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Scariest birding moments (1 Viewer)

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
All snake-related for me:

1. A King Cobra standing up to say hello a couple of feet in front of me on my old patch at Ng Tung Chai produced the greatest adrenaline rush I never want to have again! The only time I felt the hairs stand up from scalp to spine.
2. Looking down to see an Adder beneath my upraised foot on Rame Head in Cornwall in the mid 80s
3. Looking down to see a Banded Krait beneath my upraised foot in Tai Po Kau in March 1989
4. Taking a step back on the same Ng Tung Chai patch for better views of a Crested Serpent Eagle across the valley when a rustle by my ankle revealed itself as a silently sunbathing Chinese Cobra, that oozed silently away as my stomach turned with sickening relief.

Cheers
Mike
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Mikes tales remind me of one in the Philippines, think I've recounted it before but here goes.

Two of us were trudging out of Hamut Camp (Whiskered Pitta) downhill at pace after three days camping in the forest. We were in 'let's get a beer, quickly' mode so we walked , unspeaking, quickly, down hill, heads down, I was in the lead.

Suddenly, out of my peripheral vision, a shape, instinctively said to my brain, stop! I stopped and my companion ran in to the back of me and a bit miffed, asked what was going on, I pointed to a large (we estimated over 3m) Reticulated Python, sitting right in the middle of the track. Bush was thick on eiether side so we had to try and move the snake to continue on our way, the snake did not like this, not one bit.

As I poked it with a stick, it hissed and luged at me several times, it was clearly big enough that it had no fear of us. This went on for ten minutes or more before a very annoyed snake, decided to slowly, slide in to the forest. I was about to pass when my mate said stop'! look where it's head is. The crafy serpent had left his tail on the track but had doubled back his upper half and his head was close enough to have bitten one of us if mate hadn't spotted it.

A pic of the actual snake is attached, you can see that it's raised up in an aggressive posture
 

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MJB

Well-known member
All snake-related for me:

1. A King Cobra standing up to say hello a couple of feet in front of me on my old patch at Ng Tung Chai produced the greatest adrenaline rush I never want to have again! The only time I felt the hairs stand up from scalp to spine.
2. Looking down to see an Adder beneath my upraised foot on Rame Head in Cornwall in the mid 80s
3. Looking down to see a Banded Krait beneath my upraised foot in Tai Po Kau in March 1989
4. Taking a step back on the same Ng Tung Chai patch for better views of a Crested Serpent Eagle across the valley when a rustle by my ankle revealed itself as a silently sunbathing Chinese Cobra, that oozed silently away as my stomach turned with sickening relief.

Cheers
Mike
If I were you, I'd give up on the Lynx Collision Leather and Cookies Deodorant and Body Spray... 0000 Lynx.jpg
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
1987. Falkland Islands, day trip to Sealion Island. Someone else mentioned that they'd found a big male Southern Sealion up in the tussac so a couple of us duly trotted off to photograph it. We were perhaps less than cautious.... anyway, it noticed us and charged. We hadn't thought it would be quick but whereas true phocids hump along on their bellies, fur seals and sealions galumph along on their flippers really quickly, and not only that but while we had to zigzag through the clumps of tussac it basically ironed them out. We ran like hell. It was funny afterwards, especially as we met a couple coming up who asked where the sealion was and we said "right behind us- follow us quick!"

Big teeth and a quick temper that bad boy had. We went and found a bit of cliff where we could look down on one safely.

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
1987. Falkland Islands, day trip to Sealion Island. Someone else mentioned that they'd found a big male Southern Sealion up in the tussac so a couple of us duly trotted off to photograph it. We were perhaps less than cautious.... anyway, it noticed us and charged. We hadn't thought it would be quick but whereas true phocids hump along on their bellies, fur seals and sealions galumph along on their flippers really quickly, and not only that but while we had to zigzag through the clumps of tussac it basically ironed them out. We ran like hell. It was funny afterwards, especially as we met a couple coming up who asked where the sealion was and we said "right behind us- follow us quick!"

Big teeth and a quick temper that bad boy had. We went and found a bit of cliff where we could look down on one safely.

John
I believe that a punter on a Wildwings tour to the Galapagos was badly bitten by a Pinniped some years ago.
 

jurek

Well-known member
I read a piece from a birder who monitored albatross bycatch on a fishing vessel in the South Pacific (paid by the fishing company. A dream job for a seabird fanatic?). Once the vessel pulled a large net full of fish on the deck, and inside was a huge, live, healthy and very angry sealion. Which started chasing the crew around the deck. Mouth like a bear and running surprisingly fast on its short flippers. The crew didn't know what to do. Finally they started a high-pressure fire hose and somehow managed to flush it to the sea.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I believe that a punter on a Wildwings tour to the Galapagos was badly bitten by a Pinniped some years ago.
One of my labmates in San Diego had, before grad school, worked at a marine mammal rescue somewhere in the midatlantic region (New Jersey?). Sometimes they would get reports of sick stranded Harp seals, that they would have to go and rescue. Now Harp seals may look small, but they are still large enough that you can't just easily throw one over your shoulder and head to the truck. So the normal method of removal was to roll the seal along the the beach, which sometimes required straddling the seal to better position it. Turns out a Harp Seal's first line of defense is to play dead. However at some point, they realize that isn't working, so then you have a annoyed seal that is suddenly between your legs and in perfect biting range...
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I remember staying at Backwoods camp in Goa over 20 years ago before they installed the plush bungalows they have now.

I'd dumped my teeshirt on the floor, next to my bed and the next morning, I pulled it down over my head and as I rolled it down over my torso, a large, Huntsman type spider was revealed, inches from my face.

The shirt was removed quite quickly............
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
My scariest moment didn't involve snakes or spiders, just slippy rock and a wristwatch.
We were at Sandwood Bay in Scotland and as I stepped off the grassy upper shore onto a flat rock, it passed through my mind that the rock was covered in green algae and I was going to slip and hurt myself. I did. My feet shot out from under me, my butt hit the rock at high and painful velocity and my hands, that had instinctively gone down to mitigate the impact felt on fire. I sat there unable to move at first and then looked at my left hand which turned out to be red raw and my wrist was covered in blood and my watch had gone. Mystified I looked closer and there was a slit in my wrist out of which blood was pumping and I could see a vein at one end of it. OMG was my first thought, 'a slit wrist on the north west coast of Scotland?' Turned out my watch bracelet had been sprung apart and one of the links had sliced my wrist but fortunately not my vein. Wiping the blood away it soon stopped bleeding and I found my watch nearby. Today I have two scars along that wrist, right next to the vein underneath, but not quite over it. A close call.

Lee
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
My second most scary moment did involve an Adder. We were on Thursley Heath where a brook flows between some trees and away from the main bog and along this brook there were flying dragonflies Somatachlora metallica. One flew up from the brook and perched on some leggy heather and I stalked over to it with my camera and eased down onto one knee to photograph it. However I wasn't quite square onto to it and, concerned that the depth of field might not be sufficient for the image to be sharp from wingtip to wingtip, I leaned to one side and had a look through the viewfinder. Not quite enough. Leaned a bit more. Nearly but not quite. Leaned a bit more and lost my balance and slowly toppled sideways and my shoulder hit the ground in a rather inelegant fashion as I fought to keep hold of the camera. And there under the heather next to that on which the dragon was perched was an Adder only a matter of inches from my face. It lifted its head up and crazily I wondered if I could get a photo and then decided discretion would be better but before I could decide how best to scramble away, the Adder withdrew further under the heather and disappeared. Amazingly the metallica was still there and I got a decent pic.

Lee
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Supporter
I remember staying at Backwoods camp in Goa over 20 years ago before they installed the plush bungalows they have now.

I'd dumped my teeshirt on the floor, next to my bed and the next morning, I pulled it down over my head and as I rolled it down over my torso, a large, Huntsman type spider was revealed, inches from my face.

