Having had a very late night and not getting to bed until 2am I was rather late in waking up and was rather tardy at getting out for the usual runaround Norfolk year-listing. I paid the penalty for my late start by missing the Lesser White-fronted Goose at Buckenham by a matter of minutes. However a few Taiga Bean Geese were present along with many Wigeon, as well as Barnacle, Greylag and Canada Geese. I year-ticked Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and 2 Peregrines that sat motionless the whole time I was there. Good numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover were present before I moved onto Cantley where there were White-fronted Geese.
On my way to work I stopped off at Choseley where a flock of Fieldfare had a Redwing, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and a few Chaffinches amongst them. At Titchwell I managed to see the Coue's Arctic Redpoll before I started work. It was amongst several Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinches. As I walked to the carpark to set up my recruitment table, I nipped into the picnic area where two Mealy Redpolls were busy feeding. A Goldcrest busied itself above my head later in the morning as I was talking to visitors.
As it was a day off I decided to head for Cley even though the weather forecast was poor. I was glad of all my waterproof gear as once in Dauke's Hide the rain went to a horizontal position as a massive storm raged all around. It was impossible to see anything out of the hides for a while. However after a game of patience someone re-located the Western Sandpiper for us all to see. As I was birding without my normal scope, as Paul currently has mine in Thailand, I struggled to see through my old scope and was thankful to the birder next to me that allowed me to look through his. There were many Dunlin scattered all around the scrapes as well as a good number of Black-tailed Godwits. The Avocets were all hunkered down as the squalls went through. We all felt sorry for the birds having to endure the appalling conditions. A few Barnacle Geese flew in with a Ross's Goose amongst them. Goodness knows what the origins of these birds are!
After a cup of tea kindly bought by David Severn for me at the Visitors' Centre I made my way to Salthouse where I was blown along the shingle admiring the tenacity of the Turnstones as they fed in the pools. Back at the Coastguards at Cley I joined Richard, my RSPB colleague and we watched a couple of Red-throated Divers and Guillemots fly past. We also watched as 2 Bewick's Swans flew by.
As I headed for Titchwell a Bullfinch added to my yearlist as I headed out of Roydon. Once on the reserve I spotted a Greater Scaup on Bett's Pool as I walked down the West Path. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was freshening itself up on the Freshmarsh as I searched for the reported Mandarin Duck. After a quick word with Zoe and Nat who do a fantastic amount of work on the reserve as volunteers I headed for Parrinder Hide where Ray already had the Mandarin Duck lined up in his scope for me. A Goosander flew over my head as I made my way down to the sea, where after watching a few Red-throated Divers, I made my way back up a now blustery wind-blown pathway to the Visitors' Centre, where I warmed myself up in the staffroom at Titchwell.
I stopped off at Wolferton where 2 male Golden Pheasants were feeding in a clearing near the Scissors Crossroads.
At Roydon Common two Hen Harriers were pure delight to watch as they interacted with each other in the sky.
I was doing a day's supply teaching at my old school when I got called out to the playground at lunchtime to rescue a Blackbird that was all tangled up in some fine mesh in a Cotoneaster bush. It took a while to get into the bush. Luckily I had had the foresight to take a pair of scissors with me to cut the bird out. I took the bird into the staffroom where Gill helped me to cut the remaining mesh off its foot and leg. After it was done I released the Blackbird back outside and it flew away no worse for its adventure.
On my way to see my friend Jill, who was poorly I saw a Tawny Owl fly out of the woods at Sandringham.
Snow Bunting Knot in the setting sun
Jill and I had a late walk down to Snettisham beach that coincided with an incoming tide. On the tideline a Snow Bunting was busy feeding. We walked to near the tide edge where thousands of Knot were swirling around as they were gathering from being pushed off the mud before settling down in front of us. It was an amazing sight as we looked in awe of the beauty of it all against a setting sun.
After a busy morning of booking our next holiday I set out for Fakenham to try once again to see the Great Grey Shrike this year with the hope of taking a photo of it. I stopped off near Flitcham where I saw six Tree Sparrows in a back garden all chirping away. Once in Fakenham although I saw the Great Grey Shrike, it was even more distant than it had been last time I visited. So I still don't have a photo of it!
I walked along the old railwayline at Hempton and discovered that I had to develop some leaping skills as a digger has dug a great big trench that is now water-filled, almost blocking my access to the pathway. However except for a tit flock I saw very little and drove back to Flitcham where in the gloom I saw 3 Common Buzzards and a Red-legged Partridge climbing a tree!
I had just pulled out of my driveway to drive to work when I glanced left to see a male Sparrowhawk sat on a neighbour's gateway. After Bircham, a skein of Pink-footed Geese were leaving the roost and heading for their feeding grounds for the day. Just past Docking a Common Buzzard sat in a hedgeline as I dodged several Blackbirds flying low in front of my car as I made my way to Titchwell, where I met a delightful couple who read my diary.
There are birding days that you have that just do not go well, and this was certainly one of them! I drove to Barnham Broom where after stopping en-route just east of Swaffham I did not see the reported Hooded Crow. I picked up John and Judy and continued to Buckenham where on all other recent days a Lesser White-fronted Goose has been. We walked across the railway line and saw almost nothing except for a few very distant White-fronted Geese. We waited in vain before deciding to go to Ranworth where after grilling hundreds of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard and a lone Goldeneye failed to find the female Ring-necked Duck. A Marsh Tit and a Siskin were noted in amongst a tit flock.
We decided to go to Cantley where upon arrival we were told that the Lesser White-fronted Goose had just flown towards Buckenham. We had a quick look at the Bean Geese and drove back to Buckenham where despite our best efforts and various tales from birders there was no arrival of the bird. A Peregrine and a Merlin were the only birds of note.
My day was spent trying to hunt down a wedding outfit for my son's wedding but I did manage to see the big flock of Lapland Buntings at Burnham Overy.
A Barn Owl was hunting over Thornham Marsh as I was showing a customer a telescope at Titchwell.
After getting rid of the ice on my car I traipsed my way over to Buckenham once again! I stepped out of the car and asked a birder about the White-fronted Goose. Within five minutes I was watching the goose stepping out of the ditch in which it had been hiding. Now why did it not do this on the other occasions I had been there? After admiring it through my scope I amde my way to Strumpshaw where Redwings were in good numbers as I walked through the wood. Various tits were calling but when I reached Fen Hide there was little on show so I made my way to Ranworth before driving home. Once Paul had arrived home from work we went to Massingham, where in the dark a Woodcock flew out across the car.
My friend Sheila and I jumped on the train at King's Lynn for a day of shopping in Cambridge for a wedding outfit for my son's wedding in April. The train is a really good way of seeing Bewick's and Whooper Swans feeding on the fields near Hillgay. A Little Egret took flight out of a ditch as the train approached. Three foxes ran across one of the frosted fields giving a wonderful view of wildlife in the early morning sun.
A short walk after I had finished teaching for the day, produced a Long-tailed Duck, Green Woodpecker and thousands of gulls on the pits at Blackborough End rubbish tip.
Down at Lynn Point a Short-eared Owl flew from the Terrington side of the river and over to Lynn Point. It flew inland and disappeared from view. There were lots of Brent Geese on the mud with a lone Curlew. In the docks Turnstones were on the roof of the woodshed along with a mix of gulls, including Black-headed, Common, Herring and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was a miserable day and although we toured a few of our favourite local spots we saw little else of note and headed for home early.
Stewart South knocked on the door at 6.40am and Paul and I were almost ready for the off! It was NarVOS bird race day and we were looking forward to a day of seeing as many species as we could in the NarVOS recording area which is a rectangular area extending from King's Lynn to Dereham but does not include any coastline with the exception of a bit of the Great Ouse River. It makes finding many species of birds that we take for granted in Norfolk quite difficult and so local knowledge is a must for a competitive birding team!
We were lucky to find a Tawny Owl sitting on the wall at Sandringham just after 7am with a Woodcock adding to the tally in the gloom. We failed to see any Golden Pheasants at first light and so did not waste too much time at Wolferton. In the Sandringham/Wolferton area we added many common species but were a bit hampered with Stewart's and Paul's poor hearing...................I suspect these 2 old rockers had a mis-spent youth at too many pop concerts! Paul had a Stonechat staked out and true enough it sat obligingly on its spot as we searched for harriers that did not want to be part of our tally. We had to settle for a Common Buzzard instead.
Back at West Newton we seemed to be doing well as we added Grey Partridge, Fieldfare and Redwing but our Barn Owl was not on its usual spot and had disappeared. At Flitcham we added Tree Sparrow but were still missing some fairly common species. We walked down to a favourite spot for some of these species at Babingley where at long last we added Marsh Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker, both species we had expected to have seen by now. We stopped near the docks at King's Lynn and Stewart lined up the Peregrine in the scope whilst I worked out a running tally and crossed off the birds on our sheet. At 51 we thought we were well on schedule. We carried on through the docks and down to Lynn Point where a gale-force wind was blowing which made using the scope difficult to say the least. We expected to find a few more waders than we did but it was not to be and we could not believe that we did not see a harrier of any description or the Short-eared Owl that had been so obliging yesterday. Brent Geese were distant and we could not see the swirling Knot that we had seen yesterday either but did locate a few Grey Plovers. We stopped to add Rook and Pied Wagtail on the fields as we made our way back and up to the other end of King's Lynn before moving on to Saddlebow.
Paul and Stewart marched on ahead but I had to call them back to show them Bullfinch that I had heard calling in the thick bushes. We added Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Mute Swan and Paul located a Green Woodpecker sitting on the grass near where we had parked the car. We drove on to Tottenhill and added Pochard, Pintail and Canada Goose before stopping at several places near Blackborough End. Stewart knew a stake out for Little Owl as well as a good spot for Snipe. Luckily we also added Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting here, both species we did not see anywhere else that day. Foster's End produced the long-staying Long-tailed Duck and after a bit of a hike we added Kingfisher in a ditch.
