Happy New Year!
Fireworks in Sydney Harbour looking towards Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House
At the stroke of midnight (Australian time) Paul and I were just about to be enthralled by the start of the firework display in
As we walked back to the hotel we started our 2011 list with a Silver Gull standing with its mate by a water fountain.
Sydney Opera House
We boarded the ferry to Manly which is a thirty minute ride across
I shopped in the city centre but was amazed that an Australian White Ibis had wandered into McDonalds! Paul went to see the test match of England playing cricket against Australia.
No birding done as Paul went to the second day of the Ashes Cricket Test Match of England verus
A weird day as we flew from
Ringed-bill Gull Willet
Sue and Paul at Golden
We picked up a hire car and headed across
We spent the night in a motel at Stinson's Beach where we also had a lovely evening meal.
Turkey Vulture Song Sparrow
After being awake for a large portion of the night due to jet-lag we had a late start and had a quick look at the water inlet and beach at Stinsons Beach. Turkey Vultures were bathing in puddles in the parking lot. A Song Sparrow was flitting around the bushes along with a Hermit Thrush that did not want its photo taken. House Finches did not allow close approach either. The Willets had flown down to the other end of the beach and we decided to drive back down highway one and back across
Ring-necked Duck Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-tailed Hawk Brown Creeper
We kept to the coast road and walked in a park where there were many American Ducks on the lakes including, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Hooded Merganzer, Surf Scoter, Ruddy Duck, Green-winged Teal, Carolina Wood Duck, Canvasback and Mallard. We also birded in the wooded areas and saw Yellow-rumped Wrbler, Townsend's Warbler, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, Coopers Hawk and a Great Horned Owl that was nesting in a pine tree.
Townsend's Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler
It was another very sunny day but after some initial warmth the temperature dropped quickly as the sun began to set. We found a motel room in
My thanks must go to Paul for making it all possible and to the wonderful friends and strangers that have helped us out along the way. Thank you all.
Now sitting at
Our BA plane has arrived to take us home!
Our BA plane has arrived to take us home!
Back home in Norfolk, England.
After a week of sorting out burst pipes, washing, house re-organising, vehicle buying and catching up with family and friends I ventured out to Thornham harbour where I stood in the freezing cold and wondered what on earth I was doing there. I now know that birding does not have to be this cold! After an hour or so of seeing very little I went to Titchwell to inspect the new hide that has been built whilst I have been away. It is certainly grand and gives good views but what are those windows all about? Pulling bits of string does not float my boat!!! A group of Twite settled down long enough to get good views as I watched Skylarks and Linnets too all feeding on the seeds scattered on the mud. I scanned through the ducks and admired the Goldeneye but I failed to find any Scaup. Marsh Harriers wheeled over the reed-bed as a Sparrowhawk flew along the bank. I walked back up the path where a Whooper Swan was amongst the Mute Swans on the fields and drove back to Thornham where several other birders had also returned, just in time to get good views of the Northern Harrier that has been present for month or so now over Thornham Marsh.
After meeting up with Jill, she drove me to Titchwell where the cold blustery wind did not make birding very easy. We soon made our way down to the Parrinder hide just to get out of the wind and use our scopes. The Twite were still present on the brackish marsh but unfortunately the Shorelark had already disappeared. Dave alerted me to the fact that the Water Pipit was on view on the freshmarsh and so we quickly relocated and had close views of the bird feeding just below the hide. Dave also picked out a Mediterranean Gull amongst the Black-headed Gulls but neither of us could find the female scaup present. Jill and I walked (or were rather blown) down to the sea where a Red-necked Grebe was reasonably close inshore. A male Velvet Scoter was amongst a close flock of female Common Scoters.
We walked back up the pathway and watched the Northern Harrier hunting over Thornham Marsh alsong with several Marsh Harriers. The female Scaup then decided to re-appear on the freshmarsh and Chris kindly alerted me to a lone Pale-bellied Brent Goose feeding on the fields towards Thornham.
A short drive around the Flitcham area produced a Barn Owl sitting in a lane-side tree and about a dozen Tree Sparrows. I had the unfortunate experience of running into a shooting party on the Sandringham Estate who were no doubt doing their best to decimate our wildlife. I saw an amazing number of Grey Partridge but once the shooters have had their fun I don't suppose there will be many left soon!
On a miserable misty day I visited Sculthorpe Moor where a donation is now being requested to visit this lovely small wet woodland reserve. Siskins and Lesser Redpolls were in the birch trees singing above my head as I searched in vain for the introduced Golden Pheasants. Down at the second hide 3 Bullfinches showed well but a Water Rail lurked undeneath the vegetation. I walked to the new extension but saw little. Back at the 'Old Gits' corner a Willow Tit sang above my head but I could not persuade the Golden Pheasant to emerge from the holly, that had shown itself to several other birders.
A trip to see Carol at Welney village had me admiring all the activity in her garden. A Song Thrush and Reed Bunting joined the Tree Sparrows and other garden birds. On my way back home I looked at the Whooper and Bewick Swans feeding in the fields. At Tottenhill I added Shoveler to my year list before watching a Hen Harrier and Stonechat at Roydon Common.
Paul and I drove around the King's Lynn area where we watched Egyptian and Canada Geese at Pentney Gravel Pits. On the River Great Ouse 2 Red-breasted Merganzers were diving for food. A Peregrine was sat in its usual spot in King's Lynn.
Steve picked me up and we stopped at Flitcham where we saw 3 Tree Sparrows before heading to see 3 Waxwings at Great Bircham near the Burnham Market turning.
A trip to Wells with my daughter Kathryn, had me watching the 2 red-head Smew for a shorter time than I had anticipated. I was horrified at the £5 car park charge that the attendant wanted for a 3+ hour stay. I hopped out of the car and looked at the boating lake where the 2 Smew were lurking at the edge. Needless to say we did not stop long and parked for free back up in the town.
Smew on Wells boating lake
Queen and Price Philip
A walk at Sandringham produced sightings of the Queen (at West Newton) and a flock of Siskins and Lesser Redpoll along the scenic drive.
After a spot of gardening at home I walked along East Bank at Cley to the sea. Ten Shorelarks were feeding on the inside edge of the seabank. A Marsh Harrier flew over Arnold's marsh.
At Salthouse thirty Snow Buntings were keeping all the photographers entertained.
As I was driving from Narborough towards Swaffham just at the start of the dual carriage way (A47) there was a small flock of Waxwings sat in the hedge about a quarter of a mile along it. Unfortunately there was nowhere to stop to admire them properly!
A walk from Hunstanton to Heacham did not produce the Purple Sandpiper I was expecting. There were a few Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings on the tide-line as well as a pair of Eider Ducks close inshore on the sea. A Gannet was a year tick for me as it flew by.
Starting at Dersingham Bog the only bird of note was a Common Buzzard. At Gore point at Holme a big flock of Snow Buntings were good to see as were a pair of Long-tail Ducks. Red-breasted Merganzers were also out on the sea. On the reserve there were dozens of Curlews as well as Shelduck but there was little in the fir trees. Back at Hunstanton I failed yet again to find the Purple Sandpiper as I searched all the way to Heacham.
A walk on a nature reserve in Andover with Paul had us following a cress bed where a Grey Wagtail put on a good show.
Whilst at lunch with my daughter in Oxford, Kathryn pointed out a Red Kite in flight over the nearby houses.
I was due at a college re-union in Oxford in the afternoon meeting up with fellow ex-students that I had not seen for over 34 years but it gave me just enough time to nip over to Chipping Norton in the morning. It was a horrible day weather-wise but once I had found The Leys I was welcomed into house number 41 where I saw the Rufous Turtle Dove sitting forlornly in a tree in the garden from the kitchen window. I also had a few year ticks in the shape of a Blackcap and a Great Spotted Woodpecker! There were also a couple of pairs of Bullfinches which brightened up a misty day.
I motored on down to Somerset to see my father where I was horrified to see so many badgers killed at the sides of the roads.
Now up in Cheltenham to see my son I watched a few Buzzards sat in trees on Birdlip hill.
I walked to the lake in Holkham Park via the monument. Considering it was a reasonably bright morning I saw very little in the trees.A Nuthatch was by the gates and a Treecreeper flew to eye-level height to a tree by the monument. Several Blue Tits were in courtship mode. The lake was covered in gulls at the southern end of the lake whilst a Great Crested Grebe joined the Mallards and Moorhens at the northern end of the lake. A Common buzzard flew over as I searched the woods.
