Masons and Miners

  • May 20, 2017 2:13 pm

Just a quick update from me, Spring is in full swing now here in South Norfolk. Blue tit’s are nesting in the box on the back of the house, and the Hawthorn hedge at the bottom of the garden was in magnificient full bloom until the rains came over the last two days. Every year I’m fascinated by our wild Red Mason Bees, which have been using the bee nesters I installed on the east facing side of the house for several years now. They are solitary bees, each one creating an individual nest, but they come in great numbers to use the bee nesters now. Starting from around 8 bees when we first moved here to far too many to count now is fantastic to see as they are such important pollinators. I wonder if the neighbours either side are wondering why their apple trees have been producing such vast amounts of fruit over the last few years? I love listening to the constant hum of the bees going back and forth to their nests, and occasionally having a quick peek down one of the tubes to admire the pile of glorious yellow pollen that the bee has accumulated. The females are busy right now, each one provisioning their nest with pollen collected from the surrounding gardens, their rufous fur covered with sunshine yellow, as if they had been dipped in lemon sherbert. A few weeks ago though, the females were still tucked safely inside, and the newly emerged males were vying for the best spot, waiting for the girls to appear. I took this photo of a male waiting inside the nesting tube, warming himself in the early Spring sunshine.

New for this year in the garden are the Mining bees. Much like the Mason bees, they are harmless solitary bees, and great pollinators of course too. As the name suggests, instead of nesting in holes in masonry, these little bees dig their own nest chambers underground, often resulting in a little hill of soil in the lawn with a hole in the middle of around 4mm diameter. These little bees are only about 8-11mm in length and prefer nesting in well drained soil. They are a little shyer than the Mason bees, retreating into their nest when you wander past, but with a little patience I was able to photograph this Early Mining bee basking in the sun at the entrance to her nest.

Although photography is my medium of choice I do occassionally dabble in video too, and this year I was able to film a male mason bee emerging from the nester for the first time. You can take a look at that video here: https://youtu.be/FsDcjPGzLFU

 

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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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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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First signs of Spring

  • February 15, 2015 5:53 pm

All has been rather quiet of late down on the Fen, no meaningful images in the last few weeks, which is somewhat disappointing. Yet there are the first subtle signs of spring all around. On my way there this morning a Skylark rises into the air on trembling wings, belting out his intricate song. On the Fen, a woodpecker drums and a Chaffinch’s song tumbles from the hedge. No deer around again today, and the Bearded tits are becoming ever more elusive. I hear them and catch a glimpse through the reeds, but that is all. Soon they’ll be moving off to their breeding grounds. There’s not much else around except for a Little Egret paddling amongst the flooded rushes, and the overwintering pair of Stonechat’s skip ahead of me along the path.

I couldn’t post a blog without a photo, so here’s a Snowdrop from the garden. The local verges are already twinkling with these little beauties, looks like spring is on it’s way.

Snowdrop150215DM3336

 

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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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