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''Double-Dipping'' the Dwarf Bittern!...Dec 21st-29th'18

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Old Monday 31st December 2018, 09:49   #1
KenM
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''Double-Dipping'' the Dwarf Bittern!...Dec 21st-29th'18

For the first time on the cusp of taking the iron bird to Fuerteventura, we set off in acute trepidation for the journey ahead...Gatwick and the Drones! Staying overnight (Friday) at the airport for our hoped for Sat. 07.10am departure to FTV. That night much angst was felt regarding the likelihood of us having to return home the following morning, due to NO flights on the day! However the flight was still scheduled on Friday night and miraculously on the morrow we duly took off...only 10 minutes late! During the journey in the ''viral incubator'' I had cause for concern, when the child immediately behind us, sneezed repetitively!....there was just something chilling about the outspraying ''a-a-tish-oos'' that kinda rang alarm bells However on the positive side we broke our previous flight time record to 3 hrs.47 mins!...full marks to Helios and friends.

Landing under a wall to wall blue and 21 degrees C. was most uplifting, a quick check in, and unpack at the hotel, had us...(self, missus and 14 year old grandson) strolling down the beach front (Caleta de Fuste) for a quick bite (toasted sandwiches all round, washed down with two Americanos and Apple juice in sequential order). A scan of the rocks on the incoming tide revealed a 50% drop (compared to 2017) in Sandwich Terns and Kentish Plover, but a 300% increase in Spoonbills (24). With average counts for Ringed Plover (c40), 4 Whimbrel, 4 Grey Plover, 2 Turnstone, 3 Common Sandpiper, with the exception of just 2 Sanderling.... nine last year!

With refreshments and scan complete, grandson being a mean Table/Tennis player...goaded me into 4 games of the Table ''kind''....cos this wasn't going to be a ''Total Birding Holiday'', during the course of which...he learnt a lot from moi, on how to lose ''ungraciously''. Late afternoon found me at the end of the hotel complex by the ''drain''.....that wasn't!

This narrow outflow has held water since my first and subsequent 13+ visits, and has attracted a variety of wader and passerine species, this years exceptional drought had not surprisingly left it bone dry, and with no vestige of life apparent....apart from the myriad of Painted Ladies (they must have got up late! as they were mostly bereft of ''make-up'' ... Carrying on South East across the desert strip I struggled to find much of note. Clearly passerine and non...were conspicuous by their absence, apart from two Berthelot's Pipit, a couple of Trumpeter Finches, two Lesser Short-Toed Larks and a Lark sp without white OTM's! Oh well I sighed! no two years the same, as I made my way back to the hotel...tomorrows another day, when I pick up the hire car...and it sure did!

To be continued....
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Old Monday 31st December 2018, 11:42   #2
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Monday 23rd dawned...a little overcast with a moderate Easterly wind, had us up 07.30am, a quick scan from the balcony espying 24 Spoonbills in position on the rocks at the South end of the bay, a good start to the day and that was before breakfast and the hire car...''lovely jubbly'' I thought...or should that be grapefruit...alas there was none.

We scored on the Hertz car hire with an unexpected upgrade...a Kia Sportage GDi, first time I've climbed into a car....normally I fall-in T'was a very comfortable car to drive, albeit a bit bigger than my regular chariot, and being a 1.6 very economical! After ''consultation'' with the other non-birders we agreed to head West to Pajara, where ''we'' might be able to improve on ''our'' African Blue Tit shots of yesteryear.

Forty five minutes later we arrived, a stroll around the town (almost deserted of tourists) hosts a stunning old church, unfortunately access was restricted due to sidewalk maintenance barriers, which left me staring into the trees to the front of the said Church. Whilst leaf-gazing, I caught sight of a Blackcap, a Chiff Chaff and what raised the tempo!...something smaller than the aforesaid, incredibly fast, then hovering for a nano-second before zapping off at a tangent into the dark canopy.

At this point my wife and grandson called for refreshment in the nearby café, upon entering to order, I was met by some very loud patrons drinking ''shorts'' at 11am!! (bit like a Spaghetti Western...without the music). After the requisite Americano, I ''casually'' mentioned to my wife that I'd like another circuit of the church. We exchanged a few pleasantries regarding my time allocation for the ''last circuit'' with my grandson suggesting a 20 minute time allowance (I always knew the boy would come good) Very quickly I was back beneath the operative tree where some African Blue Tits were feeding young....then from the canopied shadows a small pale bird emerged, teasingly at first...but with my laser eyes penetrating the gloom...camera raised and breath held!....out it popped...Yellow-Browed Warbler!

