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The Norfolk Wing

The Online Magazine of Wildlife Tours & Education 2016/17


Front cover: Humpback Whale, The Sugar Bowl, Bay of Fundy. Back Cover: Red Backed Shrike, Lowestoft, Suffolk. Contents pages: Black headed Gull, Ring Ouzel, Chinese Water Deer, Snow Bunting, Adder and Guillemot. All photographs unless otherwise stated are copywrite owned by Wildlife Tours & Education and may not be copied in part or in full without the owners permission in writing.



The Enigmatic Ring Ouzel: A close look at this migrant thrush that visits Norfolk twice each year. PAGE 5 --------------------------------------Crex Crex: A brief look at the most crepuscular of species. The Corncrake PAGE 23 --------------------------------------Everybody loves a Puffin: A look at what is now a red data species. PAGE 41 ---------------------------------------

So why so many Sperm Whale strandings?: Norfolk had two strandings in early 2016 – the rest of the UK and Europe had a further 28. Why? PAGE 13 --------------------------------------Really? … Humpback Whales off the UK?: A look at British Humpback Whale occurrence's PAGE 31 --------------------------------------Norfolk’s Cetacean Website: Why it was introduced and what it does Page 49 ---------------------------------------

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Reptiles & Insects:


Stars in the sand: Tony Leech takes us for a walk in Norfolk’s Dunes PAGE 45 ------------------------------------------The Artist: Ashley Boon the artist tells us his story PAGE 51

The Emperor: Some of the facts surrounding Purple Emperors. PAGE 9 --------------------------------------Why are so many people repulsed by Adders? Discussion around when they can be found in Norfolk PAGE 19 --------------------------------------The Norfolk Hawker: A brief look at one of our less well known Norfolk insects. PAGE 39

Suffolk Orchids: A look at some of the orchids in Suffolk PAGE 25 --------------------------------------Wales and its wildlife: A wildlife weekend in Wales. What to expect PAGE 35 --------------------------------------Day Tours: A great day out and value for money PAGE 57

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Wildlife Tours and Education is now entering its ninth year. It was way back in 2008 when the germ of an idea started to grow. Even as a boy I had wanted to run my own business; the opportunity came along and I grabbed it with both hands. It appeared everyone was running birding tours in Norfolk but there was definitely a gap in the market to run wildlife tours for small groups. I started the ‘Norfolk Safari’ and it wasn’t long before visitors were wanting more. ‘Norfolk Birding Days’ developed as did ‘Wildlife Photography Days’. Customers returned asking me to take them beyond Norfolk to different parts of the UK. I duly obliged. Scotland, Wales, Northumberland, Yorkshire and Cornwall were, and still are, on the agenda. All that wildlife to choose from but the best bit for me has to be the people. Eager for knowledge, experience and sightings. Those returning customers that keep on coming to enjoy it all. Thank you for making it all possible. Carl Chapman WT&E


The enigmatic Ring Ousel

There’s just something about Ring Ouzels. Something I just can’t put my finger on. We usually see them on our tour to central Scotland each April. This is their summer home. Mountains and deep heather clad gullies is where you will find this, the so called ‘Mountain Blackbird’; a name often used but so inapt. This bird is much more than that. The ringing song is piercing and loud. Maybe to be heard above the rushing burns and tumbling waterfalls. Despite this they are discrete. A very shy bird indeed. However, it is on migration when they pass through Norfolk they are perhaps more easily observed. Here on Hungry Hill in Northrepps is one of the many places in the county where they can be seen. Twice a year irregular numbers come chattering their way across the fields to spend some time in the garden here at Falcon Cottage. Sometimes they move straight through. If we are lucky they stay a while. It is only then that the true beauty of these large thrushes can be appreciated. The flight feather edges guild the wings in silver. The sparkling white gorget of the male always give the impression it’s dressed for dinner. It is however the tiny white feather edges on the body that do it for me. The whole bird is covered in subtle white crescents and hatching.

