Wednesday, 17 December 2014

SNAKE FRIGHT IN GOA!



Small pratincole (S.P.Pandey@SPOARvia Wikipedia Commons)

AN entertaining talk on the birds of the Indian state of Goa brought the curtain down on the Grimsby branch RSPB meetings for 2014.


The event at the Corpus Christ church hall in Cleethorpes  marked a  return visit for speaker Chris Galvin who, as well as being a keen birder, is a regional  sales manager for high-profile binoculars and 'scope company, Opticron. 

Chris, from Liverpool, is a keen Everton fan and might have preferred  to have been watching Sky TV's coverage of his side's 3-1 home win against against QPR . . . but the prior speaking commitment prevailed. 

He and wife Jeanette have several times visited Baga in Goa which is one of the world's best birding destinations.

He illustrated his lively presentation with his own stunning shots of scores of colourful species, but his talk was more than just a catalogue of sightings. He included in the mix plenty of  amusing anecdotes.

On one occasion, he and two fellow birders were photographing kingfishers when they detected a snake on the other side of the stream slithering at speed through the water towards them.

"I might be a big lad, but I can't half shift if I see a snake swimming towards me,"he chuckled. "I don't like snakes!" 

Before it made its move, Chris snatched a shot of the crittur which he later showed to a friend who is a vet and herpetologist. 

In fact, it was a rat snake and harmless to humans - but Chris didn't know that at the time.

Later in his talk, Chris revealed that while  pursuing a potential photo of an Indian spotted eagle, he dropped his  'scope on a concrete.surface. "It cost me £758 to repair," he lamented. "That eagle owes me!" 

The hotel where Chris and Jeanette  like to stay is the three-star Marinha  Dourada which overlooks two scenic lagoons.

But he was not averse to  rising at dawn to explore less wholesome places such as fetid swamps at one of which he was  delighted to glimpse - and photograph - a cinnamon bittern.

"It just goes to emphasise that even the seemingly most inhospitable places provide a habitat where certain species will eke out a living,"he said. 

Among the species with which Chris seemed to have a special affinity was the slender-billed gull, but only in adult breeding plumage. 

"It's got suck long, sexy red legs," he enthused. "Oh stop - I'm a long way from home!" 

Goa, particularly the north, is also increasingly popular with Russian visitors, but he said he had not encountered any who were  birders.
Chestnut-headed bee-eater (JJ Harrison via Wikipedia Commons)

Among the species featured in Chris's talk were:

White-browsed wagtail 
White-cheeked barbet 
Small pratincole 
Chestnut bee-eater 
Indian robin 
Black-shouldered kite 
Black-capped kingfisher 
Pied kingfisher 
Collared kingfisher 
Indian roller 
Scarlet minivet 
Stork-billed kingfisher 
Ashy wood swallow 
Black kite 
Blue-eared kingfisher 
Pallas's gull 

Jungle owlet 
Spotted owlet 
Brown hawk owl 
Indian Scops owl 
Red-wattled plover 
Yellow-wattled plover 
Long-tailed shrike 
Bay-backed shrike 
Oriental magpie robin


Scarlet minivet ( JM Gard via Wikipedia Commons)


To see Chris in a different context, banging the drum for Opticron at a trade fair in the  USA, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SiAS_EJxqE 

* The Grimsby branch has received a letter of thanks from the RSPB for raising £1,521.88 during the year 2013-14.


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