Sunday, 30 May 2010

Oh! Deer!

I had to get out this morning.  The walls were closing in on me.  That's what comes of having all this wonderful countryside at your doorstep, you just can't stay indoors for longer than a few hours.  Spoilt?  Yes, you bet!  This morning the weather was doing funny things, it was bright and sunny one moment and then overcast and threatening rain the next.  After a 10 minute search for my raincoat (it was hanging in the wardrobe, what a stupid place to put it!) I managed to escape out into the wood.

It's amazing how good it feels out there, as soon as you step over that garden boundary the world changes to a better place.  Time stands still and the rest of the world goes away.  This time I was actually alone for once.  By alone I mean no little dog.  I felt a bit mean but it was damp out and she would have looked like a muddy, twiggy swamp monster by the time we got back.  So I snuck out before she realised I was going.  What a horrible owner I am!

I had decided to try some of the branching paths this time.  There are so many directions to try that you have to have a bit of a plan and stick to it or you might never be seen again.  I headed down a grassy track to the right of the main path, it was very different down there to the main track.  There was a stream running along one side and trees to the left.  It felt like the sort of path you would invent in a dream.  I heard a call and a Common Buzzard came into view.  It was circling low for quite some time and I had lovely views of it in my bins.  In fact I think I moved on before the bird did! 

The track went round in a square and I realised it would eventually take me back to the main track which was a result.  On turning a corner I found a stone memorial to the previous owner of the wood.  It was large, over three feet square and looked like Portland Stone, although I am no expert.  It was engraved 'His Beloved Wood' and had a name and dates of birth and death.  There were two split log benches either side of it.  I wondered if the mans ashes were buried there.  It made me feel sad to see it because he must have loved his wood so much and I knew that it was after the date of death that the estate was split up and our plot of land was sold off and other land split up.  I said a silent thank you to the man for letting me walk in his special place.

On the way back I was treated to a wonderful view of a Roe Deer.  I know it was a Roe Deer because I have finally found a pretty good ID guide online.  It is really meant for Cornwall and Scilly but is good enough for my use.  The deer I saw was a stag.  He was so muscular and proud, so alive.  I don't know how anyone could shoot them.  I could not destroy something so magnificent.  I was lucky that he was upwind of me and did not have a clue I was watching him.  I stood partly behind a Hawthorn tree and pulled my hood up to hide my hair.  He never knew I was there, I crept away after about ten minutes of watching him feed on the hedge.  I felt truly honoured to have seen something so amazing let alone having it so close to my home.

Yet again, I feel blessed!

Friday, 28 May 2010

A fab day!

What a fab day!  I started at How Hill hoping to see the elusive Swallowtail butterflies. I had a chat with the guy in the office.  Not the one I usually talk to but another one.  I told him of my search and he said that the first two weeks in June are the best to see them and that apart from the usual plant which I can never remember the name of they also go mad for pink flowers.  He led me outside to look at a patch of Red Campion and I was gobsmacked to see a Swallowtail fluttering about.  Actually the guy was as gobsmacked as me.  Talk about an easy tick!  I was well happy and what a gorgeous creature it was.  I followed that with a lovely stroll round the reserve in gorgeous sunshine.

After lunch I decided to take the little dog for a walk in the woods.  I had to stop off and give a message to hairy hubby who was working next door on a machine for the tree surgeon.  Aparently hubby had told the man I am keen to learn the names of all the trees and I was lucky enough to get an impromtu lesson from him.  The best thing was that I actually remember lots of what he told me.  Well at the moment anyway!  He said I can go back take him leaves to ID.  I could not have asked for better.

I followed that with a lovely long walk (the dog is knackered now) in the wood where I saw lots of deer, including one which I don't think was a Muntjac, it was too tall and leggy.  I really need a good Deer ID book but can't find one anywhere.  I walked further into the wood than I have ever done before and found a big lake.  It was a lovely idyllic spot and had lots of little perch and roach in the margins.  There were some benches there and a table, I think someone uses it for barbeques.  I just hope no one is ever there when I go again or I will feel a right berk crashing in on them.  I can't wait to take hubby and show it to him.

I feel so blessed to be living here, it's like a holiday where you never have to go home.  It is wonderful to have all this space and green around me, the air is always fresh and there is always somewhere to go.  What more could I ask!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

I fear that the news has spread

It's ever so quiet in the garden today.  No Pheasents, not many birds and no sign of Monty.  I wonder if he has gone off and told his friends about the bad behaviour last night and we are now on the blacklist of bad gardens.  Perhaps I should leave them all a note to tell them its him, not me who does mean things to moles.  I really don't like having a quiet garden, it just does not seem right at all. 

