We moved from Essex to North Norfolk in August 2006 and I have spent a lot of time since then photographing the nature around me, mostly close up and macro stuff. My "patch" is the 10Km square TG2035 though I spend most time between Overstrand, where we live, and Trimingham.

I also bird regularly elsewhere in Norfolk and volunteer at Cley.

I have a photo site at but wanted a bit more detail so I thought I'd have a go at a blog detailing what I see locally, as well as on trips abroad

Most of the photos have been taken with Canon digital equipment, or the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1. I still however mostly use a camera to record what I see, rather than set out to photograph something.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Patch ticks

When we were in Trinidad I received a kind text from Andrew C about a Smew at Gimingham.  Much to my surprise it seems it was still there as an update message came through on 18th.  I managed to miss it that night but found it the next day along with a splendid drake Goosander, the first I'd seen on the deck locally.  Smew was a great claw back though, particularly as I thought my best chance was one flying past at sea, difficult to connect with.
The 20th saw us chasing a pigeon in Oxfordshire but the following day I connected with the 3 Whooper Swans between Roughton and Hanworth, well outside my usual birding area but inside the 10K square by quite a margin.  Desperate stuff but I haven't yet been able to catch up with either wild swan species flying through - memo to self: get out more! And take a camera - you've got enough of them!!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Trinidad and Tobago

Just back at the weekend from 2 weeks in T & T, birding mostly.  It was hot, sometimes very wet (even though the dry season has started) and hard work on the days with no guide - those guys earn every penny making sense of the chips, whistles etc coming from the wall of vegetation and then getting the target bird into view (most of the time - not with the Little Tinamou!).

Scarlet Ibises, Caroni Swamp
20th Jan

Arrived on BA via St Lucia from Gatwick and managed Carib Grackle and Kiskadee while waiting for the cab to Pax


With a limping Kenny for our guide we walked the road near Pax, notching up inter alia 4 sp of Hummer and 4 Tanagers, plus the locally rare Chestnut collared Swift in a passing mixed swift flock
Greater Kiskadee

Showery and warm most of the day, the first part of which was spent at a cattle station, good for birds including several Yank waders and brilliant for butterflies and dragonflies. Then, after lunch on the east coast we birded the Nariva swamp area, scoring Azure Gallinule, Pinnated Bittern, Pygmy Kingfisher and at last knockings, Red bellied Macaws, two birds being all that's left of a huge roost which moved on 4 or 5 years ago.

Least Sandpiper, Agricultural station

Flame tailed Dragon, Nariva Swamp

Showery and warm again and a little closer to home going past Asa Wright into the montane forest along the tba Road for a good selection of birds, notable among which were Black, Grey and White Hawks, Chestnut Woodpecker, Collared Trogon and Grey throated Leaf Tosser. In some ways best of all however was the Blue Morpho butterfly elegantly gliding along the road. Traffic was however a nightmare and nearly cost us Speckled Tanager, which when we saw it well was much nicer than the book. Back home to an excellent dinner and a Spectacled Owl calling from outside the guest-house.


After heavy rain overnight our morning visit was to the Arena lowland forest. Stacks of dragons to photograph and some good bids including Squirrel and Little Cuckoo and Crimson crested Woodpecker. Long-billed Starthroat as well while Violaceous Trogon completed the Trinidad set.

Violaceous Trogon
 After lunch at Pax and a photo session from the veranda we left at 4.00pm to go nightjarring but without a working flash! Nonetheless we did succeed in seeing bothe White-tailed Nightjar and Pauraque pretty well in the headlights as well as a stray Agouti

Purple Honeycreeper

Palm Tanager

  First stop Pont-de Pierre Wildfowl Trust inside the refinery for plastic ducks, Great Cowbird and Streaked-headed Woodcreeper, after which we toured theWellington area for waders, Saffron Finch etc. Our last stop was the excellent Caroni Swamp where the main highlight was the roosting herons and Scarlet Ibis, a pretty impressive sight, even if the greatest spectacle was when they were flushed by a local boat going up the main channel behind them. Less so the Common Pottoo but it was still gratifying to see provided the rumours it's stuffed are unfounded!

