What a day it was today! We started our day watching
Red-footed Booby and Brown Booby off Makapu’u Island in glorious sun that Oahu
was offering us today. It was hot and humid as we watched Hawaiian Coot and
Black-necked Stilts on a suburban pond before adding Caspian Tern on a military
basin along with American and Eurasian Wigeon. A wandering Tattler was seen on another short stop as the waves rolled in across the rocks.
After another delicious lunch, huge prawns covered in coconut and macadamia nuts, we made our way across a golf course at Kahuku where we watched several Bristle-thighed Curlews, a much endangered wader. A Laysan Albatross flew over them and flushed them whilst off-shore Hump-back Whales were leaping out of the Pacific Ocean. With the sun beating down it was just glorious! Can life get any better?
Today our group flew from Oahu Island northwards to the
island of Kauai Island in the Hawaiian chain of islands. Here we saw Laysan Albatrosses
sitting on nests in suburban gardens. Not quite as we expected!
On the golf course in Princeville we watched Nene geese as well as a vagrant Snow Goose. Along the coastline we watched Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, Great Frigatebird and more Laysan Albatrosses whilst Humpback Whales breached offshore. Mandy and I rescued an endangered Hawaiian duckling during the day and took it to a carer in Hanalei Wildlife Refuge. It was so young we do hope it will survive.
Today was spent on trying to see some endemic birds to Kauai
Island, Hawaii and to see the amazing Waimea Canyon. We set off early from our
luxurious hotel (£450 a night, Hawaii is VERY expensive) and Mandy drove around
the coast and up the Waimea Canyon Road climbing all the way up the volcanic
island. We stopped to take some photos on the lookout over-looking the canyon.
Whilst not as long as the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon was vegetated and very
pretty. It was a shame that we were enveloped in low cloud spoiling the view.
After taking some photos we continued our drive to the top of the road where we
listened to the birds calling in the rain forest.
After much effort in the rain we added Kauai Elepaio,
Apapane, Aniianiau and Kauai Amakihi to our life lists. It was difficult going
as the rain hampered our sightings and photography virtually impossible. After
lunch we travelled back down the road and added Erckel’s Spurfowl, Northern
Mockingbird and African Silverbill to our lists. Hawaii reminds me of New
Zealand where many of the birds are introduced from all over the world and the
endemics are very sadly on the the endangered list, some of which are likely to
go extinct within my lifetime.
We stopped at Bobby’s salt pan where we found a rarity for the island in the shape of a Grey-tailed Tattler which delighted John as it was a lifer for him. Our guide Jacob was also delighted as it was a lifer for him too!
As we were having dinner last night a terrible storm blew up
and continued through the night bringing over 8 inches of rain and unheard of
thunder and lightning for the Hawaiian islands. When we awoke we all had an
emergency message on our phones across our screens warning us not to travel so
our birding was temporarily suspended for the morning until the rain ceased. I
decided to make the most of the hotel’s swimming pool and hot tub which was
At 11am the rain had stopped and we checked out of the hotel
and headed for Poipu Beach where we had a delightful lunch watching a Brown
Booby and a Hawaiian Green Turtle resting on the sand. It was soon joined by 5
others. After lunch we walked along the beach and saw 2 rare Monk Seals as well
as another Hawaiian Green Turtle.
All too soon it was time to head for the airport where we flew to Hawaii (Big Island). On arrival we headed for a waterside restaurant and had a delicious Scallop and Crab meal before heading to our beds for the night.
Sue with Hawaiian Green Turtles coming ashore at Poipu Beach Kaua'i Island, Hawaii
We started our day at Kealakehe Water treatment works where
the highlight for the locals was a Ruff! Various ducks including Ring-necked
Duck and Lesser Scaup were seen whilst listening to Black Francolins. We added
Grey Francolin and Yellow-billed Cardinal here as well as Cackling Goose. We
then headed upwards to Mauna Kea where we could see Mauna Loa, the world’s
largest active volcano. We birded up at 7000 feet but failed to find any
Pilalea’s but added Hawaiian Amakiki and Hawaiian Elepaio. I got several
glimpses of Japanese Bush Warbler too.
