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Norfolk break no 3: the third Norfolk break (22-24 September) started with the final day of our extended Indian summer and mostly had good weather during the time in the field on the following two days. A few of the highlights mentioned include willow emerald damselfly; keeled skimmer; fungi including shaggy ink-caps at Strumpshaw Fen and fly agarics at Buxton Heath; small coppers; orange balsam; mistle thrushes & siskins; scrambled egg slime mould; hobby, mistle thrushes and siskins; the seaside and grey seals; orange balsam; lunch at Chris’s! Report here.

fly agaric shaggy ink=cap scrambled egg slime mould
Three distinctive fungi: fly agaric, shaggy ink-caps and scrambled egg slime mould.

red-throated diver orange balsam minotaur beetle
More from Honeyguide's 3rd Norfolk break: red-throated diver, orange balsam, minotaur beetle.

Norfolk break highlights (2): the second Norfolk break (14-18 September) also went very well, with lovely weather and excellent wildlife every day. We saw bittern and crane at at NWT Hickling. Remarkably there was still a male keeled skimmer on the wing at Holt Country Park (Holt Lowes SSSI) and another caught by a spider - see photo below. Our eyes were opened to galls by Honeyguide's gall expert, Mervin. A slow-worm and close views of emperor dragonfly and willow emerald went down well, though the top highlight by popular acclaim was the peregrine putting waders, black-tailed godwits especially, into the air at Breydon Water. Report here; more photos by Mervin Nethercoat on Flickr and Jillian Macready on OneDrive.

avocets and godwits, Breydon Water.
Avocets and godwits at the high tide roost at Breydon Water.

Keeled skimmer trapped by a four spot orb web spider (Araneus quadratus), Holt County Park (=Holt Lowes SSSI), 17 September 2020.

More changes on overseas rules: quarantine on return from mainland Portugal is back. We are still taking names for Portugal in Winter but not confirming bookings until we are more confident travel there is possible. Madeira remains fine.

Similarly, travel to Crete is off for now, so going there in late October is looking less likely. But we've already seen that these things change, so if this tempts you (rules permitting) we'd still like to know so we can get up and running if it proves possible. Restrictions for Crete and other Greek islands after a spike in Covid-19 cases from Greek islands was probably related to the summer season and, if you'll excuse some (reverse) ageism, young party animals; that may settle down in the autumn. 11 September 2020

Norfolk break highlights (1): the first Norfolk break (7-11 September) went very well, with a great range of wildlife in good weather, all "favourably comparable to a foreign holiday" said one participant. A juvenile cuckoo, great white egret and an 'anting' jay were among the birds. There was a long list of late summer flowers, though it was the leaves of sundew that was mentioned in the round-up of holiday highlights. Invertebrates included some late season keeled skimmers, willow emeralds and scores of darters everywhere, plus ivy bees in several places. Photos here and report here

round-leaved sundew ivy bee 
Round-leaved sundew, ivy bee.

Madeira in October with Honeyguide: a new way of working means offering what is possible in today's world as destinations become possible (and others get more difficult) - with a much shorter time-frame than a full programme announced for the year ahead.

In that spirit we're pleased to offer Madeira for 6-13 October 2020 as a new option. It's a tried and tested holiday: the plan follows that of a successful holiday here in October 2018. More the holiday's web page, and the 2018 report gives a good feel for the places and wildlife.

Cory's shearwaters, Madeira
Cory's shearwaters, MadeiraOctober 2018. More holiday photos from Brennan Aunger on Facebook, from Chris and Madeira butterflies (the latter two sets on Honeyguide's Facebook). Holiday report here.

Crete in October with Honeyguide: Crete has been popular in the Honeyguide programme for many years as a spring destination. This year, we are (at last) to visit in Crete's balmy autumn conditions to look for a range of autumn-flowering specialities and to enjoy any other wildlife we can find. The choice of Crete is linked to Greece's and Crete's good record on coronavirus, so Crete becomes an especially good choice for an autumn break. A familiar place and people has obvious merits, with a return to a familar place at a different season an additional attraction. Crete in autumn has the details.

Cyclamen graecum
Cyclamen graecum

Norfolk break with Honeyguide: this is a new 'staycation' idea given the difficulties of travelling overseas in 2020. The plan is to stay in a hotel in Norwich and Honeyguide's Chris Durdin will be your nature guide for three days in the field around the Norfolk Broads. 8 – 10 September 2020 is fully booked; there is still room for 15 – 17 September 2020. More details on a new Norfolk break web page.

Coronavirus (6, updated): the UK Government's announcement on 3 July allows international travel to resume. Countries and territories exempt from advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel are listed here. However Sweden is not one of these, which has led to Honeyguide's holiday to Falsterbo in early September being cancelled.

