Friday, 24 August 2012

Beat the Bank Holiday Crowds

Thursday August 23

Maybe a thin cotton shirt without another layer was not the best of ideas early morning......
Abbey Farm had plenty of water, Greylag, Moorhen and Coot but little else. The usual suspects off Hunstanton Cliffs before driving out to Holme NWT/NOA.  That was dodgy. The road past the houses has been re-surfaced and very frequent  angled humps put in. I can understand the traffic calming, the angled and very lumpy humps made driving a 4 wheel lurch. They are not marked either. Beware.....
It was walking to, and then sea watching, at Gore Point for an hour which brought home the lack of clothing, waistcoats helped but my arms were verging on goose pimples. Thoroughly enjoyable though. Five Whimbrel flew over and both Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown Butterflies fed in the bramble and Harebells lining the boardwalk.

Tatty Speckled Wood
I love sea watching. Gales make the birds more interesting but August calm makes it much more comfortable. The tide was coming in too which brought the waders ever nearer. The highlights were two light phase Arctic Skuas, two moulting Eider (Norfolk year tick !!), 50+ Sanderling, a lone Knot, 18 Grey Plover, two Bar-tailed Godwits, a handful of Turnstone, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Vying for best of all - because we love them - were five Wheatears feeding amongst the greenery on the high tideline.
Time to visit the NOA centre and Sophie, she wasn't there last time when we took our raffle tickets in. We usually restrict our visits to the car park hide overlooking Broadwater. Sophie was there this time after three months of ill health - kidney stone. She set off on the net rounds and we attempted to photograph the - mainly - Peacock butterflies with a few Red Admiral and a single Comma feeding on the enormous Buddleia Globosa type bushes near the Obs. 

Sophie returned with a Blackcap, having trapped Reed and Sedge Warblers earlier, we left. 
Having thoroughly enjoyed our birding, as always really, we drove home via Drove Orchards shop and Cley Spy. The dust cap on the front centre of Pam's Zeiss binos went missing for the second time whilst we were in Panama.  We'd intended replacing it at the Zeiss stand at the Birdfair but the high temperatures put us off going. We both regret it but discretion was the order of the day. Apparently it was incredibly hot in the marquees. Cley Spy ordered one for her and said that they would superglue it on this time !
Bargain and temptation......
Cley Spy are now one of only 40 (down from 120) Swarovski outlets in the UK and have acquired 7 Leica 82 scopes, for which they are charging about £500 less than new ones - even though they are new.
I still have this submerged hankering for a Leica - and it's a bargain (!!) - so I tried one out alongside my Swarovski 82. Optically I could see no difference. I took the Leica off the tripod to return it and it felt like a brick. I held mine in one hand and the Leica in the other and the difference in weight was astonishing - although published weights are not that different. An easy decision, I don't need extra weight. Apparently the new, 3 interchangeable half  (90 mm, 80m  and 50mm? Swarovski's are heavy too, they've gone back to the old aluminium bodies instead of my light one. I think my itch has been well and truly scratched.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

More Panama photos

Keel-billed Toucan, magnificent bird.

Very adept at juggling, using that colossal bill

Sitting/food and coffee half of Tower third floor. Stairs to roof viewable.

A local crossing one of the many rivers on the Indio road.

Alexis resuscitating a Hummingbird


Plaque at entry to the Lodge

The entry bridge at the Lodge

Raoul and I at the Log area - the Lodge

This happened early in the first week. - my right foot

Steaming at Titchwell

Friday August 17
As temperatures of 30C were forecast, we asked Sue to arrive earlier than usual. How surprised were we when rain fell as soon as we started our walk out to the hides. Not heavy, but enough for us to take shelter in Island Hide. What a good thing we did. Many lovely waders on display. One mixed flock of Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff and a single Sanderling was very flighty which meant that they sometimes landed reasonably close to the hide, in fair light. As I think I've mentioned before (!!), all the hides at Titchwell show birds the wrong way of the light for most of the day.
Both Golden and Grey Plover, Snipe, one Greenshank. a good number of distant Black-tailed Godwits, both Ringed and Little Ringed Plover and two Common Sandpipers. 

