A very Happy New Year to all those of you that read my website.
As I pulled up my kitchen blind this morning I watched a pair of Magpies finishing off some scraps that I had put out on the lawn. Blue Tits, Great Tits and a lone Coal Tit were on the feeders as I started off my new year list. Later a Dunnock, Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinches were added to the list as Black-headed Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew over. A few Jackdaws, Collared Doves and Woodpigeons were around but I did not see any Red Kites this morning. I was determined to have a lazy morning before the birdwatchers party this evening up on the coastline.
I read some of the new Twitching book that has just been published in bed and re-hashed an article for one of my bird clubs before starting on my photos ready for my usual trip report of my recent visit to Senegal. I shall be under pressure to get it finished as my next winter trip is coming up shortly!
My Nar Valley Fisheries permit arrived today. It was good to hear that we have some new permit holders replacing some permit holders, as some permit holders have not been pulling their weight in the monthly WeBS count that NarVOS conducts at Nar Valley Fisheries. Twenty permits are issued each year to NarVOS club members with the understanding that all permit holders will take part at some time during the year.
Later in the day I drove across to Cromer and met up with all the birders at the annual New Year's day party. It was good to see so many familiar faces and listen to all their exciting tales of recent exotic birding trips, some of whom had just returned from Antarctica and some who were just setting off for Tanzania.
On my way back home I saw a Barn Owl at East Rudham as it flew across the road in front of me.
It was my first day back at work today for over a month. As it was a bank holiday it was a busy day for Bruce and I and it was good to see so many friends. Rob and Lisa were good to see as we shared a few words before Vicky and Dave came through. We will all share an evening meal together to share our recent travelling tales and birds that we have seen. Our visitors were all pleased with the many birds that we had on offer at Titchwell to get their yeal lists off to a good start.
Trevor had been watching a Hawfinch as I arrived at work this morning at Titchwell but despite my best efforts I could not find it in the Chaffinch flock that Trevor had been watching it in. However I did see a Brambling amongst the flock. I felt sorry for all our visitors as the weather was awful today.
Dave, John, Sue and Vicky at the Dabbling Duck, Great Massingham
As my car was at the garage for its M.O.T and its annual service I stayed at home today and got on with my trip report to The Gambia and Senegal. Looking at the miserable UK winter weather outside my lounge window, I was not inspired to even venture out for a walk either. However by mid-afternoon John had arrived and together we were on our laptops completing various forms needed for our forth-coming trip. The amount of information that authorities need for travelling abroad these days is mind-boggling and it took far longer than we realised, especially as we were both perplexed how to complete one section as the instruction given just simply did not work. Grrr. A work-around did and we eventually submitted our applications.
We had a wonderful evening with our bird world-travelling friends Vicky and Dave who have had many exciting foreign birding trips and we shared our tales and news of our forth-coming trips. Vicky and I shared a room many years ago on an amazing trip to Sichuan in China which we both enjoyed as it was so remote on the Tibetan Plateau seeing many spectacular birds. (Who can resist a Himalayan Rubythroat singing in full song in front of you?) Thank goodness we took the opportunity when we did as the borders have been closed ever since and travel there banned.
It was another miserable winter's morning as John and I joined Rob Fuge, Alan Schpot and Steve Gantlett on the bank at Brancaster this morning. Alan and Rob had already seen the Hume's Warbler and it didn't take long before John and I saw it too. However getting a photograph of it in the very poor light and drizzle was quite a different matter as it flitted around deep in the vegetation. Where oh where was that nice African sun that I was enjoying a few days ago? I struggled and stuggled and eventually gave up as my ISO was already cranked right up and the bird was just not staying still at any point! Hume's Warbler 1, me 0 !
I added a few year ticks and watched an over-wintering Chiffchaff as well as a few Marsh Harriers and Red Kites flying around as Brent Geese fed on the practice green and Cetti's Warblers called from the reed bed.
With Anglia Water digging up the road that I live on to repair a burst pipe, I had no water this morning and a blocked-off road meaning that I have had to use little lanes around my home as diversions. As I had to pay my garage man for my car's recent M.O.T and service I found myself adding Sparrowhawk to my yearlist as I was coming home up one of the lanes as it tried to swoop over a hedge top to surprise some poor unsuspecting bird the otherside. Later on I wanted some bread from the farm shop at Knight's Hill and watched a Hen Harrier fly across the road as I was returning my way back home. I am still feeling sorry for the Red-legged Partridge that lives in my garden as it has lost its partner and walks around forlornly by itself now.