A clear up day when we decided (rightly) that with Asa Wright looming the Arena area of lowland forest represented our best chance of new birds. So it proved with 10 ticks plus Little Tinamou. heard, other highlights being 2 antbirds, Ruby Topaz, a pair of Bat Falcons and Crowned Ant-tanager After lunch in a bus shelter by the cattle fields (seats and a cool breeze) the fields themselves were quiet in the heat but the Striped Cuckoo of two nights back showed beautifully to remove one frustration.

Smooth-billed Ani, Ag Station

Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Ag Stn

With no guide hired we pottered round near the guest-house with another couple (Steve and Jane) dodging heavy showers, not seeing much new but getting good views of Violaceous Trogon and Grey Hawk and a few photos both of pink and green dragons and also Blue-grey Tanager and stuff round the veranda feeders. Black Hawk over the valley was new from the veranda, while a sting from a single (fortunately) angry africanised honey bee was momenterily painful and sore. An early finish meant we scored tea and cake!


Carmine Skimmer

Transfer day to Asa Wright but before we went a Greater Black Hawk near Pax was a bonus. We managed a short walk along the discovery trail before the rain started which overnight became torrential, no fun in tin roofed accommodation. Sitting on the veranda was productive with a few new species and some excellent photo opportunities.

White-lined tanager in rain

White-necked Jacobin
No let up in the torrential rain meant the oilbird cave visit as a bit tricky. We persevered though and had decent views of three birds – more were on view deeper in but the stream was swollen and neither of us fancied soaking feet crossing. The sun did eventually appear long enough to see Wattled Bellbirds after lunch, the excellent displaying White bearded Manikins and get caked in clay along one of the rather unkept trails. A real bonus was a Short-tailed Nighthawk flying up the valley last thing, as was the clearing weather which meant a better night's sleep.

Wattled Bellbird

White bearded Manikin

With nothing planned we strolled around, seeing both local woodcreepers again but not much else, while the night walk was also quiet, just a couple of tarantula species and a few creepies but no owls.

Tropical flowers, Asa Wright

Damselfly, Asa Wright


Transfer day to Tobago meant sitting around the airport for 2 hours waiting for a 20 minute flight, then a long transfer along windy roads to Blue Waters, which was well worth it. Set in an idyllic bay with tropic birds and brown boobies flying past and green turtles swimming off the beach, the resort is pretty nice though the food was disappointing and expensive. Rufous-vented Chacalacas are fun if a little noisy. We met the famous Newton George in the evening to arrange our next day's birding.

  1st February

Up and away at 6.00am for a good mornings birding along the Gilpin Trace, personal highlightys being Blue-backed Manakin and the endangered White-tailed Sabrewing. The best bird was however a pigeon found on the way back, Scaley-naped, still regarded as a vagrant on the islands though NG has seen them before. One odd thing, few butterflies and no dragonflies seen at all, so maybe the neatly strimmed verges are treated with insecticide to keep the reported mossie problem at bay.

Rainforest, Gilpin Trace

Blue-backed Manikin
The day started well with a breakfast tick, Red-footed Booby in the bay. After breakfast a walk through the nearest village, Speyside produced several Caribbean Martins, a couple of Yellow-crowned Night Herons and our first Tobago dragonflies, while a walk up the track above the resort after lunch produced several butterflies, a Ruby Topaz, Brown-crested Flycatcher and two of yesterday's ticks, White-streaked Antwren and Scrub Greenlet.

Blue dragons, Speyside

Yellow crowned Night Heron, Speyside

We took the bus into Scarborough, which was interesting but not birdy. We did manage Eared Dove in the botanical gardens as well as Red crowned Woodpecker while a flock of 50 or so Royal Terns on the harbour entrance was a bonus but little other reward for 1 ½ hours each way on a bus.


Early morning, Bluewaters

Home day prefaced by a walk up behind the resort in windy conditions, as a result there were few birds and fewer butterflies. After that a long taxi ride and a BA flight which left early but waited the extra time on Antigua before the transatlantic flight home to a windy but dry and mild Gatwick.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Jan 13 2011

Perhaps the best record was early on as I left the house when an almost certain Marsh Tit was calling up the road, my second probable recent record of this now major local rarity. It would be good to pin one down.

