Thursday, 27 November 2014

Norfolk and those Pink-footed Geese!

We have just returned from a great trip to Norfolk. The main purpose of which was to see the huge flocks of Pink-footed Geese roaming the skies, filling the fields and sitting on the shoreline at Snettisham.

Of course we managed to fit a lot of other things in as well, including adding two new species to our growing bird list and bringing our UK total up to 213.

Our time started with a trip to Titchwell on the Sunday. Titchwell is one of our favourite places due to the diversity of species and habitats and always the chance of the ever elusive Bearded Tit. As usual we failed to see them yet again, we know winter isn't the best time, but you never know!

Anyway we had a good but sadly very wet day and cold day, as we reached the first hide the heavens opened, so we decided to stay put until it stopped, meaning we spent a good 90 minutes in there. Despite the weather we had good views from in the hide of Teal, Shoveler, Snipe, Water Rail, Godwit and a lonely Avocet:

The next day saw head out to Abbey Farm after some local birding at our digs. Outside our lodge was a pool with reeds and plenty of trees backing on to the start of Wells Woods, we had a particularly good morning; Marsh Harrier, Little Grebe, Mallard, Long-tailed Tit
Kestrel, Kingfisher, Blue & Great Tit, Jay and Great-spotted Woodpecker as highlights.

Abbey Farm was nice with Teal, Woodpigeon and Crows being the predominant species, but the highlight was 3 or 4 Yellowhammers giving us a good show and out first Redwing of the Winter.

So onto Snettisham we wanted to be there at Sunset and see the Pink Foots head in and we weren't disappointed, of course whilst we waited there was plenty of waders and waterfowl to see. A huge flock of Golden Plover were on the mud flats which was nice to see:
along with Knot, Bar and Black Tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Sanderling, Oystercatchers, Redshank et al. The pools held loads of Wigeon, a few Teal, a single Pochard, Little Egret, Lapwing, Cormorant, Greylags and a Barn Owl showed up, that was a great result.

The Pink Foots finally arrived in numbers and we watched them settle until it was too dark, I didn't take any PFG photos (too dark) but I think the sunset was worth a snap!

Next day saw us up at 5am and off back to Snettisham to see the Pink Foots take off  again, are we mad or what! But we did. we were hoping for a mass exodus of the circa 30,000 geese, but they left a few thousand at a time, but still well worth seeing:

After this we found somewhere for Breakfast before heading over to Fakenham and the Hawk and Owl trust reserve at Sculthorpe Moor, a good couple of hours was had there, Highlights were; a Goldcrest, Brambling, Marsh Tit, Kestrel and a pair of Marsh Harriers. After this we decided to go 'home' and put our feet up and see what turned up at Wells, in short, not a lot!

Wednesday was Holkham day, the plan was to park up walk along the beach, do a bit of Sea Watching, then head to the furthest hide for a while, then head back via another hide, again for the Pink Foots as this can be a really good spot for their overnight roost. As we parked up and headed off 3 Buzzards turned up, 2 pale morph and a Rough Legged:

The Sea Watching provided us with Surf and Velvet Scoter plus another load of Wigeon and a Great Northern Diver, no photos of these much too far away!

The Joe Jordan hide was a good spot for a late lunch and a Great White Egret among the cows!
As usual the place was over run with Pheasants, this one coming a bit closer than the rest:
So before we set of for dusk at the other hide, we had the pleasure of the company of this Barn Owl, the only problem being with the hides at Holkam is that you are facing straight into the setting sun, so not a great photo:
So off to the next hide and the Geese:

Thursday was a bit dismal weather wise and we just tootled around the coast between Salthouse and as far up as Titchwell, we added a Stonechat to our list and got reasonably close to a group of Brent:
and a friendly Turnstone came to see us:
We popped into Holkham again on the way back as it was only 10 minutes from Wells and you never know what will turn up, it was relatively quiet, a Barn Owl showed again as well as a number of Marsh Harriers (at least 4). The geese obliged again in greater numbers than the previous day, awesome! As I said this was a murky day though, but it did give me a chance of some Sun photographs, that even showed some Sunspots:

