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 organising 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 of Mauritius. There is nothing quite like a boat trip across a dazzling turquoise 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 quite 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!
As I had a couple of hours to spare I kept local and made my way to Snettisham RSPB to see if the construction had started on the base for the new hide as well as trying to add one or two species to my paltry year list. A Sparrowhawk flew up the lane in front of me as I drove up the lane in Roydon and I watched a Jay in Sandringham Woods.
At Snettisham the tide was a long way out and a huge flock of Golden Plover were sitting on the mud. I watched Goldeneye displaying as well as Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Little Grebe and Tufted Duck on the pits as well as Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew, Shelduck all out on the mud. I was struggling in the bitterly cold wind and so cut short my visit.
In the evening I attended Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society meeting at Lenwade where Jason Moss gave an excellent talk on various British Islands. It was good to catch up with many friends present.
An unexpected visit from Vicky and Dave was a lovely surprise and John and I enjoyed a wonderful meal out with them as we shared our tales of our recent travels to Sichuan, Colombia and Venezuela.
At Titchwell we have been trialling’ Breakfast with Harriers’ and so I had agreed to meet up with Ryan and Matthew and our visitors who had paid to accompany us to our two monitoring hides, which are not open to the public to watch the Marsh Harriers come out of roost. We were in position before sunrise and before long we had 26 Marsh Harriers in the air together. It was an amazing sight. I counted 35 Marsh Harriers coming out of roost as it got light. Unfortunately I had to return to open up the shop and so missed the bacon butties!
13 of the 26 Marsh Harriers in the air together
Sunrise at Titchwell Marsh RSPB
Thank you to those of you that have donated old binoculars to me for young people in Uganda which I am trying to encourage and support into birding and conservation with the help of Harriet my guide in Uganda. Yesterday my friends Jean and Roger gave the binoculars that were suitable to Harriet who will see that they get given to young enthusiastic Ugandan birders. A big thank you to all of you that so kindly helped.
Jean giving the binoculars to Harriet
Harriet giving the binoculars to young enthusiastic birders
John and set off for Titchwell and as we were travelling between Choseley and Thornham saw a ring-tail Hen Harrier over the fields. We joined Trevor, Chris and Peter down at the beach at Titchwell and watched several Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Diver, Eider, Shag, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Great Crested Grebe, Goldeneye, Razorbill, Common Scoter as well as Sanderling, Oystercather and Bar-tailed Godwits on the sand.
We walked up the path and watched a Spotted Redshank amongst the Common Redshank before making our way to the Parrinder Hide where we saw a Water Pipit on one of the islands.
At Holkham we admired the Snow Buntings and Shorelark as well as the Dartford Warbler in the Sea Buckthorn keeping the company of a Stonechat. On the marsh a Great White Egret was not far from some White-fronted Geese as well as many Wigeon, Egyptian Geese, Little Egret and Grey Heron.
Glaucous Gull with a Shelduck in the background
We moved on the East Bank at Cley where we watched the Glaucous Gull on Arnold's Marsh. Back in the car park we admired another Barn Owl.
Later at Stiffkey I watched a littoralis race of a Rock Pipit in one of the channels.
John and I started our day at Ormesby Little Broad where after watching a Kingfisher fly up the boardwalk in front of us, we soon located two female Smew present amongst the Gadwall and Shoveler on the far side of the broad keeping away from the ice. We had to walk back to the road-bridge before I located the Red-necked Grebe which was lurking in the reeds. The mist didn't help our efforts and there were several Great Crested Grebes present to add to the confusion with their necks all folded down.
We drove to Thurne where, thanks to Tony we located eleven Common Cranes.
At Ludham we found 28 Bewick's Swans and 88 Whooper Swans.
At Barton Broad we saw two Scaup amongst many Coot before driving onto Waveney Forest where we saw three Short-eared Owls, a Barn Owl, a kestrel as well as a very distant Rough-legged Buzzard. There were many Common Buzzard present so it was good to see the Rough-legged Buzzrd in flight as well as sitting on the ground.
Two Scaup amongst the Coot
A distant Rough-legged Buzzard
A beautiful Barn Owl flew across the road as I drove to work this morning.
After a wonderful meal out last night, with one of the best cheesecakes that I have ever had, I had to be up early for work. It was the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, one of the most popular birdwatching event in the whole country. As I was responsible for the shop at Titchwell today after opening up, I was lucky in that being a Sunday morning and most people like a lie-in, it was not busy so that I could use the front feeeders and do an hour's birdwatch. It would be 'my garden' for the event. I counted the maximum number of each species at any given point in the hour. I saw 3 Moorhen, 29 Chaffinch, 4 Dunnock, 1 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Blackbird, 3 Brambling, 3 Woodpigeon, 2 Pheasant, 20 Goldfinch,Great Tit, Robin, Greenfinch and a Blue Tit. I entered the results on the RSPB's website to contribute to the 40 years of data that they have collected to see how trends in our garden birds are going.
As I arrived home in a howling gale I discovered to my horror that I had no electricity. It was cold and dark. It's amazing how much we take for granted living in the developed world as I struggled to get myself warm. By using my phone and powernetwoks website, it soon became apparent that the electricity supply would be off for some time. So there was nothing for it but to spend the time catching up on some of my non-computerised bird records from my last few adventures! It reminded me of the days that I spent writing my physics A-level essays during the miners' strikes back in the '70s !
My candle-lit work station.
Working by candlelight
After work I attended the Great Yarmouth bird club member's night. It was an excellent evening with many active birders at the meeting. Justin Lansdell gave us an excellent talk about the various sub-species of Jays and what we should be looking for to distinguish between our resident birds and migratory birds. All very interesting. John gave a short talk about our trip to Greece with Bob giving a talk on 2018 and the interesting birds that he had taken photos of. During the interval I had a skim through Darren Rees's book 'Icebound' with his beautiful artwork which was a raffle prize.
John and I started our day at Santon Downham where we failed to see the Great Grey Shrike. Nuthatch and Marsh Tit were calling and there seemed to be plenty of Blue Tits around. At Lynford Arboretum we watched six Crossbill stripping the cones of their seeds as well as many Siskins. We drove onto Grimes Graves where John spotted a Goshawk which we watched for sometime before motoring onto the layby south of Swaffham Forest where I picked out four Goshawk, 3 males and one large female. One of the males gave us a marvellous wing-clapping and rolling display.
Having spent some time trying to keep pace with my world list, having swopped from a Clement's list to IOC, which the BOU adopt nowadays, I note that all British listers that have seen Steppe Grey Shrike on their lists have lost a tick as this has been lumped back with Great Grey Shrike. I will have to spend some time sorting out white-eyes too that I saw on my 2010 world trip and other trips to the far east in subsequent years. Grrrrrr...... It's a good job that I have a validation facility on my database to help!
Thank you to all of you that have come in to see me at Titchwell and commented on my recent trip reports. It's nice to know that my efforts are appreciated as they do take quite a considerable amount of time to do.
Panic set in yesterday as I realised that a few of my innoculations are out of date and it's not many weeks until my next trip. Trying to get a nurse appointment that works with my rota can sometimes be very difficult as I often have to book weeks ahead as my surgery is so busy. However over the years things change as many of the vaccinations that we used to have are now considered ineffective.
I had a lovely walk on Roydon Common on a beautiful winter’s morning where I saw a Common Snipe, two Common Buzzard, a Kestrel, 20 Skylark and six Meadow Pipit.
The new car park is now open but is very muddy, so bring your boots. I was disappointed to find that that it is fractionally too low down to sit in a car to watch the Hen Harrier roost on a winter’s evening as a gate to the track where we used to watch from is now locked. There is now a new access route to the common across the former model airplane field. It was good to see a notice on the access gate about dog walking but sadly I saw seven dogs off their leads whilst I was there. Probably not too much of a problem at this time of year but I suspect that dog owners will need some reading lessons before nesting season!
With news of a Little Bunting at Weybourne, John and I made sure that we were parked up early in the car park there. It was good to see so many friends present as we all walked to the fisherman's gate where Moss Taylor greeted us and took our donations. Once we were all through the gate, he locked it and we walked to the back of the trees and up through the wood. We walked through a strip in the fodder crop and organised a flush through. The Little Bunting was seen in flight several times but it was quite a while before it settled along with Chaffinches at the side of the wood. Many people had unfortunately made a wrong decision and went he wrong side of the wood and unfortunately missed the bird as we all had to leave by 10.30am when the gate was locked once again. Thanks must go to Moss for organising the access for us all.
Some of the crowd waiting patiently for the Little Bunting
We drove to Thornham Harbour where along with Jim Lawrence we watched thirteen Twite feeding on Sea Aster before moving on to Snettisham where we watched a Little Stint amongst the Dunlin out in Wash with Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwith, Knot and Shelduck.
We walked over the causeway at Snettisham and found the Short-eared Owl in its usual spot. It was now very cold so we were pleased to find the Smew on pit two so that we could return home and the warm!
John and I started our day at Flitcham where we watched four Tree Sparrows by the cowshed before driving onto Sculthorpe Moor where three Mealy Redpolls were amongst a small group of Lesser Redpoll. From one of the hides we watched Bullfinch and Brambling before walking to the hides by the river where we watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker and two Sparrowhawks fighting. It was a beautiful day with clear-blue skies but not quite the same temperature that we had enjoyed in Mauritius a few weeks ago! In fact the boardwalk was covered in ice and made for a treacherous walk. Never mind....only a few more weeks until we shall be hot again!
Common (Mealy) Redpoll and Lesser Redpoll
Great Spotted Woodpecker
We drove to Swanton Novers Watch Point where we watched three Goshawk, one Common Buzzard as well as eight Red Deer and after a quick chat to Marcus we enjoyed a lovely lunch in a local hostellry. On returning to Flitcham the Little Owl was perched in its usual tree.
Spot the Little Owl !
Such an exciting day as my twin grandsons were born to my son Jonathan and his wife Sarah Bryan. Welcome to the world Edward Keith Bryan and George Alfie Bryan. They are just gorgeous and lucky to have such wonderful parents. I now have 5 grandchildren...it's getting to be quite a dynasty or half a hockey team at least!!! (My family were/are all hockey players at one stage in our lives).
