Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Back In Britain!



Back in The U.K.

So after a day travelling I am back at my parent's house, alone with their cat. Mum and Dad are on holiday! Mind you I have seen my superb Son, Joshua and brilliant to have a catch up meal with him.

I am excited about the coming months as I have a lot of travelling around Britain ahead with evening talks to RSPB local groups, starting at Truro, Cornwall on the 26th of October.

Before then I will be buying a small car, writing the book of my Peruvian adventure and sending masses of THANK YOU emails and Facebook messages to all of the wonderful people who made the whole experience so fabulous.

Let's get on with another day updated from back in July. . .

For those who may be new to my blog I know that today is October the ninth but due to a number of factors, mostly a lack of internet within The Manu National Park, I could not keep up the daily blog describing my adventures.

You now know I survived the six month Biking Birder Peruvian adventure over The Andes by bicycle and along the Madre de Dios river by packraft!

What follows over the next 70 days, well to Christmas anyway, will be a daily update as though we are back together in July of this year. Day by day I will post my diary as though it is still happening. Together we will share the thrills, the splendour of nature and the terrors. Oh yes, there were days of terror but those few moments were outshone by days of such magnificence that dark clouds were obliterated by nature's beauty.

So please read and imagine . . . .

Oh, and please, PLEASE if you could make a donation to Birdlife International as you read I would be more over the Moon than I already am! Neil, I am coming to see you.




Thank you and love to you all,

Be Green.

Gary xxx

5th July, 2018

Cloud from the start and cooler, double jumper day!

The conch is heard and everyone gathers for breakfast. A final date with a wonderful group of people, my visit has been lovely and new friends made. Thanks to be given to John, Habir, Blanca, Claudio and to all of 'The Lads,' those fabulous Peruvian Columbia supporters!
Weyqecha Biological Research Station is a fabulous place. The location is perfect with, when out of the cloud, amazing views. It is quiet and secreted away from the dirt track Manu Road. The bird life is varied and colourful. Butterflies, dragonflies and, oh boy, the number of moth species attracted to the lights at night, such variety of size and colour. Incredible.


Time to bump! The road at this height is reasonably wide and not too bad at first but as I descend, by standing on the left peddle and holding onto the handlebars, the quality of the road gets worse. To sit on the saddle as normal would be dangerous on this surface.
Knowing that the distance to the next lodge location, the famous Cock of The Rock lodge, is too far away to get there in one day, well it is if I want to bird as I descend this fabulous birding road. I stop at Pillhuata. Here there are a number of derelict wooden buildings and a beautiful field with a few small fruit trees and tremendous views over the cloud forest-covered, very steep sided valley. With long grass to cushion me, I set up the tent mid afternoon. I find a stool at a shower and toilet building near the road and sit beside my tent and watch as small flocks of birds pass through the trees and bushes nearby. Mostly birds I have seen before; White-throated Tyrannulets, Black-throated Brush-finches and Spectacled Redstarts but a superb Andean Tyrant sitting on a telegraph wire is new.
I walk along the road both uphill and down. Birds are sporadically seen but after a couple of hours I have seen Montane Woodcreeper and White-banded Tyrannulet well. Birding is not as easy one is lead to believe along here as birds move in flocks and quickly move on. My tactic is to concentrate on each new species in turn and write down as many features as I can in my notebook. If happy with the identification, I then move onto another bird. Difficult as around here the birds are mostly high above my head. My greatest thrill though is when a couple of Black-throated Brush-finches come onto a berry carrying bush and feed unconcerned just a few feet from me. Such intimacy is beautiful.
The afternoon proceed leisurely and I sit on my stool and watch as the cloud layers descend and fill the valley before me. Such The sun sets and the temperature drops. I get into my sleeping bag and am soon asleep.

Green Year list : 299 birds

average new birds to list per day : 3.11 birds

Mileage : 5.09


altitude : 8.372 feet



Sunday, 7 October 2018

Homeward Bound . . . .