FWIW I previously found one in the same tree, at the same time in 2015 although looked for in '16 and '17 no joy on those occasions, I suspect they may well now be of almost annual occurrence on the island?

However getting back to the family within the time allocation, earned me some Brownie Points, the return drive got ''us'' a flyover Hoopoe which was a plus, before we arrived back at the hotel for a ''grudge'' Table Tennis match, at two games apiece the fifth game was the decider....

To be continued.....
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Old Tuesday 1st January 2019, 11:34   #3
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Tuesday 24th December...ushered in a grey dawn with an accompanying strong S.Easterly wind, a quick glance from the balcony revealed the few people that were out, were covered in anoraks, sweaters and coats...a far cry from yesterday's sun burnt loungers....not one was tenanted! The consensus was a drive to Costa Calma some 45minutes to the South East after breakfast. Whilst waiting for the missus and grandson (from the balcony), I picked up a Swallow trying to fly SW across the wind and appearing not to be making much headway, before being lost against the shore-line. Moments later my attention was drawn to a gang of Yellow-Legged Gulls raucously wheeling about over the bay. Assuming it was a food item related dispute, a raise of the bins revealed one of the ''immatures'' hovering! Closer inspection revealed an immature Osprey attempting to hunt the breakers, presume the heavy surf breaking on the beach presented good hunting conditions for it, whichever, this represented an FTV tick for me, and I hadn't even had breakfast!

On our drive to Costa Calma some 20 mins out, our first Egyptian Vultures of the trip graced the skies, unfortunately we couldn't stop as there was a convoy of cars behind us, however I was relatively confident that our paths would cross again later in the week. En-route we stopped off at Pajara again, for another quick look at the ''operative tree'' on this occasion just a Chiff Chaff showed briefly, before we continued on to our destination. Upon arrival, we parked adjacent to the Palm ''forested'' strip where I'd seen a flock of Goldfinches, Linnets and 5 Little Buntings the year before, once again it was almost devoid of life, apart from Collared Doves and a single Chiff Chaff....but hey! the strong windy conditions were not exactly conducive for good birding, but they were good for an Americano or two in the hotel opposite...to whence we trotted. Replete, we walked out the back of the hotel into the wind, and onto the dune/beach area where for a brief moment, I espied a bird in the bulrushes that I could not compute!

This was followed by a second, then a third, clearly the result of either escape, or introduction, and what fine looking birds they were too, especially coming hard on the heels of nowt! I managed a couple of good shots, but I didn't have any real clue regarding Taxa.... surmising perhaps a Bulbul/Weaver species and presumed feral?

A check on-line back at the hotel later revealed- Red-Vented Bulbul (India) will have to research their past and current status on the island, a very unexpected meet with these very attractive birds.

On Xmas day 25th Dec. a much warmer, still day and using the coordinates on my phone, I did some reconnaissance of the Barranco de Rio Cabras area, and wished that I had been in possession of these last year, as that attempt was one Big Debilitating Dip!!! (parking by the FV2 then walking the length of the Barranco....never again!). Lets hope this attempt for the Dwarf Bittern (if coming to fruition) would represent one ''Helluva Chrissy Present). For those who like me have found the directions a little vague, an attempt to clarify - Take the FV2 going North past the airport, then take the road West FV20 signposted to Antigua, at the 2nd roundabout on the road take the last exit (white lettering out of grey) the Municipal Dump (the road is gravelly) after perhaps a mile, you will then see a whole bunch of No Entry signs on a sharp left hand bend, carry straight on left at the bend and eventually you will see the dump facility. Park at edge of road and head due South where you will hit the Barranco. Journey time from Caleta de Fuste to include the walk to the edge of the Barranco circa 35 mins.

On this 1st (2nd if you include '17) attempt I was running short on time, had to get back to the hotel for some pre dinner ''Table Tennis'' thus I never ventured down the track into the Barranco, only had time to view from above...and what a sight it was, a verdant emerald oasis! Overhead Egyptian Vultures, Long-Legged Buzzards, putative Barbary Falcon and down in the Barranco Ruddy Shelduck, Black-Winged Stilts (an FTV tick!) Green Sandpipers, and Little Egrets....All to play for on Thursday 27th.

To be continued.....
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Last edited by KenM : Wednesday 2nd January 2019 at 09:08.
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Old Tuesday 1st January 2019, 19:11   #4
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Good report Ken as usual. love your style!

