New Year, Old Year

I couldn’t blame the sun for looking like it wanted to turn in early. It’s been a long twelve months.

Afternoon sun 31 Dec 21

But whatever upheavals 2021 brought to people, the wildlife of the Broads continues its business. Water deer patrol marshes bustling with ducks and geese. This is a buck – you can just see his tusks. Water deer are not sociable, and although half a dozen were in view, they kept apart.

Water deer SF 31 Dec 21

What does a lapwing sound like to a water deer? We transcribe their call as peewit, peewit, to the point where that is an alternative name for the species. Elegant, cleanly marked and with preposterous feathers on their heads, these sweet-voiced waders have become internationally threatened – here’s a close up from Sussex, several years ago. 


But nowhere in the south have I seen flocks like Norfolk’s. In fact, there were more lapwings in view yesterday than I’ve seen in the last decade put together. The vast Broads sky filled with a lapwing murmuration, swirling smoke trails of feathered hope. Not easy to photograph, but good to think about.

Another rarity swooped over the reeds. Marsh harriers – the signature bird of the Broads – are unmistakable.

Marsh harrier SF 31 Dec 21

And buzzards flew a little higher.

Buzzard SF 31 Dec 21

Otters kept lower, and quieter, leaving their five-toed footprints in the mud.

Otter track SF 31 Dec 21

And so onwards, into 2022. I’ve already seen my first wild mammal: on the pavement, just after lunchtime, threading between walkers and families. A small squat dog-like deer – a muntjac. With an all too real dog pounding after it, and I am grateful that the deer is unhurt after it bolted across the main road, skidded over, and finally lost its pursuer in a construction site. The dog was last seen running back into the open countryside valley; I walked around for a while, seeking its owner, but drew a blank.

People do many things that aren’t malicious but have consequences for our wild neighbours. I don’t know the circumstances of why this particular dog was loose, but it goes without saying that chasers should really stay on the lead. 

But I didn’t want to start the year with a grumble. Let us have an ambition to tread lightly, and walk a little more slowly and listen to the land a little more. Its stories are wonderful things.

16 thoughts on “New Year, Old Year

  1. Fine bird captures, Adele. I loved the lapwings headdress. 🙂
    Dogs chasing wildlife is a big no-no here, with it being legal to shoot a dog seen doing just that. Not the dogs fault, they are simply following instinct, but the owners, who should be held legally responsible. I once had two neighbors whose dogs ran deer and one day they came back full of buckshot. Lesson learned, their dogs stayed home after that.
    I echo your hope that we humans tread more lightly when it comes to nature. ‘Hope is the thing with feathers.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a stylish headdress, isn’t it! 🙂 And their trembling sweet calls over the marshes – it is wonderful to share the land with lapwings.

      Dog attacks are treated seriously here too, at least when livestock are the victims. We have sadly had a run of incidents where dogs have attacked seals. We also have a problem with people allowing dogs to jump into rivers. Of course many dogs are treated with spot-on flea treatment, designed to kill invertebrates, which is the last thing that our aquatic wildlife needs. I am a dog owner but would welcome the dog licence being brought back (along with some kind of compulsory knowledge test) to deter irresponsible and ignorant types. Dogs and wildlife both deserve better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely way to start the new year
    You bring nature to us who have our heads buried
    In books
    Thanks for opening up the world of your furry friends and birds on the wing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, especially on the island – I was horrified in Tahsis to see people letting small dogs off the leash in areas where cougars were known to be present, and of course if anything terrible happened, the cat would have been blamed.

      Thanks, I love the reeds along the rivers here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cougars still grab dogs every once in a while when people are out cutting firewood or picking mushrooms. I wouldn’t dare let our dog run around loose in cougar territory. Even now, when we’ve had a cougar sighting near town, we’re careful in our own yard.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That got me checking the lapwing’s international distribution. Our species is the northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus which is restricted to Eurasia, but has been seen in North America every now and again as a vagrant.


    1. Oh dear. Dogs are wonderful but people do need to accept that there are some places where they shouldn’t play! We have a lot of problems here with off-leash dogs disturbing ground-nesting birds, especially in heathlands like the New Forest and the Thames Basin Heaths.

      Marsh harriers are always a great sight but seeing so many lapwings was very special 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rainer Böttchers

    A Happy New Year, Adele.

    I hope our planned holiday to the Lake District will be in June 2022.
    2021 was the first year without visiting England and Wales for a very
    long time. Tea is out, jam too, Worchestershire sauce soon too. It’s
    time for a return. Can’t wait for June to come.

    Greetings from East Westphalia,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rainer, happy new year to you too. Hopefully the omicron wave will leave quickly and we all can enjoy a much more normal summer. The closest I have come to going abroad since 2019 was visiting the Kent coast and seeing France from across the Channel!

      I hope you have a lovely trip in June and replenish your supplies 🙂


  4. Hi Adele – I enjoyed your photos, and so agree with what you say about dogs on the loose.
    Sending best wishes for the year ahead and I look forward to more of your observations, stories about the land and its history as well as the birds, plants and animals, and your photographs.


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