Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

Sue's Diary 2010 (Jan -June)


1st January

Happy New Year!

After a late night we arrived home at about 2am so it always was going to be difficult to have and early start to the day's birding.Opening the curtains I was surprised to see that we were once again covered in snow! A Lesser Redpoll and a Brambling in the garden was a good start to the year. Taking some peelings down to the compost heap I was aware of some squawking from next door where a Sparrowhawk was just about to have his breakfast of an unfortunate Blackbird.

Paul and I set off eventually to Pentney stopping en-route to where we had seen a Green Sandpiper a couple of days ago near Narborough. Sure enough after getting out of the car it flew from a ditch and landed further along its course. Fieldfares were making the most of some un-frozen land by another ditch as two Common Buzzards sat in a nearby tree. At Pentney we had the usual array of ducks and geese before we walked around Nar Valley fisheries where most of the lakes were frozen. We added common species to our new year list before moving to Narford Lake where a gull roost only produced Black-headed and Common Gulls despite our best efforts. By the time we arrived at Roydon Common it was really too late to see anything of consequence but a Roe Deer stared at us as we got the car stuck in soft ground! It had been a lovely bright day and the sunset over Roydon Common was beautiful.

2nd January

After yet more overnight snow (I am getting fed up with it now!) Paul and I set off for Titchwell. The road between Docking and Choseley was a nightmare as it was covered in ice that probably hasn't melted since the last snowfall and was now covered with fresh snow. At Choseley barns 5 Corn Buntings sat in the hedge as Pink-footed Geese flew overhead and Fieldfares stripped the berries in the hedgeline.

At Titchwell visitors were out in force as we watched a Water Rail near the Visitors' Centre. After a quick scan of the Freshmarsh  we added Avocet and Pintail to our yearlist before making our way down to the beach. A Red Kite flew over Thornham Bank just after we had watched a Marsh Harrier and Little Egret hunting the marsh.  A flock of Linnets flew around the beach with some birders cheerfully asking if they were Twite? Unfortunately they weren't! The tide was a long way out but scanning along the water's edge brought more common year ticks. We decided to walk to Thornham Point and back along on the inside through the wet areas. A pair of Stonechats kept us company before Paul flushed a Woodcock out from the Sea-blite bushes. Picking our way through the marsh 12 Twite landed close by as we examined the colour rings on their legs.

Walking back up the path we met up with Trevor Girling and watched a Water Pipit on one of the islands and a pair of Bearded Tits in the reedbed. After feeding a Robin in the carpark with the last of the Christmas mince pies we motored home through yet more falling snow! Grrrrrrrr!

3rd January

After yet more overnight snow. Paul and I made our way over treacherous roads to Snettisham. It was a beautiful bright and sunny day as Paul located a Scaup on the first pit. Walking down to the hides waders of every size and shape were making the most of the falling tide on the Wash. The sight of wheeling waders never ceases to amaze me as they fly around making varios shapes in the sky. By the channel by the second hide 2 Shorelarks fed before we made our way into the hide to watch a Purple Sandpiper amongst some Lapwing. Back out of the hide we failed to find the Snow Bunting but were surprised when another birder picked out a Great Skua over The Wash putting up many birds. Walking back a Rock Pipit appeared walking up a steep bank of mud as we ambled back to the car.

At Sandringham we watched Coal and Marsh Tits as we drank our soup before setting off for a walk in the woods. We saw very little but 4 Crossbills were a welcome addition to the world yearlist! Continuing to Flitcham we added Barn Owl and Grey Partridge before seeing the Little Owl on a fence post on the far side of the field from the hide. Meeting up with Edward Cross the owner of Abbey Farm at Flitcham he alerted us to a Male Hen Harrier that was hunting over the stubble field on the otherside of the road from where we usually watch the geese from the straw bales. I don't think I have ever seen a Hen harrier so close as it flew directly at us at head-height in the bright sunlight over the cover crop. It was a stunning view and one I shall remember for a long time! We finished the day at our usual spot for a count of ten Tree Sparrows.

4th January

A phone call from Trevor Girling whilst I was on the computer last night had me making a few enquiries about a sighting at Titchwell yesterday. Now that Paul and I no longer have a pager we were blissfully unaware of a report of a probable Pacific Diver at Titchwell yesterday afternoon. The report seemed good enough to make a dawn start at the sea at Titchwell. Walking down the path in the semi-light we flushed a Woodcock out from its slumbers whilst a Sparrowhawk flushed other dark flying objects out of the reeds!

Down at the sea it was obvious that it was not going to be a warm vigil as the breeze was bitingly cold. A Long-tailed Duck flew west as a few Goldeneye relocated their position on the sea. Tony joined us and located a Slavonian Grebe as we watched a Red-brested Merganzer fly east. After he left Trevor Girling and Dave Hawkins arrived along with another birder unknown to any of us. Trevor soon had us onto a Red-throated Diver as we added Guillemot and Eider to our morning's tally. A flock of Snow Bunting flew close by us as the tide was now not far from us at its highest point. Another Red-throated Diver flew by and we were almost at the point of returning up the path because we were so cold.

Luckily at that point Paul located a diver flying along the tide edge with his binoculars. We all watched it as it flew right by us trying to make note of salient features. Dave noted that it was the same bird as yesterday. A discussion ensued as we tried to gather what each of us had seen with the end result that we concluded that it was a probable Pacific Diver.

A little later a Great Northern Diver flew past us further out the other way and landed on the sea. We could see that this was a different bird and it was good for comparison purposes.

After leaving Titchwell we drove to Thornham Harbour where the Red Kite was hunting over near the trees before returning home to watch a Siskin on our Niger feeder before tackling the complexities of trying to book a bus ticket over the Andes from Santiago (Chile) to Mendoza (Argentina)!

5th January

Waking up to yet more snow........when will it end?....Paul and I watched three Lesser Redpolls in the Silver Birch tree and one Siskin on the Niger feeder in the garden. On the Black Sunflower seeds a Brambling joined the multitude of Greenfinches and Chaffinches. As I busied myself making an apple and blackberry pie for tea a Pied Wagtail wandered forlornly in the snow in the front garden waiting for scraps falling from the other feeders. The good news is that I have managed to get the tickets for the bus over the Andes from Chile to Argentina! Hurray!

6th January

Paul set off in the snow to walk towards West Newton leaving me to sort out travel insurance problems. A Lesser Redpoll was feeding on the Niger feeder as I kept an eye out for Siskins. The birds are certainly hungry.

9th Jan

Left Heathrow and headed for Paris.

10th Jan

Left Paris and arrived in Santiago in Chile where the sun was shining. Turkey Vultures and Austral Thrushes were seen as we sorted out the car and headed for Lake Orozco. Here Chiloe Wigeons, White-backed Stilts were in abundance in the 30 degree heat. Chimango Caracaras flew as Giant Hummingbirds amazed us. At Vina del Mar Seaside Cinclodes fed underneath Inca Terns on the rocks.we made our way to Horcon where we spent the night in a beautiful fishing village

11th Jan

At Zapilar we watched Humboldt´s Penguins.

12th Jan

At Vina del Mar a White-tailed Kite and Spectacled Tyrants were wonderful to watch before seeing a Correnera Pipit on a lake edge. A Harris Hawk en-route gave a photo opportunity.

Harris Hawk






13th Jan

A very steep climb in Campana National Park where White-throated Hawk was the only bird of note. I was exhausted and cursed the poor variety of birds as White-crested Elaenias were everywhere. I returned to our cabin and flopped in the swimming pool to cool off!

15th Jan

A steep climb in La Campana NP prodoced the much wanted White-throated Tapaculo as well as a luck sighting of Dusky Tapaculo. A Magellanic Horned Owl was an amazing sight as it sat admiring us!

17th Jan

Arriving at El Yeso, an area high up in the Andes above Santiago we set off before dawn to drive up to 10000 feet above sea level. Watching dawn break up in the mountains without anyone else present was a magical moment. We had to walk a couple of kilometres to save us getting wet across a torrent of a river.  Soon Paul had located a pair of Diademed Sandpiper-plovers that were joyous to watch. No doubt the star birds of Chile! 

We watched Baird's Sandpipers and also a Band-winged Nightjar fly across. Soon altitude sickness got to me and so by lunch time we headed down back to the camp site but not before watching Andean Condors swirling overhead.

El Yeso















Diademed Sandpiper-plover                                                        Andean Condor

18th January

Leaving El Yeso a Common Diuca-finch sat on a wire as we made our way out of the park.


Common Diuca-finch









21st January



En-route to Laguna del Laja







22nd January










                                                                   Nahuelbuta N P                                                         Chucao Tapaculo

After leaving El Yeso we had a few days in Laguna del Laja N P before heading to Nahuelbuta N P for tapaculo paradise. Those that know me know how I hate this family of birds as ordinarily all you see is movement in the back of a bush after hours of watching! Yesterday we had had good views of Back-throated Huet Huet (tapaculo) and today I was determined to get a photo of Chucao Tapaculo skulking in its Bamboo hide- out! So I hope you appreciate the hours of waiting I did sat in a dense thicket of Bamboo for this photo! Magellanic Woodpeckers were also seen here!

25th January

Black-faced Ibises were a frequent sight near Puyehue N P but Torrent Ducks were harder to find as we were plagued with swarms of huge black flies. Ugh!








26th January

After a long drive south we caught the ferry to Chiloe Island where we saw a genuine Chiloe Wigeon! Visiting a small islet off the coast of the island we watched Humboldt's and Magellanic Penguins amongst sea otters and Kelp Geese. Flightless Steamer Ducks were also fascinating to see. A seawatch at Cucao produced thousands of Sooty Shearwaters and Pink-footed Shearwaters as well asWhite-chinned Petrels.

27th January

A long drive of 600kms as we head back up Ruta 5 towards Santiago.

29th January

Arriving in Vilches we spent many hours searching for the Chestnut-throated Huet Huet. After diving into undergrowth we eventually had some brief views of one bird!

30th January

Back in Santiago we made our way towards a ski resort high up above the  city, stopping off to camp in a nature reserve . After setting up our tent we set off on a trail where we were delighted with stunning views of Chilean Tinamou and at least ten Moustached Turcas.

Moustached Turca







31st January

Making our way up to Farellones we managed to find a cheap hostel where a hot shower was most welcome after so many cold showers at camp sites (not just cold, but glacier cold from the Andes!) We soon got ourselves sorted and began birding in the most stunning scenery. A Variable Hawk (Red-backed) presented itself for a photo.

Variable (Red-backed) Hawk



1st February

Because I suffer from altitude sickness I had missed an afternoon's birding at El Yeso when Paul had gone birding by himself, while I consoled my thumping headache in the tent back at the campsite. This had meant that Paul had had some lovely birds by himself. Luckily I had seen them many years ago when I was last in Chile. However a walk along a mountainside down from the Farellones ski resort, Paul came up trumps when he found a nesting pair of Crag Chilias just as another Andean Condor flew overhead.

Andean Condor





Chilean Mockingbird- an endemic











4th February












                                                                                        Las Curvas -up over the Andes

After getting rid of our hire car we made an early start to Santiago's chaotic bus station where we boarded a bus bound for Mendoza in Argentina. The route was stunning as it took us over the top of the Andes passing Aconcagua (the world's highest mountain outside of the Himalayas) on the way.

5th February

We hired another car and drove back up to Aconcagua N P. The view was stunning but a few short steps soon left me breathless in the thin mountain air.