Red-Vented Bulbul are present as an introduced but established population on the island.

Looking forward to the rest of the report.
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Old Tuesday 1st January 2019, 21:19   #5
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Ken,

I think your Long-legged Buzzards are Common Buzzards, the Fuerteventura population is thought to have some LLB genes but are mainly CBs. The wildfowl are Ruddy Shelduck.

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Old Tuesday 1st January 2019, 23:49   #6
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Wednesday 26th December, this was the day ear-marked for a family ferry boat trip to Lanzarote. Unfortunately we only had time to mooch around the disembarking point the resort of Playa de Blanca, the ferry journey time from Corralejo (Fuerteventura) was 25 minutes. Apart from a possible Swallow winging over the resort, the only other avian life forms noted were Turnstone on the wooden jetty moorings, Common Sandpiper, Parrot sp, Collared Dove, Spanish Sparrow and numerous Yellow-legged Gulls. However the life tick and star of the trip was underwater, for me quite stunning....a Blue-fin Damsel fish! Don't think my images quite did it justice, basically a black fish with almost neon blue fins, probably a case of ''beauty being in the eye of the beholder'' however it certainly floated my boat...so to speak, tomorrow my final assault on the Barranco!

To be continued....
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Old Tuesday 1st January 2019, 23:57   #7
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Originally Posted by david kelly View Post
Ken,

I think your Long-legged Buzzards are Common Buzzards, the Fuerteventura population is thought to have some LLB genes but are mainly CBs. The wildfowl are Ruddy Shelduck.

David
Of course David...Ruddy Shelduck they are! must spend more time looking at webbed feet . However I do find it odd that the Canary Island Buzzard gene flow of these birds are more akin to CB than LLB, especially when the range of the latter extends to just a stones throw across the water and cosmetically they look a perfect fit for LLB?

Cheers
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 06:41   #8
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A great write-up Ken, the usual brilliant read!

Nice to see the Damselfish - it takes me back to my days of keeping a marine aquarium before we moved here (not that I ever kept Damsels -very hardy, beautiful but incredibly nasty in the confines of a tank!).

I await the further updates with the usual relish!

Chris
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 09:13   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfbirder View Post
Good report Ken as usual. love your style!

Red-Vented Bulbul are present as an introduced but established population on the island.

Looking forward to the rest of the report.
Thanks Nick!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scridifer View Post
A great write-up Ken, the usual brilliant read!

Nice to see the Damselfish - it takes me back to my days of keeping a marine aquarium before we moved here (not that I ever kept Damsels -very hardy, beautiful but incredibly nasty in the confines of a tank!).

I await the further updates with the usual relish!

Chris
Cheers Chris!
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 10:33   #10
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Re Buzzards :

In the April 2017 BB, there is an article by Guillermo Rodriguez, Juan Ramirez and Javier Elorriaga entitled 'Phenotypic characteristics of Common Buzzards on Fuerteventura'; the abstract says
"The Common Buzzards Buteo buteo ‘lanzarotae’ from Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, are distinctive. This taxon often resembles Long-legged Buzzard B. rufinus but also shows some plumage traits consistent with Common Buzzard B. buteo. We describe the plumage of ‘lanzarotae’, and highlight features that separate it from Common Buzzards in the western Canary Islands and from North African Long-legged Buzzard B. r. cirtensis. We suggest that the appearance of ‘lanzarotae’ may be the product of a hybrid origin and also that currently accepted records of Long-legged Buzzard in the Canary Islands are in fact ‘lanzarotae’."

