Blog catch up time

  • February 1, 2017 10:07 pm

I realise I’ve really neglected my blog recently, instead I’ve just been adding recent photos to my Facebook page, but I’ve been missing writing, so it’s time for a quick update. Since my last blog in late Summer I continued photographing the bees, and had the pleasure of photographing this beautiful Common Carder bee, a species I had previously overlooked, but one that proved very photogenic. I hope to continue with the bee photography this year, once the weather gets warmer of course!

September - Common Carder Bee

In November I visited the fine city of Norwich to catch up with the wonderful Waxwings, a rather irregular Winter visitor from Scandinavia, always a real treat to see these punky birds with their stunning plumage and beautiful bell like trilling call. They are still around in a few places so watch out for them near any berry bushes you might find.

November - Waxwing

In December during a quick visit to the coast I found this lovely Grey seal, who was gently rolling down the sloping sand of the beach with each sleepy breath, rather comical but very peaceful to watch!

December - Grey Seal

Just lately I’ve been back on my local patch over at Redgrave and Lopham Fen, the Bearded Reedlings seem to have done very well this past year and there are lots around. After many years of trying I’ve finally started to get some nice images of them, so I’m really chuffed, it’s a real privilege to photograph these shy birds.

 

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The Roe deer are still around, and I had a wonderful chance encounter with this handsome Roe buck, notice his antlers are now in velvet.

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Thank you all for reading and for your continued support, I really appreciate it!

 

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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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Spring on the Fen

  • May 2, 2015 12:41 pm

Spring has sprung down on the fen, as the sun rises in the cold morning air, I’m greeted by the glorious summer song of the Sedge Warbler. A mix of musical trills and warbles, mechanical rasping, sweet whistles and low purrs, combined seemingly randomly like the best jazz singers.

What wonderful medicine for the human soul to be stood, alone, in the middle of a reedbed in the sun, surrounded by birdsong and mist rising all around. The air filled with the energetic rhythm of singing Sedge Warblers, the silvery notes of the Blackcap (my favourite!), Whitethroat, Chiff Chaff, Reed Bunting, the winnowing call of the Little Grebe and the haunting echo of the Cuckoo, layers of sound in the stillness of the morning.

I enjoy photographing Sedge Warblers, though frustrating at times as they have a habit of singing low down in cover, they pop their heads up now and again, sometimes allowing a few photos.

Sedge warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, perched on reed stem, Fen, Spring, May, Norfolk

Sedge warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, perched on reed stem, Fen, Spring, May, Norfolk

Whilst listening to the warblers, I watch a pair of Whitethroats gathering nesting material from amongst the reed stems, one hops up into the open singing it’s plain but sweet song.

Whitethroat, Sylvia communis, perched on reed stem, Fen, Spring, May, Norfolk

Walking onward, through the quickly melting early morning frost, I spot a Kestrel gliding by and a pair of Greylag Geese flapping noisily across. Young Rabbits are playing and feeding on the drier fen margin, and adding to the birdsong a Wren peeps out of the gorse and a male Blackbird sings a simple melody from an oak tree.

I turn to see a Roe deer buck, grazing in the damp rushes, he hasn’t noticed me yet, so I stalk closer. Another deer barks in the distance and his head comes up, ears pricked. I freeze, balancing mid step, holding my breath. His head goes down again and I stalk forward, hunched to stay below the hedge line, I make it to the cover of a wide tree trunk. Peeping round it, I can see he’s still calmly nibbling, and I have the privilege of watching him for the next 20 minutes or so. He munches a few leaves, has a scratch, shakes out his coat, then rubs his antlers against a sapling, sniffing and scent marking as he slowly moves further away. Wonderful to watch such a normally shy creature just going about his business.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, male, buck, early morning, Fen, Spring, May, Norfolk

 

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Hello Deer

  • January 4, 2015 9:32 pm

I’ve had a few new visitors to my blog recently, so I just wanted give you a warm welcome to my website, and also to introduce my local patch, where I do a lot of my photography – Redgrave and Lopham Fen.

Redgrave and Lopham Fen is the largest remaining valley fen in England, and managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The reserve encompasses not just fenland, but woodland and heath too. It’s a peaceful haven for me, having lived in the area for around 20 years I’ve grown up here, walking the tracks that criss cross the reserve and watching the amazing wildlife. For the wildlife, this place is an oasis in the agricultural vastness of the surrounding fields. The river Waveney rises here, although there’s not much to see at it’s source, just a boggy area and flooded scrape patrolled by Grey Herons, and dabbled by Teal in winter.

There’s something to see year round, but winter is a favourite time to visit for me, the frost crystallised on the reeds and clear cold sky, and often I have this tranquil place to myself. This morning I paused to watch a group of Long-tailed tits foraging in the brambles, and when I walked a little further a movement ahead made me stop. It was a Roe deer, the youngster from the group of three I photographed earlier in the week, she was so close, and hadn’t yet noticed me. Carefully and quietly setting up the camera, I waited and watched, fully expecting her to sense me and bound away, but in the cold still air she couldn’t smell me, and maybe if I stay still she won’t see me. She turned, nibbling on bramble leaves, and focussing manually for quietness and the distracting branches, I took her picture.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, youngster in hedgerow, Norfolk, January, Winter

Roe deer have to be my favourite deer species, such elegance and grace, and such a privilege to observe one so closely. Amazingly the sound of the camera shutter didn’t spook her, and she started to move towards me. Just the other side of the brambles, just a few meters away. So close I could hear each dainty hoof-step on the frozen leaves layered on the ground. She passed by, and waiting until she had moved off, we went our separate ways.

