Sunday, 18 December 2011


Chilling after watching United demolish QPR, I glanced out of the window and noticed some feathers drift across the garden.  It was soon apparent why.....

This young Sparrowhawk was sat on my bird table tucking into a Chaffinch, and it then stayed there for the next twenty minutes, 10 foot away from the kitchen window, just a pity the light wasn't a little better.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Essex birds are easy

Following yesterday's success with one American wader, today saw us down on the Blackwater Estuary looking for another, this time a Spotted Sandpiper.  Despite the vague pager directions, we finally made our way along the seawall, passing large flocks of Avocets, Brent Geese, Lapwing and Golden Plover to the gravel pits where it had last been seen.  Unfortunately, a dog walker had flushed it a few minutes before we arrived and only after a long cold wait did the bird show, very distantly at first on an island but eventually flew closer and fed along the near shoreline.  As I thought the bird was going to be distant I didn't bother taking the camera but as it was so close, I did manage a couple of acceptable digiscoped record shots with my phone!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Go west young man

Following the discovery of a Western Sandpiper at Cley, Mark came down for the weekend to twitch it.  The identification of this bird has been the subject of quite a bit of debate, having originally been indentified as a Semi-palmated Sandpiper, only on Wednesday once better views and photos in the Cley Birds website did the true identifcation come out, well, true for now.....

We got to the reserve mid morning and were amazed to find there weren't actually that many birders in the hide, I was expecting queues out of the door and packed hides, but it was surprisingly relaxed and the bird showed well, though not particularly close.  I have to confess, I can see why it took so long for the identification to be sorted, from the views we had, I would have struggled to not call it as a Semi-palmated, especially having seen a lot of Semi-p's and Westerns in the States in the last couple of years. In the field the bill didn't appear as strikingly long as the photos show and the range we were watching it at, the tell tale scapular markings couldn't be made out which is what a lot of the identifaction of this bird is being based on, but still a smart little bird.  Also on the reserve was a fellow American, a Green-winged Teal on the adjacent marsh and also a Water Pipit.

After a quick cup of tea, we headed west towards Titchwell.  As we drove through Burnham Overy, we came round a corner to be faced with a group of birders stood by the road, keenly watching something.  Thankfully, there was a convenient pull in, so we stopped, got out and scanned in the direction the others were looking and immediately saw a Rough-legged Buzzard circling by the road, which although distant did show well with the white tail and dark terminal band particularly striking.

Titchwell was typically superb, even though we couldn't find the Yellow-browed Warbler, but the supporting cast of a couple of Spoonbills, Spotted Redshanks, Water Rail and an incredible number of Little Egrets and then a couple of Barn Owls on the drive home certainly made a good end to the day.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Falling short

Possibly my favourite British bird is the Short-eared Owl.  In the last couple of winters, good numbers of owls have come across from the continent to winter and at a few sites, over a dozen can be seen hunting together.  I have now spent the last two afternoons trying, but ultimately failing, to get some good shots of these birds at two such sites, Worlaby Carrs in North Lincolnshire and Burwell Fen in Cambridgeshire.

Unfortunately, I wasn't alone in this quest and weekend probably isn't the best time to visit these sites as they are very popular with birders and photographers alike, and as a result the birds keep their distance from the massed ranks.  With scores of people stood along the road, it really is no surprise the birds don't come very close, even though there are many stunning images taken, presumably midweek when the number of people is much fewer.  Still managed excellent views of birds at both sites, but photography-wise, I'm going to have to make a better effort to get back in quieter times.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Confiding Cresties

After a good night's sleep at the Grant Arms Hotel and the best breakfast you can imagine, I was ready to get out and enjoy the unseasonally glorious weather again. With only the morning to get out and find some of the local specialities before I had to make the long drive back south, I stopped at Loch Garten and spent the next few hours trying the photograph the Crested Tits coming to the feeders.  With so many Coal Tits also coming to the feeders, the Cresties didn't get much of a look in and frustratingly stayed on the branches which were in the shade.

