Tuesday 23 December 2008

The Final Cut at last.

The last edit of shots from the Gambia has taken a while and has some interesting things amongst the pictures taken, but leaving out the touristy type shots I thought these might be a diversion until the next blog entry.
This wee!! beastie was about the size of two hands spread out, pretty colours, but given a wide berth.

Pink Dragonfly, amongst an amazing variety of colours as you will see.

A well prickly character which hissed when we got to close with the lens!!

Swallow tail coming in to land.

A Widow Dragonfly.

A Blue Dragonfly.

African Monarch on a mineral source!!!

Another big Spider.

The Tanning Salon, more arrived as the sun came up.

Then there was billy no mates.

NO! A vegetarian Dragonfly!!!
Not really just eating a fly caught on the flower.
That's it for a while now for the Shrike or SEO!!! we shall see or not.

Friday 12 December 2008

Birds, Berries, Barbed wire and Belligerance!!

Frustration was the order of the day on Sunday, learning late in the evening that Waxwings were at the Town centre car park in Ellesmere, and having missed the Trumpton pair. I was champing at the bit to get out and have! them for the year.

Finally managing to get out on the Tuesday they were playing hard to get and in fact did not show at all. So Wednesday it was another go at these enigmatic little corkers, they had other ideas of course, they had moved on, as it became evident to the gathered hopefuls.

To get Richard Camp's Yahoo group mail on the rediscovery in Shrewsbury was a well welcome relief, at least they had remained in the County, even if the supermarket chain changed names over night!! So as soon as poss it was of Shopping!!!

I arrived just a little after one or two other birders and they were performing like real darlings, and considering the small tree they had descended on I was very pleased indeed. They were a little flighty with all the toing and froing of the Shoppers, as was evident in the manner in which they were feeding, down quick grab as many as possible and of up into the Silver Birch on the other side of the road. At times they were even dropping onto the Cottoneaster under there chosen safe spot.

Now the Barbed wire was in fact Razor wire bordering the site and was not to obtrusive in the pictures if they remained high however some got a little to low. As to the Belligerence that came down to the store manager trying to push us of the car park, where I might add we were in nobodies way nor incommoding any one, in fact we were acting as ambassadors for the Hobby passing on the information etc, but the plain fact that we were there with Cameras and could be taking pictures of their fantastic Logo!!! was not allowed, So I sent him of to speak to his manager I was given a gracious 15 minutes. Talk about jobs worth!!! I am glad I was in a good mood!!

So to the Pictures, right posers they were and a few are posted here for your delectation any comments good or bad will be gratefully received

That tongue is certainly in use here.
They do not always get it right

A slight overbalance

And the final indignant pose for my gathered mass!!
I hope Aldi enjoy a festering season and they get twitched to death!!!
Thanks for stopping by

Friday 5 December 2008

Of Parts sticky! part Deux + 1 (or 3 if you like)

The weather improved over the last three days in the Gambia, it got hotter!! earlier. Some of the local, ish areas we had left for last were various in habitat and accessability,
The entrance or rather the old way of getting into the Golf course at Fajara had beed repaired / closed of so we walked back to the main entrance, having been offered a couple of spliffs for breakfast, we declined graciously. Once through the main entrance were we had to negotiat the group of caddies! who on seeing Binoculars all wanted to show us an Owl, and as the Verreaxs Owl was readily visible from the side road, we declined, in the end we had to be forceful. we moved around cautiously as the golfist were swinging wildly in fact the safest place to be, was on the Browns!!
The otherwise well good spots were very quite with only Lizzard Buzzard really giving us a good show as it swooped around chasing lizzards! The norm was Francolin, both species, Stone Partridge, Long-tailed Cormorant, A very nice Grey Plover, Common sandpiper, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, plus five different kingifshers. The Long-tailed Glossy Starlings were accompanied by Lesser and Greater Glossies loosley that is. Sunbirds were, it seemed everywhere, several were around the bottles collecting palm sap, which is fermented into a very nice Palm wine.

A Sap Collector

Once the fruit stems are cut bottles are attached to collect the sap.

From here we walked over to Kotu Creek, bridge, Sewege pools and a few other places, we did not get to Lamin Lodge as our Transport had been booked for a sensible time to get back to the base camp for the evening meal.

The penultimate day was to be spent at Abuku Reserve to catch up on one or two species as yet not found, one in particular the bloody Common Wattle Eye, this bird had for some reason been eluding us all through the trip, call so close at time you could hear it breathing, nearly! And the other little darling was the Orange Cheeked Waxbill.

