Moments from 2017


Well I've been browsing through my 'Nature Year' and there have been quite a few special 'Nature Moments', both on my local patch and further afield, so I thought I'd share a few of them here... 

 The early part of the year was a bit on the quiet side, although I had a good Big Garden Birdwatch  both in my back garden and also an improvised one on a couple of days away  On my local patch, things ticked over quietly until March / April time, when along with a first sighting of the Local Common Lizards, 


I also got to watch a pair of Treecreepers courting for a while.  (Given that I usually see just one, a pair was something of a treat!) and a few weeks after watched one collecting nesting material.  Around this time I aslo saw a few early butterflies and also got to watch a pair of Long Tailed Tits nest building, whist being 'Chiff Chaffed' at by one of the many Chiff Chaffs which had returned to the local patch.


 In April, we spent a couple of days up on the Suffolk coast, where a few treats awaited us!  We have often watched Bitterns at RSPB Minsmere, particularly at that time of year, however it has always been a solo Bittern out fishing that we have seen.  On our first afternoon, we arrived at the hide and had one Bittern pointed out to us, he spent quite some time fishing and we watched him, Marsh Harriers in the distance and a Grey Heron for some time until a second Bittern arrived, at which point Bittern Number one realised it was a Lady Bittern and actually swam back to meet her!


We then spent quite some time watching as they conducted a graceful Bittern Ballet of displays and poses as they were courting - behaviour we had never seen before and quite magical to watch. He would fluff up all his feathers to show what a handsome chap he was (when the sun came out, his colours showed beautifully) and she was busy showing him a long and graceful neck - stretching up and ruffling her neck feathers, they made a beautiful pair.

 The rest of our stay  was no less exciting and was filled with moments of delight and wonder, from a serene dawn walk on Dingle Marsh, to watching Marsh Harriers over the reeds and getting close up views of both a male


and female Adder whilst we were watching a Wheatear and peering into the distance for a glimpse of a Stone Curlew

 and spending time on Dunwich Heath, watching Dartford Warblers and Stonechats as they declared territories and popped up and down on the banks of heather, at one point I even saw a Dartford Warbler singing from a small tree - having only seen them atop the scrub before, a bit of an unusual sight! The time spent there was refreshing and full of moments!

 During May, I watched on my local patch as the birds continued courting or tending to youngsters and delighted in the emergence of the butterflies.  One afternoon, whist watching a lot of Burnet Companions in hot pursuit of each other, a twinkle of blue caught my eye. 

Now Common Blue Butterflies have been missing from my patch for a number of years (after some 'over enthusiastic' and ill timed mowing by the farmer a few years back) so I was delighted to see, at first one, then a second Common Blue Butterfly as they fluttered about  I just stood watching and after a while they decided to stop flying and start mating; so not only did I see an old favourite, but I also watched behaviour that I'd not seen before.

In June we had a return trip to the Isle of Mull which was wall to wall with magic moments.  There was a moment with a Buzzard as we drove from the ferry to our hotel, an afternoon sat in the rain on a rock as I watched Sandpiper chicks up close, the first time we have ever seen Otters, getting to watch a Mum and Cub as they swam and then basked on a rock, 

then a short while later, excellent views of a Dog Otter as he tucked into his lunch. 

 I finally managed to go on a boat trip to see White Tailed Eagles, spending the whole day in totally stupid grin mode as a result. (I've narrowed it down to three favourite shots - indulge me!)


 I also saw my first ever Guillemots, watched Seals and Gannets and saw my first Rock Pipits; on our return journey, which was in heavy drizzle, I stood at the beach at Oban and marvelled in the calmness as I watched a graceful Common Tern fishing.

 Back home in July I continued Butterfly watching on my local patch, with two notable moments - at the beginning of the month I was treated to a brief glimpse of a box fresh and glamourous Silver Washed Fritillary, the first one I have ever seen, 

Then a few weeks later I spent some time watching a pristine Painted Lady as it nectared on thistle heads.