Leaving home at 5.30am Paul and I drove down to Rainham Marshes where a Rock Pipit busied itself on the mud at the side of the River Thames. However after hours of standing around in the wind and cold we did not see the Slaty-backed Gull amongst the Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-backed Gulls.
A blustery walk at South Beach Heacham by the chalets and campsite towards Snettisham brought six Barn Swallows and nine Sand Martins battling their way against the wind overhead. A few Linnets and Jackdaws were feeding on the short grass and a few Meadow Pipits were sitting on various posts and chalets. It was much colder than I anticipated, having left my coat in the car, and I did not get as far as I would have liked. How I wish I could have brought the sun and warmth that I had for the majority of the year last year, back with me to Norfolk!
A poor record shot of the White-tailed Eagle
Now that I have a pager again I decided to try and see the White-tailed eagle that has been in Norfolk for the last 2 days. I started at Saxthorpe where it was last seen yesterday. However by mid-morning the eagle had been relocated at Holkham. By the time I reached there it was already heading west and I had a brief glimpse of it as it departed even further west. A seach along the coast road proved fruitless and I returned to Burham Overy until the pager alerted me that it was being seen from Titchwell. A quick drive resulted in another brief view as it flew up towards Choseley. The next 2 hours were spent chasing around the lanes getting a variety of views of the flying bird and a brief view of it sitting amongst crows in a field. It was a frustrating day but the White-tailed Eagle was a marvellous sight to see when being mobbed by Common Buzzards only half its size!
Walking the length of Snettisham Coastal Park through to Heacham I was delighted to see and hear several freshly-arrived Willow Warblers along with several Chiffchaffs. Three male Stonechats and a single female Stonechat were sitting atop various bushes along the way. However I was disappointed not to see any Wheatears or Ring Ouzels.
Meeting up with a group of members from Narvos, Paul and I walked from home to the West Newton scrape. Along the lane two Blackcaps were singing as a single House Martin flew overhead with several Swallows. Five Lesser Redpolls were in the fir trees as well as a flock of Siskins. Five Common Buzzards were enjoying the thermals and gaining height. Back at the mill a Grey Wagtail sat on the house roof. We followed the Babingley river where we saw more Common Buzzards and a Willow Warbler until we reached Castle Rising where Fred and Sylvia put on a delicious lunch. Thanks both!
After a walk at Lynn Point where Paul and I saw at least six different Marsh Harriers and a few Common Buzzards we arrived at Pentney where a jet ski was busy disturbing two Little Ringed Plovers and a Green Sandpiper. After taking a few photos we saw a two Goosanders in flight in the Nar Valley.
Arriving at Welney at 7.20am just after it opened early at 7am, I joined several other birders all eager to see the White-spotted Bluethroat that had returned at the same spot for its second summer. It had apparently already shown well and had re-located itself into the reeds. A Barn Owl flew along the pathway. I waited for a couple of minutes in Lyle hide before being called back along the path where a small group of us watched the Bluethroat at the top of a Willow Tree. It then flew into the reeds before flying towards us and perched right in front of us. I was lucky to get several close views of it as it flew around and over the pathway to Lyle hide before disappearing. It would seem that this is an early-morning bird! Sedge Warblers were singing well along with many Reed Buntings. Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Avocets and Dunlin were all on the pools and from the main hide a Little Ringed Plover ran around. All three species of swans are still present.
A walk at Snettisham Coastal Park in a bitterly cold wind had me listening to many newly arrived Sedge Warblers. On my way back a Common Whitethroat was catching insects as it also did a song flight.
Jill and I crossed the border into Suffolk where we visited Minsmere. As soon as we sat down inside Bittern Hide it lived up to its name and 2 Bitterns came out of the reeds and in full view showed themselves off to us. Jill and I could not believe our luck, as we had plenty of time to admire them. Two Water Rails flew along the bottom edge of the reeds before disappearing into the reedbed once again. We watched the Bitterns stroll around in the shallow water and left them to continue our walk. On the main scrape Black-headed Gulls were all setting about the breeding season and 2 Sandwich Terns had arrived on one of the islands. We watched Ringed Plovers, Ruff, Knot and Dunlin before we made our way back into the woods where a Marsh Tit was singing for a mate.
Paul, Dylan (Paul's 4 year-old grandson) and I started at Holme where we saw one Tree Pipit amongst the many Meadow Pipits, made our way to Choseley where after walking along the hedgeline eventually saw a pair of Ring Ouzels. We then went to Titchwell mainly to feed Dylan who was complaining of hunger. All this walking makes four year-olds hungry apparently! On the scrapes White Wagtails accompanied Pied Wagtails and two Yellow Wagtails. Paul was please with the 2 Garganey that were close to the main path and I was pleased with the Summer-plumaged Spotted Redshanks.
A reeling Grasshopper Warbler was eventually seen after I walked along the inland sea-bank at Snettisham sitting amongst the brambles. I thought I heard a Whimbrel and cursed as I had left my scope in the car as the bird settled too far away to identify it properly!
Meeting up with John and Judy at Watton we made our way to Wretham Heath where Judy soon spotted a Common Redstart at the top of a tree. We soon saw two other singing males. John saw a Cuckoo but Judy and I were admiring all the baby rabbits at the time! Driving through the brecks several Stonechats were sat atop Gorse bushes. At Great Cressingham two Stone Curlews were hiding in a field. I stopped on the way home at Pentney Gravel Pits where a Common Tern and a Green Sandpiper were making the most of the lake.
A walk with Jill at Snettisham Coastal Park had us admiring our first Cuckoo of the year as it flew over the bushes several times. Common Whitethroats were everywhere and three Grasshopper Warblers were reeling away as we watched Sedge Warblers and Chiffchaffs flying around.
As I was in the process of buying another car at Pott Row a Cuckoo flew over my head calling as it went.
Paul and I drove to East Runton where a stunning adult Citrine Wagtail was amongst Yellow Wagtails in a roadside field. At Cley Avocets were in abundance in the mist along with several Ruff. As it was very cold here and we could not see very well in the mist we moved onto Choseley where after a false start and consulting maps we located the site for 16 Dotterels running around in a bare field. It was fantastic to see so many. We drove back up to the drying barns and re-located several other perplexed birders to the correct site!
My son Mark and I went to Holme where we had a brief view of a Nightingale singing along the access track. On Redwell Marsh we saw two Wood Sandpipers and a rather spectacular Ruff in breeding plumage. In the paddocks a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling in full view as we searched for Lesser Whitethroats that eventually gave themselves up.
On my way back from Somerset I had a Red Kite fly over my car somewhere in Oxfordshire!
After watching the Royal wedding Paul, my father and I saw 3 Whimbrel on Roydon Common before meeting up with Steve who had found a Little Gull at Pentney Gravel Pits. We watched it flying over the lake amongst several Common Terns. Two Greenshank and Little Ringed Plovers were also present.
Arriving at a well-known site it was good to see a female Montagu's Harrier hunting over the fields after only a few minutes wait. I drove my father along to the coastline at Burnham Overy where we sat and looked over the dune area where hundreds of Swifts were flying through. Marsh Harriers were also on the hunt as a Rough-legged Buzzard appeared over the Poplars before flying towards the dunes. Further along the coast road I stopped in a gateway to admire Little Egrets and Avocets on the pools. Driving back towards Burnham Overy, a Common Buzzard was being mobbed by Crows.
It was hard work pushing my father around Titchwell in a wheelchair but we did make it as far as the Parrinder Hide where two Common Sandpipers, a Little Ringed Plover (that was very agressive towards 2 Ringed Plovers) and a magnificent Ruff were in front of the hide. There were many Avocets on the islands but the best bird of the day was the female Montagu's Harrier that was flying over the fields towards Thornham. There were at least four Marsh Harriers on the reserve that gave excellent views too!
Robert Baker kindly led a walk for some Narvos members into Swanton Novers wood. Here we were shown some of the management that was taking place in this ancient woodland. It was interesting to see inside the wood that I have spent many hours staring over in the quest for Honey Buzzard sightings. The pools were full of 3 species of newts and Large Red Damselflies. Bluebells and Yellow Campion were lovely to see in full bloom.
At Cley, Paul and I walked to North Hide where three Temminck's Stints were feeding with three Dunlins. At the end of East Bank, two Shorelarks were hidden on the seabank and two Spoonbills were on Arnold's Marsh along with Sandwich Terns and a Little Tern.
