After a long journey back from Somerset yesterday to visit my father in hospital, I decided to stay very local and birded around Roydon, West Newton, Sandringham, Flitcham, Congham and Snettisham. After feeding my garden birds I headed via West Newton to feed the birds at the well established feeder at Sandringham. Coal Tits and Great Tits dominated the feeder before a Grey Squirrel decided he was rather hungry too! After taking my daughter to work I decided to brave the howling wind and go to see the drake Smew at Snettisham. I certainly did not want a repeat of last year where I had to make multiple visits only to dip this graceful bird, before finally connecting with it right at the end of the year.
A Sparrowhawk flew over my car just as I was leaving school today. (62)
I followed a Woodcock along the road through the trees at Sandringham just as the daylight faded on my way home.
At first light I was at Wolferton triangle waiting for a Golden Pheasant to appear. After half an hour a beautiful male appeared amongst the Rhododendrons. I then headed to Wolferton Cliffs where I watched the Black-eared Kite leave its roost somewhere near Sandrinham as it flew across Dersingham Bog heading towards Snettisham pits. On to Holme I joined Sophie for a sea-watch. Many Red-throated Divers were out on the sea accompanied by Guillemots and Razorbills. A little later a Pomarine Skua flew by quickly followed by an Arctic Skua that seemed to fly straight towards us. By lunchtime I arrived at Thornham where 30 Twite were flying around the coal house.
Dipping the Great Northern Diver at Watlington I only added Goosander, Whooper Swan and Grey Heron to my yearlist. After some essential shopping I walked the strandline at Snettisham to watch 4 Shorelarks feed. At the Sandringham feeder a Marsh Tit was there as I arrived. A Grey Squirrel provided some amusement for a while before a call alerted me to a Willow Tit. Luckily the squirrel departed and the Willow Tit flew onto the feeder. (83)
A Pied Wagtail fed on the playground outside my classroom window (84)
Goldfinches sit in my tree at home.
A Redwing sits with many Chaffinches late afternoon in bushes from the hide at Flitcham. (86)
Although the weather was cold, grey and very windy I was delighted to share the day with some great birders from Yorkshire. We headed off to Wolferton where within minutes of making our way to the clifftop we had a Peregrine Falcon sail over our heads. Progessing to Snettisham we made the long walk to the pumping station to see views of the Black-eared Kite that was disturbed out of a copse by a Kestrel. On the way back we saw Goldeneye on the pits and 4 Shorelark on the beach. The Golden Plovers were wheeling around the sky making wonderful whisps of smoke-like patterns. I never fail to be impressed by this fascinating sight.
Onto Holkham we watched White-fronted Geese amongst Brents and Pink-footed Geese. At Cley disaster struck as my pager disappeared down the Cley cafe toilet leaving me to fish it out! No questions please! Needless to say, neither it or me are very happy about the event! On to Salthouse 15 Snow Buntings played hide and seek on the shingle bank. Back to Holkham a Black Brant was amongst the Brent Geese as an over-wintering Marsh harrier put on a display. A quick visit to Flitcham located a Common Buzzard. A great day was finished at Roydon Common where 2 Hen Harriers came into roost with a Sparrowhawk. With seven species of raptors on our day list another great day's birding was had with good company, thanks to Steve, Steve and Richard. (94)
Up before dawn to start the annual NarVOS bird race. (NarVOS has only a small piece of coastline near King's Lynn and is mostly inland.) A Tawny owl flies in front of my car in the dark as I make my way to the rendezvous. Off to the marshes and we make a good start with 2 Peregrines and 2 Merlins. A Little Egret flies along the bank as a Common Buzzard flies in the wind. It is the first sunny day that we have had for weeks. The wind is bitingly cold. A Hen Harrier puts on a good show as we count 5 different Barn Owls. The wader flocks are distant but we watch the swirls with awe. The marshes have been good to us once again. After visiting Sandringham, Flitcham, West Newton, and Tottenhill we feel these sites have let us down and we make our way to Downham Market where we see Goosander and Goldeneye. A chance stop at Watlington adds Brambling and Yellowhammer. Our tally at the end of the day is 89 and we are placed second. We have all had a good day with enjoyable company.
After finishing work I scampered up the coast for a couple of hours birding. My first stop was Thornham Harbour where I was told that the Lesser Yellowlegs had just flown way up the creek and out of sight. Luckily for me I soon found it just by the bridge where I managed a few pictures in the howling wind.
I went on to Holme to do a sea-watch where the bitingly cold wind produced 60+ Little Gulls , a few Kittiwakes, 6 Red-breasted Merganzers, 4 Red-throated Divers , a Great-crested Grebe and many Auks.
A trip across to Cantley yielded a flock of Bean Geese, a few Canada Geese and a Fox. Onto Great Yarmouth I soon located a few people with bread feeding the ducks on a small boating lake near the sea-front. It wasn't long before 3 Mediterranean Gulls joined the Black-headed Gulls in swooping down to the bread on offer. Driving on to Horsey I had a quick stop to look at a huge flock of Pinkfeet before driving around on a fruitless search for the Cranes. I decided to return to the Pink-feet to give them a more thorough search through. After half an hour the flock was joined by more geese and then disturbed by a vehicle moving the flock slightly closer so that leg colour could be seen. After a while I thought I saw some orange legs descending from a bird flying in, that immediately disappeared behind a gate post.
Andrew soon relocated the bird and Tundra Bean goose was not only seen but a second Bean Goose was also located. We left for Barton Broad for a fruitless search for a Great Northern Diver. However we did see a Cetti's Warbler. (116)
I drove to Lynford Arboretum where upon arrival 2 Hawfinches were sat on top of one of the Holm Oak trees in the paddock. Five Hawfinches later flew around the trees but did not settle. After a fruitless search for the Firecrest, Peter and I watched a Nuthatch before looking at the gravel pits where a few Tufted Ducks and Black-headed Gills had assembled. We drove onto Grimes Graves but could not find the Great Grey Shrike. As we chatted by the cars 2 Lesser Redpolls flew over our heads. I drove onto Santon Downham where there were lots of Bramblings in St Helen's car park. Returning to Lynford Arboretum I added Great-spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush to my yearlist.
Stopping off on my way to Titchwell, I watched several Corn Buntings alight in the hedgeline along with Yellowhammers and Goldfinches. Allan, Jill and David also searched whilst I watched numerous Chaffinches feeding on grain on the concrete pan.
Once at Titchwell, the sea was quite rough and did not make viewing easy. However the light was good. The four of us failed to find the Slavonian Grebe that had been reported but I added Common Scoter to my yearlist. Black-tailed Godwit was also an addition. Finally at Holme the Short-eared Owl was quartering the dykes on the Marhes. It put on a good showing.
A trip to Burnham Thorpe produced 3 Waxwings sat in a tree at the back of a cottage garden. For once the sun was shining. I decided to go for a stroll in the woods at Holkham Park where a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flew over my head and landed in the tree just in front of me. I could not believe it. Considering the hours I put in for this bird last year, here was one all to myself really showing off. I looked around for other birders but there was no-one in sight to share it with. A couple of Treecreepers were also very actively feeding higher up the tree.
On the way home I stopped off at Flitcham and watched the male Teal displaying to their females.
Waxwing Fallow Deer
A day out with Geoff and Jan starting at Titchwell. The temperature was below freezing and at 7.30am with the sun shining, Titchwell looked beautiful as we seemed to have it to ourselves. A Marsh Harrier was hunting over the fields as we headed down to the sea for the high tide. A few Long-tailed Ducks were distant but mobile in the good visibility. Sanderling were scurrying on the beach as Red-breasted Merganzers flew by. A Velvet Scoter led a flying party of Common Scoter over some Wigeon sat on the sea. Several Reed Buntings sat on the Suada as Skylarks sang above our heads. Further up the path a couple of Spotted Redshanks showed well on the Brackish Marsh. Moving on to Thornham we watched the Lesser Yellowlegs but could not find any Twite.
At Choseley A big flock of Yellowhammer, Corn Buntings and Chaffinch delighted Jan and Geoff as a young Kestrel sat and watched us. At Holkham we had good views of Treecreeper and Nuthatches searching for grubs on the trunks of the trees. Moving on to Salthouse after a lovely pub lunch, we watched a flock of Snow Buntings feeding on the shingle before watching a Red-throated Diver on the sea as well as Eider Duck flying past.
At Cley we headed along the shingle bank towards Blakeney and watched 6 Shorelarks feeding in front of us.
We finished the day at Burnham Overy when Jan managed to find her much sought after Barn Owl sitting on a post. We watched it fly and concluded that we had all really enjoyed our day in the wonderful sunlight admiring the beauty of the birds.
In bed with the flu! In between sneezing and mopping up my nose as well as aching limbs I spot a Green Woodpecker in the Silver Birch trees in the garden as I look out the window. How I have searched for one of these this year!
Still feeling a bit grotty I head for Luton Airport where I join Lee, Rob and Joan for a flight to Nimes in Southern France. After an hour and a half flight and hiring a car, we are soon on our way to Les Baux, a short distance away from the airport. The scenery is stunning at this old ancient town perched on top of cliff-top. Rob quickly picks out a Wallcreeper wing-flicking its way along the cliff edge. Wow! what a stunning bird! I have travelled all over Europe and even searched in Nepal for a sight of one of these and here it is in gloroius winter sunlight. It is a shame that it is out of reach of my camera as it flits high above us. Lee picks out a second bird further along the cliff and we watch that too.
Up in the town, several Alpine Accentors feed in the dark corner of the car-park as Crag Martins wheel above our heads. Sardian Warblers join many Blackcaps flitting about the bushes as Robins and Song Thrushes sing their hearts out.
Up at dawn we head off to the Camargue. Although I have passed by this area before I have never stopped to birdwatch here. Thousands of Greater Flamingoes were feeding in the water. Lee's phenomenal eyesight soon picked out a Lesser Flamingo with its head tucked under its wing. Over 900 Red-crested Pochards were over-wintering, a fantastic sight to behold as Marsh Harriers flew all around us. A distant Greater Spotted Eagle was perched on a bush and luckily for us it decided to fly showing us a few more features of its broad wings. Little Egrets were everywhere, as were several Great White Egrets and numerous Grey Herons.
