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The return of "The Man"

Posted by on July 17, 2010 11:30 PM | 

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Regular readers of Birdblog may remember meeting Ali Mouni aka, "The Man" back in 2007 when myself, Neill, Trops, Jellyhead and Bazzo headed out into the Moroccan Sahara for a spot of Houbara and larks.
One of the high points of an eventful trip was Ali's amazing desert driving and hospitality, but even without his interesting relationship with old Land Rovers, he still oozed enigmatic.
There he is look, trying to ignore Neill's camera while he hurtles through the sand, shingle and wadis...

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And here's his supercool house, no tarmac round here baby, just camels and sand - the road is a distant world away.

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You see, enigmatic.
Anyone who harbours any doubts need only scan the following shot for the ,er, opposite of Moroccan enigmatic....

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Oh dear.
Ahem.
Anyway, Ali contacted us recently via his excellent associate Maryam, who kindly sent the following pix and e-mail, imagine bumping into these critters on an afternoon drive....Maryam takes up the story.
"I am writing to tell you about Ali's recent sighting of a group of Houbara Bustards in the desert near Merzouga. It was in the afternoon as I understand it and he and a friend were driving through the desert when they came upon this flock (?) serendipitously. I thought you would like to see the photos. I've put them on Ali's website as well", Maryam explains.

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"I had to do a bit of work in Photoshop to make the birds stand out from the background. I'd like your input on this. One of the pics, is more photoshopped than the others, giving the birds a different color...what do birders think of this?"

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"I didn't include that one on Ali's site as I got the idea that birders would not approve. (Family sharp)"
Lovely people, lovely place, lovely birding - if you're ever down Morocco way seek out "The Man", he'll show you what a desert is all about.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...

1 Comment

Often seen around Morecambe Bay, the Dee and the Solway Firth searching for invertebrates with its distinctive long curved-down bill, the curlew is one of our most familiar wading birds. However, all is not well for the species. The latest Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) report reveals a significant 40% drop in the North West curlew population between 1995 and 2008.
The decline has been linked to loss of habitat due to agricultural intensification.
The curlew is not the only species in the North West to have experienced declines according to the Breeding Bird Survey, a partnership between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Starlings have declined by 47% between 1995 and 2008, while cuckoo numbers has fallen by 42%.
On the plus side, the North West has seen increases in the number of song thrushes (96%), chiffchaffs (128%) and Canada geese (163%). Moreover, it is the only region in England to see a rise in the number of mistle thrushes (14%).
In the region sparrowhawks have dropped by 33% but on a national level the bird of prey fairing worst is the kestrel. The report reveals a significant 20% drop in the population between 1995 and 2008, and a further fall of 36% between 2008 and 2009.
However, it’s not all bad news on a national level. Buzzards and red kite numbers continue to rise. And the hobby, a migrant falcon that winters in sub-Saharan Africa, has increased by 23% since the start of the survey, and is continuing its upward trend with a 21% increase between 2008 and 2009. The success of the hobby could be linked to increasing numbers of dragonflies, one of its main prey items, allowing a northward spread in the hobby’s distribution.
Kate Risely, BBS organiser at the BTO, commented: “It is a testament to the dedication of BBS volunteers that we are able to produce trends for over one hundred species of British birds, the results of which are widely used to set conservation priorities. Without this dedication we would know much less about the fortunes of our breeding birds; the fact that we know that kestrel numbers are falling, or that the hobby is doing well, is down to them.
“Biological monitoring at such a large scale and of such high quality as implemented in the BBS would be prohibitively expensive without the input of an army of highly skilled volunteers,” said Dr Ian Mitchell, Senior Monitoring Ecologist with the JNCC – the UK Government’s adviser on nature conservation and co-funders of the BBS. “We are working closely with the BTO to ensure that the information obtained from the BBS is used as extensively as possible to inform policy and action related to land-management and climate change.”
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: “We are very worried that government spending cuts will affect the funding of the Breeding Birds Survey but also of conservation measures that would improve the fortunes of many declining species. Cuts to agri-environment funding will mean that farmland bird numbers, as measured by the BBS, will remain at low levels.”
A number of small-bodied resident birds declined significantly between 2008 and 2009, presumably due to the prolonged freezing temperatures in January and February 2009. Goldcrests and long-tailed tits, which in 2008 both reached their highest numbers since the start of the survey, declined by 56% and 12% respectively between 2008 and 2009. Significant declines were also shown by stonechats (38%), treecreepers (27%), great tits (5%) and blue tits (4%). It will remain to be seen how these birds have fared as a result of the recent winter’s freezing conditions.

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