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Scariest birding moments (2 Viewers)

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Given recent events (the US Marine being one), being lifted from my local patch by Russian security people and detained for several hours with the prospect of the charge 'photographing an installation of the Russian federation', hanging over me, wasn't a picnic either.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I've a few, but the most scary was getting lost (yes, Larry!) in Oz.
Having chased a Chowchilla around in the 'bush' to get a good view, I then realised I was out of site of the only (dead end) rd in the area. Panic was close as set off in prescribed 100mt directions then returning to origin, then greater distances before my shouts were answered by a native who gave me a superfluous bollocking for being an idiot!
It's actually scary and easy to do, getting lost that is. I was on a trail in Taman Negara, Malaysia, chasing something and realised I hadn't a clue which way I was facing. Very fortunately, I spotted my day sack, sitting on the trail, through a gap in the trees, if I hadn't beeen able to see it, I might still be there now.
 

halftwo

Wird Batcher
I think Jos is going to "win" this one, for those of who survived our adventures. But to add a couple more: Same 24hrs on Thasos Is, Greece: first a fire that destroyed half the island - fortunately I was woken by a Hedgehog while far enough to make a dash. Then, while trying to save my carry mat from blowing out to sea, I came very close to drowning while the offshore wind made it impossible to swim back. I managed to go 90 degrees to a cliff & climb. Very scary.
 

halftwo

Wird Batcher
It's actually scary and easy to do, getting lost that is. I was on a trail in Taman Negara, Malaysia, chasing something and realised I hadn't a clue which way I was facing. Very fortunately, I spotted my day sack, sitting on the trail, through a gap in the trees, if I hadn't beeen able to see it, I might still be there now.
I got lost in Taman Negara, briefly, too. The rain came down suddenly, very heavily, and the deep channels which meander through it, filled with water quickly. It got dark. After an hour or so I eventually found the path again.
 

jurek

Well-known member
I love the notice advising people not to ‘tease it’. “Oh can we go and tease the nice tiger, Henry?“. “No Dear, the notice says we mustn’t, so we mustn’t“ 😁

I have a similar note warning about polar bears in Churchill, Canada, with advice: if attacked, fight the bear. I asked several people advising this leaflet, how exactly to fight a polar bear? One woman answered - with anything you can grab. I guess they should be handing axes not leaflets.

I saw the bears but did not have to fight any. Although been a little scared and more ashamed of my stupidity after birding in a dense forest, when a huge male polar bear walked out of another part of forest nearby. The bear then walked across the bog, falling in up to its belly, and turning more and more black from mud. I somehow counted that polar bears, well, don't usually go to forests. They do.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I have a similar note warning about polar bears in Churchill, Canada, with advice: if attacked, fight the bear. I asked people advising this leaflet, how exactly to fight a polar bear? One woman answered - with anything you can grab. I guess it is cheaper to hand leaflets than axes.

I saw the bears but did not have to fight any. Although been a little scared and more ashamed of my stupidity after birding in a dense forest, when a huge male polar bear walked out of another part of forest nearby. The bear then walked across the bog, falling in up to its belly, and looking more black on legs. I somehow counted that polar bears, well, don't usually go to forests. They do.
Paper cuts can be nasty ...

Think I've done my share of silly/foolish things like most but not sure that I've ever come that close to anything that was imminently dangerous/scary - just the potential for things to go wrong never realised, fortunately.
 

birdmeister

Well-known member
United States
I haven't done a whole lot of traveling either, but one pretty tame instance does come to mind (and it's not from my Costa Rica trip a couple years ago!).

While helping conduct vulture surveys in the southern US, my supervisor (and driver) decided to go for an unplanned birding trip after finishing the route. I had never been to the Southern coast, so we hit a state park beach to look for shorebirds and more. The walk was fantastic, with hundreds of Brown Pelicans and lifer Wilson's Plover and Marbled Godwit to go along with the usual array of southern herons and ibis.

