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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Travel Blog: 2005 - My Ryanair Year

I have lately resumed appeasing my travel bug, with 20 trips abroad since the turn of the millennium (France 6; Germany 4; Belgium 2; Spain 2; Kenya/Tanzania, Australia, Florida, Norway, Ireland and Finland once each.).

This year, 2005, has been especially busy and I will commence my travel Blog here. Most (but not all) trips are linked to birding opportunities.

The year got off the ground (literally) with Ryanair as soon as January 6th -10 to Nimes, to retread some of the ground trod whilst back-packing around the Camargue as a student. Stayed at Hotel Imperator in Nimes from which I could visit the main birding spots around the Camargue, including Les Alpilles, La Crau and Les Baux a medieval mountain fortress. Here, I was able to exorcise a ghost by locating my honeymoon hotel at Les Baux (perched in spectacular cliff scenery). Unfortunately the bar was closed for the winter so a nostalgic glass of Calvados was not possible. The plateau at the top yielded an unexpected species, Alpine Accentor, which evidently winters here from the Alps. Species list for the trip was 74, Lifers including Alpine Accentor, Little Bustard and Great White Egret.

Ryanair again for a two night trip to Berlin (Feb. 15-17), stayed in the A&O Hostel, Kopenicker Strasse. I was in Berlin in April 2002 for a conference and was so disappointed that the Brandenburg Gate was in wraps for restoration, I resolved to return. This time the Gate was splendid in floodlights and snow. Also visited other "must see" sites: the Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, Tiergarten, Zoo, Pergammon Museum and others.

April's trip was to Paris (14-18th) by Eurostar to meet up with Australian buddy Simon Cotter, and others, to see my favourite ballerina, Sylvie Guillem, dancing at the Theatre Champs Elysées. We were privileged to be invited to a champagne reception in the interval and to Sylvie's dressing room after the performance where we spent half an hour chatting with her. Sunday was fine so Simon, his daughter Rosalie, and I caught a train to the Fontainbleau Forest for a few hours birding in spring sunshine. No woodpeckers seen, but some spring migrants like Bonelli's Warbler, Black Redstart etc. were nice to see.

May (12-18th) saw the first of two visits to Andalucia (Ryanair to Jerez, rented Hertz), in particular to the Coto Doñana. Camped the first two nights at Puerto de Santa Maria, and for the remainder at a sand dune site on the coast at Matalascañas, west of the Guadalquivir river. Inadvertently I had chosen weekend of the annual Romerio when the area around El Rocio is inundated with some two million pilgrims. Most of the national park centres were closed but I was able to amass a list of 127 species, with several lifers including goodies such as Red-necked Nightjar, Purple Gallinule, Crested Coot, Pratincole, Marble and White-headed Ducks. My movements were restricted by the Romerio and so I resolved to return in the near future.

The return visit to Andalucia was June 20-23 with friend Ken Stewart. This time we stayed in a cabin at La Aldea camp site at El Rocio. We enlisted help from the excellent Doñana Bird Tours and with expert local knowledge increased the Lifers by Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, a couple of Lark species, Spanish Sparrow, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. A visit to Niebla Castle turned up breeding Pallid Swift and a colony of Lesser Kestrels.

July's trip was by BMI-Baby to Cork, Eire, to stay with friend Dave Watson and family in Clonakilty. Local visits included boat trips to Clear Island and around the Fastnet Rock,
and to Glengarriff for a couple of pints of Murphy's in the hotel bar. Bird list was 88 which included my first European Laughing Gull, a visitor from across the Atlantic.

Although not overseas, August's outing (6-13) was a week with bird-ringing friend Ken Hindmarch on Bardsey Island Bird Observatory, in the Irish Sea off the Lleyn Peninsula, N. Wales. We participated in the ringing of Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels.

September (1 - 6) was celebrated with an autumn visit with Ryanair to Tampere, Finland. I camped near Nokia and toured within a day's drive (Hertz) of the area, visiting a couple of national parks. The forests were colourful in lovely weather with autumn berries and fungi, and whilst the bird list was not spectacular (57 species) I had superb views of Black-throated Diver and the one Lifer was Hazel Grouse.

November (25-28) was the final escapade of 2005 to Copenghagen via Malmo Sturup with Ryanair for just 6 pence return! (+ tax of course). Stayed in Hotel Absalon. For full details read Quest for a mermaid


Blogger Simon said...

Hi mate, well I like this blog for sure!

just to let you know I witness a very large number of Spine tailed swifts flying over the home. I could not count but comfortable with a number in the hundreds...

3:21 am  
Blogger Simon said... and I still think about france and the forest!

3:22 am  

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