The only thing which is really about in good numbers are gnats!  It is swarming out there today.  You start itching just looking out of the window.  It's almost Scotland proportions.  If it continues I may have to dig out my headnet when I put out the washing tomorrow.  Well not quite but you get my drift!  Maaayyybeee it's a plague sent by Monty to get his revenge.  They could all be his friends coming to torment us for being mean to him.   This could escalate into one of those neighbourhood disputes which you hear about on TV.  Monty will be complaining that Hubby wrecked his mountain and hubby will be complaining that Monty dug up his lawn.  I wonder what will happen next? Rabbits with picket signs saying 'Do not enter this garden'?  I fear bad times ahead!

One good thing is that Sunny, the little female Red Legged Partridge is still sitting on her eggs behind the summerhouse.  I had a peep with my bins from a distance and could see her back all snuggled down in the dead leaves.  Hopefully she will be so preoccupied with her eggs that she won't hear all the gossip about her chosen garden.  Perhaps she will be the ambassador we need.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Where is Jasper Carrott when you need him?

We returned home about 8pm tonight after a lovely day visiting family and also popping in to Rainham Marshes to see the wonderful new hide they have built.  Very impressive I have to say, I wish it had been open because I would love to see the view!  Maybe in another month or so I will be able to pop back although I fear I may be taking the mick dragging my Mother and Daughter over there only to dump them in the Visitor centre while I whizz round the reserve.  We shall see.

When we arrived home we spotted that we had received a visit from Monty the Mole again. He first came a week or so ago and left a couple of small mountains at the side of the lawn by the feeders.  I was quite pleased but Hubby just kept muttering about Jasper Carrott and moles.  If you don't know what I am talking about try Googling it I am sure it must be out there somewhere.  It was one of his finest sketches.  Anyway tonight there was a small but very fresh mound out there.  So fresh that we wondered if he was still building it.  I tiptoed out into the garden hoping to catch a glimpse of a paw and was thrilled to see some soil tumbling down.  Great he was still there!  With that hubby shouts 'He is there' at the top of his voice.  Well it does not take a brain surgeon to realise that poor little Monty went into hiding.  That man has no idea about wildlife hunting!

About 15 mins later after I had made coffee we looked out and saw that the hill had grown again.  Hubby told me it was still moving and handed me my bins.  Great I thought, I get a second chance.  With that into my range of vision appeared that hairy heathen of a husband of mine carrying a plank of plywood which he proceeded to flaten Monty's mountain with before my eyes.  Poor Monty, all his hard work in ruins!  I was speechless.  Well until he nutted himself on the birdfeeder in the tree that was and then I was laughing hysterically.  Sadly he did not find it as funny as me :o)

I have no doubt this story will be continued.....

Ps I just found THIS...enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


A sneaky peek behind the summerhouse today confirmed the identity of the nest owner.  We are now officially expecting little fluffy Red Legged Partridges!  I had not thought of that one.  Silly really because they often scuffle about on that side of the garden.  Mum was really sweet when I peered round the corner, she huddled down and hoped I would not see her, which of course I pretended I did not.  I do have manners after all!  She was really well comoflaged against the dead leaves.  The same dead leaves hubby has been threatening to clear since we moved in.  I am so glad he left them alone.  I will have to go and google the gestation period of RL Partridge eggs now!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Hot news!

This news is hot off the press!  There are Pheasents nesting in our garden.  At least we think they are Pheasents.  It would be nice if it was Esmerelda because I have not seen her for about a fortnight but I think ducks eggs are blueish and these are a buff colour and speckled.  I have tried googling for pics of Pheasent eggs but the results are inconclusive.  Anyway, there is a little scrape in some dead leaves behind my summerhouse and there is a clutch of about 7 or 8 eggs in there.  I forgot to count in my excitement and I don't want to go back round there and cause more disturbance.  I will keep an eye from a distance now and see who goes round there!

Other recent highlights have been my first Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier sightings.  It's quite exciting sitting in your garden with a cup of tea and seeing Harriers go over!  Quite addictive in fact, I got nothing done at all on Friday and very little on Saturday.  I just sat gazing skyward. 

Last week I had a friend to stay who kindly brought her Bat Detector with her.  We sat out one evening at dusk and discovered that there are at least two types of bat in our garden.  It was hard to say which type, the frequency guides are a bit vague to say the least.  Just about everything seems to be between 40 and 60.  However there were big ones and little ones so undoubtedly two types, maybe more!  Further research and investigation is needed but I am not sure where to start.  I have reminded hubby yet again about putting my bat box up.  Oh the frustration of being useless at that sort of thing, you have to wait till someone else gets their act together. 