I have spent most of my day writing up my trip report to Senegal. Why oh why do I take so many photographs? I shall never get it done before my next trip at this rate!
Grey Partridge feeder at Flitcham with a pair of Grey Partidge hiding underneath!
It was the NarVOS bird count day today and I did not know whether I was going to take part or not as I wanted to finish my trip report but having completed it yesterday evening John and I had a look at the weather forecast which seemed to suggest that the morning's weather would be OK. We decided to spend the morning birding and see how the afternoon developed and get back home for the afternoon if it started to rain. We decided to restrict ourselves just to TF62 and TF72 as this would be near to home if we wanted to return home early. Many years ago NarVOS use to have a bird race, which was always good fun, but after some contentious use of private land, it was not a level playing field for the teams taking part and the race was abandoned. However it is still good to take part in some survey-type work recording what species still exist in the area.
John and I started at West Newton where we had good views of Siskins and a party of Lesser Redpolls which have been a bit thin on the ground recently. A Nuthatch played hard to see as we watched Marsh Harriers, Red Kites and Common Buzzards. Fieldfare and Redwings were running around one of the fields as we checked out the Osier beds and added 2 Song Thruhes. Mistle Thrushes were in the sheepfields but I could not find my usual Green Woodpecker that is often here. (Why do they go missing on bird count days?) A Great Spotted Woodpecker alighted on a tree but did not stay long. A Bullfinch flying along the hedge was the only one we saw all day. At Flitcham we enjoyed watching Grey Partridges but partridge and pheasant numbers were well down as the Royals have been out and about...........need I say more?
We drove to Dersingham Bog but had to abandon our walk here due to so many people with dogs. It's a nature reserve for heaven's sake! So many dogs off their leads despite many signs telling people to keep their confounded hounds on a lead. Birdwatching and dogs just do NOT mix. My blood was boiling and I knew that I would end up trying to explain to these brainless people who let their dogs run all through the heather the damage that was being done to wildlife would be more that I could cope with. We decided to leave and drove to KIng's Lynn in the hope that we would not meet any more brainless people with dogs and we could birdwatch in peace and enjoy the birding.
Down at Boal Quay John picked out a 1st winter Caspian Gull which was a nice addition to my year list. The tide was still very low and we drove to Lynn Point and watched huge flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwings in the air. Thousands of Brent Geese also came flying in but other waders were hard to come by and the wind was getting up. We decided to return home but the lure of watching the male Hen Harrier on Roydon Common was too much and we walked across the common and saw the ringtail Hen Harrier go to roost really early. It was another hour before John and I saw the male Hen Harrier fly above the trees and disappear between the Birch trees and Pine Trees, not in its usual roost spot at all! Sadly we did not see any Merlins this evening but had at least six Red Kites in the air together. We returned back home and started counting the days until our next, hopefully much warmer winter holiday in the sun! (27 degrees there today!)
We had very few visitors at Titchwell today and Robin and I made the most of it in the Welcome Hub. As we had a staffing issue Robin and I had some fun with the hired Rug Doctor machine after deciding to close early so that we could give the carpet a good clean. We needed lots of buckets of water and although we say it ourselves ,we made a good job of it and now we have a nice clean capet! You never know what you are going to be doing next when working on a bird reserve! All great fun! I just hope that it dries overnight so that I can open up tomorrow!
Our little feeders on the windows were well stocked today and we had a continual stream of Blue Tit and Great Tits feeding from them as well as Blackbirds and Robins sitting in them.
When I arrived home my new field guide had arrived for my forth-coming holiday. I cannot even pronounce many of the birds shown in the guide. Heaven help me trying to spell them when John and I get there!
Fieldfare Thank you card
It was a very wet day at Titchwell today and unsurprisingly we had very few visitors. Passerines were hard to see around the visitor centre as they hid in the wind and the rain. When the rain stoppped many Goldfinches descended from the trees onto the pathway leading up to the Welcome Hub all feeding on something knocked out of the trees. I felt sorry for our conservation staff who came in at luchtime like drowned rats having spent the morning strimming down vegetation on one of the breeding islands in the pouring rain all morning.
