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A global Big Year while working full-time (?)

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Old Tuesday 19th December 2017, 09:35   #26
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NZ and Galapagos whilst being amazing destinations, would seem to be odd choices if numbers matter as you say.


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Old Tuesday 19th December 2017, 12:45   #27
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
NZ and Galapagos whilst being amazing destinations, would seem to be odd choices if numbers matter as you say.


A
Indeed they are. These are destinations that we'd been planning on for years, for non-birding reasons. They are graduation / birthday gifts to our two sons that are in college. They are not birders, sadly. But they do love nature. Years ago we asked them to name some special destinations, and these are what they came up with. Hence, Galapagos this Xmas, NZ next Xmas, after we wrap up in Asia - also a bit of a thank-you gift to them for looking after the house while we are abroad all of next year.

If I was designing this trip specifically for maximum species it would certainly be a bit different from what I have planned. The entire 'global big year while working' concept is something that popped into my head only recently, after setting up most of my weekend trips. The 2500 number is probably too optimistic, but I wanted a challenging number to keep looking at.

That being said, one could certainly pick worse 'home' locations than Bangkok. Plenty of other areas may have more species in their vicinity, but most of those locations won't have two international airports and a plethora of short, cheap flights to other great birding spots.

Singapore and Hong Kong might be as good, but I'm not sure they'd be better. Dubai would be my next choice I think.
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Old Tuesday 19th December 2017, 16:29   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lerxst View Post
Indeed they are. These are destinations that we'd been planning on for years, for non-birding reasons. They are graduation / birthday gifts to our two sons that are in college. They are not birders, sadly. But they do love nature. Years ago we asked them to name some special destinations, and these are what they came up with. Hence, Galapagos this Xmas, NZ next Xmas, after we wrap up in Asia - also a bit of a thank-you gift to them for looking after the house while we are abroad all of next year.

If I was designing this trip specifically for maximum species it would certainly be a bit different from what I have planned. The entire 'global big year while working' concept is something that popped into my head only recently, after setting up most of my weekend trips. The 2500 number is probably too optimistic, but I wanted a challenging number to keep looking at.

That being said, one could certainly pick worse 'home' locations than Bangkok. Plenty of other areas may have more species in their vicinity, but most of those locations won't have two international airports and a plethora of short, cheap flights to other great birding spots.

Singapore and Hong Kong might be as good, but I'm not sure they'd be better. Dubai would be my next choice I think.
Try and make a decent effort on mammals (and other groups) too?

Bit disappointed with the WP Big Year - they didn't seem so interested. Everyone does birds - make it a more rounded experience - think in terms of numbers missing a few hundred birds to get some enigmatic (and some less so) mammals and the like would be very interesting!
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Old Friday 22nd December 2017, 07:41   #29
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A fascinating challenge!

Bangkok is a terrific base given the high list, good birding knowledge and good transport in Thailand, plus relative proximity to bird-rich SE Asia, India, Australia and China.

The question will be how to make best use of travel time to more distant continents - S America and Africa have masses of birds, but will carry significant cost in terms of travel days, so longer trips, possibly to several areas of the highest density would seem to make better sense.

Another interesting questions is timing - migration hotspots such as Eilat, Cape May, Beidaihe, would need to be planned for the appropriate time of passage, while there would be more flexibility around assemblages of resident species.

Targeting weekends in spots with bird races could also be a good way to clean up good numbers in a short visit, especially if there are high densities of species - Hong Kong, Fraser's Hill and Eilat come to mind.


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Old Tuesday 2nd January 2018, 20:17   #30
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Hello all,

Here is an update. I decided to start my year on Dec 26, 2017, a day which found us on Santa Cruz and Isabela islands in the Galapagos. Since that time, we had three additional days in the Galapagos, including Española and San Cristobal islands, and three days in the Andes east of Quito (Puembo, Papallacta region, Guango Lodge, San Isidrio, and Antisana).

My first week's tally was 162 species. Not a great number for a week in Ecuador, but given the locations, a lot of rain on the final day while in San Isidrio, and the need to keep our non-birding kids occupied and happy, I will take it! Total species seen in Galapagos was 39.

After getting a few more species around home today, I've completed 2.2% of the year and have 168 species,
= 6.7% of my 2500 goal.

Will now be birding only these cold Minneapolis suburbs while working, until Jan 13 when we get to Bangkok. So the total won't move much for a couple of weeks.

