Evening encounters

Last week saw me take my nature time in the evenings after long working days and I started with another special visit to see the villages barn owl family. They had been out and about  the previous evening since 9.30pm but the only thing ariel at that time was the local pipistrelle population. Fortunately after half an hour they came out of their nest box and from the trees they had been hiding in and three youngsters flitted to and fro on silent wings but alas too late for my camera.


Day time barn owl.

 Barn owl Credit: Ged neill Flickr via Compfight cc

I also lucked out on the local kingfisher  which had turned up earlier in the barn owl domain so the following evening I headed out to the West Hethersett loop in an attempt to catch up with my Hethersett bogey bird. The evening kicked off with more bats with up to half a dozen soprano Pipistrelles hunting around me so close you could hear their supersonic calls and the clatter of their wings.


Blurry bat with non blurry but very invasive Himalayan Balsam (I believe)

The Great Melton reservoir was almost devoid of wildfowl or they were asleep in cover but a solitary moorhen called and a few wood pigeons clattered about. Eventually a shrill piping announced a late kingfisher who flashed past.


Kingfisher Credit: Blake Wardle DPAGB Flickr via Compfight cc

Whilst the kingfisher was zooming out of sight I was drawn to another cry and high over head was a little egret picked out with the assistance of my binoculars. This elegant heron has waited several years to make it into the village list and saw me having to update the Birds of Hethersett. Also added was another village first this year, heard in the late spring on one night only near the village hall a nightingale. Here’s hoping both birds start to make it a bit more regularly.

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Elegant little egret

With its elegant plumage the Little Egret makes it on to the parish list.A further evening walk at nearby Marlingford added to my weeks treats with a common sandpiper and large counts of muntjac deer crashing through the undergrowth at every turn. I was also to get some more kingfisher action as a walk down to Hethersett Hall lake produced a single calling bird which briefly stopped and bobbed up and down on a low branch in front of me. Also just visible through the undergrowth a pair of little grebes put the seal on another crepuscular adventure. On arrival home I was met by one of many recently visiting hedgehogs.


Hedgehog not as pleased to seem me as I was him.

Star of this week’s video is the hedgehog. Locally they seem to be getting an apparent high number of ticks and there is a lot of scratching for hedgehogs to do, often with comic consequences. Featuring a young and slightly embarrassed hedgehog.

Summer surprises.

Having recently invested in a new tyre for my bike I headed out around the West Hethersett loop followed by the around the Wong section of my local walks one evening last week to check out the wildlife and my fitness. I only managed to find one of my alleged 18 gears but that was enough to get round. I narrowly missed a couple of roe deer as I left the village and headed to the Great Melton Reservoir. Once there for a quick stop I got to watch a single fishing common tern and listened to the calling green woodpecker in the soft late evening light.


Often heard and rarely seen the green woodpecker

Green woodpecker  Credit: kban2011 Flickr via Compfight cc

I saw little of interest until the approach to Wong Farm where I saw three brown hares which soon made themselves scarce. As I cycled through the farm itself I was surprised at the lack of swallows but clearly they go to bed before 9.30pm. As I progressed out of the farm I caught a brief view of a local fox who clearly doesn’t go to bed quite so early. The fox was followed by a muntjac deer to add to my mammal count which was concluded at home with a young hedgehog in my back garden.

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Roe deer one of many mammals from my cycling extravaganza.

Having seen the common tern I thought it would be a good week to check out my local WEBS patch and get a count done of the water birds. As I arrived there wasn’t the usual cacophony of bird song and although it was grey we are clearly slipping into that quite post breeding time when a lot of birds are moulting  and staying quiet. A slightly plaintiff Chiffchaff was the only real songster. There were plenty of butterflies and dragonflies filling the air so I set about trying to catch some on film. These are the best of them:

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There be dragons. A Southern Hawker rarely stopping except to finish off a snack.


Delicate beauty of a green veined white supping on brambles.


