months.  That is because they did not ask permission first.

Doing the right thing does not always pay.  In fact most of the time I have found it does not pay at all but still I always have to do it.  Bah I am fed up!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Out of my hands!

Eventually the outcome of the Hornet dilemma was out of my hands.  Yesterday afternoon Hairy Hubby was spotted at the bottom of the garden with a can of fly spray and some duck tape.  I was sad but it was the practical solution really, especially because the Grandkids are here.  As he said the nest could have and probably would have got much bigger and become a problem.  The workers kept arriving back at the box with food but could not get in.  Eventually they gave up and must have moved off somewhere else.

"I'm sure there was a door here somewhere"

Once the terrible deed was done, I could not wait to see inside the box, after giving them overnight to die off.  There is only a small door at the back of the box so the view inside was limited but there was the beginning of an amazing structure inside.  It made me realise that if they could construct this much in just a few days,  just how much they would have built if left to their own devices.

The hole at the bottom is the nestbox entrance

When we emptied it all out there were several dead Hornets although not as many as I imagined, plus the Queen who was huge, much larger than the workers.  She must have been about 3 cm long and the workers about 1.5 - 2 cm. 

What a big girl she is!

The structure itself was amazingly full of grubs which were still alive and wriggling despite the fly spray killing their parents.  It looked like something out of a horror film, they were really fat!  It was a shame we do not still have our Koi pond, the fish would have enjoyed them.  Then I noticed something else moving.  There was a fully grown Hornet about to hatch out of one of the cells.  You could see its jaws chomping away to make its escape.  Then a leg appeared, thrashing around, trying to climb out.  Hairy Hubby dispatched the lot humanely (according to him) with a boiling kettle.

Wriggly grubs and a Hornet leg trying to get out!

It made me feel quite ill, although looking back I wonder why because really I should have been fascinated by the wonder of nature. I can only put it down to the images portrayed by horror films which make it all seem so gruesome and preconditioning us to think that insects are horrible. I must try harder not to be such a girl next time.  Although I hope they don't come back because I feel terribly guilty even though none of it was my decision.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Hornet investigations

I sent my mystery visitor picture to my friend 'who knows'  and the verdict has come back as Hornet (thanks Sam!)  This was a bit of a surprise to me but thinking about it they are rather huge.  I always thought Hornets were very aggressive but Sam sent me a very interesting link which tells a very different story.  I love the idea that they eat my sworn enemy the gnat, midge, mosquito whatever you want to call the horrible little bitey things.  They must be lending their support every night to the Bats in the battle of the skies.  With the amount of nasty bitey things I get in the garden it must be ideal for Hornets here.  It was also interesting to read that Hornets often bump into windows because this has been happening here.  You will be sitting in the study working away when BANG something crashes into the glass.  Now I know what it is.

As a nature lover I would really like to allow the Hornets to live in peace in the garden although I suspect Hairy Hubby has already put in his order for an industrial size box of fly killer.  I am still wary of the Grand kids being stung even after reading the information in the Hornet article and would not like to think of my prettiest nest box being swamped all over by a huge monstrosity of a nest.  This one requires careful thought...and negotiations with Hairy Hubby.

It seems that Rainham's White Tailed Plover has flown to Slimbridge.   What's more it has stayed overnight.  I think this was very unfair of it, the least it could have done was flown to Hickling so I could see it.  But no, it had to fly west not east and get totally out of reach for me.  All I can hope is that it remembers its manners and has a hasty rethink overnight.  A couple of convenient hours at Rush Hill Scrape would do me nicely.  Drat the bird, I have seen pictures and it was gorgeous.  I would love to see it.

The fields locally are all turning golden now.  Everywhere you go there are nodding heads of corn ripening in the sun.  It is lovely to see the crops I remember being tiny sprouts getting ready for harvest.  We are also able to buy local grown potatoes, carrots, strawberries etc from the farm shops.  More crops we have seen grow day by day and now we can eat them!  I love this living in the country lark. 

Friday, 9 July 2010

Buzz off in more ways than one!

An interesting few days.  Firstly I got a call from Auntie Allison at Rainham telling me Sam had found a White Tailed Plover.  There were two things wrong with this.  One I was waiting for my mother to arrive from London for her first visit here and two hubby had just driven down there to get her, spending tons of dosh on fuel to do it.  This meaning that if I jumped into my car and hot footed it down there I would have two very annoyed relatives to deal with.  Oh the frustration!  White Tailed Plover is one of those birds you look at in The Collins Guide and dream that you may see one day.  I love waders and this one is so striking.  I crossed everything that maybe it would hang around a few days so I could see it when I took her home.  Thus avoiding an international incident indoors. 

