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Monday, 28 April 2014

Birthday, Norfolk and a Ratty Afternoon...

Once again, I find myself apologising for the lack of posts and the long period of silence. Poland seems like a very long time ago now. If you would like to see what has been important enough to fill my time since, please check out my Grey Seal film (if you have not already!) on my movie blog here: Three months later...

Spring has almost finished springing. The song thrush sings at the top of the conifer in the churchyard from daybreak. What a sound. Bluebells have already started carpeting the woodland around Whipsnade and the Chilterns. And I have seen plenty of swallows, martins and yellow wagtails already. Awaiting for the sound of screaming swifts as they spend their days racing through the air.

Thinking back to February, I will start with my birthday. My old man, Grandad and sister donned their wellies and boots. Sky led the pack, keeping ears and eyes peeled for rabbits and squirrels along the way. 

Lost already

Keeping watch on our tea break at the quaint little farm house tea shop.

What was a grey, cold bleak start to the day, soon transformed into a gloriously spring afternoon. Like the spearheads of a roman legion, the daffodils break through the graveyard soil at St Peters Church. There is a particularly enjoyable atmosphere in church and grave yards. To be surrounded by the headstones of the deceased, brings you into touch with life, and as they are usually well kept, they almost act as a small reserve for nature, having green woodpeckers, kestrels, tits, robins and blackbirds nesting in my local cemetery. I like the juxtaposition of life being created in place where the late have been laid to rest. 

Brightening up at St. Peters Church

Daffodils by the tombstone

To be out in the fresh air, with some of the people that mean the most to me, was a great way to spend a pleasantly quiet birthday. Back home, I grab a rare opportunity to enjoy the sun on the Ivel. 

The Ivel

Wind in the reeds

Sunlight on the river

March. And I join my Sister and Dad at Wells-Next-Sea. A walk along the sea front. Fields and marshes to my left, the running tide of the estuary to my right. The sweet evocative call of the Curlew that forages in the mud. Turnstone camouflaged into the muddy pebbled shoreline. Oystercatchers delve their bright red and orange bills into the soft mud in search of food. Their bills stand out in contrast to their black and white pied plumage. 



A walk around Holkham. The pine forest backs the dunes, and the vast wind-swept beaches are lapped by the North Sea. During our walk, birds of prey abound! First a kestrel hovers, head motionless and fixed on the grassy fields below. A red kite soars in the wind, its forked tail twisting and turning to keep it balanced. A high pitched call draws my attention to a buzzard circling high above. A smaller bird of prey zips past the buzzard. A peregrine! I cannot believe my luck, the fastest animal on the planet, able to reach 200mph in a stoop. And as we made our way to the edge of the wood, and out onto the sand dunes, a deep winged marsh harrier quartered across the marshes and over the dunes and out of sight.

Lapwing or Peewit. A beautifully exotic looking bird

Red kite in flight

Norfolk sands and sea

The dunes filled with rabbit burrows. We sat and ate lunch from the top of a dune, spitting the grains of sand blown into the mugs of tea we poured, and watched as hares made their way through their runs and back finding safety in large patches of undergrowth.

Grainy tea and sandy sandwiches

A visit to Maidstone in Kent during the floods ruined a walk along the river. The banks had burst and the path was completely submerged. A kayak, tilted onto its side, was wedged into the trees. Swans gracefully swam past the tops of benches. Bin openings peered out from the swollen river around the graveyard.

Swan by the bench

A pigeon, dead, hangs upside down in the tree above, adding to the drama. 
This all a reminder of the power of nature, its unpredictability and the fact that humans are definitely not above it. Our immediate reaction is to work against it and fight a battle we will never win. More concrete flood defences, drained and dredged rivers. Surely finding natural ways to buffer such incidents must be more beneficial to more than just humans. If you build houses on a floodplain, or a town along the banks of a channelised river, with no room for expanse, there is going to be a chance of flooding. I sympathise with those greatly effected, but I think it should not come as such a surprise when it happens.

I then ventured on a walk through West Malling. Quite nice as towns go, but soon found myself photographing a wonderful pair of brown rat along the ditches in the park. Charismatic, intelligent and well adapted, these non-natives thrive in these habitats.

And here is a little film I made following the rat from its burrow, foraging in the stream, and back to its burrow. Check it out if you have not already !

I hope all readers are well! Thank you for reading, and I hope I will be blogging about more adventures more frequently now the weather has picked up and I have some exciting plans in place.

Thank ya'll!



  1. Beautiful images as always Tom. I did enjoy the rat film as it's great to see them in a more natural environment.

    1. Thank you Suzie! Appreciate it. They are incredible animals really - just a shame about their reputation!

  2. Beautiful photos :) I am so glad you had a great birthday :) I love exploring wildlife in churchyards - in particular many of the country ones seems to provide a real haven for wild flowers :)

    1. Thank you Ragged! Churchyards are amazing places, like mini havens for wildlife.

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