Happy New Year !
Birdwatch magazine have published a three page article that I wrote about birding at Hickling Broad and Stubb Mill in their January edition. I'm thrilled that they found my piece good enough for publication.
You will notice a slight difference in layout in my future postings as Freewebs have forced a new site builder upon me. It is a completely new way of uploading photos and texts and it will take me a while to learn how to use it!
Please bear with me as I grapple with the new way of manipulating my photos and text.
I hope that you all have a bird-filled year and enjoy birding as much as I do. I have several trips planned this year and am looking forward to adding to my world list!
With atrocious weather conditions all day I stayed in and caught up with myself after all my travelling. My new year list finished on 16 from the kitchen window!
I added a few more to my year list whilst working at Titchwell, my most exciting sightings were two Brambling on the back feeders by the Visitor Centre.
John and I watched a Water Rail in the ditch on the West Bank path at Titchwell. Down at the sea it took a while before we saw a flock of fourteen Long-tailed Duck flying towards us. We scanned through the Common Scoter and I spotted a Velvet Scoter in flight. Later we saw a second bird in flight. Red-breasted Mergansers were flying by as Sanderling and Turnstones were scurrying around on the tide line.
We drove to Holme and walked to the end of Broadwater, where John picked out the Glaucous Gull sitting on the sand in Thornham Harbour. From the NOA hide in the NOA car park we watched the Ferruginous Duck amongst the Mallard and Gadwall.
Later in Thornham Harbour we had more views of the Glaucous Gull as well as a Rock Pipit, Spotted Redshank and a flock of Twite.
Working in the car park at Titchwell I spotted a Chiffchaff overwintering amongst the woodland. Later a Redwing perched at the top of one of the trees.
Working in the shop I was alerted by a visitor that a Lesser Redpoll was at the top of one of the Alder trees. A Song Thrush flew across the path way.
John picked me up early and along with Stewart Betts and Phil Ethrington we drove to Beeley in Derbyshire. Here we met a few familiar faces and enjoyed watching the Dusky Thrush together. At Ashford in the Water we admired a Dipper which flew under the bridge we were standing on and landed just about within photographic reach. John drove to Beeley Triangle and we were soon watching the Great Grey Shrike which was sitting atop an evergreen Oak. After a fruitless search for Red Grouse we motored on to Rutland Water where at the dam end we enjoyed watching a Surf Scoter amongst many Tufted Ducks. We passed a sitting Red Kite en route. In the north arm we watched two Black-necked Grebes and two Slavonian Grebes. At Market Deeping Lakes we could not locate the reported 5 Long-eared Owls but did enjoy four Goosander present.
Phil Harvey, Stewart South, Brian Barret and I formed a team to take part in a winter bird count in a small area of NarVOS. We normally do a bird race at this time of year but due to falling number of teams the committee decided on a different approach to cover the winter count this year. It seemed strange to have such a laid back day but we certainly had a lot of banter and laughs at someone's expense (I shan't mention names). We started at Nar Valley Fisheries (eventually!!!) once we were all assembled adding many common species to our day list. Three Whooper Swan, a pair with one juvenile,were good to see along the the now almost resident Great White Egret. We were disappointed to find that a cover crop that usually holds a big finch flock no longer exists. At Pentney wildfowl numbers were low compared to other years and Phil drove along the track to the back end of Blackborough End Tip. Now that the tip is no longer used the gulls no longer use the lakes as they used to do and we only added Green Woodpecker and Common Snipe here. Shoveler was added at Tottenhill. Time was against us and after quick visits to Boal Quay we added the Peregrine to our list on the Silo in the docks before watching a perched Hen Harrier at Roydon Common plus the usual Stonechat and Woodcock.
We joined the other NarVOS members at Knight's Hill for a joint checklist before enjoying a fabulous meal together at Fincham along with a few other NarVOS members who joined us for the evening. Thanks to Phil for organising us and driving unexpectedly for the day!!!
After getting stuck behind two sugarbeet lorries I decided to spend a short while at Flitcham where after a short wait I saw two Sparrowhawks lurking in the hedgeline waiting for the numerous birds feeding in the cover crop by the cowshed. Eventually I spotted a Tree Sparrow, one Brambling and two Grey Partridge as well as at least 50 Chaffinch. As I headed up the road towards Anmer A Red Kite flew over the car.
I motored onto Holkham where the Shore Lark were performing well.
At Cley I walked the East Bank keeping an eye out for the reported Water Pipit which none of us saw! A red-head Smew came swimming out of a channel at the end of the Serpentine and eventually hauled itself out onto the bank. There were many Golden Plover in attendance as well as geese flying over the Eye Field. We checked through the geese but failed to find any Tundra Bean Geese amongst the mixed flock of Pink-footed Geese and Brent Geese present. A few Ruff were feeding in the Eye Field. Down at Salthouse John quickly showed me where the Glaucous Gull was and I admired a flock of Snow Bunting on the seabank as I approached the end of Gramborough Hill.
At Aylmerton Stewart spotted one of the Hawfinches present opposite a Trevor William's garden. Trevor invited us into his house for tea and cakes. John, Stewart and I really enjoyed birding and tea and cakes! Thank you Trevor! We watched two more Hawfinches before we left. I drove onto Sheringham where I soon located two Purple Sandpipers below the Funky Mackerel cafe but not before admiring the Turnstones running around the promenade.
As I sit writing this this evening I am sat listening to a Tawny owl calling in the garden whilst a Tortoiseshell Butterfly flies around me! I guess it has been disturbed from hibernation somewhere!
At Choseley I found a few Corn Buntings with a flock of Yellowhammers. A Marsh Harrier flew over the fields nearby.
On my drive down to my Grandson's Christening I watched a Barn Owl in the headlights as I approached Newmarket.
A Merlin was sat on the hedge near Titchwell on my drive to work.
I met up with John on the industrial estate in Thetford where the Iceland Gull soon put in an appearence amongst the gulls all sat on a rooftop overlooking a food waste processing unit. After watching for sometime a Glaucous Gull flew in and landed on the same rooftop. Two different Caspian Gulls appeared and I was glad of some expertise on the subject as the various plumage details were discussed!
Later at Flitcham I watched the usual Little Owl sat in its usual spot on the fallen tree in front of the hide.
Arriving early at work I walked down the West Bank at Titchwell just in time to see a Kingfisher fly alongside Thornham Pool.
John and I walked down the West Bank path at Titchwell in the misty conditions wondering whether we had made the right choice of venue. A lone Spotted Redshank stood all forlorn at the edge of the freshmarsh as we made our way down to the sea. Once there it was certainly foggy and we could not see the horizon. However within minutes of setting up our scopes I had located a Great Crested Grebe with a Red-necked Grebe alongside it. John picked up a Black-throated Diver and we were treated to good views of it on the flat-calm sea. A Red-throated Diver was relatively close in as it swallowed a fish. We admired a Guillemot and the huge flock of Common Scoter. John then located a Great Northern Diver but try as I might I could not see it. I found four Long-tailed Duck and a Razorbill and after numerous attempts eventually located the Great Northern Diver. Goldeneye were flying around as were a small flock of Wigeon. A lone Eider Duck was lurking near the Brancaster end of the beach as Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher were feeding along the tide edge. We walked back up to Thornham pool where along with two Meadow Pipit I located a Water Pipit.
At Creake Abbey we admired 291 White-fronted Geese. Towards Docking I watched a Barn Owl flying along a hedgeline before stopping off at Wolferton where the Golden Pheasant was wandering around.
John and I started out at Buckenham where after searching the Pink-footed Goose flock we located a Tundra Bean Goose, not what we were expecting! A small flock of Wigeon were unconcerned in the ditch in front of us as we kept up our search for the six Taiga Ben geese that were still left at this site. John shifted position as we were not having much luck. After a while John gave a shout as six Taiga Bean Geese appeared out of one of the ditches.We moved on to the station platform to gain some height for better views.
We stopped at Clippesby and I shouted to John as two Common Cranes flew over my head calling joining six others. we pulled into a layby, joining Marcus Nash and together we enjoyed good views of Four Common Cranes feeding in the marshes below us. Moving on, I drove to Mautby where we watched a Hooded Crow in some pig fields as well as watching two Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls.
Our next stop was Burgh Castle where John picked out a Rough-legged Buzzard sitting on the ground. We were treated to excellent views of it, albeit distant, as it flew and hovered in front of us. A Barn Owl flew along the reed edge as I picked out three Short-eared Owls quartering the ground. A Common Buzzard sat on a fence post as I listened to Bearded Tit just below us. A Sparrowhawk zipped through sending the nearby Long-tailed Tits into a dither.
Starting at Wells John, Stewart and I admired one of my favourite birds, a Lapwing showing off its colours in the morning sun. A Little Egret came to join it.
Next I had a quick walk in Holkham Park to add a few woodland species to my yearlist whilst John and Sewart went off in search of Shore Lark, which they failed to find. I admired the Red Deer in the park in the mist.
Red Deer Stag
Later at Titchwell we admired all the wonderful duck on the sea. Velvet Scoter were in abundance along with Common Scoter and the Long-tailed Ducks were just stunning. A Scaup was fraternising with a female Common Scoter! A Water Pipit was skating on the ice as a Water Rail was also having fun!
A quick stop at Heacham produced a Kingfisher and a Mandarin Duck
Red Crested Pochard
Later I joined Malcolm Almey and Neil Bostock at Holme and together we watched the possible eastern race Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes near the golf course on the beach.
Lesser Whitethroat (possible eastern race)
Today at Titchwell Marsh RSPB, staff and volunteers were given the opportunity of a walk into the reedbed along with warden Paul Eele to have a look at how the next Titchwell project is going to be done. There are exciting times ahead if funding can be secured for new reedbed areas to be created that would better serve our wildlife and add to the diversity of the site. New visitor access is also being planned along with the possibilty of a new hide overlooking much of the area. We all had a wonderful time and enjoyed Paul's explanation as we admired his enthusiasm for the future of Titchwell. Liz Appleton, our manager for North West Norfolk sites, kept us all in order and is being kept busy trying along with other staff in gaining funding as well as much of the 'behind the scenes work' with various permissions that are necessary.
Part of Titchwell reedbed that the public do not see!
