Archive for the ‘BirdQuest’ Tag

Vietnam part 2: Bao Loc to Phong Nha: 10th – 23rd March 2018   2 comments

This post is the second about my tour to Vietnam. As usual I travelled with Birdquest, my 74th trip with this company. The 25 day (27 with travel to and from included) covered much of the country.

The first post just covered Cat Tien NP, this post covers the central part of Vietnam from Bao Loc to Phong Nha Khe Bang and the final post will detail our travels in the north.

 

Map courtesy of the Birdquest website. See http://www.birdquest-tours.com/Vietnam-birding-tours/2019#topofpage for details of this tour and more photos.

 

Like at Cat Tien a fair bit of our time was spent in makeshift hides. This one at Do Lui San was set up to see Blue Pitta. Unfortunately it was heard but not seen. Here local leader Quang is replenishing the mealworm bait.

 

Our primatologist friend Lucy and Birdquest leader Craig Robson seemed capable of remaining motionless for ages but after about 10 minutes my knees would be killing me and I’d have to move around a bit.

 

No luck with the Blue Pitta, but stunning views of another Orange-headed Ground Thrush, this time a male.

 

Nearby we had great views of a Collared Owlet.

 

Later that day we visited an area of native pine forest on the Da Lat plateau. Our targets were the endemic Vietnamese Greenfinch …

 

… and ‘Vietnamese’ Crossbill. Although an endemic race, this distinctive form, which seems to have a bigger bill than even Parrot Crossbill, is still lumped in Common (or Red) Crossbill. Massively disjunct from other crossbill forms and with a distinctive morphology, it surely more deserving of specific status than our Scottish Crossbill or even the recently split Cassia Crossbill of Idaho.

 

We spent three nights at the town of Da Lat which has some impressive modern architecture in its centre.

 

Again we spent time in hides in the forest of the Da Lat plateau. Here the group reconvene on the pathway after a long session of sitting still.

 

However the rewards for all that discomfort were really great. A White-tailed Robin …

 

… Large Niltava …

 

… Snowy-browed Flycatcher …

 

… and the tiny Pygmy Cupwing. Until recently called Pygmy Wren-babbler, this and three other congeners have been shown to be unrelated to other wren-babblers and so have gained this rather cute moniker.

 

But our main target was the beautiful Collared Laughingthrush.

 

Just one of 17 species of laughingthrush we saw on the tour, Collared Laughingthrush is endemic to the South Annam area of Vietnam.

 

We also visited a rather unusual ornamental park at Ta Nung Valley Resort. Here Craig uses this unusual platform to search for bird flocks.

 

Our main target was the South Annam endemic Grey-crowned Crocias.

 

Also seen in the area was Vietnamese Cutia, a split from the more widespread Himalayan Cutia …

 

… and Kloss’ Leaf Warbler. This species was formerly lumped in White-tailed Leaf Warbler but has, like so many other members of the genus Phylloscopus, been recent split. In fact the leaf warbler genus has increased from something like 50 members to 77 as a result of taxonomic investigations, making it one of the largest genus in the avian world and the family Phylloscopidae the only large family to be composed of a single genus.

 

There are many confusing species of bulbul in South-east Asia, and this, Flavescent Bulbul is one of them.

 

Away from the forest we visited this large lake …

 

… more open country birds like White-throated Kingfisher …

 

… another Flavescent Bulbul …

 

… and Grey Bushchat in the process.

 

We also saw Necklaced Barbet (formerly lumped in Golden-throated Barbet) found only in SE Laos and south Vietnam.

 

Our final location in the Da Lat area was on a hillside above the local cemetery.

 

Here in rank grassland after a bit of scrambling and bush bashing we caught up with the elusive and seldom seen Da Lat Bush Warbler. Now in the genus Locustella, I suppose it should be renamed Da Lat Grasshopper Warbler.

 

On our way north we paid a brief visit to the picturesque Lek Lake.

 

We saw a few typical asian waterbirds like Chinese Pond Heron …

 

… but when I casually mentioned to Craig that I’d seen a male Pintail (somewhere near the far shore of this photo) he didn’t believe until he’d had a look down the scope himself, as this duck, a familiar winter visitor in the UK, had not been recorded in Central Annam before!.