The shirt was removed quite quickly............
Sarah had forgotten looking for a manakin lek in the forest above Pax on Trinidad, she had already missed one bird just feet away and I told her to keep looking ahead when she stepped forward into a web with a huge Tarantula that almost totally covered her face; fortunately she had polaroid glasses on and threw them and the tarantula off her face in one swift movement.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Think I might be repeating this story, but I had an adder experience one fine spring morning on the Otterburn military range in Northumberland. I came upon a basking adder which seemed quite torpid, being early in the season, and tried to get a photo with my compact digital camera (i.e. quite a wide angle lens). Managed to get very close before it raised its head threateningly a few inches from my face. I backed off quickly and never got the shot, reflecting that so soon out of hibernation and not quite warmed up, in energy terms it was better to prioritise fight over flight.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Think I might be repeating this story, but I had an adder experience one fine spring morning on the Otterburn military range in Northumberland. I came upon a basking adder which seemed quite torpid, being early in the season, and tried to get a photo with my compact digital camera (i.e. quite a wide angle lens). Managed to get very close before it raised its head threateningly a few inches from my face. I backed off quickly and never got the shot, reflecting that so soon out of hibernation and not quite warmed up, in energy terms it was better to prioritise fight over flight.
I'm definitely repeating thi story, sorry but you don't want to get as close as I did in Russia on my local patch and it was a hell of a lot worse than I expected it to be. The little git that bit me, wasn't even six inches long.
 

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
I'm definitely repeating thi story, sorry but you don't want to get as close as I did in Russia on my local patch and it was a hell of a lot worse than I expected it to be. The little git that bit me, wasn't even six inches long.
Certainly puts me right off getting bitten.

John
 

Lerxst

Well-known member
During our first night at a very basic eco-lodge in Sulawesi, my wife got up in the middle of the night to find the back door slightly ajar. She went to the bathroom and when she came out, there was a shoeless man standing there, motioning with his finger for her to keep quiet. Instead she screamed the four loudest, scariest, most shrill slasher-movie-worthy screams - sounds that I had no idea she could make - which obviously woke me up in a most terrifying way. But importantly, they had the intended effect of scaring the living hell out of the miscreant, who immediately fled out the door. I never saw him, it happened so fast.

We realised after his exit that before my wife woke up, he had gone around the room and moved some of our things, unplugged my phone from the charger, etc. Always nice to find out a stranger was in your room next to you while you slept. He didn't take anything, which makes me suspect he was not quite all there, mentally.

To this day, when we stay anywhere my wife checks the doors and locks about 17 times before going to bed.
 
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Lerxst

Well-known member
It was not the same level of visceral fear, but being trapped in Peru in March and April of 2020, (when they suddenly shut down all the borders and filled the streets of Iquitos with rifle-toting soliders that looked not a day over 18) is not one of my happier birding memories. We didn't feel our lives were in danger, but it was abundantly clear that the details of our daily routine would be dictated by their government, for however long they felt like doing so.
 

Nightjar61

David Daniels
United States
Many years ago, I was birding in a preserve near San Diego on a day when for some reason there were numerous rattlesnakes around. Prior to this day, I don’t recall ever having seen a rattlesnake in the San Diego region. I got into an area where I was suddenly surrounded by maybe ten or so snakes, and they seemed to be on hair-trigger, rattling all around me. That sound is nothing like you hear on TV or in the movies, and let me tell you it gets the Adrenalin flowing, your heart pumping out of your chest, and your knees feeling like Jello.

Anyway, I turned around and made my way out of the area. I thought I was in the clear. However, I passed a small bush where a very large snake was coiled, but I didn’t see it. Without warning, it struck at me and its fangs actually got caught briefly on my pant leg. I extracted myself from the situation and sat shaking in my car for some time before I composed myself enough to drive away.

I never went back to that location.

Dave
 
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lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
It was not the same level of visceral fear, but being trapped in Peru in March and April of 2020, (when they suddenly shut down all the borders and filled the streets of Iquitos with rifle-toting soliders that looked not a day over 18) is not one of my happier birding memories. We didn't feel our lives were in danger, but it was abundantly clear that the details of our daily routine would be dictated by their government, for however long they felt like doing so.
Orwell sends his regards
 

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