Not the best photo but included as I usually overlook this a gatekeeper.

The big butterfly count started a couple of days ago so why not check out the link (click Here) and find your own overlooked flappy friends. Butterflies were it turned out not alone in my afternoon stroll and I caught another record shot of one of many day flying moths.

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A shaded broad bar common but new to me (to be fair all moths are pretty much new to me)

I was shaken out of my insect world by a chorus of shrill cries overhead as a pair of recently fledged common terns pestered their parents for food. When I got down to the lake all the fluffy youngsters from just a couple of weeks ago were flying. It is difficult to comprehend how fast our spring birds produce grown families. On the lake Great crested grebes were sat brooding a second set of young and oystercatchers fed a downy black and white youngster.


Striking adult Oystercatcher soon to be matched by their offspring.

Clearly although only mid July the summer is starting to shift through its gears and already some birds are starting to prepare for seasonal moves and migrations. My usual couple of pairs of lapwings were joined by a flock of 66 more and then whilst scanning a gravel bank I picked out a delightful pair of little ringed plovers and a dunlin. The dunlin pictured below is a bird that appears out of place away from the coast and this little wader is only the second record on my patch in the last ten years.


Splendid addition to my weeks observations a scampering dunlin 

 Dunlin Credit: Ilya Povalyaev Flickr via Compfight cc

No guest video this week as the most prolific visitors to my cameras have been brown rats and not particularly photogenic. Fortunately I have the cameras back in my garden this week so perhaps something a bit more videogenic for next week. In the meantime dont forget the back catalogue is available HERE.

WEBS cam

As Wild June slipped away, it did so with a bang as the Wimbledon season brought out the British thunderstorms and the hopes and dreams of my gutter nesting collared doves were swept away despite a couple of days valiantly incubating their eggs in a small river.

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Springwatch style action is not over as a goldfinch has nested by my backdoor. Hopefully giving  opportunities to get decent pictures of the new family

Just before the rains really came down I drifted West of the village to my WEBS site to check on the progress of the common tern colony.  The walk down to the lake was full of bird and insect life albeit that as the nesting season is in full swing and the birds have quietened down. Lesser whitethroats and chiffchaffs and a couple of garden warblers were typically still singing. There were butterflies and dragonflies blowing through but only the couple below stopped for a photo.

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Small Tortoiseshells, presumably a pair but I await any experts who can confirm.

When I finally reached my vantage point over the tern colony the sunshine was disappearing fast. Since my last visit the chicks had hatched and the first pair of youngsters were slightly fluffy versions of their parents with others ranging in various fluff ball sizes. In total there were 9 youngsters with seven adults clearly brooding others and a few black-headed gulls with young to keep them company.

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Black-headed gulls the noisy neighbours.

Whilst I was watching the rain came down and the fluffy chicks all attempted to hide under each other whilst the grown ups stuck their heads up in what I assumed was the most comfortable pose for heavy rain. I spent some time waiting for the rain to stop and counted 220 greylag geese and smaller numbers of Egyptian and canada geese as well as the other wildfowl, mallards, tufted duck, mute swans, coots  and  great crested grebes along with 4 little egrets and a lone cormorant.


Lone Cormorant.

As I fled the rain I wished goodbye to my new trail cam left strapped to a tree in between the lake and the river. I returned a few days later to see what had been going on in my absence. The following videos are the highlights and a glimpse into the wild world which would otherwise be unseen. My new Trail cam is the Xikezan Wildlife camera and coming in at below £60 is relatively successful for the price although it is suited to monitoring trails at a bit of a distance and struggles with close ups.

The first video is of some of the locals with their creche. These Canada Geese are clearly spooked by something before calm is maintained. It wasn’t long before we find out what and keep watching this one as there is a very fortunate pheasant who steals the later part of the video after Cunning Mr fox’s exit stage right with a young Canada gosling.

