Corncrake capers


Young Corncrake, Nene Washes RSPB, 23rd July, 2014

Last Wednesday we were up early to get to the RSPB Nene Washes reserve for 8.00 – we’d been asked to join in the first of this years Corncrake trapping sessions, providing data on the ongoing reintroduction scheme there. After an initial briefing we set off in a line beating a 300m strip of wet meadow, deep in the heart of the reserve. It took us a couple of hours, slowly pushing the birds – at least that’s the idea, towards a line of nets and traps. We didn’t see anything during the drive, except I found an Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar, until we got to the very end – then in the last 30m several birds hurled themselves into the traps. We caught five birds in all, two retraps, two un-rung juveniles and a chick. A pretty good catch!

The happy bunch of beaters


Getting to grips with the first ‘catch of the day’


Processing begins


Re-trap, one of two dozen males on the reserve this year


Ringing one of this year’s juveniles


DNA swab


What a cute little black chick

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The moment of freedom


and talking about ‘cute’ – the Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar

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Historic Churches of Norfolk – Route 8

On Thursday I was back on the bike doing some more historic churches of Norfolk, a county that boasts some 900 – which I’m currently attempting to cycle to and photograph! I based my route on a loop of approximately 50 miles to the south and west of the lovely Georgian market town of Aylsham. I also took the opportunity to visit a couple of churches I’d missed on previous rides.

The Route


The Churches

St Andrew Felmingham, St Lawrence Ingworth, St Michael the Archangel Aylsham, All Saints Marsham, St Boltoph Hevingham, (All Saints Hainford), St Swithin Frettenham, St Peter Crostwick, All Saints Rackheath, St Peter Spixworth, St Mary & St Andrew Horsham St Faith, All Saints Horsford, St Margaret Drayton, St Margaret Felthorpe, St Andrew Attlebridge, St Margaret Swannington, St John the Baptist Alderford, St Faith Little Witchingham, St Mary Great Witchingham, St Mary Reepham with  St Michael Whitwell, St Michael the Archangel Booton, St Agnes Cawston, St Nicholas Brandiston, St Peter Haveringland and St Andrew Blickling

The photos

St Andrew, Felmingham – first of two ‘catch-up’ churches


The exquisite little church of St Lawrence, Ingworth


Interior of St Lawrence


St Michael the Archangel, Aylsham – start of the day’s circular route


All Saints, Marsham – tucked back from the busy A140. Another splendid church with many interesting features – described by Simon Knott, in Norfolk Churches, as ‘outstanding’


The elaborate roof structure of All Saints


Window detail


St Boltoph, Hevingham


All Saints (new church), Hainford – I previously did Hainford old church on Route 5


St Swithin, Frettenham


St Peter, Crostwick

St Peter Crostwick

All Saints, Rackheath

All Saints Rackheath

Interior of All Saints


St Peter, Spixworth, with it’s very odd ‘off-centre’ tower

St Peter Spixworth

St Mary & St Andrew, Horsham St Faith

St Mary & St Andrew Horsham St Faith

All Saints, Horsford

All Saints Horsford

Detail of early stained glass window


St Margaret, Drayton

St Margaret Drayton

stairway to heaven..


St Margaret, Felthorpe



St Andrew Attlebridge

St Andrew, Attlebridge



St Margaret, Swannington

St Margaret Swannington

St John the Baptist, Alderford


St Faith, Little Witchingham

St Faith Little Witchingham

Details of mediaeval wall paintings – taken from outside, through the window!

St Faith Little Witchingham 2

The Assumption (St Mary), Great Witchingham – undergoing major repair


Detail of the intricate stone and flint exterior


St Michael, Whitwell with the adjoining St Mary Reepham


St Michael and All Angels, Booton


with Gothick interior


St Agnes, Cawston


Interior, with painted rood screen and elaborate roof timbers

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St Nicholas, Brandiston


The organ, St Nicholas


St Peter, Haveringland – approached along a former WWII airfield perimeter track


Last church of the day, St Andrew, Blickling

St Andrew Blickling


In all I cycled over 90k,  visited 25 historic churches, one Victorian ‘new’ church and a ruin – not a bad day!

Felbrigg stuff


Juvenile Common Cuckoo, Felbrigg NT, 18th July, 2014

Not in the same league as recent North Norfolk rarities, I grant you, but for ‘local patch’ birding this evening’s stuff at Felbrigg was of considerable interest. First I spotted a wader-like bird on the far side of the lake, turned out to be Common Sandpiper  – not just one but six! Then on the way back I flushed a young Cuckoo, which obligingly flew to the top of a nearby gorse bush. Felbrigg never ceases to surprise me, day after day the same stuff and then ‘bingo’!