A phone call from Steve had Paul and I scurrying up to Holme where a Collared Flycatcher had been seen in the same area of trees as a Wood Warbler. As soon as we arrived Trevor kindly let us look through his scope at the wonderful bird sitting in a swaying branch. This was a Norfolk tick for both Paul and I, as the last Collared Flycatcher I had seen in Britain was at Portland in Dorset. It was good to see some old faces as we all enjoyed the bird. The Wood Warbler was proving more difficult to locate as it also flitted around high up in a Sycamore tree.
Meeting up with Robin Able, Geoff and Jenny Barker in the centre of Hunstanton we were lucky to be allowed into a back garden where we had good views of an Eagle Owl sat on a neighbour's roof. Goodness knows where it has come from!
A quick visit to Sculthorpe Mill before having lunch with a friend, had me admiring the prettiness of the scenery here whilst a Spotted Flycatcher was perched on the overhead wires.
Starting at 6.15am I met up with John and Judy and we made our way to the back of the plantations at Lakenheath. A Golden Oriole was singing in the first plantation and as soon as we drew level with it, it flew over our heads and into the plantation that runs alongside the railwayline. Here Judy managed to pick it up perched just as it flew again. Another Oriole was singing in the next plantation and we made our way to that. After a frustrating few minutes I managed it see it perched before that too relocated itself. One of the wardens told us where to observe the Common Cranes from the embankment that gives views across the railwayline. Sure enough there were a pair of cranes feeding in the fields. Walking on down further along the track we watched several Hobbies and Marsh Harriers displaying over our heads.
At Foulden Common we located several Grizzled and Dingy Skippers as well as Common Blue, Small Copper and Brown Argus Butterflies. A Mother Shipton Moth was also good to see.
Having already seen a Great Snipe in Norfolk many years ago I did not need to join the initial rush to Cley. However a displaying bird and an offer of a lift prroved too tempting to turn down and so I joined the crowds in Avocet hide in the evening to watch ..........Avocets! The adult birds chased off all intruders that they thought were threatening their young. After a lot of funny banter in the hide I joined the birders on West Bank where we had good views of a Lesser Yellowlegs accompanying a Wood Sandpiper, a Ruff and a Redshank. A Hobby on the way home sealed the day as the sun began to set.
It had been a fantastic day out with good birds and some wonderful company. Thanks to all concerned for making it so enjoyable!
I received an early morning text message and raced to Wolferton where after speaking to Irene I located some birders deep in the bushes watching the Wood Warbler. It was up high in the Sycamore and was singing away as I watched it. Soon it flew over the road and I left.
Later, Paul, Dylan and I walked over East Walton Common where we heard a Lesser Whitethroat, saw a pair of Turtle Doves and rescued an Oystercatcher chick running on the road as we returned to the car. I drove back to Wolferton and soon relocated the singing Wood Warbler so that Paul could see it too. After returning Dylan back to his mum, Paul and I watched a pair of Stone Curlews near Hillborough.
On my way back home from Andover I had a Red Kite flying at the side of me. They are so wonderful to see.
Starting in the Glaven Valley I joined a few others where a Golden Oriole had been heard early in the day. Without seeing anything, I moved onto Walsey Hills, where I watched a few Chaffinches and Greenfinches along with a few rats at the feeders before walking along Eastbank at Cley. Here there was a lone Little Egret. Avocets and Shelducks were the dominant species on Arnold's Marsh along with a few Black-tailed Godwits and Sandwich Terns. Meeting up with Penny Clarke, who enjoys her birding as much as I do, we sat looking out over Sea Pool from the Cley-Salthouse seabank before getting a phonecall to say that the Bonaparte's Gull have been re-found at Salthouse Duckpond. We both cursed as we were far from our cars and opted to walk different ways to the pond. I scuttled back along Eastbank to pick up my car from Walsey Hills, where upon arrival at the duckpond, could see what turned out to be a very small Black-headed Gull. It was certainly small when compared to the other Black-headed Gulls present.
After some socialising with the many birders present I drove back to the beach at Cley and walked to North Hide where I watched four Little Stints amongst Ringed Plovers. Summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits were good to see as they flew around looking for good feeding spots. I could only find one Avocet chick amongst the many Avocets present.
I received a phone call last night and since it was pouring with rain decided to delay my trip until today. Upon arrival at a site in Norfolk, the finder had sensibly requested that the news should not be generally released due to the potential breeding habitat and that the actual site was on private land. Very soon a variety of calls could be heard including coming from the sallow bush, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Linnet, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Common Tern and more bizarrely Common Buzzard without any of these birds being present. After a short while David Norgate and I had a few brief glimpses of a Marsh Warbler singing its heart out. Occasionally it flew over the bank where we were sitting and into the dyke behind us. However it did favour the sallow bush where we enjoyed several views of it albeit short views each time.
A later stroll produced a Common Sandpiper, a Kingfisher and a Green Woodpecker. A Turtle Dove was heard calling but not seen.
On my way to Titchwell, I stopped off at Flitcham where I watched Common Buzzards circling high up until all of a sudden one flew out of the bushes right in front of the hide. There were many young birds present including various ducks and geese as well as young Coot and Moorhens. I saw a distant Red Kite and decided to gain some height by driving further up the road towards Anmer. As I was approaching the concrete Sugar Beet pad on the Anmer road I admired the pretty roadside flowers. I could see the Red Kite flying on my right-hand side and quickly got out of the car once I had reached the concrete pad. I had reasonable views but the kite was too distant for a photograph.
I arrived at Titchwell but there were too many tourists for me to enjoy it and so after admiring the Marsh Harriers and Red-crested Pochard, bought my bird food supplies and went up the Choseley Road where I met up with Pauline and Betty. Together we admired a Yellow Wagtail, Common Buzzard and a Hobby that came to have a look at us.
I spent most of the day re-reading Sean Dooley's 'The Big Twitch' an adventure in twitching around Australia seeing 700 species in 2002. Now that I have been to many of the places that he mentions in the book it was lovely to reminisce our marvellous adventures in birding that we had in Australia last year.
On my journey to Hampshire from Norfolk I counted a total of eight Red Kites.
Paul and I took my Dad in his wheelchair for a visit around Lyme Regis in Dorset where on the small stream by the shops a Grey Wagtail was catching flies.
Leaving Hampshire at 5am, I arrived back home in Roydon and had only been in the house for a short while before Andrew phoned me up offering me a lift to Hartlepool Headland where a White-throated Robin had been trapped and released. After a quick unloading of the car I was all unpacked and ready to leave as Andrew, Ann and John arrived. We picked up Pete and headed north. Once we arrived in Hartlepool, the bird had disappeared from the bowling green and into some inaccessible gardens and allotments. We waited in vain for several hours before the bird was relocated in the back of the doctor's garden, which was surrounded by a ten foot high wall, making viewing impossible. Luckily a chap offered the use of his van and I was quick to take advantage of this as John hauled me up onto its roof, so that we could look over the wall and into the garden. John managed to see the bird but it quickly disappeared and I had to wait a tense few minutes before the bird re-appeared on the compost heap. After a couple of minutes of viewing I clambered down with John's assisstance and we let others take our place. The roof was beginning to cave in with all the bodies on board but the owner of the van took a very pragmatic view and all of us were very grateful to him.
As more birders gathered John and I were able to stand and watch all the antics as more and more ladders started to arrive and vans backed up to the wall to be stood on. Goodness knows what the general public made of us all. It was however all very good natured and the local roofing contractors and builders that arrived with ladders were just fantastic. What a lovely community. A big thank you to you all!
John helping me up onto the van at the White-throated Robin twitch
(Picture taken by Pete Kinsella)
I have always enjoyed watching my garden birds and as my dad has been rushed to hospital, I sat by the phone all day just in case I needed to rush off to Somerset once again. However it paid dividends as for the first time ever in all my years I have never had a Nuthatch in my own garden. Today that changed as a Nuthatch delighted in bathing in our stream as I was getting the washing in.
Nuthatch a first for the garden!
After a week of not feeling well my daughter Kathryn and I walked down the Thornham bank where in windy conditions we saw a lone Marsh Harrier. Rain on the way back meant that we saw very little else except for an Avocet feeding in the Thornham channel.
I spent the morning at Titchwell where an adult Bittern was feeding four young in and around Betts Pool.
Bittern flying overhead
Caspian Tern over Betts Pool, Titchwell Caspian Tern
After a text message from Penny I was alerted to a Caspian Tern at Holme (thanks Penny). It didn't stay long however and I returned back home only to be alerted by John and Judy that it had gone to Titchwell. Setting off once again I was delighted to see it feeding over Betts Pool. John, Judy and I continued down to the Parrinder Hide where Black-tailed Godwits and Bar-tailed Godwits were roosting on one of the islands and five summer-plumaged Spotted Redshanks were asleep on the far spit of the Freshmarsh. Rain was fast approaching and as I had invited John and Judy to lunch we beat a hasty retreat back to Roydon.
