Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jim's Retirement Bash!

As I mentioned, I had just returned from Spain. I had been out to a retirement party. My former Senior Lecturer, Dissertation Supervisor, Bird-Ringing Trainer and Friend, the eminent Dr. Jim Fowler (AKA His Majesty, The Royal Maalie King) was celebrating his retirement with some 25 or so of his good friends, family, colleagues and loyal subjects. It was excellent to see some of my favourite folk there, including Kate “House Sparrow” Vincent, Will Kirby and Simon “The Minstrel to the Royal Maalie Court” Cotter, along with some of my blogging friends, including Lorenzo the Llama. Another of my favourite lecturers attended, “Drinking Ken” Stewart, who drank a bottle and half of Irish whiskey, “Crested Ten” and “Black Bush”, with me, complaining continuously that Irish make weak whiskey compared with the dirty disgusting peat-bog and wood-smoke whiskey that the Scottish prefer. Having said that, he admitted that he doesn’t but whiskey any-more preferring to have it given him. He is Scottish, after-all. It was also very rewarding to meet Judy and Dave Bullock, who I had met in the Banagher Office of Birdwatch Ireland, last year, and mistaken him for a Shetland Bullock, which I proceeded to do again on re-acquaintance this year. I was about to purchase a Batbox-3 on my return but he was able to give me some good advise on Bat-recording and waiting for the new Batbox “Duet”, which I shall do, being fed-up with buying things that don’t do the right job. Dave keeps the main data-base of UK bats. If you’re reading this Dave, in the newspaper on the plane home was an article calling for a embargo on all Irish beef products because of a proposed cull of the Irish Badger population. De Je Vous? I should also probably add here, that it was Dave the introduced the “Beaver’s Paw” tradition to Jim, which he readily adopted and uses to indicate that he is actually tell the truth for once. Graeme Mochrie was also with us, being the fellow who actually instigated the Maalie Court by effectively crowning the King.

We were very fortunate to have a number of “birders” who were much better than myself, so I never had to open my Collins Field Guide, although some of Jill’s reports were a little dodgy, including the Rough-legged Buzzard, Arctic Tern (which would have been remarkable) and the Spotless Sparrow and Muted Eagle would also surely have been picked up by “Birding Ken” Hindmarch, who I know as a fine birder from Cumbria and a pretty good ringer. Ken did remind me that our parting words last time we met, was a request from me to “Look after Jim for me”, which he has been doing a fine job of, ever-since, and I hope that he will continue in this role. Pam Moorhouse another birding friend that I have met in Cumbria and Leicester (who also has the honour of being the first woman I ever met who owned her own telescope) upset me with daily sightings of the Purple Galinule, which I managed to “Dip on”. I had only two birds on my wants list, a “two foot purple chicken” (as reported on Askam-in-Furness’s Sandscale Hawes NNR), which I managed to miss by a few weeks, and the Black Kite (which turned out to be more common than pigeons…..).

We were camping (in air-conditioned chalets) at Al Aldea campsite, which I would strongly recommend to anyone planning to visit Spain, having the virtue of been on the edge of the Donana National Park. It is rather pleasant to lie by the pool listening to Nightingales and Corn Buntings, whilst Red-rumped Swallow drink from the pool and Kites soar overhead. It also has the benefit of a very excellent bird tour guide, John Butler, who knew where to take us for almost every bird that I got on my hypothetical list, including visible Nightingales, Hoopoe, Black-shouldered Kite, Booted Eagle, Bee-eaters, Squaco, Purple, Night and even a Western Reef Heron. I refused to keep a list, on the principal that I was on holiday, but our tour-group got 69 species and I got a couple of extras after that including my first Nightjars (Red-knecked). The Eagle was my first too. Black Kite and Bee-eaters I saw on my first day ever in Shetland, with Kate and Worzel (AKA Alun AKA Snortzel), Jim’s son, the “Other Dr. Fowler”.
Glossy Ibis chicks
More spoons!
Bee-eater, worth a click to zoom!
Nightingale... Click, go on!

It wasn’t a purely birding holiday for me, I spent one day at the beach with Kate and Kelly watching the locals relaxing on the beach. Strangely enough, the two girls closest to us were Irish, having a Belfast accent. I spent the following day lying around the pool getting an excellent suntan. My only regret is that I didn’t get good photos of Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Eagle, Kite or Azure-winged Magpie, or that I couldn’t get a decent mixed grill for breakfast. The Spanish know nothing about proper breakfasts.

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly Jim’s Big Dinner Night. We had a smashing meal followed by a few speeches from Worzel, Graeme, Dave and Jim himself, in which he said a few words about most of us, where we had entered his life, or what we’d done to it. It was worth the effort to get there just for this part of the evening. Worzel was a magnificent Master of Ceremonies, and Jim was on his best behaviour for once, only slightly runcible.
"Birding Ken", Will, Kate and Struddles.
A happy Maalie King
Story time!
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Blogger Maalie said...

Glad you had a good time!

12:06 AM  
Blogger Davy said...

It was wicked. Hurry up and write your blog so I can link it. Had a dram yet?

4:55 AM  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Just found this. Got confused by beautiful picture of your scalp. Did you hear we saw a Lesser Black Back Bee-Eater?
My site is done now, though my pictures aren't nearly as good as yours.

9:42 AM  
Blogger TCA said...

Nice pics Davy!

Thanks for the nice comments too.

1:55 AM  
Blogger simon said...

hey davy! GREAT to catch up for sure mate!!!!

5:28 PM  

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