Motoring on to Vergiers we arrived at a vast expanse of scrubby grassland. Following a track Rob, Joan and I located 6 Little Bustards before flushing 53 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Five Southern Grey Shrikes sat at the top of various bushes. Ending our day at Berre l'Etang a superb Red-necked Grebe swam close to the harbour whilst I have never seen so many Black-necked Grebes together at one spot near the shoreline. A Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and Common Sandpiper added to the delight of the day.
This was to be a day with a difference as we headed off to Nice in search of some category C species of introduced species. As it turned out, it proved to be a wise decision as we avoided the rain that was to fall in the Camargue that day, giving other birding groups a poor day. In Nice we headed for Cap d'Antibes where we had good views of 3 Yelkouan Shearwaters. Near the Airport at Cap 3000 Indian Silverbills inhabited the reeds near the river. Wrestling with the traffic in Nice Lee drove us to St.Jean Cap Ferrat where Masked and Fischer's Lovebirds adorned trees and roof tops of the houses making up the area by the seafront.
Later we returned once again to Berre l'Etang where we finally caught up with the Green Heron that had eluded us the day before. Out final bird of the day was an absolutely stunning Eagle Owl that was calling and puffing out its throat feathers as it called to its mate. Lee's amazing eyesight did well to pick the bird out from the mass of rocks that made up the cliff edge at Les Baux.
Our final morning of our trip was spent searching for a few birds that we felt that we had missed earlier in the trip. I gripped Rob back with the sight of a few Curlew and added Little Stint, Dunlin and Grey Plover. On our journey to the airport we had a fly past of a Booted Eagle and I finally had a brief view of a Serin at the airport. My thanks must go to Lee who organised the trip and to Rob and Joan for their good company.
Back in England, Peter picked me up and we headed to Pentney where a Black-necked Grebe had been for sometime. I had been too ill to see it the previous week and so was glad it had stayed long enough for me to see it. Stopping off near Stanhoe, six Bewick Swans were feeding in the field along with seven Whooper Swans. At Holkham over a hundred White-fronted Geese were feeding near to the A149. Parking at the end of East Bank at Cley Peter and I searched in vain for Water Pipit along the bank. February is a good month to search for this species here. Reaching the end it soon became apparent that there was a passage of Red-throated Divers taking place. In little over an hour Perter counted over 200 birds flying by. Two porpoises also put on a good show in front of us too.
I headed off along the sea bank to try and get photos og the Glaucous Gull that was feeding on the dead seal on the beach. However it was a shy bird and would not allow close approach no matter how I tried to keep most of me below the sea bank. The gull did not like the look of me and frequently sat on the sea!
Driving to coastguards at Cley we had brief views of a couple of Shorelarks that have been present during the winter on the shingle. Several hundred Common Scoters were also sat on the sea. From Daukes hide a lone Ruff wandered amongst the Lapwings and Dunlin that were busy feeding as over 20 Avocet flew from pool to pool.
Heading off to Cley with Paul we started at East Bank where we were told about a Little Stint at Salthouse. We decided that it might be better to go there first. However it seemed that the Little Stint had gone and so had the Glaucous Gull and Snow Bunting. Whilst Paul was wandering along the sea bank I watched The Glaucous Gull sitting on the sea. However after a quick look on the sea I was called back by a couple of birders who had just seen some Dunlin and the Little Stint fly in to the pool behind the seabank. It had indeed and we watched it through the scope. The Snow Bunting also returned to the sea bank and we had good views. Returning to the East Bank at Cley we ticked Water Pipit and heard a Water Rail in the reeds but frustratingly it did not appear.
We travelled to Barton Broad after negotiating the lanes and walked along the board walk to view the broad. It took quite a time to locate the Great Northern Diver as it seemed to spend 90 percent of its time under the water. We had fabulous views of Great-crested Grebes courting. (Men .............take note of the lavish attention paid to females !!!)
At Buckenham, Paul located the American Wigeon very quickly after another birder guided us to the pool where it was last seen. The weather was very unkind to us here as it poured with rain, giving us no chance to photograph the bird. We made our way to Hickling and watched at least 20 Marsh Harriers coming in to roost along with a Merlin and an escaped Harris Hawk. Walking back to the car along the exceedingly muddy lane two Common Cranes flew over our heads. A great way to end our birding day-out in Norfolk.
Starting at Flitcham, the Little Owl was flushed from its hide-out by the owner of the farm as he entered the field. Six Tree Sparrows were seen on the other side of the main road. At Nar Valley Fisheries 50 plus Reed Buntings emerged from the dying maize crop along with 10 Yellowhammers, some of which sat in nearby bushes.
Off to Wales! After paying an arm and a leg to get a van across the Severn Bridge, Paul and I navigated our way to Llys-y Fran Reservoir through the night. I thought I was in for an easy sit in the van type tick. Early morning found the gates locked and us parking outside the car park along with an early fisherman. I took his advice (how silly of me) and walked to the dam in my shoes. After getting wet feet there was no Pacific Diver to be found. After much searching and an hour and a half later, we gave up with me cursing my mis-fortune at missing this life bird. We had good views of an Iceland Gull. However when we approached the van the warden said the diver could be viewed from the hide, a good 20 minute walk through the mud and puddles around the edge of the reservoir! By now my feet were soaked and I put on my boots and set off once more. Twenty minutes later 2 fishermen in boats pushed the diver out from its hiding place and the Pacific Diver was at last on my world list! Walking back we had 3 different Iceland Gulls sitting on the water.
A scrumptious breakfast was eaten at the visitor centre with lovely views over the reservoir before we headed for Ferryside near Carmarthen.
At Ferryside we watched a Raven and a Red Kite over the hillside before taking a nap in the van for a couple of hours. A sixth sense woke me up and I drove the van over the railway line. As I parked it there was a shout and everyone started running. Paul was awake in a flash and we ran together along the beach. As usual for a good bird everyone was desperate to get a view of the Glaucous-winged Gull and I am grateful to a fellow birder who let me look through his scope before I could get mine organised. I have learnt to always take an opportunity to gat an initial look as birds have a nasty habit of flying away before a decent view is obtained. After a few minutes of Paul and I looking through the scope the Glaucous-winged Gull flew a short distance along the beach, settling for a minute or two before flying off entirely. Most birders had good views but some further along the beach failed to see it. Paul and I were estactic. I had had 2 British lifers in one day! After a quick snack in the cafe, Paul and I headed for Cornwall.
Arriving in Padstow we celebrated our day with a good meal and a drink in a local hostellry. Upon leaving we watched the eclipse of the moon over Padstow harbour. It seemed a fitting way to end a good day's birding. After a good night's sleep in the van we awoke to the sound of heavy rain. Lots of vehicles had joined us overnight in the narrow lane all full of birders with the same intention. I had seen a Gyr Falcon before in Wales in atrocious weather conditions in Anglesey and today was to be a complete re-run! Within a minute of stepping out of the van at 5.45am we were drenched. We also did not know exactly where to go other than to follow the coastal path. This turned out to be a mistake as finding the quarry proved problematical. I had left my glasses behind at home and so had found it impossible to see the map! After trudging up to the coastguards and wondering where all the other birders had disappeared to, a few curses were uttered as were were just a little wet and exhausted from our routemarch up the coastal path in force storm 10-like conditions. Knowing that we would probably miss the bird leaving the roost, neither of us were overjoyed at the prospect of missing the Gyr. We decided to descend to where we had last seen other birders and eventually found the lower path that led to the quarry. There was no bird at roost! after a couple of minutes sheltering from the relentless wind and rain we ventured out round the corner and there above our heads was one Gyr Falcon!! How we deserved this sighting. This was one of Paul's major 'wants' birds and was he pleased??? !! Tramping back to the van the Gyr was relocated sitting on a stone wall. Seeing it perched through the scope was awesome!
Now very bedraggled we drove onto the Hayle Estuary where the wind and rain continued.
Stopping by the library carpark we soon located the White-billed Diver in the rain, however it soon swam down the creek and we were forced to drive further down and eventually to the other side of the creek to take some photos of it.
After dripping our way into a cafe in Hayle where other drenched birders took refuge we celebrated our good views by a hearty breakfast. After warming up a little we once again ventured out into the torrential rain and watched the Spotted Sandpiper not far from the Old Quayside Inn. It was a shame that it was simply too wet to chance my camera out in the downpour. Round by Lelant we soon located the eastern race of the Lesser Whitethroat in the roadside brambles along with a Chiffchaff. We searched for the Franklin's Gull in vain but had a Spotted Redshank and a Mediterranean Gull in the creek before a quick mad dash to Penzance to see the Pacific Diver and a Red-throated Diver in the by now very rough sea. Round by Jubillee Pool, seven Purple Sandpipers were feeding in the kelp with a couple of Turnstones.
Still in torrential rain we headed home, exceedingly wet but what a weekend !
I left a stuffy classroom and decided to go for a quick walk at lunchtime to Wolferton Cliffs. It was a beautiful day, made even more lovely as I heard a Wood Lark. Walking a little way back up the path two Wood Larks were running on the felled area before taking flight and singing again.
Up early as the weather was too good to be lying around in bed! I headed off to Grime's Graves in Thetford Forest where the Great Grey Shrike was still over-wintering and seemed to have settled a little more in the sheep field by the visitor centre. After an hour's searching it had somehow got behind me right next to the visitor centre. However it is very mobile and was soon off back to the sheep field. A Northern Wheatear flew in by the track as I was walking up and a Stonechat was very noisily displaying trying to out-compete the Skylarks who were singing away above. Brimstone butterflies were everywhere as I walked back to the car.
Driving towards Thetford I saw a fellow birder sat by the top roundabout of the A11. I quickly realised that this would be a good vantage point for displaying Goshawks and quickly joined him. I didn't have to wait long before two Northern Goshawks put on a magnificent display twisting and turning high in the air. We watched them for quite a while in the wonderful sunlight. It was pure pleasure watching them.
Great Grey Shrike
Heading for Wells I saw a Buzzard and wished that I wasn't travelling quite so fast with a 4x4 quite so close to my bumper. I would have liked to have stopped to watch it a little more closely as later a Rough-legged Buzzard was reported from nearby a little later on! Still, finding my east of the town on the sea-bank I joined the other birders Suada and birder watching. A lone birder was walking on East Hills making his way to the Suada where the two Red-breasted geese were hiding. It seemed to take the birder ages to reach the necessary spot but after much jocularity from my fellow birders he eventually had the desired effect and the two Red-breasted Geese came flying out and landed in the creek in front of us, only to disappear out of sight! Still a good day with some wonderful birds and company.