-Michael
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Old Tuesday 2nd January 2018, 21:01   #31
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Good, glad this is underway. I like the species seen versus time passed percentages. Will you be entertaining us with highlights of some of the species seen?
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Old Wednesday 3rd January 2018, 23:53   #32
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Good, glad this is underway. I like the species seen versus time passed percentages. Will you be entertaining us with highlights of some of the species seen?
Gladly.

I'll post at weekly on this. I will also mention that I am keeping a web page for this effort (including pictures) at the following address. (Hope this is okay, I read the forum rules about not using the forums to promote one's external site, but not sure if I can post all the pictures here.)

https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy/

-------------

Week 1: Dec 26 2017 - Jan 1 2018, Ecuador

Working days: 0 (December Holiday period)

Species identified: 162

Total to date: 162

Sites visited: Galapagos Islands (San Cristobal, Española, Santa Cruz, Isabela), Puembo, Antisana, Papallacta, Guango Lodge, San Isidrio

Comments:

1. Birding in the Galapagos is challenging, despite the low number of species and the relatively easy habitat (no dark rainforests or neck-breaking canopy to squint at). There are no outfits that I could find that specialize in providing birding guides or birding-specific tours. There are occasional fixed-date tours with limited numbers of spots, which cater to birders, but these types of tours never work for us - we need flexible dates. There are plenty of tour companies, but the guides tend to have little knowledge of bird species which are not crowd-pleasers, and the ones that we worked with were not good at identification. For example, our guides would point out Frigatebirds but couldn't discriminate Magnificent from Great. Another 'naturalist' that we worked with could not ID a pair of American Oystercatchers. Day trips to interesting islands would be with a group of other people, none of whom would have much patience if you held up the group in order to pursue a Warbler Finch, for example. On the other hand, one cannot simply bird most of the islands on their own, as a guide is required by law.

2. Birding the Galapagos is, despite this, a worthwhile trip. It is a quality, not quantity, sort of experience. The birds (and other wildlife) are generally fearless and approachable and can be enjoyed in a most novel way.

3. The 'Darwin finches' are a challenging lot. Our strategy was to photograph the most interesting ones and study the pictures after the fact. The Medium Ground Finches were ubiquitous and showed quite a range of bill sizes and shapes.

4. A number of sources had said that December was a terrible month for having a chance to see Waved Albatross, but this was not our experience. We saw several while on the ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal, and then saw at least a dozen on Isla Española.

5. Speaking of ferries, they typically provide a poor birding platform in Galapagos, as they move very fast, don't stop for birds or cetaceans, and usually have very limited seating with any kind of view. On several ferries, all I could do is take photos of rapidly receding seabirds and study them later.

6. For our three days on mainland Ecuador, we worked with a pair of guides, Byron and Manuel, that are based out of Wildsumaco Lodge. I cannot recommend them highly enough. We had birded with them previously several years ago and on that first trip, had really 'cleaned up' on the easier birds. On this trip I gave them a list of target lifers, many of which were quite tough, and they delivered on the majority of them. We got Slate-Crowned Antpitta (seen), Red-Rumped Bush-Tyrant, Andean Condor, Purple-Backed Thornbill, Golden-Crowned Tanager, and the best look at any tapaculo (in this case a Long-Tailed Tapaculo) that we have ever had, to name a few. Look them up if you are in Ecuador.

7. December 31 in Ecuador is quite an experience. One of the local customs is for small groups of people to use a rope or chain pulled taut across the road in order to stop traffic, while several others parade about in garish costumes and ask motorists for change, which they will ostensibly use to purchase alcohol for the night's debaucheries. This generally involved men dressed in drag, gyrating and prancing about in the road. It was often LOL-funny.
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Old Monday 8th January 2018, 23:04   #33
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Weekly Update Time...

WEEK 2: JANUARY 2 – JANUARY 8, MINNESOTA

Working days: 4

New species identified: 24

Total to date: 186

7.44% of goal, 3.8% of year used

Sites visited: Bloomington and Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

Comments:

1. The only notable outing this week was a quick trip up to Sax-Zim Bog on Sunday, January 7. That is about a 3 to 3.5 hour from our house. It was a fairly slow day and we missed a number of expected birds; but we did get a long-time Nemesis removed from our life lists, namely, the Black-backed Woodpecker. Must have been about our tenth try for this striking carpintero. Other notables included a Hoary Redpoll mixed in with abundant Common Redpolls, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Grey Jay, Snow Buntings, and several Great Grey Owls.

