Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Jewel Hunter

I read this book recently and it is described as,  
"A tale of one man’s obsession with rainforest jewels, this is the story of an impossible dream: a quest to see every one of the world’s most elusive avian gems – a group of birds known as pittas – in a single year."

When I picked this book up I wondered if it would end up reading like a tour report, but with far fewer species, I was wrong. Chris not only keeps the reader entertained with a mouth watering list of birds he sees but manages to capture the atmosphere and his personal feelings at the same time. You almost feel the pain in your own knees as Chris talks of sitting for hours motionless in stifling heat and humidity waiting for his target species to hop in to view.  The book is full of entertaining and humorous tales as he races around the world from one country and species to another. Each chapter shows a map detailing the route taken and the Pitta species encountered, whilst throughout the book photos taken on the trip help bring some of the places, people, birds, animals and events to life. In the back of the book a collection of personal photos show almost the full suit of species seen, and range from full frame shots to 'record' shots. I did find myself looking up some of the species to find better photos but the ones in the book certainly give a sense of the elusive nature of this enigmatic group of birds. All in all it is a superb read and I found it difficult to put down, even though I have never seen a single Pitta species, it has however pushed the Banded Pitta near to the top of species I would most like to see.

The Jewel Hunter is already a best-seller and the author Chris Gooddie is currently on his first UK tour! To hear the story first-hand from the man who set fire to a carefully constructed career ladder and travelled all over Asia and beyond in a lunatic mission to see every one of the world's most beautiful birds, the pittas, in a single year, then come along to one of Chris's talks tonight at theWolsey Room of the London Road Holiday Inn (IP2 0UA) on the south-west side of Ipswich near the A14/A12 Copdock roundabout. All meetings will commence at 7.30 pm.  Admission charge – £2.00 members (excluding AGM which is free) – £3.00 non-members

Submit your sightings

With another year over and with the evenings still dark, now is the time to submit your sightings from 2011 to the relevant county recorder. As the South-east Suffolk recorder you can send your sightings to myself via email to . The preferred format can be found at the SOG site via thie quick links box on the home page. The email addresses of the other 2 area recorders can also be found on the SOG site. These sightings are collated and form the basis of the Suffolk Bird report. Artwork and photographes are alos greatly received.

RSPB High Definition 82 mm telescope

The RSPB has recently launched a new High Definition 82 mm telescope.
I asked Scott Mayson, one of Minsmere's volunteer bird guides and SE Suffolk County Bird Recorder, for his thoughts on this new telescope. Here's what he said.
"Having been birding for many years I have used a great range of optics from both ends of the spectrum and almost everything in between.  The RSPB range mainly covers the lower to mid range with recent higher end versions coming to the market place. I recently tried the new 82mm scope in the field and was keen to see how this new addition would fair in respect to it close rivals.
"On first appearances it is similar aesthetically to the both the Kowa 880 series and the Leica APO televid , not a bad thing in my eyes as both are great looking scopes. The body is made from light weight magnesium with a black powder type coating and the whole 'scope feels like a quality piece of kit.
"The huge 82mm objective lens combined with the HD glass and aspheric lenses produced a very bright sharp image on what was a rather dull winter's day, allowing the fine plumage details to be picked out on a group of mixed gulls. Colour reproduction was excellent, with only a slight yellow cast but this was in truth barely noticeable.
"The two focusing wheels are nicely placed with one allowing fast focus whilst the smaller one dealt with fine focus. The 25-50x zoom eyepeice is wide angled allowing the scope to be used at lower magnification whilst scanning for birds, with the 50 times being great for helping to clinch the ID of that distant problem bird. Throughout the range of zoom there is no real loss in brightness or sharpness with very little "tunnelling" effect often found in cheaper zooms. At the top end of the zoom I found the fine focus to be most effective as the depth of field is on the narrow side. I did notice some colour fringing during my test but this was only apparent when birds were strongly back light, in my case ducks silhouetted on water.
"With a large objective lens it should lend itself beautifully to digiscpoing but this was not something I was able to test. All in all this is a very accomplished scope that offers many of the features and optical quality usually reserved for high end optics but at a much cheaper price."
If you like the sound of this superb new telescope as a Christmas present or New Year treat for yourself or a loved one, here's a few facts and figures to help you decide.
• Large HD objective lens for maximum light transmission
• Broadband multi-coating for bright, life-like images
• 25-50x eyepiece for wide angle viewing
• Aspheric lenses for a sharp, edge-to-edge image
• Magnesium alloy body for reduced weight and rugged protection
• Waterproof and dry nitrogen filled to prevent fogging
• Locking eyepiece for extra stability and security
• Two focussing wheels for fast and fine focussing
• Excellent value for money
Why not pop along to Minsmere and try one for youself in the shop?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

14th & 15th January - Trip to the South West

With a 4 possible ticks and many other good birds I headed south west for a bird filled weekend. 1st stop was the Spanish Sparrow at Calshot and our timing could not have been better. We arrived just before dawn so took advantage of the superb bacon butties on offer by the locals. We finished these and headed across the road to join the throng across the road and within 2 minutes the Sparrow worked its way out of its roost sight to provide cracking views before taking flight over the houses.

Next stop was just down the road for the Dark-eyed Junco, and the short journey was magnificent with the open heathland covered in frost giving the whole landscape a magical feel in the early dawn light. The Junco showed occasionally but usually only briefly and high in the tree tops. Several Crossbills kept us entertained between sightings.


13th January - Strand

With an early afternoon high tide and glorious sunshine I headed to the Orwell to photograph some of the waders before they headed to roost. Some of the Dunlin came to close, whilst the Lapwing lived up to their other name Green Plover.

Monday, 2 January 2012

January 1st

It's that day of the Christmas holiday I look forward to the most,  the New Years day bird race. Last year is saw 125 would I/ we beat it this year? Well after a 2:30 start and 14 hours in the field we got a team score of 127 whilst myself and Lee also saw Dartford Warbler, giving me a total of 128 for the first day of the year! Had the weather been better I think the record of 130 would have been in our grasp.  Well done to all those that took part.

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