Arriving back home after work I loved opening the thank you cards from my grandchildren for the Christmas presents that they had received. One card had a beautiful Fieldfare on it. Good to know that there are still some well-brought up children!
We started our day at Filby Broad where we saw a Scaup
amongst Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot and Great Crested Grebes before driving to
Rollesby Broad where we admired a Red-head Smew. On Ormesby Broad we watched Great
White Egret lurking in the reeds with a few Mute Swans on the water. At Great
Yarmouth we stopped opposite the power station where after a short conversation
with a security guard we watched a pair of Black Redstarts flitting about on a
pile of metal girders.
At Winterton the Velvet Scoters were hard to see as they were distant in amongst the group of Common Scoter and we had to look into the sun with the wind buffeting us around. We watched a few Red-throated Divers on the sea as we were scanning through the flock. There were many seals on the beach and we had them kindly pointed out to us many times by tourists!
We stopped at the Somerton- Horsey straight to have our
lunch and to admire the geese, Lapwings and gulls when I suddenly noticed two Common
Cranes stood in the field beside us which was a nice surprise.
We drove around the old Ludham airfield by the A149 but sadly all the swans had flown away. We drove back to Filby Broad but I received a message from Jim Lawrence to say that the Ferruginous Duck was back at Rollesby Broad. We hurried as fast as we could but missed it by seconds as it was in the air as we got out of the car. However Jim kindly let me look through his scope at the Ring-necked Duck that was fast disappearing into a bay behind the reeds by the cafe. We drove to the cafe and used the bird hide and had much better views (The hot chocolate went down well here too!)
We returned to Filby Broad and there were many more ducks than there were this morning. I worked through them all and managed to find the Red-crested Pochard in amongst all the Pochards but failed miserably to find any Ferruginous Ducks. It started to rain and we returned to Chris Lotz’s home to out sort out our next few birding trips.
We drove to Cley Spey and had good views of the Long-eared Owl before walking the bank at Blakeney. Here we met Peter Dolton who told us where to look for the Twite, that he had seen a couple of times in flight. We had quite a wait in the wind and watched skeins of Pink-footed Geese fly over, before I spotted the Twite in flight where Pater had last seen them go down in the saltings.
I left John and Stew and went to pick up Trudy whom I had promised to show the Pallid Harrier to. After picking her up, I drove to Garden Drove at Warham Greens and we walked down the muddy track and joined many others, some of whom had just been watcing the Pallid Harrier. After putting Trudy's scope onto the spot where it had gone down, we stood and waited for the bird to reappear, which luckily it did along with a Marsh Harrier and a Merlin. We also watched a Sparrowhawk and a Little Egret and returned to North Point Pools at Wells where we watched a Barn Owl fly over us.
After dropping off my camera at Watton for a minor repair I called into Threxton Sewage works where I watched 30 Pied Wagtails and 2 Grey Wagtails on the arms of one of the sewage pools.
I picked up Trudy once again and together we watched the Hume's Warbler at Brancaster after I picked it up on call. It was a shame that I had forgotten to swop my 1.4 converter over on my old Canon 7D as my autofocus would not work when the Hume's Warbler came and posed right in front of us. Grrrrr...
Later at Holkham, we stopped to admire the White-fronted Geese before stopping at Blakeney for the Tawny Owl. The weather was foul but luckily Trudy and I were dressed for it as we battled against the wind and rain!
I drove onto Cley where after searching along East Bank and on the Serpentine we eventually found the Long-billed Dowitcher on Pat's Pool from Bishop Hide along with many Lapwing and a Common Snipe. I managed to take an amusing Snipe/ Dowitcher combo photo! On the pool there were many Shelduck, Teal, Avocet and a few Dunlin along with a Ruff and a pair of Pintails. I wish I had taken a my Canon camera as a Marsh Harrier gave us an amazing display right in front of the hide.
