Archive for Mar, 2014




What I wanted was a photo of a Bobcat laying out in the sunshine in a wildflower meadow. What I got was entirely different.

The first encounter we had with a Bobcat in California was in the dry Panache Valley. I was trying to get into a good position behind some scrub to get a photo of a quail. Unbeknown to me the Bobcat was using the opposite side of the same bush to stalk the same quail. However, his desires on the bird were far less benign. The quail moved out into the open and we both made our move.

I’m still not sure who was the more surprised the Bobcat or me but needless to say there were four extremely raised eyebrows between us. I suspect he just tutted, muttered something like ‘bloody photographers’ under his breath and calmly trotted off.

The second encounter we had was a week later in Yosemite, or rather a mile or two just outside. A young animal crossed the road in front of the car as we were going into the park on our last day. I managed to park and fire off a few poor shots before it disappeared into the darker depths of the forest.

Maybe next time.




Back to Black


Our 17 days in California had been carefully timed to get the best from our trip. Some species would be leaving, others arriving, some breeding some already feeding young. It was inevitable given nature does not operate to a precise timetable that we would struggle to see or even miss some species. So it was only on our fourth and final journey out into the Pacific did the shout go up for ‘ALBATROSS!’ something I’d hoped to see but didn’t expect.

A pitching boat and a troughed sea with a three metre swell will never be conducive to getting a good look at something. One hand on the rail at all times in an attempt to stay on board with another for binoculars and camera and you find yourself rapidly running out of limbs. Just as I managed to get my bins onto the damn thing it disappeared. Oh well … I’d seen it. My first Black footed Albatross.

It was a few moments later I realised why I’d lost it. The Albatross had pitched down on the surface of the sea. We made a bee-line for it; and what was that with it? Oh my god it was another two.

Fantastic birds. These individuals will perhaps be nesting on Hawaii and travelling the two and a half thousand miles east to the coast off California to feed. An epic day!

Black footed Albatross

Black footed Albatrosses


It’s all Big

Highway one runs south from Carmel along the west side of California. The road cuts through the impenetrable countryside of the Big Sur hugging the cliff-line as close as a groom holds his bride. Imagine an advert for a new sports car. This is where you would film it. Racing along open tarmac with a blue sky, blue sea and rough terrain; it is the ideal drive. It’s a big open place peppered with names like Jagged Point and Wildcat Creek and it’s an ideal place to find a bird so rare and low in numbers it almost became extinct.

We had searched the 50 mile stretch of road diligently all morning stopping wherever the ever present mist cleared a little to view the cliffs below and the mountains above. With only less that 200 Californian Condors left in the world they can be difficult to find. We searched the road again in the afternoon without any luck. It looked like the largest flying bird in the world was going to elude us.

We stopped at the last ‘pull-in’ for our final try. Despite low spirits we still managed a laugh as a Rufous Hummingbird perched briefly on Sharons bottom as she stooped to change her shoes. I took a long last look along the ridge above us as she climbed back into the car. A kettle of some 15 Turkey Vultures wheeled overhead in a tight column.

I think the words I used were something like “What the xxxx is this?” I’m not really sure why I asked the question as amid the vultures was another bird that could not be anything other than a Condor. Dwarfing its entourage it cut the air effortlessly as it came closer. Then another circled out from behind the mountain. I had waited a lifetime to see a Californian Condor and I was now watching two.

It’s difficult to express the feeling of finding something against all odds. I know others who have tried to see these birds and unfortunately failed. Raptors are never easy at the best of times but I’ll tell you what … it’s on my list!

The Big Sur !cid_C6838685-2182-4907-89AF-5201B38EF3A4

California Condor

California Condors


Pure Beauty

The main reason for our trip to California earlier this month was to see Grey Whales and Bobcat. Birds however played no small part. Over the next month or so I will endeavour to share, from time to time, a little of the experience of being on the Western seaboard of North America.

California is a wonderful place with some amazing wildlife; some large, some small. Small like this Anna’s Hummingbird. No bigger than a butterfly this beautiful male buzzed around us flashing his face shield of metallic feathers catching the evening sunshine in a display of pure beauty.

Anna's Hummingbird


Make like Reeds!

In front of the hide were several masters of camouflage. Evading the quartering Marsh Harriers the Snipe melted into the short cut reeds in a way that only they can. Once in a while they popped out into the open.



The Next Generation

The WWT do a good job in maintaining their Winter Swan Feeds at their reserves throughout England, Scotland and Wales. As well as benefiting the Whooper Swans it also means it’s possible to get close. Getting close to wildlife is essential in stirring an interest for the young; the next generation of birdwatchers and environmentalists who will take over from those that have gone before them. These shots were taken on the February Solway Geese Tour in Scotland.

Whooper Swan 1

Whooper Swan


A Good Dousing

While waiting for Parrot Crossbill to come down to drink last month a few Common Crossbills attended the puddle at which we were waiting. The still sunny almost warm February day gave an opportunity to sit and wait in relative comfort. I guess when you’re eating something akin to dry Muesli all day a good dousing of water from time to time is essential.

Crossbill 1



Down at the water’s edge

Returning from Scotland last month and a quick stop off for lunch gave us the opportunity to take a few photographs of Eiders. The males at this time of the year look quite stunning. Always distant in Norfolk on the east coast they were far more obliging.



The Giant Owl, the Wasp and a message from a Goose

Remember that shriek that came from the kitchen a few weeks ago? Re the Wasp well I had another one of those moments the other weekend. “Just look at the size of this Owl Pellet in the garden … it’s HUGE!

Well, the owl pellet upon closer inspection turned out to be Goose poo! Not your average goose dropping you understand but something the goose lost and knew about it … it was indeed huge! (I have spared you the photographs) I guess the goose must have landed in the garden or at least been flying very low for it to leave such an intact message on the lawn. So the lady of the house doesn’t always get it right! Risky statement that! … but perhaps I can temper the response a little.

Going back to the Ichneumon Wasp for a moment; it turns out it’s Ctenochares bicolorus otherwise known as the Black-tipped Orange Ichneumon a parasitic wasp preying on Owlet Moth species and was kindly identified by Gavin Broad. The thing is it’s actually native to Africa; although it has spread as far as New Zealand and closer to home is now in Spain. If you recall that’s where the Lettuce came from in which it was transported.

It has turned up before in the UK … but only once; in a malaise trap (insect trap) set within Battersea Park, London. So this makes the wasp found by the lady of the house a second record for the UK … and, presumably a first for Norfolk.

As she put it herself “First I find a rare fungus next a rare wasp, what next?” … but she still can’t tell the difference between goose poo and giant Owl pellets.

2014 01 17 Black tipped Orange Ichneumon Wasp Ctenochares bicolorus Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A5917


Things are brighter than you would imagine

On one tour last month we tried to find displaying Goshawk but the weather was wrong. It had forecast bright and showery weather but it was the dullest greyest day you could imagine. If I was a Goshawk the last thing I would want to do is display. We had some good Woodlark though among many other birds and a magnificent display of Winter Aconite. What a wonderful sight to brighten anyone’s day.

Winter Aconite

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Mar 2014


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