Buenas Dias!



The last day in Peru this year. I will be back. I adore the country and it's people.

I look forward to returning and that will hopefully be next year sometime with the intention of buying some land in The Manu. I have a few ideas for a project there.

When I do get home I have so many people to thank I am going to be very busy. I have been so lucky in having such amazing friends in Peru and in having met so many fabulous, friendly people.

Vamos Peru!

The most important thing though when I get home is to see my two children, Joshua and Rebecca.



Joshua has been excelling at university where he is training to become a nurse.


Rebecca has just completed her PhD studies.

So proud of them both!

Anyway, . . .
For those who may be new to my blog I know that today is October the seventh but due to a number of factors, mostly a lack of internet within The Manu national Park, I could not keep up the daily blog describing my adventures.

To those who read yesterday's blog and the blog from the day before etc, I once more humbly apologise for starting in the same vein!

You know I survived the six month Biking Birder Peruvian adventure over The Andes by bicycle and along the Madre de Dios river by packraft!

What follows over the next 72 days, well to Christmas anyway, will be a daily update as though we are back together in July of this year. Day by day I will post my diary as though it is still happening. Together we will share the thrills, the splendour of nature and the terrors. Oh yes, there were days of terror but those few moments were outshone by days of such magnificence that dark clouds were obliterated by nature's beauty.

So please read and imagine . . . .

Oh, and please, PLEASE if you could make a donation to Birdlife International as you read I would be more over the Moon than I already am! Neil, I am coming to see you.


https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bikingbirderperu2018 

Yesterday it was wonderful to receive a donation from a superb French opera singer, Annick de Grom and her husband.


Thank you Annick and Jean Francois. Vous etes tres gentil!

And of course . . .  

Thank you and love to you all,


Be Green.

Gary xxx

4th July, 2018


Very sunny morning, cloud forest cloud develops during the day- seems to be a pattern here!