After the exciting events of yesterday I opened the blinds to see two unusual birds on my sunflower feeders that had me reaching for my binoculars. A bright red male Lesser Redpoll was quite clearly needing a closer inspection as it was greyer toned than I would expect of a Lesser Redpoll with brighter-white underparts of the more usual buffy tones of a Lesser Redpoll. The bird spent much of its time around the back of the feeder, much to my frustration and I decided to get my camera but the two birds did not hang around and soon flew off before I could get a photo. It will have to be logged as a Lesser Redpoll but I suspect it was an intergrade Mealy Redpoll. Several Goldfinch, Greenfinch and a lone Coal Tit kept the feeder busy as I left to buy some presents for the twins in town.
After my shopping purchases I drove down to Lynn Point where the Herring Gulls were having a feast in the mud from the cockle shed outflow in the docks as I passed by. Down at the point eight Yellowhammer sat in a bush along with two Reed Bunting. Two Marsh Harriers were flying over the marsh as eight Grey Herons were standing on the mud or on the marsh. A group of 30+ Teal flew out from the Babingley channel as I watched a lone Common Redshank picking its way along the channel as well.
This evening we booked Rod Stewart concert tickets! Whoop whoop! Can't wait to see him!
On a very blustery winter's day John, Richard and I walked down the riverside at Santon Downham where we failed miserably to see anything much at all. The birds obviously had more sense than we did and stayed well sheltered and hidden away. It seemed pointless staying for long as the wind was ferocious. After passing the reedbed on the way back John spotted the Great Grey Shrike in a Hawthorn bush and I was just quick enoughto see it before it flew off. We walked to the path by the railwayline and luckily Richard saw it just before it flew across the river and out of sight. After a fruitless searh of the churchyard we drove to Lynford Arboretum where we watched ten Hawfinch feeding on the ground underneath the Hornbeam tree. We watched Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit and many Blue Tit as well as a few Goldcrest in the shrubs along the pathways.
Yellow-legged Gull (top right)
We motored onto Thetford where we watched a Yellow-legged Gull on a roof in Burrell Way before being invited out to a meal with friends for the evening.
A big thank you to all of you that have contacted me in various ways about the safe arrival of the twins. It has been an amazing few months and with one more baby still to arrive and another amazing birding trip on the horizon I have been able to ignore the horrible,wet and windy weather outside and the usual doldrums associated with it!
It has been another horrible wet and windy day at Titchwell but it always surprises me just how many visitors we get on such a day. Life inside visitor centre was very upbeat because of the wonderful staff and volunteers that we have and today we had a lot of laughs whilst helping our visitors. Many of our visitors enjoyed watching two Barn Owls, one of which I could see hunting over Thornham Marsh from the visitor centre. On my way home I saw three more Barn Owls. I always think of them as a good omen for things to come! They are just so beautiful as they hunt along the hedgerows and I slowed down to watch one of them.
John and I drove to Deeping Lakes but stopped to admire two pairs of Goosander on the River Welland.A Barn Owl was sat on a post and we stopped to watch it hunting. It caught a field vole and swooped down to eat it in the long grass at the side of the river.
Barn Owl with a Field Vole
At Deeping Lakes we watched seven Goosander, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Kingfisher as well as listening to a Song Thrush singing at the top of a tree. Two Long-earedOwls were sitting in the scrub on one of the islands.
At Frampton Marsh RSPB we watched a Merlin, a gorgeous male Hen Harier, Marsh Harrier as well as thousands of Golden Plover and Lapwing feeding on the fields along with many Wigeon, Teal and Pintail. Small numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Curlew were also present. From the Visitor Centre we watched 3 Barnacle Geese and a few Pochard.
Liz and David had invited us for tea and cakes at Sutton Bridge as Liz has a small colony of Corn Bunting that she has had for a few years and wanted us to see them. They perched in a tall tree a short walk from her house. She showed us where her Tawny Owl nests as well as where she feeds her bee colony in her lovely garden. John and David admired all the unusual trees that Liz's father had planted many years ago as we wandered around.
It was lovely to round off the day with friends sitting by a huge fire in the lounge of her farm house eating a lovely home-made sponge sharing our past tales of years gone by. Thanks Liz, the cake and tea were delicious!
I saw three Barn Owls on my home from work this evening and a Woodcock flying along my road just before my house.
A lovely Long-eared Owl Valentine's card today! Goodness knows who from???
Mick and I arrived at work early because of shop changing hours that gave me enough time to have a walk down the West Bank path before I needed to open the shop. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and many birds singing as if it was Spring. I wandered down to have a look at the Freshmarsh where a Mediterranean Gull was sitting on the water. My first one of the year. I rather suspect it will be joined by many others quite soon.
I drove down to Horsham to see my newly-born grandson, Brodie and the grand new extension to Mark's house. My son's family greeted me and after a quick cup of tea we were back out of the door to take Isla swimming. We enjoyed a cooked breakfast in Horsham before donning our boots where Mark, Isla, Finlay and I went for a walk in the woods that back onto their house. We saw Marsh Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Treecreeper as well as having lots of fun in the mud and puddles.
Sue with her hands full!
Fun in the woods!
After a good night's sleep (I was surprised at this with a new baby in the house) Isla crept into my room to wake me up for a cuddle. It was time to get up to play apparently! Mark was busy sorting out the car to make it into 3 rows so that we could all go down to Worthing for the day. It was certainly a task and a half getting us all ready and all safely strapped into seat belts and car seats! Once again it was a beautiful day and Common Buzzards were soaring over woodlands as Mark drove us to Worthing. Isla added Herring Gull to her birdlist as we arrived at the sea. I added Red-throated Diver to my day-list but sadly too distant for Isla to see. She is getting really keen now and has her own binoculars and looks after her field guide. We enjoyed picking up shells on the beach and it was fun trying to explain to Finlay why we were not too keen to go for a swim in the sea.
The Bryan girls
The Bryan boys
Aghhhh.............A painful arm today after a Typhoid injection ready for my next trip!
John and I started at Santon Downham where we saw a Grey Wagtail along the river along with Marsh Tit, Brambling, Siskin and Marsh Tit. We admired the Snowfalkes in the wood by the church before watching a singing Firecrest at Lynford as well as a Goshawk.
We motored on to Nunnery Lakes where Dawn Balmer and Nick Moran had given us permission to enter the Nunnery Lakes reserve to see the Jack Snipe along with two Common Snipe.
Down at Lackford Lake I saw a Caspian Gull along with Marcus Nash.
Frances and I watched two Barn Owls from the Titchwell Visitor Centre window today.
I was up early and walked down to the sea at Titchwell where I joined Colin and watched 4 Great Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, 10 Red-throated Diver, 2 Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, 8 Eider, Long-tailed Duck along with many Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebe. On Patsy's pool I joined Andy Clements where we saw a Red-crested Pochard amongst Common Pochard and Greylag Geese as well as a Stonechat.
Darren Rees has kindly sent me his artist book, 'Ice Bound' of his recent trip to Antarctica as well as an original doodle. It will bring back some wonderful memories, I'm sure. Thanks Darren!
I attended the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society talk this evening, given by Gary Hibberd about Holme Dunes nature reserve. Many of you will remember me working at Holme years ago and it was good to see the fascinating photos Gary had of the reserve and the wildlife there. It was an excellent talk. Thanks Gary. Meeting up with friends is always good and it was good to see Lucy fit and well again.
Mick and I saw a Little Owl sitting on top of a telegraph pole in Bircham on our way home this evening.
Arriving at work early it was a beautiful day for a walk at Titchwell before work. I heard 4 Cetti's Warbler singing and a Chiffchaff in full song as I walked along the trails in the sunlight.
I started at Holme where it was a beautiful day with a flat-calm sea. I watched 4 Slavonian Grebe, 2 Red-necked Grebe, 6 Great Northern Diver, 22 Long-tailed Duck, a small group of Eider, a few Goldeneye and many Great Crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser. I then drove to Sculthorpe and met up with Graham Sherwin, who has taken on the task of being the NarVOS recorder and making a very good job of it. Tony Gray joined us and together we watched the Coue's Arctic Redpoll along with several Mealy and Lesser Redpoll. After listening to Graham's tales of the life of being a recorder, I drove to John's to enjoy the last rays of the sun in his back garden with a glass of wine or two before being driven to the Great Yarmouth Bird Club talk. Here I was able to obtain a replacement from a fellow bird club member, for a small donation of the Colombian field guide that I had taken months to acquire, that I had had stolen from me.
Steve Smith presented Bob Cobbold with his award for the 'best find' of the year. The Black-bellied Dipper at Briggate.
Steve Smith presenting Bob Cobbold with his award for the best find of the year
Colombian field guide
After a very busy day working in the cafe at Titchwell, I drove to NarVOS where we had a very interesting talk about the Denver Sluice and Welmore sluice complex and how it drains and supplies water to all East Anglia. The talk finished early enough for all the old stalwarts of the club to meet up in our usual pub to enjoy a drink or two together. It was good to catch up with all the news. On the way home a Tawny Owl was sitting on a branch above the road at Gayton as I drove underneath.
It was Titchwell's 46th birthday and Clare had baked a cake to celebrate the anniversary of the RSPB paying £53000 to buy Titchwell Marsh to try and protect nesting Montagu's Harriers. What a wonderful investment it has been for birds and wildlife since that day.
Ryan, John, Lucy, Trevor, Hayley,,matthew, Lizzie, Trish, Nikki, Clare, Jim, sue, Jeannie,Carrie, Les and Ray
some of the staff and volunteers of Titchwell
46th birthday cake baked by Clare
Titchwell Marsh RSPB
During the day Ryan radioed in to tell me that there was a Red Kite flying over the visitor centre. I was just in time to see 2 Common Buzzards and a Red Kite fly over.
Carrie and I watched a Red Kite at Choseley flying over the pig fields on our way to work this morning. Later in the day Dave Hawkins radioed in to tell us that he had 3 Hen Harriers over Thornham Marsh. I spotted Ray Gribble on the path and managed to alert him of their presence. The volunteers and I managed good views of one of the ringtails from the visitor centre as it flew close by the path.
