Archive for Dec, 2019


Goodbye 2019

Well, we’re nearly there. A new year. A new future. A new start.

As we stride forward over the threshold drinking our ‘cup of kindness’ it’s hard not  to look back. For Tania and I it has been a year of paperwork, patience and facetime. That’s now over. For good. 2020 will cement our future… together.

On the wildlife front 2019 was again full of sightings. The Bay of Biscay trip sits high on the list of favourites; how can a rare petrel and a cast of whales not be up there. Lots of highlights on the tours and day trips. Two trips to Australia were also up there. A place I’ve become to regard as my second home. However, the trip Tania and I did to the South coast of Victoria in July around Warrnambool sits atop the pile. Just the variety of birds, wildlife, locations and photo opportunities was just fantastic.

So what of 2020. Florida is on the agenda, the Forest of Dean. Oh! … and a Wedding! The round the UK mammal tour will run as will Central Scotland and the East Coast Seabird Tour. Cornwall, Scillies, and Cumbria are also all booked and will run. Whatever, 2020 brings it’s set to be exciting, different and interesting. I couldn’t ask anything more from life.

The photo is a Black shouldered Kite that we spend a pleasant evening photographing on Victoria’s south coast. Happy New Year!


Eastern Wanderer

We’d been told it was a bit of a mud skating rink. Farm vehicles had churned up the site and the numerous visits of bird watchers had made their own repeated furrows in the rain soaked track. Freed from the shackles of Christmas we ploughed our own runnel today to see the Eastern yellow wagtail site at Sedgeford in West Norfolk.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Alaskan Yellow Wagtail, Tschutschensis Wagtail; I’ve now seen a handful of names attached to this vagrant. As we slipped up the track to the assembled group it was easily found among the adjacent muck heaps feeding with dunnocks and Pied Wagtails. I was never going to get a great photo at the distance I was from the bird and the dark winter sky pushed the camera to its limit.

I was quite surprised as to how it looked. Yes, I’d seen photos of this and other Eastern Yellow’s but not having landed on one of these birds before it struck me how very much like what I would have expected a winter plumage Blue headed Wagtails would look. In the time we shared with the bird it did a fly round and gave several calls that were no different to my ear than previously Blue headed Wagtail calls I’d heard. Bizarrely nothing like the short ‘peeping’ Eastern Yellow Wagtail calls I’d heard on the net. I have little ‘verified’ literature on the fascinating very variable Yellow Wagtail group. A great Norfolk first for the finders and a very interesting species to come across in this incredibly mild winter. Definitely worth the mud laden boots and I’m sure it will be an educative experience … especially for me.



Fires and Eucalypt loving marsupials

It’s been a pretty mild winter here of late. Maybe that’s something to do with the furnace in the basement of the planet. :0) With the highest temperature ever in Australian history to hit the record books this week it seemed appropriate to highlight the plight of some of the Australian wildlife.

The bush fires which are an inevitable part of 45 degrees centigrade plus temperatures are a devastating event for many Australians and our heart goes out to those fighting the fires and those who are suffering loss of family and property. Seemingly sometimes wildlife also pays a price. Many birds and mammals can escape however particularly at risk are Koalas. Although they can move relatively quickly over short distances a speed necessary to escape a wide firefront can’t be maintained. They inevitably perish. Some populations of this unique mammal are at high risk and with the total number of wild Koalas numbering less than 80,000 the survival of the species could be in the balance.

One charity directly helping the situation is the Australian Koala Foundation A nice Christmas present in someones name rather than an unwanted gift this Christmas.

This is one of the Koalas Tania and I found last November on Raymond Island. We had such a good time there and the wildlife was so accommodating. We had a great half hour just watching this individual.



Bully Boy

We were transfixed. Watching the seals interact was fascinating. There’s a lot happening on Norfolk beaches at the moment.

Much has been in the media of late concerning the disturbance of Grey Seals. A pup was allegedly chased into the sea by children this week. It drowned as seal pups must undergo an initial moult before they enter the sea so they can contend with the chilling water. Another seal pup was surrounded by selfie-takers to a point where it’s mother completely abandoned it. Indeed it is illegal to kill, take, injure or cause injury to a Grey Seal under the Conservation of Seals Act (1970) (unless it’s damaging fishing nets) Some of the ignorance I have seen in the past is beyond my patience. However, observing (and photographing) from the dune tops it’s obvious the seals themselves have not read the legislation.

As is often the case a young seal was left temporarily by its mother. However, the little chap was seeking attention from anyone and anything that was close-by. Unfortunately, having been rejected by a succession of females the little mite tried to latch on to a large bull. The bull was nothing less than chased by the youngster. The bull repeatedly lolloped away, as only large Grey Seals can, only to be followed to and fro by the whining little pup. The bull eventually tired of the pantomime, picked up the pup by the spine and threw it a good three metres down the beach. Needless to say the pup was not undamaged by the interaction and suffered some life threatening wounds.

The moral of this story is: “keep away from the seal pups”. They have enough to contend with without any human disturbance. There are more African Elephants on the planet than there are Grey Seals. If the beaches were full of Elephants would we tolerate disturbance? The winter beaches in Norfolk are our Serengeti. It’s a world wildlife spectacle. Something we should protect, respect and watch in awe … from a distance.


Vagrant or Escapee

There had been talk of an escaped Eagle-Owl at Winterton for a number of days. Twitter was alive with the fact it had a ring on it’s left leg, someone had lost one locally and it wasn’t a Eurasian Eagle-Owl. RBA (Rare Bird Alert) were reporting the bird as an escape and confirmed it as sporting a ring on it’s left leg; in fact they still are at the time of writing.

I was intrigued by the fact an awful lot of people should want to go and see an escaped bird and I was flicking through a good number of photos of the bird on twitter and not one of them showed it to be ringed. So this last week you know what, I decided to go and take a look at the bird myself. … just to satisfy my own curiosity.

I’ve seen Eurasian Eagle Owl before in the UK at the Forest of Bowland as well as abroad in France.

We went to see the Winterton bird on Sunday and although I saw it I didn’t see it clearly, but I did hear it call continuously for around 20 minutes or so. There are several Eagle Owl species in the world. Visit and listen to them all. The Winterton bird is without doubt a male Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

I met a chap at the site who told me the Owl was sure to be an escape as he knows the woman who owned the bird before she lost it from ‘just up the road’. When pressed further she apparently lost the bird over four years ago! I think it’s safe to say it’s likely we’re looking at a different bird.

A second visit to Winterton was warranted. I wanted a much better look at it so we went again. Luckily it was showing much better. We watched this impressively large bird for a considerable time. Eagle Owls have a cloak of feathers that drown the leg area. Seeing if it was ringed required a lot of patience but we hung it out for a good number of hours. We saw it stretching, scratching, preening and all number of activities. IT IS NOT RINGED on it’s left leg or it’s right leg. So I’m not sure where that idea came from. Does anyone know?

None of this proves it is a genuinely wild bird of course. However, I’d ask you this: which is more likely to reach a coastal site in the UK … an Eagle Owl from Scandinavia 450 miles away … or a Paddyfield Pipit* from India 6000 miles away?

(*DNA analysis has recently confirmed a bird likely to have some genetic content of a Paddyfield Pipit visited Cornwall in October/November this year. Paddyfield Pipit is a non-migratory species)


Laying Fallow

We watched the Fallow Deer the other week. Between the rutting this fawn was having a good old drink from his mum.



Gone Fishing

This Red throated Diver came into Wells Harbour the other day and gave us really good views and photo opportunities.

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Dec 2019


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