Some of my trips allow me ample, or at least sufficient, time for birding, as previous posts in this Blog have made clear. But they’re not all, or even mostly, like that. More typically my travel can resemble John Oliver’s gaming spoof, “World of Peacecraft” (see below).
A good example is the trip I’ve just taken to Ankara. The better part of two days on flights, with one full day spent underground in the basement meeting room of a hotel in an anonymous new development who knows how far from the historical centre of the city. In most respects I could have been anywhere in the world, or at least anywhere where you can see Magpies (Pica pica), Feral Pigeons (Columba livia var. domestica) and Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) – the only three species of birds I managed to steal glimpses of through the windows of my hotel room.
|Ankara as seen from my hotel window. The Peregrine was a fine and uplifting sight from here.|
The Peregrine was exciting, of course, as they always are, but even the most hardened anti-lister would have to admit that three species is a disappointing total to see over a period of 36 hours. Despite this the trip wasn’t entirely wasted from a birding perspective. I discovered from a Latvian colleague that the call of a Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is regarded with fearful superstition there, much as the sight of a Magpie is by the more susceptible in the UK and Ireland.
Perhaps more pertinently a colleague based in Nairobi, whom I didn’t take as a birder, was able to prove to me with photos that Spotted Eagle Owls (Bubo africanus) are breeding the gardens of our office there. No small news, this, as the species would be a LIFER for me. With his help I’ll be on the look-out for it next time I’m down there. Interestingly I’ve seen another species of owl in the gardens of the same offices – an African Wood Owl (Strix woodfordii), which was flushed by gardeners trimming the palms while I was having a coffee with a colleague a couple of years ago.
As it happens, my bird list for Turkey did increase by a small quantum on the airport run the morning after my meeting: a distant Buzzard (Buteo buteo), presumably a "Steppe Buzzard" (ssp. vulpinus), and numerous Jackdaws of the Eastern subspecies (Corvus monedula soemmerringii). It’s still not a massive list, I’m prepared to accept, but both subspecies were firsts for me this calendar year and we had wonderful views of Topkapi, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque from the air as we flew in to Istanbul, which goes to show that there’s more to flying than birds.
Now in Rome where "Italian Sparrows" (Passer domesticus italiae) frequent the courtyard of the hotel I’m staying in.
|Rome: the creepers on the walls and over the gazebos are made of plastic, but that doesn't seem to bother the Sparrows|