A walk on one of Norfolk's Heaths on a wonderful still day saw me watching the delights of two different male Stonechats singing for all they were worth. A Common Buzzard drifted overhead. As I was walking back to the car, the sun came out and a female Stonechat popped out of the gorse in front of me accompanied with a harsh sound of another bird that I had been searching for. A Dartford Warbler flew across the heather and landed in the gorse a few metres away, only to quickly disappear. With patience I followed the sound and was then treated to a wonderful song and diplay as it performed for me, flitting from bush to bush. It was accompanied by another male Stonechat.
Moving on to Cley East Bank I was bewitched as several pairs of Lapwings 'sky-danced' in the Spring sunlight. At Warham Greens a Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier and a Merlin kept all the birders entertained with their antics over the saltmarsh. At least ten Little Egrets were moving among the creeks as the sun began to set.
After a morning's gardening, Paul and I felt we needed a well deserved break to do some birding. At Castle Rising at least 200 Redwings flew over our heads. We set off in a fruitless search for Ring Ouzel on Holme golf course. A Little Egret was shining vividly in the sunlight as we searched in vain. In the car park a Mistle Thrush was searching for its dinner.Moving on to Titchwell we soon located the Green-winged Teal that was swimming amongst the Common Teal. By then the sun had disappeared and it was really dull. On the sea a Common Scoter was on the beach feeling very lonely as it had very few primaries on its right wing and could clearly not fly.
A lunchtime trip to Flitcham to check a report of a Firecrest proved to be a mis-identification, however the 2 Little Owls were showing well. It was nice to escape for a few minutes peace and watch the birds.
A NarVOS walk with Fred and fellow members from West Newton to Castle Rising resulted in me seeing a Common Buzzard, Grey Wagtail and a Barn Owl. After some scrummy food at Fred's, Paul and I went to Chosely to see the Black Redstart. As I had develpoed a bad headache we did not linger long and dashed down to see the two Red-breasted Geese at Lynn Point. We could not find the Ring Ouzel near Dow Chemicals.
A walk at Snettisham produced 2 Little Egrets, a flock of Oystercatchers and Chaffinches singing from almost every available bush!
A visit to Graffham Water turned out to be extremely windy and cold. Upon arrival it seemed to be a good idea to take refuge in the cafe and watch over the reservoir from the window with a cup of tea. Pied Wagtails were chasing each other around as a Green Sandpiper flew up and promptly disappeared. After refreshments we moved onto Little Paxton Gravel Pits where it was a totally different climate out of the wind with the sun shining, warming us up. Several Chiffchaffs were singing their hearts out. Butterflies seen included, Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock and Small White. Long-tailed Tits were busy collecting nesting material but could not compete with hundred or more Cormorants' nests that were already constructed in the trees. Goldeneye and a Marsh Tit were watched busily feeding from one of the hides.
After buying a new tripod to take to India with me, I had a quick dash to Heacham where the Northerly wind was still blowing well. A Serin was reportedly 'showing well'. Not my idea of showing well ! After 2 hours of watching and not seeing it, even the Linnets disappeared for shelter and so did I, back to the car!
On my way down to Somerset I stopped off in Andover where a Yellow-browed Warbler had been reported. I did not see it but added Blackcap and Willow Warbler to my British Year List. Visiting my father near Yeovil I watched a couple of Buzzards soaring on a beautiful sunny day whilst my father and I enjoyed a pub lunch sat outside.
After a long flight via Dubai I eventually arrived in Delhi. At the hotel Jungle Babblers and Five-striped Squirrels frequented the hotel gardens. After a freshen up I boarded the 16-hour train ride to Katni. For the first 3 hours on the train I stood by the open door of the train so that I could take in the sights and add to the growing bird list. Indian Pond Herons and Cattle Egrets were around any pools of water whilst Black Kites and Egyptian Vultures soared overhead.
After sleeping on the train overnight I eventually arrived at Katni where I stopped off at a reservoir. Black-bellied Terns were in flight as a Purple Heron fed near the edge. In searing heat I watched an Indian Courser run over a ridge as an Indian Bushlark panted. Reaching Bandhavgarh I was taken to Tiger Trails Lodge where it was good to freshen up in the 38 degree heat. An afternoon game drive had been organised where I was hopeful of seeing my first tiger. Standing on top of a jeep I managed just a small patch of tiger skin as it lay down in the 3m high grass. Very disappointing. However Long-billed Vultures and Crested Serpent Eagles kept the birding interest going.
Up at 5am for a drive in the jeep in the park. Entering some caves hundreds of Intermediate Horseshoe bats were flying around. A Malabar Pied Hornbill was spotted distantly in a tree but no tiger! The heat eventually got to us all and we retreated back to the lodge. After lunch we returned to the park where a tiger had been seen lying on a cliff-face. My jeep arrived just as it decided to move. It was a stunning female. We watched it move stealthily along the rocks and through the forest before crossing the track and disappearing into the undergrowth. My first encounter with a whole tiger.
Intermediate Horsheshoe Bat
Up at 5am again we entered the park and drove into the forest. After several miles we came upon a patch of forest that seemed alive with birds. A Tawny-bellied Babblers and a White-bellied Drongo were added to the list before we spotted a marvellous Greater Racket-tailed Drongo with its rackets seemingly hanging far below him. We met up with a mahoot with an elephant and clambered aboard. He took us to a spot where he had seen a female tiger. All of a sudden there she was laying in the shade in full view. The elephant disturbed her and she retreated further into the bamboo. However creeping along through the undergrowth behind us was her brother and he took up her position and sprawled himself out. Absolutely magnificent ! After lunch we went further into the park where a couple of guards employed to protect the tigers from poachers warned us to be on the lookout as there was another tiger around. We heard a growl and sat silently as a Langur monkey whooped a warning call to the rest of the forest animals that there was a predator around.
A White-rumped Sharma was the delight of the morning as we returned from the forest having seen a male tiger disappear from over the ridge. Once we were back at the lodge for lunch the staff were all agog as 2 tigers had been prowling around the camp grounds less that 100 metres away. They had been on the track that we had walked on the night before looking for nightjars! The delight of the afternoon was a party of Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers that were trawling a tree for food.
This morning we drove to Ghapuri Reservoir to bird a different habitat.Small Minivets and a delightful Golden Oriole sat in the trees whilst Lesser Whistling Ducks and Asian Openbill Storks fed in the reed fringes of the water. Ashy crowned Sparrowlarks ran around the sandy soil on the rocks as we cooked in the heat. I had forgotten my sunscreen and was burning up fast.
The afternoon was spent sitting up a watch-tower where after an hour or so of watching Little Green Bee-eaters, a tiger revealed herself from the elephant grass. Spotted Dear had wandered close by and she was there at the ready. Stealthily she moved into position but I guess the thought of pouncing in the heat was all too much for her and she lay back down and disappeared from view.
All too soon our encounters with tigers was over and we drove to the station an hour away and boarded the train bound for Delhi some sixteen hours away.
Little Green Bee-eater
After an uncomfortable night on the train I eventually arrived in Delhi at 3pm. Paul and I hired a taxi to take us to the Yamunia River where a huge barrage formed a marvellous wetland for water birds on one side and mud for waders on the other. Spot-billed ducks and hundreds of Garganeys sunned themselves whilst a Cobra wriggled amongst the litter benrath us! A Citrine Wagtail could not have been more yellow if it had tried as it flew amongst the River Lapwings. After a last curry in the hotel we completed our list of birds. 173 species of birds and 6 tigers seen.
Our flight to Dubai was delayed and our connecting flight to Gatwick meant we travelled but our luggage didn't! Heyho!
Back in Britain and I was keen to catch up with a few migrants. I had to be at school today but it was a lovely morning so at the crack of dawn I wandered through Snettisham Country Park. Two Grasshopper Warblers were doing what comes naturally in tune to several Sedge Warblers. A Cuckoo was calling but I could not see it. All too soon I had to leave the wonderment of migration to go and earn some money! Oh for a lottery win!
A visit to Holme added a male and female Ring Ousel to my tally as well as Swallow, Lesser Whitethroat and Sandwich Tern. However the best sighting of the day was the Short-eared Owl quartering Holme Marsh in the glorious sunlight. Brown Argus, Specked Wood and Small Copper Butterflies were all on the wing.
Whilst looking at Smooth Newts on Roydon Common 3 Wood Lark flew by calling.
A walk through Snettisham Country Park produced several Common Whitethroats all displaying and singing their hearts out. Two Whimbrel fed in the fields by the bank and two Yellow Wagtails chased around in the field with the sheep by the RSPB carpark. The pager went off with information about an Iberian Chiffchaff near the hospital at Colney Norwich. Off we shot and soon located the bird singing away. This was a Norfolk tick for me. Leaving here we made our way to a Norfolk heath, where after a long wait 2 Dartford Warblers were seen along with Stonechats.
Three Ring Ouzels were feeding in a ploughed field at Salthouse. At Gramborough Hill several Tree Pipits were displaying and a Little Gull posed magnificently on a post by the carpark.
At Cley a pair of Garganey swam amongst a pair of Gadwall, whilst Sand Martins and Swallows flew over the boardwalk to Dauke's Hide.
A wander along the North Norfolk coastline produced 7 species of raptor. Montagu's Harriers were dancing in the sky as the male defended his territory from a male Marsh Harrier. Six Marsh Harriers competed for airspace with a Common Buzzard. A kestrel zipped across the road as I travelled to Barrow Common to watch the Black Kite. Four Marsh Harriers were in the air with the Black Kite and so was a Common Buzzars and a Sparrowhawk. Taking a breather from all the watching through my scope I looked up just in time to see a Hobby fly across the field.
Going for a walk with John and Judy at Burnham Norton we watched a young Spoonbill feeding whilst Coommon Swifts and Barn Swallows flew overhead. A Reed Warbler was singing for all he was worth as Greenland Wheatears ran in the fields. I looked for Whinchats and could not believe it when John said he had found one sitting on a dead stalk!
Up early to do my Norfolk Bird Atlas Tetrad near Swaffham. It was a biright and sunny morning and the Skylarks were singing. After finishing this I drove to Pentney Gravel Pits where there was a Black Tern flying over the water. A Nightingale sang in the hedge line nearby too. On the island a Little Ringed Plover was running around. I drove on to Nar Valley Fisheries where several Blackcaps and Whitethroats were singing in the bushes.
