Friday, 2 October 2009

Wildlife People Day

Today's post is probably a little more about personalities than birds, there were a few people about, but fewer birds. While Meadow Pipits still seemed to be moving in good numbers, alba Wagtails were nowhere near as plentiful as yesterday. Barleycrates only produced single Whinchat and Grey Wagtail and the west cliff just single Wheatear, Merlin and Peregrine, with 2 Ravens putting on quite an aerial performance. Further down the island a few Stonechat were in evidence (with one caught in the Obs garden coinciding with my arrival there) 3 Yellow Wagtail flew over calling, a scattering of Chiffchaff, a Pheasant calling from the privet hedge area and all 6 Grey Partridge being far more confiding. At the Obs I picked up on 10 Common Scoter flying east but apart from a few Mediterranean Gulls and a couple of Auk Sp that was it.

The first person I meet today was Geoffrey Senior, who's beautiful illustrations can be found in Barry Goater's excellent volume British Pyralid Moths. Barry and I have 'birded' together on a couple of occasions, and his Field Guide helped somewhat in my clumsy efforts to identify micro-moths during a 12 year trapping period. It was interesting to meet the other half as it were.

Next I bumped into Max Hug Williams, someone else I had never met before, these days Cameraman for the BBC. Recently returned from Africa where he had been undertaking some 'freelance' mammal shoots, he was today taking various footage for next weeks 'live' showing of Autumn Watch. Coincidentally, I was introduced to 3 of his team last evening, while looking for the Ruddy Shelduck at Radipole.

Earlier, I had put a couple of fellow photographers (in my case I use the term loosely) onto the Grey Partridges, for which they were very grateful. One I seemed to recognise and later it dawned on me that it was Charlie Moores, probably best known locally for his heavy involvement in the production of the Digital Video 'The Natural History of the Isle of Portland.' Responsible for Photography, Editing and Narration this work should be a 'must have' for anyone remotely interested in the magical nature of this special island, especially the novice. Ably advised by Martin Cade, Warden of the Bird Observatory and local artist Joyce Bee, the Text, Research plus some photography was in he main handled by the late, and much missed, Peter Mowday. Accompanying Charlie was Richard Crossley, now resident in my old 'stomping ground' of Cape May, New Jersey and author of 'The Shorebird Guide' published by Houghton and Mifflin just one of his many talents. I should also mention that he is also an acquaintance of one of my US birding friends, Sandra Keller. Before my first trip to Cape May I contacted Sandra, as she had suggested on her regular postings on Surfbirds, and received a wealth of useful information about the area and like minded contacts. This made life very easy as I joined a number of walks, met some of the most hospitable people and increased my States list ten fold. Sandra plus Doug, Mary and Gabe Johnson (to name but a few) remain firm friends and I very much look forward to them visiting Dorset. If any of you over The Pond are reading this the invitation remains very much OPEN!

The Grey Partridge being much more confiding

Richard & Charlie in Top Fields

Max Hug Williams setting up gear and directing where he wanted me to pose

Stonechats - Portland Bill, a bird in the hand

is said to be worth more than one in a bush

Martin Cade, Warden Portland Bird Observatory, processing the captive

'Wave Ruler', the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fast Fleet Tanker of the Wave Knight Class, passing Portland Bill this morning

Egypt continued

Today and tomorrows posts continue the journey through Sinai, northward up the coast of the Gulf of Aqabah, sharp left into the desert region and back south to Sharm along the banks of the Gulf of Suez, including Ras Mohamed. St Catherine's Monastery, a must stop place, was built in 500 and something, at the foot of Mount Moses (of tablets of stone fame) and is reputed to be built around the Burning Bush. Agreed, there is a bush there but not to worry the fire has been put out. Crammed full of priceless artifacts of all denominations Arab, Greek, Roman and even Western oil paintings, in two visits I've not seen any of them. For me, what's outside is what matters with the following photographs giving some idea.

Saint Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Moses

White-crowned Black Wheatear - this a 'first year' not yet showing the adult crown

Spectacled Bulbul - common in the region, but seemingly confined to irrigated areas

Tristram's Grackle - a small colony exists on and around the monastery