Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

3rd November

With some birding friends staying at Congham Hall, John and I had a delightful lunchtime meal with them but our later plans were thwarted by the weather and so we shared our birding stories and hopes for our future birding trips. I ended up with a bit of a headache in the afternoon as the wine was rather nice but I put it down to having had my booster jab least that is the story that I am sticking to!

4th November

John and I had a late start but there was joy when our visa request was authorised for our forth-coming trip by email. I cannot believe how many hoops we are having to jump through to enable our trip. I have never sent off so much documentation before for a visa! 

Once we had arrived at Frampton we made our way to the small reservoir along a little lane alongside the RSPB reserve where we looked through all the Wigeon and Gadwall present. We failed to find our quarry and so drove down the lane to the RSPB reserve where there were a lot more Wigeon present. There were thousands of them scattered everywhere continually flying around making our serach virtually impossible. We noted a few Black-tailed Godwits before a Kestrel put most of the Wigeon up again. Teal and a few Mallard also went up into the air along with a few Canada Geese and Greylag Geese and we soon threw in the towel as we were both hungry and sought out a fish and chip bar back in Kirton. On our way home we noted two Common Buzzards and two Red Kites. 

5th November

Having planned to have a domestic day at home every birder knows that a sunny day with some good birds to see around, that is not going to happen. I started at Titchwell where it was quite a run-around the Meadow Trail as I tried to catch up with the Red-breasted Flycatcher. It kept being seen where I wasn't! Eventually after watching two Yellow-browed Warblers I managed to see it and managed a few photos as well. A real shame most were of leaves and out of focus birds! Jim, Tim and I made our way to Wells where the Dusky Warbler was also playing hard to see but we could hear it 'tacking' infrequently and after a bit of confusion with Wrens, Long-tailed Tits and a Robin all providing distractions we all saw it well several times as it made its way along the ditchline and back out to the path by the caravan track.

                              Red-breasted Flycatcher

                                   Yellow-browed Warbler

6th November

Woooo hooo....our visas have arrived! I saw a Red Kite on my way to work this morning. It was good to see a few friends too who had come to see the Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warblers on site. It was another busy day. I cannot believe that we still have so many visitors still visiting our fantastic reserve for the time of year. It is certainly keeping me busy!

7th November

It was a nice surprise when the regular NarVOS WeBS count members all met this morning at Nar Valley Fisheries when we walked around the back of the lakes to find some egrets in amongst the Redpoll Cattle. Being slightly ahead of the others I soon realised that they were Cattle Egrets and this was a significant record for NarVOS after I found one at Pentney on a bird race in January 2016. At first I counted 4 Cattle Egrets but when one of the cows moved another Cattle Egret appeared. There were also two Great White Egrets present on other parts of Nar Valley Fisheries. Six Common Snipe were also seen along with our usual Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Coot, Grey Herons, Moorhen, and Little Grebes. We saw many Siskin and Goldfinch as well as a few Long-tailed Tit, Buzzards and Robins.

Cattle Egret

                                                Cattle Egret

                                                     Five Cattle Egrets

                      Great White Egret

10th November

I met up with the team Titchwell at 6.30am this morning in the pitch black! A Blackbird called as we made our way down the West Bank path watching a couple of Great White Egrets and flyover Little Egrets coming out of roost in the gloom. Trevor spotted a Hen Harrier coming out of roost and we watched it flying across the Freshmarsh spooking all the Teal as daybreak came. We wandered down to the sea and I was thrilled when Chris picked out a Red-necked Grebe as I needed this for a year tick. There was little on the sea but it was very calm and although it was misty on the horizon birds started arriving as the tide came in. Another Hen Harrier flew over the sea which surprised us. A few Red-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes started to appear and there were a few Razorbills scattered around on the water. Tim called a Velvet Scoter flying by as we all scannned the sea. A Snow Bunting called over our heads at the same time as Trevor called a Great Northern Diver that was flying by. This was another year tick for me. Whoop whoop! Chris and I walked to Thornham Point where the tide was filling Thornham channel up. A Guillemot was enjoying the serenity as we counted 22 Red-breasted Mergansers lurking on the water. Sanderling, Knot, Ringed Plovers and Brent Geese were the predominant birds as walked back around the point.