A hidden pool in the Titchwell Reedbed
A hidden dyke at Titchwell
Another hidden pool at Titchwell
As I woke up it looked a bit murky outside and so I delayed the start of my day's birding. However by mid-morning the skies looked a bit brighter and so I made my way to Swaffham Forest where I joined Paul Varney and we settled in for raptor watching. We were soon watching a male Goshawk over to our left which was soon joined by a female bird. They were interacting together as we watched. The sun appeared and 5 Common Buzzards swirled around high up. The Goshawk disappeared whilst a Sparrowhawk flew across the tops of the trees. Another immature Goshawk appeared before we noted 3 Red Kites in the air together along with three more Common Buzzards. Soon after we were treated to a wonderful wing-clapping display from a male Goshawk who put on an amazing courtship performance. Its apparent slow deep wing beats kept us enthralled as it kept up its territorial display above the trees. For a while we had a backdrop sound of a Woodlark singing.
At Narford three Great Spotted Woodpeckers kept me amused as it was obvious that two males were arguing over a female in the same tree!
I ventured out today in the freezing gloom of an English February day and made my way to the Tesco car park in Hunstanton where six Waxwings had been seen yesterday. At first I was unsure of where to look but soon found them sitting in the Poplar trees overlooking the petrol station. I only had my little bridge camera with me and cursed as I could not fathom out how to alter the ISO settings. It was much too gloomy for the settings that the camera was insisting on using! My DSLR is so much easier to change the ISO settings. People were using the footpath and so the Waxwings were always being pushed off the Rosehips that they were feeding on.
Looking out of the window did not inspire me to do any birding at all today as a few scattered snowflakes were falling and the skies were grey and gloomy. However I had been following the Twitter feed yesterday on a possible Bluethroat in Lincolnshire that wasn't far from my old stamping grounds where I used to birdwatch in Lincolnshire. A Spring male is a very attractive bird so I set the Google maps on my phone and set off. Arriving in West Pinchbeck I was soon having doubts on the route I had taken along a small minor road with an 'Unsuitable for Motors' sign half way along it. Luckily for me I wasn't the only soul that arrived at a closed gate with little room to park except on a very muddy verge. The two of us found a map of Willow Tree Fen in a barn, acting as a Visitor Centre but we were less than sure where to go until we met a runner who told us about where other birders had gathered. Yes you guessed it, we had come in the wrong entrance! Never mind we soon had an advantage as the Bluethroat hopped its way towards us along the track as the other birders stood watching its back from the other side. How I wished that I had brought my DSLR with me once again but I am determined that I will master the bridge camera!
I drive to Norwich to catch my flight to Amsterdam, where I have a long day ahead as I will then fly to Tokyo, Japan overnight.
I take a flight from Tokyo to Okinawa island which is in the Pacific roughly half way between Japan and Taiwan.
As I intend to do a trip report I will keep this brief. Okinawa is a tropical island and I soon found myself too hot in the clothing that I had brought!
Pyer's (Okinawa) Woodpecker
One of the endemics to Okinawa, I was pleased to see this bird as it is an endangered species in a very restricted area.
Arriving just after dark I was pleased to see another speciality to the Ryukyu Islands, the Ryukyu Robin. As the photo was taken in almost pitch dark down a highly vegetated trail I was rather pleased how it came out!
Back in Tokyo, it had been many years since I had seen Black-faced Spoonbills. They are critically endangered and it brought memories flooding back to my time in Mai Po in the 90s when I saw them last.
Black-faced Spoonbills (and Grey Heron)
I boarded a ferry bound for Miyakejima , a small island that needed an overnight crossing out into the Pacific, but that wasn't quite what happened!!! (You will have to wait for the trip report to see!!)
I am all alone on Hachijojima island and in search of an endemic to these small Pacific Islands. I have only a limited time to find it.......yikes!!!
And here it is! The star bird. However time and the weather was against me and try as I might I failed to find the split Owston's Varied Tit. I cursed the now heavy rain as my brolly came out and a waiting boat that would sail without me if I failed to show up in time!
Today four of us caught the Bullet Train to Negano and taxied it to Jigokudani monkey park where Japanese Macaques swim in the hot spring waters of the volcanic mountains. Unfortunately it poured with rain and the snow and ice underfoot made walking conditions very difficult along the track. However the macaques were there and watching them in the hot water made many of us wish we could joim them!
Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey)
Another flight today as I flew to Hokkaido along with Gunnar, Marcel and Michael. Deep snow greeted us as did the cold! Thank goodness I had brought extra jumpers as I was going to need them! We drove to the Red-crowned Crane Centre where blue skies made for wonderful viewing conditions.
After spending a short time at the bridge where the cranes roost we drove to Kintappu for a spell of seawatching. Although the wind was a bit of a fight we managed to see several alcids that were new to me.
Sue with no feet at Kiritappu.
We were all delighted with our seawatching ticks and drove to Washi no Yado where there is a set-up for seeing Blakiston's Fish Owl. We joined lots of photographers from all around the world and after a wonderful Japanese meal we settled in for a very cold long night!
It was one of the coldest nights that I have known for waiting for a bird to show up. We were led to believe that the bird would probably show up between 10pm and midnight or not at all. A bit risky as we only had one night here. By 4am we had almost thrown in the towel as lots of others had done that had started the vigil with us. Now there were only a few hardy souls left. I saw no point giving up now as we had already lost our night's sleep. Only an hour of darkness left to go. It was now minus ten degrees and I had every available jumper on that I had brought along with thick tights underneath my ski trousers. Another 30 minutes passed by and hope was fading fast. All of a sudden the Blakiston's Fish Owl flew into a nearby tree. It was HUGE ! The few of us that remained grabbed our cameras and hoped for the best. I did not have a tripod for my camera and rested my camera on a window ledge. At 1/80 second setting for my shutter speed, I did not hold out for much hope for a photo but was advised that this was the best setting against the lighting that was being used to light up the small fish pond. I clicked away and am delighted at the images that I have obtained of this iconic owl. What a bird! After eleven hours staring at the same small little pond through the night at minus ten I think we all deserved the tick!
Blakiston's Fish Owl (a well deserved tick!)
We went to the accommodation that we had not actually used as we had been up all night to freshen up. We drove down to Rausu Harbour and boarded the boat that took us out to the sea ice. This was an amazing day! To see 200+ eagles, a mix of Steller's Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles is an experience I shall never forget. One of my top ten birding experiences!
Steller's Sea Eagle
Steller's Sea Eagle
We stayed in a birding lodge overnight where we had had a wonderful Japanese meal. I will miss all the sushi I have had this holiday...fabulous food! in the morning we watched the busy bird table in the deep snow before leaving for Nemuro where I made a very poor decision....one I bitterly regret. My own fault! Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I spent the time in Nemuro watching Black Scoter, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Slaty-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull before sitting in a massage chair for an hour in order to warm up with a cup of Green tea!
I seem to have a very hectic schedule this year and although I only got to bed at 1am, I have an appointment in Oxford to get to and saw six Red Kites in the Peterborough/ Oundle/Thrapston area. I somehow managed to miss the whole early evening as I was so jet-lagged!
I saw two Common Buzzards and a Red Kite near Oundle on my way home and two Common Buzzards were soaring over Roydon Common.
After an early meeting at the Snettisham RSPB office I made my way to New Holkham where after a bit of a wait watching Common Buzzards, a Red Kite and a few Lapwing , Pete, Anna, Paul and myself listened to the Spring singing of Skylark. A Yellowhammer sat in a hedgeline as Anna kindly offered me a sandwich. We all knew this would mean that the harrier would put in an appearance whilst our hands were all busy! Sure enough a male Marsh Harrier appeared and a few minutes later it was in a tangle with another harrier. The orange that almost sparkled at us in the sunlight meant that it had to be the Pallid Harrier and sure enough it was! The birds were distant and I knew that I would struggle with a phonescope image. But never mind, better than nothing to get the idea!
Starting at Santon Downham with friends we walked down the river and admired two Mandarin Duck and didn't wait too long before we were watching the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flying from tree to tree in the Poplar tree area. Even more trees had come down in the recent storms. A lone Crossbill sat up at the top of a tree across the other side of the river. We enjoyed watching a Grey Wagtail sitting on a fallen tree as well as several Siskin calling above our heads. We moved to Grimes Graves where although we heard Wood Lark we did not see any.
At Lakenheath RSPB we walked up to the riverbank where Kathryn and Gwyn pointed out the pair of Garganey sitting on the otherside of Holkwold washes. It was very pleasant sitting on the seat along with friends, eating our lunch admiring all the birds on view. There were many Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck on the water as a Stonechat sat on a dead twig in the grassy strip in front of us. A Little Egret flew along the river before landing on the bank. We watched Common Buzzards and many corvids spiralling over the trees.
At Cressingham did not see the Stone Curlew that were present on Sunday but one of my friends had seen three there this morning. There were many hundreds of corvids in the air as we watched at least seven Common Buzzards and another raptor pass through.
At another location we watched a Goshawk and yet more displaying Common Buzzards.
I have now finished my trip report to Japan but it will take sometime to upload to my trip reports page. As Freewebs now have a new system for uploading material I am still getting to grips with and because my diary is so hectic at the moment it may take a while! (How I wish there were more hours in the day!)
There were hundreds of Redwings flying west over the car park at Titchwell as I arrived at work this morning.
There was quite a passage of Common Buzzards over Titchwell car park as I was working. It was a beautiful day and most birds were flying really high up. A Red Kite joined in at one point.
I am still up loading my trip report to Japan on my trip reports page, but I have got to the Steller's Sea Eagles now!!!
A walk on Roydon Common and Grimston Warren was much breezier than I expected. I left the car and got distracted by the call of a Mediterranean Gull calling above my head. it did not take long for me to see it. I pointed it out to my companion. A little further on I saw a pair of Stonechat before watching 5 Meadow Pipits land on the model airplane field. A carried on and another pair of Stonechat were near the gate before I went on up the hill. I watched the nesting Lapwing before making my way to Grimston Warren. A Wood Lark sat on a tree stump and sang to me whilst yet anorther pair of Stonechat sat closely together watching my every move. Skylark were singing above my head as I walked back towards the Common. When I reached my car a lone male Stonechat sat in the field.
I have now finished my trip report to Japan which can be seen on my trip reports page or at : http://www.freewebs.com/suebryan/japan-2017
As I was working in the Titchwell car park, I watched seven Common Crane flying over today.
Seven Common Crane over Titchwell car park
At lunch-time at Titchwell I walked down the main footpath and watched two Little Ringed Plover running around Thornham pool. Chiffchaff were singing in the woodland area and Cetti's Warbler were singing in the reedbed as I made my way back to the shop.
