This was the second RSPB reserve I had visited this week. The first was RSPB Frampton Marsh on Monday. I was there for a tour and series of interviews so I could write a feature for Nature's Home magazine. Aside from the work, there were plenty of birds to see at this brilliant reserve. My first Sand Martin of spring was fun. Better were a Med Gull and a Red Kite. And best of all was a flyover White Stork that Toby Collett somehow picked up a mile south of the reserve. It was actually my second stork in two days... although the first one was in the Wensum valley at Pensthorpe and thus about as dubious as they get. The only bird I really papped though was this male Ruff. Waders are just so showy here!
This was just one lovely part of a joyous weekend of local wildlife. Even better, I've shared pretty much all of it with Maya - which makes me even happier. I had a couple of hours on a Norfolk heath yesterday morning looking for Adders. There was only one male spread across four of the 'usual' post-hibernaculum sites. This suggested that the males had sloughed and had dispersed, searching for females. I found four males at a site where I had 'mate-licking' two years ago. Three of these were lovely silvery-green males. The other was a feisty little blackish bugger, that first hissed at me (unseen) when I walked past the heather where it was lying up (concealed). Then, when I returned an hour later, it launched itself twice at me, with lightning speed! Fortunately, I was 2+ metres away (and hadn't even spotted it!), so it didn't come close enough to cause me problems or waste its venom. Somewhat scary though - and a reminder of the importance of keeping a safe distance for one's own peace of mind as well as to avoid disturbing these sensitive reptiles. Here is one of the more placid individuals.
Nocturnal moths have been quiet, but there's been quality to offset the quantity. (Given the agreeable weather forecast for tonight, however, we might get both in the next 12 hours.) My first-ever Frosted Green, first garden Streamer, half-a-dozen Brindled Beauty, and my second-ever Pale Pinion were the stars.
A couple of Woodlarks on the same Norfolk heathland were also enjoyable. Maya and I headed to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen where we picnicked to the tune of a booming Bittern, then wandered the paths. The highlights were a male Emperor Moth that appeared twice near Fen Hide (and was chased off by one of several libidinally minded Peacocks) and several Common Lizards. The lowlights were Black Swan and Bar-headed Goose...
Yep, mouse singular. Admittedly, there were men plural, though. Yoav Perlman came round to nick some of my equipment before his fieldwork in Spain (UEA apparently being too stingy to buy him what he needs). As we supped espresso in the garden and I passed on Iain Leach's legacy (about how to photograph moths), a Wood Mouse zipped out from our wall and began showing very well indeed. I have never had such good views, or taken such decent photos. Most pleasant.
I even went out birding for the first time in ages. Well, twitching. But that was Maya's fault. She insisted, honest. Views were awful, but Kentish Plover (below, just about) and drake American Wigeon added themselves to my county list. Neither are the kind of bird I would travel any distance to see, and I think I have not seen the plover in Britain since about 1991, and not seen the duck since about 1996. But when they are half-an-hour away at Breydon Water, the sun is shining, and the daughter is beseeching, it would have been daft not to poodle eastwards...
Returning home after Strumpshaw, we were swiftly greeted by a male Emperor Moth in the garden. Look at those antennae!