Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A Japanese Retrospective

Since I am in the mood and still have no camera, here are a few shots from Japan. The flowering blossoms on the tree outside my window reminded me of some pictures I took during blossom time in Narita, Tokyo, Japan.
A Brown-eared Bulbul was picking throught the blooms at the Naritasan Temple in the “village” of Narita.
The Black-bellied (Grey) Plover was taken at a wetland sanctuary called Yatsu Higata, one hour from Tokyo on the JNR Sobu Line. Close to Tsudanuma Station.

Brown-eared Bulbul
Brown-eared Bulbul

Brown-eared Bulbul

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover showing the characteristic axillaries

We are moving

News has come through that we are to change Hotels in Doha, Qatar.
This comes as a great disappointment to me personally, as the gardens at the Sheraton, Doha have given me many hours of pleasure over the years. The gardens have lawns and acacia trees, bushes and a small lagoon. All packed neatly against a quiet shore. There are many residents there such as the bulbuls, doves and mynas and it also acts as a very attractive stopping point for many birds who are just passing through.
So here is a gallery of birds from a number of trips over the several years we have been staying there.

White-cheeked Bulbul

White-cheeked Bulbul

Lesser Sand Plover
Actually, while I was watching it, I was convinced that this was a Lesser Sand, but I am having a crisis of confidence. Now that I look at it again, could it be a Greater? Comments and thoughts welcome.


Eurasian Wryneck


Isabelline Shrike

Red-vented Bulbul
Quite possibly, this chap comes from escapee stock.

Rose-ringed Parakeet
The parakeets are also popular in aviaries and possibly the wild population came from this source.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Wot? No pictures?

My trip this weekend is scheduled to be Lagos in Nigeria.
Without the camera, It could be a dull monologue, so here is a picture gallery taken from previous trips to Nigeria.
Common Wattle-eye
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Malachite Kingfisher
Blue-breasted Kingfisher
Yellow-billed Shrike
Scarlet-chested Sunbird

Yellow-throated Longclaw

Splendid Sunbird

I hope you liked them.

Now that I look with an ritical eye, I notice that all of these pictures came from Abuja. Abuja is a few hundred miles North of Lagos and was recently adopted as the administrative capital of Nigeria

Actually, the trip to Lagos was quiet with only a very few birds seen around the grounds of the Sheraton Ikeja, Lagos.

These included, Allied Hornbill, Western Grey Plantain Eater (always reliable) and Splendid Glossy Starling among the African Thrush and Common Bulbul.

While we are waiting,

After my little accident with a tripod and the garage door, I had to send the camera away to the menders. I spoke with them yesterday and it could still be another couple of weeks before the parts arrive. So this could create a very dull hiatus in my new blog.
I’m brimming with enthusiasm and would hate to waste all this nervous energy, so I shall post a few retrospective galleries. This will help to keep my spirits up while I wait for a response to tell me that there is someone out there.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Redgannet, red gannet, the on-line photographic diary of a travelling birder. Birding trip reports from around the world.

Birdwatching trip reports and photo galleries from around the world
Redgannet, red gannet, the on-line, photographic diary of a travelling birder.
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from San Francisco, Los Angeles, California USA. Bolsa Chica, LA River, Off-shore. Long Beach Harbour, Palo Alto Baylands.
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from New York, USA. Central Park, Jamaica Bay.
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Bombay, Mumbai, New Delhi, India. Tughluqabad Fort, Sultanpur, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Powai Lake
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Vancouver, Canada. Boundary Bay
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Mauritius. SSR Botanical Gardens
Birds, birdwatching, birding odonata, dragonflies, and trip reports from Singapore. Paser Ris, Macritchie Reservoir, Sungei Buloh.
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Hong Kong. Hong Kong Wetland Park, Mai Po
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Sydney Australia. Sydney Botanical Gardens.
Birds, birdwatching, birding and trip reports from Johannesburg, Cape Town, South Africa. Heldeberg, Betty’s Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Paarl Bird Sanctuary, Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg National Park, Marievale Bird Sanctuary.
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Nairobi, Kenya. Nairobi National Park,
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Accra, Ghana. Aburi Botanical Gardens.
Birds, birdwatching, birding, odonata, dragonflies and trip reports from Miami Florida.
Newark, New Jersey

