Norwich, 29 January 2020

A trip into my home city of Norwich today. After chores, shopping and lunch I headed to Hellesdon Road on my way out. In the tall trees between the road and the River Wensum I found a single Ring-necked Parakeet sat silently and unobtrusively. A Little Egret flew along the river and a Stock Dove was also present. As I was leaving 2 more parakeets flew in and one perched a bit lower so I managed a quick pic just before I left. In the city earlier, in Goldring Place just off Dereham Road a patch of Trailing Bellflower on a south-facing wall was actually in bloom. This species, according to Harrap has a Jun to Oct flowering period! Other January flowers included Common Chickweed and Groundsel

Ring-necked Parakeet

Trailing Bellflower

  Common Chickweed

Parklife! 28 January 2020

Today I spent a little bit of time in Christchurch Park in Ipswich. Let's be honest, it's the only place there worth visiting!
In the early morning sun the Tawny Owl that seems to have replaced 'Mabel' in using the same roosting tree/hole was showing very nicely. She has been dubbed Mabel mk2!
Down on Wilderness Pond I found the escaped drake Hooded Merganser (bearing a bright green plastic ring on it's left leg) together with 8 Mandarins (5 males/3 females) but this winter there don't appear to be any Goosanders. A Brown Rat was kicking about and a little later on a Grey Wagtail was at the Waterfront on the opposite side of town.

Tawny Owl

Hooded Merganser


  Brown Rat

A Day for Photographs! 27 January 2020

I had a lovely leisurely day out in NE Suffolk today and for once managed to get half decent photographs of pretty much everything I wanted to see.

I began at Kessingland where, below The Hollies I ventured out onto the wide beach and was halted by a lovely group of 8 Sanderling on the first pool I passed. I didn't want to miss the chance to photograph those as the species has always been one of my favourites. I then walked to the seaward side of the large pool and quickly located the single wintering Shorelark which was my main target. I had it all to myself and managed to get to within just 15 feet of it as it fed completely unconcerned by my presence.



 Kessingland North Beach

Then it was on to Ness Point in Lowestoft where 10 Purple Sandpipers were quickly found on the rocks just to the south of the slipway despite it being high tide (which, from experience isn't the best time to look for them!) c30 Turnstones and 2 Robins were also on the rocks and a few Kittiwakes offshore.

 Purple Sandpipers

I finished my day with a detour on the way back and into Norfolk to Hardley Staithe near Loddon. I had Stonechat, c4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards and 2 Chinese Water Deer before I decided to walk the footpath to Street Farm. Here a Chiffchaff was by some farm buildings and 3 Redwings by a paddocks before I walked back. Then my searching paid off as 2 Short-eared Owls flew in and performed superbly around the rough grassy close to the staithe allowing more photographic opportunities.

       Short-eared Owls

Early wildflowers and local bits, 26 January 2020

Due to work and 'fitness' commitments (I'm trying to walk 10,000 steps/5 miled each day!) birding opportunities have been few and far between recently. My walk from home today did give me 2 flocks of Fieldfares (c60 and c230) and a couple of Mistle Thrushes. In keeping with their old English name of Storm Cock I've noticed several while out and about in the last week or two. My walk also gave a nice Blushing Bracket growing on Willow along Boudicca's Way. Other highlights of a week at work with sneaky walks here and there were Marsh Tit near Tivetshall, a male Sparrowhawk briefly on a garden fence while working in Burston and a Grey Wagtail in central Bury St Edmunds. Early wildflowers have included Winter Aconite, Snowdrops, White Dead Nettle, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Primrose and a nice patch of Stinking Hellebore on Wortham Ling.

Blushing Bracket

Winter Aconite

      Stinking Hellebore

The Yucatan Peninsular here we come!

It's now just 3 weeks until Belinda and I head off to Mexico on our latest adventure. I've been doing a little reflecting lately on how lucky we are to be in the position we are where we can do these sort of trips with the regularity we are. One of the benefits of having raised families early and living a fairly frugal lifestyle means we now find that our time is our own and through hard work and careful planning we can do these things.

