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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NOVEMBER 29TH 2014 - MORECOMBE BAY RECCE - DAY 2

 
LEIGHTON MOSS - HEST BANK - BOTTOMS WOOD - MORECOMBE BAY

I can't believe I'm saying this about the north west of England but the weather was just great, nice sunshine, no wind and not too cold, amazing for November.

I left my hotel on the seafront at 9am and walked across the road to view the huge expanse of Morecombe Bay during low tide. It was truly a great sight, the sand goes on forever and thousands of birds were out there. A pool of water not too far out held, Common Shelduck,  Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Turnstone and large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Knot.

Godwits and Knot opposite my hotel this morning

Eurasian Wigeon
I then drove northward round the bay to Leighton Moss where I spent about 4 hours visiting the numerous hides and pools. Again it was very enjoyable because the weather was so good, lots of birders were out on the reserve. The feeders in the courtyard attracted lots of birds, Blue and Great Tits, Coal Tits, Eurasian Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and I saw a couple of Bullfinches in the hedgerow.

Common Snipe from Tim Wilson Hide


Add caption


Common Snipe at Hest Bank
From the numerous and spacious hides I recorded a good number of ducks, but I failed to see Eurasian Bittern even though everyone I spoke to saw one! The same applies to Otter but I did see Bearded Tit, Waterail and Red Deer. The most numerous ducks were Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mallard and I did see two female Goldeneye.

the main 'causeway' at Leighton Moss
Northern Lapwing


Other sightings on the reserve were made of Long-tailed Tit, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit, Common Snipe, Common Kingfisher, a single Black-tailed Godwit and lots of Common Pheasants.

From Leighton Moss I drove a short distance to the Hest Bank where another section of the reserve has two hides overlooking large pools and grass meadows. The pools were full of birds, hundreds of Common Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Common Shelduck dominated the shallow areas and the islands. The ducks present were mainly Eurasian Teal and Wigeon but one pool held over 100 Northern Pintail. A Common Kingfisher pleased the crowds but then I found a Spotted Redshank and got everyone in the hide on it. A smashing bird and a good find for north-west England in the winter.
Spotted Redshank

two shanks - Red and Spotted side by side - how nice of them to pose like that!

Little Egrets and Grey Herons were also present and a flock of Greylag Geese fed on the grass in the distance. I must say that all the hides there and at Leighton Moss were brilliant - spacious, airy, light with lots of glass windows. They are even building a huge canopy hide which will overlook the reedbeds at Leighton Moss.
Spotted Redshank behind the Godwits

I left heat bank at 2pm the light was beginning to fade but I decided to visit a nearby woodland before returning to Morecombe. The woods are right next to a village so many garden/woodland birds were still active, this area is supposed to be a good place for Hawfinch but they avoided me quite well.  I did add Eurasian Jay, Collared Dove, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Jackdaw to my day list.
Northern Pintail


Soon it was too dark to see anything so I drove the 15 miles back to Morecombe to the warmth and comfort of my hotel room.





 
 

 

 

Friday, November 28, 2014

NOVEMBER 28TH 2014 - MORECOMBE BAY RECCE - DAY 1

YEOVIL TO MORECOMBE WITH VISITS TO HEYSHAM - LUNE ESTUARY


An early start saw me out of bed at 4am and on the road at 5am, how nice! I was up at Manchester by 9am sipping an expresso before continuing to Lancaster where I stopped for a snack at 10am.

The Isle of Man ferry leaving Heysham - seen from Middleton Sands

Over the next couple of hours I explored the Heysham area around the nuclear power station, the tide was out so most of the waders were far out but there were thousands of them in the distance.

A COIL OF WIGEON - I bet you didn't know that, eh?

I quickly logged Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Shelduck and the 5 regular species of gull. Lots of birds were around the outflow of the power station, I added Grey Wagtail, Cormorant Wigeon and saw a strange looking Oystercatcher that had a wide white collar, no wonder the other oystercatchers were chasing it around.

the dodgey-looking  'WHITE-COLLARED' OYSTERCATCHER


 
REDSHANKS - very numerous on the mudflats


Further round the bay near the village of Heysham I added Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and surprisingly a Common Snipe, I don't think I have ever seen a snipe on a rock along the shoreline before.


uncommon sighting of a Common Snipe - on the rocks along the shore

Little Egret - once a very rare sight in these parts

a successful catch
Further routes were found to the Lune Estuary, I stopped at Middleton Sands and Sunderland Point, The tide was now coming in and it was quite a spectacle to see thousands of waders arriving from Morecombe Bay to their regular roost site on the sands.

Eurasian Curlew in the afternoon sun
 Up to now I had had great weather with sunshine and clear skies but now it clouded over , the wind picked up and it got a little chilly and it went dark at 2pm!!