It was not long before the Wattle Eye was calling right next to us, and suddenly it popped up in the open, what a nice specimen sadly the light was not so good so it was a record shot only in the hope of a retry later.

The now normal Monkeys were duely photo'd and the odd Butterfly and Dagonfly they are very nice indeed.
A Brown Babbler
It was not long after that we caught up with one or two other delights, We had the Orange Cheeked Waxbill and another Sunbird the Red Chested Sunbird what a corker he was.
Anyhow it was soon all over, the Beer was drunk, the Birds was seen, and all that is The Gambia was really enjoyed, so much so we are not going back!!!
Hello Ghana!! whats the beer like?
Thanks for reading

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Sticky's part Deux

The Pirogue was due to move of as soon as the other two passengers were ready, not withstanding the time spent by the pointer person, bailing large amounts of water out of the "boat" so crew assembled it was shove off and eyes peeled , the first port of call was the Peanut processing plant! Where earlier we had seen an African Fish Eagle parked, it was still visible but now on the other side of the plant.
A left turn into the current really put the engine to the test as we edged closer to the start of the mangrove swamps and the two creeks to be investigated Tunku and Kisi Bolong. It did not take long before we were calling things like Malachite, Pygmy, Blue Bellied, pied, Giant and Grey Headed Kingfishers. And of course a whole host of other neat stuff, like White Crested Tiger Heron, Goliath Heron, African Hobby and the rarity of the trip A Peregrine Falcon which took a Weaver bird in mid air.
I think amongst the hole lot the next bird called "by me!!" was the Orange Cheeked Waxbill a real corker of a little bird certainly on a par with the Cut Throat Finch. Should anyone really be bored a full list could be supplied "yawn"
On the Mammal and reptile side of things they were a little sparse with only one decent sized Nile Crocodile seen as it slipped into the water only to disappear, Nile Monitors were a little more obliging with one specimen estimated to be a 9 feet long and full of some form of food.

It was just after this big chappy that we saw the bird most people really want the African Finfoot plonking around the roots of the mangrove it was dark under there but enough was seen to confirm the species, brilliant to say the least but to dark for any chance of a picture,, just seeing it was really enough. For a further two hours we drifted into the Mangroves quietly picking of species after species before we had to turn around, and take a new track/route through to the Kissi Bolong and just 50 meters down we had the second mind blowing mega bird of the trip A fine male Perls Fishing Owl sat out in the open like it was the most natural thing to do, mind you as soon as it realised we was sneaking up on it it was of and never to be seen again.

Suffice to say the species totaliser went up a few notches, the move back across the river to Tendaba camp was as eventful as we picked up on the odd ones we had missed on the way over.

As the sun was over the yard arm it was time for second breakfast, which was always liquid of course!! A light bit of shut eye before we strolled down to the Airport!! once again this time with the required Nightjar kit you know powerful torch etc.we disturbed a couple of Four Banded Sandgrouse as we moved through the long grass alongside the rice fields we had selected a likly area /clearing in the grass away from the other people out and noisily plonking after the same target species. We knew we should see all three types here, so we sat and offered our selves up to the Mossies for the next hour and a half. The churring started more or less as soon as it got dark and we could see occasional flutterings around us as they flew against the night sky, couple this with the incessant background noise of crickets frogs and all manner of other insects, including 70 million Mozzies!! oh! and a pair of dueting White Faced Scops Owls it was brilliant.

Did we get all three? well of course, as the others had pushed most of the birds our way, thank you. We did not mention this later at the bar,,, Much!! but they were out again the next night, and with our superb guiding get the all. More free beer.

With our Four days at Tendaba over we were on the long drive/ride back to Bijilo for a bit of R&R wash clothes, clean kit, pour over lists on an extended call over and generally sort out some of the more local areas.

So Lets see what the next blog brings!!

Thanks for Reading


Monday 1 December 2008



Of Parts hot and sticky!!

Op ihren reissepass bereits sind?

This was the question that came on the the SMS a couple of months ago, of course it was and always is, just for emergencies you understand!

Alarm bells started as it was my friends turn to do a trip, and knowing him it could be anywhere from the Amazon basin to Antarctica and as we had both done central and Southern America I was already postulating as to where this time.