In the wind and rain I drove to Colkirk where Trudy and I battled against the wind once again and watched the 4 Bewick's Swan and a lone juvenile Whooper Swan all snuggled up against and adult Bewick's Swan. Our day ended at Sculthorpe where it was still raining and after watching a few corvids we called it a day. Even though the weather was foul it's still amazing to be able to see some excellent birds in Norfolk if you know where to look and Trudy and I enjoyed it immensely!
I am currently having website problems. Some days the website builder will not work at all. I have been fore-warned that Webs.com has been taken over by Vistaprint. I have also been told that my site will be migrated over to them. However problems seem to be mounting and I am not sure for how much longer I can keep battling with it. So if it suddenly disappears you know why. I hope eventually to start up again but we will have to wait and see!
One of the joys of working at Titchwell Marsh RSPB and welcoming visitors to the reserve, is that over the years I get to see regular visitors from all over the country and get to know them. John is one such visitor who comes with 3 friends several times a year and always seeks me out to have a chat about the birds that we have all seen and for me to help them with some local knoweledge about what birds are where and any information that might be helpful to them. After offering advice to them all, John mentioned that he had recently bought a thermal imager. Many of our foreign bird guides now have these instruments to help locate owls and nightjars and a few U.K. birders also use them to locate Bitterns, Long-eared Owls, Nightingales etc lurking deep in vegetation as well as for foreighn bird trips. Although I have been aware of them and have looked at owls that our foreign bird guides have found using them, I have never actually used one myself.
John kindly went and got his thermal imager and kindly let me have a play with it this afternoon. Along the pathway at Titchwell I had great fun finding Robins, Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Pigeons lurking in trees and seeing their 'hot-spots'. I pressed the buttons and had fun choosing colour options and watched the birds glow through it. I located a Dunnock hopping along that I could not see without the thermal imager. I could see its advantages! Now I will have a write a very early letter to Santa!
On a different note Harriet Mead reminded me that it was 20 years ago today that her father died. Chris Mead was a well-respected staff member of the BTO who welcomed me into is home and garden to learn how to study and ring birds. Many of us gathered on cold winter mornings to extract birds from mist nets and whoosh nets to measure wing lengths, weigh and study the birds. Goodness knows how many Greenfinches, Bramblings and Blue Tits we processed between us all. Chris was an interesting character always keen to share his knowledge before we all descended into his kitchen where his long-suffering wife cooked up an enormous pan of soup for us all with huge amounts of bread, cheese, pickles and hams for us all to eat. Meanwhile we were all in awe of Harriet's talent for her wonderful ability of turning old bits of scrap metal into amazing pieces of wildlife art.
I arrived at work early and was amazed to see that the water in the ditch by the West Bank path was not frozen. My car was recording - 4 degrees at Roydon as I left home but 0 degrees as I arrived at work. Ray kindly showed me where he had seen the Water Rail in the ditch which was well and truly hidden. Luckily it decided to move before I was required to get ready for the day's work schedule. Trevor and I had a good day with lots of laughs as our visitors arrived and shared their banter with us.
It was good to see Mark Bradberrry today so that we could have a chat about tthe Scissor-tailed Kite roost in Senegal. Such kind words Mark! Thank you!
On my way home I was thinking about Woodcock as I was passing at a suitable time of day for them to be emerging from the local woods as I neared my house. There are times when I wonder if I am psychic! No sooner that I was thinking about it when one flew out in my road, over my head and was almost a garden tick!
It was sub-zero as I walked across Roydon Common just after first light this morning. Two hundred and fifty Pink-footed Geese were calling overhead, flying out of roost from The Wash. Gosh it was cold! However I was dressed up in my winter clothing and once I got going I was mesmerised by the beauty of the common as the sun came up and made all the frost-covered heather glisten.I soon forgot about the cold as I stode across the pathway that I have walked so many times. A Wren dashed across in front of me and soon disappeared. I tried to find where it had gone when I heard an unmistakable call; that of a Dartford Warbler. I turned and had a micro-second view of it before it too disappeared. Moments later it reappeared 20 metres away from where it had disappeared. I fumbled with my camera with my very cold hands and managed a quick couple of photographs before it was off yet again. The warbler gave me the runaround as I was batting with a very low sun in the sky, blinding me on most occasions. I moved to the right so that the sun would always be behind me and waited. The Dartford Warbler reappeared a few times but only posed for a second or two at a time, as it was just so mobile. As I was being treated out to lunch today I could not stay long and walked back across the common watching a Marsh Harrier fly over. Back at the car park a Stonechat and a Meadow Pipit were sat on the fence.