There are times in life when as a parent you just beam with pride at the achievements of your offspring. I have always been very proud of all my children as I count myself extremely lucky that they have all turned out to be decent hard-working adults. I have just learned that my second son Jonathan has been picked for the England over 35s hockey team. Well done darling.
Today I had a frustrating drive to Gloucestershire after having got diverted off my usual route but eventually arrived safe and sound to meet my newly-born twin grandsons Teddy (Edward) and George. As I was rocking Teddy to sleep I watched Red Kites from Jonathan's new extension being mobbed by crows. The twins are just so adorable and were beautifully behaved as I enjoyed cuddling them both.
Nanny Sue with Teddy and George
Whilst watching my son Jonathan play hockey in Cheltenham, I watched a Red Kite tumbling in the increasing wind above my head. I also saw more Red Kites on my way to Oxford to see my daughter before she has her baby soon.
John and I took a short walk toLynn Point this afternoon after storm Freya had passed through where 4 male Reed Buntings were sitting in a bush as we walked to the point. Once there we watched a thousand Brent Geese take off and land on the fields the other side of the river. Six Redshank were on the riverside as two Grey Heron flew over the river. We watched a Marsh Harrier flying in the distance the otherside of the seabank and a Barn Owl quartering the bank by the Poplar Trees. As it was very cold and windy we beat a hasty retreat back home.
John and I had brief views of the Black Redstart at Choseley barns this morning.
John and I met up with Patrick and Claire and drove to Herringfleet in Suffolk where we soon found the Green-winged Teal amongst the Common Teal. However because of the trees surrounding the pools of water it was difficult to find a spot where I could take a photo from.
We walked the bank and saw Ruff, Common Snipe, Gadwall,a Water Pipit, Greylag Geese as well as Lapwing and many more Teal.
We returned to Patrick and Claire's home and enjoyed a wonderful evening meal with them. Thank you both!
John and I started at Santon Downham where we didn't have to wait very long for the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker to show itself as it drummed away on on of the dead trees.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
We watched a Water Rail swimming alongside us as we walked back before crossing back over the road to look for the Mandarin Ducks. Two female Mandarins flew up the river as we watched a Kingfisher and several Grey Wagtails.
We drove to Drymere where we watched several Woodlark and a Yellowhammer singing. Common Buzzards were spiralling in the air as we searched several areas for Willow Tit without success.
Loving my new laptop which is so much quicker than my old second-hand laptop and my thanks must go to Trevor and David for advice given on the purchase and setting up. I can now miracast all my photos onto my TV wirelessly once again.
It was a miserable day at Titchwell with very few visitors today in the gale-force winds and rain. In the afternoon I walked to Patsy's pool to check the boardwalks etc where a few Greylag and Canada Geese were sheltering along with Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot and Teal. A Marsh Harrier went whizzing by in the wind as I made my way to the driveway where 7 Curlew were feeding in the field alongside the main road. The feeders were busy all day with Goldfinch, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch with Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Pheasant and a Moorhen underneath on the very soggy mud.
Fair Isle Bird Obsevatory
(picture from news services)
The birding community will be sad to learn of the total destruction of the bird observatory on Fair Isle by fire this afternoon. My understanding is that everyone is safe and no-one hurt or injured.
John and I started the day in NW Norfolk where we watched 2 Ravens and a Buzzard interacting with each other. After a spot of shopping waiting for the tide to drop at Hunstanton we drove to the sailing club and after a brief search of the seafront examining all the groynes I located a Purple Sandpiper sitting on groyne number 4. There were numerous Turnstone and Oystercatcher on the beach in the gale-force winds.
Sue on a very cold blustery Hunstanton beach
I watched a Red Kite by Choseley barns as I drove to work this morning. After a very blustery day at Titchwell I drove to Holt, passing a Barn Owl at Letheringsett to join John for a meal before meeting up with Ann and Andrew at the Cley Bird club meeting. Here we joined with friends to listen to John's presentation of his trip to NW Argentina. He followed some of the route that I had taken back in 2010 and it was nice to see some of the photos of the sites and birds that I had seen back then. However some of the shallow lakes that I had seen so many birds on were just dust bowls which would have been so disappointing for John after the wonderful birds that I had seen there. Ann and Andrew recounted some of their tales of their recent Japanese trip which also brought back memories and we will all be meeting up again soon for our next exciting adventure! I had better get my suitcase out!
Mick East and I watched 2 Red Kites from my kitchen window before left for Titchwell today. Was it so long ago that we used to travel all the way to Wales to see these wonderful birds?
After passing the police catching unsuspecting speeding motorists through West Rudham, it was good to see a Red Kite flying overhead.
John and I started at Blakeney where we had been invited by Richard to sit in his house and watch his neighbour's back garden where there was a Turtle Dove frequenting it. Enjoying a cup of tea and biscuits we waited without a lot of luck to be begin with, except for a Sparrowhawk that has taken a liking to Richard's small passerines. Richard gave us instructions on where to see a roosting Tawny Owl and so we went to see it before returning to his neighbour's house where we were invited in to see the Turtle Dove. It was too close for my lens but flew to a nearby tree where it sat hiding up as best it could!
At Cley we wandered down East Bank and watched a Slavonian Grebe along with Lin and Phil on a pool west of the East Bank before adding a Spoonbill to my yearlist back near the road. We motored to coastguards and Dot and Steve told us where they had seen the Wheatear running on Eye Field.
I'm loving my new laptop which is making life so much easier and has the quickest start-up and close down that I have ever had in a computer. Yesterday I uploaded and got running Wildlife Recorder too. The quickest I have ever done it. Thanks Jack! I am informed a new version of this is just about to be launched. Good job I have a current subscription as the upgrade will be free for those of us that have this. In a few weeks time I am hoping to add to my world list!
I had decided to have a day at home to finalise my packing for my next adventure but when I saw that the wind had dropped and the sun was shining, I did what I always want to do and went birding! Not too sure which way to head at first but eventually I decided to head for the Brecks and wandered along some of the Swaffham forest rides. A Nuthatch was calling and Blue and Great Tits were on show. Siskin and Chaffinch were in the tree tops as a Goldcrest landed in front of me too close for my lens. Several Mistle Thrush sang as I listened to a distant Woodlark but could not find it. I retraced my steps and listened to a Willow Tit singing. It was not at all keen to have its photo taken as it landed partially hidden by twigs making it impossible for my camera to focus. Another bird flew in but only briefly before I manged a couple of snaps of the original bird. I continued to another area where a female Goshawk flew across the tops of trees quickly followed by several sightings of Common Buzzards.
I drove to the now well-known layby in Swaffham forest and joined Peter Dolton and together we watched another Goshawk, Peregrine and several more Common Buzzards. I scanned the local fields for Stone Curlew without any luck. They will have to wait!
With news of a White-tailed Eagle flying along the coastline, we were all on tenterhooks in the visitor centre at Titchwell. I had friends in the visitor centre who were going to drive along the coastline and ring me if they saw the bird. Pauline sent me a message to say that she was watching it at Burnham Overy Dunes and Chris took a radio and wandered down the West Bank Path. It didn't take long before he radioed in to say he had picked it up flying towards the reserve. Sally, Frances and I made our way down the path and I kept watch as I ran down. Trevor and Chris were tracking it in their scopes and Trevor got me onto the bird. The White-tailed Eagle was being mobbed by two Common Buzzards as it approached the reserve. As I returned to the visitor centre I managed to show Carrie the bird and lots of visitors too. Hayley...........you were a star!
John and I had a brief lunch-time walk at Titchwell and chose to walk to Patsy's Pool where a few Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot and a Mute Swan kept the flock of Greylag Geese company. A Chiffchaff sang from the sallows on the way back as a Mediterranean Gull called from overhead. The pools around the Meadow Trail were alive with toads all mating.
I spent the evening at the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society meeting where one of my colleagues was giving a talk about the head-starting project of Black-tailed Godwits. It was an interesting talk and good to meet up with friends there. Allan gave me some very interesting information!
Mick and I saw a Red Kite at Anmer on the way home from Titchwell this evening.
John, Ann, Andrew and I had asked Bird Tour Asia to put together a customised trip to Sarawak and Sabah, Borneo targeting some specialities and endemics for our next birding holiday. The day had arrived for our departure and so we flew from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur overnight to begin our travels.
From Kuala Lumpur we boarded another flight and flew to Miri in Sarawak, Borneo where we spent the night in a hotel next to the airport after being met by Yeo our guide for the next seven days.
With our guide Yeo we boarded a small Twin Otter aircraft and flew into the hills and landed at Lawas. From here we fllew to Bakelalan. After sorting ourselves out two drivers loaded our birding gear whilst our luggage was taken to our homestay on a motorbike!
We drove to
the top of a deserted road and walked down birding as we went. As I shall do a
trip report as usual I will keep my diary brief. However we all enjoyed
watching the Bornean Banded Pitta before lunch was taken at the homestay. As we
were all fairly exhausted and trying to cope with the heat we were glad of an
We were up at 4am and birded all morning at Bakelalan, Sarawak, Borneo and I enjoyed watching 20 new lifers to add to my list. The evening was spent watching a Dulit Frogmouth a very rare, range-restricted bird, only know from a few locations in the world.
The day was spent birding the Bario Road at Bakelalan in Sarawak. I enjoyed watching a Red-bearded Bee-eater as well as an Orange-breasted Trogon, a pin badge that I have worn on my RSPB uniform for many years. I was so pleased to see one at long last!
We drove along a dirt road for 4 hours today and left our luggage in a homestay as we had to walk 5km uphill along a forest trail with just what we could carry with porters carrying our food and water for a two-night stay in a wooden cabin. (It reminded John and I of Pasoh, which we had both stayed in on a previous visit to peninsular Malaysia.) It was difficult going in hot, sweaty conditions and exceedingly wet underfoot. My boots leaked and I was glad of my walking pole to help my balance as we crossed rivers with precarious logs as bridges to negotiate. One of our target birds, Black Oriole was seen as soon as we arrived just as it got dark. Our trip was focused on the 'difficult to see' birds, endemics and critically endangered birds so we all knew that there would be some hardships to endure.
Road to Bakealalan
Porters to carry our food, water and supplies
A fallen tree blocks our way. Machetes soon deal with the blockage
The last 5km to Paye Maga has to be done uphill on foot through thick jungle.
