No 1 for Specialist Birdwatching Holidays
Suffolk IP31 1BA,
Tel. 01359 269657
Gourmet Birds Summer Newsletter 2009
HIGH summer is a quiet time here in Suffolk. We are currently planning next yearís programme, but will not have finalised it until after the Bird Fair, as this is invariably a source of ideas and inspiration. For the first time since 1975 we are not running a summer bird course for the Field Studies Council at Nettlecombe, so are enjoying the extra time at home.
All the bird tour companies have suffered badly as a result of the recession, but we are pleased to report that our modest programme was largely unaffected. The trip to DoŮana in late March was blessed with delightful sunny weather for three of the four days in the field, while the final total of close to 150 species was pretty good for so early in the season. Frustratingly, the accommodation wasnít up to usual Gourmet Birds standards: it was the first time I had dined in a restaurant that didnít seem to have a bottle of white wine in stock (a bottle of sherry was produced instead!), but we did discover a little of the real Spain. My first visit to the DoŮana was in 1968, but though the birds are still good, the area has changed out of all recognition in those 40 years.
At the end of March I took a small private group to the Po Delta in Italy. The birds, the hotel and the food were all excellent, but the weather was horrible, while Italy is expensive, especially with the current pound to euro exchange rate, so Iím unlikely to be arranging any GB trips there.
We took our biggest group ever to Cyprus in April. Though the migration wasnít particularly good this year, we did have a good time as usual, with highlights including Bonelli's eagle, spotted and little crakes and 18 ferruginous ducks in one flock. Frustratingly, the Phasouri reedbeds were almost entirely dry, and this undoubtedly depressed our overall total of species recorded, which was just 134.
I dropped the planned trip to Bulgaria early on, but there was sufficient late interest that it would have almost certainly run. The return to Lake Kerkini in Greece at the end of May was a success: I had 12 nights there, with seven nights for the Hawk and Owl Trust holiday, followed by five nights with a private group. There fewer migrants than we encountered last year, but the abundance of butterflies made up for this, as did the fact that Stelios and Filly now offer dinner every night at the Viglatoras, and very good it was too.
The challenge of trying to find somewhere warm to go in January within Europe has almost defeated me, so next January Iím planning a proper winter trip to Lake Kerkini (five nights: 21 to 26 January), where the attractions include a great selection of raptors, including spotted and white-tailed eagles, plus thousands of wildfowl of which lesser whitefronted geese are the biggest attraction. The weather is certain to be cold, but I promise a good party on the twenty-fourth to celebrate my sixtieth birthday. The flights from Gatwick with BA are currently about £125 return, which is good value.
Before then, we are planning a Stone Curlew Special in the Brecks, based at Forge Cottage. The dates are the 6, 7 and 8 of October (arrive lunchtime on the Tuesday, depart after tea on the Thursday.) I now know of three major autumn gathering grounds for stone curlews where we can confidently expect to see flocks of 40, 50 or more birds, so these will be the major attraction. We will arrange bed and breakfast accommodation for you locally, with dinner each night at Forge Cottage. The cost is £225, including all food, wine, accommodation and transport. Incidentally, the Bowbeck list is now well over 100 species, with recent additions including waxwing (in December 08), little egret (May), bobwhite quail (June), red-backed shrike, red kite and yellow-legged gull (July).
Tel: 01359 269 657