Twitching a fungus - whatever next?! Whitlingham CP, 31 October 2018

Thanks to my mate James Emerson I was armed with precise directions to a fungus I've long wanted to see. Having waited a few days for some good weather at 07.30 this morning it was a glorious frosty, misty morning with the low autumn sun breaking through the trees at Whitlingham CP.

Following the directions I was very soon watching my quarry - Wrinkled Peach, a gorgeous looking fungus growing out of moss on a fallen log. The same log had Jelly Ear and the curious Tripe Fungus which looks like a bracket fungi but is soft and wrinkly underneath. Nearby I also found 2 Wood Blewits before I had to leave and head for work.

I'm very much a fungus newbie but could see this becoming a new area of great interest!

Wrinkled Peach

Wood Blewit

Tripe Fungus

   Jelly Ear

Tyrrels Wood Fungus Foray, 28 October 2018

With the clocks gone back and the dark nights with us I felt something suitably autumnal was in order this afternoon. So it was a wander around our local ancient wood - Tyrrel's Wood.
I didn't find any fungi that were spectacularly beautuful but there was a reasonable variety of these fascinating things.
I didn't have much of a clue to the id's so many thanks to James Emerson for helping me out!

Rosy Bonnet

Pipe Club Fungus

Common Puffball

Birch Polypore

Ugly Milkcap

Trechispora mollusca

Probably a lichen rather than a fungus but a nice looking thing!

Bonnet sp

Birch Polypore

  Glistening Inkcap

South Africa, Day 27, 27 September 2018 - Graskop area and El Roi Guesthouse, Mpumalanga

The final day of our epic month before flying home early the following morning.

It began with a visit to one tourist scenic site we'd not visited the day before - God's Window. Just before we got there a raptor spotted from the car turned out to be a new one for me - Black-chested Snake-eagle, which was a great bonus. The site itself was mainly in cloud preventing decent views and the birds just consisted of Red-winged Starlings, a Kurrichane Thrush and Common Waxbills.

We then popped in to a couple of waterfalls briefly before a coffee in town. From here we headed to  likely looking grassy/rocky area 2km NNW of the town and I headed out over the grass. Belinda eventually decided to follow me and it proved to be a very good hunch indeed. Within just 30 minutes I'd seen a Wing-snapping Cisticola, 2 Cape Longclaws, 3 Buff-streaked Chats, Cape Rock Thrush, African Stonechats, Jackal Buzzard, House Martin and on the walk back a pair of Plain-backed Pipits. The day had suddenly livened up!

Buff-streaked Chats

 Plain-backed Pipit

Deciding it was time to leave we couldn't resist one last site in the area - Graskop Gorge. Having initially shot right past it for several miles we turned round and it was a good job we did. This place has a lift that takes you down into the gorge where you can follow a nice boardwalk through the forest (ignoring the noises from the zip line above!). About halfway round the walk I hit gold with my another, much wanted tick, a male White-starred Robin that showed supremely well, probably because I'd left my camera in the car!

 Graskop Gorge

We really did then have to leave and took the very potholed road back down towards the airport at Nelspruit. After checking in at the El Roi Guesthouse I had an hour left of light so walked around the grounds/farm. And it really was surprisingly good. Top of the bill was my last lifer of the trip Amethyst Sunbird but the back-up cast of 2 Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, 2 Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Tawny-flanked Prinia, 2 Fork-tailed Drongos and Southern Black Flycatcher really was a fitting way to end a memorable trip.

A total triplist of 348 included 238 lifers with 42 mammal species into the bargain. 


South Africa, Day 26, 26 September 2018 - Strydom Tunnel and Blyde River Canyon

We left the Bramasole Guesthouse after breakfast and began the journey south to Graskop with a few stops en-route.

The first was at the impressive Strydom Tunnel where I found the described spot by a roadside curio stall and was quickly joined by the local guide! Sadly, despite our best efforts we were unable to find any of the target Taita Falcons which was a bit of a blow. The guide did however rescue the day by finding me a singing Striped Pipit which would mean I didn't have a single day without at least one lifer! We also had a Peregrine around the cliffs plus a Cape Vulture, 2 Black-backed Puffbacks and a White-bellied Sunbird before I tipped the guide and we moved on.