Two Ruff


Most enjoyable, especially showing them to a very keen small boy, looking through his vintage telescope beside us. 13 Spoonbills loafed one-legged, spoons well hidden, on a far island.
All digiscoped through my Swarovski 82. I would love to have had the Leica 82 used in Panama, side by side, in order to compare results.
A Common Tern perched on the water level marker.

Time to move on to the sea - not for long though. As soon as we sat down, we were attacked by marauding big, grey horsefly type things. Despite the brisk wind which made the temperature more bearable, it was sheltered on the platform hence the biters. The volunteer on duty told us that the occasional Arctic Skua was passing through, what I'd been hoping for, the flies put paid to that.
After a hot trudge back to the car, we drove to Brancaster Staithe for lunch. Many Ringed Plovers and a horde of holidaymakers enjoying themselves in the low tide channel. Sue watched the golfers across the water.......
Maybe Cley would have good waders too. Opening the shutters in Daukes, the hide only occupied by one young woman, we viewed acres of mud. Pat's Pool was the same. Why so very little water on managed scrapes? The many birds present did seem to be enjoying the mud but were distant. We added two Green Sandpipers to the day list and saw more Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper.
The icecream van wasn't at Salthouse. On a hot Friday in August ? Where is it......
I suggested a stop at Gunton Park which turned out to be a success. Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe on the lake and, best of all, two Spotted Flycatchers greeted us as we pulled in to the Water Mill. We've never seen the bird here before. 
Time for a cuppa and a cricket Test Match catch-up at home.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Panama Finished?

Tuesday August 14
I think I've finished uploading photos, sorting the spelling of Elicier's name and various other errors.

Trip Total : 320
Lifers:      88

 I can now start on the Great Yarmouth Bird Club Newsletter which has to be completed by the end of the month.
Rather busy since we got home, no time for birding yet. Wall to wall Olympics and sorting the insurance for our large fridge freezer which died whilst we were away. We are very lucky to have such good neighbours. Rai and Barbara sorted and threw away the rotting contents, Kevin and Freda did a lot of the clearing up. There are many complaints about Curry's but I have none. Everyone on the phone was very helpful and the engineer came this morning. To pronounce it......dead. We should get vouchers as we are still covered. The machine looks immaculate. two and a half years old only, unlucky he said.
 Harvesting veggies too.
The Swifts have gone and our only House Martin nest has disintegrated. Must have been learner birds. Earlier in the season I found an egg floating in our open, overflow water butt ,directly underneath the nest. I looked up and saw a hole at the back of the nest. I believe that they managed one brood though. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Short Morning, Long Night

August 8/9

August 8 a.m.
Eliecer had forgotten that we were flying home to-day and arranged a 6.30 breakfast and morning walk. That was fine, it helped pass the time. We explored some more areas of La Mesa again, birding forested roadsides and the plain at the top. I told him that I didn’t want to get my boots muddy and Pam asked to be back for 11-11.30 so that we could pack for a 1.00 departure.
We didn’t see any lifers this morning, but had our first trip views of the delightful Bran-coloured Flycatcher, perched on barbed wire – we’d only heard it before. 

Bran-coloured Flycatcher
We also had better, closer overhead and longer, views of both Zone-tailed and Barred Hawk, soaring overhead with dozens of Vultures.
A female Tufted Coquette posed on top of a twig for scope views and the usual Black-faced Antwren called incessantly. We haven't seen Rufous Motmot for a while either, that was a good scope view.
All three of us love butterflies, Eliecer is good at getting them in the scope so that we can photograph. He has a nifty little lightweight Panasonic Lumix point and shoot.