We were hoping that the Spanish Pyrenees holiday in October to go ahead (with slightly revised dates and other details) but the recent (late July) change to FCO advice about travel to Spain means that is no longer possible. 'Wait and see' applies to The Gambia in December.

Coronavirus (5): as noted below, June holidays are all off, as is South Africa's Spring Flowers in August/September, and refunds issued or monies carried forward for a future holiday. We remain hopeful that holidays from September onwards will run as normal, though no-one really knows what the circumstances and practicalities will be then.

An idea being floated by some Honeyguiders is a guided holiday in the UK, for example a short break (say four nights), perhaps with an option to stay on for longer. This might be this autumn, or next spring if there are still concerns about travelling overseas. Your ideas & feedback on this are very welcome.

Aestivating snails, La Janda
Aestivating snails, La Janda near Tarifa, Spain, September 2011.
As noted in a recent e-circular, Honeyguide is more-or-less dormant at the moment. "Or perhaps aestivating Is a better word, like a group of snails on a dead stalk or fence post in southern Europe in the summer months."

Coronavirus (4): the Prime Minister's statement on 10 May, and the detail added on 11 May, talked about the next steps to reduce restrictions that will be "no earlier than 4 July". This makes it clear that holidays and overseas travel will not be possible in June, thus meaning all Honeyguide holidays in June [Spanish Pyrenees, Picos de Europa, Iceland and Bulgaria's Western Rhodope] will not be running. Flights are not yet cancelled in this period, but they cannot be booked, which implies that cancellation will follow.

Coronavirus (3):

South of Salamanca, Spain's Wild West 8-16 May [not in the 2020 brochure] also cancelled due to coronavirus, with payments held over for future holidays or refunded. It's too soon to know about holidays in June.

Coronavirus (2): bookings, refunds and conservation contributions

The first refunds of holiday monies on account of coronavirus related to full payments for holidays. For these, many group members kindly said we could keep the £40 conservation contribution that goes via the Honeyguide Wildlife Charitable Trust to conservation projects on Menorca and Crete for these first two cancelled holidays (see below).

It is likely that there will be more holidays that cannot go ahead. For holidays in June, we are postponing asking for balances that are due in April until circumstance in June are clearer. If, later, those holidays cannot go ahead, there will be options for deposits already paid.

Option 1 is a (free) transfer of your deposit to a future holiday. Those with deposits already paid will have first call on booking future holidays, some of which may be over-subscribed.

Option 2 is a refund of your deposit. For deposit refunds, the ‘default’ will be a full refund of the deposit (usually £300 or £500 this year). However you may request that we keep the £40 conservation contribution in the Honeyguide Charitable Trust.

The decision to cancel any holiday is based primarily on travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). Strictly speaking, if you choose to cancel your holiday before we officially cancel a holiday, the deposit is not refundable, as noted in our booking conditions. You may be able to claim back cancellation charges from your insurer, though insurers may regard it as a change of mind – ‘disinclination to travel’ is the phrase sometimes used. We recognise that these are exceptional circumstances and if you have to withdraw from a holiday before it is cancelled, please contact us. 14 April 2020

Coronavirus (1): (1) the Honeyguide group in Valencia, Spain, returned home safely last week (17 March). We are all well and finishing a period of isolation. Emergency measures in Spain meant that for our final day we were confined to our hotel, which in the event was our first wet day. Our easyJet 'rescue' flight was the same flight as we were due to take. That apart, it was a successful holiday and we'll add highlights here later.

(2) Cancelled holidays: Crete in April will not be happening: the flights have already been cancelled. Menorca in April is also cancelled (updated 25 March).

(3) There is an increasing likelihood that holidays scheduled in May and June will not go ahead. These will be assessed as events and policies develop. If need be, holidays will be cancelled and refunds made. We advise waiting to see what the official advice is. If you choose to cancel sooner, insurers may say it is ‘disinclination to travel’.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice for destinations is available through the links by the 'Travel Aware' logo on each holiday page. There are more useful links in the right hand column of this page.

Insurance: is there insurance cover for cancelled holidays? The statement from The Association of British Insurers (17/3/20) below suggests it does. However other advice received by Honeyguide is that normally this ABI advice is wrong, though it may vary between insurers. For now we are in uncharted waters.

"ABI comment on the new FCO travel advice advising against non essential global travel for 30 days 17/03/2020"

“This unprecedented step actually provides welcome clarity for our customers and the industry. Generally insurance cancellation or travel disruption will relate to FCO advice. This decision will therefore allow policyholders with cancellation or travel disruption cover in place to claim for cancelled trips that were already booked and cannot now go ahead.“ (Cut and pasted from here).

Our sources say that "insurers were dragging their feet which is not unusual" and it remains to be seen how insurance companies will actually treat claims, but we would be grateful if Honeyguiders can explore insurance coverage, quoting this advice.