The next video is the most prolific locals, in this case a couple caught at night. These muntjac deer clearly enjoy the fresh grass post rainfall. The trailcam appears very poor in terms of audio but you can pick up the background passing cars.

The muntjacs don’t get it all their own way however and as well as foxes they also have to dodge protective Roe Deer Mothers who sees them off in the next clip.

And if you like myself was wondering what was going on to make mum so protective the next video will reveal all.

On my return trip to collect the camera I did a quick head count and the terns now had 10 obvious chicks and the parents were coming in to feed them. I struggled with identifying their meals until a parent bird arrived with a large goldfish which was eaten hungrily, so watch out pond owners. I have deployed the camera again this week hoping to catch otters, kingfishers and little egrets but was disappointed there was nothing about when I set it up.  ut on my return drive home I passed Marlingford Mill and myself and my eight year old assistant caught sight of three young otters scuttling across the road. Magic.




More local Wild June Highlights

A busy week since the last post has seen a range of wild moments around the village but to start with I took a brief trip off piste to a childhood haunt (pre playstation days so just sticks and stuff). Marston Marsh only a few miles from the village on the south side of Norwich is well worth a visit especially on a late summer evening.

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The wetland meadows, river and dykes offer plenty of wild attraction although my trip was brief and highlights were the scolding wrens and longtailed tit flock which followed a jay round a ivy clad tree as it searched for nestlings.


Not a Marston bird but a Hethersett Jay prepared earlier.

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Sunset Marsh

Next on my wild week of highlights was a visit to the wild green heart of the village an oasis of undeveloped garden and meadow that house the local barn owl population. I was given access by the owner whose efforts and nest boxes have seen annual breeding success with three birds fledged last year. As we settled down to a two hour wait the calling of young owlets could be heard and we were surrounded by hunting pipistrelle bats. For a long time the only birds we saw were  late comers the blackbird and robin but just as it was getting too dark to see the male returned and treated us a ghostly fly past.

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Picture courtesy of S Parkin an evening shot of a RSPB Strumpshaw barn owl  off to feed young

There has been quite a bit of very local Springwatch style action and drama very close to home and acheck out of the window last week produced an unexpected offering of two collared dove eggs. Collared doves are as with most pigeons a bit rubbish at nests and whilst this is better than most if it rains any time soon they may have issues with Location, Location, Location.

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Collared Dove Eggs in gutter nest

I guess by the next post they will have possibly hatched or been washed away and I am not sure either how to intervene, or if I should, if the storm clouds gather.

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Mum oblivious to the perils of poor weather.

A couple of nights ago after the village saw flyover red kite, buzzard and common tern I took a late evening cycle round the West Hethersett Loop and wasn’t disappointed. As I got to the Great Melton reservoir common terns were fishing in the late dusk  and whilst trick I managed the following record shot of these elegant fishermen.

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Common Tern at Dusk

It is no surprise to see these migrant birds this year as they are successfully breeding in double figures at nearby lakes. The terns seemed to annoy a blackheaded gull who scolded them from an island of lilies but his calls were drowned out by fighting moorhens and a green woodpecker calling.  As my night started running out I was drawn to Beckhithe Meadow by the calls of little owls and of a buzzard which sat in the tops of one of the great oaks as the sunset turned deep red and bathed it in the same colour. Whilst I stood failing to see the owls which were clearly watching me I became aware of a rustling behind me and this time I was the watcher as a young fox discovered me a few feet away, considered his options and ran.


Photo Credit: JensLPZ Flickr via Compfight cc

This afternoon I and my eight year old assistant carried out our first owl pellet dissection having collected a few from my barn owl experience earlier. We were both amazed as  three skulls and a  range of bones appeared from their furry package. Thanks to some expert assistance  we have identified the former meal as three field voles. The Barn Owl Trust Website (Click Here) is also very useful and worth a visit.


Three blind voles identified from closeups of their dentistry.

A week of wild days, the highlights.

It has been another seven days of #30Dayswild and as I anticipated they have been very busy and whilst I have ensured some relatively random wild time I have started to loose track of what happened on which days.

