Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Record Shots

Recent days have seen a celebration via Twitter of a certain genre of photography often forgotten - the record shot. Keen to highlight the talents of those birders capturing real record shots, the kind you need to squint at and study for several minutes to decide if there's even a bird in the frame, there has been a good-natured and humorous stream of great examples tweeted and critiqued using the #recordshot hashtag.

Here at BirdGuides we're out in the field regularly (some of us in more far-flung fields than others but let's put that to one side): we know that when you're trying hard, when you're really flogging the local patch and the best you can manage is a barely discernible shadow amongst the shrubbery or a dot in an otherwise empty vista, Photos of the Week can be hard to swallow.

We thought it might be a good idea to find a place, here on the BirdGuides blog, to champion the very best record shots from those with not much gear but plenty of idea. So we've set up an email address recordshot@birdguides.com that you can send your very worst  best record shots to and we'll aim to select one each week to publish as our 'Record Shot of the Week'. Alternatively, tweet us direct at @BirdGuides with the hashtag #recordshot.

Just to get you started, here's one of ours, a decent swell, a bird diving frequently for long periods and a handheld iPhone produced this rather smart record shot of a Long-tailed Duck.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

BTO Cuckoos: Fourteen now south of Sahara

The latest positions of the BTO's Cuckoos, as of 11th September 2013

Patch became the latest Cuckoo to reach Africa, following closely behind Whortle, and both have now successfully crossed the desert. This means that, of 18 birds this year, only 4 perished on the journey and, amazingly, 14 of our tagged Cuckoos are south of the Sahara, having covered the trickiest part of their migration. This is much better than last year, showing how unpredictable life is for migrant Cuckoos.

Whortle left Spain and by 1st September he was in southern Algeria. He continued onwards and stopped close to the Niger river in central Mali, an area that will be nice and green at this time of year. He crossed the desert, cutting across in quite an easterly direction and consequently wasn't far behind the other Cuckoos who had travelled south and then east. He continued to make good progress and by early morning on 4th September he was close to the border with both Burkina Faso and Niger. His location was between the Partielle De Faune D'ansongo-Menaka, an area which was apparently first created to conserve giraffes which are sadly no longer there, and the Sahel Reserve. He was roughly 730km (500 miles) to the north-west of Ken and Skinner at the time - not too bad given his comparatively late departure! Since then he has ventured into Niger.

Signals on 2nd September revealed Patch was heading south from Italy; by 3rd September he was flying over north Libya and 29 hours and 1,900km (1,160 miles) later he had crossed the Tenere desert and was in Niger. Signals through the evening of 4th September and into 5th September continued as he travelled south. The next signal, and the first of good quality, was received on the afternoon of 6 September and showed him in the Yobe region of Nigeria, having completed the last part of his desert crossing.

From Yobe, Patch travelled north-east throughout the early hours of 7th September, in an apparent beeline for Lake Chad, and by mid-afternoon was north of the lake. Last year Chance also stopped here, along with Chris and Mungo, and all stayed in the area for a while. It was actually the last location we received for Mungo and presumably the end of his journey. Chance has arrived in the area of Lake Chad in the last few days, after a slow trip from Niger. Livingstone also spent a matter of days here before heading further south.

From the Central African Republic, David has now travelled further east to south Sudan and is in a similar location to that of last year. He is close to one of the birds tagged in Belarus. Interestingly, three of the other birds from Belarus have already travelled much further south, with one bird in south Congo and two in Angola.

Derek, Ken and Skinner remain in Nigeria, along with Tor.

You can keep up to date with all the Cuckoos on the BTO website. Catch up with out partner projects tracking Cuckoos tagged in Germany and Belarus here.