Sunday, 22 April 2018

Woodbridge...

What a lazy weekend. I had a wander round Shut Heath Wood yesterday morning, near Great Totham, Essex, having been told that lesser spotted woodpeckers are sometimes seen there. I heard green woodpeckers ‘laughing’ and saw a greater spotted woodpecker; I occupied a bench for an hour, sitting and listening, watching and waiting for a woodpecker no bigger than a sparrow. No luck, but I saw a treecreeper, heard blackcaps and whitethroats singing, and the woods were very peaceful.

I stayed the night in Woodbridge, one of my favoutite small towns. This morning I went to Quaker meeting; it was as tranquil as Shut Heath Wood. Took loads of pix around town, so I’ll need to find a campsite soon, where I can edit and upload them. In the meantime I’ll stay another night in Woodbridge, so I can have a couple of cold beers…

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Nightingales...

I heard my nightingales at Finginghoe Wick: at least a dozen males singing. They all have their own territory. One song fades as you walk along the paths, surrounded by the thickest undergrowth, and another song rises up to greet you. I didn’t manage to see one, but that doesn’t matter; the song is enough. There were blackcaps singing, and chiffchaffs, and my first cuckoo of the year, though I didn’t see or hear any wheatears or sedge warblers or reed buntings. I wonder if that arctic spell of snowy weather has killed off a lot of the smaller birds. I only saw a couple of swallows all day. This isn’t a typical April.

The reserve is being extended, along the estuary of the River Colne, and I spent a soporific hour, in the heat of the afternoon, in the Kingfisher hide, watching a trio of little grebes chase each other around the saltwater pool, making more noise than you’d expect from such a tiny waterbird. A solitary greenshank was having a protracted siesta, as was I.

Another image of Petworth licensed...


Thursday, 19 April 2018

Peterborough...

Saw an old friend, Mandy, in Peterborough yesterday evening. Thanks to the startling change in the weather we were able to eat a Thai meal al fresco next to the River Nene. Back on the road again, heading for ‘nightingale country’.

Licensed this pic of Petworth today...


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Whittlesey...

The temperature in Whittlesey is a balmy 24 degrees. I’ve taken off the fleece, for the first time this year. I’m not wearing my one and only pair of shorts, but at least I know where to find them. I should be out taking pix; instead I’ve written myself to a standstill, editing the book.

Licensed this pic today: a green lane near Flatford Mill...


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Loneliness...

Another quote from Krishnamurti...

One of the factors of sorrow is the extraordinary loneliness of man. You may have companions, you may have gods, you may have a great deal of knowledge, you may be extraordinarily active socially, talking endless gossip about politics, and still this loneliness remains. Therefore, man seeks to find significance in life and invents a significance, a meaning. But the loneliness still remains. So can you look at it without any comparison, just see it as it is, without trying to run away from it, without trying to cover it up, or to escape from it? Then you will see that loneliness becomes something entirely different. We are not alone. We are the result of a thousand influences, a thousand conditionings, psychological inheritances, propaganda, culture. We are not alone, and therefore we are secondhand human beings. When one is alone, totally alone, neither belonging to any family, though one may have a family, nor belonging to any nation, to any culture, to any particular commitment, there is the sense of being an outsider, outsider to every form of thought, action, family, nation. And it is only the one who is completely alone who is innocent. It is this innocence that frees the mind from sorrow.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Lakenheath Fen...

The bird-watching has been a mite disappointing, mostly due to the unseasonal weather. I was waiting for something to happen and, today, it did. I spent the morning at another RSPB reserve, Lakenheath Fen. I heard a song thrush singing from a stand of poplar trees; for the first time this year the song seemed amplified, expanded. Not just louder, but clearer, more penetrating. I don’t know whether this has anything to do with woodland acoustics, or whether (the more likely option) it’s just the thrush putting in a bit more effort to attract a mate.

I spent some time gazing out over a stretch of reed-fringed water, just enjoying the unaccustomed sunshine, the piercing light and the cumulus clouds stacked up like scatter cushions. I didn’t really care if I saw any birds or not; it was just a good place to be, with a few birders to chat to. A pair of great crested grebes performed their mating rituals. A coot chased a canada goose away. A kestrel hovered. Cetti's warblers sang from scrubland. A heron landed in the shallows. A marsh harrier glided over the reedbeds.

Another bird flew towards me; at first I thought it was a second marsh harrier, but it turned out to be a bittern: a bird so shy and retiring that a lot of people who have heard them ‘booming’ have never actually seen one. They tend to hide in the reeds (for which their plumage is perfect camouflage). Bitterns are not good fliers; this one battled with the wind, head hunched into its chest, but still managed to circle the pool three times, before diving into the reeds. Whenever I think about a bittern in future, it won’t be a picture from a book; it will be the bittern I saw today.

I sat with another guy who looked happy to stare vacantly into the middle distance, on a pleasantly warm April day. We agreed that we weren’t at the zoo, wandering listlessly from cage to cage, enclosure to enclosure, and that what’s needed, in a search for birds, is patience and stoicism. At that moment a pair of cranes flew over. I’ve never seen cranes before (not this side of the Channel, anyway), but they were unmistakable, flying with neck and legs outstretched. What a sight! Apparently, there are a couple of pairs at Lakenheath; one day, perhaps, they may breed here. So within five minutes I’d seen a heron, a bittern and two cranes.

I called in, later in the day, to another small reserve, near Weeting, run by the Norfolk Naturalist Trust, in the hope of seeing stone curlews: another extremely shy and retiring bird (and, like the bittern, perfectly camouflaged for its breeding territory: not reedbeds, but stoney fields). Modesty prevents me from reporting who it was that finally saw the first stone curlew. Although I’d never seen them before, they are as unmistakable as the cranes. That’s two new birds for me in the course of a few hours. And yet the high point of the day may have been the song thrush; it was like hearing a soloist in a cathedral.

Stone curlew (pic by Frank Vassen, Belgium)...


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Titchwell...

Spent the morning at Titchwell reserve, on the North Norfolk coast; it being Sunday I only had to arrive at 8am to have the place to myself. With a large nesting colony of black headed gulls, the noise was amazing. I spent a few minutes with my eyes closed, enjoying the incessant racket. Saw some more avocets; in the manner of Audrey Hepburn, everything they do looks graceful. They can sleep with head tucked over the shoulder, balanced on one impossibly slender leg (I distinctly recall the actress doing something similar in Breakfast at Tiffany’s)…