The birds were very busy, and despite the fact it’s only January a pair of Blue tits were investigating a potential nest site. A tantalising glimpse of spring.

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The Bearded tits whizzed across the path, not pausing for a photo today, but as ever, lovely to see. Walking back, a reminder that it is still winter, a dried umbellifer sparkling with the frost.

Frosted plant, Norfolk, Winter, January

I noticed a Fieldfare paying close attention to a Molehill, and after a few moments I realised why – the mole was busy rearranging his home, pushing soil up to the surface and no doubt insects or worms too, hence the attraction to the Fieldfare. Short video here: Mole in the Molehill.

 

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Roe deer day

  • December 29, 2014 1:46 pm

Beautiful morning out on the fen today. I love this place in the winter, the sparking white blue of the frost contrasts with the golden morning sun on the reeds, always stunning to see. It wasn’t long before I came across lots of Fieldfares, and a trio of Roe deer grazing in the field adjacent to the path. I settled down in the hedgerow to watch them, a real treat to observe them simply going about their business.

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Interestingly the buck has just one antler. They cast them at this time of year, so their new antlers can grow throughout the winter in preparation for the breeding season next year.

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And finally, those Bearded reedlings are still giving me the run around! I don’t mind though, it’s always a pleasure to watch these little birds, even if just for a brief moment, before they flit away through the reeds.

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Pastures new, and old

  • July 17, 2013 11:51 am

Forgive me friends, for my prolonged absence. I have been doing that most stressful of things – moving house. So here I am, all settled in, exploring pastures new. Newly located between numerous nature reserves, there’s plenty to see, but more on that at a later date.

Back to pastures old, and my patch – the Fen. My first visit here for sometime, all looks lush and green, a calm oasis to mend my frazzled soul. At 5am it’s comfortably cool and the birds are taking a little time to sing before flying off to forage for their young.

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Blackbird, Turdus merula, perched in oak tree, summer, Norfolk, July

The path-side plants rise up, taller than me now. The purple-blue flowered vetch scrambles through bramble, hemp agrimony and meadowsweet are bursting into flower. As the landscape opens out, I spot the smallest movement, nearly missed her, a beautiful Roe deer doe in her russet summer coat is watching me. She calmly stares, her elegant head just visible amongst the  grass.

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She turns her attention away from me, and I glance in that direction too. The buck, I suddenly realise, much closer to me. He ignores me and I finally put two and two together. It’s July, the Roe deer rutting season. The buck is far more concerned with what his missus is doing to worry about me, and never even looks my way.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, male, buck, in long grass, summer, Norfolk, July

I leave them to it, hoping to reacquaint myself with the other wildlife too. Another Reed warbler poses for me, and I watch two Little Egrets fly overhead.

Reed warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, perched on reed, summer, Norfolk, July.

On the way back I spot some young rabbits resting in the shade. I hesitate, but how can I resist such soft, cute little creatures. Cue silly commando style crawl over the dry prickly ground.

Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, young, summer, Norfolk, July

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Spring

  • 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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Paddy

  • April 7, 2013 8:11 pm

Since my last post, I’ve been spending a lot of time down at the Fen which is teeming with wildlife at the moment. Hoards of Teal and Snipe can be found throughout the reserve, but I’ve been unsuccessful in photographing them. The Snipe are simply too well camouflaged, I’ve lost count of the number of times one has erupted from the vegetation virtually beneath my feet, and the Teal are far too nervous for a close approach.

This morning was no different, and the wildlife watching started in the car park. As I opened the car door I spooked a large dumpy brown bird, it took flight and I spotted the long bill, another cryptically camouflaged creature – the Woodcock.

I hurried to set up and wait for the Barn owl, which managed to elude my camera once again. Whilst waiting I spotted the pair of Roe deer that I’ve been seeing regularly in this area. They took no notice of me, but were too far away for photos, so I took this video:

Roe deer at Redgrave and Lopham Fen

There are a lot of deer on the Fen, the smaller Muntjac is more often seen, sulking along woodland paths and bouncing away flashing the white underside of their tails when they know they’ve been spotted. Roe are more wary still and if discovered they may prance away barking loudly to warn their comrades of danger. These two look fairly relaxed though, and as the sun rose higher they melted away into the reeds.

I decided to go for a walk, and soon came across what at first glance appears to be a rabbit with no ears. I was unsurprised to find that it was in fact the Black-tailed Prairie dog, who has affectionately been named ‘Paddy’. This long term resident and refugee from a local exotic animal collection, has set up home in the fields adjoining the Fen. Native to the great plains of the USA, he is quite happily living on the short rabbit grazed meadows, but with only the bunnies for company he seems a little lonely. I watched him enjoying the warm sunshine, when suddenly he drew his barrel shaped body up to it’s full height, threw back his head and uttered the most mournful squeal. He dropped back to all fours and listened. When no answer came, he pottered around his burrow, before standing up and calling again.

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Walking on I find another Barn Owl hunting, but he doesn’t come close enough for any good photos.

Barn owl, Tyto alba, in flight, hunting at first light, Norfolk, April

As I head for home, spring seems to be tentatively beginning. A pair of Long-tailed tits are prospecting for nesting materials and a trio of Treecreepers chase each other up a branch. There’s still no sign of the summer migrants yet, but I’m sure they’ll be arriving soon.

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Merry Christmas!

  • December 24, 2012 9:07 pm

MerryChristmas2012

 

Wishing all my subscribers and readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all for your continued support over the past year, I truly appreciate it. Plenty to look forward to next year – Project Turtle Dove is well under way – despite the awful weather the weeds have started to germinate!

My warmest Christmas wishes to you all!

 
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