Arxiu de la categoria: Tours & Itineraries Reports

Spain Tour 2019

Tour Participants: 5

Dates: From April 15th to April 26th, 2019

Number of species of birds seen: 227

 

Summary

During the tour the temperature ranged from 02ºC to 29ºC. We recorded 7 mammal species, over 227 species of birds and 3 species of reptiles. The species mentioned in the daily summaries are only some of those seen.

Day 1: Monday 15 April: Madrid to La Mancha Humeda and onto Extremadura.

Our trip begun with us meeting for a breakfast at our Hotel in Madrid. After meeting our local Guide and driver Carles we negotiated the Madrid traffic and made our way for the Navaesca lagoon and wetlands. As we left the city and headed into the Winelands and agricultural fields on route we enjoyed sightings of: Common Magpie, Black Kite, Common Wood Pigeon and Crested Lark.

Our first stop after a well deserved coffee break was Navaesca Lagoon south west of Madrid and here we enjoyed some amazing birding with highlights being: 50+ White-headed Duck, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Shelduck, Black-headed Gull, Ruff, Common Greenshank, European Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, Greylag Goose, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Red-crested Pochard, Little-ringed Plover and European Goldfinch to name a few. Luck was on our side this morning as we had really top cracking views of these species, we managed brief views of a Moustached Warbler but this unfortunately avoided us despite numerous attempts to relocate. We enjoyed our lunch watching the Whiskered Terns and had a good fly by sighting of a Mediterranean Gull.

White-headed Ducks (Oxyura leucocephala) are a scarce resident duck in Central Spain and along the Mediterranean coast. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

After lunch the wind picked up and bird activity died down so we made our way to the Extremadura region.  On our way to the Extremadura region we enjoyed road side sightings of: Booted Eagle, European Griffon Vulture, European Black Vulture, White Storks nesting, European Stonechat, Hawfinch, Western Marsh Harrier and Corn Bunting. At our accommodation in Extremaduta we enjoyed amazing next door birding including sightings of European Blue Tit, Black Kite, Red-rumped Swallow, Iberian Magpie, Common Cuckoo, Black-winged Kite, European Bee-eater, Mistle Thrush, Common Chaffinch, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, White Wagtail, and Booted Eagle.

We got daily great views on Black-winged Kites (Elanus caeruleus) during our stay in Extremadura. The fact that one pair nested in our accommodation grounds helped a bit 🙂 Image by Carles Oliver

What a great start to our tour as we enjoyed sunset over the snow capped Monfrague Mountains. Our dinner was enjoyed over a glass of red wine as we chatted about the excellent first day we have enjoyed. Also hearing common cuckoo call its characteristic cuckoo clock call again is always an enjoyable experience. We all slept well after a great day of birding.

 

Day 2: Tuesday 16 April.                             Monfragüe National Park.         

Our morning begun nice and early with breakfast at our lodge as we could hear the birds waking up. We could hear Common Cuckoo calling from the breakfast table, which is not to shabby. We made our way towards the open fields know to be a good spot for both Little and Great Bustards. Lady luck was on our side and one of the first birds we saw in the area was a stunning male Little Bustard which offered us excellent views and and a flight display- wow this was enjoyed by all as these birds are now critically endangered so getting good views of this male was enjoyed by all. Just as we thought what more could we ask for, we had an incredible sighting of a Great Bustard displaying, what a pleasure. After some scanning we found a lek of about 5 males displaying for one females attention, it’s was most comical and most enjoyable to watch this behavior. Other highlights included: female Montagu’s Harrier, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Skylark, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Whinchat, European Stonechat and Red-legged Partridge.

A quick coffee stop was enjoyed overlooking the Gredos mountain range, here we enjoyed a spectacular sighting of both Spainish Imperial Eagle and Cinereous Vulture flying right over us and giving us amazing views. On route to Monfragüe National Park we enjoyed sightings of: European Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Great Tit, Eurasian Wren, Eurasian Blackcap, Woodlark, Spanish Sparrow, Lesser spotted Woodpecker and we hade a brilliant sighting of Western Orphean Warbler- sometimes a difficult bird to see!. As we enjoyed our lunch in the Oak fields we were treated to stunning views of a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers– it was most enjoyable to watch their behavior and antics. As we made our way into Monfragüe we enjoyed a cracking sighting of a Short-toed Snake Eagle with a snake in its mouth as it flew by and over us.

Little Bustard (Tetrix tetrix) showing really well in our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

 

The Monfragüe National Park is a special protected area for Birdlife in Spain and we enjoyed some wonderful sightings of the Griffon Vultures flying over us and in-front of us. Other top sightings included: Cinereous Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Subalpine Warbler, Crag Marting, Peregrine Falcon and Black Stork. It was truly an amazing day birding in Extremadura and we all had a wonderful and busy day. As we made our way back to our accommodation we all chatted about the various sightings we enjoyed and also got chatting about the various conservation efforts been made in Europe to protect birds.

 

Day 3: Wednesday 17 April.                            The Caceres Plains and Arrocampo wetlands.                                                                                                               

Our day started nice and early with breakfast and coffee as we got ready for another exciting day of birding in Spain. We made our way to Campo Lugar to improve our views of Great Bustard. On route in the town of Campo Lugar we had great views of Pallid Swift. In the grasslands we were rewarded with excellent views of Great Bustard which was enjoyed by all. Other highlights included: Gull-billed Tern, Northern Raven and Calandra Lark.

In the town we enjoyed a lovely coffee in a small Spanish coffee shop and were treated to exceptional views of Lesser Kestrel colony on a tower, we also had a good view of our first Iberian Grey Shrike of the trip. After our coffee stop we made our way to check the nest boxes put up for the European Rollers and we had good views of the birds nesting and even mating- these are incredible birds that make an extraordinary migration from Southern Europe to Southern Africa and its amazing to see the birds in Spain that we see in Southern Africa. We also enjoyed sightings of Eurasian Hoopoe and Iberian Grey Shrike.

One of the many Great Bustards (Otis tarda) that we enjoyed in Extremadura. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way to Alcollarin Dam to see which migrant water birds would be around and enjoy our lunch. Our day just got better and better from this point and we enjoyed some incredible birding at the dam and we had sightings of: Collared Practincole, Northern Lapwing, Common Ringed Plover, Common Kingfisher, Temminck’s Stint, Kentish Plover, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Spoonbill and Black Tern– this is some incredible birding for Southern Europe and everyone enjoyed the avian gems on show. Just as we thought things could not get better we had a lovely sighting of two European Otters swimming in water in front of this- truly amazing and a mammal lifer for all on the trip. As we travelled we chatted about our great day and I enjoyed learning from Larry A about North America and the great birding he enjoys in the State of California. It was also intresting to hear from Larry how the Black Tern in the States is a different tern to the one we have just seen in Spain. Larry also enjoyed the sighting of the Temminck’s Stint as it was a bird he wanted to see.

Spanish Magpie (Cyanopica coocki), a must-seen endemic to get when birding in Southern Spain and Portugal. Image by Carles Oliver

The views of about 30 Collared Practincoles impressed Pam as they flew over head. We enjoyed some down time at the accommodation before dinner and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and some good Spanish wine as we chatted about our wonderful day, birding stories and finished off our listing.

Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) in the grasslands near Campo Lugar. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 4: Thursady. 18 April.           Extremadura to the the Ebro Valley.

Our day begun a little earlier than normal as we decided we would check out the Arrocampo wetlands before moving onto the Ebro valley. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast before heading to the wetlands. Lady Luck was on our side and as we arrived at the wetland and made our way to the hide, we had a great sighting of a male and female Ferruginous Duck fly up and give us brilliant views of this hard to see species of Duck in Europe. It’s estimated that there are about 7 pairs left of these birds in Iberia so seeing a pair was really exciting and enjoyed by the whole group. The birds also decided to come and land on the pond in front of us and we got some really good views of this beautiful duck. Other highlights at the wetlands included: a Purple Heron, Little Bitten, Western Swamphen, Savi’s Warbler, Sand Martin and we unfortunately only managed to hear Water Rail. We were soon back on the road and heading for the Ebro Valley, today was set aside as a day of travel and we had a good 5 hours drive to get to the Ebro Valley and our accommodation.

European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) were a common view in several areas along this tour. Image by Carles Oliver

On the way we had panned a stop to try and find Bluethroat and Rufous-tailed Thrush but unfortunately the weather was not playing along and we had cold and rainy weather high up in the mountains with temperature dropping to 3 degrees Celsius- not ideal for bird watching. We did however get sightings of: European Serin, Eurasian Jay and Eurasian Robin. Our efforts were also rewarded with a wonderful sighting of a Common Salamander- Salamandra salamandra. This was a great find and this amphibian gem was enjoyed by the group, especially by Pam and myself.

We made our way to the Ebro Valley slowly as most of the drive was in the pouring rain, which did not help our birding efforts. As we approached our accommodation we went to the site where Dupont’s Lark occurs and tried our luck in locating this sought after species. Unfortunately the weather didn’t help us and the gusting wild and cold made finding the bird impossible. We did however enjoy views of a Golden Eagle hunting European Rabbits. We enjoyed a quick shower and freshen up before enjoying a lovely dinner together and a good nights rest.

Day 5: Friday 19 April.              Ebro Valley and transfer to Pyrenees.

Our morning begun nice and early so we could get out and try for the Dupont’s Lark again. After breakfast we headed for the area we had been in the previous day searching for the Lark and our luck changed for the better. With the weather being calm and cool with no rain and wind we knew this was our best chance to see the bird. Lady Luck again was on our side and within 30 minutes we had spectacular views on a male Dupont’s Lark– this was just great and made up for our efforts from yesterday. The bird performed well and we could all enjoy this beauty. Larry was particularly chuffed as he had thought we would not see the bird- patience and perseverance paid off.

Other highlights for the morning included: Greater Short-toed Lark, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, European Turtle Dove, Calandra Lark, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Carrion Crow and Willow Warbler. After a short coffee break we made our way to an area to try and improve our views of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and this we did with 5 birds showing well in the scopes- we then got treated to a fly by and all had awesome views of these magnificent birds. Another highlight was a male Pallied Harrier flying over the grasslands which we all managed to get good views of- this species is rare in Spain and was a good record for the tour.

