Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh man, it's flipping hot

So, travelling time again.

I landed in Kathmandu last night after a 24 hour stopover in Oman. This was a bit short to do much birding, as without a car I was limited in how far I could get out of Muscat during the day. I stayed in the suburb of Muttrah, in the Hotel Corniche, seemingly the cheapest in Oman at 15 OR (bartered down from 20, like a boss!), still the priciest hotel i've ever stayed in (when i've been paying). It was decent enough mind, clean, safe, quiet, and it had a fan. I love hotels with a fan, it feels evocatively tropical and exotic. They may not be as efficient at cooling the room down as an A/C unit, but try re-enacting Martin Sheen in the opening sequence of Apocolypse Now and you'll find that the hum of an A/c just doesn't cut it for helicopter rotor blades. Still, crank The Doors right up, knock enough liquor back and it should work out fine. Just don't punch the mirror out, the sort of hotels I stay in like to inspect the room when you check out to make sure it's not too messed up, and that's the sort of thing they're looking for. Hearing the call to prayer from the muezzin for the first time was pretty cool too.

But I digress, birds, yes. My original plan was to just trek out into the desert, but I a hadn't counted on it being 37 flippin degrees, ouch! So I just took some  first up gentle strolls around Muttrah. First up was the harbour front in Muttrah where lifer Sooty Gulls and Crested Tern and Heuglin's Gull were loafing around. Walking along the watered gardens along the coast, Laughing Doves were the most obvious, alongside hideous Jungle Crows and Common Mynahs. Hume's Wheatear, and White-spectacled Bulbul were more lifers, and Purple Sunbird were as endearingly hyperactive as ever. I found some rocky track marked as a 'Geotrek' leading off into the hills so gave that a go. It was devastatingly hot and I ran out of water straight away, and hadn't seen any birds, and the frenzied barking of not-too distant dogs had me considering a retreat, but the track soon dropped down to some promising looking bushes, so I thought i'd carry on. This proved to be a good call as a Tawny Pipit fed around the bushes and 2 female Menetries Warblers eventually showed themselves after I pished 'til I was blue in the face.From there I reckoned it would be quicker back to Muttrah if I carried on. The barking sounded like it was coming from just one small yappy dog, so I thought i'd risk it, even though it doesn't really matter how small and yappy a dog is, if it's got rabies it only takes one scratch and its BANG, trip over, so i'm always wary of strays when travelling. The barking was getting louder and as I rounded a corner in a dried up stream bed, there was suddenly 6 or 7 really big off devil dogs in front of me, you know the sort, big bastards with short black hair, big pointy ears and a long snout, I thought I was in for it so stooped to pick up a stone to sling their way, and to my great surprise and relief, they all just calmly turned around and trotted away up the hill, PHEW!
Eventually, via lifer Rock Martin I emerged into the back end of Muttrah, through a Christian cemetry (conveniently placed for idiotic adventurous westerners?), and I necked a litre of water, and realised I was sunburnt all over, not a great start to my Middle Eastern birding career. Next morning I didn't really have time for birding very far but managed some nice stuff like Black-winged Stilt and Great White Egret before the flight. Quote of the country, overheard from some American chick in Muttrah 'Old Souk' was "I'm starting to suspect that this is just a tourist trap", Nooooo, there was me thinking that this was where the locals came to buy their paintings of camels..........

Here in Kathmandu i've been enjoying the mentalness that is Thamel. Motorbikes everywhere, everyone wearing knock-off 'The North Farce' gear, blokes sidling up "you want something?' No "You want Hashish?' No, "You want girl?" No, "You want boy?" No, Piss off.

Got my TIMS card earlier, not sure what it means, seems like just another way of fleecing trekkers of $20. It's simple and easy enough to fill in the form when you know how. The german couple in front of me were freaking out over whether the first stop on their trek was spelled 'Rinche', or 'Rimche'. my trek route read 'Makalu-Everest-Annapurna-Langtang', basically just named all the biggest mountains. Covers all bases if I decided to change my route, but probably wont be much use if I go missing and they try to find me. Moral of the story: don't go missing. Still, I am now officially a FIT (Free Independent Trekker), and that's the important thing.

After that it was up to Swayambhunath to laugh at the antics of the monkeys, also picked up a few birds. Speckled Piculet and Rufous-bellied Niltava (google it, stunning) being the best. Also Taiga Fly, Humes and Greenish Warblers etc.

Got a day of dossing/exploring tomorrow, and then it's off to Makalu on Wednesday. There's a chance I wont be back online til December, so, until then, All the best

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Great Grey Shrike

A wind direction switch to South-east gave me a very enjoyable final day on Blakeney Point, with plenty of birds, mainly overhead
Short-eared Owl in off the sea
Mid-morning a phone call alerted us to a Great Grey Shrike on The Yankee. It soon moved out in to the harbour where it chased Linnets around the saltmarsh, apparently without success

A Woodlark that dropped in briefly near The Plantation was a  Point 'tick' for all present

A male Hen Harrier quartering the saltmarsh rounded off the day nicely
I have a couple of hours to try and find something tomorrow morning, then its back to (relative) civilisation in Somerset.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Running out of time

The birding here since I got back from Malta has been slow going. The weather has been all wrong, but at this time of year you just have to keep plugging away, it only takes one bird!!
The odd migrant has dropped in, often in somewhat unusual settings:

Blackbird in the dunes

Chiffchaff in the lobster pot
Little Gulls over the house

Starting to get a few Bramblefinches over every day now
Hen Harrier now pretty much resident out here

Reed Bunting posing nicely

Things are that bad, I've started photographing cobwebs.......

Things will probably hot up this weekend as i'm leaving The Point on Friday, got me a couple of weeks to chill in Somerset and recover from the terrible stressful summer I've had out here, then its off out to the Himalaya for the winter. Life can be hard sometimes.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Wild Geese

Howling westerlies continue, as does the associated lack of birds on land. Wildfowl and waders continue to pour into Norfolk though, giving some nice opportunities to get familiar with the 7D.

Brent Geese


Little Egret

Gannets are still putting on a great show close inshore

Herring Gull

Skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese are coming in off the North Sea. I dread to think  of the carnage those turbines are going to cause on a foggy day



More Wigeon

The co-inspiration for the blog title, I watched this a few days ago, they don't make films like this anymore
'On your feet you fucking abortion!' what a line......

And finally, because everyone loves a picture of a cute seal pup