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Honeyguide news archive 2022

The Gambia, December 2022

There was a huge variety of wildlife and many great experiences for Honeyguide's second group in The Gambia, led by Simon Tonkin and including me as a group member, writes Chris. Personal highlights included Egyptian plover, finfoot and my first greater honeyguide, the bird that is Honeyguide's emblem. Other wildlife highlights nominated by group members included palm-nut vultures, baobabs, the butterflies, lily ponds with jacanas and painted-snipe, and seeing chimpanzees where a self-sustaining population has been established on forested islands from chimps rescued from captivity. Boat trips took us to see these and wonderful birds in riverine mangrove forests, including scores of darters, pied kingfishers and squacco herons.

There were tastes of real Africa, too. Tastes in the metaphorical sense with vibrant scenes in markets and streets, waving & smiling children, warm welcomes everywhere, and African heat. And tastes in the real sense with enjoyable food, most memorably with local guide Tijan's family. We met local, dedicated conservationists: three examples are in my Gambia blog, 'Green tourism: a perspective from The Gambia'. Also there are Photos on Facebook including two movies of street scenes. Report: The Gambia,December 2022.

African tiger Giant kingfisher (Everard Daniel) Hamerkop  (Everard Daniel)
African tiger, giant kingfisher (Everard Daniel) Hamerkop (Everard Daniel).

Chimpanzees (Everard Daniel)

Rhodope lily numbers continue to grow: reporting best years for Rhodope lilies ever has become a happy routine, as local expert and Honeyguide leader Vladimir Trifonov in Bulgaria reports. Vlado describes yet another excellent season in his 2022 report. This year's numbers are: 613 individual plants, of which 356 were flowering and 257 vegetative, at the site regularly monitored by Vlado. Vlado says: "It is likely that the increasing number is due to a kind of momentum, after several consecutive years of grazing in the locality, in which competitors (bracken and false helleborine) were removed." There has been less grazing in the past two years, so a decline may be coming.

In November 2022, Honeyguide sent a further £400 to covering monitoring costs for 2021 and 2022.  This continues our support: the year by year story of the conservation of Lilium rhodopaeum, since 2012, is here and there are more photos on Facebook from 2022.

Lilium rhodopaeum, 2022
Lilium rhodopaeum, June 2022, a plant with two flowers (Valdo Trifonov).

Menorca, October 2022

Honeyguide's wildlife holiday on Menorca, 5-12 October, faced two challenges. Chris Gibson, our regular leader on Menorca, had a fitness issue so he had to drop out at short notice, so I (writes Chris Durdin) took over as main leader. And our stay coincided with Menorca's rainiest day since records began, much talked about locally. It was still a very successful holiday and happy group with the special landscape, wildlife and atmosphere of Menorca enjoyed by all. Highlights included good views of Egyptian vultures, hoopoes, tortoises, Cleopatra and two-tailed pasha butterflies, some beautiful dragonflies & damselflies, daily hummingbird hawkmoths at our base at Matxani Gran and a fine show of autumn flowers, including narcissi, merenderas, squills and sea daffodils. Photos on Facebook here: Menorca, 5 – 12 October 2022 and holiday report here: Menorca October 2022.

Audouin's gull Autumn daffodil Narcissus serotinus Hermann's tortoise
Audouin's gull, Autumn daffodil Narcissus serotinus, Hermann's tortoise.

Broad scarlet
Broad scarlet dragonfly on Menorca.

Falsterbo, September 2022

Honeyguide's second group in Falsterbo, Sweden enjoyed perfect late summer weather, perhaps almost too good as it wasn't until the final day that we saw any honey buzzards. Those apart, migration was lively: many sparrowhawks on the move, flocks of yellow wagtails on the golf course or with cattle; siskins and tree pipits calling as they flew; a very big range of waders, including pectoral sandpiper. Raptors were superb including many white-tailed eagles, hobbies and red kites. There was a good supporting cast of butterflies, dragonflies and other invertebrates, flowers, fungi and galls. And splendid Swedish hospitality and food. Photos on Facebook plus Facebook photos by Brennan Aunger. Holiday report: Falsterbo September 2022.

Long-tailed tit (Christopher Hall) Migrating sparrowhawk (Christopher Hall) Queen of Spain fritillary (Christopher Hall)
Long-tailed tit, northern white-headed form; migrating sparrowhawk, Queen of Spain fritillary (all by Christopher Hall).

