White-tailed Eagle at Stowlangtoft, 28 January 2024

Having not seen a White-tailed Eagle for some years the news of one settled in the Stowlangtoft area came as welcome news. 

So on a bright Sunday morning I made my way down there - and was delighted to find it was sat in a quite distant tree on my arrival. I watched it through a scope for some while tearing pieces off a presumed rabbit or hare and feeding non-stop. Having had my fill (excuse the pun!) I walked back to the car for a coffee and was about to leave when I realised it had flown closer and was now sat in a tree only 100 meters from the road. At last a chance for a photo or two! It was a juvenile bird bearing a Dutch ring so a bona fide bird and not one from the IOW release scheme. Also in the same spot were 3 Red Kites, 3 Common Buzzards and a calling Nuthatch of note. 

Back at home in the afternoon Belinda and I did a walk at Mendham in the Waveney Valley where 300 Fieldfares, 12 Stock Doves and the Black-eye Lichen, Tephromela atra were the highlights. 

                                                                                                                         White-tailed Eagle
                                                                                                                                Black-eye Lichen

Wood Mulberry fungus, Earlham Cemetery, 26 January 2024

It's not often that I get to see a new fungi that I'd never even heard of before! 

Jeremy had very kindly given me directions to some Wood Mulberry, Bertia moriformis that Vanna had found growing on a dead Lime branch in a tucked away corner of the cemetery. Belinda and I were going into Norwich for lunch today and as we always park at the cemetery and walk in it was the ideal opportunity. It took me all of about a minute to find it although the 'log' wasn't as big as I'd envisaged! The Winter Aconites and Common Snowdrops nearby were looking great and a hint that winter might be slowly relinquishing it's grip!


Weekend winter walking, 20 & 21 January 2024

Two weekend walks that took us in completely different directions.

Saturday afternoon saw us at St James South Elmham and then at the Minster at St Cross South Elmham. The undoubted highlight was a large finch and bunting flock around an old sunflower field at the start of the walk to the minster. It consisted of c60 Yellowhammers (my biggest group for many a long year), 4 Reed Buntings, c20 Linnets, c10 Chaffinches and c6 Goldfinches with a female Bullfinch and Song Thrush also in the vicinity. At home a wintering Chiffchaff was in the front garden briefly.

Our Sunday excursion was to Ringland and a walk taking in a section of the Wensum Valley and Ringland Hills. A Water Vole plopped down into a partially frozen ditch, half a dozen Fieldfares were on the edge of the village and a Great White Egret over the marshes in the valley. Several Hoof Fungi were on birches in the woods. On the way we popped in to Christchurch Road in Norwich to take a look at a Grey Coral fungi found by Jeremy - a new species for me. 

                                                                                                                                  Grey Coral
                                                                                                                                     Hoof Fungus

Lesser Yellowlegs at Southwold, 7 January 2024

With a wintering Lesser Yellowlegs at Southwold it seemed like a good venue for our Sunday walk!

Parking by the church in Walberswick we walked over Walberswick Common and down over the pontoon bridge to the Southwold side of the river. Despite the flood on Town Marshes behind the Harbour Inn having turned virtually the whole marsh into a lagoon I located the bird nice and quickly and watched it at nice close range in the corner nearest the pub. 

Other items of interest were few and far between but it was good to see (and smell that lovely cherry drop scent) of Winter Helliotrope in flower plus some fungi including Tawny Funnel, Purple Jellydisc and Turkeytail.

                                                                                                                                 Winter Helliotrope
                                                                                                                                  Tawny Funnel

Fungi season 2024 - up and running!

At the invite of Jeremy and Vanna I visited Earham Cemetery in Norwich this morning to see a couple of new fungi. It was very relaxing to be shown them rather than having to search for them!

Initially we looked at some rather nice Common Mazegill growing on a dead betula then the main event vert close by. This was the rare Daisy Earthstar under Leyland Cyprus, a delicate small earthstar with only 9 previous county records. Growing on the lichen Physcia adscendens was the rather insignificant pale orange fungi Erythricium aurantiacum.

Also around the cemetery we also spotted a single Redlead Roundhead, Common Bonnet, Crimped Gill, Hairy Curtain Crust and Tawny Funnel.

