Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

1st December
Bearded Scrub Robin's nest with a cuckoo's egg in it

Today was an extra early start (oh good...even less sleep) to drive the tracks in the dark to see if we could find any nightjars resting on the hot rough tracks. We soon had a couple of European Nightjars which we saw in the headlights of the van and then two birds lifted of the ground together one of which was noticeably browner and broader-winged, a female Pennant-winged Nightjar. Not quite the stunning male that we had hoped for but a tick any way! As the sun rose we continued our search and added Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Black Cuckoo but by mid morning the oppressive heat beat us and we returned to the lodge for lunch but not before inadvertently disturbing a Bearded  Scrub Robin's nest with a cuckoo's egg in it. We moved away quickly and the adult bird soon returned to continue its incubation.

We were given the afternoon off which I spent trying to sort out John's camera that had failed making him miserable. I had some limited sucess by using a different camera programme which meant at least he could use it albeit in a restricted manner. After the evening meal we tried another drive for nightjars again but only saw more European Nightjars.

2nd December

We walked around the lodge grounds watching all the animals, mostly Red Duikers, Sunis and an occasional Impala and Nyala. Yellow Babboons were present and we enjoyed the antics of the Samango Monkeys. We only managed one new bird for the trip list, Orange-winged Pytilia. We had a lovely stop by a waterhole where someone had kindly left two chairs. It was just so relaxing watching the animals and birds come and go. We had the best views of the Tamborine Doves as normally they are just so skittish. We returned to the lodge where the lodge owner was going to arrange our covid tests when we reached Beira as it was a requirement for boarding the flight back to Ethiopia. Passports and flight numbers were needed. With constant government changes in the UK, USA, South Africa and Mozambique without any phone signal, internet and intermittent electricity we were at the mercy of the lodge owner keeping us informed as to whether we could get back home. Some of the group had flights cancelled and we were faced with 10 days quarantine at a cost of £3700 to line a tory party donor's pocket no doubt (don't get me started) How we were meant to sort any of this out without internet goodness knows in this remote region whose people spent all their time outside.

At 3pm we went birding in the forest again and watced Crested Guineafowl and more bee-eaters.

                                                     Tamborine Dove
                                                Sunset in Mozambique
3rd December
Little Bee-eater and Common Waxbill

After breakfast we said goodbye to M'Phingwe, loaded the trailer and minibus and took to the very rough track back to Beira which we bumped along for 200km. A Crested Francolin stood in front of the bus. The journey was to take us most of the day as we got stuck behind several logging lorries carrying away the forest. A very sad sight indeed. After a long hard drive for Dylan we stopped at Dondo where we added Jameson's Firefinch and Red-headed Quelea to our lists.
4th December
Malachite Kingfisher

After a night back at our original hotel we were up and about early for another go for Blue Quail at the Rio Savannne Flood Plains. This involved pulling a rope across the long grass as we went. It was difficult walking in places in the searing heat. However it was worth all the effort as we had a very successful morning as I added a few life ticks. A pair of Blue Quail flew out from behind the rest of the group and I had to yell so that we all saw them. A Pair of Locust Finch were also located which we also saw well. Sadly I had not taken my camera as the terrain in the heat was just too much for me. A flock of Cuckoofinch alighted in a tree as we added Malachite Kingfisher and Red-breasted Swallow to our trip list.

We returned to the hotel to do our PCR tests and birded Rio Maria in the afternoon adding the usual waders to boost our trip lists.
5th December
Southern Banded Snake Eagle

I had asked Dylan to keep an eye out for Southern Snake Eagle for the whole of the trip as this has been an annoying gap in my African list for many years. Although we had heard a bird calling earlier in the trip I had failed to see it. I could not believe my luck when on the last morning of our time together we spotted one sitting at the top of a distant tree. Result!

Dylan needed Lesser Seedcracker for his Southern African list and so we had another morning trying for it at Dondo where Etienne, whom I had met many years ago in South Africa had spotted it a few days before. With a bit of listening we heard it calling and soon all saw it. Getting a photo was quite a different prospect though.

