I woke up with a slight headache, I call it my travel hangover, always the second day after travelling. I took my time having breakfast and left my accommodation just after nine. I chose to walk and headed towards the city center, grabbing a coffee on the way. By the time I had reached the Botanical park, the headache was gone. The weather was sunny, warm but there was a cool breeze.
The gardens are up high overlooking the bay, on the way up I stopped to take some pictures of the view above Jacobs ladder, locals were walking up and down to get exercise. At the visitors center I got a guide to the birds in the park and then went for a stroll around. Pokémon is still big it seems on Ox, I kept bumping into groups of people tapping away on their phones, sometimes the group was as big as 25.
There were plenty of birds to spot, including a White Ibis pair flying over, whilst I sat in the shade of a large Eucalyptus. I was at the café at 14:00 so I opted for a late lunch, of fish and chips which would save me having to got out in the evening. I had a table with a view across the gardens, the bay and the Perth skyline beyond. Fish was battered Flathead fillets very handy because they form.long fingers which make it easy to eat with your fingers.
Time was getting on so I decided to head back to the apartment via a different route to see some new stuff. I passed thought a very neat area that seemed to contain the Perth parliament buildings, in the trees leading to it were the every present Rainbow Lorikeets. Then I passed through a shopping area which was like any shopping area. Just close to my destination I discovered the Perth Mint which contains the world’s largest gold coin, unfortunately it was to close in 30 minutes, so rather than wasting £10 I chose to leave for another day.
I grabbed some supplies for dinner and retired to my room to watch the Grand Prix and process my photos.
As expected I was awake at some point in the night, my body needed to adjust. I checked my phone, wondering what to do on Saturday, I came across Rottnest island, only a few miles off the coast of Perth. I figured I figured I would probably be up early so getting the 10 o’clock boat would be easy, or so I thought.
I woke up quite sleepy at 07:00 so I forced myself out of bed and had a quick breakfast. The drive to Fremantle where the shortest ferry goes from was straight forward. It was the first view of Perth in daylight, it was just like the promotion photos you see clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Luckily once in Fremantle there was signs to the the Rottnest ferry.
I decided my best bet was the days bus pass, with stops all round the island I could get on and off as I pleased. At about stop four, the bus driver mentioned a volunteer was there to talk about the island and walk to the next bus stop. Mimi the volunteer had moved to Australia 44 years ago, and it turns out had lived in the Chilterns around Chartridge, an area I knew well. She was very informative, I spotted Pelicans, Nankeen Kestrel, and even saw a King Skink.
I walked on to another bus stop after Mimi returned to her post. I got a bus to the stop near the lighthouse, where for $10 you could climb the stairs to get a view over the island. The lady doing the tour has a distinct Scottish accent. The building was made of stone from the island, had been built twice each team by aboriginal prisoners, and took 7 years each time.
From the lighthouse I followed a trail to skip a couple of bus stops. I got to the bus stop just after the bus was due so I waited for a while, but realised I must have missed, so I carried on the purple trail, and I was glad I did. The trail eventually runs along the beach at Strickland bay, which is beautiful and with the sun shining the sea was a bright turquoise. At the end of the beach I checked the bus time table, I had 30 minutes to get to the next stop which was close by, so I got a time lapse set.
It was quite hot out, and I think I was a bit jet lagged so I was not up for a lot of walking so I got the bus for a few stops. Whilst waiting I saw three Osprey. The bus had to stop to let a King Skink get out of the way. I got off near a salt lagoon hoping to see some waders, I dipped on the waders but there were some Pacific Shelduck, same shape as the European ones but much darker and brown where I would expect white. A few bus stops down I got back on for the last leg back back to the settlement where I got a cheese and onion sausage roll and a custard tart for lunch. I had to watch out for the Australian Ravens and Silver Gulls from stealing my food, and the very tame Quokka hung about eager for a crumb. My next venue was the small but informative museum which told the human and natural history of the island.