John Geeson and I started early at Titchwell where we were surprised to only find one birder along the Meadow Trail. We decided to space ourselves out to give us the greatest chance of finding the Red-flanked Bluetail that had been present since Saturday morning. It wasn't long before I turned around to look behind me that a bird caught my eye that had a quivering tail. It had to be the bird but it was very obscured. A few seconds later it flew a short distance and I realised that I was indeed looking at a Red-flanked Bluetail. I called to John who came running along the board walk. Getting a photograph was quite a different matter with all the bare branches in the way and the heavy mist. With a little patience I managed a few shots as it flew across the boardwalk before disappearing once again.
John and I walked to the boardwalk platform and admired a Cetti's Warbler and a pair of Bullfinch along the way.
After a long day of stocktaking at work the staff and volunteers at Titchwell, all headed for Hunstanton for a well-earned meal and quiz. On the way Sally and I pulled over by the cliffs for a short while to watch the Fulmars circling around the clifftops.
John and I walked the length of Snettisham Country Park and on to Heacham. Adding migrants to our year lists was hard work even though it was a beautiful day. Several Willow Warblers were calling in the scrub as well as lots of Chiffchaff. We watched as they caught flies before moving on. We admired a few Stonechat but it was not until the green hut at Heacham that we added our next year tick in the shape of two Northern Wheatear. We watched a Common Buzzard over Ken Hill wood as well as a Marsh Harrier that was circling over the marsh. Walking back along the inner seabank we saw very little except a flock of Curlew, Shoveler, Greylag Geese as well as Canada Geese. We wandered into the scrub and eventually saw a Blackcap that was singing.
Nar Valley was equally hard work with the exception of Chiffchaff and Blackcap. It was a beautiful day and we did better for butterflies, seeing Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell in Bilney Woods.
Meeting up with a few friends, I watched the Green-winged Teal in one of the dykes at Burnham Norton before it flew to one of the pools where a Little Ringed Plover was standing. Along another bank we watched a pair of Garganey.
It was a beautiful evening and so Sally and I decided to go for a walk after work on the reserve. Many of our visitors to Titchwell had told us throughout the day how well the Bearded Tits had been showing and so we decided to go and have a look too. They were right! Sally and I watched as a female Bearded Tit climbed up the reed stem by the West Bank path and we admired it in the evening sun. We walked on down to the Parrinder Hide where I counted at least 12 Mediterranean Gulls on the Freshmarsh. We helped four visitors identify various birds and they were thrilled to have some help as they were desperate to see the Mediterranean Gulls. Sally and I are so lucky to work at such a wonderful reserve.
My plans for the day were quickly altered when I realised what a beautiful day it was going to be, so after a quick bit of shopping I went to Derby Fen to see what migrants had arrived in the scrub bushes. a Willow Warbler was singing its heart out but it was not keen to have its photo taken as it moved from bush to bush. Several Chiffchaff were singing too but there were no other warblers singing. I wandered over to Leziate Fen where I saw two Common Snipe before making my way back home to hang out the washing. I tackled some gardening before deciding to wander along to West Newton where I watched a Grey Wagtail catching insects at the mill. Two Swallow flew over the mill and a Mistle Thrush scoured the ground looking for food. On the pool four male Mallard would not leave the poor female Mallard alone before she had had enough and flew off. A Buzzard flew over the A148.
A Red Kite sailed over me as I was working in Titchwell car park.
John and I wandered around Burnham Norton on a beautiful day hoping to see the Green-winged Teal again, but had to settle for watching several Marsh Harrier flying around the reed bed. Willow Warblers were singing as were Cetti's Warblers as we enjoyed our walk. We drove on to Kelling Heath where we had good views of Dartford Warblers posing in the sun. They were joined by Stonechats also posing on top of the gorse. After admiring the steam trains we watched an Adder slither across the path.
At Beeston bump, after admiring Swallows and Blackcaps, John and I enjoyed a cup of tea offered by Giles and Judy Dunmore who have a wonderful view across the valley from their patio. As we sat in the sun seven Common Crane flew across calling as they went! we could have sat there for the rest of the day but John was keen to return to Burnham Norton where the Green-winged Teal was now showing. It didn't take us long to locate it in one of the pools by the pathway. We finished the day with a scrumptious evening meal in a local pub.
With my companion we walked across Roydon Common where a lone Sand Martin flew overhead. I counted 11 Wheatear in total scattered across the common in areas of grass. Whilst we were admiring the displaying Lapwing a Stonechat came and perched on the fence in front of us. We carried on down to The Delft where we saw 1 Jack Snipe and 10 Common Snipe but no other waders at all.
A Whimbrel was sitting in the long grass on Roydon Common. I walked a little further to listen to a Woodlark that was singing high above me until it descended onto the ground in front of me.
A Whimbrel flew over the car park at Titchwell today.
Jill and I walked from Snettisham village, through Ken Hill woods, across the fields and down though the Country Park to the beach. It was a glorious day, not at all like the forecast had predicted. A Cuckoo called as we crossed the field and it didn't take us too long before we saw it flying. Sedge Warblers were singing from the Hawthorn bushes and a Common Whitethroat flew up and caught an insect a bit further on. We were surprised at the lack of hirundines still.
John, Sally and I started at Snettisham and immediately had a Lesser Whitethroat singing in the hedge as we got out of the car. A lone Swallow flew over the horse paddock as we walked to the Country Park where a Cuckoo was calling. Cetti’s Warblers, Willow Warblers were singing as we stopped to watch a Sedge Warbler. We walked through to Heacham where there was a Wheatear running around the grass near the tin hut. A Common Whitethroat was observed before we stopped to enjoy a cup of tea and Eccles cakes in the cafe at Heacham. We decided to walk the inner seabank back. Near one of the pools we counted seven Whimbrel and four Curlew feeding in the grass and admired a Summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit along with a couple of other Black-tailed Godwit. A Common Redshank was also in the pool.
Once we were back in the Snettisham end of the park we stopped to take photos of a Cuckoo sat in a bush. A little futher we stopped again to listen to a Grasshopper Warbler reeling before we saw it sitting quietly in a small hole in the Hawthorn bush. On the pools on the field-side of the bank, Shoveler, Shelduck, Teal, Mallard and Tufted Duck were all present as was a Little Egret. Another Cuckoo was spotted in the field just before we left the bank. Back at the car we admired the Lesser Whitethroat whilst we listened to a Blackcap singing.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at home before setting out to Roydon Common where a pair of Stonechat kept us entertained as we watched a strange pairing of a Mistle Thrush and a Fieldfare that were keeping each other company. They were still together several hours later when we returned. A Kestrel hovered overhead as we watched Northern Wheatear pose for us. Down at The Delft we saw ten Common Snipe before watching a lone Whimbrel in the model aeroplane field.
A Turtle Dove was waiting for me as I drove into the car park for work this morning at RSPB Titchwell Marsh.
I started my day at Nar Valley Fisheries where the NarVOS group were meeting to repair the tern rafts. A Cuckoo flew over the track as I was making my way up to the lakes where they were meeting. Mick East , Paul Wilton and Jon Hall were busy fishing for the old rafts and managed to repair them. Alan, Stewart and Ian took to the dinghy and made their way out to the now half-submerged raft assessing what to do.
Alan wondering if they are still afloat
Smiling with relief!
' Come on Ian, the tide's coming in' !
Paul and Mick fishing for a raft
Jon assessing the damage
Jon making repairs
I enjoyed a walk before work on Roydon Common where a Blackcap was singing its heart out in the gorse bushes as I walked up to the ridge. A Whimbrel called as I walked up the hill from the model aeroplane field. I could see a Ring Ouzel on the ridge. When I was closer I could see that there were infact two Ring Ouzels present. However they weren't keen to have their photos taken.
During the afternoon at Titchwell one of our volunteers radioed the centre to say that there was a Black Tern present on the Freshmarsh. It wasn't long before we all had the bird on our yearlists!
After a few short visits to other sites I stopped at Hilborough where I joined a worker from the estate. I expressed a few concerns and he phoned the farm where he gained me some information. Sorted! A lone Stone Curlew ran into view whilst we were talking. Baz and Phil turned up and we enjoyed good views of the Stone Curlew and watched Tree Sparrows flying from the hedge.
I motored on and stopped en-route to Lakenheath where I only had to walk a few yards to watch two Tree Pipits singing away at the top of a tree. At Lakenheath the Glossy Ibis was feeding in Hockwold Washes. There were still no hirundines to be seen anywhere but I did add a Reed Warbler for a yeartick. Sedge Warbler and Cetti's Warblers were also calling. Dave and I walked around the bank but failed to find the reported Whinchat. Back at Pentney two Little Ringed Plovers were running on the nearside bank and two Yellow Wagtails were running around on the ground.
We stopped at Ormesby Broad where Common Terns were flying around and onto Filby Broad where a Common Kingfisher brightened up the scene. There were many hirundines flying over the water, including House Martin, Sand Martin and Swallow. Common terns were also flying around.
We finished the day at Great Yarmouth Bird Club where John gave an excellent talk.
It was a lovely evening and so after work I drove across to Pentney where there were four Yellow Wagtails running around the grass. A Common Tern was sat on the island.
I opened my kitchen blind this morning to see a Blackcap singing its
heart out on some dead Elder above my Laurel Bush. What a great start to
It took me four attempts to see the male Redstart at Titchwell today! But perseverance paid off in the end! On the Freshmarsh Eddie, Penny and I watched nearly 100 Mediterranean Gulls. What a fabulous reserve this is (yes I know I am biased!) Two Common Sandpipers were running around in front of a Ruff. We watched several gulls play with and finally eat a Pipefish that they had caught. Two Barnacle Geese were also on the island inside the fence.
A quick stop at Pentney revealed a Barnacle Goose. It was a bit of a surprise to see it there!
At Sparham Pools, John and I searched through all the Common Terns that were feeding over the deep pool. Arctic Terns had been reported but John, Dave Appleton and I could only find Common Terns. We walked on through to the other pools and had wonderful views of 8 Black Terns. They are such a delight to see. A Blackcap was singing from one of the bushes. We stopped along one of the paths as a Slow Worm slithered its way across it. Dave had a few micro moths to show us which looked interesting. We stopped at Swanton Moreley which has sadly been all locked up with access denied to birders.
John and I met up with Julian and Sarah Bhalero at Cley Visitor Centre. It was so good to see them both. Their determination has to be admired and John and I both hope that Julian's progress continues so that we can get him back out birding.