We were running out of time and realised we were not going to get to all of our planned sites but at Nar Valley the usual winter finch flock produced Brambling and Linnet before Stewart picked up a Sparrowhawk flying across the river. Very late in the day we added Grey Heron and Little Egret too. At Pentney an Oystercatcher and Scaup went on our tally and at Narford, Shoveler added an extra tick. We tried for one of the 3 Short-eared Owls that have been seen from King'a Lynn by-pass recently as well as Barn Owl but it was not to be. Luckily with only 10 minutes left the Hen Harriers were more obliging at Roydon Common and we just made it back to Knight's Hill with minutes to spare to find the other team already waiting for us. We had seen 93 species in the day without a single Barn Owl or Siskin! My thanks go to Paul and Stewart (poor hearing and incontinence apart) for their good humour and company and for making it a fun day. Thanks also goes to Ashley, Carl and Claudia for being our competitors and congratulations for their winning total of 98.
I started the day in Holkham Park where Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming well along with calling Nuthatch and Treecreepers. I managed see all of these but failed miserably in my target species of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I moved to Blackney Harbour where John and Judy had just seen some Twite but it was not my day and they had flown off by the time I had got there. At Wells John kindly pointed out the Black Brant amongst the Brent Geese and another bird that also seem to have Black Brant features. Unfortunately I had developed a severe migraine and had to go retire hurt home to bed!
Paul wanted to do a trawl around the NarVOS area which is not such a good idea in thick fog! However we ventured to Pentney where it was impossible to see anything before driving around the Marham area where we saw a Little Owl on a barn. At Castle Acre we had a marvellous view of a Short-eared Owl as it quartered the ground in search of lunch! At West Acre village on the bridge Paul called me over to watch a Grey Wagtail, the first of the year for us both before we finished the day at Roydon Common where we watched two Hen Harriers. A Barn Owl flew through Pott Row as we made our way home.
I was very saddened today to learn of the deaths of two of my friends whom I have shared many birding hours with.
The first was John Lovett. John was a wonderful friend who for many years helped me run a birdwatching group for the children after school at St George's School, Dersingham. He gave his time freely and without him, it would not have been possible to have given so many children the introduction to birding that they had. His knowledge was second to none. So many times children asked far-reaching questions that John answered with a depth of knowledge built up over many years and above all else with a sense of humour that the children enjoyed. I have many happy memories of children spilling out of his car at Snettisham, all very eager to learn from the master! I will personally miss John for his wit and jokes that kept many of us in tears as well as his wonderful company and support over the years.
The second was Geoff Barker, chairman of NOA. I first met Geoff when I was ill a few years ago and spent time sea-watching at Holme with him and others and supported the work at NOA. We sometimes met at various sites where birds had been reported along with his wife Jenny and we could share the delight of birding. He was one of life's gentlemen, who always had a kindly smile and who was preapared to share his knowlege to help us all.
John and Geoff................it was a privilege to have known you both.
As it was a clear sunny day I made my way to Titchwell where once I was on the main path I got a blast of Arctic wind! It was nearing high tide so I went down to the sea first where there were several Goldeneye on the sea. They were not that easy to see as the sea was very rough. There was one lone Velvet Scoter amongst them. A flock of about 30 Snow Buntings flew by me before I gave in to the wind and sheltered in the Parrinder Hide. Here I seached amongst the Black-headed Gulls but found nothing untoward. Common Redshanks, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits were on the Volunteer Marsh and there were many Pochards on the Freshmarsh.
Paul and I visited Titchwell, where the flock of Lesser Redpolls were performing well. I managed to see the Arctic Redpoll as well as a Mealy Redpoll. Later at Pentney, Paul and I watched a female Smew and a Long-tailed Duck amongst the many Coots and Tufted Ducks all squeezed up together in a small ice-free area. In another ice-free area at Pentney were 27 Great Crested Grebes.
Just off the King's Lynn by-pass a Short-eared Owl was hunting late in the day.
Waking up to snow, Paul and I walked around the fields at Roydon. I was amazed at how little we saw. The only bird of note was a Woodcock which we disturbed as we walked along the side of a field near Congham Hall.
Me in the snow
After attending John Lovett's Funeral, a Little Owl sat on a post in Roydon. I shall miss John. R.I.P.
A quick whizz around a few sites where at Thornham the Rough-legged Buzzard sat pondering, whilst at Hunstanton Fulmars flew along the cliff edge. There was little on the sea. I drove to a couple of the bridges at Saddlebow where amongst the many Coot, Mallard and Tufted Duck there were 2 Smew (redheads). If I had spent longer and looked from a few more of the bridges over the relief channel I would have found a few more of the 19 reported between Saddlebow and Stowbridge perhaps!
With overnight snow it was a treacherous journey to Titchwell this morning. I was out in the car park working and so had some time between talking to visitors to feed the Robins and Blackbirds. One of the Robins took mealworms out of my hands!
I was told there were 2 Smew on the reserve but never had time to see them.
The path to the Visitor Centre at Titchwell
Robin in the snow
Blackbird in the snow
Leaving home with the thermometer reading -10 degrees I drove extremely carefully to Titchwell passing through a winter wonderland en-route. The snow was glistening as Hares ran across it and Grey Partridges stood out like sore thumbs. I made straight for the sea accompanied by Ray passing a Goosander on the tidal pool. Titchwell was also a winter wonderland as the Freshmarsh, Volunteer Marsh and the tidal pools were all frozen. On the calm sea, six Long-tailed Ducks sat not far from a Velvet Scoter. Goldeneye and Wigeon could be seen as well as a Common Scoter and two Great Crested Grebes. I walked back up to where Penny and Eddie had stopped because three Smew had flown in and were sat on the bank not far from the West Path. I thought I would go back to the Visitor Centre for a drink but was alerted to the fact that three Bitterns were showing on Thornham Pool. It was lovely to see Rob and Lisa on a flying visit to Norfolk. We have shared many birding holidays together and I look forward to the next one!
Two of the five Bitterns at Titchwell
I stopped however as I made my way up the path, to admire a Spotted Redshank feeding by the pathway and enjoyed the reflecting bird in the water.
I hurriedly went back to the car to fetch my camera to see if I could photograph some of the birds but unfortunately the Smew had departed by the time I got back down to the Volunteer Marsh. Luckily the Bitterns and Spotted Redshank were still there. I met Geoff Pain who had seen a warbler sp on the Parrinder bank and although I managed a brief view of the bird it disappeared before we could identify it. Grrrr........
Another cold winter's day started at Downham Market where Paul and I were on the hunt for a Jack Snipe. We saw a snipe bobbing in a ditch but could not convince ourselves that it was a Jack Snipe as neither of us saw it well enough before it flushed (this probably indicates that it was a Common Snipe). From here we stopped on every bridge overlooking the Ouse Relief Channel (and Ouse River) as many Smew and Goosander had been reported during the week. At the Downham end of the system, the Relief Channel was completely frozen. By the time we reached the bridges in Watlington there were small patches of ice-free water where Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Mute Swans were congregating.
We had a slight diversion at to Tottenhill where two Goosander were amongst the ducks and geese on an ice-free section of water. Moving on towards Saddlebow at Wiggenhall, we walked the river where there were 5 Goosander. After inspecting a few ditches we arived at Saddlebow where we saw 13 Smew in two ice-free sections of the channel. I was delighted as we picked out 3 drakes amongst all the Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Coot and Canada Geese and gulls, some of which were stood around on the ice.
Smew at Saddlebow
After taking a few photos we moved onto the tail sluice at King's Lynn where a cold Little Egret was standing looking very forlorn by a frozen ditch. We finished our day at Lynn Point where Paul spotted a Peregrine flying down the river.
Jill and I arrived at Lynford Arboretum where there six Hawfinches sat in the paddocks on a near tree. We admired them through Jill's scope before they took flight and we realised there was a party of about 15 Hawfinches in all. They flew across the other side of the paddock and disapppeared. We then walked around the area and watched three Nuthatches and a party of Siskins before finding three different Firecrests in the Holm Oaks. We had our picnic back at the car and two Common Crossbills flew over us.
After lunch we wandered along the river at Santon Downham where we saw another Nuthatch and a Marsh Tit. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was disappearing into a hole in a tree as we wandered back to the car. A Little Egret flew along the river before a Muntjac crossed over the path.
At Pentney we watched an abundance of Teal, Wigeon and the sinensis race of Cormorants looking very decorative in their head colouring.
John and Judy joined Paul and I for a walk on Dersingham Bog which was almost birdless except for a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a flyover Common Buzzard. Back near the car a small party of Siskins were in the trees. We drove around the Wolferton Triangle where at 4.10pm a lone Golden Pheasant walked out on the verge on the northern side fairly near the main road. We watched it for a while until a car disturbed it and it ran back into the rhodedendrons.
Paul and I spent the day visiting many of our old haunts in the NarVOS recording area trying to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Whilst we did not find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, we did find a pair of Willow Tits, now a rare sighting in Norfolk whilst walking around Houghton. Parties of Long-tailed Tits accompanied Coal Tits and Marsh Tits. Great Tits and Blue Tits seemed to think that Spring had arrived as they sang in the old woodlands here. Treecreepers called from above us as Goldcrests flitted around. Three Bullfinches hid themselves in tangled scrub as we made our way back to the car. After a while we drove to Raynam Lake where we admired another four Bullfinches before walking through the farmyard to the back of the lake. We were disappointed with the lack of duck on the lake, perhaps they had all disappeared during the freezing weather. Several other sites were visited before we ended the day at Nar Valley Fisheries where we watched 5 red-head Smew and 6 Goosander. I attempted a photograph of a Goosander but it was having none of it!
I met up with John and Judy and we decided to start at Wells where a Red-necked Grebe had been reported near the lifeboat station. We soon located it but it was rather distant for a decent photograph. John had the brilliant idea of walking along the beach to Holkham Gap as I had expressed a wish to see Shore Lark. Judy and I had not anticipated the strength of the wind that we had to fight against. Although it was a beautiful day we found it rather exhausting to battle against the wind.