The Coal Tits were a bit more cooperative but the 2 Red Squirrels were more bothered about chasing each other than coming out into the open.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Heading south

After the dull grey of yesterday, today I woke up to glorious subshine and hardly a breath of wind, ideal conditions for photography and a proper bash of Orkney.  Well, that would have been nice had I not been booked on the 9am ferry back to the mainland!  An early start found me sat at Stromness ferry terminal cursing the fantastic conditions as I waited to board the ferry.  A few Black Guillemots showed well alongside the ferry, but only having the 300mm lens to hand, I couldn't get much more than record shots.  The crossing back across the Pentland Firth to the mainland was relaxing with hundreds of Fulmars and Gannets and Kittiwakes too seen, but not much more.

Arrived in Scrabster Harbour an hour and a half later and again, Black Guillemots found the harbour to their liking and this time I was able to get the big lens out and walk around the port to photograph them just below the harbour wall.

With the rest of the day to amble down to Speyside, I headed for the most northerly point on the British mainland - Dunnet Head.  Stopping for a few minutes to photograph some typically stupid looking Highland Cows with their long fringes, which are in themselves the most northerly mainland herd.

Dunnet Head was very quiet, a far cry from the summer when the huge cliffs are alive with noisy seabirds, with only a flyover Snow Bunting and a Merlin for my efforts.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Orkney bashing

Having completed my WeBS Talk roadshow (taking in Inverness, Thurso and last night, Kirkwall in the last three days), today I was looking forward to getting out and exploring Orkney properly.  Waking up to dull grey windy weather was not what I was hoping for but filled with anticipation, I set out and headed east.  Stopping briefly to check the bays, finding a couple of Slavonian Grebes and following a short search around the southeasterly point of the Orkney Mainland at Point of Ayre with a few Purple Sandpipers and 5 Barnacle Geese I retracd my steps back to Kirkwall and then headed south.

Crossing the causeway to Burray, there are several bays which were sheltered and held quite
 a few birds.  The stars of the show were at least 30 Long-tailed Ducks, the males looking stunning in their winter finery and displaying and calling to each other, a magical experience.  The bay also had at leasta  dozen Slavonian Grebes, a Great Northern Diver and a couple of Black Guillemots.

Carrying on south, I reached South Ronaldsay.  I headed for Sandwick, the most southerly point and the ferry port to have a look around and was quite surprised to find a couple of Wheatears, which would have been unusual at this time of year on the south coast of England, let alone Orkney.  Other than a few Blackbirds, Robins and Goldcrests, the area was very quiet, though a ringtail Hen Harrier was a more expected, but nonetheless, nice bird to see.

Having had a quick look at the RSPB Reserve at The Loons yesterday afternoon, I decided to go back there, and having missed my turning, which given the number of roads on Orkney should have been avoidable, I ended up going the long way round.  This misjudgement turned out to be a good thing as a Great Grey Shrike flew across the road in front of me before typically perching on roadside wires, but flew on a bit further before I could even think about getting the camera out.  With my WeBS hat on, it was good to see good numbers of Icelandic Greylag Geese around the island, and The Loons is a regular roost site, and the fence posts according to the notice board should be checked for Short-eared Owls, which proved right with an owl sat watching for voles in the grass.  As dusk fell, a quick look at Marwick Bay produced a juvenile Iceland Gull which was a nice end to the day, just a pity the light never improved to be able to get any photos.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Scores are tied

Throughout 2011, the BTO and RSPB are pitting their birding skills against one another in the TEAL Cup.  This year list challenge has been a good excuse to get out birding around the Nunnery Lakes Reserve with BTO pride against their arch rivals at stake. 

With this in mind and the BTO now trailing by a single species, lunchtime saw me and Nick down the Lakes trying to relocate the Woodlark seen earlier, unfortunately with no success, but a Barnacle Goose on D Lake was suitable compensation and brought the BTO back level.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

It's just another manic Sunday...