Our route back to the hotel included Kalij Pheasant in the low cloud.
The evening was AWESOME! After sunset Jacob, Walter and I made our way down to the harbour in the dark where we were measured up for a wetsuit. After putting them on we boarded a boat and were taken out to the sea. We put on snorkelling masks and jumped into the sea and grabbed onto a bar on a floating mat and put a foam tube under our feet so that we were laying face down in a horizontal position. Blue lights were switched on which illuminated all the plankton and attracted all the fish. The fish then attracted Manta Rays. They were HUGE! The Manta Rays swam towards us and I had an eyeball to eyeball experience as they came within an inch of my face! The Manta Rays would swim underneath us and then ball roll as they came up and under us. It was a stunning experience and one I shall not forget in a hurry. What a wonderful life this is! My thanks must go to Mandy for the suggestion and making this happen and to Jacob for coming with me for support.
We had an early start today and drove up to 9000 feet to see
Mauna Kea, a volcano now a national park. After seeing Black Francolin along
Old Saddle Road we drove back down to 6500 feet to Hakalau Forest National
Wildlife Refuge were we had special permission to enter it. We were in very low
cloud and it was very wet and so sadly I decided to leave my camera in the van.
We watched Oma’o, I’iwi, Akiapola’au,(yes the spellings are fun here!) Hawaii Creeper, Hawaii Amakihi, Apapane, and Hawaii
Later the sun emerged and I took a few photos using my iphone. It was a delightful reserve and we saw the endemic birds well but sadly they are in serious decline and I suspect several will go extinct in my lifetime. Later along the Mana Road we watched an Io (Hawaiian Hawk) and a Short-eared Owl along the Old Saddle Road.
Today was booked as a pelagic day around Big Island, Hawaii and out to the Yellow Pacific Rim Tsunami Warning Buoy 32 miles offshore. Some of the group were a little apprehensive going so far offshore but I was looking forward to it. Most pelagics are rough and can be very cold. However Mandy assured us that it would be hot under the clear-blue tropical sun and Mauna Loa volcano at 15000 feet high would shelter us from the Trade Winds tearing across the Pacific. We took her at her word. It was hot but one’s idea of calm and another person’s idea of calm are two entirely different things, least to say two of our party re-saw their breakfasts!
I struggled with my camera and have hundreds of out-of-focus photos and hundreds of sea and sky pictures if anyone is wanting photos of some? I have a few of microscopic dots too!
We left Kailua-Kona harbour at 7am and almost immediately were watching Humpback Whales to our delight against a background of Mauna Loa. Seabirds were few but we saw Red-footed Booby and a Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Soon we had a Band-rumped Petrel flying not far off the boat which was a world tick for me. The Leach’s Petrel went by too quickly for my camera. Later a Laysan Albatross flew by along with a Brown Booby and more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. A Black-winged Petrel was seen by a few of us, I was just lucky being in the right place at the right time as our expert guide on board called it out. Brown Noddys and a White Tern were added to the trip list as we reached the Yellow Pacific Rim Tsunami Warning Buoy 32 miles off shore.
I kept nibbling on the plentiful snacks provided and made myself comfortable at the back of the boat and missed the Masked Booby seen by a few at the front of the boat. Grrrr. I admired the flocks of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and more Humpback Whales. As we started the return journey a huge pod of Melon-headed Whales appeared around a pair of Humpback Whales that had a very young calf with them. The scene was stunning as we cut the engine and watched all the drama in front of us as several melon-headed Whales leapt out of the water. It was certainly a grand finale to our visit here.
Mandy took us to a smart restaurant where we had a lovely evening meal to thank our guide and bid the rest of our group goodbye. The sunset was just wonderful.
Leaving Honkohau Harbour, Big Island, Hawaii
It was 27 degrees as we arrived in Hollywood today. Not bad
for February! We drove through Beverly Hills and had asked where we could see
the Hollywood sign from our air stewardess, after explaining to her that we
were birdwatchers and wanted somewhere nice to go for a walk to see some birds
as well. She recommended Griffith Park. What an excellent suggestion that was.
