Spring Bluebells

  • May 2, 2016 2:29 pm

It’s been a few years since I last photographed Bluebells, they are such stunningly beautiful flowers, both en-mass and close up. Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Wayland Wood is a fantastic place to see them. Spring is my favourite time of year, and Spring in a woodland is simply glorious. The first thing that greets you is the perfume of Bluebells wafting through the trees, and a glimpse of the most intense blue. Blue like only Bluebells can be, in overcast conditions a deep cobalt blue, but in the sunshine, a softer, purpler shade. This woodland has much more to offer too, with magenta coloured Early Purple Orchids, shining white Wood Anemones, bird life in abundance, Blackcaps, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Woodpeckers and more, and butterflies like the Orange tip delicately fluttering between flowers.

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A Winter Visitor

  • January 18, 2016 8:27 pm

Fieldfares are another one of my favourite birds. These gorgeous winter visitors come here from Scandinavia, presumably to escape the harsh winter weather. They flock together, feeding on windfall apples in the old orchard, conversing noisily with scolding chattering calls, unmistakeable with their beautiful slaty blue grey head, brown back, and cream speckled chest. This weekend I was lucky enough to watch these lovely thrushes as they fed, pecking pieces of frosty fruit, and squabbling amongst themselves. They were joined by a large flock of Starlings and a couple of Carrion Crows too, all feasting on the fallen apples. Suddenly they all took flight, a single alarm call preceded the whoosh of wings as they fled into the sky, a Sparrowhawk glided silently through the trees, broad wings and long tail, directly above my head.

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Happy New Year!

  • January 1, 2016 3:43 pm

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I last posted here, I’ve taken a sort of sabbatical from photography since September, work and life has been such a whirlwind. But, it’s a new year, and this year is my year. My time to enjoy doing what I love.

Last year I had the privilege of having a Turtle dove regularly visiting, and I really hope it comes back this summer. I also completed the Wildlife Trusts 30 days wild, what a fantastic way to reconnect with nature. Talking of the Wildlife Trusts I recently donated some images to their photo library, which I hope will be useful to them. Finally 2015 saw the finish of my ‘Big 30’ project, which really helped inspire me to get out with the camera.

So the new year needs a new challenge, I hope you’ll like what I have in store for you! Watch this space!

Here’s a lucky little Grasshopper making me think of Spring…

All the best to you all, and thank you all for your support over the last year.

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Turtle Dove

  • September 7, 2015 8:27 pm

What a privilege to have this bird visiting the garden. He was still around this weekend, and really feeding up before his long flight south. The slightly better weather meant I could get some more photos, although I’m yet to catch him in the sun. It’s not going to be long before he departs, but I’m already planning for next year. This year I planted a small native wildlflower meadow, which has been brilliant for the bees and other insects, but next year I’m going to make it more Turtle Dove friendly and add some more of their food plants like Red Clover, Common Vetch, and Black Medick, and continue to encourage the Fumitory which has grown rampantly this year.

Here’s the Turtle dove with a Collared dove in front, the Collared dove is actually the larger species, but this young one looks smaller as it crouches feeding in the grass.

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For an advisory sheet on how you could help Turtle doves in your garden, follow this link: http://operationturtledove.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Turtle-Dove-Advisory-Sheet-Gardens.pdf

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At Last

  • August 31, 2015 1:10 pm

As regular readers will know, the Turtle Dove is a bird very close to my heart. It was the bird that inspired my passion for all things wild, and an equal passion for it’s conservation.

Since June, I’ve had this remarkable bird visiting the garden, but have struggled with time and light to actually get a photo. Today, well it’s a typical rainy bank holiday Monday, but for once I’m glad. For some reason, the Turtle Dove visits more frequently in wet conditions, perhaps the garden is a more comfortable place to find food on days like today.

So at last, hunkered down under my hide in the rain, Robin singing from the hedge and all legs and arms completely numb, the Turtle Dove drops down from the neighbours Walnut tree to feed on the seed I’ve scattered for it. I almost feel relived to see this bird in the viewfinder, and despite the dire lighting, I manage to get a photo.

It’s behaviour is interesting too, associating with the slightly bolder Collared Doves, but not letting it’s diminutive size stop it from getting a good meal. Frequently it pushes the larger Collared Doves off the food with a softly scolding ‘Tchoo’ noise as it hops towards them, a noise I’ve never heard before.

Soon this dainty little dove will be on his way to Africa in an incredible 5,600km migration to where he’ll spend the winter, travelling at speeds up to 60km per hour, he’ll even cross the Sahara Desert. These beautiful birds are in real trouble. The population has declined by a massive 91% since the 1970’s, and we are in real danger of losing this wonderful bird, the sound of the Summer.