We stopped for another look at the sea once we were back at the end of the West Bank path and admired a Black-necked Grebe and a close fly-by of a Merlin. We walked back up the West Bank path and admired a Jack Snipe not far from the island hide after Chris had spotted it lurking by the reeds. I went int the hide and helped others see it by staying as a hide helper for a while. I walked back to my car just pausing to admire a Beared Tit at the top of a reed head. How I wish I had my camera with me as it was too close to phone-scope.

On the way home I stopped to search through a flock of Pink-footed Geese but failed to find anything unusual.

                                  Jack Snipe


11th November

After a day of chores and cooking ready for entertaining for dinner this evening the only birds that I noticed were skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying over my road totalling 80+ birds.

12th November

Hen Harrier (probably not the best photo of one that you have ever seen!) 

It was a drizzly morning when I first wole up and so a lie-in was order of the day. However by about 9.30am the drizzle had stopped, so John and I went for a walk up the lane at Roydon behind the farm where we watched a couple of Bullfinches and ten Skylarks whilst a Common Buzzard was being mobbed by the local corvid gang. A Red Kite kept us entertained as we walked alongside the field before we crossed the road and over to Roydon Common. Here the usual dog walkers ignored all the new signage telling them to keep their dogs on a lead and immediately let them off the lead. Why is it dog owners think a nature reserve is the perfect place to disturb wildlife with their mongrels? We went through the gate and were met by a pile of plastic bags left lying on the ground containing............... I have no words for these disgusting people! I feel so sorry for the NWT staff that have to clear up after irresponsible dog owners to try and protect our wildlife. Grrrrr....

We decided to walk an alternative way to avoid me getting into a confrontation with the selfish people with dogs off their leads on a nature reserve before my blood boiled. I watched a Meadow Pipit alight from the ground and fly, calling as it went. We walked across the common watching a Marsh Harrier and a Kestrel hovering in front of us. 

Over towards the eastern edge a beautiful male Hen Harrier was hunting. This ghostly vision was a wonder to see as it flew bouantly over the heather seeking out a prey item. We are just so lucky to have such a magnificent bird on our doorstep. How gamekeepers and the shooting fraternity can shoot them is beyond my comprehension. I only had my bridge camera with me and trying to locate the bird in it was not an easy task. I soon gave up and just enjoyed watching the bird. I haven't seen one here since last March and it was so good to see one again and was succour to the soul. The bird eventually flew up and over the trees and was lost to view. 

We continued on our way and we watched another three Red Kites before another Meadow Pipit called and flew over us. Down along the track a small flock of Siskins alighted from the Alder trees as a couple of Blue Tits argued amongst themselves.The sun was now out and we enjoyed our walk back to home. It was good to be out and about in the fresh air and living in such a wonderful part of the county.

13th November


After a message from Steve I made my way down to Lynn Point where the tide was still coming in with about 45 minutes still to go untul high tide. A flock of Goldfinch flew ahead of me along the track down to the point. Steve was watching a Guillemot and I soon located it in my scope. It has been 20 years since I last saw one in NarVOS! There were two Marsh Harriers flying around one each side of the river. I counted 25 Redshanks lining the river edge and 15 Brent Geese. A party of Canada Geese flew off towards the river mouth where there was a gathering of Cormorants. On the far bank Mallards were congregating. I could see rain approaching and I drove back to Lynn docks where a Peregrine was sat on the communication dish on the tower.