Back to the Lodge for bird log, packing, and lunch. We were again joined by Raoul, there to supervise the removal of branches overhanging the roof. He presented me with a single orchid bloom to take home. It’s the national flower of Panama , waxy white with (he says) what looks like a little bird inside. Pam looked it up and wrote the name down. I only remember that the common name is translated as Holy Ghost. It’s wrapped in tissue paper, we’ll see if it survives.
It's  peristeria elata florde Espirito Santo or Dove Orchid
We left the Lodge soon after 1.00 p.m. in a terrific thunderstorm which continued for over an hour's drive. The deep roadside gutters gushed like rivers. We left early so that we could buy some postcards at the airport - the Lodge had none. That discombobulated us. We bought what they had at the Tower, certain that the remaining would be available at the Lodge. How peculiar. Neither do they sell the obvious birding tourist stuff like hats, just the one design Tshirt, a rather lovely Tody Motmot on a sandy background, which Pam bought.
We’re now sitting in Schipol airport Amsterdam waiting for our Norwich connection after the usual uncomfortable night flight. At least we didn’t have any young children around us this time.
Experiencing departures at Panama Airport ensures that we’ll never return. The luggage and customs bit was good, the problem came afterwards. I enquired at the desk when a queue started to form at our departure gate and was told ‘Yes, we are booking in’, so we joined the then, short queue. One hour later, we got to the desk behind an increasingly irate bunch of people. Groups were being dealt with after gate-crashing the queue, others were at the counter for 10-15 mins and there was a lot of arguing. Meantime, 3 people spent the whole of the rime we were waiting, moving a few tables and those barrier stands and ribbons around. It had to be seen to be believed. We got to the counter and were asked why we were there !! We were  already booked in……That was the same man who'd told me to join. We were cross, as were others on our behalf. Even worse, no postcards for sale. There wasn't even a bookshop. Plenty of designer gear shops selling leather goods etc.
Eventually the boarding time came and went, a loose mob formed, a ribbon was opened and we surged through……to have our bags inspected manually all over again. Incredible.
We had a great two weeks birding, the chaotic end does not alter that. Now looking forward to home comforts and the last few days of the Olympics. I hope that I managed to programme daily recordings of the highlights.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Last Day in Panama

Tuesday August 7
Late breakfast to-day, 6.45. The staff now deliver our food already plated as there's just the two of us. Not ideal, I prefer to choose what I have so that none is wasted.To-day's in particular. I have become accustomed to scrambled eggs on two small slices of toast, fruit and a yoghurt. This morning I had a plate containing a halved hard-boiled egg, a cornichon of smoked ham, and a thick slice of soft white cheese placed in front of me. I ate the egg, shall be clucking soon.
Elicier took us to another part of La Mesa to-day, an area dominated by huge chicken farms belonging to Toledano. Forest all around, the area is divided into 'Fincas', all Toledano, a big local employer. The farms are strangely unobtrusive though.
We went to a protected, primary  rainforest part called Cerro Gaital, the steep, slippery and stony  track uphill edged by secondary forest. 

Before we started the climb, Pam spotted a snake being watched by several small birds. No-one else saw it, but her description was pronounced that of a Bird-eating Snake by Eliecer. That's the local name anyway. The Oregon couple, Ron and Kate, had a close encounter with a Fer de Lance. I wouldn't want a close view but would love to have seen one.
At the top of the walk uphill, what looked like a flight of lethally slippery stone steps climbed upward in deep gloom. We turned this down.
Pam and Eliecer at the top of the track.
As always, Eliecer worked very hard for us, long and patient whistling brought the shy, secretive and really rather drab, rainforest bird, Thrush-like Schiffornis, into perched view. Excellent, I really wanted to see one. We had great views of Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Bright-rumped Attila, several Ant-wrens and Blue-black Grosbeak. The latter only decided to give us a good view - Pam especially - this morning, it's been flying views and glimpses previously. 

Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer - digiscoped as all these pics are. Not much use when the tail is missing- not in scope view either so no chance !
A perched Roadside Hawk enlivened the way back to the Lodge for lunch.
As we finished our meal, Raoul, the owner of the Canopy Family, joined us. He chatted for about a quarter of an hour before going on with his weekly inspection. He knows Moss Taylor and Duncan and Peter of Wildsounds. Moss showed him round Norfolk birding spots for 3 days after the Bird Fair one year.


Alto del Maria, watercress growing area. An incredible switchback of a road only opened two years ago. How are we managing the walking? So steeply uphill or down
It’s almost unbelievable, especially as I have an upper respiratory infection and a cough. Amazing what birds will make one achieve.Blasted aeroplane germs and all those snotty kids around us. I haven't had a cold for at least four years - after flying to Aus.
As always, when birds are slow, butterflies and insects are fascinating.