In the evening a short walk to Snettisham produced a Cuckoo sitting right next to us sitting in the bushes, but it was very cold with a northely wind blowing and after watching Fulmars on Hunstanton cliff top we retreated to the pub!
Starting at Pentney many NarVOS members and regulars watched Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, three Common Terns and a superb summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit amongst all the Canada goslings. After searching for local Stone Curlews we got diverted by the pager to Fakenham where we drew a black for a reported Egyptian Vulture. Weeting made sure we ticked our Stone Curlew for the year before we finally ended up for a pleasant evening's walk at Lynford Arboretum.
With the weather not looking too good and migrants a little thin on the ground, Paul and I headed to Titchwell. We headed down the path to the sea as a Red-necked Grebe had been reported and the tide was still relatively high. I was quite surprised to see so many Common Scoter still offshore. A female Common Eider Duck was close inshore. I could not find the Grebe and enquired amongst the other birders present where it had been sighted. After some searching I had a brief sighting before all the birds were disturbed by jet-skis....grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Two Little Terns sat on the brackish marsh were a year tick and a stunning summer plumaged Grey Plover made a sight for sore eyes. Two Little Gulls danced above the fresh marsh as we sheltered from the wind in the hide. Moving on to Burnham Market we watched a lone male Montagu's Harrier hunt over the rape fields as 2 Marsh Harriers flew in the wind.
At Cley we strolled below the ever decreasing sea-bank where in places we could see over the top of it. I walked along the new fence line in the Eye Field, which seemed vey odd after being kept out all these years. The new North Hide is a vast improvement over the old ramshackle one and being a little higher allows views of not only North Scrape but views over Simmonds Scrape as well. Fantastic for when birds commute between the two scrapes. It will save the dash between the two!
Using the scope I established that the new visitor centre must be open! My curiosity got the better of me and we spent the next hour sitting in it having a cup of tea whilst looking out of the panoramic windows. The view was wonderful. The ledge for looking forward out of the window was good for cups of tea but of no use for propping up elbows with binoculars in them (unless you were a dwarf!) I am told that the old visitor centre is going to be equiped for birders, and the new centre is just the cafe for visitors!
Back at Flitcham I enjoyed watching the little balls of fluff with legs following a Moorhen around. Thirty minutes later I was nearly in tears as a Grey Heron (with chick) swooped down stabbing at one of the chicks and flew with it to a tree, where it was killed and gobbled down! Not the ending to my day that I had predicted. I could not bear to stay as I knew the likely outcome for the other chick too.
An evening visit to Flitcham turned up a Pink-footed Goose that should be on breeding grounds by now.
Barry and I set off to Snettisham with high hopes of taking photographs of Grasshopper Warbler. Upon arrival a Cuckoo flew at once on top of a telegraph post right above our car to the sound of a Nightingale singing. The Cuckoo was too quick for us to take a photo as it saw us and departed very quickly to wires a little further away. I looked for the Nighingale but it had stopped singing and so did not give its position away.
Once upon the bank I quickly realised that it was going to be far too windy for any samall passerines to perch and sing. Common Whitethroats seem to be displaying everywhere as they flitted up and down in the wind. A Turtle Dove perched upon the telegraph wires as Sedge Warblers kept the choir going whilst we staggered along the bank.
Crossing over to the sea-bank a female Whinchat provided us with photo opportunities as did the Linnets and Willow Warblers that were singing all around us. We walked onto the pits where many Mediterranean Gulls were amongst the Black-headed Gulls. At Burnham Market we were surprised to see more Pink-footed Geese, about a dozen or more along with Greylag and Canada Geese. Why are they still here?
We dashed to Kelling and failed by a couple of minutes to see the reported Bee-eater. Later at Salthouse Barry and I saw a Grey-headed Wagtail along with some very bright Yellow Wagtails. At East bank at Cley, a Cetti's Warbler was singing whilst a pair of Marsh Harriers put on a wonderful courtship display for Barry to photograph. Onto Flitcham Barry took a few photos of the Little Owl before Paul, Barry and I dashed once again to Morston where the Bee-eater had been relocated. Once again we missed it by a couple of minutes! Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!
Paul, Barry and I started the day at Snettisham because the wind had dropped. We joined Trevor who was ringing and saw Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap in the hand. We drove onto Choseley where Corn Bunting were singing as 2 Dotterel were running in the field. We drove on to Cromer but missed the Alpine Swift that had been reported. Back at Kelling Quags we were just in time to see the Purple Heron that had landed but it did not stay long and soon took off. Just as we got back to the car, Paul spotted an Osprey flying overhead.
The rain set in and we adjouned to the new visitor centre at Cley for a cup of tea before venturing out to the hides where several Avocets were courting and hunkering down on sodden nests.
Blackcap Lesser Whitethroat
Paul and I stood in the dark and the cold (with many other cold souls) whilst we watched a Nighjar at Sandringham chur from a telegraph wire before flying off. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.....
A quick visit to Titchwell produced a Temminck's Stint working its way between 2 of the islands. As I walked back up the path a Ruddy Duck flew from the Wildfowlers pool over the path and promptly disappeared (given how they are being persecuted at the moment, I don't blame it!)
After taking my daughter to work I continued on to Potter Heigham where I walked part of the Weaver's way to Rush Hill Scrape. I joined the birders who had been there since six o'clock to the news that there was no sign of the gull or Pec Sand. After an hour and a half I noticed a gull fly in with a wing pattern similar to that of a Little Gull and mentioned it to my neighbours. W realised that this was the Bonapart's Gull that we had been waiting for. This was a Norfolk tick for me and brings my Norfolk total to 361. I was very pleased as I have not had a Norfolk tick for some time. After seeing a flying Bearded Tit and 2 Temminck's Stints I made my way to Great Ryburgh where I saw Honey Buzzrd and 2 Common Buzzards. Two Hobbies were also chasing around amongst the Swifts.
Leaving home just after 4am, I drove to Lakenheath and met up with Peter on the river bank. It was a wonderfully still morning with a glorious sunrise with mist swirling around the Mute Swans on the water. It was well worth getting up early. I heard two Grasshopper Warblers reeling away before Peter pointed one out to me perching just above the grass-top level. We listened intently as Golden Orioles were calling along with Common Cranes. Soon two Golden Orioles flew out across from one Poplar plantation to the other Poplar plantation. A little later the Golden Orioles called again and another three birds took flight perching in the Poplar trees before they too flew across to the other plantation. Peter and I were convinced we could still hear a Golden Oriole in the first plantation and before long another three Orioles flew across to the second plantation (after flying across the river for a short while perching in more Poplar trees the other side of the river and into Norfolk!). We realised that we must have seen eight different Golden Orioles all chasing about.
It had been a wonderful spectacle and I left Peter to guide an RSPB group whilst I made my way to Horsey. At Horsey a male Marsh Harrier was flying close to the road and I stopped to watch for a while. At Horsey Mill I walked alongside Hickling Broad and watched Cetti's Warbler hopping about. Dragonflies on the wing included Broad-bodied Chaser and Hairy Dragonfly. (See Dragonfly page).
Marsh Harrier Looking towards Norfolk where the Golden Orioles flew
I sat and watched a Swallow collecting mud with which to build its nest. It fascinated me for quite a while as I sat in the glorious sun.
Swallow collecting mud
Joining members of West Norfolk RSPB group, I ventured down to Dersingham Bog at 8pm. This was too early and we all got eaten alive by the midges. However just after 9pm we watched as a Nightjar flew and settled on a post churring. It flew around as several Woodcock kept us entertained, in the murky light.
Wandered along Narborough Railway Line in the cold and saw very little. I could hear a Spotted Flycatcher in the trees above my head but I could not see it. Two Yellowhammers were singing along the bank but there was little else. I moved on to Pentney where 30+ Common Terns were either sitting around on the island or were flying over the water. At West Acre a Green Woodpecker took flight as I made my way to the hide. A Common Snipe was feeding in the water as a parent Lapwing kept watch over a youngster feeding at the water's edge.
After attending the Neotropical Bird Club meeting in Cley village hall, Paul drove to the beach. We sat in the van as Steve had phoned to say there was a good passage of shearwaters. He was absolutely right. Although it was nearly 7pm the sea was alive with birds. The sea was exceedingly rough and I feared for the seabank. I missed the first 2 Sooty Shearwaters that Paul saw, but had several Manx Shearwaters. Gannets were streaming past with Fulmars adding to the spectacle. An Arctic Tern flew in front of us as a Sandwich Tern got blown along too. A stream of Shearwaters flew relatively close. In just over half an hour we had 6 Sooty Shearwaters and at least 50 Manx Shearwaters with one Balearic Shearwater. Another Arctic Tern struggled against the wind as a Ringed Plover went by us at a great rate of knots.
It is still raining as our front lawn disappears under water. A pair of Pied Wagtails scurry around the front lawn catching drowning insects as Blackbirds and Starlings pull up all the drowning worms. A Jackdaw stands around in the hope of some scraps as House Sparrows feed on the last of the bird seed.
Carol and I venture out in the pouring rain and head towards Holme where we watch Common Pochard on the Broadwater. At Titchwell four Little Gulls loaf around as we make our way down to the sea to watch hundreds of Common Scoter. At Wells we search in vain for the Red-backed Shrike but only see a Goldcrest and listen to a Cetti's Warbler. We have a little more luck at Choseley where we see a Spotted Flycatcher sitting on a gate up towards the drying barns and listen to a Quail calling from the bend in the road at the top of the road. A very wet day out!
A stroll at Holme with sightings of a Ruddy Duck, Little Egret and a Grey Heron. A Small Copper Butterfly also flitted by.
Holme Marsh Ruddy Duck Small Copper
My final tedrad survey for the Norfolk Bird Atlas found me near Swaffham. As I parked the car in the lane a Nightingale was singing along with a Robin and a Common Whitethroat. I made a mental note at the very thick hedge that hed been left uncut, just how they all should be! My clipboard was off to a good start. Skylarks were singing but I soon knew I was faced with a problem as the rookery had provided a large supply of birds and they kept swirling around. I just hope I did not count too many twice! Up a trackway and along a hedgeline I surprised a Roe Deer as it sat in the field as I peered through the gap. I am not sure who was the more surprised as it sat a few feet away from me not too sure what to do. Brown Hares were running around the field, all the males in hot pursuit of a lone female. Love was ceratinly in the air!! Along the side of a wood a Badger's Sett looked interesting as I listened to Blue Tits singing. After seven year's of field work for the Bird Atlas my job was done. I wish Moss the best of luck getting the book published.
