Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

A very Happy New Year to all my friends, family and followers. I hope your adventures, health and happiness will be as exciting as I am planning mine to be and with three new grandchildren expected and many birding trips planned for the coming year it could be a busy one!

January 1st

As I stepped outside my door and started driving in the semi-dark a beautiful Barn Owl was sat on the fence by the church in Roydon. What am amazing omen for the year to come. I always reckoned that if I saw a Barn Owl at the start of the day/year/bird race I was in for a good one! Skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over my car at Sandringham as I headed for Titchwell. We were oraganising a 'beat the pro' at Titchwell today for a good start to anyone's year list to see how many species could be seen on the day. Trevor had a busy day writing them all down but before ratification I think the 'Titchwell Pros' finished the day on 101 species for the reserve for the day. Not bad for a single reserve! I smiled as the day before we had had a complaint from a visitor saying to us that there were no birds about on the reserve!!! (I'm sure that I could sell him a better pair of binoculars if he were to open his eyes!)

Later in the day I drove to Overstrand to join many Norfolk Birders at the traditional New Year's day party where the food was delicious and the company excellent as we are all widely travelled and regaled each other with our adventures. I thought I was reasonably adventurous but listening to one tale of of cycling around the world birding had me drooling over some of the wildlife sightings seen en-route! Like us, many of my friends are just about to board planes to leap off to foreign climes to add to their world lists. I wish them well as we are all so lucky to have birding partners with which to share our enthusiasm.

January 2nd

Upon opening the curtains this morning I knew I had a busy day ahead as I've some pre-packing to do and birthday presents to order on my only completely free day off that I have nothing organised for, before I go away on holiday. However as usual I was distracted by my bird feeder and noticed a Redpoll on it. I rarely get them in my garden as they prefer my neighbour's feeder!

Two of my bird clubs have races/counts this weekend but sadly they have organised them for the same day leaving a bit of a quandary!! Decisions// Decisions????

January 4th

Well the decision was quite an easy one as John and I drove down to Heathrow to save us the hassle in the morning

January 5th

John and I flew to Amsterdam and onto Mauritius.

January 6th

This holiday was quite a change for us as I have been quite ill recently and in need of some R and R so what could be better than some Winter sun on an Indian Ocean island?

After a lengthy wait in immigration we picked up our car and drove to Ferney Valley to the Mauritius Kestrel recovery programme. We sat and waited until a pair of kestrels flew in and promptly mated in front of us. Back in 1974 the Mauritius Kestrel was down to the last 4 birds with only one female. With a species recovery programme in place there are now over 300 Mauritius Kestrels in the wild on the island.

                                             Mauritius Kestrels mating


Laguna Beach Hotel

After watching White-tailed Tropicbirds sailing overhead, John and I spent the rest of the day swimming in the sea and pool all washed down with a few cocktails. Bliss!!!!

January 7th

Pink Pigeon

John and I drove to the Black River Gorges where poor signage meant we missed the entrance and we wasted valuable early morning time trying to find the Visitor Centre and the start of the Macchabee Trail where we hoped to see the Mauritius Cuckooshrike. A Pink Pigeon a Mauritius endemic was flying around the Visitor Centre and a Village Weaver was building a nest. A Mauritius Grey White-eye was also observed here. We set off along the 11km trail with ominous-looking clouds. We were very high up here and seemed to be in the clouds. We watched Echo Parakeets and Mauritius Bulbuls but failed miserably to find the cuckooshrike. We did however have a close encounter with a White-tailed Tropicbird as it landed in front of us as poked its head in a hole in a nearby tree.

Back at the car we were tired as the humidity had been exhausting. We drove back to the hotel where it was wonderful to relax in the swimming pool  before enjoying a few glasses of wine and beer.

January 8th

John and I drove to Pointe d’Esny where we caught the boat to take us across to Ile aux Aigrettes, a coral island where we were hoping to see two of the endemic species to Mauritius. There is nothing quite like a boat trip across a dazzling sea under a sunny sky in the wonderful heat of the tropics. John and I were enjoying every minute of it. After landing we made our way into the interior of the island where we saw several Aldabra Giant Tortoises. We soon saw the Mauritius Fody but the Mauritius Olive White-eye was a different matter as we had been warned that this would be difficult. We heard one but it was sometime before John spotted one near the feeders. All too soon it fitted away. I saw one another but my camera refused to cooperate.

We sailed back to the mainland and investigated another reserve where we failed to see the endemic flycatcher. We did some sea-watching from a beach and saw many Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.

                                         Ile aux Aigrettes

                                       Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Mauritius Fody

January 9th

We started our day on the West coast of Mauritius at the Rivulet Terre Rouge Bird Sanctuary over-looking the River Terre Rouge estuary. Here on the mud we saw, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Curlew, Sandpipier, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Greenshank, Whimbrel and Grey Plover as well as a Saunders's Tern.

