Jeff Clarke Ecology

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Updates and photos from around the world on my travels both through pleasure and work

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ORCADIAN RHYTHM Touchdown in Malaga! As the majority of the Cheshire Mammal Group posse disembarked the flight hopes were riding high. We crammed our luggage into the two hire cars and realised there was no space left for passengers. Mmm... this was going to be interesting! The drive was not without its moments. I for one will never forget that the word for insulin in Spanish is insulina and how the addition of that one letter renders what you are saying completely unintelligible to a Spanish Doctor and his multitude of clinical practitioners. Panic over we approached our destination and discovered the track down to the villa was having a fiesta of potholes. Three passengers were ejected to allow the luggage laden jalop...
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The last week of March and the only gap in my diary represented an opportunity to combine research and reward. A recce to Extremedura in preparation for future guided wildlife trips, a chance to photograph some stellar species, combined with a bit of boys banter, held much promise. Extremadura is a much vaunted wildlife destination and this short jaunt justified that claim.

I made the trip in company of Messrs Ian Appleton, Anthony Brandreth and Daniel Pegg and we based ourselves at Torrejon el Rubio just a short distance from the fabled Monfragüe National Park.

©Jeff Clarke 2014
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Some birds are more of a dream than a reality and a high Arctic denizen such as Ivory Gull seldom make an appearance in the UK, preferring to spend most of their time scavenging around Polar Bear kills, or a deceased cetacean. When they do occur here they are most likely to be found standing atop a decaying beached whale, or seal. In recent years that had become an exceptionally rare occurrence, but that was about to change...

The late Autumn and early Winter of 2013 has delivered an unprecedented arrival of 1st Winter Ivory Gulls in the UK. Most of the birds appeared in the wake of a devastating low pressure system that ripped across the Atlantic from Greenland and made landfall with a massive storm surge on the 5th December.

©Jeff Clarke 2013
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Before I begin, let me state for the record that I am not a 'Twitcher', I gave that game up in the early eighties, but yesterday was a beautiful December day and a rather unique Crossbill opportunity presented itself, for within a comfortable day's journey it would be possible to see and photograph Common, Parrot and Two-barred Crossbill. I was joined in my quest by fellow naturalist and good egg, Anno.

First stop would be Broomhead Reservoir, a rather lovely spot in South Yorkshire. The low sun had not yet penetrated the larches where the Two-barred Crossbills were likely to be present so we walked towards the sunlit areas. There were plenty of birds around and a bit of loud pishing immediately brought in a sizeable flock of Common Crossbill. Getting reasonable images was another matter as they were mostly backlit.

©Jeff Clarke 2013
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It was a Golden Wedding celebration weekend for my Parents-in-law and I'd taken my wildlife camera gear more in hope than expectation. During a brief hiatus in proceedings I met up with Paul, my brother-in-law, cameras in hand, at Budby Common for a 2 hour sojourn. The light was poor and I thought I might not even press the shutter.

Even when there is nothing to see or photograph Budby is a fine place to walk. After an hour I thought that was all it would be, but the sound of crossbills caught my ear and I watched the flock land in some smallish Scot's Pines, just a couple of hundered metres away on the heath. Paul had never seen crossbill so I suggested we make our way to the pines and 'pish out' the crossbills and see if we could photograph them.

©Jeff Clarke 2013
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