Thursday, 15 February 2018

Red Letter Day for White-letter Butterfly

Those of you who follow my blog may recall my excitement at seeing my first White-letter Hairstreak surprisingly close to my Suffolk home last summer. These are the photos I took at the time. I am posting them again in the light of the good news that three White-letter Hairstreak eggs were recently discovered in Scotland where this species had not been known to breed for over a century. You can read the story on the Discover Wildlife site here.

And as for me, well, I shall return to my spot later this year when these pink Bindweed flowers are blooming. White-letter Hairstreaks usually frequent the treetops in areas of elm, but, of course, so many elms have been decimated by disease in recent decades.  

Postscript: I have just ordered a copy of a children's novel, highly recommended by an adult poetry friend. It is called The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and is about butterflies and leprosy. I will report back in due course...

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Urban Birds (and Mammals) in a Local Park


Inspired by the launch of Nadia Kingsley's new book of art and poetry, DIVERSIFLY, on the theme of urban birds in Britain, we took a short spin around a local park to see what was about before the rain got too heavy.

Having seen the Kingfishers (here and here) on BBC Winterwatch recently, we were thrilled to find not one but two by the lake, presumably a male and a female. Will there be young in due course?

Sadly the birds were at the furthest point from us for much of the time, and since my zoom does not perform well in grey rainy weather, my photo is just a record shot - but it is always a thrill to see these birds, and I have never seen two at the same time before.

Catkins - I think these are birch ones... (whoops, Juliet thins they are hazel. My mistake. Thank you, Juliet!)


Young adult Black-headed Gull

The ice house from the days when the park was part of an estate

We were fascinated to see the small trunks growing vertically out of the horizontal trunk. This was where we saw our first rat. David also noticed a Grey Squirrel.

It's always lovely to see a Robin.

I had hoped there might have been more Snowdrops, but it was good to see the few that there were.
Good weather for ducks... This is largely, but not entirely, Mallard!
Look who's peeping out!

I don't know if our presence startled the rats, but the larger one, presumably the mother, swam off across the lake. The young one (peeping out of the trunk, two photos up) came down and sniffed around the tree trunk.

We also noticed Wood Pigeons, a Carrion Crow, a Bluetit and a Magpie. Not bad for a short visit in the rain...

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Latecomer

This furry creature arrived after the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and evidently found something tasty in the planter. Since the mammal section of the survey requires sightings to have been during the last year rather than during the hour of the watch, I guess the squirrel's lateness is of no real significance!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 - And my top bird is...

I believe for the first time, the Goldfinch came out top in my 2018 Big Garden Birdwatch survey. As you will guess, the photo above was not taken today (too much sun, too many sorrel seeds)... but I think you will agree that it is a more colourful picture than this morning's record shot, taken in dull grey weather from behind glass, which I have posted below.

The species chart records what I actually saw during the hour...

There were more sightings of these species, but the records requested are for the highest number seen at one time.

Sadly a number of previous Bird Count avian visitors were missing, including the House Sparrow, Dunnock, Robin (who is often around), Greater-spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker. I suspect the weather plays a part, but it would be interesting to know what the other key factors are. We had Greenfinches in the garden when we moved in some five+ years ago, but these have not been seen for a long time. The Song Thrush was here in the run-up to Christmas and the Wren. A score of two for Wood Pigeons is very low for us.

We are also invited to record animal sightings of the last twelve months. We have seen one Hedgehog some months ago (and back in the summer, quite a few hedgehog calling cards...)

Grey Squirrels come to the coconut feeder most days... but there were none during the hour of the count.

If you would like to take part in the count, there is still time as it continues until 29 January 2018. The link is here. Happy watching... and recording!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust Poetry Competition Event

I am just back from the Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust Poetry Competition (SFPT). Many congratulations to Tim Gardiner for winning the £50 adult prize in the SFPT Poetry Competition on the theme of the aquatic life in the Fromus Valley Nature Reserve. Lord Cranbrook hosted the event at Kelsale Village Hall this afternoon.

Tim's poem, along with three other commended entries including my own (about the Wandering Snail, Lymnaea peregra aka Radix peregra), will feature in the Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust's 2018 Adult Education volume on the reserves at Simpson's Fromus Valley and Orchid Glade. The judges were Kaaren Whitney, Poet-in-Residence for the reserves, and Suffolk Poetry Society Chair, Florence Cox. Sue Wallace-Shaddad and Sue Nobbs also read their poems to the enthusiastic audience. It was a real pleasure, too, to hear the winning and commended poems written by those who had entered the young people's section of the competition. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

New Year greetings... and today's (grey) visitors

Belated wishes for a happy new year! 

