Bearded Tits

Bearded tits have always been a difficult bird for me to photograph – they’re just so quick and I rarely get to see them. There is an aviary at Pensthorpe in Norfolk that houses some bearded tits, which are bred for conservation programmes, and because the reeds are a limited territory within the aviary it’s actually possible to get some photos.

So here are some I took recently.

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Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden – June 2018

On a hot day in June we took a drive out to Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden, a faerie-like dreamland of quiet streams and secret rhododendron paths.

The garden took 15 years to create when the late Lord and his team of gardeners began to restore the house and land after the war. The spectacle is quiet strange; almost current-less waterways cross the garden, and rooms of hydrangeas and camellia merge. There were plenty of ducks and their young, dragonflies and damselflies, and schools of thousands of sticklebacks.

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I’d love to know what kind of funghi are these?

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The foxgloves were out in force.

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An Egyptian goose spotted.

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I don’t feel so bad about the green skud on the surface of my pond – the water here is covered in it, you feel like it’s grass.

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The fields of wheat.

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We were really impressed to find that in the tearoom not only was there vegan cake in the form of a delicious chocolate and marmalade slice, but also there was a sandwich option. It doesn’t take much to add an easy hummus sarnie to your menu but it makes such a difference!

National Insect Week

It’s not the most glamorous of ‘national week of…’ events but it is globally important to the conservation of insect species, which are rapidly declining. The celebration was started to “encourage people of all ages to learn about insects”, which is a particularly prescient exercise given the recent evidence from France and Germany that shows a 75% decline in insect species across the countryside within the last 25 years.

The National Insect Week website lists all the different types of insects and has a wealth of learning resources. Insects include:

  • beetles
  • butterflies and moths
  • bees and wasps
  • ants
  • crickets and grasshoppers
  • dragonflies and damselflies
  • earwigs
  • lacewings
  • mayflies
  • stoneflies
  • silverfish and firebrats
  • true bugs
  • true flies

A casual flick through the website and I have learnt that while there are over 50 or 60 species of butterflies in the UK, there are a staggering 2000 species of moth! I have also discovered what a firebrat is.

You may not be especially interested in insects – you may even avoid them at all costs – but they are an essential component of any ecosystem because so many animals depend on them for a food source. They are also pollinators so they help plants and flowers to reproduce, which contributes to a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Some insects even break down decaying organisms, returning those nutrients to the environment.

The RSPB suggests excellent ways to encourage insect species in our gardens:

  • build a bug home
  • plant for butterflies
  • install a bee hotel
  • pile up dead wood
  • support campaigns by Buglife

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Bluebells at Blickling in May

Every May comes the annual trip to the woods at the Blickling estate in Norfolk to see the bluebells, and it never disappoints. Vast carpets of delicate purple flowers lay across the woodland floor and hundreds of people turn up each year to see this spectacle.

Here are a few photos of my trip this year.

 

4 things we did in the Cairngorms in May

4 things we did in the Cairngorms in May

In May I visited Scotland for the first time. It was a long train journey from Norfolk to Inverness (total of 10 hours!) so we split it up with a few nights in Edinburgh. We didn’t stay in Inverness but in Nethy Bridge, a small but well-known village in the Abernethy forest in the Cairngorms national park.

Here’s what we got up to!

  1. Visit the Ospreys

    The RSPB run the Osprey Centre in Loch Garten and here you can see from the viewing point at this time of year the osprey nest. We saw the female with her eggs sitting on the nest! It would have been great to see the male coming in to feed them but sadly he hadn’t been seen for a few days.

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    Credit: Psylexic

    This place is quite special because after being persecuted to extinction in the UK a pair of ospreys returned to this spot 50 years and ospreys have been coming back ever since. There are now around 400 breeding pairs in the UK, most of which reside in Scotland so it’s a rare conservation success story. You can watch a live nest cam here.

     

     

  2. Dolphin Spotting on the Moray Firth

    We took a boat trip into the Moray Firth in Inverness and hoped to see dolphins. Wildlife watching being the unpredictable activity it is, we sadly did not see any dolphins but we did see seals, artic terns, and guillemots. Plus it was a beautiful sunny day, which we definitely appreciate in Scotland!

  3. Cawdor Castle

    It’s not a UK holiday if you don’t visit an old house, am I right? Cawdor castle was built in the 14th century but never saw any defensive action – it’s just a nice, fortified house. It also has a holly tree growing inside the house because of a funny legend you can read about here if you’re interested.

    The castle had beautiful gardens and an incredible forest that they called simply ‘the Big Wood’, and rightly so, for the trees are enormous!

  4. Highland Wildlife Park

    You may have heard that a polar bear cub has been born in the UK this year – the first time in 25 years. Well, it’s at the Highland Wildlife Park and we saw it playing with its mother. We also saw the infamous Scottish wildcat, which was amazing enough, but she had kittens! Wild kittens! I wanted to take them all home with me.

    At the park you can walk around the areas that have the enclosures but you can also drive around the park on a mini safari. There are bison roaming free, as well as vicuna, horses, deer, and an elk, though we could not find the elk anywhere.

    The other highlight was seeing the red squirrel. After a week of seeing bushy red tails disappearing out of the corner of my eye faster than I can take my lens cap off, we finally had a good look at a wild red squirrel who wandered into the woods to eat from a nut feeder.

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    And a few more photos to finish this post.

The garden in early spring

Not much has been happening in the garden during the winter months but in March and April the new growth is starting to pop up and the flowers are appearing. So I thought I’d share a few photos!

I hope someone could help to identify the first two bushes as I’ve never known what they are – some kind of flowering currant?!

 

 

Ticking off the early signs of spring

It’s just past Easter and it’s still not warm. In fact, we’ve had more snow in February-March than I can remember for 5 years.

But I’m still spotting some of the early signs of spring so clearly the birds and flowers and getting ready regardless. So far I’ve seen:

  1. Blackthorn bushes flowering
  2. Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils everywhere
  3. Frogs in the garden pond
  4. New growth on the sedum plant
  5. Buzzards skydancing
  6. Bumblebees in the garden
  7. Blue tits preparing the nestbox
  8. Coots nest building on the river
  9. A slight tickle of hayfever
  10. My cat is staying outdoors for longer

What signs of spring have you spotted so far?

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