Greetings from Goa

We’ve been in Goa for a week now, staying at the Marinha Dourada hotel near Arpora, and spent most of our time walking to and birding the local sites. We’ve also had a couple of trips out to location less than twenty miles away. Our days start at dawn, around 6.30, when we have our most productive birding seasons before a late breakfast. Then it’s ‘chill time’ over lunch with a beer, raptor watching, and then back out for our late afternoon session until dark, early supper and bed! So far we’ve seen over one hundred and seventy species, many of them ‘world ticks’, with quite a bit of overlap with Thailand, Australia and Britain – the majority being ’self-found’. Tomorrow we go up to Backwoods Camp for some intensive guided jungle birding. Here’s a small selection of the more interesting local birds.

Common Iora


Green Bee-eater


Chestnut-tailed Starling


Indian Roller


Crimson-backed Sunbird


Wire-tailed Swallow


Stork-billed Kingfisher


Brahminy Kite


Red-wattled Lapwing


Lesser Goldenback


Small Minivet


Jerdon’s Leafbird


Jungle Owlet


Oriental Honey Buzzard


Slightly further afield: Bay-backed Shrike


Brown Hawk Owl


Woolly-necked Stork


Pied Kingfisher


and finally, the hard to see Watercock


Hopefully, a further report from Goa on our return from Backwoods.






Looking for Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrows are now virtually absent from east Norfolk and have suffered a massive general decline across the whole county over the past two decades. With nothing better to do and needing it for my Norfolk Year List we set off on Sunday, in the pouring rain, to search for them. I’d been given a possible location to the west of our place, in a rural village which appears to have largely missed-out on the agricultural revolution – winding lanes with lots of small fields bordered by overgrown hedgerows. It didn’t take us long before we bumped into a very friendly resident who, on hearing of our quest, announced that he had Tree Sparrows on the feeders in his garden and that we were welcome to look! Sure enough, half a dozen birds were buzzing in and out of the nearby hedge and on to his feeders. They didn’t seem to mind the weather but it sure hampered the photography!


Tree Sparrow, at an undisclosed mid-Norfolk location, 16th November 2014

Pilot pod passing


Pod of Pilot Whale passing Cley East Bank, 10th November 2014 

Monday is my ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT. I’d checked out the birds on Pat’s Pool and taken a slow walk down East Bank. I was just returning from looking at the female Long-tailed Duck at the back of Arnold’s when I met Steve & Sue. Whilst Steve and I were talking about the Desert Wheatear ‘fest’ at the weekend, Sue was looking out to sea when see noticed a group of large cetaceans moving east. Steve quickly identified them as Pilot Whale and we counted at least fifteen travelling in a pod about two thirds the way out towards the wind farm. They spent the afternoon gradually making their way past Salthouse, and Weybourne arriving at Sheringham by about 4.40 – their numbers increasing to 28 at the last count.

Apparently this is the first record of live Pilot Whale off Norfolk – all seven previous records have been of dead beached individuals, the last of which was in 1992.  So forgive the rather poor quality digipics but they do capture a small piece of Norfolk cetacean history!

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For more and better photos click here to view Steve’s website  and for more background see Carl’s, Letter from Norfolk.

Birding Desert


Male Desert Wheatear, Lowestoft, 8th November 2014

Two days ago a male Desert Wheatear turned up in Lowestoft – just over the border, in Suffolk. Then yesterday a female was present on the sea front in Gorleston, NORFOLK. A leisurely breakfast this morning and ‘bingo’, the pager rings out that the bird is still present – we pack up and head off. Half way there another message comes through that the bird has flown north across the river and has been lost to view, in a huge fenced-off area of the docks. By the time we arrive, the scent has gone well and truly cold – oh well. We decide to go and look at the bird in the neighbouring county anyway, which is said to be ‘showing well’ – this proved to be something of an understatement! Enticed, no doubt, by the regular supply of meal worms this handsome winter male sat, unperturbed on the sea wall, surrounded by an army of admirers. We’d just about had our fill when the news percolated through that the Norfolk bird had relocated back to the beach at Gorleston. Off we go again and this time, success – a nice female, nestling in the shelter of the sea wall! Two Desert Wheatear in one morning – one of which was a Norfolk Year Tick, not a bad little outing.

First a few more photos of the Suffolk male

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‘What are you guys all looking at?’


Now for the equally lovely NORFOLK female



Finally, a grab shot showing the all dark tail in flight


Historic Churches of Norfolk – route 10

By Sunday there had been a significant change in the weather – rain and strong winds, so we limited our ride to a 20 mile circuit around Bawdeswell. We did manage to take in nine churches though.