Since we will be using the first half of this Global Big Working Year to support The Bog, it seemed necessary to visit during our last weekend in Minnesota for the year. We had a chance to meet up with Sparky Stensaas, one of the founders of Friends of Sax-Zim Bog and the instigator of their Big Half Year fundraiser.

If you are unfamiliar with Sax-Zim, you should know that it is truly deserves status as a Holy Site of birding. It has been called the “Arctic Riviera” as it attracts specialties such as Northern Hawk Owls and Boreal Chickadees in the winter. And it is less than an hour drive from Duluth, another Mecca of Minnesota birding where oddball gulls, jaegers, owls (including Snowy and Boreal), and sundry waterfowl find themselves at the end of the natural funnel created by Lake Superior during fall and winter; while spring has tremendous songbird fallout potential at Park Point. Meanwhile there is nearby Hawk Ridge, where autumn sees astounding numbers of raptors channeled into the region in their attempts to navigate the boundary of the world’s largest lake.

Blog here.
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Old Tuesday 9th January 2018, 08:30   #34
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Great to see the weekly updates, looking forward to following your big adventure this year! :)

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Old Wednesday 10th January 2018, 05:47   #35
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Great thread! Thanks Michael.
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2018, 01:11   #36
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Hello from Bangkok!

We arrived early Jan 13 at our home-base for the rest of the year. No more Western Hemisphere going forward...

Picked up just 19 for this week; very limited birding for a few hours in Bangkok, plus a Glacous-winged Gull at the Seattle airport while sitting on the tarmac.

So after three weeks, I am at 205 birds, 8.2% of goal, and 5.8% of the year used. My next post in a week should be much more interesting, as we will be going to the lovely Khao Yai National Park this weekend.

https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy/
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Old Tuesday 23rd January 2018, 12:45   #37
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Hello again, time for the weekly update.

Week 4: January 17 – January 23, Thailand

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 53

Total to date: 258

10.3% of goal, 7.7% of year used

(As long as that first number stays larger than the second one, life is good!)

Sites visited: Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

This was a disappointing outing, as we only got 53 new species for the list. We had birded here several years ago in April and did better. This time it was extremely crowded. That didn't help. Our guide was a bit of a generalist park tour guide and not a birding specialist; that didn't help either.

But we did have an enjoyable weekend anyway, and saw our first wild Asian Elephant, an unexpected treat. Saw all the hornbills except the Brown Hornbill. Got recordings of Blue Pitta and Collared Owlet but didn't see them. Otherwise the best bird of the trip was Hill Blue Flycatcher, a lovely avatar of the Eastern Bluebird of North America.

Khao Yai is a fantastic place, and winter is the prime time for visiting; just don't go on a weekend.

Next we are heading south to Kaeng Krachan National Park.
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Old Tuesday 23rd January 2018, 12:56   #38
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Good to see you're keeping ahead of the curve.

Kaeng Krachan is one of the few places I've been in Thailand, thought it was outstanding, hope you do well there.
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Old Wednesday 24th January 2018, 07:57   #39
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I should have warned you Khao yai is awful in January with overcrowded campings and restaurants. It is actually better not to take a guide and bird the trail 100mtrs right after the main restaurant, and the area around the pa gluay nai campsite, the antenna hill and the open grasland with watchtower.
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Old Tuesday 30th January 2018, 00:09   #40
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Hello, it is Tuesday morning in Bangkok, so here is my update:

Week 5: January 24 - January 30, Thailand

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 55

Total to date: 313

12.5% of goal, 9.6% of year used

Sites visited: Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand

Photos, etc: https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy/

This was our second time in Kaeng Krachang National Park, about a three hour drive southwest from Bangkok. It does not get the attention or the hordes of visitors that Khao Yai attracts, so it is much more amenable to stopping and walking the road; several other groups of birders were doing that as well, and at least in the early morning, we didn't see anyone else. Saturday we birded the park proper, with most success being at higher elevations during and after some afternoon rains. Sunday we birded the nearby Bo Lung Sin blind. Details and photos are in the link above.

We stayed two night at Baan Maka lodge, which while not next to the park, is not so far as to be a problem. I think it took about 15 minutes to reach the entrance. Baan Maka has a number of trails and a marsh and gave us plenty of Spangled Drongos to start the day Saturday. Last year we stayed at Samarn Bird Camp, which lies very close to KKNP. I think both places are great options.