Our group all left after lunch and John and I had an extra night at Beira by ourselves to get sorted out before our return flights and quarantine. The amount of documentation we needed before we would be allowed onto our flight and back into the UK was beyond a joke and took hours to complete with limited internet. Several of the group had to get flights altered and could not return to the UK as the goverment had not provided enough hotel space. It was a complete and utter shambles. Forms were difficult to complete and took me many attempts. With no credit cards being accepted on government websites it all became farcical. One of our group ended up with an £8000 bill as he was forced to quarantine in Mexico!!!!!

We did however have a wonderful afternoon on the beach paddling in the Indian Ocean in the sun.
6th December

In the past I have flown a few times to be in Ireland on this day but today I was flying to Ethiopia where the foreign office had advised against all travel, so we were just a little bit concerned that all would go well. Beira airport was 34 degrees and we were in winter clothing ready for the British winter that would no doubt be a shock to us. The electricity had been cut off and so the computers were not working. We stood in the heat and it took over an hour to check the two of us in when eventually the electricity worked for long enough to get us processed. All our forms were checked and we made our flight to Addis Ababa.

7th December

I'm not sure how to keep my temper on what happened today as I will be writing to the prime minister about the corrupt, shambolic party he is leading and how he is lining his and other Tory party donors pockets from ordinary citizens he thinks it is ok to herd like sheep at Heathrow where only one Border Control Officer was left to deal with 1000 people forced to wait for hours without food or water for more than 12 hours from the time of touch down to their arrival in prison at a quarantine facility at a cost of £3700 without any prior warning in time to finish holidays, business meetings or family visits. Put simply......heads must roll!

8th December

View over the River Thames and the O2

Day one of quarantine at the Radisson Blu at Canary Wharf:

So after a 9 hour painful shambolic transfer from Heathrow airport to our hotel yesterday, today has been rather different. We awoke to a wonderful view from the window of the O2 and the river Thames, where on an out-going tide we realised that some birdwatching would be possible, if somewhat limited in species. I had negotiated with the head 'honcho' of the 'quarantine facility' (apparently we are not allowed to call it a hotel) that our mental health, with our freedom taken away from us, that it was important to us that we could at least see some birds. The design of the hotel means that nearly all rooms face flats that are being re-cladded and look like construction sites. So I begged for a room that overlooked the river. Given how tired we were after an overnight flight and with a severe migraine from all the day's angst the quarantine staff took pity on me and were truly patient and wonderful and found us a room that gave us a good river view.

We soon set the telescope up and recorded 9 species. A magnificent breakfast arrived with a tasty porridge, a salmon cream cheese bagel, croissant (but no butter or jam) fruit bar, yogurt, fruit juice and two pieces of fruit each with coffee and tea. We were impressed.
I started work on processing my hundreds of photos that I have taken, but my concentration was not good as we both kept searching the river for another bird. I spotted a Great Crested Grebe which caused great excitement! Our list was now up to 10 species. The Uber taxis (river boats) came and went as did the old paddle boats. I started work again but had many friends contacting me mostly via social media asking if we were ok. I must thank you all for thinking of us.

The room service here has been brilliant as the lady from room 529 kept ringing down and asking for bits and pieces to be brought to the room and the staff down below certainly know my voice by now!!!! Most requests have been met with a prompt service a few minutes later! One request was for some exercise and within the space of a couple of minutes an escort turned up and we were both accompanied along the corridor and down the lift to the carpark which is an L shape about of about 100metres long. Four security personnel watched over us as we joined another couple and swapped our tales of yesterday, as we walked up and down for our 15 minute allowance before being accompanied back inside by our guard. I had a little piece of luck when we got taken to the wrong floor where a supply table had some some small jars of honey and tomato ketchup sachets on them. I asked if I could take some of them and the guards were amused as I filled up my pockets. It's amazing what little extras can have on your happiness for the day!

