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!

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Cley, Norfolk, February

Cley, Norfolk, February

A few photos from a recent trip to Cley marshes on the Norfolk coast on a (very) windy day. So windy that we couldn’t even spend long in the hides as opening the hatches creating a wind tunnel.

We did also see – as well as the usual waders – a couple of stonechat but I couldn’t get a photo, a marsh harrier scaring off the ducks and geese, and possibly a water pipit. I did get some photos of the latter but they were too blurry to tell for sure.

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A family of avocets

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A coot in the reeds

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A couple of shovelers

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Think this was a redshank (left) and a plover (right) but couldn’t get close enough

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Redshank

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A LOT of brent geese

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Pebble beach & sea

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Gorse

Wintry walks: the beast from the east

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV screen or radio or – god forbid – been outdoors, you may have noticed we’ve quite a bit of snow. I don’t remember snow like this for about 5 years and it’s so rare.

I’m not one for snowball fights – I have a very low tolerance for extreme temperatures in either direction – but I am one for taking photos when the landscape changes so dramatically. Here’s a few I’ve taken over the last few days as the office has been closed and I’ve been snowed in working from home.

A nuthatch in the woods.

A nuthatch in the woods.

The nuthatch has got to be one of the most elegant woodland birds. The way it feeds upside and hops acrobatically along the branch is really quite artistic. It’s colours are muted and simple – grey on top, chestnut underneath, that stripe of black across the eyes like the Mask of Zorro.

I took these photos at the woodland hide at Pensthorpe in Norfolk on a Spring-like day in February. This is one of the most satisfying hides I’ve ever visited and it never fails to perform – there are so many birds that it’s almost too much to take in.

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Wildlife focus: the mole

Hello nature fans!

I’m starting a new blog series all about wildlife, focusing on a particular species each time in depth. In general, I’ll probably talk about the features of the species, the role it fulfills within its ecosystem, the folklore surrounding it, and species idiosyncrasies, including a few interesting facts. I’m starting with the humble mole.

The Mole

A nocturnal creature that is practically blind, it moves awkwardly above ground and expertly tunnels below. This mammal digs and tunnels its way through the soil, leaving those familiar molehills dotted about the landscape. They have sharp claws, soft velvety fur and eat earthworms and, surprisingly, nuts.

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How to spot a mole

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust gives this helpful advice on how to identify moles:

The European mole is a small mammal with a body length of between 10-14cm, weighing between 75-120g. They have a cylindrical body covered with dense black fur, a pointed snout, short tail and spade like forelegs with long sharp claws which they use for digging tunnels.

If you manage to get really close to a mole you might be able to notice that they have an extra thumb on their forepaws, a feature that evolution has decided is helpful for moles, meaning that they basically have two thumbs. You can find moles all over the UK and they seem to be doing fine, despite some gardeners and landowners viewing them as pests.

Diet

Moles primarily eat earthworms, which they collect underground in specially built ‘mole runs’ that are essentially a series of tunnels – the mole can sense when a worm falls into the channel and quickly locates and eats it. They can even store earthworms in their larders to eat later as their saliva contains a toxin that paralyses the worm.

Breeding

Moles breed between February and May. Males woo females by wandering into unknown territory and letting off high-pitched squeals. If a match is successful, the young are born between March and April and each brood generally contains 3-5 youngsters, who depart the nest after about 6 weeks.

Random Facts

  1. Moles can dig 20 yards of tunnels each day.
  2. A mole can dig through 14m in 1 hour
  3. Males are called ‘boars’, females ‘sows’, and a group of moles is a ‘labour’.
  4. They have a complex mental map of their undergound tunnels.
  5. The texture of fur allows it to lie in any direction so it can easily reverse in a tunnel.
  6. They have no external ears.

The Burrow by Kafka

Franz Kafka wrote an exceptional story about a mole. It was unfinished and published posthumously, like most of his work, and it’s the most strikingly strange idea: essentially a monologue by a mole, who adores his carefully constructed underground palace of tunnels and feels an ever-growing threat of ‘the beast’ who could shatter it at any moment. Read into that what you will. Human irrationality and anxiety of an inevitable yet unidentifiable destroyer (i.e. death)? If you’re interested, you can buy it here.

Here are a few photos of a mole I managed to take at Strumpshaw in Norfolk in the summer. I just happened to see one above ground – a very rare treat. 

Strumpshaw, January

A cold and dull day at Strumpshaw in January but still we saw plenty of marsh harriers, beginning to pair up and flirt and show off, and a kingfisher (too quick for a photo), and plenty of ducks. Half of the reserve was flooded so we couldn’t get around a lot of it.

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Marsh harrier

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Marsh harrier

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Ducks

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Mallards

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Coot

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Blue tit

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Blue tit

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Great tit

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