In the tour we were lucky and enjoyed multiple and long views on Dupont’s Larks (Chersophilus duponti) in the wonderful steppes close to Codo. Image by Carles Oliver

We stopped to enjoy some of Spain’s old castles and made our way to lunch in the town of Bujaraloz and after a wonderful lunch enjoyed some birding at a nearby pond with us seeing: Green Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and Northern Shoveler. We made our way onto the Pyrenees and our accommodation. A strategical stop was made at a spot to try and find Black Wheatear and this paid off with us getting some good views on a pair, we also enjoyed sightings of good numbers of Griffon Vultures as well as Thekla Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Spectacled Warbler. We made our way into the Pyrenees Mountains and the birding that lay ahead of us was off the charts with us getting good views of Long-tailed Tit, Egyptian Vulture, Bearded Vulture and a male Wallcreeper moving along the rock face, this was a magical end for this day, probably one of the best days during the tour!

This male Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) delighted us with great, but a bit distant views, just in our first stop into the Pyrenees. Image by Carles Oliver

We quickly freshened up and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at our accommodation at, the foot hills of the Pyrenees. What a brilliant day.

 

Day 6: Saturday 20 April.                                                 The Pyrenees.

Our morning once again begun nice and early so we could get into the high mountains of the Pyrenees and target some of the special birds of the high altitudinal areas. After a lovely home cooked breakfast we made our way to the Portalet mountain pass at about 2000m above sea level. We had a few high mountain birds to target.

Not really an average sight on Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Image by Carles Oliver

The snow capped mountains and the scenery was absolutely spectacular and we enjoyed taking in the magnificent part of Spain before crossing into France. Soon after entering France we enjoyed some good birding with us getting good views of: Bearded Vulture, Northern Wheatear, Red Kite, Yellowhammer, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor which put on a wonderful display. We also enjoyed the antics of the Alpine Marmots on the cliffs. We also had spectacular close up views of both Alpine and Red-billed Chough. What a great morning of birding.

Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) showing superbly during our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

We enjoyed launch overlooking the snow capped mountains and made our way further into France to continue our birding and try for the elusive White-backed Woodpecker- we unfortunately only could hear this bird and could not get any views on the species, we did however enjoy good views of: Ring Ouzel, Tree Pipit, Common Firecrest, Citril Finch– a good bird to see and with exceptional views which made Larry’s day, Eurasian Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and a Song Thrush displaying for us- all in all some good birding. We made our way back up the Pyrenees through the maze of tunnels and into Spain to get to our accommodation in time for a lovely home cooked traditional meal. This is exactly what the group needed and we all had a well deserved nights rest after another good days birding.

The very scarce and located Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conscipillata) was really showy in the early afternoon. Image: Carles Oliver

 

Day 7: Sunday 21 April.                                                   The Pyrenees.

Another early start was on the cards for us in order to get out to the San Juan de La Monastery to try for the elusive Black Woodpecker. A quick walk around our accommodation after our lovely breakfast yielded us good views of Common Rock Sparrow– our first bird for the day and new for the trip. At the monastery luck was on our side and we managed to get several views of the hard to find Black Woodpecker. We also enjoyed very close up views of: Eurasian Treecreeper, Eurasian Crested Tit, Coal Tit and Eurasian Jay.

After a long search, we finally managed great looks on this Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris). Image by Carles Oliver

Despite the rather poor light, Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) gave us great sights up in the Pyrenees. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way further into the Pyrenees towards Echo valley. Roadside birding included Griffon Vultures, a Booted Eagle being mobbed by a Red Kites and Egyptian Vulture. We headed high up into the mountains to our lunch stop and while having lunch enjoyed great sightings of Dunnock, European Robin and Coal Tit. We birded the area after lunch and had some really good birding with highlights being Citril Finch, Cirl Bunting, White-throated Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and Common Chiffchaff. We all had some time to relax before dinner and enjoyed another wonderful home cooked meal by our host. The place we are staying is a traditional Spanish farm house that was built in the 1700s and had been tastefully upgraded and gives a lovely warm feel to it. The host is so welcoming and Larry S, Larry A, Pam and I really enjoyed staying here. The warm hospitality and traditional home cooked meals were welcomed and enjoyed by all. We all had a good nights rest after another great days birding in the Pyrenees.

 

Day 8: Monday 22 April.                                  Lleida Steppes.

We had a slightly earlier start today so we could get into the lower Step areas and Open fields of the lower Pyrenees to target a few birds we had missed. After a lovely home cooked breakfast we said our goodbyes to our wonderful host and headed out. The area in which we started our birding has some of the best Steppes and open grassland in Spain and as soon as we got into the area we had a wonderful sighting of a Short-eared Owl that was perched and proceeded to give us a wonderful fly by- a highlight for all on the tour and a great start.

We enjoyed some good birding with highlights being: Little Owl, Black-eared Wheatear, Calandra Lark, Common Redstart, Tawny Pipit, Whinchat, Thekla, Greater-short Toed and Lesser-short Toed Larks. The hard scan around pay off when we finally got 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos feeding in an open field. We managed to get long and wonderful views on both birds on the ground, but we could not get too much close of them since they were feeding on a sensitive field, nesting ground for Sandgrouses and Larks. After a slight drive and a short coffee stop we stopped along a small stream and enjoyed some more birding with our first views of: Eurasian Golden Oriole, Wood Warbler, Common Nightingale and Alpine Swift. We also had some really good views of Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting.

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) in a late evening sight that included some great vocalisation. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way further south to Fraga, just outside or Lleida and checked into our accommodation for the night. We decided to take a slight afternoon break as tonight we are going to take a night drive and target some of the nocturnal birds in the area. We all deserved the slight bit of downtime and after a slightly earlier dinner went off into the late afternoon and night to see what nocturnal birds we could find. Luck was once again on our side and we had an incredible night drive with us getting great views of Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Western Barn Owl and Eurasian Scops Owl. We were very lucky to get great views of all of these species and it made it an Owltastic day, with us seeing 5 species of owl in the day, that being: Short-eared Owl, Little Owl, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Western Barn Owl and Eurasian Scops Owl. We all enjoyed a good nites rest after another great days birding.

 

Day 9: Tuesday 23 April.                                       Lleida to Ebro Delta.

Another early start was on the cards for this morning so we could make our way to the Ebro Delta but still try and connect with a few birds we need in the area. After a lovely breakfast we were soon on the road and heading for the flowing step landscape just outside of Lleida. The break in the rain meant we could try see what birds were active and we had some good sightings with highlights being: Common Nightingale– finally some good views, Eurasian Hobby, Ortolan Bunting, Subalpine Warbler– great views, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rock Sparrow and improved views of  Eurasian Jay.

Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) is a scarce migratory bird in Catalonia. Due to a huge irruption, during the tour we enjoyed a good number of them. Image by Carles Oliver

A stop along the nearby stream yielded us with a great sighting of Hawfinch- a difficult and tough bird to see, and we got good views. We soon were back on the road, heading for the Mediterranean coast. A quick lunch stop was enjoyed at a local tapas bar before making our way to a spot to try for Dartford Warbler– luck was on our side and we enjoyed good views on a pair of birds and also got some good views on a Common Whitethroat– the first for the trip. We soon moved onto a local wetland to check for any migrating birds and got rewarded with good views of Wood Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

We made our way down to the coast and arrived at the Ebro Delta in the late afternoon to some perfect weather conditions and we got treated to some exceptional and exciting birding. We enjoyed views of: Curlew Sandpiper( breeding plumage), Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Dunlin, Common Shelduck, Garganey, Western Osprey and Bar-tailed Godwit in breeding plumage which was enjoyed by all as no one had seen the bird before in breeding dress.

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) in almost full summer plomage at Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

As we left the bay we had the most incredible sightings of Audouin’s Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull and Eurasian Curlew all sitting in the open offering excellent photo opportunities and also gave us a chance to compare the different Gills next to each other and therefore learn how to ID them. Both Larry’s enjoyed this opportunity. We made our way to our accommodation close to the Ebro Delta, settled in and had a lovely dinner talking about our great day and completing our lists. We all had a good nites rest after another great day.

 

Day 10: Wednsday 24 April.                                                  Ebro Delta.

We begun our day once again with an early start and a lovely breakfast and then headed out to explore the Ebro Delta and surrounds for the day. A walk around our accommodation yielded us sightings of Black-crowned Night Heron, Mediterranean Flycatcher (a really good bird to have in Catalonia since is nesting in the islands of the Western Mediterranean), European Pied Flycatcher and Little Bittern. We made our way north into the Delta to the point and had some really good birding with highlights being: Icterine Warbler, Western Yellow Wagtail, Purple Heron, Collared Pratincole and Red-crested Pochard. Unfortunately the wind picked up badly and this halted our birding, we decided to stop for a coffee break and try plan B.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorac nycticorax), a common nesting heron at Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla), a wonderful sight close to Ebro Delta! Image by Carles Oliver

We did have some excitement in one of the Subalpine Warblers we saw and photographed as we thought it could have been the recently split- Moltoni’s Warbler but after extensive checking and sending pics to experts we decided that is was a Western Subalpine Warbler. We also enjoyed watching a flock of about 50 Yellow Wagtails in a field close to the car and this gave us a chance to study the different races and we decided we have races from Italy, Iberia, NW Africa and Central Europe all in one spot- interesting stuff which was enjoyed by all but especially Larry S as he could also photograph the birds well. Our plan B kicked into place and we decided to enjoy lunch in a near by hide and boy did this work out as we had some exceptional birding which included: Little Stint, Baillon’s Crake, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Common Snipe and Wood Sandpiper. What a lunch stop!

Ebro Delta is always a guarantee and this time provided with really close views on Collared Pratincoles (Glareola pratincola). Image by Carles Oliver

The biggest surprise of our lunch was the Jack Snipe that showed up and was on display feeding right in front the hide offering exceptional views- this was truly amazing as this is a hard bird to see and to see it so well was amazing. The bird was also a lifer for all on the trip. We decided to take a slight break from the wind before heading out again in the late afternoon. The afternoon was enjoyed coming to grips with the different Gulls and Terns of the area, and we enjoyed the late afternoon watching the terns coming into roost, we enjoyed good sightings of Caspian, Little and Whiskered Terns. We enjoyed a lovely traditional dinner at the lodge while we chatted about the excitimng day and also enjoyed working through our checklists and rounding off another great day. After dinner we enjoyed a slight walk around the accommodation and got good views of the nesting Eurasian Scops Owl.