Red-necked Grebe Snow Buntings
Snow Buntings in flight
After arriving on the mud where the Shore Larks are often seen I noted a flock of Snow Buntings and went in hot pursuit of a photograph of them. All of a sudden four birds took off a little way from where I was and I realised that they were possibly the Shore Larks. John had also seen them and soon had them lined up in the scope for Judy and I to admire. Luckily the walk back to Wells was rather quicker than the walk out with the wind behind us! We stopped at Burnham Overy where we admired a Marsh Harrier and we finished the day at Titchwell where there were many Black-headed Gulls preening in the water on the Fresh Marsh.
Starting at Lynn Point, Paul and I watched a couple of Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards as we walked around to the sluice. Two Little Egrets were on view as a few Meadow Pipits took flight across the marsh. Paul drove to the Tail Sluice at Saddlebow where Wigeon were happily sailing on by us on the river as the tide was going out. At Tottenhill we listened to a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming but failed to locate the bird as Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Treecreeper all gave good views. Later at Blackborough End we watched Common Snipe and a few Yellowhammers. With a few hours of daylight left we walked across Derby Fen near Pott Row where I have never seen it so dry underfoot. Here we searched the few remaining pools where I was lucky to find a Jack Snipe. Unfortunately Paul had walked the other way, but as the bird had flushed from under my feet and had only landed a lttle distance away I managed to get Paul to come over and we both saw the bird again.
I met up with Stuart White and Phil Heath and Stuart drove to Rhiwderin near Newport in Gwent where a Common Yellowthroat has been in residence for a while. We soon found the site and armed with various maps printed off from the internet started walking up the field a little unsure which trail to follow. However we soon located a small group of birders, one of whom had seen the Common Yellowthroat earlier and knew exactly which set of brambles it was lurking in. Within a few minutes we were watching the Common Yellowthroat as it sat right infront of us. It was a shame that light conditions were poor as I struggled to 'up' my ISO setting to take some photos of it before it decided to fly further up the hedgeline.
Although I have seen Common Yellowthroat in the USA it was nice to see one in Britain. All too soon the Common Yellowthroat flew across the road and after a period of time showed again briefly before finally disappearing in the small wood by the cottage.
Whilst on site we had four Common Crossbills fly over our heads calling as well as a couple of Common Buzzards. On the way back along the M4 just north of Hungerford we saw 5 Red Kites as well as more Common Buzzards. My thanks to Stuart and Phil for a great day out!
Just after first light Paul and I were once again at Tottenhill searching the woods. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming and Treecreepers and Nuthatches calling. There was a flurry of activity from Great Tits, Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits as we wandered around. I had walked the length of the road down to the corner and was on my way back when I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker call. I watched as it took off from the tree above my head and flew vaguely towards Paul who was a short distance away but unfortunately we could not relocate it.
In the docks at King's Lynn the Peregrine kept watch over all the Ferel Pigeons as we made our way down to Lynn Point. Here there were four Avocets and a Swan Goose amongst the Greylag Geese! A Marsh Harrier flew in the distance before the rain set in and we returned home.
Arriving at Dersingham Bog, I sat down on the John Denver bench and before long I had counted seven Common Buzzards. Two Wood Larks were calling as they flew over the felled area by the side of me, followed soon after by another one. A Crossbill 'chipped' his way over the area whilst a couple of Siskins flew into the Silver Birch Trees before I left. Later at Roydon Common another Common Buzzard flew across the car park area.
As I was trying to sell optics at Titchwell today, two Tree Sparrows were on the feeders by the Visitors' Centre amongst all the Greefinch, Chaffinch and Siskin. Nice to meet you Roy........have a good week.
Stating at 7am, Paul and I met up with tweny-one others for a NarVOS outdoor field meeting. As Paul is recorder for NarVOS he is always keen to meet up with those who regularly contribute sightings to the group. It was a good turn out on such a lovely morning but the Hawfinches obviously did not agree. By the entrance to the Arboretum we watched a couple of Crossbills busily feeding in the Larch trees and had Siskins calling and feeding too as we made our way down to the paddocks. There were no Hawfinches to be seen. After some time spent waiting we wandered along the side of the lake and Ashley eventually picked out a distant Hawfinch sat at the top of a tree in the arboretum. Several Crossbills called as I made my way up to the arboretum where Goldcrests were very vocal along with Great Tits, Redwings, Mistle Thrushes and Great Spotted Woodpeckers that were all on view before I re-joined the others back by the paddocks.
At 9am we made our way to Santon Downham where Stewart immediately picked out a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the roadside trees not far from the bridge. It saved a long walk down the river which some of our older members were not keen to do. We watched it drumming before it flew into the riverside trees where we managed to get it in the scope to show others who had not seen it. From here we wandered up to the Church where we found three Firecrests in adjacent woods. Goldcrests were also very vocal. The group drove up to St Helen's carpark where we failed to locate the shrike. Paul and I wandered down the riverside but I was starting a migraine which after a talk with Ian, I had to return to the car. Thanks to Carl and Ashley for organising the trip.
After a search of the sea at Titchwell Phil and I failed to find either the Red-necked Grebe or the Slavonian Grebe but just 3 Great Crested Grebes. Nine Long-tailed Ducks were good to see though. A fellow birder told us they were to the right of a 'silver gull'. I wish!!!! The tideline was packed full of Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin,Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Turnstone.Whilst we were on the beach two Mediterranean Gulls wheeled around over the Freshmarsh. Along the West bank we heard Cetti's Warblers calling but failed to see one. Avocets were on the Volunteer Marsh as we made our way up to the Fen Hide, where we watched a Chiffchaff singing.
A wander on Roydon Common on a day when the sun took a long time to break through the mist, had me listening to 3 different Wood Larks singing their hearts out high above me as I watched a Common Buzzard in flight. There were many rabbits running around as I searched for an early Wheatear, but it was not to be. After a roam over the higher ground I dropped back down to the path where a pair of Stonechats kept me entertained. Five Linnets sat in one of the birch trees along with a Reed Bunting.
Steve phoned to say that there was a Garganey at North Wooton so Paul, Dylan and I leapt in the car immediately and proceeded to the spot where Steve had seen a Garganey in with some Teal. After failing initially to spot the bird, Dylan wanted to look through Grand Dad's scope, so Paul set it up on a distant Grey Heron down at the end of the stream. Luckily he did as a pair of Garganey appeared in the scope just before they disappeared the other side of a short wall. We drove along the Rugby Club lane and relocated the Garganey further along the stream. They had managed to swim quite some distance. A Stonechat kept us company along the fenceline.
It was a miserable morning weatherwise, but Paul and I were babysitting 5 year old Dylan and he was in need of a runaround, so a walk was necessary. We took our bins and scope and whilst walking in West Norfolk we watched a female Goshawk over some trees as well as three Common Buzzards. The rain continued and we went back home for some very late lunch. At 4.30pm we ventured out again to Roydon Common where in a two hour spell until dusk we watched six Hen Harriers, (2 males and 4 ringtails) flying around the Common. Three ringtails were present for an hour or so and we watched in awe as one of the ringtails chased a Barn Owl near our car. Towards dusk another three harriers appeared, this time 2 males and and another ringtail. magical!
Happy Birthday Mark!
I walked down Gypsy Lane at Titchwell where four Chiffchaffs were singing in the wood. Once I was out on the marsh four Bearded Tits flew over my head calling and made their way into the reed bed. I walked to the beach where apart from a few Oystercatchers on the beach there was little to be seen. back along the bank I watched Coots defending their territory against a lonesome Mute Swan. Tufted Ducks and Pochards were on the pools.
I drove along the A149 and stopped at Burnham Norton where a car had pulled up. Two lovely ladies were admiring a pair of sky-dancing Marsh Harriers totally oblivious that the bird above them was a Red Kite!
male and female Marsh Harriers
Sky-dancing Marsh Harriers
Recruiting in the car park at Titchwell on a beautiful day I was kept compny by my usual Robins and a Blackcap singing its heart out!
After a visit to the dentist, Stewart kindly called me to alert me to the fact that there were two Common Cranes flying high over Roydon. As I was in King's Lynn, I raced up the bypass just in time to see the two cranes flying overhead. These were followed by 2 Common Buzzards and a Peregrine. Bizarrely two Chinese lanterns, still alight also rose from the housing estate, one of which landed in the back garden of a house bordering the road. Surely this is a fire/road risk?
Common Cranes Peregrine
Whilst working at the Visitor Centre at Titchwell I watched three Red Kites drift over the Freshmarsh along with a Marsh Harrier.
After a visit to Lynn Point where we watched a Marsh Harrier, Little Egret and lots of Brent Geese we headed inland as the northerly wind was very chilly. At Pentney there was little to see as most duck seemed to have left for breeding grounds. After several more stops we arrived at Great Cressingham where two Stone Curlew were doing their best to remain hidden. We wandered around the Hillborough area where Chiffchaffs were singing with a Blackcap and a Common Buzzard soared overhead. Narford Lake produced a few Gadwall, Mallard, Teal and Tufted Duck but not in the numbers of previous months.
I know it is nothing to do with birding but many of you will remember the little boy that used to come birding with me many years ago. Well here is my son Mark, all grown up on his wedding day today. I was a very proud mum as he married his girlfriend Suzanne (Suzy) in Horsham, West Sussex. I wish them many happy years together. The wedding was lovely and I was proud of all my children who looked magnificent in all their finery. Welcome to the family Suzy!
Mark and Suzy
I decided to investgate Fen Lane at Heacham where a family party of Long-tailed Tits greeted me as I got out of the car. I walked to the end of the lane and made my way to the bank across the fields where I soon realised I could not cross the dyke to the beach. Doubling back I drove to South Beach where a Cuckoo flew over my head. I started walking towards Snettisham and saw the Cuckoo 'hedge-hopping'. A Wheatear sat atop a hawthorn bush as Linnets were feeding on the ground. Several Dunnocks were in courtship mode as I made my way along the inside of the seabank.
On the water were several Mute Swans and Tufted Ducks as well as Greylag Geese and Mallards.