Distant shot of six Common Sandpiper, the Lake, Felbrigg


More shots of the Cuckoo

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Mid-summer Madness


Woodchat Shrike, Gramborough Hill, July 16th, 2014

The run of rare and scarce birds in north east Norfolk continues. Yesterdays offering came in the shape of a Woodchat Shrike at Gramborough Hill. A pretty colourful 1st summer bird, seen almost immediately after parking the car, in hawthorn bushes on the south side of the hill – still present mid evening.

A couple more distant digiscoped shots:

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Publication of this blog creates a small bit of history in that it’s my 200th since I started at the beginning of 2012! To all those people, from over 100 countries around the world, who have taken the trouble to view this stuff – a big thank you!  TW

Norfolk’s Rare Wader Fest continues


Black-winged Pratincole, Simmond’s scrape, Cley, 15th July, 2014

It started at the weekend with that elusive Stilt Sandpiper at Hickling. Yesterday it was the turn of Breydon Water and the fabulous Great Knot – first for Norfolk, and then this evening the Black-winged Pratincole, which has been making it’s way south down the coast from the North East, finally arrived at Cley NWT! Here, from a packed Dauke’s hide overlooking Simmond’s scrape, are a few more photos of this rare Pratincole:






.. and this one, courtesy of Jane


Norfolk Great Knot (dot!)


Part of the admiring crowd, watching Norfolk’s first ever Great Knot

Why is it that most of the decent birds in Norfolk recently have turned up on a Monday, when it’s my ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT?  Well it happened again yesterday – I logged on to Birdguides first thing, to be greeted by the news of a ‘mega’ Great Knot at Breydon! Throughout the day news of it’s confirmation, disappearance, reappearance, and further disappearance distracted me from what was actually a pretty good mid-summer day on the reserve. We were just on our way home when a text came through to say that the bird was back – albeit a mile and a half’s yomp up the estuary, so we decided to try for it. We parked up and speed-walked to where the crowds were visible in the distant evening sunshine. On the way we were told that the bird had flown across the estuary to the Norfolk side (yippee!) but, as a consequence, was now rather distant. They weren’t joking! Careful study of the Great Dot revealed most of the distinguishing features of this adult summer first for Norfolk, and GB tick. The bird flew several times, but never nearer, when it showed its distinctive elongated profile, white under-wing with black primary tips and white upper tail patch.

Digiscoped photo of the bird, taken through a Kowa 30x with 2x optical zoom! – it’s the small bird, facing right, directly under the tallest gatepost!


And now a couple of horrendously magnified images, showing the general structural and plumage detail – dark breast band, blotchy back, white belly and elongated ‘rear end’

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Anyway, more import than it being a fantastic bird, a first for Norfolk and a British ‘tick’, is the fact that it’s a ‘grip-back’ on my old birding buddy Neil, who saw the first Great Dot on Teeside in 1996. Those birders present yesterday, who had also seen that bird, all agreed that the Norfolk bird gave far better views…. !!

Poscript: Here’s a picture of Great Knot, taken in Thailand, November 2012



Tour de France, Grand Depart – Yorkshire style


Marcel Kittel, Giant Shimano, winner of Stage 1

Spent the weekend in Skipton watching the first two stages of this year’s Tour de France – fantastic! We stayed at the very accommodating Rendezvous Hotel and joined the throng in Skipton for the first day – watching the race live then the closing stages on the big screen. For the second stage we went to a minor climb between Haworth and Oxenhope. The atmosphere on both days was electric – the crowds fantastic, in both size and enthusiasm! The only down-side was that, with so many spectators, it was near impossible to get any decent photos -here are a few of the better ones from both days.

A small breakaway of three weave their way through the crowded streets of Skipton


.. followed a couple of minutes later by the peleton! Spot Mark Cavendish, riding his first and last stage in this years Tour – six ‘rows’ back, in the black colours of Omega Pharma – Quickstep, with a pale blue helmet. He says he’s ‘gutted’ – well so are we!!


Now on to the second stage and another early breakaway

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And here comes that peleton again..


In the front half of the peleton, the riders who will eventually top the general classification and provide this years winner, including: Vicenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and defending champion Chris Froome


Winner of the first stage, Marcel Kittel, in yellow – and alongside him, eventual second stage winner, Vicenzo Nibali riding in the pale blue of Astana

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The maillot jaune..


Now a couple of ‘atmosphere’ shots




Onward to Sheffield, Cambridge, London and France!