I ordered lunch and now that I have obtained two plates and some real cutlery it was a joy to tip our salmon meal onto it rather than eat it out of a cardboard box as we had to last night. I spent the afternoon processing more photos before our next exercise session. This time we had a 'sergeant-major' type lady and I was soon in trouble for going outside a barrier and got told off. I had something to tell her as you can imagine, but I remained polite as always, but she got my drift and left me alone after that even though I could feel her beady eye on me for the rest of my 'permitted exercise'. During this time Tim rang me and was an amazing friend who kindly offered to fetch some things from home and bring them to the 'quarantine facility' to keep us sane over the coming days. A big thanks to Tim!

After more work on my photos that I have taken in Mozambique there was a knock at the door and our evening meal was delivered. Chicken, portabello mushrooms, lemon-flavoured potatoes, spinach with a good side-salad. Delicious!

We have free Wi-Fi and a large TV in the spacious room which is pleasantly warm. With luck our coming days will soon pass and I shall at least get all my photos processed ready for my trip report write-up!

9th December

The view of the River Thames from my window

Day 2 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu at Canary Wharf:

My body clock is still out of sync with the time in the UK so I was up at 4am and started work on my laptop. After a shower I had to make a decision on wear the same as yesterday (and probably the same for the next 10 days as this is the only winter clothes I have with me) or be daring and put my my vest and shorts on. Such a difficult choice!

Today was going to be exciting as we had the prospect of yet another PCR test to do. That at least will take some time up ! Just such a shame that the testing man arrived just as our allocated morning's exercise had been arranged! Luckily they agreed to a later slot and I managed a short run in the car park after completing my PCR test which had to be left with another form to be filled in outside my door. What a good job we love form filling..............

A delicious lunch arrived and I continued my work on my laptop. We were both looking forward to the afternoon as Tim had kindly offered to pick some items up from my home and deliver them to the hotel to make life a little easier. It was good to hear his voice when he said he had arrived with the parcel and 15 minutes later a guard brought the parcel to our room. John attacked it at a child at Christmas and the beam that went across his face said it all...............his laptop! Now he will hopefully keep out of my hair and be able to process his photos too!

We hit the jackpot for our afternoon walk as the guards pretty much left us alone and just manned the exit so I went for a run before listening to some more horror stories from other fellow inmates. I was also informed that the local Waitrose will deliver to the hotel if we spend £40 so an order for wine and chocolate has been ordered!!!We managed to stay out for nearly an hour...magical!

Our bird list is coming along nicely and we have soared to 17 addition of 6 from yesterday....I can't tell you how excited we were when I spotted 3 Dunnocks and 2 Woodpigeons cavorting on the pathway below our window.

Our evening meal arrived with two curries, which I cannot eat, but the salad was fine with a bit of Naan bread and some Shiraz that came from home.

It was lovely to hear the voice of my son Jonathan Jonny as phone calls are just so important to us at the moment and it was also lovely to hear from Kathryn yesterday.

Our guards have been wonderful today as we get to know them a little better and they settle into their routine (the quarantine facility has only just been set up.

10th December

Looking westwards from my window

Day 3 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Canary Wharf.

I have just been pinged by the NHS covid-19 app saying that I have been in close contact with someone with corona virus since I have been back in the UK.........just as well that I am in isolation then! The message invited me to take a PCR test.........I am beginning to wonder if there is a factory somewhere just making PCR tests just for me with the number that I have had to do in the last few weeks. Luckily my PCR test came back negative from yesterday. I am in more danger from covid at the isolation quarantine hotel than I ever was in Mozambique!

Well our body clocks continue to be out of sync and we were both up and working by 4am on processing our photos. At least I now have all my bird photos photo-shopped and labelled now, just most of the landscape ones to go, which should be quicker to more wondering what that little black blob was, that I took half way to Malawi!
Our exercise was short this morning as it was so cold outside with inadequate clothing so whilst John walked (or rather limped as his foot is hurting), I went for a run......not so easy without proper trainers and only my shoes with no cushioning. I just hope my shin splints won't return!