North Norfolk break, October 2022

The break in North Norfolk, autumn, which ran from 10 - 14 October 2022, went well with a mix of people from outside the country and staying over and local Honeyguiders. There was lots to see in the area, as ever, from red-throated divers to egrets and a good range and big numbers of wildlife and waders, including flocks of pink-footed geese and golden plovers. Report here: North Norfolk break, October.

Golden plovers, Titchwell black knapweed, rayed form
Golden plovers, Titchwell; not a greater knapweed, our first instinct, but the rayed form of black knapweed, ID by an astute Honeyguider.

Honeyguide on Mull, July 2022

Honeyguide's first group on Mull, in colloration with Mull Magic, went well and enjoyed equable weather during the heatwave as well as lots of wonderful wildlife: seabirds (like puffins, below), eagles, divers, orchids and oysterplant among the flowers. More photos from David Bennett here.

Puffin Iona (Ruth Fleming)
Puffin on Lunga (David Bennett); Iona, which had calling corncrakes (Ruth Fleming).

Iceland, June 2022

Each time I look at the photos from Iceland, writes Chris, there's something else to envy. The extraordinary landscape is a given, from stark to beautiful, with geysers and in-your-face geology. A close family of great northern divers; harlequin ducks; one couple's close encounter with two ptarmigans; breeding waders and redwings close to hotels; an unusual record of parrot crossbills. Here are some photos from Honeyguiders Tim Wright and Ann Greenizan to give a taste. For more: holiday report here.

great northern divers
Great northern divers (TW)

humpback whale
Humpback whale (TW)

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, where the tectonic plates are parting at 2cm per year (AG).

Picos de Europa, June 2022

Honeyguide's Picos de Europa holiday (12 — 19 June 2022) was great success, though a heatwave in much of Spain made Honeyguide's usual gently-paced itinerary rather essential. The landscape and the richness of the meadows, for flowers and butterflies especially, were highlights for everyone. Other highlights included midwife toad, field cricket, robust spreadwings and several species of orchids.

Photos tell the beauty of the Picos de Europa and its wildlife better than words. Photos from Chris on Honeyguide Facebook 2022, from group members David Bennett here Honeyguide Trip to Picos de Europa June 2022 and Graham Phillips here Picos 2022. Holiday report: June 2022.

Fuente Dé
Fuente Dé

'Stop Bycatch' in Portugal

SPEA (BirdLife Portugal) recently launched a funding appeal called “Stop Bycatch”. Details are on the Stop Bycatch webpage. It’s in English, as in part it is aimed at people, like many Honeyguiders, who have been on pelagic trips off the Portuguese coast, watching wonderful migratory seabirds. Perhaps this was with Domingos Leitão, SPEA’s Executive Director and several times a guide for Honeyguide in Portugal.

Domingos says: “Many of these birds fly from distant places in the Mediterranean Sea and in the vast Atlantic Ocean just to die in the Portuguese waters hooked or entangled in fishing gear. Seabird bycatch in fishing gear (hooks and nets) is a serious artificial mortality factor and a serious conservation problem for seabirds in Portugal and Europe. SPEA has been doing pioneer work with a few fisherman communities in Portugal. Fisherman are the most powerful allies to solve the problem of Bycatch, but the work with these takes time, patience and money. We raise awareness, we test new mitigation devices and we gain the trust of many fisherman. Our work is getting results and we need to continue and go further.”

Most Honeyguiders are probably aware of the huge efforts to stop albatrosses and other seabirds being caught up in fishing gear in the south Atlantic. This is the north Atlantic equivalent, and equally there are practical solutions, given time and money.

The Honeyguide Wildlife Charitable Trust has sent €500 to this appeal from our modest reserves, recently helped by John Durdin's painting exhibition (see below).

Protecting Bonelli's eagles in Crete

Honeyguide’s Crete group in April led to a donation of £690 (€790) to the Hellenic Ornithological Society, BirdLife Greece. One of HOS’s current projects is conserving Bonelli’s eagles in the eastern Mediterranean –  LIFE Bonelli eastMed Project – in collaboration with Natural History Museum of Crete. Not surprisingly, several of the project sites are on Crete, along with others in the Peloponnese, Cyprus and other Greek islands. This chimes well with our group’s experience: twice we saw Bonelli’s eagles at Kotsiphou Gorge. 