As we had a bit of time to kill John and I stopped at Moulton Marsh Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire. Here John and I watched a few Redwings before proceeding to our lunch arrangements, which turned out to be a very nice lunch all washed down with some excellent wine!
As light was fading we stopped on our way back home in King's Lynn docks to watch the Starling murmuration. Against the setting sun and a red and blue sky it was fabulous to watch as the Starlings made their various shapes in the skies. The Bentinck Dock was full of gulls but the Starlings kept us entertained for quite a while before we returned back home to fill in another booking form for a return to South America next year.
Starling murmuration in King's Lynn Docks
Sunrise at Roydon Common
It was a beautiful sunrise as John and I walked across Roydon Common this morning with the emerging glowing sun filling the air with an orange glow highlighting all the glistening heather, as it was 4 degrees below zero. We enjoyed the dog-free zone and the peacefulness as we walked across the common. We heard a Woodlark in the far distance but could not see it. Wood Pigeons and corvids were coming out of roost and flying off as we spotted a Red kite sitting in a distant tree. The Dartford Warbler was flitting around but was only giving very brief views never long enough for a photograph. We walked over Grimston Warren and down to The Delft watching 3 Roe Deer and a Hare bounding through the Heather. Birds were relunctant to show as it was still so cold but as the sun came up we watched a couple of Stonechats, a Wren and a Robin. I took a photo of a perched Red Kite but the distance was a challenge and it took off as we approached. More Red Kites and a few Buzzards flew over as we returned to the car and back home for a warming-up brew!
I am not usually a fan of BTO talks as very often the speaker forgets who the audience is and shows far too many graphs (I am a former maths teacher) and too few bird photos but this evening the Wensum Valley Bird Society were entertained by Graham Appleton who gave a very good talk about waders. Anyone who has an interest in waders had a lot to learn as Graham took us through their migration routes from data gathered by satellite tags placed on each bird then tracked as they migrated. It was interesting to know the routes that adult and juvenile birds took and factors that affected their potential breeding success. There were a few graphs that sadly, for the most part, showed the decline of numbers of each bird of each species which is not fully understood. Disturbance by dogs on beaches and building on wetlands on migratory stopping off places is clearly an issue for some species. It was a packed hall this evening and it was good to see so many friends present on a very cold night. A very enjoyable evening was had, as many of us had recent foreign travel tales to tell as several of us had just returned from The Gambia and Senegal. It was good to compare notes! The cakes were delicious too!
I was determined to have a lie-in this morning as I wanted to try and finish reading the book on twitching that I had bought and read all the documentation sent through from Birding Ecotours for our up-coming trip. Even though I was up late, I did not achieve either as once I opened the curtains, I realised that with the breeze it would be ideal conditions for looking for my local Goshawks. I was right! It was! I would normally walk or cycle down to my local wood but as it was very cold I took the lazy option and drove down. I met John Gates and together we watched a Goshawk flying over the trees. We had a nice prolonged view several times as the bird flew along the wood. Three Buzzards were also hovering in the wind over the trees. A Marsh Harrier was swooping over the fields as a Kestrel dived down and landed by a large puddle. The Goshawk disappeared and was replaced by a Red Kite. In the sheep fields I counted 18 Lapwings. There were probably more but it started to rain and the wind was bitingly cold. It was time for lunch and a nice warm home was beckoning for me to get a few chores done and some pies made with all the free produce that friends have kindly given me.
I still have a lot to do for my trip preparations but as it looked glorious outside I could not resist a walk at West Newton. I did not want to go far but had seriously underestimated how long it was going to take to de-frost my car this morning. Gosh the ice was thick on my windscreen! I live down the bottom of a hill in a frost hollow and as we all know cold air sinks and so in winter I suffer more than most with frost-covered windscreens. My windscreen took a while to de-drost even with me helping it along by scraping the worst off.
