New Year Norfolk Churches

 

 

Yesterday, in an attempt to blow the festive cobwebs away, I decided to notch up a few more Norfolk churches on the bike. Being in Norfolk with the extended family for New Year, I was able to enlist some cycling companionship in the form of my old ‘End2Ender’ buddy, brother Bryan and Joe and Gabi, who joined us on the tandem, for lunch. We did a circular route of about 70k and took in a total of 19 churches – listed below. We departed  at 08.30 and were back by three o’clock, with a lunch stop at the very cozy Walpole Arms, in Itteringham. At Upper Sheringham, we met a woman in the church who gave us a really useful and informative leaflet about the churches in the Holt deanery, a number of which we visited.

The route:

Norfolk Churches 2 cycle route no.2594602 - Mapometer.com UK

The churches: St Peter Sheringham, All Saints Upper Sheringham, All Saints Bodham, St Helen & All Saints West Beckham, St Peter North Barningham, St Mary Baconsthorpe, All Saints Hempstead, St Peter & St Paul Edgefield, St Andrew Saxthorpe, St Peter Corpusty, St Peter & St Paul Oulton, St Mary Itteringham, St Andrew Little Barningham, St Andrew Wickmere, St Michael & All Angels Plumstead, St Peter Matlaske, St Mary the Virgin Barningham Winter, St Mary Bessingham and All Saints Gresham.

The photos:

Upper Sheringham in the early morning sunshine

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Monument to the lost USAF crew of B24H ‘Alfred’

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The soft ‘suffolk pink’ interior of St Peter North Barningham

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The ornate organ

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St Mary Baconsthorpe

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Window detail, Baconsthorpe church

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All Saints, Hempstead

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St Peter & St Paul, Edgefield

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Painted rood screen, Edgefield

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St Andrew Wickmere

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Mother and child

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St Mary the Virgin, Barningham Winter, with detached derelict tower, in the setting sun

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For more detail of all these churches visit the excellent Norfolk Churches website.

Happy New Year to you all and more blogging in 2013.

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Thaing up the loose ends…

Thursday morning, Bangkok. We’re back at Neil and Eunice’s place after a fabulous week birding in central Thailand. I realised that there are a few photos, that didn’t make it into my earlier blogs, which probably ought to see the light of day before I conclude the Thailand stage of our Big World Birding Adventure and draw to a close our three month long birding extravaganza.

Having birded seven countries on three continents and seen well over a thousand species, many of them new to one or all of our party, it’s encouraging to note that we were as enthusiastic and committed yesterday, our last day’s birding, as we were on day one in Brazil. True, from time to time, we’ve let our concentration wander or we’ve finished birding occasionally before it got dark and ‘yes’ our vigilance around systematic recording has left something to be desired but fundamentally we remain as keen on day 82 as we were at the start – possibly more so – you can get hooked on the ‘itinerant birder’ life-style! But tonight we fly home and it’s back to the reality of the UK with a bump. As we prepare to leave Bangkok, with the temperature in the ‘high nineties’, we’re unpacking our winter clothing – last used in Ushuaia – jumping off point for Antarctica, in readiness for sub-zero temperatures back at home.

And now those pictures….

Brahminy Kite, the common raptor over the salt pans

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Introducing the ‘birds of the wetlands’ section – a rather colourful fishing boat

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Red-wattled Lapwing, regular on the marshes and rice fields inland from the salt pans

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White-breasted Waterhen

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The ‘default’ heron species of the entire area – problem is it could be either Chinese or Javan Pond Heron – you decide!