Mountain Caracara and Spot-billed Ground Tyrants were seen as well as Plumbeous Sierra finches. Rufous-collared Sparrows were everywhere as we watched Crested Ducks and Grey-flanked Cinclodes. A Scale-throated Earthcreeper probed the earth searching for his breakfast.





Moving back down to Potrerillas we wild camped by a lake as Black Vultures circled overhead and Patagonian Mockingbirds joined Southern Lapwings nearby.

Plumbeous Sierra-finch






6th February









Lake Duck


Saffron Finch

Driving on we passed through Encon where a Lake Duck was on a small patch of water besides the road. Saffron Finches sang near La Tranca.





At El Condor we sought out the endemic Cordoba Cinclodes and the Cordoba Canastero. Finding a good campsite at Icho Cruz, where we had one of our first hot showers of our trip, we booked in for 3 nights. Good chaco habitat was to be had here and we looked forward to the birds to be found.

Cordoba Cinclodes







7th February












                                                          Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper                                              Monk Parakeet

An early start in the chaco and the birds were everywhere. We stuggled with the enormous South American fieldguide as the Argentinian fieldguide was still not published as we left Britain. Monk Parakeets and Creamy-bellied Thrushes joined a Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper and a Brown Cachalot!
















Creamy-bellied Thrush                                                                  Crowned Slaty-flycatcher

Crowned Slaty-flycatchers joined Campo Flickers and Golden-breasted Woodpeckers as well as White Monjitas.










 Golden-breasted Woodpecker


Campo Flicker





8th February

Birding again in the chaco habitat we surprised a Short-billed Canastero and a Rufous Nightjar from its slumbers.
















Dark-billed Cuckoo                                                                                  Spot-winged Pigeon

9th February

Leaving Icho Cruz for Mirimar we stopped at Arroyito for a picnic stop. The heat is almost unbearable but in the shade of the trees we spied a White-fronted Woodpecker and Tropical Kingbird. Arriving at Mirimar a Red-crested Cardinal looked pretty as we climbed an observation tower over-looking the lake which is 100km long. Paul suddenly shouted as he spotted a tinamou in the field beside us. A Spotted Nothura was making its way over towards two others lurking in the shade. On the lake Coscoroba Swans were being overflown by Roseate Spoonbills and Chilean Flamingoes. Black Skimmers were fascinating to watch as they dipped their enormous bills in the water as they flew.

Red-crested Cardinal













                                    Fork-tailed Flycatcher


Roseate Spoonbill




10th February

We spent the night at another campsite where we are now getting some expertise at erecting and dismantling tents! Paul is honing his skills at the barbequeing side of things as we both collect wood enough to boil pasta, eggs and bake potatoes! Back down by the lakeside a Black-backed Water Tyrant caught our eye, as did a Great Antshrike lurking in a small patch of woodland nearby. The hedgerows were alive with birds, mainly various doves and Bay-winged Cowbirds. In the Eucalyptus trees Monk Parakeets were chattering noisily from their nests. Back near our campsite a Pale-breasted Spinetail added to our ticklist as did a Many-coloured Chaco-finch.

11th February

Motoring on to Campo Mare, passing a few Greater Rheas in the endless fields, Paul was disappointed at the lack of waders at the last site known for Eskimo Curlew. Many of the pools were dry but we did add Solitary Sandpiper, White-faced Whistling Duck and Silver Teal as well as a Pectoral Sandpiper. The heat and mosquitoes were unbearable as we made our way back to the car. By now Paul was beginning to suffer badly and it soon became apparent that he was suffering from heat-stroke. We need to cover up beacause of the mosquitoes but get over-heated if we do. There was soon nothing for it but to seek out a hotel with some air-conditioning which is not in our budget for the year. However at times...needs must!

12th February

Paul had a bad night but managed some sleep before dawn. He said he felt better but did not look it! Motoring on we eventually found the salt lake we had been looking for, after several false starts down various tracks even with 2 police-cars for assistance! The police  proved to be right though as apart from a tropical Kingbird and a Slaty-capped Flycatcher in the scrub there was not a bird to be seen in the 40 degree celcius heat. My walk in the heat had been in vain as I struggled to see the edge of the lake in the shimmering heat whilst Paul stayed in the air-conditioned car trying to recuperate. At Salinas Grandes our only reward was a Varigated Flycatcher. Still suffering from the heat we made for a hotel at Frias where we spent the night.

13th February












                                                                                                  Tafi del Valle

After a long drive we made it up 2000m high to Tafi del Valle where a beautiful lake sits high up in the mountains. Except for Great Grebes and Yellow-billed Pintails amongst Andean Gulls we saw little of note for our efforts. For a short while we watched a game of Polo, a favourite sport out here. We camped in out tent by the cemetery where we were awoken by a fox howling in the middle of the night as the thunder and lightning kept us awake.





14th February

After some sleep we were thankful for a cooler day. After a brief search for birds by the lake we made our way to the water works and the gully that runs behind it at KM67. There we found White-browed Tapaculo and Yellow-striped Brush-finch. Soon the clouds descended but not before we added Bare-eyed Ground Dove to our list. We descended back into town at Tafi del Valle and birded the bushes along the river. Here we saw Yellow-browed Tyrant as well as Yellow-billed Tit Tyrant. We found a hotel in the centre of town where, I was glad of a shower.

15th February

Leaving Tafi early we started on a rough mountain road to Cafayate. A journey of around 133km of u-bends on very rough terrain as we climbed up to over 3000m high. The birding was excellent and Paul was pleased as we found our target bird of Tucuman Mountain-finch lurking by a red house past the 80km point.

Tucuman Mountain-finch

Soon a Red-tailed Comet came to join it as we realised that two finches were present and they were quite clearly feeding young. As we climbed higher we found a small canyon that seemed to be filled with birds. A Brown-capped Tit-spinetail was joined by a D'Orbigny's Chat Tyrant and a Greenish Yellow-finch. A Buff-beasted Earthcreeper was also a delight to find.
























Brown-capped Tit-spinetail                                                                                          D'Orbigny's Chat Tyrant

Motoring on we stopped by some water-works and walked another gully where Burrowing Parakeets flew overhead calling as usual and a Cliff Flycatcher sat still for a photo.


Cliff Flycatcher




Burrowing Parakeet






Soon we seemed to be in a different world as the temperature increased once again and it became a very dry scrubby landscape with huge cacti hugging the mountainside. Paul was dwarfed by them.

Paul hugging his cactus!

A White-fronted Woodpecker was seen as we approached Cafayate. We soon found a hotel and had a wonderful dealyed Valentine's meal of steak and chips as we watched a carnival procession in the main square.

White-fronted Woodpecker













16th February

Motoring on the road got worse as we climbed up to Cachi, but what stunning scenery as we sweltered in the car.

17th February
















Cafayate                                                                                                            Grey-hooded Parakeet

Oh no we have a flat tyre! Hardly surprising cosidering the rough tracks we have been on! After Paul put the spare tyre on we set off for Salta. En-route the little Grey-hooded parakeet was a nice find sitting on a fence.

17th February

We are now without a spare tyre and have 162km to travel on a remote moutainous untarmaced road to Salta. The u-bends and repairs to the washed away roads leave us little choice but to continue keeping our fingers crossed that we do not get another puncture. We added birds as we went and enjoyed the Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird as well as a pair of Creamy-breasted Canasteros on either side of the mountain in totally differing habitats. One very dry and the other wet cloud-forest. As we neared Salta we were treated to some woderful views of 2 Andean Condors as they wheeled above our heads as we descended down the mountainside into Salta.

Once in Salta we headed straight for the car-hire company to be greeted with the news that they did not have another car for us. We had given 48 hours notice as we had several problems which need sorting, one of which was a car door that refused to shut properly! We were asked to return the following day.

18th February

Afer a lovely morning walk at San Lorenzo we added some cloud-forest birds to our list and picked up our new hire-car much more to our liking.

19th February

Heading North to Yala we added several water birds after stopping off at various lakes. Once we arrived we searched in vain for Rufous-throated Dipper on the mountain stream and camped by a beautiful lake.

20th February








                                    Torrent Ducks

Fulvous-headed Brush-finch







An early morning walk high above Yala produced a Fulvous-headed Brush-finch as well as a Golden-winged Casique. Down back at the river we failed again for the dipper but did see a pair of Torrent Ducks.









Humahuacha Valley nearing the Bolivian border







Heading still northwards we were now nearing the Bolivian border and into the Puna at 11000ft. Stopping at Abra Pampa we stopped to browse a shallow lake where I spotted some Andean Flamingoes. Passing the scope to Paul to look at them a few swear words were uttered as he found one of the birds of his dreams. A pair of Andean Avocets!


Andean Avocet








We motored on still higher, on a treacherous mountain track in thunder and lightning eventually stopping hours later on a 12000ft Puna plateau. I was frightened as we slept in the car with no shelter in a terrible storm. Cor........what we do for birding!

21st February

Surprised at still being alive with terrible altitude sickness and swallowing every medication possible we drove on to Laguna Pozuelos. A puna lake absolutely heaving with birds. Fabulous scenery with Vicunias and Alpacas running everywhere as we watched a Lesser Rhea, Chilean and Andean Flamingoes and Paul delighted himself at finding a Puna Plover. Short-billed Pipits and Andean Lapwings were running in the grass.

Paul wanted to walk further but I was struggling with sickness and a thumping headache and so we drove in haste to Lake Larga another few miles that was accessed up an exceedingly bumpy trackway. Here we found Giant Coots as well as Horned Coots. An Ornate Tinamou stolled across the track as we watched Silvery Grebes and Wilson's Phalaropes in a feeding frenzy.

Lake Larga

Having to leave very reluctantly because of my altitude sickness getting worse, we made our way back to Yala where I made up for our hasty retreat by finding the Rufous-throated Dipper 6km up the river, measured from the main road between the 2 pumping stations.






22nd February

Leaving Yala we arrived at Calilegua where we hastily erected our tent at the National Park. Ater walking a short trail and adding Ochre-faced Tody-tyrant to our list we returned to build a bar-b-que only to be eaten alive with our faces soon looking like bags of potatoes from mosquito bites. The tent was dismantled and we booked into a hotel to see to our now bulging faces and necks!

23rd February.

On awakening I was hoping that I did not look as bad as Paul did. (I did) We were badly bitten. With temperatures already at 30 degrees celcius we headed out to the National Park at Calilegua and walked a trail where we saw a pair of Cream-backed Woodpeckers and a pair of Toco Toucans. A family of Golden-crowned Warblers fascinated us as the parents fed the young. A group of Swallow-tailed Kites were also good to watch. Heavy rain stopped play at 3pm as we bounced our way down the mountain track in various streams soon becoming small rivers.

24th February

Starting at 30km up a mountain track we failed to find the guan we had been seeking. All our efforts did not amount to much except another injury to the car! This time we seemed to be trailing something underneath, hardly surprising given the stony, rough, rutted mountainous trackways we had been doing.

25th February













Crested Caracara                                                                                                        Dusky-legged Guan

Leaving our lovely friendly hotel Paul drove once again 30km to the top of the National Park where rain once again prevented us from finging our guan. However a few miles back down we added Dusky-legged Guan wandering across the trackway as well as Crested Oropendua and a perched Yellow-collared Macaw. Crested Caracaras are everywhere but this one caught our attention.








We drove on to El Rey NP only to be thwarted halfway down the track by a washed-away bridge. The torrent before us was impossible to cross and we had no option but to retrace our steps back to the main road but not before admiring a Bat Falcon and a real Muscovy Duck!