Conservation contributions from cancelled holidays: thanks to the generosity of many Honeyguiders, we deducted and kept the conservation contributions from many refunds from members of the cancelled groups to Crete and Menorca. This means we can still make useful contributions to the work of HOS (BirdLife Greece) and GOB Menorca.

We sent £550 to GOB Menorca, who said (in a tweet from @gobmenorca): "What a wonderful act of generosity. GOB Menorca is very grateful to all those Honeyguide clients who we were hoping to welcome again to this island but are now unable to travel. Thank you for your continued support in our important ongoing work defending the Island's nature." Thank you letter from GOB Menorca here.

Valencia diaries: read holiday highlights from Valencia, just before the coronavirus crisis, by following the Honeyguide blog. Better still, click on the subscribe button so Honeyguide blogs drop into your inbox.

Tuesday 10 March - arrival in Valencia
Wednesday 11 March, day 2
Thursday, 12 March, day 3 ... and so on, day by day. Valencia report here plus Valencia photos on Facebook, March 2020.

black-winged stilt hoopoe at Pego Marshes (Pau Lucio)
Black-winged stilt; Tolpis barbata; hoopoe at Pego Marshes (Pau Lucio).

A "fabulous holiday with one of the best groups ever" was one comment on returning from Honeyguide's holiday in South Africa’s Garden Route.

Helen Crowder writes: "Particular highlights from Plettenberg, our first stop, were the hospitality at Bitou River Lodge, its grounds and fabulous wildlife – we all loved to watch the confiding Knysna turacos, brightly coloured green and blue with crimson wings in flight and white-lined, red-ringed, eyes; canoeing along the water-lilied river bordering the garden; botanising in the fynbos at Spitskop Peak; and the Birds of Eden, a massive free-flight bird sanctuary spanning a gorge of native forest and housing hundreds of species of mainly African birds, with many chances to study them at close range."

Honeyguiders in canoes, South Africa's Garden RouteLions in Addo Elephant NP
Honeyguiders in canoes at Bitou River Lodge; lions in Addo Elephant NP (Malcolm & Helen Crowder). Many photos in a Google photos album; report here.

"At our second stop, Mountain Zebra National Park with its spectacular scenery in the rugged Eastern Karoo (we had now crossed from the Western to the Eastern Cape), the eponymous species, with its dazzling op-art stripes, was first on the list; mongooses and suricats endlessly entertained; a pride of lions rather put paid to a family of porcupines; and as we left a herd of buffalo plodded through the pond by the main gate."

"Addo Elephant NP, third and last stop, produced more lions, a superb male and female which arrived boldly across the plain to drink side by side from a waterhole while a warthog went bonkers at their approach, tearing around with tail vertical, just like a scene from The Lion King; baby elephants and a newly-born red hartebeest were the ‘aah’ factor, and we all rooted for a flightless dung beetle to succeed in its herculean endeavour to manoeuvre its ball, enclosing the next generation, over a precipitous verge and into safety. Knocked back and over several times it was still at the task as we moved on …"

How to follow that ... where next should Honeyguide go in South Africa?

Simon Tonkin and Niki Williamson, Honeyguide leaders in The Gambia, receiving in December 2019 a certificate of appreciation from the Gambia Bird Watchers Association to mark their support for mangrove restoration.

Honeyguide played a part in this: our conservation donation of £460 from our holiday in December 2018 went to this project, and we will be supporting it again in December 2020. Gambia Bird Watchers Association played tribute to Inglorious Bustards/Honeyguide Holidays and said "We're extremely grateful for your generous donation towards the Kotu Creek mangrove restoration project."

New arrangements for flights for this holiday are in place following the demise of Thomas Cook. Details on The Gambia holiday page.

More news from Valencia: our previous news item (scroll down to read it) mentioned how local Valencia leader Pau Pucio is working to set up a butterfly nature reserve. This is a collaboration between butterfly conservation NGO Zerynthia, who we supported though our Picos de Europa holiday, and Gandia local council, the first butterfly reserve in Valencia Region.

The reserve was inaugurated in early December for the general public, regional TV and local politicians. They planted strawberry and fig trees to help the local population of two-tailed pasha. Pau says that the area suffered a nasty forest fire in August 2018 (the largest in Spain in 2018), so they didn’t expect to see any caterpillars, but they managed to find six in two small strawberry trees (photo, right). We plan to visit the area during our Valencia holiday in March, on which we still have places.

Pau Lucio (right of the sign) at the opening of Zerynthia's butterfly reserve in Valencia region, 7 December 2019. [You can also view these photos on Facebook.]