Once at West Newton it was alive with birds. Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Mistle Thrushes, Redwings, Fieldfares were everywhere whilst Robins, Siskins, and a lone Grey Heron kept me amused. Blue Tits and Great Tits were very vocal as I continued my walk through the trees. Goldcrests were too mobile for me to photograph but I did manage photos of Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits and a Nuthatch. The Great Spotted Woodpecker did not want its photograph taken though! I tried to stalk a Stonechat but the light was against me. I shall be glad when the sun gets higher in the sky. A low sun does make photography difficult at times! I walked to the shooting lake but it was frozen solid except for a small area where more Fieldfare were drinking. A Pied Wagtail flitted around the mill cottage as I realised that I really ought to get back home. Amazingly I saw no raptors in the air today as all the Buzzards were perched on posts at various points on my walk.
After a very cold day at work I attended the members evening at Great Yarmouth Bird Club. This is always a good evening as members share photos, experiences and advice and after a review of the year, vote for bird of the year with a cup presented for the best find of the year. Well done Dave Russel for the find of Bonapart's Gull. It is always a late night as all members are birders and out and about birding and like to share their experiences.
A frozen Freshmarsh at Titchwell
It was a beautiful day at Titchwell but still very cold with my car registering minus 6 degrees. After welcoming many visitors during the morning I was detailed to go down to the beach to talk to visitors and help them in anyway that I could. As I walked down the West Bank path I noted that the Fresh Marsh was totally frozen. I took my scope and a visitor was delighted when I showed him a Black-necked Grebe on the sea in my scope which was apparently his 100th year tick for the year. He was delighted! On the sea were Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebes but I could not find the Red-necked Grebe.
I walked back up the West Bank path with Jim and together we watched a Spotted Redshank amongst a few Redshank, Grey Plovers as well as Ringed Plovers. Visitors gathered around and looked through Jim's scope admiring the Spotted Redshank as Jim explained the difference from a Redshank to the visitor. I stopped to point out a Red Kite to a visitor that was sitting not far from one of our monitoring hides. I showed another visitor a Marsh Harrier which had swooped down to catch something which eventually flew over our heads with its catch and take it across Thornham Marsh. Titchwell was stunning today with so many happy faces as we walked back up the path all enjoying the day in the sun with no wind watching the birds. Back by the visitor centre a Blackbird was enjoying a bath in the fresh water that I had put out in the dog bowl. I'm glad that I tipped out the ice and replaced it with fresh water. It was good to know that the Blackbird appreciated it too!
During the day I welcomed a researcher from the BBC's Winterwatch team. I located Titchwell's Bug Hotels for him so that he could investigate Earwigs! I just never know what I am going to be doing next at Titchwell!
It was a bit of a scrabble this morning after a very busy last few days, to get packed, housework and car wash all done in time to drive down to Heathrow. It will be so nice to get away from the cold winter weather we have been experiencing recently. I love my foreign travel and have been very excited about this adventure stopping off in several spectacular places on our put-together holiday.
John and I were up early and drove out of Phoenix and headed
north towards the Grand Canyon. We stopped at Angel’s Corner on highway 64 and
drove along an unsurfaced road and found a property with a garden feeder. Snow
was covering everything and birds were drawn to the feeder. We watched
Steller’s Jays, Woodhouse's Scrub Jays, White-crowned Sparrows, Cassin’s Finches and the grey-headed form of Dark-eyed Juncos.
A Pinyon Jay was soon joined by a mass of birds and soon ate up all the seed.
The sun was now up and we enjoyed a clear blue sky but it
was still below freezing as we headed northwards. We stopped to book a
helicopter flight for tomorrow before arriving at the south rim of the Grand
Canyon. We found our cabin and then took photos of the canyon before driving
along the south rim of the canyon along a very icy road. We stopped at all the
stopping points to take photos of the stunning scenery.
We watched many Ravens and a pair of Juniper Titmouse.
John and I were up early and drove to Desert View along the
south rim of the Grand Canyon. The road had stretches of a lot of ice but most
of the snow had been bulldozed to the sides of the road. The views at the end
were magnificent. We did not stop long as we wanted an early lunch so that we
could be at the heliport as we had booked a helicopter ride in and over the
Canyon. We booked the longer ride so that we could see much more of the canyon.
We were not to be disappointed as we took off in a clear blue sky.
