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Notes on the 'bearded eagle’

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I cannot be the only person in lockdown digging out books that are normally rarely opened, which prompts me to share an extract from Cassell’s Natural History Vol III edited by P Martin Duncan MB FRS*. The text (including the splendid drawing shown here) runs to 3½ pages and is based on accounts by various correspondents. These two paragraphs particularly caught my eye, about the 'Bearded Eagle, or Lämmergeier’. Line drawing scanned from Cassell’s Natural History Vol III. ‘In Algeria, the Lämmergeier is said to feed largely on Land Tortoises, which it carries to a great height in the air, and drops upon a convenient rock, so as to break the shell. So much has been written upon the habits of this bird that it would be impossible to give here one tithe of the interesting notes which have been published in various works and periodical; but no history of the species, however brief, would be complete without a passing mention of the little girl who was said to have been carried off

Vaccination progresses

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“Have you had the jab yet?” It’s a regular question as my barbershop chorus meets on Zoom on a Wednesday evening. So I keep my end on mute, but it’s trickier one-to-one in break-out rooms. I am trying to master saying, “I’m too young” without sounding peeved that I look like I’m in the currently eligible over-70s demographic. I can’t blame Zoom for grey hair. But I admit to just a little envy of those who’ve been able to get vaccinated and seeing at first-hand the steady progress of the nationwide programme. So when an email from Voluntary Norfolk arrived asking for help at a vaccination clinic withing walking distance, I was happy to accept a shift and to see how it all works, especially as requests for prescription collection/delivery have gone from very occasional (four since lockdown) to none at all. Walking to Lionwood Medical Practice in heavy snow, I wondered what the PPE on offer would be for ‘vaccination stewarding support (patient flow)’. Snowshoes and full Arctic gear? T

Keeled Skimmers in September

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It was a surprise to me to find Keeled Skimmer dragonflies at Holt Country Park during three visits of Honeyguide’s Norfolk breaks   in September, on 10, 17 and 24 September 2020. When I submitted these records, I was interested to find out if this was to be expected or out of the ordinary. But first, some notes on what we saw. On 10 September there were sev eral Keeled Skimmers, mostly blue males. Male Keeled Skimmer, Holt Lowes, 10 September 2020 (David Bennett). On 17 September, numbers were down to two or three though circumstances allowed a close view of a dead male trapped in a spider’s web.  Keeled Skimmer trapped by a four spot orb web spider ( Araneus quadratus ), Holt County Park (=Holt Lowes SSSI), 17 September 2020 (Chris Durdin). Finding one a week later still was a surprise, well into the second half of the month: Jean Dunn’s photograph shows the male on that date. Male Keeled Skimmer, Holt Lowes, 24 September 2020 (Jean Dunn). The tiny round leaves are bog pimpernel.

Upton Marshes, 14 December 2020 – Honeyguide local guided walk.

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Sunshine, after a rainy night, was a welcome sight as six of us gathered at Upton Staithe car park and set off alongside Upton Dyke. Looking west, over Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Upton Marshes, there were three distant cranes all too briefly in the air. Next to show was a marsh harrier and, while we watched that, a peregrine falcon came into the same field of view. The peregrine settled on a gate on the field, and we saw it there or nearby off and on through the morning. Oby Mill, across the River Bure. Af ter we turned left along the distinctly muddy path on the river wall, most of the activity was across on the other side of the River Bure and its reedy ronds over on Clippesby and Oby Marshes. There were a few groups of pink-footed geese flying around, though nothing that compared with the flock that Howard and Sue saw by the A47 Acle Straight on their way here today. There were at least two marsh harriers and large numbers of jackdaws, rooks and starlings, though most of our effort we

Horsey seals, Honeyguide local guided walk, 7 December 2020

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For our first walk after the autumn lockdown, six of us met at the National Trust’s Horsey Mill car park near the east Norfolk coast. For the early arrivals there was the distant sound of cranes bugling and the sight and sound of moving pink-footed geese. Morning mist turned to sunshine as we found a route through a wetter than expected start to the path towards the distant dunes of sand and marram grass that make the sea defences here. Conditions then became easy once we were on the permissive path through this part of the Horsey Estate. Here three roe deer surprised us, then stood and watched us as we watched them in a field of oilseed rape. Roe deer. A sparrowhawk dashed away low over a crop along a hedge line then helpfully returned, the large, brown female settling in a tree. Fieldfares flew over at the same time and we had several sightings along the next part of the route. A uniformly brown marsh harrier and a male stonechat were two more good birds. Mary was alert to a yell

Breydon Water, Great Yarmouth and Buckenham Marshes, 3 November 2020 – Honeyguide local event.

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Using the long-range weather forecast to help set the next date of the weekly local Honeyguide outing – though now the last for at least a month on account of the new, imminent lockdown – was due to hit a set-back eventually, and it was raining as we assembled behind Great Yarmouth’s railway station by the sea wall in the Asda car park. The heavens opened and we retreated to cars, rain followed by hail. Happily, the downpour was sharp and short and we were soon out again, watching a flock of redshanks fly around both the flooded saltmarsh and over the car park. A rainy start: 09:37 on 3 November 2020. There were so many birds ahead we paused at first in the shelter of Breydon Bridge to scan the flocks of birds moving over and near the main high tide roost. These settled and we moved into the sunshine a little farther along the seawall. It was a brilliant spectacle. The largest numbers of birds in flight were wigeons, many of which settled either on the open water or in high tide pools

Thorpe St Andrew, 26 October 2020 – Honeyguide’s third local guided walk.

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Thorpe St Andrew was, perhaps, a surprising choice for a guided walk, but it proved popular – fully booked and enjoyed. Billed as ‘hidden’ Thorpe St Andrew it was essentially a walk around the Thorpe St Andrew Conservation Area set up to protect buildings, though for our walk with more of a focus on natural elements. We started from my home at 9:30 (just outside the Conservation Area) and, having watched a female sparrowhawk come over, we walked in the sunshine down to Yarmouth Road. It was unusual to be within sight of NWT Thorpe Marshes and not visit the nature reserve (one group member went there earlier and all have been other occasions). An early building to note was the former RSPB office at 97 Yarmouth Road, described in the conservation area’s character assessment as “a nineteenth century cottage though unpleasantly close to the busy road”. Thorn-apple, with fruits. On River Green we became the fifth Honeyguide group – following on from four ‘ Norfolk breaks ’ in September