For more information, and a map following the route of a satelite tracked Turtle Dove click: HERE

And of course, lots of interesting things and how everyone can help over at the Operation Turtle Dove website: HERE

Turtle Dove, Streptopelia turtur, garden lawn, August, Summer, Norfolk

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The Month of June

  • July 11, 2015 10:07 am

Time for a quick update, apologies for the blog silence of late. During June I took part in the Wildlife Trusts ’30 Days Wild’ project, connecting with nature every single day for a whole month. I documented my adventures right here on my website, click on this link to take a look at my: 30 Days Wild.

Here’s a few of my favourite images from last month. I really enjoyed the challenge of finding something to photograph every day, and was surprised to find some fantastic wildlife which would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

House Martin, Delichon urbica, perched on ground, collecting mud, puddle, farmyard, Norfolk, May

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BIG 30

  • June 1, 2015 9:28 pm

The end of May marks the end of my Big 30 project, a rather ambitious undertaking designed to help me get out and do as much photography as possible. 30 varied, unusual, or amazing wildlife photos in a year – 30 photos for my 30th year. The project had its ups and downs, but has re-ignited my enthusiasm for my photography, and has shown me that you don’t need to travel far to see great wildlife and to make the most of every opportunity. It’s led me to some amazing wildlife encounters, like watching a Short Eared Owl hunting, and photographing that perfect jewel of a bird, the Kingfisher. Wonderful experiences with nature that I’ll never forget.

On the last day of my project – my birthday – I headed over to the fen at sunrise as normal. Suddenly the reserve is full of flowers, brilliant yellow flag iris amongst the sedges, pale pink Ragged Robin along the dyke edges and much more.

Ragged Robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi, amoungst reeds, Norfolk, Fen, May

The birds are still quite quiet, concentrating on nesting and raising their young. The Cuckoos are still very busy, but elude my camera this morning. This male Reed Bunting pauses in the reeds as I go past.

Reed bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, Male perched in reeds, Norfolk, Fen, May

Further along there’s a lovely Linnet singing away and I slowly approach to try and get a photo. They are such pretty birds, normally found around the gorse bushes, they seem to do very well here.

Linnet, Carduelis cannabina, perched on twig, fen, Norfolk, May

I watch as a Buzzard flies over, an increasingly familiar sight these days. The final thing to catch my eye is the Cow Parsley. I love this time of year, when great frothy clouds of this dainty flower fill the verges.

Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, close up of flower head, Norfolk, May

You can view a slideshow of the results of my project by clicking here: BIG 30

 

As one project finishes, another starts. June is the Wildlife Trusts #30DaysWild challenge, and I am taking part, but more on that later….

 

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Crimson and Blue

  • May 29, 2015 9:10 pm

Just a quick update on my recent photography, trying to do as much as possible to reach my ‘Big 30‘ goal.

This lovely flower with it’s pretty twirled petals is Crimson Clover, it is a native, but is commonly grown in a cover crop mix, or as green manure. This one caught my eye on Croxton Heath, a new location for me, growing alongside one of the tracks. I also spotted a couple of Common Lizards here, a looks like a great site for some future photography.

Crimson clover, Trifolium incarnatum, Scarlet Clover, Italian Clover, Carnation Clover, Breckland, Norfolk, May, Spring, close up

 

Regular followers will know, I work full time and often find it difficult to get the time to get out with the camera. Sometimes though, wildlife comes to you. I am fortunate that the company I work for is located on a farm, and this time of year sees the return of the House Martins. They cruise around the yard at head height on still sunny days, like miniature Orcas with their black and white plumage. They take full advantage of the mud washed off the tractors, swooping down to collect a beak full of wet earth to build their nest. The Swallows are also back, perching on the telephone wires and whizzing in and out of the barns chittering away to each other. High in the sky and screaming around the rooftops the Swifts are back too, devil birds with curved flickering wings flying fast and free in the blue. All three species resulting in a lot of gazing longingly out of the window. Short as my half hour lunch break is, it was just enough time to capture a couple of images of the House Martins as they came down to gather mud. Normally they glide down straight to the muddy puddle, but sometimes they land a little way away and have to do a rather comical scampering, hopping, flapping walk across the ground. Close up in the sun, the plumage on their heads and backs has a gorgeous deep blue iridescence. Hopefully I’ll get some more opportunities with these charismatic little birds.

House Martin, Delichon urbica, perched on ground, farmyard, Norfolk, May

House Martin, Delichon urbica, perched on ground, collecting mud, puddle, farmyard, Norfolk, May

 

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Red Mason Bees

  • May 25, 2015 6:53 pm

I’ve been trying to photograph the Red mason bees again, these wild bees have been using my solitary bee boxes over the last few weeks and they are fascinating to watch. I’ve had the odd bee using the bee boxes in the past, but this year they seem to be doing really well, and on Friday I counted 8 bees going in and out, the most I’ve ever seen.