Our day had a familarity about it! Breakfast, then lunch then an evening meal interspersed with two exercise slots and laptop work. It was good to have zoom meeting with Patrick and Clare and a WhatsApp video talk with Nick. It does make our day a little less tedious.

Our meals continue to be delicious and we have more than enough to eat and drink.
The bird list only progressed by one bird as I spotted a Peregrine early this morning flying over the Inter Continental Hotel on the opposite side of the river. Very exciting for us! The list is now on 18 species!

December 11th

Sunrise over the O2

Day 4 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Canary Wharf

It was a beautiful sunrise this morning as we opened the curtains from our quaratine facility. We were up at 5.30am, a bit of an improvement from our other early start days. We were soon both at work on our lap tops but admitted that the sameness in the four walls was beginning to get to us both.

We took our exercise a bit earlier than usual but I managed to pull a calf muscle whilst running probably due to no trainers with me and using ordinary shoes as I don't have suitable footwear with me. This is going to be such a pain (literally) as we are being fed far too much and I need the exercise to run some calories off! Food and drink is beginning to pile up in our room and we have enough wooden cutlery to man a market stall!

To relieve the tediousness we look out of the window and it's amazing what people get up to. Today we even found people walking over the roof of the O2........I guess they have copied the Sydney Bridge idea. The golf driving range was also very popular today.

Our bird species list has ground to a halt as we suspected it would with no new species added today rather disappointingly. It started to rain after lunch and so with my poorly leg we did not have our alloted exercise and just enjoyed a few phone calls and messages from friends. Please keep them coming as it does keep us in contact with the world.

I have now managed to label all the 600 photos that I took and it is going to be a difficult decision which to use for my trip report. Do I go for the better photos that are the common African birds or the rarer and more difficult to see birds that lurk deep in vegetation, in poor light that do not make good photos? I also have many images of living conditions in this desperately poor country that I use for talks and presentations.

December 12th

Day 5 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Canary Wharf

It was a grey winter's day as we opened the curtains this morning and we were both soon at work sorting out our checklists and for me, data entry of my trip list into Wildlife Recorder. By 10am we fancied a walk and so rang down to our guards for permission. My torn calf muscle was not good and so I put my walking boots in the hope of giving it some support so that I could hobble a bit.

It was surprisingly mild and walking very slowly my leg seemed to improve a bit and I am hopeful with all the rest that I am getting it won't be too long in its healing.

I could hear a Robin clicking in a nearby bush and related this information to John who could not hear it. I walked up to the bush at the top of the concrete wall and saw a bit of movement. After a bit of a wait it popped out onto the wall. You have no idea how excited we were! A new bird for our list which has swelled to 20 species!

Our afternoon was marred by the frustrations of PRC testing which I don't want to go into here but it is quite clear to us that the gov/nhs websites/authorities have no idea that we are in a quarantine hotel. The 2+ hours saga of trying to get the right hand to talk to the left hand is impossible and trying to get them to correct their incorrect data that they are holding for us when they won't answer emails or phones within an hour made life very difficult. Cutting you off as they transfer you to the correct official to deal with your case and you have to start the hour wait all over again did not help the situation! Grrrr All of which meant that I missed my 15 minutes of fresh air this afternoon.

It was lovely to receive a few phone calls today and last night as they do help keep in contact. Thank you. Do keep them coming.

Surprisingly we have watched very little TV since we have been here as our entertainment tends to come from watching the boats on the Thames and birdwatching from our windows. However John watched a car race on TV this afternoon. It all seemed a bit farcical to me as apparently it all hinged on the last lap and was a bit unfair. Life seems a bit like that at the moment!

             Robin that caused such excitement!