Hong Kong Wetland Park

I had planned a delicious post of photographs from my most recent trip to Hong Kong.
It would have included shots of the rare Black-faced Spoonbill, and a very approachable Yellow-bellied Prinia. But, sad to say, I tripped over my tripod last week and gave the camera a fearful wallop. So it is at the menders this week and you will have to form a mental image. To help, I have include a few pictures of some of the birds mentioned.
As my luck has been running of late, the trip was not a great success. I went to the recently created Hong Kong Wetlands. There were more security guards here than I have ever seen at an airport and their sole purpose seemed to be keeping me out. I was not even allowed into the car park to look at some White-eyes flitting in the trees. (The picture below was taken on the Peak Circular Trail at Victoria Peak on the main island of Hong Kong)

Ostensibly the HK Wetlands look like a birders paradise. There are boardwalks through the mangroves and excellent hides overlooking mudflats and a tidal river. There are bird descriptions and permanent scopes in each hide with an attendant who wipes the scopes’ lenses every 30 minutes or so. There are local docents who will help identify tricky waders and of course a security guard at each hide.
So why don’t they open before 10.00?
There is a huge airport-style terminal building, all glass and steel which houses a wonderful interpretation centre, restaurant and retail opportunities. You enter and exit through turnstiles, under the watchful gaze of the ever vigilant ecurity force, but not before 10.00!
At 10.00 on a glorious Saturday morning there was a long line of children and families out to have a great day in the sanitised, manicured wetlands. I sincerely hope that they did. It is a great place for children to run and shout and throw stones at the crabs. But it is not a place for the serious birder, and by serious, I mean a birder with no sense of humour. I found this an adequate description of my mood on this otherwise glorious Saturday morning.
I had originally planned to visit the world renowned Mai Po.
To visit Mai Po requires a permit which I had not been able to obtain. Despite an initial application and two reminders to the relevant website, I did not hear back from them. It was a long way to go to be turned away, so I elected to try the HK Wetlands instead.
I got there at what I assumed to be a reasonable time to arrive at a swamp to find my way barred by the first guard of the morning. Backed up by two colleagues he gestured me away holding up two handfuls of digits to indicate that 10.00 was the reasonable time to arrive at a swamp. The tide was due to reach it’s peak at about 10.00 so I was missing the golden hours as the birds fly in to roost away from the rising waters. It was made all the more frustrating that I was not even allowed into the car park during my 2 hour wait. I sat on a low wall outside and did some guard spotting instead. I think they found it unnerving which cheered me up a bit. I counted 16 guards around the car park and in front of the Visitors Centre. The most obvious bird of the area outside the park were the bulbuls, mostly Chinese (or Pale-vented Bulbul. The picture below was taken in Shanghai), but also a few Sooty Headed Bulbuls.Once 10.00 came and went, the guards seemed to relax and at last I was allowed in.
In front of the Visitors Centre is a freshwater lake which held 20+ Garganey this morning. Many were already snoozing gently with their large white eye-stripe still clearly visible resting on their backs. There were also herons. Lots of herons. Greys mostly in this area, but there were also Great and Little Egrets in abundance as I passed through the landscaped wetlands.
At a 3-storey hide, I looked out onto the tidal river that flows into Deep Bay. There was a small mud-bank, at the far end of which, was a Black-faced Spoonbill scything through the water with it’s spatulate bill. This was a youngster with a pale bill and a small amount of black facial skin. Shortly a mature bird, obvious from the more extensive black facial skin and the shaggy crest, joined the younger one. They fed together for a short while and then tucked their bills into their backs for a nap.
There were plenty more herons and egrets from the hide as well as some White-breasted Waterhens, Common Sandpiper, Cormorant and Eurasian Wigeon. A Black-eared Kite, sailed across the mouth of the river. (The picture below was taken from Victoria Peak on the main island of Hong Kong.)The next hide was a managed mudflat. Here were more roosting spoonbills and more egrets with a couple of Intermediate amongst them. Far in the distance I made out some Wood Sandpipers and one of the local docents pointed out a Siberian Stonechat and a small gathering of Temminck’s Stint.
At each hide there were loud children and complacent parents. Not a good mix in the circumstances.
To be fair to the HK Wetland, it is a very picturesque place to spend a Saturday morning. They have built a fantastic educational facility and it is well attended by school parties and large groups. They have provided a safe and managed habitat for the birds and have made the wetlands accessible to everyone.
My big bone of contention is the oppressive presence of the security force and their opening hours, 10.00 ‘til 16.00.
Time and tide are important factors for wetland birders. I feel that these considerations should be taken into account when setting opening times.