Telemetry is part of this, and the website here has an inspiring – or frightening, depending on your perspective – set of photos showing a visit to a cliff nesting ledge to fit a radio transmitter to a young Bonelli’s eagle near Chania. As you’d expect, a radio tag helps to monitor the bird’s movements, giving information that helps to protect it.

John Durdin painting exhibition

John Durdin, father of Honeyguide's Chris Durdin, has painted in oils for many years. An exhibition of his paintings took place at the church in his north Norfolk village of Plumstead from Friday 27 May (a preview evening) and over the weekend of 28 & 29 May. Details of the event and the full catalogue are via Plumstead village's website. Though some are marked as not for sale (earmarked for family and others), the majority of the 58 paintings were for sale. Many of the paintings are inspired by Honeyguide holidays, such as South Africa, Spanish Pyrenees and the Danube Delta.

I know my father enjoyed the social side of many people visiting during the course of the weekend. Proceeds mostly went to St Michael's Church, raising a useful sum of money. In addition, a proportion was earmarked for the Honeyguide Wildlife Charitable Trust raising a little over £600 for Honeyguide's charity.

Crete, April 2022

Three years after the last group on Crete, it was good to be back. Crete was gorgeous, and the weather was just right. Hillsides were yellow with giant fennel and Jerusalem sage; we found more than 20 species of orchids. Migration was under way, with highlights including daily whinchats in Plakias, flocks of herons and egrets on the move and ten blue-cheeked bee-eaters at Frangocastello - a write-in on the checklist - as well as 'real' bee-eaters elsewhere. Orchid photos on Facebook and more Facebook photos and Crete 2022 holiday report.

crown daisy with a pollen chafer migrant purple heron on a tamarisk Orchis boryi
Crown daisy with a pollen chafer; migrant purple heron on a tamarisk; Orchis boryi.
Below: Mediterranean catchfly Silene colorata in Plakias.

Extremadura, March 2022

Extremadura, with local guide Martin Kelsey, was Honeyguide's first overseas group for two years. Perhaps photos are better than words to mark the occasion. As photographer Barry Madden says, "an excellent way to celebrate a return to something approaching normality." Extremadura report here.

griffon vulture white stork lesser kestrel

clouded yellow Spanish sparrow 'Spanish' yellow wagtail
Top row: griffon vulture, white stork, lesser kestrel.
Bottom row: clouded yellow, Spanish sparrow, Iberian yellow wagtail.
See these bigger and many more in this Facebook set of photos.

Three more records of hoof fungus gnats

This is the title of short paper that I wrote, published by the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society in the Norfolk Natterjack, and now put into blog form - see Hoof fungus gnats, 23 March. The link with Honeyguide is that records from two local Honeyguide events last autumn have been confirmed as the fourth and fifth for England. It’s something to share as I reckon more records will emerge through sharing the photos on the blog and below.

hoof fungus plus hoof fungus gnat hoof fungus and fungus gnat cocoon, Broadland Country Park
Hoof fungus and fungus gnat cocoons from Foxley Wood (left) and Broadland Country Park (right), autumn 2021.

Covid tests on arrival in England to go

From 11 February, if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, you will not need to take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England or after you arrive. Full details on gov.uk here. Testing remains for those who are not fully vaccinated and rules may be different in other parts of the UK.

This change is introduced in time for the February half-term, and well before Honeyguide's spring holidsys to Extramadura and Crete. Passenger Locator Form (PLF) is set to remain, in a simplified format, before you travel.

Passport validity

From 16 December 2021, the following words are on the travel advice pages of gov.uk for EU countries. "If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must meet the Schengen area rules.

"Your passport must meet 2 requirements. It must be:

  • less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

"We are asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule. Their guidance for Schengen border guards may not be updated until the spring of 2022. Until then, for some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the 3 months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.

"Check both the issue date and the expiry date in your passport. If you renewed your passport early, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. This could affect the requirement for your passport to be less than 10 years old."

There's no point in mincing words: this is a pointless bureaucratic complication caused by the nonsense of Brexit.

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Carbon credits helping Gola Forest

Honeyguide's purchases of carbon credits in recent years have supported Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone. This is all described on our Carbon credits page.

