Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (part 2)

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

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…
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

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 …
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.

When nature reads the script

Don’t act with children or animals is old cliché … or expect nature to perform as you’d hope would normally be equally sound advice.
However on our monthly guided walk round NWT Thorpe Marshes one evening in July 2017 we had a stroke of luck you would never dare predict.
There is a pretty damsel of which I am rather fond. The Willow Emerald Damselfly has a remarkable story anyway. It’s been in the UK just a decade. First found in Suffolk in 2007, it’s been at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen for several years and at Thorpe Marshes since 2013.
A remarkable characteristic of this species is how the damselfly lays its eggs into small cuts made in a thin branch. This leaves a distinctive, regular pattern as scar tissue forms. That branch is always over water as the eggs overwinter there and larvae drop into the water in the spring. They develop underwater then emerge as adults in late summer.
Derek Longe, a regular at Thorpe Marshes, wrote a short, illustrated paper about his observations here for the spe…

More than I can say … a tribute to Bobby Vee

I suppose it’s a measure of our different cultural reference points that the column inches devoted to the death of popular musicians can seem out of kilter to me. Pete Burns? My reaction was … who? Leonard Cohen I understand better, and Hallelujah is a fine, much-covered song. It reminds me of a girlfriend who listened to Leonard Cohen when she was feeling low. My advice then and now is it’s better to listen to the Beach Boys: to uplift your mood rather than reinforcing gloom.These two had many column inches, but the passing of Bobby Vee in October 2016 earned just a ‘news in brief’ in my i newspaper. For me, the songs of Bobby Vee are wonderfully typical of the dreamboats-and-petticoats pre-Beatles era. He had a light, effortless tenor voice, with every word completely clear – which served to enhance the vocal tricks on non-words like the ‘Oh oh yea yea’ on More Than I Can Say and how he sings ‘you’ and ‘ee’ on Rubber Ball (you have to listen to get these). It sounds so easy when he …