Mind you, if my recollection serves me well and I was in a mood to be balanced, I would remind myself that Mai Po does not allow birders past the guard post before 09.00.

Continental Cormorant 16, Grey Heron 80, Great Egret 20, Intermediate Egret 2, Little Egret 30, Black-crowned Night Heron 2, Black-faced Spoonbill 17, Eurasian Wigeon 15, Garganey 30, Black-eared Kite 2, White-breasted Waterhen 2, Common Moorhen 25, Little Plover 12, Wood Sandpiper 8, Common Sandpiper 6, Temminck's Stint 10, Spotted Dove 15, Barn Swallow 6, Richard's Pipit 1, White Wagtail 4, Red-whiskered Bulbul 12, Light-vented Bulbul 15, Sooty-headed Bulbul 6, Oriental Magpie-robin 4, Siberian Stonechat 2, Yellow-bellied Prinia 6, Plain Prinia 1, Black-throated Laughingthrush 3,
Japanese Tit 2, Japanese White-eye 4, Long-tailed Shrike 4, Eurasian Magpie 2, Eurasian Tree Sparrow 20, Nutmeg Mannikin 20, Black-faced Bunting 3.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

How to do Blog

I am new to this blogging lark and I'm having some issues. So if you are a blogger and you think you can help, read on.
First off, it would help to know if anyone out there is following my efforts. Then I would know how much I need to worry about these issues. Please say hello if your passing.
My biggest concern is the picture quality. Nothing looks better on a blog than a good sharp shot. Yet mine have been pixillated to within an inch of their tiny lives. (I have just accessed the blog from another computer and the photos appear to OK on a different moniter, so I shall explore the possibility that it my moniter needs updating. Still, any thoughts...) Can anyone suggest how I can sharpen them up? They are sharp in "my pictures", but seem to like the pixillated life online.
When you go blogging and are composing a new post, is the editing area very small? Mine is.
And another thing.... When I compose a post and lay it out within the editing window, it all shifts around when I view in in preview and it is different again when I upload it.There seems little point in getting artistic in my layout during composition when it will be shuffled about for upload.
All advice and tips are gratefully received.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)

Doha in Qatar was the setting for this gallery of pictures.
The Sheraton Hotel in Doha has gardens adjacent to the Persian Gulf. An inlet provides access from a lagoon to the open water for windsurfers and water skiiers.
This Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) found the lagoon to be very productive.

Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola)

This set of pictures was taken in Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paolo.
There is a small group of the red blossomed trees and I noticed the Bananaquits with some Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds kept returning.
I staked out a good looking flower and waited.
I can not be sure if this is just one bird returning a number of times or whether there was more than 1 individual. The hummingbirds were more wary and kept to the other side of the group of trees while I was taking the pictures.

Close to home

Last night, my son went on a night hike with the cubs. A few responsible adults were asked to volunteer to ensure adequate supervision for 20 unruly 8 to 11 year-olds. Since no responsible adults came forward, I offered my services.
Baloo had mapped out a route which took us off through meadows and streams that I had no idea existed.

This morning, I decided to explore the same route in daylight with my camera. It occurred to me that although the birds close to home are very familiar to me, this blog may be read by international subscribers. To a birder from Kansas, say, a European Robin would be really exotic.
The route took me across the road from the Scout Hut and onto a discreetly hidden public footpath. This passed between some houses and opened out onto
a rough meadow.
Before me was a shallow valley. My route would take me across the valley, then East along the far side and back across to complete 3 sides of a square. My first bird since starting the blog was a Eurasian Blackbird which flew quickly across the path. Too quickly for me to catch his picture.Alongside the path were hawthorn and brambles. I recognised the contact calls of the Long-tailed Tit and soon found 3 of them working their way downhill. The yaffle of the Green Woodpecker sounded, but I could not see him.
At the bottom of the meadow was a footbridge over a small stream. This gave onto a grazed field, bordered on two sides by water, one side by the stream I had just crossed, the other by the tiny River Len. The banks were well wooded with water-loving Alders which in turn were filled with singing birds. Most obvious among them were the European Robins who sat well for the camera. Also present were the usual suspects such as Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Wren.
More calls from the Green Woodpecker were complimented by drumming from the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, but again they did not make themselves visible.

