Monday, 28 December 2015

All Too Much - Ducks Deluxe

Wandering back a few days to when we had the STRANGE ROVER re-badged, the time it took the garage to fix the new lettering, was sufficient for me was spend on what under a different set of circumstances might have been a 'nostalgic' return to Radipole Nature Reserve. What was once considered my Local Patch, no more than a 10 minutes walk from my previous home, Slight Return I, the "gilt was taken off of that particular gingerbread" by the RSPB long ago! In addition there was an extra incentive to visit this site which hold no charm for me these days, the reemergence of one of the finest birds ever to grace the County of Dorset.
Leaving Slight II that morning there was a little avian activity right outside my door as this cock
was strutting his stuff among the soon to be erected new dog fence.
I still haven't quite figured out whether this is intended to keep
ME OUT or the DOGS IN??
First on parade were a bunch of
wing drying with
following in quick succession and while the walk had only just begun
it was evident that what seemed like every
on the reserve was in full song, another product of the mild weather maybe?
The view north from Bowie's Folly, one that has been gazed across
thousands of times.
As expected there were Gulls there doing their usual ablutions with
of note this semi-submersible
all hoped to be viewed closer later.
were also squealing from every reed-bed, so that was 2 of Radipole's
finest already in the bag, only the third to find now!
and some left over
were a welcome sight, but thus far no sign of the
Target Bird
No sooner said and there it was steaming towards me that
Dapper Gent from America

Coast to Coast - Ducks Deluxe
(couldn't find All Too Much)
Now, whatever happened to Pub Rock?
Still alive and in good shape at Finn's Weymouth so they tell me.
In this clip Brinsley Schwartz looks about 13 despite the beard!
We can just hear the cynics now
"just stick to your own convictions girls and boys".
A Deluxe Duck and we were on the Coast.
Then as if to order the third of Radipole's specialities
clamouring away among the reeds
A small gathering on the Island outside the Visitor's Centre
Moorhen, Common Gull, Shelduck, Mediterranean Gull
and Black-headed Gull
and a last look at the
before a search through a decent size flock of Gulls on the car park.
 (usually overlooked)
 With one of our own in residence at PCF at the moment
 and a final 
in the park.
Best part of the days was seeing my old school friend
and former Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer
Best Wishes to you and Isabel Shipmate!
The day was completed  as I paid a brief visit to see Dave Foot, collect the Strange Rover then set off for lunch with John and Maggie Gifford in our favoured Royal Oak in Bere Regis.
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Friday, 25 December 2015

Like An Inca - Neil Young


Having just completed an 8 days stay on the Galapagos Islands with my dear friend (and then Boss on the Buchan Alpha Oil Rig), Mike Hughes, on Friday 28 February 2003 we flew from Baltra back to Guayaquil in Ecuador. The flight had been programmed for the previous day but for reason, best known to themselves, the Airport Authority had taken into their heads to re-surface the tarmac that day. This had cause a mass altercation at the Tame Airline Office in Puerto Ayora (the capital of Santa Cruz Island)  of which we were not about to become part. The 2 young ladies trying their hardest to sort the ticketing situation seemed to be getting a seriously hard time so, realising the wait was going to be a long one we popped over the road to make a purchase! Our turn soon came and with a politeness they had not previously experienced that day we bid the ladies a jaunty good morning, placed a small box of chocolates in front of each of them, problem solved and back to a 'bonus day' bird watching! The following day at the Airport the melee had increased as the news was received that there were to be 2 flights back to the mainland, one scheduled to leave shortly and the other very much later, there was a clamber. Just then, the very same 2 ladies emerged from the office, walked towards us and taking us by the hand led us through the throng and without the usual formalities showed us to our (upgraded) First Class seats on the aircraft.  