One of my favourites this week came courtesy of the Wymondham Lizards Facebook site Those in the know will understand that the lizard is not reptilian but a precious patch of wildmeadow on the edge of a growing town. The expansion and specifically earthworking as preparation for encroaching houses has lead to a temporary treat worth seeing.


The Lizard and its temporary sea of Red

Whilst making the most of a sunny lunchtime to grab some poppy shots I was treated to a variety of singing birds. Blackcaps and whitethroats were the most common with an occasional crow or magpie bustling their way through the hedges perhaps in hope of robbing the aforementioned of their young. By far the most obliging singer who dropped down briefly in front of me was a chiffchaff.


Chiffchaff action shot with some urban encroachment for good measure.

Last weekend I was encouraged by my eight year old assistant to check out a previously unvisited treasure the museum at the market town of Swaffham. It turned out to be a perfectly formed but small offering with its highlight the Egyptian room in honour of ex local Howard Carter there wasn’t a huge amount of wildness however:


Ancient avian offering

Being in the brecks we did  a quick cross country to see if we could find a local speciality but failed to spot any stone curlews in amongst the midday sun bathing pigs and clouds of rooks and jackdaws. In nearby Little Cressingham we stopped briefly not to photograph the swooping swallows or house martins but instead a Great British Icon:


Ex BT Phonebox not going to get killed off by  the mobile phone but functioning instead as the village library.

Anyway to get quickly back to the birding this week also saw the final two Breeding Bird Surveys completed one at Wicklewood and one at Wymondham. The Wymondham trek saw the official end to any skylark or brown hare sightings as the aforementioned urban creep has wiped out their homes with ours. There was a brief highlight with a small flock of unexpected housemartins wheeling over the local building site so who knows maybe these chattering black and white sky acrobats will benefit from new nesting sites.


Skylark now officially missing.

My Wicklewood patch was also strangely quite, usually the skylark highlight of my year but a flyover kestrel appeared to spook them all until he was well gone. The only other really notable event was a murder. Of crows that is, with a flock of 17 mature carrion crows which also did a very good job of keeping the singing warblers quiet.


Wicklewood treasure wild roses with additional Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus to his latin friends) 

Yesterday evening I headed down to local Beauty spot Whitlingham broad thanks to a timely tweet From James Emmerson (checkout his Whitlingham blog HERE) I was fortunate enough to arrive in time for a bat walk with the Norwich Bat Group. (Click on their name to check out their site and other events. As dusk approached the prey items for the bats started tucking into me and I hoped for a lot of bats to assist. An adult bat can eat  between 6 to  8 thousand mosquitos in a night.


Dusk over Whitlingham with Norwich in the background and lots of swans and mosquitos.

We were soon rewarded with lots of hunting Soprano pipistrelles and then their cousins the common pipistrelle and they obligingly flew around us whilst the light was good enough to see them. picked out next by our bat detectors were noctule bats hunting high over the lake side trees. Also detected but not seen where Daubenton’s bats hunting low over the broad and also the rarer Nathusius’ pipistrelle. A fascinating evening listening to and watching these flying mammals with more details of them and their ultrasonic calls and facts available on the Bat Conservation trust site link Via Hethersetts Bats


4 more wild days

Day 5 of #30dayswild and it was time for an early WEBS count and a chance to recover my camera trap from nearby Marlingford.  First a trip to the mere to check on the nesting birds and after a few years of disappointment and a disastrous year last year due to flooding this year has been splendid with seventeen common terns sitting on eggs.


Common terns simply elegant.   Credit: René Pelletier Flickr via Compfight cc

As well as the terns there were a handful of black-headed gulls and an oystercatcher also nesting nearby and hopefully hiding their nests away were lapwings and a little ringed plover. The mere was covered in a range of sizes of young geese and feeding over it a large number of swifts replacing the swallows and martins of previous recent trips. Next time to recover the camera trap.


