Some of you will know in the past ‘Letter from Norfolk’, and ensuing Facebook postings, occurred every other day. You may have noticed that as promised in my last post of 2016 there has been a change. Due to time restraints postings are now published every four days. There’s also a new ‘rotating’ header on the site.

Letter from Norfolk started off as a blog for my customers about what we had been seeing on tours and musings of a wider nature. However, it is clear postings are read and commented on by a much wider circle of individuals than those that have been on one of our tours. It will continue to adapt and change in the future perhaps inviting more comment (and photos) from others.

Recently I’ve been popping a lot on the site regarding my South American trip. I thought I’d post one last photo from our January break. It’s an Albatross. Specifically a Wandering Albatross. These are big birds and on one afternoon off the coast of Chile several came very close to the ship. Passing at ‘eye level’ they had me squealing like a schoolboy. They were almost within touching distance. I can’t convey the uplifting feeling at being so close to such an iconic enigma of the oceans. The bird with the longest wingspan in the world was inches from me. It could also easily have approached me in years of age; and I’m no spring chicken. Moreover it was graceful and beautiful. Wearing the perpetual smiles of a dolphin they would swoop and glide effortlessly in the strongest of winds. Simply magic.

I’ve placed some of the photos I took during January to the end of the ‘latest section’ of my Wildcatch Photography site – see them here. I’ve also prepared a trip report with details and sightings. If you would like a copy please send me an email (carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk)




I’ve seen African, Indian and Black Skimmers, the American version, previously; but never managed to get a photo of one skimming.

To explain. A skimmer is a species of bird. In fact there are just three different types in the world occupying areas around water in India, America and Africa. They are somewhat tern like in their appearance but much larger and their lower mandible is extended beyond the upper, to give them a very odd appearance. This adaptation enables the bird to fly along with it’s lower mandible ‘trailing’ in water and when it touches a fish it snaps it up and swallows the meal. Cool.

We were watching out over the estuary of the Maipo in Chile. There was a distant flock of several hundred skimmers mixed with gulls towards the other side of the river some one kilometre distant . However a  small flock of eight individuals were much closer and they were mobile. Eventually they started to skim right in front of us. A superb bit of evolution.




Ground Tyrants are not the most illuminating bird family on the plant. They are a bit like washed out Wheatears. We were chasing a few in the Yeso Valley in Chile last month. Kneeling down  to take a photograph with a better perspective something crawling amid the rocks and vegetation to my right caught my eye.

It was a glimpse of something jewel like; bright and full of colour. The same flash as a good cut diamond in full sun; but more vibrant. I ignored the bird and watched the rocks. There it was again. I shuffled over for a better look… woo! A turquoise and brown insect about two inches long scuttled towards me. ****. I quickly stood up.

It looked wasp like. It had an obvious stinger on it so I decided to keep clear but it was truly beautiful and iridescent with colour as well as quite daunting. Between it’s quick runs between boulders  I ran off a few frames. I returned my attention to the Ground Tyrants.

It was only this week after a little research I found out what it was. A Pepsis Wasp. The insect with the second most painful sting in the world; second only to the Bullet Ant. Now, if that wasn’t a good enough reason to not be sharing crawling space on the valley floor you need to hear its alternative name. Tarantula Hawks are a vicious predator of … yes, you guessed it … Tarantulas. So that’s what it was looking for under those rocks and boulders. Gulp.




Sailing off the coast of Punta del Este in Chile we were scanning the sea to see if we could pull out another new bird for the trip. The wind was up and so was the swell. However, the little transporter ferry we were on was coping well.

We’ve all watched the U boat movies on telly. The German commander folds up the periscope and gives the order to ‘Fire Torpedos’. The scene cuts to the surface where a trail of white tracks towards the British battleship. Well imagine us on that ferry seeing those torpedos coming straight at us… then another … and another. The missiles broke the surface to reveal their true form. Commerson’s Dolphins are instantly recognisable; piebald streamlined animals moving at warp-neck speed. I so wanted to see this species … and see it well. As they shot under our hull the views were just amazing.





Port bow

We weren’t far off entering the South Pacific. Sailing north west in the Chilean Fjords offering fantastic midday views of the Isla Campana. We would pop out into the open ocean quite soon. An ideal place to see Orca. As if by magic a few splashes distantly off the port bow morphed into a matriarch led pod of around 12 animals as we caught up with them. Always good to see this was our second encounter in as many days with this enigmatic cetacean.



We three …

Amid a moor of dark peat and rocky outcrops was an island of colour. A small King Penguin Colony on the Falklands just a spitting distance from Port Stanley gave us an opportunity to capture some of the activity.



A chance in a million

Puerto Madryn is a city and port on the coast of Argentina. It’s not a particularly big city nor is it a particularly big port. However, it lies in a massive natural harbour…and I mean massive. Take a look on google earth. To the north is an isthmus of land that has another large harbour to the north of that.

These inlets are renowned as breeding sites for Southern Right Whales. The whales leave the bays in early December but as we sailed into port during an early morning of this month I was scanning hard to see the distinctive V shaped blow of this species. After all there may have been a late animal; a stray that had delayed its journey south to the antarctic-circle. As we travelled the area of land between the bays throughout the day I kept a close eye on the sea … nada … nothing.

Even as we sailed out of the bay that evening heading south despite keeping an eye open for that distinctive V shaped blow I was disappointed.

The whole of the next day was spent at sea. I was up early. The very first thing I saw as I stumbled out onto the lower deck was a blow. But what was it? It was travelling with the ship so I got several bites of the cherry as the blow was repeated. A good V shape. Excellent. I went to the upper open restaurant for breakfast already satisfied I’d seen Southern Right Whale. As I tucked into my melon slices another blow, then another well off the stern. Another tail slapping in the distance. In all I reckon there were 25 to 30 Southern Right Whales in the area. What we needed was one to slip close by the ship. No sooner had the thought entered my mind a blow struck up under the starboard side. The whale’s finless back was visible and as it rose to breathe the strongly arched mouth came into view as did the head covered in callosities. Wonderful.

We had stumbled upon a pod of Southern Rights making their way south to the Antarctic Circle. What are the chances of that?


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February 2017
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