maandag 25 april 2011

4000 friends

Blue-bellied Roller, flying on the list.

14 April 2011, the Gambia. Stepping out of Bijilo forest next to Kololi i walked along the golfcourse when i noticed in the corner of my eye a bright blue flash flying towards the ground. Yes! I knew it was the one that i was looking for. Peering through the fench I saw bird species number 4000 sitting on the ground, a dreambird of mine ever i bought the birdbook of the Gambia all those years ago: the stunning Blue-bellied Roller. Ever more stunning when it takes a flight, beautiful as Rollers do.

I finaly made it, my selfset ‘target’ of seeing 4000 bird species before i turned forty (i’ve beaten it by more then 4 years thank you very much :-)). Lately the lure of list was lower because of trips to countries with less new birds but with more photographic opportunities but a trip to Gambia was all it took to break the barrier.

As birds go some are more appealing than others (i don’t fancy most Geese and South-american Ani’s) and along my most beautiful birds i’ve seen include an ultra-rare Pitta; the Guerney’s Pitta. Not is it extremely beautiful (as Pitta’s are) but i worked very, very hard to get to see one. It took me 7 days of full (dawn to dusk) birding to find a female. As I was travelling for an extra month in Thailand i decided to come back later to find me a male. As it was it took me another 6 days of NOT seeing any. On the last morning, in the last hour I succeeded. I heard one, crept in and finaly the male bounced towards me and revealed all its beauty. What a stunner! I crept out, took of my binoculairs, went back to the lodge, packed, took a taxi and i have never used my binoculairs again in Thailand. I was done. I cracked but I took the victory out of the mouth of defeat. I was walking on air.

As always, the journey towards is the best part and i count myself blessed with all what i have seen and experienced during the years ever since i went with my good friend Arjan van Egmond to Java and Bali back in 1995. Some of the more profound memories I have are sitting quietly on the ancient Maya tempels of Tikal overlooking virgin rainforest as far as you can see; waking up before first light because of the extreme cold (we forgot sleeping bags) and drinking a cup of hot coffee overlooking the virgin cloud forests of the higher Manu road, Peru where we camped; the landing on Inaccesible island and Tristan da Cunha where even descendants of Pieter Groen of my hometown are living (I even went to college that was called after Pieter Groen – that must have been a sure sign back then!); the gamedrives in the mighty Masai Mara together with Andre and Ellen; cage diving with Great White Sharks; snowed in for two days in South-Africa of all places (Drakensbergen); visiting the Puffings on Farne Island; whalewatching from the Pride of Bilbao in the Bay of Biscay with the most amazing sunsets ever; walking on a working Vulcano in Guatemala where the ground was so hot my boots were melting if I were standing too long; Steller’s Sea-eagle’s on the driftice of Hokkaido, Japan; our selfmade pelagic with a chartered speedboat of Paracas Peru, the one and only time i thought i was going to die - those waves were monstereous! and many many more.

During the years birding i’ve lost friends but made countless others and even refound old friends, found love and lost it again. Don’t know what life will bring me but the memories of the travels stay and new memories are bound to be made. There are still 6000 other friends out there!

Arjan van Egmond birding the superb Manu Road, Peru. The birdiest place on the planet. Over 1000 species have been seen in the National park.

Tikal. Etched in memory. Could have stayed up on the tempels forever.

Stunning sunset from the Pride of Bilbao after a day full of Whales and Shearwaters. My addiction to seabirds and cetaceans started here!

The local cafe on the remotest island in the world, Tristan da Cunha. Even it was only 11.00 I had to buy a round of beer!

vrijdag 15 april 2011

Home Patch

Burrowing Owl, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

Ik denk dat als ik een plek mijn 'home patch' zou moeten noemen dat het dan de Baylands is. De Baylands is een aaneenrijging van parken en moerasland aan de oevers van de San Francisco Bay. Met name het deel van Palo Alto tot Mountain View probeer ik in de vrije uurtjes zo vaak mogelijk te bezoeken.

Burrowing Owl, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

Een van de leukste bewoners van de Baylands zijn de Burrowing Owls. Een paartje van deze Steenuilachtige vogels lieten zich bij Mountain View goed fotograferen. Overvliegende Red-tailed Hawks werden daarbij goed in de gaten gehouden.

Burrowing Owl, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

In de wintermaanden en de trektijd vormen de Baylands een pleistergebied voor een groot aantal watervogels. Duizenden eenden, steltlopers en futen huizen zich in de wetlands. Tegen de lente vertrekken de meesten, maar sommigen blijven lang genoeg hangen om ook het fraaie zomerkleed te kunnen bewonderen.

Pied-billed Grebe, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

Horned Grebe, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

Black-necked Stilt, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

In de lente gaan ook de hormonen weer opspelen. Onderstaande mevrouw Snowy Egret was duidelijk niet gediend van de avances van het nogal opgewonden mannetje. Toen het vrouwtje het hazenpad had gekozen overdacht het mannentje zijn strategie nog eens. Zou het dan toch aan zijn kapsel hebben gelegen?

Snowy Egret, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

Snowy Egret, California, USA, Martijn Verdoes

Groeten uit California.