The washed-away bridge at El Rey








26th February

Leaving the mountains behind we drove for hours before raeaching Joaquin v Gonzalez where there is a fragment of Chaco forest left. Blue-crowned Parakeets and a Greater Wagtail-tyrant were added to our lists before driving the same trackway at night to add Little Nightjar and Nacunda Nighthawk.

27th February









Greater Rheas

Spotted Nothura









En-route to Chaco N. P we had a Chaco Chacalaca fly across the car in front of us before perching in a tree. Greater Rheas were moving though fields as were a few Spotted Nothuras (a Tinamou). The road is dead straight for hundreds of miles and we were pleased initially to arrive at the park.

Chaco Chacalaca

We had intended to camp here before we realised it was infested with mosquitoes way beyond what we could cope with. It was such a shame as the place was bursting with birdlife. I was excited as I spotted 2 Jabirus, a long-standing bogey bird for me! Snail Kites were stood on posts prizing out their suppers as Ringed Teals were looking after their broods. At the campsite a Giant Wood Rail was a nice surprise as we defended ourselves from the mosquitoes. Peach-fronted Parakeets roosted in palm trees as we watched Black-bellied Whistling Ducks fly over. We had a very uncomfortable night in the car as being miles from anywhere we had little choice. We spent most of the night swatting mosquitoes and running the air-conditioning against the unbearable heat.


















Jabiru Storks                                                                                                     Towing.........Argentinian style!

28th February

Against what we wanted to do the mosquitoes won and we beat a hasty retreat from Chaco N.P but not before admiring an Aplomadao Falcon sitting on a wire. We headed for Corrientes for some down-time and to let our families and friends know via E-mail that we were unaffected by the terrible news from Chile about the massive earthquake that had hit some of the places were had been in a matter of a few weeks ago.


1st March

After leaving Corrientes we motored 400 miles in sweltering heat across the Iberian Marshes to Iguazu Falls. A Southern Screamer was nice to see as were more Rheas.

Southern Screamer

After arriving in the dark we booked into a back-packers hostel to avoid the high tourist rates charged here in this tourist-trap.










2nd March












                                                                                           Sue at Iguazu Falls

It is five years since Paul and I have been at Iguazu when we visited from the Brazilian side. It was good to see the falls from the Argentinian side this time. A trail soon produced a pair of Robust Woodpeckers as well as some different foliage-gleaners.A Versicoloured Emerald buzzed around before we finally identified it as it perched nearby. At the waterfalls we watched Dusky Swifts that are famed for roosting behind the falls at night. A Squirrel Cuckoo landed in front of us as we marvelled at it being so close to us. A pair of Ant-crowned Ant-tanagers were a joy to watch as they fed in front of us too.

3rd March

After walking a trail in the early morning and seeing a Blond-crested Woodpecker, we played tourist at the falls and went on a thrilling boat ride that took us for a drenching shower underneath the falls. It was an amazing ride on the river with thousands of tonnes of water cascading down on us. It was certainly a thrill even if we did get absolutely drowned as the boat took us right underneath several waterfalls.

4th March

Today we found an old trackway that used to be the old entrance to the park. At first it seemed productive as 2 Red-breasted Toucans flew over just after we watched a couple of Toco Toucans. A Yellow Tyrannulet, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and a Rufous-winged Antwren preceeded an Ochre-collared Piculet and 2 Magpie Tanagers lurking in the dense foliage. I stopped to examine a tree above me trying to make sense at what I was seeing. I thought I was watching some kind of huge insect as the flight seemed peculiar before I realised it was a Long-tailed Tyrant spinning around the top of the broken-off branch.  Making it down to the old picnic site (now abandoned) by the river 2 Surcura Trogans sat staring at us. A Solitary Casique was seen on our return journey to the car as a Swallow Tanager fed above us. At the car a Violaceous Euphonia was up high in the tree as we opened the door of the car to return to our hostel.

Violaceous Euphonia




5th March

Repeating yesterday's trail back to the picnic site and beyond I was lucky not to tread on the snake that was side-winding 30cms at the side of me. The metre-long green snake readed its head before slithering off into the vegetation. I knew there was a reason for looking where you put your feet! A White-throated Spadebill was new for our trip-list as was the pair of Slaty-breasted Woodrails that walked along the path ahead of us. A Blue Dacnis fed overhead before the birds simply disappeared on us and we walked for ages before calling time and returning to the hostel to dive into the swimming pool to avoid the sweltering heat and humidity of the day.

6th March

























Bananaquit                                                    Black-throated Mango                                Black Jacobin


We left the hostel and visited a garden a few steps away that was set up as a 'Hummingbird Garden' at 150 Fray Luis Beltran Street Porto Iguazu known as Casa de los Colibris. Here a kind lady sets up hummingbird feeders and for a few pesos lets in visitors to watch. I think we saw more birds in the hour we spent here than the whole time we spent at Iguazu!



Glittering-bellied Emerald



Finding campsites from ‘where to watch’ books is always an interesting exercise, especially when the information in 20 years old. So the promise of a campsite and campsite shop with suitable food was Paul’s idea rather than mine (which would have been to stop at a supermarket before heading somewhere remote yet again). It came as no surprise to me to find an overgrown track with no campsite remotely in evidence and an old shack that long derelict!  The night was therefore spent in the car deep in a wood somewhere!











7th March


After a restless humid night we were up at first light and birded the forest track-way near San Martin. A Red-rumped Warbling-finch and White-rimmed Warbler were soon seen as Maroon-bellied Parakeets called noisily overhead. Pileated parrots flew across before we had Black-tailed and Black-crowned Tityras perched up in a nearby tree. Returning to the car and driving up the track-way a little we located 2 White-eared Puffbirds. Soon hunger forced Paul to drive to the nearest town where we just made it to a supermarket before it closed for the rest of the day. A lovely picnic was purchased which we ate near a lovely lake, where we noted we could spend the night in our tent.


8th March



















Long-winged Harrier


Nacunda Nighthawk














With another migraine starting Paul decided to add to my agony and drove a horrendous route back to the Iberian Marshes. It was a route from hell, 122km down a track with non-existent signage with either deep rutted hard mud or soft sand for at least 80km. The map we had was not accurate and some track-ways are pure guesswork at best. I hate the idea of getting stuck somewhere with no help at hand for 50 miles (and we have no Spanish or contacts!) in searing heat of 33 degrees Celsius. Many hours later by hook or by crook we arrived at a beautiful campsite located by Laguna Iberia. A little bit of heaven in a wilderness. En-route we had watched a party of 30 Nacunda Nighthawks and a Long-winged Harrier. I was so pleased to arrive as the campsite was the best yet and exceedingly well kept. A shower was in order after the tent erection and I stayed in the shower block for the rest of the evening to avoid the mosquitoes on a lovely bench with my lap-top!


 Aplomado Falcon

































9th March


We were up early for the promised boat-ride on the lake. It was already 20 degrees by 7am. After admiring the local Caiman and Capybaras and Marsh Deer we concentrated on the birds. Herons and egrets were everywhere and we soon saw Green, Black-crowned Night, Whistling and Rufescent Tiger Herons as well as Snowy, Cattle and Great White Egrets. Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns flew around us as we sought out the Sooty Tyrannulet in the reeds as our boatman gently edged his way in amongst the reeds. A Scarlet-headed Blackbird was a new bird for us as all too soon our boat ride came to an end. Back at the campsite a White Woodpecker was in the trees near our tent. I spent the rest of the day chilling out in the heat which was hitting 35 degrees.














Great Kiskadee                                                                                     White Woodpecker
























Sooty Tyrannulet


Rufescent Tiger-heron









In the evening we were offered a night-drive in an old jeep which we gladly paid for. I love night-drives as you never know what you may encounter. Not long after boarding the jeep we were treated to the sight of Geoffroy’s Wild Cat. I was ecstatic as I love wild cats as they are so beautiful. We were also treated to sightings of Plains Viscachas and Brocket Deer as well as more Capybaras.



10th March


After packing up we took a different route out from the Iberian Marshes watching many Grey-necked Woodrails en-route. It was far better but still a 122km track-way! Crested Doridito and Grey Monjita were added to Strange-tailed Tyrants on our list. Two Plumbeous Ibises were found as we bought a cup of tea from the Sendero Ranch. Thirty Greater Rheas were wandering the grounds here which seemed bizarre on the manicured lawns! Eventually Paul reached Concordia where we found a hotel for the night.













Crested Doridito                                                                          Grey-necked Woodrail



























Grey Monjita                                                                               Snail Kite                                           Rufous-bellied Thrush


11th March


After seeing little at El Palmar NP, exceptfor a family of Rufous-thighed hawks, we drove into Uruguay only to be refused permission to let our hire-car enter. Never mind we both put a foot down on Uruguay soil for it to count for a country tick. We were lucky that the border control was over the other side of the river even if we ended up paying the toll twice so that we could return to Argentina! Paul then drove south of Buenos Aires where we spent the night at a campsite by a lake on route 12 south.


Rufous-thighed hawk























12th March


Packing up a wet tent early, from the dew and mist from the lake we drove to Punta Rasa at San Clemente, south of Buenos Aires. On the coast waders were everywhere as we sorted them out. White-rumped Sandpipers were abundant amongst Two-banded Plovers, Knot, Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Semi-palmated Plovers. However the gulls proved a challenge as we searched through the hundreds of Kelp Gulls, finally finding an Olrog's Gull. The terns also proved challenging as we watched hundred's of winter-plumged Common Terns with Cayenne, Royal, Snowy-crowned and Sandwich Terns. A summer-plumaged Hudsonian Godwit was nice to see as White-chinned Petrels flew by on the sea.


Kelp Gull















13th March
























Olrog's Gull                                                                                                  Olrog's Gull (juv)





Up early with a stiff sea-breeze blowing we made the most of a sea-watch at Punta Rasa. Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatrosses were following fishing boats battling their way out to sea as Sooty Shearwaters went by. More Olrog's Gulls were seen, one bearing a leg ring of BUP (if anyone can find out any more about this bird please let me know ([email protected])  as were the waders and terns seen yesterday. making our way back to San Clemente we watched Brown and Yellow Marshbirds feeding with Monk Parakeets.


Brown and Yellow Marshbird


I spent the rest of the day on the beach, chilling out in 29 degree heat with a lovely breeze blowing to make it bearable!








14th March

Common Terns, Cayenne Terns, Snow-crowned Tern and Black Skimmers at Punta Rasa

The trackway at Punta Rasa where we were cut off







Paul and I have just had one of the most horrendous days of our lives! We went down to the beach to look at the birds this morning crossing 3 bridges over channels in a marsh. The tide was coming in and when there was not much beach left we decided to leave only to find that the tide had topped over the first bridge out with the water racing towards us and water was also racing up the beach too, therefore trapping us. Another car was similarly trapped and managed to get his car a little higher up a sandbank leaving us nowhere to go except for about 3 inches up the side of the sandy trackway. We had been told high tide was at 10 o'clock (which turned out to be inaccurate!) As the water raced in I became very frightened as 10.30 had already passed and rising water was forcing its way in through bolt holes underneath and at the sides of the car. Paul fashioned a baling out device from a coke bottle and an hour later with the water still rising we were losing the battle of baling out. At nearly midday the tide turned. Strong Southwesterly winds had forced the tide up much higher than usual and had funnelled its way up the Argentinian coastline flooding all low-lying marshes and roads in the town here. At 5 o'clock we attempted to drive out up the sandy trackway (still in deep water) only to find part of the road washed away to the first bridge and by the second bridge a deep gully had been forged over 3 feet deep so that we could not reach the bridge. We drove back to the beach (now supposedly at low tide...........looking nothing like low tide with the surge of water and managed to get the car up a bank as we realised with a turning tide the water would start coming in again!