The ferry was due in about an hour so wandered around the settlement, and stopped at the beach for a time lapse. Then headed to the boat with 15 minutes to spare. I managed to get one of the few seats outside being solo makes that easy as you just need one space. The seat was next to Linda the volunteer who had showed me round the lighthouse, which was a stroke of luck, as she put me into a couple of ideas. Beaches in the way home and imminent sunset, and in particular Cettesloe Beach where there is a Rainbow Lorikeet roost very colourful birds but noisy and a nuisance apparently. I had a mission, but before I spotted the migrating whales from the back of the boat.
I parked up at Cottesloe beach and immediately saw groups of Rainbow Lorikeet flying in and I could hear the squabbling in the Norfolk pines. Down at the beach everyone was waiting for the sunset, so I joined them and got some fine shots in the warm light. It was dark when I left, but I navigated my way back to where I started and as a bonus I got a parking space round the corner from the apartment which was free till 08:00 Monday.
I dumped my stuff and headed back to my new favorite Italian restaurant where I had prawn and courgette fettuccine in a light creamy tomato sauce. My Little Creatures pale ale was delivered by the chef, perhaps they consider me a local now! I retired to the apartment just before 20:00 I had some photos to process.
An exciting opportunity came my, a few months back I was on the phone to our FD and he asked me in passing if I could go to Australia to help out with an ERP implementation, “When do I leave?” Was my response. My wife saw it as a great opportunity, although we would miss each other for the couple of months I would be away. It wasn’t long before my departure date came round, I would be flying to Perth on a Qantas flight via Dubai.
I didn’t sleep too week the night before, as is usual when I have to travel the next day, I think it is the anticipation, that makes my mind busy. Helen had the day off so we had a leisurely breakfast together. The driver was early, so it was a quick good by. It would be really strange to be apart for so long, even when Helen was at university most weekends Helen was back.
Did I mention business class? Our company policy is that if your flight over a certain time you can request to go business class, I figured it would be rude not to. The driver was very friendly and we discussed are various hobbies and travel stories. He dropped me off at Heathrow Terminal 3, and I found the Business class check in. Once checked in I was informed that there was a fast security queue as well as access to a lounge.
The lounge had various sections, but it was a strange time to be there between breakfast and dinner so I settled for a coffee and a glass of water. We were called to the gate and I tried a timelapse, but had to balance the camera on a radiator, and the shutter was enough to make the camera move, so it did not work out well. I had a window seat, and luck was on my side as no one was in the seat next to me.
I settled in and sent my last emails and Facebook posts, before airplane mode was required. Champagne was offered but I resisted, settling for a glass of wine with my four course meal. Bread and a small salad starter, followed by a potato cake and salad, followed by some sort of Kufta with dhal and rice, and finally lemon tart. There was still 4 hours to Dubai when I had consumed all that.
The lie flat beds sound very appealing, but in reality in the noisy setting of an aircraft, ear plugs don’t work, so sleep is very difficult. Don’t gete wrong it is nice to be able to lie flat and change postition, but they are quite hard and the gaps between the cushions where the seat articulates are never in the right place. Give me a proper bed any day. With about an hour and a bit to go the lights came on dim, and coffee and more food was distributed around the cabin, thus making the slim chance of sleep even more remote. I sat up and smelled the coffee, and a nice coffee it was too.
The lights came on fully about an hour before we landed slightly early despite hold for a 360. The business class queue through security was short, I had my boarding card so there was no messing about. Apparently the temperature outside in the middle of the night was 35 degrees Celsius, luckily the airport was air conditioned, however you got a sense of how warm and humid it was as we walked up the gangway to the terminal building. Dubai is just like any other airport, but multiplied. The same shops, and food franchises. I had a wander round before heading up to the lounge which was massive. There was plenty of food on offer, as well as drinks you just help yourself. I settled for an apple juice, I did not need any more food.
My fellow passengers and I turned up at gate A9 at the allotted time and hung around for a bit while the airline employee took phone calls. Eventually we were told there would be a delay so we all sat down on the lounge again. There was only about a 30 minute wait and we started to board. Interestingly there was an ad-hoc bag search at the gate, they confiscated my water from the previous flight.
The Emirates business setup is better in my opinion they stagger the seats so you can get in and out with disturbing your neighbor if they are lying flat. You have your own little pod with handy shelves to stow stuff. The TV screen is much larger. I found a film I had been wanting to see for a while, The Founder, about the beginning of the MacDonalds business empire, I enjoyed it. I find it hard to watch films in planes as I am easily distracted.
