Welcome to an account of my activities during 30 Days Wild – The First 10 Days. This initiative has been developed by the Wildlife Trusts to encourage people to celebrate the natural world in whatever way they choose, throughout the month of June. You can pitch this wherever and however you like, from simply feeding your garden birds, to undertaking a detailed audit of all creatures across the galaxy. One of the main aims is to inspire people, perhaps not hitherto aware or deeply interested in wildlife, to get creative and experience the wonders of nature all around. Watching a ladybird go about its business is enough – you will be connecting and that’s the important bit. It can be a brilliant way to spend time as a family, and children love looking at wild creatures and getting involved in arts and crafts. It’s not too late to take part, and you can discover all about it by clicking here.
1st June 2022 – photography in the garden using my newly acquired chair hide. It worked very well with the birds accepting it quickly. We tend to gloss over such birds as Goldfinches because they are familiar and common, but how beautiful is this one!
2nd June 2022 – A golden hour watching a pair of Barn Owls hunting to feed their chicks at Strumpshaw Fen. Perfect mellow light, showing off their rich browns and rusts to perfection. Such a tranquil scene to end a summer day. If you sit quietly they will come quite close, but be prepared for long intervals between appearances if they are hunting further afield.
3rd June 2022 – A family celebration of the Jubilee. No wildlife as such today, but there were certainly some wild creatures around!
4th June 2022 – Another garden session in the hide. I think I managed to stay awake after the partying of yesterday, and was regaled by lots of young birds tazzing around the garden. Amongst juvenile Robins, Dunnocks and Blue Tits was a brood of newly fledged Great Tits that made full use of the sunflower hearts in the feeders.
5th June 2022 – I was very pleased to be invited to exhibit some of my wildlife photographs at Old Buckenham Country Park today. Unfortunately the cold, wet and windy weather resulted in few visitors. Nonetheless, much was learned about how to go about these things, and it was great to meet the other artists, which included Vanna Bartlett, a Norwich based artist and author of the book Arthropedia, and to swap our experiences of wildlife watching. A selection of my images exhibited are included below.
6th June 2022 – a chilly and wet day volunteering at Strumpshaw. Not surprisingly, there were no swallowtails on offer and precious few visitors. That was a shame, because although the weather was anything but representative of the fabled ‘Flaming June’, we did have good views of a Great White Egret and a pair of otters. These otters, a mother and quite well grown cub we judged, spent a happy 10 minutes frolicking in the broad, hunting fish and generally having a jolly good splash around. Lovely to be able to watch them, and I’m sure they will be a regular attraction over the coming weeks.
7th June 2022 – a brilliantly warm, sunny day spent at NWT Hickling Broad, where butterflies were the main attraction. Not just any old butterfly of course, no, no, the insect sought after on this lovely day was the swallowtail. I was in the company of a videographer couple who had contacted me with a view to mining my expertise (?) and getting me to star in a production they are putting together about the aforementioned insect and the wildlife of Broadland in general. We duly strolled around the reserve, meandering here and there when we caught sight of something interesting, including several each of drinker and garden tiger moth (woolly bear – top right below) caterpillars. I did a piece to camera on the general status of swallowtails in Norfolk, their habitat requirements, their iconic status, and what they mean to me, before we embarked on something of a swallowtail fest. As the morning heated up, they seemed to be everywhere, including 3 together at one point spiralling in the air above our heads. We must have seen a dozen or so as we completed the circuit, rounding the days filming off with one obliging individual that stayed put on ragged robin for 10 minutes or more. This movie star wannabe posed for close ups, profiles, wings open, wings closed, evening wear, swimsuit and smart casual. I think the video makers were happy to say the least. One interesting point to note, is how effective the eye-spots are at fooling predators into snapping at the butterfly’s wings instead of the juicy body. You can see this in the mid right image below.
8th June 2022 – the Meadow Trail at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen is always full of interest, especially the community of wetland plants such as ragged robin and marsh orchids, and the dragonflies that hawk the crystal clear drainage ditches. I spent a couple of hours this afternoon slowly strolling along the edges of the dykes watching Norfolk hawkers patrolling their territory. These feisty, green-eyed, insects zipped up and down their chosen patch looking for a mate with which to secure the next generation. A male was present every few yards, sometimes two would meet and engage in a frantic chase through the emerging vegetation and over the lush meadow; so fast as to make tracking them nigh on impossible. A Hobby stooped towards the bounty, only seeing me at the last second before with a flick of its wings it jinked skywards and returned to patrol the woodland canopy. A Barn Owl was hunting the far meadow and took a breather on a convenient gatepost. From a distance I could see it adopt a strange wing-drooping posture which I took to be a method of drying its wings. Only later when looking at a couple of record shots could I see a Buzzard perched on the neighbouring post. The posture of the owl was one of threat display after all.
With dark clouds rolling in from the south, I took refuge in Fen Hide. Sure enough, a deluge ensued, forcing us inhabitants to close the flaps to avoid a soaking. The rain didn’t seem to deter a pair of Marsh Harriers that are nesting close to the hide. As the rain eased and we could once again look out of the hide, we had good views of both birds, the female as she made a pass at some young Coots. This raid was thwarted by the frantic squawking of the adults and by a Grey Heron that, presumably unseen, raised its bill menacingly skyward. Shortly after this, we did witnessed a food pass, which looked like some unlucky young water bird had met its untimely end.
9th June 2022 – the regular duck feeding session with our grandson showed how the changing seasons result in a new cast of characters looking for free handouts. Gone are the screeching gulls – not a single one was present today – having moved to breeding grounds within the UK and across Europe. The Mallards seemed quite content to sit about, uninterested in yet more unhealthy food. The drakes are moving into eclipse plumage, their bright, glossy sheen of green and blue now fading, replaced by streaks of brown and buff. Over the coming few weeks they will totally change their appearance to undergo their summer moult, emerging bright and iridescent once more as Autumn nears. A large group of Greylag Geese were hovering around, some with well grown offspring. A male Canada Goose, brutish and obstreperous, engaged himself with pulling a beak full of feathers from any other goose that came near, tugging at the subservient bird until they sped off honking with indignation. Of course our young charge enjoyed all this, engaging in his favourite ploy of piling bread onto Grandad’s shoes in the hope that some hungry bird would peck my shoelaces. As an introduction to basic birdwatching it seems to be paying off, in that he now recognises a goose from a duck, and a pigeon from a Jackdaw. All good fun.
10th June 2022 – a bit of twitching at the fabulous RSPB reserve at Titchwell, where a Spotted Sandpiper has been around for a couple of days. This represents a life bird for me, and helps nicely with the 220 for 2022 challenge. A full account will no doubt appear in the June update. Other notables today were very obliging Sedge Warbler and Spoonbill (look at that zebra-striped monster of a beak), together with high numbers of small tortoiseshell butterflies and peacock caterpillars. We also saw red admiral, large skipper and a couple of lovely cinnabar moths.