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!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Stone Chats galore

I have just gotten back from an awesome 6 days in Extremadura (western Spain), a bird-lovers paradise. It was wonderful to be in the sun again (it was snowing at home and in Extremadura we were sitting in shorts, baking in the sun).

One of the things we did a few times while we were in Extremadura is to drive out on the road through the steppes from Belen (near Trujillo). In the afternoon, the sun is directly behind you and the light on two of the afternoons was absolutely spectacular. Jörg and I had a lot of fun digiscoping all the little passerines that lines the road and buzzed around in the steppes.

Here are some of the stonchats I digiscoped there:

playing with the blue sky as a background

the wonderfully golden browns of the steppes also made for some interesting, rich backgrounds

Besides the stonechats, we also saw tons of larks: Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Skylark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark and a few Wood Larks (I'll post some pics when I have time).

Oh, and how could one forget the Great Bustards and Little Bustards.

Ghastly photos (huge distances), but if you use your imagination, you can figure it out ;-)

All photos digiscoped with a Swarovski STM80HD scope, TLS800 adapter and Canon 7D

Happy digiscoping,
Dale Forbes

Sunday, 17 October 2010

10th Tata Goose Festival

At the end of November, the bird conservation groups in Hungary (MME, the Birdlife Partner & SzVTE, a local volunteer-based conservation organisation) organise a spectacular bird festival in the ancient town of Tata, about an hour west of Budapest. The town surrounds a huge ancient reservoir (man-made lake, Öreg Tó) on which many thousands of geese roost overnight in winter.

People gathered to enjoy the geese coming in from the fields

In order to keep the disturbance of the over-wintering geese to a minimum, the local authorities and conservation organisations have worked together to limit the number of lights around the lake such that even though one is in the middle of a town/city, the lake is surprisingly dark at night. The one structure that does stand out is the Baroque castle, on the west bank of the lake.

Find out more about the IX Tatai Vadlúd Sokadalom in a short movie I made last year.

The 20,000 goose-strong flocks are mainly Bean Geese and Greater White-fronted Goose, with large numbers of Greylag Geese and regular sightings of both Red-breasted Goose and Lesser White-fronted Goose.

Testing the new EL Swarovision binoculars at last year's festival

But besides the most remarkable bird spectacle, what I have personally found so wonderful about the Tatai Vadlúd Sokadalom (Tata Wild Goose Festival) is the sheer number of people hanging out and enjoying the spectacle. People come from all over the country to experience the spectacle, and being able to do so with thousands of other nature-appreciators is just fantastic. And everywhere you look, there are kids joining in. Now, I don´t mean kids getting dragged along by their parents, and playing games at the adults' feet. I mean participating as equals. They have their own binoculars. Or borrow from others. Peer through telescopes for ages, and soak up the spectacle.

Geese coming in to roost on the "old lake" Öreg Tó

If you are able to get to Hungary on 26-27 November this year for the X Tatai Vadlúd Sokadalom, then you should really do so. And while you are there, get ahold of one of their beautifully painted festival T-shirts. Last year was a Lesser White-fronted Goose and the year before was a Red-breasted Goose.

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes

Friday, 15 October 2010

Is it not enough to have your heart in the right place?

At the beginning of the year I got to meet Andreas Kieling, an absolutely fascinating man. How to describe him. I suppose wildlife film-maker is probably how he is described most often. But it is normally rather silly to try to sum complex people up by a description of their job, so I'll try to share something of what I felt of him. A complex man who, in person, is rather quiet and unassuming. But the man has spent such a huge amount of his time over the last 20 years just being in nature, that he is filled with an awe for nature. He oozes it. And people around him feel this and if you have any remote interest in our planet and her complexities, then you cannot help but being drawn in to his bubble of nature appreciation and adventure.

Now, I am quite certain that he is not perfect. His feet probably smell. And I would imagine he farts when he eats too much cabbage. He almost certainly has something about him that would annoy me. And if we ever spend enough time together we will find something to disagree on. With absolute certainty. 100%
Because neither of us are perfect.
When I reach the state of Buddhahood, or a complete understanding of Lord Jesus, I will be able to completely accept him as he is.

But the thing is, the man has such a deep love for nature, that I cannot imagine anything less than granting the man a great deal of respect and trying to accept him for who he is. On top of that, he has dedicated much of his life to not only understanding nature, but also to sharing his passion with others: to bring his appreciation and caring to a wide audience around the world.

So why am I blabbing on about Andreas Kieling and when am I going to get to saying something of remote relevance to my title?

In April, I made a little movie with Andreas Kieling in eastern Austria (Burgenland). We had gone out to photograph and film Great Bustards displaying, and what a sight that was! Crazy birds. Crazy crazy crazy.

Anyhow, so we put the movie on Youtube, along with some of the footage of the Great Bustards displaying taken through the spotting scope. It seems most people liked the video, until the other day some guy wrote a comment that offended me (and some of my colleagues). I mean, what is with people and critical, negative comments. So what if you do not personally like this man and the video and think someone else is better.
A (very) rough translation:
He's a 5 star farcical big-head. Played up and senseless drivel on every corner. This has nothing to do with serious documentation. I think Heinz Sielmann's documentaries are 1000 times better.
What would drive anyone to write this. I just cannot for the life of me figure this out. Heinz Sielmann has some wonderful documentaries too. This is not a serious documentary. Yup, yup. You do not like Andreas Kieling. Fine. But he has helped thousand (millions?) appreciate nature in a much stronger way (especially bears, his first love).
So, after sleeping on it, we wrote a softened response.

But I suppose this "problem" has been seen many many times before. I would imagine that most bloggers who have been doing it for a while have been through moments of self doubt, thinking about throwing in the towel. Because the thing about blogging is that we open ourselves up to the world. We lay our thoughts and hearts on paper and spread them open for the world to see. And sometimes there are people who take objection to that.

But please, if you think my feet are smelly or my ideas/videos/blog posts/photos/hair are silly, just mosey on over to another better smelling blog.

I love life. I love nature. the mountains. my family. birds. plants. blue skies. rain. mist. my job. digiscoping. art. sport. smiles. laughs. life. And I hope I am in some small way able to share my love for all that. And that it is in some small way contagious.

Happy days,
Dale Forbes

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Playing with the new Panasonic G2

We got the Panasonic Lumix G2 just a few weeks ago and the Photokina in Cologne was the first time I had a little bit of time to play with it and see what it could do.

To be brutally honest, I was not expecting much - something like a camera trying to be a real camera but not really living up to the promise. The Lumix G2 was a pleasant surprise.

The pictures here were all taken on my morning/evening walks between our hotel (near the stunningly beautiful Cologne cathedral), and the Photokina expo hall. The Hohenzollern Bridge is one of the most wonderful places I discovered in my (short) time in Cologne, 409m long (1350ft) and decorated with love padlocks (Liebesschlösse).

a really old lock. where on earth did they find this lock?

I loved playing with the light and colours on the bridge...

The masterkey...
I loved that

playing with artificial effects on the computer

new and old

Well, the Panasonic G2 is no Nikon D3, but I was quite happy with its ease of use, how quickly it was to find my way around the camera, and its control of depth of field, amongst other things. I'll be using this camera a whole lot over the next few months for it certainly seems to be more than a handy digiscoping camera.