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!
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.
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????
Well the decision was quite an easy one as John and I drove down to Heathrow to save us the hassle in the morning
John and I flew to Amsterdam and onto Mauritius.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!