A tractor miraculously appeared and for a fee equating to £56 offered to pull us across the bridges (now badly damaged) and the deep gully of water. After several miles of deep water, we are now safely back at the campsite reaching it at 6.30pm.

An horrendous day to say the least.................a migraine will surely start tomorrow!

We have now washed the car as best we can and hope the smell inside will not be too bad when we return it! Poor car it has been through hell and back  and so have we!

15th March

Snowy-crowned Tern

After yesterday's experience we packed up the tent and Paul drove across the Pampas and headed for Buenos Aires. En-route we stopped to admire a Snow-crowned Tern on a post in one of the marshes. On another pool a Plumbeous Rail caught our eye as did a Red Shoveler and Chiloe Wigeon amongst Yellow-billed Pintails. On another pool Silver Teal showed well as we listed Wren-like Rushbirds and Many-coloured Rush Tyrants. A Warbling Doridito was a new tick for me as it darted through the reeds. We eventaully found a hotel in the city only to discover we had been alocated a suite! Sheer luxury after all the camping we have done.








16th March

Paul was looking forward to visiting Costenera Sur a world-famous birding spot in the city of Buenos Aires. We have both been here before, me 12 years ago and Paul 7 years ago. How it has changed birding-wise, as two years of drought has made it almost birdless. It was a huge disappointment as we did the whole circuit around the park. We carried the scope all the way around for nothing, as the lagoons that years ago held so many birds, were all over-grown and birdless. With the exception of a Narrow-billed Woodcreeper and a few Red-gartered Coots, it turned out to be just good exercise in the sun as we walked a circular route around back to the car. Walking along the street edge, a few Black-necked Swans, a Coscoroba Swan, Ringed Teals and Great Kiskadees added to our daily list. Our last tick turned out to be a European Starling fighting its way amongst Feral Pigeons and Monk Parakeets on the pavement for offerings of food from people enjoying thier late lunches in the sun.

Cocoroba Swan









17th March











Casa Rosada- The Presendential Palace once famed for Eva Peron                                            Chalk-browed Mockingbird

and Madonna's rendition of 'Evita'

A wander in the city of Buenos Aires and we re-visited some of the city attractions that we had seen many years before. At the 'Pink Palace', officially the Presendial Palace of Casa Rosada famed for Eva Peron and where Madonna once crooned in the film 'Evita' we watched Chalk-browed Mockingbirds and Rufous-bellied Thrushes feeding on the gardens for food. At the Obelisk in the centre of the world's widest avenue Brown-chested Martins were flying overhead. We will be heading back to England tomorrow for a short break before heading off for the next part of our journey. I hope the weather will be as warm as it is here!

24th March

Back at home in Norfolk England to miserable weather and I've gone down with a cold! Frantically booking up hire cars and sorting out flight problems has left little time for birding but it was good to see John and Judy as we ventured onto Roydon Common. Inevitably as soon as we got onto common it started raining but it was good to see my first Northern Wheatear of the year. Meadow Pipits and finches were still in small flocks as we returned back down the hillside.

25th March

A short visit to Pentney produced 2 Little Ringed Plovers and a drive around Nar Valley Fisheries produced a Goosander amongst Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye.


4th April


After arriving on an over-night flight we were picked up and taken to a back-packers hostel. We were surprised how expensive it was for a hostel at £55 a night for a double room. We had chosen it because hotels here were even more and our budget was not going to go far here! After a shower we walked down through a nearby botanic gardens admiring all the roses out in bloom. One of our first birds was a Hartlaub’s Gull standing with a few others on the lawn. Red-eyed Doves were amongst the hundreds of Ferel Pigeons before we spotted a Cape White-eye up in a tree. A Hadada Ibis prodded the grass before pulling out an unfortunate worm.


Hartlaub's Gull






























                                      Hadada Ibis                                                               Paul in Cape Town with Table Mountain



We walked on down to the harbour where the cruise-line the Aurora was berthed ready for her re-positioning sail back up to the Northern Hemisphere for the summer. Dock fencing stopped us reaching the water’s edge and we returned to the park noting a House Crow and several Red-winged Starlings en-route. Back at the park Egyptian Geese were wandering around in the sun. It was fairly warm but the wind had now reached gale-force and we wished we had a vehicle to take us to a sea-watching point but that will have to wait for tomorrow.




5th April


After leaving the hostel in Cape Town we collected our camper van and after buying essential supplies did what all good tourists do and headed for the sewage treatment works! Here a vast array of pools added a few year ticks as well as one or two life ticks for us. Greater Flamingoes were in good numbers but we were delighted with the sighting of a Maccoa Duck. All the usual African ducks were present including Cape Teals. Off shore Cape Gannets and a Subantarctic Skua went by in the Gale-force wind.


Camper Van 'Deja Moo'















6th April


After spending the night on the cliff edge in our camper van we soon had breakfast and entered the Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain National Park. Within a few minutes we had seen a Cape Sugarbird frustratingly just a little too far for our cameras to reach. We soon added Orange-breasted Sunbird whilst overhead Rock Martins were making the most of the wind. After playing tourist on the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point we wandered down to one of the beaches where Southern Double-collared Sunbirds kept Malachite Sunbirds company feeding on the flowers. On the beach Kittlitz’s Plovers joined White-fronted Plovers and Three-banded Plovers running around.


Me at Cape of Good Hope







































Malachite Sunbird                                                                                        Southern Double-collared Sunbird


7th April


Starting on Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town South Africa we watched Jackass Penguins amongst peoples’ back gardens and on the rocks. It was rather a sad sight to see their habitat so squeezed out. The rest of the day was spent trying to find me a replacement pair of binoculars………a tale of woe ensues here too long to repeat. I was really upset to find I was going to have to spend the rest of my birding year without my own beloved binoculars.


Jackass Penguin


After some searching we found an acceptable pair of binoculars and set off up Table Mountain where we watched a family of Cape Francolins foraging high above the newly constructed Green Point World Cup Football Stadium overlooking Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent so many years incarcerated. A little further on Orange-breasted Sunbirds chased around the vegetation with Cape White-eyes.







8th April


Today was spent in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where Cape Batis, Swee Waxbill and a Spotted Eagle Owl were all seen as well as were many Souhern Double-collared Sunbirds. The gardens are beautiful with many Fynbos plants overlooking spectacular views of Cape Town.


9th April


















Cape Sugarbird



Cape Rock Thrush







Setting off eastwards we drove along the coast-line to Rooi Els where after walking about half a mile under the cliffs we spotted our target bird. Three Cape Rockjumpers gave good views as Cape Sugarbirds delighted us with their antics. Cape Rock Thrush also put on a good show. Motoring on to Betty's Point we visited another colony of Jackass Penguins.


10th April


After a night at Betty’s Bay we drove to the Henry Porter Botanical Garden where after an unwelcome encounter with Baboons trapping us up a dead-end pathway, we eventually escaped to walk up a cliff path where we saw a Victorin’s Scrub warbler. Orange-breasted Sunbirds were everywhere.



We motored on towards the Agulhas Plain Loop where Blue Cranes were feeding on the dry fields along with Capped Wheatears. Larks seemed to abound everywhere. Eventually we sorted out the Agulhas Long-billed Lark. Reaching the De Hoop Nature Reserve we spent the night besides the river after admiring the Cape Mountain Zebras.


Capped Wheatear
























11th April


Spending the day in De Hoop Nature Reserve we watched Pearl-breasted Swallows perched amongst many Barn Swallows. We searched in vain for Horus Swift but really enjoyed the huge white sand dunes next to the Indian Ocean all to ourselves, as the waves crashed down on the beach below us in the glorious hot sun. Life can really be a drag sometimes!!!!!!


Sue at De Hoop NR










































                           Karoo Bustard                                                                                    Cape Griffon Vulture

Motoring on to the other end of the park we admired Lanner Falcons and eight Cape Griffon Vultures soaring overhead. Cape Siskins fed on the ground amongst Eucalyptus trees before we admired Karoo and Denham’s Bustards in the surrounding fields as we left for Bontebok National Park where we spent the night.


12th April


Waking up in thick mist by the river we set off on a trail soon realising it was pointless. Returning to the camper we attended to a few chores before the sun came out. Very soon it was baking hot and we set out once again following a river trail. Common Waxbills accompanied a Bar-throated Apalis before we noticed an Acacia Pied Barbet tapping away on a dead tree. It was now 33 degrees and we returned to camp for a shower before setting off for a game-drive. Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebras were seen but not before we admired a pair of Southern Black Bustards. Further up the tack a Denham’s Bustard strutted his stuff but did not want his photo taken.













Leaving the park we drove on to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, where after pitching the camper we went for a stroll. I was glad of three small African lads who shooed the Baboons away for us as we made our way down the track whilst watching a Forest Canary. Two Olive Woodpeckers were seen within minutes, before we returned to camp for the night.

13th April


A disappointing day bird-wise as we failed to find any of our six target species. In fact with the exception of common birds around the campsite, the forest in the deep valley gorge was almost birdless after several hours of searching. It was a huge shame as the campsite was idyllic.


We motored eastwards to Mossel Bay where Kelp and Grey-headed Gulls adorned the beach. We sat and had lunch sea-watching before heading to the Swartberg Pass, an arid mountain pass.


14th April




















Cape Rockjumper








What a stunning place to wake up! The Swartberg Pass with its deep gorges either side of the pass made for wonderful scenery. We soon found the Protea Seedeater and headed further over the pass where Cape Rockjumpers and Ground Woodpeckers put on a good show. Three Klipspringers added to the scene as we headed down the u-bends down into the gorge, where after searching the arid scrub we found Fairy Warbler and Pririt Batis. Verreaux’s Eagles glided overhead before we admired a Rufous-vented Warbler.


After an afternoon sitting in a café eating jam scones and clotted cream we made our way back to the gorge where we spent the night parked up by the river totally surrounded by the massive cliffs of the gorge.


Sue and Paul at the top of the Swartberg Pass












15th April


Washing in the river gives a new meaning to rustic camping…….but what a scene, totally surrounded by the cliffs all to ourselves. We birded the Acacia scrub with Bokmakieries singing to us and a pair of Pririt Batis watching us before we played tourist and visited some huge limestone caves. They had impressive stalactites and stalagmites in them.


Moving on to Victoria Bay, south of George we wandered along the beach before locating Terestial Bulbul and the endemic Knysna Warbler. We were pleased to find the Knysna Warbler as this was the third site that we had tried for it.


16th April


After arriving at Wilderness National Park we spotted several Knysna Turacos in the campsite trees as we were paying at reception. This boded well for a good day. Making our way to a bird hide a Little Sparrowhawk was catching dragonflies as a pair of Cape Reed Warblers were sitting in the reeds. Outside the next hide a pair of Red-necked Spurfowl wandered by, before we watched an African Fish Eagle soar overhead amongst White-throated Swallows.












Knysna Turaco                                                                                          Red-necked Spurfowl


A walk in the woods produced a Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler before we had 3 Cape Eagle Owls sitting on telegraph wires as we made it back to camp.



White-throated Swallow



















17th April


Starting from the campsite in Wilderness NP we followed the river up a gorge where after using a pontoon across the river we saw a pair of Narina Trogans. On our return route a Chorister Robin-chat sat beautifully for me to admire it. However we saw little else for our 4 hours of effort. In the afternoon a walk in the ‘The Big Tree’ woods produced a Grey Cuckooshrike and an Eastern Black-headed Oriole.