On a bright and sunny morning I walked up the sea-bank at Thornham. It was high tide and I had the place to myself. It was very peaceful and Skylarks were singing well. However I could not find the Woodchat Shrike that had been present the day before. I moved on to Titchwell where I walked to the Fen hide and watched a pair of Marsh Harriers. The female was still collecting nest material whilst the male was simply showing off! A Cetti's Warbler called and flew across the reeds. A Bearded Tit perched on a reed stem for all to see. Walking down the pathway 5 Little Gulls were loafing around. Walking back to the Fen Hide a Spotted Flycatcher was catching insects as it flew aroung the tops of the trees and perched for all to see.
Moving on to Blakeney I watched a Red-backed Shrike moving between the hawthorn bushes. Azure and Large Red Damselflies were in amongst the damp nettles. Driving up Beach Road at Cley a sea-mist was not going to make viewing conditions from North Hide easy. Two Curlew Sandpipers were amongst the Ringed Plovers but the swirling sea-mist did not help the location of the Little Stint that I could not find.
Marsh Harrier Bearded Tit
On our way to Blakeney, a Red Kite was reported at Langham, heading north over the church. Luckily we were close by. We stopped in a few places and spotted a distant raptor. We drove along a lane towards Wiveton and sure enough there was the Red Kite in the glorious clear sky. It was too high up for a photo. Shame! We saw the Red-backed Shrike at Blakeney and the Curlew Sandpipers at Cley in the mist once again. We decided to leave the coast and head for Strumpshaw. Here Swallowtail Butterflies were on the Ragged Robin in the meadow. Four-spotted Chasers and Norfolk Hawkers were patrolling the ditches as Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies accompanied them along the edges.
Swallowtail Butterfly Four-spotted Dragonfly Norfolk Hawker
Paul and I enjoyed the sun and a relaxing walk around te reserve. Banded Damoiselles were out along the riverside as were several species of butterfly. From the hide we watched a Great-crested Grebe catch a fish and the ensuing squabble amongst its two youngsters as they fought for the meal. A Common Tern sat poised for a photo as we enjoyed the moment.
Great-crested Grebe Common Tern
Leaving my moth trap on last night I was surprised to see that most of the moths had escaped out of it by 4.30am in the morning. Somethiing had obviously knocked it. However it was nice to see a Green Siver Lines in it.
Green Silver Lines
John and Judy arrived in the afternoon and after visiting Flitcham we moved on toTitchwell where only a couple of days ago I had watched a pair of Avocet trying to save their nest from the advancing flood waters on the Brackish Marsh after the torrential rain. Another pair were copulating in front of the Parrider Hide. A Temminck's Stint on the mud nearly caused an arguement as its identification was doubted by a few other birders!
A long journey north found us at Caerlaverock where we watched a Whooper swan and looked at Orchids.
Whooper Swan Badger
In the evening up on the 2nd floor of the Farm Tower Hide we watched a Badger run across a Wildlife Garden and on to the edge of a pool. I cursed as I could not get the window open wide enough to get my camera through and had to be satisfied with taking photographs through the glass. It was a delight to watch, as it ran around the garden.
Dunsop Bridge Valley Grey Wagtail Common Sandpiper
Journeying south once more we decided to go and look at the Eagle Owls nesting at Dunsop Bridge. It was a wonderful 3 mile walk up a valley barred to vehicles. We were kept entertained on our journey up and down the valley by a variety of birds. A Grey wagtail was present at a sluice on the journey up. Before the steepest part of the climb we came across a notice of footpath closure. This was to protect walkers and dogs from being attacked by the Eagle Owls. A Border Collie had had a nasty encounter apparently. At the top of the rise (I was finding it hard going in the heat) by post 68 we had good views of two adult Eagle Owls and two juvenile birds. A Dipper kept us entertained on theway down as it disappeared beneath the fast flowing water. A painted Lady Butterfly fed on the thistles in the glorious sun-light.
Juvenile Eagle Owl Dipper Painted Lady
A weekend with my son Jonathan in Cheltenham saw us taking a walk up on the hills above the town. Here we watched a couple of Marbled White Butterflies on the calcereous limestone grasslands that were far too quick for me to photograph. However we did find lots of orchids in flower.
Bee Orchid Pyramidal Orchid Spotted Orchid
After work I received a message that there was a Little Bittern at Titchwell. After a quick change and a bite to eat all the usual crew were stood waiting on the bank at Titchwell for a glimpse of the bird. Several hours were to pass as we watched a male Marsh Harrier do several food passes to two female Marsh Harriers. A rain shower gave us all a soaking as we stood in hope. At just after nine o'clock the Little Bittern flew out of the reeds, about seventy metres and landed out of view in the ditch.
A walk along the old Roydon Railway line produced a Robin carrying food for some chicks hidden away somewhere. A Green Woodpecker called noisily as he flew from the ground just in front of me as I disturbed a couple of Red Admirals on the pathway. A Long-tailed Tit flitted in the trees as I reached my car in the car park.
After a day spent in the garden trimming trees and shrubs and getting rid of a mass of weeds from the vegetable plot, a walk was desperately needed. A decision was made to see if any dragonflies were on the wing at Roydon Common along the boardwalk. The pathway to the boardwalk was as overgrown as my garden and I was thankful that I knew the way. A visitor to the site would never have found it. A female Black-tailed Skimmer settled on the boardwalk as several Emperors patrolled the bog.
Emperor Dragonfly Black-tailed Skimmer
A Yellowhammer sang in a bush at the top of the common.
Not the best day to go looking for dragonflies! A trip to Thompson Water and then a walk along the Pingo trail in our wellies produced a few Scarce Emerald Damselflies and not much else!
Mute Swans on Thompson Water Scarce Emerald Damselfly (female)
A early start before work saw some rough weather overnight. At Hunsatanton cliff-top a Poamrine Skua was loitering by the lighthouse. Fulmars were hanging in the wind as Arctic Skuas were chasing gulls over the sea.
An evening out with NarVOS members. After a delicious meal at Cockley Cley over 30 members walked into the forest at dusk. Nightjars were churring as Woodcocks flew over our heads. Disappearing into the trees we found our way into another clearing where we were treated to some wonderful views of Nightjars displaying in front of us as well as sitting on a branch churring about 20 metres away.
Its my birthday and I have been treated to a weekend in Scotland to look for dragonflies and butterflies. Unfortunately the weather is not ideal as we really require it to be a sunny day. However we enjoy a wonderful walk in peace and quiet with beautiful scenery up Glen Affric. A few unidentified damselflies fly by as do a couple of dragonflies but after watching Four-spotted Chaser and a Large Red Damsefly over a little lochan we stop to watch an Azure Hawker on our return walk. Despite my best efforts I was unable to obtain a photograph of it.
Large Red Damselfly
Loch Arkaig Golden-ringed Dragonfly Common Blue Butterfly
After a lovely night in a Scottish Country House Hotel overlooking Loch Oich we set off in rain in hope that it might brighten up. After failing in our search for Emeralds we made our way to Loch Arkaig to the butterfly reserve. My weekend was made as a Golden-ringed Dragonfly hung onto some bracken. It was a dragonfly that I really wanted to see. Common Blue Butterflies were also flying around.
Dark Green Fritillaries were on the wing but very rarely stopping still. We had a heart stopping moment as we disturbed a herd of Highland Cattle who were sheltering under a few oak trees.
Dark Green Fritillary Highland Cow
At a friend's 50th party celebration all weekend located at a wonderful country mansion in the Lincolnshire Wolds meant that no birding was done. It was a lovely relaxing weekend. Near the hot tub a Southern Hawker joined us all!
Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Ruff Little Tern
On my way to Titchwell I stopped to admire a male Montagu's Harrier hunting over the fields. At Titchwell Ruff, Dunlin, Redhanks and Avocets were joined by a lone Greenshank. A Little Tern was diving into the water as a Little Gull was flying around. By the Fen hide Chiffchaffs were singing as Willow Warblers were catching flies.
Gardening and house painting were interrupted as the pager alerted us to a Dark-eyed Junco in a back garden at Langham. We quickly jumped into my new car and joined the well-behaved crowd in a beautiful garden in Langham. After sitting patiently for a while the owner came to tell us that the bird was showing in a neighbour's garden and he too had agreed to let us in. After a while the bird showed briefly for a couple of occasions but as others were waiting I decided to move out to let others have a view. Unfortunately I only managed a shot of the bird facing away from me. A big thanks must go to the residents of the gardens for letting their gardens being invaded by us all and for having a bucket for donations to the RSPB.
Moving onto Cley we watched a Pectoral Sandpiper feeding along with some summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwits. Two Common Sandpipers were also dashing around picking up insects on the edge of the mud.
Paul and I walked along the old railway line heading North -east from North Wootton (TF640247) which should be re-named Butterfly Walk! Given our poor summer, butterflies abounded in the sheltered conditions on the bushes on this warm and muggy day. There were several flooded fields full of birds including 11 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Avocets, whilst 2 Marsh harrires flew overhead. There was a lovely pond along its length, full of dragonflies and damsels.
Adder Common Darters flying in tandem Lizard
After this we made our way to Roydon Common where we saw two Adders and three Slow Worms and a Lizard. Four-spotted Chasers and an Emporer Dragonfly were patrolling the ponds whilst a Hobby called overhead. Common Darters were flying in tandem as they mated.
I had brief outing at lunch-time for some peace and quiet. A weasel appeared from a field and chased a mouse. I suspect the mouse came to a sticky end!
Weasel chasing a field mouse
Hurray holiday time! After leaving Gatwick Airport Paul and I arrive in Detroit USA, where we see Turkey Vultures wheeling around the airport skies as well as a Purple Martin. A Killdeer wanders by a runway as an American Kestrel hovers overhead. We board a plane again and head for San Francisco.
Its foggy in San Francisco! We hadn't bargained for poor weather. We have come to escape the poor summer in England and now we can hardly see a thing! A Red-tailed Hawk perches on an overhead wire as we make our way to Reyes Point. Goodness knows why we bothered with this famed sea-watching point as we can't even see the sea! Brown Pelicans fly by as Ring-billed Gulls sit around. We don't stop long and head for Monte Rio.
Away from the beautiful Californian coastline the sun appears. Itis hot too and we change into T-shirts and shorts at long last. It has been a long time since Easter in India and our legs have seen the sun. A Belted Kingfisher and American Robin show themselves at our lovely accommodation on the Russian River.