Cuckoo Meadow Pipit Oystercatchers
I eventually met up with Ray Roche and together we watched a pair of Buzzards and a Marsh Harrier. Willow Warblers were singing in the bushes before I made my way to Heacham where another five Wheatears had arrived. Oystercatchers were all resting on the riverbank. A Meadow Pipit posed on a post for me before I enjoyed a cup of tea in the cafe. I was soon alerted to the fact that there had been a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean so I rushed home to turn on the TV as Mark and Suzy are on honeymoon on Phuket Island, Thailand. Currently they are confined to the upper floor of their beach-side hotel, not being allowed out. Worrying times!
Three of the six Ring Ouzels Northern Wheatear
After knowing that a Tsunami did not take place in Thailand and that Mark and Suzy were safe, I made my way to Snettisham where six Ring Ouzels were on the flat area in the country park. As soon as they saw me they flew to a bush before disappearing over the inner seabank. A Cetti's Warbler sang by the side of me before it too disappeared into the reeds. There were also small numbers of Northern Wheatears sitting around on bushes as well as many Linnets.
Back at the car three Swallows sat on the wires before the rain started. It was an eventful journey back on the A149 as a tremendous hail storm hit the road. Within seconds it was a wintery scene and my car refused to grip the road surface forcing me and other road users to stop for a short while up Keepers Lane, as the car could not make it up the hill for loss of traction. However it was soon over and the hail melted and I made my way to Pentney where a Little Ringed Plover was running around on the grass. A Common Sandpiper was on the spit with a Common Redshank and there was a mixed flock of Swallows and Sand Martins searching for insects over the lake. I spoke with the horse owners, who thankfully have moved the horse stables, meaning that birders can once again see the island.
Taking an early lunch I speedily walked down the path at Titchwell and joined Richard, David and Ray on the beach where a Black Guillemot was sitting on the sea close inshore. This was a Norfolk tick for me, having dipped several over the years. A Spotted Redshank was moulting into summer plumage near the footpath as I hurried back to the Visitor Centre. Whilst setting up a telescope to show a lady, I was amazed to see a Red Kite fly over Thornham Marsh. She was as delighted as I was. A little later on a Short-eared Owl flew around the marsh too. What an amazing place Titchwell Marsh RSPB is!
A wander up Roydon Common produced a female Ring Ouzel close by as well as three Northern Wheatears, four Common Buzzards and two Kestrels. It was also good to hear Wood Larks singing.
The weather forecast did not look promising and John, Judy and I cancelled our proposed meet up for a day's birding. However after a wet start to the day it cleared up a bit and I ventured out to Snettisham where I walked the inner seabank of the Country Park. On my way to Snettisham I watched a Red Kite being mobbed by a Carrion Crow that did not like its presence. It was obvious that Sedge Warblers had arrived since last week in the Country Park as they were singing from every available bush in the reed-bed. Shelducks were in abundance and Curlews warbled as they flew overhead. Mallards, Wigeon and Tufted Ducks utilised the water-course as Moorhens and Coots ran alongside. A Cuckoo called as a Sparrowhawk tried its luck swooping over the bushes. There was a passage of Swallows and I checked the rumps to no avail. A House Martin was a year-tick for me. Three Bullfinches added to the colour of Linnets all in their breeding plumage.
I continued along the bank and saw the brief appearance of the sun before looking over The Wash where it looked a bit threatening with black clouds heading my way. I turned back and was about half way when I heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling. It made some brief flight views as I was joined by another birder who had never seen one before. We waited until eventually it sat on a bush at the bottom of the sea bank. It took a while until my fellow birder could locate it but eventually he got his tick as it reeled away for him.
Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Cetti's Warbler were all being very vocal before we walked back to the car.
A short walk down the main pathway after working at Titchwell for the day produced a pair of courting Beared Tits.
Paul and I started at Pentney where a couple of Common Terns had just arrived. A Little Ringed Plover flew from the near edge over to the spit whilst a male Goosander swam up to the east end of the lake. A new born foal kept all the horses in a curious mood as it was brought out of the stable for the first time by the side of the lake. We drove to Boughton Fen where a Cetti's Warbler was calling as a pair of Marsh harriers flew overhead. At Foulden Common Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were calling but we saw little else.
We joined a NarVOS outdoor meeting at Lakenheath where we saw a pair of Garganey, Common Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Common Crane and a Whooper Swan. Unfortunately the weather was not very kind to us or very kind to incoming migrants. On the way home we stopped at Marham Airfield where we admired a Short-eared Owl before it was chased off by a Common Buzzard.
I met Edward at Titchwell at 8am where we birded the car park before venturing out onto the marsh. The car park bushes produced Bullfinch and a singing Blackcap that was reluctant to show itself, unlike the Robin that fed from Edward's hand. The path to Fen hide had a singing Cetti's Warbler but the weather was against us as the rain lashed down.We made our way to the Visitor Centre where Carol welcomed us. We watched Greenfinch and Chaffinch feeding on the feeders and two very showy Blackcaps. However we braved the conditions and set out down the main pathway where Avocets were on Thornham Pool. We looked at the Freshmarsh and admired the remaining ducks. It certainly was duck weather! We decided that it was best to go into Island Hide where we watched a close Shoveler and admired its plumage.
With a brief respite in the weather we made our way down to the beach where Sanderling, Dunlin and Grey Plover were running around the tideline but except for 3 Common Scoter on the sea, there was little to see. Hail was now pelting us and Parrinder Hide seemed the best option. A Spotted Redshank was beautiful in its summer plumage as were many Black-talied Godwits. A Marsh Harrier flew around as a couple of Skylarks tried to make it sound like Spring. We found the female Red-crested Pochard on the Freshmarsh lurking in the corner before making our way back up the pathway.
After an excellent lunch where we dried out a bit I drove to Thornham Harbour where we admired a male Reed Bunting. With the rain still falling I thought we would shelter in the village hides at Holme. Here we watched Lapwings trying to defend their territory from a Marsh Harrier. A couple of Whimbrel were feeding in the fields at the back. A Common Whitethroat appeared in the bushes by the side of the hide and I felt sorry for it as it tried to find a food supply in the very wet weather it had arrived in. Reed and Sedge Wablers were singing but we did not see them as they sheltered low down in the reeds.
Out on the NWT Holme reserve we watched a lone Wheatear as well as a Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Back at Thornham Harbour we both enjoyed watching a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by Carrion Crows. Although the weather was against us we saw some lovely birds and I enjoyed some excellent company.
On my way home a Red Kite flew over my car as I was nearing Anmer. It certainly brightened up the sky!
A brief stop at Pentney yielded an Arctic Tern on the gravel pit as well as a few Common Terns.
Working at Titchwell I walked down the main path in my lunch break. Cetti's Warblers called from either side of the path and Sedge Warblers called too. There were many Swallows overhead but no Swifts as I hoped.
After work I headed straight for Snettisham Country Park where walking along the inner seabank, I spotted a Pied Flycatcher in the hedgeline along the ditch after about 50 yards. I stopped hoping to get a photo, but it was not to be as the bird soon flew through to the back of the bushes and this effort was the only one I managed! I carried on and met up with Penny who showed me the pictures she had taken the night before of the Golden Oriole we were now seeking. We searched the bushes and crossed over to the other seabank where we met up with other birders. After a brief search, a birder called us over and we headed north up the outer seabank where we watched a stunning male Golden Oriole perched on one of the bushes. It was very mobile. After alerting other birders I made my way back to my car where I watched a Barn Owl hunting in the gloom.
My one and only effort at the Pied Flycatcher
Walking down the inner seabank at Snettisham I spotted Ray across on the outer bank and crossed over to join him. We watched a Red Kite picking up food from the beach before dropping some of it and trying again. A Marsh Harrier came up to investigate it.We watched for sometime before Ray relocated the Golden Oriole. It was very mobile. After I had watched it for sometime I made my way back through the bushes where Lesser Whitethroats were calling. Common Whitethroats were also displaying along with Sedge Warblers. Once I was up on the inner seabank much later on, I watched in delight as two Red Kites, a Short-eared Owl and a Common Buzzard were all in the came binocular view at once. British birding does not get much better than this! I wandered to the RSPB carpark where a Mediterranean Gull was foraging amongst the Black-headed Gulls.
Red Kite searches for food over The Wash
I drove up to Anmer where I watched a Marsh Harrier, two Kestrels and two Common Buzzards over a wood.
A quick walk out to the Freshmarsh after work at Titchwell produced two Mediterraean Gulls preening on one of the islands.
Paul and I met John and Judy at Pentney where we watched two Yellow Wagtails.
Driving through the night Paul and I drove down to Heathrow where we caught a flight to Frankfurt before changing planes for a flight to Alamaty in Kazakhstan.
We managed to get to bed at 2am at a hotel in Alamaty, Kazakhstan before getting up at first light for a quick wander in a local city-centre park, where we saw some eastern races of several common European species. Almaty is situated next to the Tien Shan Mountains and our destinations were going to be on sand and stone deserts with wide open grassy steppes as well as a visit to a former space observatory in the mountains.
The wide open grassy steppes of Charyn, Kazakhstan with the Tien Shan mountains in the background. Isabelline Wheatear
Once on the road to Charyn things started to brighten up with Long-tailed Shrikes and Lesser Grey Shrikes sat on wires. European Bee-eaters and Isabelline Wheatears added to the scene and Turkestan Shrikes were common.
We stopped to look for Grey-necked Bunting at a roadside gorge as well as admiring some distant Demoiselle Cranes on the plains.
Grey-necked Bunting Demoiselle Cranes
We spent the night at a guest house close to the Charyn Valley at Bayseit. The welcome was not all it could be and Paul felt intimidated by the rather large lady blocking the door. However, after removing his boots we were allowed in and enjoyed the feel of ancient matresses with metal springs rather nearer to our bodies than we would have wished for as beds! However we did have a hot meal and a great cup of tea.
A morning walk around the guest house before breakfast produced Grey-crowned Goldfinch and Golden Orioles. A few Masked Wagtails looked interesting. In the trees a White-winged Woodpecker was drumming. On the roadside we saw a White-crowned Penduline Tit as well as Rose-coloured Starlings all sat around.