Black-headed Gulls at the outflow

By the time I drove round to the sea front at Morecombe it was too dark to bird-watch anymore, so I checked into my hotel and went off to visit one or two other hotels with a view to booking them for next year's trip here.
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 46 - NOV 11TH - SINGAPORE

BAY FRONT

It rained a lot during our last full day in Singapore, it was raining early in the morning then it stopped when we got up and came down with a vengeance later in the afternoon. It spoilt our plans a little, but we enjoyed a lovely walk around the Bay, we took a boat trip up the river and toured the huge shopping complex found beneath the Casino/Hotel (the one with a ship on its roof!) We also visited the Science/Arts centre to see a photographic exhibition.

The two most common species of Singapore - Common Mynah above and
Javan Mynah below


That just about summed up our last day because on returning to the hotel to check out at 2pm the heavens opened up - monsoon season was definitely here. We had booked 'high-tea' at Raffles to complete our stay but the rain made us cancel that.

As for birds, I added  3 species to my Singapore list, the first was House Swift, several were flying around our hotel this morning. The Blue-tailed Bee-eater and the Olive-backed Sunbird adorned the TV Ariel. My second new species was a Striated Heron seen in the bay, in fact it was the only bird I saw in this 'avian desert', not a gull, tern, duck or Cormorant, pretty sad really. The Heron was trying to fish in the bay, it would have been better off in the pool around the science centre it was full of goldfish!

Striated Heron
My absolute last species of Singapore was a flipping Cattle Egret, how exotic was that, it was feeding on the grass next to the tube station where we emerged from when we returned from the Bay.

the city buildings taken from across the bay at the Science and Arts Centre

It is a pity that I never got a birding session arranged because for such a small island there have been over 300 species recorded. There are many parks and nature reserves to explore as well as off-shore islands. Maybe another time, I was happy to see over 30 species most of which were 'lifers'.

Now we have two 7 hour flights with a 2 hour break at Dubai to look forward to.

another view of city from where I saw the Heron

And so ends my last blog of this trip, it has been a wonderful experience, we have both really enjoyed every minute of it. Now back to wet and cold of England.

If you are interested in joining my first Tour of  Eastern Australia which will be in October 2016 please get in touch.


31. STRIATED HERON
32. CATTLE EGRET
33. HOUSE SWIFT
 

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 45 - NOV 10TH - SINGAPORE

BOTANIC GARDENS - MOUNT EMILY PARK

We were up bright and early and down at the restaurant for breakfast at 7am. It was just getting light, a cloudless sky with very high humidity and a temperature around 25C rising later to 33C.

We walked to the nearest 'tube' station and travelled to the Botanic Gardens in about 30 minutes, we made one line change, it was very crowded at that time of the morning. Travelling by tube is very quick and efficient, the trains and stations are spotlessly clean, no graffiti, no-one eats or drinks or chews gum or smokes or speaks! It is very cheap way to travel, it cost us £1.20 each way.

The tube station is at the gate of the Botanic Gardens which are free to enter, the high humidity really hit us there, we had to move very slowly or get soaked in perspiration.

We headed for a lake and after 10 meters we stopped to watch a White-breasted Waterhen, a lifer, we found several more of these during the rest of the walk. At the lake we saw a Black Swan, it is not listed in my field guide so I assume it is an escapee. Then we saw a bunch of pigeons perched high up in trees above the lake, they turned out to be Pink-necked Green Pigeons, then we got onto a Sunbird lower down which was a Plain-throated Sunbird, that's three lifers in 10 minutes.

WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN

From the lake we headed to the information centre and along the way we clocked a Common Tailorbird and for the next 30 minutes we sat drinking cold drinks and sheltering from the rain.

The rain stopped and we made it to The Orchid Garden where we saw some absolutely fantastic orchids, amazing colour and a vast range of species, some of them were simply stunning. In and around the orchid garden we found Black-naped Oriole and an Arctic Warbler, the last rime I saw this species was back in the nineties on Portland, Dorset.
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW

Around another lake we found Common and White-throated Kingfishers, also lots of iguanas, terrapins (they looked like red-eared sliders), lizards and squirrels.

IGUANA SP.

It was now 1pm we had been walking around for four hours in very high humidity and soaring temperatures so we called it a day and caught the tube back into town.

SQUIRREL SP.

After another lovely cheap lunch we got back to the hotel at 3pm, shattered! The TV Ariel had a single Blue-tailed Bee-eater and a Glossy Starling sitting on it.

 I had a short rest before I ventured out again and walked to a small parkland, an area of trees that we could see  from our room. It was disappointing, but on the way back I located and ID'd an Asian Koel from its call, my last lifer of the day.