As detailed in the link above, and discussed in the Identification Q&A forum, we spent several confusing hours in the field wondering about Silver Pheasants and a Buff-vented Bulbul that we clearly saw but which eBird did not list, even as a rarity. These turned out to be Kalij Pheasants and an Olive Bulbul, respectively. Thanks viator and andyb39.

Coming up this weekend: Fraser's Hill, Malaysia.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 12:00   #41
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Hello again,

I am a day early, but here it is. Week 6 was another full week of work, followed by a weekend of birding.

This week's update covers our first of many jaunts out from Bangkok by air. We will be flying out and back to Bangkok now for every weekend (plus some holidays) until at least mid-June before the first respite.

I am going to come to hate airports even more than I hate them now. That's something.

This trip started at DMK, the "old" Bangkok airport, which seems more and more antiquated every time we go there. Flying on AirAsia, we were first herded into the Gates 1-6 waiting room, which really has nothing to do with gates. It is more like a bus station, complete with incomprehensible audio, poor food choices, inadequate seating, and many screaming children. From here the crowds are led into buses which drive out to the plane on the tarmac.

Luckily the trip got much better after that. We were picked up from central Kuala Lumpur by Weng Chun, whom we hired as a guide last year as well. He is a fantastic birder and I cannot recommend him highly enough. I had sent him a long list of targets including low- and high-elevation birds, and he designed an itinerary that aggressively went after it. All said we picked up 63 new birds for the year, and 32 lifers.

At this point, I have 376 species, or 15.0% of the 2,500 goal, with 11.5% of the year used up.

Our weekend trip involved three sites: first, the outskirts of the Krau Wildlife Reserve, which was fantastic; second, Fraser's Hill, which was cold, windy, and damp; and finally the National Botanic Gardens in Kuala Lumpur, which was hot and crowded, but also productive. Weng was able to coax out both Blue-Winged and Hooded Pittas at the Gardens; no meant feat, given the human disturbance in the area.

Of the three sites, Fraser's Hill was decidedly the least productive; but worth the effort to visit, of course. With an elevation of 1.5 km it can be rather cool; this is the second time I've gone and forgot to pack warm clothes. I won't make that mistake again. It is also a bit of a challenge to get a beer there; Weng says that there are three places that serve it in town, and we've been to two of them now.

More details are at https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy/

Another full week of work, and then we head to Siem Reap, Cambodia, Friday night. We will go to Prek Toal and Ang Trapeang Thmor.

Cheers,
Michael
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 13:34   #42
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Nice one. Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker the real stand out bird from your Malaysian haul for me. Where was it?
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 23:50   #43
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Nice one. Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker the real stand out bird from your Malaysian haul for me. Where was it?
Area surrounding Krau Wildlife Reserve in Pahang.
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 12:32   #44
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Hello everyone,

It is Monday evening in Bangkok, which means it is time for the next episode of GBWY 2018.

Details and photos here: https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy/

This weekend we made our first-ever visit to Cambodia, flying in to Siem Reap. I am thinking that there are few visitors that go through this airport that do not go to nearby Angkor Wat. That would be us - only birders and various oddballs that are obsessed with other matters. We'd love to go see the temples as they are reportedly awe-inspiring, but frankly, birds are more beautiful than anything anyone ever built, IMO.

Moreover, the town was swarming with visitors, with Chinese New Year just a week away, so this would not be the best time for temple-walking.

This was also the first outing in which one of us was ill, but this is not going to stop us from getting birds. Usually it is my wife; she has thrown-up at some very good birding sites. My turn this time. We knew going in to this that probability-wise, some of these weekend trips would be in the Not Fun category. Well, we can tick one of those boxes now and move on!

Based on this weekend, Cambodia would not be my first choice for a Southeast Asia birding trip, if I could only choose one spot (I would go with Malaysia, hands down). The species variety was not as high as I had hoped - also our guides were not always on the same page as us. At one point the had suggested something about a diversion related to the local silk trade. No thanks. Just birds please.