We spent the rest of the day at various scencic tourist sites in the Blyde River Canyon area (The Three Rondavels and Bouke's Luck Potholes)  so birding opportunities were limited. I did however score with Southern Anteater Chat plus 2 Cape Rock Thrushes, Mocking Cliff Chat, Yellow Canary and 2 White-necked Ravens.

While driving during the day I added European Roller to the trip list and also saw White-crested Helmet Shrike, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and Common Fiscal of note.

After checking in at the Zur Alten Mine guesthouse just outside Graskop a walk nearby produced African Stonechat, 2 Drakensberg Prinias, several Speckled Mousebirds and c8 Swee Waxbills

 Southern Anteater Chat

The Three Rondavels

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Vagrant Emperor, a new UK dragonfly for me!

A UK dragonfly tick doesn't come along too often these days and after seeing Azure Hawker in Scotland in June it's only 'accidentals' that will be new.
So the chance to see Vagrant Emperor at Kessingland today wasn't to be missed. Arriving at 09.00 and bumping into Rob Wilton and Andrew Easton we found the male within 15 minutes and then had 3 views up to 09.45. Then nothing until 13.20! luckily it then gave itself up very nicely albeit still not on the deck. My 48th species of odonata in the UK

Also seen during the long vigil were an obliging female Red-veined Darter, c3 Common Darters, Small White, Peacock and plenty of Ivy Bees. Birdwise several Redpolls flew north in the morning with a Red Kite also moving through plus 2 Fieldfares, 3 Redwings and 2 Siskins 'in-off'. There were also a few Sea Radish plants still in flower

Red-veined Darter

 Sea Radish

South Africa, Day 25, 25 September 2018 - Magoebaskloof and Bramasole Guesthouse

The previous afternoon (24th) we visited the Debegeni Falls near Magoebaskloof and I had a walk around the extensive grounds of our luxurious Bramasole Guesthouse as the sun set. They seem better placed in this blog post rather than the last rather long one about Kruger!

The Debegeni Falls were overrun with tourists but at least my main target, Mountain Wagtail was very quickly bagged!

 Mountain Wagtail

The grounds of the guesthouse yielded some nice views of c4 African Stonechats, Levaillant's Cisticola, Cape Canaries, Crested Barbet, Cape Grassbird, a Black Saw-wing, 2 White-throated Swallows, several Greater Striped Swallows over the dam and a Jackal Buzzard carrying nest material.

Levaillant's Cisticola

African Stonechat

Cape Canary

 Jackal Buzzard

The following morning I left Belinda relaxing by the boathouse overlooking the dam at Bramasole and heded up into the hills to try the Magoebaskloof loop. Renowned for being a good forest birding site I found it slow as I did every forest in SA! A gorgeous African Crowned Eagle did start things off well and several stops along the track (reputedly a 4WD only track!) eventually yielded 2 Knysna Turacos, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Batis, Kurrichane Thrush and 2 Black Sparrowhawks plus Little Bee-eater on the way back.

African Crowned Eagle

Yellow-streaked Greenbul

Little Bee-eater

Later, back to Bramasole and evening walk was excellent giving me both African Olive Pigeon and Drakensberg Prinia as lifers plus Long-tailed Cormorant, Purple Heron, African Grey Flycatcher, Burchell's Coucal, 2 African Palm Swifts, 2 Speckled Mousebirds, Giant Kingfisher, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Cape Robin-chat, 3 Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, 2 African Pied Wagtails and Yellow Bishop.

