The next instalment of non-bird photos from Borneo - butterflies and other insects. Butterflies were very numerous, probably more so than anywhere else I've been. I could have spent the whole time on them if it weren't for all the mega birds and other stuff! I have virtually no knowledge of then but some of the other insects were weird and wonderful!
I'd been wanting to get up for a full day birding on the coast for a while and today I had the opportunity to do just that.
The high tide at Titchwell was at about 09.00 so I headed there first. A 30 minute stop on the way to scan a big flock of Pink-footed Geese just south of Choseley Barns revealed only 1 Tundra Bean Goose and 1 White-fronted Goose lurking in their midst and not the hoped for Todd's Canada Goose. I gave the same flock another 20 minutes of my time after leaving Titchwell but still had no luck.
Titchwell itself was fabulous. I've never seen the sea so full of seaduck, it was a real spectacle. The totals were c3000 Common Scoter, c30 Velvet Scoter, 2 Scaup (1w drake and female), c15 Red-breasted Merganser, an amazing c70 Long-tailed Duck including several stunning males, c12 Goldeneye, c15 Eider, 1 Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Diver, 1 Guillemot, 1 Slavonian Grebe and c25 Great Crested Grebe!
Around the reserve lagoons were 3 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 16 Grey Plover and 12 Avocet plus Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwits, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew and huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover. I then picked up an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the freshwater lagoon and a Cetti's Warbler gave a brief burst of song. On the pool on the west side of the main path was a sitting Kingfisher and a nice Water Pipit before a Water Rail showed nice and closely in the pathside ditch towards the carpark.
Yellow-legged Gull, Titchwell
I reluctantly tore myself away and headed for Holkham. Refusing to pay the crazy carpark fees on Lady Anne's Drive I parked in the village carpark and walked out onto the beach from there. Well, I needed the exercise too! Walking east from the ene of the boardwalk it didn't take me too long to find the flock of c30 Shorelark but they were flighty and kept being disturbed by hooray henry dogwalkers. There was a big flock of Linnets, c6 Skylarks and bizzarely a covey of 7 Grey Partridges on the saltings too. I headed through the gap in the dunes to the sea finding a lovely Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Common Scoter and c50 Red-breasted Mergansers before walking back. On the way back a flock of Brent Geese had settled on the saltings. In the flock was a lovely Black Brant and while I was scoping that c12 Twite flew in too. I couldn't put a foot wrong! An absolutely huge flock of c3000 Lapwings and c1000 Golden Plover were put up off the freshmarsh on the walk back.
I finished the day at the Warham Greens roost where things were a bit slow. A couple of ringtail Hen Harrier sightings early doors then nothing much until the last glimmer of light when 2 ringtails and a mega male Hen Harrier appeared out of the gloom. Other than that a Barn Owl and c40 Little Egrets were about the only other things worth a mention.
I am slowly getting through all my non-bird photographs from Borneo back in March/April!
Primates featured quite highly on my wanted list (and very highly on Belinda's!) and we were lucky enough to see several species - Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Maroon Langur, Silvered Langur, Long-tailed Macaque, Pig-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris and Colugo (aka Flying Lemur). Orangutans were caught up with at Gomantong Cave and Kinabatangan River with the latter site having plenty of Proboscis Monkeys. We also saw just 1 at Klias River. Maroon Langurs were at both Danum Valley and Gomantong Caves. Long-tailed Macaque were common along most waterways but we only saw Pig-tailed at Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre. On a memorable night walk there we had Colugo and Slow Loris plus Red Giant Flying Squirrel
While on the subject of mammals in general we had good views of 4 Asian Pygmy Elephants from our minibus along the entrance track to Danum Valley on the way in. On the way out several days later along the same track we had what can only be described as one of the biggest strokes of luck ever - a Sumatran Rhino ran across the track in front of the vehicle before quickly disappearing into roadside vegetation! Although we were buzzing at the time we didn't quite realise the significance of the record. I knew there were very rare but apparantly they were declared extinct in Sabah a few years ago. Since our record scientists have found footprint tracks of the species in a remote area of Danum Valley proving that declaring them exinct was a bit premature. Still as rare as rocking horse shit though!