18th April


After playing tourist in Knysna we drove to Nature Valley but not before we had a frustrating time trying to negotiate a road closure. En route a Rameron Pigeon was added to our list. We walked on the beach admiring all the Black Oystercatchers before finding the local pub!


19th April


We walked a forest trail and admired a Wood-hoopoe and a Blackbacked Puffback before heading to the beach and the pub again. This birding is thirsty work!


20th April


After seeking some local information we found another forest trail to try to find Knysna Woodpecker. At first it seemed hopeful as for once we could hear several birds calling. A Greenbacked Camaroptera showed as a Cape Batis flitted around with an African Crested -flycatcher. A Knysna Turaco flew as an Eastern Black-headed Oriole called. We traipsed up and down deep-sided valleys, jumped through streams following trees painted with yellow footprints all to no avail. After 8kms baboons caused a bit of a stir but we made it back to the camper van weary, but not a single sighting of Knysna Woodpecker. Grrrrr…..


Motoring on along the Cape coastline at Port Elizabeth we finally turned inland and headed north to Addo Elephant Park. This will be our few days on Safari watching the animals.


21st April






















Elephants                                                                                                                                                Bokmakerie
























Kudu                                                                                                                                           Black-backed Jackal


We took a day’s holiday today and treated ourselves to a Game Park Safari at Addo Elephant Reserve. We spent the day driving around the roads and tracks admiring the herds of African Elephants at close range as well as watching Kudu, Black-backed Jackals, Warthogs, Red Hartebeast, Burchell’s Zebras, Scub Hare, Yellow Mongoose, Meerkat, Buffalo, Eland, and Flightless Dung Beetles! Bokmakeries seemed to be everywhere In the evening at Camp some Vervet Monkeys played havoc with a Safari Tent stealing their candles while the rest of us laughed at their antics as they scurried over the tent roofs.


22nd April


As I emerged from enjoying my first cup of morning tea a Bushbuck came right up to me as he wandered through the camp. How I wished I was a bit quicker with my camera! We drove through the southern part of the park before leaving and heading northwards, finally arriving at Tussen-Die-Riviere Game Reserve just before dusk. However we did not make it inside as we were faced with a closed gate and were then approached by a local farmer who insisted that we stay with him at his farm.


23rd April


After waking we were fed a delicious breakfast and invited to spend the day with Gideon on his farm. This turned out to be a delight as he is a game breeder. Before we knew where we were, we were taken to a friend’s farm and were holding Lion Cubs! Even though they were only 2 months old they were very strong. After lunch Gideon drove us around his game farm where we watched Impala (including a rare black one), Lechwe, Waterbuck, Blesbok and Blue Wildebeast. In the evening we joined him and saw a Sable in a spotlight.


Me with a Lion Cub












24th April


After feeding us once again we said goodbye to Gideon, Jolena and boys, who had been so kind, taking us in and feeding and making us so welcome in their home.  We retraced our journey and drove to the Tussen-die Riviere Game Reserve. Eventually we found a duty warden who booked us in, but we were disappointed because we saw very few animals. We learnt that most of them are shot on the reserve. Not quite what we expected. However the views were spectacular of the two rivers we were overlooking, once Paul had relieved our camper van from getting stuck in the mud! Three Orange River Francolins peeped out from the long grass before running off before a Cinnamon-breasted Bunting perched on a nearby bush. We made camp for the night accompanied by two baby Warthogs running around us.


Tussen De Rivier









25th April


After finding Layard’s Warbler up against a rocky cliff we tried to leave the reserve from an entrance near to a town as we were short of fuel only to find the bridge had collapsed into the river. This meant an 18 inch deep river crossing to make or a 65km detour to make with little petrol left in the tank. We had no choice but to detour which was a nail biting journey to the nearest petrol pump! A Gymnogene flying through and 4 White Rhino were a nice distraction for a while. Luckily we made it to the filling station and missed our next destination altogether never finding the entrance to Oviston Nature Reserve. Luck was on our side however as we found a lovely camp site next to the Orange River where African Pied Wagtails kept me entertained in the sunlight.


26th April




























Black-shouldered Kite                                                                                                      Double-banded Courser


Pale Chanting Goshawk


We motored for most of the day only stopping to admire Northern Black Bustards and Double-banded Coursers as well as the delightful larks. With a ten year-old field guide we had fun and games with all the recent splits on the larks which will require some further study when I can get some internet access!! Black-shouldered Kites were perched on roadside telegraph posts as were Pale Chanting Goshawks as we travelled on.


Just before dusk we finally arrived at Kimberley where I hope to play tourist and find some diamonds lying around on the ground at the De Beers mine site tomorrow! All we could do at the campsite was to lie on the ground flat on our backs whilst Alpine, African Black, Bradfield’s and Little Swifts all mixed together as a Peregrine picked one off and de-feathered it in flight.












27th April


We had a difficult day as we tried to follow a trip report to a lake just north of Kimberley. After many false starts we finally accessed the lake where hundreds of Lesser Flamingoes were trying to breed. African Reed Warblers and Purple Gallinules added to the scene before we returned to Kimberley to access a local park for Kimberley and Long-tailed Pipits…..yet more splits…..oh how I love these grubby little brown jobs! We saw some Red-headed Finches and at Marrick Game Farm saw Black-faced Waxbill.


28th April


Today we visited the BIG HOLE diamond mine in Kimberley……..and no I didn’t find any diamonds!




















29th April


Drove to Witsand nature reserve, a long drive westwards.


30th April


Spent the day birding at Witsand. A lovely compact reserve that was full of birds. A Lilac-breasted Roller was a delight as always. We watched a Short-toed Rock Thrush, Kalahari Robin and a Red-crested Bustard before sitting in a ground-level hide and watching all the Double-banded Sandgrouse come in at dusk to drink. An amazing close view as we sat motionless in silence.



1st May


Staying an extra day because of the delightful reserve we added Karoo Chat and Karoo Robin to our lists. Ashy Tit was also seen as well as Abdim’s Stork. A Lilac-breasted Roller sat atop a bush as we made our way back to camp. At dusk we sat out another pool as 26 Double-banded Sandgrouse appeared, landing to drink before leaving in the dark. For those of you that have never been to Africa, when I say dark, I mean dark. There is no light pollution here on nature reserves.


Lilac-breasted Roller






















2nd May


Paul and I awoke to a grey day, a real change after yesterday’s hot sun. We walked around the pool where two Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills were perched up with a Vervet Monkey before two Gabar Goshawks also left the same tree as we approached. A Gonolek (Crimson-breasted Shrike) was a real bright beauty sitting low in a bush as we reluctantly bid the reserve goodbye.


We motored on the rough track for 70 kms noting a huge party of Namaqua Sandgrouse on a farmer’s pool beside the track. The desert dunes were covered in acacia scrub but this soon gave way to low sparse bushes where we noted Grey-backed Sparrow-larks and Spike-heeled Larks. A Lappet-faced Vulture was a surprise as was an African White-backed Vulture a little further on the track sat in the top of a thin bush.


African White-backed Vulture














3rd May

















The lonely roads!                                             Augrabies Falls                                               The Game Area at Augrabies Falls


Leaving Upington after managing to find some Wi-fi internet access, a rarity in South Africa, we motored westwards to Augrabies Falls National Park. Here the waterfalls are made when the Orange River forges its way through some granite rock making an 18km long gorge and associated waterfall. We played tourist for a while admiring the falls before setting off into the park. The park adjoins the Namibian border and the scenery is something out of a moonscape image, with huge rock outcrops and very little vegetation except Quiver trees and scrub.


Birds were hard to see in the searing heat but we tried our best with Karoo Long-billed Larks, Sabota Larks and Pale-winged Starlings. Three Karoo Bustards evaded our cameras as we put our camper van through streams and over rough tracks. Harteman’s Mountain Zebra, Kudu, Giraffe and Klipspringers all added to the scene before we made it back to camp at dusk just evading a fine for being late in!


4th May





















Giraffe                                                                                                                                  Cape Eagle Owl


After a quick breakfast we entered the game area of the Augrabies Falls National Park. It was to be a 100km circuit stopping off at various view points where we could overlook the gorge. Giraffes were the first animals we saw soon followed by a superb Cape Eagle Owl sitting atop a bush in the early morning light. On our journey round we admired a Pink-billed lark as well as an Eastern Clapper Lark. A Kori Bustard took flight as we approached before we also saw Southern Black Bustards. Oryx and Klipspringers abounded around the rocky terrain as we made our way out of the game area.


In the late afternoon we started our drive north-west towards the Namibian border.


5th May



Karoo Long-billed Lark



We camped at the side of a minor road near Pofadda and after buying some camping gas made our way very slowly up the rough track northwards. Eight Burchell’s Coursers were a delight to see as were Karoo Long-billed Larks before we crossed into Namibia over the Orange River border control. As usual it was the vehicle that caused problems. The camper was a hire vehicle and it took a while to find the correct documentation stored away in the vehicle. However it was all conducted in a very friendly manner and we eventually spent a sunny afternoon birding in Namibia.











Pygmy Falcon



Mountain Wheatear’s put on a good display as we surprised three Karoo Bustards by the rough road. Pygmy Falcons sat on bushes before we turned around and saw four Rosy-faced Lovebirds fly across in front of our camper van. A Lanner flew over us as we added common waterbirds to our fledgling Namibian list back by the river.


Crossing back over the border, after filling in identical forms again that we had only completed a few hours ago, they let us back into South Africa and we camped once more by the side of the road. Many of the rural roads are not surfaced and rather rough but are deserted at night-time.











 Velloorsdrif Namibia






















6th May


Leaving our roadside spot we went south of Pofadda onto an unsurfaced road where we followed Callan Cohen’s book on where to find Sclater’s Lark and Red lark. His directions were spot on as we managed to find both without too much trouble. However the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler caused us more trouble as this was the third site we had tried for it. After and hour’s search of a rocky mountainside we had located a pair of them close by us, perched up on a rock for us to admire.


We motored westwards discussing the vastness of nothingness of the landscape and reached Springbok by lunchtime.


7th May


We spent the morning at Goegap Nature Reserve which is a flower reserve for the Fynbos flowers. As it was autumn they were all dead! Such a shame as the pictures in the visitors’ centre looked a real show of colour. Never mind…… we saw more Gemsbok (Oryx) and surprised a Genet out of hiding when we were searching a rocky outcrop. We managed to add Southern Grey Tit to our list and Karoo Eremomela but failed to find Karoo Lark. However a Large-billed Lark showed well enough for a photo.


Large-billed Lark















8th May


We reached the coast again, this time just about as far North-west as possible in South Africa at Port Nolluth. Paul was determined to see all those grubby little brown jobs called larks hiding in the sand dunes amongst dead scrubby bushes. Most of the larks are recent splits and so with a 10 year-old field guide it was going to be fun! With extremely limited internet access for research, I managed to find out enough along with Callan Cohen’s excellent book to know what we were looking for. We trudged over the dunes and after several hours had ticked, Karoo, Barlow’s and Cape Long-billed Lark as well as Cape Penduline Tit. Oh what fun! There are some desolate places on this earth and boy is this one of them!


9th May


Camping right on the beach we did an early morning sea-watch where we saw a few White-chinned Petrels amongst the Swift Terns, Kelp Gulls and Cape Cormorants on the sea. One lone Cape Gannet drifted by. On the beach Turnstones and White-fronted Plovers were running around. On a salt pan behind the town of Port Nolluth an Avocet and a pair of Black-winged Stilts joined Greater Flamingoes and Cape Teals on the shallow water. Soon a sea mist called a halt to the days birding.


