As winter descends, many of our native wildlife species are busy mating and having young, not least our grey seals that are resident all around the British Isle's coastline and have some large colonies on the East cost of England. When I walked out to one such colony a little before the busy grey seal mating and pupping season I came across a lone juvenile common seal. Common seals unlike the greys give birth in summer. The seal was asleep on the beach both aware of and totally unconcerned about my quiet presence. The high autumnal winds were blowing sand across the beach and the breakers were high - it was a bright breezy day. What he didn't notice in his state of utter relaxation was the tide had turned and was now rising and was close to encroaching onto the sand shelf he'd been resting on. I was fortunate enough to capture the moment when the first wave washed over his head, which must have been quite a shock even with his insulating layers. He opened his eyes, then flopped his way up the beach closer to me then resumed his peaceful napping.
I love observing nature and the changing seasons during my Norfolk countryside dog walks accompanied by my ever-faithful canine companion Starrydog. I especially enjoy taking photos of Norfolk butterflies, wildflowers and other flora and fauna that I happen across while exploring local nature reserves. Visit my Norfolk nature photo blog to keep up to date with my photographic adventures and enjoy my butterfly photos.
As summer heat starts to fade into autumn mists and storms, its time to set my macro lens down with a tinge of sadness. Its been a wonderful butterfly year for me with three new first evers to my list, but now the season is turning. The butterflies are fading into warm bright summery memories of warmth with just the hardy commas and admirals feeding up on the flowering ivy preparing to hibernate. But of course the turning leaves augurs in one of the most beautiful landscape and wildlife photography seasons, so it is also time to pick up my landscape lens for the autumn colour and my long lens for the deer rut and the wintering birds all in their bright new winter plumage…
The clouded yellow butterfly, colias croceus, is a wandering migrant butterfly to the southern half of the UK that often arrives from southern Europe in Spring and has a second summer brood that flies in August and September. Historically British winters have been too harsh for the clouded yellow to survive overwinter and establish a year round naturalised presence here, but climate change is in its favour and there have been recent indications that sucessful overwintering may be becomimg possible. This was my first and only sighting of this vibrant custard-yellow lively wandering butterfly and a lovely end to the 2013 butterfly season.
It is amazing how much has changed in a month - both in nature and in my home life...
We finally moved in to our bungalow, the builders have gone and so have most of the cardboard boxes. I am finally starting to relax as the stresses and strains of 18 months of a major renovation project and house selling and buying start to fade. We are loving living in the light and airy space we dreamt of and designed at last.
And the sun has finally come out with avengeance, bringing a flaming July in place of the flaming June of the proverbs. The wheat and barley is turning golden, the rape has gone to seed and everything is becoming parched and bleached from day after day of unrelenting blue skies. As I explore the local trails the meadows are displaying beautiful pastel shades of greens, pinks and beiges with hundreds of ringlet, meadow brown, skipper and gatekeeper butterflies flitting up as you walk through the grasses. They are host to many other mini creatures too and I was pleased to capture this shot of a ladybird, which evokes, for me at least, the feeling of the gloriously hot halcyon days of summer we're experiencing right now.
The camera is hardly getting a look in, except on class days, and I am restless in anticipation of our long awaited impending move to Nar Cottage. Butterflies seem few and far between this season in Norfolk, suffering after such a long hard winter of lying snow, but the dragonflies and damselflies seem to be doing well, this is a mating female large red damselfly with f. intermedia markings I spotted on one of my favourite walks.
My so very nearly ready bungalow renovation has been swallowing all my time and is already showing a fun diversity of wildlife, today I saw partridge strutting on my summer house roof plus, doves, a pheasant, swallows, house martins as well as sparrows and other hedgerow finches and a couple of white and comma butterflies flitted past the new hedgerow... This is one of very few occasions I've been out with my camera, late in the day on my Birthday visit to Foxley wood for the bluebells, and this Early Purple Orchid shot is an even rarer occurence - that of a flower shot without my 180mm macro on my camera.
This little egret and I were each as surprised as the other when we suddenly came face to face when I walked round a bend in the path at my local North Norfolk nature reserve. I only had time to fire three shots off and got just this one sharp against a grey cloudy sky. He's been a resident all winter and I often see him on the same stretch of the river, but he's relatively shy. We have both permanent and migrant little egrets in the East of England so I very much hope he sticks around now spring is approaching. According to the RSPB little egrets are relatively recent permanent arrivals to the UK with the first breeding pair being recorded in Dorset in 1996.
Its been quite a grey and leaden-skied February and my photography teaching has been keeping me busy. Back at our new ranch to be we have planning permission and are excited to see diggers and cement mixers arriving at the house. We're also talking to a local landscape designer about turning the large plot into a wildlife garden complete with pond and meadow so things are looking promising. Our new home to be is not far from the Nar Valley Way and I've been visiting it a fair bit to familiarise myself with my new neighbourhood. On the way home I spent a little time in a nearby meadow and saw a few of our new neighbours - a beautiful barn owl and brown hare...
Even though we have had thick snow on the ground for a week and a half now there are still faint augurs of spring all around us if you look hard enough.
This delicate yet plucky little flower is a winter aconite and is one of the very first herbs to flower in the new year; peeking its cheery yellow buttercup like head bravely up even when it has to tunnel through thick snow to do so, when all the while the more famously celebrated snowdrops are still little timid shoots only just starting to appear.
Eranthis Hyemals is perennial herb and a member of the hellebores family. It was first introduced in the 16th Century before naturalising itself in England and can now be enjoyed in many parks and woodlands, particularly in the East of England.
The little aconite is a symbol of hope when all around is still bleak and harsh and, for that, I love it all the more.
Just as we were being lulled into the idea of a mild winter, the snow struck, and with avengeance. In rural mid-Norfolk we've been experiencing night temperatures of minus 12 or so, making it extra tough for birds to survive. I put out extra food and make a point of melting the bird bath as its also important that the birds are able to find fresh water to drink and keep clean, and salt puddles of melted snow water on the roads is not a good option. Here's a picture of one of about 7 blackbirds that visited the garden simultaneously. Many garden birds are highly territorial, so I was careful to spread the food out in patches which helped keep squabbles to a minimum and save precious energy.
The brief hiatus of Christmas and the end of a year always makes me a little introspective and thoughtful, of both what has gone and what lies ahead. For me, 2012 was a year of upheaval and transformation and in many ways quite a challenging year, leaving my beloved Ridgeway behind in Oxfordshire to start a new life here in Norfolk.
The changes it brought now see me based in a new, yet familiar, part of the world. One that I am rapidly growing to love, as indeed I knew I could, and one that has led me to form solid foundations from which I can build my new home and new life. I'm very much looking forward to putting down my roots and establishing my new life here in Norfolk
It seems that the theme of change and transformation will certainly be continuing with me into 2013, for the first quarter at the very least, with work to renovate and transform my new home set to begin soon and coinciding with the launch of my new photography business.
I certainly will not be bored!