The hike up to the Astronomical Observatory was fairly steep but what a lovely,
beautiful walk it was in the sun with clear blue skies.
I made good use of the Merlin App on my phone to recognise all the different calls of the birds and saw Audubon's Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, California Thrasher, Wrentit, Purple Finch, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, California Scrub Jay, Oak Titmouse as well as Raven, Acorn Woodpecker, Oregon Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, Hermit Thrush, Anna’s Hummingbird and Red-tailed Hawk.
John and I drove to the Ballona Wetlands this morning which is an ecological reserve near Playa Del Ray Beach, California. Once again the sun was shining, which made photography for us very difficult as we were staring into it. Here we watched Long-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs and a flock of Least Sandpiper. Ducks were also present and included Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and American Coot. Overhead White-throated Swifts were calling (thanks Merlin App) as we watched and listened to Song Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows.
We crossed over the road (not easy in America...with lots of lanes) and watched a Common Yellowthroat flitting in the scrub.
Sunset across Thornham Marsh
Trevor, Sally and I joined Matt on the West Bank Path at Titchwell to watch a Red-crested pochard on the Freshmarsh at Titchwell. It was a glorious day which our visitors were enjoying. We all stayed and watched the sunset.
As I left for work this morning a Brambling was sitting in a shrub next to my garden feeder. I have not seen one in the garden for quite sometime. Siskins were also present. There do seem to be quite a few around at the moment. I spent the day at work doing quiite a lot of periphery tasks at Titchwell today as well as filling in for absent staff. I love the variety of my job. I never know what I am going to be doing next! Such a wonderul place to work. I greeted many visitors today but it was lovely to see friends that I have not seen for quite sometime and catch up. I loved watching a Treecreeper too from the Welcome Hub as it investigated the bark for some food. Ringed Plovers are already mating on our Freshmarsh so the battle with dogs off leads on our beaches will soon begin as usual. If you know of anyone who can volunteer a few hours to speak to dog owners at Snettisham or Heacham please let me know and I can put you in touch with the project officer who would be glad of some help. Thank you.
John and I spent the morning down at Trailfinders booking flights for our up-coming cruise. Luckily it was not as complicated as it was pre-Christmas so the advice we were given to wait a while was good. Our afternoon was spent booking hotels for a few visits on stop-overs en-route. Exciting times ahead!
This evening John was giving a talk to NarVOS about our birding trip to Tanzania. It was good to see the hall packed. Our meeting was in the little room that we used to meet in years ago. So much better and friendlier. It was wonderful to re-live such an excellent birding trip. It was good to see one of my former birding pals from the days of West Norfolk RSPB group that I used to go birding with many years ago. The usual crew of members met in the pub afterwards for the usual banter where many birding trips were discussed.
It was a blustery walk down the West Bank path at Titchwell this morning with the winds stronger than I was expecting. A squall was coming in and John and I took shelter in Island Hide whilst it passed through. We watched Avocets, Pintail and Golden Plover before getting distracted by a Cetti's Warbler calling from right outside the hide. We spent some time trying to see it with a Reed Bunting and a Robin causing some confusion before I had a brief viewi of it as it flew across a gap calling as we turned our back on it.
The squall abated and we ventured outside once more. The tide was covering Thornham Marsh and the sea was showing 'white horses' when John and I eventually got there. Seawatching was very difficult due to our streaming eyes against a northerly wind. Sanderling were being blown along the tide line as well as along the beach just in front of us. John and I soon gave up seawatching as there was very little passing by and we were fed up of mopping our eyes.
We watched several Rock Pipits as we walked back up the path and took refuge in Parrinder Hide. A few Redshank were feeding in the mud and after a search John located the Water Pipit. Ruff were feeding along one of the banks as well as Teal and Gadwall. Avocets were in abundance as well as Black-headed Gulls. I heard a Mediterranean Gull but could not locate it.