Burchell's Coucal

Cape White-eye

     Drakensberg Prinia

Stejneger's Stonechat (probably) and Atlantic Canada Goose, 23 October 2018

I slunk off up to North Norfolk today and after getting positive news made my way to the west end of the quags track just east of Salthouse Beach Road. Here the 'Eastern' Stonechat, probably Stejneger's was present on arrival along a reed-fringed ditch. During an hour spent on site it showed well in between periods of going missing. Although it ventured closer to the track it was only very briefly so all the photos I managed were at distance so not great. An interesting bird for sure and very similar to the Landguard bird last year. Apparantly a faeces sample has been obtained for dna analysis. What has my hobby become?! lol! If confirmed it will be a nice county tick so we shall see...
A very late Swallow was over the marshes and a Snipe flew over. A Marsh Harrier with 2 large red/orange wing-tags was also knocking about as was a Brown Hare.

Then it was on to look through a flock of c1000 Pink-footed Geese between Weybourne and Sheringham where I eventually located (and then promptly lost!) the vagrant Atlantic Canada Goose when it popped it's head up to greet a passing train!

STOP PRESS - @ 18/11/18 the stonechat has been confirmed as a Stejneger's following DNA sampling. It therefore becomes Norfolk tick no.395 for me!

Yearlist = 242

 probable Stejneger's Stonechat

 Atlantic Canada Goose

South Africa, Days 16 - 24, 16 - 24 September 2018 - Kruger NP

Apologies in advance - this is going to be one epic blog post with loads of photos covering all the time we spent in the Kruger National Park!

Our itinerary while in the park was as follows:

16 Sept - Arrived midday at Nelspruit airport, picked up hire car and drove into the park entering at the Phabeni Gate. Birded Phabeni Gate to Pretoriouskop. Night at Pretoriouskop rest camp

17 Sept -  Birded Fayi Loop and Pretorouskop to Ber-en-dal. Night at Berg-en-dal rest camp

18 Sept - Birded Berg-en-dal to Skukuza. Night at Skukuza rest camp

19 Sept - Morning game drive from Skukuza. Birded Skukuza area including Lake Panic. Night at Skukuza rest camp

20 Sept - Birded Skukuza rest camp, Mlondozi and Skukuza to Lower Sabie. Night at Lower Sabie rest camp

21 Sept - Birded Lower Sabie to Satara including Sweni Hide and Orpen Dam. Night at Satara rest camp

22 Sept - Birded areas to N, NW & E of Satara including Sweni Hide. Night at Satara rest camp

23 Sept - Birded Olifants River and area. Night at Olifants rest camp

24 Sept - Birded Olifants River and Olifants to Phalaborwa Gate where we exited the park. Drove west to Magoebaskloof area

Without going into each and every detail of each day the bird highlights were a total of 14 Southern Ground Hornbills, Cape Vultures, White-backed Vultures, Lappet-faced Vultures, White-headed Vultures, several Red-crested Koorhan and Kori Bustards, Purple-crested Turacos at Berg-en-dal, Yellow-billed Storks, African Openbills, 2 immense Saddle-billed Storks on the Olifants River after much much searching, 3 Senegal Lapwings, a single White-crowned Lapwing, Secretarybird, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Bennett's, Golden-tailed and Bearded Woodpeckers, White-throated, Red-capped and White-browed Robin-chats, Mocking Cliff Chat, Mariqua Sunbird, Jameson's Firefinch, Green-winged Pytillia, Golden-breasted Buntings and African Quailfinch.

Into the bargain, other new birds I managed to score with were Blue Waxbill, Kurrichane Thrush, Southern Black Flycatcher, Grey Go-away Bird, Southern Yellow-billed, Southern Red-billed, Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Brown-headed Parrot, Lazy Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Dark-capped Bulbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Red-billed Oxpecker, White-bellied Sunbird, Swainson's and Crested Francolins, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Grey-breasted Green Pigeon, Burchell's Coucal, Water Thick-knee, White-fronted Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Acacia Pied and Black-collared Barbet, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Chinspot Batis, Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bush-shrikes, Black-backed Puffback, Magpie Shrike, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Southern Black Tit, Sabota Lark, Rattling Cisticola, Lesser-striped, Rufous-chested and Grey-rumped Swallows, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Burchell's Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-weaver, White-winged Widowbird, Lesser Masked Weaver, Red-headed Weaver and African Firefinch. Phew, I'd have taken that lot before I went!