Masked Wagtail Rose-coloured Starlings
En Route to Sugaty Plain we stopped off at a roadside gorge where we saw Mongolian Finch as well as Crimson-winged Finch. A Golden Eagle put in an appearence as we watched a perched Little Owl on a deserted farm building. Once we reached Sugaty Plain we soon had sightings of Desert Warblers collecting food for chicks.
Lunch was had at Bartogai Lake where Little Ringed Plovers and Temminck's Stints ran around. On the way back to our guest house we stopped at Kokpec Valley where we saw a singing White-capped Bunting as well as a Rock Bunting.
A quick early morning walk around the guest house gardens before breakfast produced a singing Azure Tit. Paul and I were both thrilled but it was a shame the light was still poor for photography. After breakfast we visited Nurley where Pallas's Sandgrouse and Black-bellied Sandgrouse were in attendance.
Azure Tit Black-bellied Sandgrouse
We proceeded to Nurley Marshes where we ticked many marsh birds before changing to a 4x4 vehicle in Almaty to get up the Tien Shan mountains and Almaty Space Observatory. On the way up we stopped to admire Brown Dipper (the last world dipper species for us!) on the way to Big Almaty Lake (2600m). Here, we hoped, would be the object of our trip in residence. Walking to the dam we soon spotted not one, but three Ibisbill standing at the side of the lake. Celebrations all round! A real shame that they we too far for a photograph!
Continuing up to the old Russian Space Observatory we made ourselves at home in the basic accommodation and cracked open a bottle of wine!
Himalayan Rubythroat White-winged Grosbeak
We were up before breakfast and wandered around the bushes. It was cold up at 9000 feet but it looked a promising day. White-winged Grosbeaks fed in the Juniper bushes and Himalayan Rubythroats sang their hearts out. We added Brown Accentors and Bluethroats to our trip list as we searched a little further afield for Sulphur-bellied Warbler which soon gave itself up.
After breakfast we climbed another couple of thousand feet to 11000 feet where Alpine Choughs were at home. A Gulenstadt's Redstart remained too far away for my camera as did a Plain Mountain Finch. It was lovely to see Water Pipits in full summer plumage. We searched for several hours for Himalayan Snowcock and eventually I managed to spot not one bu two birds. There were however far to far away for a photograph but we enjoyed the view anyway.
I was more than drugged up with medication as I suffer very badly with altitude sickness and migraines so I was very pleased to drop back down a few thousand feet before sickness set in as I knew it would.
Eleven thousand feet up looking down on Big Almaty Lake Paul at Cosmos Station (a Russian research station)
After lunch I was suffering and stuggled with the afternoon's birding back down at the lake (still at 9000ft). A Red-fronted Serin was soon followed by a Eversmann's Redstart and a Blue-capped Redstart. After a brief respite and more medication I rallied and chased up the hillside in order to watch a White-browed Tit-warbler. Tree Pipits and Mistle Thrushes added to the scene as well as a second look at three Ibisbills.
Me sat on the dam-end of the BIg Almaty Lake in Kazakhstan.
Back at the Almaty Space Observatory I was looking forward to looking through the space telescope that night. However it was not to be, as it clouded over and started sleeting. Grrrrrrrrr.........
After a brief wander before breakfast I added a few more trip ticks before driving back down the mountain to search for Songar Tit. This was not an easy find and it took several stips and several hours to find. It was beautiful morning as we walked down alongside the river in the sun. Birds were singing and the temperature rising as we lost height. Back in Almaty after admiring more views of Brown Dipper we made our way to Temboli rock carvings to the North of the city. En-route we admired a Barred Warbler and a Red-headed Bunting as well as a pair of Shikras at our lunch stop.
At the rock carvings I was advised to leave my camera behind which I now regret as an Eastern Rock Nuthatch had made its nest on the side of a rock. Bimaculated Larks were singing as a Red-rumped Swallow flew overhead.
I was now feeling very poorly and could not wait to get to the desert camp.
As I was ill overnight it rendered me unfit for early-morning birding at the desert camp so I sat and felt sorry for myself listening to Short-toed Larks and Calandra Larks all singing whilst I sipped my cup of tea. After a few hours I felt a bit better and we drove towards Topar Lake. We spotted a Short-toed Eagle and a Steppe Grey Shrike. At the lake we added many trip ticks including Paddyfield Warbler, Black-crowned Heron and Dalmatian Pelican.
Basic camping including the washing facilities! The restaurant!
Black-crowned Night Heron Long-legged Buzzard Chicks
At lunch we reached Turanga Forest and here we searched and found Turkestan Tit and Yellow-eyed Stock Dove. On the way back to camp we stopped at a bus stop to see a pair of Saxaul Sparrows.
At the artesian well at the desert camp we admired a Citrine Wagtail before setting off 30km west of Konshengal to search fruitlessly for White-winged Lark. We did however add Blyth's Reed Warbler, Ortolan Bunting and Brown-necked Raven to out trip list. En-route back to Almaty and our hotel, a stop at Sobulak Lake padded out our list with a nice flock of Terek Sandpipers as well as a Lesser Sand Plover and another flock of Rose-coloured Starlings. It was probably one of the best views I have had of summer-plumaged White-winged Black Terns.
Arriving at Heathrow it was overcast and grey as usual!
I will write up a full trip report and put it on my trip report page when I have processed all my photos.
After work I walked down the main path at Titchwell where a fog bank had all but obliterated the viewing of the Freshmarsh all day. I met up with friends Lynne and Dave that I had not seen for over 30 years. Together we watched a couple of Little Gulls, Little Tern and a few Sandwich Terns making their way on the Freshmarsh as the fog came and went. It was good to see my friends again and we shared our enthusiasm for birding.
David was busy photographing a Spotted Flycatcher in the picnic area as I left work at Titchwell so I joined him to admire the bird as it sat atop one of the newly trimmed trees.
Later Paul and I went to Pentney where there was a Turnstone and a Curlew Sandpiper on the near edge of the lake. Several Garden Warblers were singing in the lane.
Paul and I started the day at Lynn Point where we watched a Marsh Harrier fly over the river. Later at Sandringham we failed to find a reported Wood Warbler. From here we travelled to watch a displaying Montagu's Harrier before enjoying a pub lunch nearby. At Flitcham we admired a Kingfisher at Abbey Farm before walking the lane to watch a Turtle Dove that had been 'purring'.
Later on I went up to Sandringham where I watched a Nightjar fly over a stand of trees before disappearing into the dark!
Early in the morning Paul and I walked Darby Fen at Pott Row where we saw a Nightingale singing and watched a Lesser Whitethroat at the top of a bush before going to the Neotropical bird club meeting at Cley.
At lunchtime I walked down the main path at Titchwell where I saw a Spoonbill on the Freshmarsh.
After some mis-understanding Steve and I went to see the Red-backed Shrike at Holme.
A disappointing day out where the only bird of note was a Hobby at Sennow Park. There were many Common Buzzards at the Raptor Watch Point at Swanton Novers but certainly no Honey Buzzards.
I have spent the day, which is wet and miserable writing up my trip report to Kazakhstan.
I have finally finished the trip report to Kazakhstan. Here it is http://www.freewebs.com/suebryan/kazakhstan2012.htm
It may also be accessed from my Trip Report page.
It was lovely to meet someone who enjoys reading my website yesterday as I was heading out to the recruitment hut at Titchwell yesterday. I am sorry not to have noted your name.
Because of the grotty weather when I have had my days off, I have done very little birding of late, so I enjoyed this Jay from my lounge window. It seems to enjoy pinching peanuts from one of the feeders.
Paul and I decided to help fill in a few blanks on the Norfolk Dragonfly survey square near our home. What a bad decision this was! Grey skies seemed to dominate everytime we arrived at suitable habitat and we only saw 2 Common Blue Danselflies all day.
A late afternoon walk around the top of Roydon Common produced a Common Buzzard in flight and a Common Whitethroat singing in one of the bushes. At the top of the Common we had a flock of 18 Mistle Thrushes. As we walked back down to the sound of Skylarks singing, we heard the song of a Wood Lark. Eventually two Wood Larks flew above our heads.
On another wet miserable day Paul and I sat in the car at Lynn Point whilst the rain lashed down and lightning blazed across the sky at high tide. Paul saw two Gannets as I watched a close Marsh Harrier squat down in the long grass. There were several Little Egrets and a Common Sandpiper lurking at the water's edge. A green Sandpiper flew across the Babingley near the sluice gate. Twelve Black-tailed Godwits flew over together and landed in the marsh.
A Red Kite flew over my car at Flitcham as I drove to work at Titchwell this morning.
I tried to save a Grass Snake on my way home from work this evening. It was crossing the road in Roydon. However I suspect it had been knocked by the car in front of me (it did not appear as if it had actually been run over) or perhaps dropped by a predator but unfortunately after a few minutes it died.
As it was my birthday and Paul had been working nights we were late in our birding adventures today. The best bird of the day was a Hobby that was chasing Swifts over West Newton Scrape. John and Judy joined us for a meal at Sculthorpe Mill where we sat and watched a Grey Wagtail flitting about the river.
I joined Edward Cross on the Flitcham Abbey farm walks today. In the morning we walked along the Babingley River through the meadows and admired the show of Common Spotted Orchids. We also admired many other wild flower species as he explained his rationale of farming to ensure that wildlife could co-exist alongside the growing of crops and keeping of livestock. It was wonderful to be with so many experts as we examined all the species of plants present and their link with bio-diversity.
As I walked, I watched many House Martins diving after insects that were flying over the wet meadows as Swifts screamed above me. Oystercatchers and Lapwings were also enjoying the wet meadows.
Later in the afternoon we walked the higher part of the farm climbing up to the chalk fields that were much drier. we went in search of Butterflies but the weather was not in our favour. We did see a few Meadow Brown Butterflies and a Common Blue Butterfly allowed itself to be photographed. I think we all enjoyed the sight of the profusion of Poppies.