 

We arrived at our hotel at Mang Den rather later in the day after over ten hours of driving.

 

We visited a number of sites in the Mang Den area but by far the most memorable was near Ngoc Linh.

 

Only Lucy, Adrian, Leonardo and I joined Craig on the hike which was on narrow, steep and muddy trails.

 

It took several hours to get there but we were eventually rewarded with views of the Critically Endangered Golden-winged Laughingthrush. Only described in 1999 it is only known from this tiny area and so is in immediate danger of extinction. It has been seen by just a handful of birders and indeed was a lifer for Craig, an acknowledged expert on Vietnamese birds. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo, this one is by Nguyen Minh Tuan: see http://birdwatchingvietnam.net/group/golden-winged-laughingthrush-871

 

Another restricted range babbler, although easier to see was Spectacled Barwing which was quite common along the road.

 

Another highlight of the Mang Den area was the critically endangered Grey-shanked Douc Langur of which as few as 500 individuals may remain.

 

Our long journey north continued. I was impressed with the ornamental borders, arches and general tidiness of the Vietnamese towns.

 

Most of our accommodation was good, a few were below par but the Lang Co Beach Resort was superb. Unfortunately the sunny weather that had accompanied us since the start had gone and we found ourselves in thick fog.

 

The hotel grounds had been touted as the place to see Siberian migrants on their way north and the adjacent beach as the place to see interesting waders but it was not to be and after a couple of hours of birding we gave it up as a bad job.

 

We headed up the mountain to BAch Ma NP where our accommodation was far less salubrious but the weather was better.

 

It was nice to see this female Blue Rock Thrush perching on the crumbling accommodation building. The last time I saw this species was also on a building, in a housing estate in Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds in December 2016. Buildings seem a perfectly practical substitute for the rocky ledges where they usually feed and I see no reason why some birders dissed the Cotswolds’ record (other than the fact that they had already seen the species in the UK on Scilly and hated being gripped back).

 

There have been claims that the eastern Blue Rock Thrush races (including both red-bellied and blue bellied forms) should be treated as a separate species but this has not been followed, at least not by the IOC.

 

Other good birds in the area included the pretty Silver-eared Mesia (another babbler) …

 

… the charming Chestnut-headed Bee-eater…

 

… and male migrant Narcissus Flycatcher on route to its breeding grounds in Japan, Sakhalin or Ussuriland.

 

Barbets, non-passerines distantly related to woodpeckers, are prominent members of the South-east Asian avifauna but are more often heard than seen. Here are three species: Moustached Barbet which can be found over much of Indochina …

 

… Green-eared Barbet which like the former species is widespread, although less conspicuous …

 

… and the near endemic Necklaced Barbet which we also encountered earlier in this post.

 

The weather had been good during our stay at Bach Ma …

 

… but the next day low cloud we had seen on the coast caught up with us and it started to rain. In fact much of the next week would be plagued by low cloud and fog. It didn’t affect the birding much but certainly spoilt the views. We cut our losses at Bach Ma and headed to Phong Na Khe-Bang NP.

 

There is always plenty to see on Vietnam’s roads from motorbikes with loads three times as wide as they are to women working in paddyfields wearing traditional ‘coolie’ hats.

 

Phong Na Khe-Bang’s beautifully sculptured limestone hills are on the itinerary of most tourists to Vietnam.

 

Although it remained dry the low cloud certainly spoilt the view.

 

One of the key birds at Phong Na Khe-Bang was Sooty Babbler. No photographs were obtained so here is one by James Eaton of Birdtour Asia  https://www.birdtourasia.com/

 

Another speciality of this karst habitat of northern Indochina is Limestone Leaf Warbler, another Phylloscopus. This photo was taken by Nguyen Hao Quang http://birdwatchingvietnam.net

 

Easier to photograph was this charming Asian Emerald Cuckoo.

 

We spent a lot of time in the park walking along the road. Parts of the area had previously been deforested and the remaining vegetation was covered with an invasive creeper. However we saw some good birds ranging from a pair of distant Brown Hornbills to groups of Cook’s Swifts overhead.