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at entrance to nest hole, bee nest box, May, Norfolk

As well as trying to photograph these quick and tricky little subjects, I’ve also been watching them, as their behaviour is so interesting. Each bee, and these are all females, collects many loads of pollen which they deliver to a nest chamber where they lay a single egg. Once this food store is complete and egg laid, they seal off the chamber and then begin the process again, repeating until the bamboo cane is full, and then finally sealing off the tube with a wall of thicker mud to protect their growing offspring. Each egg develops into a bee larvae, which steadily munches away at the larder of pollen, before spinning a silken cocoon and pupating into an adult bee. This bee overwinters in it’s cosy cocoon and then emerges the following spring. So next year, hopefully I’ll be seeing even more of these characterful little creatures.

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at nest hole, with another in flight, bee nest box, covered in pollen,  May, Norfolk

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at entrance to nest hole, bee nest box, May, Norfolk

Standing by and photographing them means I was able to watch the whole process. They are quite choosy, carefully selecting a tube by zigzagging in front of the box to find an unoccupied hole. When a bee hovers too close to a hole already taken, the resident races out with forelegs waving to ward off the competitor.

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at entrance to nest hole, bee nest box, May, Norfolk

Once a tube is chosen they can begin the process of provisioning the first chamber with pollen. They collect as much pollen as they can carry, often all over their furry bodies, and return to the nest to offload it. They carefully back into the hole and groom the pollen off before going out again to gather more. Using my reflector to carefully peer down one of the holes after the bee had left, I could see a great heap of sunshine yellow pollen, like a lemon sherbet fountain, and the beginnings of a mud wall, as the bee prepared to seal that particular chamber.

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at entrance to nest hole, bee nest box, covered in pollen, May, Norfolk

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at entrance to nest hole, bee nest box, May, Norfolk

Once the pollen store is full and the egg laid, the bee gathers mud to seal off the nest. They carry a ball of wet mud in their jaws and return with their heavy load, carefully building a mud wall. A couple of the bees I was watching had reached the front of their bamboo canes and were busy making a thicker wall to protect the nest chambers. They are so industrious, constantly back and forth with more mud, and such determination as they build the wall. Not just dropping the ball of mud there, but carefully spreading out each piece, like a master plasterer, building it up, smoothing it out.

This last image has to be my favourite, this bee is just taking off, you can see she is still covered in pollen and if you look very closely (click to enlarge) you can see a few grains flying off. An amazing moment caught by good planning and exceptional camera work. (Haha just kidding! It was luck, sheer luck!)

Red Mason bee, Osmia rufa, at entrance to nest hole, bee nest box, taking off, covered in pollen, May, Norfolk

For more info on these incredible animals and some wonderful images of inside a nest tube, take a look here: http://nurturing-nature.co.uk/solitary-bees-2/red-mason-bee-osmia-rufa-life-cycle-part-1/

 

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In the evening

  • May 22, 2015 8:02 am

With the lovely long days at this time of year, I can spend a few hours out on the fen after work. The atmosphere in the evening is very different to sunrise, which is when I’m normally there. The reeds buzz and flicker with insects, damselflies and dragonflies, birds cruise through the warm sky and rabbits play in the last golden light.

One evening this week it was bright and very breezy and out on the open fen a cloud of swifts scream through the sky, swirling and twisting through the air chasing each other, chasing insects. They are masters of flight, curved wings cutting through the air, inches from the ground, then swooping up into the blue in a wide ark, testing their skills, how fast can we fly, how high can we glide, how tightly can we turn. The most amazing confidence in the air, wings glinting silver and gold in the last light. They were totally unconcerned by me watching them, and it was the most incredible experience to be amongst them, they whizzed by, just inches above my head, the rush of air in their wings, utterly exhilarating. I tried for some photos, but they are so quick!

Swift, Apus apus, in flight near trees, Norfolk, May

 

Swift, Apus apus, in flight, Norfolk, May

Swift, Apus apus, in flight, Norfolk, May

Yesterday evening I tried to find them again, but they were gone, perhaps they were just passing through. Wandering slowly back, I come across a Roe deer doe, browsing in the field adjacent to the path. She’s nearly got all her beautiful russet coloured summer coat. She glances up at the sound of the camera, sniffing the air, then goes back to her nibbling. She seems young, and I wonder for a moment if this is the same deer as the one I photographed back in January in the hedgerow, as she seems equally relaxed in my presence.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, female, doe, in field, Norfolk, May, Spring

Up ahead there’s a commotion on the path, birds fluttering, rabbits bouncing. A closer look reveals the birds are in fact Cuckoos, several of them swooping down to the path to pick up insects, then fluttering back up to the trees with their long wings and long tail, exotic looking, hawk like. I settle down on the ground, and they come a little closer, not close enough for great photos, but I do manage one photo as one perches in the oak tree above the path. I hope to try again with these birds, as they are fascinating to watch. I’ve never seen so many all in one place before.

Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, perched in oak tree, Fen, Norfolk, May, Spring

Finally, how could I resist photographing this little rabbit who decided to hop down the path towards me..

Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, young rabbit, alert, Fen, Norfolk, May

 

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