John and I walked down to Kelling Quags where John was keen to find a Yellow Wagtail. It took a while but I managed to locate one hiding at the side of some Juncus. We watched Stonechat, Reed Bunting and a host of Linnets all sitting atop bushes and fences. As we walked back up the track I heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling beside me. We had to wait a short while before we saw it.
At Friary Hills we watched a Barn Owl catch a vole as two Marsh Harriers flew over the marsh. On the way home I stopped to see a Red Kite.
I started at Pentney where there were at least ten Sand Martins flying over the water. I moved onto Nar Valley Fisheries where a Grey Heron and a Common buzzard flew over the car as I drove along the trackway. Down by the pylon lines a Garden Warbler was singing along with two Blackcap.
I drove onto Welney and nearly ran over a Yellow Wagtail as it flitted across the road. I stopped just before reaching the VIsitor Centre to view a pool from the roadside. Here 4 Black-winged Stilts were wading around the pool. I managed to phone-scope a pair mating. Just before I left Mike spotted a Garganey flying in.
Mating Black-winged Stilts
At Downham Market Sewage Treatment Works along by the railway line, I watched a Nightingale. As I walked back to my car a Common Whitethroat sang at the top of a bush.
Before work I walked down the West Bank path at Titchwell to admire a Whinchat sitting in the hedgeline on Thornham Marsh.
After some exciting events Kathryn and I had a few hours left in the day and spent a few hours walking at RSPB Otmoor. Here we watched 4 Hobbies sat around on posts as well as Red Kites flying above our heads. We watched a close cuckoo in the hedge and I cursed at my lack of a camera with me.
Kathryn and I had an early start to the day as we were marshalling a cycling event in London raising money for Islip school. Chris and his Dad were going to cycle the 70 miles from Westminster to Islip along with 200 other riders. Kathryn and I had the first marshalling post in London and also had to organise the next marshalling post too. Luckily all went well and soon all the riders were through giving us plenty of time to return to the beautiful sunny weather in Oxford. At Stokenchurch on the way home I counted 19 Red Kites in the air together all enjoying the sun as they lifted on the thermals. We tracked Chris and his Dad and I realised that I would have a couple of hours spare to re-visit RSPB Otmoor which is close to Kathryn's home.
It was a wonderful sunny day and watching 18 Hobbies in the air here was stunning. Red Kites were also in abundance as I watched a Little Egret making a stab at a fish. A Turtle Dove purred away in a trackside tree and a Cuckoo flew by. I chatted to one of the wardens who enlightened me about the reserve. I certainly enjoyed the artwork of some of the signs.
The rest of the afternoon was spent imbibing beer, food and enjoying the sun along with the rest of the family and friends at the village hall watching all the cyclists arriving after their 70 miles of pleasure. It was certainly a good day for all in the sun!
Kathryn, Chris, Richard and Catherine after cycling and marshalling.
After work I drove up to Chalkpit Lane at Choseley to watch the four Dotterel hunkered down in the field of peas
Dotterel (distant phone-scope view)
Meeting up with friends it was good to see a variety of birds at Bintree this afternoon. A Greenshank was wading around the washland between the river and the road along with two Wood Sandpipers. As we were watching a Red Kite flew above our heads and back towards the woodland. We turned around as we heard a Cuckoo calling in the distance but could not see it. It was good that we faced that way as a Kingfisher was sitting on the fence down by the bridge by the white railings. We counted four Common Snipe as time drifted by and a Yellow Wagtail put in an appearance. A Cuckoo then flew over the trees by the house back towards Guist. We heard a Grey Wagtail calling above us but it disappeared before any of us saw it. There were several broods of Mallard ducklings as well as Lapwings possibly defending chicks. The Grey Heron looked decidedly hungry as it eyed them all up!
Mute Swan with a Wood Sandpiper in the foreground
John and I made our way down the West Bank path at Titchwell and sat in Island Hide. Here we watched two Little Tern alight onto one of the islands in front of the Parrinder Hide. Mediterranean Gulls were still in the fenced area along with Black-headed Gulls but not in the numbers that Penny, Eddie and I had seen last week. Avocets were busily feeding along with Black-tailed Godwits and a Marsh Harrier flew into the reedbed.
After a day serving in the shop at Titchwell I drove to Ludlow in Shropshire to join my daughter and friends at a converted barn deep in the Shropshire hills for Kathryn's hen party.
The barn for the hen party near Ludlow
The Shropshire views
Kathryn, the bride-to-be
A very proud mum Sue and Kathryn all ready to party!
I woke up after last night's games and alcohol to stunning views from the barn over the Shropshire hillside. A Pied Wagtail was running around the lawn and Swallows were hawking for insects calling as they flew. After a cooked breakfast, all the hens at the party decided that a walk was in order before the day's activities commenced. This seemed a good idea as we all were in need of some fresh air! Olympic games were on the menu and it soon became clear that Emma and Vicky were out to win! I thought I was competitive but the modern day generation of women certainly know how to win. Good on them! I admired their spirit. Later in the day I ventured into Ludlow where after chancing upon a beer festival at the castle I enjoyed views of a Red Kite and a Common Buzzard. In the evening after a scrumptious meal prepared by Izzy, I left the hens to their own devices as I could not stand the pace or keep up with the Pimms and Prosseco!
Some of the hens were a little jaded in the morning but a few of us were fit enough for a walk on Clee Hill. Kathryn, Emma and I left the others and drove up to near the summit where we watched Wheatear and Skylark probably near nests in the rocks. Common Buzzards flew along with Crows and we heard a Cuckoo calling which was a bit of a surprise up so high. The view from the top was stunning. Joined by Catherine and Richard (an invited hen for a few hours) we enjoyed a final meal together before departing for home. It had been a wonderful weekend and Kathryn is very lucky to have some amazing friends. It was also good to finally put a face to a name that I have heard so much about over the years.
Sue and Kathryn on Clee Hill
As I walked out to the hut in the car park at Titchwell this morning a Spotted Flycatcher flew across the path and landed in a tree above my head. I alerted a few birders who were delighted to see it. On my way home I called into Flitcham where I watched the Little Owl in its usual tree along with a Mediterranean Gull sitting amongst eight Black-headed Gulls. Two Red Kites flew over the fields at the back with one of the birds with another bird in its talons. A juvenile Pied Wagtail was on my lawn today being fed by its parent.
Pied Wagtail (juv)
At Walsey Hills Peter and I had the briefest of views of the Iberian Chiffchaff which was singing only occasionally after being trapped and rung that morning.
As it was such a glorious day we decided to go to Kelling Heath and after stopping to admire a Slow Worm, we watched a Woodlark and some Linnets posing in the sun. A party of newly-fledged Stonechats kept us entertained for quite a while as they enjoyed the hot sunny weather as we did too. Whitethroats were busy flitting around and singing at the top of several bushes.
An exciting day had been planned with John, Stew and I to meet up with Ian Lewington who was going to show us a few wildlife specials in the Goring area. It is an area that John and I have been to before to visit some of the sites but it was good to have someone as knowledgeable as Ian to act as a local guide. At Grimston the day started well with a Little Owl sitting on one of the telegraph posts. Once we had met up with Ian he took us down by the side of the Thames and showed us the area for Club-tailed Dragonfly. These beasts do not behave as other Dragonflies do and we were soon down on our hands and kness looking for exuvia on the bankside. We watched another Little Owl sitting on a fence post occasionally diving to the ground to catch its prey. Banded Demoiselles kept us entertained as they flew around.
Club-tailed Dragonfly exuvia
Banded Demoiselle (m)
Banded Demoiselle (f)
We moved onto Hartslock where we had an amazing display of Monkey Orchids, Lady Orchids and Monkey x Lady hybrid Orchids dispaying some real vigour in their hybridisation.
Monkey x Lady Orchid hybrid
We moved onto The Holies where the target species was Adonis Blue Butterfly. John and I had planned to do this last year but the weather had had other ideas. Soon Ian, John Stew and I were facing an uphill task (literally) as we climbed up the hillside. John soon found a Common Blue butterfly and after some searching he found an Adonis Blue Butterfly. Soon we all had 'our eye in' and knew what to look for. We saw several and were quite lucky in obtaining some images as they flitted around from flower to flower.
A wonderful display of Monkey x Lady Orchid hybrids
Common Blue Butterfly
Stew, Sue and Ian Lewington
Stew, Ian and John
Adonis Blue Butterfly (m)
Adonis Blue Butterfly (f)
All day long we had watched Red Kites flying above our heads. They are certainly numerous in this area. A Grass Snake slithered across the path as we made our way back to the cars. We had had an amazing day with Ian and it is so nice to be with knowledgeable people who share my passion for wildlife!
John and I had a lovely afternoon wandering the paths of Titchwell where the breeding birds were in full swing. Avocet chicks are beginning to wander now as their parents defend them to all comers. Male Marsh Harriers came and went as they delivered food to the females and Common Terns flew around the Fresh Marsh. Down near the beach Sandwich Terns flew over us as we established that there wasn't much to be seen on the sea.
Meeting up with Gary and Jenny again after our first meeting nineteen years ago, when we shared a cruise to Antarctica it was good to meet their twin sons, Ed and Alex for the first time. We all share a passion for birding and the boys were very excited as we were to watch a pair of Avocet take down a huge female Peregrine on the Fresh Marsh as it tried to take their chick. We had a couple of minutes of high drama as the female Peregrine struggled to cope with the attack as she lay on the mud in front of us from the Parrinder hide at Titchwell. We watched a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits scatter as the Peregrine scared everything off the Fresh Marsh before the attack. It was a beautiful evening as we made our way to the pub for a wonderful meal sharing all our tales of foreign travel over the years and listening to the boys share their tales. We were joined by a fellow diner who came to thank us for entertaining him whilst he had his meal. It was certainly an evening packed with laughter!
I am asked many times a day whilst working in the car park at Titchwell where visitors can see a Turtle Dove. I am lucky in that I get to see one of these beauties on a frequent basis and today was no exception.
After work, John picked me up and we headed north. It was a long night as we motored on to Scotland.
John and I arrived at Glasdrum, just north of Oban and found the site we were looking for. A Garden Warbler was in full song as we studied exactly the trail from the set of typed-out instructions that we had. We admired several Heath Spotted Orchids. However the weather was against us and after visiting Loch Creran where we watched Goosander we made our way back to Oban where we enjoyed a lovely meal.
