Sunday, 21 February 2010

Stay another day

Every so often I find a reason to visit another locality and today was Lockwood Res, Walthamstow E17. I had only previously visited this area once before in 1985 to see at Woodlark somewhere near here but my memory is such that I'm unable to remember where it was exactly?
Direction to the site were pretty straightforward thus avoiding the Spooner spears one can see above that clearly are not to be climbed over, and it's much better to use the correct entrance walk a mile and maintain the contents of your body thus preventing leaving any entrails on the fence for the Moorhens to peck at. The above have had their faces covered to maintain anonymity.
In the words of that lovely 'NOT' song Stay another day by E17 the Dusky Warbler above awaited my arrival and showed very well through a scope after a wet one and a half hours wait in the pouring rain. This represented the first record for the London LNHS recording area and testament to Lol Bodinis' dedication to patchworking that this Asian gem was found. Located by it's strident call the bird was probably the most showy Dusky I've ever seen in the UK apart from a very confiding one at SBBO in Tim Bagnell's hand and at Dunge in Ian Henshaws' hand. crippling views.
Incredibly this had been predicted as a new bird for London only a week or so before by none other than Tony Morris .

The crowd watch on as the bird feeds happily along the concrete canal wall and adjacent vegetation rarely going out of view.

The locality of the bird, just shows anything can turn up anywhere and another great bird to add to the long list of goodies in this area.
Pre Dusky tacking I saw this very wet Fox looking for an easy meal. At the other end of the Res a Slav Grebe showed well

Before going home I visited Mansfield Park which enables you to see Willian Girling Res. From here I got fantastic hubble views of a Great northern Diver, 17 Black necked Grebes and 11 Goldeneye, but no Red-necked Grebe. A great few hours out, another new area visited, shame about the weather.

Run like an Egyptian !

I should be updating older happenings in Kent but such is the enormity of this record that I have to put finger to keyboard now before the memory fades and the moment is lost. I simply could never have imagined that I would end up running for a Gyppo Goose but sure enough yesterday that happened (I'm certain it will never be repeated) Not as pretty as Susannah Hoffs from the Bangles admittedly but never the less or should that be loss, a stonking bird !!!! Thanks to Andy the bird was nailed as a local tick at the delightful spa resort of Stone near Dartford.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Delhi beckons

As we left the NW of India behind and travelled back to Bhuj for our flight to Nagpur via Mumbai we reflected on what a great trip it had been with nearly all target species seen and only a few more left to target before heading back to the wintry wastelands of the UK. Despite the depiction above the guy with the mask was not covering his face because of Western odours though I'm sure all of us at some time could have benefited from a cover to mask post curry flatulence!
Crab Plover, the first ones I'd seen since 1994 in Madagscar..............a long time ago

Sleepy Forest Owlet.....THE bird to see at Melghat


Nikhil Devasar one of the partners of Asian Adventures who did us proud with the Owlet lined up in the camera on our arrival having sent a local guide out to locate one for us............that's what I call roll up and see twitching, but in this case not a rare nationally like in Kent but a Critically endangered bird in the World!
GBH (Great Black headed Gull) just awaiting landfall in the UK, that would awaken the birders from their winter recess!
The Flamingo pool at Cliffe was a bit inundated this day, a fantastic sight one of many reasons to visit India , birding at it's best

The grasslands at Lala Bustard Sanctuary, an ideal spot to locate a windfarm? I'm sure this would never happen in the UK, a windfarm in area where there's large flying birds, threatened with extinction or at the edge of their range either breeding or wintering. It would appear no where is sacred from the windfarms and the fact the Great Indian Bustards appear not to use the sanctuary much now is not surprising really............surely if this is the approach they will soon be extinct!
Slender-billed Gull, just like the one on Lade Sands many years ago, a stunning Gull in great light
Whilst we were in Nagpur we were 'bumped' from our hotel booking though the reception informed us we weren't bumped it was just that there were important guests requiring a room and surely nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the Indian and Sri Lankan cricket teams were there !! Never! Apparently the guys above are famous but I know zilch apart sport especially cricket where those clean white trousers they used to wear end up getting red marks all over them ?

Sun n Sand Hotel Nagpur and the fantastic view from our 5 star room !

Volkert and a lovely pudding
Andy taking a break, tea and biscuits pre Bustard ticking.Many thanks to the lads for a memorable trip, hopefully we'll team up again one day in the future

Saturday, 13 February 2010

CEDO Birding

One of the advantages of birding at CEDO is that in a day many different habitat zones may be visited from desert, to semi desert, scrub, woodland, grasslands and coastal. One of the big specialities nearby is White-naped Tit a scarce Indian endemic that has one of it's strongholds here and with luck and time should be seen.
One of the desert specialities is Red-tailed Wheatear, this one has chosen a raised pile of dung for a better view of it's 'flattish' environment, 'thank god for camels and being regular'
One of the major target birds in the area was Great Indian Bustard that we knew could cause us problems but finally after two entire days scanning grasslands and studying every large flying part or apparent 'lump' we saw two birds com into roost from the grasslands and a whacky races type twitch was on as we drove rapidly to the tower where despite the failing light we had excellent scope views.
The steps to heaven
Asian Desert Warbler a cracking bird and in the right habitat, common, with many individuals seen in a short period of time
Bengal Eagle Owl, and not a rock in sight seen at it's ground level day time roost expertly picked out by our guide
Marshall's Iora another speciality seen in the same habitat as the White-naped Tit
Once again we saw many Harriers including up to 70birds in the air at once towards dusk
Syke's Lark another Indian endemic
Lesser Whistling Ducks at a small lake

Friday, 12 February 2010

North West India... Dawn till dusk birding

The next port of call on our busy India circuit was a real gem of a place called CEDO which acts as a good base to bird the surrounding area with great food, guides accommodation and local knowledgeable birders/scientists operated and run by Jugal Tiwari. I would thoroughly recommend a visit here armed with a hit list of species or simply for a relaxing week visiting the areas and targeting different species of bird and mammal either to watch and study or photograph (see the website for stunning images of the wildlife). We decided to leave Gir early as we had pretty much achieved what we set out to do ie. see Lion and there was a large number of target species at CEDO. The site is nearing the Pakistan border and the birding very different from one locality to another as a result of the varying habitat zones.
The first photo depicts a Grey-necked Bunting which was sen in large numbers at a couple of sites a short drive away from CEDO, whereas the Hypocolius above is very much a speciality which requires access to a local village and enlisting the help of one of the villagers who knows exactly which toothbrush bushes the birds roost in. Sure enough at dawn there they were waking u and feeding before venturing further afield and out of sight.
Bimaculated Lark. This was a bird which was a lifer for me on the trip and I had manged to miss a few on the trip already but once we were in the correct areas for the winter flocks we saw literally thousands and thousands in flocks of which I've never witnessed before of Larks, very impressive.

Common Crane was indeed Common and a lovely evocative sound heard regularly on our travels. Not always easy to approach the vehicle acted as a great base to photograph them though sadly all the Demoiselles had already left the area

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Lion, the twitch and the war robe !

And so the Magnificent Seven and their birding machines entered into Gir National park, Gujarat India to look for that elusive mammal, Asiatic Lion. There are only 400 or so left in the wild and roughly 360 in Gir NP. This is very much like your African safari parks though in this case the Lions won't eat you, they're just big tabbies waiting for a ball of wool and a some attention.
As can be seen from the sign above, there are very strict rules in the park including synchronised moving with guide and no blowing your horn...............ah peace and quiet on an Indian road, bliss ! I do sometimes wonder whether blowing your horn is one of the major tests and requires regular use in order to pass your driving test in India?
Anyway, there we were happily watching a Mottled Wood Owl when hot gen came through via Intel or Vodafone on Tabby Line that Lions had been spotted just down the road. Warm up the motor and the twitch was on, hopefully with good gen and very unlike surges at UK twitches for say Radde's Warbler, Troglodytes, troglodytes, Zitting Cisticola, Phylloscopus collybita, or possibly at a push Slender-billed Curlew, Numenius.........
Sure enough there they were two splendid Lions on show and very photogenic with the park guards just out of picture (I told you they were friendly) here kitty kitty
Magnificent and a fine specimen
Mega, note the small human bone in the foreground and discarded lens cap
Gir is generally quiet though unless you're lucky and spot a Leopard or ..........Leopard. Bird wise it can be hard work though the next few pix show what you could have had. Above, Spotted Owlet, common and the guides know the daytime roosts

Mottled Wood Owl, a huge Owl that was a well deserved tick and not a single torch battery in sight, that's my kind of Owling!
Yellow-footed green Pigeon, very smart
Changeable Hawk Eagle, close to the track and photographed like everything else from the jeep
Tickell's Blue Fly, common but very nice indeed.
Indian Thick knee, a 'split' from Eurasian Stone Curlew. And so ended a great trip to Gir with the Lions, the twitch and the war robes of the residents in the park that apparently are of African decent and years ago set sail from African and make landfall on the coast they believed to be Africa as they saw Lions in the forests, little did they know it was India? I believed the story !!