Springing into action


Solo effort today folks. James was a bit indisposed! So if your sitting comfortably I'll begin. Nature was beginning to pile it on today and I dressed appropriately. In other words I didn't really wear enough. Just a fleece and Nature wasn't quit ready for that sort of attire even though the daffodils were everywhere. Yes its a lovely day with blue skies and all that but the wind was still biting. Good job I was wearing my hat.

It was also a day of old school. I was shooting film and black and white film at that. Non of your fancy colour stuff for me. I'm a proper futogrufer I am! Ah! for those simple days when things were pure and wholesome. It was so easy back in the day wasn't it. All you needed was a camera, a bag of films, an envelope and first class stamp to send them off with a filled in form and a postal order or bottles of chemicals, a stop watch and thermometer, trays and dark room, red bulb and black bag, cloths pegs and line. I wont go into all the printing thing or the fact you have to scan the negatives which is effectively taking a digital photo of your beautiful analog efforts!!Oh happy days. Today you have all the hassle of a camera and a memory card oh and a computer. Kids don't know their born do they. But its fun. Unfortunately you'll have to wait a bit for the results.

So the day started nicely. The trip to Hamwall was spent snapping film of the surroundings but eventually I got to VP2 and settled down. Then not a lot really. A couple of very distant Marsh Harriers and that was it. Not that I was complaining in the bright sunshiney day. Then I happened to look up. A bit like a swarm of bees you see one, then another then the sky was full of them.

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

It was a really wonderful and pleasing sight. Its started. Summers almost here and I'm really looking forward to it. The rest of the time was spent doing film stuff before moving on to VP1.

Tor Hide was looking good to. The nice thing was there weren't that many people around. I suppose they are saving it up for the bank holiday. I was enjoying myself. A Whipping out the digital and the film was fun. Two worlds collide! Unfortunately you'r only going to see the digi stuff today.

Shoveler Ducks still around looking good

Tufted Ducks

The Herons were getting lively. This hide is a good spot to watch the Grey Herons and Great White Egrets up close and candid.

Grey Heron Coming in

Nice quiff

Landing gear down

Picking his spot



Resplendent Great Crested Grebe

The channels make for interesting geometric patterns

Cormorant at VP1

Some Piles

It could be Christmas!

Next stop was Westhey. Not my favourite of spots but boy did I enjoy it today. It was so peaceful. I was in the raised hide for ages with total silence and peace. Only two lots of people popped in for five minutes each. Very little action until a magnificent Male Marsh Harrier sailed around for a few minutes. One of my favourite birds. Wonderful colours.

Male Marsh Harrier

Male Marsh Harrier

Male Marsh Harrier

View from the raised hide at Westhey

The cycle back via London Drove was sublime. One of the best rides I've had there. All to myself.

Back tracking through Shapwick I spied our friend Steve Balcombe in the undergrowth hunting snakes! And VP2 saw a floury of female Marsh Harriers including one perched.

Female Marsh Harrier

Female Marsh Harrier

View from VP2

Swans at VP2

It was a good one with piles of sunshine and a smattering of summer. Next stop House Martins, Swifts, Hobbies and Cuckoos................


A great day for a white wedding


Despite the title, it certainly wasn’t a great day for a white wedding.  Indeed it was more like fifty shades of grey (I couldn’t find a family friendly picture of that one).

 Nevertheless I had a bit of slack time so I trundled down to Westhay.  March is a funny old time for birds.  It’s a bit sh**, quiet if I’m honest.  The winter ones are on their way back to where ever it is they came from and the Summer ones have not arrived yet (well one of them has at Greylake, more on that later).
 I parked up at the now famous London Drove.  If this drove were a pop star (like Billy Idol, in his day).  It would be inundated with radio interviews, magazine front covers and millions of followers on Twitter. 
Still, today it was all quiet.  The Firecrest had obviously departed and now the drove was pretty much empty, save for a few dog walkers.  I took my time and wandered along the drove, enjoying the general peace and calm.  A woodpecker flew right under my nose.  If I had been more observant I probably could have got quite a nice pic. 
Above a mixed flock of Starlings and Fieldfares flew by.  Probably the last one I will see for a while.
Near to the hide at the top (North hide?) I met a chap whos name I cant remember (no surprise).  Hes a thoroughly nice chap who has loads of knowledge about the local area.  After a brief chat I went into the hide.
It was all about the Egrets.  I have a feeling they were in love.  A pair of star crossed lovers were flying about together and landed gracefully at the otherside of the lake.  They stood apart for a while before one (Romeo) began walking slowly toward the other one (Juliet).  As he got nearer he stopped, gazing into her eyes and admiring her long legs (steady...)
Then he froze and caught a fish.  The first lovers tiff ensued.  She went mental and chased him like a mad thing.  He flew about, fish in bill and then some crows joined in the chaos.

The look of love?

Dusty Springfield
Soon they were gone.  Probably for some marriage counselling.  It was pretty quiet on the lakes, a few Goosander, a few GC Grebes and a few Teal.

I took a wander back down the track.  Hoping that a Marsh harrier might fly over my head.  It didn't but a GWE did fly just to the right of the hide I was just in... damn!  With a sigh I trundled back again.  It would fly off but I tried anyway...
View from the main track
In the hide I looked about but couldn't see my bird.  I got distracted by a Cettis warbler shouting away in the reeds and some geese flying about.  It was only then I realized the bird was eyeballing me from behind some reeds!  The autofocus was whirring and grinding.  Unhappy at the strain I was putting it under.  But I only had a moment as the Egret was looking twitchy.
  I think he was probably sulking after the argument earlier...
The Egret stalked about a bit before taking to the wing.