Another trip down to Somerset to see my Dad who is so poorly in hospital for Father's Day. En-route around the Oundle to south of Oxford I saw 4 Red Kites and countless Common Buzzards.
After a frustrating few days of heavy rain showers I ventured out as far as Flitcham, where I only just made it into the hide as the heavens opened once again. I listened to stories from fellow birders getting a soaking on the coastline and decided to stay put in the hide. After two plus hours of watching we saw two Little Owls, four Common Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Jay and all the usual resident birds of Coots, Moorhens, Oystercatchers, Jackdaws etc. The heavy rain even meant that the cows were taking shelter under the trees.
Arriving at dusk at Sandringham, I walked in my usual spot under the telegraph wires running between the pine plantations just off the A149. After a short while, I heard the call of a Nightjar that soon flew circling all around me for several minutes. It perched several times on the overhead wires close by.
My birthday! After visiting my father once again in hospital in Yeovil yesterday I stayed the night with Paul's mum in Andover. We had a lovely walk this morning where Marbled White Butterflies were all in the long grass as we took her dog Cindy, for a walk.
Marbled White Butterfly
Leaving home at 3am, I drove to Stansted airport where Paul and I met up with Rob and Lisa to board a plane bound for Sardinia. This was to be a birthday treat for me, a relaxing weekend away with pleasant company, good food and wine (or beers in the boys case!) and a couple of WP ticks to find. Once we had arrived in Sardinia we hired a car and set off for the north of the island at Santa Teresa where we put the car on a ferry bound for Corsica.
Paul and Sue at Santa Teresa
Spotless Starlings and Hooded Crows were common as we waited at the quayside. On the crossing we watched Yelkouan Shearwaters and Yellow-legged Gulls flying by the ferry. Once we had arrived at Bonifacio in Corsica we made our way up to the mountains and headed for Vezzani. We stopped to admire four Corsican Citril Finches in the village as well as Serins, Cirl Buntings and Spotted Flycatchers.
We drove on to Venaco where we found a lovely hotel in the mountains where Rob negotiated a good price for a shared room in this very expensive location with its stunning views. We enjoyed an outdoor meal washed down with wine and beer.
After an exhausting day yesterday we managed to oversleep but as this was meant to be a relaxing break for all of us and we only had 2 target birds, one of which we saw yesterday, none of us were all that bothered as we tucked into a gorgeous breakfast on the terrace overlookig the mountain scenery in the sunshine! This is the life! We walked around the village and watched Red Kites circling overhead.
Venaco, Corsica Red Kite
After we left the hotel we headed for the Restonica Valley, a beautiful Corsican Pine Forest set in a gorge-like valley with the mountains towering above on either side. Here we watched a Blue Rock Thrush high up on the rocks above us as well as a Peregrine and Alpine Choughs flying above us. We stopped many times listening for Corsican Nuthatch without success but saw Long-tailed Tits as we enjoyed a few beers at a restaurant. Crossbill, Jay and Treecreeper were added to the list but we failed miserably to hear or see the nuthatch. A Crag Martin flew by as Paul shouted that he was watching two Lammergeiers flying over the ridge. Unfortunately I had climbed up the hillside and my line of vision was obscured by the trees. Rob managed a split second view before both birds disappeared over the ridge never to reappear. Curses!!!
As the day was progressing we cut our losses and we made our way to the D69 where many birders have seen the nuthatch. Unfortunately this road is currently barred as blasting operations are taking place to widen the road. Many trees have been felled and suitable habitat lost. After a quick search we motored down the D343 towards Vivario where stopping in suitable habitat several times, Paul heard a quick snatch of a call of the nuthatch. With patience, we eventually had good views of a pair of Corsican Nuthatch as they landed on the trees around us giving their scolding call.
Driving back down to Aleria we stopped to admire a few Woodchat Shrikes and Corn Buntings sat on the wires. We found a hotel and enjoyed another outdoor meal with a few more alcoholic beverages.
Paul watching Woodchat Shrikes with Lisa and Rob
Starting the day watching Fan-tailed Warblers and listening to Cetti's Warblers we made our way to the local reservoir at Teppi Rossi. Here we admired European Bee-eaters sat on wires and after watching a few Coot, Mallard and Pochard we admired a Purple Heron standing statue-like in the shallows. From here on we found an idyllic restaurant at Etang d'Urbina where after emptying a few beer cans and carafes of wine we weren't much good for birding!
We decided to stay put and ordered a gastronimic delight in a few bowls of Mussels and a plateful of Sardines.
European Bee-eater Sue Rob Lisa and Paul enjoying life!
The tempo was delightful and the climate excellent. We enjoyed our lunch with the local Yellow-legged Gulls who sat all around us waiting no doubt for a few offereings from our lunch. How we wished we could stay longer. However after a few hours the ferry beckoned, but it was not to be as the boat was broken and sent for repair. We had a bit of a 'kerfuffle' as we had to re-book with another company who sent out for another ship to rescue us. Several hours later we arrived back on Sardinia but not before having a thousand plus Yelkouan Shearwaters and a hundred Cory's Shearwaters pass by us on the ferry. The late crossing adding to the numbers.
We found a hotel at Porto Torres just as it was getting dark and made our way to a local square where once again we sampled the local Pizzas on this Italian island all washed down with the local beer and wine.
After breakfast Paul drove us to the airport at Alghero where we boarded our plane to Stansted for our 2 hour flight home. It had been an excellent weekend and I would like to thank Paul, Rob and Lisa for making it so enjoyable.
In the evening Paul and I walked towards a tremendous thunderstorm that was heading over Lynn and Roydon as we made our way to the first hide at Snettisham RSPB reserve. There were many Black-tailed Godwits about in summer plumage and many Common Terns too. With the storm getting worse we were rain-free but I was anxious we should get to the hide quickly as possible as lightning was flashing across the sky. On the pits there was a Ruddy Shelduck and three Mediterranean Gulls amongst all the Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns. On the mud in The Wash there were another four Mediterranean Gulls. We made it to the second hide and eventually back to the car park in the dry, which given the soaking Roydon had had when we got home, we had been very lucky not to get wet.
Starting at Lynn Point, Paul and I counted at least 11 Little Egrets along the river edge at low tide. Three Common Sandpipers trilled as we watched a distant Marsh Harrier fly over the river. It was a beautiful morning as we walked down to the sluice on the Babingley River. A Common Buzzard could be seen over Wolferton as Black-tailed Godwits all in summer plumage flew over our heads. Barn Swallows had bred under the sluice and we flying around catching insects.
At Pentney there was another Common Sandpiper and a few Common Terns. Geese were in abundance and we drove on to West Acre. Here there was a Purple Hairstreak Butterfly on one of the Oak trees as we made our way into the hide. A Common Sandpiper kept two Green Sandpipers company.
Arriving at Cley late afternoon I walked with Julian Bhalerao to Daukes Hide where we watched two Mediterranean Gulls, a Little Gull and a Yellow-legged Gull amongst many Black-headed Gulls. A family of Marsh Harriers were on the wing and the male bird caught and passed prey to one of his yougsters as Julian attempted to take a photograph of the food pass. Two Greenshanks alighted on Simmond's Scrape as well as a Green Sandpiper. A Little Egret came close but flew before I had a chance to take a photograph.
Now working at Titchwell for a short while I took the opportunity during my lunch hour to walk down the reserve where a Curlew Sandpiper was amongst the Dunlin. A Spoonbill was asleep on the Fresh Marsh. It was lovely to see so many Black-tailed Godwits all in Summer plumage. Many Avocets were feeding for all the visitors to see as well.
I gave James, a volunteer at Titchwell, a lift in the car after work so that we could do some birdwatching after I had finished helping to run the Family Area at Titchwell for the day. I drove for a while before we watched juvenile Marsh Harriers flying and sitting around on posts as well as a couple of young Kestrels. James spotted two Spoonbills flying along the coast as I was searching through the terns. Common Terns and Sandwich Terns were sitting on the sand. After a while of watching Marsh Harriers, James saw a female Montagu's Harrier as I was watching a second bird. We soon realised we had watched food being brought to a juvenile that had flown up to received it from its parent.
After an evening out, Paul and I saw a Tawny Owl sitting on a telegraph wire as we made our way home.
