21 November 2007
Hawfinch and some more India memories
This blue sky was a rare break in the weather allowing me to take a picture of this Hawfinch. A slightly less colourful race than the one seen in the UK. Actually I've only ever seen Hawfinches once in the UK. May 1983 to be precise. Churchwood Penwortham. This small tract of woodland has almost disappeared as it's next to a bypass that was constructed in the mid 80's. Anyway, they're very common here especially in winter.
As I was saying the weather over the last 3 or 4 days has been awful. It's blizzarding again outside and minus 4. Winter has come early this year. The window of opportunity to get the Hawfinch pic was about 20 minutes. Luckily it was in a park only 2 or 3 minutes walk from my flat.
Not much else around to be honest. A few Dusky Thrush, some Coal Tit, a male Daurian Redstart, a few Oriental Greenfinch on their way south. This tiny park has provided me with some pretty good birds in the last few years. Red Crossbill, Whites Thrush, various migrant Warblers and Flycatchers, Wryneck, Siberian Rubythroat, Red Flanked Bluetail, Siskin etc. But today Hawfinch was the most interesting.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also in the park but it wasn't sat against a bright blue sky next to red snow covered berries so the pictures are crap.
Around November 21 down the years:
1998 (late November). I was in India and visited the town of Puri on the Orissan coast. I don't really know why I chose this place to spend a week or so but I'm glad I did. It took almost 24 hours to get there by train from Varanasi and it seemed like a different planet once I was there.
It was the location of my only 'real' birding in the subcontinent. I rented a boat (with driver of course) and spent a very relaxing day on Lake Chilka, a huge nearby lagoon. The birds were pretty impressive. Huge numbers of ducks including thousands of Ruddy Shelduck, a flock of about 100 Greater Flamingo, White Bellied Sea Eagle, another Eagle with a snake on its' talons (Short Toed Eagle? God knows), Brown Headed Gull, lots of Terns including Whiskered, Various Egrets and Cormorants, various waders including Black Winged Stilt and Red Wattled Lapwing, White Bellied and Pied Kingfishers, severasl types of Bee-eater.............you get the idea. Here's a lousy scanned photo of the Flamingoes.
Puri is a bit of an odd town. My abiding memory is of people squatting on the beach and taking a dump followed by the local feral pigs who ate the fresh hot snacks left by the local citizenry. I didn't go swimming or go barefoot either. My hotel was in quite a modern building and I was on the top floor. Amazingly the room had a decent toilet (no visits to the beach for me) and...........SATELLITE TV. I watched Robbie Fowler bang in a hat-trick against Aston Villa and England draw the first test in Brisbane. Both live. Puri is also a 'holy' city meaning grass and opium were legal so
I passed the time pleasantly watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean and pottering around the streets of Puri (they have 1 amazing temple but not much else). Vultures and cattle Egrets flapped overhead as well as Paddybirds, Treepies, various Drongo species and the common urban birds of India.
The most dramatic thing that happened in this very peaceful week was me dropping and smashing my glasses. the local glasses shop man looked at my good lens and made me a copy without giving me an eye test. They were fine.
Aftr Puri I headed north to Calcutta where I spent 1 night before getting yet another overnight train/bus to Darjeeling. I thankfully didn't go by this 'toytrain' though........surely the slowest form of commrcial mechanized transport in the world.
I was a little tired of travelling by this stage but I have to say I liked Darjeeling. The people were ethnic Nepali and seemed more laidback than lowland Indians, I had a spectacular view of the Himalaya from my fleapit window, I had some tasty Indian food that didn't give me the sh*ts. I even went to the zoo on a kind of 'date' with a local girl. I wasn't sure of her intentions.........I think it was perfectly innocent and she wanted a penpal or something. The zoo was predators only........Tigers, Wolves, Leopards and Snow Leopard. It was a weird day and in the evening I played snooker with a Naturalized Nicaraguan citizen from France. In Darjeeling I took a rest from smoking so much dope and my head cleared. Unfortunately my throat infection had got worse and I made plans to go back to England. Then there was a general strike............but everyone was still friendly and polite. And always possible to get a nice cup of tea of course.
2002 (Nov 26) A female Smew on the moat in Goryokaku Park.
2004 (Nov 26) A female Grey Headed Woodpecker in the same park as above. A female Goshawk was there a few days later on the 28th.
2005 (Nov 22) I first noticed the odd Gull on the river that turned out to be a Thayers Gull.
2006 (Nov 24) a White Tailed Eagle was a nice flyover species in Hakodate whilst on the local river on the 26th there was the Thayers Gull, a drake Gadwall and a Blue Rock thrush.