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The spectacular Painted Stork, with a Great Egret for size comparison

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Kingfisher species were reasonably common, with Collared being the most obliging

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and introducing the ‘land bird’ section – a cow, with a couple of birds for company – Eastern Cattle Egret, White-vented Myna and, on it’s back, Black Drongo

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Now when it comes to Sparrows, this one takes the biscuit – Plain-backed, in a mixed flock with House Sparrow

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Another Barbet, this one is Blue-throated

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The frequently heard but much less seen, Greater Coucal

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The delightful Crimson Sunbird

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and the even more delightful, Golden-bellied Leafbird

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Now for some monkey business….this one is Dusky Langur

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and here is a female White Handed Gibbon, with her rather clingy off-spring

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…and still under the ‘primates’ section – Neil and Eunice ( in the middle), our fabulous hosts and bird guides! Thank you so much for a truly wonderful birding experience!

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and the last word (or photo in this case) goes to a bird – White-throated Kingfisher, sitting on a water jar at dusk

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There’s something about birding in the sun that is very uplifting, infectious, addictive – I’ve no doubt it won’t be long before we’re off on our travels again, to ‘who knows where’ – but doubtless there’ll be a blog!  Until then you’ll have to content yourselves with more modest offerings from home! Thank you for ‘tuning in’ – it makes the world a smaller and friendlier place knowing that someone, somewhere is sharing it with you!

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. T

Kaeng Krachan Kaleidoscope

Tuesday afternoon, 11th December. Just arrived back at White Beach having spent a fantastic long weekend with Neil and Eunice, up in the hills of the Kaeng Krachan national park. We stayed at the superb Baan Maka lodge, which is just ten minutes from the park entrance and  has some great birding ‘on the door step’. We spent two full, 12 hour days, in the park itself and another pottering around the outskirts and saw some superb birds, some of which are featured in the photo kaleidoscope below. We’re off to Bangkok tomorrow afternoon for a last night with our friends before getting ready for the evening flight on Thursday.

But first the pics….

Dawn over the lake ‘at the bottom of our garden’ at Baan Maka

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We had numerous Babbler species, this was a particular favourite, Collared (a split from White-hooded)

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One of the families well represented at Kaeng Krachan is Hornbill – this one is Oriental Pied

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The ‘difficult to see’ Green-billed Malkoha

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One of a pair of absolutely lovely roosting White-fronted Scops Owl

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Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush drinking at a forest pool

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Not to be confused with common or garden chicken – Red Jungle Fowl, the real thing!

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Grey-faced Buzzard with a freshly captured squirrel

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Asian Barred Owlet roosting in the grounds of Baan Maka

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Kalij Pheasant – another deep jungle-dwelling species

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Another Kaeng Krachan speciality Ratchet-tailed Treepie, the only place in Thailand it occurs

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and another member of the family,  Rufous Treepie

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A nice male Olive-backed Sunbird

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Our only Thai parrot species – Vernal Hanging Parrot. A beauty nonetheless

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One of a few Barbets seen – this one, at the entrance to Baan Maka, was Lineated

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Just down the road from Baan Maka was an excellent lily pond with a family of Bronze-winged Jacana

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Seen crossing the road on our journey back to the lodge – a rather large python!

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and a real kaleidoscope of colour – butterflies at a ‘mineral lick’

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And to finish with a Great Hornbill – what a monster!

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Three Star Waders

Friday, 7th Dec., White Beach, Thailand. This place is fantastic! Just a couple of hours from Bangkok, on the gulf coast – a small collection of holiday chalets and a few local restaurants, right in the middle of the most extraordinary wader habitat I’ve ever seen! There are ten miles of salt-pans between Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia just crawling with birds, including three of the regions most endangered species – Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmans Greenshank and Asian Dowitcher.

Over the past three days we’ve covered what feels like every square metre of the place, often in the ‘heat of the day’, looking for these rare birds and, as I write this blog, I’m delighted to say we’ve seen them all – we’ve also seen a host of superb ‘supporting cast’ birds!

Sign to the recently established Spoon-billed Sandpiper site

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The first of the rare wader trilogy – Asian Dowitcher. They’re the shorter, spotty ones – mostly looking right!

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Nordmann’s Greenshank

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…and the star of the show Spoon-billed Sandpiper. There are thought to be fewer than 200 pairs left in the world and the site at Pak Thale is critical to their survival. Congratulations to the Thai birders and authorities for protecting their habitat!

