Monday 10 February 2014

The Dream of Geronticus

I am still slightly in shock from having photographed Bald Ibis. This is a species of which less than a thousand survive in the wild, and had it not been for last minute conservation efforts, that number might be zero. We had decided to rely upon local knowledge to both find the birds and to get us up close, having read in trip reports about guides allowing birders to drive offroad to get closer to the birds in their 4x4s. When we spotted a couple soaring over our campsite about a quarter of an hour before we were due to meet our guide for the day, we wondered if we hadn't chucked the cash down the drain. We hadn't. The flocks of Ibis are apparently quite mobile, but for the three days preceding our arrival a flock of about a hundred had been visiting the same area in which to feed. This was coincidentally right next to where we had been staying, though of course we hadn't know that as we had arrived in the dark. The following morning we drove for about two minutes, if that, before the guide motioned for us to stop, and there they were in an enclosed area. Because of erosion, the whole area had been closed off off and planted with plants that would hold the soil together, and fencing this off protected these plants from being eaten by goats and sheep. Despite being voracious photographers obsessed with getting high quality (i.e. close) shots, we would never have considered going over the fence, so we were surprised when Ahmed starting bending down the barbed wire for us. Get in, so to speak. The next hour was wonderful (if you were me or Richard, less so if you were Mick who refused to even pick up his camera on the basis that the birds were UGLY. Unlike GULLS...) and we enjoyed an experience that was unlike any I had been expecting, with ridiculously close views. Easily worth the money (well under under £20) and so much the better that at least some of it goes towards local conservation. The birds were not tame, and flushed pretty easily, but with care they would walk right past you, and if you worked it right, would also fly right past you. The stuff dreams are made of. It also so happens that Bald Ibis was my 501st Western Pal bird. Not being a big lister I had no idea about this until I returned and whacked it up on Bubo. Not that this is significant in any way, many people have seen that in the UK alone, but it is a nice round number, and likely the only round number that any birding list of mine will see this year.

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