The heat and leeches make for a fun time!
Walking up a stream, my feet were now sloshing around inside them we took a long time to find Hose’s Broadbill, another rare, difficult to find target bird. It was certainly shy and gave us all a merry dance. We walked back to the cabin for lunch and I washed standing in a bucket of cold water as it was so hot and sticky. We did little in the afternoon as we were all exhausted from our morning’s exertions. Along with Yeo, our guide we looked for the Bornean Frogmouth without success in the evening.
We were up at 6.30am for a final search of Bornean Frogmouth. Yeo thought that he could hear it but could not locate it. We all searched and after a lot of effort I finally located its tail through a tiny gap in the leaves. With the help of a laser I managed to get the others all on to it. Result! We certainly derserved it after all our hours of effort!
We walked the 5km back down the trail to the waiting 4x4s and we driven to the homestay, had lunch and were then driven for 2 hours to Lewas where we said goodbye to our guide Yeo and met our new guide Wilbur. He took us to the Klias Peat Swamp Reserve where we watched a Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker and Reddish Scops Owl before checking in to our hotel at Beaufort.
After birding Klias Peat Swamp Reserve we drove to Kotu Kinabalu where we caught a flight to Lehad Datu. We drove for 3 hours to Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, a complete change as the accommodation is very upmarket! We had a deluxe cabin too! The surroundings were spectacular in prime jungle as birds abounded. We watched Blue-throated Bee-eaters from the veranda of the restaurant. Bliss! After a delicious evening meal we took an evening night drive where we watched a Lesser Mouse-Deer as well as Sambar Deer.
After waking up with a terrible migraine I struggled to walk the trails this morning. We were spoilt with views of Black-crowned Pitta, Blue-headed Pitta and stunning views of Great Argus. John could not contain himself as this was one of his most-wanted birds. We returned to the lodge where I slept until mid-afternoon. The afternoon was hot and sticky as we walked the jungle trails. I was excited as we watched a mother and baby Orang Utan as although I had seen some in the morning the views had not been good.
We were up early and used the electric buggy to watch the canopy of trees for hornbills. I added six life-ticks before we hit the trail again where I was lucky to see Helmeted Hornbill through a narrow gap in the trees. Unforunately not all the group had the same window of opportunity.
In the afternoon we were taken by a park guide and walked several jungle trails. I managed to see a female Blue-headed Pitta but it ran behind a tree before the others saw it and promptly disappeared. A female Great Argus ran across the track as we returned to the Rainforest Lodge.
After dark we enjoyed a night drive where we saw a Black-headed Pitta at roost.
John, Wilbur and myself were taken up the road at 6am and dropped 4km away from the lodge. We walked slowly back and enjoyed some excellent birding. I was pleased with another 7 life-ticks including Wallace’s Hawk-eagle.
We chilled out back at the lodge as there was an air of excitement as all the staff were awaiting for the arrival of Dame Judi Dench. We could hear the arrival of a helicopter and an entourage of people arrived sorting out luggage and drinks. After seeing her we left in our vehicle and drove back to Lahad Katu where we changed vehicles and drove to the Gonmantong Caves. Here I was transfixed by the sight of the enormous caves with bats and swifts everywhere and the rope ladders stretching up to the roof of the caves so that the locals could harvest the nests. Wilbur and I went inside for him to show me Edible-nest Swiflet, Mossy-nest Swiftlet and Black-nest Swiftlet. The smell of the droppings and guano was interesting!
We carried on to the Myne Resort on the side of River Kinabatangan where there was a Buffy Fish Owl and 3 Bearded Pigs in the car park.
We were up at 5am and went on a river cruise where we watched Blue-eared Kingfisher, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher and Lesser Adjutant Stork as well as many common river species. I was pleased with Wrinkled Hornbill as a life-tick as well as the other six species of hornbill that we saw. A Storm’s Stork was a welcome addition before we heard a pair of Hooded Pittas calling. I managed to see both birds but failed miserably to get a photo. Grrrr...
After our evening meal we had a boat ride in the dark where we heard a Oriental Bay Owl but despite our best efforts we failed to see it.
We had another early morning boat ride that produced good views of Jerdon’s Baza. We had many Blue-eared Kingfishers up one of the creeks as we sweltered from the heat and humidity. Many hornbills flew across the river as we returned to lunch in our restaurant overlooking the river. An afternoon boat ride on the River Kinabatangan added White-bellied Woodpecker to my list in the heat of the day. I also added White-bellied Sea Eagle to the trip list. We were pleased to get back to a cold shower as the heat had been very draining on our energy levels.
another boat ride on the river but failed to find the expected ground-cuckoo
despite our best efforts. A White-bellied Sea Eagle caught a fish and flew off
with it in front of us before we realised what was happening. An Oriental Dwarf
Kingfisher flew across me almost taking my nose off in its haste to get across
the river. Black Hornbills seem to be more numerous than yesterday.
All too soon it was time to pack up and leave as we drove for 5 hours to get to Kinabalu Pine Resort with stunning views of Mount Kinabaku from our cabin.
We left our accommodation at 5am and drove into Mount Kinabalu Park in the dark. We failed to see Mountain Scops Owl despite hearing it we walked the trails which were hard work with our walking poles and I was pleased with my 8 new ticks seeing Red-breasted Partridge, Crimson-headed Partridge and several Indigo Flycatchers. John wanted to see flowering Rafflesia and so we drove to a site so that he could see one in the heat of the day. It is a parasitic flower and one of the largest of the world at nearly 2 feet across.
We entered Mount Kinabalu Park in the dark again and despite our best efforts did not hear a scops owl. We walked the Bukit Ular trail and managed to see the Everett’s Thrush really well. Result! We drove to the top of the park and birded our way the 4km down the road. By the time we reached the restaurant it was really hot and we deserved some refreshment. Being a muslim country beer was not an option. We were joined by a Temminck’s Sunbird in the Fuchsias. Rain stopped play for the rest of the day.
We had another lovely morning’s birding on Mount Kinabalu and walked the road all the way down back down to the restaurant. I was pleased with the Sunda Whistling Thrush and was thrilled with seeing the Fruithunter.
soon it was time to drive to Kota Kinabalu for our flight to Kuala Lumpur. Once
we had landed we drove to a Restaurant and met up with James Eaton for a pizza.
He had just returned from birding in Vietnam. We
drove to Bukit Tinggi where we spent the night. We were lucky to see a Large Frogmouth in the evening.
We had an
amazing morning at Bukit Tinggi in the Japanese garden where we saw a pair of
Ferruginous Partridges and several Mountain Peacock Pheasants. Luck was on our
side as Wilbur heard a Rail Babbler. With James Eaton and Wilbur on the case we
all stared downhill through deep undergrowth and I saw a RAIL BABBLER walk
right across an open gap! It is one of birding’s holy grails and we could not
believe our luck! After another hour’s birding we drove onto Fraser’s Hill. It
brought back such memories of nine year’s ago when I was last here. What a
wonderful place to go birding.
Wilbur soon had us on a stake out for Malayan Partridge and after throwing down a few worms we all sat down and waited. It wasn’t long before we had our quarry. We added many more birds to our trip list and we all retired to bed at Stephen’s Place happy little bunnies!
Wilbur drove us down to The Gap where after watching Bamboo Woodpecker we walked up the old road for a 2 km birding as we went. We watched a Red-headed Trogon and Blue Nuthatches before birding our way back down. After a delightful lunch in the Tearooms we returned to Stephen’s Place.
After lunch Wilbur, John and myself walked the Bishop’s Trail where we delighted in watching a very obliging Marbled Wren Babbler. A Malaysian Partridge also popped up on the trail. We joined several photographers as we added yet more birds to our list once we had reached the road.
In the evening I joined Wilbur, Ann and Andrew and together we had stunning views of Mountain Scops Owl at the bottom of the Bishop Trail steps.
We packed our bags and drove to The Gap and walked a couple of kilometres down the road. We admired several woodpeckers including Crimson-winged Woodpecker and Banded Woodpecker before walking back to the car and driving to Kuala Lumpur. We birded along a stream but failed to find Blue-banded Kingfisher. We did however have good views of Malaysian Cuckoo Hawk.
All too soon it was time for the drive to the airport for our flight home.
Back to reality today with a day at work at Titchwell. I am so jet-lagged but manage to keep my eyes open to the end of the day. It is so cold in the UK but my heart is warmed by a Red Kite flying over Sandringham land on my way home. I hope it survives the guns as it flies over a Royal shooting field.
I open some of the mountains of post that have arrived in my absence. I am amazed by another checklist awaiting for me for my next trip which I am really looking forward to but I cannot get my head around it yet as I have a trip report to write and hundreds of photos to sort as well as another grandchild arrival to look forward to. Agghhhh........I need more time!!!
I am still jet-lagged and waking up at some ridiculous time in the morning so an early-morning walk was in order on Roydon Common. I could hear a Blackcap singing as I approached the track. It was bitterly cold compared to the 34 degree heat of Borneo but the Skylarks were singing and the Lapwings were trying to fend off a very active stoat running from nest to nest. A Roe Deer ran ahead of me as I watched a pair of Stonechat. I was amazed to see a lady with a dog actually on a lead! The signage at the gate is now much better with dog owners knowing that they must now control their dogs for once. I walked back through the trees and watched the Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Robin singing before getting back to my car, having a chat to John ready to face the excitement of doing some chores for the day!
Stoat disappearing down a rabbit burrow
Better signage for dog owners
Still coughing and sputtering from some lurgy that I have picked up from work and with a horrible headache I decided some fresh air might be good for me so I ventured for a short walk on Roydon Common. I counted six Stonechat which is often the only bird of note that I see on my walks and so was surprised to see twelve Northern Wheatear too. Six of these were in the top field and six on the old model airfield area. I continued around the top field and was cursing at the lack of Ring Ouzel that I was hoping to see. However it was a glorious day and after being confined to home for the most of the day yesterday coughing, I was glad to be outdoors in the sun. I was suffering from lack of energy and so decided to walk no further and return home. A Red Kite flew over as did a Common Buzzard. I was then transfixed by the activities of a stoat causing mayhem amongst the nesting Lapwings as it ran from nest to nest. The Lapwings desperately tried to dive-bomb it to protect their eggs. I was nearly back to the wood when a what seemed like a large thrush flew over me. By instinct I knew it had to be a Ring Ouzel and just caught the grey in the wing as it turned and flew to a tree near the top field. I retraced my steps and waited patiently for it to drop to the ground which it eventually did. I cursed that I only had my bridge camera with me rather that my SLR.
