Happy Christmas

I couldn’t resist dropping by to wish you a very happy Christmas. So far ours is going fine, a tad on the quiet side but fine! The tree is up, the decorations are too as are the cards so we were all set for the festivities to begin.

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, was our Christingle service which traditionally I lead and this year was no exception. It was just about the only thing all year that I was committed to doing and was pleased to have the opportunity once again. (A photo will appear here in a few days)

After church this morning we decided to go for a walk at the arboretum. 13 degrees seemed most unusual for a Christmas walk but it was certainly very pleasant and brought lots of people out. Surprisingly what it didn’t bring out was many birds it was very quiet on that front, but… we did get a tick! Down on the edge of a stream we saw a Crossbill, a first for the year. Sadly it was the only sight we had of it but we were pleased non the less, you will have to imagine it there as it had flown by the time I got the camera ready!!!

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Thankfully a Christmas Robin did make an appearance, always a treat. img_2290-robin

 

Mostly there were no birds on the water at all, just some Canada geese that had managed to avoid peoples ovens!

A couple of small Christmas trees seemed to have sprung up since our last visit and some seasonal holly added a splash of colour.

I had just said to Ian that I thought we would have seen some winter thrushes when, from what had seemed to be a carpet of autumn leaves dozens of thrushes took to the wing. They were no sooner there than they had disappeared high into the trees and out of sight. Oh well it was good to at least see them.

img_2305I didn’t think we had walked far enough to encounter Highland cattle but it seemed we had! Away in a manger came to mind!

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The next thing we saw surprised me even more than the cattle, believe it or not we saw a butterfly! I think it was a large white but I was astonished to see one right at the end of the years, the weather certainly has gone crazy!

So Common Crossbill became bird number 257, I am hoping to make the bird count to 260 by the end of the year but we will see.

So however you are spending these few days I hope they are filled with love and peace as that  was what the very first Christmas was to bring, so to quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone!”

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Late summer visitors

I am sitting enjoying some late summer sunshine and what gorgeous days we have been enjoying. Before I tell you about some visitors that came to stay I would love tell you about last Thursday when Peter and family came to tea. I opened the door and was greeted by Alice and Matilda standing close to each other with cheery smiles upon their faces. As they separated I saw why, there was little Daniel in his school uniform, it was his first week in reception class.img_9200-daniel

All was going well, he was enjoying school and I am certain school will have been enjoying him…long may it last!

I skip now quickly past Friday, (most of which was spent power hosing the garden patio and stones) past Saturday (rain, rain and more rain) too much later Saturday evening when our visitors arrived. My brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Judy. Only time really for some quick catching up before we were all turning in for the night ready for what promised to be sunny Sunday.

The weather forecast did not lie, it was a beautiful day, hot and sunny all day. We had decided to go up to Cley-next-the-sea and we parked in the main car park.img_9283-us-on-east-bankWe walked to the East bank and right along it ending up at the sea. There was no shortage of butterflies, mostly white and Tortoiseshells, also pleanty of hoverflies.

The colours along the way were just beautiful and although there were not a great many birds what we saw we appreciated.

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Back to the visitors centre where we stopped for lunch out on the raised patio still enjoying the beautiful September weather. We decided to head to Blakeney next where we walked along the sea wall, a beautiful Wheatear dropped by.

Not sure what this little building was or is but it certainly is in a smashing location.

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By now the heat was telling us it was time to head off, not for home but to Janice and Chris’ for a very welcome BBQ, all in all an excellent day!

Monday morning and we were having a visit from the tree surgeons, as promised they arrived at 8 am and got straight on with the job. A couple of hours later and trees were down or lopped, logs where cut and they were off leaving us with the rest of the day free. Moths and the hot tub called so we were all getting on with what ever we chose. This Speckled bush-cricket was found not in but near to the moth trap.

After an early lunch we headed straight out to Lynford water and the arboretum. We saw butterflies. including this small copper butterfly, dragon and damselflies

and I was particularly pleased with this one that landed on Alan’s hat!

img_9415-banded-demoiselle-femA female demoisel, we have seen lots of the males this year but this was the first female we have been aware of. The real treat of the day was seeing a slow-worm, it was anything butslow as it slithered off the path just in front of us but no chance of a picture.