A sleepy guard outside our room. It must be a mid-numbing job!
December 13th

Day 6 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Canary Wharf

It was a good day today as Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys sent his $US250 million megayacht, Bravo Eugenia to pick me up and take me away from all this................and then as soon as it got close it turned around and disappeared into the wharf.......maybe I should have put a bit more lipstick on???? or did I just wake up?

After realising I was in for another day's incarceration and consuming far more breakfast that I should I did a bit more data entry for Wildlife Recorder and took an early walk with our minders and chatted to a fellow inmate who had also been caught out on holiday. There was some discussion on when we would be allowed out and there is some confusion about this at best!

The best part of the day happened when Sally and Lucy phoned and I could show them virtually around my new living quarters. I offered to swap with them but sadly they declined. During this time my phone rang again and imagine my surprise when looking out of my window down to the riverside I saw my eldest son Mark standing there. It brought tears to my eyes. I so wish I could have had a big cuddle with him! It was lovely to see him and congratulate him on his recent promotion. I am one very proud mummy! He kindly popped along to a local shop and we now have some more supplies of chocholate for which we are extremely grateful. It has been the thoughtfulness of friends and family that have kept us going. Thank you all x

Sadly we did not add any new birds to our species list today and just watched the gulls, crows and Magpies!

Megayacht Bravo Eugenia
My son Mark at lunchtime at Canary Wharf just below my window
December 14th

Day 7 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Canary Wharf

You couldn't make the events of today up could you? What a shambles today has been for this government. After recognising that it is not travellers that have caused the omicron covid spike but a new variant that is community spread, which was already in the UK when we returned, having had negative PCR tests to board the flight home, they have finally agreed to remove 11 countries off the red list. John and I have had our liberty taken away from us, imprisoned us at a huge cost to ourselves and left us as sitting ducks in a city where we have had no ventilation in our room, corridors or lifts with staff who have been travelling to work on trains, buses and possibly mixing with friends and family with the virus. We have been told several staff have been sent home with the virus. We would have been so much safer to have returned to our rural Norfolk home in our own car and then tested as we had planned to do. Rant over! (but there will be a letter winging its way to Boris!)

Our day dawned with a wonderful sunrise but it did not last long and after breakfast we settled into our routine of working on our laptops. However we decided to take our walk early and we were so glad we did as we had a little mixed flock of birds that passed through a scruffy bit of vegetation over the wall of our hotel. We added 3 species to our hotel list.....yes 3 more species! Great Tit, Blue Tit and Blackbird. We had a pairsof Great Tits, Blue Tits and Dunnocks and a lone Blackbird. The Dunnocks were not new for our list but good to see when you are deprived citizens like we are at the moment. It takes our list to 23 species!

We also watched a wonderful display of a pair of Peregrines that were flying around the top of the Inter Continental Hotel and saw the tercel carrying prey, possibly a pigeon.
During our exercise this afternoon all our fellow inmates were agog with the prospect of being released early from prison and hopes were high but we will have to wait and see. I felt so sorry for the family that have 3 young children in thier room with them. It must have been awful when you are all cooped up unexpectedly with no toys with them.

We watched the window cleaners at work must be fun on a cold, windy December day hanging from ropes!

15th December

Day 8 of quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Canary Wharf

After being woken up last night and given a letter we had high hopes of being let out this afternoon from our enforced quarantine after arriving back from Mozambique via Ethiopia. With 76 new cases of covid in Mozambique (3 with Omicron) and 50 850 new cases in the UK (over 100 with Omicron) we found this farcical especially as we had been visiting very remote areas to enjoy our birdwatching.

Apparently after all the shambolic organisation that this government has inflicted upon Red-list prisoners (making us return and stay in a city where Omicron is rampant) we are now going to be let home to continue our quarantine but now they discover that legislation needs altering. There are well over 500 people in our hotel so I don’t suppose that it’s going to be a quick process to register us all for track and trace and herd us onto buses back to Heathrow. Here’s hoping the extra carpark days will be free!
We sit and wait with our bags packed!

