Monday 23 December 2013

Seasonal Splash ~ Happy Christmas from Suffolk

Happy Christmas from Suffolk, UK

The Shepherd's Hut, Sutton Hoo

Saturday 21 December 2013

Seasonal First ~ Earthstar at Dunwich Heath

I have read about Earthstars and seen photos, but I had never seen an actual one until Friday when we came across a little cluster (?constellation) on Dunwich Heath, up above RSPB Minsmere. What surreal things they are! These examples may be Collared Earthstars ...

Friday 20 December 2013

Seasonal Splash ~ RSPB Minsmere

Wintry Reflections

The devastating storm was the focus of my last Minsmere post, and I promised to post something more cheerful this time. We returned to the reserve a few days ago to find glorious winter sunshine and a glowing sunset. 

Sunset comes to the Reedbeds

Swan at sunset, Island Mere

My favourite trees, bordering the reserve

Reedmace (right) among the reeds

Sunset glow

Deer ... and signs of mole!

A final glow

Marsh Harrier at dusk

Swans again

Sunset 1

Sunset 2 (birds, but not the murmuration I read about ...)

Frost in the dells

Ice patterns on a leaf

Jay, looking for acorns

A rabbit turns tail

Who will get the acorns ... the Grey Squirrel or the Jay?

Thursday 19 December 2013

Nature Reserves ~ RSPB Minsmere

I feel this is a rather sad and desolate post ... showing this wonderful reserve after the huge tide caused such devastation along the coast. The photos were taken last weekend on a very bleak afternoon. My excuse for these gloomy photos is that I was at Minsmere again today ... only this time with the sun shining, so the next post will be more upbeat!

The photo above shows the fragile bank near the RSPB Centre where the Sand Martins like to nest each summer.

Friday 29 November 2013

Seasonal Splash ~ Swans at WWT Welney

Whooper Swan, WWT Welney

I had been looking for an opportunity to visit WWT Welney for the winter wild swan feed. It proved to be a memorable and wonderful experience, one that I would highly recommend.

You know you are getting closer to the wetlands around Welney and Hundred Foot Bank when the ornate masts (or towers) of Ely Cathedral, the Ship of the Fens, cross your horizon.

On arrival at WWT Welney, we were greeted by a couple of Mute Swans like the one above. You can see that this particular bird has been ringed. Many Mute Swans make Welney their year-round home. They have distinctive orange bills and are called 'mute' because, unlike other breeds, they do not make much noise, save for the whirring flap of their wings when they are airborne.


Enter the Whoopers! Whooper and Bewick's Swans flock to the site in their thousands (along with ducks) during the winter migration from Iceland, Siberia and the Arctic Tundra.

As the afternoon light began to dim, more and more swans gathered in preparation for the 15.30 hrs feed. This meal, apparently, is more like an afternoon snack. It keeps the birds satisfied until the 18.30 hrs floodlit swan feed.

East Anglia is renowned for its wide skies, distant horizons and for the quality of its light. This may have been a raw and indifferent November afternoon, but the light on the water was magical.

Some (but not all - see here) believe that the area began to take on its present guise back in 1630 when the Duke of Bedford scheduled an engineer from the Netherlands to implement a drainage scheme in the Fens. This action resulted in the emergence of two new rivers and the flood plain we know as the Ouse Washes. Welney, one of the areas that benefited from the draining scheme, is left to flood each winter, thereby providing the perfect habitat for its over-wintering wildfowl.

There was much wing-flapping along with numerous departures and arrivals ...

... and just occasionally a Swan Lake moment when an eerie hush pervaded, allowing the grace and elegance of the birds to be appreciated by all.

There were moments of preening and moments when the Pochards tried to tweak the swan feathers if the large birds came too close.

It was the swans that had drawn us over to Welney on this occasion, but naturally we were open to all comers. It was a joy to see good numbers of Lapwing (red conservation status).

The photo above intrigued me ... the Whooper's head reflection seems to have been cut in two by the ripples.

The photo above shows the Mute Swans mingling with the Whoopers. There were good numbers of Pochard dodging about in between. 

More arrivals as feeding time draws near! These swans have left their sugar beet fields in the fens and are heading in for a snack of grain.

These swans are all Whoopers. Bewick's Swans also have yellow bills, but are smaller than the Whoopers. The yellow markings differ between the species. You can read about them here.

Time for a mingle ...

... and a chance to eye up the competition in the pecking order.

This drake Pochard seems to know there will be plenty for all.

And finally, the moment arrives. Food, glorious food!

When it comes to the crunch, you have to be in it to win it! It's a case of up tails all ...

  • Words for Wide Skies - a poetry anthology on sale (while stocks last) in the WWT Welney shop. It contains my poem inspired by the hares at the reserve.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Frostflowers: Fractal, Feathered or Fern-like?

This is the time of year for Jack Frost and his ice patterns!

The swirls in the photo above graced the roof of my car some days ago and made me wonder how they came to form in the way that they do.

I am, alas, no scientist, but it seems that small environmental changes, for example in air temperature, air movement, in the number of water molecules or in the quantity of dust particles, cause an ice pattern to grow, perhaps by developing long frond-like arms, thereby deviating from its original flower-like design.

But what causes these formations in the first place? Well, in the case of windows, it seems that frost patterns emerge when a pane of glass is exposed to sub-zero temperatures on the outside and moist air on the inside. Water vapour in the atmosphere condenses and becomes frost on the internal surface of the glass. These days with central heating, we rarely see frost patterns inside our homes, but I recall the high sash windows of my teenage years and the chilly patterns that delighted us on winter mornings.  

Friday 15 November 2013

Beautiful Birds ~ at Snape Maltings

We drove into Snape Maltings for Aldeburgh Poetry Festival last weekend, and had hardly parked the car before this Kestrel alighted on a nearby telegraph pole.