Friday 27 January 2012

The Ecotourist's Dilemma

If you open any wildlife magazine in UK these days, there's a recurring theme in indignant letters written to the editor, along these lines: "Dear Sir, how can you carry adverts for holidays to fragile wildernesses like Galapagos? It's so irresponsible and totally against the ethic of conservation. Cancel my subscription this minute, etc!" I understand the sentiment but don't agree. If everyone just stayed at home and never looked for tiger or gorilla or marine iguana or albatross in the wild, those species would become endangered far more quickly. (Tiger would very quickly become extinct). My work not only helps people to understand the complexity of ecosystems a little, but also puts vital funds into essential conservation projects. For example, the significant costs of visiting the Rwanda and Uganda gorillas are ploughed straight back into their conservation. Eco-tourists are very effective anti-poaching patrols. So it is, on a smaller scale, with bird reserves and national parks anywhere in the world. When there is so much pressure to turn rainforests into palm-oil or soya bean plantations, eco-tourism is vital for helping to protect fragile habitat.  

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Peregrine drama

 I was walking in the Breidden Hills yesterday near my home, with photographer Rod Trevaskus, hoping to find a Woodcock or two. A female Peregrine flew over, carrying prey and screaming at us. Rod took a few shots, but it was only when he sent them to me I realized that the lifeless body it was carrying was a Woodcock: the only one we saw! (Click on the photos to enlarge the images).  

Monday 9 January 2012

Christmas in Scotland

What I didn't see, or photograph! (RF - NPS Photo)

Straight after Christmas in Scotland with the family, I visited an old friend in Kirriemuir, north of Dundee. At the RSPB’s fine reserve of Loch of Kinnordy, we narrowly missed four Otters swimming past the hide, and one eating a pike - one of those ‘you should have been here an hour ago’ stories! We learnt that the local Greylags have learnt to be very wary of one Otter, which specializes in hunting them as they swim.  However, our luck changed. Two hours later, in Glen Clova, we saw a Stoat in Ermine, the white coat which Stoats in the Highlands assume to blend in with the snow. During the unusually mild weather, the only snow was way up on the tops, making our roadside Stoat very conspicuous. I clearly saw the black tip to the tail to prove it wasn’t a hallucination.

Sunday 1 January 2012


On 10th December I returned from two voyages to Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions. The ship was built as a Russian research vessel, and can take 100 passengers. She uses zodiacs (aka ribs: sturdy rubber boats) to ferry passengers to remote beaches. I was the ship’s ornithologist and one of the staff team – 15 naturalists, zodiac drivers and guides whose job it was to make the voyages as wonderful as possible for the passengers. There were too many highlights to mention, but on the first voyage the Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins were all displaying and laying eggs. 

On the second voyage, the huge King Penguin colonies on South Georgia were unforgettable. Thousands of Fur Seals and many four-ton male Elephant Seals kept them company. Both voyages featured many fine Wandering Albatross views as we crossed the stormy waters of the Drake Passage, between Antarctica and Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city, in Argentine Tierra del Fuego. And the pristine beauty of the Antarctic icebergs just has to be seen to be believed!

Welcome to my Blog!

Hi Folks!

This is where I plan to post news of recent travels, snippets from the environmental world, and future plans and projects. I hope there'll be something to interest you here......