Cats, Boats and Birds

Nell, like many dogs, has a chase instinct. She wants to chase basically anything that runs. When we lived in London she would periodically hurl herself at the back corner of our garden where the shed meets the wall chasing cats or foxes that were passing through. She did this so often that it was basically impossible to grow any grass there. I re-turfed that patch many times but with only limited success.

Yangon is not only full of street dogs but also feral cats. People don’t really own cats in Yangon, they just start feeding a street cat or two and then they start to hang around. Like street dogs, any cat that makes it to adulthood has innate street smarts and knows how to handle dogs much meaner than Nell. Nell will chase a cat that runs but is actually scared of any cat that holds its ground. She has been swiped at a few times and actually hidden behind my legs. Almost every cat we meet on our daily dog walks simply gives her a mean stare when she walks by and she pretends she hasn’t seen them. Currently I am carrying my camera around on our walks trying to get a few more birds on my list before the end of the year and this has afforded me some good opportunities to get some cat photos. The one in the picture has a rare collar and note that it is sitting in the middle of the razor wire. Cats and birds alike here have an ability to negotiate the razor wire without ever getting caught in it.

Like last time, the lockdown here is slowly melting with more and more people on the streets and cars on the roads. I went to the mall the other day to get my hair cut and every shop was open. There weren’t quite as many people as normal but it definitely did not feel very locked down. That being said bars and restaurants are still closed except for takeaways. However, some enterprising businesses are coming up with innovative ways of getting around the regulations. One such company is a boat company that do tours on the Irrawaddy and also in the archipelago in the south of the country. They have come up with an idea whereby you can rent the boat for three hours with a group of up to 12 people. It is up to you to declare that these people are part of your bubble. You get on board down by the docks in Yangon and then they take you up and down the river providing 4 different cocktails and eventually serving you dinner. Lindsey organized this for us with a group of friends from school and it was a great night. There was a general feeling of relief shared by the whole group which was very noticeable. Everyone was just so happy to be able to engage in something approaching normal.

Avid readers of our blog (both of you) might recall my discovery of the inaturalist site where people can upload photos of things they’ve seen and then other people confirm or help with the identification. This is unlike the other site I use (e-bird) for recording my bird sightings. E-bird does not require a photo to list an observation. The quirk of inaturalist requiring a photos (or sound recording) means that the species are naturally skewed towards things that are easy to photograph. That means that species that are found only in a limited area and that are difficult to photograph have fewer observations. The site has a leaderboard for every species. You can be on the leaderboard for observations and for identifications. I soon realised that the Ayeyarwady Bulbul fits into exactly that category. It had only been observed 11 times. This is a pretty bland bird but is fairly common in Yangon. It is a bit fidgety so difficult to photograph. I immediately uploaded the one photograph I had of it and began carrying my camera on every walk. Even 1 observation got you on the leaderboard but I would need 4 to be the outright leader. The top was shared by 2 people both of whom had 3 observations each. I can now confirm that with a total of 5 observations I am now at the top of the leaderboard for this bird! According to inaturalist I am basically a world expert on this species! My chances of replacing David Attenborough are improving every day!

See below some results of carrying the camera around! (Click on an image for a larger view.)

2 thoughts on “Cats, Boats and Birds

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  1. The next time I need expert advice about the Ayeryawady (sp?) Bulbul I shall be in touch! (It IS a very bland-looking bird — not that I’m trying to deflate your achievement. Love the bright blue on those kingfishers!)


    1. Ayeyarwady is the revised phonetic English spelling of what was the Irrawaddy. The Brits simply heard it wrong when they arrived and made up their own spelling. This particular bulbul had it’s name changed from Streak-eared Bulbul (which is actually much more descriptive) recently, hence they could use the updated spelling. Funnily enough the ‘r’ sound is not in the Burmese language at all. Burma, which is really the largest ethnic group in Myanmar in Burmese sounds more like ‘Buhmaa’. There is also a squirrel which uses the common spelling, the Irrawaddy Squirrel. For this species I am currently number 7 but as they are as common as Grey Squirrels are in the UK I have a good chance to make number one here too!!


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