We spent some of the afternoon filling in a booking form for a trip that we fancied in the autumn and although there should be some new birds for us both, this will not be the main focus of the trip. Hopefully another 'bucket list' dream will be fulfilled!
Sue in Senegal
I have spent most of the day with my sewing machine. I have a favourite birding skirt that I wear almost exclusively on my hot birding holidays (seen here on my recent trip to Senegal watching Egyptian Plover). I wear it day in and day out and wash it out at the end of the day and with luck it is dry by the following morning. It holds treasured memories as I bought it in Uluru (Ayres Rock) to replace another similar one that was also worn to the death back in 2010 on my 'round the world' birding year back in 2010. Sadly it has now worn through in certain areas and has been repaired several times by patches. You would like to think it is a simple case of buying another one wouldn't you? I have searched the internet extensively, shopped many department and outdoor clothing shops but I can't find one anywhere! I can get trousers, shorts, skorts but a simple cream-coloured quick-dry cotton skirt seems impossible. So I bought some cotton material that seems as near the colour as possible and repleced the whole lower section and repleced all the original pockets. Job done! I hope it will now last through all my next few planned birding trips but if anyone knows where I can buy another cream, safari-style, quick-dry cotton skirt, please let me know!
Having promised a NarVOS member a copy of my Mongolia trip report who does not posess a computer I printed one off and drove to the post office to post it to him. On the way back home I stopped off at West Newton where 82 Fieldfares were running around in the sheep field. I was surprised to only find 2 Redwings amongst them. Four Mistle Thrushes were also in the field and a flock of Starlings that were too mobile to count as they kept taking off and re-landing. Above the woods 3 Common Buzzards were soaring in the wind as a Red Kite swirled around. A Kestrel caught me by surprise as it launced itself out of the hedge and nearly hit my car.
After a morning of chores I spent the late afternoon sorting out my database of my worldlist after the latest I.O.C splits and lumps. For years now I have used Wildlife Recorder 4 which sends through updates every 6 months. After the update has been installed it takes time to go through all the validations as many of the birds that I saw many years ago have been re-named or split. As I go through them one by one it brings back memories of the places that I have been and seen such wonderful birds. Some places I hope to revisit as there are some gaps that I would love to fill! As I love travelling I hope to have the health and fitness to continue! There is nothing like a new bird to keep the passion of birding and wildlife watching going!
The day started at Weybourne where after a bit of a search I managed to relocate the Lapland Bunting amongst the huge Linnet flock. I managed to get Ian and Paul onto it before it disappeared once again. I started searching once again and found it several times but the bird kept disappearing down into a furrow. A Redpoll and a Skylark wee also in the flock. I drove to Kelling Heath in hope of seeing a Woodlark but as usual dogs were off their leads and disturbing all the birds that were around. I returned to my car and drove to Leatheringsett where Pete Gluth and Neil Bostock enjoyed the Mealy Redpolls and Siskins as much as I did in the sun.
50th Anniversary Cake
My day ended at Titchwell where I joined the rest of the staff and volunteers for the 50th Anniversary celebrations. We had asked visitors and supporters to join us on the West Bank path and together we watched 2 Barn Owls, Marsh Harriers, a Hen Harrier, Spoonbill, Cormorants, Barnacle Geese, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese all in glight as the sun set. It was quite chilly and we were gald to retreat back to the cafe for the celebrations. Clare had made a lovely cake as we ate and drank to warm ourselves up. It was a lovely evening party which we all enjoyed.
Trevor and I watched a Treecreeper from the Welcome Hub today as we welcomed visitors on site. Chris had found two Tundra Bean Goose in amongst the flock of Canada Geese, Pink-footed Geese and Greyag Geese by the entrance track and Ray had kindly popped in to tell me. The birders amongst the staff popped out to see them, however it was not good views as the geese were semi hidden in the long grass and it wasn't long before some walkers stupidly decided to enter the field and flushed all the geese into flight before all the staff could see them. Later after work Ryan, Elizabeth, Louisa and I walked down the West Bank path and watched a few Tufted Ducks on the Reedbed pool.