The air stewards came round with a thin mattress for the seat which seemed to make all the difference, as I although I was not aware of getting any sleep I think I did doze off for a few hours. We were served a breakfast at the beginning of the flight, then the lights were dimmed for about six hours. There was a lot of activity in the cabin as I guess there was always someone who could not sleep or needed a pee.
I got up for a pee just before the lights started to go on, and ventured by accident into first class looking for a vacant WC, I was soon shooed out. I passed the bar in my search, and returned with my camera to get a picture of myself drinking coffee! The bar area is quite roomy, and bright. Sweet and savoury food items are available, as well as nuts and olives. Our lunch order was taken when I got back to my seat.
For lunch I had an Arabic Mezze which included Shanklish which is a traditional cheese, they describe it as stinky cheese. Main course for me was grilled cod with a lentil dahl and vegetables. It was all served on Royal Doulton bone china! I skipped desert, and there was an hour and twenty to go. They came round with the fother and final hot towel of the flight during which I had crossed the equator, and was in the southern hemisphere for the first time.
Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze, I had registered my passport so could use the machines, I told them I had no infectious deseases, and they wavedcme through customs. Perth is quite a big airport with 4 terminals, I would be dropping off the hire car at a different one. The car was automatic and has satnav but I was not impressed, it was already dark and every so often the arrow on the satnav had me off road so it was difficult to determine when I should turn. Eventually after a few wrong turns I found a multi-storey car park close to the apprtment that had been booked for me.
The apartment has a kitchen diner, bathroom (with washing machine and tumble dryer) and bedroom. I dumped my stuff and ventured out to get some food, settling for a really close family run Italian, I had pizza and a beer called One Fifty Lashes on the way back I stopped off at a supermarket for breakfast supplies. Then to bed for a long overdue sleep.
We picked a great weekend for the weather, the forecast was sunny cloudy, we were off the stay a couple of nights at the Crown and Castle in Orford. I dealt with a couple of administrative items before we left at 09:30ish, round the M25 and up the A12, traffic was relatively ok apart from the usual black spots on the A12.
We chose to head to Minsmere RSPB reserve first, for a walk to Lighthouse cottages, for lunch, then back to the the reserve via the hides. The heather was in fine bloom on the heath, as we approached Lighthouse cottages, the Dartford Warblers were about but quite elusive, generally spotted disappearing into the heather.
At the NT cafe we had a drink and scone/cake then headed down to the beach and onto the east scrape hide. There were lots of Sandpipers and Black Godwits to mention a couple. We sent a while enjoying the wildlife and then headed back to the visitors centre in the hope of seeing Bearded Tits on the reeds overlooked by the flood defences. Helen had a quick peruse around the gift shop, then we headed back up the road but took the turning to Orford.
We got the last parking space at the Crown and Castle, settled in then went for a walk down to the harbour and quay. The village is full of old cottages many of them looked like holiday cottages. It is a looking village, very typical of rural Suffolk.
Our dinner was very good the highlight for me was the skate main course. We were quite tired and retired to our room by 21:00. Breakfast was at 08:30 and the dinning room was quite quiet, I had poached eggs on toast and Helen had French toast and maple syrup. We planned to go to Orfordness by boat so we grabbed some lovely bread from the Pump House bakery in the village, and some cheese from the village shop, then headed down to the quay we missed the first boat but were lucky enough to get in the 10:20.
There were reports of a Ted Necked Pharalope and we teamed up with a bird watcher in an attempt to find it. We walked to the wardens hut via the blue route which is where it was seen, but we failed to spot it. At the wardens hut we had a look at some moths the researchers had caught over night. The Tiger Moth was most impressive with its bold camouflage colours.
Next stop was a building with some impressive binoculars mounted on top, good for viewing distant things as they were rock solid. From there a gravel path led to the red and white lighthouse, where we stopped for a rest on the gravel bags used to shore up the coast line and stop the lighthouse falling down. The trek along the shingle beach was tedious and led us to a group of buildings where we stopped for a rustic sandwich.
