The Never Ending Circle

The little boy was lifted up, firm grip from large hands on his skinny torso, to a bewildering height. Slightly scared but equally excited he was able then to peer over the rim of the carefully woven collection of grasses and small twigs into a smooth cup of the nest. There shining back at him were four orbs of the most brilliant blue he had ever seen. Eggs; radiant and iridescent, the colour pierced his eyes and bore into his nine year old mind.He wanted to reach out and touch them, to feel these heaven sent jewels that until this moment had never entered his consciousness. But before he could it was over, lowered to the ground and whisked away to trudge in the adult’s footsteps to other parts of the wooded heathland, the details of which never impressed upon his memory and were lost almost as they were formed. The only thing that mattered was those dazzling, sky blue eggs, spotted lightly with deepest black, out of sight and out of reach and all the more tantalising for it. He would…

March Highlights

One advantage of working at a nature reserve is that eventually you will see just about everything that turns up. Even, if like me, you only appear for a morning every fortnight you still have a good chance of connecting with the unusual. So it was a few weeks ago at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen when after a number of abortive attempts the long staying Jack Snipe decided it had toyed with me long enough and gave itself up. It wasn't so obliging as to flaunt itself unashamedly; heaven forbid that one of its kind should make things easy. No, this bird still required a bit of work as it hunkered down amidst a raft of cut vegetation, facing away from onlookers so that the lateral striping on its back looked for all the world like the reeds it surrounded itself with. But with a bit of effort the tiny wader could just be made out and formed a talking point for visitors all day, the challenge: spot the Jack Snipe. Once or twice hunger drove this diminutive visitor from Arctic Russia to venture cl…

Seed Cracker

Pausing on the path, sluggish as an emergent wasp from its winter dormancy, I took stock of the day so far. Reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Cley, Nightingale serenading us at Salthouse Heath, Woodlark and Golden Pheasant, violently contrasting songsters, at Mayday Farm as part of a grand total of about 40 species, mostly heard in darkness or the dim light before sunrise; some dazzled in the headlights of the car. 5.30am on 17th May 1991, Lynford Aboretum, time for our annual 24 hours birding marathon and we were doing alright. But I was cold and keen to warm my sluggish body from the numb of pre-dawn chill. Why on earth was I here? Damp feet, freezing hands, no sleep; images of being curled up in a nice warm bed pervaded my dangerously dozing consciousness. Taking a deep breath of fresh May air fragrant with the scent of pine, I once more scanned the ranks of firs, larches and assorted exoticshrubs and noticed a trio of dumpy looking birds fly into a nearby tree. I raised my binoculars…

It's All About Timing

It’s been a breezy few days. After the spring like conditions we enjoyed early on, tempting robins to begin building a nest on the ivy covered wall just outside our kitchen, we were brought abruptly down to earth in midweek when winter returned to blow us, together with countless fence panels, briskly towards the weekend.
Wednesday saw me and a fellow nature lover traipsing across the sandy paths of Dunwich Heath hoping to find Dartford warblers to photograph. This area is managed by the National trust and in summer is ablaze with bright purple carpets of heather stretching as far as the eye can see; today the acres of heather were barren and bare, their crown of brown, empty flower spikes rattling in the unrelenting currents of air blasting across the gently undulating landscape of east Suffolk.Stands of gorse, bedecked with coconut scented blooms, provided small oases of colour, but otherwise all was bleak. The birds were obviously in no mood to cooperate, hunkering down in the low …

As Viewed Through a Car Window

A rare, but gratefully received, day of sunshine and relative mildness tugged me into the bright green expanses of East Norfolk. The break in my lethargy did not extend so far as to actually indulge in exercise - no walking involved today – but instead I thought I would slowly drive along the many narrow lanes spider-webbing the northern slopes of the Yare Valley to see what I could find.
First stop the marshland near Acle where I hoped, vainly as it turned out, to catch sight of a short-eared owl. Whilst no such yellow-eyed, sharp-taloned hunter gave itself up, I was quite impressed with the large numbers of swans bedecking the fields either side of the A47. Most were mute swans feasting on the tops of some root crop, but in the distance I spotted a pair of Bewick’s swans and beyond them it looked like several of the herd had rather straight necks; too far away for any meaningful identification.

Ranks of rooks and jackdaws, splattered like notes on a musical stave, probed the soft ea…

Hickling Harriers

It is cold here. Bitterly cold. A raw easterly wind whipping in from the North Sea a mile or two away; the boundary between the flat lands of eastern Norfolk and the miles of cruel grey water marked by a line of raised dunes seen as a smudge of dull green on the horizon. The scene before us a patchwork of reed bed, course grazing marshes and fen, interspersed with twisted and stunted hawthorn. The closest you can get to a barren wilderness in this part of the world for there are but scant traces of human activity: a forlorn and long abandoned wind pump, its skeletal sail arm pointing defiantly skywards; a single distant house rendered almost invisible by its light coloured walls blending seamlessly into the gathering murk. Nothing else, just the wild open landscape unique to this Broadland haven.

Us five friends have trudged to this spot, nothing more than a raised bank bordering a drainage dyke, to witness one of nature’s most thrilling and humbling spectacles; the winter roosting of…


Let's sit here you and me and let the breeze of a summer afternoon wash over us, bringing with it the heady scent of jasmine, the rustling of leaf burdened trees that toss and sway hither and thither, the soporific cooing of pigeons and the droning of winged insects. Billowing puffs of white clouds are pushed across an azure sky and the resident dogs flop resignedly onto the cool tiled terrace waiting for the heat of the afternoon to abate. It's hard to keep your eyes open. This could be England on an idyllic July day, the landscape is familiar enough, but we are instead in the pampas lands of Argentina; the treeless plains, where the song of blackbirds, chaffinches and thrushes gives way to kiskadees, ovenbirds and the piercing screeching of parakeets.

Perhaps we should go for a stroll; shake off the effects of a heavy lunch and too much wine. We can keep cool. We'll walk in the sun-dappled shade of the eucalyptus and sweet scented pine where the rufous horneros, the nati…