Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Mastery of the Thing

Although it is our most common Bird of Prey, seeing a kestrel always excites me. I guess the comparative scarcity of predator species, predicated on the supply of more numerous and therefore more common species lower down the food chain, gives them a rarity value,  but there is also something primally exciting in the combination of talons, flesh-tearing beak and mastery of the air. Throw in the fact that they are so easily identifiable even from a moving vehicle and I still delight in calling out 'look - kestrel!'

A local pair hunt on fields between our house and Claxton, and I am learning to predict their movements. These ones seem to hover in their hunting less than many, by making use of a series of telegraph poles that give them a perfect vole-spotting vantage point - presumably less resource-intensive than hovering, no matter how impressive. 
I took these photos on my phone from the car (I pulled over - I wouldn't recommend driving and shooting), hence the quality. You can see the female here, but I have seen the more colourful male in the same place, swooping low to hunt before resuming his watching post. I shall attempt to get better shots over coming weeks.

I shall also aim to get shots of the barn owl that we saw hunting in the meadow opposite on our return to the cottage this evening, but that is for another day...

Catching the worm

A Monday morning at the beginning of a week off work. A lie-in may seem to be in order, but instead, we rose at 5.50am ( we were both awake anyway) and embarked on a dawn stroll. It was still dark as we walked up the lane from our house, but a lightness could be seen to the east. As we reached the top of the lane the dawn chorus was starting to find its voice. Not quite the full-on festival of spring and early summer but still a clear welcoming of the day by the locals.

This was soon outdone however by the growing croak of the rooks, spreading out in their dozens and hundreds along the valley. At this time of year they are starting to form their huge roosts, locally notably at Buckenham Carrs (see Mark Cocker's excellent 'Crow Country' for an examination of this huge annual Corvid mela of tens of thousands of rooks and jackdaws.) As the sky around gradually lightened they seemed almost to be commuters, readying themselves for a day of graft in their office of fields, seeking and grazing. One could hear their loud chatter before they materialised in packs out of the grey sky. The presence of the last bats of the night, and the hoots of nearby owls lent the whole scene an air of familiarity from our evening twilight strolls, but curiously reversed as the still, mild, autumnal day took shape.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Enjoy it whilst it lasts

Last night was a beautiful one in our little bit of the Shire. As we cycled back from work, the last of the martins and swallows swooped on sun-drowsy insects, and our dusk walk was soundtracked by the rooks starting their autumn roosts. A deer (chinese water?) was startled from behind a tree and raced across the stubble towards the watercolour sunset. The best was kept for last, however, with the local tawny owls seemingly vying to produce the most perfect 'twit' or 'twoo' to attend our brightly moonlit walk home.

The next couple of days are supposed to continue in similar vein, but such late summer cameos look set to be but a memory by the weekend. 'September man is standing near, to saddle up another year, and autumn is his bridle...'

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Another casualty

As a rural cyclist, roadkill is a constant in my life and in fact was so even as an urbanite. It gives a somewhat grisly insight into the local animal life and can be as close as one gets to some of our more nocturnal neighbours. When I lived in London it was mostly foxes, birds and the occasional hedgehog, but I can definitely report a greater scale and diversity in Norfolk as one would expect - so much that it makes local news. Over the last few months, I have encountered the usual suspects of hedgehogs, pigeons and rabbits by the score, but also muntjac, weasels, red deer and badgers.

This evening, for the second time in the exact same place I came across a grass snake that had clearly been run over. As it is a reasonably quiet road which runs along an embankment between woods, I would speculate that they may be coming out onto the road in order to bask in the sunshine on the warm tarmac, where four-wheeled death awaits. The first one was reasonably well preserved so I passed this on to Duncan for inclusion in his art work, but tonight's specimen was almost completely eviscerated, yet it retained the quintessence of green encircling its neck that even in death remains startling.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A hawker from a handsaw?

Norfolk's wetlands are so rich in fauna and flora, that even a simple bank holiday stroll can yield something scintillating. We found these dragonflies sunning themselves on a fence around a marshy paddock. Intermittently one would break from its basking to catch a passing aphid, which would then be audibly crunched back on the wooden sun-lounger. Supremely indifferent to our presence, even settling on my head, they seemed almost to pose for these photographs (superbly taken by Chris Stokes), which allow for a tentative identification as Aeshna Isosceles, the Norfolk Hawker.

Juxtaposed with their late summer presence, the stirrings of autum could be seen in what seems like a prolific amount of fungi bursting forth all around us. This bleeding of seasons, one into another, enriches the snapshots I had as periodic visitor.