Friday, 2 April 2010

Mole Rat and Paper Wasp

As already mentioned in a previous post we were very lucky to come across a male mole rat that had been discovered by two German tourists. The tourists were 1) very surprised to see this chap running across the road in broad daylight and 2) be rumbled by 3 British ecologists and a local guide. It was the local guide that picked it up for some quick photographs.

The photo below shows the front teeth with the gums behind - this species digs with its teeth and having gums behind the teeth means it doesnt swallow any soil.

Spade shaped head for pushing through the soil.

What an amazing creature - and very lucky for us to find as they usually spend all of their time underground and if and when they do venture out it is normally at night.
There are a few mole rat species found around the world and the one native to Bulgaria is the Lesser Mole Rat (Spalax leucodon).

General shot of a species of paper wasp that we came across on one of the early morning breeding surveys on the steppes.

Bulgaria 2009 - Part 1

I was lukcy enough to have 3 trips to Bulgaria in 2009. These were work trips but nevertheless was able to get some birding, sight seeing and general wildlife watching done. Our work was to set up breeding bird surveys for a project on the Black Sea coast of NE Bulgaria. Our local guide, friend and fellow ecologist was very up for showing off the region and as we had been there alot we were also very familiar with where to go to see the best birds.

One of our transect walks was on the last bit of Steppe Grassland on the Black Sea coast. It was truely amazing and was packed with Calandra, Sky and Crested Larks - the noise of all of these birds was incredible! At one point we probably had 25-30 Calandra Larks over head displaying. Their flight is very bizzare especially when they stall in mid air - they are quite reminiscent of a teradatctyl!
The weather was generally very good for the duration of all of our trips - although am not sure the winter trip was that great - very cold with lots of snow but when you are looking
at over 100,000 geese of which up to 16,000 are Red-breasted I guess you take the rough with the smooth. I has to dip out of that trip as my 3rd child was born 4 days before the trip! I will try and get some winter pics off my colleague although from memory I don't think they are that great - the geese were very distant! He did have a result mind - Long-tailed Duck on the sea which caused a bit of a stir with the local ornithologists who were helping with the project.

Another snap of the steppe - very early in the morning!!!

Most of the breeding transects were along planted shelter belts in agricultural land so the day to
day birds were fairly common passerine species. Good numbers of Ortolan Buntings and lots of Golden Orioles in the shelter belts - we even found a nest!

Shrikes were everywhere - in the scubby areas and in the shelter belts - both Red-backed and Lesser Grey were very plentiful and we managed to pick up a single Woodchat which made a nice change! (the ones on the left are RB Shrike)

On one of the first trips in 2008 I managed to get to go ringing with our guide and had a adult male Red-backed Shrike in the hand - dont know where the pictures of that went but will try and dig them out. 2009 ringing in really good woodland one of the mornings after the survey the locals caught me a Hawfinch - shame it was a juvenile but at least you get an idea of the beak!!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Mobile Blogging

All new to me (how old I hear you cry!)

Anyway let's see if this works!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Good Morning!

Again another image from 2009 (catching up!) - also from the Steppes on the Black Sea coast.

Will be taking more pics and adding to this as the year goes on. Think will be very lucky to see one of these on trip next week but will wait and see.

Bulgaria 2009 - Tricky Nest

Probably the hardest nest I have ever been shown - can't take the credit for finding this!!

There are 4 chick in this nest with I think the best ever camouflage I have ever seen. This was taken on the Steppe grassland on the Black Sea coast.

Nest was of Calandra Lark.

Bulgaria 2009 - one of the best finds -very random. Driving back to hotel and spotted two folks by side of road. Drove past, started thinking - two people by side of road with what looked like snake stick - stopped and did U-turn. Stopped and out pilled 4 ecologists - 2 birders, local guide and bat specialist. Found 2 Germans not with a snake but a mole rat they saw running accross the road. Very nocuturnal, very enexpected and uterly brilliant.

The Beginning

First ever post!

Very busy with work at the moment - I am an ornithological consultant (well ecological but birds is my main specialism and if I could get away with it would be all I would do - am trying my best!)

Bit of background I guess would be of some use -

Am 33 and have been very lucky to have worked in the 'green' sector since graduated with degree in Ecology from Leeds Uni (the proper one!).

Went home after graduating and looked for a volunteer job at local nature reserve, had a chat with warden and got offered paid job! Very lucky but had worked hard for it I guess - RSPB volunteer in gap year followed by 6 months in France as a paid wildlife guide - 6 months in the Camargue for free showing folks flamingos, horses and bulls whilst I dashed around looking for decent things to look at - although Fan-tailed Warblers do get very boring after a while. Also did trips to the Cevennes and had great opportunity to see lots of very good birds.

Once donw with Uni had 10 years working in conservation (countyside warden) and some time at a bird observatory in Kent- very happy times - best bird ringed probably Long-eared Owl or maybe Icterine Warbler - surpased last year in Bulgaria with RB Shrike and Hawfinch!!

Consultant now - have been for a number of years and very very lucky to have a great job.

Bulgaria 4 times last year and Ukraine once and hopefully Bulgaria again next week - Imperial Eagle surveys.

Will post more soon