TERRAPINS  SP. - THEY LOOK REMARMABLY LIKE RED-EARED SLIDERS TO ME

We ate at an Indian restaurant in very lovely surroundings, it rained again briefly before we got back to the hotel.

NOTE FROM YESTERDAY


SPECIES NUMBER 18. PIED FANTAIL  ....................... I forgot to list this species yesterday.


19.  WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN
20.   PINK-NECKED GREEN-PIGEON
21. ARCTIC WARBLER
22. BLACK SWAN
23. COMMON KINGFISHER
24. BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE
25. COMMON TAILORBIRD
26. PLAIN-THROATED SUNBIRD
27. JAPANESE SPARROWHAWK
28. BUZZARD SP.
29. ASIAN KOEL
30. LTTLE EGRET
 



 

 
 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 44 - NOV 9TH - SINGAPORE

GARDENS BY THE BAY

We are stay on the 12th floor of the Ibis Hotel, our room faces north away from the bay.  As soon as it got light I set up the scope and began birding, there are not many trees in view but a TV Ariel close by seems to attract a lot of birds. The first bird to land on it was a male Olive-backed Sunbird, what a little stunner to start my list off with. Next came a flock of Asian Glossy Starlings, then a  House Crow scared them all off. A few Yellow-vented Bulbuls popped up next with a couple of Eurasian Tree Sparrows.
The Science Museum Building

In the distance I could see a lot of swifts flying around the buildings but couldn't get enough on them for a positive ID, they looked all dark above with some lighter colouring on the belly.

yes Singapore has a London 'Eye' equivalent
We ate a fantastic breakfast at the hotel where a buffet supplied every food imaginable to cater for at least four cultures, this was spread across a dozen or more tables.
very Common  -   Javan Mynah
From the hotel we took to the streets and walked to the Gardens in the Bay which is a wonderful wildlife experience spread over many hectares and incorporating 3 huge domes which makes the 'Eden Project' look like toytown.

We had to cross the 'Double Helix' footbridge which is a stainless steel work of art, the views from the bridge were amazing. We also saw about 10,000 women completing a charity fun run, not bad bird spotting from where I was standing!


a nice panoramic view with the 'Double Helix Foot Bridge, the Marina Sands Hotel with it s quirky roof garden and the Science Museum. In the foreground you can see lots of people in red, they are women coming up to the finishing line after a charity fun run.
We spent a couple of hours in the 'Cloud Forest' dome before climbing the canopy walk-way and then walking in the gardens around some lovely pools surrounded by some exotic plants with amazing colourful flowers.


the first bird I saw in the Gardens, White-throated Kingfisher
It was during this section that we clocked a few species of birds, all the pictures today were taken using Dawn's camera and most of them were taken by Dawn.

 


ZEBRA DOVE
Our feet were too tired to walk back to the hotel so we caught the 'tube' from the Gardens, it took all of 10 minutes to get back. We decided to eat in the Albert' food hall where lunch came to a staggering £3.50 for the two of us.

YELLOW BITTERN WAS A GOOD FIND
Whilst back in the hotel room during a quick wash and change session, I checked the TV Ariel and blow me a BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER was sitting on it, what a super Ariel?
PIED TRILLER
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around 'Little India' an unbelievable experience, it must truly represent the India culture, it was crammed packed with shops of every description and it was so crowded, noisy and dirty, I wouldn't have missed that for rhe world.

We returned to the hotel room with just enough light for a quick scan, I found a flock of Streaked Bulbuls on a roof, a new birdie for the list and my last sighting for the day.

TV ARIEL LIST

1. ASIAN GLOSSY STARLING
2. YELLOW-VENTED BUBUL
3. BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER
4. OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD
5. HOUSE CROW
6. EURASIAN TREE SPARROW
7. STREAKED BULBUL


OTHERS SPECIES SEEN IN THE GARDENS

8. JAVAN MYNAH
9. PACIFIC SWALLOW
10. PIED TRILLER
11. YELLOW BITTERN
12. BRAHMINY KITE
13. DARK-NECKED TAILORBIRD
14. COMMON MYNAH
15. ZEBRA DOVE
16. SPOTTED DOVE
17. FERAL PIGEON
 
 
 


 

 
 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 43 - NOV 8TH - BRISBANE TO SINGAPORE

We were up nice and early (5am) in preparation for the drive to Brisbane Airport, so after loading up the car we were on our way by 6am for the 90 minute drive to the airport.

