Fine City Plants, 26 June 2023

I found a few nice plants in Norwich earlier this week while out and about.

Initially I went to look at the Man Orchids found last year. Finding 2 spikes but they were well past their best. In the same rough area I did find some other goodies though - Carthusian Pink and Rose Campion growing side by side and a short distance away a lovely Eastern Larkspur plant in pristine condition.

In Earlham Cemetery a little later on some Rosy Garlic was in the usual spot near the eastern end.

                                                                                                                                Eastern Larkspur

                                                                                                                                 Carthusian Pink
                                                                                                                              Field Rose
                                                                                                                                  Man Orchid
                                                                                                                          Rose Campion
                                                                                                                                 Rosy Garlic

A weekend in the Suffolk Sandlings, 23-25 June 2023

We took our motorhome away to the Suffolk coast for a couple of nights this weekend staying over at Westleton and Aldeburgh.

Before settling at Westleton we did a walk in Dunwich Forest with a freshly-emerged White Admiral, Broad-bodied Chaser, Norfolk Hawker and Brown Hawker the highlights. Once in Westleton at our overnight spot an exploration of the immediate area revealed several Silver-studded Blues in the evening sun with Mottled Grasshopper also photographed. The following morning we were entertained by 3+ Nightingales around the carpark and a distant singing Woodlark which was a lovely way to start a day! A mass of Navelwort was also there looking extremely out of place (I wonder how this western species of old walls comes to be growing in the ground on the edge of Westleton?) plus loads of Slender Thistle and White Stonecrop.

Relocating at Aldeburgh for Saturday (and night) revealed loads of Dittander around the saltmarsh margins, Sea Lavender, Sea Pea, Yellow-horned Poppy and Sea Kale plus Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and 2 Sandwich Terns.

On the way home we stopped for a circuit of North Warren which proved an inspired choice as I saw Slow Worm, 25+ Small Shaggy Bees, c8 Pantaloon Bees, Pink Sorrel and Large-flowered Evening Primrose.  

                                                                                                                               White Admiral

Silver-studded Blues

                                                                                                                               Mottled Grasshopper

                                                                                                                                White Stonecrop
                                                                                                                               Slender Thistle
                                                                                                                             Yellow Horned Poppy
                                                                                                                                    Sea Pea
                                                                                                             Large-flowered Evening Primrose
                                                                                                                               Small Shaggy Bee
                                                                                                                                    Slow Worm

Local botany bits and pieces

A few bits and bobs to report from the last week locallyin South Norfolk.

Firstly, the Frog Orchids are up again at Wink's Meadow and this year look bigger than usual. Pyramidal Orchids were just starting to flower there too. It seems to be a good year for orchids all round. 

While in Harleston town centre doing chores I stumbled upon a strange grass growing out of pavement cracks in Station Road. It turned out to be the rather oddly named Water Bent and thus a new one for me.

Talking of new plants - a late evening walk from the house a few days ago took me towards the old Pulham railway line and along a track near there I found some lovely Sweet-briar. Quite a scarce plant. That got me thinking about roses and I realised I'd never recorded the rather common Field Rose. Needless to say I went looking and after checking a few Dog Roses soon found one! Also that evening a stray Oat plant was seen in Guildhall Lane.

Not botany but a noteworthy find near the house was a Woundwort Shieldbug, only the 2nd I've ever seen. 

                                                                                                                                 Frog Orchid
                                                                                                                                   Water Bent

                                                                                                                                  Field Rose
                                                                                                                       Woundwort Shieldbug

Canada, Vancouver Island & The Rockies, Days 20 & 21, 5 & 6 June 2023 - Kamloops area and Hope

Leaving Valemount today was the day we started to head back towards Vancouver. En-route we had an overnighter to the east of Kamloops. 

First stop once we'd driven to Kamloops was the Cooney Bay/Tranquille area to the west of the city. This was earmarked for Lazuli Bunting which of course I'd already seen but I readily found 2 more. Also there was Say's Phoebe, Bullock's Oriole, Vesper Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Rough-winged Swallows and 2 Ospreys.

As we made our way through the Kamloops traffic and out into the countryside c30 km east I spotted a roadside lake to check out - Buse Lake. A quick stop in tha layby was well worth the effort with American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and Black-necked Grebe all added to the triplist plus Lesser Yellowlegs, Redhead and Western Bluebird. Driving along the entrance road to our farm Airbnb and I noticed movement in a ditch beside the car - Wilson's Snipe and a lifer!

Thta evening our host cooked us an unexpected dinner and we had a lovely evening on her balcony. But not before we'd ventured out to nearby Duck Meadows where I finally scooped with Willow Flycatcher, my last tick of the trip plus American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Sand Martin and an American Kestrel on wires.


All that was left the following morning was to check ourselves out and make the long drive back to Vancouver. We broke the journey up with a walk at the Othello Tunnel near the town of Hope but it was closed and we couldn't find a path in. Nevertheless I did add Nashville Warbler to the triplist with Black-throated Grey Warbler and Chestnut-backed Chickadee singing in the broadleaf woodland there.

We Airbnb'd it in the Richmond area of Vancouver that night before the long trawl home the following day. 

The triplist ended on 163 with 64 lifers.        