Our helicopter headed over the forest and up to the southern rim. Soon we were looking down the length of the Colorado River. What a stunning sight to be able to look down into the canyon. The trip took us eighty miles along the canyon and I have to say it was one of the most amazing helicopter rides I have ever experienced. I ran out of superlatives to describe the view. I was lucky because I had a front seat in the ‘bubble’ part of the helicopter and could see frontwards as well as sideways. I took so many videos and photos of the stunning experience as we descended into the canyon and flew along the Colorado River eventually rising up to the north rim and up and over again to the forest beyond before descending once again to view the river. What an experience! What a day! We were so lucky with the weather to have such a clear blue sky. I realise how lucky I am to have experienced such a ride. Life is for living after all and not just existing! I will always make the most of opportunities and this was one I was not going to pass over!
Sue on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
John and Sue by our helicopter
Sue in the helicoper over the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon (North Rim)
John woke up very early and went for a walk in the dark whilst I had a leisurely get up before we both set off for breakfast in the lodge. We have been lucky as our cabin is located right on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We could not have wished for a better location at Bright Angel. After breakfast we went for a short walk at the trailhead of the Bright Angel Trail and watched those that were young and fit set off for the hike down into the canyon with crampons and walking poles picking their way down on the icy paths. Ravens were calling overhead and two Dark-eyed Juncos were searching for food under the shelter of trees not covered in snow. We searched for the American Robins that we saw yesterday with no luck today.
We packed our bags and set off for our return journey to Phoenix stopping off just before Williams again where we watched Pinyon Jays, a Northern Flicker and more Dark-eyed Juncos. We stopped to take a photo of a Red-tailed Hawk en-route. A Phainopepla flew across the road and landed briefly at one spot but was too quick for my camera. Once in Phoenix a Great-tailed Grackle landed on the roof of our motel by the airport and House Finches were singing in a nearby tree.
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon form)
After a peculiar night in a motel close to the airport which was in a run-down area of Pheonix, John and I drove to the airport and boarded our flight to Honolulu. After a six and a half hour flight with American Airlines with no food we landed in Honolulu where there was no-one to greet us. It was a strange set up at the airport with many exits and we phoned Jacob who organised a transfer by a shuttle bus to get us to the hotel through all the city traffic. We saw a real mix of birds on the way from Red-crested Cardinal, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Red-vented Bulbul to Spotted Dove and Common Mynas. A real mix of introduced birds from all over the world.
Jacob greeted us at the hotel and we enjoyed a lovely meal meeting up with the rest of the group after having a garland of flowers placed around our neck by the local guide, Mandy.
After a delicious breakfast eaten outside on the balcony of our hotel we drove up to a spot overlooking Honolulu and up into the rain clouds on the volcanic rim. Here we watched endemic O’ahu Amakihis as they flitted around in the vegetation. A White-rumped Shama crossed the road and Warbling White-eyes added themselves to our lists. We returned back down to the city and watched White (Fairy) Terns nesting in the trees in the city streets.
It was now quite hot
and humid and we strolled around Kapiolani Park and I saw my much-wanted Javan Sparrow as
this was number 45 of my target Brooke Bond Tropical Birds tea cards. I was so
pleased to get closer to my ambition of seeing all the birds from 50 cards that
I collected as a child. In the park there was a real eclectic mix of introduced
birds from all around the world. Saffron Finches hopped around with
Yellow-fronted Canaries, Zebra Doves, Common Mynas, Common Waxbills as well as
Pacific Golden Plovers.
I took a few photographs and we hopped back in the bus and stopped at a take-away lunch cafe and grabbed a bite to eat. It was wonderful to sit by the Pacific Ocean and watch Red-tailed Tropicbirds coming into their nesting sites as Sooty Terns flew by far out to sea as we sat and ate our huge Prawn sushi meals in the hot sun. A Wandering Tattler ran down the rocks as another came in and chased it away.
Later we climbed a hiking trail in the heat of the day and watched another endemic bird. A Pair of O’ahu Elepaio were busy building a nest. They were high in the canopy and fascinating to watch but we did not stay long for fear of disturbance. Red-billed Leiothrix, White-tailed Tropicbird and a White-rumped Shama kept us entertained before we returned to the hotel and then enjoyed an interesting meal out in a local restaurant.