I also had a little walk up at Fowlmere, where there was plenty about, but the treat of the walk was watching a juvenile Green Woodpecker - I hear these on my local patch and usually see them as they are flying off giggling at me, so a while spent watching a youngster was wonderful! 

In September I had a morning out at RSPB Lakenheath (I also had a trip in August as well and enjoyed watching a number of Warblers, Butterflies and Marsh Harriers) I had a good wander around and watched the local Kestrel seeing off Hobbies, but the moment of the morning was watching a small family flock of Bearded Reedlings as they flit busily about in the reeds. 

It was great watching them as they foraged and flew, as well as listening to and watching them as they communicated to make sure the little flock kept together.

On my local patch, summer was finally turning into autumn, with fungi appearing, still a few butterflies about and the birds getting busy again.  From time to time I saw little hoof-prints but on one walk I spent a few moments watching a timid pair of Muntjac as they were feeding - a rare treat indeed!  At one point the Buck became quite curious about the 'umanbean that was standing nearby and I had a few seconds being almost face to face!


 In November, as well as local wanderings, I also had a couple of trips to Burwell Fen, one for a bit of a better explore  than I had previously, but both wanders  I saw plenty, with moments from confiding Stonechats and Reed Buntings, watching a small herd of Roe Deer, to seeing and hearing Whooper Swans in flight, however, the biggest treat from both walks was seeing a couple of Short Eared Owls.  On the first occasion I managed to capture a bit of an interaction between an Owl and a Crow,  

with a few nice fly-bys afterwards, whilst on the next visit, although I only managed long distance 'record' shots, one of those images is of an Owl with supper in it's talons!

On both visits, as I was walking back, it was at and just after sunset and was far too dark for photos, the soundtrack to the colours behind me though was of Jackdaws and Crows going to roost, with smokey clouds of them almost murmerating across the reeds, Wigeon and Teal quacking and whistling amongst themselves, the 'chack chack' of Fieldfare and the occasional peal of a Blackbird in the willows, with squeals coming from Water Rail deep in the reeds.  A finale was a flight of Greylag Geese, who rose off the fen with a loud whisper of feathers and a honking chorus. 

At the beginning of December we had a flying visit to Norfolk with very chilly and windy conditions.  On our first afternoon, I got a good drenching whilst at Cley, but not before I had sat in the hides and simply marvelled at the Marsh Harriers flying straight and level, totally disregarding the high winds!

 The following day dawned bright and sunny, but was still very cold and windy, however, the tide was out, so we went for a walk to the beach at Titchwell.  

 Down by the waterline, there is a bank of rocks and rockpools, which the waders and Gulls love.  On that morning, the waterline was busy - everywhere I looked there were Turnstones, Oystercatchers, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshanks, Curlew, Black Headed Gulls, Common Gulls, Godwit and further off along the waterline, assorted geese.  

 It was brilliant, watching how each of them was foraging, seeing interaction between different species - sometimes co-operative and othertimes not so, as well as watching the huge variety...  A wet leg (from getting down to their level), frozen hands and face later, I came away with a big smile as well as a few rather nice photo's of what I had been watching.

 Curlew & Redshanks



Back home, for the first time in a few years, we had a decent amount of snow - very pretty, if not a little inconvenient though!  Whilst it snowed, I stood outside the back door and watched the birds as they busied themselves at the feeders - all the regulars plus a couple of Chaffinches visited and I made sure to keep the feeders topped up.

 On a walk in the local woods a few days laters, there were again plenty of birds out foraging - so I spent a few hours watching Wrens, Great, Blue and Long Tailed its, Nuthatches, the occasional Jay and now and then Treecreepers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I even caught a couple of glimpses of rabbits and one of the Muntjac, as it moved around in a thicket of brambles. 

 Whilst I was watching, I saw something small and furry scoot acoss the snow, under the brambles; well I stayed quiet and watched and spent a long time watching a Wood Mouse foraging in the snow.  Eventually, once the mouse had figured I was no threat, it found a spot under the brambles and sat there grooming, nibbling on a morsel of something and watching me back - magic!


 I hope you have enjoyed my wander back through the past year and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year.



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