John and I were forced to take a day 8 PCR tests and were rebuffed several times after asking if we could go home. By lunch time we were still waiting. It was now beyond a joke. At 4pm our negative PRC results were checked and we were told to wait for another hour when porters, that were guards until an hour ago would help us down with our luggage to reception. There was lots of administration to do and we were given yet more PCR tests that had to be performed as we had to promise that we would quarantine at home. We decided not to wait for the buses and ordered a taxi that took us back to the Heathrow carpark where we were asked to pay £730 excess parking fee. The scam of London is beyond belief. With no-one manning the carpark, I eventually found an intercom where I vented my frustration and managed to get the bill reduced to £240, still an outrage on my opinion.

Our bad luck continued as several road blocks on the way home with no advanced warnings made for a very late night home!

16th December

Day 9 of quarantine

And we all thought that the saga was over. Not so it would seem.

I awoke to a beautiful morning back at home. Not quite the view from my bedroom window that I have enjoyed over the last 8 days of imprisonment. Having had a negative PCR test to board our flight home from Mozambique, imprisoned, and testing negative on day 2 test in the hotel we were obviously fit and well and being held against our will having arrived from a country with very few cases of Covid-19. ( I suspect some of you may well be a step ahead here and can guess where this story is heading). So with a proliferation of PCR tests to take and mixing with guards and hotel staff who were testing positive and being sent to a city with a high incidence of covid it was only a matter of time, as sitting ducks with no choice that one or both of us would succumb. And so it has. This morning I received a message to say that I was positive for Covid-19 and must self isolate. You would think that the various texts and emails that I have received would all give you the same information of how long to self-isolate for wouldn’t you, given the fact that the coding you have to put in the forms that are obligatory to fill in? How wrong could you be!

This bunch of monkeys running this country has a lot to answer for. Well done Boris. Have a lovely Christmas!

17th December

Day 10 of quarantine

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry when I received an email from the Radisson Blu Hotel thanking me for choosing to stay with them. At what point did I choose to be imprisoned? At what point did I choose to become infected with Covid-19? The meals were delicious and the staff were very kind but that’s not the point is it? Rubbing salt into the wound is not a good idea methinks!

On the plus side I have been overwhelmed by the support, phone calls and messages that I have received offering help whilst in isolation. I thank you all. I now know that angels do exist and one angel slipped in a couple of pressies too. An angel indeed!

Whilst receiving a phone call from a NarVOS member I was bemoaning the fact that I had not received an annual report. This may have been because I missed the last meeting when they may have been given out. Whilst sitting on my stairs and sharing my woes I noticed a picture of a Great Spotted Woodpecker sticking out from underneath my curtain where it had obviously lain for a while. It was the NarVOS annual report! It is a testament to how hard that the committee work to produce it even though I hold the view that modern technology and social media has largely replaced the need for these anymore. How much longer will we have books and old references on our bookshelves when we have everything at the touch of a button on our laptops? 

18th December

Day 11 of quarantine

Today was a typical winter's day in the UK in December and I know why I want to spend time in a hot and sunny country at this time of year. After testing positive for Covid I have been a bit up and down. Mostly I have been ok, initially with a bit of sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and a bit of a headache but these symptoms did not last long and I have been up and about BUT I am fatigued and by lunchtime I often slump on the sofa. So after a bit of a whirlwind of unpacking, washing and Christmas present wrapping for my grandchildren and sorting out presents for my children I have finally caught up with myself and found time to watch a Red Kite from my lounge window!

Now my granddaughter has Covid too. Poor little mite.

19th December

Day 12 of quarantine

It was not a great start to my day having managed to stab myself with a knife (don’t ask). Trying to stem the flow of blood as well as apply antiseptic cream ( the wound had some rust in it which I couldn’t get out) as well as applying a plaster when you are on your own and in quarantine from covid was difficult! So watching 30 Fieldfares circling around out of my kitchen window looking for food made me feel a bit better. At least I was warm and fed!