Next, we needed to get transport to the border town of Machala, to cross into Peru, but hadn't bargained on Attila the Fast and Dangerous to be driving the bus! These were journeys we had become used to on previous trips with a crate of live chickens across our knees and a few piglets scurrying about the bus we thought we were glad to see the border post. However, it looked as if we were being dropped right outside the door, but no, having secured our visa we were then driven 'back' 5 Km to get our exit stamp and clear customs. It was a taxi drive back to where there was yet another stampede to cross the border, with the added degree of difficulty provided by the throng of salesmen and money changers.
 Bagsy the Gullible at the Border

Eventually, we gave in to their persistence and changed 100$US for Sol before grabbing another taxi to take us to the coach station at Tumbes. The Swallow, named after the town, is a near 'endemic' so that was a good start but booking 2 onward single tickets to Trujillo (arguably the second largest city in Peru) you didn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to understand the reaction of the Booking Clerk as we handed him our newly purchased Sol Notes in payment. Rubbing each between his thumb and forefinger, then tasting it before holding it obliquely to the light, he announced at each one FALSO, FALSO, FALSO! Another advantage of being a Seasoned Traveler!!!! At least 50% of the notes were counterfeit but after all it was only £30 each in sterling and we were able to pay the fare in US anyway. This leg of the journey was some 600 Km (15 hours) and almost exclusively along the arid coastal strip, so it was going to be late before we arrived. On the up-side coach was luxurious, clean, comfortable and air-conditioned along with an adequate number of stops for food and water on the way. and there was enough of interest to see. Once out of the town the number of fish processing factories seemed never ending and this is where we saw our first Band-tailed Gull of this trip. We had encountered them before on a previous trip mainly along the east coast of the Continent, but this was before they were 'split' into 2 distinct species, Olrog’s Gull to the east and Belcher’s Gull this side of the Andes. The time of arrival wasn’t noted but we soon found a comfortable hotel, had a further tussle with the taxi driver and over a drink discussed the sights we had planned to see the next day.

The main interests for us in Trujillo were to be the colonial city itself, founded in 1536, which is the main town of northern Peru, while the other was the nearby and immense complex of Chan Chan (pronounced Chan Chainy) and including the Moche Capital of Sipán. Waking surprisingly early that Sunday morning the sun was already making for a pleasant day, and in view of the fact we had been sitting much of the previous day it was decided to forsake breakfast for an early morning stroll. Leaving the hotel at 08:00 it was no more than a few hundred yards before we came across the pristine main city square edged by Colonial style Government buildings while the expanse of the paved centre was bedecked with statues, fountains, palm trees and other lush vegetation, in true Spanish style.

Diagonally opposite from where we stood, and quite some distance away, we could see what looked like military activity and there was definitely a brass band playing somewhere close by. With a scan through the binoculars a number of soldiers, with both swords and guns, could be seen goose-stepping around the perimeter, a sure indication that we needed to investigate further. As we arrived outside of what proved to be the City Hall, we stopped to look at the band activity and were approached by, what we thought to be, a very smartly dressed Naval Officer in white uniform. He had reasonable English and bid us good morning and inquired (in a most friendly way) as to what we were doing. He explained that he was in fact the Chief Inspector of the Tourist Police Force, gave us a very warm welcome before asking if he could introduce us to his superior a very senior Government Official.

We had no issues with this, but he was keen to get our names so he could use them in his introduction; in fact his whole manner was impeccable. Once the formalities of introduction were over, we were told that this was the day of the Cities Annual Parade, with each year in turn being dedicated to one or other of the Sections of the Community. This year it had been dedicated to the Ladies of the City, and as ever would traditionally involve full military participation and that of all other Civilian Groups. Then came what could only be described as a ‘bomb-shell’ as we were requested to become 'Guests of Honour' for the occasion. With me in my very best blurry lettered STONED AGAIN T-shirt and Mike looking like an out of work dockyard matey we readily agreed that it would be a great privilege to accept such an auspicious invitation. All this time, too engrossed in the magic that had unfolded before us, we were oblivious to the fact that the city square was filling with hundreds and hundreds of people, with police cars frantically trying to clear the roads and television cameras being set up all around us. Two other Officers were then detailed to show us around and brief us as to our duties and where we should stand at any given time. We were taken over to the main dais that had been erected outside of the City Hall, and were shown our place in the midst of all the high-ranking government and military dignitaries.