Awake in my luxurious room, I look out of the window and can only see a misty carpet of clouds over which there are a thousand stars. Sunrise is still two hours away but the comfort of this large bed, the stars and the sound of a toddler, one year old, next door is keeping me from sleeping. He cries and pleads. Many years ago my youngest step-daughter, Sarah, did the same, night after night. The piercing dry cry of “juice” would permeate my dreaming hours and automaton-like I would rise, go downstairs and fill a bottle with blackcurrant juice. Two or three times a night for a couple of years this went on for and now a child in the adjacent bungalow was extorting his parents to do the same.
Maybe it was the noise from next door but more likely it was the strange dream that I had been having that had awoken me. Chris Packham had been questioning me on the BBC TV programme, Springwatch, showing me photograph after photograph of rabbits! A procession of rabbits coming at me from all directions!
I look out of the window and watch the stars. Back in 2010, in the month of August, I slept upon the roof of a RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) visitor's centre at Insh Marshes in Scotland. The small wooden building had a viewpoint terrace on the roof and sleeping there afforded me views of a similar nature; stars and mist. Being positioned on a ridge overlooking the extensive marshes I remember the feeling of floating on a magic carpet as the stars shone brightly in a sky lacking any form of light pollution. Different stars here in the Southern Hemisphere but same effect. Magical.
Out for a walk two hours later, a Great Thrush is on the path and a couple of Black-faced Brush-finches are in the nearby flower bed; the recently split from Rufous-naped. The Collared Inca and Amethyst Sunangel are joined by a Tyrian Metaltail hummingbird at the feeders and Hooded Mountain Tanagers are in the canopy of the trees.
After breakfast I walk with the three girls from England to the canopy walkway, seeing but hearing more Mountain Wrens on the way. Scaly-naped Parrots, four of them flying in two pairs, call as they pass over heading down the valley. The weather is beautiful and the trail to the walkway passes through densely vegetated areas yet occasionally affording views down to the river far below.
The canopy walkway is an amazing structure with solid aluminium girders and bars supporting a net-like, narrow and difficult to walk on pathway that sways as one proceeds. It goes over a deep valley through which a small brook descends through ferns and palms with trees nearby covered in epiphites and bromeliads. It is wonderful and great fun. Large Glasswing butterflies flutter around one as you stop to watch.
At the far end of the walkway is a huge green sheet, the size of an IMAX film screen. This is designed to prevent cloud reaching a section of the forest. Behind the screen there are a large number of different experimants and data-logging stations set up, collating information of humidity, temperature, light, leaf fall, soil moisture, wind direction and speed, solar radiation, rainfall and numerous other things so that the scientists and geographers can assess the effect of Climate Change on the area. Models have already shown that there are inevitable changes on the way and this project is vital for creating management plans for the future. Cloud Exclusion Net Project [Aberg]
It all reminds me of the DVDs that David Attenborough produced in the early 2,000s on the subject of Climate Change. Two programmes had David talking about what problems lay ahead and many people were concerned and it seemed back then that people would unite to fight the problem. Time went on and people found other things to be concerned about and Climate Change, thanks to the denial tactics by certain political figures, is sadly ignored by the powerful. Scientists know the facts and one can only hope that some of the direst predictions do turn out to have been overstated. This year, 2018, has seen an increase in the public awareness of the all pervading problem of plastic, especially thanks to David Attenborough's BBC series, Blue Planet 2. I hope that the same fall off of interest in solving the problem of plastic doesn't happen as it did with David's Climate Change programmes but it will. Plastic use will increase as ever and the world's oceans will fill.
John, the manager of Weyqecha has suggested that I walk the longest trail, named after the one time when a Peruvian Spectacled Bear was seen on it. It is an eight kilometre trek that initially descends through a quite open, well canopied forest section. Andean Guans are in the trees and beautiful White-collared Jays that noisily fly off through the trees.
Mostly the path is bird free with occasional butterfly and dragonfly and the occasional bird squeak, tchek and tsip. Suddenly though a large, round-winged creature flies low in front of me. I scribble down some details but feel that the chance has gone to be fully confident in it's identification. Fortunately as I come around the corner I can see that less than ten metres away there are a pair of large, dark eyes staring at me. They belong to an owl that looks like a British Tawny Owl, a Rufous-banded Owl. It doesn't fly away and I take a photograph with a four times zoom Olympus camera that Alice has kindly lent me on hearing of the demise of my camera. The bird even sits on it's branch when I duck down nervously beneath it. I have visions of Eric Hosking's encounter with a Tawny owl many years ago. The famous late bird photographer was photographing a Tawny at the nest when the female bird ripped one of his eyes out! It is sadi that Eric went back to continue the photo shoot of the same bird a week later.
A hundred yards or so later after this wonderful encounter, another superb bird is sitting motionless on a branch, a Masked Trogon. A female bird, I have seen a lot of male Trogons on the past but I think that this might be my first female. Another great bird goes onto my list.
A flock and the usual panic as birds fleetingly appear and speedily move on. Grass-green Tanagers are easy to see, large and verdant green. Spectacled Redstarts are the same, showing themselves as readily as do their cousins, the Slate-throated Redstarts. I am also confident in the identification of a Black-throated Tody-tyrant. Other birds go into my notebook as brief phrases of key features but won't be going onto the bird list as I am not sure 100% of their identity.
The narrow pathway continues and I am really enjoying my lonely day. The occasional blocking of the way by a fallen piece of bamboo, a rockfall or a decaying tree trunk makes it almost feel that I am a pioneering explorer. When I come to a sign that states that there is another trail that heads steeply down toeards the valley floor where I can hear a fast water river flowing, I instead continue on my own trail and head back up hill, hoping that it will take me to the Manu Road and eventually back to the Research Station. The way becomes very overgrown and obstacles become more frequent. It feels that no one has been down this way for a long time.
Suddenly I hear and then see a small group of Gray-breasted Mountain Toucans moving around in a high tree top. One performs upon a dead branch a sort of dance as I loves it's brilliantly shaped 'Guinness' bill from side to side. With their fabulous arrangement of colours from the blue-grey breast to the red vent and yellow rump, with it's long, curved bill of red and yellow protruding from their dark faces, they are impressive birds and their gutteral utterances don't seem to fit the beauty of the moment.
After a section where the path has been completely wiped out by a section of eroded hillside, where water in the recent past has washed away trees, bushes and taken mud and rocks down a steep hill side, I come across an abandoned wooden house and from it there is just a short walk up through thick bamboo to the road.
Three kilometres later I am back at the Research Station and enjoying the company of one and all over the evening meal. A young couple from Texas are new and as they are both very keen birders I sit with them and listen as they tell me of their own Peruvian adventures.

