Thursday 25 June 2009

Fish on Birder Hyde

If you just so happen to be an expert on small European freshwater fish, you might want to take a look at my latest "post" on Birder Hyde here and help me out!


Monday 22 June 2009

Back to the Future: A Post from the Past

I am back home and thus back on my blog (home is where the blog is, so they say).

This however is not a recent post.
See that title? It is a post I wrote while waiting to be picked up at the airport two weeks ago.
So many exciting things - all blogworthy - happened inbetween (now and then) but as I was there on a job-mission, all the data belongs to my employer and I am technically not allowed to blog about it.

Such is life.

But nevertheless, here's what I wrote back then at Saint Petersburg's airport:

While I write this, I am sitting in a small cafe at Saint Petersburg’s international airport. Well, I can’t get Internet access here, possibly more due to my work machine’s security conscious configurations than due to a lack of wireless networks on Saint Petersburg airport, which means I can write but not post – a very clever way of blogging, and so innovative.
So by the time you will get to read what I am writing now, I won’t still be sitting there.

I hope.

I am due to be picked up in two hours, so I was told. Looking around though, on an international airport where no-one seems to speak anything but Russian, I might end up stranded here after all until my return flight in 12 days. But the coffee is surprisingly good, so I can think of worse places to be stuck in.

Restrooms in Kazakhstan spring to mind.

Right, I am kidding, of course I’ll be picked up as I have already spoken to the guy and he’s on his way.

Anyway, a few short birding notes while I am still outside my working area (secrecy, right?):

Last German bird seen from the plane as we rolled towards the runway on Frankfurt international airport was a female Common Kestrel (well, the plane rolled while we all sat). Of course I can’t entirely rule out Lesser Kestrel, but let’s stick with probabilities.
Maybe it was the very same bird that was Sharon Birdchick’s first Eurasian bird/lifer? Funny times we live in. And a small world, too.

The flight was rather boring as we had low cloud cover below us all the way and I was sat at a window facing south, into the sun. It was nice though seeing the landscape around Saint Petersburg airport while we approached for landing. So much birding potential, I was amazed.
Lots of good habitat for Blyth’s Reed Warbler. I only wish Corey was with me. Although, come to think of it, even if he was here physically he might not really be with me emotionally when I’d get all excited about Blyth’s Reed Warblers.
I really don’t understand it though. Bird species that can be distinguished from each other by the prominence of a slight eye-ring over the brightness of the supercilium in front of the eye or vice versa are just really cool birds to hang out with, good company.

Aaanyway, the first bird in Russia was not, let me repeat this: not, and to my uttermost dismay, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. You’d think Acrocephalus warblers would be easy to spot from a plane at an altitude of several hundred metres going at a speed of several hundred kilometres an hour approaching a landing strip but let me tell you, they are not.
Gulls, on the other hand, are. So the first bird of the trip that I was able to identify to species level was a gull, a Common Gull Larus canus to be more precise. This is a species as range-restricted and rare as its name may suggest, so you can guess just how thrilled I was about that observation.
I really like Common Gulls though, they are sassy little birds, and additionally an observation of a Common Gull means things can only improve from then on, so there you have it: thank you, Common Gull Guys & Galls!

And a little bit of gossip about Russia, anyone?

Right, so I was standing around wondering how to kill two hours of spare time when I saw the little cafe and an ATM right next to it.

The Russian Ruble.

I must confess that I had and still have no idea how much it’s worth compared to the Euro (shame, I know, bitter shame), so when the choices of amounts to be withdrawn showed up, I was puzzled.
You see, I am no poor man (not rich either, just average), but I didn't really feel like getting a random amount of Rubles from that machine just to find out after the trip that my wife had to sell our little son into slavery to some dubious regional tribe’s chief in Sudan to pay for the bills. As all I wanted was a coffee, I chose the smallest amount, which was 100 Rubles.
The coffee, average size, American style as they call it, was 125 Rubles.

So either that ATM is ridiculous (who’d ever go through the process of using an ATM at an airport for an amount that won’t even buy them a darned simple coffee?!) or I’ve just had the most expensive coffee ever, for which my wife will have to sell my little son … ah, you know the story. I used my credit card. For a single coffee. Seriously.

We’ll see. So far, I am having a good time. Surely it’ll even get better once birds start entering the scene.

It always does when they do.

P.S.: I am back from exchanging 50.00 Euros cash and I got 2,100 Rubles for them. Apparently, the coffee was affordable and the ATM was indeed ridiculous. You do the math, I am too lazy now (that’s my story and I am sticking to it), but it seems I’ll get to keep my offspring after all.
So I am back at the cafe with another 30 minutes until pick-up time.
With a larger cup of coffee and a piece of cake: biscuit with a topping of caramel, chocolate and butter cream.

Life could be worse.

P.P.S.: I think I am not risking my job or telling you job-related secrets when I mention that I did end up seeing and hearing sing several Blyth's Reed Warblers? Actually I encountered a total of 5 different Acrocephalus warblers which even in the Western Palearctis is a pretty good number.
I guess Corey or any North American birder who knows the sharp looks of the Acros is absolutely envious now.

Yeah, I bet.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Out of Office

This is an automated response to all my visitors to let you know that I won't be online anywhere - neither on my blog nor in your blog's comments - until around June 22nd.

Not that this would be new news on this blog.

I'll have to survey a few square kilometres in western Russia for anything that lives and may be noteworthy, so I am particularly hoping I'll get to see some Blyth's Reed Warblers. I haven't seen any since 2000, so you can tell I am excited about the prospect of re-connecting.

As I didn't have the time to get a booster on my bear & beaver bite vaccination, wish me luck.