Camera trap attached to a coppiced tree .

I had set the trap as I was surprised at the perfect clearing round the tree when everywhere else was overgrown and wondered if it was the trees rainshadow or perhaps made by something else.

Day 6 was wet and wild  and whilst I was briefly charmed by a grey visitor to the garden I did not spend much time out being wild but headed for the computer to review the camera footage.

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Grey Squirrel on a grey day

The camera trap revealed plenty of squirrels, roe deer, woodmouse and muntjac as well as birdlife in the form of blackbirds, song thrush, wood pigeons and an inquisitive jay which ended up hopping on the camera knocking it groundward. Video of the post however goes to the most inquisitive capture recently  probably the ultimate close up.

Day 7 saw me determined to get out and enjoy the outside wildlife having failed on day 6 and I headed out for a lunchtime stroll to Norwich Cathedral to check out the peregrines which were like many other birds revelling in the Blustery conditions. Initially only the female was visible hundreds of feet up on the spire.

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Big gold weather vane way up high on top of the second highest spire in the UK at 315 feet up


closeup of the female cropped from above, about 300 feet up

My photos are of course rubbish as the birds were a long way up but there are plenty of great ones from last year at the following link (click here) and the live camera watching the birds and their one chick at the Hawk and Owl Trust site (click here). The youngster probably has a week or so before they fledge so I and I am sure others will be spending more wild time at the cathedral soon. I finished my lunchtime stroll with a trip to the river at nearby historic Elm Hill in the company of a grey wagtail bouncing around in the windswept branches of a riverside tree.


Grey wagtail with its perfect yellow rump.

Day 8 was rubbish stuck in a car with nothing to do but count the birds of prey. final score Buzzards 2 Kestrels 4 and in pride of place a red kite quartering over the M11.And whilst the kite was sublime I am hoping for a bit more wild over the next few days.

4 wild days

#30dayswild has arrived and twitter and wordpress are alive with random acts of wildness aimed at bringing young people closer to and more in tune with nature. The wildlife Trusts around the UK give a great excuse to get closer to nature and have a break from the bustle for just enough time to remind yourself that you are part of a magical place and recharge for any adversities which may come our way.

Day 1 for myself was an opportunity to catch up with my neighbours over lunch they have been raising merry hell over the last week or so, so it was nice to spend quality time with one of them whilst dining al fresco:


Noisy neighbour #1 the goldcrest.

Day 2 saw another lunch date this time at the wild oasis at the rear of Waitrose carpark in nearby Cringleford which is next to a river which often hosts a kingfisher family. No kingfishers but blackcaps played the background sounds whilst I took the following photograph of the locals:


If my ID courtesy of the Friends of the Earth Great Bee count if accurate this is an Early BumbleBee on a flag Iris. (please correct if I have got it wrong).

Day 3 saw me travel to Gressenhall with its fascinating workhouse  museum and old world farm. No sign of my target species the turtledove presumably due to the ongoing slaughter over the Mediterranean by hunters intent on preserving their ‘traditions’ at the expense of the rest of  us, however I once again got the opportunity to break bread with one of the locals at lunch before she flew back to her incubation duties outside the Gressenhall Cafe


Soon to be a mother, the female blackbird doing a half decent impression of a thrush with that speckled underside.

So Day 4 saw me on the broads doing time on the river with the locals. Having completed my annual Brundall Bird Track list which included the obvious greylag geese, mute swans and mallards all intent on picnic food I started on the local singing warblers including Chiffchaff, blackcap, willow warbler and cetti’s warbler. There were flyovers from male and female marsh harrier, swift , swallow and grey heron before a boat trip brought the opportunity to see a great crested grebe sitting tight on her eggs.


Perfect mother Great Crested Grebe looking after her valuable eggs on the edge of a busy waterway.

No video on this post but tomorrow the trailcam will be recovered and may reveal the mystery of Marlingford so check back soon for more wild June.