05 June 2017

North Norfolk May 27th - June 3rd 2017

And what a brilliant short trip! After a poor spring for birds in Pembrokeshire we needed to get away and try something different. So it was back to our old area, we lived in Letheringsett and Cley for 15 years in total but this was only the third time we'd been back. We stayed in David and Heather Wilson's lovely cottage in Salthouse, to be joined by friends for the middle part of the week.

The first morning we were up early determined to walk to Weybourne or the Coastguard Cottages before breakfast. We were taking it easy on a gorgeous, bright day so I didn't take my camera with me. That was a mistake as it turned out. Just a few metres from the Cottage as we headed for the Skirts track, Kathy asked 'What's this?' and pointed to a small falcon overhead. It was an adult male Red-footed Falcon, quite low and drifting over the coast road then back towards the marsh. We watched it for about 3 minutes till it drifted further east. It was low enough to see all the details and I was struck again, as I was by the recent Strumble bird, how clearly the orange/red bill and orbital ring showed. I raced back for my camera, hoping we'd catch up with it at The Quags, but no luck, it wasn't seen again. Still we enjoyed some good birds, including Spoonbill over, bumped into Moss Taylor who had seen the Spoonbill circle higher and higher before setting of to the North-east. Then we spent the rest of the day, after breakfast, wandering around the Cley and Salthouse Marshes before Dinner with Penny at The Three Swallows, Cley.


Coastguard Cottages and Skelding Hill from Kelling Hard

Weyboune Camp

We kept up the before breakfast routine every day, often bumping into Moss and one day being shown round Weybourne Camp, noting the changes made over the years. The rest of the day was spent at Titchwell where we caught up with Bearded Tits for the first time in years, there were also a couple of Red-crested Pochards present amongst huge bio-diversity, as always a bit mind-boggling.

The next morning found us talking to Moss again, at The Camp, when Kathy pointed out a Heron flying over from the west. It was over our heads and it was a first-summer Purple Heron, to be fair Moss called it first but we all enjoyed amazing views as it was joined by a Grey Heron and they both drifted around between us and Weybourne Beach. The big difference in size was really striking, as was the sharp 'keel' effect of the Purple compared with the grey though the shape from directly below was indistinguishable. It drifted east but came back west a little while later and was subsequently seen further along the coast. Another great bird and we also had a couple of Hobbies through on various mornings.

We walked from Wells to Holkham missing all the breeding Firecrests along the route, as the main part of the day before finding Barn Owl at The Quags in the evening and then the first visit of the trip to The Dun Cow for a really good meal with superb wines chosen by Tony.

After breakfast the next day we met up with Dave Appleton, a mate from the old days and he showed us all round Burnham Overy Staithe and Gun Hill Dunes. Great to meet up again and explore such an amazing set of habitats. Great White Egret, Spoonbills, Cuckoos and a good range of Ducks, Waders, dragonflies and unusual plants.  All in blazing sunshine. A really good day.

Little Tern

Greylag Geese

Broad-bodied Chaser

Ringed Plover

The next day was another amazing day, spent with David and Heather and being shown first the Raptor Watchpoint, then a great lunch and finally the Swanton Novers Great Wood, a relic of the great wild wood which once covered Britain, complete with pingos and stunning history and bio-diversity. It was a real privilege to be invited into this restricted area. Then Kathy was off to Byfords' in Holt for tea with friends.

We spent the final day around Cley and Salthouse, revelling in the rich bird life and finally catching up with some Firecrests at Pretty Corner, though we missed a Glossy Ibis over the marsh as we trundled through the trees. We spent a lovely evening having supper with friends Gill and Philip. A nd on the way home we couldn't find Nightjars on Salthouse Heath though we did see both Red and Muntjac Deer. A nice end to a very sociable and very productive trip. Could almost imagine living there again.

Galera, January to March 2017

Our usual winter visit lasted from the 12th January to the end of March. It was a wet and cold winter at times, though with the usual good spells of warm sunshine too. Unfortunately it had an impact on the Trumpeter Finches which decamped, presumably to lower levels. Still it was a good time, as usual, with one looked-for tick in the shape of Spanish Black-tipped Greenish Butterfly.

Spanish Ibex at the Sierra de Baza

Maria - deserted hamlet. Lesser Kestrel site.


Red Squirrel

Black Redstart

Rock Bunting

Sierra de Huetor

We did manage one short trip, over a couple of days, to Roquetas de Mar and the Cabo de Gata, trying to find the ancient volcano and the Rambla of the Garnets at Nijar. We managed the volcano and found a Bonelli's Eagle as hoped. It was enjoyable and there's plenty more to explore in the future.

Bonelli's Eagle

Fan-tailed Warbler

Salinas and Urbanization Roqueatas

Great-spotted Cuckoo


Scarce Swallowtail



COSTA RICA (in pictures) February 2017

Our first visit to Central America, our first guided trip - a lot of firsts. A brilliant trip in the end and helped enormously by having a first-class Guide in Diego Quesada, he organised the itinerary, making sure we saw lots of the Country, making the whole visit very easy indeed. We stayed the first night near the airport in a quiet, small hotel and one which gave us our first insight into peoples' attitudes to wildlife since it had feeders and an owl friendly area for Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and Crested Owl, though we saw neither here. Just a stopover though and we on our way out of the Central Valley and over a pass between two volcanoes to La Selva Biological Research Station, Naturally our lunchtime stopover 'Soda' (small family-run restaurant/cafe) put out fruit for the birds so some amazing sightings here, including our only sightings of Emerald Toucanet and a first great photo opportunity.