This morning we set off for Castle acre priory, the first time Alan and Judy had been there and it is fair to say they were impressed. It really is an excellent place, (looked after by English Heritage), there are still plenty of remains to explore.

Also lovely grounds which provide shelter for all sorts of wildlife, including this tortoishell butterfly almost hidden in the dry leaves and this Buzzard out in the open for all to see!

Having just recently started a very small herb garden I love to see the very established one at the priory. img_9543-piroryherb-garden

Whilst looking around it we found several interesting little creatures! These included several garden spiders, a Silver Y moth and a Speckled wood butterfly.

 

But I made my best find whilst looking at the Silver Y, deeper down in the lavender plant I found this little beauty!img_9552-rainbow-leaf-beetle

It is a Chrysolina Americana or a Rosemary leaf beetle which may be a little easy to pronounce and remember! It is about the size of a Ladybird and really is a stunner although I read that it is a pest!

Time to leave the priory and head home for lunch before saying goodbye to Judy. Other comitments mean she must head home but Alan is staying on for another couple of days to see how many more moths we can find him, he has had over 20 new ones so far since he arrived! If we are really fortunate we might even find some birds.img_9513-us-at-castle-acre-priory

When the heat of the day has passed we may head out for a stroll locally and see what is lurking in the churchyard, but for now it is time to realx with a refreshing drink!

 

At last…I’ve seen a frog!

Well it took eight months and a day before I did but at last I have seen a frog or I should say four frogs!

It was on Thursday the first day of September, yes I had gone eight months and not seen a single frog or toad! The weather looked promising so a trip to the arboretum seemed a good idea, off we went and a little later we met up with Peter and the children.

We hadn’t been walking long when sharp-eyed Peter spotted a tiny little frog, a common frog,  walking in the grass. IMG_8907 Alice frog

Time for a picture then off he hopped again, but back to frogs later! We had a good walk around, Daniel made a quick stop to adjust his socks!IMG_8936 Daniel

By now the sun was shining and the insects were coming to life, first we watched the damsel and dragonflies. The arial displays they put on were brilliant but you will need to take my word for it as they are much to fast for me to photograph in action.

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Bees of varying shades and sizes were busy along with hoverflies.

But wierdest of all were a couple of flies that we saw. The first one looked like a bee as it flew towards me but when it landed I could see my error. I managed two quick snaps and it was gone. It was in looking to find it again that we found the second strange fly, it is quite amazing what is out there if we look!  Thanks to Peter for identifying them later on, The first is Tachina grossa or I like to call it, Bee-faced-fly! The second is Nowickia ferox, sorry no pet name for that one.

We had brought lunch with us so it was time to find a picnic table, seems the Harlequin ladybirds had found them first! Two different looking Harlequins and the third picture is a Harlequin ladybird nymph.

While eating lunch Matilda found this little fly, pretty sure it is a  Yellow-legged Centurion- Sargus flavipes

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I must admit that I am not usually drawn to flies of any kind but this year I make an exception, but this fella I would be pleased to see on any walk. A Common-green grasshopper, looks like something from prehistoric times don’t you think?

It was nearing time to go back home but a visit to ‘the face tree’ is always a must.

A bonus was waiting by the tree, more frogs! Not tree frogs (now that would have been amazing!) but they were keen to climb.IMG_9009 Frog

So that was Thursday, Friday we stayed home but we did some bug hunting in the garden. We found several little critters including this little green spider (Nigma walckenaeri).IMG_9080 Nigma walckenaeri

Also Peter shared a moth from his catch, a new one for all of us, Webb’s wainscot. IMG_9036 fenn's wainscott

So September has got off to a fine start and the weather forecast looks good for next week so hopefully some good trips out ahead…watch this space. Who knows we might even see a toad!!!

 

What a cracker!

Still in Gloucestershire and another day out with Ian and my brother Alan, we decided to head into the forest of Dean. Lots of happy memories of days spent their with my parents and children when they were little, I wonder if they remember that my Mum always had ’emergency rations’ with her!

Our first stop was at Cannop Ponds where we saw a lovely Little grebe, he caught a little fish and spent some while shaking it and trying to position it suitably ready to swallow whole. I am pleased to report he did succeed, I got a nice video clip of the fish finally losing the fight, I am looking forward to learning how to sort the clips out one day but not yet!