The really good news is that Hoppy is much much better.  He seemed to get really bad and then the next day start walking better.  He barely has a limp now.  He is not visiting as much this week and when he does is often alone or just with one or two females.  I have not seen the little one with the bare bum for a week or so.  I can't imagine it is them nesting behind the summerhouse or I would see them in the garden feeding.  What I need is one of those nests cams.  Or better still Simon King.  Or Charlie Hamilton Jones.  I wonder if I rang them they would pop over here and check it out for me?

Most of last week was spent at Hickling trying to see Swallowtail butterflys.  Unsuccessfully.  Honestly its so frustrating.   They tell you in the centre that they are up.  You go out on the reserve full of hope and its full of Peacocks.  And raggedy ones at that.  One little Swallowtail is all I want.  Not much to ask for really.  Maybe tomorrow....

Monday, 10 May 2010

The stalker with pink earmuffs?

After being so fed up yesterday morning I went off to Horsey in the afternoon to cheer myself up.  I parked on the Nelson's Head footpath and had a long windy walk down to the dunes.  By the time I got to the end of the track my ears felt like an elephant had stamped on them and I was wishing for some of those pink fluffy bunny earmuffs little girls wear.  Probably not the best way to be taken seriously by the local birders but at that moment I really would not have cared.  Sadly there were no little girls within mugging distance so I had to do without.

A few yards from the end of the track I spotted the first sign of life, a Wheatear.  My first this year, I was starting to think I was going to go the whole spring and not see a single one!  Then just like busses there was suddenly three of them.  I watched them for about five minutes savouring the moment and the fact that I had found the shelter of the dunes and my ears were coming back to life.  Sadly a loud family with rabid children came storming by and that was the last I saw of the Wheatears.  They were so loud!  I could hear them coming from about half a mile away, I sometime wonder if when presented with silence some people feel the need to fill it.

My next treat was a gorgeous Cuckoo sitting on a post.  I had been scanning the field and looking at Meadow Pipits trying to make them into the Tawny Pipit that was there not so long ago.  When I took the bins down there was the Cuckoo about twenty yards away from me.  I honestly think that was the best view I have had of a Cuckoo, usually they are flyovers or a brief perched view before it flies off.  This one sat for a few minutes before some dog walkers (nice ones not rabid ones) came down the path so the bird flew right past me (yes I kept the bins on it for a great close up) and landed about the same distance away further down the track.  When the dog walkers drew level with me they asked me what it was and said it had been pacing them for ages, flying on a little way when thier dogs got near it.

After that lovely treat I went up on the dunes via a wooden staircase (how civilised!) and found that there was a sort of viewing platform at the top on the dunes.  I imagine that is for when the seals are breeding and the beach is roped off.  There were several seals in the water and a couple (human not seal) in wetsuits shoulder deep in the water with seals all around them.  Every time a wave came the seals disappeared and popped up somewhere else, sometimes just a few feet away from them.  It was great watching the delight on their faces till I realised that I looked like a stalker watching them with binoculars from the dunes!  I had to quickly turn my attention a bit of a seawatch which was after all what I had really gone up there for.  I was thrilled to see my first Gannet of the year.  Yes I did say thrilled, Gannets are one of my favourite birds and its been a very tricky year so far and I have not seen much!  There was also a couple of flying ducks, possibly Eider very far out moving very fast and low over the water.  Sadly I am not up to IDing flying dots like that so I could only guess and hope that one day I will crack seawatching.

Today I had intended to go back to How Hill and see if the bluebells were out but courtesy of Barclays Bank that was not to be.  Sadly answering the phone is not their strong point and after half an hour of being in a queue I decided it would be quicker to drive the 9 miles to Stalham and do the job in person.  It was.  Much.  Thanks Barclays for spoiling my afternoon, it was a lovely and sunny!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Best garden tick yet...and I missed it!

Today at breakfast time hubby was looking out of the window and said 'A big bird of prey just went over the house'  Naturally I dropped my toast and ran outside to look skywards.  Despite scanning the skies I coudn't see a thing so went indoors muttering about Gulls and looked out of the front window just incase.  Still nothing.  He was adamant that he had seen a big bird of prey very low.  I went back to my toast still muttering about Gulls.

Then at lunchtime I saw an entry on Birdguides saying there had been a Honey Buzzard flying over Ormsby St Margaret which is the next village to us at 9.18am.  Was I fed up?  Ohhh yes!  I spend half my day glued to that window and when something really good flies over I go and miss it!!  I wish I had gone as far as the street now, it might have been behind the trees at the side of the house.  Or if I had jumped into the car and gone down to The Broad I would have had a vast view of the sky.  Next time I will take him more seriously.  It's just that he is always seeing big birds of prey and they are always gulls.