And this Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minimus) was probably the most celebrated bird of the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Although this Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) moulting to summer plogame (see the Black center in the wing feathers) was also a hit! Image by Carles Oliver

 

Day 11: Thursday 25 April.                         Ebro Delta and Tortosa Beseit Natural Park.                                                                                                                      

We started our day once again nice and early with a lovely breakfast before heading out for some birding. The weather looked promising and we enjoyed great views of Black-crowned Night Heron at our accommodation. We made our way into the Delta and had a good sighting of Common Reed Bunting at the local wetland, the species we saw is actually Iberian Reed Bunting, the race is know as Witherbyi and could in the close future become a new split and species so it was really good to get good scope views on this endangered species. Other highlights included: Common Shelduck, Caspian Tern, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Great Reed Warbler and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) controlling its territory from an advantatged point. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way off the Delta towards Tortosa Beseit Natural Park to try a spot we know of for Bonelli’s Eagle. Luck was on our side and we arrived at the nesting area and had great views of the pair sitting up on the rocks, we also managed to get great scope views on a chick sitting on a neat nest- wow what a great sighting of this endangered Eagle. We made our way down into the Delta for lunch and had some good road side sightings of Short-toed Snake Eagle and Booted Eagle. Just before we lunch we got lucky and had a Red-footed Falcon fly by us while driving and we managed to relocate the bird and have exceptional views. The bird was flying and hawking insects and also perched close to us. We enjoyed lunch in the field and had our first European Honey Buzzard for the trip fly pass and offer decent views.

Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), again a scarce migratory bird in Catalonia that we were lucky yo enjoy in Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

We decided to take a short break before heading out in the afternoon to do some shore birding. Our afternoon birding was a great success with us enjoying some top birding at one of the local hides. Highlights at the hide included: Melodious Warbler, Water Rail, Eurasian Spoonbill, Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Willow Warbler and fabulous views of the Jack Snipe in-front of us in the open purring on a show. We had a fabulous sunset over the water with the Greater Flamingoes and Pied Avocets offering us great shots as we got the reflections off the water- what an incredible way to spend our last evening on tour. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and chatted about the great day and tour we have had and how it’s sad that it’s already over. We all enjoyed the wine on offer and took a short walk outside to locate the resident Eurasian Scops Owl and we all have good views of the bird on the nest box. We all have a good nites rest after another great day.

Melodious Warbler (Hyppolais polyglotta) showed really in Ebro Delta along with its much scarcer relative Icterine Warbler (Hyppolais icterina). Image by Carles Oliver

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops) provided with great sights in our accommodation at Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Day 12: Friday 26 April.                             Ebro Delta to Barcelona via Llobregat Delta.                                                                                                                     

Our final day of the tour started with a lovely breakfast and a walk around our accommodation. The weather was juts perfect for our last day and our walk after breakfast rewarded us with great views of a Garden Warbler which was new for the trip. We were soon on the road and made a short stop along the coast to scan for sea birds and this rewarded us with scope views of a Mediterranean Storm Petrel, closer to the shore we enjoyed views of Lesser Black-backed Gull and a European Shag sitting on the rocks giving us wonderful views.

Mediterranean Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii), a splitable race to take in count. Image by Carles Oliver

Soon we were back on the road towards Barcelona and the Llobregat Delta to see what we could find. We decided to bypass Barcelona and spend some time at the Llobregat Delta before ending the trip later in the afternoon in Barcelona. A stragic stop just outside of the Llobregat Delta rewarded us with good sightings of a pair of Iberian Green Woodpeckers; we got some really good views of these birds. We also enjoyed views of Monk and Rose-ringed Parakeet. Larry S took some time to enjoy and photograph the Common Swifts flying over head. We moved onto the Delta to enjoy our lunch in one of the bird hides. This worked our really well and we enjoyed some good views of: Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Collared Pratincole, Ferruginous Duck, Common Shelduck, Ruff, Common Greenshank and Common Redshank. What a way to enjoy our final lunch of the tour. We then knew we had to make our way into the hussel and bussel of Barcelona City to get to our hotel for the night.

After negotiating the Barcelona traffic we made it to our hotel in the city center and it was time to say our goodbyes after an incredible birding trip through the country of Spain. It’s always sad saying bye to lovely guests like Larry S, Pam and Larry A and it’s was an end to an incredible tour. We had a great time together, the trip was enjoyed by all and I had a great time. Our goodbyes were said and it’s always rewarding to have guests say they loved the tour and will back with us again. I would like to thank Larry S, Pam and Larry A for a wonderful trip, for the Enthusiasm, patience and all the laughs and good times we enjoyed.

And this was the end of the trip. Please contact us for more birding in Spain and other countries by info@barcelonabirdingpoint.com or visit our website with plenty of information about, http://www.barcelonabirdingpoint.com

 

 

 

Anuncis

Finland & Finnmark Birding Tour 2018 Trip Report

Dates: 11th June to 20th June, 2018

Tour participants: 4

 

Day 1. As usual in this tour, all participants assembled at Helsinki Airport for an afternoon flight to Ivalo. After a quiet flight we landed in Ivalo, deep inside Arctic Finland late in the afternoon and headed directly to our accommodation in a cold and rainy weather. After dinner we went for short walk around and connected with some common birds. Here we got our firsts Yellowhammers singing but also Fieldfares and Redwings. A nearby lake offered also good views on Tufted Ducks and a pair of Goldeneyes.

Day 2. We wake up again in a cold, wet morning with only 4ºC. An early start was mandatory to catch up with some of the key species we were looking for during our techinically first day of the tour. After some pre-breakfast in our accommodation we drove some miles South of Ivalo, where a patch of mature forest host some of the main targets in the tour. We left the highway and started exploring the canopies in search of some birds. Everything was really quiet as a slim rain was falling down. We drove some miles, checking some corners with little result but, at one point of the lane we stop the van as one wonderful female Capercaillie was standing up by the lane, barely 10 metres away of the van and totally in the out! We enjoyed very much of that view. We slowly went a bit back, and as not raining any more we could enjoy with the view of the bird really long. The wonderful bird was studying as for a pair of minutes and then slowly started to move into the forest walking on a bare slope. We still had time for improve the view and the shots as the bird stoped a last time to take a last glance on us before disappearing in the vegetation.

This female Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) was really close to be the first bird of the tour. Image by tour leader: Carles Oliver

Absolutely amazed of having a Capercaillie as one of the first birds of the trip we kept driving up. Here there is a moment when the forest become really mature, having good old trees around. We parked the car and walked around. Bramblings were singing around and a Common Snipe was flying over. Here, we had also some common birds in this kind of habitat including Tree Pipits, Redwings, Willow Warblers and Common Cuckoo flying over. Bramblings were especially active that morning and several males were singing, flying around and dispalyinhg. We just walked a bit along a path slightly going up the slope. Here we had a bird flying away from us, and as briefly stopped, we discovered a wondeful Ring Ouzel that unfortunately almost inmediatly took off and disappeared inside the forest. From the top of the slope we could scan around and from there we got a male Capercaillie standing up in the middle of the path, some 400 metres away from us! What a wonderful view. Unfortunately the bird was fast in disappear and, despite our efforts, we could not relocate that massive grouse. We kept scanning and got lucky since 3 Siberian Jays came out of the forest and gave us wonderful views while feeding on the top of the trees and moving aroung in the canopies. Few metres away, a wonderful Siberian Tit was calling so we took advantage and enjoy wonderful views.

Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus) is one of the main targets for many birdwatchers visiting Finland. In 2018 there were many of them! Image by Carles Oliver

After such a wonderful start we decided to drive a bit along the tracks. It was still cold and cloudy but with no rain for long. Along the driving we got some Green Sandpipers singing here and a pair of Greenshanks. Common Snipes look like being everywhere. After some kilometers we enjoyed another wonderful moment as one male Black Grouse was standing inside the forest, 20 metres away from the minibus! We again enjoyed walk-away views on the bird, having different angles on it so everybody could enjoy the bird. Suddenly, a second bird appeared from a small ditch in the forest, feeding on the berries. This second male had not see us at all and when saw us flew us, closely followed by the first bird. Wonderful! Black Grouse is a quite difficult bird to get in June and we were not expecting to see this species along the tour at all! We still had a pair of stops along the track, having a total of 5 more Siberian Tits along this way!!

Black Grouse (Tetrix tetrix) is a bird that we don’t expect to see alobg the trip, but this year got incredible views! Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after this wonderful start we went for coofee before driving South for some more birding. After some nice and warm coffee we started our transfer South towards Oulu, but before we still had a short stop not far away from the highway, since one pair of Northern Hawk Owl had been seen around. We did a short walk around, doing an accurate scanning. Northern Hawk Owls use to stop quite in the out, many times on tree tops, but they also can be hard to find out. After about half an hour of scanning we got nothing and we were really about to withdraw when one of the tour participants found a wonderful young Northern Hawk Owl standing up in the middle of one garden. It was a quite grow up chick, already capable to do a short flight… We all have wonderful views on the bird. Some minutes later we managed to find a second chick, deep inside the garden. Suddenly a Great Spotted Woodpecker called around and the shape of an adult Northern Haw Owl passed above us to stop in a close wire, allowing really good views. We all enjoyed very much of this moment. The adult was really garding the area so we went a bit away to make them feel better. After some minutes the adult came closer to the garden and stopped in a tree top nearby. It was moment for us to leave and keep moving South.

Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula), one of the most sought-after birds of the trip. Images by Carles Oliver

 

 

Glad with the wonderful morning we had all enjoyed, the transfer South was really pleasant. We did some stops in the way, anyway. The first exploration of he tour in a typical wader nesting place was quite productive. We got (distant) views on 2 Common Cranes, some summer plomaged European Golden Plovers, Reed Buntings singing, several Meadow Pipits and 2 Whooper Swans. The second stop was a bit less productive: 1 Western Osprey flying around plus a really interesting Little Bunting singing in the low rank vegetation! We scanned hard trying to find this really bird but unfortunately we never found it… The transfer also produced some typical roadside birds in the way of 1 White-tailed Eagle, Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Once in our accommodation we had a good rest before having dinner. After dinner we took advantage of the wonderful light outside so went for a short walk. In the fields, some Rooks were moving here and there, being this species quite scarce in Finland. Skylarks and Reed Buntings were singing and we enjoyed of wonderful views in a pair of Pied Flycatchers nesting inmediatly around the parking place. 1 Common Rosefinch was also singing from the top of a tree, but didn’t allow any photo… We went then for a short walk in a close marsh. There we had wonderful views on some male Ruff showing stunning summer plomages, moving in the tall grass. Common Snipes were displaying all around and a Lesser Whitethroat showed briefly inside a bush.