While rain was sweeping across the UK, it was dry, if a little windy, for Honeyguiders in Algarve & Alentejo in early November. It was the numbers of birds and good views that were most impressive, says leader Rob Macklin. These included some 170 glossy ibises dropping into Salgados lagoon, 120 griffon vultures in a thermal, 80 Audouin’s gulls, little and great bustards near Castro Verde, lots of flamingos and egrets. Good views of a bluethroat and a little bittern were also highlights (below), as were many migrating white storks, booted and short-toed eagles. Welcome to Lara Broom from SPEA (BirdLife Portugal) to the Honeyguide team, as well as old friend Domingos who showed his usual expertise by finding a horseshoe whip snake.

The conservation donation of £300 from this holiday went to SPEA (BirdLife Portugal). This year we will be supporting the promotion of SPEA in the Algarve, namely funding a stand that, with the help of a local group of supporters, SPEA says will: "increase our street actions to promote and raise awareness about SPEA’s work in the Algarve. We need more members everywhere, but especially in the Algarve, where there are still lots of damaging developments to fight against." That’s the final donation to a conservation project in 2019. End of year sums show that the donations linked to Honeyguide holidays in 2019 totalled £6,840, and our running total for donations since 1991 is £134,062.

bluethroat (David Bennett) little bittern (David Bennett)
Bluethroat and little bittern in Algarve & Alentejo (David Bennett). More of David's photos here; holiday report for Algarve & Alentejo here.

South Africa: spring flowers: Geoff Crane - Honeyguide's regular leader in South Africa - sent lots of lovely photos to promote our 'Spring flowers in South Africa' holiday, 22 August to 4 September 2020. We used several photos in the Honeyguide brochure and elsewhere on this website but there are glorious flowers to spare. These are easy to see in a Facebook photoset. It includes the names of the flowers featured in the collage below.

News from Valencia: to mark World Migratory Bird Day in October, local leader Pau Lucio was involved with running a family activity about bird ringing in the hills of Gandia, in an area our Valencia holiday visits. Photos from the event and some other recent bird photos are grouped in a set of pictures on Honeyguide’s Facebook here.

Pau is joining forces with butterfly conservation NGO Zerynthia and Gandia local council to set up the first butterfly reserve in Valencia Region. “We will reforest a burned area with strawberry trees, fig trees and other Mediterranean trees and shrubs to attract different species of butterflies, among them the two-tailed pasha,” says Pau. We are more than half-full for our Valencia holiday in March, with room for a few more still.

Valencia: World Migratory Bird Day
Pau (left) with a young helper releasing a ringed robin.

Black-winged kite and violet dropwing dragonfly: sounds like central Iberia. Actually both were on our Dordogne holiday in late September. The violet dropwing was on the arrival day, the black-winged kites while the Stansted contingent waited for their delayed flight from Bergerac. When the sun shone, which wasn't all the time, out came the butterflies: 12 species on one patch of mint was a highlight. A nice surprise was autumn lady's tresses: one more orchid for an area we know is orchid-rich in May. As always, the atmosphere at Castang and the hospitality from Cathy, Keith and Olivia at Castang, on what we assume is our final visit, will remain the fondest memory. More photos on Facebook; holiday report here Dordogne 2019.

autumn lady's tresses broad scarlet great banded grayling
Spirals of autumn lady's tresses; broad scarlet (scarlet darter); a usually fast-flying great banded grayling rests on a group member's jacket.

Honeyguide’s support for Refuges LPO through holidays in France is longstanding, from our first year in The Lot back in 1991 up to the Dordogne holiday in September 2019. In the early days, some of the work was a campaign to prevent shooting on privately owned land irrespective of the landowner’s wishes.

With that battle won, the focus of Refuges LPO in more recent years has been more about helping nature at home. Below is a summary of the project’s considerable achievements, from an LPO circular, including an amazing number of ‘refuges’ noted in the diagram. Sometimes nature conservation needs loud voices. Sometimes, like this, it needs steady, patient, good work.

■ 25,000 refuges in total

■ 40,000 hectares of land protected

■ 593 balconies

■ 349 communities

■ 21,825 gardens

■ 148 businesses

■ 1,744 institutions

Our first ever holiday in Falsterbo (Sweden) was every bit as good as we hoped. A highlight for everyone was a stream of 70 honey buzzards low overhead. Migrating sparrowhawks were so frequent that they became routine. Flocks of yellow wagtails were a great feature, often settling in the open, and there were always tree pipits and skeins of geese on the move. Golden and white-tailed eagles showed well.

We added a taste of Honeyguide to what was mostly a birdwatching holiday with flowers, butterflies and other wildlife. The hotel and Swedish food & hospitality went down well. It was a full first-time immersion with a group of Honeyguiders for main leader Christopher Hall and he came out smiling! We'll be in a sister hotel in 2020 but otherwise there's nothing to change: there are still vacancies as I write, though places are going fast.

