Monday, December 31, 2007
Basically we have absolutely nothing booked and once we arrive we'll just go where we fancy, when we fancy. Of course, we have a rough idea of the sites we want to visit, in order to see certain specialties of the region. Hopefuly we'll manage to make it to a few of these legendary places:
Thak Khola/ Jomsom trek in Nepal, for rare pheasants, Ibisbill, rosefinches and other high altitude stuff, hopefully getting as far as the Thorung La pass at 5000+metres (weather depending)
Chitwan NP in Nepal, for tigers, indian rhino, sloth bear and jungle birds
Corbett NP and Nainital, Northern India, if we fail to score in Chitwan
Harike wetlands in North-western India
Bikaner, and other desert sites in North-western India, for camel rides and desert rares
Sasan Gir NP, south Gujuarat for Asiatic lion
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, more desert rares (including Grey hypocolious) and Asiatic Wild Ass/Onager
Goa, for Western Ghats Endemics and trance mash-ups on the beach
And if we have time at the end, maybe a brief visit to Keoladeo Ghana NP, better known as Bharatpur. Sadly bone dry once again this year, but may be worth a visit if we haven't managed to catch up with some dry country birds like nightjars, Sociable Plover and Tickell's Thrush.
Actually, reading back through that it looks like i've got it planned out pretty well, though, as a wise man once said "the devil fools with the best laid plans", so we'll probably get stranded in Chitwan by freak flooding for the whole trip, still, i can think of worse palces to spend 2 months (Portland being just one example).
Apparently India has a quite impressive array of Internet Cafes so ishould be able to provide plenty ofupdates along the way, if you don't hear from me for a few weeks, then assume i've copped it David Hunt stylee.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It arrived this morning and after a quick visit to the doctors* I spent the afternoon out on the Top Fields and down at Portland Bill having a play with it.
The light was pretty shocking and there wasnt many birds around, but I managed to get a few shots off.
I'm pretty pleased with the new purchase overall. The faster and more accurate autofocus is the biggest difference. I probably wouldn't have got the magpie and stonechat shots below with the old lens. and its much sharper too.
* There seems to always be some complaint about the inefficiency of the NHS in the news these days, and not having been to the doctors for some years now I wasnt particularly looking forward to getting my jabs for my upcoming Asian trip sorted out.
I finally got around to making an appointment to speak to a nurse today, I rung the local surgery AT 11:25, was offered an appointment at 11:45, and by 11:55 I was walking out the door, having had the necessary jabs (Hepatitis A and Typhoid) and not a penny poorer fot it. Bloody excellent service I thought, although my left arm has been numb ever since, which is an excellent excuse for the poor photos above, now that I can't blame my camera setup.
Unfortunately I didnt get vaccinated agianst the deadliest insect in the world, the Hepatitis B, or against the most dangerous ocean in the world, the Hepatitis C, boom boom!
N.B: The above endorsement of the NHS has absolutely nothing to with the fact that my Mum works for them.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Anyhoo, enough on that, what else has there been, errrm, well, sod all to be perfectly honest. Some very gusty weather over the last few days looked like it might provide a few seabirds but it stayed a bit too westerly really, apparently its getting stronger in the week and going a bit more south-sou-westerly so we might be in for a few more Leach's.
Pretty much all i did manage in the weekends gales was this juvvy bonxie that hurtled through ferrybridge yesterday, the gale force winds were a handy excude for a shite photo
Tame goldcrest in the garden the other day
Grey Heron at Radipole a while back
And a Shovelbeak at the same time
Can you click 'em? Yes you can! I wouldnt though, they'll still be fucking awful
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Well, i guess I cant complain too much, theres been more interesting stuff than most crappy inland sites have had, the best on offer being 2 Black brants at ferrybridge, though these two shoddy distant pictures both show the same bird.
We also had a nice Mealy Redpoll in the garden a week ago, a great garden tick!!
errmmm, what else, added Whopper Swan, Bearded Parrotbill** and Corn Bunting to my pathetic Portland list, and managed to get over to Studland in time to see 2 juv. Surf Scoters in the bay.
**No, not a new species for Britain, I simply refuse to refer to them as Bearded Tits, there is no way those things are tits, Parus montanus is a tit, Bernie Ecclestone is a tit, Panarus biarmicus is not, neither is it a reedling, what a fucking copout that is. Just take one look at the Parrotbills and, bloody hell, don't they look rather similar to beardies, same shape, same colour, even the same bills. they even live in Bamboo stands for christs sake, which basically are whopping great big reeds. Plus its the only way that anyone can ever(knowingly) see a Parrotbill (a wonderful group) in Europe without doing some gay cat. C listing trip to Northern Italy for those feral Vinous-breasted things.(anyone whos done that, shame on you!!)
So, next time your at some reedbed reserve and hear that delightful ping-pinging make sure you say "ooh look, Bearded Parrotbills", or be prepared to get your ear bent!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
With strong North-Westerly winds forecast, Colin White, John Down, Kevin Lane and I decided it would be fun to try a Seawatch from the French Coast. Booking the previous night, we managed to get a return trip on the ferry from Poole to Cherbourg for Just £106 for the four of us and a car, bargain! We arrived in Cherbourg early in the morning and quickly headed out to Gatteville Phare, a headland on the Northern tip of the Normandy peninsula. It was still dark when we arrived and we set up scopes a little earlier than necessary. First bird through was a Sooty Shearwater, though to be honest, it was so dark that an Antarctic Fulmar would look like a Sooty Shear. Other birds soon followed as the light improved and we noticed the best feature of this site, the birds just came so bloody close, almost without exception, shearwaters and Skuas were passing by close enough to be identifiable with bins only. Birds continued to flow throughout the day and we recorded some decent tallies.
The count of 111 Balearics was apparently a record day count for the mainland side of the
Part of the record-breaking numbers of Balearic Shears
Bored of the usual rubbish late summer seawatching off Portland, I joined fellow South Dorset birders John Down, Mark Forster, Dave Foot and Duncan Walbridge for a ‘mini-cruise’ on the Pride Of Bilbao, from Portsmouth out to Bilbao, in North Spain and back again over 4 days from the 5th September. We met at the ferry terminal on the evening of the 5th, and stood up by the bar on the back of the boat with the intention of counting the Navy ships in the harbour to send the details off to my pay-masters in Moscow, unfortunately the boat was a few hours late leaving and we had to make do with trying to watch Black-headed Gulls in pitch darkness with Johns sooper-dooper new binoculars.
Thanks to the late departure the captain proper hooned it down through the channel overnight to make up for lost time, meaning the boat vibrated like hell and nobody could sleep a wink, tosser. Still, we all made it up on deck for first light (though some sad gits were so excited that they were up bagging the best positions well before sun-up). First bird through was a Bonxie, and they proved to be bird of the day with 24 recorded. The Seabirds stayed pretty quiet, and apart from 3 adult Sabines Gull, there wasn’t much of any interest. A few passerines landed on the deck, including a Wheatear and a Redstart. Highlight however was a warbler sp. that zipped past before disappearing onto ‘Monkey Island’ the top observation deck reserved for tour operators. I was so desperate to see a decent bird that I vaulted the fence erected to keep us riff-raff out and legged it up the stairs to the viewing deck to look for the bird, only to be told that I wasn’t allowed up there and was hastily removed from the premises, much to the amusement of the gathered birders below. With the lack of seabirds, and once we were a decent distance down into the Bay of Biscay, we turned our attention to Cetaceans. The flat sea provided ideal conditions, and in the hours before it got dark I managed 3 Cetacean ticks, Fin Whale, the second largest mammal in the world, of which we had about 20, 3 Pilot Whale and 4 Striped Dolphin, well backed up with good numbers of Bottlenose Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise and masses of Common Dolphin, including one pod of several hundred. Also interesting were 2 Ocean Sunfish.
We arrived in Bilbao harbour at dawn and quickly passed through customs, waved our bins at the nearest taxi driver and pointed at the big hill just inland from the port. Luckily the drivers are used to birders and knew exactly where to take us. 5 minutes and an outrageous 20 euros later, we halfway up the hill and in some decent looking scrubby habitat. Apart from a few Tree Pipits flying over, migrants were pretty thin on the ground but there was a good selection of resident birds, with several Red-backed Shrikes, a little group of Serin and 2 calling Sardinian Warblers, sounding like somebody firing a machine gun at us from the bushes. A flock of 12 Chough were unexpected, and I used my skills practiced at Portland the previous week to pick out a flyover Ortolan Bunting which landed and gave us good views on the deck, which was nice as all the Portland birds had been flyover only. Walking back down into town we picked up a couple of Melodious Warblers and a the last gasp, as we were actually in town, 6 Griffon Vultures drifted over with a single Booted Eagle tagging along.
We just got back onto the boat in time to leave at midday and hopes were raised by a Sooty Shear, a few Arctic Skuas and 2 Storm Petrels not long after passing the breakwaters, unfotunatley that proved to be just about all the seabirds for the day. It was to be an excellent afternoon for Cetacea though, with as many as 6 Sperm Whales that gave excellent views close to the boat, another cetacea tick for me, backed up with another 20-odd Fin Whales right up until dusk.
Usually on these trips, the last day steaming up the channel is the quietest day, but this proved to be the best, at least in the morning. Highlight was 4 Minke Whales seen early on, yet another new whale for me. Best birds were 24 Bonxies, 2 Stormies, 3 Sabines Gulls and 2 Balearic Shearwaters. The only other cetaceans were occasional Common and Bottlenose Dolphins and Harbour Porpoise. Around midday we hit a bank of murky weather and it was time to retire to the lower decks to watch some pathetic minor nations rugby team being hammered by the Aussies.
After docking there was just enough time to dip on the Wilsons Phalarope at Stanpit March on the way home.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Anyhoo, since the last update, rather a lot has happened. I left my job in Spain a tad earlier than expected to come back to Portland where i'm working as assistant warden at the bird observatory.
The autumns been a bit slow so far, plenty of common migrants but a distinct and disapointing lack of any goodies, the recent highlights being a nice "in the hand " Wood Warbler and a flyover Honey Buzzard, hopefully that will soon change though. Oh, and I also managed to jam in on the Audoins Gull at Seaton (unlike the other 4 birders from Portland i travelled down with).
Its unlikely that my internet acess will improve for some time so check out the obs website for all the latest sightings and possibly a few of my photographs every now and again.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
And back to butterflies again
And a Sooty Copper at the hotel from a few days back
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Cirl Bunting (female)
Cirl Bunting (male)
Queen of Spain Fritillary
Red-backed Shrike (female)
Red-backed Shrike (juvenile), the pair thats been on the farm all summer have hatched 2 young this year
Sunday, July 15, 2007
We had an awesome 6 species of fritillary at the site, Queen of Spain, High Brown and Meadow which were all new for me, along with Silver-washed, Provencal and Spotted.
Also 3 species of orchid; Man, Bee and Heath Spotted, along with plenty of other good flowers.
Spanish Rusty Foxglove
Purple Shot Copper
Queen of Spain Fritillary
High Brown Fritillary
Western Grreen Lizard?
Heath Spotted Orchid close up, a very variable species!