10th May



After leaving Port Nolluth we drove back inland to Gamoep, one of the best endemic sites in South Africa. We travelled many miles along unsurfaced roads where we had good views of Damara Canary, Red Lark, Sclater’s Lark and many Eastern Clapper Larks. We also saw Kori Bustard, Karoo Bustard and to our delight a Ludwig’s Bustard. A Karoo Eremomela performed well but escaped both our cameras. We parked up at Aardvark Kloof where a Fairy Warbler and Karoo Prinia kept us entertained whilst we ate our tea.



Karoo Prinia













11th May


We birded the kloof (dried up gorge consisting of scattered rocks) and saw several Fairy Warblers, Dusky Sunbirds and a Red Rock Rabbit. We spent several hours driving along the unsurfaced road until we reached a small dammed up river by a remote farm. Here we watched Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Plovers and yet more Fairy Warblers before examining Red-capped Larks, Damara Canaries, Cape Sparrows and Common Waxbills before finding the main N7 road again.


Motoring south on the N7 we turned inland and headed up the mountain pass to Calvinia where we found a campsite in the town for the night. In town the lights got left on in the van whilst it was parked and surprise, surprise we had a flat battery when we returned and a van that would not start! Luckily we were parked opposite a garage. After explaining our stupidity a man came running out with a battery and some jump leads!


Three-banded Plover











12th May


Today was going to be a difficult day as we had to travel over 400km from Calvinia on unsurfaced roads with no habitation or villages en-route to help with navigation. There are many unclassified roads in South Africa that seem to lead to absolutely nowhere and so it is important to measure each stage to the next junction in the hope that you get it right. Often signs have a name of one lone house that does not correspond with what you have on the map! With no petrol stations en-route, one error can leave you stranded petrol-less miles from home! (or campsite in our case). So it was always going to be nervous day, made even worse by lots of rain the day before making the going very muddy (we only have a 2 wheel-drive vehicle) and we set off in a heavy mist.



After two and a half hours of pure guesswork we arrived at the top of an escarpment. There was no hint in our travel that we were going to have the views that we did before we arrived and so I was delighted that we arrived at the right spot. Here we walked over the jumbled rocks where after examining a couple of Sabota Larks we found an African Rock Pipit, our target bird. We celebrated with a jam sandwich!



The journey down the pass was exhilarating as we bumped our way down over the rocky road and thanked our lucky stars that we were going down it and not up! A few Baboons jumped out of our way as we made it down to the basin below. After another 100km of travel back towards Calvinia we enjoyed 2 Karoo Bustards at the side of the road but little else except a few Red-capped Larks and Cape Sparrows. The terrain around these parts is so desolate! I breathed a sigh of relief as we made it back to camp where our camper was badly in need of a wash as it was almost unrecognisable as a vehicle!


Karoo Bustard











13th May


We birded the R27 north of Calvinia where we failed to see any birds of consequence, we also failed to find the pan of water that we expected. The area was certainly exceedingly dry! We cut our losses and drove south to Lambert’s Bay on the coast 200 kms North of Cape Town where we found accommodation in the form of a holiday flat where I could watch TV all evening (such a treat after all these months of travelling!) However this was not until after we watched several White-chinned Petrels pass by close inshore.


14th May


What a miserable day! Thick sea-mist and rain made birding difficult as we drove along tracks where we were lucky to see Cape Sparrows, Lesser Double-collared Sunbirds, Sacred Ibises and a lone Little Grebe swimming on a farm pond. The afternoon got worse as rain set in and we gave up birding for the day and retreated back to the flat.


15th May


We awoke to a lovely sunny day and made our way to the harbour where we were hoping to walk out to Bird Island. However the swell on the sea was too high and waves were coming over the harbour wall. On the estuary even the White Pelicans had taken refuge and were preening amongst Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. A Spotted Dikkop flew in to join them as Cape Longclaws bathed in a puddle.


We abandoned our plans and drove to Eland’s Bay where there is a huge inlet and a good marsh. Glossy and Sacred Ibises joined Cattle and Little Egrets as well as Purple and Grey Herons as we searched the reed edges. A Black Crake ran around as Cape Weavers and Common Waxbills fed on the seed heads. An African Marsh Harrier joined a Black-shouldered Kite before we added Verraux’s Eagle to our day list.



Cape Longclaw


































Southern Black Koraan                                                                                                 White-fronted Plover


On the beach we counted 40 Black Oystercatchers amongst the Kelp Gulls as White-fronted and Kittlitz Plovers ran around. On the return journey a Southern Black Koraan graced us with its presence by the side of the camper-van.


16th May



Down at Lambert’s Bay harbour we boarded a boat that took us out into the bay and into the swell of waves.  Besides my love of birds I love watching Cetaceans. Soon Heaviside’s Dolphins were swimming alongside our boat. We were fortunate in that we were the only fare-paying passengers on board and so had the dolphins all to ourselves as we moved around the boat failing miserably trying to take a decent picture of them!


Heaviside’s Dolphin























Later we walked out to Bird Island and saw the last of the season’s young Cape Gannets trying out their flight feathers ready for their first launch. Juvenile Swift Terns were also in attendance as were Cape Cormorants.



 Juvenile Cape Gannet


















After a delightful harbour-side lunch we drove to Velddrif where Paul located a few Chestnut-banded Plovers on the saltpans amongst the Black-winged Stilts. We ended the day with a stroll along the beach at Langebaan admiring all the Black Oystercatchers, White-fronted Plovers and Spotted Dikkops as the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.




Spotted Dikkop




















17th May



We managed to find four bird hides in The West Coast National Park, three of which overlooked an estuary. Near the first hide a family of Chestnut Titbabblers posed in a bush whilst at the second hide Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover and Terek Sandpiper added to our South African trip list. Greater Flamingoes and African Spoonbills were relatively close to the hide as we enjoyed the spectacle of lots of birds to observe. As the temperature increased we sought refuge in the restaurant’s garden and ordered a few beers whilst over-looking the estuary at the flamingos. This is the life………………. (no, we don’t feel at all guilty whilst the rest of the world works for a living!!!)



Chestnutvented Titbabbler













Passing a Karoo Robin at the fourth hide we admired a young family of Black-shouldered Kites perched in a small tree calling for the adult bird perched nearby.





Karoo Robin


















18th May



An African Pied Starling watched us as we left camp for a miserable day not finding any of our target species around the Darling Loop.




African Pied Starling















19th May






















Crowned Cormorant










Back in the West Coast National Park, I was thrilled to see a Caracal wander from out behind a bush and sit in the shade underneath other so that I could take a photograph of it. Birding-wise we failed miserably again. Do Cape Clapper Larks exist, I wonder? However, I did have a lovely wander on the beach where some Crowned Cormorants were sitting on the rocks.


20th May


Another search for Cape Clapper Lark at flower reserves near Darling resulted in nothing! However we found 48 Chestnut-banded Plovers on a salt pan at Yzerfontein!


21st May


Arriving in Simon's Town we sat at our campsite and watched 3 Antarctic Skuas over a fishing boat infront of a submarine!!! At Boulders Beach we watched a Jackass Penguin on the rocks.
















23rd May


A boat trip to Robben Island from Cape Town was arranged primarily to visit the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years as a political prisoner. En route we saw many Bank Cormorants on the harbour wall as well as Jackass Penguins in front of the bird hide at Robben Island. A surprise was a covey of Chukars that ran across the trackway near the harbour.


After we landed off the ferry we were herded into a tourist bus for a tour of the island before being taken into the prison where we were shown Nelson Mandela’s cell and those of other political prisoners. The written displays on the walls made for grim reading.


Nelson Mandela's Cell











Our ferry journey back to Cape Town produced a Southern Skua and a Cape Gannet before we sat down at a waterfront café to have a fish and chip supper only to have a piece of fish stolen by a Hartlub’s Gull!!!!













Jackass Penguins Robben Island                                                   View of Table Mountain from the ferry to Robben Island


24th May


The afternoon was spent back at the sewage works in Cape Town as we had missed African Bush Warbler on our first visit when we arrived 7 weeks ago. Today was different as it eventually gave itself up after we had staked it out for sometime after listening to it hiding in the reeds! We were amazed at how the numbers of ducks and grebes had swelled since our last visit.


25th May


We drove to Sir Lowry’s Pass and walked one of the trackways where Orange-breasted Sunbirds showed well along with Cape Sugarbirds and a Cape Grassbird. A Black Harrier flew by as 2 White-necked Ravens flew over us. Driving on down to Cape Agulhas, South Africa’s southern-most point we passed many Blue Cranes in the fields.


Sue at Cape Aghulhas
















26th May


This was meant to be a chill-out day from our birding but we found ourselves staring out to sea at Cape Agulhas. Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters were passing by. Paul managed to pick out a couple of Black-browed Albatrosses. After a while I delved into my book about a chap cycling around the whole of Africa…………now there’s a thought!................keep dreaming Sue………….how I wish I was 30 years younger!


27th May


We drove back to De Hoop at Potberg to have one last chance at finding Knysna Woodpecker. We wandered in suitable habitat for 5 hours and found a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers and an Olive Woodpecker but not a single Knysna. A Lesser Honeyguide added to our trip list and it was nice to see Blue Cranes and Stanley Bustards close by en-route but do Knysna Woodpeckers exist? We don’t think they do!    Grrrr……………!


Back at Cape Aghulas the wind had picked up and we watched Black-browed Albatrosses amongst White-chinned Petrels and Cape Gannets.


Stanley Bustard
















28th May


The wind had howled overnight and the rain showers were sweeping through Cape Agulhas making for some huge swell on the sea, so it was no surprise to us that our chartered pelagic trip was cancelled. This was a huge disappointment to us as this was to be our last opportunity at getting out on the sea for Shy Albatross.


We spent the day sea-watching from the shore as many Black-browed Albatrosses poured by amongst Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels and in the afternoon Paul picked out 3 Southern Giant Petrels.


29th May


We drove back to Simon's Town via Sir Lowry's Pass where the best bird on view was a Cape Sugarbird. We solicited some help from Marje in the Birding Africa office who gave us a site for a roosting Wood Owl in Cape Town but other than seeing the ADT security car a few times we saw little else. However I would like to thank her and Callan Cohen's brilliant book on all the help that they have given us on finding many of our target species that we did not see on our first visit to South Africa many years ago.


30th May


For our last full day of birding in South Africa we drove to The Cape of Good Hope where after several hours of examining Black-browed Albatrosses passing by we eventually picked out a Shy Abatross. The birding was amazing with so many seabirds on view. Let's hope our next venture to Vietnam will be as exciting!





3rd June

Arriving in Hong Kong having been in the air or in transit we arrived extremely blurry-eyed and it is a wonder we saw any birds at all. Our first discovery was that our luggage was not on the conveyor belt as we arrived. We had had fun and games at the boarding gate at Johannesburg as we were accused of being over-weight (the bags not us!!). With the number of field-guides (and Rough-guides to countries) it was hardly surprising. We argued our case (as we have a round-the world ticket with a generous allowance) and won and supposed they would re-load our bags after off-loading them. However even though they said we would have to re-connect with them at Hong Kong they were not on the conveyor belt. With an hour's wait while the airline searched for them luckily the said they found them and said they would store and put them on the Hanoi flight! We await with great anticipation!

