7 February 2016

"Pandas of the Sea.."

Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) 

We’ve been away !  An Antartic Cruise and several weeks in Patagonia.  My first chapter of turgid travelogue is below.


TRELEW is a town on the Atlantic coast of Argentina, about halfway between Buenos Aires and the tip of the South American continent.

The area was settled by Welsh farmers from the 1860s. More recently, a “must do” tourist thing has been to the visit the town of Gaiman for “Welsh” cakes and tea, as Diana, Princess of Wales did in the early 1990s.

After a memorable session of tannin-laced carbo-loading, we headed west into an area of broad, flat fields and encountered a flock of about fifty Burrowing Parrots sitting on electricity lines.  Here are two of them.

Burrowing Parrots

Southern Lapwings are the epitome of “Common and widespread” - in the Trelew suburbs they they seem to occupy every roadside grass verge.

Southern Lapwing

California Quails are an introduced species that is doing well.

California Quail

On to Puerto Piramides in our four-door Chevy from Patagonia Rent-a-car.  We had four nights there as a base to explore Peninsula Valdez.

Puerto Piramides

On our first morning, we drove down to the seafront, found a throng of people donning lifejackets outside Tito Botazzi and signed ourselves up for a Whale-watching trip.  After one-and-a-half hours we had seen five pairs of female Southern Right Whales and their calves.

That's a barnacle-encrusted whale in the foreground 

Peninsula Valdez has a network of ripio (gravel) roads, which keep car speeds slow and distances long.  There were nice views from vaious lookout points, including here at Punta Delgada.

Punta Delgada

The most frequently seen roadside bird was the Elegant-Crested Tinamou.

Chimango Caracaras were also common.

This party of ostrich-like Lesser Rheas had a female trying to look after no fewer that sixteen young birds.

The characteristic animal of the area is the Guanaco..

Back at Puerto Piramides, we ate at the Guanaco Restaurant, where the steaks are highly commended.  “Guanaco Ale” is on tap.

Back down the coastal highway, and just south of Trelew is the port city of Rawson.  At Playa Union two different outfits 

run trips to see the star natural attraction of the area, Commerson’s Dolphins. 

We went with Toninas Adventure, but both companies had boats out at the same time.  The poster in the Toninas Adventure office is captioned "PANDAS DEL MAR".  (That's in Spanish, obviously.)

Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) 

Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) 

Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) 

Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) 
 The "Pandas of the Sea" were playful and confiding, everything a tourist with a camera could ask for ! 

16 November 2015

Amur Falcons - slightly off-course in Hong Kong

Amur Falcon is a bird that has only been known in Hong Kong for the past umpteen years.

It's possible that some were overlooked as Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) in the past.  They are autumn migrants, and they turn up in Hong Kong between leaving their breeding areas in northern China and Russia and their wintering grounds in southern Africa.

Amur Falcon - Falco amurensis

Don't take my word for it - Wikipedia has a lot on this species: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_falcon

In Hong Kong on passage they will sit on wires over fishponds and bare hillsides, - similar to the sort of habitat they may have known where they bred perhaps...

A couple of years ago, Amur Falcon was in the news recently for the wrong reasons, when it was revealed in 2013 that they were being trapped by the hundreds in the Indian State of Nagaland and sold for food. However, a big effort by Indian and overseas conservation groups seems to have turned this around by creating a festival for tourism and birders, as outlined here : http://www.easternmirrornagaland.com/the-story-of-amur-falcon-its-conservation-and-safe-passage/

Birdlife South Africa has been satellite-tracking Amur Falcons, too.  The progress of individuals can be monitored and posted on the internet within hours.

@copyright Birdlife South Africa

On leaving India, bound southwest, they'll fly across the Indian Ocean, feeding on migrating dragonflies over the sea.

Very confiding for a small raptor, they can be a photographers' favourite....they are certainly one of mine, anyway.

They can scratch their heads and wonder how they are going to get to where they need to be...but sooner or later they just need to "get on with it"...

They have a long way to go.

12 November 2015

November ! - autumn passage migrants, with a few residents too

There - the post title has given it all away.

October began with a Typhoon called "Mujigae".  

As often happens when it is rough at sea, more terns turn up on Mai Po's tideline. 

Gull-billed and White-winged Terns

(mostly) White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

(mostly) White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida

Red Turtle Dove is getting harder to find, generally, but on Oct 5th a few individuals pottered about a track in front of the car, giving decent views. Again, the effect of the typhoon.

They looked lost and wet. Well, they were "lost and wet"
Red Turtle Dove - Streptopelia tanquebarica

As was this Black Drongo
Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus

Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus

Now, a sunny resident black-and-white interlude, before we return to full colour migrants....

Pied Kingfisher - Ceryle rudis

Pied Kingfisher - Ceryle rudis

Collared Crow - Corvus torquatus

"Passage migrants" again.....
Asian Brown Flycatcher - Muscicapa dauurica

Oriental Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus orientalis

The local bird-ringers have been busy. (Seen here outside the Ringers Hut in Mai Po Nature Reserve). Their bird of the morning when I took these photos was a Japanese-ringed Dusky Warbler - already released.

A good variety of migrant and resident birds is not to be sniffed at...

Amur Falcon - Falco amurensis

And finally, one of those sunrise-and-silhouette shots....

At Mai Po, where else ?