Green Year list : 296 birds

average new birds to list per day : 3.12 birds

altitude : 9,580 feet

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Descent into Paradise! Into the Cloud Forest of The Manu.


Buenas Dias!

Good morning! It is another lovely day, so RISE and SHINE. Life is for living!

My penultimate day in Peru. Tomorrow, Sunday I will be on the way back to the UK.

A wonderful day yesterday at my favourite Peruvian Nature Reserve, Los Pantanos de Villa, south of Lima. Los Pantanos? Why?

OK, I know, there are the magnificent National Parks and yes, I love The Manu yet Los Pantanos de Villa is preferred because of it's brdlife and it's location. You see I love urban reserves and Los Pantanos de Villa with over ten million people within twenty miles of it is as urban as it can get. Mind you, despite this and if one ignores the constant sound of traffic, a birder can see around sixty superb species in a day and, at certain times of the year birds numbers exceed fifty thousand. To think of so many people, especially children engaging with nature on their doorstep is thrilling.

I well remember my first visit there on Boxing day of 2013 when the seemingly never-ending beach was literally covered with immense flocks of gulls, mostly Franklins and terns, mostly Elegant and Cabot's.

I have been there at least a dozen times. Indeed I started my Peruvian Biking Birder adventure there back in April. Each time is different. Each time different birds take precedence. Today it was Wilson's Phalaropes that were present in numbers that would astound a British birder. I counted 254 of the spinning waders!

Saltwater, ocea adjacent lagoons, reedbeds, large freshwater-ish lagoons and dry horse grazed areas; Los Pantanos de Villa has an interesting selection of habitats and the birds can be very confiding. Imaine Great and Pied-billed Grebes within yards of you.

Then there are the staff and volunteers, wonderful friendly people, mostly young but also older that add enjoyment to a visit with their sense of fun, their dedication to the reserve and with their desire to learn as much as possible, so to be able to share this with the thousands of Liman children that visit. Six coaches full of schoolchildren were there today!

Today I had the opportunity to promote the reserve and Peruvian birding by being interviewed and filmed by PromPeru. Three lovely people; Melanie, Ricardo and fernando drew the long straw and had to do the job. Two hours of their company, I look forward to seeing the results and sharing it all with you.

So before the July the 3rd details, here are a few photographs from today at Los Pantanos de Villa :-

















Fabulous to see that schoolchildren had cleared a long section of the beach from washed up plastic!

OK . . . . . . . 


For those who may be new to my blog I know that today is October the sixth but due to a number of factors, mostly a lack of internet within The Manu national Park, I could not keep up the daily blog describing my adventures.

To those who read yesterday's blog and the blog from the day before, I once more humbly apologise for starting in the same vein!

You know I survived the six month Biking Birder Peruvian adventure over The Andes by bicycle and along the Madre de Dios river by packraft!

What follows over the next 73 days, well to Christmas anyway, will be a daily update as though we are back together in July of this year. Day by day I will post my diary as though it is still happening. Together we will share the thrills, the splendour of nature and the terrors. Oh yes, there were days of terror but those few moments were outshone by days of such magnificence that dark clouds were obliterated by nature's beauty.

