Saturday, 22 April 2017

Jumping In Puddles

Do watch this Sigur Ros performance in the link above - I think it reflects the beautiful community aspects of #Earthoptimism that ran today in Cambridge.
I went out this morning hoping to see the Green-winged Orchid that Mark had found on Ely Common, fortunately he was walking across the common on his way to the Earth Optimism events in Cambridge when I arrived and pointed me in the right direction.  I loved this little flower poking it's way out of the ground amidst the Cowslips.  The site has historically held this Orchid but it is most likely that the Chettisham Meadows seed heads raked across this part of the common have helped.  Across the common an abundance of Adder's Tongue Fern showed itself too.  A pair of Jays have set up territory in a corner, Chiff-chaff were particularly prevalent and a Robin proclaimed it's territory against a shocking blue sky.

A big thanks to Shelley who made it possible for me to see the final series of lectures of #Earthoptimism this afternoon which included Ely 10 resident Tony Martin presenting the herculean achievement of ridding the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia of invasive rodents and allowing ground nesting birds to recover there.
Uncle Ben provided artistic sustenance for my girls, amongst many other appreciative onlookers
and Earth Hero Sir David Attenborough delivered to a standing ovation.

Last week we took the kids to Chippenham Park which is not often open to the public and I was heartened to hear at least 4 Nuthatches proclaiming their territory.  Hundreds of folk hunted for Easter bunnies around the grounds and I saw enough to prime the family for another trip next year. There was plenty to see around the grounds including a lone Fritillary which I photographed from below with the little snappy Lumix and some very handsome Funghi.

Sunday, 16 April 2017


A return to the Fen for Easter weekend and a few trips out to the east of the Ely10.  Chippenham Fen still has Woodcock's roding so I had a look at them just in case they deplete.  The Wicken Woodcocks have, unbelievably, thrown in the towel and vacated the site in the breeding season.  Hopefully this will be a short lived situation and they will return in time. It seems impossible to imagine an evening visit without their accompaniment.   
I continued the increasingly damp and windy evening with a listen for Stone Curlew which did whinny and cry from across the county border in Suffolk.  The weather was dismal so I called it quits and headed home.
A couple of daytime walks across the Fen and nearby Fordham Woods with the kids revealed plenty of insect activity with Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Comma and Large Red Damselfly fresh on the wing.

On Easter Sunday a dream was resurrected when I got the chance to watch (non breeding I hasten to add)  a Peregrine hanging out on the Cathedral.  I have waited a long time to see this having seen them fly around the tower and whizz over the town on occasion, I am really grateful to Andrew who let us know it was there this evening.  The day when young Peregrine fledges from Ely Cathedral gets closer and if this young bird does hang around, it may draw more Peregrine attention to the Ship of the Fen and start the process of them establishing themselves around the towers - well here's hoping.


Down By The River

The weather was predominantly gorgeous for my little trip up to Yorkshire with the girls.  We had lots of little trips out, often alongside a river.  Along the River Ouse at Naburn, where the weir marks the tidal limit of the river, the ever scarcer song of Curlew trembled across the buttercup strewn meadow.  I was taken aback when a Common Seal raised it's head for a minute or so but quickly descended into the murky water again, the excitable yelps of the children evidently too much for comfort.  In my youth I spent quite a bit of time walking this stretch of river hoping that maybe a Guillemot or scarcer Auk may make it's way upriver - I did find a Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser over time but had to to wait until I'd moved to Cambridgeshire to find a waif Alcid. The presence of this Seal meant that my theory was at least reasonable. Despite several searches I was unable to find the Great Grey Shrike at Acaster Malbis, another old stomping ground, despite it being reported daily.
Along a different River, the Nidd at Cattal, a morning was spent looking at the flora - in particular Wild Tulips and Snake-head Fritillaries.

