Thursday, 30 December 2010

Living In The Past - Jethro Tull (Part I)

'Dank' continues to dominate the weather scene which, along with a pile of ironing I couldn't climb over, has kept me indoors again today. Not idle hands though as the senior sprog & Co are here for lunch tomorrow and with the forthcoming New Year's Day Twitch fast approaching, there is much to do.

With less than 2 days before we break into a New Decade, there was also time for a flick through the diary to reminiscence and select what are my the most memorable images of this year. The first thing that becomes apparent is just how 'full' the past 12 months have been, which have included visits to 29 countries (if Galapagos, officially part of Ecuador, is to be included), 21 of the United States of America (15 of these being new to me) and 29 counties of England and Wales which are both included as part of the countries count.

The year started in the small Ecuadorian town of Nanegalito, when at mid-night my humble £3 per night room, with no running water, literally shook against the fusillade of firecrackers, singing and church bells as the locals welcomed in the New Year. Over the next few days I wandered to the coast via Manta, then to the magical Puerto Lopez, followed by Isla de la Plata, Ayampe and eventually to Salinas where I met

Ben Haas (birder, Whale Museum owner and ex-pat Dutchman) with whom we found the first

Glaucous-winged Gull not just for Ecuador but for the whole of the South American sub-continent. What a 'milestone' to begin the year, thanks for the memory Benito!

Without entering into too much detail, the following day (a Sunday) I arrived at Guyaquil Airport to secure the last seat left on the only flight to Galapagos that day, my second visit - charm and personality spring to mind but don't ask those who know me! There, 5 islands (Baltra, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, North Seymore and Santa Fe) were covered with a million highlights including the endemic Penguin, Hawk plus 3 new Darwin's Finches but nothing topped a bird I was already familiar with

Swallow-tailed Gull - without question the most fabulous Gull in the world!

To travel the full length of Peru without a mention could be taken as a slight, which it is not, but it was Lauca National Park, Chile where the next milestone lay. Apart from experiencing 'Four Seasons In One Day' there, it was once again a Gull already on my world list that stole the show.

Andean Gull was among hundred of photographs that I lost during my last South American trip when my backpack was stolen in La Paz, Bolivia, now most had been retaken.

Crossing the Andes into Argentina by road can be a little nerve wracking, to say the least, but arriving safely in Pinamara where with a lot of effort I was able to confirm Olrog's Gull (which had been split as a full species from Western cousin Belcher's Gull since my last visit) on the world list, before moving on to La Plata where I met these lovely people.

Just 3 of many dozens of clowns mustered in the town for the annual competition, who made a great stay in their country a magical one. Buenos Aires was as usual 'buenos' and with the addition of Jim the Medic, the lovely Liz and a fine hotel room for the final 3 days the 100 days adventure finished on a massive high.

Flicking through the pages the diary says that March and April, despite being spent in England and mostly in Weymouth, were more or less a round of continuous parties, dinners and catching up with friends. May Day saw my next departure, this time to Split in Croatia which was the springboard for an Eastern European tour which would take me through Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Lithuania. For the final part of this journey I spent some days in Estonia with my then lady friend Ille.

At Ennu Farm, Estonia with Ille, Helis and Ille's son Herkko. Memories of a place, a time, days and people I will cherish forever - with my Best Wishes to you all for 2011!

It mat not be a surprise that by the time I arrived home there were only 2 days of the month left, but they were to form a pair of the best highlights of the year. Sunday 30th was given over to the Joe Bonamassa Concert at the Bouremouth International Centre, which likely qualifies as the most outstanding (of the hundreds) concert ever attended. All of the following day was spent at Wrackleford, just north of Dorchester, where the Stockley Clan were celebrating Sooty's (John) 65th birthday. Of all the wonderful days that made up 2010, this is singularly the one I would least like to have missed.

John (Sooty) Stockley

The 'Stockley' Clan

My longest standing friend in Dorset, and proud to be so Sooty!

June was also spent at home, with highlights including adding Marmora's Warbler to the GB list whilst on the same trip

I may just be able to squeeze in as co-finder of this Orchid at Kenfig, Wales which may prove to be a new species or sub-species for Great Britain???? In addition, during this first half of the year, there were obviously a good number of birthdays to celebrate including

Mrs Doris Wood mother of my childhood friends John & Robert, all of whom ,along with some of their families, I saw for the first time in 50 years - but cannot locate those photos! Also Paul Harris reached the tender age of 50, and I doubt it would have been the same if I hadn't given him a hand to shift some of that fine single malt whisky laid down in the year of his creation. Along with those mentioned above, I also clapped eyes on an old seafaring friend and his wife not seen for many a day until

John & Val Prince contacted me through this Blog.

and to conclude just a few other favourites:-

Blyth's Reed Warbler - Viljandi, Estonia

Inca Tern - Salinas, Ecuador

Toucan Barbet - Angel Paz's Place, Nanagelito, Ecuador

Dusky Starfrontlet - previously known from just a single museum specimen, this extremely rare endemic was only re-discovered in 2004. Reported from one, almost inaccessible site, in the country this discovery at Jardin, Colombia was ground breaking to say the least.

Giant Antpitta - the rain forest belonging to Angel Paz near Nanagelito, Ecuador.

Inca Jay - found throughout northern South America.

Nazca Booby - Isla Balastas, Pisco, Peru.

we anticipate publishing Part II tomorrow.

The following my give the readership some idea of what the average under nourished, under paid and neglected Rig Rat does when he / she is Offshore during the Festive Season. Believe you me, a great time was had by all even without alcohol!

This was the 'must have' ticket for the Buchan Alpha New Years Eve (Charity) Party 2002, and were strictly limited to those who could raise 'two quid'. A spoof on the popular TV quiz programme The Weakest Link, our version The Missing Link was aimed at the Neanderthals among us which pretty much included everyone onboard.

It all started quietly enough as the boss (Offshore Installation Manager Les Evans) took a glass of alcohol free Champagne,

while other members of the crew (Operations Coordinator David Penney, Marine Office Derek 'Del Boy' Palmer and Health & Safety Advisor Colin Varty) did likewise.

It's OK getting into fancy dress mode, but when you look too much like the subject


A good time to get an incurable illness with Lenny the Deck Foreman on hand.

Colin Varty - no need to guess what his nickname is?

The Third Reich would have been proud of our German Deck Operator in this get-up!

We did ask Brian (Instrument Tech) and Mike (Production Tech) to come in fancy dress but they didn't bother.

Captain Derek Watson Palmed MN (cashiered) VD & scar, WC & chain prepares to sail the Sea of Tranquility.

Which one is really a 'GIRL'! The clue is, one of them IS a girl.

Production Supervisor Les as he appears when on shift.

For those who don't know, all the lads in Manchester dress like this.

Dave Penney who has obviously spent too much of his life breeding Parrots.

and will any of you believe Gary Graves is a H.A. Painter?

At least the Catering Team brough a little sesibility to the show - now go and fluff my pillow up!

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