We were determined to see the Pharalope so we decided to do the blue route too, which is the more remote of the paths in the spit. It takes you close to Alpha Mist which is still a broadcasting installation for the BBC world service. The track back to the jetty had passing places, we decided that it is hard to imagine that they would ever be used because all vehicles have to arrive by boat.
Close to the jetty Helen spotted a brown mammal approaching, it was a hare. We stood for a while and although it was aware of our presence it came very close and wandered across the track and into the grass right in front of us. One of those amazing but rare wildlife encounters. We had a short wait for the ferry boat after getting out tickets back from the warden who checks everyone is off the island.
We stopped for a coffee at the tea room where Helen was harassed by a wasp, while I watched the tide almost reach the cafe terrace. I fancied an ice cream from the van at the car park but the queue was too long so we headed back to the hotel and had a half of Adnams each on the terrace, and as always after a day out in the fresh it it tasted better than normal.
On sunday we had the routine cooked breakfast and sadly we checked out and headed out of Suffolk, but before we left we would have a few things to check out. First as we left orford we spotted the school used in the Detectorists where teacher and partner of the lanky bloke taught. Then we went to an RSPB reserve called Wolves Wood near Hadleigh in Suffolk the plan was to walk from the reserve to the church that featured in the same BBC 4 comedy. It turned out you could not easily get from the reserve because it would have meant leaving the trail, so we did the trail then headed bay car to Aldham Church which is a stunning little church set on a small rise at the end of a country lane. I took some photos and a timelapse which turned out to be useless because the breeze move the camera.
next we visited my Aunt and Uncle for a cup of tea and cake, then headed round the M25 to visit a big M&S to get some clothes and grab some supplies for dinner. We were home by 16:00 and had had a very enjoyable weekend.
The weatherman promised a wet day for our last full day in Norfolk, and we woke up to rain. We took our time there was not compelling reason to get outside, but we did eventually. As we passed Cley it was still raining hard so we cruised on past and grabbed some petrol at a garage in Sheringham before returning to Cley.
The what;s about board for the day was a very short list probably because no one could be bothered to get out to a hide and back. We decided to take a look at the set of three hides near the centre, it was a cold and damp walk out and there was not much to see the usual crowd of Avocets and Shelduck were there the highlight were some baby Shelducks making and appearance from underneath their mother.
We walked back the the visitor centre and had coffee, cake and a pee before heading out again to the new Babcock hide which had been worth a visit the day before. We were not disappointed the Common Sandpipers and the Ringed Plover showed well in the scrape just in front of the hide. The walk back to the centre was even wetter, we lingered and watched the superb video in the exhibition space, some really good photography and time lapses.
We felt we had made as much of the day as we could given the weather so we went back to the hut and tidied up to save some time in the morning when we would reluctantly leave Norfolk. We had a meal at The Moorings to look forward to after the great meal we had one evening earlier in the week..
The weather promised to be great day, sunny and quite still. We decided a walk from the Cley NWT visitors centre would make for a pleasant day. We arrived at the visitor centre at just before 10 and had to wait a few minutes to get in and check the what’s about list. Of note was a Black Winged Stilt at the Quag which is a lovely small body of water a couple of miles east down the coast, a place we were quite familiar with,
We made goo progress until we got to a sea breach which I estimate was over a kilo-meter long. We reached a rest point on a hillock and I checked out the car park in the distance to see if the coffee van was there, alas it looked like it wasn’t. We rested for a while then continued the trudge as we got closer I checked out the car park again it looked like there was a coffee van it looked like just another blue van, but it had a queue of two waiting.
We grabbed a coffee from the man in the van and wandered up to the next little hill to enjoy it. On the way I noticed a drone flying over the marsh. We got to our favourite bench on the hill for a spot of sea watching, when suddenly a woman started shouting at her partner to get the bee off of her, he said he could not see any. Helen stepped in and explained that the noise was the drone over the marsh which sounded like a bee!
We headed off to the Quag, and managed to get there by avoiding pebbles all the way. There were some cows in a field and we noticed, unusually, a Bearded Tit fly in and settle briefly. We sat for 5 on a large lump of wood probably washed up in the winter storm to see if it emerged again, but it did not. At the Quag itself things did not look promising although there were some scopes trained om the water no one seemed to be looking though them. We took a look ourselves then moved round a bit and tried again, the Black-Winged Stilt was behind a small island and was not showing really well. It was a first for us they are quite rare in the UK and normally found in the south of France.
