Top of Surfbirds

Top of Surfbirds

In February 2019 I saw my 5000th bird in the world, using the IOC world bird list. My 5000th bird was a Rock Bunting which I saw in Aragon, Spain. It was a really special moment, as for me it represents 5,000 beautiful birds, 5,000 birding experiences and 5,000 amazing places. The number just represents all of that in one word.

I am the youngest person in the world to see that many birds and this is the list of young birders on a listing page on a website called Surfbirds. It was quite a fantastic feeling to finally reach the top of it.

Surfbirds Young Birders World List

 

Surfbirds Young Birders World List

 

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Kenya Blog Post 1 – Days 1-2

Kenya Blog Post 1 – Days 1-2

 

Due to my GCSE exams, I had an especially long summer holiday this year and my family and I decided to take full advantage of this by going to Tanzania for three weeks, Madagascar for 4 weeks, and with a three week school trip to Kenya wedged between them. I had one day of birding at the beginning and end of my school trip to Kenya.

This evening we arrived in Nairobi Airport, having travelled East all day and fly out of Dar.  We were met at the airport by a driver from our accommodation Wildebeest Eco Camp. It had been recommended to us and had a great vibe, with loads of young people and even a lorry overland trip.
With the wifi not working, I wasn’t able to upload by blog posts of photographs, so left Mum with strict instructions to do that the next evening if there was wifi.

Day 2 – 20 July 2018

Our bird guide, Moses Kandie (kandyrop@yahoo.com) had guided us around Kenya in 2014. Funnily enough, I saw my 4,000th bird in the world with him on my first morning of birding in Kenya. It was good to see him again. He was a great guide, which was why we were birding with him again.

This morning we birded in Nairobi National Park, which is just on the outskirts of the city. It was strange looking out on a savannah and seeing skyscrapers in the background. We had birded here on our last afternoon in We had one real target for the morning, Shelley’s Francolin. As well as getting amazingly close views of this, we saw A Fan-tailed Grassbird and Cuckoo-finch, both of which were new birds for us.

Trip list Kenya – 71

New birds Kenya – 3

Variable Sunbird, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Dusky Turtle Dove, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Nile Crocodile, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Brimstone Canary, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Secretary Bird on Nest, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Long-tailed Fiscal, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Yellow-throated Longclaw, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Black-backed Jackal, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Mum birdingl, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Shelley’s Francolin, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Topi, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Grey-crowned Cranes, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Giraffel, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
African Python, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

We had lunch at the Nairobi National Park and what was incredible was that there were literally thousands of mainly primary age children visiting the national park, visiting the animal sanctuary and hopefully educated about the need to conserve animals.

We had seen the site where the government has burnt stashes of ivory in 2012. There had been another burning since we last visited, on 30 April 2016, with over 105 tons of ivory destroyed which amounted to the tusks of 6,000 elephants and worth 68 million pounds. I agree with them that any kind trade in ivory creates a market for it and leads to more poaching.

Ivory Burning Memorial, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Burnt ivory, Ivory Burning Memorial, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Ivory Burning Memorial, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Burnt ivory, Ivory Burning Memorial, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Ivory Burning Memorial, Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Kenya is the only country in the area to ba n trophy hunting altogether.How can you have a National Park stopping poaching on one side of a line and people paying $100,000 dollars for a weeks’ poaching (AKA hunting) permit on the other side of the line such as in Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. No wonder some poachers who are poor locals feel aggrieved. One rule for them and another for each white people. If you feel like me, write to these governments and say you will boycott their countries until they stop  trophy hunting.

We then went to Nairobi Airport and met up with my school group. I left my parents and Moses at this point, to meet up again in 16 days.

We were spending the night in Nairobi YMCA before travelling to Kisii in West Kenya. We were visiting a community project which was organised by Mend The Gap.

We then had a week off on safari in the Masai Mara and followed by a week with the Masai putting in solar panels to power up phones, whilst half the group did a walk in Mount Kenya.

My school, Chew Valley School were visiting at the same time as Gordano School, Churchill School and Clevedon School which are all close to my school and now in the same Lighthouse Academy.