Lapwing defending its nest against the Stoat
Lapwing and Stoat
By late afternoon although my throat was still sore I felt quite a lot better and decided to attend the Wensum Valley Bird Club meeting at Great Witchingham. Gary Prescott the 'Biking Birder' was giving the talk and he entertained us well on his exploits visiting all the RSPB and Wetland Trust reserves by bike followed by travelling in Peru raising valuable funds for Birdlife International and Chaskwasi-Manu, the project in The Manu that supports indigenous children. The talk brought back many happy memories of various reserves and Peru. We were short of helpers for pouring out the teas and coffees and I volunteered to help, so sadly I didn't get chance to talk to Gary but since he would be at Titchwell sometime soon I knew I could thank him then.
With news that my daughter was in labour about to have her first baby I knew concentrating on a busy day working in the cafe at Titchwell was going to be taxing! It certainly was too for reasons that I won't go into here! However Jim came in with the news at the start of the day before we opened of news of a Ring Ouzel in the field by the West Bank path and so most of the staff grabbed binoculars and we all went and looked at it. Thanks to Ray he had it all lined up for us in his scope!
Gary Prescott came to say hello to me in the cafe at Titchwell and we chatted about our adventures and birding. It was good to see him again.
My evening was spent biting my nails waiting for news of my daughter.
Eventually after a gruelling labour my granddaughter Hannah June was born to Kathryn and Chris, a healthy 8lbs 4oz. Congratulations to them both and welcome little Hannah.
John and I picked up Stewart Betts and headed over to Potter Heigham Marshes where we joined Mike, Simon and Pete and after noting our first Willow Warbler of the year, together we enjoyed watching the Black-winged Stilt from the bank on the south side. Here we also saw 3 Garganey, 2 Greenshank, Dunlin and many Avocet. It was a glorious day and after enjoying a bite to eat we drove to Filby Broad where we saw at least 20 Arctic Tern and 10 Common Terns. A female Scaup was also on the broad as were a delightful pair of Great Crested Grebe.
We had an uneventful look around Great Yarmouth cemetery where the only migrants were Chiffchaff and a female Blackcap. We stopped on the way home to Stewart's and stopped at a farm pool where there were 2 Green Sandpiper and 2 Little Ringed Plovers.
I am now a grandmother to six grand-children and can't wait to see my new grandchild born last night. The last couple of years have been amazing and I am so proud of my family.
Hannah June Rogers, my beautiful new little granddaughter
After the excitement of yesterday, John and I were up early and in Snettisham Country Park long before most of the world woke up. It was a glorious morning with wonderful blue skies and lots of birds singing. John was delighted with the Ring Ouzel in the field by the RSPB car park entrance. We started walking along the inner seabank and it wasn't long before we noted Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warblers all singing. We watched a Grasshopper Warbler reeling before continuing along our way. Just after the crossover bank we walked along by the side of the seabank and met up with Paul Fisher. Together we watched a Cuckoo flying by. We walked to Heachan cafe and had a delightful cooked breakfast before making our way back along the inner seabank. We stopped to admire eight Yellow Wagtails amongst the cows before meeting up with Marcus Nash and Paul Fisher again. Together we admired a close Whimbrel and 3 summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit along with a Bar-tailed Godwit. We swopped news and walked back as 2 Mediterranean Gulls flew over our heads. We noted seven Wheatear several Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff as well as two Swallows.
Calf with 4 Yellow Wagtails
Yellow Wagtail picking off flies from the calf's face
Snettisham Country Park
We were saddened to see much of the scrub in the burnt area has now been cleared leaving areas of hardly any scrub at all where the Grashopper Warblers used to breed.
Carrie and I met up with Trevor Girling before work this morning at Titchwell and walked to Fen Hide to admire Carrie's hard work at getting it decorated inside. It looks amazing. Trevor and I walked on towards Patsy's Pool where a Cuckoo flew over our heads. A visitor showed us an image on the back of his camera of a female Pied Flycatcher that he had seen on the West Bank path a few minutes earlier. We decided to go and look for it with no luck. I noticed a bird drop into the trees and was stunned when it was a male Pied Flycatcher. I showed it to Trevor and ran for my camera whilst Trevor kept an eye on it. I managed a few quick shots before it flew off.
Later in the day a visitor told us about a Firecrest in the Hawthorn bushes by my car in the staff car park.
I am so excited as I wake up this morning as I am going to visit and stay with my new little granddaughter near Oxford. It will be the first time that will see her. I watched several Red Kites on my journey and several from my daughter's house.
I spent the day cuddling my new little granddaughter and looking after my daughter who has had rather a traumatic time giving birth. Hannah is just delightful and I enjoyed every minute of the cuddles! I have a wonderful family and count myself very lucky!
Kathryn Sue and Hannah
Sue and Hannah
A day spent with my daughter and her husband looking after my new little granddaughter Hannah before travelling to North Leach to be with my son and his wife and my new twin grandsons. I saw several more Red Kites today as I travelled.
After spending the night with my son Jonathan and his wife Sarah and my twin grandsons, I took a countrified route back home to avoid all the traffic heading into Oxford which becomes rather snarled up in the morning. I had a delightful journey across the tops of the hills watching Red Kites. I am now way behind with my trip report on Borneo and still have hundreds of photos to process. However my family is very important to me and they come first! I have been delighted with my four new grandchildren and I'm sure they will be just as happy as my other two grandchildren.
Sue George Teddy and Jonathan
I met up with John after work and together we watched 3 Great White Egret, 4 Spoonbill amongst the Shelduck, Mute Swan, Avocet at Holkham. We carried onto Wells where we saw a pair of Garganey from the Ice-cream track leading off from the A149. There were a few Brent Geese still lingering as well as many Mallard ducklings. Three Redshank were taking refuge from the strong winds as well as the Avocet present. We also took refuge in The Globe at Wells where we enjoyed a rather delicious meal!
I am still processing hundreds of photos that I took in Borneo and still have a trip report to write. I am hoping to get it done before my next big trip!
At lunchtime I took a walk down the West Bank path where I watched many Sandwich Terns on the Freshmarsh amongst over 200 Mediterranean Gulls. I met up with Dot and Steve who were getting excited about their forthcoming trip to Taiwan after John and I recommended our trip to Taiwan which we had thoroughly enjoyed. On the way back to the Visitor Centre I watched a Bearded Tit in the reedbed.
After work I walked the seabank at Burnham Overy failing to see the reported Purple Heron. I gather that most people spent the day here failing to see it or had a brief flight view only at 1pm. I watched several Spoonbill, Grey Heron and Little Egret feeding in the ditches as well as the usual bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Oystercatcher feeding out on the mud. It was good to have a couple of hours out in the fresh air as only birders will understand the need to be birding.
As I walked up to the seabank at Burnham Overy I could hear a Bittern booming. It was a beautiful morning to be out as I strode along the seabank to join a small party of birders obviously watching something. I scanned as I walked along but could not see the Purple Heron in view. As I joined Tony, the inevitable happened and as I approached the small crowd the Purple Heron walked down the bank and into a ditch out of view! Curses. It was to be another 20 minutes before it re-emerged to show itself. I walked back along the sea bank and watched a Spoonbill in flight before making my way to Wells.
At Wells ice-cream track pools I joined Ray and together we watched 2 Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, a pair of Garganey as well as many Common Snipe and Avocet. Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall and Shelduck all added to the scene as these pools were full of birds. I motored onto Salthouse and joined Neil Bostock and Tony Prater where we did not see the Great Spotted Cuckoo!
I had a busy evening with two events to attend to and so did not stay for the usual pub visit after the excellent talk given by Alison Charles about the work of the RSPCA at East Winch to NarVOS members. There are days when there are simply not enough hours in the day to achieve everything that I want to! My trip report to Borneo will never get written at this rate!
I drove to Norwich and joined many of the East of England RSPB staff for the annual regional conference . There were a series of talks about our various reserves and what has been achieved. We have an amazing team for saving nature and I was very proud to be part of a team that shows such passion for their work. The last talk of the day was given by a UEA professor which was quite thought provoking about where we should be headed not just as an organization but as a society and how we need to change. Ummmm.........
Meeting up with Steve Rowland as I walked along the bank at Snettisham, we had not walked far before he spotted the Hoopoe flying into a Hawthorne bush. We watched it for a minute before it took off and flew to another bush where we failed to relocate it again.
A visit to Nar Valley Fisheries this morning produced 3 Garden Warblers along with 4 Blackcaps all competing in the same few bushes. Two Swift were flying over Hobbs Lake along with 2 Swallows. It was really very musical as Reed Warblers were also in full song! A Cuckoo was also calling. Later at Pentney Lakes a Little Ringed Plover was on the beach area along with a Yellow Wagtail and Pied Wagtail as House Martins and Sand Martins were catching insects over the water. It was good to see a pair of Common Terns returning but not good to see the disturbance being caused by several canoes on the water!
Carrie and I stopped off on our way to work to admire 4 Dotterel on our way to work this morning. I had enjoyable and successful day outside for a change recruiting new members for the RSPB in the car park at Titchwell. It was good to see many friends that I have not seen for while.
I was working in the shop at Titchwell when I was told of two Common Cranes flying over the Visitor Centre. They were quite high up as they flew over. A little later on Lizzie radioed in to say that there was an Osprey circling over Willow Wood. I had missed the first Osprey this morning by a couple of minutes. I was determined not to miss this one. Jim and I scuttled down West Bank path just in time to see the Osprey divert inland.
I have spent the day trying to finish my trip report to Borneo and Peninsula Malaysia. With a weather forecast of rain all day I thought it might be a good opportunity to try and get it finished and get it uploaded to my website. I have been home nearly a month now and it is only a matter of weeks before my next big trip and so I don't want it hanging over me as I will have to prepare for my next trip. However after hours sat at the computer I needed a break and drove over to Pentney where the rain was torrential. A single Black Tern was flying around along with several Arctic and Common Terns. In the rain their flight pattern was quite different. The Black Tern eventually sat on one of the buoys and I risked the rain and grabbed my camera for a record distant photo of it before it flew again.
i have just started to upload my trip report to Borneo on the main page of my website. Please bear with me whilst I upload it.
