Sunday, 18 February 2018

42 Days to Go to Biking Birder 2018 - Peru. Progress and People, Maidstone RSPB Talk and Donation

Life can be a procession of wonderful days and last Wednesday was definitely one of those.

The day started with messages from Jungle Jimmy McSparron, an adventurer and jungle expert, an ex-British soldier who know lives and works in Peru.
During part of my 300 mile packrafting time I will be joined by the extremely experienced and generally fabulous Jimmy. Indeed his support, advice and suggestion has been key in my feeling very confident in all aspects of the tour. It is wonderful to know that I have his support. Jimmy is one of the World's best Jungle survival experts.

Messages came also from Dr Rob Williams, another jungle expert, brilliant birder, one of the World's best tour guides and all round great guy.

To have Rob's support and Jimmy's is fantastic.

The next piece of great news at the start of the day was that the paperback version of my book, The Biking Birder 2016 - The Quest for 300, was finally all ready to be published on Amazon . . .

The day continued to be enjoyable and wonderful with fascinating people met on the trains taken between my parent's house in Worcestershire and Maidstone, Kent. 

A young lady told of her playing career as a Rugby Union player for Worcester. Enthusiastic for the sport and the club, her career ended when her shoulder had to be replaced.

A happy, chatty Muslim lady on her way to her security job in Bicester, talked about her children and her passion for her faith.

The final person to converse was a cricket journalist on the way to Lords!

Into Maidstone for the first time in my life, well, I had been to a suburb back in 1989 when a Golden-winged Warbler turned up for the first, and still the only time in Europe.

The Birding Clam lads and I went down a few days after the chaos of the first day, as depicted above and after seven very cold hours searching, Ian Crutchley, a major Clam, found the special one flitting in cotoneaster that surrounded a town house door.

After walking down the high street and after having talked with a homeless man and a busker, I found my hotel for the night, Hashtag Hotel. Into a comfy room with hours to spare so a shower and a film, a VDV bought from a charity shop for a local Hospice just moments before. 

A walk to the village hall and the talk to the RSPB local group assembly. One gentleman tells me that we have met before. As soon as he says where I reel off memory after memory.

Sunshine Catherine, the RSPB warden of Loch Gruinart RSPB reserve that year, a crazy lady who insisted vehemently that the moth trap was only for her and a fat lip after a young girl RSPB volunteer found a baby hedgehog. The lip? Well whilst placin the hedgehog int a box for safety, the girl from Nottingham, who's name I can't recall, said, "Gary there's an insect on you lip." I remember brushing the Cleg - Horsefly away and on finding some blood on my finger, replied "watch this! . . . "


More details on the blog page :- 

My fee is discussed and paid but with a twist, it is doubled so that I can make a donation towards Chaskwasi-Manu and Birdlife International. Fabulous to get some money for the two charities I am supporting this year. Thanks Maidstone.

A lovely audience, a lovely evening and a lift back to the hotel . . . perfect, I settle down for a comfy night's sleep.

Friday, 16 February 2018

43 Days to go Before Biking Birder 2018 - Peru. Stratford Upon Avon Butterfly Farm


What a busy week. Talks given to RSPB local groups, with associated travel to and from, last day until October at the wonderful Stratford Upon Avon Butterfly Farm and the completion and publication of my first book, Biking Birder 2016 - The Quest for 300. 

 By I, Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A few days spent at the Butterfly Farm were as wonderful as ever. It really is a privilege being a volunteer there and a delight to meet and greet so many fascinating and wonderful people. Due to the Shakespeare influence the farm gets people from all over the World, people from Coventry to New Zealand, people from every nation. My job is to try and ensure that everyone gets to see everything on view and enjoy their experience. To that end I may point out Stumpy and Prudence, the two Peruvian Iguanas and maybe even supervise as I ask children to feed them!

Working with the work experience volunteers and other staff members, we get some insects for people to hold, namely Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, which really do hiss as you gently pick them up and large stick insects so different to the Indian Stick Insects I had as pets when a child. We also get out the Giant African snails, as big as our hand and Giant African Millipedes as well as occasionally superb Hermit Crabs.
To watch peoples' faces is always the best thing about the 'creature encounter' time, especially the youngsters and the young at heart.

Then there's my favourite job, the cleaning out and the provision of leaf material for my favourites, the Leaf-cutter Ants. Stratford Upon Avon Butterfly farm has a large colony, the largest in Britain I would imagine, with a large aquarium where twigs of Privet, Ivy or another soft-leaf species are placed inside for the ants to cut and then transport along two long ropes suspended from the ceiling over the heads of the visitors.

Two ropes around ten to fifteen metres long each, one rope goes via a helical descent that takes the girls, yes the ants are all female, down and then close to the surface of some water in another aquarium that has three Archer Fish in it. The Archer Fish, if hungry, aim and spit a small glob of water at an ant, which is extremely accurate and powerful and sometimes this is enough to knock the ant from off the rope and into the waiting mouth of the fish.

Once they have negotiated this, the ants continue along the rope all the way to the main colony. Carrying their leaves they arrive and the leaf piece is taken down into the tunnels to be mixed with faeces to make compost to feed a large, sponge-like fungus, the real food of the ants. I love them  . . . despite their bites!

The faces on the people entering the ant room and having not noticed the overhead ropes, suddenly react in a diversity of ways upon realising that there are thousands of ants above them. "No they never fall off!" I will answer the most often asked question.

Spiders, scorpions, lizards . . . pass the visitors a torch and let them search for themselves.

Then there are the butterflies. Most people are fascinated, occasionally one is scared and i will never forget the pair, mother and daughter, who came in screaming. they made their way around the main butterfly area terrified of butterflies. Not the best place to visit for them!

Fabulous place to work. Wonderful people and always so much to see . . . . 

And wait until I tell you about yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!

Love to you all, 

Gary xx

Friday, 2 February 2018

57 Days to Go - BB2018-Peru. New Forest Wildlife Park

My last blog entry told of tree planting in Peru's Andes mountain range and two amazing young people, two of the finest teenagers one could ever meet.

Mya-Rose Craig, aka Birdgirl is phenomenal and her very popular blog, that has attracted over two million views, is a constant delight. Mya-Rose details twitching trips, World birding trips and issues that she feels passionately about.

Dominik Reynolds is working hard at his A-levels at the moment but is still finding time to organise events for his Wildlife Fund. Recently he was able to give a substantial check to the wonderful ORCA  charity and this weekend Dominik has organised a beach cleaning event on Southampton water.

photograph taken from Dominik's last beach clean

OK, now for some photographs from a day spent with Dominik at the wonderful New Forest Wildlife Park . .  . 

Highlight for me was when a surprise turned out to be an opportunity to feed m favourite animal there . . . Giant Otters. I adore Giant Otters and must be the only visitor to have been to Lake Sandival in Tambopata National Park on three occasions and not seen them! Well now I have fed some from my hand. Fabulous.

New Forest Wildlife Park Facebook page

So back to now. Everything is concentrated on the planning for the Peru adventure. Tomorrow, birds expected to be seen at Junin, Peru, the next site of my adventure after Lima.

All the best everyone,

Love to you all,

Gary  xx

Gary Brian Prescott - Facebook page