As I'm sure I may be reminded, I recently went on record as saying (something along the lines of) "I'm not really in to twitching any more, I'm beginning to see why non birders say what's the point in driving hundreds of miles to see a bird when you can just go to the country where they come from a see loads of them and other stuff".  Just 9 days ago I returned from a two-week trip to British Columbia where amongst the other birds I saw was Sandhill Crane, in fact I saw quite a lot of them.

On my return to the UK, news broke of a Sandhill Crane in Aberdeen.  This did make many people travel right up to the north of Scotland to see this bird but I was unmoved, why should I when I have just been watching them?  Last week the same bird started its journey south, reaching North Yorkshire but then it vanished, leaving many to wonder if it would be seen again....

As I sat processing Grizzly photos just before lunchtime, I glanced at the pager sitting next to me on the sofa......"**MEGA** Suffolk Sandhill Crane just north of Aldeburgh at North Warren".  A few minutes later Richard and Dave accepted a lift to take the gamble it would still be there.  As we arrived at Dave's, news broke that it had flown south over Aldeburgh....but where next and should we take a chance?  We all agreed that Landguard Point, a good few miles south of Aldeburgh would be a good location to head to in the hope it follows the coast, but we weren't confident.  As we headed along the A14 news broke that it had been relocated just the other side of the Alde Estuary at Orford, and the twitch was back on....

Three quarters of an hour later, we arrived in the seaside village of Orford and had just pulled in to the car park at the quay when news broke that it had flown south and had been relocated a few miles south at Boyton.  Thanks to some excellent map reading from Richard (I think Dave was probably praying or writing his eulogy in the back seat) as we rallied around the small country lanes, we arrived in Boyton to be greeted with the news that the bird was still there.  Trying to find a parking space on the very narrow lane next to the field was something of a challenge so with the lane blocked by so many cars, we abandoned the car and watched the bird feeding in a stubble field through the simmering heat haze.  I took a few poor record shots through the heat haze but then packed the camera away and just enjoyed decent 'scope views.

After a while, chaos had ensued in the little village of Boyton as cars were parked in any conceivable space, many locals took exception (and a few heated words were exchanged with birders) whilst others just looked completely bemused and the police were called to clear the lane so that lorries could get through to the farm.  Thankfully after about an hour or two, a microlight flew over and spooked the bird which then flew off (as it turned out, to only a few fields further down the lane) and so many birders left and a sense of calm took over and the donations to the church fund piled up, but it then stayed until at least dusk allowing latecomers to connect with it.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Last day

Woke up on our last day to grey skies and heavy rain, not the finale we were hoping for.  Braving the elements, we went down to the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary, just south of Vancouver by which time the rain had stopped.  The reserve is a bit like Martin Mere with a lot of Mallards expecting to be fed in some areas but in others, they are very flighty, some of the American Wigeon, Pintail and Wood Duck too are the same.

American Wigeon

Wood Duck

It's not only the waterbirds that expect to be fed, if you stop anywhere for long enough you get mobbed by Black-capped Chickadees which will happily feed out of your hand.

One thing I have not seen a lot of on this trip is American waders, but thankfully that was put right with a good selection on the marsh, mostly Long-billed Dowitchers and Lesser Yellowlegs but also a few Least and Western Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs and single Stilt and Pectoral Sandpipers.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Stilt Sandpiper

There was quite a lot of other stuff to see, with several Great Blue Herons and a Night Heron around the pools and quite a few Spotted Towhees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common YellowthroatsLincoln's and Fox Sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, a few Bushtits, a Cedar Waxwing and a couple of skulking Marsh Wrens around the bushes and Cooper's Hawk, at least 3 Northern Harriers and a Peregrine hunting around the area.

Cedar Waxwing

As we were leaving the reserve, we found a group of 16 Sandhill Cranes by the road along with 3 Lesser Snow Geese.