Yesterday I managed to catch up a bit with some Christmas preparations and got some presents wrapped but my positive covid test and covid in one of my children’s family has put paid to the plan A family Christmas.

I know it’s late but I did manage to get the Christmas cake made this morning and it is now in the oven baking. It will just have to be dosed liberally with alcohol this year. I’m sure it will be fine!

20th December

Day 13 of quarantine

So the sorry saga of the government’s incompetence continues. Yesterday John was informed that his recent PCR test was positive,which now means that his isolation will continue beyond Christmas. Not funny after being forced into a quarantine hotel where the staff were testing positive for covid, when if we had been allowed straight home from Mozambique with our negative test results, we would have been safe from covid. No doubt they will enjoy their cheese and wine business meetings!

Bit by bit I am managing to catch up with myself and spent my morning on my sewing machine repairing my beloved birding bag that travels with me on my foreign adventures. Being ‘old school’ I put in another zip that I had salvaged from another piece of clothing/bag replacing the broken zip which did the job admirably! 

Being bird-deprived I thought I would put up my little Christmas tree and decorated it with the Australian birds that my daughter Kathryn gave me when she travelled around Australia. Happy days! Will I ever see these birds again?

21st December

Day 14 of quarantine

It’s a bit sad when the most exciting part of the day is when the online shopping turns up and I get to talk to another fellow covid sufferer, who has recently recovered. Well done that delivery driver who brightened up my otherwise dull day.

Having Covid-19 at this time of year has not been easy. Online shopping slots were all booked up ages ago. It took me a while to find a supermarket that had one available but thanks to friends who have rallied round and shopped for me for my immediate supplies I will not starve this Christmas!

Now my daughter-in-law has tested positive for Covid. The family Christmas plans are not going well!

22nd December

Day 15 of quarantine

So the government have changed the rules yet again. My poor text messages, emails and nhs Covid-19 apps from gov and nhs are so confused with one another with so many different end dates to my quarantine John and I have absolutely no idea what is going on! I’m told that my PCR tests are likely to show positive for the next 90 days so how come lateral flows will show negative after ( possibly) 6 or 7 days?

After spending the morning putting on the marzipan and icing my homemade Christmas cake I did a few laps running around my garden. I can’t believe how unfit I have become in the last 15 days. Not good!

24th December

Edward, Sarah, George and Sue

After doing 16 days of quarantine, negative lateral flow tests and a huge variety of release dates from the nhs and government and feeling well I drove to my son's for Christmas. The twins had great fun putting the carrot, mince pie and a drink out for Santa and the reindeer. It was just wonderful to be with my family once again. The boys were so excited!

I saw several Red Kites on the way and a few Redwings too!

25th December

Jonathan and Sue

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that your Christmas has been as happy as mine (but possibly not as exhausting with twin boys scampering around but I would't have changed it for the world!)

27th December

                             Belted Kingfisher

                                Sue lining up the scope on the Belted Kingfisher

After the angst of the last couple of weeks of being in quarantine for 16 days, being in isolation after catching covid from the hotel and having a wonderful family Christmas, John and I were finally free to twitch the Belted Kingfisher that has been in the UK for weeks giving birders the run around. We had heard of tales of dangerous muddy slopes with air ambulances being called out, friends only seeing it for a couple of seconds down other birders scopes after travelling for hours to see it and tales of the kingfisher disappearing all day after coming out of roost and having to stand all day waiting for it to come back to roost. 

So after negative news last night John and I set off during the night with some trepidation. However luck was on our side and somehow we got the wrong parking place and met the farmer whose field we were going to cross who was going to charge the other birders £10 for access but said we could leave our car near the bridle track and go through his gate, and so we did! It didn't take long for the birder next to me to spot the Belted Kingfisher flying in, but I managed to miss it! After a bit of a panic and most of us slithering around in the mud a bit further along the river, we returned to our original spot after a birder climbed the fence and flushed the bird back to tree infront of us. It was quite distant but we had excellent views which we all enjoyed. I managed lots of phone-scope photos in the gloomy light. We watched it until we had our fill watching it dive for fish several times. We were thrilled as I edge ever nearer to my 500 for my UK list. The excitement certainly beats train spotting and the joy of being with friends sharing the day was wonderful!