So much more than a Mountain Blackbird.

Ring Ousels: Photographed at Falcon Cottage





The Emperor

If you think a butterfly could never be regal; think again. The Purple Emperor (Apatura Iris) or more colloquially ‘the Iris’ is probably our most beautiful butterfly. Cloaked in a sometimes imperceptible satin purple and finished with a regal eye-spot this butterfly has disappeared from its former range and only survives in a few central and southern woodlands. You would think something so bright with a wingspan of over 8cms would be easily found well there are two restricting factors. Firstly the weather plays such an important part in the date of the emergence there’s no guarantee that The Iris will occur when you expect it to. Secondly their domain is the very top of trees; out of reach … out of sight. Only occasionally do they come to the ground to take salts. That’s the best chance to see them. The most enigmatic of butterflies but the wait is worth it.

Purple Emperor: Photographed on our Purple Emperor Day





So why so many Sperm Whale strandings?

The truth is we will never know the answer to why so many Sperm Whales stranded in the North Sea in early 2016; around 30 in all. Perhaps they just took the wrong course or followed a pod of squid down from the high arctic. We don’t know … but we do know many things about these enigmatic animals. Watching Sperm Whales is wonderful but it has to be said they are not the showiest animals in the world. They lack the display qualities of other whales such as Humpbacks; not often breaching and rarely approach boats. Spending a relatively short amount of time on the surface they are difficult to observe. However; they are without doubt one of the most fascinating animals on the planet; superbly adapted to their environment. Sperm Whales regularly dive to great depths. A 2 kilometre dive is common place. An animal that can hold its breath for up to 90 minutes and cope with pressures as great as 200 atmospheres has to have some wondrous physiological adaptions; and indeed the Sperm Whale has. The head of the animal takes up around a third of the body length. Much of it is filled with Spermaceti oil; the fineness of which was so desired by the whalers of old. This oil rapidly turns solid when it cools, it therefore gets denser. The Sperm Whale is able to pump sea water up through the Spermaceti sack to cool it before each dive and therefore make the nose end of the


whale denser. This enables it to sink without expending as much energy and thereby use less oxygen. The blood inside these deep divers contains a specially adapted myoglobin enabling it to carry more oxygen. A network of blood vessels around the spine enable it to store more blood. All adaptions to ensure the animal has more time at depth to feed on its favourite prey item; squid. In the depths beyond a few hundred meters there is no light. Listening from the surface with a hydrophone it’s possible to hear the ‘click… click… click’ produced by the animal pushing air through a set of lips in the animals ‘nose’. These lips were nicknamed ‘Monkey-lips’ by whalers due to their resemblance to … you guessed it, the lips or muzzle of a monkey. These click are loud. It is the loudest sound produced by any animal. Woe betide any diver that is ‘clicked’ by a Sperm Whale. Any prey item detected by this sonar would undoubtedly be debilitated long before the sperm whale reached it. The Spermaceti organ also acts as a lens focusing these sound pulses to hone in on prey. Even the skull shape is designed to act as a reflective dish for sound emissions. The thick blubber of a Sperm Whale protects it from the inevitable cold at depth. The temperature at a 2km depth is around 4 degrees centigrade. This can be a 20 degree difference to the surface temperature. All these adaptions, even before we start talking about the size of internal organs like the heart, the largest of any animal, make Sperm Whales my firm favourite.

The first Sperm Whale to be stranded at Hunstanton in Norfolk



Above: Hunstanton: Without doubt the enigma of a Sperm Whale stranding generates much interest Below: Hunstanton: The Cetacean stranding Investigation Programme (CSIP) Team attend the second of the two Sperm Whale strandings in Norfolk during January 2016


Large Bull Sperm Whale upending before entering the deeps off Pico in the Azores


Scopac Lite ÂŁ55 +44 (0)7810 560916 enquiries@scopac.co.uk www.scopac.co.uk

Why are so many people repulsed by Adders?

