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Friday, April 30, 2010

The Pannonian Bird Experience 2010

During the weekend 23-25 April 2010 the first Pannonian Bird Experience was held in the Information Centre of the Seewinkel National Park, Burgenland, Austria. The event was modelled on the annual British Bird Fair and attracted an international participation, especially from the neighbouring countries of Germany, Hungary and Slovakia.

The Seewinkel National Park includes much of the inland Lake Neusiedl, which is encircled by a vast belt of reeds (Schilf-gürtel). At the southern (Hungarian) end of the lake the reed bed extends so far as to be able to observe the curvature of the Earth!

The weekend's programme offered a series of presentations; displays of cameras, telescopes and binoculars; and outdoor clothing and equipment. A number of excursions throughout the weekend offered visits around Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl) to important habitats and birdwatching sites in Hungary and Slovakia.

Maalie after his presentation

I felt privileged to be invited to deliver a presentation on Bird Ringing in Europe, in which I outlined the use of ringing to investigate the dynamics of bird populations by studying movement, productivity and survival. The presentation concluded with a case study of my own research on the survival of the Marsh Tit.

Tour guide Andrea leads an excursion into Hungary and Slovakia

Members of the excursion group watch birds on an island in the Danube
at the Szigetkőt National Park in Hungary

A wetland habitat, part of the National park in Hungary

The River Danube near Hainberg, part of the beautiful National Park

I congratulate the organisers for a fantastic event which I thoroughly enjoyed. I understand that plans are afoot to repeat the event in future years, and I look forward to participating again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bastard in Cloud... a quotation by science-fiction writer Sir Fred Hoyle in his eponymous book The Black Cloud (1957). The book details the arrival of an enormous cloud of gas that enters the solar system and threatens to destroy most of the life on Earth by blocking the Sun's radiation.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland started erupting on 15 April and the resulting plume of ash has reached a height of three miles (picture from Internet).

At the moment there is a cloud of volcanic ash dust settled over most of Europe
that prohibits all aircraft movement.

A consequence of this is my Australian friend Simon (see blog post below) had no flight home yesterday, and looks set to stay in England until at least Wednesday.

Simon looks hopefully for a hole in the dust cloud

We go to the end of my local pier to see the spectacular sunset that occurs during atmospheric dust clouds and share a little light refreshment

Zooming in a little, we see that it is a tin of good Austral- ian lager..

Indeed, we are treated to a fine red sunset
over the Duddon Estuary at Askam-in-Furness

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Australian connection

For two weeks I am privileged to welcome my mate Simon from Australia to stay in Maalie Court, from where we can explore the English Lake District by birding and hiking expeditions. (You can read accounts of my own visits to Simon in Australia here).

Easter dinner to welcome Simon to Maalie Court: pot-roast joint of silverside beef (at the back) with roast vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and dumplings

One of our first excursions was to visit the RSPB bird reserve at St Bees Head, where towering sea cliffs are breeding sites for thousands of sea birds.

Simon in "birdwatching mode"

Simon explores the tide line of Fleswick Bay at the foot of the towering cliffs of St Bees Head

From the top of the cliffs we observe a pair of Razorbills engaged in courtship behaviour.

Groups of Guillemots occupy cliff ledges...

...whilst a Fulmar (the eponymous Maalie) flies past to see if we are up to no good

And to finish the day, what better than afternoon coffee in a tea room... (Or was it a couple of pints in the Black Dog? Maybe I got the pictures mixed up ;-)