Black Tern sitting on the buoy at Pentney Lake
I joined the other birders on a freezing morning standing at Muckleburgh Hill in the hope of seeing tha Great Spotted Woodpecker. I had just missed the first showing and we all stood shivering watching Moss Taylor doing his rounds of the clump of vegetation and Sarah and Julian sitting in their car also waiting by the pill box. After a few hours I sent a text to Julian asking what he knew and he kindly rang me to say that the bird had flown along the beach to the east of the camp. We were now waiting in hope that the bird would return to its favourite clump of brambles. many birders left on hearing the news and I returned to my car to get another layer of clothing. I rejoined the birders and after a short while the Great Spotted Cuckoo returned giving good, albeit distant views.
Spot the bird!
Great Spotted Cuckoo at distance!
Great Spotted Cuckoo
I was just about to leave when a message came through on my phone about a Wryneck along at the radar station at Weyboune and so Phil and I walked along the coast to the back of the radar station where after being joined by several other birders we eventually saw the Wryneck on top of the concrete posts.
Carrie picked me up for work and along with Jenny we drove to Chalk Pit Lane at Titchwell where there were seven Dotterel really close to the road. I cursed at not having a camera with me but Jenny kindly let me use her scope so that I could hand-hold my iphone to it to take a photo.
I stopped off once again at Chalk Pit Lane on my way to work at Titchwell where there were only 2 Dotterel in the field this morning. I had my camera at the ready but the Dotterel were not as close as they had been yesterday.
After a busy day recruiting in the car park, Trevor and I had a walk on the reserve. Two Spoonbill flew over us as we walked down and we watched a pair of Marsh Harriers interacting with one another. A Grey Heron was stalking a Bearded Tits nest as we watched on on the reeds. A Little Tern flew in and settled in front of Parrinder Hide.There were many Mediterranean Gulls on the reserve which I had listened to all day out in the car park as well as flying over me. On the way back at the path a Common Tern was delightful to watch as it searched for food.
Kathryn Sue and Hannah
It's been a lovely couple of days sitting in Kathryn's garden in Islip, Oxford, cuddling my new baby granddaughter Hannah, whilst watching Red Kites swooping down right over my head! Magical!
After work I drove to Cley and joined Steve and Eddie in Daukes hide where there were 4 Temminck's Stints on Simmonds Scrape. Avocet, Shelduck, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Gadwall were all to be seen and a group of Tundra Ringed Plover and Dunlin flew in to Pat's Pool briefly before flying off. Three Common Sandpipers were feeding on the mud. Just in front of the hide 2 drake Garganey appeared and I cursed not having my SLR camera with me.
After a worrying couple of days with my daughter being rushed back into hospital she is now on the mend and I could enjoy my few days off. John and I started at Wretham Heath where we watched a Common Redstart flitting around. We also watched 4 Treecreepers, a family of Long-tailed Tits and a pair of Coal Tits. Nearby a Little Owl was peeping out of a barn roof.
At Foulden Common we found 12 Dingy Skippers, 3 Grizzled Skippers, 1 Green Hairstreak, 1 Peacock Butterfly, 25 Brimstone, 2 Small Copper, 2 Small Heaths and 20 Common Blue butterflies. We listened to several Garden Warblers singing whilst we searched for the butterflies.
As dusk fell John and I went to Marsham Heath where we were treated to a wonderful male Nightjar displaying right in front of us.
John and I took some time wandering around a mid-Norfolk churchyard where we found a pair of Spotted Flycatchers. It was a delight to watch them as they darted around.
We wandered around a nearby meadow where we watched a Common Whitethroat singing its heart out as well as a family party of Long-tailed Tits.
This beauty flew right over my head low down as I was in my front garden this morning, whilst I was weeding a flower bed. Years ago we had to drive to Wales to see them. Now I don't need to travel anywhere! Magical!
After a very enjoyable evening in the pub last night after the NarVOS meeting that Ben Knights talked about the world underwater, I had a late start today.
I walked the length of Gypsy Lane between Titchwell and Brancaster where nearly every patch of reeds by the path seemed to have Bearded Tits calling in them. Several flew over the path as I walked. Reed Warblers were busy singing as a Reed Bunting sat at the top of a reed joining in the soundscape. A Marsh Harrier quartered the marsh hunting for prey as Shelduck, and Mute Swans preened by the pools. Tufted Duck and Mallard added to the scene as I watched a Little Egret down in one of the channels. I looked for the cows and realised that I needed to be nearer to the beach road than I was now as reeds obliterated my view of the grass.
I drove down the beach road at Brancaster and quickly hopped onto the seawall where although I could see the cows, I could not see my intended quarry. I drove back up to the village and parked the car. It was a lovely morning and so decided a walk along the seawall via a detour along a little lane would be a pleasant experience. I was glad I had made the right decision as it was glorious along the lane with many birds singing. Eventually I joined the seawall and as I approached the cows two Cattle Egrets flew out from somewhere. They flew towards the golf house and landed by a pool. I continued on my way and managed a couple of distant photos.
Now back home with a cake to bake for our weekend adventure on my butterfly quest of seeing all the UK butterflies
I joined Chrissie and Phill after work in a vain attempt to see the Purple Heron on site at Titchwell but failed miserably. We watched 3 Grey Heron and several food passes of the Marsh Harriers nesting in the reed beds whilst a Cuckoo sat on the dead trees calling but the Purrple Heron failed to show itself. A Red-crested Pochard was busy pulling up weed on Patsy's pool.
Sue on the Isle of Wight ferry
One of the delights of having a birding partner is being able to share our wildlife interests on our holidays together. So besides our big trips adding to our world lists John and I arrange 'mini trips' to enjoy not only seeing birds in various parts of the country but being able to look at other wildlife too. Over the last 3 years I have been keen to see all the British Butterflies which has given John and I a focus for our minitrips. Today we drove through the night to be on the first ferry across to the Isle of Wight. It was a glorious morning and we were both full of hope for the day ahead. The sailing was wonderful and we were soon on the island and headed straight for The Needles where John wanted to be before the tourists arrived to spoil things at this amusement park conglomoration. Luckily we had the place all to ourselves in the bright sunlight.
Armed with maps and a great deal of help from Murray Smith we made our way to Afton Down and Compton Bay. The weather could not have been better. We soon found my 55th species of butterfly for the UK. The Glanville Fritillary was basking in the early morning sunlight in a small roadside quarry alongside a Small Blue butterfly and Brown Argus. Sadly I had forgotten my small camera and so was reliant on my iphone for photos.
Sue at Compton Bay
We walked the steep downland behind the quarry and watched Adonis Blue Butterfly. However they were just too quick for our cameras as they defended their territories as they tussled with each other.
Murray had suggested where he had seen other Glanville Fritilllaries on the cliff-edge and so we crossed the road and over the style to investigate. It was such a beautiful day and we could not believe our luck as we watched the surfers in the bay below us enjoying the waves. The scenery was magnificent as we made our way back to the quarry to enjoy many Glanville Fritillaries with other butterfly watchers now arriving.
We had planned the weekend to enjoy other wildlife and nature on offer and made our way to Ventnor botanical gardens where we had been promised a Mediterranean species of lizard the was colonising the walls around Ventnor. After parking the car we started our search looking in all the stone walls. It didn't take long before a Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) ran across the road and into the leaf litter and up the wall. We scampered after it but we had to be quick before it disppeared into the vegetation. Along the road we admired the Echiums which were huge in this Mediterranaean climate here!
We continued on our way around the island and wallked a headland at Culver Down after having a delightful picnic lunch in the sun overlooking the sea. We drove to a wood where we had a fruitless search for Red Squirrels before trying another wood near Yarmouth at Bouldnor Wood where we chanced upon a Nightingale carrying food to a nest somewhere nearby.
We headed to the ferry port at Yarmouth and caught the ferry back to Lymington and spent the night in Lyndhurst.
We started the day at Standing Hat near Lyndhurst in the New Forest where we admired a couple of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. We drove a short distance and met up with Murray Smith where together we watched several Southern Blue Damselfly.
Sue at Standing Hat
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Southern Blue Damselfly
Pearl Bordered Fritillary
We returned to Standing Hat where it was now a bit warmer and sunnier and soon saw a Pearl Bordered Fritillary, a species that I had not seen for a few years.
We had arranged to meet up with Richard at Piper's Wait car park near Nomansland in the New Forest for a picnic lunch as Richard had suggested here as a good Honey Buzzard watch point. It didn't take long before I spotted two Honey Buzzards up over the nearby trees in the opposite direction to that which Richard and John were looking. They were relatively close so we all had good views before they flew over and behind the trees. We could not believe our luck at seeing them so quickly and so we could enjoy our lunch in the sun before it was time for John and I to move on.
We motored on to East Meon and Chappett's Copse where we searched for Narrow-leaved Helleborine, Fly Orchid and Bird's-nest Orchid. It didn't take long to find all the species here.
I scurried over to Giles and Judy Dunmore's for an evening meal with John after work. It was a delightful evening listening to all the birding tales of Norfolk birding and their exciting adventures. Thank you.
Once again I motored down to Oxford watching Red Kites on my journey near Oundle on my way there. My daughter is now out of hospital and well on the road to recovery, thank goodness. It was quite a scare!
Kathryn felt the need for some fresh air after her enforced confinement and so as it was a beautiful day we loaded up the car and drove to Blenheim Palace and walked the grounds where we watched Mute Swans and Mallards on the lake. Nuthatches were calling in the woods as a Robin sang from its perch. Hannah was not too sure what to make of it all!
Sue at Blenheim Palace lake
Kathryn, Sue and Hannah
The long awaited day had arrived for Carrie and I to make the trip to Ipswich football stadium where we joined a packed audience to see Rod Stewart. We had an amazing evening and joined in many of the songs as Rod sang them. What a performer he is and how he has lasted the test of time. So many of his words ring true!