 

However only the widespread Crested Serpent Eagle was photographed.

 

To many when Vietnam is mentioned their thoughts turn not to the green verdant land of today but to the civil war fought in the sixties and early seventies which resulted in major involvement of the USA and others. As we approached the former North Vietnam there were more reminders of that war. Circular ponds in the rice fields were the result of carpet bombing by the Americans …

 

… and here a shrine to a group of youth workers who took shelter in a cave during an American bombing raid and were entombed and died by the resultant rockfall.

 

I’ll conclude this post with another of SE Asia’s avian gems -a Silver-breasted Broadbill photographed at Phong Na Khe-Bang.

 

 

 

 

The final locations of Cuc Phuong, Tam Dao and Sa Pa/Fansipar will be shown in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica photos from Pete Morris   1 comment

As with summer 2016 I have been so busy with ringing and the resultant paperwork that I have little time for my blog. From late-July to now I have been visiting Durlston on most days when the weather permits and have made 22 visits so far, I have also done some ringing at our Lytchett Heath site on several occasions.

My intention was to upload a series of posts about my excellent trip to the Lesser Antilles and Trinidad. I had spent many hours sorting the photos and had cropped, edited, and labelled about 800 of the 2500 I had taken. I stored them all on an external hard drive and took it with me when we visited friends and family in early July, unfortunately I appear to have lost the hard drive! Of course I should have kept the edited photos in more than one place, but I’m afraid I didn’t. I can’t face going through them all over again but remain hopeful that the drive will eventually surface. Failing that I may go through the unedited ones and pick out some of the best for a quick summary.

However I have some great photos to hand. When Pete Morris of Birdquest, the leader of my April Costa Rica trip, sent out the trip report he included a CD of his photos and agreed that I can use them on my blog. Pete is an excellent photographer and uses top notch gear. By and large I have chosen birds that I didn’t photograph or ones where my photos were poor rather than just select the very best of Pete’s images. The pics are in alphabetical order, for chronological account of the trip see the multiple posts I uploaded from May onwards or for the full tour report and more photos see: http://www.birdquest-tours.com/pdfs/report/COSTA%20RICA%20-ULTIMATE-%20REP%2017.pdf

 

Admirable Hummingbird – fairly common on Cerro de la Muerta, a recent split from Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Banded Wren of the arid NW of Costa Rica, one of 22 species of wren on this tour. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Bare-crowned Antbird – a single male was seen at Arenal, Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Our bird of the trip – the seldom seen Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

It took some searching but after a number of unsuccessful evenings owling in the Cerro de la Muerta area we finally tracked down a Bare-shanked Screech Owl at Monteverde. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Bicoloured Antbird, seen at Carara and Braulio Carillo. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Black-and-White Owl, why did I leave my camera behind when we popped out after dinner at Arenal? Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Black-and-Yellow Phainoptilia, fairly common on Cerro de la Muerta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Black-throated Wren, it took a while to find one but it showed well when we did. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Blue-crowned Manakin, bathing in the stream at Carara NP. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Broad-billed Motmot, one of six species of motmot seen on the tour. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Boat-billed Heron. I took many photos of perched birds but never captured one in flight. Pete’s shot reinforces what a weird bird this is. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Cabanis’s Wren, one of a three way split of the old Plain Wren. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Chestnut-backed Antbird, another rainforest speciality. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Chestnut-sided Warbler a migrant from North America. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Collared Forest Falcon. Forest falcons are elusive and seldom photographed. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Chiriqui Quail-Dove, one of five skulky quail-doves seen on the tour. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Common Paraque, a very widespread nightjar with a range from South Texas to central Argentina. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Dusky Nightjar: unlike Paraque this species is restricted to the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Dusky-faced Tanager, seen at La Selva. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