Sandhill Cranes

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Back to civilisation

After a couple of weeks driving around the vast open spaces of British Columbia, the trip is coming to an end and we have the head back to the bustling metropolis of Vancouver.  Leaving the wilderness of Wells Gray behind, we did at least see a Black Bear along the access road and Toni saw a Coyote too, we drove the 500km back to Vancouver.  To say it was a shock to the system was a bit of an understatement, we had got used to driving for large distances without seeing another car let alone a gas, sorry, Petrol station so to get back into lanes of traffic coming from all angles did take a bit of readjusting to.  We made our way back and settled into our comfortable La Quinta suite to take stock and repack our stuff for the flight home.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nothing on this trip it seems will ever go to plan.

Having found the Mustangs for Toni quicker than anticpated, we had a day spare on the way back to Vancouver.  Looking at the map and the big moos-sized gap on our Mammal list we found Moose Valley just south of William's Lake and right near where we had to drive past where surely this gap could be filled.  Thankfully we stopped at a tourist information centre who told us the road there was only passable by 4x4, and although my track record of taking hire cars on tracks where I probably shouldn't, we decided against this and headed east to Wells Gray Provincial Park instead. 

Wells Gray is listed as one of THE places to look for good wildlife in British Columbia, especially many mammal species.  Unfortunately we only had the one day there which didn't leave much time for actually finding any, though a little family of Spruce Grouse by the road did at least pose for a few photos.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Wild Goose, I mean, Horse, chase

On our way back east we took a slight diversion to look for Canada's only wild Mustang herd.  I say slight diversion, but as with most of the slight diversions we have taken, it involved an couple of hour long drive along incredibly bumpy roads.  Thankfully, after much searching, we did find three genuinely wild Mustangs, in fact so wild, these ones (unlike the "Wild" Namibian, Camargue etc Horses we've seen on our travels) didn't come to have their noses scratched!!

Sad to leave...

After three days of fantastic bear watching, we have to say goodbye to Bella Coola and start to make our way back towards Vancouver.  It is quite a trek down to the valley but well worth it and it's not just the bears, but the bear watchers made the days so much more enjoyable.  Several other photographers were camped out on the platform throughout the days, all of whom were happy to share their tales and experience, in particular Murray, Sarah & Andy, Mirjam and John who made the hours pass much more quickly, and not forgetting the ever cheerful rangers Ken, Jerry and Jess.  Hopefully see you all again next year!!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Big Mac, Ruby and a Lady Diver please...

No, that is not the way Canadians order food at McDonald's, just the starring line up on another excellent day bear watching at Bella Coola.  Many of the bears that we have been seeing are regulars so much that the locals can tell them apart, and after only 3 days, so can we.

Big Mac is the dominant male of the stretch, a real brute of a bear with a distinctive mangled left ear, apparently from a dust up with one of the local females.

Big Mac

Ruby is a younger female with a distinctive face, much more Black Bear like in profile with her longer snout, and another bear we have seen a lot of in the last few days.


Lady Diver is a bit more difficult to tell (well for me), she's quite a big girl who I suspect is who bent Mac's ear, she looks perfectly capable.

Lady Diver

Saturday, 17 September 2011


The sun was shining and we were up bright and early this morning and at the viewing platform shortly after it opened.  Typically, with such good light the bears chose not to visit like they did yesterday and although during over seven hours of watching we did see 2 Grizzlies (including Big Mac, the local big male) and a Black Bear, they really didn't perform for the weekend crowds.  With a bit of luck, tomorrow may be better, though I fear the crowds won't be.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Bears, bears, everywhere....

Having survived “The Hill” (whose reputation far exceeded the actual scariness), we finally arrived in the Bella Coola Valley.  The original plan was to go straight to the campsite, have some lunch and get sorted and then maybe have a wander up to the Bear Viewing platform afterwards.  As we drove past the viewing area we thought we’d stop and have a quick look.  Three hours later we were still there surrounded by Grizzly Bears on all sides and wishing we’d made it here a week earlier rather than by the rather protracted route we took.
The Belarko Viewing Platform is manned by a couple of jolly rangers and the whole area is surrounded by electric fencing.  That said, the bears still walk around within 50 feet of you but never appear threatening, unless you happen to look (and taste) like a Salmon.  The views though really are amazing and every movement is greeted by a series of camera shutters from the various photographers camped out there.