Down to Port o'Bodega for 6am where we are waiting to board a fishing boat for our pelagic to the Cordell Bank. We have booked a place on board with Debbie Shearwater who is famed for her pelagic trips from the Californian coastline. By 7.15am we are leaving the harbour and Paul is feeling a little green on the rolling boat (so am I). I keep eating and manage to prevent myself from being sick. However Paul is adding to the chum and we see Humpback Whales and Sooty Shearwaters along with Pink-footed Shearwaters. A Black-footed Albatross comes into view and delights us all. On the way back into Harbour I add Wandering Tattler to my life list.
After leaving Monte Rio we head for Lake Tullock. We stop off at Brannan State Island Park where Paul flushes out a Great Horned Owl as he is searching the scrub for other small birds. It is now extremely hot and sunny and we are glad of some shade as we eat our lunch by the car under the shade of the trees by the waterside. Soon we motor on to Lake Tulloch which seems a haven in the now brown-scorched landscape that we are passing through in the Californian Central Valley. After checking in to the motel that overlooks the lake we check out the scrub up behind the motel. An Osprey nest platform has been constructed on a telegraph pole and 2 chicks nearly fully grown are calling for food. We soon spot the adults busy patrolling the lakes.
Great Horned Owl Lake Tulloch Osprey
We drive on to Yosemite climbing up to the 4000 feet of the valley floor through the parched rugged landscape. Mountainous-type roads with hair-pin bends make for slow going although the tarmac roads are good. Once inside the park we are aware of some commotion at Crane Flat. Being nosey we stop the car and discover a Black Bear with two cubs making their way through a meadow. Unfortunately the grass is very long making photography very difficult as the only time the bears show well is in dark shade as they play under the trees.
Black Bear and cub Half Dome Yosemite National Park
We continue our way to the camp-site and gaze in awe at the wonderful scenery, especially at Half-dome, a famous rock in the National Park.
Leaving the camp site early we walk the valley floor at Yosemite before all the general tourists are out of bed. I can see why Yosemite is so popular and reservations need to be made many months in advance. The scenery is spectacular and we are completely over-shadowed by awe-inspiring steep cliffs with a river running through the valley floor. Within a few minutes I have a collection of warblers on my list including, Orange-crowned. Nashville, Hermit and McGillivrays Hummingbirds add to the confusion as Paul and I try to sort them out. We decide to drive up to Glacier Point but not before stopping to watch an American Dipper entertain us on the river.
Paul is keen to find Sage Grouse, so we drive over Tioga pass at nearly 10 000 feet to Twin Lakes. The drive takes us the best part of 3 hours, but the scenery through the park and out the other side past Mono Lake keeps our interest going. We fail dismally on our search for Sage Grouse but I flush out a few Mule Deer that were hiding in the Sage that is covering the hillside. Sage Sparrow is found as a Green-tailed Towee flits around and Clark's Nutcrackers fly overhead. Back at Mono Lake, a dormant volcano caldera, hundreds of Californian Gulls and Wilson's phalaropes are feeding on the black flies that suuround the lake.
Tioga Pass Yosemite Tufa Stacks at Mono Lake
We stop at Tuolumne Meadows on the way back and add a much wanted Mountain Bluebird to our lists.
Today was deemed a non-birding day as I wanted to look at all the volcanic features that abounded the other side of Yosemite. We started at Hot Creek where, yes you guessed it, we looked at some hot springs gushing or bubbling out of the ground. The water was boiling but the Greater Yellowlegs seemed to enjoy the hot water. A Sage Thrasher put on a good show for us. A Rock Wren flitted about but did not want its photo taken! After this we climbed Panum Crater where we could look at the plug of a dormant crater of a volcano filled with obsidian and pumice.
Hot Creek Sage Thrasher Panum Crater overlooking the caldera of Mono Lake
Up early once again and Paul is still desperate for his Sage Grouse. We head for the Gold Rush town of Bodie which is a deserted wooden town presevered for the tourists about a two and a half hour drive from Yosemite Valley, out the other side again. We both take some photos of Mountain Bluebird and split up to search the never-ending Sage bushes up the hillsides surrounding the ghostly town. It all seems very bizarre amongst the deserted buildings. I keep expecting John Wayne to come riding in! After two hours in the relentless sun I develop a terrible headache, when I suddenly see Paul waving. At long last he has located two Sage Grouse. Hurrah!
Bodie Mountain Bluebird Sage Grouse
We were due to leave Yosemite National Park today for the long haul towards Fort Bragg. Being determined to shift some miles that idea disappeared as we encountered a large contigent of swifts aroud one of the cliff faces. I realised that I still needed to find Vaux's Swift. Black Swifts and White-throated were in abundance but it took some time to locate Vaux's Swift. We said goodbye to the park but stopped again just otside the park as we still had some altitude and felt the habitat had changed a littke to make it worthwhile searching. Mountain Quail and House Finch were added ad new ticks. We drove through the Napa Valley of Central California famed for its wine production. I wanted to stop and sample some of the delights but Paul was determined to press ahead for birding purposes. It seemed a shame not to stop at one of the wineries to take in the atmosphere of all the vinyards and take advantage of the area. We spent the night in Geyserville, an expensive stop!
We made our way to Clear Lake National Park, a few miles in the 'wrong direction' as we had a spare day before we were due into Fort Bragg. It turned out to be a good birding spot to while away the hours and to relax a little. I was delighted when Wild Turkeys wandered across our path and I caught up with Ash-throated Flycatcher, a bird I had missed early on the trip that Paul had seen. We saw many small woodland birds that we thought we should have had early in the trip. Clark's and Western Grebes were on the lake in thier hundreds. We spent the night in Willets.
Fort Bragg was our final destination a short drive from Willets, for our next Pelagic and we birded the botanical gardens. For those interested in coastal gardens this was a delightful tranquil place. We tried to sort out a few Hummingbirds as Canada Geese flew over. An Indigo Bunting was a nice surprise lurking in dense vegetaion by a stream.
After difficulties with our B and B accommodation we left without breakfast, which is not a good idea when you are just about to board a fishing boat on a rough sea. The boat that Debbie Shearwater had arranged was damaged and was in dry dock for repairs. She had done a wonderful job and had managed to find a replacement at short notice. We set sail at 7am and made our way out to the high seas full of anticipation. The birding was extremely slow and we did not see any new species that we had not already seen at Bodega Bay. However there was not a birder on board that did not know that if a Blue Whale spout was sighted they were to get me first! Hump-back Whales were watched as were Dall's Porpoises and White-sided Dolphins. Suddenly a commotion had me running as I was fetched from the back of the boat. A Blue Whale spout had been sighted by the leader at the bow of the boat. Debbie yelled at me to go right as all the others watched the Hump-backs on the left. All of a sudden, there it was a Blue Whale breaching by the side of the boat. Only 3 of us saw it as 2 Humpbacks were delighting the other birders on the other side. My Blue Whale at long last!
Black-footed Albatross Hump-backed Whale Pacific White-sided Dolphin
Another difficult start to the day with our B and B which was the only 'private' one of our stay in California. Lesson learnt = stick to chain motels! Once enroute we met up with some of new found friends from the pelagics and birded a coastal forest. I added Hutton's Vireo before heading to Livermore for Yellow-billed Magpie that we had failed to find on our journey to Yosemite. At last we had our tick at the lake along Mines Road.
All too soon we headed for San Francisco to spend the night before our flight home.
Back in England the poor summer continued. The last week has seen relentless wind and rain with only the brave venturing out to Blakeney point to search for vagrants. After a trip to London to see my son, my neighbour and I made the most of the sun and walked to Thornham Point where a Greenish Warbler was doing circuits of the Sea Buckthorn. It was a pleasure to be birding without the need of winter gear. back on the beach Sanderling were feeding along the tide edge. Walking back up the Titchwell track lots of Eels were sticking their tails out of the water in the marshes.
Sanderling and Eel at Titchwell
Taking my daughter to the beach at Holme, I found time to watch the Red-backed Shrike at Holme. It was possibly the youngest Red-backed Shrike I have ever seen with the wind ruffling its downy feathers.
After a morning spent on housework I decided to head for Holme avoiding the coast road. I was nearly at Ringstead when the pager announced that there was a Barred Warbler at Holme. I was lucky to join some of the first people there and had quite good views of it as it fed on some red berries. A party of Long-tailed Tits joined it as well as a Chiffchaff and a few Blue Tits. A Robin flitted about nearby too.
A Sacred Ibis has been at Holkham for a few days and it is causing some consternation amongst 'Norfolk listers' as it is unknown whether it is an escapee or whether its red ring on its right leg been added from a ringing scheme. I decide to go and have a look at it as an 'insurance tick'. I am surprised to find several Norfolk 'big listers' joining me after I re-locate it feeding amongst an assortment of geese.
An early evening visit to Holme in the sun to do a brief sea-watch. We knew we had just missed high tide but we did see an Arctic Skua and a Little Tern.
Paul and I left home full of anticipation but Westerly winds did not bode well for rarities. Starting at Cley we watched Common and Sandwich Terns on Arnolds Marsh and Bearded Tit over the reed bed. Offshore an Arctic Tern and two Pomarine Skuas chased the terns,whilst one of the juvenile Pomarine Skuas flew along the shoreline. At Salthouse two Ruddy Shelducks sat in the fields as we scoured Granborough Hill. Down at Kelling Quags three Little Gulls flew around the scrape as two Greenshanks busily fed and called to each other.
With the intention of gardening and house repairs, Paul and I made a good start on the chores but this was interrupted as around two o'clock there was a pager Mega Alert to say that there was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Spurn. We were soon on our way and just before five o'clock we arrived at the side of the Humber River to find only 6 birders present. The tide had flushed the bird. An hour later as the tide fell, thousands of waders returned but with so few birders present it was a needle in a haystack task. We enjoyed summer-plumaged Knot in thier thousands and a few Curlew Sandpipers. Dunlins and Curlews were feeding voraciously as a Peregrine swooped and put them all to flight. Bad light stopped play and we spent the evening searching for food and accommodation.
After a good breakfast at a pub in Easington, we joined a couple of birders back by the river at Spurn. Given the fact that it was a lovely day we were amazed at how few birders there were on a weekend day full of promise. Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Curlew, Ringed Plovers, Knot were all busily feeding once again in front of us. This time a Merlin flew through and upset a few Dunlin. By the visitor centre Tree Sparrows were amongst House Sparrows and Goldfinches. A Whinchat perched on a thistle as a couple of Willow Warbler flitted in a Sycamore Tree. Unfortunately a long all day vigil did not produce our target bird but we had ceratinly seen thousands of waders.