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One of the many ‘bonus birds’ – the bird on the right is Milky Stork – a scarce bird in Thailand.

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Sunset over the Wat at Laem Pak Bia

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The tourist thing – temples and the Royal Palace

Yesterday we did the tourist thing and spent the day visiting the Royal Palace, Wat Pho (the reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun in Bangkok. We travelled into the city on the very efficient Skytrain and had lunch at the excellent Royal Thai Naval Club 77 – just down the road from the entrance to the Royal Palace. It’s the King’s birthday tomorrow and the whole place was being given a sprucing up. The trip on the water taxi was particularly enjoyable – Bangkok certainly has an interesting river front.

A few pictures which fail, I’m afraid, to capture the sheer scale and splendour of these traditional cultural sites:

First, views of the inside of the Royal Palace grounds

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In the foreground, a model of Angkor Wat

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The ‘reclining Buddha’, Wat Pho. You can get an idea of the scale from the person seated at the head!

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…and finally, some pictures from Wat Arun, which is decorated with pieces of pottery

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This is our last blog before heading south for the ‘bank holiday’, some intensive Thai birding and our quest for the last ‘must see’ species of the trip, the near extinct Spoon-billed Sandpiper!

Bye for now.

First taste of Thailand

Monday 3rd Dec., early morning, Neil & Eunice’s apartment. Spent the day yesterday acclimatising – it’s pretty hot and reasonably humid here, but not unpleasant. Domestic morning catching up on e-mails, Christmas/wedding planning (Joe & Gabi’s wedding blessing actually) and washing. Went out birding in the afternoon to a couple of sites south of Bangkok around Bang Poo, coastal mangrove, fish ponds and wetlands. Excellent locations but under imminent threat of development – the story of wetlands across the world I guess. Saw about 60 species, mostly new stuff but with a bit of overlap with Australia and Britain – weird!  In the evening went to a local restaurant for some lovely authentic cuisine  – £30 for six, drinks included. No wonder Thailand is such a popular holiday destination.

Just a few bird pics as a warm up. Eastern Black-tailed Godwit with Black-winged Stilt

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Golden-bellied Gerygone

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A quarrelsome group of White-vented Myna

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Asian Openbill flying to roost

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Sunset over…an Oriental Reed Warbler!

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Touristy things today – trip to the Grand Palace et al so a few ‘holiday snaps’ in due course!

Fur ‘n’ feathers – Australian finale

One of the slightly frustrating  aspects of our Great World Birding Adventure itinerary has been that, having spent a week around Darwin on the north coast of Australia -well on our way to our final destination of Thailand, we had to fly four hours back to Sydney to pick up our international flight to Bangkok. So yesterday we spent nearly half the nine and a half hour flight flying the breadth of Australia, over Darwin, to Thailand!  All this necessitated an over night in Sydney so, having been there before, we knew that the Botanical Gardens (apart from being very beautiful in themselves) were a birding hot spot and a potential location for Powerful Owl.

Thus we were up early for a wholesome breakfast and a good meander around the park. Nothing of great note on our way to the cafe – it was raining quite heavily at the time, just the usual city species like Chestnut-banded Rail, Dusky Moorhen, Little Pied Cormorant. At the cafe I engaged a friendly park ranger in conversation, who informed me that if we went to the trees, close to Government House, there was a fair chance of an ‘owl encounter’.  We strolled up to the spot she kindly marked on the map and there, high in the tree was indeed a splendid Powerful Owl – complete with dead Possum in it’s talons! Only problem was that, partly sceptical of the possibility of seeing such a creature in the centre of Sydney and not wanting to look too conspicuous carrying my long lens, I didn’t take my camera! I ‘hot hoof’ back to the hotel for the camera but the result was worth it – hope you agree!

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Dawn is just breaking here in Bang Na, the Bangkok suburb where Neil & Eunice have their lovely apartment…got to get the Thai bird list started!