Wise Birding Holidays

Thursday, 14 April 2016

MOROCCO MARCH 2016 Part II

MIGRANTS IN THE DESERT AND A FEW DESSERTS!
Western Bonelli's Warbler 

Common Redstart on Broom Rape

European Bee-Eater

Common Redstart and Western Orphean Warbler

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Too many good desserts at the Moroccan Hotels!


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

MOROCCO MARCH 2016

I recently returned from leading another Wise Birding trip to Southern Morocco and as always it was a great trips stacked full of quality birds, scenery, food and people. For me, one of the most exciting parts of a birding trip to Morocco is seeing the migrants in the desert. It simply re-inforces what a tough trip "our" migrants have to endure, but also it is quite surprising just how much food and water can be found by these migrants in the desert. Of course, the specialities like Egyptian Nightjar, Desert Sparrow and Bald Ibis are always great to see too and I am in the very fortunate position of being able to see these great birds again and again. Below are some of the highlights of the trip. Hope you enjoy!

THE SPECIALITIES
Male Levaillant's Green or "Maghreb" Green Woodpecker

The very common but always stunning male Moussier's Redstart

Female Moussier's Redstart - Be careful not to throw one of these away as a Common Redstart in the UK with a brief view!

The High Atlas views at Oukaimeden with Crimson-winged Finches and Seebohm's Wheatears for company

Male Tristram's Warblers are usually easy to find as they return to their higher elevation breeding grounds

Male Tristram's Warbler

The spectacular Todra Gorge where Tristram's Warbler can be found

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse was an unusual species for Tagdilt and my first sighting of this species here.
We had at least 70+ birds this year on the Tagdilt Plains

Thick-billed Lark - always a relief to find this highly nomadic species and one that is always at the top of people's wish lists!

Temminck's Larks are common around the Tagdilt Plains

The Tagdilt Track looking towards the town of Boumalne Dades

Brown-necked Ravens are a daily occurrence in the desert region

Cream-coloured Courser - Reasonable numbers this year and some excellent views

Male Desert Sparrow and House Sparrow - The highly adaptive House Sparrow is plentiful in the desert
region and often takes over Desert Sparrow nest sites


Male and female Desert Sparrow

Egyptian Nightjar - High on everyone's wish list and a little too easy to see these days, thanks to the local Berbers!

Desert landscape looking towards the Erg Chebbi Dunes

African Desert Warbler feeding young

Long-billed or "Maghreb" Crested Lark - This species is easily found in the Tafilalt region

Erg Chebbi Dunes near Merzouga

One of our Pharaoh Eagle Owl sites - This nest site was in a different area to the usual spot and had 4 juveniles!

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - This was a second bird near Rissani

Watching Pharaoh Eagle Owl with local guide Lahcen

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - Digiscoped

Southern Grey Shrike - The "Grey" Shrikes are always interesting to see with much work being done on their taxonomy 

Seebohm's Wheatear - Considered as simply a race of Northern Wheatear by some this 2CY bird was a migrant in the desert

Seebohm's Wheatear - A presumed adult again this was a migrant in the desert en route to the High Atlas breeding grounds

Seebohm's Wheatear - Showing the diagnostic black underwing coverts

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - This bird was seen watched down to a few feet sheltering in an Oasis during a sand storm

Western Olivaceous or Isabelline Warbler - A bigger beast than Eastern Olivaceous, with a much more chunky feel,
broader bill and thicker legs. The bird was singing too which helped!

Northern Bald Ibis - We had fabulously close views of over 50+ birds including some flying over the Atlantic!



Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Otter activity continues

Since returning from Morocco, it seems the Otter activity still continues with sightings yesterday evening, this morning and this evening. The Mrs and I watched three animals this evening (including Spot Lip and White Lip) for over an hour! Fabulous to watch them fishing. In contrast, the beavers are conspicuous by their absence, but plenty of signs still.

This animal was feeding on an Eel?


