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Old Thursday 11th October 2018, 16:26   #1
Farnboro John
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Multi-site Birding and Twitching

Some thoughts arising from a day dipping out on Beluga in Kent yesterday:

- if you are expecting to, or if there is a vague possibility of a visit to each of several sites, put them all into your satnav before setting off - preferably the day before. That way if you are twitching a creature that is using several sites you will be punching recent destinations instead of fiddling with google on your phone trying to identify a location for "Poundland Gravesend". Timing and stress saved....

- layering of clothing: keep a spare layer about your person, not in the car: if you are 3/4 of a mile away with a high risk of missing a five minute sighting, you don't want to sweat/freeze or have to walk back to get something. Ditto food and drink.

- do research and don't be shy about asking for advice about anything, down to and including on-site parking. This can be especially useful if there may not be many/any birders about to advise you where to leave your car in a semi-industrial setting rather than somewhere governed straightforwardly by the Country Code.

- talk to others on site and if it seems necessary to split up and look for clues, exchange phone numbers. You can always delete them.

- charge your phone the night before.....

- always look on the bright side. If you miss a sighting, at least it means the beast is still there - it's not over till it's over!

Good hunting

John
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Old Thursday 11th October 2018, 16:44   #2
peter.jones
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- Work out when you will get back home.. then tell loved ones to expect you about 5 hours later than this time!
This way, you will nearly always be home "early" accruing brownie points for the next trip!


my other "tip", probably won't be attractive to the mindsets of many..

-See the wildlife, don't worry about seeing them in the UK, county etc.. The Beluga being a classic example: En route, I was quite laid back thinking "Oh well, it could be a cool trip to the White Sea if I miss this one"!
(Then once I saw it.. "Thank god I don't have to go to Russia now!")
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Old Thursday 11th October 2018, 16:50   #3
Jos Stratford
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(Then once I saw it.. "Thank god I don't have to go to Russia now!")
Churchill is a very nice alternative - a summer trip gets numerous Beluga swimming mere metres away, plus Polar Bears.

Think a UK Beluga needs to be in the Shetlands or similar, seems somewhat diminished by being in the grotty Thames ...but then I didn't see it of course :)
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Old Thursday 11th October 2018, 17:43   #4
Farnboro John
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jos Stratford View Post
Churchill is a very nice alternative - a summer trip gets numerous Beluga swimming mere metres away, plus Polar Bears.

Think a UK Beluga needs to be in the Shetlands or similar, seems somewhat diminished by being in the grotty Thames ...but then I didn't see it of course :)
Actually part of the bit it favours is not grotty but open fields and green riverbank (but part definitely is!) - right now I'd settle for seeing it in the grotty bit. Please don't jinx me, I've just sat in Shetland for two weeks while it's been down here, now is NOT the time for it to head up there!

Cheers

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Old Saturday 13th October 2018, 16:05   #5
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One final lesson from this: No reports on bird information services for two days does not mean the Beluga has gone!

Hallelujah

John
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 16:28   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jos Stratford View Post
Churchill is a very nice alternative - a summer trip gets numerous Beluga swimming mere metres away, plus Polar Bears.

Think a UK Beluga needs to be in the Shetlands or similar, seems somewhat diminished by being in the grotty Thames ...but then I didn't see it of course :)
Can you do Churchill on a relatively cheap budget? I only see adverts for the 4x4 minibus type tours which seem to be incredibly expensive.
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 18:42   #7
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Can you do Churchill on a relatively cheap budget?
Yes, I did a summer trip, though same does apply in autumn (but accommodation becomes harder at reasonable cost). I took the train up and got local accommodation - as I remember, a bike was free and besides the best areas are all walkable from the centre (albeit at a degree of risk of Polar Bear - saw several while on foot, one stalking us as we retreated from a headland). Belugas were abundant and would swim underneath you at the main jetty. Rented a truck for one day to explore the very limited road network that radiates out a few kilometres from the town.

Rail track is generally in poor condition and the train groans a lot as it trundles at a very painfully slow pace across the many hundreds of kilometres of tundra. I believe it is currently not operating due to flood damage earlier this year, meaning air is the only means of access.
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 20:11   #8
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Yes, I did a summer trip, though same does apply in autumn (but accommodation becomes harder at reasonable cost). I took the train up and got local accommodation - as I remember, a bike was free and besides the best areas are all walkable from the centre (albeit at a degree of risk of Polar Bear - saw several while on foot, one stalking us as we retreated from a headland). Belugas were abundant and would swim underneath you at the main jetty. Rented a truck for one day to explore the very limited road network that radiates out a few kilometres from the town.

Rail track is generally in poor condition and the train groans a lot as it trundles at a very painfully slow pace across the many hundreds of kilometres of tundra. I believe it is currently not operating due to flood damage earlier this year., menaing air is the only means of access.
I did a similar trip to Jos last July, and the train had been out of action for a while due to flood damage, with no immediate prospect of repair. We flew in which was expensive so I'd say yes, you can do a DIY trip to Churchill, but it can't be done cheaply at the moment.
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 22:51   #9
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... and the train had been out of action for a while due to flood damage, with no immediate prospect of repair...
If the flood damage was due to melting permafrost turning solid ground into swamp, 'no immediate prospect of repair' might actually mean 'permanently unrepairable'
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Old Thursday 18th October 2018, 05:18   #10
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If the flood damage was due to melting permafrost turning solid ground into swamp, 'no immediate prospect of repair' might actually mean 'permanently unrepairable'
Railway came under new ownership in August and the line is now being repaired - flooded out sections already fixed. Repair train now able to reach Churchill, but they are planning to upgrade further sections. In any scenario, they expect the service to be fully operational by spring.
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Old Thursday 18th October 2018, 12:59   #11
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Another one to recommend doing Churchill independently in summer. You can rent a hotel and a car independently for a fraction of the cost of these tours. Mind you, in any case getting to and from Churchill is expensive. Several pods of Belugas are present in the estuary all the time. You can snorkel with them if you want to. They are curious and swim on their backs looking at you.

Unlike Jos I rented a car. I birded on foot in a patch of dense shrubby forest, and was really scared when later a huge male polar bear emerged from the same forest. So the polar bears can really be anywhere. I saw a Yellow Rail (under aurora borealis), Snowy Owl and Harlequins. Very nice tundra-boreal forest birding.

Had an interesting thought about that Yellow Rail. First thought: wow, I just saw a Yellow Rail under aurora borealis. Second thought: I am just standing in a freezing swamp water at 1. a.m.

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Old Friday 26th October 2018, 15:26   #12
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Snorkeling with Polar bears, um, no thanks!
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Old Friday 26th October 2018, 15:49   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
- layering of clothing: keep a spare layer about your person, not in the car: if you are 3/4 of a mile away with a high risk of missing a five minute sighting, you don't want to sweat/freeze or have to walk back to get something. Ditto food and drink.

John
Getting back to the original topic: Always a good idea to keep spare willies waterproofs in the car whatever the weather when you set off. TYou don't want to find yourself unable to reach your target for lack of suitable footwear>

When you arrive its also worth having a look at what those returning to the car park are wearing, or otherwise. It may be sunshine in the parking area, but it can get pretty cold and windy on some god forsaken headland etc. If everyone is wearing t-shirts but shivering take your cue from that.
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