As is the case on these affairs hints are dropped but only those that fit in general, it was soon worked out, it was Stickycles and not Icicles that was to come. However as I was to find out I had been led down the proverbial path.
So after a a six hour delay at Brum Airport I was met at Schipol and we descended on the overnight accommodation with two raging thirsts. It was here that the final piece of the mystery was thrust into my grubby mit!
As the flight out was at 05:30 it was an early night, We raided the breakfast buffet for boiled eggs, Rolls and cheese, there was no in flight catering. The departure board said it all Transavia flight xxxx to Yundum, Whooohoo!!! The Gambia at last, having been in the North and East of Africa this birding was going to be great and the rains had only really stopped a week ago and they had been really heavy this year, so lots of green and tall, and a few rainy season only birds. The first trip tick! was an Ariel view of Northern Gannet as we approached the airport, which was a disappointment as the normally! short grass was over head height and nothing was visible, the area around the terminal as we waited in the 35C heat gave up a few Sparrows house type , and some nice Cattle Egret. The trip to the base Camp!! was a touch more interesting with Hooded Vulture, Northern Red Bishop and Pied Crow to name a few, many can be seen in the Gallery to Gambia trip.

We also had the other Bishop but no photo this time.

Base camp!! was in the basic league but the essentials were spot on, cold beer anytime of the day, and at the same price as bottled water it just made sense. Mind you we drew the line at teeth brushing !!! We acclimatised for two days as we patrolled the roadside between Banjul and the Bijilo Forest on the early morning patrol, it was more like Disney's Dawn Patrol with all the trumpeting going on, before the bumsters got up, well most of them at least.

No long lists just the odd photo from here and there.

Day three saw us walking the track through Tanji village to the Paradise inn!! out by the river the huts were basic and by local standards clean with shower and toilet, food was again basic with breakfast a real banquet of cheese, eggs, jam and copious coffee followed with naturally beer chasers!! later in the day.

Up before first light we were on the track down to the salt flat for things like Copper Sunbird, Giant Kingfisher, Pygmy Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher , Wattled, Spur winged and Black headed Plovers, etc. etc.

So by day 4 the trip list was standing around the 165 species with 35 Lifers but as it would happen we were really struggling for the more common stuff, we believe that the extent of water around had kept the birds out in the country rather than the norm, so I am told.

Two days later we are back in the base for some well earned rest!! and a resupply on clean clothes beer etc. before heading out again to Tendaba camp a supposed six hour journey in bush taxi's along with the population of every town on the way, what with police check points followed in 200 meters by Military checkpoints all wanting something or other from someone in the bus finally saw us in the compound a mere 9 hours later and just 100 miles up country.

But the first Kingfisher we saw was the one on the label of the beer bottle. A shower, a feed and retiring early, as the generator went down ,so the beer was getting warm. Daybreak saw us tramping around the airport vainly searching for Storks etc, at 09:00 the temperature was at 33 degrees and it was back for breakfast and lots of coffee before taking a pirogue across into the mangrove swamps for the elusive finfoot and Perls fishing Owl. Well you find out as I get to the next Blog on this place.

An Abysinian Roller or Abby or as it ended up NCIS!!

Till the next one


Monday 3 November 2008

Roof top surprise!!

From time to time you get those moments when you think you are hearing things. This is just what happened this morning, as I was still clearing the chores out for the day, I could swear I could hear the call of a Partridge. Now being in an urban conurbation ! and with no farmland around for quite a bit, I at first put it down to a fly over, which in itself was unusual for this area.

So I continued, and it was not long before I could once again hear that same call! So this time I checked the lawn around the feeders.

You could have blown me over with a feather, as there under the feeder in my little garden were 7, yes, 7 Red legged Partridge. I was galvanised into action and rushed for the camera, it was this sudden movement I think that may have startled them, as when I got back they had gone, but not very far as they were soon calling from the roof of my neighbours house.
This time however the camera was on hand and records of probably my most unusual garden bird!

A little jostling for a warmer spot perhaps?

And they were of as several others flew over heading NW towards the Wappenshall area.

So last one for a while!!! again.

Thanks for looking.


Saturday 1 November 2008

it's over for another year.

Well its over until next year, the Rut of 2008 will be memorable, if not for its fragmented performance and relatively short skirmishes, Then for the pure aggressiveness of just one or two individuals. There are 24 Stags in this herd with hinds and young males making up the rest of the 90+ herd.

As per usual the stags were following the Hinds around apart for two of the larger males, who seemed to have their favourite spots. The larger of the two, Tom, was on the edge of the woodland amongst the bracken, with Jerry preferring the open field past the large oaks which had a good slope which caught the sun really nice.
I was fortunate enough to see these two large males cross boundaries on only two occasions, Jerry had, following the hinds, strayed a wee bit to close to the territory of Tom. It did not take long for a bit of parallel walking to start as Tom came bellowing out of the wood trailing a large amount of bracken on his antlers. Neither were put of by the hinds walking further of and soon had a bit of a set to.