Today's sightings enabled me to hit the 500 species of UK fungi mark

                                                                                                                                     Daisy Earthstars

                                                                                                                                 Common Mazegill
                                                                                     Erythricium aurantiacum on Physcia adscendens
                                                                                                                                        Tawny Funnel
                                                                                                                                  Redlead Roundhead

Ghana, Day 16, 9 December 2023 - Farm Scrub at Nsutam & Atewa

One final morning of birding.

First stop was near the village of Nsutam where we found the farm scrub here to be particularly birdy. Top of the pops were c30 Red-headed Quelea that proved to be the final tick of the trip. Marsh Tchagra was a close 2nd along with good if fairly distant views of 2 Black-bellied Seedcrackers low down in weeds. Also there were Black-winged Bishops, Black and White Mannikins, White-breasted Nigrita, c20 Orange-cheeked Waxbills, African Firefinch, Copper Sunbird, Superb Sunbird, Yellow White-eye, 4 Black Bee-eaters, 2 Little Bee-eaters, Whistling Cisticola, Simple Leaflove, 3 Diderik Cuckoos, Tambourine Dove and Grey Kestrel.

Then it was back to the farm scrub visited yesterday and the day before. By now it was late morning and extremely hot so I took it nice and easy. A daytime Plain Nightjar was a good spot with Green Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Grosbeak Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, 3 Plain-backed Pipits, Double-toothed Barbet and Honey Buzzard a good supporting cast. A Common Nightingale I coaxed out into the open briefly was the last new bird of the trip. 

We then had a freshen-up and lunch at the hotel before making our way back to the airport for evening flights home via Amsterdam.

Triplist - 375

Lifers - 175



Ghana, Day 15, 8 December 2023 - Atewa Range

Our last full day of birding and it was one that almost finished me off! It involved a very long uphill hike up to a ridge in the Atewa Range for one rather special target species. 

We began walking through the same farm scrub that we birded yesterday (more on what we saw there later) and on and upwards into the forest proper for what seemed like an age. To be fair to our guide we paced things quite well and in the end I found going uphill easier than the walk down! Birds of course kept us amused with an obliging Puvell's Illadopsis followed by Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Nigrita, Velvet-mantled Drongo, several Wood Warblers, Blue Malkoha, White-crested Hornbill, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-capped Apalis and Sharpe's Apalis and a bird we'd looked for several times before and not seen until now - Tessmann's Flycatcher. Also on the list were Square-tailed Sawwing, Yellow-mantled Weaver, a Red-tailed Bristlebill across the track and Copper-tailed Starling - but still no target bird! Eventually and after much searching Foster found the bird we'd walked all this way to see - Blue-moustached Bee-eater. Initially close and in good light the pair didn't hang about for a photo until they were much higher up and in poor light! Nevertheless it was 'job done' much to everyone's relief. The rapid walk back down didn't yield much as we didn't stop enough but 2 Grey Longbills and an African Forest Flycatcher were seen before we emerged from the forest into the scrub area.

In the scrub area we saw Melancholy Woodpecker, Superb Sunbird, 3 Red-necked Buzzards, Chestnut-mantled Weavers, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Plain-backed Pipit, Broad-billed Roller and a wonderful Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher that flew through and landed in a dead tree to be scoped. 2 members of the party had rushed on ahead so were sat in the van at the time!

It is also worth mentioning that the butterflies in the forest were simply amazing. So many big and colourful species which I hope to identify from photos. One we were told about was Dotted Border - according to Foster a rare endemic of Atewa.

The rest of the day was spent doing absolutely bugger all - we were all knackered!


Ghana, Day 14, 7 December 2023 - Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary & Atewa Range Farm Scrub

After a night at the Royal Basin Hotel in Kumasi it was back to Bobiri for another session with a few targets still to try for. 

