Birding Ecotours News – January 2015

By March 9, 2015 Trip Report

We do hope that 2015 would be a magnificent and bird-filled year for you! As always, our 2015 schedule is looking very exciting! We’ve already finished our first couple of 2015 tours such as our inaugural “winter owls of Minnesota” (which was a huge success) and “southern Thailand”. Right now, Eduardo is guiding the incredible Santa Marta area of Colombia, and Dylan has just begun his first South African tour of the year, which starts in Cape Town.


The annual January Minnesota trip is not all about Great Gray Owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl and other winter owls, but also about other brilliant species such as this Black-backed Woodpecker photographed by Carlos Sanchez on our just-completed departure. Please do consider joining us next year!

Exciting news is that Birding Ecotours is participating in “The Champions of the Flyway” birding race in Israel, specifically to raise funds to reduce the massacre of birds migrating through the island of Cyprus. Details of our team and how you can sponsor us and thus contribute to bird conservation (in a very direct way) are at .

We’d also like to highlight the outstanding conservation work of the African Bird Club ( and of Birdlife South Africa ( . We hugely recommend joining these organizations: the benefits you get (e.g. the truly high class magazines) are very well worth the nominal fees, plus you also help bird conservation in Africa by being a member of either/both. For some details on how much African birds need urgent conservation help, please do see our blog at .

Please note that we have a good team writing two or three highly informative blog articles for our website every month. The blog about our remote Madagascar and Comoros trip, in which we found several Critically Endangered Indian Ocean bird species including some of the world’s most seldom-seen owls, is one of the most exciting latest articles – see – by the way, please let us know if you want us to pencil you in as a participant for next year’s “remote Malagasy” tour (September 2015) – 4 places have already been tentatively filled even though we don’t have the itinerary and price quite yet (since it is a new tour).


Anjouan Scops Owl (Alan van Norman), rediscovered in 1992, Critically Endangered, with less than 250 individuals left and decreasing.

Another trip we don’t yet have on our website but which we plan to run in September this year (after Jason re-scouted it in September 2014) is Gabon – please ask for further details – we are busy loading the photos and trip report.


Jason photographed this African Gray Parrot in Gabon last September

We’re also attending the Space Coast Birding Festival in Florida later this month – please do visit our stand there to meet a couple of the team and to fire away with any questions you might have. And, a couple of our guides will also be helping at “The Biggest Week in American Birding”. And as always, we hope to see you at events later in the year such as the British Birdfair.

We’d like to very heartily congratulate our staff member John Kinghorn ( for becoming the youngest person to exceed 800 species in a southern African Big Year – he reached an amazing 803 species in 2014!

John Kinghorn

A look of relief as John realizes his Big Year goal has been reached!

Finally, we’d like to highlight some of our 2015 tours:

Cuba and Jamaica (with Eduardo) in February/March  – . Last chance to book for 2015!


Cuban Tody (William Price) is seen almost daily on our Cuba trips

Texas in March/April  –


Pyrrhuloxia (Carlos Sanchez)

Colorado in April –

Brown-capped Rosy-finch

Brown-capped Rosy-finch is seen high in the Rockies in summer, or lower (often at feeders) in winter

Florida in April/May –


Black Skimmer (Carlos Sanchez)

Arizona in May/June –

Yellow-eyed Junco-sanchez

Yellow-eyed Junco (Carlos Sanchez)

Tanzania in April –


Gray Crowned Crane (Masa Wang)

Spain in April/May –



North Peru in June –

Long-whiskered Owlet - Alan van Norman

Long-whiskered Owlet (Alan van Norman), Marvelous Spatuletail and a plethora of other Peruvian endemics await!