Count me out … I’m not! However, so many people are. We come across Adders in early spring on our Norfolk Safari’s. Our only poisonous snake and the most northerly occurring reptile. An early morning and bright conditions are required to see them. It doesn’t have to be hot. I’ve even seen them out when snow is still on the ground in February. As long as it’s bright and there’s a small sheltered area aside one of the heaths where they can bask and warm-up they will be there, but they can sometimes take some finding; they are masters of camouflage.

You don’t even have to be quiet, just gentle where you tread. They pick up vibrations through the ground and will slither away at the first heavy footstep, if they sense you nearby. If we are really lucky we will see the males ‘dancing’; fighting for the privilege of mating with a nearby, much browner coloured, female.


Adders, males and female photographed in Norfolk with two males ‘dancing’




Crex Crex

Never has a Latin name befitted a bird so well. The repetitive crex crex call uttered loudly and frequently continuously through late spring nights has been known to drive western isles crofters almost to insanity. We visit Mull in May each year. One of the many reasons for the tour is to see this African migrant on its breeding grounds amid the small crofting fields on the island. Any earlier in May than our visit and they haven’t arrived; any later and the vegetation will have grown so high as to hide these very elusive crepuscular creatures. Yes, they are indeed the most elusive of birds. To see one at all is a blessing. I have spoken with individuals who have lived with the croaking call all their lives but never yet seen a Corncrake! On our tour to Mull each year we have never failed to see them‌ yet!



Suffolk Orchids

Of the 50 or more orchids that are found within the UK, 20 or so species can be found in Norfolk. A few more can be found in Suffolk. Hence our day out planned each year to see and photograph some of these wonderful plants is to Suffolk. See our day tours for details. The thing about orchids is some are distinctive and easy to identify; like Birds Nest or Lizard Orchid. Others like Pugsley’s Orchid are a little bit more difficult. Whatever, they are and regardless of their difficulty to identify they are without doubt all beautiful.

Opposite: Pyramidal Orchid Following pages: Bee Orchid, Frog Orchid, Southern Marsh Orchid and Lizard Orchid







Really? … Humpback Whales of the UK?

There have always been Humpback Whales visiting the waters around the UK but it is not until recently they have become expected. Looking at all the reported sightings around Great Britain last year the exact figure is difficult to quantify because of some obvious duplication that no doubt occurred. However, I would estimate there were up to 24 Humpbacks enjoying the waters around our coastline during 2015. This is the largest number of sightings ever in our seas. Include the animals seen off Ireland and the numbers get even larger So why the recent resurgence in records? Easy really. We are no longer killing them. Numbers worldwide are increasing and here in the UK, we are feeling the benefit. Humpbacks are showy animals. The term ‘shrinking violet’ does not belong in a Humpbacks vocabulary.

If you see one expect to see breaching, tail and flipper slapping as well as the occasional spy hop! This also means if they are in your area you are unlikely to miss them. The range of sightings was from Dover to Shetland however the one record that interests me most is the returning individual to Norfolk. 2015 was its third year. Or at least we are presuming it is the same individual. I can confirm the 2013 animal was the same as that seen in 2014 but I never saw the diagnostic under-tail pattern in 2015. However given the occurrence was at exactly at the same time of year and in exactly the same place, the North East of the county, it seems likely we are dealing with the same individual. In previous years sightings have also been made off Suffolk prior to sightings off Norfolk too!

Photos of Humpbacks: Opposite – Showing the baleen off Tadoussac in the St Lawrence river, Canada. Next pages, Looking down the blowhole on Stellwagen Bank off Massachusetts, USA. Heading straight for the ship off Tadoussac in the St Lawrence river, Canada. Before a dive in Monterey Bay, California, USA.