Wheatear (Christopher Hall) sparrowhawk redstart
Wheatear (Christopher Hall); a migrant sparrowhawk settles on a sign; redstart.

large-flowered hemp-nettle edible frog sea pea
Large-flowered hemp-nettle, edible frog, sea pea. Holiday report here.

Information about Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, was enclosed with Honeyguide's brochure for 2020. In previous years we've included information from from Plantlife, British Dragonfly Society and Butterfly Conservation. Naturally this is intended to encourage new memberships of a splendid charity that aims to “Save the small things that run our planet."

The Picos de Europa with Pau Lucio proved a great success. We liked the family-run hotel and Boca de Huérgano itself was good for wildlife, with a wryneck calling in the morning from a regular bush-top, a huge white stork nest around the corner and both common and black redstarts in the very rural small town. Also here was the Iberian of race of pied flycatcher, a new bird for me (writes Chris) with bold white patches on the wing of the male. Meadows and easy-walking wide paths seemed to be everywhere, and often picnic sites were surrounded by flowers and butterflies. Wonderful landscapes, naturally. We plan to run the holiday again in 2020. Picos de Europa holiday report 2019.

Linaria triornithophora spotted fritillary
Toadflax Linaria triornithophora; spotted fritillary.

alpine chough
Picnic Picos style; alpine choughs are often tame, this one at Fuente Dé.

"Estonia definitely was our kind of country - wide expanses with very few people about!" say Honeyguiders Tim and Cheryl Hunt. Great sightings of brown bears from NaTourEst's hide are routine, but still amazing for anyone going for the first time. It proved to be an excellent year for butterflies: this stunning-looking poplar admiral is one example. A good range of birds included Slavonian grebes and scarlet rosefinches, plus wonderful flowers including many orchids in habitats such us bogs and glorious wood-meadows.

brown bear, Estonia (Cheryl Hunt) poplar admiral, Estonia (Cheryl Hunt)
Brown bear and poplar admiral in Estonia (Cheryl Hunt). Estonia 2019 holiday report.

This year's group made it the Camargue (phew, writes Chris D) where all the expected specialities were on show from greater flamingos to white horses plus, as for any Honeyguide group, a huge variety of other birds, flowers, bugs and beasties. All three marsh terns together - whiskered, black and white-winged - must have been quite a sight. But I won't add more as you can read all about it on Chris Gibson's splendid blog or in the holiday report here.

black-winged stilts (Chris Gibson) stripeless tree frog (Chris Gibson)
Black-winged stilts, stripeless tree frog (Chris Gibson).

There were contrasting temperatures in La Mancha - from 34°C in La Mancha Húmeda the to 4°C in the hills of the Serranía de Cuenca, though these are extremes - but lots of wildlife everywhere. A damp April meant a good year for flowers in May, including wild peonies and the very local Orchis cazorlensis. Good views of eagle owl, white-headed ducks and gull-billed terns hunting in cereal fields were among the bird highlights. There were several ocellated lizards, surprisingly tame, and three times we found the often elusive western orphean warbler. And when the sun came out in the Serranía de Cuenca, so did the butterflies, against a brilliant scenic backdrop. And the famous windmills, of course. Some photos by Chris Durdin and local leader Pau Lucio on Facebook here and La Mancha holiday 2019 report here.

Uña lagoon
Uña lagoon in the Serranía de Cuenca.

BBC Wildlife will no longer come in a plastic wrap: it will be wrapped in paper. More here. About time: a welcome change of heart.

All the talk on Crete was of storms in February: flooded properties, bridges down, Kourtaliótiko Gorge (the usual route into Plakias) shut until two days before we arrived. But all worked well for our international group (two from New Zealand, two from the USA) and the rains meant lush and colourful hillsides of Jerusalem sage, cistuses and towering yellow spikes of giant fennel. It was a slow year for bird migration though local birds were good including Rüppell's warblers, chukars and glorious bee-eaters. Highlights included a little bittern in a ditch near the hotel and several little crakes.

Little ringed plover Solenopsis minuta
Little ringed plover on nest, Damnoni Beach; Solenopsis minuta, Plakias.
More photos on Facebook
and holiday report here.

Extremadura in March was as lovely as ever: the countryside wasn't as dry as Morocco (see below) though reservoir levels were low. Finca Santa Marta was a delight, with azure-winged magpies, hawfinches and a lesser spotted woodpecker active around the finca. Spring flowers provided sheets of colour and butterflies were active. Bustards get scarcer every year though we saw both species. Vultures get more numerous - they benefit from increasing cattle numbers on the pseudo-steppes - and we had good views of Spanish imperial eagle. Photos from Chris on Facebook and Honeyguider Mervin Nethercoat on Flickr. Holiday report here

Marcelino from SEO/Birdlife with Honeyguiders
Marcelino from SEO/Birdlife gave a talk and received a donation from Honeyguide of £950. The stall is SEO's wildlife-friendly rice and pasta. (Photo, Jean Dunn).