I mentioned in my final post that I almost stepped on the small but deadly Fer-de-Lance as I walked back from the restaurant at La Selva. Well here it is! Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Fiery-throated Hummingbird, hummers seldom show off all their iridescent colours in a single photo. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Golden-browed Chlorophonia, another beauty seen at Cerro de la Muerta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Grey-headed Dove, a single bird was seen at first light at Cano Negro in the far north of Costa Rica. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Not much help in this photo. but the Large-footed Finch really does have large feet (can’t comment on any other part of its anatomy though) Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Lesser Violetear, formerly known as Green Violetear until it was split into two species. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture: similar to Turkey Vulture but with more contrasting wings, white shaft streaks, paler underwing and a more pronounced dihedral in flight, this bird flies low over open marshes. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Montezuma’s Oropendola, quite impressive in flight. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Northern Barred Woodcreeper. Of the dozen woodcreepers seen on the tour this has to be one of the most attractive. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Northern Royal Flycatcher, although I have seen the various ‘royal flycatchers’ on several occasions I have still to see one raise its weird laterally compressed crest.  Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Ocellated Antbird, one of the best of those skulking, understory hugging ant-thingys. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Olive-backed Euphonia, makes a change from the usual black and yellow colour scheme of euphonia. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, one of five Nightingale Thrushes seen on the tour, species in the same genus as the more familiar Swainson’s, Hermit, Grey-cheeked etc Thrush of  the Nearctic- Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Orange-billed Sparrow, another stunner – Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Orange-collared Manakin, there are few bird families that give as much pleasure as the manakins. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Pacific Screech-owl, seen at a day roost at Hacienda Solidar. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Red-throated Ant-Tanager, not a member of the Thamnophilidae like other ant-thingys, this one is actually a real tanager.  Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Rufous Mourner, a bird whose taxonomic affinities have moved around a bit through the years, once a cotinga, its now a tyrant flycatcher. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Semi-plumbeous Hawk, seen at La Selva as we walked to dinner. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Short-billed Pigeon, quite attractive when seen close up. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Short-tailed Hawk, a widespread species but always a pleasure to see. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Snowcap, one of the best birds of the trip. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Adult Spectacled Owl roosting at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Spotted Antbird, another forest speciality.  Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

We all saw this wonderful Spotted Wood-quail with its chicks but only Pete got any photos in the very poor light conditions. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Streak-breasted Treehunter on Cerro de la Muerta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

This Streak-breasted Antpitta eventually gave good views. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Owling at Esquinas produced this Striped Owl. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

A Sunbittern making an aggressive display to two Black Phoebes intruding on its territory. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, who says all woodcreepers look the same. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

A confiding Thicket Antpitta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Uniform Crake: once again I left my camera behind because the light was bad and ‘crakes never show well anyway’. Well the light improved and this crake hadn’t read the instruction manual. Fortunately Pete was on hand with his mega-lens.- Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Vermiculated Screech-owl at La Selva. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

White-collared Manakin, also at La Selva. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Wood Thrush, a beautiful migrant from North America. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Although it’s not in alphabetic order I can think of no better photo to conclude this selection than Pete’s shot of an Osprey with a fish flying into the sunset. Shame there are no photos of the Zeledonia as that would be an even better (and alphabetically more correct) finale. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

 

 

Posted August 31, 2017 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Argentina part 1- the Buenos Aires area – November 2014.   Leave a comment



I visited Argentina on a four week long BirdQuest trip in 1997, however the following year they added extra areas and divided the tour into two, one to the north and the other to the central and southern regions. Thus I would have to go back and do both tours if I was to get to see the majority of the birds of this fascinating and scenic country. One bird I particularly wanted to see was the beautiful, yet rare Hooded Grebe, in 1997 we visited the lake where it was first described in 1974 but it was only an occasional visitor to this lake and we dipped. Subsequent tours drove to the lakes on the remote plateau in southern Patagonia with considerable success but a recent article by the Neotropical Bird Club indicated that the species was now facing many problems and was heading for extinction. If I wanted to see it I need to go now! The account of the search for the Hooded Grebe will be posted later.

This post covers a pre-tour day in the capital plus a day with the group in the same area five days later.

IMG_1289 Buenos Aires

The international airport lies someway from the centre but at the end of the tour we returned from Patagonia to the domestic airport which is situated on the shore of the huge Rio de La Plata, close to the downtown high rise apartments.

IMG_1291 Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a very modern and prosperous city, however as can be seen from this aerial shot more basic accommodation exists sandwiched between the railway line and various freeways.