Working at Titchwell I was allowed to see a Wood Sandpiper that was frequenting an area not visible to the public. A Green Sandpiper was also keeping Avocets and Little Egrets company.
A walk at Snettisham in the evening we just missed the highest part of the tide as night fell. However it was wonderful to see all the Dunlin, Oystercatchers and godwits as they fed on mud in The Wash. A Northern Wheatear flitted around as we made our way back to the car.
I joined many other birdwatchers making their way out to the wader spectacular on show at Snettisham. It was a gorgeous morning as the tide raced in and covered the mud forcing the waders take flight in their thousands forming 'clouds' in the sky. As I joined David Roche, Alex Parker and Phil Heath they had already located the White-rumped Sandpiper amongst the Dunlin. It was constantly having to shift its postion with the rising water. A Black Tern was feeding out to sea. Eventually all the waders flew off and into the pits where David relocated the white-rumped Sandpiper amongst the Dunlin, Little Terns, Common Terns and Turnstones. Back along the beach a Greenshank took off calling as it went. On the sea Dave Holman found 3 Greater Scaup. Autumn is upon us!
A walk down Lynn Point to escape the madding crowd along the coastline, Paul and I enjoyed peace and quiet as we watched a Common Snipe fly across the marshy area and 3 Common Sandpipers fly across the river. Four Ruff flew over our heads as a Little Egret, Whimbrel, Curlew and an Avocet all searched for food in the mud at the riverside.
After packing the Family Area away at Titchwell where I have been working for the summer, I strolled in the evening's sunlight down the west bank where I watched a Little Stint amongst the Dunlin.
Working at Titchwell all day I heard that there was a Buff-breated Sandpiper on site on my radio. I joined Paul Eeles down in the Parrinder hide where we had very good views of it as it fed close to the hide. Steve West and Grahame Brind also enjoyed good views of it.
As it was a sunny afternoon I made my way out to Warham Camp where I walked around the old iron-age fort. It was alive with butterflies. Chalkhill Blues were flitting around on the Carline Thistles but proving very difficult to photograph as a warm wind was blowing that kept everything moving. The photo I have used does not begin to tell the story of how many photos that I deleted! The hedgeline down to the fort also had Meadow Browns and Speckled Wood Butterflies in it. Common Buzzards wheeled overhead calling, making a very pleasant afternoon's walk.
Chalkhill Blue Butterfly
Rob had radioed up to me whilst I was working at Titchwell to say the Freshmarsh was covered in waders and had never seen it looking so good. So after finishing work Dave Hawkings and myself wandered down the west bank pathway and took in the spectacle in front of us. Rob was right, the Freshmarsh looked wonderful covered in hundreds of waders. The first bird I looked at was a Little Stint at one end of hundreds of Dunlin feeding on the mud. In front of Island Hide a Wood Sandpiper accompanied two Ruff as more Ruff fed along the reedbed edge with four Common Snipe. There were numerous Ringed Plovers and Dave and I counted four more Little Stints. Over in the back corner near east bank, there were at least eight Curlew Sandpipers with a Water Rail lurking in the reeds as well. An escaped Flamingo from Marlow Zoo added to the beautiful evening. Paul Eeles, Rob and Rowena walked back up the path and called that there was a Common Redstart in the Willows by Island Hide. It flitted in and out of the bushes accompanied by a female Blackcap at one point. It made a good ending to my working day!
It was lovely to watch a Black-necked Grebe just 1/2 a mile from my home in Roydon. Paul had found it late in the afternoon and phoned me on my way home from working at Titchwell for the day.
A walk after work down to the Parrinder Hide at Titchwell was lovely since it was a beautiful evening and I had the reserve almost to myself. Curlew Sandpipers were still present along with a few Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits. Avocets were still present whilst Fiona (christened by the volunteer hide helpers) flew in. The escaped Greater Flamingo looked very much at home as it waded on the Freshmarsh. Down at the beach, Dunlin and Grey Plovers fed along the tideline along with Oystercatchers. There was little on the sea except a small party of Cormorants.
Jill and I set off for Frampton RSPB near Boston in Lincolnshire. It has been a few years since I have been here, not since twitching the Buff-bellied Pipit in December 2005. How things have changed! Instead of the bleak field inland of the seabank, there is now a wonderful series of scrapes and hides surrouded by pathways. We visited the visitor centre and picked up a leaflet with a map and set off. Jill and I had brought some glorious weather with us and we wandered around the pathways in a lazy fashion admiring the birds as we went. We had fun counting the waders as they kept shifting about but finally agreed on 6 Little Stints and 8 Curlew Sandpipers amongst many Dunlin. On other scrapes we had good views of Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits. It was nice to see some juvenile Yellow Wagtails and many Linnets feeding on the plentiful supply of seed. Golfinches were also taking advantage of the seed supply. There were 20+ Little Egrets around the site as well a Grey Herons.
We enjoyed the rest of our walk as we contined around the site stopping off in several newly-built hides. It was an enjoyable walk and well worth the visit.
A short visit to Pentney where 50+ Sand Martins were with 20+ House Martins over the main lake.
Before picking blackberries I watched four Little Egrets, one Marsh Harrier, two Kestrels and a Common Sandpiper before feeling sorry for a lone Pink-footed Goose being attacked by crows. I guess it will have had a lonely summer!
Whilst working recruiting RSPB members in the car park at Titchwell, Dave kindly took over from me for a short lunch break that enabled me to walk down the pathway to see a Cattle Egret that was sitting on a fence on Thornham Marsh. It eventually flew off. Later on I just managed to miss the Little Bittern that was on site by a couple of minutes! It was a good day for Titchwell as a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was also on site.
After a visit to the emergency dentist with raging toothache Paul drove me to Titchwell where I joined the masses to see the Little Bittern lurking in the reeds.
After watching it for a while we walked on down to the Parrinder Hide where nine Yellow Wagtails were flitting around on the Brackish Marsh. We also looked at the breach made in the sea wall to let the tide in. This will convert the marsh to a tidal marsh to help protect the Freshmarsh.
After another visit to the dentist John and Judy joined me on a visit to Holme where at last the wind had dropped and we looked out on a flat-calm sea. We watched a close-in Black Tern before tackling the seabirds out by the wind turbines. An Arctic Skua was chasing a tern as many Gannets were feeding by dive-bombing into the sea. Four Red-throated Divers flew by as we noticed a Great Skua slightly closer in. Another Black Tern flew not far from the sea edge before I noticed the roll of a Harbour Porpoise. John picked up 3 Manx Shearwaters making their way into The Wash before locating another far out to sea. Another Black Tern brought our total to three for the day. We watched at least ten Arctic Skuas amongst the wind turbines during our time seawatching.
By the visitors' centre we heard and then saw 30 Pink-footed Geese letting us know that winter is just around the corner as they were fresh arrivals from the breeding grounds. Later we went to Titchwell where there were more overhead as we made our way down the path to watch 10+ White Wagtails on the Brackish Marsh with a few Yellow Wagtails. Six Curlew Sandpipers were with Dunlin and a lone Little Stint.
After a morning river watching at Lynn Point over the high tide, Paul and I saw very little and got soaked in the rain too! We met up with Steve West and after a change of clothing back at home Paul and I moved to another site in West Norfolk where we had fabulous virews of a female Goshawk that had gone up to investigate two Marsh Harriers overhead. A family party of Stonechats were also seen but little else.
Paul and I birded all around the Narvos area today concentrating on lakes and the River Ouse and associated channels. By the end of the day we had seen quite a few Common Buzzards, lots of Great Crested Grebes, a Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper and a Grass Snake at Tottenhill. There were 7 Yellow Wagtails at the Tail Sluice at King's Lynn. Many of the bushes were deadly quiet with only a couple of Chiffchaffs representing migrant warblers. Most of the lakes had the expected feral geese with good numbers of Coot and a variety of duck including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Pintail, Gadwall and a few early returning Wigeon at Narford Lake.
My long-awaited holiday date finally arrives and I board a plane at Heathrow bound for Panama. After a flight via Madrid I get a good view of the Panama Canal as the pilot circles around on the descent into the airport. My newly acquired Panamanian friend Victoria sees me safely onto the hotel mininbus and I arrive at a posh hotel where I spend the night.
At first light I wandered around the hotel grounds at the Riande Hotel in Panama where I soon start my Panama list off. A Clay-coloured Thrush and a Rusty-marginated Flycatcher are my first birds with my first lifer being a Red-crowned Woodpecker hidden away in a tree on the tennis courts. Several Blue-Grey Tanagers flit around as American Black Vultures soar in the heat overhead. Birds are coming thick and too fast for me to identify all at once. I manage the Barn Swallows but the other swallow/martin species will have to wait after breakfast!
