Thursday, 19 January 2012

Looking ahead to 2012


I hope it is not too late to wish you all a Happy New Year from the Kelsey family (here pictured in the square in Trujillo last summer, with Patrick proudly carrying his replica of the World Cup after an end of term celebration)! We saw the New Year in having fulfilled a long held promise to make a return visit to our old home in India, celebrating with close friends. We then spent a wonderfully relaxing and refreshing few days near the town of Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas, at the house of our dear friends Alpana and Bikram Grewal. The beautiful garden that they have created runs down to a mountain river. There Patrick and I spent every afternoon, watching Common, White-throated and Crested Kingfishers, Brown Dippers and other riverine species. Patrick's goal was to get photographs of as many birds as possible and in particular of kingfishers, and he spent hours, literally, patiently waiting to catch the moment when a kingfisher hovered or dived. Whilst waiting on one occasional, we found a Spotted Forktail foraging at the water's edge and Patrick with new practiced field skills managed to approach it closely to take this excellent photo, which would make anyone proud....and it certainly made me very proud of him.



Bird photography is becoming more and more popular of course as the quality of digital equipment increases. A growing proportion of the people staying with us in Extremadura are interested in photography, at all levels. This ranges from what may be considered opportunistic photography as a complementary activity to the prime objective of watching birds, to those who are coming with a more single-minded mission to obtain photos of a select range of species. For the latter, there are starting to be available here specialist services from people who have permanent hides set up for species like bustards and vultures. I am always happy to give advice for those interested in contracting such services - local regulations are strict, so it is important to make sure that the people offering such facilities have obtained the necessary licences and permits, as well as being careful to avoid disturbance to the birds. I will post a blog next month to give more information on what clients can expect.

We had only just returned from India when I headed off for a short piece of work in Angola (from where I am posting this blog). As I left, the winter landscape in Extremadura was looking worrying dry - we had gone a month without rain to speak of. The weather was gloriously sunny with cloudless skies throughout the Christmas period, but such pleasures come with a price later on. At least I could enjoy during my brief sojourn at home, a walk around the hill. This I aim to do at the very least two times in the heart of winter, counting every bird with the results being sent in to the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO) for their long-term monitoring of bird populations. Two walks combined this year, a total of four hours beside the olive groves, holm oaks and pasture yielded 1526 individual birds of 43 species with Blackcaps once again the most abundant species (241 individuals counted), followed by Chaffinch with 196. Another typical winter visitor for us here, the European Robin was present with no fewer than 72 birds counted. Year by year these counts, combined across the country, will start to show trends, if any, in the populations of winter birds.

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