In between chores I popped along to Tasburgh this lunchtime and found the 2 Waxwings there within about 30 seconds! Feeding actively on berries opposite the primary school and doing small circuits of the nearby gardens but in view pretty much all the time I was there. A pair of noisy Mistle Thrushes were trying their best to spoil the party.
In recent days I've had 2 new gardens ticks in Pulham Market - a flock of Pink-footed Geese over at c08.00 on 13th and Tawny Owl calling away over the drive on the night of 12th. A quick look in Tivetshall while passing today and there was no sign of last months Black Redstart.
Well, I've not had a weekend birding like that for a while. Actually to call it birding would be an exaggeration - it was out and out shameless twitching, and it felt good!
Our original plan had been to go straight to Pembrokeshire overnight on Friday but the weather forecast was terrible for the southwest on Saturday. Instead we decided to head for Derbyshire first, then drive to Pembrokeshire on Saturday afternoon (driving through the rain), stay near Haverfordwest on Saturday night and having seen our target down there on Sunday morning to head home during the rest of Sunday. And it went pretty much to plan with an additional bonus on the way home.
Leaving Justin's at 03.00 we were having breakfast under the golden arches in Chesterfield by 06.00 and then parking up on the carpark on the Chatsworth estate by about 06.45. The organisers of the birding operation the Dukes Barn Outdoor Centre had laid on a free one-way shuttle minibus to the village of Beeley about a mile away to prevent the village being overrun with cars and it worked like a dream. We were in the grounds of the outdoor centre pre-dawn awaiting the light. A Tawny Owl called and loads of Redwings were flying over calling making us a little nervous because it had been a clear starry night. More Redwings and a few Fieldfares started emerging from the gloom in the hedges and after about half and hour the shout went up for the Dusky Thrush. It was feeding on apples in a small orchard and despite the poor light and big crowd I was able to get some nice views of it feeding back-on in an apple tree, turning its head occasionally. We stayed at the site until about 12.30 and saw it 3 times, once at distance in a grassy field and finally back in the orchard for prolonged and very good views where I was able to get a few snaps. In between sightings there were several dashes but getting around, through hedges and narrow gaps in walls etc combined with the generally flighty nature of the bird meant it wasn't easy to connect with every time it showed. The hospitality of the guys at the outdoor centre was superb - trays of bacon rolls, coffees and teas for sale, loos to use and smiling faces. As Justin said 'I don't get treated this well at home'! Other birds were almost incidental but we had Grey Wagtail, 2 Nuthatches, Treecreeper, 4-5 Common Buzzards, 2 Sparrowhawks, Mistle Thrush and a couple of Siskins.
We dragged ourselves away from the site just after lunch and made our way via Derby then the M6, M42, M5, M50 etc into SW Wales. The weather was awful so driving through it rather than trying to bird in it was a good call. En-route we used Booking.com to book a cheap B&B in the village of Spittal north of Haverfordwest arriving there at 18.30. A meal and couple of beers in the local pub The Pump on the Green and we hit the sack knackered!
A quick DIY breakfast and a short drive later and we were stood outside a row of houses at Croft Villas in the village of Camrose. A Song Thrush completed the list of 6 thrushes in a weekend and then within about 15 minutes the Masked Wagtail popped up onto a roof top. During the next hour and a half it went on to show superbly well on the road, pavement, walls, gutter and rooftops. The birder who found it invited us into his back garden at no.5 and it gave some great views feeding on top of a mole hill at c15 feet range. This 'personata' race of White Wagtail has been split by the Dutch but nobody else yet. Nonetheless a real looker and a 1st for Britain.
We left the site at about 10.00 just as the other crew from Norfolk (Ian Brittain, Ghost and others) were arriving and made our way back through south Wales. News the broke of another goody in Tewkesbury and a quick look at the map revealed we were passing within 2 miles of it. It would have been rude not to! By 14.00 we were gazing up at a superb male Eastern Black Redstart flitting about on the tower and roofs of Tewkesbury Abbey. It showed nicely if a little distantly but eventually came down into a tree for some memorable views. A couple of Grey Wagtail fly-overs and Magpies gathering to roost was the cue for our departure and we were home at 18.30 in time for tea - and some sleep!
Tops marks to Andy for doing all the 800+ miles driving and both boys for the customary laughs and banter!