Rod Stewart singing 'Maggie May'
Carrie and Sue
After an exceedingly late night home I was barely fit for work so it was just as well that it poured with rain all day and we did not have many visitors on site at Titchwell today. However the NW Norfolk team were joined by the Frampton and Freiston Shore RSPB team later in the day and together we walked on the reserve so that Lizzie could explain the plans in place for the reedbed and freshmarsh to revitalise them so that they are more suitable for our breeding birds and passage migrants. Our ecologist joined us later on to give us a talk about poo which was highly entertaining and showed us examples of the poo he had picked up on the reserve earlier in the day of 8 mammals using the reserve. Now we know what to look out for! Claire had prepared a delicious meal for us all and we all enjoyed our evening. Thank you to all concerned for making it a wonderful evening.
Lesser Grey Shrike
John and I were up early as Mick Davis had let us know that the Lesser Grey Shrike was still present at Horsey. As John and I had a lunch appointment in Lincolnshire we knew we had to be quick. John drove to Horsey where we joined many friends and together we all had good views of the Lesser Grey Shrike. A Hobby was sat on a fence post as we enjoyed views of a pair of Stonechat and several Roe Deer.
It was a beautiful morning and it was good to see many friends that we had not seen for a while. Life continues to be all rather frantic and with yet another short trip away to see my last few butterflies for the UK goodness knows when I am going to get packed for my next major trip!
After the last two days of rain and little achieved in my garden or at work, I was hopeful of getting outside today and greeting the visitors and birders on site. Carrie and I watched a Barn Owl on our way to work as it flew alongside my car at Choseley. With yet more rain forecast I was lucky to get outside and left Trevor sorting out the sale items in the shop. I watched a Marsh Harrier flying over the car park and a very vocal Bullfinch. I heard a Cuckoo calling, probably one of the last to do so this year before the adult birds depart for Africa once again.
John and I had planned another few days away to see a couple more butterflies for my British list but the weather forecast was not good after days of continuous rain. I kept an eye on my weather app and decided that there was a glimmer of hope on Friday morning and so we set off for Arnside very early and arrived at Myers Allotments near Leighton Moss by 9.30am. After a brief search it was still too cold and we went to Foulshaw Moss where we had our first target of Large Heath Butterfly my 56th species of butterfly for the UK. I was delighted. There were may Common Heath moths around and we were hopeful that the day would warm up for our next target.
We admired the distant Ospreys on the nest platform and watched a Common Lizard as it bathed in the warmth. A Tree Pipit was singing at the top of a tree as a Sparrowhawk flew through.
We drove to Arnside Knot where we walked the slopes looking for our next target species but failed to find many butterflies at all. The continuous rain had quite clearly had an effect on them. However we are both interested in other wildlife and enjoyed looking at the wonderful flowers on offer. Lesser Butterfly Orchids, Common Spotted Orchids and Northern Marsh Orchids were on offer as we continued our search for our target species. We admired a few Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and watched a larger species of fritillary fly through at speed but could not find any evidence of our target species. There were so few butterflies to look at at all. The views were glorious though!
The River Kent estuary and railway viaduct at Arnside Knott
Lesser Butterfly Orchid
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Myers Allotments overlooking Leighton Moss RSPB
We returned to the car for a picnic lunch before returning once again to Myers Allotments. Here we watched Broad-bodied Chasers, Azure Damselflies and Blue-tailed Damselflies as the day warmed up. A Dingy Skipper posed for a photo as we continued our search. Common Blue Butterflies were now on the wing and a female Common Blue Butterfly (or so we thought) caused confusion as it interacted with two male Common Blue Butterflies. I managed a quick photo of it before we returned to Foulshaw Moss. Little did either of us know that I had actually taken a photo of a Northern Brown Argus which I only discovered after downloading the photos back at home! Grrr (in my defence my battery had died in my camera and I had forgotten to take my charger. All a bit embarrassing for us both)
Northern Brown Argus
We drove to Foulshaw Moss once again but sadly failed to find the dragonfly that I was hoping to see but enjoyed more views of the Ospreys.
Arriving at our wonderful B and B overlooking the River Kent Estuary which we have used for the last 3 years it was like being greeted by friends. We settled in and walked along to the pub and met up with Pete and Sue and spent a delightful evening watching the tide come in with a wonderful sunset. We had been so lucky with the weather.
John and I went for a pre-breakfast walk along the estuary and admired 8 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Ravens honking in the trees.
River Kent Estuary Arnside
We had a wonderful full English breakfast in our B and B overlooking the River Kent Estuary before leaving and driving across to Langdon Beck. We stopped at Lune Head Beck and watched a juvenile Dipper on the beck. We had managed to dodge the showers all day yesterday but the clouds looked threatening for our next few stops. We scanned several hillsides as we approached Langdon Beck and eventually found several Red Grouse including a female with three juvenile Red Grouse.
Lune Head Beck
At Langdon Beck we found 5 Black Grouse in the usual field behind the Langdon Beck Pub. Several Curlew and Oystercatchers were also present.
Rain was imminent and so we drove on to Bishop Middleham quarry. The weather was now very overcast and the temperature had dropped, not quite butterflying weather! My weather app indicated that there would be a gap in the clouds in an hour's time and so we made use of the time admiring all the orchids and flowers on offer. Another birder inducted us into some of the insects on offer and we watched parasitic wasps and interesting spiders.
A Sand Martin colony was in full swing and adult birds were constantly taking in insects to the holes to feed their chicks.
Common Spotted Orchid
Northern Marsh Orchid
John at Bishop Middleham Quarry
Sand Martin colony
An hour later the sun appeared and so did the butterflies. Common Blue Butterflies and Painted lady Butterflies appeared and eventually so did my 57th species for the UK in the shape of several Northern Brown Argus Butterflies! Result!!
Northern Brown Argus
Northern Brown Argus
Jim Lawrence and I were delighted to watch a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in Congham. Both birds were busy carrying nesting material as 4 Siskins were flitting in and out of Apple trees.
As I neared my driveway a Little Owl flew from a Willow tree and flew in front of my car. I nearly had it as a garden tick.
Steve Beal, John and I flew from Norwich to Amsterdam where we caught an overnight flight to Kuala Lumpur.
The 3 of us caught a flight from Kaula Lumpur to Jakata in Indonesia.
night in a city hotel we caught a taxi to Muara Angke, a wetland swamp nature
reserve where an official would not let us in! We had a language problem but
our taxi driver could not persuade him and so we had no choice but to watch
from the perimeter fence. This was hugely disappointing as we failed to find
our target species.
We watched Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker and Freckle-breasted Woodpecker as well as Yellow-vented Bulbul and Sooty-headed Bulbul before we started walking along the fenceline. Various Herons were on view including Javan Pond Heron, Striated Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Little Egret and Oriental Darter. Spotted Dove and White-breasted Water hens put on a good show and assorted colours of Scaly-breasted Munias including a bright green one! Given that Indonesia is the centre of the world’s caged bird trade we wondered if they had been dyed!
The taxi took us to the water front where we had a few distant terns as well as a few more herons but the heat and lack of any good seabirds made us retreat back to the hotel to pack for our next flight to Sulawesi later in the evening.
Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
After having caught a flight from Jakarta we landed in Makassar in Sulawesi. From here we flew to Biak, a small island off West Papua, where after checking in to our hotel and having a swim in an infinity pool over-looking the sea we were greeted by Ron and Sue Johns who had invited us on the trip. Rob, Dave and Richard joined us and together we boarded our vehicles for our first foray into the forest.
Biak Gerygone and Biak White-eye (without a white-eye) were amongst the first birds that we saw. A stunning Yellow-bibbed Fruitdove was one of the prettiest doves that I have ever seen gave us good views. We birded until after dark when we tried for the Biak Scops which we saw in flight only before returning to our hotel for the night as John, Steve and I were all very tired.
At the hotel we were delighted to meet up with Wilbur again who had been our guide in Borneo. He has joined us on our trip as he will be guiding the trip for Bird Tour Asia next year. With Wilbur on board it should be a fun trip!
We left our hotel at 4.30am and drove for an hour into the forest following a track. We had breakfast in the rain and proceeded to bird in Wellies and with umbrellas. Eventually it stopped raining and we watched Biak Leaf Warbler and to my delight had very good views of Biak (Hooded) Pitta as it hopped along the path. As I shall do a trip report my diary will only be brief.
After a short rest back at the hotel we birded a different part of the forest where we saw 3 Emperor Fairywrens and Claret-breasted Fruit-dove as well as more Biak Trillers.
It was an early start for my birthday at 4.15am
to be in the vehicles for our hour’s ride to the forest. We walked the road
where we enjoyed good views of the Greater Cuckoo-dove displaying overhead
before walking the same track as yesterday again trying to see the endemics
that we had missed the day before. The Biak Whistler gave us the run-around as
it flitted from perch to perch before most of us had a decent view of it. It
was difficult to locate in the dense foliage.
A Shining flycatcher kept dipping itself in a puddle as I kept an eye out for the scrubfowl without success. Steve was unlucky with our quest for Biak Coucal as it flew unexpectedly from behind us over our heads but most of us had a reasonable flight view. The Geelvink Imperial Pigeon was eventually located after hearing several that we could not find. It was extremely hot and sticky which sapped our energy levels as we returned to our hotel for the night.
We were up early for our 6am flight for Sentani, (Jayapura) in West Papua. We remained at the airport until our next flight to Wamena in the West Papuan mountains.
We drove to
our hotel and after lunch drove up to 11 500ft where we drove a track very
slowly to find Mountain Snow Quail. John, Steve and I stood in the back of the
vehicle and got very wet in the rain. Eventually Steve picked one up at the
side of the track that several of us saw well before it flew off over the top
of the mountain.
At dusk we climbed a steep bank to watch Archbold’s Nightjar and New Guinea Woodcock. Very unusually for me, every new bird that I wrote down in my notebook today was a world tick.
We drove up the mountain in Wamena, West Papua, eventually to 11 500 ft in a quest looking for manikins all to no avail, however I did see my first bird of paradise (BOP) in the shape of a Spendid Astrapia. (BOP 1)
Eventually we reached a trailhead which was extremely wet and muddy with moss-covered trees in the forest. John and I did not enjoy it that much as we saw very little in the way of birds except the Greater Ground Robin and Papuan Longrunner, but if you want to see the birds using these specialist habitats then it has to be done. I had a Papauan helper to haul me back up the track as it was so steep and muddy with very difficult leaps to negotiate for a lady of my advancing years!!!
