Monday, 30 August 2010

Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve, Norfolk

Our next visit was to Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve, another Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve consisting of open water, reedbed, fenland, grazing marsh and woodland. On arrival, the visitor centre volunteers were very helpful in suggesting the best site to spot Swallowtails and we set off in anticipation. To our right, large numbers of dragonflies and Gatekeeper butterflies, whilst hobbies hunted over the fields to our left.

On approach to the first hide Andrea saw what she thought was a Crane which was confirmed by a gentleman already in the hide who said it was the only bird of note he'd seen all day. We continued on, reaching the spot we'd been recommended as a popular haunt for Swallowtails.

On first pass there was no sign, but on our return a Swallowtail butterfly alighted on Hemp Agrimony and settled low on the flowerhead open winged as the breeze picked up. It was the only one we saw during our visit but what a treat.

I couldn't resist making the most of the persepective with this one, the littlest Little Egret and the most monumental Mute Swan in the Broads. No photoshopping tomfoolery took place I assure you, its straight out of the camera, I just got lucky.

From one of the hides we watched three Common Snipe in the grassy margins

A male Black Tailed Skimmer tucks into a juicy meal.

A Brimstone backlit on thistles.

I think this is an Emerald Damselfly

During our visit to the reserve we also enjoyed a boat trip around the broad, bookable from the visitors centre. Not known for my sea legs I have to admit that it rates as one of my most enjoyable boat trips with no unpleasant side effects whatsoever. Our captain for the journey was knowledgable and friendly and we enjoyed sightings of Ruddy Shelduck, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plove, Ruff, Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Shelduck. Another great place to explore...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, Norfolk

During our week away we ventured east from Rutland to Norfolk. Our first port of call was Barton Broad on an overcast, cold and windy afternoon which meant an absence of sightings other than a very striking Alder Moth and a few fungi but still an enjoyable stroll around the fenland boardwalk. The following day we headed to Cley to Cley Marshes Nature Reserve managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

We stopped by the Visitors Centre to pay for entry to the reserve and on arrival at the shingle beach the clouds began to recede and blue skies hugged the coastline for the remainder of the day. The reserve comprises of shingle beach, reedbeds, saltmarsh, saline lagoons which makes for an interesting landscape and one of the first specimens of vegetation to catch the eye were these striking Yellow Horned Poppy (Glucium flavum).

The long thin seedpods resemble horns, hence the name.

The waxy leaves have a hairy surface which enables the plant to retain moisture.

The wind was pretty strong so we were surprised to spot this female Grayling, as it lanaded on the shingle, a first for me, it settled into a hollow, its forewing tucked tightly into its hindwing as it sheltered from the wind.

Then a smaller butterfly stopped by, a female Common Blue sheltered down to bask amongst the shingle.

It wasn't just the butterflies that were making the most of the weather.

From the nearby hide, at a distance we saw 10 Spoonbill, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Shelduck, Lapwing, Teal, Ringed Plover.

On the raised path between the marshy pools the flanking vegetation provided shelter for plenty of Common Blues, Gatekeepers and 10 or so Common Darters.

The moment we turned back we were confronted by a hobby or sparrowhawk flying along the channel next to us and in an instant it dove down into the reeds, according to the listings both birds are regularly spotted on the reserve.

After a pitstop return to the visitors centre we crossed the road to visit more hides. On crossing a bridge we heard a plop in the water below and spotted a Water Vole unconcerned by the attention and remained for approximately 5 minutes until the bridge was full of people before it decided to disappear.

A few metres away I got my first female Wall Brown together with the first Painted Lady of the year.

A few metres further a male Migrant Hawker at rest on vegetation.

To top it all off we popped into Cookies Crab Shop in Salthouse for a crab and crayfish salad, where two Marsh Harriers were spotted on the way.

As we were heading to Sheringham for an ice cream we spotted a number of birders with scopes heading down a lane, needless to say the ice cream took priority but on our return Andrea popped down to check out the fuss and caught a distant glimpse  of a Lesser Grey Shrike, the talk of Norfolk birder for the rest of the week. Phew!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Rutland visit

This is the first chance Ive had to properly catch up with the blog since returning from our week away, which started with a couple of days in Rutland, Leicestershire followed by a few more days in Norfolk. This was a return visit to Ashgate Annex in Oakham, Rutland where we enjoyed yet another relaxing weekend in Isabel & David's lovely self catering luxury accomodation. Its such a great place to stay, ideal for exploring Rutland Water & the surrounding countryside. Here follows a few sightings from the Rutland portion of our trip.

Just after arriving I spotted this female Common Blue on the driveway feeding on Lavender flowers.  

Despite the overcast weather at times, we still enjoyed some great sightings. We dropped into Egleton reserve at Rutland Water Nature Reserve and watched this Kingfisher appear in a flash of blue, disappear and reappear once more where it sat for a good 5 minutes.

We sat it out in this hide during a downpour, where even the Hebridean sheep decided to congregate while the heavens opened. Apparently they were introduced to the reserve back in 2001 to help control coarse grasses around the edges of the water.

Through the binoculars we had a good view of the Ospreys, we watched as an adult consumed its share of a fish whilst sat atop platform on the left, before depositing it on the nest on the right for the juveniles to finish off.

During this visit we ventured to some new sites that we'd found via the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust website. One of the most interesting was Prior's Coppice, to quote the website "is an ancient ash-maple ash-wych elm woodland, probably a relic of the wildwood which covered all of Leicestershire and Rutland before prehistoric peoples started to clear it".

Here's a couple of pics of the wide rides that contain woodland marshy grassland surrounded by lush canopies, it was a treat to explore and well worth a visit.

On entering Priors Coppice we were amazed to see well over 50 Common Blues, I'm used to seeing them singly or maybe in two's if I'm lucky, so this was a rare treat for me. Here are a few favourites.

There were lots of dragonflies around and about, zipping above our heads following the rides, occasionally we spotted one or two resting on nearby vegetation, I think these two are immature Male Southern Hawkers, but I'm happy to be corrected.

There were plenty of Damselflies too, they really stood out against the foliage and stems, I think these are Common Blue Damselflies, single stripe on side of thorax, mushroomy mark on segment two.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Beckett Park fungi (2)

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Ive noticed a large number of fungi on Beckett Park this week. With so many pics I decided to make up a few composites featured here.

Dotted around the edges of this tree stump (used creatively by students as a barbecue area) are the fruitbodies of Giant Polypore and inside a small cluster of cup fungi.

From this point on and with so many examples Ive struggled to identify them, although I think bottom left and top right might be a Blusher.

I like the pic on the right in particular as I noticed the jogger heading into the frame as I knelt down to take the photo.

More views of the Blusher fungi posted previously.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Beckett Park fungi (1)

This week on my way to and from work Ive noticed an abundance of fungi on Beckett Park, growing on open grassland and under the canopies of Beech trees.

The area is predominantly grassland with a handful of Beech trees, South facing, on a steady incline and with a small underground spring nearby it can quickly become damp in patches. I'd guess the warmth and rain has provided ideal conditions for the fruitbodies to appear. Ive counted over 7 species so far so here are the first couple growing underneath a Common Beech. Would I be correct in assuming that they're all Blusher fungi , Amanita rubescens?

This one is a more mature specimen.

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