IMG_1287 Costenera Sur

Flying into the domestic terminal you get a very good view of the main birding site in Buenos Aires, Costanera Sur. Popular with locals as a place to relax, jog or picnic it is an outstanding nature reserve, but in recent years the open water and muddy pools have been colonised by vegetation and now the only place to watch the once abundant wildfowl is the narrow strip of water between the park entrance and the high rise blocks.

IMG_1150 Costanera Sur

The tour started in the city of Cordoba, but I decided rather than continue on to Cordoba from Buenos Aires to stay overnight and bird Costanera Sur in the afternoon. Having met up with my room mate Terry at the airport we dropped our gear off at the hotel and got a taxi into the downtown area where we first walked along the promenade that runs parallel to the park.

IMG_1987 Coscoroba Swan

The first birds we saw were a family party of Coscoroba Swans ….

IMG_1980 Ringed Teal

…. but soon we found something much rarer, a pair of Ringed Teal, a scarce duck that I have managed to miss on all my previous visits to South America and which was the last waterfowl for my Neotropical list.

IMG_1992 Costanera Sur

It was very hot out on the promenade and we were glad to enter the park and get into the shade.

IMG_2003 Costanera Sur

On previous visits to Costenera Sur I have seen such goodies as South American Painted-snipe and Spotted Rail but now with most of the open water closed over pickings were thin ….

IMG_2001 Spectacled Tyrant

… that said we saw some marsh birds like the strange Spectacled Tyrant …

IMG_1989 Great Kiskadee

… as well as commoner species like the widespread Great Kiskadee ….

IMG_1997 Green-barred Woodpecker

…. Green-barred Woodpecker ….

IMG_2005 Picazuro Pigeon

…. the common Picazuro Pigeon ….

IMG_2009 Monk Parakeet

…. and the vociferous Monk Parakeet.

IMG_2004 Brazillian Cavy

The once common Coypu aren’t so easy to see now that most pen water has gone but we saw a few endearing Brazilian Cavies (or Guinea Pigs) on the paths.

IMG_2288 Otamendi

The first four days of the actual tour were spent in the Cordoba region (see next post) but on day five we were back in the Buenos Aires area and paid an early morning visit to Otemendi, a reserve to the north-west of the city.

IMG_2276 White-faced Ibis

Large flocks of White-faced Ibis flew overhead ….

IMG_2283 Long-winged Harrier

…. and a beautiful Long-winged Harrier (above) joined the many Snail Kites in the air above us

IMG_2263 Dark-billed Cuckoo

Trees bordering the marsh held Dark-billed Cuckoos ….

IMG_2297 Curve-billed Reedhaunter

…. whilst the reeds held both Curve-billed (above) and Straight-billed Reedhaunters.

IMG_2302 9th July Av

We returned to our hotel on the famous 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires during the heat of the day. Named after the date of independence in 1816, this enormous avenue is 14 lanes wide.

IMG_1160 Eva Peron

The image of Eva Peron stares down on the traffic jams.

IMG_1158 Buenos Aires

Later in the day we drove through the city to Costanera Sur ….

IMG_2303 Costanera Sur

…. but the day was a Bank Holiday and the place was packed with many cyclists, noisy kids and loud music. Hardly surprisingly we hardly saw any wildfowl and the much envied Ringed Teal had gone. Terry and I were so glad we made the effort to get here under our own steam before the tour started.

 1st – 21st August 2014: catching up with the non-birdy stuff   Leave a comment

 

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We have decided to splash out on a couple of items for the house including having solar panels installed.

 

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With an east/west facing roof and some very tall trees in our neighbour’s garden our house isn’t ideal for solar, but we decided to go ahead anyway. Modern panels are more efficient than their predecessors in capturing indirect sunlight but we never even reach 50% of what the panels are capable of generating in ideal conditions.

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Once the workmen had gone I could resist climbing the scaffolding to get this view of our garden.

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Some months ago I posted a picture  of the old Peugeot when it had reached 111111 miles and asked the question of whether it was time for a new car.  Now its done a few more miles and the answer to the new car question is …. yes!