Worth a look if you haven't seen it.
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 11:49   #11
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Thursday 27th December, My last stab at the Dwarf Bittern before leaving. Started later than I intended (grandson and I having succumbed to the ''in-flight'' virus..not a lot of sleep), not getting to the Barranco rim till 11am, before the ankle twisting descent into the ''Barranco Bed''
Just by chance, upon reaching the barranco base I found a sun bleached 4' branch presumed to have once been a palm frond, shaped a bit like a hockey stick. I thought that with the terrain being ''somewhat'' uneven, it might come in handy...even if I never use it . All I can say is...I probably wouldn't have made it to site without it! Journey time from here to the coordinates was about 8 minutes. Having to press oneself against the rock wall, at the same time as stepping over large uneven rocks immediately adjacent to the slime mudded bank was most unpleasant, then having to place ones weight on the ''hockey stick'' as one negotiated the two small stepping stones (unnervingly wide apart ) before crossing to drier terrain was certainly not without expletives! Eventually I caught site of the lake as White Wagtail, and LRP flew up behind the tamarisk strands. At last!...just a 100m short of the coordinates...excitement started to build, the desire to shout ''Geronimo'' was now palpably on my lips. I eventually moved to perhaps 20m of the ''last sighting'' found a marginally comfortable rock to sit on, and was immediately evoked by the alarm calls of Black-Winged Stilt, three flew up, and one continued to wade. I have to say, that with all my previous exaltations with the islands ''desert stars'' (Sandgrouse, Bustards and Coursers) Himantopus himantopus has to be singularly one of, if not the best wader on the planet...femininity to the extreme...an absolute stunner! A supporting cast of Spectacled Warbler, Fuerteventura Chat, Hoopoe, Trumpeter Finch, Little Egrets and overflying Egyptian Vultures The stage was set, now where's that sodding Bittern my mind eschewed! Three hours later (2pm) with the silence deafening, and the occasional pulse of cooling Easterly lifting my thatch, bad timing crossed my mind, early am or late pm would have been preferable but these time frames I didn't have, 2.15pm was my drop dead exit. Thus...15 minutes left, with each fervent scan, ''a dwarf...a dwarf...my kingdom for a dwarf'' began to impinge on my conscious.

It was not to be! thus armed with said hockey stick, I made my tortuous way back to the Barranco exit. Upon surmounting the canyon wall, and walking back across the billiard table plain to the car, I noted what looked like three local birders (carrying scopes) making their way to the Barranco, although out of hailing reach, I wished them well, as for me the party was over this time.....might have another'' bite'' later in the year if funds allow.

To be continued.....
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Last edited by KenM : Wednesday 2nd January 2019 at 12:44.
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 12:48   #12
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Originally Posted by davercox View Post
Re Buzzards :

In the April 2017 BB, there is an article by Guillermo Rodriguez, Juan Ramirez and Javier Elorriaga entitled 'Phenotypic characteristics of Common Buzzards on Fuerteventura'; the abstract says
"The Common Buzzards Buteo buteo ‘lanzarotae’ from Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, are distinctive. This taxon often resembles Long-legged Buzzard B. rufinus but also shows some plumage traits consistent with Common Buzzard B. buteo. We describe the plumage of ‘lanzarotae’, and highlight features that separate it from Common Buzzards in the western Canary Islands and from North African Long-legged Buzzard B. r. cirtensis. We suggest that the appearance of ‘lanzarotae’ may be the product of a hybrid origin and also that currently accepted records of Long-legged Buzzard in the Canary Islands are in fact ‘lanzarotae’."

Worth a look if you haven't seen it.
Thanks Dave
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 16:34   #13
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I feel your pain Ken - I spent a very long day in the blazing sun last April in a fruitless vigil for the Bittern as an excursion during a fortnights holiday in Lanzarote. Ended up with sun stroke and throwing my guts up on the drive back to the hotel.

Unless I can persaude the missus to do Cyprus this Easter it looks like Lanzarote again and I will be duty bound to have another attempt.

PS Double-dipping sounds like something out of the Profanasaruas.....
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 17:50   #14
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I feel your pain Ken - I spent a very long day in the blazing sun last April in a fruitless vigil for the Bittern as an excursion during a fortnights holiday in Lanzarote. Ended up with sun stroke and throwing my guts up on the drive back to the hotel.

Unless I can persaude the missus to do Cyprus this Easter it looks like Lanzarote again and I will be duty bound to have another attempt.

PS Double-dipping sounds like something out of the Profanasaruas.....
.....Perhaps an unfortunate choice of heading

Phil did you access the site from the ''dump'' road, and did you venture into the Barranco?

Cheers
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 18:37   #15
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Yes, from the dump road.

I spent the first five hours at the top of the barracone but later ventured down in sheer desperation, despite all advice being that the best / only views came from the cliff top.
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 19:08   #16
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Friday December 28th (last full day....without the car)

During the morning I took a stroll South West along the beach with 24 Spoonbills all present and correct on the furthest rocks adjacent to the outgoing tide, along with the usual assorted bunch of smaller previously mentioned waders. Leaving the hotel complex and hitting the circa mile stretch of sandy desert between the last hotel standing and the Salinas, I espied two LRP's motionless on the sand. Took a few casual shots and continued to meander West, when the LRP's took off, as did previously unseen Whimbrel and assorted waders on the shoreline. Then the Yellow-Legged Gulls joined the discordant ''choir'' of anxious ''peeps'' and ''trills'' before the cause celebre morphed into view...only that bloody immature Osprey again! As it was mostly into the sun, I couldn't get a decent shot, thus I've dropped one in from a previous US trip...where the sun didn't shine. Thereafter Lesser Short-toed lark and Bert's Pipit were the last hurrahs! As it was back to the hotel with family duties and packing for Saturday's return flight to Blighty.