However, the shorebird roost happened to be a very tidal sand spit, which I didn't realize until I looked behind me and realized the water was coming in! I assumed it would be quite shallow and enjoyed playing Snowy Egret to wade through. Then things got a bit tricky, as we hit a spot that looked shallow but was actually waist high. We were in jeans and sneakers, so not at all prepared for a deeper water crossing. We had no choice but to forge ahead, though, as this was becoming a channel and the water was really flowing now. I went ahead, now even deeper, with scope held high in one hand and binoculars in the other. It wasn't until after we made it through that I realized the camera and my phone had been in my pockets! Not surprisingly, both were decidedly deceased. Thankfully neither was that expensive, though, turning a slightly scary situation into little more than a humorous story.
 

foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
Very early in my orientation period for VSO in Nepal, I was sent with two other volunteers to a short conference on the edge of Chitwan National Park. We had some spare time one day and, knowing I was a birder, the others suggested we take a walk into the park. We had the sense not to go in alone but in hindsight it was probably best not to use the first early teen lad who spoke a little English we saw as a 'guide'. Whilst trying to get good views of a woodpecker we heard a high squeaking type noise and I turned to ask the lad what it was only to see him already half way up a small tree and indicating that we should all do the same. After some panicked scrabbling we had all climbed clear of the ground and he pointed out that we had walked between a young rhino (the source of the sound) and its mother, just visible 20m or so away through the scrub. Both animals wandered off and we were able to drop down and quickly leave the area. I've never climbed a tree so fast!
 

Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
When we were looking for Rondonia Bushbird in Brazil, we had to cross a creek one by one on a felled tree. After three of us crossed, there was no room for another so we walked a short distance up the path to make some room. When the fourth guy got across, he looked up at us and said "Do you guys know you just walked right past a bothrops?" "Whaaaaat?" "It's right here. Wanna see?" "Uhhh. No thanks. We'll stay up here." We were several hours from the nearest hospital. If anyone had been bitten, they were dead.

Before I was a birder, I was on a night safari in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The ranger was scanning the bush looking for eye-shine when he found a large group of animals hidden in a patch of brush. We thought they were Impalas, but it turns out they were Cape Buffalo. We found out that fact when the herd decided to charge the safari vehicle. But they split into two groups and went around the vehicle.

I also have a "Getting lost in the Australian bush" story. I was working in a nickel mining camp in the Western Australia goldfields. I was on night shift, so I spent every morning birding in the bush near the camp. On previous mornings, I kept an eye on the sun just in case, but this particular morning was cloudy. I also got a bit far off-course chasing a Crested Bellbird, a bird which had been calling every morning, but I had yet to find. I eventually found the bellbird, but when I did I had no idea where the camp was. Fortunately, the morning flight from Perth showed up just then so I knew where the air strip was. Whew!
 

Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
I haven't done a whole lot of traveling either, but one pretty tame instance does come to mind (and it's not from my Costa Rica trip a couple years ago!).

While helping conduct vulture surveys in the southern US, my supervisor (and driver) decided to go for an unplanned birding trip after finishing the route. I had never been to the Southern coast, so we hit a state park beach to look for shorebirds and more. The walk was fantastic, with hundreds of Brown Pelicans and lifer Wilson's Plover and Marbled Godwit to go along with the usual array of southern herons and ibis.

However, the shorebird roost happened to be a very tidal sand spit, which I didn't realize until I looked behind me and realized the water was coming in! I assumed it would be quite shallow and enjoyed playing Snowy Egret to wade through. Then things got a bit tricky, as we hit a spot that looked shallow but was actually waist high. We were in jeans and sneakers, so not at all prepared for a deeper water crossing. We had no choice but to forge ahead, though, as this was becoming a channel and the water was really flowing now. I went ahead, now even deeper, with scope held high in one hand and binoculars in the other. It wasn't until after we made it through that I realized the camera and my phone had been in my pockets! Not surprisingly, both were decidedly deceased. Thankfully neither was that expensive, though, turning a slightly scary situation into little more than a humorous story.
I had a similar experience in China. We were on a tidal mudflat looking for Chinese Crested Tern, when the tide came in behind us. It didn't turn into a raging channel, but it did create some water covered areas we had to cross. What I didn't realize is that it turned the mud in those areas to quicksand. I ended up sunk in up to my crotch in the mud, then lost my balance and ended up sitting in the mud with my legs embedded. The others had to pull me out.
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Supporter
dandsblair "1) Drive from Negele to Yabello near the Somali border in South Ethiopia - where after a few days in Negele area with armed guys on the streets at night making some areas completely no go, being chased by locals when we went for the Ruspoli's Turaco and hearing another birding group had taken the 5 hour detour to avoid the area."

We had a similar experience after seeing the Turaco in 2005. We came out onto the road after seeing it and were surrounded by men armed with rifles. They escorted us, in our vehicle, to the local headman who demanded to know what we were doing, giving our guide an especially hard time. We were eventually allowed to go after showing him the picture in the guide and our RSPB cards, explaining that the Queen was a big supporter of birds.
Tony
I think it has always been a bit bad in this area but our guide who I stay in touch with says that many areas south of Negele are now completely off limits after trouble broke out near some of the Somalian refugee camps.
 