So please read and imagine . . . .

Oh, and please, PLEASE if you could make a donation to Birdlife International as you read I would be more over the Moon than I already am! Neil, I am coming to see you.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bikingbirderperu2018

Thank you and love to you all,



Be Green.

Gary xxx 

3rd July, 2018


Very sunny morning, cloud forest cloud develops during the day

I can hear a Creamy-crested Spinetail from my sleeping bag as I lie in my cold tent watching my breath. Ice on the tent for possibly the last time, I get up and find a superb Moustached Flowerpiercer on the topmost twig of a very close by bush. A Great Thrush is on the path nearby and the calling Creamy-crested Spinetail is seen moving amongst the foliage. As I get my inflatable mattress and sleeping bag out of the tent, I arrange them so that I can sit on the steps of the obelisk and watch the sunrise in one direction and the setting of a gibbous Moon in the other. White-throated Tyrannulets come into a small tree and make it a hat-trick of new birds for the early morning. Smashing little birds these are with the obvious white throat above a dull grey breast, long tail and wing bars and eye stripes, they move swiftly and noisily in the branches.
A short walk to the ridge edge nearby, a deer is looking at me intently from fifty yards away. Standing on my path, she has immense and pert round ears, a black nose and large eyes. All seemingly of one colour in this early morning sunlight she suddenly decides that watching the human may not be a good idea and slowly walks off into the scrub.
Wispy, nebulous cloud from the valley deep below starts to ascend and pass. Soon it covers the ridge and I walk back to the tent in a strange fog that seems to take the sounds away.
I take down the tent, it having thawed and dried in the early morning sunshine. Packed and ready, I start the long descent in the knowledge that it is all downhill for the next fifty miles, all the way to the Cadre de Bios River! Actually I don't sit on the saddle as I follow the dirt road down. I stand on a pedal and balance in order that, one I can stop immediately upon seeing a bird I would like to identify or, more hopefully, come across a flock and two, I can leap off the bike quickly and get to the side of the road if I hear an approaching vehicle. The second of these considerations is important as minibuses in particular can speed around a bend at any time and most of the time they do not warn one of their approach by sounding their horn. This road is so bumpy that cycling in the more conventional way seems to me to be practically impossible and dangerous.
The first birds that stop me are Red-crested Cotingas and both Rufous-breasted and Brown-backed Chat Tyrants. That all changes though when I come across my first flock. Rust & Yellow Tanagers are easy to see as forage amongst the bushes and grassy stems. The Rufous-paned Brush-finches have all black throats though and I will need to check their specie status. Golden-collared, Hooded Mountain and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers are all moving through and the pace in which they do so, appearing then disappearing in the dense vegetation, makes the experience exhilarating.
I continue down the bumpy road as cloud envelops the hill side and visibility is restricted. The valleys have gone and the way ahead is obscured. Luckily traffic is extremely sparse and when I suddenly come across the entrance to Weyqecha Biological Research Station I am excited. My next place of accommodation has been reached.
No one seems to be around as I enter the large reception – dining room. Hummingbird feeders beside it have Amethyst Sunangel and Violet-throated Starangel feeding. A Collared Inca joins them but is soon chased away. Brush-finches and Yellow-browed Sparrows come close as they search for food in the area next to the kitchen and main entrance. I am entranced by such beautiful birds, birds that can be watched from a seat and with a cup of coffee. Coffee and tea is available from a table next to a hatchway through to the large kitchen.
Whilst imbibing my coffee a man comes in and tells me that he a birder named Omar working for a company called Cotinga Travel. Good name! Omar talks birds and I try to persuade him to go back to the pools thirty or kilometres or so away to photograph the Least Grebe I saw there yesterday. This dastardly birder, myself that is, wants evidence of the bird.
I want to bird and after Omar leaves I meet John, the manager of the facility. He gives me a map of the trails and I set off for the nearest and shortest. The trail goes down diagonally into the valley and a few mist nets have been placed in strategic spots. I hear later that two scientists are carrying out a bird project. I don't see any evidence of any birds during my walk as unfortunately no flocks pass me during my two hour hike.