After a morning spent gardening I drove to Titchwell to buy some birdfood. After loading up my car I wandered down to the first hide where I sat it out until I saw a Water Rail lurking in the reed edge after being told there was a family party hiding there. Two Little Stints were also feeding on the mud as a few Dunlin kept us entertained. Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits were also added to the wader sightings. Down at the beach there were plenty of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits.
I finished off the garden now looking all ship-shape ready for winter. It was a glorious evening, if a little windy so Paul and I decided to go for a quick stroll on Roydon Common. Four Stonechats perched in a few bushes as Woodlarks flew from the heather. A male Marsh Harrier was joined by a dark female as a Common Buzzard approached. The male Marsh Harrier soon saw it off!
A quick dash aftrer work to Titchwell to see a Norfolk tick that I had missed many years ago through lack of a pager. A Long-billed Dowicher was very mobile on the freshmarsh. I was glad to see this bird as I had cursed at missing one at Pentney years ago, that had only stayed for an afternoon. The dowicher was fairly distant at the back of the marsh but could be picked out as being smaller than the surrounding Black-tailed Godwits. It seemed to be unsettled and I wondered how long it would stay. I wandered down to the sea where there were many young Gannets plunge-diving into the sea at quite a shallow angle towards Brancaster. I guess they knew the water would not be vey deep there!
After a few chores at home Paul ad I set off for Titchwell once again. Lots of birders and tourists had arrived and the car-park was full. After squeezing the car along the drive paul set off for the Long-billed dowicher and I went to the reed bed hide. With little to see I joined Paul on the bank. It was waders galore! Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff were in abundance supported by Bar-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Dunlin and Little Stints. Golden Plover and Lapwings added to the spectacle. It was difficult to keep up with the dowicher as my concentration wandered chatting to many friends that I had not seen for a while.
Paul and I drove onto Salthouse where Common and Sandwich Terns were feeding along the sea-bank. Driving back to Holkham we seached in vain amongst the thousands of Pink-footed Geese for the Snow Goose. As they flew we decided to follow them towards Burnham Market and parked in a gateway to seach through the skeins as they flew over our heads. Thousands went over our head but they were all Pink-feet. We arrived at Burnham Norton when more geese flew by, Paul gave a shout as he had located the Snow Goose. Along with several other birders we all managed to watch the Lesser Snow Goose using my scope in turn as it flew by us amongst the Pink-feet.
Back at Titchwell Paul and I sat in the reed bed hide again as we watched two Marsh Harriers hunting as the dead trees filled up at roost time with Cormorants and 41 Little Egrets!
The wind seemed to be coming from the 'wrong' direction for Norfolk ( Easterlies are best) and so after parking the car once again at Titchwell, Paul and I set off along the main road in an easterly direction. Once at Gypsy Lane we headed down by the trees towards the beach. Migrants can often be lurking in the trees here, but not today. Once out on the marsh, Little Egrets were feeding in the dykes. On the pool near Brancaster Golf Course a female Ruddy Duck was having a morning nap amongst the Tufted Ducks and Coots. Nearing the beach a Meadow Pipit called. On the beach Oystercatchers and Curlews were feeding amongst the exposed mussel beds. Gannets were dive-bombing the fish and a small group of Eiders were bobbing about just offshore. Six Red-throated Divers, some still in summer plumage were also just offshore. As we neared the end of the board-walk a Peregine made its way across the sand making all the waders take to the air as it flew over Titchwell marshes. We stopped once again as we made our way up the path to admire the Long-billed Dowitcher amongst the Ruff.
At Flitcham we were treated to another Peregine feeding off some prey as it sat in a distant field.
The flooded car park at Cley Sabine's Gull
After cursing all week at being stuck in work, I finally made it up to the coast today. What a weekend it turned out to be! Starting at Cley I watched the Grey Phalarope on Simmond's Scrape. I soon headed for the beach car park where the waves were lapping over the now much reduced sea-bank. I parked my car as I watched the Sabines Gull leave the Eye Pool and fly to the flooded area behind the sea wall. Being rather sad as the assembled birders watched the Sabine's Gull, I joined Robin Able to try to see the Puffin that had been reported close inshore on the angry sea. We searched in vain and decided to walk east on the now flattened sea bank. I soon realised that my car was going to get surrounded by sea water and had to move it to a drier part of the car park. The sea was lapping over the top of the bank as Robin and I waded through the water. With no luck I returned to the car park and was aware of some excitement amongst the birders. Word was going around of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Weybourne and I was soon on my way.
Walking up the shingle and the pathway at Weybourne towards the camp, there was certainly an air of excitement. How I wish I was fitter! The assembled birders were all very well behaved as we were escorted to the release area near to where the bird had been caught minutes earlier in a mist net. This was my second Red-flanked Bluetail in Norfolk and it was lovely to see one close up. It was certainly a beautiful bird.
I drove to Wells Woods and searched for migrants that had been reported. With a few others I had poor views of a Pied Flycatcher high up in a tree along with a few Goldcrests. A few Robins seemed to be around but little else. I watched a Cormorant grapple with a huge Eel in the boating lake before making my way back to Cley where a Red-necked Phalarope had joined the Grey Phalarope. The Grey Phalarope had multipled itself into three Grey Phalaropes! I can't remember an occasion in Britain where I have watched Grey Phalaropes in the same scope view as Red-necked Phalarope before. On my way home I popped into Holkham where I was lucky to see the Wryneck that was in the hedge-line at the bottom of Lady Ann's drive. I returned home very happy to have had an excellent day in the field.
After such a good day yesterday I left home full of expectation as the wind had been in an easterly direction over-night. For Norfolk at this time of year that means rarities. Starting at Holme, Paul and I wandered about Holme village checking out trees for Yellow-browed Warblers. After seeing a few Goldcrests, we made our way to the NOA observatory where a Yellow-browed warbler had been showing minutes earlier. I watched a small warbler fly out the back of the tree and we joked with Jed that it had probably flown into a mist net. Sure enough it had! After watching it being fitted with its ring, we watched it feeding busily in the tree.
Driving onto Wells Woods I located a Pied Flycatcher amongst Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs but our time was cut short as a Sub-alpine Warbler had been found at Burnham Overy Dunes. It was a gorgeous walk out there in the warm sun. After a short wait the Sub-alpine Warbler hopped up on to the brambles and performed well in the sun. It was a shame that we did not dare get any closer for a decent photograph.
Pied Flycatcher Sub-alpine Warbler
Whilst admiring the Sub-alpine Warbler we were told of a possible Blyth's Reed Warbler at Salthouse so made our way there rather quickly. The pager had alerted birders to the fact whilst we were walking back and so our pace quicked a little. When we arrived at Gramborough Hill it was bedlam in the carpark and we were lucky to find a space to park the car. I was grateful of the sit down in the warm weather as we waited for the brief views. I was certainly grateful that I had seen a Blyth's Reed Warbler well before in many parts of the world and in Norfolk as the views were all brief. After watching the Red-necked Phalarope and Grey Phalaropes again we celebrated with a drink in the Dun Cow!
Finishing early from a course I made my way to Holkham where a Lesser Grey Shrike was perching on a fence post in the cold Easterly wind . It constantly changed posts as it caught various bugs for its tea. In amongst the Pink-footed Geese a Ross's Goose hid behind its bigger cousins.
Luckily I was only working in the morning and so by 12.15pm I was on the road up to Flamborough Head. After four traffic-laden hours I finally reached the plantation by the Old Fall hedge. I was much later than I had anticipated but was pleased to hear that the bird that I had come to see had shown only a few minutes earlier and so this gave me hope. After standing with other birders I was aware of running the other side of the plantation and quickly made my way around, just in time to have some excellent views of an Asian Brown Flycatcher. I was so lucky to see it well and left to walk back to the car park where Paul joined me so that I could follow him to Buckton where a Turkestan (Isabelline) Shrike was on view. We walked up the grassy trackway and watched the shrike in the evening light. This was Paul's second viewing as he had seen it earlier in the day. I was pleased to see two such good birds well.
As I was leaving school, I stopped at the end of the driveway just in time to see a Water Rail run across the road and back again. Thank goodness a car coming up the lane stopped and did not run it over.
I started the day at Pentney Gravel Pit where a Shag was preening on the island amongst the gulls. Tufted Ducks, Pochards and Wigeon were at various positions on and around the water. On the spit two Common Snipe and a Ringed Plover were feeding.
Later at Home I watched another Yellow-browed Warbler being rung. On the sea there was a large Common Scoter flock. Moving on to Titchwell a Slavonian Grebe was amongst a few Common Eider close inshore as Gannets dived further out for food. Sanderling were running along the tideline as Oystercatchers were huddled up nearer to Brancaster. On the Freshmarsh a Little Stint probed for food near me as I walked back up the pathway.
Paul and I started our day at Wells where we watched a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers calling away by the track next to the caravan site. Redwings were often seen over our heads as they migrated through. Moving onto Kelling, a Barred Warbler lurked in the hedgeline giving quite poor views. In the village a Black Redstart stood on top of a roof. We were told of a Common Rosefinch at Warham Greens and arrived just in time for me to see it making its way down the hedgeline. We waited in vain for it to reappear as I felt sure I might be able to get a photograph, but it was not to be.
With John and Judy, I walked to the crosstracks at Holkham. It was a glorious afternoon and we quickly saw two Yellow-browed Warblers. A Firecrest preceeded a marvellous display by a male Goldcrest flashing its red crown at a female Goldcrest. Judy and I heard a couple of Crossbills calling and these joined five others that were sat at the top of a tree by the crosstracks before they took off and flew towards Burnham Overy. Walking back towards the car a Black Redstartwas sat on one of the fencelines near Meals House. A party of nearly 30 Siskins flew to the top of a tree before also flying off.
Sitting by the River Test in Hampshire in the sun enjoying a pub lunch, a pair of Grey Wagtails flitted about under the river bridge catching insects as trout two feet long swam in the river below.