We are flying in to Cancun and exploring the whole of the Yucatan peninsular which includes the states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche. Birding is obviously top of my list but one advantage of this trip is that the Mayan archaelogical sites which interest Belinda are some of the best birding sites too. The food and drink look like they might be rather nice too...! 

The map below shows the rough route we plan to take over the course of a leisurely 3 weeks. 


Mycology Workshop, 18 January 2020

The ever helpful guys of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group had arranged a mycology workshop and I was fortunate enough to attend this event today. It was held at Bawdeswell Village Hall and attracted an attendance of c20 people. I found it immensely interesting and a real eye-opener on the use of various techniques to identify fungi. These included the use of chemnicals, microscopy, keys and also useful bits on drying and labelling specimens and recommendations on other resources such as books and the internet. Tony Leech was very helpful giving us newbies and lesson in making slides and using a microscope. We were treated to some amazing microscope views of the spores of Melatiza chateri (a close relative of Orange Cup) which was a new fungus for me.
A huge thanks to Tony, Steve and Yvonne Pinnington, Steve Judd and all the other members who gave us their time and expertise. My credit card may now take a bit of a battering with books and maybe even a microscope!


Great Northern Divers at Weybread, 8 January 2020

It's always nice when a good bird turns up locally and when 2 do it's even better!

I nipped along to Weybread GPs early this afternoon and the 2 Great Northern Divers were located straight away on No.1 Fishing Pit. Walking around the edge I managed to get reasonably close and both birds then surfaced even closer which was superb. Both birds were still present when I left, ranging all over the pit and diving/feeding constantly. The only other things of any note were Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush.


Norfolk rarity mop-up, 4 January 2020

There were 2 birds I wanted to catch up with today - it's just a shame they were at opposite ends of the county. Cue some filthy twitching!

I made my way to the Norwich NDR poised to go either way on the first news - and that news was from Eccles-on-Sea so off I went. After a mile long walk south from Cart Gap I found the 1w male Desert Wheatear showing on the top of the seawall. It even popped down on to the rocks on the beach in the early morning sun at one point. A very smart bird indeed and very much job no.1 done! Just along the coastroad between Ingham and Sea Palling were a nice mixed flock of 17 Bewick's Swans, 7 Whooper Swans and a few Mute Swans. I was watching thses when the news I wanted from west Norfolk came though so I hit the road.

 Desert Wheatear

In just an hour and a quarter I was at Choseley and within a couple of minutes I was scoping the adult Grey-bellied Brant in a flock of c2000 Pink-footed Geese in a field to the SE of the drying barns. This bird really is distinctive and with Pink-feet the right 'chums' so like many others I can't see why the bird info services are giving it out as a possible. After about half an hour the flock gradually departed to the south. A lovely ringtail Hen Harrier flew past us at the site too.       

With time to spare I drove the short distance to Sedgeford for 2nd dabs at the 'Alaskan' Eastern Yellow Wagtail and it didn't disappoint. Indeed it showed much closer than before. Initially on it's favoured muck heaps and then in the field by the track entrance.

'Alaskan' Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Benacre/Covehithe, 3 January 2020

Belinda and I indulged ourselves with a breakfast at the Lighthouse Cafe in Lowestoft before walking it off with a walk into town and back via Ness Point (with no birds!)

We weren't quite done so decided to go for a stroll along the clifftop from Covehithe to Benacre Broad and back. The juv Great Northern Diver was present and correct on the broad with c8 Goldeneye and a pair of Common Buzzards circled over. On the walk back a single Russian White-fronted Goose had plopped down in the clifftop field with 14 Brent Geese and 15 Snow Buntings were up and down clifftop eventually landing on the latest part of the cliff to slump onto the beach. Not bad for an hours work.


Sri Lanka, Day 11, 20 December 2019 - Rock View Motel area, Sinharaja & Colombo seafront

This was mainly a travelling day as we headed back to Colombo for our flights home.