28th December

Brodie Bryan

A very happy 3rd birthday to this little sweetheart Brodie Bryan, my gorgeous grandson. After Brodie told me all about his wonderful day counting the carp fish that he saw, I settled down to work on my trip report of Mozambique. I seem to take more photos of every trip that I do and so it takes longer to write. I thought about going to see the Great Northern Diver at Pentney that Steve told me about but the rain put me off and I wanted to make progress on my report.

My concentration has been poor during covid and so I had fallen behind with my work, but today I had the chance to write uniterrupted and so I did! 

However several messages arrived and I was soon thinking forward and all the foreign travel plans that I have for the coming year. Having now had covid I just hope that this appalling government don't wreck them again. 

The only birdwatching I did today was watching a few Blue Tits and Blackbirds in my garden.

29th December

                             Black-necked Grebe

                                 Great Northern Diver

I set off in the rain to Pentney Gravel Pit where I met with Ian, Paul, Chris and David. The Black-necked Grebe was showing well along with Mallard, Tufted Duck and Wigeon when viewed from the road at the right hand end of the lake. The Great Northern Diver had other ideas though and I had to wait half an hour before it appeared right over on the back of the lake. It was raining quite hard by now and I had to fetch some waterproof trousers and an umbrella in a vain attempt to keep dry whilst trying to phone-scope some images. They are poor at best but at least you can see what the bird is! Two Great Crested Grebes were also present along with Cormorant and Black-headed Gulls.

30th December

Needing some fresh air and exercise to work off all my Christmas cake and Christmas pudding I set off for West Newton to check out the Hawfinch site. Although I could hear one calling I could not locate it but was surprised at a Raven calling overhead. It's been a while since I last saw one here. Nine Fieldfare were sat at the top of a tree but soon moved on. On my way back to the car two Egyptian Geese flew over. Goldcrest were calling from the trees above me but the light was poor and I only saw them very badly as they flew across the track.

I have nearly finished my trip report to Mozambique. Just the mammal list to go now!

31st December

Red-necked Grebe

Taiga Bean Goose

John and I started our day at Buckenham where we saw 3 Taaiga Bean Geese lurking in the ditch across the marsh. Most of the time we could only see their heads and only once did one of the geese walk up on top of the field. It was good to meet up with Dot and Steve once again. There were many Wigeon present here as a Grey Heron flew across the marsh.We left to go and see the Eagle Owl but could not find it. Locals told us that it flies around at dusk but can sometimes be seen sitting out in the open. Next we visited Ormesby Little Broad where the Red-necked Grebe put on a good show across the other side of the broad. Great Crest Grebes interacted with it but we failed to find the Great Northern Diver that had been reported.

Postscript to 2021

Covid aside 2021 has been a fantastic year and I have fulfilled several of my bucket list dreams. I have never had so many holidays and lovely trips as I have enjoyed this year. St. Kilda, Cape Wrath, Anglesey, The Scilly Isles, Isle of Skye, The Lake District and of course an amazing foreign holiday to Mozambique were all enjoyed immensely. I have watched my family grow and thrive. My eldest son was promoted to a director of a major international company, my second son captained the over 35s England hockey team and my daughter welcomed my seventh grandchild Lucy into the world and in a matter of days came to support me at my second graduation ceremony in Oxford which has been postponed from last year.

I wish to say a special thanks to John, Tim and Jim, my family and the Titchwell team who have all been amazing who not only supported me and had good times with but rallied round when I had covid.

I hope 2022 will be as good to you all and I look forward to the best that birding and friendship can offer us all. Thank you for the many kind messages and emails that you send me and thank you for reading. Sue