There is a very good summary of how carbon credits work to support Gola Forest's wildlife and local communities in this BirdLife story from March 2023.

White-necked spurfowl [Guy Shorrock, rspb-images.com], a key species in Gola Forest.

Picos de Europa 2022

The picture above is from a short article about Honeyguide's Picos de Europa holiday in June 2022.

The article was written by Honeyguider Graham Phillips and was in Butterfly Conservation Norfolk Branch's Newsletter 103 in autumn 2022.

Click here, or on the photo, to read the article.

Certificate of Forest Protection 2022

Above is our 'Certificate of Forest Protection' for carbon credits bought in September 2022, contributing to the protection of Gola Forest in Sierra Leone.

You can also see this as a PDF certificate here and read more about this on our Carbon offsets web page.

Portugal and Covid rules

From 1 July 2022 (from Gov.uk): "There are no COVID vaccination or testing requirements for entry to mainland Portugal, Madeira and Porto Santo."

With travel simpler now, would anyone like to try Portugal in winter?

Lincolnshire Wash

Honeyguide's first break on the Lincolnshire Wash was a great success. The group visited RSPB nature reserves at Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserves at Gibraltar Point and Willow Tree Fen and had a boat trip into The Wash.

Report here: Lincolnshire Wash

Frampton Marsh (Jillian Macready)

Frampton Marsh (Jillian Macready)

Passport validity

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Honeyguide ATOL 2022-23

Honeyguide's Air Travel Organiser's Licence 2022-23 (click on this link) and above, Honeyguide's 29th renewal.

Insurance and EHIC/GHIC

Travellers should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or its successor the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), pictured below. Be aware that the EHIC has an expiry date: renew online here. Beware of unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them.

Look for travel insurance with cover for coronavirus. Some insurances specifically exclude from their policies' cover any claim relating to Coronavirus (Covid-19). It could be worth asking if any policy you are looking at provides Covid-19 cover for cancellation prior to travel, for curtailment of your trip, for medical expenses while overseas related to Covid-19 and costs if you have to extend your stay to self-isolate.

More information about insurance on our booking page.


Proof of vaccination

If you're looking for proof of vaccination, for example to be ready for future overseas travel, your vaccination card is not enough as it lacks your date of birth and other details.

One method of getting proof is via downloading the NHS app. Once you are through the long-winded proof of who are you, you can download your NHS Covid Pass, or request an emailed (and printable) vaccination record in PDF format.

You can also do this via the NHS website. As on the NHS app, you need to create a log-in.

The NHS Covid Pass also shows 'proof of recovery' if you've had a positive Covid test.

Though this can be carried on a smartphone or other device, we advise printing it in case batteries run out.

We advise checking that your name is the same as on your passport. If it isn't, it may be rejected.

The above are automated processes and it's worth being familiar with them. However as the certificate is only valid for a month, you'll need to repeat that request later. "To protect your data privacy the 2D barcode expires after 30 days. Please generate a new COVID-19 Pass to renew the barcode."

Phoning 119 is the other way to get your NHS Covid Pass.

Third booster jabs are now part of the Covid Pass.

Mandarin, on a guided walk
Mandarin - see Whitlingham guided walk.

Honeyguide blogs 2022

All are on the Honeyguide blogspot, most are guided walks..

Scroll down for blogs from 2021 and 2020.

Thorpe Marshes, 18 August, U3A group. Guest blog.

Holkham, 15 July, with Rob Lucking.

Buxton Heath and Holt Country Park, 1 July.

Guided walks, May 2022.

Eaton Park nature ramble, 23 May. Guest blog.

NWT Hickling, 20 May.

Hoof fungus gnats, 23 March.

Brecks, 17 February.

Brecks recce, 11 February.

Potter Heigham marshes 22 January.

Holkham, 17 January.

Whitlingham Country Park, 14 January.

Blogs list continues on News 2020-21

No Now May

No Mow May - Plantlife's annual campaign

Naturally Connected

Naturally Connected is a new book by Honeyguider Barry Madden.

"Naturally Connected combines Barry’s wonderful nature photographs with his writings in a splendid new book showing much of Norfolk’s spectacular wildlife, and some from further afield."

More information and ordering via Bittern Books.

Facebook Honeyguide

Facebook Honeyguide
... 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