Wednesday, 28 June 2017

30 Days Wild: My journey

Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Head of People and Wildlife, David North signed up to the challenge of 30 Days Wild and got in touch with his inner wild child this June.  Close encounters with nature and priceless memories ensued.

Star gazing, moon watching, fire making, sea swimming, bee following, poppy field wandering, opening my eyes and ears for lots of looking and listening: 30 Days Wild has been an adventure.  Too many highlights to list, but I would like to share just some of my 30 Days Wild moments with you and just a few images that hopefully capture some of my special wild June moments.

Baby muntjac with 'Mum' and Swans with cygnets by David North
Waking on June 2 to look out of the window and spot a baby muntjac, still wobbly-legged and spotty-coated, and no bigger than a puppy, accompanied by its mum was a definite ‘isn’t nature amazing moment’ and the swans on Felbrigg lake later that day with nine cygnets scored high on the ‘cute factor’.

Yellow flag, bee orchids and dandelion clock by David North
I had resolved during 30 Days Wild to pay more attention to plants. After all June is peak-flower, both in my garden, and along the lanes and byways where I walk my dog, Rohan. 

Rohan enjoying the poppies
My June started yellow; with buttercups, dandelions and yellow flag iris. The middle of the month brought those stars of the plant world, orchids, into full flower, with both common spotted and bee orchids gracing my local walks. It ended in a blaze of scarlet, with a visit, accompanied by Rohan of course, to a Norfolk speciality, poppy fields in all their mind-altering crimson glory. Like stepping, Alice in wonderland like, into a different and brighter reality.I think Rohan liked it too.

Taking advice from my 30DaysWild pack I decided on several occasions during the month to try following bees. My preferred version of this was lying on my lawn in the sunshine watching countless bumblebees visiting white clover flowers and idling an hour trying to capture that perfect image. Well, no perfection, but one or two just about in focus images resulted!

I resolved with my wife to spend more time out outdoors, so gathering sticks and several outdoor cooking attempts in the garden left me, and the food, well-smoked.  I love the smell of wood-smoke but not sure how my colleagues at work took to my new smoky perfume aroma.

A curious Roe Deer by David North

During June a roe deer adopted us, spending much of its time either in the barley field we look out on, or the grass field next to our entrance. A field of waving Yorkshire Fog I’m proud to say – you see I’ve been learning my common grasses this month helped by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s County Wildlife Action project!  I got a lot of not very good photos of this particular roe deer, which had the early morning habit of eating the roses in our garden, but how could you not forgive such a soft-eyed, elegant, beautiful and gentle creature?  This image of her on the edge of the barley field is one of the better ones. 

Swallowtail detail by David North
 30 Days Wild, and there’s still a few days left as I’m writing this, has seen me adventure out to NWT Hickling Broad where in the hot sunny weather swallowtails were dancing over reeds and fen.But dancing fast enough to blur all my photos. This image I rather liked in an arty kind of way! I hope you do too.
Gossamer threads by David North

Hot days also brought vast numbers of tiny ‘money’ spiders to our garden, tickling hair and face as we ate our evening meals outside. This made me walk at sunrise the next morning to see if a could spot ‘gossamer’ in  the local fields – one of nature’s many miracles, when the usually hidden abundance of spiders is revealed by thin silk strands shining silver across whole fields. Spiderlings release these strands of silk to catch the wind and fly, but its only when   the sun is low in the sky at early morning, or near sunset, that these gossamer strands catch the light and are revealed.

Hoverflies enjoying the nectar on thistle head
What have I liked about 30 Days Wild? 
Well just about everything!  Like most people I need a reason to look and listen just a bit more carefully and to spend a little more time each day enjoying the extraordinary diversity and beauty of nature.  

What has impressed me most?  Probably my ignorance, for as I write this inside virtually every flower in my garden is a unique small  ecosystem teeming with life that seems extraordinary but about which I know almost nothing. Pollen beetles beyond count; small, black and perfect in every way; hoverflies in shades of marmalade- orange and black, with huge eyes that take up most of their heads. They queue in perfect hovers await their turn at my garden flowers.  Hoverflies in a holding pattern waiting for the larger bumblebees to leave some landing space. 
Barley turning gold by David North
As I write this the barley in the field next door is turning gold, and tonight, most likely, I will hear the hoots of tawny owls from a nearby wood and perhaps the barking of deer already thinking of the rutting season to come.  Yesterday my 30DaysWild action was to tempt the rabbits, which live in the brambles at the end of my garden, to come out into the open. I bribed them with a carrot. Small payment for permission to photograph them and to spend a happy half hour watching and smiling at their antics.  

One thing 30 Days Wild has taught me is that if you sit quietly and watch then wildlife may soon lose its fear of coming close.  Definitely true for these young rabbits!
Young rabbits by David North

Norfolk is extraordinary. Nature is extraordinary.  And my resolution, come the end of June, is to make ‘Wildfulness’ practice - simply spending time in, and with, nature, part of my every day and to share nature moments with friends and family. After all, whether we notice or not, we are part of nature and nature is part of us.

‘We are all, bird and human, part of the earth, of its time and its matter, impelled by the mechanisms within, the ones that order our responses to days, months, years, to light and darkness, the rhythms, circadian, circannual, that regulate what we are and what we do.' From: Esther Woolfson, Corvus. A life with birds.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Bee Orchids get my vote

Encounters with nature can happen in the most mundane places... 
Naturalist and Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteer Chris Durdin happens upon bee orchids on his travels through Norwich.

"Regular readers of NWT's  blog will know that I keep an eye on a surprising colony of bee orchids in Norwich city centre. You may be glad to have an update.

They appeared again, where they first grew nine years ago, at the Big Yellow Self Storage depot on Canary Way opposite Norwich City FC. The meadow in the city is looking good, with ox-eye daisies blooming beside the path as you walk between the tyre garage and Morrison’s supermarket. 
Ox-eye daisies Norwich, Chris Durdin

All credit to the team at Big Yellow: looking after their wild flowers has become a routine they have taken to with enthusiasm.

However the bee orchids are well down in numbers this year. A count of eight is well short of last year’s record of 30. I’m fairly sure that the dry winter and spring is the reason. I’ve seen this with orchids in several parts of Europe. Because they grow from a tuber, some will have the resources to flower in any season. However a wet winter or early spring gives that vegetative growth a boost. By contrast, when it’s dry many will stay dormant. 

My part of the deal, as it were, is to encourage some publicity. I met a reporter from the Eastern Evening News and, as ever, stressed that bee orchids are special here because of their city centre location rather than being rare. 
Bee orchid by the bus route, Chris Durdin
I had a second bee orchid encounter in a surprising place on Election Day. I was knocking on doors in North Norfolk – for Norman Lamb, if you were wondering. In a Sheringham front garden a swarm of bee orchids – I estimated 130 – was a glorious surprise. 

Up the road, three painted lady butterflies and a silver-Y moth were drawn to red valerian in another garden. These are both migrants, so this year’s weather patterns have suited them, in contrast to the Big Yellow bee orchids. The lady of the house was equally enthused and very happy to talk about wildlife rather than politics!"
Painted lady on red valerian, Sheringham Chris Durdin

Chris Durdin leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks on