Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Friday, 28 March 2014

A patch for a fortnight - how I make the most of our holidays


"One Tree Hill" - the central point of my first visit to Pefkohori (NE Greece)
This mix of rough pasture, scrub and olive groves provided a superb challenge and was
a direct result of the catastrophic forest fires that had occurred a few years previously.
Holidays are a precious commodity - use them wisely! Ever since Bev and I got together, holidays have been an important part of our annual cycle, we attempt to spend a fortnight in the sunshine, somewhere? In the fourteen years, we have traveled to Perpignan (Southern France), The Canary Islands, Menorca & Mallorca, Corfu, Halkadiki (Greece) and Turkey. No great shakes yet, each destination, has provided superb learning opportunities as I've advanced the boundaries of my natural history knowledge. During this same time Bev has pushed "UV abuse" to the limits of human endurance! You see we have very different criteria when it comes to holidays; Bev needs her sunshine, I require somewhere to wander around looking at whatever I can discover. Before Google Earth this could be a bit of a "hit and miss" affair , but not any longer. With the able assistance of computer wizardry we are able to take a virtual tour before we commit to parting with our hard earned dollars.

Have we made a good choice this time?
I love the thrill of flying and the expectancy of discovering new things in new places.
So what is it that I am looking for? Once Bev has decided what country (part of the Mediterranean!) she fancies we look for suitable resorts, hotels, apartments, etc, etc... with good "Trip Adviser" reports to support them. Only once that this has been completed do I then look at Google Earth for the geography of the areas surrounding the short-listed resorts (a mix of coastal plain, woodland and agriculture - hills are nice, but not vital) and together we make our final choice. It is essential that Bev is going to be happy (and safe) whilst I am off doing my thing. A nice pool, sunshine morning til night and a Kindle, fully loaded with books by authors many and various - Bev's well sorted and it's now up to me. Menorca and Mallorca apart, I have never seen another birder on any of my travels. The main reason for this is that we don't visit areas with known track records; our destinations are very unfashionable, in a birding sense and, therefore, of relatively unknown potential. The beauty of this type of holiday birding is that what I don't find I can't miss, purely because I didn't know that it was there - no getting "gripped off" by binocular wielding guys with that gleeful, gloating expression "you should have been here twenty minutes ago"

There can be very few holiday makers who rejoice at the sight of a sewage farm!
This site was one of the most productive, and exciting, places I've discovered on any of my sojourns.
I will usually spend the mornings wandering around the area, returning to our base to spend the afternoon with Bev before going out for an evening meal - all very predictable yet, it suits us! The first couple of mornings are spent exploring the area, as opposed to full on birding, as I seek out the varied habitats and check the potential of the site. My limits are self imposed, I explore whatever habitat that can be found, by walking within the time I have available, maximum of six hours. Just to illustrate how I work - the discovery of a sewage farm is akin to winning the lottery - especially when it has open water and easy access, just as the one I found in Halkadiki. It proved to be a superb venue for birds and other wildlife and I have been well rewarded for the time spent there. So good, in fact, that we returned to the same apartments the following year - second time around the "patch" was already established and I was able to spend the entire fortnight flat out - enjoying the encounters and my discoveries to the full.

African Tiger - Menorca 2007

Monarch - Gran Canaria (Jan 2004)
I would think that the greatest difference between my approach to these holiday breaks and that of the vast majority of birders is that I'm not interested in returning home with a huge list of sightings. My own enjoyment is derived from the discovery of new (lifers) and scarce (on a UK scale) species/races and spending as much time as I can getting to grips with their appearance, habits and behavior. Of course it's not for everyone - it is just my personal preference.

Vagrant Hedgehog - Erinaceus algirus
A photo of a memorable, yet unexpected, encounter whilst I was wandering the Greek hillsides

Owl Fly - simply stunning. I'd seen nothing like it and was completely "blown away"
Greece and Turkey have provided me with immeasurable amounts of pleasure as I've whiled away the hours simply watching dragonflies skimming across open water, gazed at spiraling flocks of Honey Buzzards, sat mesmerized by the frantic activity and wondrous sound of a colony of Bee-eaters - it goes on. I don't, for one minute, think that this is the only way to make the most of holiday encounters with unfamiliar species, but is certainly one way and available to anyone - should they choose. It doesn't require a guide, or exotic destinations, just a desire to go look for yourself. As the Meerkat says - "Simples!"

Black - winged Stilt - Menorca 2007

Eleonora's Falcon - Menorca June 2007

Hoopoe - Gran Canaria (Jan 2004)

Male Rock Sparrow - Pefkohori 2010

Yellow Wagtail - (M.supercillaris) Greece 2010
It's not all about wildlife - Sunrise over Sithonia; Mount Atos on the horizon.




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