In conclusion for me, it was an odd trip only in as much, as I never made contact with any of the ''Big Three'' desert species (I believe a first time for moi in that respect), and dipping on what I thought was almost, going to be a ''stumbling certainty''. However on the very real positive side- six Black-Winged Stilts, four at least Red-Vented Bulbuls, an Osprey (all 3 FTV ticks for me), putative Barbary Falcon, Yellow-Browed Warbler and seen briefly but not previously (forgot to mention) - Southern Great-Grey Shrike (2), and Laughing Dove (2) and last but not least...Canary Damsel Fish!
As far as scarce migrant/rare yield is concerned, FTV is at the top of my list for sites to revisit, being so close to the dark continent it's potential is always....''anything'' can turn up...,and indeed it has....me for a start.

Cheers to all.
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Old Wednesday 2nd January 2019, 20:40   #17
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You weren't tempted by the Gallinule Ken?
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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 00:00   #18
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You weren't tempted by the Gallinule Ken?
It must have been a stones throw from the hotel Phil, as the golf complex and housing development were almost opposite.

I knew that it was a private residence and as such, it would have been out of bounds, also a minor point...I don’t speak Spanish!

AFWIW at the same time although not in the same league as the aforesaid...an RBFly at Costa Calma...and who knows what else?

Am very much looking forward to going back praps August, DB might still be present not to mention the RBTropics.
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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 07:55   #19
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Its strange how this bloody Bittern varies in behaviour.

As with Phil, I spent 7-8 hours overlooking that bloody barranco, eventually seeing it for a second, but not really good enough views.

Your first photo at post 11, shows its regular favoured bush just to the right and in front of the stone dam. I heard it splash into the water from the blind side, up on the top of the barranco, and also saw it creep back into that bush late on, again from up above but further along looking down and along it. Great supporting cast but its bloody elusive!
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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 09:13   #20
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Its strange how this bloody Bittern varies in behaviour.

As with Phil, I spent 7-8 hours overlooking that bloody barranco, eventually seeing it for a second, but not really good enough views.

Your first photo at post 11, shows its regular favoured bush just to the right and in front of the stone dam. I heard it splash into the water from the blind side, up on the top of the barranco, and also saw it creep back into that bush late on, again from up above but further along looking down and along it. Great supporting cast but its bloody elusive!
It’s certainly an elusive bugger Nick! Clearly the last film clip taken just before Xmas looks as though it was taken at ground level? and fwiw there were myriads of small fry present below the dam...hopefully enough to last another year, throw in the Grey Heron, 4 Legrets, 2 LRP’s, 2 Green Sands, and 6 BWStilts and you have quite a party! Interestingly there was another Utube clip showing it right out in the open at the muddy edge of the shallows...It must have been a “lucky” bugger who shot that one. Makes me wonder if the “dippers” have outweighed the “tickers” on this one so far?
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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 10:03   #21
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It’s certainly an elusive bugger Nick! Clearly the last film clip taken just before Xmas looks as though it was taken at ground level? and fwiw there were myriads of small fry present below the dam...hopefully enough to last another year, throw in the Grey Heron, 4 Legrets, 2 LRP’s, 2 Green Sands, and 6 BWStilts and you have quite a party! Interestingly there was another Utube clip showing it right out in the open at the muddy edge of the shallows...It must have been a “lucky” bugger who shot that one. Makes me wonder if the “dippers” have outweighed the “tickers” on this one so far?
I think initially it was showy, as lots saw it, but since then at best it’s showings have been sporadic.
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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 20:20   #22
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Avert your eyes Ken ....

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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 21:01   #23
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In the immortal words of General Douglas MacArthur............
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Old Friday 4th January 2019, 06:48   #24
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All in all a great trip report Ken! Looking at destinations for my 'Big 6 - O' next January and FTV will certainly be in the mix! Much appreciated Mate!

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Old Friday 4th January 2019, 09:05   #25
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All in all a great trip report Ken! Looking at destinations for my 'Big 6 - O' next January and FTV will certainly be in the mix! Much appreciated Mate!

Chris
Cheers Chris! The “Big 6-Oh” is now the new middle age. “yer just a snapper whipper”.
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