Chiapas Hairstreak

Colourful Grasshopper

Black-edged Sombre-mark

As soon as we got out of the van and, whilst Eliecer parked it, I saw a hawk high above the mountain. He got there in time to pronounce it a Zone-tailed Hawk, new for the trip. Could be a migrant but a few are resident. An hour and a half later, after several 1:3 ascents and descents, the target bird appeared. Eliecer had asked to look at my check list and had taken us to an area where there was a good chance of Barred Hawk. The view was not lengthy but very tickable. Plain Xenops, Orange-chinned Parrots, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant and the usual Wrens and Tanagers were also seen. Dusky Tanager appeared at what looked like dusk as a thunder storm rumbled around and rain started.
‘Home’ in time for both of us to shower before dinner and plans made for a last walk in the morning. 6.30 breakfast……Don’t know when we’ll pack, the car will take us to the airport at 2 p.m. after lunch. I registered online and printed off boarding passes to-night, using their Apple computer.
No ant swarms to-night. Apparently it IS very unusual. How lucky are we?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Ant Plague

Monday August 6
We survived a plague of flying ants in our bedroom last night - by slapping them with a flip flop for a long time before it felt safe enough to go to bed. They seemed to be dropping from a cavity free ceiling.....I sprayed repellant on the mattress behind our beds, that put the b.....s off.
To-night, the same thing happened over dinner, we had to make a dash for the office. Huge clouds of ants formed below each light and then fell on us when the fan was turned on. Memo. Don't turn the fans on !!
The staff seemed bemused by it all. Obviously not a regular occurrence. After a lovely day, we are now sweltering in the dark hole office so, I will leave the account to another occasion. If our bedroom is pest free, I will write to-day's happenings on Word and transfer it to-morrow. Meanwhile Pam is watching a gekko eating up the ants that entered the room with us.
Well, our room is relatively bug free to-night – apart from the splats on the wall, evidence of last night’s invasion.  Double whammy, I mimed fly spray to the night watchman so we are armed, Pam’s sprayed around the door too. It didn’t make for a restful night, I only had about three hours sleep before to-day’s long day, a 45 minute drive to El Chiru and its immense paddy fields, before lunch at a beach house in Playa Santa Clara. I napped most of the way to the first stop, after a 5.30 a.m. breakfast.
Our first walk was along a long, straight road lined with trees where we added Crested Bobwhite Quail, Brown-throated Parakeets, Blue Ground-dove and Pale-eyed Pygmy-tyrant, amongst others.

 Brown-throated Parakeet
After obtaining permission from the boss, we spent the next 3-4 hours driving through and round a massive paddyfield complex with some walking. A plethora of birds too, our idea of bliss, under a cloudless sky for a change. Such a huge area, the paddies in various stages of use. Herons, Egrets Ibis and Wood Stork in some, migrant waders in the wet, muddy harvested stretches.The latter included Solitary, Pectoral Semi-palmated, Least and Spotted Sandpipers. A juvenile Green Heron posed nearby, whilst a few Black-winged Stilts picked their way along as though wearing high heels. Lovely. 

 Juvenile Green Heron - shame about the background!
A Southern Lapwing obliged too (all photos to be added later at home, internet too slow to download my daily newspaper – but I’m getting Olympics results on the Sky Sports app. on my IPad).

Southern Lapwing
The usual posse of Vultures was joined by Yellow-headed Caracara and some Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures. An Aplomado Falcon was too distant to photo.

Yellow-headed Caracara  - O Sole Mio
As we crossed a small stream, a Spectacled Caiman head showed in the shade of a bush.

Some excellent Hummers to-day too including the near endemic Veraguan Mango - recently found in Costa Rica too. I really wanted to see that.

Veraguan Mango - distant and much enlarged BUT a near endemic.
After a stroll in the increasingly oppressive heat, looking for the Hummers etc, we drove to a rather nice Beach House at Santa Clara, part of the Juan Hombron Beach. The house belongs to the founder of the Canopy Family, Raoul. 

Pam and I sat on the back decking enjoying the view of a milky, but bright blue, sea dotted with a few fishing boats, one of which was festooned with Brown Pelicans. The awesome and beautifully streamlined Magnificent Frigatebirds cruised endlessly overhead, Turkey Vultures joined the display – and Eliecer and Fernando prepared our lunch in the kitchen.