Wales and its wildlife

So what’s so special about Wales? Red Kites are now all over the UK. After years of hard work reintroducing this apex predator you no longer have to travel to central Wales to see this Iconic raptor. But hey!… watching Red Kites floating over the carriageways of the M25 is never going to stir your imagination like seeing a flock of 200 etching circles in the sky around a Welsh farm snuggled in a craggy landscape. If you live on the East side of England there are few steeply sided valleys clad in canopies of Oak. In Wales they abound. This is the realm of the Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler. Try finding those here in the east and although it’s not impossible, you have your work cut out. Dippers and Grey Wagtails populate the brooks and streams and offshore Harbour Porpoise and Bottlenose Dolphins cut the waves. All these topped off with Peregrines, Auks and the Enigmatic Chough and you have a proper compendium of wildlife. Wales is indeed truly special. See the Wild Weekend in Wales Tour on our website here.

Photo opposite: Red Kite, Gigrin, Wales Next pages: Wood Warbler and Bottlenose Dolphins. Wales





The Norfolk Hawker

Norfolk has a couple of iconic insects. The Swallowtail Butterfly is probably the best known. Playing second fiddle is the far less well known, and much drabber garbed Norfolk Hawker. This is a dragonfly confined within the UK to a sliver of Norfolk on the coast mainly encompassing The Norfolk Broads. Just occasionally one or two turn up in neighbouring counties but Norfolk is the hotbed. The Latin name of Aeshna isoceles denotes the triangle on the thorax. However, perhaps the most distinctive feature of this avian delight are the green eyes. As it hovers and flies over ditches and broads it is this feature that betrays the identification, even from a distance. We search out this wonderful insect on our day tours in Norfolk.



Everybody loves a Puffin

There is no bird that is guaranteed to raise a smile more than the clown of the sea. This charming member of the Auk family is limited to our craggy and cliff lined shorelines. Notably absent from the south east of the UK an occurrence off the Norfolk or Suffolk coast always stirs an interest. Although they do nest at Flamborough in small numbers it is further north in Northumberland and Scotland where they can be said to be relatively common. The Puffin is a pelagic bird; it spends much of its year far offshore. Only when it gets close to the breeding season in spring do they venture back to inshore waters, eventually occupying their burrows to raise another single chick. Sadly, this is yet another amber listed species with numbers plummeting in recent years; although we still have many thousands around us on the Farne Islands during our East Coast Seabird tour each year. Our trip is timed to coincide with the adults gathering sand eels to feed to their ‘pufflings’. There is no more comical site than a Puffin with a beak full dodging the marauding gulls to dive into their burrows. With a supporting cast of Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Terns the place is a wildlife photographers dream. So why does this species warrant an amber listing? Numbers in their strongholds are plummeting. The seabirds are not returning to the cliffs in their former abundance. The Fair Isle puffin colony has halved in 30 years. The reason? A firm finger is being pointed at overfishing as the main cause and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ’s) should tackle that issue. However, global warming and pollutant affects must also be contributing factors.


All photos taken on the Farne Islands, Northumberland




Stars in the sand

Tony Leech Norfolk’s fungi recorder takes us for a walk in the dunes. If you want to see a wide range of fungi, visit a mature wood in October after a wet spell. But other habitats are available. One you probably wouldn’t think of is a sand dune. Even on bare sand between marram tufts you can find half-a-dozen species which you won’t find anywhere else. It was in search of such fungi, and other dune specialities, that a group from the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists’ Society visited the dunes at the end of the sea wall stretching northwards from Burnham Overy Staithe, in the company of Holkham Estate Ranger, Andy Bloomfield. Our first find was Agaricus devoniensis (most of the dune fungi are not widespread enough to have been blessed with an English name), a true mushroom which, although edible, would defy the cook to remove the sand which invariably covers it. Not far away, a couple of delicate Dune Inkcaps, with paper-thin caps less than an inch across, caused much interest . This was only the second Norfolk record and none of us had seen this species before. The Stinkhorn s a common fungus which makes its presence known in woods from mid-summer onwards by its strong smell of carrion (or sewage, if you prefer) to attract flies that eat and disperse its spores. It is said that Charles Darwin’s Aunt Etty would go out at dawn and knock them over with a stick to prevent the servants being offended by its phallic appearance! The Dune Stinkhorn, which we also found, is very similar but lacks such a pungent smell and is sometimes flushed with a delicate violet hue.