South Peru in July – plus Diademed Plover extension

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover-perrins

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover high above Lima (Niall Perrins)

Central Peru in October/November –


Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager (Alejandro Tello)

Uganda in July –


Ross’s Turaco (Masa Wang)

Zambia/Malawi – south-central African endemics in August/September –


Bohm’s Bee-eater (Hugh Chittenden) is restricted to south-central Africa (like many other species)

Brazil in August/September/October –


Hyacinth Macaw (Charly Sax)

South Africa year-round (the most tours are in October) –


Blue Cranes, South Africa’s national bird (Stephen Hammer)

Namibia/Botswana/Zambia in November – 5 places left –


Rosy-faced Lovebirds are common on the Namib Escarpment (Ian Merrill)

Madagascar in September and October –


Sickle-billed Vanga (Ian Merrill)

Australia in October and November –


Red-backed Fairy Wren (Andy Walker)

West Papua, Sulawesi/Halmahera, Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia and the rest of the region, October and November – West Papua is the one we’d like to feature right here – how about some Birds of Paradise, Jewel-babblers, Paradise Kingfishers and all the others?


Red-bellied Pitta

Bhutan (and Assam) extension in November – 2 places left –


Great Barbet

As always, we also run a lot of shorter tours (including 1-day trips), not all of which we post online – here is just one example of a custom South African trip:


The world’s richest region for Larks – the Northern Cape Province of South Africa:

Day 1, 6 March 2015: long drive from Johannesburg to Augrabies Falls National Park. Augrabies Falls is a convenient stopover site but is also the best place for Namaqua Warbler, Ashy Tit and some others and is also good for Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (as is Springbok – but this is a tricky bird that usually requires several tries at more than one stakeout before finding it). Time permitting we can hope for Fawn-coloured Lark, common in the Kgalagadi but less predictable further south.  We’ll also look for Pygmy Falcon, Sociable Weaver, Rufous-eared Warbler and many others here on the edge of the Kalahari.

Day 2, 7 March 2015: Augrabies Falls to Springbok, larking along the way – we can probably already find Red Lark today and with luck perhaps Stark’s Lark. This, the Northern Cape, is the stronghold for Karoo Long-billed Lark which is more difficult in the Tanqua Karoo closer to Cape Town so very nice to get on this trip. Common birds around Springbok include Spike-heeled Lark, Karoo Eremomela and many others. We hope to stay inside Goegap Nature Reserve for two nights where Chris has seen Aardvark on night drives and Cape Eagle Owl might be found but is outnumbered at least 10 to 1 by Spotted Eagle Owl.  Grey Tit will hopefully put in an appearance.

Day 3, 8 March 2015: we’ll look for Springbok area specials in the early morning before embarking on a long but amazingly scenic drive via Steinkopf to Port Nolloth and the cool, misty, coastal Namib Desert. We usually head 50 km north of Port Nolloth where Barlow’s Lark and Cape Long-billed Lark are usually pretty easy to locate except we have to make photo-stops short as this is a restricted diamond area. En route, we descend a wonderful escarpment which is often good for Damara/Black-headed Canary (currently lumped – usually in this area it is the “Damara” form with the large white eye-stripe, but on this Northern Cape Lark tour with luck we might find mixed flocks of both forms.  We return to Springbok for a second night hopefully inside Goegap Nature Reserve.

Day 4, 9 March 2015: hopefully with some highly localized birds under our belts, and a stack of more common birds too, we now head to Poffadder to clean up on the difficult birds. Sclater’s Lark can usually be found on the outskirts of this sleepy town, but if not then we might have to detour far the south-east. This is often a “heat of the day” bird that we patiently wait for at windmills/water spots. It’s nomadic and unpredictable.

Day 5, 10 March 2015: since we’ll plan on two nights in Pofadder, we should have time for an exciting drive (sometimes on a rather corrugated road that can take a few hours) past a Kokerboom (Quiver Tree) Forest and a myriad other habitats in this surprisingly varied (scenically) part of the world, all the way to the Orange River. Here, along the Namibian border, we usually find Rosy-faced Lovebird in the palms, and other nice species such as Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and many others at the oasis this large river forms.

Day 6, 11 March 2015: hopefully we won’t have missed any species so we can leave early on our marathon drive back to Jo’burg.

And by the way, just a couple of our new and “to come” tours are Bulgaria/Romania (2015 onwards), Austria/Hungary (2015 onwards), Greece (2015 onwards) and Alaska (2016 onwards).

Please do follow us on:

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….and check our blog which we generally post to once every two weeks approximately:


Good Birding, from the Birding Ecotours team! 

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