Ferry to Oban
Joining forces with Norfolk birders I was lucky when I arrived at Church Norton in getting a spot in the car park. It meant the it was a short walk to join many birders lined up on the bank overlooking the shingle islands where Black-headed Gulls, Mediterranean Gulls, Little Terns and Sandwich Terns were nesting. We watched a Peregrine flying overhead which upset the terns a few times as they flew around giving us a chance to search through them for the Elegant Tern that we had all come to see. After a few false alarms the tern was spotted flying in to the colony. It wasn't long before a few of us managed to get a couple of short but good flight views of the bird. Along with the other Norfolk birders I moved to the hide where we gained some height where we could see the Elegant Tern sitting on the ground amongst the vegetation. It was too far for my 400mm lens but a distant phone-scope photo will have to do!
Elegant Tern (second bird to the left of the Valerian)
Good news from Titchwell today as we have had a juvenile Turtle Dove fledge from a nest.
After a lovely day and good evening a friend and I wandered into Thetford forest along a few rides. We had already seen a Barn Owl that evening which is always a good omen. We followed an Emperor Dragonfly and heard a distant Nightjar. A Common Buzzard flew over as the corvids went to roost. We stood and waited until dusk and at 9.47pm a juvenile Long-eared Owl started calling from a nearby tree. Soon it was joined by its sibling and we moved position to get a better viewing position. After a short while the adult Long-eared Owl was flying over our heads as it went in search of prey to feed its two young birds that by now were calling almost constantly to be fed. What a magical experience to be out in the forest at dusk and in the dark watching and listening to Long-eared Owls!
John and I had a good view of a Red Kite flying along my road in Roydon. At Titchwell, one of the Turtle Doves was showing well in the car park.
Janet , my next door neighbour and I counted ten Siskins on her feeders today. I would like to thank my friends and family for making my birthday today so special. The evening meal was certainly one to remember! I think I may have a sore head in the morning!
I was working in the Visitor Centre at Titchwell when a visitor came in and told me that there was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on the hanging baskets outside. I grabbed my phone and managed this quick photo of it before it flew off.
An exciting day today as the RSPB has launched its short crowdfunder appeal to rebuild the Snettisham hide that was lost during the storm surge that so badly affected the Norfolk coastline. Pease consider donating money to rebuild the hide at this wonderful reserve
Driving between Great Massingham and Grimston, I stopped at Grimston Heath where a Quail was calling from the cereal field. I could not make out if I was listening to one or two birds calling as the sounds seemeed to be coming from slightly different directions. A Turtle Dove and a Common Buzzard were also noted. Six Skylarks were singing and displaying as two Yellowhammers flew over the road. I drove to Grimston where I had been told about a Little Owl in one of the lanes but I failed to find it. However I was surprised when a Red Kite flew from the churchyard and a Sparrowhawk made a swoop in front of me landing in a nearby tree for a moment or two. A Kestrel hunted over nearby gardens as many Swift screamed above me.
I had an amazing evening at the Corn Exchange as part of the King’s Lynn Festival listening to a talk given by Ranuph Fiennes. Ranuph regaled us with his tales of his travels across Antarctica with a wonderful sense of humour and all the hardships that he endured along with his companions after months of planning and raising sponsorship. He told us about the world record attempts and of his time as a SAS soldier in the army which thrilled us all and made us laugh. I have been to Antarctica but could still only begin to imagine what it must have been like to endure the 160 mph winds and minus 60 degree temperatures living in tents and paper huts compared with my living in a luxurious ship every night. He of course had to haul his supplies with him and lose 6 stone in weight as a consequence. This was not the only thing that he lost. He lost his fingertips to frostbite and had gangrene in his feet. My admiration for the man was immense as he told us of climbing Mount Everest only weeks after having a heart attack and having a double heart bypass operation. He also ran seven marathons in seven days in every continent. The talk was the best event that I have been to in the King’s Lynn Festival and certainly beats standing in Tuesday Market Place listening to some infernal noise! He certainly showed us how some people live their lives by pushing the boundaries and not to accept the mundane that so many people do.
Ranulph Fiennes signing books at the Corn Exchange
I have had a really busy period repairing damage, decorating, and gardening to bring my home back up to standard and so my days off have been fully utilised, meaning that I have had little time for birding given that two of my children have got married in the last 6 months with all this entails. It has been a bit of a whirlwind of a time and so with yet still more to do it was some relief to meet up with friends at Cley early in the morning to watch a Long-billed Dowitcher gracing itself on the Serpentine off the East bank. It was good to catch up with many of the old stalwarts. The news was still not on the pager as the bird being present and so it was relatively peaceful. The bird took a liking to one of the back channels but I was lucky when I arrived as the bird showed quite well before disappearing out of view. I stood with Ron and Sue, Ann and Andrew and listened to their tales of forthcoming trips and shared my plans for my forthcoming trips. Thanks must also go to Trevor who kindly made space for me.
I bought a mountain bike today! The plan is to get fit once again (or drop!!!!)
After working in the shop all day Sally and I joined our regulars in the Parrinder hide and watched a Pectoral Sandpiper feeding amongst the Dunlin. Trevor picked out a Yellow-legged Gull standing next to a Lesser Black-backed Gull as we admired all the multi-coloured Ruff running around in front of us. A Spotted Redshank had lost some of it wonderful summer plumage as we scanned through all the waders on offer. Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover added to the scene. The Freshmarsh was heaving with Avocet and there were any Mediterranean Gulls still feeding young.
Sally and I made our way back to the visitor centre and joined the assembled crowd of our amazing volunteers for the annual Hog Roast. Clare had done an amazing feast of quiches and trifles too which we all enjoyed.
As I drove home I stopped to admire the stunning sunset at Choseley.
Les and Jim with the film crew
At Snettisham RSPB it was the day for our first live streaming on Facebook for our Crowdfunding appeal to replace the hide which was washed away by the storm of 2015. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide So I made my way down in the late afternoon to join the rest of the staff and volunteers and members of the public who had come to watch. The waders were spectacular as they flew around whilst Sandwich Terns called overhead and Pied Wagtails flitted around catching insects. Knot, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit put on an amazing display for us all to admire. There was quite clearly an arrival of Common Sandpipers and later I was to count 21 birds all in one flock of them! After watching the filming taking place I made my way to the hide where most of the Dunlin had settled and picked out a Little Tern roosting in with the Common Tern and Drew picked out a Little Stint in with the Dunlin. I heard the call of a Common Sandpiper and all of a sudden a flock of 21 Common Sandpiper flew by us!
Barn Owl chick. (Photo taken under BTO licenced ringing scheme)
A pleasant morning was spent helping to ring young Barn Owls. They were very placid as rings were placed carefully on their legs under BTO licence by an experienced ringer who has permission to ring Barn Owls.
A Liitle Owl and a Kestrel were watched (or were watching us!) too. We noted several young Black-headed Gulls on the fields.
Along with another member of RSPB staff, I made my way down to the reserve at Snettisham where we checked out the hides and the birds on the pits and in The Wash. This reserve is fantastic at any time of year for the sheer number of birds that it hosts. The Bar-tailed Godwit on the mud were looking resplendent in their orangey-red summer plumage along with Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, Shelduck, Greater Black-backed Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns all standing or feeding on the mud.
On the pits were feral Greylag, Canada and Egyptian Geese along with Mallard, Cormorant, Coot and Moorhen. A Common Sandpiper alighted on an island in front of us. Down at the new screen at the bottom of the pits the Knot and Black-tailed Godwit were a joy to watch as they shifted from one island to another whilst Turnstone, in their gaudy summer plumage, ran amongst them. On the pathway a Meadow Pipit stopped for a while as Linnets sat atop a bush. We shared information with BTO staff and returning to the car added a few Ringed Plovers to our tally. The tide was now rushing in and would soon cover the mud but after a long day it was time to go as we enjoyed the setting sun.
With limited time after work I had a quick stop with Steve and admired the 3 Black-necked Grebes on the Hardwick Flood Lagoon in King's Lynn. This can be viewed from the new roundabout after parking in the layby by the A149.
Three Black-necked Grebes
Two of the three Black-necked Grebes (adult and juvenile)
John and I set off for Northamptonshire for an insect day with the target species of Wood White butterfly as I needed this for my butterfly list. The forecast looked promising with enough warmth and sun. We arrived at Selcey Forest and after a bit of a wait gained the information that we needed from one of the car park attendants (Thank you Julie for being so helpful). We soon saw Meadow Brown, Large White, Small White, Common Blue, Red Admiral, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Peacock, Silver-washed Fritillary, Large Skipper and Green-veined White Butterflies but failed to see any Wood Whites.
We drove on to Bucknell Wood where with more sun the butterflies were far more active. We saw 30+ Silver-washed Fritillaries including a valezina as well as a Comma Butterfly, Essex Skipper and Speckled Wood to add to our day list. All of a sudden John spotted a Wood White Butterfly. Soon another joined it and I was delighted to add another butterfly to my British List.
Common Blue (f)
As it was John's birthday we thought it would be nice to have lunch out in The Broads. However it seemed rude not to call into Potter Heigham to see the Baird's Sandpiper on one of the pools there. We joined up with Chris Mills and Tim Allwood and members of the Great Yarmouth bird club and enjoyed views of the Baird's Sandpiper, three Green Sandpiper, five Common Sandpiper, four Dunlin, two Little Stint, two Black-tailed Godwit, many Ruff, two Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover. This new site deserves a good long look as you never know what can be lurking in the reed edges and the hidden pools. Other common birds included Moorhen, Coot, Greylag Geese, Mute Swan as well as two Bearded Tits flying across the pathway carrying food. We were very lucky with the weather as the predicted rain never arrived and John and I decided to sit outside in the warm as we enjoyed a wonderful birthday meal together.
Sue taking a photo of Black Darter on Roydon Common (John Geeson photo)
The heather on Roydon Common was looking spectacular as we admired all the Black Darter Dragonflies that were present on the pools and on the heather. we also noted Common Emerald damselfly, Emperor Dragonfly and Common Blue Damselfly. After talking to Bill we moved over to Grimston Warren where we watched Keeled Skimmer and Brown Hawker.
Birds were a bit sparce but we watched two Common Buzzard, two Stonechat, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Common Whitethroat and a lovely Hobby searching for dragonflies. We also heard two Green Woodpeckers but did not see them.
John showed me three Death Caps and explained how poisonous they were and the grim effects that they could have on the body. Ummmmmm....
