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Winter Diary 2017/18

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I struggled to get enough material for the usual "British" edition of Country Eye for this winter. Tis is because I have witnessed so little of our current winter. In November I was lucky enough to visit The Gambia again; my eleventh visit since 1998! I then managed to contract a particularly nasty winter virus on my return from The Gambia which persisted over Christmas and New Year and indeed stayed with me for the first few days of my expedition to Northern Thailand in mid January.

So for this edition of Country Eye I present a series of photographs taken this winter in three countries and 3 different continents.

Egyptian Plovers

In November my wife and four friends spent part of our fortnight in The Gambia staying in coastal Eco Lodges (Footsteps at Gunjur and Mandinari River Lodge) and part of the time upriver. A combination of four wheel drive trucks and The Fula Princess a traditional styled Gambian boat with accommodation for 2 - 4 guests was our transport. This enabled us to find some of the sought after upriver specialities such as Egyptian Plovers and African Finfoot.

Dawn on the River Gambia

The Gambia is mostly a flat country comprising of the valley of The River Gambia and sometimes described as a finger sticking into the side of Senegal. It was a British colony, so English is widely spoken and the fact that it is less than a six hours flight from the UK and is warm and sunny during our winter months makes it an attractive winter holiday destination. However if you decide to go, I recommend that you spend at least part of your time at one of a wide network of eco-Lodges to see something of the real Gambia.

African Harrier Hawk

White-crowned Robinchat

Pied Kingfisher

Marsh Sandpiper

Splendid Sunbird

Red-billed Hornbill with fruit

Hen Harrier

Back in Lincolnshire I caught up with some of the birds wintering in the fens close to my home. The Hen Harrier is almost never out of the news due to it being a frequent victim of illegal persecution. In fact only a few pairs remain nesting in England and it is in steep decline in Wales and Scotland. The Hen Harriers chosen breeding habitat is moorland which has brought it into conflict with areas managed for driven grouse shooting. In winter they tend to favour our coastal marshes but a few venture inland such as the female (Ringtail) that I watched on our local fen.


Another bird that winters on our fens is the Stonechat. In summer it breeds on heathland and around the edges of moorland where gorse is often abundant. One pair and one lone male are currently wintering in a fen just a mile from my home.

Brent Geese

Both of the aforementioned species can also be found on the RSPB's Frampton Marsh along with literally thousands of ducks, geese and waders. A visit in early January produced over 6000 each of Wigeon and Golden Plover as well as thousands of Brent Geese.


Spectacled Barwing

From mid January until the end of the month my pal Dave Thorpe and I visited Northern Thailand where our local guide Somchart Boonta ( took us on a very intensive birding tour of this remote part of Thailand. Much of the time was spent finding bird along the forested mountain border between Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. It is a beautiful area and although most of the larger mammals have been hunted to extinction birds thrive and we managed to locate 315 species during our two week stay.

Some species such as Spectacled Barwing are only found at this location in Thailand but for me, being my first visit to this enchanting country, more than 50% of the birds I saw were new to me, despite being common in Thailand.

Chestnut-tailed Minla

Daurian Redstart

Long-tailed Shrike Northern Thailand

White-tailed Robin

Myanmar (Burma)

Northern Thailand

Thaton Northern Thailand

Chiang Dao Temple

Ian Misselbrook
February 2018


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