Tiny Earthstar – Tony Leech

The target species for several in the group was the well-named Tiny Earthstar, often less than an inch from ‘fingertip to fingertip’. Earthstars are related to puffballs but their thick outer skin splits to form ‘arms’ which arch to lift the spore sac clear of the ground. Norfolk is the only county from which all 18 British species have been recorded. For many years since its discovery there in 1959, Holkham dunes were the only site for the Tiny Earthstar in Britain but recently it has been recorded from Cumbria, Suffolk and at a second site in Norfolk. Tiny Earthstars occur in swarms on the rabbit-grazed fixed dunes where mosses are the predominant green plant. This is also the habitat for several species of earthtongue, with their black finger-like fruiting bodies, and for the magnificently crimson Dune Waxcap. We saw both on a day which delivered all we hoped for. Tony Leech, Chairman Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists’ Society.

Following pages: Earthtongues, Dune Waxcap: Tony Leech




Norfolk’s Cetacean Website

When I was asked to become Norfolk’s cetacean recorder we were lucky if the number of cetacean sightings got beyond 20 or 30 during the course of a year .

I knew from conversations I had had with bird watchers that there were more sightings, certainly of Harbour Porpoise, than were being reported. In 2012 I decided to set up the Norfolk Cetaceans website to encourage submissions. It worked. Reports increased dramatically as can be seen from the graph opposite. Sightings are published on the site as soon as possible after they are reported. Submitters to the site and others can also register to receive tweets or emails when a sighting is published. This encouraged the site to be used even more.

Perhaps … hopefully, it also encouraged people to watch the sea more. after all we can only protect what we have in our oceans if we know what’s out there! Sign up to receive reports at www.norfolkcetaceans.wordpress.com – it’s free!


Number of Cetaceans recorded in Norfolk 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0

Common Dolphin – Sightings are increasing off Norfolk


Ashley Boons ‘The Artist’ tells his story.

I sold my first painting at the age of fourteen … to a friend of my parents in the Northamptonshire village where I grew up, who asked me to paint a woodcock for him. That gentleman’s daughter recently told me that he still has it hanging in pride of place, and he boasts that he was the first person to commission me. Since leaving Bristol art college I have made my living from painting the wildlife I love. I have never had a “proper job”. My career has been what one of my disrespectful sisters described as, “Colouring in!” I always painted as a boy, and as my interest in natural history grew, my painting became more and more wildlife based. This led to a great deal of conflict both at school and later at art college. However, a dogged determination (otherwise described as bloody mindedness) and some frank discussions with my head of department allowed me to concentrate on the subjects that absorbed me so much. I paint mostly in watercolour although in an unconventional way, using it almost straight from the tube at times. This allows me to build up a rich density of colour and allows a degree of detail. I want the subjects of my paintings to be recognizable as individual species, but detail has become less important to me as I’ve got older, and I sold that first painting over forty years ago. Yes, I want the species to be identifiable, but I want there to be painterly elements in the piece as well, I want the finished piece to have a touch of the human hand. As an example, I am happy to see visible traces of pencil showing through the paint, I want the observer to see that the image they look at has been worked on. What I really don’t want is for the viewer to say that it looks just “like a photo”, I don’t see the point of a painting that looks like a photo. If that’s what you want, then take a photo. I like those accidental marks in the paint and the traces of the

Bullfinches and Common Crane on following pages by Ashley Boon



original pencil peeping through. When I was a student at Bristol, I did an exchange to college in New Mexico in the USA. When I was there I had a tutor who had some very strange ideas, including getting me to put my hand in a bucket with a rattlesnake, but that’s another story. One thing he did was throw a piece of work I’d handed in back across the desk at me, telling me it was “wrong”, because you could see pencil marks on it! That aside, America was a great experience and I saw some great birds! Don’t get me wrong I had some wonderful tutors at art college on both my foundation and degree courses. They taught me to think seriously about what I produced. Tutorials covered everything you would expect and they taught me and fellow students to have an honesty about whether or not we had achieved what we had set out to and if it “worked”.

