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Saturday 31 December 2016

My birding year: just two 'lifers', but many fabulous birds!

It's been a terrific year for me in so many ways: although I only added two species to the life list (Isabelline Wheatear and Purple Gallinule) I managed to photograph many of my favourite species, latterly with a newly acquired 300 prime lens.

The pictures below are in chronological order, but barely reflect the fantastic plants, animals and places that have appeared in my view-finder. In July, for example, Brian Tubby and I spent three days in Northumberland, enjoying delightful weather and catching up with every target species: we even met John and Gary Richardson on the boat out to the Farnes!

At least once a week Brian and I were joined by fellow 'Summer-winer' Norman Tottle: we enjoyed many terrific days out together with much expert advice from my two camera-experts in residence! I'm looking forward to many more outings in the future...

And, of course, Linda and I got out birding together on numerous occasions - sometimes alone, sometimes with our great friends Peter and Sue. This is, in many ways, a rehearsal for next year when Linda retires from her job as bursar of a large school.

In conclusion: many thanks to the 500 or so people who currently read my blog each day: Happy New Year to you all and to birders everywhere!

Friday 30 December 2016

Five minutes of fame! (Well: an hour, in fact!)

This morning I spent an hour being interviewed by Louise Priest for the BBC. I have to say: she proved to be a charming and delightful person, but with the quick mind and perspicacity of a very experienced journalist: she had me talking about lots of things I rarely discuss in public!

A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining interlude: many thanks to Louise and to Beeb producer Ian who has always been a friendly and supportive contact...

You can listen to the interview for 29 days here:

Thursday 29 December 2016

Docking Geese: all 'bagged' eventually!

Linda and I had arranged to meet good friends Sue and Peter for lunch and a hunt for the movable Red Kite roost near Stanhoe, so we made an early start at Docking, in hope of views of the Red-breasted Goose.

First interesting birds among the tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese were a number of Tundra Beans: as I clicked the shutter a 'Card Fault' alert appeared on my camera screen! A check in my camera bag revealed that my spares were back home in the laptop. Oh dear.... We zipped down to In Focus. only to be told that they didn't sell SD cards - seems like a missed opportunity to me.

A frantic drive to Hunstanton revealed that the only camera shop on the North Coast - Wolfie's - had a good range at reasonable prices. Back to the birds! Since the RBG hadn't been seen yet, Lin and I dropped in at Titchwell. The sea was miles out, but a brisk walk across the beach provided distant views of Long-tailed Duck, Eider, Merganser and hundreds of Scoter, as well as some decent waders. The walk back to the car park gave us Water Rail for the day-list.

After lunch with Peter and Sue at 'The Jolly Sailors', we headed back to Docking, stopping along the low road where even more Pink-feet had congregated. Here we quickly found a lone White-fronted Goose and - amazingly - the Todd's Canada Goose. Peter, Sue and Linda left me and drove off to look for new binoculars. Predictably the Red-breasted Goose was found by the only other birders, a pleasant couple from Essex and Cambridge. Some confusion about which wind-turbine 'marked the spot' meant I only picked up the goose as it flew away...

And so to the Kite roost! In fact, the best Kite Linda and I saw was in the morning at Syderstone: none came in to roost at the spot near North Creake. However, excellent views of some Tundra Beans (around twelve, one with a 'beak saddle') and lots of Buzzards more than compensated.




Wednesday 28 December 2016

Half an hour of fame with Louise Priest!

I'm 'doing' another interview for BBC Radio Norfolk on Friday: I'm in the studio with Louise Priest from around 11.00am, chatting (I think!) about meteorites, my books and my somewhat eccentric life in Science!

I've given several interviews in the past and - although always fraught because you are totally 'off the cuff' - they've been enjoyable experiences. I do miss my involvement with BBC's regional Stargazing Live broadcasts: I did four of these before the Beeb condensed the event to a somewhat 'show-bizzy' couple of hours with messrs. Cox and O'Briain at Jodrell Bank. Shame really: the regional events (at Norwich, Flag Fen and Cambridge) attracted large crowds and generated lots of enthusiasm for Astronomy. Maybe the Beeb will reconsider...

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Back home in Norfolk!

Following a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas day, Boxing Day was a family gathering, with Linda's little brother Barry and his partner Judy up from Devon for lunch, with sister Jacqui and her family joining us for tea.

Several walks in the sunshine produced more Kites and Parakeets, as well as Redwings, Fieldfares, Siskins and Buzzards. Mistletoe is everywhere in Maidenhead: this tree growing on Mary's road was festooned!

Home in Norfolk now: let's hope no more musical heroes shrug off the coil for a while, that Norwich City FC remember how to score goals in 2017 and that Linda and I manage to catch up with the rare geese duo in North Norfolk!

Monday 26 December 2016

Boxing Day at Boulter's Lock

Boulter's Lock is as a favourite place for Linda and me: Grey Wagtails, Mandarins and Kingfishers are virtually guaranteed. But not today! However, Buzzards, Kites and Ring-necked Parakeets enlivened our pre-prandial walk and the sunshine was most welcome!

Sunday 25 December 2016

Christmas breakfast!

It's become a bit of a tradition for Linda, Mum-in-law Mary and me to have breakfast 'out' on Christmas Day.

Having spent most of yesterday either shopping or assembling Mary's new flat-packed chairs (total nightmare!) it was good to drive into town and enjoy eggs benedict and really good coffee at Café Rouge in Windsor Station. The staff and food were both impeccable: we passed a terrific hour before taking a walk across the bridge to Eton. There's a new (?) memorial to Sidney Camm - the designer of the Hurricane - by the Thames. Linda and Mary treated themselves to cakes from a great little patisserie before driving home to start prepping Christmas dinner: this year I've made a chestnut, mushroom and red wine paté en croute.

Lot of Kites, winter thrushes and Parakeets seen (but not photographed today!) as well as a flock of twenty or so Waxwings on Boyn Hill Road.

Four in the afternoon, and I still haven't had anything alcoholic: colds are a great way to lose weight!


The infamous chairs!