Magnificent Frigatebird - one of many I took. How to choose?
Turkey Vulture overhead. I kept my mouth closed and my fingers crossed.

After a blissful hour and a half, time for some more hot-wandering along scrubby lanes in search of small birds, we stroll whilst Eliecer whistles his heart out in search of birds for us.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
 It was slow going but we saw some good ones including Whooping Motmot.
In at 6, list at 6.30 and then our exclusive dining a deux before the dash to the office.
Two half days to-morrow, our last sessions before starting our way home on Wednesday. That means that we get a 3 hour break in the middle of the day. Phew.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Forest Foraging

Sunday August 5
This morning,  we went for a walk in the woods, a three and a half hour long one. It was called La Mesa road in the itinerary but I didn't see a road. 
After a late 7 a.m. breakfast we drove for 15 mins, parked and entered a vegetable growing area at the edge of the forest. We spent the rest of the time walking along a soft, muddy, leaf matted trail through the forest, avoiding the regular pathways of leafcutter ants.One track looked like their motorway, wide and deep, trodden smooth. I hate stepping on them so am constantly looking down.

A big surprise for all - most of all for the animal - was a young Forest Rabbit in the forest edge vegetation. Boy, did it run.

Pam's photo

Few birds for the first half of the time with plenty of butterflies, grasshoppers and spiders to entertain us all. David is leaving to-day but decided to join us for the morning, he takes great photos with his macro lens - I don't carry mine, it's enough of a chore to carry myself.
Blue and Orange 88 - guess how it got its name.....
We detoured off the path to avoid breaking its work of art web.

Thick-tipped Greta. The butterflies have good names too.

The best birds we saw this morning were: Scaly-breasted Wren, White-flanked Ant-wren, Black-faced Ant-thrush, Rufous Mourner (a tick), Spot-crowned Ant-vireo, Red-thighed Dacnis and Lesser Greenlet.
I have time to write this because we turned down the market visit and Pam told Eliecer to go home as we have a full day out to-morrow. The internet reception here is not the best and only available in the Office or just outside it which is where I'm sitting. Uploading one photo took 15 minutes last night which is why there aren't many so far. I'll try again in a minute. We are then going to explore the grounds and take photos.

Basilisks occupy the river which we cross daily. I've seen them run across the water (also known as Jesus lizards), Pam never did!

White-tipped Doves. seen daily but not easy to photograph , even badly !

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Long and Arduous Day

Saturday August 4
So long and arduous that I'm going to bed now! Will write up later......maybe.

I’ve given up looking at the itinerary supplied as it never applies to what we actually do, understandably, weather and local conditions dictate the programme. The company also dovetail arrivals in with birders already part way through the itinerary. However I know where we’ve been to-day. Rio Indio and Jordanal, a full day trip of Caribbean Slope birding. What this meant was a 10 K drive along the worst track I’ve ever ridden – that includes the Manu Road. Much of it was swooping steeply uphill and then downhill, along a track which was akin to a dried river bed. At times, it looked as though a heavy tractor had made wheel ruts with raised grass in the middle. And people lived up there. Rio Indio is a settlement with a school and church. When Eliecer said that it was 10K to our lunch place, I  thought it felt more like 50 in the jolting, bone-rattling, 4 wheel drive truck.
The frequent stops and walks routine which is normal, was curtailed by heavy rain and, being enshrouded in thick cloud, at Rio Indio. We then made our way down to a lower altitude where it was drier but hotter.
We lunched on the banks of the river Jordanal. We were due to cross another rope bridge to a small hut but Pam’s courage had been used up.

David photographing a tiny lizard and Eliecer preparing lunch. Pam's photo
Some lovely birds again. A delightful Barred Puffbird, Buff-rumped Warbler, Long-tailed Tyrant and Black-cheeked Woodpecker amongst them.

Barred Puffbird - not often seen as well as this.
Several well tended gardens with lovely flowers and shrubs too, including fruit trees. Snap happy!  Again, frustrating butterflies led us a merry dance. So delightful when one succeeds but, many of them never stay still long enough.

Thick-billed Seedfinch and an orange.

