Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to 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!


Thursday 30 January 2014

Taking time to watch (it's a bit of a saga)

It's another grey day (Wednesday 29th Jan); pissing down with rain and I'm bored! So with these conditions set to prevail for the foreseeable future my mind goes off at tangents. I'm fed up with the un-answered perch problems, although I do hope to return for another session over the weekend. So what am I thinking?
Well here goes! I'm not sure how this will turn out? I spend a great deal of my time looking at the birdlife that exists around my Newland's Farm patch, even more attention is paid to those visitors to my garden feeding station, but what am I actually doing? The phrase goes "familiarity breeds contempt" and that it exactly where my local birding is at. Yes; I am looking, but what am I seeing? It's a Blue Tit, a Dunnock, a Robin, etc, etc.... Every now and again something will happen, a Robin attempting to feed from the sunflower dispenser, yet apart from those fleeting moments, I'm on auto pilot - simply going through the motions. This is equally applicable when I visit Stodmarsh NNR, for instance. A Marsh Harrier drifting over the adjacent reed bed is given a cursory glance, quickly id'd and then ignored. Bearded Tits "pinging" their way through the reed stems - again a simple scan through the bins, possibly a couple of lines in the note book. A Bittern might cause a momentary stir, any sighting is always a pleasure, but it quickly passes. The fact that I've made the effort to travel to such a wondrous place is indicative that I want to engage with the natural world, but what I do when I get there suggests that I've taken my eye off the ball.
The bird that set a president - the dark morph Eleonora's Falcon that
I found near Agios Gordios, Corfu - Sept 2004
It was back in 2004, when Bev and I first visited Corfu that I realized that there was a big difference between looking and watching. The bird that did it was a "dark phase" Eleonora's Falcon which, at that time, was a "lifer". Armed with my very primitive digi-scoping gear, my initial thoughts were to record the bird however, as time passed, I realised that this was an ideal opportunity to spend time learning the species. Getting familiar with the nuances of the behavior and mannerisms of flight patterns - something which I've been able to continue with further sessions on Mallorca, Menorca and Greece. I've seen many Eleonora's which might, initially, get mistaken for a Hobby, yet I've never seen a Hobby, in the UK, that came close to the grace and elegance of an Eleonora's!

Typical views of an Olive Tree Warbler
Four hours on a plane means that you can travel a long way; certainly far enough to be in habitat alien to that of the UK. Bev and I have made many such journeys, Greece and Turkey proving to be excellent destinations for our holiday requirements. The birds that are to be seen, in the eastern Mediterranean, are familiar enough to be within my comfort zone, plus those bonus species which are, at best, very rare visitors to the UK. It is the chance to spend time, looking and learning, these species which provides the "value" that these opportunities present. Olive Tree Warbler is a species which I am particularly fond - I discovered a breeding population within the Olive groves near Pefkohorri, NE Greece, and was able to spend a considerable amount of time with these birds over the course of two years (two fortnights - over three years!) Only by spending extended time with these birds was I able to build a picture of their habits, within a very small area, and discover stuff that the fieldguides don't have space to cover.

Males are happy to sing from exposed positions, although
they are usually in shadow.
I have become very fond of these "Hippolais" monsters - real attitude/personality. Males are capable of a magnificent repertoire of Great Reed Warbler-like utterings - yet with so much more resonance and variety.
They have a wonderful song flight, legs dangling, as they move around their territories - again nothing about this in Collins!

Males were quite happy to perch in the exposed branches of the burned pine trees, although they
preferred areas which were in shade. This might have been a direct consequence of the
devastating forest fires that had occurred a couple of years prior to our visit?

That "wing panel" wasn't as obvious as I expected
Obviously, holiday birding still requires me to look, bird id is about attention to detail and, as such, I have to ensure that my "gut feeling" has been backed up by fact. I don't go on foreign holidays in order to return with massive lists of birds that I've managed to "tick and run". I want to know that I've done everything, I possibly can, to ensure that I've learnt a new bird. If I am fortunate enough to encounter a "lifer" then I want to get an insight into what I'm looking at and what makes it different from those species which I'm familiar.
Male Rock Sparrow - Pefkohorri, NE Greece.
A "lifer" in 2010 - what a superb little bird. Full of character and another holiday challenge.

Adult Tawny Pipit - Menorca
Not a "lifer" but I still enjoyed getting to grips with a species that I'd only
ever seen in the UK twice previously.
It was directly responsible for my discovery of an adult, May 2011, in Kent
Always learning! - haven't I heard that somewhere before?
Of course, there are many holiday encounters which are with birds that I'm very familiar, that is only to be expected when I've been fortunate enough to have traveled widely around the Mediterranean, and beyond, and survived the lunacy of a mis-spent youth! 58 years means that an aweful lot of Stella Artois has passed under this bridge! Looking at the natural world is a fantastic way to waste a few minutes - watching it is the best way to waste a life time?
Male Masked Shrike - Pefkohorri, NE Greece.
ID was never an issue - the time spent in the company of a territorial pair was extremely educational.

A Hoopoe - enjoy!

No good simply watching this bird - I had to look!
Eight pale fringed primaries, pale legs!
A Marsh Warbler - no shit! It was singing its' head off!
But not in a habitat that I'd have associated the species with. All good learning.

So there you have it! I'm not sure that I've managed to convey all the thoughts that were going through my head when I started this post, 24 hours ago! I will finish with one last observation, and one that might be as contentious as my views on the "Ramsgate Warbler". Has anyone else noted the the tail shape (a slight bulge) of Pallid Swift when flying with their tail fork closed?

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