Wild East

Agrimony and burdock: plants that cling to you. Their seeds have hooks that love fur and clothes. The parents of these plants, in fact, clung to my dog, and fell off her somewhere on the front drive. So they grew.

Agrimony and burdock Jul 21

Places can cling to you too. I moved from Norfolk – England’s wide-skied east – in 2012 after finishing my MSc, but never really left it behind. Now I’m back, and the Yare is still flowing. In its own way, so subtly it reflects the clouds.

Meadow cranesbill 27 Jul 21

Norfolk is wetter, drier, colder, flatter than nearly anything in England available for comparison. It is the gateway to the sunken plains of Doggerland – a land bridge to the continent long since snapped. Mammoths, hyenas, Romans, Vikings and Iceni rebels; they’ve all called the sprawling Norfolk landscape their own. So did many of my own ancestors, who farmed Breckland for centuries and must have often heard stone curlews wailing under the stars.

I have heard something else: a deer with the voice of a fox.

Muntjac munching 26 Jul 21

She was literally two feet from me, right below my window; I had to switch to my macro lens to take the photo. She is a Reeves’ muntjac, a preposterously tiny deer about the dimensions of a border collie. Not a British native, but firmly established – they were introduced to Bedfordshire in the 19th century, and further releases or escapes cemented their presence. Like water deer, they are indigenous to China.ย 

Norfolk is most famous as the best birding county in England, but it is also very rich in wild mammals. I heard a water vole this morning. That is, a plop as something small dived into a ditch near the Yare. Otters, foxes, and harvest mice are also around and I will try to catch up with more of them over the summer.

Fly and campion 28 Jul 21

18 thoughts on “Wild East

    1. Good to see you again too! ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope all’s well. I never meant to be away from WordPress for so long but hopefully will update it more frequently now.

      Muntjac are the smallest of the six deer species regularly found in the UK (or seven, if you count the free-ranging reindeer herd in the Cairngorms).

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  1. Happy memories of our annual trip to Norfolk. We’ve missed out this year (and last) due to Covid. Next year, maybe? What a privilege to be so close to a muntjac; funny little things, but always good to see!

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    1. Hope next year makes up for the delay in that case! It really is the most extraordinary county, a country within a country with wildly contrasting ecosystems. And muntjac that make a special effort to welcome new residents, it seems.

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    1. Yes, just about finished unpacking now and looking forward to getting to know the foxes here ๐Ÿ™‚ Norfolk has them too, along with many other mammals.

      Muntjac are invasive unfortunately, and their woodland browsing has caused concern. In their native range, their enemies include mysterious carnivores like the beautiful Temminck’s golden cat, but here it would be mostly foxes. I suppose a white-tailed eagle might hypothetically take an interest too.

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      1. Even our native white-tailed deer have become problematic, due to lack of natural predators (no wolves, pumas anymore) and there are fewer meat hunters (human) every fall, too. Development has forced them to become suburban foragers, where no hunting is allowed. In the mid-Atlantic states particularly, the native vegetation is being browsed so badly that the non-natives are thriving. What a mess!

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    2. That is grim. Always so hard to put things right when an ecosystem starts to unravel. In the UK, it’s particularly complicated because most wildlife requires habitats that have at least partly evolved with rural culture over the last 4,000 years. Now we’re losing the traditional occupations which maintained things like heathland and hazel coppice woodland, and at the same time, deer numbers are up and sometimes causing browsing issues. Foxes can be an effective predator on fawns, but appear to be declining in the countryside. Could be mange, lack of rabbits, or hammering by the pheasant shooting lobby.

      There is occasional talk of reintroducing Eurasian lynx, which is much bigger than the North American version and a capable deer predator. Maybe it’ll happen eventually.

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  2. I believe you posted the photo of muntjac before, I recognized it when I saw the photo on your FB.
    We went to Cathedral Lakes provincial park and saw a lot of mountain goats, deer and stoats. I was hoping to make a post on Word Press but I am too busy now (back to work).
    Hope you enjoyed Norfolk!

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    1. I posted a water deer some time ago, which is another small species found in East Anglia – it was probably that ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve only rarely photographed muntjac. But I have actually moved to Norfolk permanently so am hoping to see many more species around here.

      Stoats! That is a nice sighting. I hope you find time to post at some point but I know how difficult it can be to balance blogging with the rest of life.

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  3. I really like the photo of the river and the purple flowers. So interesting to find the land hearkening back to ancient times and now hosting newly arrived species such as the muntjac deer. Such complexities.
    Enjoy settling back into your home county.

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  4. I am so envious of you moving to Norfolk! It’s our ambition to do so one day, such a beautiful county. Luckily we live fairly close though so it’s a shortish drive!

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