That sorted we found a trolley for our heavy camera bags and took it for a walk around the airport environs amid some amusement from on-lookers and added 5 birds to our list. A noisy Long-tailed Shrike called as a pair of Hill Mynas built a nest in an over-hanging canopy. Thre Red-whiskered Bulbuls were looking funky as many Tree Sparrows hid in the grass on various roundabouts. Our trolley was not keen on hill climbs up banks and so we returned to the airport but not before we added a Chinese Bulbul to our list of 5 in Hong Kong.

4th June


After being picked up at Hanoi Airport with our luggage last night (hurray!) and taken to a hotel, we were transported to Cuc Phuong but not before we had sampled the delights of the streets of Hanoi early in the morning. The market stalls were crammed full of edible goods, including tiny crabs and maggots amongst plucked chickens and ducks still with their heads on. It was a wonder we survived our walk as thousands of motorbikes were everywhere.


Motorbike mania


Journeying 120km south admiring all the paddy fields as we went, we spotted not a single bird that was not destined for the pot. Cuc Phuong National Park is set amongst a limestone mountain range covered with a tropical forest. The humidity level is very high and we were soon feeling the effects by the time we arrived at lunchtime. In the afternoon we followed a trail where we watched an Ashy Drongo chase a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. A Rufous-throated Fulvetta lurked in the undergrowth as a Red-collared Woodpecker stopped just long enough to be identified. Two Sultan Tits were feeding a youngster as a Maroon Oriole flitted about above us.


5th June


We had pre-booked accommodation at Cuc Phuong inside the park and although basic the bungalow was better that some forest/jungle accommodation that we have experienced in the past. We were even treated to electricity for 4 hours in the evening and hot showers. We had pre-booked one of the park rangers (Tien) to show us around for the days that we were going to stay here.


Bungalow at Cuc Phong NP


We walked the Loop and Valley trails where we enjoyed several Babblers, including: Rufous-capped, Puff-throated, Grey-throated and Buff-breasted before admiring a Mountain Hawk-eagle and a Crested Serpent Eagle soaring overhead. Jungle birding is always difficult as vegetation obscures calling birds and it was often difficult to locate birds that we knew were close by. Hainan Blue-flycatcher put in a good performance as we worked hard before we finally saw Greater Yellownape (Woodpecker) associating with Greater Racket-tailed and Ashy Drongos.








6th June


Up and out by 5am we walked stealthily along the Loop trail and admired a Rufous-naped Pitta feeding behind a clump of ferns. We hoped it would come out from behind them but our luck was not with us and it simply disappeared into thin air! A few minutes later a Blue-rumped Pitta ran across the path right in front of us but that too could not be re-located. Our day continued as a pair of Red-headed Trogans flitted in trees above us as a small flock of White-bellied Yuhinias called noisily beside us. Our guide Tien recognised the call of Ratchet-tailed Treepies and we soon watched 4 birds in the top of the canopy before they flew out of sight. After returning for breakfast at the small outdoor restaurant where the food is very cheap we proceeded up another trail where the birding was very slow. The only bird we saw well was an Asian Paradise Flycatcher. An early lunch was called for in the hope that the birds would wake up!


View from our bungalow at Cuc Phong NP







After a bowl of noodle soup (eaten with chopsticks!) we returned to the Valley Trail where White-winged Magpies flew around the trees just as a Crested Goshawk circled above us. Birding was again slow, but we added a Fork-tailed Sunbird to our trip list.


7th June

With a 5am start we walked up the Loop Trail again without seeing a single pitta, but on the entrance road a Bar-bellied Pitta called and perched up on a rock amongst the dense vegetation just long enough for us to see it before it hopped down. A Green-billed Malkoha perched high up in a tree before we returned for some breakfast and arranged a taxi to take us 20km back to the reception accommodation area to give us a new birding location. By the time we were sorted it was 32 degrees with a high humidity and we resolved to have some lunch before visiting the world renowned Primate Rescue Centre.


In the centre gibbons had been confiscated from hunters and were being rehabilitated for eventual release back into the wild or endangered species were part of a breeding programme, several of which were endemic to Vietnam. They were certainly beautiful creatures. Our walk to and from the centre was productive with a Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Grey-eyed and Sooty-headed Bulbuls and Oriental Magpie-robins on view. A Thick-billed Green-pigeon and Ashy Woodswallows all added to the scene as we sat and enjoyed a cool drink in the now searing heat and humidity. A walk into the botanical gardens added Racket-tailed Treepie, Asian Palm-swift and a Grey-capped Woodpecker.


8th June


After an early morning walk we were met and taken by taxi to Tam Dao, 80 kms north of Hanoi. It was 37 degrees and very humid. Once we were settled into our hotel we had a language problem as we could not find the start of the trail up to the TV mast at the top of the mountain. After a few false starts we found it. It was a steep climb throuth dense vegetation and we saw..............nothing! Back down at the bottom Black Bulbuls were chasing about but little else.


Tam Dao









9th June


I was not looking forward to another steep climb up to the TV mast in the humidity but sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. Luckily because it was early morning it was stil relatively cool. Nearing the start of the trail we looked into a litter-strewn ditch and there in front of us was a Spotted Forktail! It is such a lovely bird and a must-see for those keen on Asian birds. I have seen one before in Kathmandu, Nepal but it is a bird you never tire of. It soon disappeared and we started our climb. Before long clothes were sticking to us in the humidity and as we sat on the steps for a breather a small flock of Black-chinned Yuhinas appeared. We climbed up again and saw...........nothing more! Once down the steps the forktail reappeared and we followed it up the steep vegetated stream where a Silver-eared Mesia was bathing.


Unfortunately I spent the rest of the day on my bed struck down with another migraine.......................curses!


10th June


After a good night's sleep I felt a lot better and Paul and I found another trail in Tam Dao that went up behind the old church into the forest. This was a much better trail as it had a track and gave us views down the mountainside as well as vegetation that we could peer into. Soon we had a Black-throated Laughingthrush and a Fire-breasted Flowerpecker to watch as well as a family party of Striated Yuhinas. The mist was really thick this morning and swirling around us making viewing very difficult on occasions. A Golden Babbler and a Grey-cheeked Fulvetta were added to our trip list before we returned to the hotel. I will have to stop now as the mist has returned as I am composing this on a hotel balcony this evening and I can barely see!


11th June


We drove back to Hanoi and boarded a flight to Hue. Our driver took us to Phong Nha National Park where we stayed the night amongst lots of Eurasian Tree Sparrows!


Paul and Vo (our driver) with our evening meal of shrimps, bind weed in water, rice and other dishes which we did not determine!















12th June


A pre-booked bird guide failed to show up and after wasting an hour trying to find a park employee, our driver took us into the park with the employeee who spent the entire time picking his nose! Not a good start! we ventured into the wood the employee directed us to and saw nothing. After some discussion we motored up further into the park where a Black-eare Kite and a Besra gave good views as well as a Black Eagle. Fork-tailed Swifts zoomed around overhead as we broke for lunch in a wooden hut for noodle soup. I don't think it would have passed many health and safety inspections as the bench was perched precariously high above a cliff above the road and as for cleanliness.............well I won't go there...............(especially with the park employee picking his nose throughout our meal!)


Blue-throated Bee-eater














Later in the day we admired a Blue-throated Bee-eater, Oriental Magpie Robin and an Oriental Pipit sat on the wires.

Awalk along the river produced a Strip-throated Bulbul and a Red-collared Dove.











Oriental Magpie Robin                                                                                               Oriental Pipit



Paul at Phong Nha



















13th June


A long drive from Phong Nha, where we wished we had had another day as there are some wonderful caves to be seen here, to Bach Ma, resulted in only 2 more additions to our trip list. These were White-breasted Kingfisher and Large-billed Crow. I had had a bad night with a migraine and was not well on the dive and was disappointed to find the electricity was off (a common occurrence in Vietnam) meaning no air-conditioning in our room. The searing heat and humidity made me feel very unwell as thunder and lightning raged above the mountain at Bach Ma. Soon we had a deluge but it was short lived and Paul managed some birding as I nursed my head!


14th June


Expecting to have a good day at Bach Ma we were instantly let down by the non-arrival of the bird guide we had booked. The road to the summit was closed to all visitors for re-construction and only the lower pheasant trail was open. Our driver started to proceed up the steep hill until the radiator boiled over! A steep uphill walk in searing heat is not what I enjoy! We eventually found the start of the pheasant trail an hour and a half late, which proved to be far too late as we only saw Black-headed Bulbul and Buff-breasted Babbler. After a two hour hike down the trail and back down the hill with the poorly car for part of the way, our day was in ruins. We failed to see any of the pheasants and partridge that we had hoped to see.


Later in the day a walk around the tracks produced Masked Laughing Thrush, Vinous-breasted Starlings and a few Alexandrine Parakeets.


Vietnam is not the best place to see the world cup as electricity is severely rationed. It is anybodies guess when it will/will not be on! When it is switched on it often goes off again at least a dozen times in an evening! At the moment we reckon it seems to be available on alternate days for a few hours in the evening!!!


15th June


We were picked up from Bach Ma and taken to Danang airport. After an hour's flight we arrived in Ho hi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Here the nightmare of travelling began. Our driver met us and how he coped with the traffic I do not know. There were motorbikes everywhere, thousands of them. It took us 8 hours to cover 300kms to Da Lat. I don't think we were free of habitation or motorbikes and lorries at any stage of our journey. The motorbikes just charge out onto the roads from paths, side-roads and go in any direction they fancy with or against the flow of traffic. I saw an Indian Roller on a telegraph wire before being badly upset at a motorbike carrying several cages of wild birds on the back of it. One cage of parakeets had a dead one in the bottom of it.


16th June


Our drivertook us to Ta Nung Valley at first light and for once there were lots of birds to see. A White-throated Fantail and a Black-headed Sibia were added to the trip list before a Grey-crowned Crocias made our day. Later we played at Datanla Falls by going down the roller-coaster slides on some sort of sledge after watching a Black-browed Barbet just above the waterfalls. At lunch we watched House Swifts nesting in a house as we sat at a restaurant.


In the afternoon our driver took us to Ho Tuyen Lam Reservoir where we saw Vietnamese Greenfinch and Chestnut-vented Nuthatch. I was pleased with a few sightings of Burmese Shrike. 


17th June


Taking the Russian Jeep to the top of Lang Biang Mountain we birded our way down. After the dearth of birds at Bach Ma we were met with a big mixed flock of birds and only managed to sort a few out as they came too quickly for us to identify them all properly. However a Grey Bushchat, Black-throated Tit, Little Pied Flycatcher and Eastern-crowned Warbler caught our eye. A Golden-throated Barbet called as Eurasian Jays flew around. All too soon we found ourselves at the bottom and re-visited Ho Tuyen Reservoir where a Chest-capped Babbler family showed well.


Chestnut-capped Babbler


A Red Crossbill was a surprise as I went looking for a Black-naped Oriole that was calling up the hill in the trees. I also admired an Indochinese Cuckooshrike.









I have always hated little but I was astounded by this can on the pathway.



Bird's Nest drink anyone?


No wonder we are having difficulty finding birds!















Paul went wandering whilst I took a few photos (or tried to) of a Burmese Shrike lurking nearby.


Burmese Shrike






















When Paul returned from his wanderings we stopped for a beer by the lake as a Spotted Dove dropped by us. I was also taken by the different rowing method by the chap in the boat as it went by!











            Spotted Dove                                                                                                 Rowing with the feet!

We finished our day with another quick visit to Ta Nung Valley where a Mountain Imperial Pigeon flew through.