Sadly it was not to be, the dratted bird flew overnight.  That I could deal with but the rotten thing flew west not east and ended up at Slimbridge.  How damn inconsiderate of it not to come to Norfolk.  The cheek of the bird!  However I am so happy for Sam that he found the bird, and also thrilled for Howard and Rainham.  Rainham will always be home to me, nothing will or could ever replace it for me.

The second event was an encounter with The Gamekeeper while I was walking Action Dog out at the lake.  She told me she would be getting some new birds soon and that I would have to stay out of the wood for a while whilst they settle in.  Oh drat!  What a sinking feeling that caused.  There I was saying 'oh yes of course, yes I understand' while thinking 'shit shit shit'.  I am going to miss it soooo much.  Still it IS private land and I know I am really fortunate that I am allowed to walk there.  But ohhhh I don't want to stay away.

This morning I noticed that something has taken up residence in my pretty nestbox which my friend Gill gave me.  I had hung it in a tree temporarily until I could get Hairy Hubby to put it up properly.  I think they are wasps.  I hope they are bees.  I used to think I knew a wasp from a bee until I started hanging around with people who know all sorts of stuff about insects.  Then I found out I actually knew nothing.  Unless its a fat bee that is, I can do fat bees. 

They are clearly building a nest in there, you can see it blocking part of the entrance.  It's quite exciting really, knowing something is setting up home in your garden.  I would like to watch the comings and goings.  Sadly Hairy Hubby (who is usually right about these things) has ideas about a couple of cans of fly spray and a bit of mass murder.  I suppose he is right because if one of the Grandkids gets stung I will feel terrible but I really would like to keep it there.  I am hoping they are bees so I can gain moral high ground and hope for the best.  I am going to email  a friend and get confirmation later.

It's a wasp isn't it?

Monday, 5 July 2010

A River Adventure

Yesterday afternoon news broke of a River Warbler somewhere near Norwich.  Naturally as I am now a local I was eagerly waiting for news of the exact site.  After waiting what seemed like ages I decided to go get a healthy dinner.  One leisurely bag of chips and curry sauce later, enjoyed next to the bridge at Potter Heigham, I returned home and checked Birdguides.  Access was sorted and details published so I quickly got out my trusty Satnav 'Betty' to see if I could get there in time.  Great it was only half an hour away. 

I grabbed scope bins and the £2 fee to get into the private field and headed off with 'Betty' to grab a tick.  Feeling very smug I sped along country lanes directed by Betty thinking to myself that this twitching lark was a breeze and what did I used to think was so stressful about it.  Until that was Betty announced 'In half a mile board ferry'  WHAT????  Screech to a halt.  What bloomin' ferry?  Oh God the Reedham River ferry.  Oops, here I was ten minutes away from the twitch and on the wrong side of the river with no money apart from my gate money.  I had a look at my A-Z and could not see another crossing apart from Great Yarmouth which would basically mean me going home and starting again.  I drove down to the ferry point hoping to find someone to give me advice and spotted a pub.  You can't beat a good pub I always say.

I dashed panting into the main bar and announced 'Is anyone here local and can help me with some directions'  Luckily two guys volunteered to assist.  I was almost tearing my hair out when they told me I would have to do a 45 minute diversion to get accross the river.  I could have screamed!  One of them even reprogrammed Betty not to take me over ferrys again.  A bit like closing the stable door etc but it was kind of him.  Their faces were a picture when I told them what I was going to Thorpe for.  Then one of them said the immortal words 'Hold on love, let me see who is on the ferry tonight'.  Talk about cross everything and pray to the god of birding.  He came back 5 mins later with a smile and said 'Drive onto the ferry and tell them you are a friend of Mark's'.  I could have kissed him.  But I didn't!

So I blagged my way onto the ferry for free.  The guy running it gave me a strange knowing look.  He must have been thinking 'bloody lunatic twitchers'  I have always wanted to go over the Reedham Ferry but never quite thought it would be under those circumstances!  I was whooping with joy when I drove off.  With hindsight I really should have closed the car window, they could probably hear me in the pub!

I got the the twitch site at about 7.45.  There were several hundred people there already.  I paid my £2 fee to the sweet little girl holding a bucket, thinking that her Mummy and Daddy were going to become rich that night.  Maybe they are giving it all to charity, I did not stop to ask to be honest.  I quickly parked up and joined the throng to find that not only was the bird not showing but views were very limited by bushes but mostly by very tall men with very tall scopes.  Maybe I should have worn my 6" heels, at least if they did not help me see over heads I could have stamped on a few people to get closer!  No, not really, I could never turn up to a twitch in heels, it would ruin what little credibility I gain as a lady birder by having decent bins and scope. 

I desperately scanned the crowd for an even vaguely familiar face but drew a blank.  I really hate being totally alone in a huge crowd of twitchers, it is not only boring but so much harder to see the bird when you are alone.  More pairs of eyes are always better.  I also feel that as a woman I stick out like a sore thumb when I am alone.  I managed to get talking to a couple of local birders so that helped a bit.  I am not totally sure they really wanted to talk to me but it was better than the alternative!  It did prove to me that there are Norfolk birders out there, you just have to go on a twitch to find them because they are never in evidence any other time.  All I ever find when I am out in the field are Yorkshiremen on holiday.