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Birding in Tanzania – Days 1 – 4

Birding in Tanzania – Days 1 – 4

Due to my GCSE exams, I had an especially long summer holiday this year and my family and I decided to take full advantage of this by going to Tanzania for three weeks, Madagascar for 4 weeks, and with a three week school trip to Kenya wedged between them.
We had booked our 22 day birding trip with Tanzania Birding and Beyond (www.tanzaniabirding.com/about-us.html). Tina in the office was very responsive and sorted queries out very quickly. It is a Tanzanian owned company which is also great. Our guide was Anthony Raphael who was excellent at digging out the target species for us, staying focussed and not giving up. Our driver Gaiten was also brilliant, having some very long journeys to do. Anthony is at the Bird Fair 2018, so go and talk to him.

Day 1 – 27 June 2018

We left Bristol by coach, after my sister Ayesha had given us  a lift into the coach station. We were there early, so had plenty of time for lunch before catching our Kenya Air flight to Kilimanjaro via Nairobi.  Our flight was early evening and overnight, so great for watching films (even one 1980’s teen movie with John Cusack, “Say Anything” – do you recognise the image?) and catching up on sleep.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Heathrow Airport
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Do you recognise this 1980’s John Cusack film?

Day 2 – 28 June 2018

Our entire journey to Tanzania was almost suspiciously easy with no missing bags, delayed fights, or any other typical issue that you could face when flying a long distance. We arrived at Kilimanjaro airport mid morning of the 28th June  2018 after over 24 hours of traveling and was picked up by our hotel car in Arusha in North Tanzania, where we arrived by early afternoon. In a rather strange move for us, had an entire day off, most of which I spent napping.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig at Nairobi Airport, Kenya
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 3 – 29 June 2018

On the morning of Friday 29th June 2018 we were up bright and early for what was essentially another day of traveling, although this time we were driving. We were met by our bird guide, Anthony and driver Geiton from Tanzania Birding & Beyond in a standard issue huge beige Toyota Landcruiser with a push up opening roof. The difference today was that by midday we had reached the famous Ngorongoro Crater Rim, a reserve where the Tanzanian Masai now live. This is within the Eastern Rift Valley, where we had birded in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya a few years ago.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Chris Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Tanzania Birding & Beyond
bird guide Anthony at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Warthog Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We  birded from the 4×4, to avoid run ins with wild animals. When we stopped for lunch at the reserve entrance, we immediately spotted lots of birds such as Eastern Double Banded Sunbird and Bagglefacht Weaver, which were not new but lovely to see. We were so concentrated on watching the weavers in fact, that we barely noticed the large grey rock in the background until it started ripping down trees and we realised it was not a rock but a huge elephant.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Bagglefacht Weaverl, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Elephant Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

After a few more hours of driving, we finally arrived in Serengeti National Park. This is its name in Tanzania whilst a much smaller section in Kenya is the Masai Mara. Whenever someone asks me to use a word to describe  places like this I usually say ‘big’ – big sun, big sky, big animals, big place. The Serengeti was vast, beautiful and full of huge numbers of wildlife and had amazing birds. We have birded in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya in the summer of 2016 and so although we would be seeing lots of bird species, only a few targets would be new for our world list.

Black-throated Sandgrouse, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Blacksmith’s Plover, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Fischer’s Lovebird, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
giraffe, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Hartabeest, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

It was a very lax travel day, but we still managed to see five new bird species, including the endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver, Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill and also Swahili Sparrow. We were running so well on time, that we drove deep into the park and were really lucky to see Karamoja Apalis, as soon as we entered its habitat. This bird was one of two subspecies, one here and the other all the way at the South Sudan border in Uganda with nowhere in between.  This means that a split of the species seems suspiciously likely.

Endemic Rufous-tailed Weaverl, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Endemic Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbilll, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Karamoja Apalis, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We arrived at our camp lodge, ThornTree Camp (www.ThornTreeCamp.com) just as it was getting dark. It was a lovely camp with luxurious safari tents, friendly staff and brilliant food. Anthony warned us to keep both inside and outside tent doors carefully zipped closed to avoid anything getting in. I am petrified of spiders and mum is phobic about rodents, so needless to say that we kept our tent zipped shut!

The camp manager warned us to be careful after dark and to not go anywhere alone, as the camp grounds were not fenced in and animals wandered about at night. We were told to use their powerful torch (flashlight) and look for eye shine. Better still, to wait for one of the guards. I was inclined to wait for a guard, as I’d not done that at a camp lodge in Uganda and ended up petrified with hippos a few feet from the path.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at ThornTree Camp, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Chris Craig & Anthony from Tanzania
Birding & Beyond at ThornTree Camp, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Back in our room after dinner, we heard Hyenas calling nearby. My bed was right next to a mesh open window that was my only protection. At about midnight I woke up to a very loud chomping noise and the strong smell of grass, so I slowly turned around to see a Zebra and her baby standing & grazing in-between my window and a small tree only a metre away. They were so close that I could have touched them.  Astonished and relieved, I went back to sleep until I was woken by what sounded like cats fighting close to my room. This time I wasn’t so happy to have hyenas fighting so close by.