A short walk introduced us until a platform. In front of us had a wonderful view on Liminganlahti estuary. Flocks of Pintails were in the marshes. Wigeons, Eurasian Teals and Whooper Swans were all common. More distant, a huge flock of 300+ Common Cranes were roosting in the marshy area. Little Gulls were flying over in what was a wonderful scene to be admired! Several waders were moving around. Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers and Eurasian Curlews were spotted. Also a wonderful flock of 20+ Spotted Redshanks in wonderful summer plomage! This is species is the one which is leaving before the nesting areas, located more to the North. The flock we saw were probably males already in their way South! Back in the marshes, a proper scanning revealed a Short-eared Owl flying over, being “joined” by 2 Hooded Crows.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) is a common breeder in Liminganlahti. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a wonderful end of the day we just came back to our accommodation for a good rest.

Day 3. We wake up with in a wonderful sunny morning and went off our accommodation for an early morning birding. Our first goal was to explore a pair of lagoons offering potential good birds. In the short transfer to the lagoons we had some nice birds. 100+ Common Cranes were feeding in a farmland along with Northern Lapwings and Eurasian Curlews. In the highway South of Oulu we got a wonderful male Pallid Harrier flying over, something quite unexpected and celebrated.

Hundreds of Common Cranes were seen around Liminganlahti. Image by Carles Oliver

Our first stop was in a lagoon. A fast scanning produced Common Scoter along with Goldeneyes. Distant Whooper Swans were also noticed. A second scanning produced good views on 4 wonderful Velvet Scoters and also the only 2 Goldcrests of the trip in the trees around the lagoon. Our second stop was also quite successful. Parked by a busy road we searched in a pair of ponds. We didn’t wait long since 1 Terek’s Sandpiper flew inmediatly in front of us producing really nice views! After a little while, the bird went to the opposite side of the lagoon but then we got 2 more Terek’s close enough to enjoy good views and some more shots! This was absolutely great since Terek’s Sandpiper has become really rare in Finland with only a handful of pairs around Oulu! Around the place of the Terek’s we got other nice birds including Common Whitethroat and Common Rosefinch.

Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) has become extremely scarce in Finland. Image by Carles Oliver

Satisfied for this rather unexpected success we scanned a bit around and got some Sedge Warblers in a nearby reedbed. The water body and shores around were having Common Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank and Eurasian Teals. Before going to forest, we still had some time check the estuary itself, where we got several Little Gulls moving, a distant Greylag Geese, Western Osprey, and the very first Arctic Tern of the tour was delighting us with good views.

After such a great start of the day we moved to check for some owls. Not far away from Oulu there are several locations for many of the species living in the country. We first went to a place for Eurasian Pygmy Owl, located on a mature spruce patch. After few scanning we got absolutely amazing views on the bird as it was perched only three metres away from us. We enjoy it long views on this wonderful tiny owl and we left the place without disturbing it!

Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) delighted us with wonderful views deep in a mature forest. Image by Carles Oliver

We then went to check a place for Ural Owl but we had no luck and the nest was empty…No signal at all on this bird at the location. But around there it was also a nest of Great Grey Owl so went to try this bird. In the way, we had 3 Eurasian Woodcocks flying from the lane and 1 Eurasian Nuthatch showing really well as we parked the mini bus. We spend quite a long time looking for the nest this massive arctic owl but we finally got lucky and enjoyed incredible views on the Great Grey Owl lying on the nest. The nest was located in a really low location so we were not expecting to see the bird that close!! We still had some time looking for the pair of the Great Grey Owl as it had to be roosting nearby but despite our efforts we could not find it at all.

This Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) was always vigilant to our movements. We never came closer and failed to find the male, probably nearby. Image by Carles Oliver

After a short stop to have some coffee we kept going our route. A nearby place was having a pair of nest boxes for Tengmalm’s Owl so we went to check. The first nest box was damaged so could not host anything. Second nest box was apparently in good conditions but looked like having no owls inside. We neither saw any signal of activity below the nest box. We started the way back to the van when a several calls of Tits and Blackbirds came from the direction of the nest box. We fastly went to check and found a wonderful Tengmalm’s Owl stiking its head out of the nest box! What a wonderful sight, especially after thinking we were going to miss this bird!!! We had good views on the bird for a pair of minutes, when it went down in the whole and disappear. Happy after another wonderful sight we came back to mini bus.

Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus), probably the most difficult owl in Europe, was offering rather typical views while blocking the entrance of its nest. Image by Carles Oliver

In the way we had good views on 2 Spotted Flycatchers and had 2 Song Thrushes flying as well as Eurasian Treecreeper. In a nearby field, a Common Kestrel was hunting. We still had plenty of time so we went on driving for a way until a new place where to try Ural Owl. And this time we got lucky.

A Scottish Pine forest surrounded by farmlands is hosting a nest box. In our short walk until the area Yellowhammers and Tree Pipits were singing all around. Eurasian Jay was also seen, being the only was sight of the bird in the tour! Once in the place, we proceed with a proper scanning around. We got 1 Eurasian Treecreeper but little more out of that. About to leave the area, we did a last, desperate scanning and then we got a wonderful adult Ural Owl standing deep inside the forest!

The massive owl was a wonderful view inside the deep canopy and could enjoy the bird long. We had time to scan around and actually found a grown chick of Ural Owl closer to us, inside an area of young trees. This was already wonderful and really celebrated in the group! After enjoying the birds a good while we went back to the minibus to keep going on.

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) proved to be, once more, a tricky bird. Image by Carles Oliver

 

We had good views on a passing Pallid Harrier in the early morning while driving towards Oulu so we decided to go back to that area and scan for eventually have better views. In the way, we got excellent views on Black-tailed Godwits in one of the very few nesting places in Finland! Once in the place we scanned the large fields and we fastly got noto ne but 2 males Pallid Harriers in diferent areas of the field! One of the birds moved our way and we had chances for some nice shots, despite the wind! 2 Short-eared Owls were also hunting in the area and were a nice add to our day list (5 owls in a day, not bad at all!).

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a scarce nesting bird in Finland. Best populations to be found around Oulu. Image by Carles Oliver

 

It is a poor imatge but views on Pallid Harriers (Circus macrourus) were superb. Image by Carles Oliver

After this wonderful day we just had a 90 minutes transfer to Kuusamo. In the way we had first views on Black-throated Divers in splendid summer plomage. Once where arrived to the hotel we went for a good dinner and a long rest.

Day 3. This day we were concentrated around Kuusamo, where a number of key species can be seen. We had a really early start to look for Grouses. We drove around expecting to connect with some of them but we were unlucky that morning and we could not find any. We did a number of stops and enoyed good views in both Smew and Surf Scoter. Goldeneyes and Tufted Ducks were widespread. While enjoying one male Surf Scoter we got 2 Siberian Jays moving really close to our minibus and a pair of flocks of Common Crossbills feeding around and the common view of Mealy Redpolls flying around.

Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus) can be really tame, once you find them! Image by Carles Oliver

We then went to explore Parikaala, one of the best places where to try Red-flanked Bluetail. Just arrived to the parking place we got a good views on a small flock of Parrot Crossbills moving up in the canopies. A walk around produced good views on Tree Pipits as well as the only one European Crested Tit of the trip! In our walk we were joined by the distant call of a Black-throated Diver and the display flights of Wood Sandpipers. After some walk we started looking for Hazel Grouses in one of their favourite corners. We carefully scanned around hoping to see the bird grazing or resting on a tree branch, No results until the clear call of a male came to us. It was not specially far away. More scan. Little walk. The bird was calling a second time. We waited long in the place, hoping for a movement to come out from the canopie but, unfortunately, it never hapenned.

Few minutes later a different song came to us. 1 Red-flanked Bluetail was singing around. We scanned the tree tops around and got distant views on males singing from a tree top! We tried to get closer but far before we arrived the bird was down again….

 

We kept going up and enjoyed really good views in a pair of Bohemian Waxbills feeding on berries in a small tree. 1 Scandinavian Willow Tit passed by, calling, and god good but brief views on the bird. But then everything went fast because 1 Tree-toed Woodpecker was calling in the distance. We gather until the area where the bird was calling and scanned around. Nothing. Moved to small elevation giving us a good view from where to scan the area and then we got the bird in a tree and inmediatly took off flying to out left, allowing really good views in flight! The bird went away quite far so we walked dow and track the area. Its call came out several times but we never could reconnect with the bird…

Numbers of Bohemian Waxbills (Bombycilla garrulus) had dropped since our visit in 2017. We hardly saw 10 individuals in the whole trip. Image by Carles Oliver

We then decided to try again the corner where the Red-flanked Bluetail was singing and this time we were lucky as the bird showed up really well, singing out from the top of a tree. This area is normally having different males (we counted no less than 6 in 2017) but this year it appeared to be only one… Happy after this successful views we went the way back to the car. Around the parking place the flock of Parrot Crossbills were still visible alowing good views.

This was the only one Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) for us this year. Passerines overwintering in Asia proved to be really scarce. Image by Carles Oliver

After this productive morning we went for a good and early lunch and some rest. The afternoon came soon and before going for dinner we went for some birding not far from our accommodation. We were to enjoy some water birds in one of the many lakes near Kuusamo. Fieldfares, Hooded Crows and Redwings were all common views. The short track to the platform was having a close Little Bunting singing around and we were soon enjoying good views on this scarce bird!

This year we got intimate views on Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla) near Kuusamo. Image by Carles Oliver

From the platform we could enjoy Whooper Swans but also close views on Black-throated Divers, Goldeneyes and displaying Common Snipes.