The numerous photos that follow are at least in chronological order! Scroll past them for details of the mammal action we experienced...

Red-billed Oxpecker

Arrow-marked Babbler

Blue Waxbill

Crested Barbet

Southern Black Tit

Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling

Green-winged Pytilia

African Hoopoe

Wahlberg's Eagle

Black-collared Barbet

Croaking Cisticola

Lilac-breasted Roller

African Quailfinch

Southern Ground Hornbill


Magpie Shrike

Kurrichane Thrush

Grey-headed Bush Shrike

Natal Spurfowl

Long-billed Crombec

Red-billed Firefinch

White-browed Robin-chat

Terrestrial Brownbul

Purple-crested Turaco

Brown-crowned Tchagra

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike

Greater Honeyguide

Southern Red-billed Hornbill

White-fronted Bee-eater

Red-billed Buffalo-weaver

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Cape Vulture

Golden-breasted Bunting

Swainson's Spurfowl

Tawny Eagle

Emerald-spotted Wood Dove

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Red-billed Oxpecker on Impala

Bearded Woodpecker

White-backed Vulture

Lappet-faced Vulture and White-backed Vulture

Goliath Heron

Hooded Vulture

White-backed Vulture

Marabou Stork

Striated Heron

White-bellied Sunbird

African Pied Wagtail


Blacksmith Plover

African Fish Eagle

Dark-capped Bulbul

White-throated Robin-chat

Yellow-bellied Greenbul

Village Weaver

Pied Kingfisher

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Cape Turtle Dove

Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling

White-crowned Plover

Yellow-billed Stork

Yellow-billed Kite

African Jacana

Jameson's Firefinch

Dark-capped Bulbul

Mocking Cliff Chat

Sabota Lark

White-crested Helmet Shrike

African Openbill

Lizard Buzzard

Acacia Pied Barbet

Brown-hooded Parrot

Kori Bustard


Black-backed Puffback

Yellow-bellied Greenbul

Crested Barbet

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Red-billed Buffalo-weaver

Burchell's Starling

Red-crested Koorhan

Golden-tailed Woodpecker

African Grey Hornbill

Red-billed Quelea

Blue Waxbill

Cape Glossy Starling

Red-crested Koorhan

Grey Go-away Bird

Blue Waxbill

White-winged Widowbird

Yellow-billed Stork

Water Thick-knee

African Mourning Dove

Southern Ground Hornbill

White-headed Vulture

Lesser Striped Swallow

Giant Kingfisher

Brown Snake Eagle

Tawny Eagle


Black-headed Oriole

Mariqua Sunbird

White-bellied Sunbird

Chinspot Batis

Mocking Cliff Chat

Martial Eagle

African Spoonbill

Yellow-billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork

Lesser Masked Weaver

Of course, animals were the other big reason to visit Kruger and they didn't disappoint. In fact I was surprised by the volume of animals as well and being well and truly blown away by the views we got of all the ones I wanted. The commonest antelopes are without a doubt Impala followed by Greater Kudu with smaller numbers of Waterbuck, Nyala, Steenbok, Bushbuck and just one small group of Sable Antelopes. The numbers of Plains Zebra (300+), Giraffe (100+), Elephant (300+) were astounding with numerous Hippos, c25 White Rhinos, loads of African Savannah Buffalo and Blue Wildebeest. It was the predators that stole the show with c20 Lions (including males, females, cubs and even a family on a Wildebeest kill) and 2 Leopards plus 1 Brown Hyaena, several Spotted Hyaenas including a family party, Warthogs, 1 Black-backed Jackal, Chacma Baboons and Green Vervet Monkeys. The latter raided our car and nicked a bag of bananas at one point! Smaller mammals included Slender Mongoose, Common Dwarf Mongoose, Savannah Hare, Tree Squirrel and Single-striped Grass Mouse. We finished the whole trip with 42 mammal sp!