19th November

John and I motored down to Heathrow where we caught an overnight flight to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

20th November

We arrived in Addis Ababa at the airport where is was hot and sunny. From the airport window we watched several Pied Crows and many Yellow-billed Kites. Two Dusky Turtle Doves sat on a nearby wall along with a Kestrel. We spotted an Egyptian Goose sat on a roof whilst several Sacred Ibis flew in the distance with an unidentified vulture. After a few hours we boarded our flight to Blantyre, Malawi and saw a Long-crested Eagle sitting on a small post as we took off up the runway.

After a few hours of admiring the scenery below we landed in Malawi where we watched Wire-tailed Swallows, House Sparrows and Pied Crows from the airport. We then flew to Beira in Mozambique where we were met by Dylan our guide and taken to our hotel for a quick change before heading out to the Rio Maria area where we watched many of the more common familiar African species. African Jananas, Black-headed Herons, and Yellow-billed Kites were frequent observations. A Grey-headed Kingfisher, Woolly-necked Stork and Yellow-billed Stork added themselves to the list. Before we had a meal back at the hotel.

21st November

Red-necked Falcon

We were up early and headed for the Rio Savanne flood plain. Here Dylan and Simon dragged a rope between them and flushed out a Black-rumped Buttonquail and a couple of Quailfinches. Unfortunately rain stopped play much soon than we would have liked and we returned to the hotel for breakfast. Not all was well as our minibus had a series of warning lights that were beeping and we spent a few hours sorting the issue out. Once the van was sorted we made our way to Chicmamba Lake stopping for a couple of Red-necked Falcons en-route before going for a walk around our lodge at Casa Msika. We noted several familiar African species listening to the African Fish Eagles calling overhead.

22nd November

We were up early and drove up to Mount Tsetserra, Mozambique where we had a fantastic day's birding seeking out African mountain specialities as this is where my lufe ticks will come from.
Chirinda Apalis

We were up early and drove up to Mount Tsetserra where we had a fantastic day's birdingseeking out African mountain specialities. As I will be writing a full trip report I will keep my diary brief.

23rd November

Today we visited Chimanimani National Park where we sought out some Miambo specialities. The birding was excellent and I added quite a few lifers. It was hot and very humid as I attempted a few photographs. It just so good to be back doing some proper birding abroad once again and seeing some familaiar Afrcan birds with lots of new birds too, with like-minded people. I have so missed my foreign bird trips and am looking forwad to tomorrow's adventure!

                                          Cabani's Bunting
                                      Miombo Rock Thrush

24th November

We were up early again in Mozambique where it was already hot at dawn! The sunrise was absolutely stunning by Lake Chicamba where our rondawel (chalet) is set. It boded well for an excellent day's birding. We drove once again to Mount Tsetserra but by a diffrent route along a very rough African track. The journey took over three hours but we stopped along the way to admire a few birds before ascending the mountain where we had breakfast. The scenery was spectacular. We watched Miombo Tit, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird and White-starrred Robin. I admired a party of African Paradise Flycatchers displaying. The male was showing off his skills with his long tail!  On the way back we watched a pair of Red-throated Twinspots as well as a Miombi Blue-eared Starling. African birds are wonderful to watch in the warmth of t-shirts and shorts and I am not missing the British weather at all!

                                         African Paradise Flycatcher

                                         Red-throated Twinspot

25th November
African Wood Owl

Another early morning walk around the tracks and lakeside of Casa Msika where after we added a few trip ticks we spotted an African Cuckoo-Hawk in the distance. later on our walk it perched at the top of a tree but I did not have my camera with me and cursed. Dylan was kind enough t let me do a phone-scope photo of it using his scope. We then drove for the rest of the day on either rough tracks or very pot-holed tarmaced roads meaning that progress was slow along a road that the foreign office was not keen on us using, because of the troubles up in the mountain here. Eventually we reached Gorongosa National Park. After stopping to watch a few birds I took some photos in some good light and it was nice to re-connect with African Hoopoe, African Golden Oriole and Bearded Scrub Robin. However our vehicle was soon stopped by a heard of Elephants where the older females were not happy with our presence and surrounded the baby elephants

