Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Tree

If ever any proof were needed that you cannot do too much research in advance of a foreign birding trip, I think our recent Morocco jaunt bore it out. How far do you go? Would you, for example, having read a trip report that talked about birds being present in trees near a specific place, go so far as to identify a SPECIFIC TREE FROM OUTER SPACE?! Bradders would. Bradders did.

When I mentioned THE TREE to Mrs L, it took her some time to recover. Birders, she said, were very sane and well-balanced people. Or at least I think that’s what she said. When I left, some of the last words to pass her lips other than “I am going to miss you so so so much!”, and “Please please please don’t leave me!” were “Good luck with THE TREE!” I’d had a session on Google Earth with BBT prior to leaving, and was party to the location of the tree. I’d zoomed right in (satellite imagery these days is quite extraordinary) and mentally traced our driving route across the desert from Auberge Yasmina. So as I sat in the passenger seat of the 4x4 last week, GPS in hand as we bounced across the desert, I was quite confident of finding the precise arc of trees, and within them the particular tree, THE TREE, that was rumoured to contain Desert Sparrows.

Sure enough, the tree soon hove into view; the excitement within the car was almost palpable. I say almost as we had just had killer views of Desert Sparrow about two hours previously in the Erg Chebbi after our marathon walk across the dunes. Nonetheless, this was still a massive triumph. Three days earlier we had been sat in London looking at a dot on a map that was a tree; we were now standing next to that exact tree.

Bradders commando-rolled from the still moving vehicle and approached THE TREE. Bins out, scanning, straining his every sense.

It was empty.

Completely devoid of life.

No evidence of Desert Sparrow inhabitation whatsoever.

Like I said, a triumph of modern technology.


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