Common Spotted Orchids
Poppy field margin Poppies and Cornflowers Common Blue Butterfly
The Olympic Torch arrived at Sandringham this afternoon ,where I joined hundreds of others in the humid conditions to greet it. I used the opportunity to wander around the grounds that were opened free for the visitors, to check former areas where I used to see Spotted Flycatchers. Down by the stream I could not find a single one! A Mallard was enjoying the stream along with all her ducklings. It was also good to see an area that was emblazoned with Common Spotted Orchids.
The Olympic Torch at Sandringham House
I left home in torrential rain and motored along several flooded roads to Titchwell to work. I have never seen Titchwell so deserted. The weather was atrocious. By midday I had only seen two visitors to the reserve. A few brave souls ventured out in the afternoon. On my way home I watched a very bedraggled Red Kite fly over my car between Bircham and Anmer.
Today I learnt of the death of Robin Able. Robin has kept me company at many of Norfolk's twitches and I shall miss him not only for his knowledge, but his friendship. R.I.P. Robin.
Paul, Mark, Suzy and I walked along Thornham bank and onto the beach at Holme. Here two Arctic Skuas flew over our heads chasing a Sandwich Tern. Down in one of the tidal pools an adult Mediterranean Gull kept a Common Gull and Black-headed Gulls company.
Sun at last!
Those of you visiting Titchwell often stop by me to have a chat about birding in one form or other and wonder why I have been a bit tardy in keeping up my website diary. Well the truth is that unfortunately I haven't done much birding lately! Either the weather hasn't inspired me to get out and about or I have been working. Anyway after work this evening I joined Pat and Geoff and together we wandered down the main path at Titchwell and looked through the waders. It was good to see some Knot in Summer plumage. Spotted Redshanks were also in Summer plumage. Dunlin, Ruff and a Little Ringed Plover were all on the Freshmarsh and many Oystercatchers were roosting on the shingle island. We failed to see the reported Little Stint but as we wandered back up the pathway a Greenshank flew over our heads.
I have spent the day in the Family Area at Titchwell today and helped several children hand-feed a Robin that was taking the mealworms that we gave it back to its newly fledged offspring. The delight of the children was obvious as they had a close encounter with one of our tame Robins here on the reserve!
I joined a NarVOS trip today into the battle area of the Brecks. This is an area of Norfolk that the general public are not allowed to enter as the army use it as a training ground. NarVOS gained special permission and we had a coach accompanied by the Segeant Major to make sure we behaved ourselves and did not go off the road and trackways and blow ourselves up!
The view over Froghill River Wissey
At Froghill we watched common woodland species such as Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Great Tits before walking down to a Northern Ireland checkpoint mock-up where we admired a Stonechat. Back onthe coach I saw a Redstart as we drove by rusty helicopters and an East German mock-up town. Deserted villages also gave the army training facilities. Later we walked to Stanford lake where there were many Mute Swans and Coots. Brown Hawkers were on the wing as we walked back.
Mute Swans on Stanford Lake in the battle area of The Brecks
A visit to Lynn Point yielded 17 Common Sandpipers! Two Greenshank in summer plumage were very smart as they landed nearby on the mud as a very high tide receded. Paul and I watched as two Marsh Harriers interacted with one another as well as two Common Buzzards flying in the distance.
Towards the end of my working day at Titchwell I was asked to go down to the beach at Titchwell to photograph a sand sculpture that one of the children had made for our family event on site. What a glorious task this was, as the wonderful sunny weather made Titchwell look beautiful. As I walked back up the path, five Spoonbills flew over the Freshmarsh and headed towards Thornham Marsh.
Paul and I had a whiz around a few local sites including West Acre where we saw very little; Pentney where we saw 2 Common Sandpipers and then had a delightful walk around Narborough Hall gardens where a couple of Nuthatches were in amongst a tit flock. It was a hot summer's day and typically for the time of year we saw very few birds. At Narford Lake we counted 123 Mute Swans!
After work at Titchwell I wandered down the West bank path on a glorious evening and showed a few Ruff to a visitor who was desperate to see one. There were lots of waders on the Freshmarsh to scan through. All of a sudden the waders took flight and I looked through for an obvious reason why they had taken flight without success. All of a sudden from behind me a Peregrine was in an amazing stoop as it powered down to the water where it failed to connect with a wader. I could not help myself from shouting 'Wow'! at this amazing sight. Once the waders had settled again I located a Curlew Sandpiper amongst the Ruff, Knot, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits all assembled in various plumages on the mud. Running around on one of the islands were three Little Stint.
John and Judy kindly picked me up and took me to Birdfair where I made straight for the optics tent to try out the new Swarovski scope. (I am an optics advisor at Titchwell) After this I headed for the Art Marquee where I was in search of a picture for our re-furbished bathroom. I picked out two possibilities on Stephen Message's stand for Paul's perusal tomorrow that I liked. I always enjoy Birdfair as it gives me an opportunity of attending various lectures for ideas for future trips as well as meeting up with 'old friends'.
Back at Birdfair with Paul, I took him to Stephen Messages art stand where we purchased a delighful picture of Curlews on tidal mudflats. Perfect to finish off our newly installed bathroom! We had a wonderful day strolling around the stands and discussing a hoped-for trip to norhern Peru next year. We bumped into many friends including Penny who had had some of her photos shown in the events tent. Well done Penny!
Starting out at Narford lake Paul counted 89 Mute Swans along with the usual array of Mallard, Gadwall, Coot and a Common Buzzard preening itself in a tree over-looking the lake. At Pentney a Ruddy Shelduck was amongst the Egyptian Geese with 2 Common Sandpipers on the now deserted island. At Blackborough End tip the only bird of note was a Green Woodpecker.
Paul drove around the Hardwick roundabout which was more like a parking lot on our way to Lynn Point. Here we enjoyed some of the best river-watching of the year with 4 Black Terns, 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Roseate Tern and 50 Common Terns fishing in the river. Small fish were being picked up fairly easily by the birds, as fishing vessels were going out to sea on the in-coming tide. With a northerly breeze it can be good birding at Lynn Point, away from the crowds of a Bank holiday weekend. Six Common Sandpipers were calling away, as were two Greenshanks on the mud. Marsh Harriers were flying about over the fields as we enjoyed watching all the terns on the river. As we left the docks a Peregrine was sat on its nest box.
Paul and I started at Narford Lake where I counted 72 Mute Swans. A few Wigeon and 2 Pintail had returned amongst the Mallard and Teal. From here we went over to West Acre where Migrant Hawkers were around the gate by the entrance to the field to the hide. The hide had almost disappeared under a huge Buddhlia bush but it was covered in Red Admiral and Tortoishell butterflies. The count was more that I have seen all summer. A few Peacock Butterflies were also present. In the bushes were Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and a Blackcap as well as good numbers of Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit. Down by the River Nar there were 2 Ruddy Darter Dragonflies.
In the evening sitting out on our front lawn a Hobby flew overhead and a Sparrowhawk made a dash through a neighbour's hedge.
I started at Holme where a Barred Warbler had been reported but after an hour of searching and with the tide in I decided to do a seawatch where I logged the same 4 Arctic Skuas chasing Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated Diver, 30 Gannets and 10 Wigeon returning. I returned to the Barred Warbler bushes but after another hour of watching only logged Greenfinch, Blue Tit and a Dunnock lurking around in the base of the bushes. By now the wind had got up but it was very warm and I sat down to join Geoff and Pat who were enjoying their picnic in the sun.
Sitting in the sun in the garden a Spotted Flycather flew into a Buddhlia bush a few feet way from me. By the time I had called Paul and fetched my camera it had flown up to my neighbour's Silver Birch tree.
The tree was alive with Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Robin, Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon.
Paul and I made it down to Lynn Point through the traffic. It was like a summer's day and the world had decided to head for the coast, clogging up the roads. However, except for an artist painting a landscape we had Lynn Point to ourselves. Unfortunately we saw litlle in the way of waders or passerines. A female Marsh Harrier was the only bird of note except for a few Lapwings flying over the river and a small flock of Starlings feeding on the marsh.
Working at Titchwell has its advantages as I ran down the path to see a Baird's Sandpiper before the masses arrived to twitch it. The juvenile bird fed on the mud amongst Dunlin. A big thank you to Mark who let me look through his scope before I hurried back up to the Visitor Centre. We had a very busy day! Amazingly I had another Titchwell tick today as well. A Nuthatch fed on the feeders behind the visitor centre. The first I have seen here in over 20 years of birding here!
Black Darter Common Green Grasshopper
I joined a NWT walk on Roydon Common today where the familiar Kestrel and Stonechat were in their usual spots. We looked at a few Sundew plants before admiring a few Black Darters and Emerald Damselflies.
A pair of Common Green Grasshoppers provided a photographic opportunity to what comes naturally!
The morning walk proceeded onto Grimston Warren where Ian Pritchard, Kevin Blake and myself grilled Bill Boyd over future plans for the common. I was delighted to hear that NWT has managed to secure the piece of land adjacent to the west of the common. This should provide a different habitat if NWT can find a warden to manage it!
Jaz and I walked down to Parrinder Hide after work at Titchwell to see the Pectoral Sandpiper that had been present all day out on the Freshmarsh.
We also admired the Spoonbills too, especially the juvenile bird that was begging for food from an adult bird.
Paul and I walked down to the pits at Snettisham where once we were there we turned our attention to The Wash. It was good to meet up with Simeon and together we watched a Peregrine devouring a wader it had taken for a late lunch! Redshank, Greenshank and Shelduck and lots of mud kept us amused for a few hours as well as a few Goldfinch on the teasels as we soaked up the last of the summer sun.
I watched 3 Red Kites as I drove through Norhhamptonshire.
Another Red Kite as I made my way through Northamptonshire.
At last the wind turned from a northerly round to the east and Norfolk is heaving under scarce migrant birds. Paul and I started at Holme where I admired the Barred Warbler before doing a seawatch. Arctic Skuas were chasing terns and a Red-throated Diver flew above the horizon towards the wind turbines.
Pied Flycatcher Wryneck
Down at the NOA Paul and I watched a Red-breasted Flycatcher before admiring a Pied Flycatcher behind The Firs house. Lee Evans had told us about a Wryneck back at the paddocks by the pay hut. So we walked the trackway where Paul nearly stepped on it, as it flew out from the long grass and landed in a hawthorn bush, where I managed a picture of it before it flew once again back towards the pay hut.