Then a movement beneath some overhanging branches on the bank of the Len caught my eye. It was a flash of white tail such as one might expect from a Common Moorhen, but it was quickly obvious that this was not a moorhen, but a Water Rail. I so seldom see Water Rails that this was a real treat and to be close enough to get a picture made it my best ever sighting. OK so the picture is not great, but …

The path crossed the Len and came out onto a small lane which I followed until another footpath cut back towards the River Len further upstream. In the gardens by the road I saw Dunnock and Mistle Thrush
The robins continued to show well and I got shots of 6 different individuals. A Eurasian Treecreeper rocked up the trunk of an Oak and another group of Long-tailed Tits sat for me as I approached the river. Just before the footbridge was a small water meadow which (I’m assuming here) floods when the Len is in spate. It is surrounded with brambles and Hawthorn and will make an interesting place to visit come April and May when the Warblers come.Beyond the bridge was a golf course, and more drumming from the Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Sadly the rules governing public footpaths did not allow me to stray off the track to look for it.
My one regret today is that I did not see any woodpeckers to share with you. Because everyone loves woodpeckers don’t they?
The final side of the square to bring me back to the Scout Hut passed through the wonderful Bearsted Woodland Trust. This is an area of green land bought by benefactors and contributors for the use of the local community. There is a bridge built by the local regiment of the Ghurkas across yet another stream. Here I found more Mistle Thrush, Redwing and a Grey Wagtail.

Full Species sightings 20 species
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 1, Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 12, Common (Mew) Gull, Larus canus 5, Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2, Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus c60, Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decoato 2, Grey Wagtail Motacilla cineria 1, Wren (conspecific with Winter Wren) Troglodytes troglodytes 4, Dunnock Prunella modularis 2, European Robin Erithacus rubecula 14, Redwing Turdus iliacus 4, Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus 6, Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula 8, Great Tit Parus major 12, Blue Tit Parus caeruleus 9, Log-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus 6, Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1,Common Magpie Pica pica c30, Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6, Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 4

Hooded Merganzer (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Let's start with a gallery of Hooded Merganzers that were very accomodating in the reservoir in Central Park, New York last week.

There were 12 birds, mostly males. There appeared to be some breeding activity starting, even though the resevoir was mostly frozen over. In particular one of the females had committed herself to a male and followed him wherever he went. A few squabbles and crest raising amongst the males could have been proximity or perhaps the sap was rising and they were becoming less tolerant of the competition.

The preview looks quite different to my arrangement in the editing box. Any bloggers got any ideas why this might be? I have edited the post to have the pictures one beneath another. When I try to arrange them beside each other, the finished post looks very different.

When they are arranged like this in a gallery, the importance of setting a consistent cropping shape becomes very apparent.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Red Gannet is Blogging

I have a site. I have a name. Red Gannet is blogging.
my name is Red Gannet. Are made up names for blogs still called pseudonyms? Noms de blog perhaps?
I live in the UK, but my employer, bless him and keep him healthy, sends me abroad most weeks.
If I am not kept under constant supervision, I escape the cities and head for the hills. or the mountains, or the deserts or the swamps.
There I chase animals and take their pictures. Mostly birds, but when luck shines, I may find some fur amongst the feathers.
Sadly my immediate family do not share my interest, so I have a hard drive full of pictures that no-one will ever see.
I was inspired recently to start a blog to share my pictures with anyone who may be interested. "What's the chances?" were the motivating words from close friends.
What I plan to do (let's not forget that this is my first post so everything is conjecture) is to show pictures in galleries. A gallery will include pictures of a selected species of bird or animal. The criteria for selection will be; I have some photos of the selected animal or bird. The galleries will be retrospective from my collection to start with.
Soon I hope to include trip reports. Since I am rubbish at keeping details in my head for too long any retrospective trip reports are likely to be wildly innaccurate and should not be relied upon. But if I can only retain information until I get home and blog it down, it may be relevant.
So, that's the plan.