We walked up the lane to the coast road and checked the bus times, we had time for a coffee so we used the junk/book shop and tea room. Just before the bus we due we went out to the stop but the bus was just pulling past, I had read the timetable wrong. We had a 30 minute wait so had a quick browse around the junk then sat on the war memorial and watched some children doing cycling proficiency lessons until the bus came.
It was early afternoon at the NWT centre so I had coffee and cake and Helen a cheese scone, then we headed to the new Babcock hide. We were pleased to be able to watch Common Sandpipers and a Little-Ringed Plover. We got back to the hut at about 17:00 and spent the evening watching the Woman in Gold staring Helen Mirren which we both enjoyed.
Up slightly earlier than usual as we had an appointment for a bird walk at Holkham at 10:00 and I also had some back exercises to do. My back was improving I’m not sure why but I was determined to do the same each day to ensure what ever was working continued. I had homework from the osteopath, hot and cold packs, walking, driving and stretches I did while walking.
The website said meet at the car parking hut, but it was not clear where it was and it appeared to have lived to make way for a repair to the culvert at the entrance. Helen managed to track down the ranger, and get the complimentary parking ticket included in the £5 walk fee. We were the only real birders so the walk was a bit light on birds but we did learn a lot about the estate, and the warden was very knowledgeable about all the surveys they do and the contributions they make to the national record keeping.
The walk took in both the hides the George Washington and the Jordan tower hide, from where we saw four Spoonbill, one of them flying. The route back was via the beach was became a bit of a slog, and we were glad to be back on hard standing. Back at the car we decided to head to Cley Spy for lunch.
The art cafe does some very nice lunches most of them vegetarian, I had a falafel salad, and Helen home made beans on toast. The reason for heading to Glandford what primarily for lunch, but also to have a browse around Cley Spy and do the Bayfield woodland walk.
After a lovely lunch we headed out on the walk, it was warm and humid so quite energy sapping. The highlight of the walk was Jays and Treecreeper. At Bayfield Hall we stopped off at the wildflower cafe for a quick refreshment then finished off the last mile of the walk back to the Glanford commercial centre where we were happy for a sit down in the comfortable car seats.
The weather man promised a mixed day bright start with an increasing chance of rain as the day in folded. We decided on Cley for an early walk then the Bird Photographer of the year exhibition and Felbrigg National trust property for when it was raining.
We left the house before 10 and drove to Cley which is just around the headland so to speak. There was the odd spit of rain but we checked in and then headed out to East Bank to see what was about and have a look at the new hide/shelter. There were plenty of Avocets, the odd Ringed Plover, the usual Redshank, as well as little brown jobs (Sedge Warbler and Reed Buntings). The highlight was a couple of Weasels running along the track at the bottom.of the East Bank.
The new shelter although windowless was a welcome shelter from the wind and rain, we shared it with an elderly couple competing on id’ing the bird first. We took a quick look at the sea which had taken over the bank which makes the walk to the car park relatively easy, making it look like a real hard slog. We scanned the sea for seals and seabirds but there was not much to see, so we headed back into the wind to try out the hide near the visitors center.
There was only really Avocet to see from the hide, so we did not stop long. Back at the visitors center the exhibition was not quite ready, so we headed to Felbrigg planning to return via Cley on the way home.
We parked up and Helen threatened violence if food and coffee were not forthcoming, however my back needed straightening so I risked a wander up to the house and back before we ventured in to the cafe. At the ticket office I was informed that my NT card with an expiry date of June 2018 was not valid, because the previous one, due to expire June 2017 was still valid. They let me in but warned me that I needed to use the old one until June. It was not clear and they did not tell me when I could start using the new one, however just like you do when you receive a new credit card I had already destroyed the previous card.
At the cafe we had some lunch I had crab sandwich and Helen backed potato with baked beans,. The house is fairly interesting it had last been lived in back in the 20’s so there was not a lot of contemporary stuff which I really like. I was able to give one of the volunteers some advice on his diet to help with his gout based on someone I know who managed to stop gout by changing diet, it is all about reducing the reducing your intake of purines apparently. Helen went to have a look around the shop while I sat in the courtyard and tried to get pictures of Chaffinches scrounging crumbs from the tables.