It was a glorious afternoon and I was cursing being cooped up in a classroom knowing that I (and the children) would rather be outside in the sun with some freedom! As soon as school was over I changed and drove to Dersingham Bog where two shrikes had been reported. I walked almost the entire length of the bog with only a Meadow Pipit for company in the wonderful sunlight. A Green Woodpecker flew across my pathway not long before a shrike also flew towards a lone tree behind the board walk. I tried to digiscope it but after a couple of shots it was off over my head and disappeared behind a hill before reappearing later back on the same tree, by which time I was too far away to take any more photos of it.
Great Grey Shrike
Another glorious afternoon and I headed to Holkham once again. By the payment hut a couple of Stonechats flitted around before I started my long walk down to just beyond the crosstracks where I saw at least 3 different Yellow-browed Warblers. Pink-footed Geese were feeding in thier thousands.
An early start at Salthouse on another glorious morning. A stroll to Gramborough Hill produced lots of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks singing as though it were Spring! On the sea Razorbills and Guillemots were still lingering. As I strolled back to the car park a Lapland Bunting sat on top of the shingle bank amongst several Meadow Pipits. Driving on to Stiffkey, Paul and I decided to walk out onto the marshes as far as the eye could see. It was a wonderful walk and it made me realise just how deep some of the channels are. A herd of elephants could be in them and from the car park at Stiffkey Camp Site they would never be seen! Once we reached the boats we watched hundreds of Knot feeding and ten Red-breasted Merganzers in one of the channels. Many seals were hauled out on the mud banks near Blakeney Point. In the bushes migrant Blackbirds and a Redwing was taking a rest whilst a pair of Wrens were scolding each other. A pair of Stonechats were flitting around the Suada enjoying the sun as we were. It was very peaceful and quiet away from the madding crowd.
Back at Cley we strolled along to the North hide where a Kingfisher flew low across the scrape. Walking back to the car park twenty Snow Buntings were feeding on the shingle bank. Some of the males were still in wonderful plumage and were a sight to behold in the sun. Driving home towards Flitcham thousands of Pink-footed Geese flew towards their roost site on The Wash.
I was meant to be decorating today but looking out of the window at the weather I soon abandoned my wallpaper scraping and drove to Titchwell where a female Red-crested Pochard was sitting on the water in the reed-bed amongst many Coots. A Marsh Harrier flew overhead as hundreds of Golden Plover took to the air. On the sea, where I had fled to escape the crowds a few Eider and a Red-throated Diver swam close inshore.
At Holme I walked with John Shepherd and Maurice to look at a Long-eared Owl sitting amongst the Sea Buckthorn in the sun.
Carol Inskipp and I started our day at Wells where we spent a good half an hour scanning Lodge Marsh for a reported Great White Egret. I had spent the last few weeks searching for this elusive bird. After a couple of stops at various points overlooking the marsh we eventually saw it along with several other birders who were just as pleased as I was to eventually catch up with it as it flew around with the Little Egrets, landing frequently.
Moving onto Holkham we made our way to the Joe Jordan hide where we watched three White-fronted Geese and one Lesser White-fronted Goose whose credentials are in question. Walking back we watched as hundreds of Pink-footed Geese took to the air. At Meals House a couple of Firecrests kept us entertained as we searched for other migrants.
At the village hides in Holme we watched a Kingfisher whizz across the water as yet more Pink-feet flew above us.
A late afternoon walk at Dersingham Bog did not promise much as it was very murky and still. A few Goldcrests and Chaffinches called in the trees above me. Wood Pigeons and Lapwings flew over the distant trees as I descended down the steps and started along the trackway. A lonely Meadow Pipit called overhead as I continued along the path. I watched as more Woodpigeons and a Jay called my attention to a tree on the bank just as the Great Grey Shrike flew into it. Turning round I cursed as I did not have my camera with me. A couple of metres away a Roe Deer stared me in the face as I had obviously disturbed his feeding as I was watching the Great Grey Shrike.
Paul and I walked around Nar Valley Fisheries where we had 5 Bullfinches fly together over our head. If I were a gambling person I would have guessed these were probably Northern Bullfinches as they often fly in small groups like this. Apart from the usual wildfowl we saw very little until we returned to the van where we saw a Brambling in the hedgeline.
At Narford Lake down by the Church we witnessed the huge Gull roost where there was a partial albino Black-headed Gull. In amongst the hundreds of Gulls was a Mediterranean Gull.
After much searching I located a Lapland Bunting on top of the shingle ridge at Salthouse. Moving on to Titchwell a Little Stint was on the freshmarsh as Paul and I walked down to the sea. We had obviously missed a good seawatch but we were in time to have 2 Pomarine Skuas fly right over our heads as we neared the beach. Two Long-tailed Ducks were distant in the surf.
Back at Titchwell a Little Auk bobbed up and down close inshore. Two Red-necked Grebes were distant on the sea as we searched in vain for other seabirds. In the carpark a Waxwing played hide and seek in the bushes.
Travelling to Salthouse we watched Turnstones feeding as we tried to take photos of a Lapland Bunting that was none too keen to have its photo taken. Later we joined other birders trying to identify which race of Richard's Pipit we were watching as one of the birds seem to nearer to a Blyth's Pipit in looks. A Little Auk landed close by as we walked on the seabank.
At Sheringham 3 Purple Sandpipers were wave dodging on the concrete steps down the east end of the promenade.
Paul and I drove to Salthouse and Cley to see how the floods had affected one of our favourite birding venues. We could not get down Beach Road at Salthouse as it was under water. Driving back to Cley we walked down East Bank to do some seawatching. It was surreal walking down East Bank as everywhere in the direction of Salthouse was flooded. Arnold's Marsh had disappeared! We had obviously missed the main passage of sea birds and watched a few Red-throated Divers close in shore. Back at the new visitors' centre we surveyed the flooded scrapes, now very enlarged.
Starting at Lynn Point the winds were still blowing quite strongly as we watched the waders wheeling around out in The Wash. At Saddlebow on the River Great Ouse, a Red-throated Diver had been storm driven inland. Upon reaching Tottenhil we counted over 150 Pintail on the pit. Driving through Womegay we were surprised to see a Red-tailed Hawk flying overhead. At West Acre, Redpolls and Siskins were twittering in the Alder trees before two Water Rails foraged in front of the hide.
Still needing to see a Graet Bittern for my year list, Paul and I positioned ourselves ready for a long vigil in the village hide at Holme. Stupidly we forgot how cold it can be at this time of year when sitting still. After 3 hours we finally saw a Bittern flying over the grazing marsh, by which time we were frozen solid!!! However we did see a Kngfisher and a Woodcock as well.
At Titchwell we nearly froze once again seawatching, as the wind was bitingly cold. However I was well preapared with extra layers as we watched a female Long-tailed Duck fly in and sit close inshore before it flew towards Brancaster. Six Red-breasted Merganzers kept us amused as a huge flock of Common Scoters flew around near the horizon.
After household chores I drove up a couple of miles short of Brancaster where thousands of Pink-feet had assembled in a sugarbeet field. The Lesser Snow Goose and Ross's Goose were easy to pick out as was a hybrid-type goose. However I had not come to see these and I was faced with a task I did not think was going to prove as difficult as it was. A Barnacle Goose should have been easy to spot but I was having no luck as the geese kept disappearing in dips and behind a hedge into another field. At the point of giving up a Greenland White-fronted Goose suddenly raised its head from out of one of the dips as I tried unsucessfully to put another birder onto it as we both sat in our cars. Just at that point the Barnacle Goose walked up onto a small ridge at the back of the field. Even as a Norfolk Birder used to seeing thousands of geese I was amazed how many geese were tightly packed into this huge field!
On my way to school, hundereds of Pink-footed Geese are feeding in a recently harvested Sugar Beet field on the way to Sandringham.
Grey Seal pup Desert Wheatear
After a bout of illness, Paul and I finally made it across to Horsey where a Desert Wheatear had been lingering for a fortnight. After lurking in a rabbit hole, it finally flew over to the beach where we went in search of it only to find some gorgeous young Grey Seal pups being guarded by their mothers. After taking some pictures, the Desert Wheatear was re-located by the port-a-loo, feeding on meal worms on the trackway.
A short visit to Lynn Point produced 2 Little Egrets and a Kestrel. Other than Blackbirds I was surprised at the lack of winter thrushes as the bushes were full of berries.
After another bout of illness Paul drove me across to Edgefield near Holt where we tried for a second time to see the long-staying Iceland Gull. It was to prove a frustrating time, as the gull kept disappering behind a ridge and over on to a lagoon, out of sight. Eventually I had to be satisfied with flight views only, as it flew into a distant field.
Still not feeling very well we were both saddened by our lack of energy as it would have been a good day for a walk. However, feeling rather lifeless we sat in the car at Lynn Point and watched a calm river as 2 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons sat at the water's edge. We commented at the lack of Harriers and wondered how many have been shot by the Sandringham estate. Moving on to Roydon Common we could not find the Great Grey Shrike that is over-wintering here. We watched a Hen Harrier that has managed to escape Prince Harry's guns, hunting over the bracken.
Hooray off to Heathrow! After 6 hours we arrive in Accra in Ghana. As it is late we make straight for the hotel.
Paul and I were picked up by David our driver for the week and taken to Sakumo Lagoon where Collared Pratincoles are sitting on the mud amongst hundreds of waders. Later at Shai Hills we familiarise ourselves with many African species we have not seen for a while before trudging through horrendous city traffic and a four hour drive to Kakum National Park where our hotel is for the next 5 nights. This is the Gold Coast, where historically thousands of Africans were transported from as slaves to America.
After a bad night with a migraine I am confined to bed. Later in the day I join Robert Ntakor our local guide and Paul for a walk along a forest trail. I feel very rough but at least I am on my feet.
Up at 5am for 3 hours birding suspended 40 metres up in the canopy on a rope walkway. The walkway in Kakum National Park is an excellent spot for birding and we add fifty species to our lists most of which were world ticks. The afternoon is spent on a forest trail.
Kakum National Park rope walkway
Up early for the long drive along roads and tracks to a small Ghanain village, where we hire machete wielding locals to hack out a pathway to a secret site deep in the forest to see a mythical bird that is vulnerable in the world. Visiting birders pay a fee that benefits the local communities, so that they protect this strange Rock-fowl that plasters its nest to the underside of a cliff-face or cave, deep in the forest. After hours of silent waiting in the forest, two Yellow-headed Picathartes hop from tree to tree. Wow! What a bird! What a privilege.
We drive to the north of Kakum NP to Aboabo. Many new birds are added to our lists. Paul treats me to a bottle of champagne in the evening as I have reached my 3000th species in the world.