Thursday, 8 October 2015


THE chairman of Lincolnshire Wildife Trust has  revealed  how a stomach bug almost cost him his life on an exotic  bird photography holiday overseas.

At an RSPB group meeting  in Cleethorpes, Geoff Trinder described how he suddenly collapsed and cracked open the back of his head after the bug struck.

He was rushed to a Trinidad hospital where doctors and nurses were horrified not just by the extent of the head wound but also by the downward spiral of his blood pressure.

But, now fully recovered, neither Geoff nor his wife, Chris, were put off by the mishap. Back in January, they flew out to India for a similar wildlife photography holiday - one of 45 since he retired from his job as an art teacher.

An audience of about 50 in the Corpus Christi hall on Grimsby Road  enjoyed a fascinating illustrated talk on some of the wildlife of this remarkable country.

Although Geoff acknowledged that it is generally more rewarding and less expensive to seek out birds on your own initiative, they decided to engage guides for the obvious reasons that local experts would know  what species to look out for and where to find them.

Among the scores of birds  the couple saw were: Snake eagle, brown hawk owl, Siberian rubythroat, bluethroat,  copper barbet, white-eared bulbul, rufous treepie,  spot-billed duck and various shrikes and plovers.

But the highlight was a 40-minute encounter with a family of magnificent tigers which came within feet of the open-top vehicle in which they were passengers.

"It  blew me away,"enthused Geoff. "To see one of the big cats so close-up in the wild was magical - probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life."

Geoff is not a fan of towns or cities, but he and Chris made a point of visiting the Taj Mahal which he described as "probably the most beautiful building" he had ever seen.

On the downside, the couple were horrified to be told that any unaccompanied woman who went out in Mumbai after dark "would be raped".

The urban traffic was so congested, noisy and dangerous as to be described by Geoff as "unnerving and ridiculous".

Particularly disturbing was to see some individuals  resting their heads on the road, as if it were a pillow, as vehicles zoomed past just inches away.

Although he did not find India as poverty-stricken as when he visited Madagascar on a previous holiday, there were other disturbing sights - including that of pigs roaming urban streets to forage on garbage and women washing their clothes in filthy river water.

Because of hygiene concerns, the couple decided against eating any meats, salads or cold vegetables, sticking with cooked vegetables throughout.

They also took with them plentiful supplies of anti-bacterial gel  to disinfect their hands, especially after coming into contact with coins or notes - hard currency being notorious for spreading bugs.

Geoff said he regarded it as important not to b e a slave to his camera on the holiday

 "It doesn't make sense to spend all your time looking at that little rectangle at the back of it ,"he observed. "Sometimes you have to put it to one side and enjoy the fuller picture."

When he was taking pictures, he sometimes rested the long lens on a beanbag on the roof of the vehicle so as to keep the camera stable if he was not using a tripod.

The couple have been to Africa no fewer than 12  times, but would they go to India again?

"Probably not," said Geoff. "Our next visit will be to Romania."
* Pictures below courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and the following photographers:
:Siberian rubythroat: JJ Harrison
:Rufous treepie: Munish Jauhar
:Coppersmith barbet:Jay Dalal5
Siberian rubythroat

Rufous treepie

Coppersmith barbet


Media of Bill Oddie Unplucked

AFTER a bust-up with other members of the team, ornithologist and entertainer Bill Oddie was dropped as presenter of the TV shows, Springwatch and Autumnwatch, in favour of Chris Packham, a parting of the way that still causes him anguish.

Although he says he has "never been able to work out" why the Beeb dispensed with his services, he acknowledges that he had become difficult to work with - largely because of a mental condition, bipolar disorder, which subsequently twice resulted in his being admitted to a private clinic for his own safety.

Now fully recovered, the 71-year-old has published his latest book, Unplucked  - an entertaining insight into some of his wildlife-watching experiences around the world.

One particularly memorable occasion came in Portugal when he saw the following  exotic species perched  on the same length of power line - bee-eater. woodchat shrike, southern grey shrike, hoopoe, roller, red-rumped-swallow and azure-winged magpie - plus a little  owl on the wooden pylon holding up the wire.

His description of the moment: "Electric!"

Another time,  he and two birding colleagues were delayed at the airport in Ethiopian capital, Addis Abbaba, because widespread  civil unrest was disrupting aircraft flights into and out of the country.

The trio decided to fill in the time by birdwatching just outside the confines of the airport - but were intercepted  by armed guards and ordered back into the building at  gunpoint.

Determined not  to miss out,  they decided to use the men's WC as an impromptu bird observatory, spotting many rare species - including white-collared pigeon, brown-rumped seedeater and wattled ibis  -  through an open window near the ceiling.
Not that the experience was particularly comfortable for Oddie who, as is well known,  is of short stature.

He recalls the occasion well. "I had no choice but to stand on the rim of the lidless toilet, steadying myself by grabbing the cistern and risking pulling it off the wall.

"On several occasions, when I lost balance, I grasped at the chain which saved me from slipping down the pan but, of course, kept flushing."

Oddie does still occasionally make cameo appearances on TV shows and was invited to be a contestant on I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here!

He says he declined because the prospect  of "chewing live grubs and grasshoppers or crunching through barrels of cockroaches" was not his  idea of animal welfare

"I find the idea of any living thing being sacrificed for laughs on a TV show - what's the word - distasteful."

There was also an invitation to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, to which he gave more serious consideration  until he was dissuaded by his wife and three daughters, one of whom is a dance teacher and who warned him the hard work could kill him as he was not particularly fit.

Bowing to their advice, he states: "Imagine me in a sky blue silk trouser suit with a neckline plunging to the waist revealing a belly that could compete with a Christmas pudding . . . actually I wouldn’t imagine that if you want to sleep tonight!"

Unplucked is published by Bloomsbury at £14.99.