Saturday, 5 January 2013

2012 Highlights- abroad

Turkey.  Nick Preston and I decided to take advantage of the extra Bank Holiday in early June and spent a week in central Turkey.  Kruper’s Nuthatch, Radde’s Accentor and Caspian Snowcock where my three targets and we saw all three quite easily along with all the other feasible new birds for us and some other excellent species (e.g. White-throated Robin, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater), most of which proved photographable.  Turkey was a superb country and our visit was enhanced by meeting other British groups also taking advantage of the Queen’s Jubilee.  I saw 168 species of which 143 were new, we drove 2250 km and the trip cost me £800 door to door.  The only disappointment was that we didn’t have longer.  On a two week trip we could have tried for Caucasian Black Grouse and Grey-necked Bunting …
Kruper's Nuthatch near Uzuncaburc on 3 June
Radde's Accentor at Demirkazik on 4 June, this along with the previous species were my most wanted birds in Turkey.  They did not disappoint. 
Asian Crimson-winged Finch at Demirkazik on 4 June.  It was just over 35 years since I'd seen the African variant in Morocco, I'd forgotten how chunky they were.
Rock Thrush at Demirkazik on 4 June.  Time Sussex had one that everyone could enjoy. Beachy this spring please ...
White-throated Robin at Demirkazik on 4 June. What a performer!

Nick at Demirkazik on 4 June, the best travelling companion one could hope for
Iraq Babbler at Birecik on 6 June.  A recent colonist that doesn't quite live up to its billing
Eastern Rock Nuthatch at Durnalik on 6 June.  Another new nuthatch, superb.
See-see at Birecik on 7 June.  A bird I feared that we might struggle to see but we ended up seeing six in our time around Birecik 
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters at Estagfirullah on 7 June, two of about  37 seen around the village and on the small volcano shaped hill immediately to the east
Cinereous Bunting at Nemrut Dagi on 8 June, they were common here
Kurdish (Red-tailed) Wheatear at Nemrut Dagi on 8 June.  One of  eight seen during our two days in the area.
Pale Rockfinch at Nemrut Dagi on 8 June, another new bird that was fairly common here.
Sarawak and Sabah.  A planned return to West Papua in 2012 fell through so Nick and I decided to revisit Sabah in late July.  With Blue-banded Pitta our most wanted bird we decided to add a few days at Kubah National Park in Sarawak at the start.  Yeo Siew Teck, a famed bird guide (and very pleasant company) who knew the pitta well, was available for our first morning which seemed too good an opportunity to miss even if only to show us the better areas to concentrate on for the rest of our stay.  In the event his knowledge and determination gave us excellent views of the only Blue-banded Pitta we saw all trip.  It was my bird of the year.  Kinabatangan River was disappointing as we didn’t even hear Bornean Ground Cuckoo despite 4 attempts along the river with Robert Chong.  The forest at Danum Valley was superb but it had been so dry that birds were not very active and so hard work to find.  I saw 13 pittas in our week there including Bornean Banded that I’d not seen previously.  Poring Hot Springs was disappointing while a twitch to Sepilok for Bornean Bristlehead looked like it was headed the same way until Nick spotted a party from one of the canopy towers on our third morning.  This left us two and a half days at Mount Kinabalu where we saw a reasonable selection of endemics and, on our last day along the Mesillau Gate, trail my two targets – Everett’s Thrush and Friendly Warbler.  I saw 221 species of which just 9 were new (Nick got just 6).  The trip cost me £2200 for just over three weeks in Borneo.  Many thanks to Nick Preston for being such a brilliant companion and appreciating how important seeing Bristlehead had become for me that he was happy for it to be the main focus of our last week.  Not seeing the Ground Cuckoo was hard, especially as others saw it before and after we’d tried.  Success at this time of year seemed to be less than 50%.  No Hose’s Broadbill at Poring was disappointing too, although they were not being seen this summer, as were the limited photographic opportunities - not helped by my not taking my normal telescope or tripod.
Blue-banded Pitta at Kubah on 24 July.  Photo taken by Yeo Siew Teck who found the bird, Nick and I were too intent on watching it to consider pictures even though it was on view for 20 minutes.  Bird of the year, no contest.
Hooded Pitta on the Kinabatangan River on 30 July, nice but unfortunately the best Robert Chong could conjure up for us
mother and infant Orang at Danum Valley Field Centre on 5 August
Whiskered Tree-swift at Danum on 5 August, the only bird I photographed here
Black and Yellow Broadbill at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok on 8 August.  A nice enough distraction from looking for Bristleheads, at least it was on the first day ...

Bornean Bristlehead from the canopy walkway at Sepilok RDC on 10 August, not as easy here as we were expecting, it took 27 hours before Nick spotted a small party moving through the mid-storey.  Fortunately they were moving slowly and were with us for half an hour.
male Fruithunter on the Messilau Gate trail at Kinabalu on 12 August
a rather tired but very happy me on the Messilau Gate trail at Kinabalu on 12 August, having seen Everett's Thrush and what until then I'd referred to as the Kinabalu Unfriendly Warbler
Somme.  A week with the family in early September staying at St. Valery-sur-Somme allowed some pleasant birding in the immediate vicinity with highlights being Crested Tits in pretty much every patch of coniferous woodland, 104 Jays migrating south on our last morning (including a loose flock of 54), a Spotted Crake, 3 Hen Harriers, 2 White Storks, 120 Spoonbills and 5 Serins.
Spotted Crake seen near Baie de Somme on 6 September
one of two White Storks seen near Baie de Somme on 6 September
one of six Black-winged Stilts seen near Baie de Somme on 9 September

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