I was going to make an entry today about baby Song Thrushes and soaring Swifts but somehow my heart is just not in it.  Hmmmfffff!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Rush Hill Scrape

Off somewhere new today.  Well not totally new, I went there once to twitch a Green Winged Teal a few years ago.  Rush Hill Scrape is on Hickling Broad but the other side to the reserve.  You have to go into Potter Heigham and walk through to The Weavers Way to find the hide.  It's actually a nice walk through some fields and a wood before coming out alongside a reedbed so you get a wide variety of habitat.  I saw Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Willow Warbler enroute.

It was a reasonable day when I left but as soon as I got out alongside the reedbed it was howling a gale.  Inside the hide it was blowing straight on so was very uncomfortable sitting with the flap open.  I could have really used a hat and some MAY!  Despite frostbite and hyperthermia I managed to spot one of the published Wood Sandpipers, a Redshank and three Ruff.  There were lots of Avocet and various ducks and geese too. I stayed about an hour before running for the shelter of the wood.  The most amusing thing I saw was the poor little Wood Sandpiper staggering about in the wind.  It looked like it was going to get blown over at one point.  I have never seen that with a bird before. 

On the way back to the car I had a wonderful encounter with a Male Marsh Harrier.  I had just gone down a path beside a hedge which lined a field and saw the bird out of the corner of my eye quartering over the field.  I quickly ducked back and peeped out from behind the hedge with my bins to see the Harrier coming right at me at close range.  Wonderful stuff.  He spotted me quickly and went further away but it was a really wonderful view.  You could almost see the concentration on his face as he looked for food.

Garden news.  Hoppy the Pheasent is still hopping about painfully.  I am hoping its just an injury from a fight and it will get better in time.  Esmerelda is still my best girl. We had a nice chat this morning when I got up.  Butterfly the squirrel and I are not on speaking terms.  He raided my sunflower heart feeder early this morning and virtually cleaned it out.  I can just imagine him hanging upside down with his head stuffed down inside it scoffing all that expensive seed.  I am really cross with him because its the birds favourite feeder and that was the last of the sunflower hearts.  They will have to make do with black sunflower seeds now until I can get somewhere that sells the other stuff.  The only place I have found round here is the local boot sale at £1 a tiny bag, none of the shops seem to sell it.  I suppose that will teach me for buying my squirrel proof feeders in Lathams for £2.99.  They are seconds and the lid clips don't line up which is why the little ratbag squirrel can get the top off.  What I need is a couple of very tiny bungees to clip over the tops.  Fairy sized ones would do.  Mind you he would probably still get the tops off now he knows thats where the seed is, I swear that squirrel was a commando in a former life!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Garden Stuff

It's about time I did a garden update.  It's been a bit quiet recently in the little world outside my door.  The Pheasents are not about quite as much as they were.  It may be because they are starting to nest, or whatever it is Pheasents do.  They have certainly been getting very friendly with each other lately so I would imagine that the patter of tiny claws would be imminent.  There have been a couple of casualties recently.  One of the males has developed a limp.  He hobbles about the garden pitifully pecking about as they do.  That is until another male shows up, then he seems to have a miraculous healing and goes running accross the garden at the interloper at top speed.  When the other bird is gone he goes back to limping.  If I thought he knew I was watching I would say he was after sympathy!

The other casualty is a little female.  The poor thing has lost all her tail feathers plus most of those below on her rump.  She looks very strange without a tail, sort of like a wierd Partridge.  It must be hard for her to fly without them, not that they fly much anway, they seem to prefer to run away.  Flight always seems the last option to them.  My daughter says the poor little thing looks like she has lost all her dignity.  Mind you it does not seem to have bothered her, she does not go around hiding her behind in the bushes or anything.

Esmerelda and Arthur are still visiting, although I don't seem to have seen Esmerelda quite as much lately.  Maybe she is busy elsewhere nesting or maybe she has found someone else who is a daft as me and gone out and bought her seed.  Arthur seems a bit bolder, he sits and waits under the window until I appear and then backs off a bit till I start throwing food.

There is still a good selection of little birds coming to the feeders.  Well to what's left of the feeders, if it's not squirrel proof then Butterfly has chewed a hole in it.  I really will have to scrape some cash together and get a squirrel baffle.  I have not noticed Willow Warbler recently but then maybe I have not been listening.  There are still loads of Coal Tit.  Who would have thought I could ever get blase about Coal Tit!