So last day and as planned we headed for an hours drive to Strumpshaw Fen, we in previous visits we had seen Bittern and Otters, so fingers crossed.
We sat in the reception hide for quite a while, but nothing much was happening, a solitary Shoveler posed for us:
Again we saw plenty of Marsh Harrier, but in the end we decided to go for a walk down to the river, just in case some Bearded Tits popped out, (they didn't!), then we spent some time in the Fen hide, where apart from Teal, Crows and Marsh Harrier, we had a good Kingfisher sighting:

We headed back to reception only to learn that 10 minutes after we left 3 Otters came by! Sometime you could just scream... but no one said wildlife watching was easy!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Trip to South Africa - Part 8 The last bit - The Cape West Coast National Park

Today was a full on birding day. Up early and out to meet our guide for the day: Mark Harrington.
Before I go further with what we saw, I have to say that Mark was a brilliant guide, he's knowledge of the the sites we visited was fantastic as well as his bird knowledge. I would thoroughly recommend contacting Mark if you in the Cape Town area, here are his details:

So onto the day after leaving Cape Town we headed north towards the WCNP, we made our first step at a small wetland near Vissershok, we had good sightings of Great White Pelican here, but not close enough for decent photos, then as we tried to get a better view they departed away from us, such is a birders life! There were also Black-headed Heron and Sacred Ibis about as well as a circling Yellow-billed kite. We didn't tarry here too long before we headed passing these  on the way:
Blue Crane:
the arriving at:

This was a delightful meadow full of birds, out first sighting being this:
Levaillant's Cisticola:
Apart from this obliging Cisticola photography was difficult as the birds were skittish and being a meadow there was no way to sneak up on anything for a closer shot. However we did see the following other birds here:
Cloud Cisticola, Blue Crane, White-necked Raven, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Rock Kestrel, Black-winged Kite, Large Billed Lark, Three-banded Plover, Yellow Canary, White-throated Swallow, African Pipit, Cape Longclaw, Cape Weaver, Southern Red Bishop and Yellow Bishop.

So on to the park first we paid our entrance R40 each (£2.50) and stopped to use the facilities this gave me a couple of photo opportunities:
Angulate Tortoise:
 Cape White-eye:
 Cape Bulbul:

We spent the rest of the day in the park at various locations including a fabulous lunch at the Geelbek Restaurant located within the park. The day was scorching making any distance photography difficult due to the heat haze, especially when we were in the hide down on the shore line.

We totalled 101 species for the day which is by far the best total we have ever managed on any day out, that's what you get when you have a brilliant guide. So anyway here are some of the photo's that I did manage, some are just for the record:
African Spoonbill:
 African Spoonbill & Sacred Ibis:
 Little Grebe:
 White-throated Swallow:
 Cape Shoveler:
 Black Crake:
 Cape Weaver:
 Black-schouldered Kite:
 Grey Heron:
 Karoo Prinia:
 Klaas's Cuckoo:
 Red-faced Mousebird:
 Malachite Sunbird:
 Cardinal Woodpecker:
  Malachite Sunbird:
 Cape Weaver:
 Cape Spurfowl:
 Black-winged Stilt:
 Rock Kestrel:
 Southern Black Korhaan:

 Greater Flamingo, African Oystercatcher, Common Terns, & Sandwich Tern
 Greater & Lesser Flamongo:
 Grey Plover:
 Cape Spurfowl:
 Black Harrier:

 Puff Adder:
Yellow-billed kite:
Cape Bunting:
 Grey-backed Cisticola:
 Kittlitz's Plover:
We of course saw many more, but I won't bore you with a list.
So just some loose ends to tie up, we spent a bit of time around the cape area with a visit to the Kirstenbosch Gardens, for Sugarbirds but they proved elusive we did get this though:
Spotted Eagle Owl:

A trip to Boulders Beach for the African Penguins:

Then finally on a very blustery day we went up Table Mountain, very few birds around, but it did produce our final 'tick' of the holiday:
Orange-breasted Sunbird:

So that's it our trip produced 168 species in total with 140 being new, so not too shabby at all.

So our next trip will be a bit less exotic, but interesting nevertheless, Norfolk in a weeks time.