Thursday, 13 October 2016

Queensland Birding

I had a brief (4 day) stop-over in Brisbane, Australia on my way over to New Caledonia and managed to get some good bird and wildlife watching in with my mates Rob and Colin. We headed up into Lamington National Park (the Binna Burra section) for a night of sub-zero camping (it felt that cold anyway) where the clear highlight was actually seeing the Endangered (and incredibly secretive) Rufous Scrub-bird. We also had Paradise Riflebird, Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, Marbled Frogmouth, Logrunner and lots more.

Other sites nearer to Brisbane yielded White-eared Monarch, Masked Owl, Spotted Quail-thrush and a trip over to North Stradbroke Island gave good looks at Beach Stone-curlew and brief Wandering Tattler. However the highlight here was breaching Humpback Whales, porpoising Inshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins, and Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins.

All in all a great few days - a big thank you to Rob and Di for letting me stay with them yet again, and to Rob and Colin for a fun few days birding and camping.

Beach Stone-curlew

Paradise Riflebird

Spotted Quail-thrush

White-eared Monarch

Wonga Pigeon

Inshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins

North Stradbroke Island

Brisbane Sunset

Up near Binna Burra


Friday, 9 September 2016

An Afternoon With Some Ptarmigan

Had a surprisingly successful trip up to Scotland in late-August after the Bird Fair with one of my Birding Ecotours colleagues - John Kinghorn (who's writing a proper trip report and I'll link soon).

We had 3 male Capercaillie, Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Black Grouse, American White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, White-rumped Sandpiper, Osprey, and so much more. One of the real highlights however was the views of Rock Ptarmigan we got. Here are a few of my photos of a small party of birds we got very nice views of.





Friday, 5 August 2016

New Zealand!

As I've mentioned in the last couple of blogs, I'm going to be visiting New Zealand in some downtime between my Pacific Tour and Australia Tour. I'll only have one week unfortunately so I'll only be able to scratch the surface of things over there and I think I'll have to stick to North Island - which means I'll miss the Kaikoura Albatross spectacular - so may have to save that until the next time! But it is quite a draw, so I may end up taking a quick trip down there if possible....

Currently I'm looking at a couple of days at Tiritiri Matangi Island to try and see some of the exciting endemic birds that still persist there such as Little Spotted Kiwi, Bellbird, Brown Teal, Grey Warbler, Takahe, Red-crowned Parakeet, Whitehead, North Island Robin, Stichbird, North Island Kokako, North Island Saddleback, Fernbird, Kaka, North Island Tomtit, Rifleman, New Zealand Pigeon, Paradise Shelduck, and Tui. Some of those names just conjure up all sorts of thoughts of very cool birds!

I'm also signed up to a Pelagic within the Hauraki Gulf for a day trip with Wrybill Tours so fingers crossed I get better luck than the last two Pelagics I've tried to get on in Australia! Wonder if I'll bump into a New Zealand Storm-Petrel...?

I've still got three full days time to plan in so am working out what best to do and try to see.... want to see as many of the North Island endemics as possible in the short time I have but would like to try get some photos of them too so watch this space... need to look for some of the endemic shorebirds too!

Would be quite cool to see a Kiwi... hopefully an alive one...

Little Spotted Kiwi  

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Pacific Odyssey

This September-October I'm going to be journeying around the Pacific a little. I'll be commencing my travels from Brisbane, Australia (where I'll get a couple of days birding in with my mate Rob) before heading over to Noumea in New Caledonia for two-weeks of endemic searching. Obviously top target there is the endemic and rather unique Kagu (below).

Kagu (Pelagic Odyssey)

I'll likely try and get across to a couple of the loyalty islands if flights aren't prohibitively expensive - I'm thinking Ouvea and Lifou, each island also has some endemics to go for - such as the Ouvea Parakeet, and Lifou Large White-eye. Anyone know of a cheap way to do these islands?

There's so many exciting birds on New Caledonia - with New Caledonian Crow and Crow Honeyeater being two birds I'm keen on locating for different reasons, but one I really 'want/need' to see is Cloven-feathered Dove - wow!

Cloven-feathered Dove (Unknown)

After a couple of weeks exploration in New Caledonia I'm heading over to Fiji for a couple of weeks. I'll be visiting three islands - Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, and Kadavu, each with an interesting set of birds. Again some of the highlights are likely to be Pigeons... I don't say that often! But with Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove, Many-coloured Fruit-Dove, Golden Fruit Dove, Whistling Fruit Dove, and Orange Fruit Dove (below) it's easy to see why! Plenty of interesting endemics to chase across all the different islands too - such as Silktail for example - still a bit of an unknown quantity.

