Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Broadland ~ Wildlife Cruise on Horsey Mere

The sun shone brightly on Bank Holiday Monday. We made a prompt start and were soon arriving at Horsey on the Norfolk Broads. We booked in on a wildlife cruise aboard the Lady Ann, and it was not long before we were setting off across the wide expanse of Horsey Mere. The water is practically free of the large Broads cruisers, due to the height of the bridge at nearby Potter Heigham. As we sailed towards the little island of reeds in the photo above, I kept feeling as though we had stepped out of the pages of Arthur Ransome's Coot Club!

We embarked on a voyage of discovery up a small dyke. It was very narrow and shallow, and provided good wildlife opportunities. A Marsh Harrier quartered the adjoining meadows from above. 

As I looked around, the derelict vision of Brograve drainage mill came into view.

The photo above was lightened by Photoshop, but I actually think ...

... that this silhouetted view is more evocative.

The photo above shows a trio of Sandpipers, skimming up the dyke.

This is an enlarged shot of them. Our guide told us to keep an eye out for a Kingfisher, and there on cue - astonishingly - was the said bird. It did a quick fly-past and was gone, but I saw the brown plumage turn in a flash to its familiar iridescent sheen of turquoise and amber as it flew out of the shadow. Sadly there was no time even to contemplate a photograph.

So what else did we see? Well, Peacock, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies in profusion. David caught sight of a Water Vole, but it eluded me. There were also a number of dragonflies, particularly Common Darters and Brown Hawkers.

All too soon it was time to head back towards the staithe. You can see the 5-storey Horsey Windpump in the photo below. It is in the care of the National Trust.

You can read about more about it here.

One of the special things about this wildlife cruise was that we were sharing the boat with a nest of near fledgling Swallows. The parent bird zoomed off at regular intervals, and returned with food for the young. It seemed quite extraordinary to me that the birds appeared to be unperturbed by the moving nature of their temporary home. Shades of the dove on Noah's ark, perhaps ...

So here we are, making our way up the staithe ...

... towards the windpump.

There were lots of 7-spot ladybirds along the towpath. You can see some of them in the photo above. You can also see a larva ...

... which (alas) may well be a Harlequin.

This is one of the female Common Darters. Another landed on the brim of David's hat on a couple of occasions!

Horsey Mere ~ what a great place for wildlife of all kinds!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Beautiful Birds ~ RSPB Puffknit reaches Suffolk!

An exciting package squeezed through my letterbox yesterday.

A Puffknit popped out as I began to tear the recycled wrapping apart! These delightful hand-crafted creatures have been part of a parallel Puffin colony on the cliffs at RSPB Bempton for the last few weeks. I have been following their antics on Facebook (RSPB Bempton Cliffs) and on Twitter (@Bempton_Cliffs).

But now the Bempton Puffins have left the cliffs to spend the next few months bobbing about on the ocean ... and the Puffknits have been dispatched to their new homes. 

To let you into a secret, I responded to the following notice from the RSPB at Bempton on 13 August:

''The final puffins have left and only a few Puffknits remain. 
Can you give one a home?
Email us ... with why a Puffknit should head your way."

This was my response ...


I'd love a puff-knit to fly my way:
those puffins need homes,
or so they say.
I'd give one a burrow
or give it a bed:
if it flies down south
it will soon be fed.


You can see read about another Puffknit, Henry, in his new abode here

The photo above shows the cliffs at Bempton. You can also make out the Gannets.

The Puffins above were nesting in those cliffs.

While RSPB Bempton Cliffs is probably our Puffin-watching destination of choice, the ones immediately above were taken by David in 2012 in the Durness area of Scotland. Unlike the precarious cliff-ledge nests at Bempton, these Scottish visitors had burrows in the sand.

As it happens, my new Suffolk Puffknit is not alone. You can see him/her here, among a few other feathered members of the family in the picture below. Who knows if the Penguin realises that he is not a Puffin! 