After breakfast I am picked up in a minibus and driven for 30 minutes to Canopy Tower. It is a former US radar station located at the top of a hill accessed by a steep rain-forest driveway. It was not quite what I expected inside as metal is everywherebut once I had reached the obsevation deck it certainly had a wow factor as the canopy views were stunning. Before me laid views of the Panama Canal, Panama City in the distance and a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth curled up in a tree.
Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth
A Green Honeycreeper kept calling as the storm clouds gathered and all too soon the thunder, lightning and rain fell. Lunch was taken and we waited for the storm to abate before venturing out towards the canal at Gamboa. Keel-billed toucans sat atop a tree en-route before we arrived atb ahouse where hummingbird feeders hung and two bird tables were re-supplied with tropical fruits. Unfortunately the rain had re-started but the birds didn't seem to mind.
A bunch of Grey-headed Chacalacas were like a gang as they had to be constantly shooed away from the bird tables. Palm Tanagers, Blue-Grey Tanagers, Plain-coloured Tanagers, Crimson-backed Tanagers, Grey-headed Tanagers all came to feed on the bananas. Above our heads Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds came and went as I frantically wrote down all the new arrivals. The trouble with the tropics is that the first few hours you spend more time writing in your notebook than watching the birds! A tree full of Orange-chinned Parakeets arrived as we looked at Red-lored Parrots overhead. A red-legged Honeycreeper and a Violet-bellied Hummingbird were lifers for me.
We moved onto a small creek where our guide Alexis played a tape for White-throated Crake which obligingly came out with its mate for me to see as a Snail Kite flew overhead. Mangrove Swallows flew past my ears as I watched a Spotted Sandpiper near the big alligator lurking in the water. A Buff-breasted Wren was a also a lifer as a Barred Antshike disappeared in the dense vegetation. Greater Anis and Great-tailed Grackles all added to the scene as Wattled Jacanas wandered on the vegetation on the river. Tropical Kingbirds were everywhere as a flock of Pale-vented Pigeons found themselves a roost spot. All too soon Alexis called a halt so that we could return to the Tower for our scrumptious evening meal with complimentary wine!
At first light I made my way up to the dining area for a cup of tea and was met with a Bat Falcon staring straight at me! I am not sure who was the more surprised! Alexis came to join me as he picked out a Grey-headed Kite sat on a distant Tree. I soon had a page-full of birds new to my Panamanian list as we thought we should stop to eat some breakfast. I was reluctant to leave but we had to get on.
We walked very slowly down the access track where we soon came across a feeding flock. I could not watch all the birds and write them down quick enough. There were some American warblers in amongst them adding to the spectacle. Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler and an American Redstart all gave me neck ache as I struggled to keep up with what Alexis was calling out. Feeding flocks can be a nightmare as they dart about and I was anxious not to miss any. We continued on down the track as our eyes caught a movement in the trees. It was a Lesser Anteater making its way up the trunk of a tree. I was delighted at the view we had of it and cursed that my camera was back at the tower.
Alexis caught another movement and as we went to investigate we both saw a Broad-billed Motmot sitting staring at us. A little later we saw a Rufous Motmot too. By now the rain was getting us both wet and once down at the main road our transport arrived and took us back up to lunch at the tower. Luckily the rain stopped and Domi arrived wanting to know why I was not up on the observation platform watching the hundreds of Mississippi Kites migrating over!!
After lunch Domi took me back down to Gamboa where he tape-lured out Chestnut-backed Antbird, White-bellied Antbird and Red-throated Ant-tanager. We were soon surprised as a Collared Forest Falcon swooped from a tree and posed for its photograph to be taken. I was soon to be delighted again as a Blue-crowned (whooping) Motmot brought my count of motmots to 3 species for the day.
I also passed another milestone today as I notched up 4000 bird species on my world list.
I am now celebrating with a glass of red wine before I go to bed!
Collared Forest Falcon
Alexis drove me to the famous Pipeline Road in Panama only a short distance from Canopy Tower up from the Panama Canal. The rainforest is accessed via a gravel trackway which gave us good underfoot conditions. Alexis drove 5 km up the trakway where we stopped to admire a Great Jacamar after watching two Great Tinamous that had run across in front of us. Very soon we had three different species of trogans!
White-tailed, Slaty-tailed and Back-throated Trogan were all seen before we made off into the dense undergrowth to search for a calling Streak-chested Antpitta. It was obviously near and it was soon located running along the forest floor. A little later a Violaceous Trogan was added to the Panamanian list. A Great Currasow stood in the middle of the trackway had Alexis very excited as it was only the third one he had seen. Birds came thick and fast and we were late returning to lunch!
After a quick lunch back at Canopy Tower, Domi took me into Gamboa where a Little Tinamou nearly ran over my foot!
A ship passing though the Panama Canal Alexis my guide on the Pipeline Road
An early start meant we were out birding at first light. Domi drove us to the Pipeline Road where we were in for another day of seeing birds deep in the jungle undergrowth. Luckily the weather was good and we did not get wet at all! A Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner. I was surprised to see a Veery hopping along under the tangle of vegetation but North American migrants were just coming in to escape the winter in the Northern hemisphere. We were all surprised to see a Magnificent Frigatebird fly over the forest! I was pleased with a sighting of a White hawk that did not want his photograph taken. After lunch we returned once more to the Pipeline Road, my last visit before transfering to Canopy Lodge tomorrow. We had an encounter with a snake but luckily it lived to enjoy another day! We stopped by the Panama Canal on the way back to the tower.
I was out on the observation deck just after first light this morning where I spent the last few hours of my stay at
Great Jacamar Baltimore Oriole
Thick-billed Euphonia Prothonotary Warbler
Luckily the rain did not last long and my guide and I were on our way up the road to do some trails. A Dusky-faced Tanager was lured out as we admired a Snowy-breasted Hummingbird on the flowers. Near the end of our walk the guide did well to spot a pair of Tody Motmots sitting in dense vegetation. We returned to the lodge where I made the most of my beautiful surroundings.
Canopy Lodge Altos del Maria
Starting out from Canopy Lodge, Eliecer, Beto and I drove a short distance before we started on the Las Minas Trail where Yellow-faced Grassquits were common. We soon came across a feeding flock where amongst several Blackburnian Warblers and Canada Warblers we added a Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-thighed Dacnis, Bay-headed tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Green Hermit, Common Bush Tanager and Plain Ant Vireo and a host of other goodies. It was just as well we had the feeding flock as we saw little else until I spotted a distant Ornate Hawk Eagle sitting high up on a tree. The guide in training was delighted as it was a tick for him. On the way back down the track he spotted a snake that I had just walked over!!!!!
Orange-bellied Trogan Yellow-faced Grassquit
After lunch we were joined by Sara whom I had met at Canopy Tower and we birded the mountain of Altos del Maria, accessed by a very steep 4x4 only roadway. We saw very little but an Orange-bellied Trogan was star of the show.
I was in for a treat today as Eliecer took me on a 4x4 only mountain trackway through the Panamanian Mountains. It was a wondeful trip through high-up remote mountain scenery with a few small villages or houses next to the trackway. Beto spotted a Grey Hawk perched just before we started walking gathering species of birds new for my list. A Tawny-crested Tanager was to be the start of a Tanager fest today. Birds came thick and fast in roadside vegetation, including a Great Antshrike before we made our way to a dense covering of trees. Unfortunately it started to rain but I birded using an umbrella and added more tanagers to my list. Sulphur-rumped Tanager was a tick for me as was Emerald Tanager. Eventually after 5 hours of travelling and birding we spotted a Roadside Hawk and Collared Aracari before we returned to Canopy Lodge for lunch.
Great Antshrike Collared Aracari
Roadside Hawk Crimson-backed Tanager
After lunch we walked a trail in El Valle village where we watched a Lance-tail Manakin and looked at a pair of Tropical Screech Owls huddled together in a back garden. A Yellow-crowned Euphonia brightened up the scene too as did a Rufous Motmot.
With Moyo my guide, Nancy and her husband we birded the local arable fields and forested areas. I was pleased with the Rufous and White Wren which showed well in the end in dense vegetation. Crested Oropendulas flew through and a Yellow-billed Cacique was bird I had not seen for a long time. We were surprised by a Swainson's Thrush lurking just above our heads. However in jungle/ rain forest conditions photography is not easy as there simply is not enough light and all those antbirds, antshrikes, antvireos, antwrens mostly go un-photographed! So here is my best effort at a Spotted Antbird taken in very dark conditions indeed!