The light wasn't the best but the views certainly were, a few bears even walked between us and the car park meaning no-one was allowed to leave until they had moved away.  Hopefully the light will be better tomorrow, but for now.....

The journey to the promised land

A week later than planned, we finally set off to Bella Coola and the promise of more bears.  The drive west from William’s Lake along the Bella Coola Highway doesn’t look far on a map, but it takes forever.  Thankfully unlike many of the other highways we’ve driven along in the last week or so, there were some good birds to look at on the way including stunning Mountain Bluebirds, Ruffed Grouse and a few Savannah Sparrows.  Just before we descended “The Hill”, we stopped at a viewpoint and were immediately harassed by a couple of Grey Jays, one of which even flew into the van to nick some of our food.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Plan D, or is it Plan A again?

Following last night's success, we were back down at the river at first light but with heavy drizzle set in for the day and a lot of logging lorries hurtling across the bridge and no sign of any bears, we gave in and headed south, stopping briefly to photograph a confiding male Spruce Grouse.

We are now back to Plan A, which is to head to Bella Coola where we had originally planned to go before they cancelled out ferry, so tomorrow we head west down the infamous Bella Coola Highway (it's even got its own wikipedia page!), where hopefully the Grizzlys should be even more plentiful.....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Double Trouble

Following a tip of from some drunk locals, we headed further up the logging tracks to a bridge just north of Fort Babine where we had been assured there were Grizzly Bears.  On arrival we did catch a glimpse of one by the river but he didn't stick around long.  There were plenty of signs in the area and the surrounding tracks were littered with fish carcasses and bear poo.

With renewed optimism, we went back in the evening where something of a twitch occurred with up to 8 would-be bear watchers manning the bridge.  The local Ospreys did their best to entertain us and a Warbling Vireo nearby was a nice addition, but as the light faded, the crowd dwindled until it was just us, when all of the sudden two young Grizzlys appeared on the road at the other end of the bridge from where we were sat.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how close you really want to meet a Grizzly), a truck came along and they ran off into the trees.

Thankfully though, they then made their way down to the water's edge and although the light by this point really was fading and the ISO had to be cranked right up to capture anything, they did show very well as close as 50 metres away.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Plan C....

Suitably refreshed by a Starbuck's coffee, we devised a new plan to head up the Babine River, just outside Smithers.  Well when I say just outside, I actually mean up 125km of logging track from the highway.  Having spent much of the morning getting a crack in the windscreen replaced, we finally made it up to a fishery just outside the town of Granisle where we arrived just in time to see a female Black Bear with cub catching a pink Sockeye Salmon for its tea and an Osprey cirling overhead trying to catch his own.

Further up the track towards Fort Babine we did come across several other Black Bears, most of which took one look at our van and ran away, though this chap did stop long enough to get a photo of....

Monday, 12 September 2011

It never rains...

Having had a complete itinerary change due to our ferry being cancelled, we have now just had plan B go down the pan. Arriving in Prince Rupert at midnight, we replanned to go up to Stewart, right on the Alaska border only to find out (thankfully before we had got anywhere) the road there has been washed away! Now sat in Starbucks working on a plan C...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

We are sailing

With Plan A out of the window, we rerouted to Prince Rupert and spent a very pleasurable and relaxing day on a ferry winding our way up the stunning British Columbian coastline.  With glorious weather once the fog had lifted, we had excellent views of a few cetaceans including 5 Humpback Whales and a few Dall's Porpoises and Pacific White-sided Dolphins.

blowing Humpback

Seabirds too were much in evidence with Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets, Ancient Murrelet, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Sooty Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua the highlights.

This trip already has not got to plan so it was probably no surprise when we got back to the van to find the battery was flat, but thankfully the good folk of BC Ferries soon jumped the van and we were back on our way.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

We're on a road to nowhere...

With a day to kill we thought we would pop over to the west coast of the island to look for Sea Otters. What we didn't realise was the 70km of incredibly bumpy track involved to get there. A couple of hours later we arrived at Winter Harbour and did find a few Sea Otters going about their business but frustratingly after all the effort, they stayed out of the range of the cameras and we then had the 70km bumpy track to navigate back to Port Hardy with a flock of Band-tailed Pigeons the avian highlight of the trip.