Would you believe it, I got a lifer along the way, there were many birds shooting across the roads in front of us as we tootled along, but there was no mistaking one very distinctive shape, the large bulbous head and huge size of the bird, yes a Red-tailed Cockatoo finally made it onto my list, only just.
FAREWELL BLUE SKY, SUNSHINE AND WARMTH!
Other birds flitted by, I had yet another small accipitor fly over, again it looked like  Eurasian Sparrowhawk, probably a Collared Sparrowhawk but I can't be sure.

We landed at 4pm local time after a very enjoyable 8hr flight, we had a super smooth landing in Singapore, but it was dull and overcast and it looked wet. I was full of anticipation, at the ready to start listing the new birds. What a let down, do you know that of all the airports I have driven from into a city this is the first time that  I never saw a single species, and yes it was during daylight hours, incredible not even a feral pigeon during a 30 minute taxi ride.

The sky opened up and it poured with rain, it got dark at 5:30pm, the rain stopped so we went out for dinner. The city was buzzing, what a fantastic place, I love it here. An incredible skyline with Manhattan style skyscrapers mixed with parks, old temples and lovely alleyways. We ate out for £7, I am really gonna like it here!! The place has a lovely warm, friendly buzz to it, the people are so friendly and helpful

The city lit up at night is supposed to be out-of-this-world but not for us tonight, a terrific thunderstorm came over just as we got back to the hotel.

281. RED-TAILED COCKATOO

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 42 - NOV 7TH - NOOSA HEADS

WALLACE PARK - MACDONALD LAKE - SUNSHINE BEACH

OUR FINAL DAY IN AUSTRALIA HAD ARRIVED AND OH SO QUICKLY!!  It was another beautiful day, cloudy at first but it soon cleared.

WALLACE PARK

A free guided birding walk is offered every Thursday at Wallace Park so we decided to join one today. We arrived late but so did most other people, the guide had a clipboard with a list of species on it, he had one arm in a sling and wasn’t wearing any binoculars, things didn’t bode well! The group amassed and 15 minutes after the designated start time we assembled and made our introductions, the group ranged from tourists with not a clue about birds to regulars with not a clue about most birds.

two shots from Dawn - Noisy Friar


 Anyway, one good thing did come of the 85 minute walk and that was the sighting of at least 5 Tawny Frogmouths, I pointed out the first after the leader walked right beneath it, the next two were on a known nest and the last two were well found by one of the regular walkers. The usual count is around 20 species for the walk, I noted 25 species, the leader spent most of his time talking about gardening, motorbikes and fishing, he saw about 10.
 
male Tawny Frogmouth at the first nest site - Dawn

parent with chick - taken by Dawn

 

One South African participant knew of a good place nearby for water fowl and gave me the directions, so after a nice coffee and biscuits Dawn and set off to MacDonald’s Lake which was about 10km away.

 The water level of the lake was very low but it held a nice selection of birds, here is the list:

1.       Black Swan
2.       Magpie Goose
3.       Little Black Cormorant
4.       Little Pied Cormorant
5.       Australian Darter
6.       Australian Pelican
7.       Royal Spoonbill
8.       White-faced Heron
9.       White-necked Heron
10.   Eurasian Coot
11.   Dusky Moorhen
12.   Purple Gallinule
13.   Black-winged Stilt
14.   Masked Lapwing
15.   Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
16.   Red-kneed Dotterel
17.   Forest Kingfisher
18.   Australasian Grebe
19.   Pacific Black Duck
20.   Australian Wood Duck
21.   Grey Teal
22.   Whiskered Tern
23.   Caspian Tern
24.   Willie Wagtail
25.   White-breasted Woodswallow
26.   Welcome Swallow
27.   Fairy Martin

 A walk along a tree-lined lane produced Noisy Friarbird, Figbird and a another ‘lifer’ in the shape of a Pallid Cuckoo, what a great find, I got a few pictures of it but none were good enough to put on the blog, this will probably be my last new bird for the list.
 
Black-winged Stilt - note black nape
 

 That little excursion finished my Australian birding, boo-hoo! I hadn’t quite reached my target of 300 species but I was close at 280. This wasn’t bad considering I had a total of only 6 days birding with local guides, the rest I had to eke out for myself.
 
a much better shot of the aptly named - Red-kneed Dotterel

For the rest of the day we enjoyed a relaxing time on the beach, the setting was lovely, white sand, turquoise sea and a beautiful blue sky. The sunset was a subtle blend of pinks, magenta and crimson red, ah bliss!

another distant shot of the White-necked Heron I could never get close to this species

We ate a local fish restaurant, both of us chose barramundi, a delicious white fish it went down well with a couple of beers.
Terrapin sp.


 We now had 5 days left, 3 of which were to be taken in Singapore whilst the other two would be spent travelling. My target for Singapore is 50 species.

280.   PALLID CUCKOO