Emerald Toucanet

Blue-grey Tanager

Red-headed Barbet (male)

Emerald Toucanet

Red-headed Barbet (female)

Baltimore Oriole

Silver-throated Tanager

La Selva Biological Station was one of the (many) highlights of the trip, real rainforest with birding under brollies the norm. The toucans were amazing as were White-necked Puffbird and Snowy Cotinga. It was one of the richest environments on the trip, Peccaries were common and Howler Monkeys were pretty much ever-present. There were Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths and an Eye-browed Pit-viper was a bit special. We also visited Copa's garden for Hummingbirds, including Sickle-bill and nearby there was a roosting Spectacled Owl where, on the way, we saw a roost of Ghost Bats tucked under a large leaf.

Black-mandibled Toucan


Eyelash Pit Viper

Grey-necked Wood-rail

Red-legged Honeycreeper

White-necked Jacobin

Copa's garden

Gartered Trogon

La Selva Rainforest

Rufous Motmots

Cherrie's Tanager

Kathy and Diego Rainforest birding

Harris's Hawk

Striped Cuckoo

Arenal Observatory Lodge had an added bit of luxury about it. The feeders were always productive and we saw our only Spider Monkey to boot whilst White-nosed Coaties were all around the gardens. We spent a lot of time looking for American Warblers, including Hermit Warbler though the views weren't great as they kept to the tops of the conifers. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a good find and a lot easier to view. The Arenal region was amazing with brilliant things to see all around the volcano and adjacent canyons and, in town, amazingly productive feeding stations provided for love not money, as was the case wherever we travelled.

Pacific Screech Owl

Montezuma Oropendulas

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Brown-hooded Parrot

Keel-billed Toucan

Golden-hooded Tanager

Fasciated Tiger-heron

Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Crimson-collared Tanager

Variegated Squirrel

Orange-chinned Parakeet

White-throated Crake

Three-toed Sloth

Turkey Vulture

Red-eyed Tree Frog

White-nosed Coati

Collared Aracari

Capuchin Monkey

Jumping Pit Viper

Arenal Volcano

Black and White Warbler

Tropical Kingbird from the chalet

Spider Monkey


Spotted Sandpiper

Medio Queso Wetlands was an extra, making up for missing somewhere else, can't remember where. It was a boat trip along the main channels of the marsh and it was great, but then we love boat trips. We had great views of most things including Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (a marshland specialist), Pinnated Bittern and Nicaraguan Grackles. They were unusual but the Gallinules, ducks and waders etc were all pretty amazing - we really appreciated the opportunity.

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Purple Gallinule

White Ibis and Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Canyon Negro Wetlands, near the Nicaraguan border, was the main wetland visit of the trip and it certainly didn't disappoint, up in the dawn light and out on the water was pretty magical. We had great views of Agami Heron as we sat quietly more-or-less surrounded by Spectacled Caimans. The bird highlights were too numerous to mention but there were Kingfishers of four? species shooting by, our only Green Ibises of the trip as well as Royal Flycatcher, caught with its magnificent crest erect, Prothonatory Warbler and many many more species - a really magical experience.

Agami Heron

Spectacled Caiman



Ringed Kingfisher

American Pigmy Kingfisher

Roseate Spoonbills

Green Iguana

The trip down to the Pacific Coast was the longest drive of the trip but Diego planned it well and we stopped for some good birds.

Nicaraguan Seed-finch

Monarch Butterfly

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Spot-breasted Oriole

And then it was the meltingly hot Pacific Coast and an unexpected opportunity to join a trip out to see and into the channels of the Mangrove Forests. Ospreys were everywhere mixing with Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds and big numbers of waders as well as Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns.

The beach at Ensenada

Royal Terns

Great Blue Heron


Magnificent Frigatebirds

A visit to a nearby cattle ranch with its own huge wetlands was also a treat with some great birds, our first American Crocodiles and breeding Jabiru Storks.

White-throated Magpie Jay

Bare-throated Tiger-heron

American Crocodile

Boat-billed Heron

Jabiru Stork

Mantled Howler Monkey

Our final destination was the Highlands around 3,500 metres but there were things to see on the way as we travelled up from the coast, particularly at Forest where dry and rainforest zones converge.


White-tailed Deer

Scarlet Macaw
Central American Agouti

And then it was the final part of the trip, the Highlands where Resplendent Quetzals were the big target, feeding on the wild Avocado trees. Miriam' Quetzals was one of our favourite places to stay. Temperatures at night plummeted below zero which was quite a contrast with the coastal heat and humidity.

Male Resplendent Quetzal

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush

Red-tailed Squirrel

Acorn Woodpecker

Summer Tanager

Our chalet at Miriam's Quetzals
The area was pretty spectacular, including views of this active volcano. We had seen Hummingbirds elsewhere but a couple of places here gave opportunities like never before to observe and photograph them. So here are some of the photos to end a brilliant trip to a country where they really know how to live with the natural world.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird