Archive for the 'birds' Category


It’s a first for me.

The first bird to greet me as I arrived in Australia this month was the Superb Fairy-Wren. Never has a bird been so aptly named.



Over the border

A trip into Suffolk at the end of last month gave some astounding views of a Great Northern Diver near Lowestoft. Look at that incredible red eye. I wonder why the eye is such a red colour? It shares this feature with other divers and some of the grebes. Perhaps it aids sight in the dull light of murky water. Its eye was pointed skyward a few times. I feel sure the beast had seen something high in the air; a raptor perhaps? Try as I might I couldn’t see anything, but I’d be willing to bet my right arm there was something up there. I’m constantly amazed sometimes how the eyesight on birds has developed to an extent beyond our understanding.



Just the best day ever

So here we are. The end of the year. Some big changes for me in the last quarter; but what of the year in total, what were the best bits? Well, there were many that’s for sure. On the tours we had all the usual aspects of a visit to central Scotland in April with even some spring Waxwings making an appearance, followed by some astounding mammals in May; Salmon tossing Bottlenose Dolphins and Badgers you could have touched being the highlights. The trip to Mull in May gave us Eagles a plenty with some other notable raptors and auk sightings.  The Kites put on their usual display in a Welsh June with several dolphins thrown in. A summer tour to the Farne islands never disappoints and once again it lived up to its reputation. All this was capped off with a good scoop of rare birds on Scillies.

Day tours in Norfolk and beyond were again exceptional with some notable highlights of breeding Black winged Stilts and Cattle Egrets. Migration it has to be said was a little slow on the passerine front but seabirds and wildfowl came through in droves.

Personally there have been a couple of days that stand out in the memory. Seeing Blainville’s Beaked Whales in Madeira has to rank up there for sure. Madeira is a beautiful island and just kept giving. However, it was the South Atlantic in January that took my heart. One day in particular; 15th January and a ferry ride to Magdalena Island. The Commerson’s Dolphins, the Sei Whales, penguins, waders, passerines and the sheer biomass … and so much more. A memorable day which couldn’t be beaten.




I’m always telling my guests ‘NEVER delete photographs in the camera’. Have a good look at them on a big screen first. It can pay dividends. I’m so glad I listened to my own advice in January of this year when I was in the South Atlantic. Standing on the lower observation deck I could see splashing in the far distance. I couldn’t make out what was the cause but I fired off a few shots to look at later. I then got distracted with shearwaters and Albatrosses. I have to admit I almost deleted the shots as on the face of it they didn’t reveal anything during a quick scan on the back of the camera. It wasn’t until I returned home in February I found something quite startling.

Not a great photo, I have to admit, but there on close scrutiny quite clearly was the shape of a dolphin. A little careful processing and there you have it … an Hourglass Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus cruciger) These babies are quite small rarely seen dolphins. First identified in 1824 from drawings; despite years of whaling in the 20th century only three specimens had been found up to 1960. Up to 2010 only 6 complete and 14 partial specimens had ever been examined.



A trip over the border into Suffolk gave us a few Mandarin and something I’ve never seen before. Looking like something spectoristic on the heath … the ghost of Christmas past? No an albino Highland Cow!! How cool is that?

Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone that reads ‘Letter from Norfolk’ and the posts on Facebook a very peaceful Christmas



Pieces of Eight

Crossbills are a nomadic group of birds, Sometimes they are difficult to find, sometimes they are all over you. A good number of Parrot Crossbills were in the Brecks when on tour the other week. A few individuals were coming down to puddles of water to drink. If you were quiet and still they would come close.


Spotted, but not Spotted

One wader that seems to set more problems for my customers than any others is the winter plumage Spotted Redshank.

In summer plumage when the bird is as black as coal from bill tip to toe nail … no problem. It;s when it enters the cold grey plumage of winter it takes on the guise of its commoner cousin. A half decent flight view will sort Common Redshank from Spotted; the lack of white on the trailing edge of the wings is obvious. On the deck the dark eyestripe and white supercilium which appears to extend the length of the thin drooping bill being the most obvious. The whiter belly and grey plumage are also good pointers to it being spotted. This one was photographed at Kelling the other day.




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January 2018
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