With our usual crew of John, Pete and Nick, we set off for Birdfair, an annual event taking place at Rutland Water not to be missed. John and I had people to see on various stands to help plan for future birding trips. Nick was also going to be involved on one of the trips and so we agreed times to all be at various stands. I was also keeping my fingers crossed that Jan Wilczur still had the original painting that I had fallen in love with last year and so made a beeline for his stand, after a quick peek at Steve Cale's and Stephen Message's work. Luckily for me Jan was sitting below the painting that I wanted and it was still for sale. After a bit of negotiation and me reminding him of his offer to me last year a deal was struck and I am now the proud owner of the Merlin in Snow , which hangs in my newly-decorated dining room.
Merlin in Snow
Birdfair is an amazing event and besides the wonderful stands being manned by amazing people who do so much for conservation and promote their countries, it is also an opportunity to attend some wonderful talks on trips/countries that you have either been to or wish to. Although I have been to nearly 100 countries and/or islands there are still more to do and birds and animals to see. I spoke to many people, friends and former guides that I knew and listened to their recommendations for future trips.....as if I need any more ideas!!!!
I spent today in the garden harvesting the last of my beetroot and potatoes and moving the compost heap away from the shed and fence so that neither would rot, onto the garden. However I also spent the day with my little Robin who gave me so much joy as it spent the day within a couple of feet of me as it picked up bugs and worms that I had disturbed. It made me realise that so much wildlife is a joy right in our own back garden. I also had a wonderful evening meal with friends who also share my passion for wildlife. Thank you both.
After a morning of admin and sorting out my account with ebookers, Jill and I had a walk at Snettisham where we watched the wonderful display of Knot wheeling around as the tide came in. Out on the mud Curlew, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers were feeding.
During the night John, Ed and I made our way down to Portland Bill where we joined many birders all stood around a well known area of scrub at Culverwell in the fog. We watched several Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, a Tree Pipit, Blackbirds, Blue Tits and Ravens flying overhead. After several hours it was becoming apparent that the Yellow Warbler that we were hoping to see had departed. Ed found a nationally scarce moth on one of the bushes and so many of the birders came up to see it. The Jersey Tiger was a new one for my list and John reminded me that this is the moth that it is famous on Rhodes (where they refer to it as a butterfly) that inhabits a valley in huge numbers. We decided to have a cooked breakfast in the cafe before joining up with Lee to look for Lulworth Skipper. As usual Lee kept us all entertained with his tales of the morning's events. We chanced upon a couple of small orchids hidden in the grass. I was thrilled as this is the first time that I have seen Autumn Ladies Tresses and was a new one for my orchid list. Down at the observatory Dave Holman was pouring through the moth trap. We suddenly noticed another Jersey Tiger Moth on the wall!
Autumn Ladies Tresses
Although we had dipped our main target we had had a brilliant day with good company along with meeting up with old friends and I had had two new ticks for my Moth and Orchid list.
Arriving home from work I was delighted with my new wall canvas of my photo of a Steller's Sea Eagle that I took in Japan last February. It now adorns my newly-decorated dining room wall.
Having been delighted with my Steller's Sea Eagle wall canvas I ordered two more canvases of my photos. Having taken so many over the years it was a difficult choice. However I settled on two. So now my wall has a Blakiston's Fish Owl, the largest by mass Owl in the world, a photo that I took in Japan in February and a Harpy Eagle which needs no introduction to birders that I took in Venezuela in 2014.
My wall canvas of my photo of Blakiston's Fish Owl
My wall canvas of my photo of a Harpy Eagle
John and I started early and set off for Cantley where after signing in at the sugar factory drove down to the settling pits where we met up with Steve Holloway. Together we watched the Pectoral Sandpiper with a dozen Ruff and a Green Sandpiper on one settling pit and then watched a Wood Sandpiper along with 3 Common Sandpiper and another Green Sandpiper on another pit. A Marsh Harrier flew over the pit as a lone Swift flew high above us. Steve picked up an Osprey which John and I could not see as we were obscured by the trees.
After enjoying a picnic lunch sat on the river bank in the hot sun watching the boats go by at Buckenham we watched the Pectoral Sandpiper on the pool and went to Strumpshaw to admire the Willow Emerald Damselflies.
After we wandered around a Suffolk village where we had another lone Common Swift, we called in at the Great Cressingham junction with the Swaffham Road on the way home and admired all the Stone Curlews present.
I arrived home from work to find a package waiting for me which seemed to be quite heavy! I was delighted to find a new field guide inside the packaging, which will be of great use in a few weeks time. Thank you so much Sue for sending it! Now for some homework!
The NarVOS meeting this evening had some fantastic photos mostly of African birds. Allan, Ray and myself were certainly challenged by the speaker on some identifications that caused us great hilarity that continued in the pub afterwards. A great evening all round!
Walking down to the beach I failed to find the Curlew Sandpipers that had been reported on the Fresh Marsh at Titchwell as apparently a Hobby had just flown through and had scared all the small waders off. I met up with Carol and Alan who kindly offered to scan a few of my old slides of my Antarctic birds to digitilise them so that I could get them made into canvas prints for the wall. (A winter project methinks going through all my hundreds of slides!)
Down at the beach there was little to see except tourists enjoying the last of the summer rays so I returned to the Parrinder hide where I helped a delightful South African couple identify a few birds gaining them a few life-ticks. We were treated to a an amazing spectacle of an interaction betwen a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel right in front of the hide. I moved to the adjoining hide and noticed that the small waders had returned and so searched through the Dunlin until I found a lone Curlew Sandpiper. The other three Curlew Sandpiper had not returned with them. I went to find the South African couple as I knew this would also be a life-tick for them.
I joined two other birders at Deepdale where we could not access the private reserve from where the Pied Flycatcher had been reported so admired his reserve from afar as we walked along the seabank.
After a drizzly start to the daythere were many House Martins and a few Swallows feeding over the car park at Titchwell. A late Swift also flew over my head.
Thank you to all of you that have commented about my wall canvas photos. I shall have to arrange some private viewings to some of you !!!!
John and I started early and watched 86 Stone Curlews in the field by the junction of Great Cressingham and the A1065 south of Swaffham. There were large flocks of Starling and Lapwing as well. On the opposite side of the main road John and I counted 68 Egyptian Geese with quite a few young birds amongst them.
We headed back home and booked our flights and accommodation for our next birding trip together. Hopefully I will gain another country tick as well! Thanks go to my boss for letting me have the time off!
I spent the afternoon repairing my ailing pond again! How I cursed my former partner for idiotically removing the netting to let the heron stab through the liner of the pond down at the deep end as it was consuming all the fish for its tea!
I walked to Snettisham Country Park from the Heacham South Beach end as this is quicker route to where the Red-backed Shrike is. It is often across the river from the last green tent sat on the top of the Rose Hip bushes. It gave good views as it flew from bush to bush. A Cormorant was also asking to have its photo taken as a Stonechat also sat atop a bush.
Red-backed Shrike (juv)
I spent the morning down at Lynn Point where my primary objective was to pick Blackberries as someone I know appreciates my Blackberry and Apple crumbles! I stopped off at the docks where two Peregrines were sitting on the tower and two Great Crested Grebes were swimming in the dock basin itself. Down at the point 5 Little Egret were sitting around on the marsh and two Grey Herons alighted from the pools as I walked the bank. A Marsh Harrier flew in front of me as I walked around further. On my return journey a Kestrel hovered in front of me but I failed to see what it caught as it swooped down into the grass. A large flock of Starling were constantly flying around as I made my way back to the car. Back at the outfall a Grey Wagtail flew along the now exposed mud as the tide dropped.
I spent two hours sorting out my visa application. It was not as straight forward as I had hoped! Still after a bit of cursing I have now submitted it! I'm now on the count down!
I heard this morning that my visa application has been accepted! Can't wait for all those lifers!!
A big thank you to Ron and Sue Johns for your kind gesture. I appreciate it. Very kind.
A walk with Jim this evening after work had us walking down West Bank path as we filled in the time from finishing work until the party for staff and volunteers in the servery for Paul Eele's leaving do. It was a blustery walk but the Fresh Marsh looked stunning packed full with waders. Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits were everywhere. A Little Stint was feeding on the near edge of the mud. We watched a Marsh Harrier playing in the wind as it made various passes overhead. I was mesmerised as Jim and I took in the spectacle above and in front of us. As we retraced our steps a Hobby swooped right in front of us chasing a hirundine. It missed but nearly crashed into us. Titchwell is magical ! We returned to the Visitor Centre and I helped Clare with the final preparations for the evening. Soon all our volunteers arrived along with the staff to give Paul his send off. It was a great evening and Rob Lucking reminded Paul of his past endeavours for the RSPB. We wished him all the best for his time at Holkham.
I have several days off next week. An opportunity has come my way..........
Spooky image of a bird that had an untimely end.
Upon opening my bedroom curtains this morning I was greeted with this spooky image of a bird that met its untimely end on my window. Answers to what it was, you can tell me as you see me at Titchwell !
The first of the winter Pinkfeet flew over the carpark at Titchwell this morning. It was good to hear them calling overhead again, meaning that Autumn has arrived and the excitement of Autumn birding can begin. With the hurricane season having started surely some more American waders and passerines are heading our way. Willet must be overdue? Hopefully next Monday!!!!!
What a cracking day's birding!
Peter and I joined all the other Norfolk stalwarts just after first light in the seawatching shelter at Sheringham. At first the birding was a bit slow but after a short while Gannets started to appear. The first Manx Shearwater rose from the sea just in front of us, it must have been sitting on the sea without any of us noticing. Soon more Manx Shearwater were passing by us as Eddie called a Sooty Shearwater. Luckily with so many flags as markers we were all on to it. An Arctic Skua chased a Sandwich Tern tern and was soon joined by another as the poor tern tried to escape with its food. I spotted a Bonxie going the other way and got my fellow watchers on to it as it was the first of the day. Soon Eddie called a Long-tailed Skua which virtually all of us saw well as it flew by at half distance. I had a bit of a scrabble trying to get on the Black Tern that was at the back of the Sandwich Tern flock because at the time I had no idea what I was actually looking for as flags were being called out! We watched more Manx and Arctic Skuas and enjoyed a really close inshore Manx Shearwater that chose to fly really close to the beach.
We left Sheringham for a well-deserved cup of tea at Cley and walked down East Bank at Cley. It was a bit of a goose spot with the Greylag, Canada, Egyptian being resident and some Pinkfeet that had just arrived. we looked in vain for the Pectoral Sandpiper but enjoyed the many Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits on offer. A Spotted Redshank put on a close view for us. The wind had now picked up and we headed for Holme where we had good views of the Short-eared Owl flying over Lavender Marsh.
