Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Travels through Morocco

My brother and I spent last week travelling over the High Atlas from Marrackech to the edge of the Sahara near the border with Algeria. Our interest was general photography though I could not help but see some good birds along the way. Sometimes on birding trips in new places (trip report from 2007 here) I can be looking so hard for new species on a tight itinerary that I forget to enjoy the birds themselves. On a more relaxed approach, absorbing the wonderful landscapes of Morocco through a wider angle, the birds may find you - and somehow the experience can be richer. I'm talking about the Desert Sparrows that land three feet away from you when you're concentrating on photographing sand dune ripples, the House Bunting that wakes you up by singing within a hotel, the Tristam's Warbler that scolds in typical Sylvia tones above an al fresco desert breakfast, or the Hoopoe Lark that runs past when your transportation becomes stuck in not so terra firma! I'll post a lot of photographs later but for now: Snow in the High Atlas, Camels in the desert, verdant terraces of agriculture in the Atlas foothills, Djemma El Fna at sunet, an oasis near Tineghir, a curious Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex saharae) at Erg Chebbi, and White Storks nesting on top of a minaret in the Dades Gorge.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Mexico

After we departed the Bosque del Apache and Socorro area, we traveled around this exciting desert state from the Chihuahuan Desert in the south to the snowy peaks in the north. General birding and sight-seeing of various geological features were the main interests and as a result I spent little time on trying to get record shots of different species. Below are some photographs from sites such as the White Sands gypsum desert, the Three Rivers Petroglyphs sites, Taos Pueblo, Tent Rocks, Roswell, Rio Grande Gorge, San Francisco de Asis Church, Old San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe, Sandia Peak, El Malpais, Very Large Array, Plains of San Agustin, Valley of Fires, and Valles Caldera.

All these photos and more can be viewed in a slideshow on my main site at:

Friday, February 04, 2011

Biking & birding to work

I cycle a minimum of 85 miles per week to work from zone 4 in North London to zone 1 in the centre. Last July I gave up on 'the tube' (London Underground) due to the poor service, endless strikes, though mainly due to the fact it is 'hoachin'... and I miss cycling. Though it doesn't compare to cycling in the Scottish countryside (countryside=safe, city=dangerous), its does keep me fit, I save money, and I see more birds! Arriving at work, I feel energised too (the tube saps your enthusiasm and drains your energy). Amazingly I can cycle door-to-door in about 33 minutes cycling time compared with 45 mins on the tube (which included a one mile walk to the station). So not only is the humble push bike faster than the car through urban London, it can also leave the tube behind! In late January 2011 I decided to keep a list of all species seen for the year. My usual route takes me through busy suburban and urban streets which provide less interest so diversions over the course of the year through parks and past reservoirs should yield interesting finds. Highlights so far have included 100 Waxwings in Finchley Road and a pair of Firecrests and a Water Rail in Regent's Park.

Regular visitors to this blog will know I like birds with long legs and long wings and I now see even more herons if I pass by the heronry in Regent's Park. The breeding season is getting under way with lots of activity there now and the birds are particularly vocal at dusk. Last week weekend I made some sound recordings of Grey Herons on the nest as they settled in for the night.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Final set from Bosque

Here is the final set of photographs I'll post from Bosque del Apache. All these were taken full frame in the vertical/portrait format. The birds in flight were taken in Al Servo mode with the top zone manually selected in the 7D.