Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Birdfair 2016

Or, continuing the title of my previous post, what all birders do.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Birdfair once again. I worked most of the time in the Israeli stand, mainly promoting Champions of the Flyway.

Before the storm began

Friday was pretty hectic

We launched Champions of the Flyway 2017 - we will work together with Doğa Derneği, Birdlife Turkey, to prevent illegal killing there. It was an honour to meet their president Dicle Kilic - what an impressive woman. Looking forward to work with her in the future.
It was also great to see how the global reach of COTF extends from year to year. This year, COTF2016 Knights of the Flyway decided to donate a pair of Swarovski SLC to Aves Argentinas - here Hernan Casañas recieves the bins from Swarovski's Dale Forbes and Bill Thompson III. Hopefully, this will help them in their efforts to save Hooded Grebe from extinction.

It felt almost like I was back in Israel - great to spend time with my friends and colleagues who came over from Israel - Dan, Jonathan, Meidad and Amir.

We had wifi!

Thanks to my son Uri for the snap

I participated in two major events this Birdfair. On Friday night I spoke in the main RSPB events - Frontiers of Migration, in tribute to Martin Garner. I joined Paul French and Keith Clarkson who were both brilliant. Adam Rowlands hosted the event - he did a great job.

On Saturday I represented OSME in Bird Brain of Britain. It was great fun and I shared 1st place with Ashley Banwell, but all contestants did a great job. I was happy to learn that my prize went to support a youth camp on bird migration in Azerbaijan.

As always, Birdfair is an amazing place to meet old and new friends. It is like a neverending conversation, lots of laughs and good fun. One of my personal highlights was when I met the legendary D.I.M. Wallace, together with my good friend Mark Pearson from Filey - we talked about Basalt Wheatears. Ian actually read the article I wrote for Birdwatch some months ago.

I had little time to walk around but as always I was captivated by the mural created by some of the world's finest wildlife artists:

I think my family had a good time too

Till next year, good night.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What proper birders do

This morning I wanted to go birding. I Needed a change from scoping distant shorebirds at Breydon, so I decided to scope distant seabirds instead. The forecast said NW winds, but eventually the wind was more westerly. Anyway, bad conditions won't stop me. At 06:00 I was at Cley beach hide, and the first bird I saw through my scope was an Arctic Skua at mid range - cool. It was followed shortly by another four skuas - 1 dark Pomarine and another three Arctics, at mid-long range.

Atmospheric shot of an Arctic Skua (couldn't get the pom)

These were promising first two minutes. I was there until 08:30. It wasn't that busy all the time but there was enough stuff moving through to entertain me and some of Norfolk's finest birders who happened to share the shelter with me. A steady trickle of Common Scoters and other ducks, some more skuas and shorebirds headed west. We had another skua that might have been a / the pom again, but too distant for positive ID. There were many hundreds of terns feeding offshore - Sandwich and Common.

Common Scoters

Apparently someone had a Sooty Shearwater after I had left. Oh well.
My highlights 06:00 - 08:30:

Pomarine Skua 1
Arctic Skua 6-7
Skua sp. 5-6
Common Scoter 50
Fulmar 1
Gannet 20
Knot 15
Grey Plover 5
Sanderling 1

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lazy yank

This morning I had an airport drop-off duty, so took advantage of minimal brownie point usage and headed southeast towards Oare Marshes Nature Reserve in Kent. Since I moved to the UK two years ago, the returning Bonaparte's Gull was on my radar, but until today I hadn't the chance or excuse to go for it. I timed it right today and arrived there at high tide - what a lovely reserve! Packed with birds. The gulls were roosting close to the road and I found the petite gull quickly. I was very happy to see it - nice WP tick for me, though I saw many only a couple of months ago in Canada. These were my initial views:

The problem was that this lazy gull was fast asleep, and did nothing at all. All the other gulls and shorebirds were preening and feeding, but not my gull. Too much junk food I guess. Then it started raining, and then the rain became torrential, and I was standing there like a wet idiot, waiting for the bloody thing to show its bill. After about an hour or so it finally woke up, started preening and eventually wing-stretched. Sadly a bloody Black-tailed Godwit got in the way:

Then a Peregrine flew by and flushed everything. The gulls landed on the water a bit further away:

But eventually bonny swam closer and resumed preening, scratching and wing-stretching on a small island. It is moulting (or molting?) very quickly into winter plumage - two weeks ago it had a complete black hood. Also it wing moult advanced quite a bit.

Note the size difference compared to a Black-headed Gull:

 A couple more images I took using my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone through Swarovski ATX95:

Wet gull

Despite the rain I really enjoyed the reserve. I was especially impressed by numbers of Black-tailed Godwits - around 600. This is a section of the main flock:

And another phonescoped image:

The locals were as excited by this adult Curlew Sandpiper as by the gull - it was showing very well:

Other highlights were Wood and Green Sands, Greenshank, and about 40 Golden Plovers. Nice to see shorebirds up close and personal, unlike Breydon...

Very wet scope

I had obscene thoughts to twitch the purple chicken on the way back home, that almost materialised. But a car crash at Dartford Tunnels changed my plans and I only wanted to get back home.