Monday, December 31, 2007

Counting down the hours

In just 52 hours i'll be jetting off on what will hopefully be my best foreign trip yet. I'm going to be backpacking around India and Nepal with my old college mate Joe parkes for 2 months, yes 2 months. This isn't going to be one of those namby-pamby hire a driver and guide to take you everywhere, show you everything and pick the peppercorns out of your curry for you trips that seem to be so popular these days.
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

New toy!

Having spent the last 3 years whingeing about how crap my Sigma lens is, i've finally upgraded to a better model, a Canon EF 400mm 5.6 L USM, hows that for a mouthful.
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.

Purple Sandpiper

Little Owl


Pied Wagtail


* 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

Gale force nothingness

So, Portland has still been rubbish compared to its own high standards, but i've still managed two lifers since the last update, firstly a Leach's Petrel that flew past the bill a few weeks ago, and more recently 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs in the new crop fields opposite the obs, OK, its not technically a lifer, more a sub-lifer (if such a word exists, if it doesnt, well it does now, so there!) but we're really scraping the barrel this autumn for good stuff. Still, they were interesting birds and I spent a fair bit of time watching them, and managed to hear them calling a fair bit, which was most enlightening. Not in a spirtual way mind, it wasnt like I suddenly saw the light and became all calm, and started floating or any shit like that, though the floating bit could've been quite useful cos it was a right bastard trying to get through the field, all sorts of spiky plants that were grabbing my ankles and trying to pull my trousers down, not to mention the mist nets that were strewn throughout the place.
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