That's enough GWE egret pictures now.
Satisfied with the viewing I went back down the track and stopped to have a bite to eat and busted out the little lens I never use to take some other photos.
 Actually I think this was from the bird lens
This was the little lens
It was all good fun.  I will do some more of this in the future I think.
On the way home I met Russell (I had to ask his name...).  Again another friendly and knowledgeable chap.  He had a cracking shot of a Treecreeper and had seen a Swallow!  The first summer arrival!
In the trees a couple of Goldcrests were flitting about and a Treecreeper but the pictures I got were awful.  Nevermind it was a good day for a white wedding.  I was pleased I got an invite.


A Suffolk Punch


You were expecting a horse weren't you!

I was far afield again. Seems quit a while since a travelling report. This time it was Suffolk. Somewhere I've been before but not the same places. Which was nice. It began with a serendipitous ramble around the area to see what I could find. Well actually it began with eye to eye contact with a Peregrine on a hedge as I drove around. We had one of those moments when you both look at each other in amazement! There was a small lay-bye up ahead so I stopped and crept back with my camera. Unfortunately there was not going to be a 'Kite' moment this time.

The best I got of the Peregrine

Not to worry, onward and upwards. I headed straight for the largest Forest in the area. Thetford Forest. I had only heard of Thetford Porta potti and fluid from my campervan days I'm not sure if its named after it!
So driving into the depths my eye caught sight of something that really got my juices flowing. I've always had a soft spot for Armoured vehicles in particularly tanks. Used to make them as a kid. I find them beautiful. To me beauty comes from the functional.
It was a monument to the 7th Armoured Division or Desert Rats who trained in these Cromwell tanks in 1944. Excuse my indulgence.
(Nerd Alert: The training was for the invasion of Europe however this tank was not used in the initial D-day landings since it does not have the gunnery numbers around the turret used to guide the gunners while firing from the landing craft)

Cromwell Tank

In youth you suspend reality and focus on those things that excite you. Age brings knowledge and you realise the true meaning of things. I have the utmost respect for those that served in these monsters.
There is a very nice walk through the woods near this monument showing remnants of the camp at which they stayed. It was here that I met another monster.

Muntjac Deer

They are cute little things which if, like me, you haven't seen one before its quite a shock. Is it a dog, a rabbit, a hare, a deer? Oh its a very small deer. Their not shy either its just that they tend to wander round in the undergrowth.

View from a Trench

Tree Creeper

Path through the woods

Beautiful and contemplative as it was there was little activity so I pressed on. On to RAF Lakenheath where there were some migrants from over the pond.

The experimental triple F15

Just taxiing you can feel the power

This was rather impressive 

It was here that I met a guy called Peter Walton who was pleased to explain what the planes were. (I'm a tank guy not a plane guy!) He also pointed me in the direction of a local reserve that could offer a bit more in the way of bird life. Thanks Peter. So I headed for somewhere else!

Next stop was Aspal Close Reserve. This turned out to be a bit of a normal park. Fantastic Tolkienesque Oak trees over 400 years old but little else save for a pair of Jays which flew close and slow but I just looked, sorry!

400 year old Pollarded Oaks

Off I went to the final destination and what a destination it was to. I loved it. Its called Lackford Lakes. A wonderful large reserved based in an old quarry with a visitor centre with tea and cakes. I thoroughly recommend it.

Canadas looking good

Erm THIS flew passed!!

What a sight for sore eyes.

I weaved my way through all the hides. Now if there was one fault it would be a lack of screens. I'm not a fan of hides. I don't like going to the big wide outside and sit in a shed. Give me a screen either side of the hide and I can see up. Birds do have a habit of flying and a hide isn't good for that!!

Ok ok I don't go looking for this ok!! I can't help it if Herons tend to gather where ever I go...........

Four Herons and a Little Egret

Eight Herons (Look in the top left hand corner) and a Little Egret

Ten Herons and a Little Egret!

Greylags looking good

It was here that I met Nobby. An nice guy who, through his rather strong Suffolk accent, I learnt about all the local stuff that turns up. Including forty plus Marsh Harriers spotted at the Lakenheath Reserve! It was here we saw a Raven harrying a Sparrow Hawk. The good stuff is always far away isn't it!

Raven and Sparrow hawk

Raven and Sparrow Hawk

Blue Tit smelling the flowers!

This caught my eye

SHEEP! (or are they goats?)

Fine Mallard

One of the many lakes

The local stars of the show at the moment, a pair of Oyster Catchers

The Black Headed Gulls were raucous!

Looking good boys

Either common round here or no one spotted this Egyptian Goose

Another star of the day, one of a pair of Shelducks

A first for me, a Common Gull

Common Gull


With things dying down I decided to do a bit of aerial shot practice. Now what could I possibly take a pop at? Ah of course. The ever present Black Headed Gull. Plenty to choose from.

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

It was home time and the sun was going golden. On the way back I spied this guy on the wrong side of the tracks. He was across the small stream in the golf course.

Another Egyptian Goose

This must have been somethings home. A Woodpecker?

Another Muntjac Deer

These babies were landing close by at RAF Mildenhall

A great trip out with maybe not that much in wildlife but still lots to see. What was that we said about Nature being on the side of the big guns?