Reports, with Bird Lists, of our Meetings, Walks and Outings

Around the World in 80 Minutes
by Chris Collins

Date: Thursday 19 April 2018 at 19:30


Fifty-two people attended this meeting. Chris Collins made a welcome return to the group and gave a fascinating presentation titled Around the world in 80 minutes in which he took us, at breakneck speed, on a tour of many of the world’s remote places and islands to look at their unique bird life and other fauna and flora.

With notable exceptions there was a common and depressing theme to the story. Isolation of these remote islands has led to the evolution of unique species and the absence of mammal predators has produced many flightless birds with a significant number of species occurring in very high numbers. However, the arrival of man changed all that as the sailors killed vast numbers for food and also for their feathers and fur. The rats, mice and cats that came with the boats then bred on the islands and reduced most vulnerable species to near extinction.

The good news is that eradication of these predatory imports and restriction on hunting has seen a reversal of this decline where a species still has a few survivors. The New Zealand authorities have been especially successful at eradication and subsequent saving of endemic species.

The journey began in South Georgia (SG) with pictures of 150,000 breeding pairs of king penguins and an insight into their extraordinary 12 month breeding cycle. SG also has several endemics including the SG pintail duck (flightless) and the SG pipit the world’s most southerly breeding passerine. Beach master bull elephant seals fighting for breeding rights were also a fine sight!

A brief stop in Madagascar where we saw black and brown lemurs before heading to Aldabra Island, a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean. This tropical island is home to 100,000 giant tortoises, some weighing 350 kg, as well as several endemic animals including the flightless Aldabra rail, Aldabra turtle dove, Aldabra sparrow and a high number of Aldabra flying fox bats.

The next stop was the Ross Sea and Antarctica where we saw two species of penguin that live on the Antarctica mainland, the Adélie penguin and the magnificent emperor penguin. The tallest of all the penguins, the emperor must take the title of the most extreme bird on the planet. The males incubate the eggs in temperatures as low as -40ᵒC and survive for six months without food before the female returns to feed the chick.

The wandering albatross, capable of flying 1,000 miles per day, spends its first 20 years after fledging in permanent flight and in 70 years may fly as many as four million miles.

Campbell Island has many endemics including the Campbell albatross, flightless teal, cormorant, snipe, pipit and redpoll.

New Caledonia island is an ancient remnant of Gondwanaland as it broke up from Australia about 60 million years ago. It has 18 endemic birds, many ravaged by rats, mice, cats and now by extensive deforestation. However conservation is gathering pace and some remote small islands have provided species to re-introduce, the strangest of which is the kagu, a flightless bird that has a taxonomic family all to itself; DNA shows it has no close relatives. Crow honey eaters, horned parrots also feature. The New Caledonia crow uses twigs to harvest ants and is said to be one of the most intelligent of all birds.

Onward to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where we saw four magnificent birds of paradise out of a possible 40, also two PNG specials the PNG frogmouth and the hooded pitohui, the only bird to have poisonous feathers.

Now to Pitcairn island, famous for the “Mutiny on the Bounty” incident to see Pitcairn warblers with their huge variation in plumage, then on to Tencararo coral atoll with its Tuamotu sandpiper, a wader which lives and nests in trees and the bristle-thighed curlew. So to north-west Peru to see the orange-throated tanager which was first found in 1960.

Journeys end was Guyana in north east South America with the giant harpy eagle and very rare and beautiful sun parakeet.

What a journey – even being in the audience was exhausting!

Chris gave a wonderful presentation, taking us on a whirlwind excursion to see some of the world’s rarest and special birds from all corners of the earth.

What’s About, compiled by Brian Clews, was presented by Ken Cottam on behalf of Peter Gaines:

Generally, a brilliant week for migrants – yesterday saw the simultaneous arrival of the county’s first cuckoos, nightingales, tree pipits, garden warblers, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats, so all these are now worth looking and listening for in our area.

Cookham Moor has had one or two little egrets in the pool adjacent to the car park several times this week, despite the nearby disturbances. Up to three have been seen regularly on Widbrook.

Tawny owls have commenced their day-time calling season with one heard mid-day Tuesday in Bisham Woods.

Jubilee River – up to nine Cetti’s territories this week, reed, willow and sedge warblers, garden warbler and lesser whitethroats all singing.

Little Marlow Gravel Pit – Little ringed plover and oystercatcher, both of which may stay on to breed.

Knowl Hill Common – two ravens active yesterday, and many blackcaps and chiffchaffs (a pleasant short walk with Royal Oak adjacent for ‘comfort’)

Dinton Pastures – at least four Cetti’s calling, oystercatchers, cuckoo and nightingale.

Theale and adjacent pits – common sandpiper, oystercatchers again, two Mediterranean gulls – a suspected pair!

Ring ouzels and wheatears have been present on the Downs this week.

There are still a few bramblings – Ascot and Wishmoor.

Wishmoor Bottom – pied flycatcher.

News of BTO cuckoos – “Selbourne” is already safely back in the New Forest and “Victor” is on the French side of the Channel waiting for a ferry, as of Thursday afternoon!

Please remember to record all great crested and little grebe sightings this year for the County Recorder’s special focus on these species.  email to Richard Burness at

Don’t forget to consider signing the Grouse Shooting campaign petition as highlighted in the latest Nature’s Home magazine (at

--- Original Programme Information ---

Snowing on Chinstrap Penguins
Snowing on Chinstrap Penguins

In “Around the World in Eighty Days”, Jules Verne’s character, Phileas Fogg, took eighty days to circumnavigate the world. In this lecture, we will spend eighty minutes (or thereabouts !!) on a similar journey travelling around the world visiting some amazing destinations for birds and wildlife. These include locations as diverse as Antarctica, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Pitcairn Island and Guyana with some stunning shots of the incredible birdlife which inhabit these remote locations.

Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock Kagu (New Caledonia)
Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock Kagu (New Caledonia)


I am a freelance ornithologist and for the last 10 years have been working on a wide range of bird and wildlife related projects around the world. Most of my work involves guiding groups of birders and wildlife enthusiasts to destinations as diverse as the Russian Far East, Antarctica, South America and Pacific Ocean. I have spent the equivalent of over three years working on expedition ships and have seen almost 90% of the world’s seabirds and a total of well over 5,000 bird species. In addition to tour guiding, I regularly give lectures to groups in the UK and overseas and also work on consultancy projects offering advice to governments and agencies on growing a location as a birding destination. Further information and photographs are available at:

Henderson Fruit-dove
Henderson Fruit-dove

All pictures are © Copyright. Do not reproduce without permission from Chris Collins.