I saw two Grey Squirrels in the garden today: while this one had knocked his food off the Silver Birch branch and was gorging away at ground level, the other was scampering up the bark, only to find an empty tree. 

The Grey Heron has become a fairly regular visitor in, or usually above, our local patch. I love watching the touchdown as those ungainly wings come in to land.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Christmas Greetings...

This may not be my wildest post, but it comes with good wishes for Christmas and the new year. Mrs Pretty's entrance to Tranmer House in the grounds of Sutton Hoo may not be the wardrobe-entrance to Narnia...

...but there is something rather lovely about it all the same. If you would like to see who lives on the other side of the door, you can click here...

Those of you who have followed my blog over the years will know that I am fascinated by shepherd's huts, like this one at the foot of the viewing platform for the mounds at Sutton Hoo. You can even see some sheep in the middle distance, with Tranmer House beyond. 

 And this photo above is a close-up one of the residents...

Sheep on the hillside lay
Whiter than snow
Shepherds were watching them,
Long, long ago.

Then from the starry skies,
Angels bent low
Singing their songs of joy.
Long, long ago.

For in a manger bed,
Cradled we know,
Christ came to Bethlehem,
Long, long ago.

16th Century Gascon Traditional Carol

Monday, 13 November 2017

Autumn at NT Wicken Fen

The promise of late autumn sunshine lured us out
with a picnic lunch to NT Wicken Fen
 for some fresh air, bright colours and wide skies. 
There are two windpumps in the village: 
you can read about the other one here

The colour red was represented by berries (above) and leaves (below)...

not forgetting...


The photo above was taken as the light began to fade, but I am posting it because it represents a term, the Duffey heap, that is new to me. A Duffey heap comprises grasses which are known in this fenland area as 'litter'. The grasses are cut in a three year rotation in late summer once they have gone to seed. The harvested litter is then moved from an area of tall herb fen to the corner of the reserve you see in the picture above. These heaps are named after Eric Duffey, who was a regular visitor to the site. You can read a sample of his work here, including his thoughts on the value of these heaps.

Duffey was President of the British Arachnological Society (BAS) from 1969-73. He discovered the magnificent Fen Raft Spider in Suffolk, a species that suffered decline, and is only now coming back a little, thanks to massive conservation initiatives. You can read more about the Fen Raft Spider here, and this linked Dolomedes page, which has a link to my Fen Raft Spider poem.

Back to Wicken Fen, and here we are by the entrance to the reserve. You can take a delightful boat trip along the lode on the Mayfly during summer months, with commentary about the fenland life of eel-catchers and others.

The molehill below may not represent the brightest of autumn shades, 
but just look at the colour of the dark peat soil.

Despite beautiful birdsong, we saw very few birds: 
the sparrows below were hiding in the branches...

This is the fenman's cottage, showing the drooping heads of two sunflowers. 
There were still a few bright orange bursts of marigold in the garden.

The sheds and outhouses hold an array of fenland bits and pieces...

We are still adjusting to the hour change: this was probably only about 4pm...

...but we do love the drama of the wide fenland skies.

More berries...

... and this is one of the few insects we saw today. 
I wonder if it is a species of Longhorn: I shall try to find out.

There were tranquil reflection...

along the lode...

and a beautiful light at times.

I am more of spring-to-summer person,
but I find autumn colours hard to resist...

... and, of course, each season
has its own abundance
of treasure.

Sails and shadows

We saw a couple of Muntjac deer in the distance. 
Here is one of them...

Due to damp ground, some parts of the reserve were fenced off, 
but there was a new section to explore, a woodland walk...

The sign led us past...

...what I imagine may be an old pumping station.

These arches above were presumably for drainage. 

And finally, corvids began to gather as the light faded. 
We enjoyed cups of tea in the gloaming before heading home.


In my previous post I mentioned not only the from the Oxford Junior Dictionary but also the chance, as part of the Land Lines project, to vote for your #favnaturebook ... There are so many excellent nature books being produced at the moment. In connection with my visit to Wicken Fen, I wanted to mention Cuckoo by Cambridge scientist, Professor Nick Davies. This beautiful and fascinating book is published by Bloomsbury; and many, possibly even most, of the cuckoos between the covers spend part of the year at Wicken Fen.