Friday, 26 December 2014

My last Christmas!

Well, OK, not quite my last Christmas, but my last Christmas in Abu Dhabi! The girls & I have called Abu Dhabi home for over twenty two years: I arrived in August 1992 & Carol & the girls a month later. There have been so many great happenings & changes throughout that time. It has been a wonderful place to bring up the girls & looking back, I feel quite privileged to have led the life I have. 
There have also been the downsides: Adrian & Simon are no longer with us, Simon in particular   played a huge part in both mine & the family's life here. And of course in July 2013, I lost my wonderful wife Carol. It is hard to put into words my loss. Carol was everything to me. It was love at first sight when I first met her, & this continued until the day she died. We had a fantastic marriage, one that really would be very hard to better. I think of her many times each day, in all the little things that spring to mind. She will still be a huge part of me, for ever. I miss her so very much.
But one chapter of my life closes & another opens. I am excited about my new life in South Africa. I live in a fantastic location, where every morning is an adventure! I have my new truck to pick up & get expedition ready. I am very enthusiastic about getting everything in place, to go on many journeys, both in southern & east Africa. I also want to make changes to my house, to make it my home, over the next decade or so, that I will be living there.

 Early Christmas morning.
Rowan & Clare with their Christmas morning 
T-shirts on.
Ahmed & Clare.
Clare & Ahmed of course, live with me here in Abu Dhabi. But shortly this house will be closed & they are looking for a place of their own: probably at Al Reef. This location is excellent for both their jobs, as they avoid the main rush hour roads, which can make life so frustrating here. 
Rowan, doing Santa's job!

Rowan flew in a few days before Christmas. She & her boyfriend Ceggy, are making a new life for themselves in Ikley in Yorkshire. Both are looking for career jobs, but finding it difficult.

 A little later in the day!
Thanks for everything girls!

 Me, in my new Yorkshire flat cap!
Now where are my Whippets?
 Getting ready for the feast!
 Clare with one of her five cats!
Notice the apron!
Ahmed & Clare.

 Rowan, amid the carnage!
 Ahmed with his new toy!
 OK! Have you had enough of the cap yet?

It was fantastic to have both girls around for Christmas & both did an amazing job on decorating the house & indeed cooking an enormous Christmas dinner! I do fear however, that my meals are set in stone over the next week! Thanks girls! You were both terrific!

They are all here! In the same place, at the same time!
Rowan, Clare, Nicci & Toni.

Nicci & Toni fly in on 28th December. Both are leaving their husbands & families behind in England & Australia respectively. They are mainly coming over to divide up Carol's possessions, particularly her jewelry, which she wanted the girls to have. It will indeed be a bittersweet moment, as our wonderful home here, will be dismembered forever. Many pieces, scattered over the world. It will be wonderful to have them around though, if only for a short while, before they resume their very different lives, in different parts of the world.

On the morning of the 30th, we all went to Al Bandar, to a little Afghan cafe by the waterfront. The weather was perfect for sitting outside & we had a good chat.

At Al Bandar.

 Toni & Nicci looking quite normal!
 Toni just after she has had a facelift!
 Rowan giving Clare a really filthy look!
Clare, Rowan & me.
In the evening, we went to a seafood restaurant at the Shrangri-La Hotel. It is a very pretty setting on the creek & we all had a nice time.

 In the garden - New Year's Eve.

It is now the last day of the year & what a year it has been for me! But it has gone so fast! Still a million things to do around the house! New Year's Eve to be spent around the pool, at home with the girls. The champagne is chilling nicely!

 At The Vista.
Nicci in front of Henderson's Folly.

The whole family missed most of the day of the 1st January 2015! I suspect that we were not alone in this! We spent the evening at TheVista Restaurant at The Club. We had a delightful time & then retired home to open a second batch of Christmas presents!

Yet another flat cap for me! 
My second this Christmas!

I feel sad to be leaving Abu Dhabi, after all this time. But I feel it is necessary. I need to start over. Africa calls & it is a very strong pull for me. No doubt my new life, will fill the pages of this blog in time to come. I hope it is an interesting read! 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Guajira Peninsula.

We left the Santa Marta Mountains after lunch & drove along the coast, stopping at likely looking lagoons. It was nice to be out of the forest for a change & do European style birding!

Long-billed Dowitcher among the abundant
Short-billed Dowitchers.

It was at one of these stops that I spotted a Dowitcher, which to my eyes didn't look like a Short-billed Dowitcher. I believe this is the first documented record of an adult Long-billed Dowitcher for Colombia!

Dry country, but punctuated by coastal wetlands.

Coast was excellent for waterbirds.

The far north Guarija Peninsula is very different from the rest of Colombia. The people are different too, being of Caribbean descent. This dry, semi-desert landscape is home to several endemic species and a host of new birds for me on this trip.

 Very dry, scrubby vegetation.

 Double - striped Thick-knee.

Brown throated Parakeets
 Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.

American Black Vulture
 Common Ground Dove
 Chestnut Piculet.
Orinocan Saltator.
 Northern Scrub Flycatcher
 Vermillion Flycatcher
 Tropical Gnatcatcher
Northern White-fringed Antwren
We arrived in the afternoon & immediately began birding from the roadside. The habitat was mainly dry, scrubby woodland, interspersed with pans which were full at the time of our visit. Recent rains had made the entire landscape quite green.

 Brown Pelican.

 American Wood Stork

 Snowy Egret
 Reddish Egret

 Roseate Spoonbill

 Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpipers

We eventually moved on to the coastal lagoons, seeing a host of waterbirds & quite a few species of waders.
Just before darkness descended we spent the last light birding the scrubby woodland, which was very productive, netting us White whiskered Spinetail; Northern Scrub Flycatcher; Slender billed Inezia & Tropical Gnatcatcher.
The next mornnig (our last of the trip) saw us back in the scrubby woodland again. It was quite windy & birds were hard to find but we did see Chestnut Piculet; Orinocan Salator; Glaucous Tanager & Grey Pileated Finch.  
It was then time for us to get to the airport & fly to Bogota. There was the inevitable two hour delay so we arrived in the capital city in late afternoon in the pouring rain! What a contrast from the north!
After a pleasant evening meal it was time to say our goodbyes & people started leaving for the journey home.
It had been a mammoth & incredible tour, encompassing a wide variety of hábitats and netting a combined total of 986 species in twenty eight days birding! Whow! I enjoyed Colombia immensely & I know I will be back to see yet more species in this mega-diverse country.