Orange Fruit Dove (Aviceda)

The final stop on this leg of the trip will be a few days in (Western) Samoa - here there are a few more endemics to go look for. I think it will take a bit of luck for Tooth-billed Pigeon, but I'll give it a go! I'll be happy to see the Samoan Flycatcher (below)!

Samoan Flycatcher (Peter O)

I've got some personal birding while here, but the majority of my time will be leading the Birding Ecotours Pacific Tour - details of the 3 week tour can be found by CLICKING HERE. We're taking bookings for 2017!

After this tour is completed I head across to New Zealand. More on that soon....
  

Friday, 22 July 2016

Big Australia Trip Coming Soon!

Really excited to have a birding tour along the East Coast of Australia this October and November. We'll be birding in Victoria, New South Wales (just over the border) and in south, then North Queensland. Last years tour resulted in some incredible birds seen

I'll also probably be spending time in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and hopefully the Top End too - I'll be scoping out new areas for upcoming Birding Ecotours trips.

Really looking forward to have another in-depth look at what is quickly becoming my favourite wildlife-watching destination on the planet.

During the three-week tour we'll be looking for some quality birds, such as Plains-wanderer, Mallee Emu-wren, Malleefowl, Superb Lyrebird, Southern Cassowary, Great-billed Heron, Golden Bowerbird, Regent Bowerbird, Victoria's Riflebird, Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, Hooded Plover, Inland Dotterel, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Superb Parrot, and so much more!

Last years tour recorded 416 species of birds, 42 mammals, 19 reptiles, and 10 amphibians. with standout mammals being Koala, Platypus, Short-beaked Echidna, Red Kangaroo and Common Wombat.

There are a couple of places still available on the tour. If you're interested, or know of anyone who might be interested please click this link for tour details. CLICK HERE.

Plains-wanderer - always a highlight and this female showed so well for our group last year.

Southern Cassowary - my favourite bird on the planet and another star bird that performed well during last years tour. Here the adult male with his two chicks.

ALL THE AUSTRALIA TOURS CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://birdingecotours.com/tours/destination/country/australia 

The Australia 2015 Trip Report can also be found here:

After the tours I'm aiming to spend time in the Perth area of Western Australia where I'll be targeting the nearly 20 or so regionally endemic species such as Carnaby's and Baudin's Black Cockatoos, Western Corella, Red-capped Parrot, Western Rosella, Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Bristlebird, Red-winged Fairywren, Western Fieldwren, Western Thornbill, Western Wattlebird, Western Spinebill, Gilbert's Honeyeater, White-breasted Robin, Western Whistler and Red-eared Firetail. Also looking forward to some new and exciting mammals and reptiles.

If I get to the Top End (in the Northern Territory), I'll be looking for Rainbow Pitta - need a Pitta fix! But while I'm 'in the area' I'll be looking for Gouldin Finch, Purple-crowned Fairywren, Red Goshawk, Hooded Parrot, Red-collared Lorikeet, Varied Lorikeet, Northern Rosella, Arafura Fantail, Paperbark Flycatcher, Buff-sided Robin, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Pied Heron, Great-billed Heron, Beach Thick-knee, Chestnut Rail, Rufous Owl, Partridge Pigeon, White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Banded Fruit-Dove, Little Kingfisher, Long-tailed Finch, White-throated Grasswren, and Black-tailed Treecreeper.

I'm also planning to catch up with my friends Dave and Sue in Adelaide where I'll be looking to add a few new birds to my South Australia list, such as Rock Parrot, and maybe even Western Whipbird, though definitely some more reptiles and mammal - or who knows, maybe I'll even get on a pelagic trip - 3rd time lucky? Grey Falcon might have to wait until 2017...

Before all of this Australia coolness I'll be leading a trip round the Pacific - New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa, and scoping the North Island of New Zealand - more on that awesome prospect later. My entry into New Caledonia will be from Brisbane so before all of the above fun starts I'll have a few days with my friends Rob and Di in Brisbane and there's a few birds there that I fancy looking for. Masked Owl is high on the target list!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Thailand June 2016

I had a nice couple of weeks back over in Thailand in June after finishing up with the consultancy work. It wasn't totally all about the birding on this trip but I did go down to the south of the country for a bit of birding around Krabi, Khao Nor Chu Chi NP and Khao Sok NP. It rained most of the time I was down here but I still managed a couple of nice birds during a couple of wet walks,such as the following highlights:

Mangrove Pitta
Hooded Pitta
Blue-winged Pitta
Ruddy Kingfisher
Brown-winged Kingfisher
Red-bearded Bee-eater
Oriental Paradise-Flycatcher (white morph with long tail)
Rufous-winged Philontoma
Vernal Hanging-Parrot

Also saw a couple of cool reptiles, such as Cross-bearing Tree Lizard and Crested Forest Lizard.