Walking along the usual main track Naked-faced Barbets and Red-billed Helmetshrikes were in evidence with great views of Sharpe's Apalis followed by Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Blue Cuckooshrike, Western Black-headed Oriole and Black-winged Oriole. All good birds but not what we were looking for. Then, within a short space of time we had 2 Red-thighed Sparrowhawks fly through, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, a circling African Hobby and a flock of c10 Black Spinetails - wow! It was to get even better a little while later when we could hear Red-chested Owlet and after much searching Jus suddenly declared 'I've got it' and there it was in full view, high up on a bare branch. Add to that Black-throated Coucal, West African Wattle-eye, Melancholy Woodpecker, Grey Longbill, Grey Greenbul, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Little Green Sunbird, Tiny Sunbird, Johanna's Sunbird, Crested Malimbe and Red-vented Malimbe and we had ourselves an amazing morning!

Then began a long drive southeast to our next destination of the Atewa Range. Here we checked in to the decidedly average Nelsban Palace Hotel and went out for our later afternoon session. Our main birding in the Atewa Range was to be a long hike into the hills tomorrow but today we concentrated on the low level farm scrub at the start of what would be tomorrows walk. Highlights here were 2 Yellow White-eyes, Lowland Sooty Boubou, Western Bluebill, Vieillot's Barbet, 2 Double-toothed Barbets, Little Bee-eater, Black and White Mannikin, African Firefinch, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Grosbeak Weaver, numerous Chestnut-mantled Weavers, Splendid Sunbird, Honey Buzzard, Tambourine Dove, Blue-spotted Wood Dove and Blue-headed Coucal. Waiting until after dark we then scored with some lovely on the deck views of Plain Nightjar.


Ghana, Days 11 - 13, 4 - 6 December 2023 - Mole NP

We spent 3 nights staying at the Mole Motel with 2 full days and an early morning sessions birding. During this time we did one morning out in a jeep which allowed us access to some spots that need a 4-wheel drive and visited areas around the Zaina Lodge, Samole Loop and nearby waterholes. 

The bushy savannah habitat reminded me a little of certain areas in Kruger, South Africa but rather more grown up. As such the birding was generally easier than in thick forest. The only hazards were Sweat Bees and Tsetse Flies which necessitated a certain amount of covering up at one spot! 

My personal highlights were the difficult Forbes's Plover, Gambaga Flycatcher and Togo Paradise Whydah, rather unexpected views of 2 Narina Trogons, Grey-headed Kingfishers, Sun Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Rock-loving Cisticola, Dorst's Cisticola, Rufous Cisticola, Red-throated Bee-eaters, White-headed Vulture, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Brubru, White-shouldered Black Tit, White-fronted Black Chat, Little Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Gosling's Bunting and Brown-rumped Bunting.  By the Mole River we had 2 African Blue Flycatchers, lovely views of Moustached Grass-warbler, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Malachite Kingfisher, Blue-breasted Kingfisher and Blackcap Babblers.

It was also a great place to boost the triplist with many new species due to the different habitat. These included a good selection of raptors such as Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Bataleur, Palm Nut Vulture, Shikra and Banded Snake-eagle plus Painted Snipe, Spur-winged Goose, Helmeted Guineafowl, Stone Partridge, Green Woodhoopoe, Hadada Ibis, Northern Red-billed Hornbill, Abyssinian Roller, Senegal Parrot, African Golden Oriole, Senegal Batis, Senegal Erememola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Long-tailed Glossy Starling, Yellow-billed Shrike, Familiar Chat, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Pygmy Sunbird, Lavender Waxbill, Double-spurred Francolin, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise Flycatcher, Northern Crombec, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Sahel Bush Sparrow and Northern Black Flycatcher plus palearctic migrants such as Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and Willow Warbler

A couple of evenings out including 2 visits to an old airstrip got us African Scops Owl, Greyish Eagle Owl, Northern White-faced Owl, Standard-winged Nightjar and Long-tailed Nightjar.      

Mammals were also pretty decent with African Elephant (including one at 20 meters range!), Bushbuck, Western Kob, Common Warthog, Olive Baboon, Green Vervet Monkey and Patas Monkey.

Leaving Mole on  6 December for the long drive south back to Kumasi we first stopped at Laraganga to look at the oldest mosque in West Africa (adding Red-chested Swallow) and then at a roadside between Fulfoso and Damongo. Here it was a bit of a raptor-fest with Beadouin's Snake-eagle, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard, Grasshopper Buzzard and c25 Black Kites plus Black-headed Herons and Senegal Thicknees