Arriving at Titchwell, I took Paul along the new trail where we watched two Little Stints on the Freshmarsh along with several Ruff and a lone Dunlin.
At Lynn Point after I had picked some blackberries, Paul and I watched a juvenile Gannet flying over the fields towards North Lynn !!! I don't think I have ever seen a Gannet flying over fields before! Three Greenshank flew down the river and a Chiffchaff kept a tit flock company in the bushes. Swallows were constantly flying south as we scoured the hedges and trees. Three Marsh Harriers, one with green wing tags kept us looking at them as we tried in vain to get some numbers on the tags.
I walked out at Burnham Overy and joined Marcus Nash and few others being buffeted by the wind, standing on the seabank. Once there I peered into the suaeda for a Booted Warbler. We were treated to a few flight views after a short time of standing around but it was obvious that prolonged views were going to be impossible in the strong wind. I made my way out to where the Barred Warbler had been reported and scoured some of the dunes but the wind was making life difficult and after battling my way back to the car drove to Wells woods. Here it was a pleasant walk in the woods where I met Penny and David as well as Alwyn. I watched a Jay hopping around one of the trees but was surprised by the lack of birds present. A Wren kept me amused for a while it searched for food but it was obvious that all the previous day's migrants had all cleared out.
Stone Curlew in the Sugar Beet Narford Lake
Paul and I did our usual tour of Narvos sites but we started at Great Cressingham where 24 Stone Curlews were hiding in the Sugar Beet. We called in at Narford Lake which can be accessed from the churchyard. Here was the usual array of ducks and Mute Swans. At Pentney there were three Ruddy Shelduck present amongst the Greylags, Egyptian and Canada Geese.
Whilst working in Titchwell carpark, ten Jays flew over together in the early morning. These must have been part of the huge influx of Jays we seem to be having at the moment from the continent.
A walk at West Newton produced seven Common Buzzards, a Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and a Chiffchaff. As it was a sunny day there were many dragonflies and butterflies around. Red Admirals and Commas looked very pretty in the sunlight feeding on the ivy as did a pair of Common Darters. A Chiffchaff added to the scene as it sat preening.
Paul and I started at Lynn Point where the passage of Jays was continuing. We had 23 Jays in one group coming over the marsh. There must be a shortage of acorns in Scandinavia. We watched two Kingfishers, one by the river and one at the sluice of the Babingley River. A Barn owl also hunted along the river edge.
At Wolferton cliff top we watched three Crossbills flying over and admired a Fly Algaric Toadstool before descending down to Dersingham Bog where we saw a female Stonechat. Around Wolferton village we had thirty Redwings and a few Common Buzzards.
Fly Algaric Toadstool
An afternoon birding at Titchwell produced a close Eider Duck on the sea along with some distant Common Scoter and Gannets. A Little Stint was showing well on the Freshmarsh that was ringed in West Norway.
A pair of Goldcrest were displaying to each other in the carpark at Titchwell along with a Treecreeper.
A Tree Sparrow was in our garden as we left home for Holme NOA, where we were just in time to watch Sophie ring a Firecrest. A Yellow-browed Warbler was in the Sycamore Tree by the observatory. Paul and I walked the length and breadth of Holme NWT but apart from a pair of Stonechats the bushes seemed very quiet.
At Titchwell we stood on the path by the Visitors' Centre and spoke to Andy Clements who had put out the news of a possible Blyth's Reed Warbler. We decided not to stay long and drove up to Choseley barns where we looked through the huge flocks of Common Starlings. Later we walked over Roydon Common where there was a Great Grey Shrike as well as good numbers of Meadow Pipits. Many corvids were arriving for the usual roost.
On a beautiful sunny morning we headed to Boughton Fen where a juvenile Marsh Harrier was unpreturbed at a motorist trying to dislodge from its breakfast!
At Ashwicken an adult Mediterranean Gull was roosting on the new workings.
I heard today that the juvenile Marsh Harrier that I had photographed yesterday had been killed by a passing car as it continued to feed on the dead pheasant. Given that the harrier was on a straight stretch of the road, why don't motorists slow down?
Jill and I went for a late afternoon walk at Snettisham Country Park. Here we watched at least eight Bearded Tits feeding on the reed heads. We walked nearly to Heacham and then walked back along the beach. As the sun was beginning to set, two skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over our heads. This is sight that both Jill and I shall never tire of.
All day thrushes were pouring over Titchwell in a magnificent fall of birds in the very foggy conditions. During lunch time I went on the reserve to witness the event as it was happening. It was an amazing sight. During a stint of work in the carpark the hedges were alive with Redwings. As I left work Blackbirds were everywhere as I drove home.
I started the day at Stiffkey where it was extremely foggy. I walked along the coastal path where hundreds of thrushes were still coming off the the sea flying above my head. There were a mixture of Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes all dis-orientated because of the fog. Brambling, Goldcrests and Robins were also making landfall. I soon joined the throng in Campsite Woods where Dave Holman kindly pointed to where the Red-flanked Blue-tail was sitting high up in a tree. I tried to take some photos but knew that the light was very poor and I would be lucky if I obtained any image at all, given the conditions.
It was wonderful to see this delightfull little bird. A few years ago Red-flanked Bluetail was considered a near-mythical bird amongst birders and here one was delighting us all. I joined John and Judy and we walked to the end of the woods where we watched a Common Redstart flitting around amongst many Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits and Robins.
After a quick bite to eat at the carpark, Dave told me about the Black Redstart in the campsite and so John and I went in search of it. In the gloom I cannot say it was the best sight I have have ever had of a Black Redstart. Black blob comes to mind!
At Warham Greens we watched a Yellow-browed Warbler as it flitted in the Hawthorns along with a Chiffchaff and a few more Goldcrests. The thrush bonaza continued as Redwings, Fielfares, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrushes filled the hedgerows and fields. Several Ring Ouzels evaded good views as they dashed about, until we managed a decent view of one along the coastal path. They all managed to evade my lens though in the ever present gloom.
The thrush migration was still continuing but it had slowed down. The foggy conditions had lifted but there were still many thrushes around in all the bushes as John, Judy and myself walked along the boardwalk at Brancaster Staithe. Here we joined the merry throng of observers patiently waiting, staring at a large Sycamore tree. Soon an Arctic Warbler flitted around near the top of the tree before it disappeared. After waiting for a while we decided to walk a bit futher along the boardwalk and the Arctic Warbler was soon re-located in willows where it showed much better.
After we had had enough we drove onto Thornham and scoured the bushes for migrants. Ring Ouzels were in good supply and we must have seen at least ten amongst all the other thrushes. In the meadow at the back of the Lifeboat Inn a pair of 'Nordic' Jackdaws was a nice surprise. They walked around the field in search of food until the Angus cows decided to disturb them. We hoped that they would return with the local Jackdaws but it was not to be.
As the tide was coming in we did a seawatch from under the cliffs at Hunstanton as Robert Smith had told me that Shags were ariving late afternoon to roost on the cliffs. We walked along the beach to the cliffs and sure enough ten Shags flew in just as it was reaching high tide. A Great Northern Diver flew by us as a dozen female Common Scoter landed close by. A few Gannets added to the scene as did newly arriving skeins of Pink-footed geese.
Paul and I started our day at Narford Lake where we admired a few new Pintail that had arrived. As Paul is NarVOS recorder he usually counts the ducks and while he was doing so a Black Tern flew through his view. He shouted to me and I was just in time to see it before it disappeared to the bottom end of the lake which it out of view from the churchyard. Luckily it returned and I sent a text to Ashley Banwell as we were aware of the date being very late for this species and it could possibly be an American Black Tern. Ashley soon arrived and let a few other NarVOS members know. Allan managed to get a few photos of the bird and we are awaiting news! A Red-crested Pochard was also present on the lake.
At Ashwicken the thrush migration continued with big numbers of Fieldfare and Redwings passing overhead. We had a late Swallow sitting on wires near East Winch and 600 Golden Plovers near Polver Sluice.
Later at Lynn Point the hedges were dripping with Fieldfares and Redwings. It has been a phenomenal migration of thrushes this week. A Rock Pipit sat on a gate as we made our way up to the sluice.
Fieldfare and Redwing make landfall from Scandinavia
My son Jonathan was staying with me and as the day dawned bright and sunny we decided on a walk at Holkham. Those that know me well would know I had an ulterior motive as just by the crosstracks I joined the birders and admired the Pallas's Warbler. Luckily it was showing as Jonathan is not one to stand around by bushes and trees wondering what all the fuss is about!
It was a miserable day so after getting wet at Narford Lake where Mute Swan numbers had fallen and Pintail numbers increased, we cut short a visit to Ashwicken lake and returned home.
Long-tailed Tit Marsh Harrier
I was keen to see Waxwings which had been in good numbers around the coastline yesterday whilst I was working and started at Holme, where not a single Waxwing was to be found, despite checking out all the usual areas for them. After asking a few other birders I went to the village hides where a Bittern had been seen. Here Gadwall were displaying on the water whilst a Marsh Harrier quartered Holme Marsh at the back. As I walked back along the muddy path a flock of tits flew into the hedgeline. Long-tailed Tits never cease to delight me as the call to each other whilst feeding.
Paul and I headed to Heathrow for a flight to Johannesburg.
After an overnight flight, Paul and I changed planes and took a flight to Windhoek, Namibia where we picked up a 'pop-up' top 4x4 camper van and headed for Daan Viljoen nature reserve. Here a Great Sparrow was waiting for us as we sorted ourselves out and took in the sun and heat and prepared the van for the night.
Baby Giraffe with its mother Rockrunner
After a reasonable night's sleep we toured the nature reserve at Daan Viljoen and admired a baby Giraffe that was keeping close to its mother as we searched for Rockrunner in a craggy area of rocks. It was good to re-acquaint ourselves with some African birds again as Cape Bunting, Yellow-billed Hornbill and Hammerkop all put in appearences.
