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Showing posts from January, 2013

A dedication to my Dad, Derek Kelsey (1923 – 2013)

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This is a particularly personal blog entry to record my gratitude and appreciation to my father who passed away on 27th January 2013.

All of us have had mentors and role models. I have always been fascinated in birds and throughout my life there have been individuals at key moments who encouraged, supported and inspired in many and sometimes very different ways. But the greatest influence of all was my father Derek Kelsey (he never used his first name Francis), who started my interest in birdwatching in the early 1960s, sowing the seeds of what started as a hobby and then became my life.

At the age of five I walked with him beside the River Roding in Essex and I still have my notebook which lists the birds that we saw on that morning, some written in clear capital letters for me by Dad, others written by me using letters of all sizes, their names leaving the page at different angles. In those early years, he taught me how to tell apart Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs by song, and – a t…

Bustards, cranes and sparrows..and a Pallid Harrier

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Winter here in Extremadura is about sheer numbers of birds, with always the possibility of surprises to spice the cake. Final figures are not yet in, but results so far show that with over 100,000 Common Cranes counted in Extremadura this winter, it is a record year for this species here. The picture above, taken by my twelve-year old son Patrick, shows a fraction of the birds viewable from the observation tower at Moheda Alta, about half an hour from our home and one of my favourite places to spend a winter afternoon. Along with the cranes, there were hundreds of Grey Lag Geese, part of the Norwegian breeding population and we were delighted to watch amongst the cranes, a couple of hundred Pintail, vanguard of the late-winter surge to Extremadura as thousands of this most supremely elegant of ducks arrive from winter quarters in West Africa en route to northern Europe. The afternoon light caught the rich cream-coloured breasts of the drakes (never really given justice to in field gu…

The first Great Spotted Cuckoo

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We saw the New Year in with our guests from England and Germany, and with the morning of New Year's Day being rather misty and dull, the day was spent tidying-up, doing some paperwork and preparing that evening's dinner. A few minutes in the garden did produce one of my favourite birds, a fine Hawfinch, as well as Spanish Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Azure-winged Magpies as a kick-off to 2013. So it was with great anticipation that I set out on the 2nd January to share the joys of birding on the plains nearby with our guests Anne and Keith Honnor. As is usual in winter with calm, clear weather after some damp days, we quickly encountered a thick bank of fog, precisely at my intended first stop. Despite the almost zero visibility we could just about make out dozens of small birds feeding on the pasture beside us: Skylarks, Rock Sparrows, Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails. A Green Sandpiper appeared momentarily in the mist above us, giving its strident call, which often finds …