Canada, Vancouver Island & The Rockies, Days 13-19, 29 May - 4 June 2023 - The Rocky Mountains

We left the Oliver area early on 29 May and began the long 7 hour journey to the village of Field in Yoho NP which was to be our home for the next 3 nights. After a stop in the town of Golden for supplies and a DQ Grill n Chill (previously known as Dairy Queen I believe) we checked in and just had enough time for an evening out at the nearby Emerald Lake. It was an incredibly beautiful spot and certainly lived up to its name. The birding was quiet with just the regular pine woodland stuff although some nice photographic views of Red-breasted Nuthatch were most welcome.


The following day we visited 3 of the scenic sites on our 'to do' list - Johnston Canyon, Tunnel Mountain Hoodoos and the superbly-named Lake Minnewanka. In line with most of our time in the mountains birding took a back seat as most places were walking through the same habitat although not crowded there were a few too many people about for birding. The highlights were American Dipper in Johnston Canyon, Swainson's Thrush at Tunnel Mountain and best of all 2 Western Grebes on Lake Minnewanka which were a lifer for me. Mammal's stole the show though with a huge mega Black Bear crossing the road near Tunnel Mountain closely followed by our first Elk (4)!


The last day of May and we had earmarked it for a visit to the iconic Lake Louise and a long hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers. It was probably the most scenic walk I've ever done and the birding had one or two surprises too. Top of the bill was an unexpected Hutton's Vireo at close range closely followed by 2 Slate-coloured Fox Sparrows in full song. Into the bargain I also has the only Tennessee Warbler of the whole trip, c15 Two-barred Crossbills, Wilson's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Mountain Chickadee, Greater Yellowlegs at the far end of Lake Louise, Canada Jay, Clark's Nutcracker and loads of Cliff Swallows nesting under the balconies of Chateaux Lake Louise. 

Later in the day a walk at Field gave us Black-billed Magpie, Rufous Hummingbird, Northern Flicker and Warbling Vireo of note. 


Leaving Field for our drive up the famous Icefields Parkway to Jasper the weather was rather inclement (the only day it was on the whole trip!) so we settled for stopping at a few sites en-route including Bow Lake, the amazingly blue Peyto Lake, the Athabasca Glaccier and Sunwapta Falls before reaching Jasper. A late afternoon walk around Annette Lake where Mountain Chickadee and Ruby-crowned Kinglet entertained. But not as much as a point-blank Black Bear nearby that evening before we had a nice meal out in Jasper. 


We had booked tickets for the 'Jasper Skytrain' on the morning of 2 June making sure we were on the first ascent of the day. While waiting a wander around the carpark and vicinity was good with a singing (not seen) Varied Thrush and about 20 Two-barred Crossbills flying about. Exploring the barren mountain landscape as we slowly weaved  our way to the top of The Whistler after our ascent in the cable car revealed the odd bird but not the hoped for ptarmigan. With a summer plumaged American Golden Plover, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch and a point blank American Horned Lark plus 2 Hoary Marmots it was hard to complain though! Talking to the warden while back down on the cp it seems the plover was a bit of a mega find!

After lunch in Jasper we headed out to Maligne Canyon for an afternoon walk which was very nice but a bit lacking in bird action. Nevertheless an Elk in the carpark, Hammond's Flycatcher, Cliff Swallow and then an amazing encounter with a 'Cinnamon' Black Bear and 3 cubs along the road made it a memorable afternoon.


The following morning we checked out of our digs in Jasper and decided to make the drive out to Maligne Lake as we'd heard how nice it was. It was quite a drive and not a good as we'd been told but a couple of walks and the carpark/bridge area did yield my first American Mink, c25 Two-barred Crossbills, Lincoln's Sparrow, Lesser Scaup and Cliff Swallow as well as the more regular sp. As we drove back towards Jasper a flock of Bighorn Sheep were causing traffic mayhem by a busy junction and then, up a slope towards the railway line a fine Grizzly Bear and cub were causing some interest, not least from us! 

We continued our drive past Jasper and on to Valemount, our final base in the mountains. A coffee stop at Mount Robson had us watching Rufous Hummingbird while admiring the view of the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

Our accommodation just outside Valemount was the wonderfully quirky, rustic but basic Teepee Meadows with a rather eccentric host! As we arrived I wondered if we were going to get out alive as it was extremely 'hillbilly'! It actually turned out to be one of our favourite places we'd stayed. The property had wonderful views and some half decent birds with 2 Blue-winged Teals on a marsh pond, American Redstart, Black-capped Chickadee, Purple Finch, Cedar Waxwing, Audubon's Warbler and Common Yellowthroat seen on that first evening. A couple of beers at the 3 Ranges bar and brewery in Valemount that evening rounded the day off perfectly. 


The next day I had an early morning walk at Teepee Meadows adding Least Flycatcher, Turkey Vulture and Red-breasted Nuthatch to the site list. We then the first of paid a couple of visits to the rather lovely Cranberry Marsh on the edge of Valemount. The boardwalk area here was very good and it was nice to bird in some different habitat. Pick of the bunch were a couple of showy Northern Waterthrushes, Least Flycatchers, Hammond's Flycatcher, a splendid male Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, Blue-winged Teal and c6 Bufflehead

In between our 2 visits to the marsh we took a drive up the remote dirt road up to the Mount Trudeau trailhead. The road was a bit iffy in places but well worth the effort as I scored with 2 new birds - a Spruce Grouse on the roadside that had me frantically trying to position the car correctly for a photo and then a Townsend's Solitaire in treetops but alas all too briefly for a pic. Also along the road we had Two-barred Crossbill, MacGillivray's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Townsend's Warbler. That evening our host entertained us with a selection of songs on his guitar including a personal favourite Harvest Moon by Neil Young!