Best laid plans and all that...

Woke up to light drizzle & a distinct lack of urgency to get out with camera in hand. Whilst staring out at Bear Cove and all its Bald Eagles we checked the ferry time table to see the word "CANCELLED" where we hope to see a sailing time. A quick change of plan means we are now catching a different ferry first thing tomorrow morning to Prince Rupert which is near the Alaska border, but still grizzly central...

Friday, 9 September 2011

A room with a view

After a couple of nights slumbing it in the camper van and being caked in insect repellent, we were craving a bit of comfort so have found a motel overlooking Bear Cove to spend the night.  Within minutes of checking in and looking from our balcony we were treated to a family of 5 River Otters just below us along with an American Dipper and as dusk fell, the distinctive shape of a Black Bear wandering around the estuary.

Tomorrow we head further north and a two day ferry trip before entering Grizzly country.....


No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a boat trip out to see the resident Killer Whales.  We went out for an afternoon trip out of Telegraph Cove with Stubb's Island Whale Watch tours, and immediately ran into an eerie fog.  Spirits were soon lifted by a shout of "Orca" and there in the mist a couple of hundred yards away was the distinctive 6 foot tall dorsal fin of a male Orca.

Thankfully, the fog soon lifted and we were able to see at least 6 other Orcas, and further out we came across 2 Humpback Whales, though they weren't all that active.  As we headed back towards harbour we also came across a couple of Dall's Porpoise and a couple of Steller's Sealions.

Birdlife in the Blackfish Sound was quite interesting too with many Rhinoceros Auklets and Guillemots and also a Marbled Murrelet, a small party of 5 Harlequin Ducks and 3 juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes, whilst a few Bald Eagles watched us from the shore.

Once bitten....

A quick early morning foray around the shore of Buttle Lake and Ralph River campground first thing before the mosquitoes realised I was around did produce a gem in the shape of a cracking male MacGillivray's Warbler and a Hammond's (unless someone can tell me otherwise!) Flycatcher and a few Varied Thrushes.

Hammond's Flycatcher

Varied Thrush

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Getting better...slowly

Waking up at a picturesque Cumberland Lake to the calls of Red-breasted Nuthatches and eating my breakfast watching the local Steller's Jays clearing up the picnic tables and 3 Spotted Sandpipers along the lake shore and a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets (which looked and sounded for all the world like Thetford Forest Firecrests) was a vast improvement on the previous days.

Heading north up Vancouver Island we stopped at Oyster Bay where a Bald Eagle carrying a fish and then an Osprey trying but failing to catch its own was a nice start.  Amongst the many Black-bellied, sorry, Grey Plovers and posing Great Blue Herons were a couple of smart Black Turnstones.

There were also a few birds in the bay itself but mostly distant, though a Pigeon Guillemot, 2 Black Scoter, 3 Red-necked Grebes and a few Bonaparte's Gulls were in close enough to identify.

We finished the day in Strathcona Provincial Park, which late afternoon, once the heat had subsided, did produce 3 Blue Grouse playing chicken with cars along the road by Buttle Lake and a few Varied Thrushes (proper orange versions, not like the Cornish one!) and a White-crowned Sparrow around the campsite, along with the ubiquitous mosquitoes which always seem to appear when I am around which forced a hasty retreat back to the campfire.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

B.A in B.C

I'm not sure if it's the fact that my last big trip was to Africa where it was wall to wall wildlife, but after 2 full days of wildlife watching, we really haven't see all that much yet!  Most of the morning was lost picking up the camper van and supplies, but even driving around there just doesn't seem to be much wildlife around, apart from Northwestern Crows, there's not even much by the roads and the ferry crossing to Vancouver Island which promised much yielded just a pair of Black Scoter and a Common Seal!

Respectable Photographers....???