We also saw our first Grey wagtail of the year, ( later we saw two more) it was very flighty and distant but very good to get. First tick of our time away. The weather was getting better as the day went on, not just dry but by now sunny too.

I connect this area with Mandarin ducks and I was not let down, we saw one but it quickly decided to swim away. After thinking if I could get a shot of it or if it had gone to far I decided to go in pursuit of it. By the time I fought my way through the mud and got to the other end of the pond it had joined a group of Mandarins, I saw five male and two females.

 

What beautiful ducks they are, the males so striking and the females more subtle but I think none the less attractive.

We had a couple of choices of where to head to next, what were we most keen to try to see? Well we have visited Lynford Arboretum many times this year hoping to see Hawfinches but each visit has been fruitless. I had heard that they often show well at Parkend in the Forrest of Dean so we went in search of them there, would Gloucestershire provide what we had failed to find in Norfolk? YES! We waited for some time and one of our party said that “we only need one to come for a minute” that is exactly what we got, this cracker came down to feed.IMG_9298 Hawfinch_edited-1

He did only stay for a very short time when something made him and the other birds feeding fly up. We did see another two fly into the back of a tree but saw no more of them. Not only were we all pleased to get Hawfinch on our 2016 year list but it is by far the best sight any of us had ever had of one, excellent it made my day! It will be good to be able to walk at the arboretum not feeling frustrated by the lack of hawfinches, mind you we will probably see them regularly now but not as well as this!

 

Next we visited the church at Parkend looking for Crossbills. No luck but we did have a nice Treecreeper on the building itself. Where we live in Norfolk this notice would not be needed but I have been amazed at the amount of damage done by wild boar I have seen all around here. I gather they are now widespread although sadly we didn’t see any, just the results of where they had been.

 

Next stop a well deserved lunch at the Dean heritage centre and time to think where to go next. Amazing who you meet on the way to lunch!IMG_9319 Gruffalo_edited-1

I was still really keen to try to get a picture of a Penduline tit so we headed back for them but sadly they had not been seen.

We have had not just a lovely day but an excellent visit to Gloucestershire, thanks to Alan and Judy, come and see us in Norfolk soon and see what birds we can find there.

Our year continues so well and although I have talked mainly about birds it has been about far more. Spending time together, getting out walking, seeing family and anticipation of what is yet to come! Thank you for sharing in our I hope you will keep going with us.

 

Little and large

Today, the first Sunday of the year we have designated a day of rest, to be perfectly honest that is mainly because it is raining heavily! It does though give me time to get lists updated and tell you about yesterday’s trip out.

It has been windy and wet at night so we haven’t put the moth trap out this year yet and I am not too optimistic about catching anything for a while. Thankfully birds are a bit more obliging and yesterday we stayed inland and managed to avoid most of the rain. Lynford was our destination, both the arboretum and Lynford Water which is made from old gravel pits now flooded and home to a good number of birds.

Only  January the second but already snowdrops where out, imageat home we have bulbs which look ready to burst. I have a nasty feeling that if winter ever arrives these early plants may be in for a shock.

Anyway we set out earlyish and were rewarded very quickly by a lovely Barnowl perched on a fence post. It was a beauty but very quickly flew into a tree and we couldn’t get sight of it again, good to know a place to keep an eye on though and I hope to go along again when the light is good and try to get a photo of it, wish me luck. About two miles further on I saw what I thought at first was a buzzard (would have been the first of the year) but it wasn’t, it was a Red Kite and accompanied by a second one! They put on quite a display and again will be a target for a picture.

Moments after leaving the Kites a stoat ran across the road just in front of us so that is our third mammal.

it was very quiet at Lynford, well as far as people were concerned but I was struck by the amount of birdsong and activity. Good to get some more woodland birds including Nuthatch and Tree creepers image  We added 13 to our list ranging in size from the tiny Goldcrest to the might Kites deffinately  a day for little and large! We added Goldeneye on the lake but strangely have yet to see our first Coot of the year I wonder how long do you think till we get one?

I have several things I hope this year will bring, certainly wings in assorted varieties but it is about enjoying them and enjoying time to relax. Just a couple of days into the years and things are getting off to a good start am very optimistic indeed!

Number so far: 69 birds, 3 mammals