Newsletter Christmas 2004

M ERRY Christmas from Gourmet Birds. We are now well established here in Suffolk, and our garden bird list is growing steadily, even though it still doesn't include a house sparrow. It does feature wild swans (two flocks overhead so far), a ruddy shelduck consorting with the local Egyptian geese, and a covey of grey partridges that sometimes come into our paddock.
Response to our suggestion for a Suffolk weekend was so good that we are featuring two, two-day breaks at the end of February, giving the choice of weekdays or weekend. If successful, we also hope to arrange a summer weekend, as we should have nightjars nesting even closer to Forge Cottage than they did to Windrush. Our February trip to Spain has been cancelled, not due to lack of interest, but because I intend to keep on hunting right up to the ban coming in force (and probably afterwards, too).
Interest has been particularly strong for Estonia this year, and this holiday is now full. Kazakhstan has also proved to be popular, and this trip is certain to go, but still has space. There is also room on our holiday to Cyprus. Looking to the autumn, several people have expressed interest in Öland. Flying to Sweden is extremely cheap (I'm going to Stockholm next month for £25 return, including taxes), so this trip will be good value.

Suffolk Break, February 23 to 25, or February 25 to 27
A two night break in Suffolk, with a choice of dates. Accommodation will be in the Six Bells Inn in our local village of Bardwell (10 miles north-east of Bury St Edmunds), where we all have dinner the first night. The next day will feature an excursion to the North Norfolk coast, giving the chance to see a wide range of divers, grebes, wildfowl and winter passerines. The latter should include shorelarks, snow buntings and waxwings (it's an exceptional waxwing winter this year). Special gourmet dinner in the evening at Forge Cottage. The following day will be spent exploring local reserves in the Brecks, where our target birds will include goshawk and golden pheasant. Back for Jan's homemade cake and tea at Forge Cottage.
The cost per person in a single en suite room is £220, while for those sharing a room it is £200. This is inclusive of all meals, with wine at lunch and dinner. Maximum group size is seven. If anyone wants to add a day or even two, that's fine. We will be using a luxury eight-seat VW minibus for transport. Detailed itinerary available.

Cyprus, April 21 to 28
In April, we return for the second year in a row to Cyprus. Easter is early in 2005, so we have a greater variety of dates on offer when we can travel without paying Easter supplements. We plan to go from the 21st to the 28th, and will once again be staying at Antony's Garden House at Episkopi for the duration of our holiday. As usual, this will be a relaxing week with lots of good birdwatching and relatively little time spent travelling from one site to the next, though we will include visits to the Troodos Mountains and the salt lakes at Larnaka. You can expect to see more than 130 species, include such Cypriot specialities as Eleonora's falcon, black francolin and masked shrike. £650, plus flight. SRS £60. The price of the flight should be less than £200. Detailed itinerary available.

Estonia, May 10 to 17
This holiday is now full.

Kazakhstan, June 8 to 18
I visited parts of this huge country (the 9th largest in the world) back in 1989, when it was still part of the USSR, so can confirm that it offers some of the most exciting birding to be found anywhere outside the tropics. It is where east meets west, so you can expect to see many eastern birds that rarely, if ever, reach Europe. Such mouth-watering species include demoiselle crane, ibisbill, great black-headed gull, Pallas's sandgrouse, white-winged woodpecker, black lark, azure tit and a host of buntings.
The inclusive cost of a 10-day trip is likely to be around £1,250, plus flights, and for this we also get an English-speaking bird guide. There is an optional extension to the steppes where black larks can be found. Detailed itinerary available.

Öland, September 18 to 25
Öland, September 18 to 25 Since our highly successful autumn trip to the Swedish Baltic island of Öland in 2000, we have long been planning a return visit. There cannot be anywhere better in northern Europe to witness migration, as huge numbers of birds from geese to goldcrests pass south through this attractive island. The cost will be about £795 plus flights. We will fly to Stockholm and then drive to Öland, giving a chance to see a little of the Swedish mainland en route.

Notes:

For more details of any of these holidays please call, write or e-mail. Our new address is Forge Cottage, Bowbeck, Bardwell, Suffolk IP31 1BA, telephone 01359 269 657; e-mail davidtom"at"aol.com ( written like this for security purposes, replace "at" with @ ). If you have an e-mail address we are unaware of, please let us have it as it makes communication so much easier.

If you happen to be in this part of the world, do give us a ring and come and see us.

David Tomlinson