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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They’re back!

  • April 20, 2013 1:11 pm

Spring has finally sprung down on the Fen. As if someone has flicked a switch, the reedbed is full of birds singing. A Chiffchaff calls from the hedge, a tumble of notes come from an unseen Willow warbler, and the Reed buntings chirp out their simple song from the still frosty reeds.

Reed bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, male singing in reedbed, Norfolk, April

I suddenly hear a snatch of sound, a scratchy buzz then a trill, daring not to believe my ears I follow the path towards it, the noise gets louder and I spot the singer, coloured like the reeds with a dashing cream stripe above his eye – my first Sedge warbler of the year! He’s singing the summer in, a jumble of trills, fluid warbles, whistles and a scratchy jazz rhythm. I close my eyes to enjoy the show, and I can hear more singing throughout the reedbed. A tiny Wren shouts his massive song from a nearby bramble bush waking me from a daydream of hot summer days. Distantly a Cuckoo calls.

I walk onwards and spot a mouse like movement in the path-side plants. I watch and wait, and the creature pops out onto the edge of the path, a Whitethroat, too busy searching for food to sing, investigating the tangle of stems hoping for a meal.

Whitethroat, Sylvia communis, perched on dry stem, Norfolk, April

On my way home the single Swallow I saw last week has turned into two, they chase each other at top speed as I go by. One Swallow doesn’t make a summer, but maybe two do?!


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  • April 13, 2013 12:41 pm

As I step outside the house this morning, a Blackbird is belting out his fluid song, trying to make up for lost time. It’s mild, and although it’s still dark all the birds are singing. I hear a Chaffinch’s tumbling call, and the gentle cooing of Woodpigeons. Making my way to the Fen, I pass the common where the local Barn Owl is hunting. I pause, trying to photograph him from the car, but it’s still too dark. There’s a flash of acid yellow and a stunningly bright male Yellowhammer perches on a post nearby. He greets his duller coloured mate, dropping his wings and flicking his tail, and together they buzz away to the hedgerow.

Finally making it to the Fen, I catch a snippet of birdsong, I turn my head and there it is again, at last the see-sawing call of a Chiffchaff, repeating his name over and over, my first this year.

I can’t see any Barn Owls yet, so concentrate on capturing the ponies grazing with the rising sun behind them. As I move down the path to get into a better position, I spot a Muntjac deer, nervously heading in my direction, he hesitates and bolts back the way he came. I suddenly notice the Barn Owl hunting, but I’m in the wrong position, and once again he escapes my camera.

On the path ahead, the Roe deer buck is grazing, and I steadily stalk closer. He glances up and moves off into the reeds, but I’ve fallen for this trick before and I quietly, slowly walk on. Keeping my eyes fixed on the point where he disappeared I move as close as I dare, and then wait. I spot the slightest movement, and can just see his mate, the doe through the reeds. She sees me, but can’t make out what I am, and now she stalks towards me. Lifting her head to try and catch my scent, but the wind’s in my face, so I know she won’t smell me. Slowly she emerges from the reeds onto the path.

Roe deer, Capreolu capreolus, female

She pauses, elegantly raising one hoof, staring at me. She decides I’m not particularly interesting, and trots off down the path, joining the buck and then moving off into the reeds again. This time I don’t follow, and leave them to it.

I head over to a different part of the Fen, in search of Reed buntings. Birds are singing all around, and I come across this little Wren. It’s good to see this tiny bird has managed to survive the winter, and now he’s singing his heart out in the sun.

Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes, perched on bramble, singing, Norfolk, April

There’s a group of ponies grazing, but all amongst them are the Reed buntings. There are good numbers of these cheerful little birds on the Fen and right now they are busy defending territories and trying to attract a mate. One handsome chap poses for me briefly.

Reed bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, male perched on metal pipe, Norfolk, April

I watch them gathering nesting material, flying to and fro carrying long stems of grass like streamers.

On my way home, I’m driving through a village when a small slim bird flicks towards me and over the car. I don’t get a good look, but the shape is somehow familiar. Was it? Could it be? I swing the car around and retrace my route. There it is, perched on the phone wire, glossy blue back, deep red bib, shining white chest. I slow the car, grinning from ear to ear – the first Swallow! What a relief! The cold harsh winter is finally over, and summer is on it’s way.

*Forgot to mention, the brilliant annual spring plant sale at Redgrave and Lopham Fen is this Sunday, come along and see what wildlife you can spot!*

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If you like what you see, please consider sharing!

UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers


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