My bed at ThornTree Camp with the tree just outside my mesh window
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
ThornTree Camp – the tree just outside my mesh window above my bed
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 4 – 30 June 2018

The next day, Saturday 30th June 2018, we had an entire day in Serengeti NP but it was very relaxed because we had already seen most of our target species for the area and some.

It was a great morning with two new birds, White-tailed Lark and Grey-headed Silverbill. It was also good to see iconic birds again such as a Secretary Bird, which apparently are closely related to birds of prey.

Secretary Bird, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Grey-headed Silverbill, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We were driving around very casually just seeing what was around, but were also listening out on the radio for news of cheetah, as we had never seen one before and desperately wanted to. Geiton warned us that if news came over, we had to leave immediately, which of course we agreed to.

The savannah in Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Lioness, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Lioness twitch, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Then, late morning, whilst watching two stunning lionesses, we got the call and raced along the tracks to get to the spot; it was just like a twitch. When we got there, a cheetah was lounging by a pool and casually drinking as the tourists bustled about on the road to get a good spot. It was sitting in the same spot for ages, not caring the slightest about any of the tourists, but eventually slinked away into the grass but only after we had got some amazing views.
Cheetah, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Cheetah, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Cheetah, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Cheetah twitch, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig digiscoping using an iPhone and her Leica telescope
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

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Ringing a Wood Pigeon – my first adult ringed

Ringing a Wood Pigeon – my first adult ringed

Last Saturday, 10th February 2018, I was busy revising for my GCSE exams. The weather was pretty bad and so Dad and I had not gone to the ringing station.

Dad had put some foods out in a trap, as usual, to see if he could catch something. I hadn’t been hopeful.

At 11 am, Dad ran into the house and straight up the stairs to my room. He was really excited and told me that he had caught a Wood Pigeon.

I had ringed a young bird in the nest before at Chew Valley Lake but never ringed an adult.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig ringing a Wood Pigeon on 10 February 2018
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Once I had it in a tight grip, it was really calm and so a lovely bird to ring. It was also actually really beautiful.

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Arctic Warbler twitch – Kilnsea 14 October 2017

Arctic Warbler twitch – Kilnsea 14 October 2017

Having got back from an after school twitch to see a Rock Thrush the day before at 9 pm, I was straight to bed.  The next day was a Saturday and I had another bird to see!

Arctic Warbler is a non-rarity in the UK but is one of only 3 non-rarity birds that I have not seen. They all tend to occur on the east coast of England, which is across the country to where I live, as we are based on the South West coast.
We were up very early (meaning the middle of the night!) again on Saturday 14th October 2017, the first day of my half-term holiday.    There was an Artic Warbler at Kilnsea in East Yorkshire which is next to Spurn a huge birding hotspot.  I slept whilst Dad drove us to the bird and we arrived at about 8.30am. The Artic Warbler was being seen in the pub car park and so we joined about another 30 birders to look for it. 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Arctic Warbler twitch, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire 14 October 2017
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

It wasn’t long before we saw the Arctic Warbler, showing high in the trees about the car park, getting really great views. We watched it off for another couple of hours before we headed off. It was really flighty so, despite my best efforts, I didn’t get a photograph of it. It was really amazing to see this bird. It wasn’t the rarest but it was special. Now only two non-rarities to see in the UK, Little Auk and Icterine Warbler which are both also east coast birds. It was also a new world for me, number 4725, not that I’m counting.

We then drove down the road to Easington, to see a Rose-coloured Starling which was in someone’s front garden and actually managed to get some photographs of it.

Rose-coloured Starling, Easington, East Yorkshire 14 October 2017
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Rose-coloured Starling, Easington, East Yorkshire 14 October 2017
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

I had revision to do on the way home and Dad drove me home as quick as he could, as I had a party and sleepover with friends at 3 pm. As usual, I didn’t mention what I had been doing…all my friends had been sleeping in all morning in preparation for the party.

It was my 3rd new bird of the season and I was hopeful that there would be more to come.

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