While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Monday, 4 May 2009

On finding inspiration... and traveling to Kazakhstan and Po Delta, Italy

I pretty much always want to write stuff on my blog, but it is strange how the fountains of inspiration came and go in spurts. I will have periods where everywhere I look there are things I would like to write about, photos I would like to show, and cool adventures I would like to share.
And then at other times, I look at my blog, want to write something, but nothing jumps out of my fingers. The last couple of days have been like that.

Male Black Grouse, this is pretty much how we saw them flying around past us. although there was probably more snow in the background where we were. The photo is by enger on flickr.

It is not that nothing interesting has happened; we have had fresh snow, I saw three Black Grouse (very cool indeed), went for a great mountain bike ride with a good friend, and had Rock Buntings all about us when we were rock climbing yesterday (hard life, I know ;-)
I suppose part of it is that last week was a real run-around week with lots happening. I met lots of interesting people, did lots of cool things and was thoroughly engaged in living this physical life. Slowly, over the weekend, the mind started to calm. And I think it went in to some sort of torpor. A gentle sleep, recovering, refreshing.

I look outside at the gentle rain falling and I feel it washing my mind. Cleansing my spirit. I need to promise myself to take some time this week – even if it is only in the evenings – to sit still. Recapitulate. Meditate. Humm to myself. Maybe some yoga is on the cards too. Allow myself to reconnect, and not get caught up in the preparations for next week.

Next week I fly to Frankfurt for an overnight stay and a short meeting, before heading on to Kazakhstan for a week. The trip has been organized by Swarovski Optik and I get to go along to play with their new digiscoping toys and help the other invited participants get to grips with the new equipment. But essentially, it will mostly be a birding vacation, looking for some of the cool central Asian species that are to be found there: Ibisbill, Sociable Plover, and a dizzying array of Redstarts and Accentors!

Güldenstädt's Redstart, one of the [many] species I am hoping to see/digiscope in Kazakhstan. This photo is by laser-tomas on flickr. Go ahead and leave him a comment on his account, I am sure he will enjoy it!

I would be lying if I claimed to not be completely over-excited about the trip and all the birding/digiscoping possibilities we have in store.
Another good reason to try to center this week before the excitement of next!

Getting back from Kazakhstan, we have a couple of hours back here in the Alps before Clay and I head off down to Italy. More precisely; to Po delta (Delta del Po). I have never been there, but have heard lots about it. It is just south of Venice, on Italy's northeast coast, and boasts a stunning array of cool wetland and waterbirds with a healthy dose of waders thrown in the mix. Imagine: thousands of Greater Flamingoes, thousands of Pygmy Cormorant (OMG), cool ducks, plovers... all the sorts of things we hardly ever see here in the Alps.

one last thing, I will try my hardest to post whilst in Kazakhstan and Italy. If I am able to, then I might be able to post some photos and video of the new products from Swaro, so watch this space (as they say).

Happy birding
Dale Forbes


Jochen said...

Birding in Kazakhstan is amazing! Just try to avoid public restrooms and do not drink water anywhere that hasn't been boiled (not even in the remotest corner of the Tian Shan). These areas look so remote now but have been full of sheep until recently that pooped everywhere, so even a clear mountain stream might get your insides in trouble.

Ibisbills are cool. Swaro will probably take you to a national park in the mountains right above Almaty. There is a small lake up there by the main rest camp that has a large bed of gravel on its other side, where the small river flows into the lake. This area should hold Ibisbill. They are surprisingly difficult to spot though. If this fails, you need to walk uphill along the main track/road that follows the river for a long, long time (long hike but good birding all along) until you get to yet another area of shingles, pebbles and sand bars. That's where you might find Ibisbills, too.


Anonymous said...

This is a nice set of photos.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This certainly seems like a busy and enjoyable time for you Dale, but I know one sometimes has to stop to take a breath and find your soul again. I do this by going to sit in Pilansberg and watch the animals. A friend of mine calls this my 'bush fix' and she is right. :)

Sharon said...

Hope you have a great trip and yes, Pickles did enjoy the flowers:)

Kelly said...

...Wow, you do have an exciting time ahead of you! I will be sure to tune in, as I'd like to learn a little about digiscoping. (I do yoga too...it's the only thing that helps me slow my mind down.)

Kallen305 said...