Morocco was hot and dry for the joint Honeyguide / N&S Wildlife and Walking group in March following a winter lacking rain (much as it was for our previous visit in 2016, by coincidence). Nonetheless the lush gardens of our base at Atlas Kasbah provided an oasis for frogs, flowers and classic local birds such as Moussier's redstart, house buntings and bulbuls. Chris Gibson found various fascinating invertebrates and north African reptiles alongside distinctive drought-resistant plants, many pictured on Chris's blog In the foothills of the Atlas - Southern Morocco. Farther afield there were northern bald ibises, Moroccan orange-tip butterflies and the bizarre parasitic plant Cynomorium coccineum, known as 'red dog-turd'. Click through to the blog to see why! Morocco 2019 report here.

Moussier's redstart (Chris Gibson) Amata alicia (Chris Gibson) Bibron's agama (Chris Gibson)
Moussier's redstart; African nine-spotted moths Amata alicia; Bibron's agama.

Plastic wrapper news: Travel Weekly is switching to a potato starch wrapper (online here). It's a trade publication I get and yes, I have been gently nagging. Birdwatch (news here - I confess I don't subscribe) is also making the same switch for subscription copies. Birdwatching and BBC Wildlife (see my blog) are not changing despite Honeyguide advertising being withdrawn. 28 Feb 2019.

Rhodope lily

The Rhodope lily in Bulgaria, protected with Honeyguide's help, had a good year in 2018. The number of plants increased, management helped the plants, they were fenced at the right time, fruit capsules formed on the lily plants.

Report here by local leader and expert botanist Vladimir Trifinov. Background here.

Salamanca recce: I had very enjoyable recce visit in the area south of Salamanca with Vega Bermejo of 'Birding in Spain's Wild West'. The area is varied and attractive and we saw a lot, with the potential for much more in spring with a group. Every town seemed to have a castle and every village an active white storks' nest. There is more to read in my Salamanca recce report and there are photos on Honeyguide's Facebook page. We are working towards a small (up to seven participants) group holiday here in May 2020.

Roman bridge and the city of Salamanca.

Niki Williamson and Simon Tonkin write about Honeyguide's first group in The Gambia: "It's hard to capture in words the resplendent riot of colour and life that was packed into our trip to this tiny West African gem! As we followed the gleaming Gambia River inland, we left our European existences behind and ensconced ourselves in rural life, exploring sparkling coastal creeks, tranquil mangrove swamps teeming freshwater lakes, verdant forests and life-rich Sahelian heath, dotted with unimaginably ancient baobab trees.

Fishing boats at Tanji
Fishing boats at Tanji (Brennan Aunger). More of Brennan's photos on Facebook here and Gambia 2018 holiday report here.

"Our adventure brought us up close to stunning local specialities such as Egyptian plover, African finfoot, white-backed night heron, Adamawa turtle dove and four-banded sandgrouse. Our days were filled with eye-poppingly colourful flora and fauna, including seven glittering species of sunbirds, six glamorous species of bee-eaters, four rollers, six kingfishers, barbets, turacos and exclamatory paradise whydahs that sailed through the air like tiny shooting stars. Rivers and jungles held hippopotamus, Nile crocodile, Guinea baboons and various monkeys. Our 31 raptor species included many swirling in huge numbers around a raging bushfire.

"Add to this the welcoming and generous Gambian people, the vibrancy of their culture, music and clothing, and the delicious West African food, and you may start to get a picture of why it's so easy to fall for ‘Africa's Smiling Coast’!”

Hamerkop (Brennan Aunger)Hooded vulture (Brennan Aunger)Honeyguide minibus in The Gambia (Brennan Aunger)
Hammerkop, hooded vulture, Honeyguide minibus in The Gambia (Brennan Aunger).

Have I got old news for you? News 2018 . . . News 2017 . . .  News 2016 . . . News 2015 . . . News 2014 . . . News 2013 . . . News 2012 . . . News 2011 . . . News 2010 . . . News 2009 . . . News 2008 . . . Back to top of this main news page

round-leaved sundew

Round-leaved sundew with late flowering buds, Holt County Park, on Honeyguide's third Norfolk break.

Birding in Salamanca, Spain’s Wild West

Online presentation by Vega Bermejo, prepared for the Virtual Birdfair in August 2020.

Great sounds, as well as nice pictures.

Texel in May

The Dutch island of Texel has a great reputation for birdwatching.

Christopher Hall, Honeyguide leader in Falsterbo, has a group planned for 19 - 25 April 2021 that could be of interest to Honeyguiders, especially lending itself to anyone in the East Midlands.

Full details are on Discover Texel ~ A Dutch hotspot.

You can contact Christopher directly, mentioning Honeyguide, though there is some sense in waiting for travel to the Netherlands to resume before booking.


Spoonbill (Christopher Hall).

Recent blogs

Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes (for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, June 2020)

Perfoliate alexanders

Bee orchids bonus in lockdown

Thorpe Marshes, a refuge in lockdown (for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, May 2020)

Web cams

Roseate terns (puffins, too): RSPB Coquet Island

White-tailed eagles: BirdLife Denmark

Peregrines, Norwich Cathedral (Hawk & Owl Trust)

Markt Schwaben stork cam: after a gap of several years (they last nested in 2012), storks are nesting again in the home town of Honeyguiders Brennan and Karin Aunger. There is a live web cam on the storks' website.

WingSearch 2020: written interview with Chris by Honeyguider Barry Madden, who this year is on a quest (albeit interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic) to see 2020 species of birds, butterflies and moths.


Useful links:

UK Government travel advice

ABTA travel advice

Good news for pangolins: China’s Ban on Wildlife Trade (New York Times) and on EcoWatch.

Pangolin (New York Times)

"Pangolins in particular have been proposed as a possible host of the virus before it jumped to people."

Honeyguiders in Lockdown

Photos being shared by Honeyguiders while we are all stuck at home ... please join in.

The idea is to share photos in the here and now, reflecting what is happening in the natural world where you live. Keep it to one or two photos on any one day, we hope for an evolving continuity during this period of isolation.

Google knows when your photo was taken and will arrange it in chronological order, so it's best to upload on the day, or very soon after, it was taken. If your photo isn't already labelled, there is an information button (i in a circle) which enables you to type details - please add ID and roughly where it is. Other buttons enable zooming, deleting, etc.

You upload using the 'add to album' button in the top right hand corner. Switch off geolocator if you wish to hide your location.


Cowslip in the back garden, from Honeyguiders in Lockdown

Flying squirrels and ringed seals in Estonia ... read more on the Honeyguide blog.

flying squirrel

Flying squirrel (Estonian Fund for Nature)

Blog for Norfolk Wildlife Trust: Signs of spring at Thorpe Marshes (February 2020).

More photos from South Africa

Burchell's zebras (David Bennett)

Burchell's Zebra (David Bennett)

Southern masked weaver (Helen Crowder)

Southern masked weaver (Helen Crowder)


After Brexit on 31 January 2020, we move into a transition period, during which all existing rules apply.

No change on passports, the EHIC remains valid.

Previous advice about what happens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal now applies after the end of December 2020. Then new rules may apply - or existing arrangements rolled forward.

Before you travel, click here for the Government's Visit Europe advice.

Other links (these vary for how up-to-date they are):

EasyJet Brexit FAQs.

Brexit travel advice from:


Holiday Extras

Money Saving Expert

Simon Calder

"The magic of Estonian autumn": black grouse on a minibus.

See the whole picture on Facebook.

From the archive: (1) biographical notes from Honeyguide's Chris Durdin, 1970s to today, in this interview on WISEarchive, a record of Norfolk working lives.

The interview is in the Norfolk marshes section, a project encouraged and supported by the Water, Mills & Marshes project coordinated by the Broads Landscape Partnership Scheme.

(2) The Great Auk Wreck in Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report 1983, pp360-364.

Not travelling by air: every Honeyguider will be aware of the dilemma: our holidays do a lot to support nature but in an ideal world we wouldn’t fly, even though our gold standard carbon offsets to the RSPB’s Gola Forest Project in Sierra Leone are much better than not having carbon offsets.

Hats off to the intrepid Honeyguiders who manage to travel by train, and a price with air fare deducted is always possible if others would like to try that.

Holidays without a flight are not a “flight-inclusive package” covered by Honeyguide’s ATOL; that’s for rescuing stranded people when businesses collapse. I’ve never known a Honeyguider to be concerned by that, but it still needs to be mentioned. More on our ATOL page.

Butterfly reserve, Valencia

Above: new sign for the 'microreserve' for butterflies.

Below: a two-tailed pasha caterpillar.

two-tailed pashe caterpillar

Blogs for Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Thorpe Marshes: Three swans a-swimming (December 2019) and
A wet day in November (November 2019).

Rhodope lily 2019

Local holiday leader Vladimir Trifonov is also the Bulgarian expert on the Rhodope lily Lilium rhodopeaum, confined to a handful of sites in the mountains of SW Bulgaria and adjacent Greece.

Vlado regularly monitors and manages one site, which is paid for by Honeyguiders' conservation contributions though our Bulgaria's Western Rhodopes holiday.

Vlado reports that 2019 was the best year to date for Lilium rhodopeaum on this site, with the biggest number in the population since monitoring began in 2008. Vlado found 194 plants, of which 132 were flowering. Read Vlado's report here.

The progress of Lilium rhodopeaum has been closely followed by the journal Lilies and Related Plants. The link is a PDF of the most recent article, December 2019, from the journal of this specialist RHS Lilies Group, kindly provided by the editor, Melvyn Herbert. The RHS Lilies Group, which is affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society, welcomes new members: follow the link for details.

Rhodope lily

Rhodope lily, 23 June 2019 (Vlado Trifonov).

An idea for 2021

Portugal in winter 23-30 January 2021. Holiday in preparation. Expressions of interest in this holiday are invited.

Glossy ibises

Glossy ibises (SPEA) are a winter feature on Portuguese wetlands.

Blog for Norfolk Wildlife Trust: October at Thorpe Marshes (October 2019).

Estonia: our conservation donation of £400 through our holiday in June 2019 went to the Estonian Fund for Nature and has supported volunteer working camps to enhance breeding habitat / feeding places for black storks.

More here. The link takes you to a website in Estonian, for which your search engine should offer a translation, though the pictures give a good feel for the activities anyway. ELF stands for Eestimaa Loodude Fond.


Study says global warming makes it harder for little bustards to mate

New research led by the University of East Anglia and the University of Porto shows how global warming could reduce the mating activity and success of grassland birds.

Focusing on the little bustard, which is classified as ‘vulnerable’, researchers discovered that high temperatures reduced the ‘snort’ display males use to attract females.

Full story here.

little bustard (www.uea.ac.uk)

Corsica 2021?

Developing our partnership with Christopher Hall of New Horizons (see Falsterbo and Iceland), an idea for the future could be the Mediterranean island of Corsica in early May 2021.

This note is to give links to the 'Corsica, Isle of Beauty' holiday outline and Corsica 2014 holiday report on the New Horizons website.

Expressions of interest — certainly no commitment at this stage — would help us to plan. What do you think?

Carbon credits

For a fourth time, we have bought carbon credits that protect tropical forest in Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone. The September 2019 purchase was for 131 tonnes of carbon credits (certificate here).

The project is jointly managed by the RSPB, the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and the Government of Sierra Leone. There's a video about the project on YouTube here.

Rightly, carbon and its contribution to climate change is a hot subject in today's media. It's not new for us, though: this is the 11th year for Honeyguide buying carbon credits.

For all this time, carbon offsets have been part of each holiday’s price. This is all explained on our carbon credits web page.

Thanks to the many people and organisations working here, Gola Forest is still very much intact. That in itself is a good news story, in contrast with the damage in the Amazon this year. Gola Rainforest chocolate bars are doing well: more on Gola Forest's Facebook page.

Gola Forest chocolate

Majorie Blamey died in September, aged 101. She was influential for flower ID for me over many decades and in many parts of Europe. 'Fitter, Fitter & Blamey' was to go-to field guide for flowers for both Honeyguide groups in September, in Falsterbo and the Dordogne.

Her obituary on the Guardian’s website here and NHBS here.

New online

Norfolk photos on Facebook

Cranes on the up - Norfolk Wildlife Trust blog by Chris Durdin (August 2019).

Notes from Thorpe Marshes - Norfolk Wildlife Trust blog by Chris Durdin (August 2019).

Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays brochure for 2020, click on the picture of the cover below.

Honeyguide brochure

Wildlife photos from a recent visit to the Dordogne on Facebook here and more wildlife notes here: Dordogne, July 2019.

scarce swallowtail
Scarce swallowtail

(Lack of) water fountains at London Stansted

Honeyguide blog here.

Holiday insurance 2019/20

Holiday insurance policies for the next season are available with Global Travel Insurance Services.

PDF here of GTI's single trip insurance for 2019/20; and multitrip insurance here for 2019/20.

More about travel insurance on our booking page.


bee orchid

Honeyguide blog: Bee orchids bounce back, June 2019.

olive plantation, Moheda Alta

The damage to birds from night-time harvests where there is intensive olive farming isn't yet widely known. Our Extremadura group in March heard about it from Martin Kelsey when we visited new olive plantations on what were rice paddies - the picture above is an olive plantation at Moheda Alta.

The story is in this link here and there is a petition to sign.

Blog: forty years of the EU's Birds Directive.

The flamingo that held up an easyJet flight on Mallorca: more here.



New web page: Moonwort photospot.

Cherry plum

Cherry plum in flower, common in March. See Facebook photos.

European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC): still available to obtain or renew via www.ehic.org.uk despite Brexit-in-preparation.

More travel tips here.

Would you like to search this website? We don't yet have a search function, but if you type into Google site:honeyguide.co.uk plus your search item - e.g. site:honeyguide.co.uk wallcreeper it searches www.honeyguide.co.uk

Facebook Honeyguide

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... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife