Although I was born in the North Downs, I am connected to East Anglia through both my genetics and my university degree, and it doesn't take very much to persuade me to spend time in the Wild East - which is where I've been the last few days.
Norfolk prides itself on "dooin' diff'ent". The upper half of the East Anglia peninsula more closely resembles Holland than the British Isles. The skies are vast, the weather spectacular (sometimes a little too spectacular!
) and stars sparkle in relatively little light pollution. It's a great place to do an ecology degree
Most East Anglians have a fairly relaxed view of life, which is good, as it means you can crawl around campus with a 500mm Tamron lens aimed at the common rabbit, wearing a winter coat with good pockets for spare lenses on a boiling hot day, and a Belgian shepherd dog's leash attached to your belt, glancing at the School of Biology even though you graduated two years ago, and no one asks what you're up to
Norfolk and Suffolk are mostly flat, but have a huge variety of landscapes nonetheless. There's the dry, sandy Brecklands (the closest Britain comes to proper steppe) the wild north coast with its salt marshes, the Broads National Park (a semi-natural landscape of marshes, tidal rivers, lakes and reeds) and some of the biggest sandy beaches you'll find in southern Britain. It also has its dustbowl areas which have been horrifically desiccated by some of the worst agricultural practices known to humanity. But for the most part, it's all about water and sky.
Oh yes, the wildlife. That's different too
Star species include cranes, spoonbills and stone curlews. But since I've complained recently about how hard I have to work in the Downs to get rabbit photos, let me start by introducing you to Planet Rabbit. Welcome to the University of East Anglia's campus!
If you study at the UEA, you have to like rabbits. You find them in the bus stops. You find them in the carparks. They graze by footpaths and outside lecture rooms. They've been the study of a longterm population dynamics research project and are an essential feature of the campus. One evening as a student, I estimated I had eighty in sight at once!
I took lots of pictures and will upload more tomorrow. But what about brown hares?
Much shyer and trickier than rabbits; I did get a few photos, out in the farmlands. This is on full 500mm zoom! Getting close photos of hares requires planning and patience, neither of which I could spare on this trip.
Hares are huge (much larger than rabbits); they kick rather than hop, and have black tips to the ears. They are also rarer; I never see them in North Downs.
As for the lord of the eastern marshes: he can be seen well, admittedly mostly in winter, but raptor photography is nothing without a challenge
Marsh harriers - whose British population is virtually confined to East Anglia - are impressive hunters which swoop over the reedbeds and make life very hard for anyone who tries to photograph them, so I found. This was the best shot I got of one.
The graceful avocet, another East Anglian specialty (it's a kind of wader found around the coast of the peninsula) was rather easier to capture.
I also found a kestrel perched on a road lamp.
Lots more to come tomorrow!