On the way out we had a stroll around the extensive walled gardens, which in my opinion are the jewel of the property. I was amazed at the number of Blackbirds around the gardens. We drove back via Cromer to Cley where we had a look at the fantastic photos of the Bird Photographer of the year exhibition. We had a walk out to the hides to get 10,000 steps on the fitBIt there was not anything that we had not seen earlier, Helen was disappointed to not see Bearded Tits.
Back in Blakeney I picked up an Amazon delivery from the post office then we went back to the house and had veggie sausage sandwiches and salad for tea, then settled in for the evening to watch Patriot on Prime, and a couple of beers from my Adnams mini keg of Best Bitter.
First full day in Blakeney we were up at reasonable time but did not leave the house until just after 10. We drove out to Holme NWT and would work our way back to Blakeney with a few stop offs.
Although it had been raining on the way there by the time we got to the reserve the sun was out. At the gate we blagged our way in by saying we were going to renew our membership, which Helen did while I straightened my back out. We then headed for the pines where a Spotted Fly Catcher had been seen. It did not take us long to find, posing in it’s distinctive more upright pose that other birds of it size. We then headed along the boardwalk along the dunes until there was an opportunity to get on the beach a mile or two down.
It was nice to be away from the crowds at one point we seemed like the only souls on the beach. We wandered slowly along the beach back to level with the pines and headed back to the visitor centre for a coffee then got back in the car and headed to Titchwell stopping on the way at Thornham deli to grab a vegetable pasty to eat at Titchwell.
At Titchwell the recent spots board was interesting, I wanted to see the Turtle Dove and Helen the Yellow Browed Warbler. We headed first towards the Fen Hide. We saw two baby pigeons in a nest and heard Reed Warblers but failed to get the birds we wanted. We headed straight out to the sea and sat and ate our pasties in the edge of the dunes. After Helen went to hunt for waders on the sea edge I took a timelapse set on the brick building rubble on the beach.
We headed back into the reserve and stopped off at the modern looking Parrinder the highlights were Turnstone and baby Avocets, being protected by all incoming birds by a parent. We tried again for the star species but dipped, however on the way out to the car park we got fleeting glimpses of another Spotted Fly Catcher high in a tree.
We stopped off at Deepdale on the way back where Helen bought a couple of books. Back at the hut I had a shower before we went to the White Horse for dinner. I had the Bream on roasted fennel and saffron potatoes and Helen the Haloumi salad both delicious.
I was in two minds whether to do another section, but I woke up early, and felt ready to get up. Some toast and a quick check of train times and I left the house among for the 07:46 from Berkhamsted. I was early enough for one of the free parking spaces and the ticket was only £13.70 with my newly acquired Railcard.
The train was far from full, and I got a seat with a table. At Hemel a man got on carrying a ruck sack and a very large pipe cutter, I wondered where he was going and to do what? The official section 2 is only 7 miles from Old Bexley Village to Pets wood, however I was hoping to do a but further, anything over 10 would be a good start. I noticed that my FitBit battery was almost flat, and I wondered how long it would last before going completely, I was most likely going to miss out on steps and unfortunately steps mean prizes. There would be no prizes for me!
As I was leaving the train at Euston when I noticed I had my T-shirt on inside out, I would have to find a chance to turn it the right way round. My journey was complicated by the closure of the Northern line at Euston, for track maintenance, I has to get on the Victoria line to Green Park to get on the Jubilee line, to North Greenwich then the 132 to Bexley.
The atmosphere was a bit misty but I was hoping for the sun to burn it away once I got started. I had a short wait at North Greenwich for the 132. The path follows the river Cray for quite a while and I spotted trout so it is probably pretty clean. Once it left the Cary it went through a few parks and nature reserves you really did not feel like you were inside the M25. Every so often it passed through suburbia with its manicured front gardens add to that the types of cars in the drives my guess is that it was a middle class area, i.e. commuter belt. I also spotted quite a few Parakeet and I soon got my ear in tune with their call. I did not expect to see them I thought they were more west London birds.