 

P8200651 new car copy

For the first time in my life I have bought a brand new car, a Nissan Qashqai Tekna and I am very pleased indeed. It is lovely to drive and is full of extras such as parking cameras, auto dipping headlights and does up to 75mpg although I’ve only averaged 55 so far.

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The car got its first outing when we went up to Derby to see my brother and family and then on to the BirdFair in Rutland. It was hard to use features like cruise control as traffic was awful and it was stop/start all way. The BirdFair, known as the ‘birders Glastonbury’ was excellent as always and attracted about 22,000 visitors over the three days and raised about a quarter of a million pounds for Birdlife International’s conservation program. I spent a lot of time catching up with old friends and acquaintances as well as attending a few lectures and quizzes.

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We attended a couple of quizzes run along the lines of Mastermind. One, the Bird Brain of Britain chaired by Bill Oddie was hilarious, mainly on account of Bill’s constant ad libbing with the questions and answers. We also went to a talk by Mark Beaman, Birdquest’s managing director, celebrating how the company has shown it’s clients over 10,000 bird species, some 95% of the world total. Mark’s talk was very interesting and highlighted a particularly difficult event in Arctic Siberia some 17 years ago.

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We normally attend for just one day but this time we stayed overnight so we could go to the evening talk entitled ‘listening for life’ by my friends in the Sound Approach. Killian Mullarney (L) and Mark Constantine (R) gave an account of how the Sound Approach was formed and what it has achieved. Mark surprised many taking the microphone into the audience and to get impromptu sound bites from unsuspecting friends and colleagues.

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We had planned to meet up with our American friend Patty Scott at the BirdFair and then bring Patty back to Poole with us for a couple of days of birding and ringing. Patty had already spent several weeks in the UK visiting friends and was staying with Rosemary Foster, an old friend from previous Birdquest trips, at her place near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Rosemary kindly invited us to stay there as well, so we spent a night at her lovely 16th century farmhouse.

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This was the view from our bedroom.

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Patty is a ringer (or bander as they say in the States) and was keen to come to Dorset to see some UK species in the hand. We spent two very pleasant mornings at Durlston (more in the next post). On one day we visited Corfe Castle on our way back.

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The original pre-Norman castle was built of wood and became infamous when an English King, Edward the Martyr was murdered there in 978AD. The stone fortifications seen today were built by William the Conqueror.

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The castle was sold by Elizabeth I in 1572 to her Lord Chancellor, it was then sold on to the Bankes family in 1635 who owned it until l982 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust.

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The castle was held by the Royalists during the English civil war and was destroyed by Parliamentarians in 1645. Sappers lay gunpowder under the enormous keep, the resultant explosion and caused the left hand side to subside by several metres.

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Today the castle is a major tourist attractions, its ruins dominate the skyline on the way into or out of Purbeck. Various medieval crafts are being demonstrated  in the marques below.

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For once I could look down on the Swanage to Corfe steam railway . One day I’ll get round to travelling on it.

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As well as visiting Durlston and Corfe Castle, Patty and I also went over to Portland Bird Observatory as another friend, Birdquest leader Pete Morris and his family we staying there for the week. Pete and his two boys Jack and Josh were off hunting bugs, Patty is chatting to his wife Nina. On the next day Pete, Nina and the boys came over to Durlston to see us ring some birds.

Tynham School

As well as Portland and Corfe Castle we took Patty to Tyneham, the village that was evacuated during the war so troops could prepare for D-Day. The village has remained deserted ever since. This is the school room restored to look just like it did in the 40’s.

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BirdFair season always sees friends from the Sound Approach or the old Dorset birding scene visit Poole, either just before or after the Fair. We have had three pub get togethers in the last three weeks, the first to meet up with former Dorset birder James Lidster who now lives in Holland, the second to meet Killian Mullarney, Rene Pop and Arnoud van den Berg of the Sound Approach and the third to catch up with another Sound Approach member, Magnus Robb. Patty also came along for the third get together and was able to participate in a discussion of the appropriate English name for a new species of owl(you will have to wait for the publication of ‘Undiscovered Owls’ to find out which one!) In the picture above Killian talks to Nick Hopper whilst Margaret is chatting to Mo Constantine and Cecilia Bosman off picture.