Great to welcome Hunt Emerson’s latest book, Hot Jazz, onto the bookshelves – a very entertaining jazz-themed adventure comic book.
Hunt is a well-renowned and award-winning cartoonist http://largecow.com and I was happy to contribute a little doodle to his latest book.
And here it is – a jazzy little dawn chorus – and with Christmas looming I’m sure Hunt’s book will be the perfect present to pop into a stocking somewhere – preferably one hanging from the mantelpiece.
Big Time Nature Notes Warning:
The first of the month was the hottest day in November since records were put on a turntable.
To be on the north Norfolk coast in T-shirts and sunglasses was an unexpected bonus, and even heat haze had to be contended with when scanning the countryside for our feathered friends.
Many of our subjects didn’t need seeking out as Norfolk lends itself to a spectacular array of confiding and easily visible birds (stop yawning now, you at the back).
En route to our usual haunt at Le Strange Arms Hotel in Old Hunstanton, Pete and I popped into Eldernell on the Nene Washes. A short westerly walk along the bank turned up a distant Marsh Harrier and a Green Woodpecker.
We finished up at Titchwell, a reserve we have visited often recently, and it remains one of our favourite locations.
Our forays around Titchwell unearthed an obliging Jack Snipe, which was bobbing away (its what they do) on the shore of the fresh water lagoon, while waders, ducks, geese and swans fussed around in the backwater.
At dusk, two Barn Owls were seen batting away over the fields close to the Autumn Trail, and squadrons of Marsh Harriers flew into roost; mini-murmurations of starlings scrawled over the reed beds.
Here are some photos of the sunset but you had to be there…
The next day, after a pre-breakfast sea watch squinting at the bobbing speck of a Slavonian Grebe, we took off for Cley Marshes. Along the shingle beach, the saline lagoons, distant grazing marshes and reed beds were continually checked out for anything migratory.
But the highlight was an otter weaving its way up through a channel before hauling up onto the bank.
We eventually finished up at Burnham Overy Staithe, where the river spreads out into multiple tidal creeks before reaching the sea. The walk along the sea bank meant a continuous elevated position was held over the adjoining fields and saltmarshes. From this vantage point, decent views of Grey Partridges, Curlews, Buzzards, Pink-footed, Egyptian and White-fronted Geese could be enjoyed. A Hare also put in a fleeting appearance.
Late mists crept in as the light faded, leaking over the fields and tumbling down in the ditches and hollows. Always a good scenario for a bit of purple prose.
The tongue-twisting little hamlet of Burnham Overy Staithe was the nautical playground of Nelson, who learned to row and sail a dinghy here at the age of ten.
It also provided a home for Richard Woodget, the master of the famous Cutty Sark.
In another maritime aside, it is believed that Delia Smith based her famous ‘Let’s be ‘avin‘ you!’ Seafood Soufflé on shellfish gleaned from the shores when crabbing here as a little girl with Stephen Fry.
Another day, another sea watch before breakfast – and another Slavonian Grebe.
It was thick fog in the morning as we headed to Holme Beach, dipping through the mists covering a golf course to reach the sea. A Brambling materialized on some gorse but the real show-stoppers were Short-eared Owls. To see three of these owls in one morning was as treatier a treat as you’ll ever get. They never seemed particularly bothered by us and just went about their business, flying high and surveying their territories for vole-shaped morsels.
Then it was onto Thornham, a small coastal village where a Kingfisher momentarily lit up the mudflats and tired creeks.
Naturally, Titchwell was once again assigned to top off an excellent day, and we duly congregated to enjoy the usual majestic melee over lagoons and reed beds with some Bewicks’s and Whooper Swans joining the duck soup.
From the reliable Autumn Trail, a female Hen Harrier zoomed in to join the roost, circling a few times before hitting the hay. The Barn Owl was on duty once again, and a whole bunch of Starlings hitchcocked their silhouettes to a dead tree.
Sundown stole the show again as thick layers of mist and fog crawled across the reserve, puddling and twisting around reeds and bare trees to fashion an eerie and ghostly dusk.
Having stayed over an extra day, Pete and I called into Sculthorpe Moor on the way back to Brum.
Sculthorpe is a quietly impressive woodland and fen habitat located in the Wensum Valley. Unfortunately, it was very quiet during our brief visit, and we failed to churn up anything more exciting than a Marsh Tit on a bag of nuts. With excellent education and visitor facilities, more boardwalks are planned to provide even greater access – there is already an elevated hide, which gives great views across the fen and reed beds.
The Classical Spectacular concert at the Symphony Hall was conducted by the ever-entertaining Anthony Inglis, with the City of Birmingham Choir and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra pulling out all the stops. Soprano Sky Ingram warbled away like there was no tomorrow, and the tenor, Mario Sofroniou, absolutely nailed Nessun Dorma.
It was a shame there was no Bolero – always a good one to torvill away to – but its not bad to experience a different programme, and the Borodin number was a decent substitute.
As usual, the 1812 Overture with cannons and fireworks neatly closed the show – then it was off to the pub!
This Month’s Flat Disc Society (AKA: the Film Club) came up trumps with Kenny as its main feature – a very funny Australian film about a Melbourne plumber who works for a portaloo rental company.
This screening was deliberately chosen to celebrate the United Nation’s Toilet Day. No lie, here’s the link: http://www.unwater.org/worldtoiletday/home/en/
There was a short warm-up feature, Look at Life: Men of the Snowy, a concise ‘slice of life’ featurette from the 1960s.
With a rubbishy wet final weekend (they’ve even started naming storms now) I visited the Ikon Gallery for a bit of contemporary relief.
Scroll Down And Keep Scrolling by British artist Fiona Banner was the exhibition on show.
There was a life-sized glass scaffold tower in one of the spaces with its fragility apparently undermining any sense of usefulness. Some black beanbags representing the full stops of a few selected typefaces were scattered around the galleries for people to sit upon and nod sagely (and stroke their chins). Fiona Banner seemed to be channeling the Vietnam War in other areas of the exhibition – a pile of Jane’s Aircraft Recognition Guide books towered almost to the ceiling, and a film screened a military air show with a Chinook helicopter looping around.
I sat on a beanbag and nodded sagely.