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Only the brave

No matter how many times I walk the well-trodden paths that criss-cross my local patch, nature can still throw up something new. At Surlingham Church Marsh early this morning, the temperature beginning to climb above freezing, I witnessed a pair of Jays mobbing a perched Common Buzzard. I have never seen this behaviour before, although from a Corvid of any kind not exactly unexpected. My presence appeared to be the final straw, the raptor taking flight and disappearing further into the small pine wood. Elsewhere on the reserve, a hunting female Marsh Harrier was hopefully a sign of things to come prior to Spring, and Siskins aplenty called overhead and amongst the Alders. Walking the holloway from the church down to the river, the first Snowdrops were braving the frozen ground and providing a welcome splash of purity and colour.

This afternoon as the sky took on a golden tinge above the copse opposite, I took this as my signal to walk the marsh path down to the river. I was rewarded w…
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A local phenomenon

In the time it took me to drive down the long uneven track to the enigma that is The Beauchamp Arms, the satellite Corvid roost had grown from zero to around 300 birds. A roughly even mix of Rooks and Jackdaws assemble on Claxton Marshes every evening during the Winter (currently around 15.30) and 50 minutes later a mass of circa 5000 birds have left for the giant roost at Buckenham Carrs north of the river. This was the first time I had made a clear note of timings, and was surprised by how quickly the meeting point goes from raucous to silent. In fact, an eerie quiet falls upon the avenue of trees around 16.00, and a lone cock Pheasant outcried the 1000s of Corvids perched on trees or loafing on the marshy ground beneath. What follows are a number of reshufflings as the restless birds take flight in small waves, taking a new branch to perch upon. Around 16.15, a false dawn as a splinter group takes a more purposeful flight only to loop round and return to the main group. Only at tw…

Murmurings of content

Elephant in the room- I felt the blog needed a rebrand, fresh coat of paint. Now that you can detect and indeed explain the smell of freshly washed clothes, I can get back to business and at least aim to post more than once per quarter in 2019. Birds, beasts, books, Black Shuck: expect all, and then some.
I do enjoy Betwixtmas. Drams of Glen Keith, smashing through a new Shardlake novel and almost aimless wanderings about the patch. Family outing to Wheatfen today, pleased to note two feeding stations are attracting the attention of the gregarious Tit families including Marsh and Coal. A Nuthatch's machine gun-like call broke through the grey and a pair of Great-spotted Woodpecker engaged in a bit of will they, won't they courtship. On a run through the village yesterday I heard drumming, early maybe but indicative of the mild weather. After successfully test-driving some Christmas clothes, we retired to Coldham Hall where I can announce with surprise I enjoyed a pint of seas…

Reflections.

A great summer of wildlife to reflect upon. Looking back at my diary notes, a number of items jump off the page and I will embellish upon a few here.

Early August I caught up with a tiny percentage of the Pied Flycatcher influx. I left the girls for half an hour on Caister beach on the 3rd of August (thankfully they were there when I returned) and stumbled across a single bird feeding on flying ants perhaps amongst the gorse. The following day I met up with Tim at Waxham, had a good yarn about all things education, and whilst most birds had cleared out I still picked up one bird calling loudly overhead.

The 10th was an odd day for me. I saw a new bird for the UK in Spotted Crake, but views were particuarly underwhelming and did make me question the whole twitching thing once again. On reflection, the day was more about spending quality time with my uncle and I will probably remember it more for that and getting soaked on route back to the car.

On the 18th of August, with the M40 as a …

The best of The Patch and a Norfolk Day Walk

I led a cosy (ie few people attended) walk on Norfolk Day weekend, from The New Inn at Rockland out to the broad, river and back. It was advertised as a Bat walk but as with any dusk walk there was plenty of other wildlife to enjoy. By the staithe, a Lesser Stag Beetle scuttled along the path. Although the broad was quiet save Ducks in eclipse plumage, at the back a Bittern flew over the reedbed in the direction of Wheatfen. This was actually my first record of the year on the patch, having not made an early starts in April (this side of the river at least) where I would usually at least hear booming. As dusk entered darkness and a slightly blood-red moon rose, 2 Hobby hunted close to us, one eating a large Hawker on the wing as they tend to do. It was on the return leg that we connected with Bats, and initially plenty of them. At least 6 Noctule hawked over the river and scrub by Short Dyke, lots of feeding buzzes heard over the detector for the party to enjoy. These are Britain'…

A new feeder

The kind folk over at Vine House Farm https://www.vinehousefarm.co.uk/ recently sent me a new feeder to try out, which you can see in the photo below. The feeder sits perfectly on a ring designed to hold a seed or water bowl. It has a 'handle' at the back which can be secured to a (probably wider) pole if required. Initially, the birds were wary, no doubt as this looks a little different to anything else around. I filled it with suet pellets provided by Vine House, and it after a few days this was the hot feeder in the garden, plagued by juvenile Starlings, to the extent that the fat balls next to it are oft forgotten! Handily, I can change the inner part of the feeder to suit fat balls rather than pellets. This will be a useful test, as I will find out whether it is the nature of the new feeder design or indeed the food available that has meant the immature Starlings come back again and again. A further test will be the winter months, but in the meantime nice to enjoy the lo…

Away from home- Salcey Forest and Oundle

I've had the date in the diary for a while, and after the abject failure of Skipper hunting during the May half term week I was keen to make amends and do some more exploring in the Midlands. This time, the targets were Black Hairstreak and Wood White, before meeting up with friend Allan and an Oundle pub crawl. 
Upon arrival at the Horse trail (see below; confirmation I was in the right place thanks to the scribbled b.h. and star that could be a Butterfly on the sign?) I had walked a matter of metres before I was stopped in my tracks by a Purple Emperor that landed on the track and briefly fed on salts, sun-bathed and finally disappeared high into the canopy. An incredible encounter, and I did not once think to grab the camera of course. Onwards, and White Admirals were flighty but numerous. The Damselfy below is I believe a female Beautiful Demoiselle, a nice bonus if so as this is a species I had not counted on seeing, and indeed have not seen at all in the UK. I scanned the t…