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.
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.
I’d love to know what kind of funghi are these?
The foxgloves were out in force.
An Egyptian goose spotted.
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.
The fields of wheat.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
A distant guillemot
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!
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.
Scottish wildcat kitten
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.
Good morning! I’ve not been blogging very much lately because – to cut a dull story short – I accidentally removed my WordPress plan and now I have basically no storage space. As most of my posts involve photos, this is a problem. I expect I will have to rip myself off and upgrade again but in the meantime I’ll try to blog using words rather than pictures.
So the results of the Big Garden Birdwatch have been released and I’m always interested to compare how my own garden fares against the rest of the country. I posted about this in January when the event took place but I don’t think I shared my own results. So, I saw:
7 long tailed tits (44%)
5 house sparrows (31%)
1 blackbird (6%)
1 blue tit (6%)
1 dunnock (6%)
1 woodpigeon (6%)
It was disappointing that my goldfinches didn’t make an appearance on the day but I do see them most days. The blackbird, blue tit, sparrows and woodpigeon were obviously fairly typical sightings, but the long tailed tits are less common in the nationwide results. Long tailed tits in fact went up one place compared with last year so perhaps they are doing a bit better these days – or just moving into gardens.
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.
This post has one theme and one theme only – it’s random photos of various wader birds that don’t fit comfortably into any other blog post but I would like to share them regardless. All were taken in February at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk, which has a large collection of water birds.