All too soon it was time to leave Panama but I thought I share a photo of a Tropical Kingbird which are relatively common in the tropics and a picture of one of the wonderful plants that always intrigue me (if you know what it is please let me know!
A big thanks to Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge and guides who made my stay very memorable.
Tropical Kingbird Tropical Plant
I walked down to Kelling Water Meadows where I soon realised I had not put on enough clothing! The wind was blowing and even though I had an anorak on I was soon chilled to the bone.A Common Snipe lurked in the vegetation at the side of the pool but there was no sign of the two Jack Snipe that had been reported yesterday. A Little Stint waded with the Dunlin and two Black-tailed Godwits stood in the water. Two Little Egrets flew in as I was joined by John and Judy. We searched for the Lapland Buntings that came on the pager whilst we were stood there but could only find Meadow Pipits and Linnets. White Wagtails were in abundance and we watched a juvenile eastern Yellow Wagtail amongst the cows.
Whilst working at Titchwell I managed to add Whinchat to my day list as well as a Brambling that I heard calling at the top of a tree in the carpark. Reaching for my binoculars I soon had some visitors looking at it as well. At the end of my shift I joined John and Judy and we wandered along Meadow Trail where with some patience we watched the Yellow-browed Warbler, although it was not keen on the Chiffchaff that was chasing it about. As we reached the carpark the pager soon had us spreading maps on the bonnet of the car before we leapt in the car and took off along the coast road. A Rufous-tailed Robin had been discovered at Warham although the initial couple of messages had said East Hills, but John had been out to East Hills before and knew the access was along the Western-most track at Warham.
Luckily there were only a few cars parked on the concrete pad as I arrived and I was soon out of the car and joined the birders that were present. Mark Golley told me that the bird had been missing for over half an hour. Within minutes the assembled birders had brief views of it flitting across the trackway and up into a tree where it disappeared for while. It then flitted back across the track where we saw it perched in the ivy before flying out again and along the hedgeline where it presumably went to roost.
Knowing that it was a clear night with an almost full moon there seemed little point in starting the day at Warham so I joined Steve and Grahame and headed for Holme where a Red-flanked Bluetail had been trapped and ringed. It was a beautiful day but unlike all the other Red-flanked Bluetails I have seen, this bird did not want to show itself well. We had a 'cat-and-mouse' game but by keeping ahead of its movements I eventually got to see it at the end of the pines. Unfortunately Steve and Grahame had stayed under the trees and missed it. We adjourned for some lunch at Titchwell before returning to Holme where after another couple of hours of searching all three of us had good views as the Red-flanked Bluetail flitted around in the western part of the NOA land. By now there was a large crowd of dejected birders that had arrived from Warham! As we left Holme we stopped to look over the marsh where a Marsh Harrier was hunting but we failed to see any of the reported Short-eared Owls.
After lunch I parked at Warham Greens where 3 Lapland Buntings flew over my head calling. I walked along the coastal footpath where Oliver joined me as I was looking at an interesting warbler in 'the pit'. Unfortunately it disappeared and although we stood it out for sometime it never reappeared. Little Egrets and flocks of Common Starlings were on the marsh as well as Brent Geese. After a chat with Tracy and Mark, I met John Furse where we discussed the events of Friday at Warham!
I spent the afternoon at West Walton School helping class 4 dissect Barn Owl pellets!
I went for a walk on Dersingham Bog where I saw 4 different Stonechats and little else!
Paul and I started our day at Narford Lake where Paul noted 17 Mute Swan, 2 Sparrowhawk, 7 Pintail, 1 Green Sandpiper, 4 Little Grebe, 75 Tufted Duck, 10 Pochard and 61Gadwall whilst I watched Helmeted Guineafowl and ferel geese of varying shades!!! We moved on to Totenhill gravel pits where Teal, Wigeon were in good numbers as well as 3 Pintail. At Saddlebow on the cut channel there were 28 Great-crested Grebes as well as 50 Wigeon.
We wandered along the tail sluiceat King's Lynn where there were many Wigeon and Lapwings before ending up at Lynn Point where we had our first decent-sized flocks of Fieldfares coming over our heads. A Hen Harrier crossed over the river as did a Common Buzzard. The birds of note though were the Common Starlings, which numbered at least 400 heading west in just over an hour's watching. On our return up the rough track a juvenile Common Stonechat was a joy to watch as it clung to a small bush in the windy conditions.
With little bird news Paul and I started the day at Great Yarmouth with the intention of seeing if we could read some of the coloured ring numbers of the Mediterranean Gulls that frequent Great Yarmouth beach. In winter months the Mediterranaen Gulls come from a variety of countries and it is always interesting to know where the gulls are coming from. After noting down several ring numbers we moved on to the cemetery where we saw very little in the way of bird life.
Back at West Acre a Green Sandpiper graced Tallent's Meadow pool and a Common Buzzard flew over the wood. Another Common Buzzard was noted at Flitcham where the water in front of the hide has all dried up!
After having visited my father in Yeovil hospital in Somerset I continued on down to Teignmouth in Devon, where I watched 3 Cirl Buntings just up the lane from the local primary school. At Dawlish Warren many Wigeon could be seen from the hide but as I did not have a scope with me, I could not pick out the American Wigeon present, as the Wigeon were too distant. I enjoyed the Avocet and Black-tailed Godwits as well as Little Egrets feeding in the channel.
Whilst working in the servery at Titchwell I was called outside to have a brief view of the Yellow-browed Warbler that all our visitors I had just served wanted me to show them.. I could hear it calling and saw it flitting around amongst the Gold Finches and Greenfinches.
After lunch I made my way to Titchwell where two Common Snipe were in the vegetation either side of The Island Hide. Two Spoonbill graced The Freshmarsh.
Starting at Titchwell where I met John and Judy, we wandered down the main pathway spotting a Hen Harrier over Thornham Marsh. On the beach a Purple Sandpiper was amongst the Turnstone and Sanderling. We turned our attention to the sea where a lone Slavonian Grebe accompanied at least ten Great Crested Grebes. Red-throated Divers were often fairly close as well as flying over Red-breasted Merganzers. After a couple of hours we strolled back up the pathway and admired some of the Wigeon and Teal present in good numbers on the reserve.
We decided to make our way to Holkham where a Rough-legged Buzzard had been seen from the main A149 only 5minutes before we arrived (how often do you hear that one?). We searched in the direction behind us, as we had been told it had flown inland. A couple of hours later we were still searching having logged quite a few Common Buzzards and a couple of Marsh Harriers as well as an adult male Hen Harrier. Luckily John was scanning the dunes when he located the Rough-legged Buzzard just in time for it to disappear before either Judy or myself got a proper look at it. However after a short while it reappeared to give us good views. We were surprised at how pale/white it was. I dont think I have seen such a pale Rough-legged Buzzard before.
After finishing work early I went for a walk on Roydon Common as it was a lovely sunny afternoon. I made my way up to the environment agency vertical green water pipe sticking up on the common where a chap was measuring the depth of water. We discussed how the water levels have dropped over the years. Two Common Buzzards flew through as did a Kestrel. Ten Linnets were perched in a nearby tree as a few Meadow Pipits called. I continued on my way and eventually found the Great Grey Shike that was perched in the middle of the common.
I returned to Roydon Common with Steve where we could not re-locate the Great Grey Shrike. It does seem to have periods when it disappears. A Marsh Harrier was hunting the common.
After weeks of Paul working away it was good to have him back home again. We set the alarm early and made our way to Happisburgh. We waited patiently by an old cottage surrounded by a tall hedge near the cricket ground. Round the back, a female Blackcap appeared with several Goldcrests. We made our way back into the lane where the Melodious Warbler had decided to show. After a few tense moments it popped out at the top of the hedge in full view giving us all a treat! We were surprised at how few of us there were to enjoy it, given the fact that it was a Norfolk tick for many in the county. The last Melodious Warbler had disappeared rather too soon for most only a short distance away from the old Cley cafe. We made our way into the churchyard where 2 Black Redstarts were flitting around on the church.
Breakfast now beckoned and Mick Fizer recommended the cafe at Bacton, so after stopping at Walcott where there were a six Little Auks on the sea along with a four Little Gulls, a few Kittiwakes and a Red-throated Diver. Suitably filled with a marvellous cooked breakfast we made our way to Cley where the scrapes were filled with Wigeon, Teal and Black-tailed Godwits. Black-headed Gulls were in abundance and we spied a late Yellow Wagtail before watching a Short-eared Owl flying over North Hide.