Ruddy Kingfisher

Cross-bearing Tree Lizard

Crested Forest Lizard

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Big Update - Lots of change!

I've not posted an update for a while, was in Thailand most of June - post coming soon! Has been a busy month...

I've updated the blog template to give it a fresher look. Hopefully I'll have a bit more time and content to get back into the swing of keeping things ticking over here again. Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few months.

My main news is that I've quit my consultancy job (after working there for 6 years) to work full time for Birding Ecotours. I've been working for Birding Ecotours on a part-time basis for about the last 18-months or so but this exciting opportunity was too good to ignore! I'll still be doing the odd bit of freelance consultancy work if you are looking for an ornithological consultant in the UK - drop me an email!

I'm mainly going to be focusing on Europe, Asia and Australasia and have a few interesting trips lined up over the next 8 months... Thailand, Australia, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica...

Lots of potential for some incredible birds and other wildlife and as you can imagine I'm very excited. So please stay tuned for some cool bird/wildlife sightings...

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Costa Rica March/April 2017?

Just thought I'd stick a quick post out about Costa Rica. For those that know me you'll know that Costa Rica has a big place in my heart. It was here that I got properly started in bird guiding and I've spent over two-years of my life there showing people the countries fabulous birds.

I may go on about Asia and Australia a lot, but it's undeniable that Costa Rica is one of THE top birding destinations in the world. It is a small country with a range of habitats, elevations and two coastlines, a good road network, good accommodation (managed specifically for birds and birders) and very friendly people. All of this means a lot of very cool birds in a relatively small area.

Birding Ecotours has got a GUARANTEED DEPARTURE going to Costa Rica next March! This is a special tour, not only will you have some amazing birds and wildlife during the tour, but by joining it you will be supporting the Neotropical Bird Club because the tour is an NBC Conservation Tour. The tour is going to be guided by Kevin Easley, one of the best local guides in the country. So why not join me and him there!

Tour information can be found here: Complete Costa Rica Tour. This tour involves two-legs. You can do both legs (c4 weeks), or you can just do either one of them (c2 weeks each). Both have been designed to connect with Costa Rica's finest and most-sought species, For any information about this tour please email: info@birdingecotours.co.za (or drop me a line!).

Some highlight birds are likely to include: Resplendent Quetzal (arguably the best-looking bird on the planet), Three-wattled Bellbird, Great Green Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Snowy Cotinga, Lovely Cotinga, Turquoise Cotinga, Snowcap, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, Coppery-headed Emerald, Baird's Trogon and a plethora of Hummingbirds, Furnarids, Flycatchers, Tanagers etc... A large trip list full of national and regional (Chiriqui) endemics can be expected.

Some target bird photos to whet your appetite!

Resplendent Quetzal (Kevin Easley via Birding Ecotours)

Snowcap (via Birding Ecotours)

Three-wattled Bellbird (Kevin Easley via Birding Ecotours)

Coppery-headed Emerald (via Birding Ecotours)

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl (via Birding Ecotours)

Wrenthrush (via Birding Ecotours)

Rufous-tailed Jacamar (via Birding Ecotours)

Blue-diademed Motmot (via Birding Ecotours)

Broab-billed Motmot (via Birding Ecotours)

Collared Trogon (via Birding Ecotours)

Lesser Ground-Cuckoo (via Birding Ecotours)

Red-capped Manakin (via Birding Ecotours)

Emerald Tanager (via Birding Ecotours)

Silver-throated Tanager (via Birding Ecotours)

Speckled Tanager (via Birding Ecotours)   

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Thailand Trip Report

This winter between late-January and early-March I was in Thailand for some personal birding sandwiched between a couple of stints leading tours for Birding Ecotours.