But there is one thing missing with regard to the Puffknit ... and that is a name! If you would like to respond in the Comments section below before the end of the Bank Holiday weekend, your thoughts will be duly considered! Suggestions include ...
  • PK (for Puffknit)
  • Suffolk-Puff
  • Cliff
  • Postal-Puffin
And don't forget to give nature a home where you live

Our thanks to all at RSPB Bempton Cliffs for the new arrival!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Ladybird Alert ~ 7-spots and (a rising number of) Harlequins

The (clipped) insect on the left seems to be Deraeocoris ruber, a member of the Miridae family

We went to explore the walled garden at Thornham Magna in Suffolk last Saturday. Unfortunately the garden was not open, but we enjoyed exploring the woodland paths that surround it. The place was teeming with insect life ... dragonflies, butterflies, crane flies ... and Ladybirds. 

Sadly most of the Ladybirds were Harlequins, like the one above. I am not sure whose pupa you can see below. I think it is a Ladybird one, but I need to buy the ID card on Ladybird Larvae (Brown et al) to be sure.


Who knows, perhaps we will be able to venture through that door-in-the-wall on our next visit!

The Ladybirds you see below are 7-spots, a native British species. 
And here's a Harlequin ...

David counted 79 Harlequins. Our four 7-spots were drastically out-numbered 

Do keep a look out for Ladybirds and log them on the UK Ladybird Survey. There is a new recording form, which links in to the iRecord site* which you can click on to from here, so if you have an iRecord ID, do log in to that first. 

* I wasn't able to sign out of iRecord easily, so have not given you the direct link, but the site is only two clicks away and worth investigating.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Environmental Authors ~ Roger Deakin of Walnut Tree Farm

Robinson's Mill on Mellis Common ('Mellis' named after its 'mills')
We were on our way home on Saturday when I noticed a signpost stating that Mellis was 2 miles away. The place name conjured up all kinds of rural pictures in my mind because it was the home of Roger Deakin (1943-2006), the writer and environmentalist. Deakin lived at Walnut Tree Farm, a moated farmhouse, which seems an appropriate residence for the author of Waterlog, his first book.

It was lovely to find that the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin is kept as a wildlife sanctuary, in conjunction with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

A lot of leaves had fallen, and it was beginning to look quite autumnal.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Ladybird Alert ~ Harlequins in Suffolk

Harlequin succinea

We saw two large Ladybirds on the edge of the River Lark, near West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, in Suffolk last Saturday.

Sadly both the black-on-orange spotted one (succinea above) and the orange-on-black spotted one (spectabilis in bottom three photos) are Harlequins, members of the Harmonia axyridis species. Their size was something of an initial give-away. You can see the Harlequin colour range here.

I shall be logging both these insects on the UK Ladybird Survey site here.

Do keep an eye out for Ladybirds. I am not alone in finding far fewer this year than last. You will find a Ladybird post here in the Cabinet of Curiosities blog, by Phil Gates, columnist for The Guardian Country Diary feature.

Harlequin spectabilis

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Natural Phenomena ~ Perseid Meteor Showers in Suffolk

OK, so these aren't *real* stars ... (Ipswich Waterfront by Night)

A mini meteor shower of Tweets announced that folk were outside gazing at shooting stars last night here in the Ipswich area. We went outside, and it was only seconds before David spotted something star-like zooming across the sky. At that point the only moving items I could see were aeroplanes: their flashing lights proved something of a distraction. I came in for a while, but we both ventured out again later and this time we both met with success.

The BBC announced that we are approaching the 'high point of the annual Perseid meteors' as we orbit through debris from comet 'Swift-Tuttle'.

Suffolk, of course, was not the only place from which to watch the spectacle. You can read about the phenomenon in Galloway here.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Odonata: Banded Demoiselles

We had fun watching about twenty of these eye-catching insects as they flitted about along the River Lark in rural Suffolk. I have never seen so many at once. The ones in the photos are males. The female of the species looks (in my opinion) more like the usual damselfly. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ladybird Alert ~ Fourteen 7-Spots at Snape Maltings

After a very slow start to my 2013 Ladybird-spotting, [no] pun intended, the situation has suddenly improved. We counted 14 Seven-spots at Snape Maltings last Saturday, in the sunshine. Some were definitely red while others were more orange in colour. They were all swaying about on stems of long grass.

I have logged these sightings with iRecord via the UK Ladybird Survey.  
Snape Maltings (one of the 2013 venues for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival)