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Coronavirus (7): continuing travel bans mean that the idea of a Crete trip in late October was not practical, which follows the cancellation of the Spanish Pyrenees holiday in early October. The Gambia in December remains unlikely to happen. We are still taking names for people interested in for Portugal in Winter (January 2021) but not confirming bookings until we are more confident travel there is possible. We are not taking bookings for overseas holidays in spring 2021 until things are clearer. Running more UK holidays/breaks in spring/summer 2021 is likely.

Norfolk break no 4: the beach at Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile was a destination not visited on the previous Norfolk breaks, with Mediterranean gulls the draw there. In the Norfolk break no 4 holiday report, look out for a rather disreputable looking Honeyguide group photographed near a dilapidated building on the sea front as well as a stunning rainbow at Stumpshaw Fen. Hobbies at Strumpshaw Fen were a more traditional highlight, and we were lucky again with a bittern sighting at Hickling. It's curious how seeing a bittern is more surprising than seeing great white egrets; sightings of the latter have become routine this year. Flocks of wigeons and pink-footed geese underlined the more autumnal feel of the last of our four September groups.

Mediterranean gull (Rob Carr) Hobby, juvenile (Rob Carr)
Mediterranean gull and juvenile hobby (Rob Carr). Photos on Facebook: a selection from Chris Durdin from all four weeks.

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.

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


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 in Jan/Feb 2020.

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?


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Norfolk wildlife walks

The switch from overseas holidays to UK activities continues, dictated by the constraints of coronavirus, and walks in Norfolk for local Honeyguiders started on 12 October.

Report from the first walk, at Potter Heigham Marshes, here on Honeyguide's blogspot.

For anyone who'd like to be added to the circulation list, please contact us.

Honeyguiders on a Norfolk walk


Two more UK breaks

Follow the links to:

North Norfolk 13-15 November 2020

and

Wild Essex 17-19 November 2020 (fully booked)

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

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.

Coronavirus

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

Cowslip in the back garden, from Honeyguiders in Lockdown


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.


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)

Brexit


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:

ABTA

Holiday Extras

Money Saving Expert

Simon Calder


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