Initially, neither were giving ground, until Jerry slipped and Tom got the upper hand, that was enough for Jerry and he was of, chased for a while by the victor. Jerry promptly gave chase to a young Stag who was sniffing around the hinds.

Jerry giving chase.

So where is all the action? Well, always check your batteries the night before, you go out!!!

So a few more from that morning:

Tom watching Jerry approach

A cold start to the day.


God beams

Sleepy hollow!

There will be a short intermission whilst I do a bit of whizzing around the place!!! see you in three weeks I hope.
Thanks for looking

Wednesday 15 October 2008

My your a big boy!!

The call of the Wild.

The sunshine eventually made its way over the hills to the east and the mist that was blanketing the valley took on that erie orange glow, from within the mist I could hear the rattle of antlers as the large males tested the levels of testosterone in each other as they vied for the hinds.
Unfortunately the action was over before the mist cleared. And this big boy came out of the melee and just kept coming, and coming and I was back peddling at a rapid rate as he came up to the car before veering of and nonchalantly wondered in to the woods.
The one thing you do not argue with is a fourteen pointer high on male hormones!
This chap, the "Black Deer of the family" was barking at anything getting a bit close to his stand under the oak tree, and I was a bit close.
Now this Buck was far more interested in chasing a couple of hinds in and out of the bracken, He looked well good with his war bonnet on.
The decorating of antlers is some believe an out and out attempt to make their antlers look larger, or more probable is the fact that after giving the foliage a good thrashing as part of their territories.
Whilst the big boys battled it out the youngsters, being left out of the Rut, made sure they got some practice by copying Dad!
The Rut is continuing and on Saturday Attingham park have some organised walks to get a bit closer to the herd of Fallow there. Starting at 17:00, best time to see some action perhaps even in the rain.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Boy what a rack!!!

I had been under the trees for some considerable time watching the little calf, as it rested in the protection of the small pile of fallen branches, can you see it? at the same time, listening to the roaring of the Stags around in the forest. At early o'clock I had crept into position in the hope of a "see your breath " day, when they started, it was Erie! the only sounds were the occasional great tit and the wind in the trees when they suddenly started roaring. Count from heard only was 5 count from seen was 1. And he just appeared from as if out of now where.
The calf stayed very still, not even an ear flickered as the stag approached. And then, as if on key, he did it,
It was loud, it was the epitome of challenge, it was brilliant. Why the wish for the cold morning? The breath would have shown really well turning a picture into a photograph of pleasure.
So pleased as I was this morning, I was not prepared for what awaited my return home. So having entered the kitchen, to create a real mess with muddy boots and dirty all the worktops!!! So I am told. I spied this little beauty nonchalantly sitting on the fence in the garden, it would have been rude not to have taken a few shots!!

Not surprising then that the feeders were a bit quite!

So a pleasing day all in all, and with the morrow promising to be slightly colder!!! I might have another stalk around the trees, let you know.

Thanks for looking

PS, not seeing many people as been so busy with articles and Dutch and Hindi courses. Catch you around.

Friday 19 September 2008

The smell of Autumn Colours

The fascination of kicking freshly gathered autumn leaves into the air, when the park keeper was not looking, was a brilliant pastime as youngsters, the colours seeming to sparkle as they tumbled in the air before forming amazing patterns on the dew covered grass, bloody hell that old groundsman could run fast for an oldun!

We knew it was safe to return when we could smell the smoke from the fire lit for the mid morning brew, the crackle and smell are so familiar it still draws me through the woods to forestry controlled burn, but no more the chance of a cup of tea from the embers, in that old burnt and stained kettle, with the old groundsman.

He is no more, but the the memories evoked by the falling leaves and wood smoke are as strong now as they ever were.
And of course the first finding of Fungi in the damp early mornings was a thrill ,as grandfather would be coming home with a basket full of all sorts of strange looking delights, along with Chestnuts and Hazelnuts, which were soon in the pan with a couple of squabs (pigeons) and added to the menu along with the freshly made blackberry pie, which had been picked that very morning, and of course fresh cream. A swig of Granfers beer when he was not looking, topped it of before flaking in front of the open log fire to burn your legs for the afternoon, as Gran screamed at the television for Jackie Pallow, the wrestler to "rip it of", what ever "it" was? try offering all that to kids now!

A real overnight success.
Stinkhorn eggs!
Pubescent Stinkhorn
Early morning emergence.
I was wondering, if children really comprehend what they are missing out on? or if they really care,,,, Yeah whateva.
ps. try Richard Mabey's Food for free its brilliant.