The Route


The Churches

All Saints Bawdeswell, St Peter Billingford, St Mary North Elmham, St Swithun Bintree, St Nicholas Twyford, All Saints Wood Norton, Church of the Holy Innocents Foulsham, St Andrew Themelthorpe and St Thomas Foxley

The Photos

All Saints, Bawdeswell was completely rebuilt after a British Mosquito plane crashed into the original, returning from a bombing raid in WW11

Bawdeswell All Saints

The plaque which commemorates the tragic event


St Peter, Billingford – one of a handful of Norfolk churches with an octagonal tower – our second of the weekend


The most notable feature inside is the 16th century giant latten lectern, from the same foundry as the one in St Marks, Venice


St Mary the Virgin, North Elmham – features in Simon Jenkins’ England’s 1000 Best Churches

North Elmham St Mary

The lofty interior


Medieval wall painting fragment


The noteworthy St Cecilia painted screen


Detail of the fine carved Tudor pews


St Swithun, Bintree


The hidden away little church of St Nicholas, Twyford

Twford St Nicholas

All Saints, Wood Norton


Details of medieval stained glass fragments

Wood Norton All Saints

Church of the Holy Innocents, Foulsham

Foulsham Holy Innocents

Unfortunately my camera battery gave up at this point but happily Bry had his phone with him to record the final two churches of the weekend!

St. Andrew, Themelthorpe

photo 3

St Thomas, Foxley

Foxley St Thomas

Historic Churches of Norfolk – route 9

Taking advantage of the recent unseasonably warm weather, spent the weekend catching up on a few more historic churches. On Saturday brother Bryan – veteran of the memorable ‘Four Countries End to End’ ride in 2012 and I did a nice circular route, starting and finishing at Morston. We cycled just over 60 km and took in 22 parish churches plus a host of other ‘religious establishments’ which cluster around the Walsinghams.

The Route


The Churches

All Saints Morston, St Andrew & St Mary Langham, St Margaret Saxlingham, St Andrew Field Dalling, All Saints Bale, St Martin Hindringham, St Andrew Thursford, All Saints Kettlestone, St Andrew Little Snoring, St Mary Great Snoring, All Saints East Barsham, Assumption West Barsham, All Saints North Barsham, St Giles Houghton St Giles, St Mary Little Walsingham, St Peter Great Walsingham, All Saints Wighton, All Saints & St Mary Magdalene Warham, St Mary Binham, All Saints Cockthorpe and St John the Baptist Stiffkey. In addition we visited the ‘Slipper Chapel’ & Chapel of the Holy Spirit Houghton St Giles, the old Friary, Anglican Shrine, Chapel of the Annunciation, Holy Souls, St Seraphim (orthodox) Little Walsingham and Holy Annunciation (orthodox) Great Walsingham – quite a day!

The Photos

All Saints, Morston – early morning


St Andrew & St Mary, Langham


St Margaret, Saxlingham

Saxlingham St Margaret

St Andrew, Field Dalling

Field Dalling St Andrew

Interior window detail


All Saints, Bale

Bale All Saints

St Martin, Hindringham

Bale All Saints 2

Interior, showing the off-set ‘weeping’ chancel


Window detail

Hindringham St Martin

All Saints, Thursford – more an estate than parish church, with Victorian ‘gothic’ much in evidence


All Saints, Kettlestone (Ketestuna in the Doomsday book) – with a fine octagonal tower

Kettlestone All Saints

An interesting plaque

Kettlestone All Saints 2

St Andrew, Little Snoring – with unusual detached round tower with tiled roof

Little Snoring St Andrew

Royal Arms of James II

Little Snoring St Andrew 2

St Mary, Great Snoring

Great Snoring St Mary

Inside – detail of the ornate but slightly dilapidated sedilia


Lovely stained glass


A cluster of three small churches in the Barshams

St Giles, Houghton St Giles

Houghton St Giles St Giles

Superb 15th century rood screen


St Mary, Little Walsham – almost completely rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1961

Little Walsingham St Mary

The light & airy interior


St Peter, Great Walsingham

Great Walsingham St Peter

The lovely interior with a feast of 15th century pews – complete with tracery, poppy heads and carved figures

DSC09502 Great Walsingham St Peter 2

and some interesting stained glass


All Saints, Wighton – the tower collapsed in a winter storm in 1965 and was rebuilt with the help of a Canadian benefactor

Wighton All Saints

Another light, bright interior with an unusual high-level east window


Detail of a Victorian stained glass window – one in a series depicting various saints


The two parish churches of Warham – All Saints and St Mary Magdalene, just half a mile apart

Warham All Saints Warham St Magdalene

More exquisite medieval glass

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The priory church of St Mary, Binham

Binham St Mary

All Saints, Cockthorpe – unfortunately undergoing major repairs and covered, in parts, with scaffolding


Last church of a long but fascinating day in the company of some fine historic architecture – oh and my brother of course!

St John the Baptist, Stiffkey

Stiffkey St John the Baptist

Details of the rood screen

Morston All Saints

Last word, on our final church, must go to Simon Knott whose commentary on Stiffkey contains the following:

‘Stiffkey is most famous, of course, for Harold Davidson, the Rector of Stiffkey from 1906 to 1932, who was defrocked by the Bishop of Norwich on account of the rather glamorous low-life company he kept. Nicknamed ‘Little Jimmy’ as he was only five feet tall, he became a national celebrity. He moved on from wandering in ‘a confused state’ around the back streets of Soho, and exhibited himself in a barrel in Blackpool, before an ill-judged career move into lion-taming resulted in him having his head bitten off. In Skegness, of all places’.