Neepsend, Sheffield, 21st Dec. 2012
Just a few from brief visit today. Enjoyed the first winter and the adult Caspian Gulls with Andy Deighton amoung plenty of big gulls. I am no technical photographer but like to get some kind of image of birds I’ve seen. Below illustrates different benefits of taken photos with a DSLR camera (smaller images giving perspective and flight shot) and digiscoping (close up of adult and first winter). All photos taken today (21.12.12)
1cy Herring gull (left) with 1cy Caspian Gull (right). And we used to think they were all the same…(some still do!)
Adult Caspian Gull with adult argentatus Herring Gull behind.
above 3. 1cy Caspian Gull in various poses and taken with different photographic methods
2012 has been a busy year; the expedition and research trail has led me to four continents, some wonderful countries, natural history and adventures. Finding a new first national record of dragonfly for Honduras, watching the sea literally boil with five different species of cetaceans off South Africa’s Western Cape and lying in a hammock taking in the pre-dawn ‘symphony of Gibbons’ in Central Kalimantan are certainly stand-out moments amongst some stunning birding and ornithology.
I have thought long and hard about my bird or birding moment of the year; Martial Eagle, Sun Bittern and 4 range expansions in as many days in Indonesia all featured amongst others, but there is one that I simply cannot shake- a moment I am sure will remain with me for a long time.
Picture yourself in a Central American cloud forest at dawn; a soft yapping is accompanied by the melodic jangle of Slate-coloured Solitaires. Through a clearing in the trees you catch an emerald green-gold flash, a subtle glimpse of magic a blink would miss. A few steps further and you see it, sitting proudly in the open, the bird that emblemises Mesoamerica more than any other. The brightest star of the forest, perfect in every way.
This moment evaporated all my tiredness away, absorbing and transporting me to that timeless, sheer sense of wonder at the natural world that has been present throughout my life.
It reminded me of a picture in one of my favourite books as a child, this connection, over and above the sighting itself, was particularly poignant- an insight into a species that was restricted to a page for me for so many years, but now in real life.
I felt immensely privileged to see ‘the god of the air’ in realtime and its an easy choice for my bird of 2012- Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno.
Mine would be the anticipation of not knowing whether, on our summer trip to Azerbaijan, we would be allowed access to the main landfill site in Baku. We wanted to study the Caspian Gulls that we assumed must feed there. Not only were we allowed on to the dump, but we were allowed to walk freely amongst the rubbish and the gulls. The specific moment i will remember was at the end of a long hot first day on the dump. I turned to Visa (Rauste) and asked how many pictures he had taken in the session. ‘Six thousand’ came the reply.
And ‘every single one is of a Caspian Gull’, I thought to myself as Visa was replying: I knew at that moment that we had achieved our goal.
Up to 4 different Caspian Gulls (2 adults, a 2nd winter and now a 1st winter) are in the Sheffield area. They are often loafing on a cleared industrial site only 15 minutes walk (4 minutes drive) from my house. So it’s quite a wee Christmas cachinnans fest. Here are 3 of them:
1st winter Caspian Gull (in the middle), Neepsend, Sheffield, 17th December 2012
and showing a nice white underwing:
1st winter Caspian Gull, Neepsend, Sheffield, 17th December 2012
Adult Caspian Gull, Neepsend, Sheffield, 17th December 2012 (above 2 photos by Andy Deighton). How different same bird can appear in different views.
Video of same bird:
Adult Caspian Gull (pause video to see details when wing spreads, far side), Neepsend, Sheffield, 17th December 2012
2nd winter Caspian Gull, Neepsend, Sheffield, 15th December 2012
and one I saw the other day that smelt a bit like 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull michahellis)- at least enough to make me look carefully for more details. Unfortunately it was at the back of the flock and stayed sat down, so no other details seen (e.g. wing and tail). I got few seconds of video and left it.
What do you think?
Wow, what an amazing year. Before I talk about my birding highlight of 2012 I have to say how fantastic it has been to meet such great people over the past twelve months. I have found peoples friendship and amazing support very valuable; continuing my faith in human nature! Rather than list names (you guys know who you are); I would like to give you all a HUGE THANKS and wish you a fantastic holiday period and great 2013.
……..now, back to the birds!
So many birds to choose from this year. Lots of contenders in both Norway & Israel (not so many from the UK…….though Thayer’s Gull……..no promised I wouldn’t pick a gull)! To pick a single bird highlight is very tricky. The spectacle of seeing over 30,000 Common Cranes at close quarters ranks very high as does seeing Syrian Serin on Mount Hermon and that family gang of Arabian Babblers at Nizzana Fishponds (thanks Yoav). However this year my bird highlight comes from Arctic Norway! Perhaps surprisingly it’s not the experience of seeing a Hawk Owl lured to within a few feet of us by a reindeer (though this came close to making the top of the list)! It was the excitement of seeing my first ever Steller’s Eider in the Varanger Fjord! I dreamt of seeing this species when I was a child. I never really thought I would ever see one, so this bird had near mythical status in my imagination. Watching that small group from my hotel window in Vardø under the afternoon sun was simply magical.
Very best wishes
Martin and BF Folks,
Given all the great HIGHlights that have been summarized, I probably don’t have one that includes a photo that would do justice. So, instead, to help BALANCE out all the great stories, here’s a really terrible one! A true lifetime LOWlight. I stayed my annual 5 to 6 weeks this past fall again at the Eskimo village of Gambell, Alaska, in the northern Bering Sea, searching out both Asian and North American mainland strays (2012 was a relatively slow year, with the best being Willow and Dusky Warblers and Pechora Pipit from Asia, and Cape May and Mourning Warblers from North America). Only one birder remained after I departed on 1 October, and THE next day he finds and photographs North America’s second-ever (and first since the 1980s) Siberian Blue Robin. While he was doing that, I was arriving back home in San Diego and quickly driving 8 hours back north to near Santa Cruz, California, to be the FIRST person to MISS California’s first, and the Lower 48 State’s second-ever, Common Cuckoo–which had been present for the previous 5 days. So, I departed one day too soon and arrived one day too late! I think I might take up stamp collecting again…
Gripping Bird Number One below:
Siberian Blue Robin at Gambell, Alaska, taken on 2nd October 2012 by David Pavlik