I am so glad I found this blog. You take magnificent photos. I need all of the help I can get with digiscoping so I will be sure to check in here when I can!

Dale Forbes said...

Thank you all for your well-wishes!

Jochen, that is incredible info! Thank you. I will post the photos (and give you credit ;-)

Hi Abe, the photos are lovely. Thanks to enger and laser-tomas.

Joan, ah, the Pilansberg. btw, I loved your last "cradle of mankind" post - can't wait for the next in the series!

Sharon, you tell pickles not to eat too many of those barbeton daisies. it can't be good for her!

Kelly, the best way to learn about digiscoping is just to try. as you practice, you will start to get a feel for what questions you need to ask, and start to understand the answers more. as with yoga, it is so much easier when I stop thinking learning and allow myself to natural/doing learn (I am pretty sure that is English).

Kim, thank you for visiting my blog - I look forward to seeing more of your digiscoping photos - those Merlins definitely made me jealous!


Jochen said...

Oh, and I'd say it is quite unlikely you'll get much blogging done there. Too little internet access, to much great tasting vodka (much, much better than the junk you get in Europe, so take care and be careful).

Dale Forbes said...

rofl, so what you are saying, Jochen, is that even if I do manage to get online there, my blog posts are likely to be more garbled nonsense than normal. oh well, I heard that it is bad manners to not accept offerings of vodka so it might well be a wayward trip (amazing what you can learn from Borat ;-)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Being in Pretoria, Pilansberg is only an hour and a half away, so I leave at 3-4am depending on the gate opening time.

Thanks Dale. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series although some of the photographs are not so good having to take them through glass. The information is great though. :)

Jochen said...

Dale, my pleasure.
On GoogleEarth you can actually see the lake south of Almaty (in light blue) and the main road that leads to it from the North. The first Ibisbill area is at the lake's southern end (although in low resolution, you can sort of see it on the image). As I said, if there are no Ibisbills there (unlikely, but can happen), just follow the road that leads along the eastern side of the lake to the south again (a major hiking trail and the only road towards the south, so it is impossible to miss it or to get lost, this road is in part visible on the GoogleEarth image).
The road will eventually go towards the east and at a distance of roughly 7 km from the initial lake, you can (again at low resolution) see what is likely the other area of pebbles/sand bars where the Ibisbill lurks for unwary birdwatchers.
But I suspect that as it is an organized tour, you'll have leaders that know better than I do where the Ibisbills can be found.

Gosh, you'll love the mountains there. So much more pristine than the Alps (okay, maybe not so much right above Almaty, but in general terms) and the birding is so nice...

Jochen said...

Aaaand, the vodka issue:

you are doomed, man, doomed!

It really is regarded as an insult if you reject a vodka offering. There's only one way out (seriously, only one thing people will usually accept): health issues!
If you don't want to drink, hold your hand to your liver, make a suffering face and people will understand that you have a serious illness (have been drinking too heavily in the past) and will let you off the hook.
But of course this only works well if you are not likely to meet those people again during your trip as this excuse means you have to stick to it: You cannot drink one day out of curiosity or because the vodka looks so good and reject an offering from the same person the next day due to "health issues".

The people to watch therefore are your drivers. If they invite you: no way out unless it is absolute abstinence.

Usually you are offered a slice of very, very fatty bacon with each vodka (or at the beginning of each drinking session). It looks disgusting (pure fat), but take it and eat it, all you can. It will make the drinking easier. Oh, and don't expect shot sizes like in Europe. A shot there is at least 0,1 litres!

Can you spell D-O-O-M ?


It is all great fun though.

Take it easy!!

Rob said...

Hi there... just discovered your blog through someone else's blog.

I think I need to get bit by a travel bug and see other parts of the world eventually just because of the birds.

I don't see a section where I can follow your blog... I blog on the same site.



Rob said...

ooops, never mind, found it... showed up after I logged in

Dale Forbes said...

thank you for joining in the fun, Rob!

I had a good look around your blog - you have some lovely photos and interesting tales. I left some comments scattered about and signed up to your cult of followers ;-)

Tabib said...

I hope you have a great and safe trip to Kazakhstan and Italy.
Hope that all those H1N1 thingy not affected there.
Happy birding & digiscoping!

Fraser Simpson said...

Sounds like a very exciting trip Dale - look forward to seeing your photographs when you return.