At dinner I meet three young girls from England; Abbey, Alice and Wanxin. The girls are part of a long study project into the effects of Climate Change on the cloud forest. They are studying at King's College. London together and part of their costs have been funded by the Geography Association. I remember that I supported The Geography Association during my first two Biking Birder adventures in 2010 and 2015 by carrying a glove puppet of Barnaby Bear on the bike. Barnaby is the Geography Association's Primary Education character for a major curriculum topic called “Where in the world is Barnaby Bear.” Wanxin is from Singapore, Abbey is from Ilford and Alice is from Southampton. They are chatty and fun, wonderful to meet such young and intrepid people.
Dinner is served by Blanco and Claudio and afterwards everybody goes to the back of the kitchen to wash and dry up. Time for the match! Birding can wait until later. It is time for England against Columbia in the 2018 World Cup taking place in Russia. The last sixteen match and the winner will meet Sweden in the last eight. A room beneath one of the bungalows is prepared with a large flat screen TV and a number of chairs. Factions enter and take opposing positions in the room, England supporters, that is the girls and I, to the right of the TV. The Peruvians are all supporting Columbia, something to do with South America solidarity and they all sit to the left, all nine of them. We are outnumbered but my vocal prowess makes up for our numerical shortfall.
The match kicks off. England dominate but don't score during their purple patch of play. Luckily neither do Columbia. Half time and honours even, England ahead on points, I go and fetch biscuits and cakes from my room. Shared all around with great fun and a game of pretending to give to about to give a biscuit or a cake to a Peruvian Columbia supporter and then passing the biscuit or cake to one of the England supporting girls instead. Eventually I relent and all get a fair share.
Second half, England get a penalty and the protesting Columbian defender gets booked. He has grabbed Harry Kane and pushed him to the ground. There can be no doubt about the decision and the video referee is not called for. Harry steps up and plants the ball down the centre of the goal above the despairing foot of the goalkeeper who has dived to his right. 1 – 0 to England. I quietly show my delight at the goal by clapping a couple of times. Do I thump! I am up screaming “goal!” and dance across the room. “Come on England!”
A few minutes of the match remain. Columbia have come into the match more and a long range shot is turned around the post by the diving Pickford, the England goalkeeper. From the corner the ball is headed downwards and with a vicious bounce it is in the back of the net. 1 – 1. The Peruvians take their cue to repeat my performance and celebrate vociferously.
Extra time, England come closest to deciding the game with a shot that just goes past the far post. Penalties. Columbia score, England score, repeated, Columbia score but the Columbian goalkeeper saves the next England spot kick. 3 – 2 to Columbia. Panic!
Columbia hit the bar and England score. 3 – 3.
Pickford saves with his upstretched hand.
Dyer steps up to win the game for England. England have never won a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup. Can Dyer score.
He does! He runs towards the team huddle as England players en masse create a human pile. Dyer wants a cuddle but is ignored. Meanwhile I am dancing once more around the room. England have beaten Columbia and will play Sweden in the last eight. Fabulous.
The TV is put away and the generator is turned off. Two men, Marcus and Felix, arrive and after I try to explain that I have been emailed and that it states that I will be staying in the dormitory, I am taken to a most luxurious room with ensuite facilities. A large semi-detached wooden bungalow built on tall stilts with a balcony that looks over the now cloud free valleys of the Manu Cloud Forest. I sit and watch as a Masked Flowerpiercer pierces a few of the numerous flowers. Incredible views with forest clad hills, one after the other descending down towards the promise of the lowlands thirty miles away. For anyone staying here this terrace with its chairs and proximity to such magnificence makes any expense and travel so worth while. Another paradise place for The Biking Birder to enjoy.

Green Year list : 287 birds

average new birds to list per day : 3.05 birds

altitude : 9,580 feet