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dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Great thread! Some of those encounters would've required a new pair or two of underpants...
A few from me, not quite as extreme as some of the other tales:
  • Three incidents on over 3 days in Gunung Leuser NP: Heavy rain on our first night caused an extraordinary flash flood along the Bohorok River, with many homes damaged, and even some small houses being completely destroyed. Luckily nobody was injured or even killed during the night, and we were evacuated to safety to a spare room away from the river around 3am. On our second day of hiking through the park, we encountered a semi-habituated male Orangutan which provided excellent photo opportunities, until he decided to descend down the tree. What followed was something out of a farcical horror film, with the huge male in pursuit (apparently for our food, having been fed by less scrupulous guides) for some 45 minutes and 2km up and down gullies in 38° and close to 100% humidity. Both parties had to stop a rest, though each time we stopped for more than 3-4 mins he caught up to us, leading our guide to tell us to keep moving. Eventually he gave up, and we had to rest to consume several litres of water! Another hair raising experience was our return trip to Bukit Lawang down the Bohorok (which was still nearly in full flow) with our belongings tied to 3 lorry inner tubes lashed to form a makeshift raft. I decided to take my glasses off to avoid injury or loss and as a result couldn't see very much, but I am assured it was even more terrifying in focus...
  • Two incidents on the same day in Murchison Falls NP, where our rental car was charged by an aggressive immature bull elephant I was photographing, soon followed by a wrong turn down a dry riverbed in which excess speed nearly resulted in me rolling our hire car - my other half informs me we were airborne for at least 2 seconds.
  • Suffering AMS in Ethiopia, and having a very undignified rescue involving being strapped to a horse and lead to lower elevations - perhaps the closest I've come to facing my own mortality. Also avoiding a mugging on our last evening in Addis Ababa when we were followed closely by 2 guys down a series of back streets. I felt something was wrong so I pretended to go to an ATM, whereby they waited for me to return with money. Much to their surprise I walked right up to them, and told them they I had no money, and any attempt to check this would lead to very serious injury on their part - they took my bluff pretty seriously and ran off!
  • A solo visit to East Hills where I miscalculated the tides, and had to wade through thigh deep water, only to get stuck in mud. I managed to stay calm and spread my weight to crawl out of the offending creek, but lost a wellington as a result. I wasn't in such a good mood by the time I got back to Warham, and as a result walked right past a funny sounding acro... I was halfway home when I got a text asking if I'd managed to see the singing Blyth's reed warbler.
  • An attempted mugging in Costa Rica, which was ultimately abandoned by my would-be assailant, I translated that he was trying to get me to hand over my wallet, but I consistently shouted at him in broken Germany that I didn't understand, it took about 5 minutes until he got bored and gave up.
 

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dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
It made me think "Behiiiind youuuu"...... :ROFLMAO:

John
A "hairy" encounter for sure... I'll get my coat.

That 3 image is an absolute classic ‘calm before the storm’ photo 😂

I think he started to descend a moment after that photo was taken, back when it was all smiles and wonder.

Here is a lovely photo my partner took of me "enjoying" lunch post pursuit, as well as a few pics of the offender. Quite a magnificent specimen, though I didn't fancy my chances against those teeth!
 

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willisoften

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Stepped off the edge at a local disused quarry while looking through borrowed binoculars. Fell about five feet onto substantial ledge. Ten feet further along I’d have fallen 60ft. I was about 17 and escaped with a lump on the forehead and massively painful black eye. I remember vomiting in A&E a few hours later. I remember thinking I’d lost my eye. Almost 40 years later I still put my hand to my left eye, it seems to feel the wind more or feel colder. Psychosomatic?
 

Euan Buchan

The Edinburgh Birdwatcher
Supporter
Scotland
I wouldn't say it was scary but rather frustrating a few years ago I went Birding at Corstorphine Hill Nature Reserve. It's a big place and it took me ages to find my way out were I came in after I had been Birding. It frustrated me so much I haven't gone back there since.
 

MJB

Well-known member
An attempted mugging in Costa Rica, which was ultimately abandoned by my would-be assailant, I translated that he was trying to get me to hand over my wallet, but I consistently shouted at him in broken Germany that I didn't understand, it took about 5 minutes until he got bored and gave up.
Presumably that was before 1990, the date of German Reunification...?;););)
MJB
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Presumably that was before 1990, the date of German Reunification...?;););)
MJB
My father made a poor joke with my partner recently when talking about the fall of communism in Germany "Don't mention the wall!" Luckily she has adapted well to British humour, and understood the poor attempt at a Fawlty Towers parody!
 

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