My first tour was three-weeks and visited Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale Area, Kaeng Krachan NP, Khao Yai NP, Doi Inthanon NP, Mae Ping NP, Doi Chiang Dao NP,  Doi Pha Hom Pok (Doi Lang) NP, and Chiang Saen Lake. We saw some amazing birds: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's Greenshank, Long-billed Dowitcher (rarity), Baer's Pochard, Mrs Hume's Pheasant, Great Hornbill, Rusty-naped, Eared and Blue Pittas, Himalayan Cutia, Siberian Rubythroat, and so much more! Asian Elephant and White-handed Gibbons were also rather pleasing. Trip Report here: http://birdingecotours.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Thailand-Custom-Tour-Trip-Report-February-2016.pdf

My second tour was a one-week photography tour and visited Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale Area, Nong Pla Lai, and Kaeng Krachan and again connected with some amazing birds: 6 Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's Greenshank, Red-headed and Orange-breasted Trogons, Great Hornbill, Red-bearded and Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Great Slaty Woodpecker, and many Broadbills! Here we also had one of the craziest 20 minutes of wildlife viewing I've ever had - Indian Rock Python, Asian Elephant, Indochinese (Black) Leopard, and Sunbear!!! Trip Report here: http://birdingecotours.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Thailand-Custom-Tour-Trip-Report-Feb-Mar-2016.pdf

A more detailed summary of my tours can be found here: http://birdingecotours.com/birding-thailand/ with some photos and information on some of the key species seen.

During my free time I got to see some great birds, including Firethroat and Spotted Bush-Warbler, a couple of really rare Thai birds. I also got to visit a banding station where I got to release a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat (photo below!)....

If any of this interests you please check out the 2017 itinerary here, and come and join me there with Birding Ecotours!

Some highlights below...

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - 1 of at least 7 birds seen while I was there. A post on this bird here.

Drake Baer's Pochard (IPhone-scoped)

Rusty-naped Pitta (one of a pair seen at close-range)

Firethroat - the returning bird, Thailand's second record (first was this bird last year!)

Great Hornbill - simply stunning! 

Green Magpie - a bit of a looker,

Himalayan Cutia (IPhone-scoped)

Long-billed Dowitcher (IPhone-scoped) - a rarity we found on the tour

Mrs Hume's Pheasant - a real beauty

Siberian Rubythroat

Getting to release a Siberian Rubythroat! 

Friday, 22 April 2016

India Trip Report

This January I was lucky enough to lead a Birding Ecotours trip to Northern India. The trip was stacked full of incredible birds, such as Indian Skimmer, Indian Courser, Koklass and Cheer Pheasants, Painted Spurfowl, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Collared Falconet, Sarus Crane, Ibisbill, Painted Sandgrouse, Pallid Scops Owl, Tawny and Brown Fish Owls, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Sirkeer Malkoha, Long-billed Thrush, Spotted, Slaty-backed, and Little Forktails, Golden Bush Robin, Himalayan Bluetail, White-tailed (Himalayan) and Siberian Rubythroats, Wallcreeper, Rufous-breasted and Altai Accentors, and White-capped Bunting.

We saw Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Jungle Cat, Asian Elephant, Gharial, Marsh Mugger and numerous other cool wildlife. If this wasn't enough we visited the Taj Mahal and had incredible views of the stunning Himalayas - oh and ate some beautiful food!

I've written a summary of the trip, with a few photos here: http://birdingecotours.com/birding-asia/

The trip report can be found here: http://birdingecotours.com/trip-reports/india (word only view document, or download it as a PDF).

If you're interested in the 2017 tour, please get in touch!

Tiger!

Black-headed Jay

Brown Fish Owl

Cheer Pheasant

Citrine Wagtail

Collared Falconet

Crested Kingfisher

Greater Painted-snipe

Grey-headed Woodpecker - Black-naped Woodpecker a split if you follow HBW taxonomy.

Himalayan Bluethroat

Ibisbill

Indian Courser

Indian Peafowl - National Bird of India

Indian Skimmer

Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier)

Little Forktail

Long-billed Thrush

Orange-headed Thrush - seen very well the week before the tour but I couldn't re-find it during the tour! Gutted as it was a cracker! 

Painted Sandgrouse

Painted Spurfowl

Pallid Scops Owl - the first record for Okhla Bird Sanctuary and the Delhi area - found on the first day of the tour! What a way to start! It was present until at least mid-March.

Sarus Cranes

Scaly-bellied Woodpecker

Siberian Rubythroat

Sirkeer Malkoha

Spotted Forktail

Streak-throated Woodpecker

Striated Laughingthrush

Tawny Fish Owl

Wallcreeper

White-tailed (Himalayan) Rubythroat

White-tailed Stonechat

Asian Elephant

Gharial

Indian Leopard

Indian Rock Python

Marsh Mugger

Orange Pansy

Sambar Deer

3-way fight between Spotted Deer

The Himalayas - simply breathtaking

Sunrise at Corbett NP

Sunset at Corbett NP

Corbett Safari

Group enjoying the Himalayan views

Group at the Taj Mahal