Later we birded the roadside and managed to scope Salvadori’s Teal on the lake. With a bit of effort we eventually located Snow Mountain Mannikin. Bird of the day for me was Painted Tiger Parrot. I like gaudy birds!!
We drove to the top of the mountain once again and birded the road for the first hour of daylight at 11 500ft. It was excellent birding as we enjoyed McGregor’s Honeyeater and Yellow-billed Lorikeet. Western Crested Berrypecker was a smart bird. We had more views of a Logrunner before a magnificent Crested Satinbird flew in. Sadly because of altitude sickness and the very difficult access to the site meaning a steep muddy climb I did not take my camera and so therefore have no photos.
Later in the day after a sleep in the vehicle because of my altitude sickness, I managed to join the rest f the group and walked back down the road where we had good views of Red-collared Myzomela, White-winged Robin and Plum-faced Parakeet.
We were up early today and drove up the mountain above Wamena again to another trailhead at 9 200ft. The trail was treacherous as it descended the mountainside down a series of logs. It was a balancing act to say the least and coupled with altitude sickness meaning that my legs soon went to jelly, it was not ideal. We watched a King of Saxony Bird of Paradise and a wonderful pair of Brown Sicklebills, another bird of paradise with magnificent long tails. (BOP 2 and 3) They were stunning.
Many birds showed well but sadly I was too affected by altitude sickness to continue on down the trail. My Papuan friend hauled me back up the trail and in the afternoon I had recovered enough to join the rest of the group birding along the road. We drove to a spot to watch a Superb Bird of Paradise (BOP 4) displaying raising its cape of feathers up to impress his female.
We flew (flight 8 of the trip) from Wamena back to Sentani and drove to Nimbokrang in the lowlands of West Papua. After lunch we watched a pair of Salvadore’s Fig Parrots and a Lesser Bird of Paradise flying away from me (BOP 5) before getting caught in a tropical rainstorm with no shelter. I soon found out how inadequate my umbrella was. I was soaked through to the skin and my wellies filled up with water. I had a very uncomfortable walk back to the lodge through all the mud down the trail. Yuks!
I have now had 100 new life birds on this trip! Sadly Ron Johns is still unwell and had to return to the lodge again today.
We had listened to a tropical rainstorm all night in our wooden cabin and could not believe that our guide was going to take us out in it at 4.30am. However this was our only opportunity to see Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise (BOP 6) sitting on its display tree at dawn. So getting soaked from the start we trudged up the extremely muddy tail where my boots soon filled with water after sinking right into a deep muddy puddle. It was a gruelling walk up the trail but after ½ hour we were in position behind a screen. A couple of minutes later we were watching a Twelve-wired Bird of paradise on its display tree. A magical moment as we attempted to count its wires (I only made it 9!)
We walked to the same view point as yesterday where after adding many new species for my world list we were taken to a display tree by the Papuan guide to watch two Lesser Birds of Paradise. An amazing sight as they fluffed their tails as they called.
We trudged down a very difficult wet, muddy trail crossing streams in our boots to reach another tree that held a King Bird of Paradise (BOP 7). It took some time before we all saw it well enough in its scarlet suit. By now I was soaked through to the skin and John and I commandeered a Papuan lad to guide us back down the trail to our cabin where a shower was needed and some serious washing and drying of our clothes. I had mud everywhere!
We spent the afternoon watching a Pale-billed Sicklebill (BOP 8), another bird of paradise as it extracted a grub from a tree from a canopy tower. Once again we got soaked in the tropical rainstorm. Deep joy!
We were up at 3.30pm and drove for an hour and a half along a rough track deep into the forest. We walked for the next 5 hours in the sweltering hot and humid weather. We watched an Ochre-collared Monarch singing as well as many other species of forest birds. John was pleased to see Lowland Peltops. Most species were new for me as they zipped about the trees.
Back at the lodge we watched Bare-faced Pygmy Parrots. Sadly I had to bow out of the afternoon’s excursion as I was still exhausted from yesterday’s gruelling walk and badly needed to rest. The heat and humidity and lack of sleep is beginning to tell on all of us as only 3 out of 7 of us were fit enough to make this afternoon’s excursion! This is a very gruelling tour and we are still only half-way through!!
We left at 5am and drove back along yesterday’s track with some of the group as we had been given options this morning. Wilbur had been advised by one of our local guides that there was a possibility of seeing a Victoria Crowned Pigeon only 200 metres off the roadway. Some of our group had trudged 6km through mud and swamp in a thick jungle-forest yesterday to see one in high heat and humidity. Wilbur asked us if we wanted to try. Oh yes came the reply! We followed the local guide through the jungle and crossed over a log over a stream keeping extremely quiet as we went. The guide could hear the pigeon.....and we saw it fly to a nearby tree. The guide soon located it and we all had excellent views of this massive stunning pigeon with its fancy headdress. Result! It was certainly one of the most memorable pigeons that I have ever seen in the world. There were high fives all round with Ron and Sue Johns and John.
We packed at lunchtime and left our accommodation to visit a fast flowing river to watch Torrent Fly-robin before making our way back to Sentani for the night.
We were up
before dawn and drove to nearby grasslands to the hotel in Santani, West Papua.
For once we had abundant birds to look at as Golden-headed Cisticolas, Crimson
Finches, Grand Mannikins were all popping out of the tall grass. A couple of
King Quail flew as did Cinnamon Bitterns and Hooded Mannikins. I had my 9th
bird of paradise in the shape of a Glossy-mantled Manucode (BOP 9) sitting in a
tree. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters were picked out by Wilbur as we wandered along the
track. All too soon it was back to the hotel for a second breakfast and early
lunch before heading for the airport for our ninth flight of the trip to Manokwari.
We drove up an exceeding rough mountain track to Minggrei to stay in a homestay for the night after a short bit of birding down the track seeing a distant Masked Bowerbird.
It was to be a gruelling day’s birding as the group walked steep mountain forest trails. I was soon exhausted from the difficult terrain and struggled with the steepness and treacherous conditions underfoot. We sat for 2 ½ hours in a hide not being able to see out of it as the holes in the banana leaves were too high. We also had to fight off mosquitoes too. It was not a pleasant experience as we did not hear the bowerbird that we had all come to see and we were all fed up. We climbed slowly back up the mountain for little reward except for a stunning Spotted Jewel Babbler that ran around the forest floor. I was shattered and not in a good mood at all!
Lunch was taken back in the homestay and John persuaded me to come on the afternoon’s expedition. I was not at all sure I had any energy resources left. Once again we descended another steep slope to another hide made from banana leaves and ferns where we joined Wilbur, Dave and Richard. Luckily we did not have to wait long before a stunning Magnificent Bird of Paradise (BOP 10) flew into its display ground with its feathered wires emerging from its tail. A wonderful sight! I had just about enough energy left to get back up the slope with a Papuan helper carrying all my bags etc. I was absolutely shattered by the time I reached the vehicle and had to ask to be taken back to the homestay early as my legs were now like jelly.
After a 5.15am breakfast I was simply too exhausted to go out on the early morning visit but joined the rest of the group up a steep forest trail in Minggrei to see a Feline Owlet-nightjar at a day roost before continuing on to a Long-tailed Paradigall, another bird of paradise (BOP 11) on a nest. This trip to West Papua has been the most gruelling arduous birding trip that I have ever done and I wish I had done it when I was thirty years younger and fitter! I am shattered after every climb up each trail. As it is also a month’s trip the effect is also cumulative as we are getting so little rest time and sleep with every morning a 4am get up! We had lunch at the top of the trail and a tropical rain storm started. One of our guides found a Mountain Owlet-nightjar and so lunch was abandoned and we all got wet to see it in deep cover down another steep slope which we slithered down. After a couple of hours John and I returned to the homestay and were treated to a big bowl of hot water (we only have a couple of hours of electricity a day from a generator and mostly cold showers!)
I started the day on my own in a hide over-looking a Western Protia Bird of Paradise hide whilst the others went in search of a Forest Rail without success. I watched my twelfth Bird of Paradise (BOP12) clear the display ground of leaves before doing a brief display before the rest of my group passed by and disturbed it. Grrrr.....
I joined the rest of the group and together we watched a Black Sicklebill (BOP13) and a Vogelkop Superb Bird of Paradise (BOP14).
The afternoon was spent driving along a treacherous mountain road for 4 hours in search of Grey-banded Mannikin which we eventually all saw.
I am still in West Papua on day 19 of my tour and I am absolutely exhausted! This is the hardest physical tour that I have ever done. I am used to early morning starts and do not find it a particular issue but the terrain here is very difficult with steep, muddy forest trails. As I didn’t see the display of Western Protia yesterday I opted out of the forest trail this morning and Rob asked Shita the local ground agent to take John and myself back to the same hide as yesterday where we would not be disturbed. It turned out to be an excellent decision as John and I were treated to a magnificent display of a male Western Protia displaying to 2 females. Photography was all but impossible with the poor light conditions but I did manage a video clip. The bird displayed wonderfully well and we were both delighted.
We walked to the bower hide and after ten minutes watched a Vokelkop Bowerbird rearrange his decorations.
After lunch we did some roadside birding along the mountain tracks.
We set off once again into the forest at Minggrei, this time to find Black-billed Sicklebill, another bird of paradise. We walked to a known area deep down into the valley along a steep forest trail. Our local guide could hear it but after an hour of waiting we had to walk even further down (which meant an even longer exhausting walk back up). John was not well having caught the group’s cold. Eventually we could hear the bird calling close by but in the very difficult terrain not all the group could get into the spot in order to see it. With the help of Sue Johns I managed to see the bird just before it flew. Unfortunately some of the group that were behind me did not see it. It was my fifteenth bird of paradise.(BOP 15)
We drove to the airport at Manokwari for our tenth flight of the trip to Sarong. After landing at Sarong we drove to a hotel to drop our bags and birded a swamp where we saw Blue-black Kingfisher and Orange-fronted Fruit-dove.
John and I were both too poorly and exhausted to do any birding today and stayed at our hotel in Sarong to rest.