Swallow-tailed Kites were a highlight of the day. 20+ in the air at once, circling and gliding across the wooded valleys. What a wonderful shape and colour pattern they have. David’s delight.
Jolting homewards, I spotted a White Hawk in a roadside (I use the term loosely) tree. It called for a few minutes before taking off and landing in a bare tree 50 metres back the way we’d come. The ever obliging Eliecer backed up, enabling David and I to take some shots. The bird’s stay was curtailed by a dive-bombing Clay-coloured Thrush which saw it off to a dead stump and then, even further away. Lovely – I hope the photos are.

Look behind you ! here comes the Clay-coloured Thrush, Goliath.

Success! David squawks in triumph.

We were very tired when we got in, a long day with unpleasant travelling conditions and an accumulation of 10 days on the go for long hours. Very satisfying but increasingly wearisome. David goes home to-morrow, we shall miss him. Unassuming, comfortable company, on the same wavelength with a great love for birding and photography. Despite being a Yorkshireman .......or maybe because.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Birthday Highlights

August 3
Great start to the day. As we finished breakfast, Eliecer called us to see a Mottled Owl perched deep in the creeper thick canopy behind the Lodge. Starting the day with a lifer.

Kate and Ron leave for the airport this morning, it will be David and we two until Sunday when David leaves. Don’t know yet whether others are due to arrive.
A short drive to the wooded hillside at the side of the volcanic crater in which the town is situated, before parking and walking. Mainly uphill, much of it muddy with pools of water from yesterday’s rain.
200 yards along the track, with a warning of ‘careful it’s muddy’ we were led down into the thick forest  for a hazardous and tentative 100 metres. We stood for 20 minutes waiting for a Black-faced Ant-pitta to appear. It called but moved further away – whilst we fended off mossies – silently of course. Not a tick for us but would have been good to see one again.
Not many birds around this morning but plenty of bugs and butterflies for us all to photograph. 

A 1 cm long Bug - even Eliecer photographed it.
Banded Peacock

False Tiger

Pink Banana. Not edible for humans but loved by Hummingbirds.
When I was beginning to think longingly of a seat, a new bird appeared, which I digiscoped. A Wedge-tailed Grassfinch, a speciality of the area. 

All the Canopy guides carry Leica scopes which they are happy to be used by all for digiscoping. They also have Leica bins, a sponsorship deal where they are replaced every two years.
After two and a half hours of walking uphill and down, I’d had enough to-day, still sore from yesterday’s exertions. A convenient stone was a handy perch at last. We waved Dave and Eliecer off and returned slowly to the vehicle, photographing as we went. It took us an hour. 

Fungus sp.

We perched on the tailgate, helped ourselves to the ever present cold juice and water and Canopy mix (M and Ms, salted peanuts and raisins, surprisingly good) and watched for birds. It wasn’t long before David and Eliecer appeared, they’d done a round walk. No new birds had been seen. Phew, that’s a relief!
Elias bought us a flat round cake thing and we drove back for lunch. On the way to our room I took a few photos of birds on the feeding tables.

Lemon-rumped Tanager
It’s now post lunch and it’s been raining for the last half an hour. We’re due out again at 3, I could do with a rest but am ever reluctant to miss anything.

Don't know where we went, but, it was very good. A drive through the village and a left turn into a well made road, past Millionaire's Row and then out into the countryside. The usual pattern of stopping, walking, Eliecer returning for the car and the same again. We saw some really good birds before the road suddenly ended at a river bank with a smallholding beyond. An enigma. Why such a good road suddenly ending?

Pam and David at road's end

What will be my Birthday Bird?

The Mottled Owl - not good views but I love owls
Garden Emerald - Lovely Hummingbird or
White-thighed Swallow ? - distant but lovely.

White-thighed Swallows

Garden Emerald it is.

Or should it be this superb, digiscoped, Heliconia Owlet  .....?

Dinner was another surprise. David, Pam and I were happily chatting away over a bottle of red (inc with dinner every night), wondering  whether we were having pudding to-night, it was late.

The lights went out, leaving a myriad candles. Kitchen staff arrived bearing a large birthday cake, two Roman Candle-like candles spouting shiny rain. Sara had organised it all from Australia. What a lovely, thoughtful thing to do.