Posts

Nosey grasshoppers

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It’s not uncommon in southern Europe to come across a grasshopper that looks like a stick insect. A quick browse in Chinery’s book on insects and there was a species that matched it well – Acrida ungarica. This book gives no English name but more recently names that crop up are nosed grasshopper or cone-headed grasshopper, from its look, and Hungarian grasshopper, from its scientific name.
Insect ID often isn’t that easy and that’s the case here. Paul Tout, Honeyguide leader in Istria and Slovenia, sent me a link to an Italian picture showing two species. Some internet sources show three subspecies.
Then Paul Brock’s book ‘A photographic guide to Insects of Southern Europe & the Mediterranean’ was released late in 2017, and a visit to Crete in April was an ideal time to test this fine new book in the field.
The insects in Crete match perfectly what Brock calls Truxalis nasuta or Nosey Cone-headed Grasshopper (using Brock’s style of capital letters). The IUCN* calls this species Splen…

Nature in the heart of Norwich

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For several years I have kept track of the fortunes of some bee orchids in urban Norwich. It all started by accident when I was cycling past and noticed both a bee orchid and a man with a strimmer. 

That conversation led to an annual visit to a patch of grass - now a wild flower meadow - outside Big Yellow Self Storage on Canary Way, opposite Norwich City FC’s football ground (for example Big Yellow bee orchids are back, June 2016).
Fast forward ten seasons and leaving the flowers to grow and bloom has become routine here – in a good way. Never mind the orchids – the show of ox-eye daisies is reason enough to stop and take a look. 

Of course ox-eye daisies are common on roadside verges, but somehow sandwiched between a garage and a supermarket alongside the inner ring road they have extra appeal. Not surprisingly the flowers were buzzing with bees when I took a close look on 5 June 2018.

Bee orchids like thin turf and have a way of popping up opportunistically in surprising and often infe…

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (part 2)

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In a previous Norfolk Wildlife Trust blog [Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s, January 2017] I wrote about Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s. That was after meeting John Rushmer who, during that decade, had a herd of cattle for milking on what is now the NWT nature reserve - Honeyguide's local patch. At that time I had no pictures from the 1960s to illustrate the story.
John Rushmer has now located two slides taken at the time. The Kodachrome slides are undated, but they are of a design used by Kodak from 1959-1962. John was offered the grazing in 1960 and started grazing livestock there from 1961; these slides show the marshes after ploughing and sowing with rye grass so they will be from 1961 at the earliest and more likely from 1962. The slides were scanned and cleaned up by Thorpe Marshes volunteer Derek Longe.
The first is a view of Thorpe Marshes from the pedestrian footbridge over the adjacent railway line, looking south. The most striking feature of the landscape is its openness. There’s…

A bird in the hand

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There are good reasons why Andalucia, Extremadura or the Pyrenees are often the first places in mainland Spain visited by wildlife enthusiasts. However two Honeyguide holidays in Valencia have shown that this region also has much to offer, with the right local knowledge.

Pau Lucio provides that local know-how as well as plenty of experience of the Honeyguide style. Pau is a member of local ringing group Pit-roig (Valencian for the robin), supported by this holiday’s conservation donations. One of the group’s regular working areas is Pego Marshes, not far from our hotel tucked away in an orange grove outside the town of Oliva.
On our first visit to Pego Marshes in 2018 the late afternoon sunshine provided perfect conditions to see low-flying pallid swifts, often a tricky bird to see well.
The Honeyguide group in March 2018, as in March 2016, was also privileged to see the results of a ringing session at Pego. High winds meant the first date was called off but all was well when we arrived…
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Beavers in Poland In his third bulletin on mammals in Biebrza National Park, Artur Wiatr, Honeyguide’s leader in Poland, writes about beavers. Photos by Piotr Dombrowski. "Beaver: the second largest rodent in the world and the biggest one in Europe, known for its very interesting behaviour. Biebrza the river was named after the beaver and in old Polish language Biebrza means ‘beaver's river’. Considering that now it is a very numerous mammal it may be hard to believe that in the beginning of the 20th century beavers became extinct here. They were reintroduced to Biebrza again from Russia after WW2. "Beavers have a high sense and knowledge of water engineering, reflected in building dams, creating ponds, building lodges and digging corridors and chambers in the ground. Doing this process, beavers improve local environmental conditions for other animals yet sometimes may be in conflict with what man would not like to see, such as flooded meadows or broken trees. "Beavers…

Picking up on penguins

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Why did a pack of penguin biscuits arrive in the post in the Honeyguide office? The answer is a mixture of pedantry, enthusiasm for natural history and an apology with a sense of humour.

Each weekend a trade magazine called Travel Weekly arrives here. Between you and me (and that's not many in the early days of the Honeyguide blog) I wouldn't subscribe to Travel Weekly, but it is free of charge and though it is mostly for travel agents (high street shops and online equivalents) it does sometimes have useful travel trade news and information.


In a recent cruise special - cruise is a growing sector of the travel world nowadays - a columnist listed seeing penguins in the Arctic as a bucket list ambition for a cruise. I admit to being a pedant on this kind of occasion, and it took only a moment or two to email the editor to explain this was the wrong hemisphere for penguins (see picture of my letter).

Andy Harmer of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the polar mix-up …
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Fish otter – a perfect predator The fish otter, writes Artur Wiatr, Honeyguide’s leader in Poland, is a perfectly skilled predator of fantastic abilities and a body adapted to swim. It likes to take fish most of all – though the diet may also contain crayfish, frogs and bird chicks – and because of this it has a bad reputation among fish pond managers in Poland. Otters have become a more and more frequent mammal in Biebrza National Park. Although one otter family may occupy up to 5km of a river it is not easy to spot them. As for many other mammals, the best time to watch otter is winter. They like to hunt from frozen river banks and they seem to be quite successful. Once a while you can see the whole family playing together on the ice and teaching juveniles how to fish. When disturbed, otters quickly jump into the water and may stay there for few minutes when necessary. In the seasons when the vegetation is thick our otters stay rather shy so we enjoy our otter encounters when we can.