By now the band had struck up and the 3 officers we had met earlier, now with their swords drawn, smartly marched to where we stood and appeared to ask permission of the ‘head official’ to let the ceremony commence. On the opposite side of the road there was a lectern behind which a 6 star Army General began the proceedings. There was no need of an understanding of the language as he welcomed all the high officials, then announced us by name and welcomed us as their Guests of Honour. At nine ‘o’ clock the whole place fell silent as the city hall clock struck the hour and as the chimes faded the same three officers approached the dais and sort the Governors approval to raise the country’s flag. This done they turned about and escorted the President and his wife to the flagpoles as the band burst forth with the national anthem which seemed to last for an hour. Ably assisted by the Army, they raised the flag, seemingly the size of a football pitch, to the truck and then were returned, again under escort, to their original places. After the Peruvian flag, the officers then escorted the city Governor and his wife across the road to where they raised what, in England would be the County flag, of the La Libertad Region. Next it was our turn to march, under escort, across to the square and raise the City flag of Trujillo, and as we did so agreeing that I would hoist the first half and Mike haul it to the top. This was quite an effort as the flags were huge, taking 3 soldiers to hold them in the folded state, in addition to holding our stomachs in and standing to attention.
As the ceremony began, we were stood directly next to the
                                           President of Peru Alejandro Toledo and his Wife                                        
    (in blue mini-dress) as we were escorted across the square
  passed the ranks of Military Police
and up to the
 Flag Pole
Haul Away Handsomely

Our cameras had been passed to 2 Police Officers
who were detailed to take our photographs.
Pity they were no better at this than we were!

With all of ‘US’ VIP’s returned to the dais area the Parade proper began being led off, as it would be in the UK, by the Senior Service the Navy and followed by the Army then Air Force and the Veterans of the Bolivar Campaigns. Nurses, Police Officers, Firemen, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides followed as the whole community was being represented including the Kindergarten. After the march past we were invited to the Governors Palace, part of the City Hall, for a wine and cake reception, where as well as shaking hands with Signor Toledo and wife we were also introduced to many other city dignitaries, who all seemed anxious to talk to us. Throughout, TV cameras had recorded the events, and although we left addresses a copy of this was never received. However, there was a full afternoon before us which we decided would be spent at Chan Chan. With no more than a mention of this we were whisked away to an awaiting Staff Car, while Police Officer lined the roof of their Station waving to us, before being driven the few miles to the complex. En-route there was time to reflect, long and hard, on an experience that not even money could buy.

During the transfer, the drive was slow enough for us to view many of the other splendid buildings in the City, as well as a number of small Adobe Temples that had survived since ancient times. Once there, our driver had a word with the Gate Keeper who afforded us ‘free admission’ and the services of a Guide.
Note on Chan Chan - The largest Pre-Colombian city in South America, Chan Chan is an archaeological site in the northern Peruvian region of La Libertad 5 Km west of Trujillo. It is located in the mouth of the Moche Valley and was the capital of the historical Chimor Empire from AD 900-1470, at which time they were defeated by and incorporated into the Inca Empire. The Chimor Empire, a conquest state, developed from the Chimú culture which established itself along the Peruvian coast around 1400 AD. In the Chimú tongue, Chan Chan means "Sun Sun;" as it was named for its sunny climate which is cooled year round by a southerly breeze. In a particularly arid section of the coastal desert of northern Peru where, due to the lack of rain in this area, the weather effect has preserved the City as it is seen today. Additionally, the major source of water is in the form of rivers carrying run-off  from the Andes Mountains which with careful control, allows for the irrigation of farmlands. The city of Chan Chan spanned 20 Km² and had a dense urban center of 6 Km², which contained extravagant Ciudadelas which were large architectural masterpieces housing plazas, storerooms, and burial platforms for the ‘highest dignitaries’. The splendour of these monuments suggests their association was exclusively with the Royal Class, as housing for the lower classes of the hierarchical society are known as small, irregular agglutinated rooms (SIARs). Because the lower classes were often Artisans, whose role in the Empire was to produce crafts, many of these SIARs were also used as workshops.
Our introduction here was to the La Huaca Acro Iris, known locally as the Temple of the Dragon, which is one of the best preserved of the Chim Temples as before excavation in 1963 it was covered with sand. The site covers some 300 square meters and consists of thick defensive walls surrounding the 80sq metre Temple. This is on two levels with a combined height of about 8 meters with adobe mud walls covered with a repeated rainbow design and huge ramps leading to the top allowing for excellent views. Next, some 1 Km from the city, was Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, built about 50A.D. the oldest of the temples we would visit. Not unlike what the original Iron Age long barrows, found in UK, must have looked like before the grass grew, they are indeed huge monoliths.

 Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon)
 Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun)
The Pyramids at Sipan
Germany still lead the field
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Monday, 21 December 2015

All Good Things Come in THREE'S

or so it is said! Which rang true over the past 3 days when first of all we took delivery of the eagerly awaited Volume 1 of Being a Bird in North America (North of Mexico) by accomplished scientist and writer Robert Alvo.
 12 years in the making
 it was a pleasing moment when asked to make a contribution to this fine work.
 Not only that, Robert decided to dedicate one of the numerous cartoons to me,
appropriate in as much as 48 years of my life was spent at sea!
During that time I was 'lucky' never to be visited by the dreaded 
Mal De Mer and his slight slip of the pen can be forgiven as my 
GB List is just a little higher than 200!
 My tiny contribution was this image of a
taken in Barrow, Alaska the most northerly town in the USA.
 The Global Range of this tiny Wader never ceases to fascinate me,
 and as an epilogue find, on the same Contributor's Credits page the name of
long time birding friend Vaughn Ashby the founder of
If there should be a further coincidence and you happen to read this Vaughn,
please accept my Best Wishes to both yourself and Svetlana.
I still cherish the Relict Gull images she sent to me (taken by her friend?)
when unable to take any of my own when encountering this Gull in South Korea.
 © Svetlana's Friend?
We echo Robert's sentiment in apologising for the 'blasted 'adverts'
and advise that his interview starts at minute 22:40
and so to the Christening it's now official so now without the hyphen a
in its own right!
(click on image to increase size)
Finally, but by no means least a small matter that had vanished from the grey matter.
Flicking through photographs of my second trip to Ecuador, there was a reminder of a bird, which should have been seen by the Countries Avian Authorities, but thought never was. Back to the beginning, and before embarking on that trip, I met for the first time on Radipole Nature Reserve, Ecuadorian
 Attracted to his Resplendent Quetzal T-shirt, which by coincidence was my first crack at 'digi-scope' photography (taking a shot through a telescope), Costa Rica 2004,
 followed by
(crumbs, talk about 'one thing leading to another')
(by saying "you don't see a lot of those around here") we struck up conversation and in so doing he agreed to give me a few pointer regarding the upcoming adventure. By the 8th January 2010 I had reached the small seaside town of Salinas, Ecuador where, in company with ex-pat Dutchman Benito Haas we found a large 'white-winged' Gull among a throng of Franklin;s and Laughing Gulls. Ben said he would submit it to the authorities, but not another word was ever heard about it. Having retraced the images, it was decided to try and retrace Byron who had also, unfortunately, fallen off the radar. A quick note to Nature Trek and their obvious kindness of passing on the message, had Byron telephoning me just a couple of evenings ago. No promises were made, but he did say he would look into the matter of what I have always believed is a
Hybridisation was a key consideration in the identification process,
as the species is prone to that, but while having seen
many 'thousands'of them
it certainly doesn't make me an expert.
The opinions of anyone in this matter
would be gratefully received as should this be as stated it would not only be a
'First Record' for ECUADOR!
but in addition surely a contender for the first
Large White-winged Gull South of the Equator????
If nothing else, contact with Byron has been re-established which will
be followed up at the earliest possible convenience.
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