Post R&R

Birding reports from from our rep in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Lesser Spot Finder
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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Post R&R

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Sun May 06, 2012 10:10 am

The joys of horizontal rain at Cley Marshes and Portland Bill are now well and truly in the past. I had an excellent R&R with a loving family and a couple of trips out. By the end of it my UK year list was at 188 (my best total ever at this point) with 133 seen over the 14 days of R&R. If there is nothing to do whilst your family are at work, college or school there is only one alternative – bird! Thanks for Tim C, Kev C and Aldershot birding friends for keeping me company as we trudged around Wayland Wood looking for Golden Pheasant and for getting soaked at Cley. Plaudits must go to Lynne M who introduced a cracking café in Weymouth last year which enabled us to dry off this time around after a prolonged downpour at Portland. If only they knew that I empted my wellies and wrung out my socks in their loo sink.

I had arrived back in Afghanistan 24 hours later than expected due to a broken down airframe in Cyprus. The layover allowed me to catch up with some Cyprus specialities, the aptly named Cyprus Wheatear, Warbler and Scops Owl. Cetti’s Warblers were abundant around Akrotiri Airbase. Finally back on Afghan Soil on the 30th of April I managed to catch the second half of Manchester City’s victory over Manchester Utd and thus woke up the following morning surrounded by despondent Utd fans but in a happy mood. The positive nature of the start continued as I found my first Syke’s Warbler on fencing as I walked back from the shower block. Little else appeared for the rest of the day as temperatures soared to 35 oC.

I developed a dodgy stomach in the afternoon of the 1st of May and Bin Laden’s revenge took full effect so I isolated myself from my tent, put up a hammock, and slept within reach of the ablutions. I had an excellent nights sleep; I always do when I sleep under the stars and woke up to four Eastern Orphean Warblers chattering on the razor wire in front of me. As I lay there taking in the sights I picked up the distinct shape and profile of an overflying Roller. I had been told by fellow Grenadier and AOS member Rupert King-Evans that he had seen Roller just outside the wire and this sighting confirmed his. Steadily though, one more flew over, then another, then three and at one point a flock of sixteen. By breakfast I had seen a total of fifty one Rollers over my part of camp. I didn’t know that Rollers migrated in groups but this is clearly the case. After washing I wandered around the fence line of the Grenadier compound and picked up a ♀ Siberian Stonechat and a stunning ♂ Long-tailed Shrike; migration was still well and truly happening and my fear that I had missed it whilst in the UK clearly was put to one side. I was mugged to attend a tedious conference mid-morning but as I walked over was overflown by three Crowned Sandgrouse and on the way back picked up another Syke’s Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Confident that migration was still in full swing and with the need for a haircut I headed to the US PX in Camp Leatherneck on the 3rd and following the cut and a thrown in head massage (no rusty scissors for the Americans!). I returned via the Camp Leatherneck Grey Water Lagoon to find a single Black-winged Stilt, one Wood Sandpiper, nine Common Sandpipers and single Little Stint. It was obviously worth an early start the following morning.

I woke at 0500hrs the following morning, quickly shaved and headed to Runway’s End Marsh. Total destruction greeted me with the whole reed bed ripped up and only a smelly stream left. Quite why they have destroyed it remains to be seen. Perhaps the risk of a bird strike was too much to handle but either way the marsh is no more. Still, one Common Sandpiper and four Little Stints fed in the margins and a number of unidentified phylloscupus warblers flitted around in the remaining reed stems. Extremely despondent I headed to Leatherneck and picked up a two Wood Sandpipers, a further four Little Stints and an Afghan first for me, a breeding plumaged Dunlin.

Still too early for breakfast I walked around the perimeter of our compound and picked up a few Eastern Olivaceaous Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher and rather surprisingly, a single Afghan Babbler – a bird more commonly seen in family groups. Mid-afternoon, in temperatures exceeding 35 oC, and now fully acclimatised, I went for a run and was greeted by a couple of Hume’s Whitethroats in the storm ditches, Laughing Dove, Crested Lark and Tree Sparrow on the razor wire and a singing ♂ Greater Hoopoe Lark in exactly the same place as it was pre-R&R and most definitely holding territory. For the record it sounds like a flute – a flute played by James Galway after a couple of bottles of Jamisons mind you. Saudi Hoopoe Larks are much more musical, Afghan ones are tone deaf.

It was hot on Sunday afternoon so I decided to nip over to the Leatherneck Grey Water Lagoon to see what was trying to cool off. I was not disappointed with half a dozen each of Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper, two Dunlin, a beema Yellow Wagtail, two Laughing Doves and numerous Crested Larks. I managed photos of all of them.

I had a chat with the Logistic Support Officer to the Battlegroup yesterday – she had been at FOB Rahim and had picked up what was obviously 100 overflying Demoiselle Cranes heading north. It is worth looking skywards from now on.

I’m off out over the next two weeks – watch this space for sightings but I am looking forward to the thought of standing water adjacent to one of our PBs in the Green Zone and the report of a nesting Roller in another. I’ll take my camera.
Last edited by Lesser Spot Finder on Wed May 09, 2012 12:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Meatballs16
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:47 pm
Location: Farnborough Hampshire

Postby Meatballs16 » Sun May 06, 2012 3:22 pm

Hi Rich, sorry I didn't get to speak to you before you flew back and hope you have fully recovered from your dodgy stomach (I put it down to poor personal hygiene!:).

Sounds like you have had some pretty good bird sightings since you got back, unfortunately since our trip to Norfolk the weather here has steadily declined to a constant grey drizzle, making Cley seem almost pleasant!!

Stay safe!

Lesser Spot Finder
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Thu May 10, 2012 5:39 am

Kev,

sorry I didn't reply to your last text. I was at the Army/Navy game then left that evening and the text was picked up by my son after I left. Great to catch up on R&R. Hoping to do Norfolk in July if you are interested; hopefully the weather will be a little kinder.

Rich

Meatballs16
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:47 pm
Location: Farnborough Hampshire

Postby Meatballs16 » Thu May 10, 2012 5:44 pm

Rich,

A trip to Norfolk in July sounds great, let me know the date once you have it so I can make plans.

Kev

Lesser Spot Finder
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
Contact:

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Fri May 11, 2012 3:48 am

Kev,

PM me your mobile number please. Rich H is trying to get hold of you.


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