At 8.50, almost at the time predicted by my new best friends for the evening, the bird started to sing.  The tall men at the front could all see it in their scopes.  I could not even see the bush.  After about 10 mins of cursing and muttering to myself, while standing on tiptoes with my scope as high as I could get it, a very nice man in front of me took pity on me and offered to let me see in his scope.  Result!  I love that feeling of relief when you finally see the bird.  It makes all the drama worth it.  They were not stunning views, the bird was inside the bush but I saw the supercillium and most other body parts although not all at once.

It became apparent that even if the bird came out in plain view there was no way I was going to see it over all the shoulders and baseball caps so I decided to head for home.  As I walked away there was a fantastic sunset which was a great way to top off the adventure.  I was quite glad I left when I did because the roads home were mostly unlit so it was better to have a little daylight.  Plus I got home before 10pm thus not pushing my strained luck too far.

Looking back I can't beleive how much I pushed my luck, bursting into the pub, blagging the ferry and then attaching myself to some poor unsuspecting locals.  I should really be blushing with shame.  But I'm not...I am writing the tick in my book and grinning from ear to ear!

Ps if I can find a picture of the bird I will post it here but I will be amazed if anyone got one!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

New Obsessions

It looks like I have won the Butterfly battle.  He is still visiting but has not been seen looking smug on top of the feeding station for a few days.  He just has to content himself with the seed I scatter on the ground.  I have also noticed the feeder seed does not go down as fast now too which is a big bonus!

The new battle is the gnats, midges, mozzies, whatever you want to call them.  I have every flying insect known to these shores in my garden.  Keeping them away is becoming my new obsession.  Massive amounts my time is currently being spent spraying rooms and myself and treating bites.  It's not a lot of fun and I am considering buying a beekeepers outfit to wear for the whole summer.

I can't think where all the mozzies come from......

I went for a boat ride on the Broad with a friend this week.  While we were waiting to cast off I spotted a Bittern flying past.  Naturally the birder in me took over and forgetting I was in non-birder company I jumped up and loudly stated 'Bittern flying left!'  Not only did the people around me look at me like I was a loony but the guy who was going to do the tour looked doubtful and said 'I think it was a Marsh Harrier'  Still in birding mode I dug an even deeper hole for myself by telling him far too forcefully that no it was most certainly a Bittern, it was barrel chested and was not flying right for a Harrier.  I did not mention that at that short distance you would have to blind to mistake a Bittern for a Harrier!  Later in the tour he told us how Common Terns dive for dragonflies and misidentified a coot as a grebe, saying the chicks looked like baby Coots.  Probably because they were Coots but what he meant was Moorhens.  So he could not tell a Coot from a Grebe or a Moorhen from a wonder he could not tell a Bittern from a Harrier!  I was very well behaved and kept very quiet.  My friend said she knew he must be wrong cos I wasn't saying anything!

On the way out of the place I spotted some tiny chicks running along the hedge line.  They must have been Partridge or Pheasant, I have not discovered which yet but they were tiny, perhaps two thirds of the size of a newly hatched duckling. There were about 8 or more of them all running along and trying to get into the long grass and under the Beech hedge.  So sweet, I have never seen such tiny chicks before.  They were only about 10 feet away from us but I could not get my friend onto them, probably because she is not used to getting her eye into things like that.  We ended up on our hands and knees peering under the hedge trying to see them.  Lets hope no one was looking.  Especially anyone who heard my 'Bittern' outburst!

"Gentleman Jim"  aka the scene of the crime!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

This blog will shortly be renamed the Butterfly Diary

I found Him on top of the feeding station again today, just pulling his head out of my squirrel proof seed feeder which was above my squirrel proof baffle with a triumphant look on his face.   By Him of course I mean Butterfly.  I could see him thinking 'I bet you would like to know how I got up here!'  The smug little critter!  I don't mind buying his breakfast but I do object to him smashing the crockery while he eats it.  I realised that the trees near the feeding station have grown quite a bit since we moved in so I moved the feeding station a few more feet away and retired to my study to watch out of the window. 

First he tried climbing the pole but was met with my first line of defence, the big, ugly, expensive baffle....


Then he climbed the nearby Laurel tree and took a flying leap.  So I was right, he had been jumping!  His little arms and legs were outstretched like one of those flying squirrels from the jungle, trying to glide though the air, but he could not quite fly far enough and bellyflopped onto the ground in a most undignified manner. He sat there looking very embarrassed for several seconds before carrying on looking for dropped seed in the grass as if he had meant to do that all along.  I think I won this round...I hope!

"Who are you staring at?"