In clearing weather first stop was Salthouse but no sign of the Snow Bunts, just a Marsh Harrier and a Red breasted Merganser in the drain, plus the inevitable Turnstones on the shingle to photograph. Then East Bank where 10 Bewicks flew high east before I saw the American Wigeon again, plus a Whooper Swan on Popes which took affront at the hunting Marsh Harrier overhead.

Turnstone Salthouse

Then Cley where I was leading a Birds for Beginners walk. Happily there was plenty to see with several thousand Pinkfeet in the area plus hundreds of Golden Plover, 40 or so Ruff and a decent variety of dabbling ducks making a pleasant change from recent walks with frozen lagoons. There was also the novel experience of having a reporter from Anglia Afloat along!

After a fruitless visit to the coast a final visit to West Runton found the regular Med Gull alive and well if looking a little stir-crazy on its post, then back home for a spot of pond cleaning.

Adult Med Gull, West Runton

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

10th Jan 2011

Spent a couple of hours in the company of the U3A digital photography club at Wells East Quay doing some non-nature photography, which makes a change.  The lunchtime sunshine helped to brighten otherwise flat light and mopst of us got shots which were worth it, just!

Curlew, Wells Quay
 I couldn't resist taking an opportune snap of this Curlew though, even it does prove the point that bird photography requires more patience than I've got.  Bring on the orchids, butterflies and other  insects of summer.

9th Jan 2011

A beautiful, sunny if b****y cold day saw me setting off west for a full day birding the coast.  First stop Wells where a redhead Smew had been joined by a redhead Goosander, while a flock of blobs on the football pitch along the entrance road turned into Grey Partridge, an unexpected bonus!


Curlew, Wells

Smew in sunshine
   Stopping at various sites along the main road produced Buzzard and Brambling but no Rough legs.  Burnham Overy Staithe was quiet but Brancaster Staithe was much livelier with a few year tick waders such as Barwit and Ringed Plover as well a a bevy of photographers with lon lenses.  Having decided not to get a 500mm lens last year I am happy with my Sigma 150-500, accepting that the results won't really compare, but then I only photograph birds when there's nothing better about so that's OK.

Young Ringed Plover

Bar-tailed Godwit
  An Iceland Gull at Thornham proved irresistable but ultimately elusive but the Northern Harrier flew through as did a flock of Twite while Blackwit and Spot Red showed well in the creek.


Black-tailed Godwit

Spotted Redshank
 After a couple of hours the prospect of hot soup at Titchwell got the better of me, so stopping only to admire the adult Whooper Swan near the entrance track I managed to find both a parking space and a seat for long enough to finsih before news of the Iceland came through again, this time at Brancaster.  Still no sign though but a distant Rough-leg over Scolt Head was a bonus, even if views were brief through bins, as was a fly-through ringtail Hen Harrier for sub specific comparison.  After that, back home in the fading light with stacks of Pinkfeet over the road at Holkkham.  Not a bad day especially with 71/2 species of raptor under the belt!

Friday, 7 January 2011

7th Jan 2011

Good day to head west!  Having started in reasonable conditions, by the time I reached Wells Harbour (3 R B Mergs, 4 Lt Grebes and not much else) it was bucketing down.  Happily I could dive out the car at the boating pool (Abrahams bosom!?) straight under a tree to see the 2 smew

Redhead in the rain
 An hour at Holkham failed to produce any Rough-legs, so I came home, just in time for the rain to stop.

Maybe tomorrow!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Of Bugs birds and the New Year

Just my luck.  Having not had any real illness since we retired here 4 years ago, 2 come along at once!
A walk round Cley on 30th Dec to shake off a virus from over Xmas was interesting with Water Rail, Purple Sand and Lap Bunt (west over Arnolds) while Arnolds itself had healthy numbers of waders - would have been superb in the autumn like that!
New Year came with a potter up the coast to Cley followed by fireworks at Cromer and a gathering of friends at home.  The next day started well with 8 waxwings dropping in at Sidestrand but went downhill rapidly with the sudden onset of winter vomiting virus, followed by several days confined to in front of the TV when not asleep.  I did manage to get to see the American Wigeon courtesy of my wife today so now I've got one on my county list I don't have to fret too much again.
Hopefully more fully out and about tomorrow and I may even find the camera to take with me