Thursday, 31 July 2014

Lakenheath Fen

Been a while since I caught up with my Old Mate Eddie Mallet over in Suffolk. He has been telling me that the Kingfishers are making regular appearances around the reed beds at RSPB Lakenheath. Not to mention regular sitings of Bitterns, Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits and Sedge Warblers. During the Summer the reserve is awash with over 100 species of fenland plants. These provide a home for all sorts of insects and colourful Butterflies and Dragonflies. It's hard to believe that twelve years ago, the land that is now Lakenheath Fen nature reserve was a carrot field with little to offer in the way of wildlife interest. There is a flexible nature trail network, four viewpoints and a visitor centre. It was at the Mere hide that we knew there was a good chance of seeing the Kingfishers. We didn't have to wait long before there was a sudden flash of orange and blue taking up it's perch searching for a fish. The highlight had to be seeing the Kingfisher dive into the water and come up with a fish. It all happened in a split second and the fish never stood a chance. Not to be outdone a Common Tern had also been circling with his eye on a fish and quickly made his presence felt swooping to take another fish. Nothing better than strolling around the reserve on a beautiful Summers day taking in the peace and quiet and enjoying the scenery. Moving on from Lakenheath we called in at Weeting Heath probably the best site in the country to watch the rare and unusual stone curlew. The species requires open, stony ground with short vegetation to breed, making the close-cropped turf of Weeting an ideal site.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Canoeing - Hardwater Mill - Ditchford Lock

A beautiful Summers day and just perfect for a gentle paddle along the calm waters of the River Nene. Very different from when the trip was originally planned back in May and cancelled due to heavy rain and high waters. Our group from College were dropped of at Hardwater Mill (Great Doddington) our task being to canoe the 6 miles back to base at Ditchford Lock, hopefully without getting wet. The water was clear with a gentle assisting ripple making paddling quite easy, although steering initially was a different matter entirely. No sooner than we had got going and making good progress we had to leave the water as we met our first lock. Canoes are not allowed to go through the locks so we had to disembark at the portage point and get the canoe out of the water0 A short detour along the riverbank was made using our helpful 'portage wheels' to drag the canoe instead of having to lift it. The river was full of wildlife including lots of Banded Demoiselles, various mayflies, Darters and Hawker Dragonflies, plenty of fish visible in the clear waters and the odd Mink swimming across. The water lillies were just coming into bloom which is always a good indicator as to the quality of the water. The Embankment at Wellingborough made a good stop off point to have a picnic lunch before continuing down river.It was a really relaxing experience with no traffic noise just the quiet of the river and the birdsong as the sun continued to beat down on us. Our next point of interest was the 14 Arches Bridge at Irchester as we neared our destination.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Gozo 2014 Part 2

The island of Gozo has a large number of community festivals commemorating Saints - these are usually accompanied by a feast and fireworks. Our visit coincided with the local picturesque village of San Lawrenz (Saint Lawrence) enjoying a week long celebration that seemed to involve letting off the loudest mortars i've ever heard at the crack of dawn and midnight. I understand that this is to ward of unwanted approaches by the devil. San Lawrenz is one of the two Gozitan localities that have taken their name from that of their patron saint. There is a real atmosphere as the whole of the village turns out and the Brass Band leads the procession. The evening culminates with a massive firework display, a ticker tape parade and the raising of the statue of the village Saint onto it's plinth , and yet more explosions. On the North East coast is the wide sandy beach of Ramla Bay. Ramla actually means sand in Maltese so quite fitting really. Got some good snorkelling in here but the fish were a bit disappointing in truth . However this was more than made up for by the excellent cold beer (Cisk) and delicious fayre at the beach cafe. This too was to become something of an ongoing trend. East of Ramla Bay there are some beautiful coves such as San Blas. Admittedly it does take a bit of effort to reach what is regarded as the prettiest beach on the island. It is a very small beach. Located by rocky cliffs and citrus groves, its orange color sand makes it an ideal place to get away from the crowd. Leave your car at the top and walk down the very steep hill where there is a great little bar serving chilled drinks and snacks and when your day is over you can get a jeep to take you back up the hill for a couple of euros if not feeling too fit. The difficult accessibility means it never gets too busy and a great place to visit. Below are my traveling companions Peter (background) and Bill (foreground). One of my trip highlights (I'm easily pleased)was spotting at close range my first ever Swallowtail butterfly. They can be found in the UK mainly on the Norfolk Broads but are quite rare. There is something like 550 species although most are mainly continental. There have been some recent sightings in the UK of the continental variety that has made it's way over. I did go on to see numerous others particularly around the lighthouse area but none as close as the one I photographed. .

Gozo 2014 Part 1

The end of College and the chance of a week on Gozo (Ghawdex to the Maltese) was too tempting. 26 square miles of life in the slow lane was just what the Doctor ordered. First port of call was one of my favourite places 'Dwejra' and the stunning Azure Window. This giant stone archway caused centuries ago by geological faults. We returned again later in the week for some spectacular snorkelling in the deep dark blue waters surrounded by towering cliffs. It was a stunning place to snorkel diving down into the bluest water I have ever seen and home to a massive variety of fish. Nearby is the Inland Sea a crater filled with seawater that pours in through a concealed fissure in the rocky hillside. Visitors take boat trips through the narrow tunnel to get through to the other side of the Azure Window. Another excellent snorkelling spot was Hondoq to the east of the island. Hondoq has beautiful turqoise waters and a rocky beach that turns to sand makes it an ideal place for relaxing and catching the sun. Some wonderful sunsets and the photos don't really do them justice. The second one shows the sun setting over the Citadel in the capital Victoria. It has become a habit of mine to walk up to the old Lighthouse before breakfast and take in the stunning views from the summit.