Saturday, 12 March 2016

Otters on the River Otter

A great 24 hours on the River Otter gave rise to our first Beaver sighting of the year yesterday evening. Great to see this animal back again, pink tagged Patricia! She appears to have lost an ear tag, but looking good! I last saw her in April 2015 and this is now the third year running she has returned, assuming it is the same individual from 2014 (the animals were only tagged in 2015).  Hopefully the start of many more sightings. It is a true privilege to have these great animals on my local patch.

This morning I headed out early to see if she was still hanging around, but I was soon distracted by a wonderful party of four Otters that I followed for a good 45 minutes. The Mrs even managed to twitch them! They were really inquisitive and very unconcerned about our presence. A great morning!


One of the first views in the gloom - very inquistive!

"White Lip" waving for the camera

"Spot Lip" just finishing some fish breakfast

"Spot Lip" again

"White Lip"

"White Lip" again

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Beaver Signs

Fresh Beaver signs on the River Otter, Devon today. You can see the teeth marks quite clearly. Fingers crossed they should reveal themselves in the coming weeks!

The distinctive "flute shaped" cut and teeth marks are a sign of beaver activity

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Sticky Toffee Pudding "shows well" in London

Last weekend I had the great honour of sampling my good friend Rachel's Sticky Toffee Pudding. It's one of the best. However, you know what they say, once on the lips and a lifetime on the hips!
More baking from Rachel can be seen on her blog the RAW BAKER

Sticky Toffee Pudding shows well in London

Friday, 19 February 2016

SRI LANKA: Week 2

Finally trying to catch up on recent Wise Birding Tours 
Below are some of the highlights from our second week in Sri Lanka in December  
First Week of Sri Lanka Tour HERE.

There really are too many highlights to cover here, so Full Trip Report HERE
One of the many tour highlights was our group finding a Grey-necked Bunting. It is believed to be only the second record for Sri Lanka. We since discovered that the bird was also seen by Dutch birders just a couple of days before us. Thanks must go to fellow Devon birder and blogger Tim Worfolk who sent me some useful info on the species whilst out in Sri Lanka. Much of Tim's great artwork and book illustrations can be seen HERE

Hope you enjoy......

One of the best looking pigeons in Sri Lanka - The Orange-breasted Green Pigeon

Jungle Owlet

Malabar Pied Hornbill

Lesser Whistling Ducks

One of the many Jeep drives whilst in Uda Walawe NP

The beautiful Asian Elephants were a regular sighting in Uda Walawe NP

This Jungle Cat was a great spot by Sue whilst in Uda Walawe NP

A second Jungle Cat whilst spotlighting near Yala NP

The very photogenic Tufted Grey Langurs

This male Sloth Bear was one of the undoubted highlights whilst in Yala NP

Black-Napes Hare - does exactly what it says on the tin!

Jacobin Cuckoo

Asian Green Bee-Eater

Chestnut-headed Bee-Eater

Male and Female Barred Buttonquails in Yala NP
Male Sloth Bear, Yala NP


Marsh Sandpiper, Yala NP
Common Redshank - Birds wintering in Sri Lanka are thought to be the eurhina race and often looked very like Spotted Redshank in jizz

Nice to see such close views of Pintail Snipe

Pacific Golden Plovers were present in small numbers whilst in Yala NP
Blyth's Pipit in Uda Walawe - Pipits in Sri Lanka can make your head hurt! However, once you see enough Paddyfield Pipits (the commonest pipit) and get your eye in, Blyth's look different enough. Compared to Paddyfield; Shorter tailed, thinner billed, peachy wash on flanks, less obvious supercilium behind eye and of course the call!
Grey-necked Bunting - A true surprise whilst birding in Yala NP and all respect to Pete who first picked it up. This is thought to be only the 2nd record for Sri Lanka. A few days after finding it, we heard that a Dutch birding group had seen it a few days before us. Quite Amazing!

Blyth's Pipit, Uda Walawe NP
Paddyfield Pipit, Uda Walawe NP - much more Richard's Pipit like in appearance


Great Thick-knees and Indian Peafowl

Bryde's Whale off Mirissa - one of at least 3 animals. This species is identifiable with a close view by the presence of a "third" diagnostic rostrum ridge on the top of the head or rostrum

Bryde's Whale, Mirissa

Displaying Indian Peafowl


Yala NP with the famous Elephant Rock in the distance