Their advice still influences what leaves or doesn’t leave my studio. I am very selfcritical and have a high self-imposed standard. I am often asked if I have a style. I am wary of this word, and I feel very strongly that an artist can be trapped by style, for this reason. Sometimes a strict attention to detail makes a piece work, but on other occasions a fast looser way of working will result in a more successful result. I would hate to only work in one way, there must be room for experimentation and freedom of expression. I will admit that having to make a living from my artwork, I do not push new ideas as much as I would like, but I do have to pay the bills!


I have a few ways of working that I am happy to say have proved popular with a buying public. I do still paint complete paintings from time to time, I used to do a lot more, but these days they tend to be to commission only. These days I have given in a lot more to the real centre of interest in what I produce, that is the wildlife itself. I was delighted last winter when a small flock of bullfinch chose to spend part of their day, every day, feeding in weeds next to my studio. This gave me a chance to watch them closely. The way they busied themselves feeding was fascinating. I could have painted the whole scene, but I was more interested in capturing the different attitudes and postures of those charming colourful birds. This feeling covers most of the things I watch and I enjoy producing what for want of a better term I call “studies”. These are paintings of the bird or animal with a hint of their surroundings, maybe just one aspect of the animal or bird or a small collection of studies of the species in question. Some are more finished than others and this is where my enjoyment of different ways of working shows. The other way I have of working is totally removed from my paintings. I have always loved working in black & white, I used to do a lot of wood engraving at art college, a black & white print process. I have also had a great passion for Africa, which I was finally able to indulge in my fortieth year when I visited Botswana for the first time. These interests combined in a totally accidental way. Having just returned from Africa, I wanted to do some work which referenced the love I have for the wildlife in that amazing place. I did some drawings of a few of the beautiful antelope species that I’d seen. The drawings were in pencil on tinted paper. They were ok but lacked something, so I added some white highlights which lifted them. I was delighted with the reaction to what I came to call “Monochromes”, they were admired and I’m pleased to say sold well.

I have been very fortunate in the opportunities I have been afforded to spend time watching wildlife both at home and abroad all over Europe, in Africa, India and Brazil and calling it work. I hope to carry on for a long time to come!


Ashley Boon, Wildlife & Sporting Artist Botswana & India Safaris Hynam Shield Castle Carrock Carlisle Cumbria CA8 9NF Tel. 01228 670752 ashley.boon@btopenworld.com www.ashleyboon.co.uk 55

Day Tours – value for money

I’m often asked what we will see on our day tours. To be completely honest I don’t know. Wildlife will show on its terms … not ours. If you’ve already been on one of our Birdwatching Days or a Norfolk Safari you will know we will just take what the ‘day gives us’ – having to work for a sighting is perhaps the best bit. If we turned up and saw everything on demand our interest would soon wain. All our day tours include a packed lunch and can be arranged on any date. – see here. However, there are some Special Tours where we visit a particular place or seek particular species – these are listed here. Either way we are confident these tours represent exceptional value for money.


Olive backed Pipit used to be called ‘Indian Tree Pipit’ perhaps more aptly describing its origins – 0ne of the bird species it is possible we may see on our Bird Watching days during the months of September and October – prime migration time.



Daurian Shrike used to be just part of the Red backed Shrike Complex. Now it afforded species status– another of the bird species it is possible we may see on our Bird Watching days during the months of September and October – prime migration time.

We can often find Grey Seals on our Norfolk Safari’s

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Profile for Wildlife Tours & Education

Norfolk Wing 2016 17  

The online magazine of Wildlife Tours and Education

Norfolk Wing 2016 17  

The online magazine of Wildlife Tours and Education