Monday, 24 January 2011

The Desert Of The 'Holy Land'

Today was set fair to chase up a few stragglers, calm, clear and total cloud cover was ideal for traipsing through a few woodlands in the east of the county. First port of call was Oakers Wood, where a short vigil at the old nest of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker came to nought, as did an hours trek within.

The redundant tip close to Great Plantation along Puddletown Road is always worth a look, but on my previous half dozen visits over nearly as many years the target birds had been absent. Not today however as firstly a Common Snipe flusher followed by

2 Woodlark, there were a further 2 singing from the small pines in the north east corner, an addition to the Year List.

It's worth mentioning that this area, since 'tipping' ceased about 8 years ago (?) has transformed into a good heathland habitat, mostly Gorse.

Next on the agenda was Middlebere where at a first glance all that could be seen was a flock of probably 1,000 Dunlin

which were by no means settled,

taking off frequently and performing short aerial displays.

It was a struggle to find the only c3 Avocets in attendance, and the reader may well have to 'right click' on the image to see them at all, centre stage. A little disappointing but onward to Arne where a Firecrest was both on view and vocal, but there was no sign of the Tawny Owl that has roosted there since Christmas.

A pair of Goldcrest were feeding in the bushes on the way to Shipstall Point, but only the female would allow a shot, while both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also on view,

as was this unusually lone Sika Deer.

At 'the Point' this roost of Oystercatchers was worth a second look as with them was a Cormorant and a dozen Brent Geese most of which moved on at my approach.

Descending the steps from the 'lookout', the target of this walk hove into view, c8 Spoonbill predictably asleep. 7 are viewable in this shot,

while the eighth was a little further along the shingle bank.

A Spoonbill image from the archive as illustration. Back at the car park the 'feeding station' was being well visited by

this male Chaffinch,

Coal Tit and

a confiding Nuthatch

enjoying a feed of peanuts.

An hours stroll across Chamberlain Heath on the way home netted just a couple of Stock Doves a single Raven plus a polite request from the Debut Security Guards to stick to the public path marked by yellow topped posts. Fair comment given that this is a 'tank training area' and one of these huge battle wagons could swing round the corner at any time, additionally both Guards were extremely courteous. Anyway, there were no Crossbills, and no sign of the Great Grey Shrike that has over-wintered here, so time for lunch and the Blog.

At home there was the first Wasp of the year, but not the first insect as there have already been 2 House Flies.

The GB Year List now stands at 169

The last in the Desert series sees us in the Sinai, a region where civilisations were founded and lost. In company with my then lady friend Lorraine, our track too us first to Sham el Sheikh, south to Ras Mohammed, north about to Dahb, Mount Sinai, Nuwieba, across the Gulf of Aqaba and the city of Al Aqabah in Jordan, for Ma'an and the capital Amman.

Via Wadi Watir you reach the Coloured Canyon,

in the heart of Sinai,

which holds one of the most magnificent rock formations in the world.

Further on we reached St Catherine's Monastery, with it's resident bird population

Tristram's Grackle.

Usually confiding, on that day they decided to keep their distance.

Within the walls is the Biblical Burning Bush, but we noticed immediately they had put it out!

Close by we found several delightful Nile Valley (Pygmy) Sunbirds.

The Cathedral nestles at the foot of Mount Moses which can be climbed via a very rocky track. Here, Camels are used to transport tourists to the summit which also has the added advantage of providing food for a magical little bird.

The Sinai Rosefinch,

these 2 both males, survive in part by retrieving corn and other seeds from Camel dung.

All you have to do is choose a suitable site, and wait. This is a female.

Crossing the Gulf of Aqaba, which also afforded us some of the best Diving in the world, we reached the 'funnel' entrance to another 'man made' Wonder of the World.

As the ravine narrows to about 2 people's width, the magnificence of

Petra meets the eye. Best timed for the moment the sun first kisses it each morning, this is a wonder to behold.

Here we found no only the ancient city complete with Troglodyte caves,

but also a pair of Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) know as the 'bone crusher' because of its feeding technique of flying high with huge bones, dropping them to smash on the rocks below before feeding on the marrow.

Before the end of the trip there was another Biblical moment as we viewed the 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom'. The title comes from the Book of Proverbs, 9:1: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars". There was also some Dorset history attached as well. Prior to the First World War, T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia a Dorset man) had begun work on a scholarly book about seven great cities of the Middle East, to be titled Seven Pillars of Wisdom. When war broke out, it was still incomplete and Lawrence stated that he ultimately destroyed the manuscript.

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