We did however manage to squeeze a final bird walk in from the Rock View Motel after breakfast. Purple Sunbird, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Orange-billed Babblers, 3 Brown Shrikes, 2 Common Ioras, 2 Brown-breasted Flycatchers, Asian Brown Flycatcher, 3+ Yellow-fronted Barbets, Red-backed Flameback, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, 4 Orange Minivets, Green-billed Coucal, White-bellied Drongo and 5 White-rumped Munias were the highlights before we hit the road at 10.00

The journey in the rain didn't yield much except White-breasted Kingfishers, 1 Blue-tailed Bee-eater and a Crested Serpent Eagle but it was strange to see Spot-billed Pelicans on lamposts beside the freeway as we neared Colombo!

After a flying visit to Jith's house for a de-brief an a few snacks we headed towards the airport where we dropped off AbdulRahman for his early flight. Hetti and Indunil then very kindly offered to drive us to the seafront area to kill a couple of hours as our flight weren't until later. It was hard going in the rain but at one spot with access to the beach we scored with several Lesser Crested Terns, some distant Brown-headed Gulls and a Whimbrel on the beach to round things off.

My personal total triplist - 206
Lifers - 69
Mammal lifers - 18

Next stop Mexico ;-)   

Sri Lanka, Day 10, 19 December 2019 - Sinharaja area

Our last full day birding.

Picking up the same jeep and driver as yesterday we bounced our way up another very bad track to a 'village' which actually consisted of 2 houses. Arriving in the first birdable light of the morning our final endemic fell within minutes as 2 Sri Lanka Blue Magpies appeared in tall trees and then down in one of the gardens. We'd achieved a full house of 34 out of 34 and the pressure was off!  A couple of Ashy-headed Laughthrushes and saveral Orange-billed Babblers were also feeding on the lawn.

We then spent a good three hours around the house opposite as it rained on and off. The owners didn't mind the invasion as we birded from under their eaves and even through their windows to keep dry. We had our packed breakfast in their house and they even brought out tea and jaggery (the latter a sweet treacle tasting confectionery). The whole spot was very birdy and we busied ourselves photographing verious species albeit in pretty awful light. From my point of view I was grateful for a 2nd chance to photograph Sri Lanka Spurfowl as a pair appeared. Indian Blue Robin, Spot-winged Thrush and a gorgeous Yellow-striped Mouse Deer were also seen in the same clearing in the trees at the rear of the house. A pair of Sri Lanka Scimitar Babblers showed well in the garden and up to 6 Ashy-headed Laughingthrushes visited to feed. In the same small area we also had Green-billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, White-bellied Drongo, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbills, Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, Emerald Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Red-backed Flameback and another new mammal - Layard's Squirrel

Another stop as we decsended gave us Plum-headed Parakeet, Layards Parakeets and Black-headed Cuckooshrike.

By the carpark at the rainforest entrance c6 Sri Lanka Blue Magpies gave us the opportunity to get some pics in reasonable light.

Yellow-browed Bulbul

Green-billed Coucal

Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler

Ashy-headed Laughingthrush

Brown-breasted Flycatcher

Yellow-browed Bulbul

Black Bulbul

Emerald Dove

Sri Lanka Spurfowl

Spot-winged Thrush

Indian Blue Robin

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

Layard's Squirrel

 Black-headed Cuckooshrike

We then retired to the Rock View Motel for a while as we were in for a late night. During a chilled few hours I managed to get some nice shots of bird around the motel such as Loten's Sunbird and Yellow-fronted Barbet as well as seeing Greater Coucal, Indian Swiflet, White-browed Bulbul, 4 Orange Minivets, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike and Shikra.

Loten's Sunbird

Yellow-fronted Barbet

Red-vented Bulbul

 Orange-billed Babblers

Our late night vigil was beside a busy road and hours drive away to the west. We failed with our quarry of Sri Lanka Bay Owl but did hear it call a couple of times. The Fireflies here did put on a good show through!