Saturday, 31 May 2014

Sun and Sand - Horsey Gap

Great afternoon at Horsey Gap on the Norfolk Coast. Lots of wildlife to be seen with the resident seals peering out of the water from the surf line and terns and gulls overhead. Explored the dunes with the ever-present backdrop of skylark song, the rhythm of breaking waves and the buzz of insects. Saw a large adder move quickly off the path as I approached and was unable to find it in the marram grass so couldn't show the children, they're surprisingly fast when warmed up by the sun - both adders and children. No sign of seal bones on the beach so the winter casualties have clearly all now been removed by scavengers, time and tide. Found some crab claws in the line of seaweed and in an error of judgement I offered the children 2p for each claw found and within the hour was down by £6. I love this beach.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Birds Awake Early

The birds are awake and singing at 3.54 am at the moment.

Great to have the evenings back with the wonderful light after work hours. Found a dead buzzard by the road on the ridgeway yesterday where I often see them lifting in the rising air along the ridge and have put it in the freezer - I must deal with my taxidermy projects and I'd love to mount the buzzard with its wings open as the feathers are stunning. The swifts are back on-mass in the village, there are young rabbits tumbling into the roads and I saw my second slow worm of the year this week, basking on the road as I cycled home from work on Friday night.

It's interesting to note that two of the significant wildlife encounters of the last few days, have been on the road. I suppose it's inevitable as I traverse to and from the various commitments on these strips of tarmac that cut across this green and pleasant land.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Swifts return to the West Country

As we worked on the college sustainability garden on Wednesday evening I saw two swifts overhead. It's quite hard to distinguish between distant swifts and martins but I am sure that these were swifts as I was first alerted to them by the distinctive squealing calls. High in the sky and circling dramatically with their little scythe-like wings they are a very welcome returning visitor. Such a part of the summer landscape as they swoop in screaming joyful gangs, dogfighting up and down School Hill in the centre of the village. Pointed at, by my then 5 year old son on the daily school walk, as 'snifts, snifts'.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Cuckoo in Devon

Its hard to describe just how beautiful Devon is in the spring - see photos beneath. A wonderful bank holiday weekend camping with old diving friends in East Prawle, with two beautiful days on Mill Bay exploring the rock-pools and coastal walks. Several times over the weekend we heard the call of a cuckoo deep in the woods above the beach and watched jays, crows and buzzards flying over. The buzzards were clearly nesting and you could hear their distinctive calls among the high trees and I also saw one carrying a stick. The woods were exploding with new growth and the blue bells were astonishing, such a part of my childhood exploring the woods of Norfolk and Essex and such a distinctive part of the English seasonal landscape.

Devon Falcons and Adders

 Wonderful cliff-top walk around the headland from Mill Bay towards Gara Rock and Prawle Point. So much to see.

All looking through the binoculars for basking sharks and dolphins, as I've see them here many times in the past, but no luck and it was all we could do to keep up with the children running ahead on the high path. Saw two peregrine falcons hunting along the cliff face and actually saw one of them stoop, with wings folded back, arrow straight shooting towards the ground at an astonishing speed. The children found a small basking adder, which disappeared into the heather before I could photograph it, and we looked at bloody nose beetles and a beautiful little slow worm. The wonderful beach rock-pools were wonderfully clear and a lot of fun was had as we hunted and caught blennies and sand eels.

Note: Martin at work tells me that his dog was bitten on the nose by an adder this week. It has survived I believe but it's astonishing as we had talked about this only a few days earlier after I told him about the one that we saw in Devon.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Vobster Crayfish

Beautiful clear water at Vobster Quay Dive centre. This flooded quarry near Shepton Mallet is now well set up for free diving, open water swimming and scuba diving. Unable to dive tonight as I am putting my dive tanks in for test, but I stood at the water's edge wishing I could get in. Watched other divers kitting up and I tried to see crayfish amongst the submerged rocks, but no luck. This land-locked lake is also now a breeding site for the endangered British white clawed crayfish - although I have yet to see one and will be looking very carefully when I dive here with Graham in a couple of weeks.