18th June

At first light we started at Ho Tuyen Lam reservoir where Paul had some information on a good trail to use. He had met some Dutch birders yesterday who gave him a good spot for birds. So in great anticipation we crossed several streams and followed the elephant dung!!!! After finding an elephant and carrying on further, whilst a pair of Common Flameback tapped away above our heads, we watched a Streaked Spiderhunter in our quest for the site. All of a sudden I was brought to a halt as Paul had stepped on a snake and it wasn't very happy! Eventually it wriggled away and I added Flavescent Bulbul to the trip list.

Ho Tuyen Reservoir

Eventually we found the clearing and watched Blue-winged Minlas (with black and brown wings!!!) and a Brown-throated Treecreeper. Blyth's Leaf Warblers and Easter-crowned Warblers added to the scene as well as a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker.

We walked back admiring Slender-billed Orioles and after a few beers our driver took us to Lang Biang. However when we arrived the heavens opened with torrential rain and no birding was achieved for the rest of the day.

19th June

Starting at Lang Biang at 5am we paid for a Russian Jeep to take us up the mountain to the start of the trail.A Barred Cuckoo Dove gave us the run-around in the early morning light as we tried to position ourselves for a better identifiction place. It all seemed very quiet until a small flock appeared containing a pair of Gould's Sunbirds and a Streaked Scimitar-babbler. A Buff-throated Warbler appeared with several other warblers that were simply too quick for us to identify with any degree of certainty. On our journey back down the mountain a Whit-tailed Robin gave good views before we descended ito mayhem. Many coaches had turned up at this popular tourist spot and by 9am thousands of people we queuing up to transport them to the top of the mountain.

We eventually escaped and drove to De Lihn where after checking into our hotel,we birded Deo Nui San about an hours drive up a nearby mountain where some trees have escaped the general de-forestation taking place. Asia is extremely crowded and the pressure on the land for food production is nearing crisis point. As soon as we arrived the heaven's opened and even with a rapidly purchased pac-a-mac we had to take refuge back in the vehicle. It certainly knows how to rain in the tropics! Soon the road was awash but after an hour we managed some birding before the next storm arrived. A family party of Mountain Fulvettas were very noisy as were several Cutias high up in the trees above us.

Back at our hotel we had another bathroom awash with water. It seems to be the policy here to shower down everything in sight as there is no designated shower cubicle and water runs everywhere. Oh well more paddling!

20th June

After breakfast we were taken to Deo Nui San where we expected it to be 'birdy' in the early morning slot up in the forest. Unfortunately it was not to be and with the exception of more Mountain Fulvettas and a pair of Puff-throated Babblers we struggled to find any birds at all. Flavescent Bulbuls were noisy as we searched in vain.

Sometimes you get distracted by other sightings and being in the tropics there are always a lot of spiders to entertain you, especially big ones! This one was about 5 inches across!

We carried on along the road always with a seemingly endless stream of motorbikes going by. They are impossible to avoid in Vietnam. Around the next bend 6 motrorbikes had stopped and several men were tramping through the undergrowth when all of a sudden they flushed out a Bar-backed Partridge.



Flavescent Bulbul                                                               Spider (species anyone?)

It was obviously frightened and flew straight into a cliff at the side of the road where I just managed to get a record shot before it disappeared into the vegetation.

Bar-backed Partridge

After lunch we chanced upon a big flock of birds and it was difficult to note them all but we added Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black and Buff Woodpecker, Speckled Piculet and Bronzed Drongo to our trip list as well as Yellow-vented Pigeon.

Our driver managed to find us a restaurant serving some western-type meals which we enjoyed as believe me you soon get all 'rice and noodled out'. The food here is very cheap and we can usually get a meal for the 2 of us with a couple of beers for just over £5.

21st June

Starting at first light at around 5.30am we were disappointed to find it raining at the top of Deo Nui San. We sat in the car for several hours but had to abandon all hope of birding as the rain just got heavier and heavier. Eventually our driver drove us to Cat Tien National Park, three hours away where we had to get on a boat to access the park across a wide river. We said goodbye to our driver and settled into our accommodation at the park headquarters. We met up with the park's bird guide who oraganised transport for us for the next four days and outlined a suggested itinerary for us.

We set off along a pathway after leaving the guide and I surprised an Asian barred Owlett sat close by on a horizontal branch. It took one look at me and flew off! Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters were a joy to watch as was a Lineated Barbet. All of a sudden we were confronted by a sight that had me whooping for joy as there on a nearby branch was a Blue-winged Pitta in all its glory. We could not believe our luck as it sat and called as another one flew behind us! Absolutely fantastic. I could not have done better with a full range of colours in my paint box!

22nd June

We met up with our guide who was to show us the birding tracks and forest trails of Cat Tien National Park over the next 4 days. We had not walked far before we spotted an Oriental Pied Hornbill waiting for its breakfast at the staff accommodation. A Ruby-cheeked Sunbird joined a melee of Barbets, including Blue-eared, Coppersmith, Green-eared and Lineated. We were dressed in our Leech Socks but they seemed to be more useful against the thousands of ants we encountered. It was extremely humid and I was pleased when we found some shade in the forest. A Collared Falconet was good to see before we entered a forest trail where we taped out a Scaly-crowned Babbler.

The afternoon was spent in a jeep so that we could see over the high grassland where we saw Green Imperial Pigeon and Pompadour Pigeon. A Green Peafowl was strolling through the grass with its beautiful headress. A nightdrive produced a Leapoard Cat and a few Large-tailed Nightjars.

Sue and Paul in amongst the roots of a forest tree with leech socks protecting us from the thousands of ants!






23rd June

Boarding the jeep, we drove to the start of the 5km trail to Crocodile Lake. This was going to be something of an ordeal as we became infested with leeches as soon as we started the trail, despite wearing leech socks and leech repellent. I was the first to suffer, as extracting one from my leg left me bleeding for half an hour before Paul succumbed to two leeches on his stomach. Some rapid shirt tucking-in took place before our guide kindly extracted leeches from our clothing and smeared yet more repellent on us. However it was all worth it as 2 km later down the trail we had stunning views of Bar-bellied Pitta hopping around on the path. We were so entranced we stood transfixed.

We added Black and Red Broadbill to our early morning list as well as Blue-winged Leafbird. It was not long after the pitta experience that we had a Siamese Fireback (Pheasant) stroll across the pathway. Onve we arrived at the lake we watched Asian Golden Weavers as an Osprey drifted over. It was 31 degees with 81% humidity. Purple Gallinules and Bronze-winged Jacanas graced the edges before we made our way back to the jeep along the infested leech trail. I cannot begin to tell you where we found leeches once we stripped off for a shower on arrival at our room!


Pitta Alley (yes you have to imagine a Bar-bellied Pitta hopping around here!)















Paul birding hard as usual!                                                                            Blue-naped Monarch on its nest

24th June

A lazy day today in that we spent most of the day birding from the back of a jeep with a few strolls down the track when we felt like hopping off now and then to view birds. Abbott's Babbler was tape-lured out as was Banded Broadbill. Down by the river a Banded Kingfisher sat above our heads near the rapids at Cat Tien. We had a lucky sighting of Germain's Peacock Pheasant as it strolled across the road just as we were about to turn around and head back to the HQ.

I actually wonder if I am going to get this published as the electricity keeps going off and on (a common occurrence here!) It has gone off twice now in the last few minutes. A huge cockroach has also just crawled across the floor. All good fun in the jungle!


Besides the Leeches, beware of Scorpians on the trails!






25th June

Starting our last day of birding in Vietnam we walked the trail aound the HQ at Cat Tien NP. A Lesser Yellownape (woodpecker) called above our heads before we admired a party of White-crested Laughing Thrushes. They really make a noise that is difficult to ignore.











                               Paul in our canoe                                                                              The jetty at Cat Tien NP

After 2 hours we boarded a motorised canoe that took us down the river. What a lovely way to birdwatch! A Stork-billed Kingfisher was added to the trip list along with Pied and White-breasted Kingfishers that also graced the riverside.  A Cinnamon Bittern flew across the river as we returned to the jetty. Once back at HQ we found a Little Spiderhunter sat on the tiles, we presume having bashed itself against a window.

Little Spiderhunter

In the afternoon we drove along a forest track and were surprised by 3 Great Hornbills. They were huge! A Crested Serpent-eagle sat in a tree close by for us to admire. A Vernal Hanging Parrot was our final new bird for Vietnam before nightfall. Tomorrow we fly to Cambodia!




26th June

We jumped into the ferry to cross the river at Cat Tien and our driver took us to Saigon to catch the flight to Cambodia. We were met at the airport for our little treat for ourselves and taken to a 4 star hotel where we happily jumped into the hotel swimming pool to cool off in the 34 degree heat. After something to eat  and a quick game of table tennis we were taken to one of the temples that Siem Reap is famous for.

27th June

After a delicious breakfast (no not noodle soup!) our tour guide took us to a few temples before showing us Angkor Wat Temple. The temples are amazing and Angkor Wat Temple was much bigger than I was expecting. Many of the temples have been hacked out of the jungle that has done its best to envelop them.

Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Thick-billed Green Pigeons were making the most of the fruit at the top of the trees that surrounded the temples as a Greater Coucal flew through. On the moat Oriental Darters were fishing as Common Mynas were feeding on the grass. By lunch time the heat was too much for me and we reatreated to the hotel which was just as well as the heavens opened with a tropical downpour.



28th June

Walking through Siem Reap village we watched Ashy Woodswallows and Asian Palm Swifts above the local houses where rice was still being planted by hand. Common Mynas and Vinous-breasted Starlings joined Eurasian Tree Sparrows wandering around the ground. We had arranged with a tour-guide to be taken on a boat ride to Boeng Tonle Sap Lake where we were to visit a floating village.


A typical Cambodian village house                                                Rice planting by hand

We boarded the boat and were taken 6 kms down a river channel to the lake where one and a half million people live on floating houses in different villages. We passed a floating school and a floating church! We were amazed at some of the sight that we saw.











Boeng Tonle Sap floating village                                                                      Boeng Tonle Sap village school

Above us Painted Storks flew as did Large-billed Crows as we made our way back to Siem Reap.

29th June


Paul and I were picked up from our hotel by Sang Mony ([email protected] ) and driven to Ang Tropaeng Thmor reservoir which is a marvellous wetland site 2 hours from Siem Reap, where we saw Painted Stork, Milky Stork and Asian Openbill Stork. It was exceedingly hot once again as we watched Oriental Pratincoles fly all around us. It was still early morning and Black Bitterns were joining Yellow Bitterns emerging from the rice paddy fields. We worked our way through the abundant Painted Storks and located just a few Milky Storks before we watched a flooded paddy field where a Watercock flew across with a Cinnamon Bittern. Comb Ducks and Spot-billed Ducks joined the numerous Lesser Whistling Ducks on the receding water-levels of the reservoir.














Milky Storks amongst Painted Storks


Paul at Ang Tropaeng Thmor Reservoir






Back at the wildlife centre we were fed a lovely meal before being invited for a lunch-time nap in the searing heat in the middle of the day. After being woken up we watched Baya Weavers nest building and Little Green Bee-eaters catching insects. On our way back to Siem Reap we added Blue-tailed Bee-eater as well as a Barn Swallow to our Cambodian list.


30th June


My Birthday! After a full body massage Paul and I took a Tuk Tuk to see the delights of Siem Reap and have lunch. Back at the hotel we observed a Yellow-vented Bulbul as we swam in the hotel's swimming pool. We fly to Thailand tomorrow!




Sue and Paul in a Tuk Tuk!



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