At Titchwell we enjoyed views of Hobby and Little Stint amongst the Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit as well as enjoying views of Bearded Tit and Avocet. A great day out with Norfolk a fantastic place to be in September!
Short-eared Owl hiding on Lavender Marsh
At lunchtime at Titchwell our volunteers found a Red-necked Phalarope on the Freshmarsh. I ran down quickly but the bird was quite distant which meant that after work I walked round to the end of the Autumn Trail to get a better view. I also noted a Great White Egret on the Freshmarsh which both Sally and I enoyed watching. Two Marsh Harriers roosted in the reedbed.
After an interesting morning Sally and I joined many other birders at Wells where we enjoyed good views of the Arctic Warbler. We also walked the sea bank at Burnham Overy but as I was keen to get home to paint the fence and Sally was hungry we left before the evening viewing of the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler that showed briefly in flight.
I finally managed to finish painting my fence. My little Robin kept me company as I was disturbing lots of insects and bugs as I was cleaning the surface before I painted it. Materials will soon start arriving for my new driveway area so I was keen to get it finished. The day was spent with so many young Goldfinches on my feeders coming and going making lots of noise as they fed.
It was lovely to have a dinner party with Dave and Jacquie. Such good company and a lovely evening to finish off such a productive day.
A quick run to the picnic area at Titchwell had me joining a few birders watching the Pied Flycatcher sitting in a tree. I could also hear the Yellow-browed Warbler calling but only saw a Goldcrest.
As I walked into work this morning with Tony Gray at Titchwell, we watched the Yellow-browed Warbler high up in one of the trees along the entrance track. It called as it flew to another tree. We noted another bird flycatching and felt it was the Pied Flycather but neither of us saw it well enough before it flew out of sight. During the day I watched a Hobby over the car park.
After leaving the shop at Titchwell I walked to the East trail hedge where I joined others watching the Common Redstart in the hedgeline, It was flitting about and enjoyed the Blackberries along with the Wood Mouse that was also tucking in. A Weasel ran across the track as well.
In the evening we enjoyed a talk at NarVOS given by Richard Campey on The Gambia and Namibia. His stunning photos showed the amazing birds and wildlife to be seen there that can be appreciated by the true birder. I was rather envious of his photo of the Herero Chat, that after hours of searching I failed to find upon my visit to Namibia !
My itinerary arrived today for my forthcoming birding trip to Africa. It looks mouthwatering. I am so excited for the number of life ticks it offers both for birds and for mammals.
It was lovely to meet up with Rob and Lisa and to plan yet another trip together.
29/30 September/1st October
A very busy weekend with friends and family all arriving to help repair damage to my pond, path and shed whilst my new frontage was done to make more parking/turning space at the front of my bungalow. A new heather bed was created too. We had a fantastic time and all enjoyed an al fresco lunch in the beautiful weather. A big thank you to all of you that brought tools, skills and laughter to my home this weekend. My chicken was a bit put out as she had to go across the road to spend the day when the gravel arrived!!
Tawny Owl hiding in the tree
I had a quick run down the Fen Trail at work at Titchwell today to see a Tawny Owl hiding in the Sycamore tree.
Merveille du Jour
As we opened up the shop at Titchwell today, Ray came in with great excitement as the moth trap had trapped a Merville du Jour Moth. It is such a pretty moth. It was a shame that because of the poor weather, we did not have many participants for our usual moth morning to show it to.
John and I were up early to get to Sheringham just after first light for a seawatch. The wind was gusting quite strongly and squalls were moving through very fast. We watched as Manx Shearwaters and lots of Gannets passed by. Many Guillemots were on the move as were several small flocks of Common Scoter. After watching two Great Skuas lingering at about half distance for a long time, Kevin Shepherd picked up a Pomarine Skua heading east. Both John and I managed to get on to it before it cruised by in the wind. After a few more Manx Shearwater, Kevin called out two Sooty Shearwaters flying in circles around the base of one of the wind turbines. We had a lone Arctic Skua that caused some confusion for a while before heading to Cley to see all the Little Stints gracing Simmonds's Scrape. A Curlew Sandpiper was also on the mud with a few Dunlin.
Heading home I passed by the field that is usually flooded but currently dry at Stiffkey where the Cattle Egret was keeping the cattle company.
It's been an interesting time at Titchwell with all the staff changes and I was very kindly relieved for a while from my post by Jim and John so that I could run down the West Bank path in search of the Dotterel that had been spotted by a visitor amongst the Golden Plover. As I approached two of our volunteers watching it, a helicopter flew over and spooked all the waders. Half the flock flew towards Choseley and half settled back down again. Guess which half the Dotterel was in????
Another busy day in the garden with my little Robin. I never knew my front lawn had so many worms in it! I must have one of the fattest Robins in Norfolk! With my pond now fully repaired John and I finished filling it up, set the stream in motion and waited for the Grey Wagtail to appear. We are still waiting!!!
A quick run down the West Bank path this morning to the Island Hide where a visitor kindly let me look thrugh their telescope at the Grey Phalarope gracing the edge of the Fresh Marsh by Parrinder Hide.
A glorious day saw John and I up early and heading for Minsmere where wall to wall sunny weather geeted us as we met up with Vicky, that I had shared a wonderful holiday with in Sichuuan, China last year and Dave that John had spent time with in Venezuela.
We walked along the beach and wandered into East Hide where we watched a Little Stint feeding along the edge just in front of us and admired all the Black-tailed Godwit and Avocets still present. Winter ducks were sleeping on the islands and included Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Mallard. Down at the sluice bushes we spent some time in the fruitless search for the previous day's Raddes Warbler without high expectations of seeing it as it would have surely have moved on.
After a lovely pub lunch we spent time discussing or future birding trips and then moved on to Dunwich Heath where we delighted in two Dartford Warblers flitting around along with a pair of Stonechat. We searched for the Stone Curlew but failed to find them but ended up at the coastguard cottages where tea and cakes were enjoyed sitting on the clifftop in the sun. It was now very warm indeed for October.
Arriving at work the boss asked me to lead the guided walk this morning at Titchwell. It was a hot day and the sun was out but it was very humid. I lead the participants around to Patsy's Pool after watching many Goldfinch pouring by overhead. Visible migration was quite clearly taking place as dozens passed overhead. Long-tailed Tit families were also in abundance. We heard Bullfinch but did not see them. On the pool we watched two Common Snipe as well as Coot, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler all busily feeding.Groups of Black-tailed Godwit were in flight as well as Avocet. We walked down the West Bank path where we admired Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Avocet, Dunlin and a Little Stint. Marsh Harriers and Kestrels all fascinated the participants and it was wonderful to enjoy the birds with them.
During the afternoon hundreds of Redwing flew over the car park and I simply lost count of the Goldfinch flying over. The sky was most peculiar and the light was very eerie. The remains of Hurricane Ophelia meant the high winds were picking up Sarahan sand and smoke from the wildfires in Spain and Portugal. By 4pm the sky had a yellow/orange tint about it and by 5pm it seemed almost dark!.
After a weekend of watching my son play National league hockey in Hampshire on a very blustery day Saturday and then travelling to Gloucestershire to see his new house in a lovely Cotswold village, John and I drove to Great Yarmouth to see Bob Cobold's talk on his trip around Cape Horn. It brought memories flooding back of my own trip around Cape Horn and the wonderful albatrosses that I saw. His photos of the other birds and wildlife were good and we all enjoyed the evening and banter.
My website host seems to be having a few problems at the moment with pages not loading properly. Please let me know if you cannot see some of them and I will let Freewebs know. Thanks Sue
A late night knock on the door from my neighbour had me worried as it was to inform me that we had a problem with the power wires to my bungalow.
After a busy morning I was expecting Sally for lunch . It was a beautiful day and we decided on a local walk around the farm tracks and lanes around Congham. The hedges were full of birds which flitted around as we approached. A pair of Bullfinch added to the colour of the day as Redwing and Fieldfare flew across in front of us. A few Blackbirds also left the hedgeline as Blue Tit and Great Tits actively fed. As Sally and I wandered along the track 50+ Red-legged Partridge ran over the fields. We watched a Kestrel hovering as a family party of Long-tailed Tits scooted along the hedgeline. We walked back home and had enjoyed our walk in the warmth of the October sun.
Arriving back home high drama then ensued. Power Networks had been called out by my neighbour and I was most impressed by their swift response. Within an hour the situation was assessed and deemed dangerous.My power cable was drooping over the top of my neighbour's property and was chafing. Soon we had two electrical engineers and a lift vehicle in attendance. Testing was done in my bungalow and an engineer was soon up the pole supporting my cable. It was soon removed and another cable installed. John arrived and was amused as I was, as our tea was stalled cooking in the oven as the electricity was non existent for a while! Luckily Power Networks were most efficient and after having tea we were able to advance our holiday plans for our next trip.
My power lines chafing over my neighbour's roof
Power Networks arrive
Electrical Engineer renewing my cable
Engineer attaching a new power cable to my bungalow
Well I'm all packed and ready for my next African adventure.I will hopefully add many new birds and a few more mammals to my lists as well as two more African countries. I will write a trip report upon my return and will add some photos to my Facebook page when I can.
I'm very excited of the opportunity that has come my way. One of my delightful contacts at Titchwell has helped me organize a visit to Uganda not only with a friend but also to go birding and to see Gorillas and Chimpanzees. It just couldn't be better!
Leaving at some ridiculous hour in the morning I caught the first flight out of Noriwch and flew to Amsterdam. After a short wait I boarded a KLM flight to Kigali in Rwanda. From Kigali I flew to Entebbe in Uganda where I met up with Harriet who was to be my friend and guide for the next few weeks.
As I shall do a trip report in time these pages will only be short. After spending the night on the shores of Lake Victoria, Harriet took me to Mabamba Swamp where we boarded a canoe in search of Shoebill. It didn't take long before the bird came into view as the boatman struggled to get the canoe through the vegetation. We drove onto Lake Mburo crossing the Equator as we went where Harriet was keen to show me one of the hard to see waders of the world. She knew of a spot as we entered the the reserve. Soon we had nailed down a pair of Brown-chested Lapwing.
Sue crossing the Equator
Harriet and Sue at Mabamba Swamp
After the excitement of yesterday we had a more traditional game drive in the Lake Mburo National Park. It was nice to familiarise myself once again with all the traditional African animals and birds in the sun. My pen and camera were kept busy as I juggled with binoculars too. I was soon adding world ticks as we drove along.