We arrived at the park camp site and John and I made ourselves at home in our tent. Later after a wonderful barbeque in the warmth of the evening we wandered around the campsite in the dark and listened to the African Wood Owl which was right above our tent!
26th November
African Skimmer

Today we swapped vehicles and had a game drive in a safari vehicle. It was wonderful to be back on safari seeing so many animals in the heat. Waterbuck were everywhere as were Impala. We saw Kudu, Red Hartebeast. Oribi, Natal Red Duiker and Bushbuck. When we got down to the floodplains Hippos were soon running back into the water as we approached. The driver offered to take us to see the lions but we wanted to see the African Skimmers which were in the other direction so declined his offer. The skimmers were amazing as they performed brilliantly infront of us.

We stopped to have a sundowner which was enjoyed by all as we watched the sun set on a wonderful day. On our way back we watched in Porcupine in the dark as well as a Civet on his prowl around.A Thick-tailed Bushbaby didn't linger for very long.
27th November

Red-headed Weaver

We were up at 4.20 for breakfast and a shower after a hot night and after a delightful breakfast in the campsite headed out of the park. We stopped in the buffer zone and watched Purple-crested Turaco, Brown-headed Parrot, Red-headed Weaver and Black-winged Red Bishop before another long drive to M'Phingwe. The police stopped us several times and Dylan remained polite throughout trying to explain what we were doing with a trailer on the back that had lost part of it due to the rough roads. He had to open the trailer several times to show them that we were not running guns or other dubious contents. Our passports were inspected a few times during the trip.

Eventually we arrived at M'Phingwe after stopping at a remote town to try and get some bolts that would secure our trailer to the van a bit better. We were in danger of losing it several times! After a quick freshen up and settling into the lodge cabins were were back in the van and John saw his much-wanted Livingstone's Flycatcher.

I the evening we were made aware of the bombshell of news that Mozambique had been put on the Red List which would put all of us in difficulies on getting home. We were in a very remote part of Mozambique. Flights were cancelled, we had no internet, signal on our phones or electricity at times. Not good! Why this stupid Govt. cannot realsie that not everywhere has good internet is beyond me. It's time that some of them got out of London and into the real world!

28th November
Mangrove Kingfisher

We were up at 3.30am to make the most of the day. It was to be a good day seeing Miombo specialities most of which were life ticks for me. The temperature soon reached over 30 dgrees early in the morning and we were glad to be in forest and in the shade for most of the day. After watching Woodward's Batis and Green Malkoha John spotted our first Mangrove Kingfisher. By lunchtime we were all exhausted from out early start and the heat and we all found a nice shady spot laid out our towels and had a snooze whilst the varoious creepy-crawlies crawled over us!
We returned to the lodge not long after a bit more birding but with the temperature reaching nearly 40 degrees we had the rest of the afternoon off and caught up with ourselves.

29th November
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

Another early start to try and beat the heat of the day birding various forest patches Brown-necked (Grey-headed) Parrot was a new tick for me as well as Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike. I had fun with Dylan's advice on how to photograph swifts flying overhead......gosh it was difficult as I just don't have the strength to hold my new set-up which is heavier than my last set up for long enough. I did manage a few shots though even though I have a lt of empty blue sky! Mottled and Bohm's Spinetails certainly gave me something to practice on! We retreated back to the lodge as the temperature reached 37 degrees and went for a local walk later in the day.

30th November
Bohm's Bee-eater

We started our day at Caia where the mighty Zambesi was flowing where we added some water birds that frequent the reeds and riverside marshes. We added Rufous-winged Cisticola and Little Rush Warbler before driving to Grown Energy Eco Farm.

We drove to this private estate to see Bohm's Bee-eater. We had permission to enter but the news had not filtered through to the gatekeeper who would not let us in. Dylan made a few phone calls and we were eventually le in where we walked to the Zambezi riverside. It took a while but Dylan heard a Bohm's Bee-eater calling as these shyer bee-eaters lurk beneath the canopy. A Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird gave us a good performance before we headed back to the lodge.