After booking our boat trip for Friday we spent the rest of the day swimming and enjoying ourselves with a few beers on the beach.

Boeuf Bain Beach

                                       Saunders's Tern

January 10th

John and I drove to Bras d'Eau National park once again to arrive soon after breakfast as we had been promised a ranger would be present to help us with some site information as they had closed  up very early on our last visit. This seems to be a common problem at this reserve. We thought we might be in luck this time because at least the doors were open. However the lady inside knew nothing about the reserve or the birds present and took us two Policemen outside on the road who might be able to help us !!!!!! She could not even provide a map and the notice board outside with a diagrammatic map on it bore no resemblance to the trailmap that I had gleaned off the internet before our arrival. I got my map out and the policeman pointed vaguely in the direction of the forest that we might start our search for the trail. Finding the Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher was going to be all down to us. A tiny bird in rather a large forest!

The heat was oppressive with a high level of humidity and we were soon reaching for water. Underfoot was difficult and certainly not the 'easy' grading that the park had suggested. The volcanic lava had us looking at every step as we picked our way through it. Friends had made a few suggestions to us where the bird could be seen but had all missed the bird on the loop despite walking the whole loop. After walking for two hours we had completed one of the loops with very little reward in terms of  birds seen except for a Scaly-breasted Munia and a few Zebra Doves and we were getting despondent and struggling with the heat. We stopped for a rest and some water at the picnic spot and saw a couple of Madagasgar Red Fodys before continuing back along the main trail. After climbing the steps I shouted to John as two birds had passed right in front of him without him seeing them. I raised my binoculars and had a magnificent view of a displaying pair of Mascarene Paradise Flycatchers. I was desperate for a chance of a quick photograph as well as trying to get John onto them at the same time.

Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher

I actually think that there were three birds around as they darted form tree to tree, one of the males displaying to a female but none of them stayed very long and I only managed a few quick photos. It was another hour of walking in the heat before we got back to the visitor centre and were not interested in our sightings.

Because of the heat we decided to return to the hotel where the infinity swimming pool was beckoning us in!

January 11th

Today was a day that I had been looking forward to as I just love boat rides and sailing across to small Indian Ocean Islands in such fantastic weather over a turquoise sea was stuff that dreams are made of. We drove to Grand Baie at the northerly end of Mauritius and waited on the beach for the catamaran to set sail. Our crew loaded up the food and drink and we climbed aboard. We were soon sailing across the ocean watching White-tailed Tropicbirds flying overhead as well as Lesser Noddy and Brown Noddy. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were in their hundreds as we neared the small island of Gunner's Quoin. It was a tough search but we eventually found a Red-tailed Tropicbird amongst the White-tailed Tropicbirds. Luckily I managed to get a photo which was a challenge with all the ropes and wires of the catamaran in the way.

Red-tailed Tropicbird

White-tailed Tropicbird
We had a wonderful day birding, swimming, snorkelling with turtles, and taken to several small islands where the turquoise warm seas are just amazing but as I will do a trip report I will put more photos in this when I get time.

January 12th

John and I drove to Grand Bassin where there are Hindu Temples for a second attempt to see Mascarene Martin which we had failed to find on our last visit. We parked the car and noticed two Mascarene Martins sitting on overhead wires. They were soon joined by seven others. After taking several photos we tried to visit Ebony Woods but we had limited time and didn't want to pay the high entrance charge. Instead with fresh information from Steve and Dot we tried the Machabee Trail once more after having been given a lift for part of the way by forest wardens. We admired several Echo Parakeets before I talked the cuckooshrike up as it was the last of the endemics that we needed to see. We knew it was always going to be difficult as most birders miss it hat visit the island but I was hopeful with the fresh information. We got to the junction that Dot and Steve had said and I told John it would be just round the corner as I could feel it in my waters! We looked around and all of a sudden John saw the Mauritius Cuckooshrike fly in. Panic set in as I couldn't see it! It flew across to another tree and I managed a quick snatch of a photo before it flew out at the back of the tree. Celebratory hugs all round!!! We had cleaned up with no time left to spare as we headed back to the Visitor Centre where the wardens kindly invited us in for cold drinks before we drove back to the airport for our flight home.

Echo Parakeet

Mauritius Cuckooshrike

14th January

After a long flight home I was still a bit tired this morning as Carrie picked me up for work but as I was in charge of the shop today at Titchwell, I thought I had better get up early and make an effort to look as best as I could. As we left Docking towards Choseley a beautiful Barn Owl flew down the lane in front of us. The only camera that I had with me was my phone and so I took some video footage of it before it perched on the hedge where Carrie and I stopped to admire it.

Barn Owl 

As I will be away for some lengthy birding trips this year there is very little point on me making my usual effort to try to get a good year list..............however that's not to say that I won't be out and about as usual looking at birds, butterflies, dragonflies and any other wildlife that I am interested in! I also expect to be quite a busy Nanny this year too!