Unfortunately for me I spent the night in my tent listening to Freckled Nightjar calling as I could not sleep due to raging toothache. By the morning I was in agony. My tooth the the NHS had refused to repair at my dental practice in June had obviously come to grief and Harriet had no option but to find me a dentist as soon as she could. In Mbarara I had no option but to have the tooth taken out. Harriet did well to support through the agonising battle to remove it!
With a painful mouth and stuffed full of antibiotics and painkillers we travelled on to a Papyrus swamp where we admired a few birds before arriving at Lake Mburo.
After an agonising time my tooth was finally extracted
Today finally dawned and I was really excited. I had kept my fingers crossed that I would sleep and be fit enough for the Gorilla trek scheduled for today in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest. Full of painkillers Harriet took me to the Gorilla briefing and pleaded a good case for me. I was assigned a porter to carry my things and to help me as I did not want to start my mouth from bleeding again after the trauma of yesterday. I was assigned a guide and we started the trek. I am used to trekking in rainforest but being full of painkillers, antibiotics and malaria tablets my stomach was not at its best and neither was I ! However I kept up the pace as my guide hacked the way through the forest with his machete until we started up a very steep slope where I needed all four limbs and some help to haul me up. My porter was really good and at the final ascent handed me over to a tracker where I immediately spotted a Gorilla and baby in a tree. I was commended on my sharp vision and then taken to a Silverback Gorilla a bit further up the slope. I was so close! We watched another mother Gorilla and baby and another Silverback. I don't often use the word awesome but it was AWESOME ! We watched as the Silverback fed itself and then were delighted as the baby Gorilla made itself a small bed to sit on.
What an amazing privilege and one that I count myself so lucky having had the good fortune to have witnessed in my lifetime. Thanks must go to Harriet for organising this for me.
Sue sitting with a Silverback Gorilla
Mother and Baby Gorilla
Baby Gorilla sitting on its bed of leaves
Harriet and I walked through the village of Ruhija until we met the forest trackway where we birded the whole morning. World ticks were to be had here as I have done very little mountain forest work in Africa. Unfortunately the afternoon was washed out due to heavy rain.
Last night we arrived at Buhoma in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest where I stayed in a women's refuge, a charity run to help abused women learn some skills whilst giving them support from an abusive relationship, a cause close to my heart. I met up with Evelyn who is obviously an inspiration to all women coping with huge difficulties of abusive men and poverty. I admired their sewing talents and made a purchase which will now adorn my new dining room.
I was taken to the forest entrance and met my guide Chris as Harriet had to attend hospital that day. I was also assigned two armed guards with rifles. Nearly every bird Chris showed me was a world tick. The birding was excellent as I struggled to write them all down and admire them at the same time. My camera was struggling in the heat and humidity and sadly it fogged up inside. We walked up a good track way at first but we were soon diverted onto a trail which soon became muddy as the heavens opened. We found some shelter for lunch before making our way back after the rain had stopped.
Chris and my armed guards on Buhoma forest trail in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest
Today was a travel day and we motored through Queen Elizabeth National Park a more traditional savannah African park where I reconnected with the more familiar African species. A White-throated Bee-eater was photographed using my now de-fogged camera. However all was not well as we neared the Congo border as our van developed a nasty clunking sound on the rough road. A broken-down container lorry carrying food aid to the Congo had a mechanic with it and we sought his help. With the wheels off and men crawling around underneath the vehicle I busied myself birding in the midday sun! With the wheels back on we limped the van to the nearest town where we spent the afternoon in a garage...an interesting experience!
Poorly van near the Congo border
After being rescued last night by Bosco, Harriet's husband we still had a poorly vehicle so I stayed in a hotel in Fort Portal and I taxied it to Semuliki where I was met by Justice who had agreed to be my guide for the next couple of days. Justice found me some wellington boots and I hopped onto the back of his motorbike and we sped off to the forest where he showed me some of the specialist birds of the area. My world ticks were coming on nicely! The tracks were certainly muddy and sadly because of the hot/humid/wet conditions and transport I decided to leave my big lens behind so I'm afraid there are no bird photos. Towards the end of the day we biked up to an area of scrub where I had good views of Dwarf Kingfisher. Such a shame that I had no camera with me.
Sue and Justice
Sue in Semuliki Forest where the birding was excellent
As the vehicle was still not repaired I stayed another night at Semuliki. I did not mind at all as there were obviously good birds and world ticks still to be seen in such a bird-rich forest. Justice decided to explore a track that he had not used for a while and unfortunately for us it was underwater! This did not deter us as we waded through the swampy conditions. Several bridges had either been washed away or were in a poor state of repair so it was an interesting trail to say the least! Water Buffalo also added to the interest as Justice snorted to them in an attempt to frighten them away. Luckily for us this worked! However I added many world ticks and had good views of Shining Blue Kingfisher. Butterflies were also in abundance, which was one of Justice's passions.
One of the bridges
Charaxes fulvescens Butterfly
After staying with Harriet in her home we set off to Kibale National Park where we searched for the Green-breasted Pita without success. One of my target species was to see Chimpnazees in the wild. I was thrilled when Harriet heard a distant sound that she thought might be them. She checked with a ranger and we made our way towards the sound. With great skill we managed to locate two Chimpanzees very high in the tree tops. I was ecstatic! Such a privilege once again to see them. We also encountered a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird sat waiting to be fed by its parents that allowed us to get up close to it.
After breakfast Harriet and I went for a walk around her home as I had expressed a wish to see a flufftail as this had been an annoying gap on my African list for so long. She knew just the spot and within minutes one darted out and back in. Luckily a few seconds later we had much better views of the White-spotted Flufftail down the narrow pathway. In amongst the banana and cassava plantations where Harriet had permission to roam the birds were plentiful and I really enjoyed the morning wanderings before we set off on a day that was spent travelling to Masindi. Beacause of bad road conditions we had to go almost back to Kampala before heading north once again. Harriet had provided some snacks in the vehicle for our long drives but I had been regaled about a November delicacy much sought after by locals. We stopped en route and Harriet disappeared to buy some. Once back in the van Harriet opened the bag. It contained Grasshoppers! I believe you should never turn something down unless you have tried it first! So I tried one! Luckily for Harriet she got to eat the rest of the bagfull by herself !! After a long day's drive we reached Masindi where spent the night in a hotel and I caught up with some Wi-Fi and had a nice meal with Harriet.
We left Masindi and drove to Budongo National Forest. Here we birded the famous Royal Mile, a really pleasant temperature after all the heat and humidity in the other forests. Raymond had been asked to join us as the local expert and he and Harriet certainly knew their calls as I added to my world list. Chocolate-backed Kingfisher and Yellow-crested Woodpecker were coaxed out as well as Ugandan Woodland Warbler.
All too soon it was time to leave and we motored onto Murchison falls. The road was difficult to say the least! On arriving at the camp we had a very strange reception. The camp was a new one and quite clearly not visitor-focused as we were expected to make the poor camp staff carry the bags much further than they needed to. I intervened and insisted that the vehicle be allowed to help the staff out. Harriet and I were not impressed and our 3 night stay was curtailed to one night as Harriet sought other accommodation for the next two nights.
Brown Snake Eagle
The road to Murchinson Falls
We crossed the River Nile on the ferry in the early morning after watching a lucky sighting of Greyish Eagle Owl roosting in a tree as well as flushing a Long-tailed Nightjar off from the track and spent the morning birding in Murchison Falls National Park. It was good to reconnect with all the familiar mammals. I don't think I've seen so many Giraffe anywhere as here before. Uganda Kob were plentiful and it was nice to add Jackson's Hartebeest to the list as well as Patas Monkey. The birding was good but most species I have seen before in other countries but I did add a few new species to my world list. As lunchtime approached we re-crossed the river and I had the afternoon off back at the camp. After an early evening meal we met up with Jacquie and Dave, friends from Norfolk in their camp next door who were also birding in Uganda.
I was treated this morning to a boat ride on the River Nile and encouraged to enjoy a beer called Nile Beer whilst we travelled to enjoy the birds and animals on offer. It was so hot that even though I am not a beer drinker I had to confess it was most refreshing and a fantastic way to end the holiday. I certainly enjoyed watching the coming and goings of the nesting Red-throated Bee-eaters. After lunch Harriet took me to the top of Murchison Falls where the River Nile forces its way through a very small gap in the rock. I have been to many of the world's best waterfalls and glad that Harriet and I had this view all to ourselves rather than that of some other waterfalls that are now very commercial.
Murchison Falls where the River Nile forces its way through the narrow gap
My last morning dawned and we had a slow start so that I could enjoy the birding around the camp. We said goodbye to our hosts and started the long dive back to Entebbe. We stopped enroute to enjoy a picnic before getting caught up in the madness that is Kampala. Harriet and I enjoyed a last meal together at a hotel overlooking Lake Victoria before she took me to the airport. She has been a fantastic guide and friend and I was so lucky to have been able to stay with her in her home and have her escort me around her homeland, arranging me to see the Gorillas and Chimpanzees as well as some fantastic birding focusing on my world forest ticks. A great big THANK YOU to Harriet for having me share your passion for birding.
My cabin in Murcison Falls
Harriet in Entebbe overlooking Lake Victoria
Now back down to earth with a bump after my adventure I saw a Red Kite on my way to work in Docking. Luckily it is not many weeks to my next foreign birding trip so I'll just have to keep my head down and get on with it! Thank you to all you lovely people that have been so complementary about my photos of Ugandan wildlife on Facebook and on here! I'm sorry it may take a while before I can get a trip report both done and uploaded to my website. Please bear with me!
Working at Titchwell has some advantages as it allows me to go birding even in the grim days of November. Today I ran down the West Bank path to watch not one but two Grey Phalaropes that Paul Fisher had found on the Fresh Marsh.
Whilst I was having a new carpet laid in my bungalow I looked out to my Cherry tree to see 3 Redwings sat at the top of it. Later I admired the beautiful sunset out of my kitchen window and was stunned ny wave upon wave of Starlings passing over my property. Some started to form amazing shapes in the sky and seem to drop down behind the chemical factory to a small reedbed. Most however were probably heading for Leziate. There were tens of thousands of birds involved.
Christmas is approaching fast and after a pre-Christmas gathering of my family John and I will be heading off on a plane once again where a new country tick will hopefully be added to my list!
There were lots of Pink-footed Geese next to the driveway as I drove into Titchwell this morning. I'm not too sure how I am going to survive next week with all the Xmas parties!
I left early for work at Titchwell this morning because of the snow and had to check the toilet block before setting up the shop. Imagine my surprise as I entered the men's toilets to find a Water Rail running around inside!