At Blakeney we watched the Cattle Egret before moving on to Holkham. A Marsh Harrier was joined by another 2 Short-eared Owls as all the Pink-footed Geese dropped in to the fields. We had had a delightful day birding in Norfolk and once again realised how lucky we are to live here.
Whilst working at Titchwell yesterday I was frustrated that I could not get to Holme where a Desert Wheatear had been reported, so first thing this morning I parked at Thornham harbour and walked up the sea bank to Holme where on the beach the Desert Wheatear was showing well along with a Northern Wheatear. On the sea a pair of Long-tailed Ducks were showing well not too far out, along with a Slavonian Grebe and several Great-crested Grebes. A Great Skua also flew by and sat on the sea for a while. The drama of the morning though was a Peregrine that had caught a migrating Blackbird for his breakfast and was hurriedly carrying it off to eat.
I spent part of the day once again at Holme where a lone White-fronted Goose swam in the Thornham Channel. I went in search of Waxwings but was unable to find any in the village at all!
On my way to work a Rough-legged Buzzard sat on one of the posts near Choseley drying barns. It took off and flew across the fields as I drove by.
As I drove home from Titchwell a Little Owl was sat on top of the hedge by the junction of the Choseley road at Titchwell.
Driving home from teaching at Womegay I saw a Little Owl sitting in the sun at Ashwicken. On Roydon Common a pair of Stonechats were flitting around as a thousand or more corvids went to roost on Roydon Common.
I watched a male Hen Harrier going to roost on Roydon Common.
Paul and I started at Pentney where 137 Egyptian Geese were feeding on carrots left out for the horses in a field. A Common Buzzard was being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk. We continued onto Narford Lake where there were 140 Tufted Ducks and thousands of gulls.
Leaving home at 5.30am I drove through trhe fog down to Somerset where we joined the masses at Chew Valley Lake on Herriots Bridge. Amazingly there on the mud was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper sandwiched between two Long-billed Dowichers! A Little Stint was also amongst the Dunlin with which the birds were frequenting. I crossed the road and watched a Spotted Sandpiper feeding along the edge of the pool. Four BB rares within a few metres of each other! It doesn't happen like this very often! I also watched a Bewick's Swan on the lake before moving onto the other viewing point of the lake where a male Goosander made a good showing amongst the Wigeon and Cormorants.
Paul and I were particularly pleased as we hate to think how many Sharp-tailed Sandpipers we have dipped over the years (or been out of the country when they have been present)!
As part of the Coastal Change project at Titchwell, Paul Eele had made a plea for volunteers to help with the planting up of scrub in the new area. So I joined a gang of merry volunteers and put my wellies on for the day, taking my spade and gardening gloves with me for the day of planting and merriment! Hopefully in years to come the new area with be alive with migrant birds that will enjoy all the berry-laden shrubs that we have planted.
Rob explaining what to do! Rob showing us how to dig a hole!!!
Sue putting on tree guards and Rowena digging holes Paul gathering tree guards and shrubs
The gang enjoying Laura's tea making! Our hard efforts. Scrub where Rob promises me an Arctic Warbler will lurk one day!
Rowena, Gary, Terry, Paul, Laura, Nat and Mike having a well-earned rest.
It was obviously not a day designed for birding but Paul pointed out to Rowena and I a Green Sandpiper that had taken off from one of the pools. We also all enjoyed the skeins of Pink-foot Geese that wheeled around us in the air as well as a huge flock of Golden Plover taking off from the Fresh Marsh.
Paul and I managed a short visit to Blackborough End pit along with Paul's grandson, Dylan. We watched a Long-tailed Duck and a Scaup as well as a flight view of a Grey Wagtail.
Whilst trying to sell binoculars at Titchwell where I work, I watched a Lesser Redpoll and a Mealy Redpoll in the Alders as well as a Treecreeper.
Arriving at Dauke's Hide I joined many other birders examining a small wader that was present on Simmond's Scrape with some Dunlin. It seemed very long billed for a small wader that was being muted as a Semipalmated Sandpiper. However in good light and after returning home examining several photos it seemed to have more features that suggested a Western Sandpiper. Its feeding action also seemed to favour Western Sandpiper. The wader certainly proved a popular discussion point amongst the birders. On Pat's Pool a Green-winged Teal was asleep amongst many other Common Teal. Rob Fuge arrived and we walked together back to our cars before meeting up on the beach at Coastguards for a short sea-watch. A Little Auk flew by as did a Puffin. I picked up a close Red-throated Diver just offshore as a flock of Snow Buntings flew by us on the beach.
After saying goodbye to Rob I drove my daughter Kathryn to Salthouse where we went for a short walk stopping to look at the Shorelark that Allan Hale and Carl Donner had kindly laid up for us in their scopes.
Paul and I flew from Stansted to Londonderry in Northern Ireland.
With howling gales Paul and I left a lovely warm hotel at Portrush and made our way to the Giant's Causeway.
Sue at Giant's Causeway Giant's Causeway
Paul by the famous basalt rocks
With a howling gale Paul and I staggered down the pathway that led to the basalt rocks that make up the famous hexagonal, heptagonal and octagonal rocks. It was a good job that we are ardent birders used to rough conditions! We dodged many rain, hail and sleet showers in the blustery winds so that we could admire the beauty of the coastline here in County Antrim in Northern Ireland. We had taken a Ryanair flight from Stansted to Londonderry in Northern Ireland as a birthday treat for Paul. We had both wanted to visit Giant's Causeway for years and found that as there is usually a lull in birding activities at this time of year, thought it a good time visit.
Our Northern Ireland birding list is not great though, as many small passerines took shelter from the gales. A pair of Stonechats kept us company on the walk along the coastline. Rooks and Hooded Crows were in abundance as well as Jackdaws. On the sea there was very little except Herring Gulls and a few passing Gannets and Fulmars. However on the rocks we observed many Rock Pipits feeding on the insects amongst the kelp. Turnstones and Redshanks were also feeding amongst the rocks. Light at this time of year is an issue and all too soon it was dark. We found a marvellous restaurant back in Portrush and enjoyed a fabulous meal together.
With it only getting light at 9am, we had a late start and headed over the border into Southern Ireland and headed for Malin Head, which is the most northerly point of Ireland. We stopped at various inlets to admire Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone and Eider Duck as well and a few Great Northern Divers in the driving hail storms. Once we arrived at Malin Head we enjoyed the sighting of a Chough hanging in the wind. We tried to take a few pictures but were beaten by the bitter cold and windy conditions and soon took shelter back in the car. Although the weather was not great we really enjoyed our few days break.
Paul at Malin Head
Working for the day at Titchwell, I managed a quick visit into the picnic area to see the Coue's Arctic Redpoll. A Chiffchaff also kept me company in the carpark for a while.
There were 20 Curlew on Grimston cricket pitch today.
Paul and I did one of our trawls around the Narvos recording area. At East Walton 40+ Fieldfare flew from a hedge as we made our way to Narford Lake which is accessed from the churchyard. Here there were 18 Mute Swan, a Little Grebe, 3 Pochard, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Shoveler, 74 Teal, 8 Pintail, 3 Grey Heron, 78 Gadwall, 108 Tufted Duck and 3 Common Buzzards. We motored onto West Acre where apart from a Sparrowhawk and 4 Common Buzzards we saw very little. At Pentney there were 44 Tufted Duck, a Common Snipe, 140 Wigeon, 10 Great Crested Grebe, 24 Pochard, a Song Thrush and 2 Oystercatchers. The day was getting colder and I felt sorry for a lone Barn owl hunting at Wiggenhall looking for its lunch! We finished the day at Lynn Point where a 2 Common Buzzards were the only birds of note, apart from distant geese and waders that were miles out at the river mouth.
Working in Titchwell shop in the warm I admired all the birders who stood for hours in the cold searching for the Coue's Arctic Redpoll amongst the Lesser Redpolls and Mealy Redpolls.
A walk at Grimston Warren and back along the old railway lane to the railway cottage produced 2 flocks of 150+ Siskins each. One of the flocks had a Lesser Redpoll amongst them. I hope everyone has a Happy Christmas tomorrow.
A venture to a wet and windy Brighton with my son Mark and girlfriend Suzy produced some very wind-blown Herring Gulls along the seafront.
It just remains for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year and thank you very much for the kind compliments that I have received about my web site. I hope 2012 will be bird-filled as you would all like!