Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 24, 2017

A Brief Anglia Odyssey

The final leg of The Big Trip road trip took us to the fair county of Norfolk with a bit of Suffolk on the way……

Little Stint 2 (scaled)

Some time spent by the Suffolk coast at the beginning of October included a look in on the RSPB’s famous Minsmere nature reserve. Somewhere always presenting the possibility of the more unusual, this occasion allowed a half decent shot of a Little Stint (Calidris minuta). The second part of the scientific name is indeed apt; these tiny waders are about the size of a sparrow. They mostly occur in the UK on their spring and autumn passage, to and from breeding grounds in the High Arctic tundra.

Clouded Yellow - Minsmere (scaled)

There were also migrants of a different kind. This stunning Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) was amazingly obliging for the camera. Visitors to Britain fly up from Southern Europe and North Africa and can potential turn up anywhere across the country. They will breed freely here, but almost always fail to survive our winter.

Pink-footed Geese (over Horsey) (scaled)

On to Norfolk and a wildlife spectacle I was particularly looking forward to was the huge gatherings of Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) that amass around the Norfolk coast for the winter. Tens of thousands of birds, usually totalling well over 100,000 for the county, gather from Arctic breeding grounds. We only had to get as far as the Norfolk Broads at Horsey for our first encounter.

Chinese Water Deer 2 (scaled)

Even without its rare butterflies and dragonflies on the wing, the autumn Broads and their bordering habiats are still full of wildlife and wonderful places to explore. One of six species of deer living wild in the UK, this Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis) was one of a pair seen at Upton Marshes. The English population of these small (about 1m long) oriental deer is derived from early 20th century escapees from zoos and collections.

Salthouse Marshes (scaled)

The extensive marshlands of the north coast of Norfolk, such as here at Salthouse Marsh have a satisfyingly wild feel about them. The great flocks of geese that gather along their length always seem to bring their part of the Arctic wilderness with them, but they teem with all sorts of wintering birdlife…..

Ruff (scaled)

A host of other waterfowl and wading birds enliven the marshes, like this Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), taken at Titchwell Marsh. Sadly, outside the breeding season the males lack the elaborate ‘ruff’ of head and neck feathers that gives these birds their name.

Holme Beach 4 (scaled)

The Norfolk coast is justly known for its wide open, sandy beaches. No visit here, for us, is quite complete without a trip to Holme Beach and its bordering dunes……

Dune Tiger Beetle (scaled)

The sun shone for us and while we sat in the lea of a low dune, watching the scattered shorebirds, a surprise companion appeared on the sand beside us. It was a superb Dune Tiger Beetle (Cicindela maritima), a scarce and locally distributed UK insect. A close look at the powerful jaws reveals these as predatory beetles. Rapid progress across the grains makes them most effecient hunters of the other, smaller insects that also inhabit the dunes and sandy beaches that these beetles call home.

And so, as the road trip ends Borneo and New Zealand beckon…….

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