But we did see four owl species (Barn Owl, Spotted Wood-Owl, Spotted Owlet, and Asian Barred Owlet), so I call it a good deal.
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 15:25   #45
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how is your % year / % species ratio getting on? thanks for the updates --- & hope you feel better soon
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 23:52   #46
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how is your % year / % species ratio getting on? thanks for the updates --- & hope you feel better soon
Ah, I knew I forgot something:

17.0% of goal, 13.5% of year used

Total to date: 425 (removed another double-counted bird)

Still ahead with a comfortable margin. By June I expect to be very far in the black, after trips to Australia and Africa; but then as the second half of the year progresses I'm going to run out of birds around here, and will need to get creative with flight plans. So that is when things are going to get really interesting.
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Old Monday 19th February 2018, 11:17   #47
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Update time: Week 8

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 21

Total to date: 445 (removed another double-counted bird)

17.8% of goal, 15.4% of year used

Sites visited: Krabí & Koh Klang, Thailand

I was expecting a disappointing weekend, and that is what we got, although Krabí is a lovely area with interesting birding sites quite close to the town. We got 66 birds in a day and half birding, but few of them were birds not already seen in SE Asia on this trip.

What we did manage to see included Brown-winged Kingfisher, Chinese Egret, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Ruddy-breasted Crake, and Slaty-breasted Rail. The Gerygone is a bird that we have heard before in mangroves south of Bangkok; this was the first time we have seen them. The unmistakable vocalization reminds me of the start of a White-throated Sparrow song.

Next weekend we will have 1.5 days in Taipei, Taiwan.
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Old Monday 26th February 2018, 03:20   #48
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It is Monday in Bangkok. Greetings. Here is this week's update.

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 33

Total to date: 478

19.1% of goal, 17.3% of year used

Sites visited: Wulai & Taipei, Taiwan

Due to the poor selection of flights, we had to be content with just 1.5 days in Taiwan. This limited us to the city of Taipei and environs. Fortunately, the Wulai area is not far and gets one high enough into the mountains to get some of the endemics that don't come down to the city.

I decided to invest in a new camera last week, as I've had enough of the poor results from my old Canon SLR. After quite a bit of perusal of discussions on this site, I decided to go with the Nikon P900. Moving to this from an SLR feels rather odd, and I'm not comfortable with it yet, but the images are dramatically improved. You can now visit my site and not wince at crap photos going forward!

We missed a number of our targets but cannot complain. We managed decent looks at skittish birds like Taiwan Scimitar-Babblers and a Dusky Fulvetta. There are some very lovely birds on this island; the Taiwan Blue-Magpie, White-eared Sibia, and Taiwan Yuhina were our favorites. Also it is always nice to visit countries where birding and/or bird photography is so popular. We found Taiwan to be much like Hong Kong in this regard; there were scopes and cameras everywhere - including a city street corner where a single blooming cherry tree full of birds created such a scene of clicking cameras that one might think a celebrity was there.

Pictures here: https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-2/
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Old Tuesday 27th February 2018, 11:58   #49
guy_incognito
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Thanks for the updates. I look forward to these every week!
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Old Monday 5th March 2018, 12:44   #50
Lerxst
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Sawasdee krub from Bangkok. Time for an update.

Week 10: February 27 – March 4, Nepal

Working Days: 3

New species identified: 58

Total to date: 536

21.4 % of goal, 19.2 % of year used

Sites visited: Kathmandu and environs, Nepal

Photos here: https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-2/

We had just over three days here due to a holiday; a total of 89 species in the Kathmandu area, with 58 new for the year. We didn't visit the higher and lower elevations, which require considerably more time to reach. The roads here are not good, to say the least.

The climate, at least in March, was perfect, although the haze of the city is a bit depressing as it obscures the mountains. The sites we visited were Champadevie, Phulchoki, and Shivapuri National Park; these all lie in the foothills that surround the city on all sides. We also spent a couple hours at a city park (Ranibari) on the last day. If I had to pick one site to visit, it would be Champadevie, which often was not aesthetically pleasing, but it yielded the most birds, including the only endemic in the country, Spiny Babbler.

This is not a good place to strike out on your own if you are not a local; outside of our hotel in the center of town, very few people spoke English. I do not understand how the streets are navigated here; going from point A to B requires the most circuitous routes imaginable. Traffic signals? Street signs? LOL. Reaching birding sites was even more difficult. Luckily one can get a decent guide here.

This area was Phylloscopus heaven. Or hell, in our case. We got some pretty definitive looks at four species (Greenish, Western Crowned, Ashy-throated, and Grey-hooded Warblers, the last one being abundant). Others went un-identified. I posted a request for help on for a bird here if you want to have a go.
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