However we had a long way to go and we chose to travel the gravelled C28 road to Walvis Bay through the mountains. En-route we watched a Secretarybird,and Ruppell's Bustard searching for food in the long grass and Black-shouldered Kites sitting around on the telegraph poles.
Eventually we arrived at Walvis Bay; what a god-forsaken place that was. Surrounded by huge sand dunes at the edge of the world! Finding a camp site was not easy and it took us many attempts before we eventually found one.
We set off to the salt works in the hope of following a track to the Dune Lark location. However a huge sand dune had other ideas and our attempts were thrawted. We watched Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover, Damara Tern, Caspian Tern and Swift Terns before trying another site.
Dune Lark Swift Tern
Off we went in search of a track to Rooibank which was supposed to be signed from the road opposite the airport. After several failed attempts blocked by pipelines we used the D1983 a gravelled track which had no signage as to where we were heading........all a bit disconserting in 100 degree heat with just sand for company on both sides. However after 24km we drove into a compound and Paul got the van stuck in sand. He jumped out and fiddled with the wheels to put the van into 4x4 mode. With a bit of persuasion the van 'popped' out. We left the van where it was and we set off walking into the dunes for about a mile south of what we supposed to be Rooibank. The heat was searing but after a long search we located four Dune Larks.
We motored onto Swakopmund where we wasted 3 hours dipping Gray's Lark by the salt works grrrrr!!!!!
Driving onto Spitzkoppe we saw Tractrac Chat, Double-banded Plover and Ludwig's Bustard en-route. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we reached Spitzkoppe and so finding the campsite on unmarked tracks was not easy but we did have a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar sitting on the track.
Mountain Wheatear Black-chested Prinia
Up at dawn we failed to find Herero Chat but the birding was good . White-tailed Shrike was a tick for me and it was good to see the Rosy-faced Lovebirds again. Mountain Wheatear and Black-chested Prinia put in an appearence as we searched in vain. in this lovely reserve. We motored a few miles out of the reserve where Paul and I searched just off the road. we located a variety of larks where Paul yelled to me that he had located a small party of Gray's Lark. Thank goodness for that ...............another gap in the list plugged!
A long journey later and we arrived just before dark at the Waterberg Plateau. A Tawny Eagle, Crimson-breasted Gonolek and Little Bee-eater were all familiar species to us as we settled down for the night in the campsite.
Grey Go-away-bird Southern Masked Weaver
As morning arrived we made our way to the two petrol pumps by reception where Violet Woodhoopoe was soon located. We asked about Ruppell's Parrot and two campsite attendants called us over and pointed to a Ruppell's Parrot quietly eating in a tree not far from our camper. A Damara hornbill was also by the petrol pumps. A Grey Go-away-bird was calling as Paul returned to the van to sort out water supplies to it. Unfortunately he needs a reading lesson as he poured water into the diesel tank quite clearly marked diesel! Now we were in trouble! The fuel tank design prevented any siphoning and I had to seek help from the campsite manager. He and his staff were amazing as they took the fuel tank apart and drained the water and diesel out saving most of our fuel.
Once our camper was back together we motored north on a gravel road and spent the night at Roy's Camp where I managed a swim in the small pool there after ticking Black-faced Babbler at the drinking pool.
We left Roy's Camp early in the morning for the long drive to the Caprivi Strip. We stopped off in Rundu for the sewage ponds, where we delighted in the smell and watched Slaty Egret and my first Southern Carmine Bee-eater.Kitlitzt Plover and a Lesser Swamp Warbler were in evidence here.
Eventually after a day's gruelling driving along straight and traffic-free roads with nothing to see except scrub, we arrived at Popa falls where a Giant Kingfisher was waiting for us.
We birded Popa Falls around the campsite which was a bit disappointing given the habitat. Dicinson's Kestrel and Grey-hooded Kingfisher were added to the list before we set off for Mahango Game Reserve. We were told not to get out of the vehicle as there were Lions aroud. Sure enough within five minutes of getting inside the gates we spotted two Lions.
Pale Chanting Goshawk
The Zebra were certainly taking their chances. We had a good day and added many birds to our growing trip list. At long last we plugged a gap of Greater Swamp Warbler that emeged from the dense reeds and papyrus as a Common Cuckoo came and sat right by the edge of the river on a reed. After a couple of hours dring back to our camp for the night we had a quick stroll around before retiring for the night.
We started to walk the outside of the perimeter fence of Mahango Nature Reserve but were told to return to our van by game wardens who said that we were not safe as wild animals were at large. Having seen a couple of lions yesterday we took their advice. We birded for a bit longer from the van and then had a long drive to Etosha National Park. We stopped off at Rundu en-route for a break to bird a swampy area just ouside the town, where we added Rufous-bellied Heron to our trip list.
At Etosha we made our way to Namutoni water hole where at last we saw a Black Rhino.......a long-awaited mammal tick. Blacksmith Plover ran around as White-winged Black Terns dipped in the water. lots of Zebra came into drink but the Rhino was too shy!
Kori Bustard Burchell's Sandgrouse
We birded all day in Etosha National Park driving the gravelled trackways adding to our trip list. Sandgrouse were plentiful as were Kori Bustard. We admired Springbok and Zebra as well as Blue Wildebeest.
Elephant Black-faced Impala
We left Namutoni camp and drove further into Etosha visiting all the waterholes en-route. This proved to be waste of time for the most part as there was too much water around elsewhere. However we enjoyed the animals that we did see.
We arrived at Halali camp only to be flooded out as a thunderstorm rolled in from nowhere. Our van was marooned and we had to shift. We watched the Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starlings on the bit of lawn that was still above water.
Road block Elephant style! Purple Roller
We drove a loop around Halali Camp in Etosha National Park. At one point we became trapped by elephants as they drank from puddles in front of us and behind us on the road. For five minutes it was a bit scary as the matriach waved her ears at us! A Purple Roller sat nearby in one of the trees.
Northern Black Korhaan Ostrich
Our time in Etosha had come to an end and we admired some Ostriches and a Black Korhaan as we left the camp amking for the Anderson gate. Unfortunately the petrol station had run out of diesel and we had a worrying 100km drive before the next town before we could re-fuel. In Namibia there is nothing between distant towns and being short of fuel is not a good idea! Or sub tank decided not to work and it left us running on fresh air for a while! However after refuelling we headed north once again and arrived at Hobatere for the night.
We gained permission to go birding in the Hobatere Game Reserve where we added Carp's Tit to our list. Our night had been made interesting by the campsite's warden telling us to take care as there were lions around and not to stray from the vehicle. It rather restricred our birding knowing that there were lions lurking around!
After a few hours birding we left and made it back to Daan Viljoen Game Reserve where we spent our last night.
We drove back to Windhoek, where after deposting the van at the depot, were driven to Windhoek airport where we boared our plane and flew home via Johannesburg.
I shall upload a trip report to my trip reports page once I have processed all my photos. However there will not be anymore photos for a while as my lens has gone for repair. It is full of sand apparently!
As I was working in the car park at Titchwell yesterday morning, two Waxwings came and sat in a tree for a minute before flying off towards Island Hide.
Three Bullfinches flew along the hedgeline in Roydon this morning as I was negotiating the very slippery road covered in ice.
As Paul and I travelled down to Hampshire we spotted a Waxwing on the bypass at Eye in Cambridgeshie and 4 Red Kites near Northampton as well as a Sparrowhawk and 4 Kestrels. In Hampshire we saw another three Red Kites.
On our return journey from Hampshire it was a beautiful winter's day and we counted 13 Red Kites on our way home.
It was a freezing day and Titchwell was almost frozen over. I enjoyed a walk at lunchtime and admired the Pintail and Shoveler sat on the ice on the Freshmarsh.
I have spent the day writing up my trip report to Namibia.
I have spent the day processing photos from Namibia.
A visit to Flitcham produced thousands of Pink-footed geese but I failed to find the Snow Goose. Teal and Moorhen dominated the scene at the hide with many Chaffinch in the hedges in the lane.
I have now partially uploaded my trip report of Namibia to the trip reports page of my website but it will take more work to add all the photos! (Richard.....you will need more patience!)
It was a miserable day today at Titchwell weatherwise, which meant that we had very few visitors on site. I spent some of the day watching two Brambling and a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders at the back of the Visitor Centre. This evening I spent more time uploading some more photos to my Namibia trip report on my trip reports page of my website. Hopefully one more evening will be all that is needed to complete this task! I have still not got my lens back from repair but I hope to get it before the New Year so I can take some photographs once again.
A day in the car park at Titchwell hoping to recruit some new members was spent wishing members a Happy Christmas and good birding in 2013. Hundreds of Golden Plover flew around over my head and a Brambling settled in one of the trees with Chaffinch. I could hear Bullfinch calling but never saw it. A Robin shared my lunch (as usual) before I packed up and went inside to warm up a bit.
The parts for the repair of my lens have still not arrived. Grrr........
My daughter Kathryn has arrived back from her year's adventure in Australia and so to get her acclimatised we walked down to the pits at Snettisham RSPB. Here a lone Goldeneye kept the usual array of Greylag Geese and Mallard company. Huge numbers of Knot were out on The Wash. Lapwing were settled on some of the islands as we battled with the blustery wind. The route to the pits was very muddy and Kathryn was ill-equiped for the puddles and so we returned along the seabank.
With the exception of Turkey I did not see much else in the kitchen all day!
A Happy Christmas to you all!
Paul and I scurried around the NarVOS area where we were taken aback at the lack of birds anywhere. Narford Lake was full of gulls and Paul picked out a Mediterranean Gull whilst I watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker attack a tree for its lunch. Two Common Buzzards flew overhead. At Pentney 3 Great Crested Grebes kept a few Wigeon company. Down at King's Lynn a few Turnstone were at the River Great Ouse as well as three Ringed Plovers. The Peregrine was on its usual spot in the docks. At Lynn Point Brent Geese and another Common Buzzard kept us amused for a while.
A Sparrowhawk sat on a post in our garden.
I hope you all have a happy New Year and may it be bird-filled.