When we booked our camper van from Wicked Campers, we knew we weren't likely to get a run of the mill, boring van, and having told them we would be photographing wildlife so wanted something camouflage, this wasn't what we were expecting...

And whilst the side is quite funky, the message on the back does get me some funny looks, and comments...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bandits at 6 o clock (or should that be 3 o'clock?)

Having checked into the hotel, we set off for a quick afternoon trip into Vancouver before the full effects of jetlag set in.  Up to this point, the only birdlife we had seen were a handful of Northwestern Crows and Glaucous-winged Gulls as we made our way in the airport shuttle, though Stanley Park, an oasis on the outskirts of Vancouver was our destination in the afternoon heat.

With throngs of cyclists, joggers and roller bladers coming from all directions, Stanley Park really is not somewhere to try walking around when you are half asleep and struggling to come to terms with the fact it is 6 o'clock in the evening and not 3 o'clock in the morning as your body clock is trying to tell you.  The fact there are so many people around does make the wildlife remarkably tame, none more so than the many Racoons, dressed like highwaymen which appeared late afternoon and harrass passers by for any scraps, though they were very endearing, as was the Douglas' Squirrel eating a burger bun.

Dressed for the part

Even the local Squirrels are partial to fast food in this country

The birdlife was much like many city parks with truely wild Canada Geese and Wood Ducks also coming to look for scraps.  A Great Blue Heron fished oblivious to the many passers by stopping to photograph it with the camera phones and Glaucous-winged Gulls also posed for photos.

Great Blue Heron

Glaucous-winged Gull

Wood Duck

Other birdlife was fairly thin on the ground, though Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee, White-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee and a Belted Kingfisher weren't a bad start to the trip.

Toto, we're not in Kansas any more!

Following an early start, a bumpy take-off from a wet and windy Heathrow and a nine hour flight we finally made it to Vancouver, an hour and a half after we left, or so the clock was telling us.  Normally long haul flights are tedious with nothing to see out of the window, but I'm not sure many people see a mass of Beluga Whales from 30,000 feet in Hudson Bay looking like grains of rice close in to the shoreline like we were lucky enough to and the view over the glaciers of Greenland wasn't bad either!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Lakes listing

Having only been down the Nunnery Lakes reserve a handful of times before this year, despite it being a short walk from where I have worked for the past 8 years, the BTO Vs RSPB TEAL Cup has changed all that and rather belatedly I am now an avid Lakes Lister.

Starting 8 years too late means there are still some glaring omissions to my list, but a text from Lakes resident (almost literally!) Nick Moran had me hotfooting it down to the meadow to successfully twitch 2 Yellow Wagtails this evening, though I only saw them in flight - but they all count.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


I always remember on my school report card my photography teacher (yes, you really can do an A level in photography!) saying "Neil should always have his camera with him", and so it proved today.

Walking into work this morning and I came across one of the local Otters, merrily playing around in the river, coming as close as a few feet away as I stood watching it.  Then a little bit further along the river, a sudden splash and a Kingfisher rose out of the water carrying a small fish and promptly flew along and landed in a tree a few yards away.  I'm sure that wildlife know when you haven't got your camera with you, and needless to say, with it being quite a dull morning, this was the case today!!

Friday, 12 August 2011

We are going to the Zoo...

I am not always the greatest fan of zoos, too often animals are kept in enclosures which are too small for them and the animals just look very unhappy. A family day out at Banham Zoo in Norfolk was quite refreshing and enjoyable and a few photographs taken.
This was one of a family of 5 Snow Leopards they have there. These guys are the holy grail of big cats but require a trip to the high peaks of the Himalayas to see them and only then if you are extremely lucky. Maybe one day......

In a few weeks time, I will hopefully watching Bald Eagles in British Columbia, but this bird was a nice model for the time being.

Prairie Dogs, like Meerkats are always popular and always on the lookout...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Messing about in the river

Spent a delightful half an hour in the company of one of the local Otters on my way home from work.  This is one of four cubs born last year and have become something of local celebrities with at two becoming remarkably confiding, even playing around in the river by the mill in the centre of Thetford at lunchtimes.