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Yearly Archive 2022

Whale Shark at last!

Birders are good at keeping lists. The lifelist comes first (obviously), then often also a national list and then there are a number of regional lists. Birds are excellent for keeping lists because their ability to fly always gives an element of surprise which make your list keep growing. For mammals there are also some fanatic listers, but that takes a whole different approach. For birds and mammals I also like to keep a list, but if you really want to be a serious competitor you need to pick either one of the two and completely aim your trip towards those species. For me however it’s more about seeing very beautiful and attractive species. That’s why seeing a Whale Shark was high on my list. The whale shark is the largest fish on the planet and a beautiful animal. So I definitely wanted to invest some time in that one, although it didn’t count in the lists that I keep.

Underwater photography in the Veerse Meer

Although the Netherlands is not known as a typical destination for snorkeling, it is certainly possible to see beautiful underwater life here without too much effort. Since I was going to Mexico in a few weeks to do a lot underwater photography, I thought it would be a good idea to practice and test everything out. Not far from me is the Veerse Meer where there are a number of spots where the water is quite clear. At Geersdijk I went into the water and swam around for an hour. I focused on photographing the jellyfish with beautiful evening lighting and the crabs were also a nice subject. I could go to Mexico reassured and I got some nice photo’s out of it!

A few days in the Azerbaijani Caucasus

We have arrived in the Caucasus! The plan was to see the Siberian Crane Omid on migration during the first week of our time in Azerbaijan, but Omid decided otherwise and stayed in Iran, for the time being, in its wintering area. Before our stay in Azerbaijan would end we had planned a few more days of birdwatching in the Caucasian mountains and so we decided to go do that. The plan is to immediately return to southern Azerbaijan if Omid does fly. So we are now in the Caucasus! Along the way we already enjoyed beautifully colored rock formations, but in the higher areas there is mostly a lot of snow.

Out and about in Shirvan National Park in Azerbaijan

In the spring of 2022 I suddenly find myself in Azerbaijan. The reason for this is this time not a special cat, but a special bird! The Siberian Crane is an endangered bird of which only a few thousand remain in the wild. In the eastern part of Asia that is. As far as we know, there is only one left in the western part of Asia and of course this bird has been given a name by now: Omid. That name was given to him in Iran, where it has been wintering in the same rice field for years. Equally dutifully, the bird takes off every year to fly back to Russia to its breeding grounds, only to fly back again in the autumn without any breeding succes. There won’t be a partner for Omid. Among bird watchers, there is an avid group that likes to see as many bird species as possible within the Western Palearctic (WP) ecozone. The chances of seeing a wild Siberian Crane within this area after Omid are virtually nil. However, Iran is not considered to be in this ecozone, which means that it is not possible to easily ‘tick’ the bird in its wintering areas. Therefore a small group of fanatic WP birders made an attempt to pick up the bird on its way to Russia when it passed through neighboring Azerbaijan. This was in 2020. A bird seen in Azerbaijan does count for the list! And they saw Omid! In 2021 there was a number of bird watchers that wanted to repeat their success, but corona prevented a trip to Azerbaijan. 2022 was the year it had to happen. I happened to be able to go and it seemed like a nice enough trip in any case so I landed in Baku on February 25, 2022.

A surprise on our way to the Caucasus

Planning a trip well is what I can recommend to anyone. The better the planning, the more you see! Yet the best travel stories usually come from the unexpected. Fortunately, experiencing unexpected things is also almost inevitable if you travel a bit adventurously even with good planning! Unexpected things can be a lot of things. The less pleasant things during the trip often lead to the best stories afterwards: that time you were stopped by the local police in the middle of the night, for example, or that moment when you drive backwards with the rental car and drive through a fence while the local neighborhood is watching. But luckily there are also unexpected things that you can actually enjoy while you are there!