I was very taken with the meadow which was full of Aconites as well as the Tulips and Fritillaries and when I got home later I had a search to find out more.  I didn't find a great deal but did find an article in the YNU journal from some years ago. 
I got quite absorbed in reading various articles including the one on Wild Tulip and was pleasantly surprised when I saw that photo credit for the Wild Tulip pictures were my Dad.  This wasn't to be the only link to this edition of the Journal.......
A potter out to Fairburn for Coffee and playpark has, in the past revealed Willow Tit, but not this time.  A Little Gull and a pair Avocet were seen over the water from the play area which isn't bad going. 

While not seeing Willow Tit I managed to take a poor picture of not 1 but 2 bird table favourites
Out of character, there was no trip to the coast, opting to look for trinkets and baubles in the boutiques of Northallerton and Helmsley instead.  The customary midday check of bird news told of 6 Waxwings in the car park of County Hall nearby - we had a look before we left.  In total there were 23 tinkling beauties nipping at buds in the car park trees in the afternoon sun, more reminiscent of encounters with Bombicilla  in the Scandanavian summer where the plush pinks and subtle greys sing against the fresh leafed greenery and summer skies.


As we enjoyed the birds several folk came over for a chat including the original finder.  As we talked about blogs a comment about Gilbert White and the parish of Ainderby Steeple rang bells from the YNU journal.  I asked if he was Nick Morgan the author of the article about birds in the parish of Ainderby Steeple I had read just the night before.  Nick's name had stuck for another reason.  As a young man I had spent many hours pouring over the Rare and Scarce Birds of Yorkshire and Nick's name was indelibly bracketed next to a Franklins Gull which briefly frequented (and I spent a cold day trying to locate) Scorton Gravel Pits many years ago.  This record giving him hero status to a young, land locked Yorshire birder.  It was good to meet him, enjoy his Waxwings and read his blog that can be found here.

Friday, 7 April 2017


Starting to ease into holiday mode after a few days on the Suffolk Coast and a few more not having to drag my sorry self into work.  Family mode around Minsmere wasn't a bad way to spend an afternoon.  There was booming and pinging in the reedbeds and the Scrape was liberally peppered with Mediterranean Gulls going about their family thing too, well at least thinking about it.


The Easter Duck Hunt at Welney was a good excuse to potter out on the Washes - a lovely duck Pochard on the settling beds and a Pintail close to the observatory set the tome nicely.  A White Wagtail showed well on the furrows and made a good comparison with a grey Pied Wagtail on the Welney bridge which, when facing away shows a fair smattering of black across the darker grey mantle - both interesting birds and worthy of further discussion over a pint.

 noculars daddy I'm looking for duckies

Hey good looking....

OK so what are your credentials??
A mixed bag it appears....

So back to simpler pleasures these are Iceland bound and glorious across the Washes at the moment and just behind them picked one of 5 Great White Egrets that are currently frequenting the Washes.
I'm heading north for a week leaving just enough time at the end of Easter to get out and hopefully catch the Arctic Tern movement, my favourite bird of the spring. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Springtime Promises

The time had almost passed for a Breckland safari and as a result it took us a little while to connect with a Goshawk this morning but when we did it was a good prolonged view.  Although the wind had a bite there was plenty to amuse during our vigil.  A pair of Stone Curlew displayed and were pretty vocal in the roadside field which also held a Woodlark that serenaded us beautifully for prolonged periods, a Red Kite joined the many Buzzards and a pair of Oystercatcher were setting up territory. 
At Lynford Arboretum Hawfinch showed well if fleetingly beneath the feeders and also elusively in the bushes and up in the Hornbeams snipping at buds.  They ticked away frequently and the floor was at points littered with handsome Brambling.


In the rough field a White Wagtail was feeding actively and a Firecrest sang in the car park but were a bit quieter and less evident than usual.
At Brandon and Santon Downham we heard 4 more singing Firecrest and saw some of them but all were quite high up in the conifers.  A couple of pairs of Mandarin added some colour along the river and on the pond.

A quick check of the Washes at Four Balls Farm and Pymoor revealed a couple of Cranes and a drake Scaup amongst a wonderful gathering of wildfowl spread across the washlands.  As we returned home Ben committed a drive by shouting - Parakeet - a great roadside spot and a bit further down the road a gathering of 20 or so Sand Martins told us spring is well into it's stride.