Day 4. This day we had a really chilly and wet morning. Went to a different spruce area hoping for more Red-flanked Bluetails to be but, unfortunably was really windy. We only got some Bohemian Waxbills and 1 Scandinavian Willow Tit. Still, we decided to spend some more time by the road hoping for some activity. Song Thrush was singing and a Common Crossbills. A single Willow Warbler was singing in the canopy. Weather was stil cold and unfriendly but then we did lucky as suddenly 1 Three-toed Woodpecker passed by our side, allowing good views in flight and going inside the dense canopies! We scouted all the area around but the windy conditions were not the best to find anything on the trees. After some more time in this area we decide to leave for some warm coffee!

After a good warm coffee we just started moving North but stopping in a nice lake inmediatly North of Kuusamo. Once more we got excellent views on Whooper Swans, with Greenshanks and Reed Bunting singing around. 2 White-tailed Eagles were seen flying around and a small flock of Common Terns were feeding in the lake. Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Ducks were all seen but the bird that was really celebrated was one wonderful Red-necked Grebe in nesting plomage, showing really well by the opposite shore of the lake.

Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica) are a common view in Finish lakes. Image by Carles Oliver

Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) are the commonest ducks in most lakes, along with Tufted Ducks. Image by Carles Oliver

After this great stop we kept driving North for some 90 minutes, until we crossed a patch of wonderful ancient spruce forest. This is also a good place were to stop so we did so to take a look. Bramblings and Redwings were all around along with Tree Pipits. A pair of Bohemian Waxwings flew over and 1 Common Cuckoo was heard singing nearby. Many Willow Warblers were singing around, some of them really road by road. In the low vegetation in the left side of the road we got something bigger moving and we were grateful to see 3 Pine Grosbeaks feeding on berries few inches from the ground. The birds came down to the road picking on the dart. The birds allowed us to come closer and we got excellent views in on them three bu thre group really enjoyed the male, showing really nice colours.

A small flock of Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator) was feeding on dart in a minor road. Image by Carles Oliver

Back to the car we kept moving and scanning. Some more miles North we had to stop again, this time because of a small flock of Parrot Crossbills feeding also on the dart! After these happy findings we kept driving North for a pair of hours to arrive back to Ivalo, where we sleeping some miles of the town.

Day 5. This day we went to explore some bog areas for waders West of Ivalo. Here large areas are occupied by shallow water marshes. The dense vegetation around hosts several interesting species. We arrived early morning and scan around. Some really nice Wood Sandpipers were singing and displaying around and the sound o the displaying Common Snipes were constant. Some Mealy Redpolls passed by, calling. Then a small bird flew from the grass around to end a close tree and we found ourselves enjoying the very first Red-throated Pipit of the trip. The bird allowed good views, despite being a bit inside a small tree. Happy after this good start we kept scanning and found a Jack Snipe displaying in the sky, passin over us over and over and allowing excellent views. We did a small short walk in the marshy area and easily got 1 Red-spotted Bluethroat running in front of us. After some metres of run the bird just turn so everybody in the group had excellent views.
We still had some time around with the wonderful Jack Snipe still flying above us, displaying and diving into the dense vegetation. 2 Greenshanks were also singing in the bog and 1 European Golden Plover was also noted.

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica svecica) was also a really celebrated bird in the group. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a good start for the day we went for a short walk in a nearby hill. Up in this hills the tundra dominates the landscape and it is possible to find really exciting species.

The short walk was dominated by dozens of Meadow Pipits singing and showing in the short grass lands. European Golden Plovers looked like being everywhere and 1 Eurasian Whimbrel was noted close to a small mountain pass.

From here we got an impressive view on this area of Scandinavian Alps, some sumits still with snow in the distance, while the Eastern part of the view was blocked by the rocky scarpment of a nearby peak. The scan around the area produced more European Golden Plovers and 1 Eurasian Dotterel showing really well in the Western part of the meadow. We tried to approach when something really floating passed over us: 1 Long-tailed Skua!

Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudatus), a really smart bird both on the ground and in flight. Image by Carles Oliver

The bird just flew over to stop in some 100 metres away, in a tiny hill stiking up from the grassy plain. We had incredible views on the birds when a second individual came from the same side and both birds went to the sky for a full dispaly of flights, dives and
chasing. After this incredible sight we came back to the Dotterel. If was not there any more. A bit of scan was necessary to relocate the bird, but we all got it again in the bins, now definately more far away. We tried to approach but unfortunately the bird flew along with 2 European Golden Plover and we lost track of them.

Still having some time before lunch we decided to go a bit closer of the rocky scarpment, expecting species related with this kind of landscapes. We scanned all around with little feedback and were about to leave when 1 Snow Bunting appeared from somewhere! The bird just landed close to us, allowing some nice views while the bird was feeding.

Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) typically favours the contact area of rocky scarpments with tundra grasslands. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after this nice morning, we just went down for a nice lunch. But prior lunch we had a stop in a stop lagoo, where a nice flock of 17 Red-necked Phalaropes was feeding. Wonderful, some of them beautiful females! Along with them some male Ruffs but also Eurasian Teal. Bluethroats were singing around, including a brief view on a male. Here we also got a small flock of Arctic Terns in their way to nesting sites. Already really close!

All the group was delighted with the intimate views on Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus). Image by Carles Oliver

Some male Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) were at its best. We enjoyed a good variety of plomages. Image by Carles Oliver

After lunch we did a pair of stops in different ponds and bog but we did not have any other result out of the firsts Arctic Redpolls of the trip! 2 birds flying and perched low in a small tree that gave us really good views.

The rest of the afternoon we just took advantage of the feeders in our accommodation to enjoy excellent views on Pine Grosbeaks. The feeders also attrack large numbers of Mealy Redpolls and some Bramblings. The feeders also attrack Pied Flycatcher, Greenfinches, Common Redstart and Red Squirrels.

Day 6. Early morning once again to go North, into Norway. Still, before crossing the border we had a good stop along the way. A extensive area of bog is having small populations of Broad-billed Sandpiper. Here we had Wood Sandpipers, Ruffs, Golden Plovers and Common Snipe displaying. 2 obliging Siberian Tits were also a good addition along with Common Waxbills and distant Great Grey Shrike and 1 Black Grouse flying across. Unfortunately we had no contacts on the main target there…

Feeders are the best option to enjoy close views on Mealy Redpolls (Liniaria flammea). Image by Carles Oliver

One of the nine Siberian Tits (Poecile cinctus) seen during the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Along the road we had some stops: Common Crossbills (always worth checking) but also Rough-legged Buzzards and Tufted Ducks were seen.
Once in Varanger we did a short stop in Nesseby. Here we had excellent views on a flock of Red-necked Phalaropes and some Ruffs. Common Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin were also nice addings to the trip list. Beyond Nesseby flocks of Red-breasted Merganser and Goosanders were seen on the fjord. Also large flocks of Common Scoters (200+) along side Surf Scoters.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) keeps good densities in Lapland bogs. Image by Carles Oliver

Kittiwakes were already a common view, with flocks of hundreds of them moving along the coast, along with Herring, Great Black-backed & Common Gulls. Along the road we had firsts views on nesting Parasitic Skuas, sometimes allowing really close views! Along the shore, White-tailed Eagles were a common views, sometimes alone but sometimes congregated in small flocks.

Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) are a common view in the lower areas of Varanger. Image by Carles Oliver

Our way to Vadso produced a nice surprise in the way of 2 Tundra Bean Geese resting by the road! This was a rather unexpected finding! Oystercatchers & Common Eiders were already everywhere, even along the acess bridge to Vadso. A short walk in the area produced wonderful views on Common Redshank singing but also lovely views on Arctic Redpolls and Red-throated Pipit feeding around. Some elusive male Ruffs were also spotted in the tall grass, althought they were reluctant to show properly. The small lagoon was having some Red-necked Phalaropes and the place produced good views in the only one Pomarine Skua of the trip!

Along the trip we enjoyed some good views on Arctic Redpolls (Liniaria hornemanni), always a wonderful bird to see. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus) replace Meadow Pipits in the tundra areas in Finnmark. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Our attention was concentrated in trying to find Steller’s Eider (had one around in 2017) but no luck this time.

The final drive to Vardo still produced a Short-eared Owl by the road so another stop had to be made. Once arrived to our accommodation we got a good rest before dinner. After dinner, we still had 1 hour to enjoy the midnight light. A short drive was done and got excellent views on Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Horned Larks, Red-throated Pipits, Parasitic Skuas and a wonderful male Lapland Bunting!!! What an amazing end for the day!

A stop was required as this Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) was hunting by the road. Image by Carles Oliver

Parasitic Jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus) nest in low tundra plains, not far away from the shore. Image by Carles Oliver

White-tailed Eagles (Hieraaetus albicilla) are always a superb view. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 7. This day we didn’t go for a really early start but have some time to recover. Our boat to Hornoya was our first appointment so after breakfast we went to the dek. Here we had a good scan around while Arctic Terns were flying around us. Black Guillemots were also a good attraction, but being a bit elusive this time. A second year Glaucous Gull was found roosting in one of the buildings at the other side of the harbour, providing with good views in the scope.

Once in the Arctic Ocean we were soon enjoying with thousands and thousands of Guillemots were carpeting the Ocean. Razorbills were also numerous and Puffins were also moving around in good numbers. As approaching the island, the noise and the smell becomes more intense. Here, 250.000+ are nesting in a huge colony. Atlantic Shags were also all along the shore, always in the big rocks protecting the island. Even before arriving to the island we got some Brunnich’s Guillemots showing really well along with other auks.

This is what you can expect when approaching Hornoya. 1000s of Guillemots but, can you find the Brünnich’s Guillemots in the imatge? Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the cliffs, Brunnich’s Guillemots tend to nest quite high so it makes more difficult to have excellent views on the birds. Still, with a bit of patience, the whole group enjoyed great views on them. A walk around easily produce ridiculous views on Atlantic Puffins. Several Parasitic Skuas were flying around, patrolling in search of a easy prey. Along with them and the hundreds of auks in the sky we also got 1 Gyr Falcon patrolling above the colony of Herring Gulls. Gulls were not happy about the presence of the predator and they made sure the Falcon to notice about! We had a good sight and the bird disappeared in the massive movement of birds in the sky. As the group was a bit disperse taking photos, not everybody enjoyed the Falcon. We hoped for the bird to reappear, but never happened. We kept enjoying the magnificient concentration of birds and also picked up really good views on Rock Pipit (littoralis) and really close views on Black Guillemot.

Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) and Razorbills (Alca torda) in Hornoya. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia) was really celebrated for our clients. Image by Carles Oliver

 

General view of part of the colony at Hornoya. Image by Carles Oliver

Great Black-back Gull (Larus marinus) predating on Atlantic Puffin. A belt of predators surround the colony. Image by Carles Oliver

Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) avoids the big colonies and nest in small parties. Image by Carles Oliver

Scandinavian Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus litorallis). a good adding for the list. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Once back in Vardo we went for lunch. In the afternoon we went along the coast, expecting some nices species. We again got nice views on Lapland Buntings, Temminck’s & Little Stints, Shore Larks & Whooper Swans in the tundra. In the coast, the firsts flocks of Long-tailed Ducks were seen along with Common Eiders and Red-throated Divers.

Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii) were once the commonest wader in most of coastal tundra in Varanger. Now they have become scarce. Image by Carles Oliver

Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus), always a wonderful bird to see in summer plomage. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 8. This day we drove even more North to explore the Northernmost fjords in Varanger. Along the way we stopped several times. Roadside birding in this part of the world can inlcude Long-tailed Skuas but also Rough-legged Buzzard, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Diver and others.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), a urban bird in Varanger! Image by Carles Oliver

A selected stop in the higher plateau produced 3 Snow Buntings along with Dotterel, Tundra Bean Goose, Long-tailed Duck, Lapland Bunting, Golden Plover and Eurasian Curlew. A proper scan around allowed us to find the first Rock Ptarmigan of the trip! A short drive and we were having really close views on the bird, still showing a good number of white feathers.

Tundra Bean Goose (Anser rossicus) was also really celebrated by our clients. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Male & female Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), a really nice finding. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Always worth to check the lakes when being in Varanger, Scaups (Aythya marila) can be around. Image by Carles Oliver

 

During the afternoon we arrived to coast. Here we had more scanning, this time in the shore. Several Common Eiders were roosting and feeding and we were lucky enough to find 1 female Steller’s Eider feeding along with them! We approached the group and everybody had excellent views on them despite the misty ambient!

An adult female Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri) was showing really well despite the difficult weather conditions. Image by Carles Oliver

After enjoying long this lovely duck we just went to our accommodation for some rest and good dinner.

Day 9. This day we spent the morning in exploring a patch of coast producing good birding most of the times. But before we had a second visit to the Steller’s Eider, being now really more far away than the afternoon before. We also had another stop in the way, this time to explore a nice landscape for grouses. And we were right in our thoughts since we had 2 Willow Grouses flying around, one of them stopping for some seconds on a rock before disappearing in the grass! A brief view, but worth it! We scanned around trying to relocate them, but was impossible.

This female King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) didn’t stole the show despite the fog in our last full day of the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Kept going our way. Once in the patch of coast, the area was totally foggy. We just kept driving until the closest village, where we had a coffee. The fog was not going to disappear so we moved to shore to scan for birds. A small corner looked like interesting and we cheeked all Eiders around, and we were lucky since a female King Eider was among them! This was one of the most celebrated bird of the tour, along with Steller’s Eider!! We had a good time enjoying this bird, most of the time sleeping but sometimes active and moving along with 2 Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eiders.

As it was foggy we started drive back until we found a window without fog. Stop and check. Beside the car, 2 Twites flew off up to the cliffs! In the sea, we fastly saw several Northern Fulmars moving along the coast. About 30% of them were of the beautiful blue form. There were still some fog. We did some scouting looking for Yellow-billed Divers, but never found them… and only got Black-throated Divers. Instead had several flocks of Common Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks. Also some Manx Shearwaters moving up and down. One of the tour participants found 1 Fin Whale moving close to coast. Wonderful spot!

After some more scanning in a pair of Windows in the fog we just drove South for a final overnight near Ivalo, where we arrived for some rest and a good dinner.

Day 10. Final morning of the trip and still some time to check for some birds. It was rainy and really chilly but went to a corner offering good chances for buntings. We waited under the rain but nothing happened for long. We were really about to leave when, suddenly, a bird came out of the vegetation to stop in a nearby tree and started singing: was 1 Rustic Bunting!

Light was poor and we were all wet and cold but this very last minute sight was absolutely worth it!!!

After this we just drove to the airport to take our flight home. Never tired of birding in Lapland. Join us!!!

Oman Birding Tour 2019 Trip Report

Dates: 29th January to 7th February, 2019

Tour participants: 5

Seen bird species: 210

Tour Leaders: Sergi Sales & Carles Oliver

After an afternoon flight we arrived to Oman beyond midnight. Passport controls were fast and we arrived to our hotel in Musqat after a comfortable shuttle transport from the aiport.

Day 1. After a good rest and a great breakfast in our hotel we went for a short walk in some tree just by our accommodation. It was time to have a first contact with some common species in Northern Oman. Probably the first bird of the tour were 2 Purple Sunbirds, seen feeding in the trees along a small gorge. Just around, a wonderful Indian Roller was hunting from the wires crossing the gorge. Indian Silverbill, Common Myna and several Laughing Doves were also seen and celebrated. We also had the interesting local race of House Sparrow, being smaller, duller and more grey in the upperside than the races we are more used.

Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis), a wonderful small bee-eater to be found in Northern Oman. All images in this trip report by tour leader Carles Oliver. All rights reserved.

After this small taste by our hotel we drove a short distance to explore the Al Ansad Wetland. This is a small complex of lagoons with riparian vegetation that can be really productive. A first scanning produced Black-headed Lapwings, Crested Larks, Purple Sunbirds, White-spectacled Bulbuls and 1 White Wagtail. A juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle just passed over us giving excellent views in the morning light.

The firs lagoon was really productive. It hosted a good selection of ducks including Mallards, Gadwalls, Eurasian Wigeons, Pintails, Eurasian Teals, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards. About 20 Greater Flamingos were roosting in the lagoon joined by 5 Eurasian Spoonbills. Black-winged Stilts, Ruffs and 1 Black-tailed Godwit were feeding inmediatly around. By the reedbeds we found 1 Eurasian Coot along with several Eurasian Moorhens and Little Grebes. Grey Heron, Cattle Egret and Great White Egrets were also present in small numbers.

Temminck’s Stints were common with at least 8 birds feeding along with some Little Stints. At least 3 Marsh Sandpipers were also present along with several Common Sandpipers. The good scanning of the area produced as well 1 Citrine Wagtail and 2 Yellow Wagtail (one of them being a male beema race). Some Common Snipes flought off and the Bonelli’s Eagle came back and had a second flight over the water. Was in that moment that the only White-tailed Lapwing of the trip came up from behind a sand bar and we all could enjoy good views on the bird for a pair of minutes. This was already a good start!

Graceful Prinias (Prinia gracilis) are a common view in a number of grassy habitats in Nortern Oman.

Unfortunably the bird was a bit far and came down again to the opposite side of the bank. We spent several minutes trying to relocate the bird, but was impossible.

Happy after such a good start we just moved on along the path. Not far from there we were distracted by the first of several Graceful Prinias singing from the top of a bus. A closer view was demanded so we moved on just at the moment than a flock of Sand Partridges flew off from under our feet! After some good shots in the Prinia our attention was concentrated by a very close Little Green Bee-eaters catching insects at short range. Its footage from the minor branches of a small tree was really productive in photographic terms!

The area was still producing interesting sightings. A group of White cheecked Bulbuls were moving in the bushland and 1 Indian Silverbill was busy while bringing nest material inside a small tree. The same juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle that we saw flying over the lagoon was now sheltered by the shade of a small cliff. A last walk in the area produced some Great Cormorants, the first Greater Spotted Eagle high up in the sky and good views in 1 rather unexpected Eastern Orphean Warbler skulking inside a bush!

Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) showed out really well in the firsts days of the tour.

We then went to the coast, where we had some food near the beach while we were scanning around. Here we had several Heuglin’s Gulls moving in the coast along with the commoner Black-headed Gull. Also some Caspian Gulls were seen, mainly adults. 2 Sooty Gulls passed by but unfortunately a bit far away for everybody in the group to enjoy them. At least 2 Great Crested Terns were moving in the coast and we had really good views as one approached the dock where we were scanning from. A tiny wady in our way was also providing good birds, special mention to our first Greater Sand Plover, Pacific Golden Plover along with Common Sandpiper and Common Redshank.

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) is a recent arrival to Oman, just arrived to Southern Oman a few years ago, where it is as common as in the North.

 

The slender Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) is the commonest Lapwing in the region, by far.

We decided to spend the rest of the day in Al Qurm Park. This is a well known birding spot in Musqat hosting some very interesting specialities. Our arrival to park was really good as 1 Indian Roller was hunting in the parking and only few metres inside the park we had our first Grey Francolin of the trip running up the slope. In the trees, a Common Chiffchaff was seen (here presumably all Chiffchaffs belong to abietinus or tristis races, thought now Siberian Chiffchaff is claimed as a diferent species for some). A small channel of water connects the big central lagoon of the park with the sea. This channel proved to be really productive as we fastly spotted 1 Striolated Heron hidden in the shady bank. Few metres away from it we found 1 Acrocephalus. Silence and check for some seconds before confirming that was a Clamorous Reed Warbler! This was a bird really celebrated by the group. The bird provided really good views in the out for quite long, moving always really low in the vegetation, but clearly in the out. The channel itself was attrackting some Pallid Swifts to drink water and we all enjoyed lovely views on these birds. A Purple Heron flew over and its shade made Common Sandpipers and Black-headed Lapwings move away. Inside the park we enjoy a new Indian Roller until a small shrike was located in the top of the tree. At first it looked like a Isabelline but finally it turned up to be a Red-tailed Shrike, a recent split from the former.

Two images on a 1st winter Red-tailed Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides). Pair attention in the vermiculated extending all along the flank, with a tawny vental area contrasting with white undertail coverts. Uppertail coverts appear reddish, but not uniform as expected on Isabelline Shrike.

 

Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus brunnescens) was spotted a pair feeding in the out along the tour.

 

Striated Heron (Butorides striata atricapilla) is a scarce resident bird in dense vegetated marshy areas.

The central pond was low of water but as good as always. 1 Whiskered Tern was flying over and 1 Western Reef Egret was fishing along with some Cattle Egrets. Fastly our attention was for “Squacco like” herons around the pond. After some scanning we found the 2 firsts Indian Pond Heron of the tour, feeding along with 4-5 Squacco Herons. Little Grebes and Eurasian Coots were also present in the pond.

Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) is a scarce winter visitor but we got excellent views on Muscat itself. Image by tour leader Sergi Sales

We still had a further walk around the trees. Rose-winged Parakeets were everywhere and a Alexandrine Parakeet was heard in the air. It was time to go but then we found a wonderful tree full of Common Chiffchaff, Purple Sunbirds and at least two Lesser Whitethroats (Desert Whites?). As the area proved really interesting we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in around. A short walk from the park allowed us to explore some tidal muds richly vegetated. Here we found some interesting passerines including Isabelline Shrike, 2 Bluethroats and Eurasian Reed Warbler. Some waders were present in the small mudflats including several Eurasian Whimbrel, 1 Eurasian Curlew, 15+ Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover and some Common Ringed Plover. 1 Intermediate Egret flew over us in its way to the sea and 1 Garganey took off from a tiny patch of marsh but the best bird in the spot was a Pin-tailed Snipe that took off along with 1 Common Snipe from the flooded areas. Some Snipes were moving around so we carefully checked every single bird leaving the area. At least 15 Common Snipes left in different waves and we got good views in 1 Spin-tailed showing the remarcable blackish uderwings and contrasted belly.

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) is one of the most unobtrusive birds in Northern Oman. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a great encounteer we still looked for something else in this corner. Some Eurasian Moorhens were seen feeding in the grassy areas and 1 Grey Heron arrived for a evening meal. The time of our own evening meal was not far any more so we left the area for a good rest in the hotel and a dinner to go throught all the birds of our first day in Oman.

Spotted Redshanks (Tringa erythropus) at Al Qurm Park the first of the tour.

 

Day 2. After our good buffet breakfast we left our hotel to explore the Western coast of Northern Oman. But, as tyde was low, before going West we came back for a while to Al Qurm beach. Just arriving we found a small flock of gulls in the beach along with some terns. A fast scan revealed some Great Crested Terns along with Sandwich Terns. Most of the gulls were the splitable Steppe Gull (Larus fuscus babarensis) and got good views and comparision of structure with a lovely Caspian Gull adult. Heuglin’s Gulls were also present in the flock, including different ages and intermediate plomages. Not far after we found the first Palla’s Gull, a 3rd year bird. What a incredible gull! Not only the shape of bill but the general structure of the bird was simply massive. Here, all tour participants enjoyed very much with this flock of gulls and having adults of Caspian, Steppe, Heuglin’s and Palla’s all together in a small flock was really celebrated and appreciated for everybody! Small flocks of Slender-billed Gulls were also present at the beach.

Adults Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) -left- and 2 Steppe Gulls (Larus fuscus barabensis) -center and right- in Al Qurm.

 

Palla’s Gull (Ichthyaetus Ichthyaetus) was one of the most celebrated target in the crew and a wonderful bird to watch. Here an adult in winter plomage.

Around the flock of gulls there were some waders and it didn’t take long to spot some Lesser Sand Plovers moving in the sand. There were about 30 individuals in different smalls flocks. Here we also had  Greenshank, Kentish Plover, Whimbrels, Common Redshank, Western Reef Heron in light form (less common in the area) and Lesser Crested Tern. Again, we enjoyed views on Lesser Crested Terns side by side with Great Crested Terns so a good comparision on sizes, structure and colour could be made. Some Sooty Gulls were also flying around but we only had a single bird stopping on the ground. We spend some time enjoying these gulls and terns but also scanning around looking for other specialities. Some scouting inland produced 6 Common Snipe sleeping on the grass, Black-headed Lapwings, Common Kingfisher and Graceful Prinia and 2 Grey Francolins having a sand bath.

Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus) in winter plomage. The combination of long legs, relatively thin bill and slightly contrasted lore allows to avoid confusion with Kentish & Greater Sand Plovers.

Back to the sea shore, we had big flocks of Great Cormorants flying around and we enjoyed how fast they moved as the nets of the fishermen were into the water. A nice espectacle to be seen! More plovers were arriving from the East, clearly bigger and heavier than all species around; 8 Great Sand Plovers! Again, a good comparision on size, shape and facial pattern was made with its relative the Lesser Sand Plover

2 Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) -left- in an interesting comparative of sizes and structure with 2 Sandwich Terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) at Al Qurm.

After such a wonderful stop we then drove to the West, towards the Sun Farms. These are water-assisted grassy crops being a magnet for a good number of species. Despite some reports of the explotation being abandoned from some years ago, we decided to approach and take a look. It was an excellent decision, as you will see.

We arrived to the area were the Sun Farms were and well, it was no sign of any grass anywhere. Still, even before arrived to the exact place we were obligated to stop the car and walk around as a family group of Arabian Babblers were moving just by the track. Unfortunately not everybody in the van enjoyed excellent views so we parked the car and walk around looking for this wonderful bird.

Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps) showed really well along the tour. Please note how coloration change depending on the light in these two images.

The flock of birds were still moving around in the semi-desert so we decided to do a short walk around expecting to improve our sight. Purple Sunbirds were everywhere and a nice flock of lined Indian Silverbills was welcome by the photographers in the group. A Common Kestrel was circling up in the sky among Pallid Swifts and Crested Larks were singing and moving all around. In a shade, a Tawny Pipit showed really well for a pair of minutes while 1 Hoopoe was diving its bill on the sand looking for warms, but still no signal of the Babblers. While searching for them we had another really good bird appearing. A characteristic “txac” call came from the acacias around us and, after some scanning, we all had excellent views on 2 Hume’s Whitethroat! This is a quite recent Split from Lesser Whitethroat inhabitating juniper formations in Iran and Afghanistan high mountains. They are easy to tell apart by calls but also due to the clearly darker head, auriculars and nape of the Hume’s if compared with Lesser. The back and mantle in Hume’s Whitethroat is also darker than in Lessers, showing really little contrast.

A further scanning in the area still produced a nice male Black Redstart of the Eastern phoenicuroides race and a superb male Pallid Harrier flying around and stopping in the low branches of a distant tree for some minutes. Namaqua Doves were passing over us and we could count up to 8 individuals of this beautiful bird. It was a very productive corner but since no signal of the Babblers around we decided to go on but, just when most of the people was in the car, we had 2 Arabian Babblers coming to us and stopping some 60 metres from us. More and more birds came front he tangles and we arrived to count up to 9 of them!

Indian Silverbills (Eudice malabarica) showing the white rumps in a typical group view.

We had the birds around for some minutes in what was a really unexpected encounteer in one of the most difficult species in the area! We moved but we didn’t really arrived that far away since we fastly found 1 male Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark some 35 metres from us. Not far, an obliging Isabelline Weathear was a good first for the trip.

It was time to go to our next location. A short drive allowed us to arrive to Liwa mangroves. This is home of two of the most wanted species for all birdwatchers coming to Oman: Collared Kingfisher and Sykes Warbler.

Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) is a common bird in most of coastal Oman. Image by Sergi Sales

Tyde was low and we decided to go on with a short walk along the mangroves. Sooty Gulls were really common as walked in the beach and good numbers of Slender-billed Gulls were also seen flying around. Great Crested Tern was less common, with only few moving along the shore.

In the mangroves it was little movement. A small flock of Eurasian Whimbrels were looking for some food in the mud, joined by 4 Spotted Redshanks. A pair of Common Sandpipers were typically moving up and down along the shores. It was time for a bit of scan and most efforts were placed in the most suitable channel to host a Collared Kingfisher. After 15 minutes of scanning a chunky, white shade emerged from the mangroves to stop in outer skinny branches of a dead mangrove. This was a wonderful views even if not specially close. Things improved really much when the bird turned, showing the typical collar and the beautiful blue-greenish in the upperparts. This view was really celebrated by the group. A Common Kingfisher joined its relative for a better comparision of shape and size.

The bird showed for about 2 minutes and after that came back deep inside the mangrove. We still waited, hoping for a better view and some photo chances that never arrived. Still, the group was really happy to see such a scarce bird! Remember that Collared Kingfishers living at Arabian Peninsula are from “kalbaensis” race, an extremely endangered and more than a probable coming split from the nominal race living in most of Asia!!

Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) male in Liwa mangroves.

More than happy about this wonderful sight we kept scanning the area looking for Sykes Warbler. All eyes were to the mangroves when a hard “tchak” came out from the dense vegetation. We scanned for long. First a Isabelline Shrike, after a Graceful Prinia showed nicely, but we didn’t get any other bird from the bush.
We still had some time before sunset so, decided to get somethin different from the area we just drove around the mangroves to the plains placed at the opposite site. A short drive around proved to be quite productive. A first small bush was having 2 White-eared Bulbuls, 2 Common Chiffchaff (not really grey ones) and a third species tha flew off. Not a long scan was necessary to enjoy the female Menétries Warbler. The bird stayed in a low bush for over 2 minutes so we had time enough for looking for the differences from this species and its relative, the Sardinian Warbler (a bird that was more familiar for some members of the group).

This female of Ménétrié’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea) was the only one membre of its species to appear in the tour.

After driving for 5 minutes more we stopped in a different place and scanned around. 3 Isabelline Weathears were found along with the first Desert Wheatear of the trip. Up in a tree, a wonderful Southern Grey Shrike was looking for an evening meal. The last bird of the day turned up to be a Red-tailed Shrike!

Happy for the good birds of the day we just came back to our hotel for a good rest and dinner.

Day 3. Today we were leaving Muscat and starting our way South. Inmediatly beyond the city, an impressive spine of mountains goes up until 3000 metres high. This is area is home of very interesting birds, some of them unique. During that morning we crossed the mountains, spending some time in a key location looking for some of them.

Here the landscape is controlled by towering bare mountains speckled by small elevated plateaus. In the untouched valleys you can see sparse acacias in an semi-desertic ambient. Our first stop was really a random one. As always scanning the sky we finally got a good bird as 1 Egyptian Vulture was spot high up in the sky. It happen that it was a good place where to stop so we did so and, eventually, scanned around. At the other side of the road we got a Red-tailed Wheatear, a really good bird that may not appear in every tour. All the group was delighted with this little wheatear when a small, whitish bird appeared from the right, moving low in the scrubs. It was an Asian Desert Warbler! It was an amazing to see these two really good birds together! The Asian Desert Warbler flew off and, as not everybody in the group had got good views, we decided to do a short walk around. After some 5 minutes of scanning we relocated the bird and everybody had brilliant views on the tiny bird.

Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana) in a typical view of the species.

Only a small point on the Asian Desert Warbler. I’m personally used to see African Desert Warbler and I was glad to see how different both species are. More than what you can expect from the plates. Asian Desert Warbler is far more grey than its African counterpart and the grey body is having an evident contrast with the orangish tail. In the African Desert Warbler, all body is strong sandy colourated.

Our road stop also produced Isabelline Shrike and Northern Wheatear. We still drove for about half an hour before arriving to our next stop, a gorgeous gorge with a wadi and a pair of oasis-like corners. This is a well known place for the recently discovered Omani Owl, one of the main targets in the trip. As we got inside the gorge we had several Striolated Buntings singing around as well as Lesser Whitethroats in the scattered trees, Purple Sunbirds, Pale Crag Martins and 4 different Egyptian Vultures. Here we spent several time scanning some roosting places of Omani Owl but with no result. Then we moved up in the wadi until a small oasis. In the way, a Bonelli’s Eagle made us stop and it was a good decision to do so since we had 1 Lappet-faced Vulture appeared high in the slopes and showing really well for half minute! This was a bird really celebrated by the group!!

Egyptian Vulture (Neoprhon percnoptreus) flying above a gorge in Northern Oman. Always nice to see that this species is doing well somewhere outside the Pyrenees!

Once arrived we walked a bit around. An obliging Red-tailed Wheatear was a good chance to compare the species with other wheatears while taking some shots. Nearby, 1 female Common Rock Thrush was also showy in the rocks. This is a quite scarce overwintering bird in Oman. A further walk lead us to a small group of trees. Here we easily located the firsts Plain Leaf Warblers and we had a good time enjoying the nervous moviments of this tiny Phylloscopus until the whole group had good views on them. There were al least 5 birds there! Here, a Hume’s Leaf Warbler was also calling in the canopies. We kept scanning but nothing different appeared until 2 Bonelli’s Eagles adults flew over soaring fast and disappearing beyond the gorge.

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) juvenile.

 

Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra) looked like common in a pair of gorges South of Muscat. Image by Sergi Sales

 

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) was the commonest wheatear in the broken landscape of the Northen Oman mountain chains.

After such a successful stop we came back to the place of the Omani Owl. We searched for quite long but, unfortunably, we were totally uncapable to find any of them around. I was already quite midday so we went for a light lunch in a road restaurant nearby.

After lunch we left the mountains, crossing the desert in our way to our accommodation inland Oman. Before sunset we did a small stop in a suitable place. Here we got good views on Brown-necked Ravens, Desert Wheatears, 3 Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks (1 male, 2 females) and 1 Asian Desert Warbler.

We arrived to our accommodation far beyond sunset and recharged energy for the coming day.

Day 4. This day was basically a road day in our way to Salalah. After breakfast we headed to Qirbit for some morning birding. Once the oasis by Qirbit we did a walk around expecting some small birds. The desert around was hosting some Desert Wheatears and we got really good views on our 3rd Asian Desert Warbler for the trip. A aucheri race Southern Grey Shrike was calling from the oasis vegetation and several Eurasian Collared Doves were around. We spent about 25 minutes at the oasis and we only got 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 1 Black Redstart.
After such a disapointing numbers we came back to our Qitbit to explore the gardens. These gardens have been really famous for several years and a must for every single birdwatcher exploring inner Oman. Unfortunably the motel in Qitbit is now close and the gardens abandoned so the variety of birds here has collapsed. We didn’t know about we it was evident that the place had once better times. We still had a good surprise in the gardens since a Black-throated Thrush flew off from one of the trees!! The moved into a dense vegetated patch and we decided to follow it. After some wait we had the bird flying to a small pond of water and got good brief but good views on the bird while drinking water.

As Qitbit was disapointing for us in terms of birds we kept driving some more miles South to arrive to a number of farms where irrigation allows a variety of grassy crops. It was midday so quite hot but we still were expecting some good birds. Along the track accessing the farmland we had a number of good birds including several Isabelline Wheatears along with some Desert and Northern. The area was literally full of grasshopers so the presence of 1 Isabelline Shrike was justified. In one of the stops to check around we got 3 Black-crowned Sparrow-larks singing and moving around. Crested Larks were all over. A random stop produced wonderful views on 1 Long-billed Pipit by the car, and everybody enjoyed quiet long. Around, several Tawny Pipits were also seen, some of them performing superbly.

One of the 2 Pied Wheatears (Oenanthe pleschanka) noted in the ferms.

Once by the crops we noticed an even higher density on Wheatears and also Tawny Pipits. 2 Pied Wheatears including a moulting young male were an excellent adding to the tour list. A little walk by the grass produced several Yellow & White Wagtails and we all surprised to listen 2 Quails singing in the field! Several Laughing Doves were in the area, and this was the first place where we noticed the dark form of this beautiful species. The walk was not especially interesting until we got a bird landing in the field. It was a small lark. It was a Skylark actually. It was moving along with a White Wagtail and it looked clearly smaller, thin-billed than the European Skylark. Then a Common Kestrel appeared so all birds flew off to confirm the bird (birds as it was a second one!) to be Oriental Skylarks thanks to the wing patern when flying (mainly the lack of white stripe in the …..

We still spent some more time in the fields. The Oriental Skylarks flew really far away so no chance for a relocalization. After some time without any relevant activity we decided to leave to Salalah.

African Lime Butterfly (Papilio demodocus) were common in the farm land in the desert.

Before living we invested some time on butterflies. Here it was a great variety so we enjoyed some of them, taking good images. After a good driving we finally approached the incredible Jhoffar Mountains. Here, in the road mountain pass, we did a fast stop to enjoy some birds. The firsts of many Fan-tailed Ravens were seen around, offering good chances for photographers in the group. Also Tristam’s Starlings were really showy, with small flocks of about 10 individuals moving around. The short stop turned in a longer one since a small flock of Wagtails included some interesting ones. There were 4 White Wagtails and some Yellow Wagtails including a male Balkan Yellow Wagtail (feldegg). A proper scanning in the White Wagtails produced a Masked Wagtail (personatta) in winter plomage. Beyond the wagtails, an large area of graminea was covering part of the slope. There we saw a small flock of Singing Bush Larks moving around, flying up and down to disappear in the tall grass. Despite our efforts, we couldn’t have a view of the birds on the ground, yet.

Tawny Pipits (Anthus campestris) were common in around the grassy areas in the desert.

There were also some raptors in the area. 1 Common Kestrel was hovering in the area around and 2 wondeful males Montagu’s Harriers passed by the highway with lovely afternoon light. In the distance, 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle was also a good spot!

After such a productive end of the day we arrived to our accommodation in Salalah for a god rest after a long driving day!

Day 5. After a wonderful breakfast in our hotel in Salalah we left towards Raysut, expecting to spend the whole morning in the area. Still, before heading to Raysut we invested 1 hour in a small wetland near our accommodation. Here we got the first views of many of Rüppel’s Weavers, including a wonderful male building a nest. The ambient was clearly warmer than in Muscat. Along with Rüppell’s Weavers we got Graceful Prinias, as common as in the Northern part of the country.

Rüppell’s Weavers (Ploceus galbula) are really common in the Dhofar area. Image by Carles Oliver

The small wetland is in fact a river mouth, known many times as Eastern Salalah Wetland. Here, the floating vegetation was perfect for a number of species and many Eurasian Moorhens were seen taking advantage of it. A Great Reed Warbler appeared from the riverside vegetation while Wood & Green Sandpipers flew around. 7+ Citrine Wagtails were seen feeding, walking and a very obliging stopping really close. In the open water it was a good flock of 15+ Tufted Duck along with Northern Shovelers and Eurasian Teals. But the lagoon was having also one of the most celebrated birds of trip, a small flock of 8 Cotton Pygmy Geese were roosting in the center of the lagoon, providing good views when one of the males put its head up for a pair of minutes! Happy after this happy encounteer we kept scanning around. Both shores were having some Squacco Herons and, at least, 2 Indian Pond Herons were along with them. Some Gull-billed Terns were flying over the lagoon, joined by 1 Whiskered Tern. A further scanning in the right shore, where more floating vegetation was concentrated, produced 1 Pheasant-tailed Jacana swimming along Moorhens!

One of the many Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola) seen around Salalah.

The group was really satisfied after these nice findings. In our way back to car a Common Chiffchaff came across our way and stopped in a branch, preening.

We left the area towards Raysut. The place is well known due to the great concentration of eagles, mainly Steppe Eagles, but also other interesting species. Even before arriving to the rubbish dump we had our firsts Steppe Eagles flying over in a wonderful variety of plomages that will make enjoy every single raptor lover! When being closer we counted hundreds of them circling in the sky, taking advantage of the first thermals. We knew that earlier that week somebody estimated about 500 Steppe Eagles to be in that rubbish dump. Well, they were probably right! Along with the Eagles we also saw a more impressive spectacle: Hundreds of Abdim’s Storks circling in two different flocks! Previous census numbered in about 150…Here there were at least 300 of them!!

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) around Raysut, where hundreds of them can easily seen.

Happy about this incredible spectacle we drove a bit expecting to find some raptors on ground. No long drive was required. After some hundreds of metres we got at least 6 Steppe Eagles on the ground in a wonderful set! We took our time studying the plomages and structure of the birds and, after that, we drove to some lagoons SW from the dump. Unfortunately the lagoons seemed to be totally dry and only a handful Tristam’s Starlings and a pair of Desert Wheatears were left in the place.

Juvenile Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis). This individual was flying on a flock of 50+ of them.

We then decided to move towards the coast, to find a different lagoon. Overpassing with the car it was evident that it was having water. A flock of 20+ Greater Flamingoes were there, feeding in the deepest part of the lagoon. At the other side, with small lagoon of shallow water and wide areas of rocks, a party of 150+ of White Storks were roosting, preening or tentativally trying to catch a fish or something from the minor lagoons.
We parked and walked until an apropiated view point. 2 Caspian Terns were flying up and down the river. Lower, 1 Whiskered Tern was doing so, stopping sometimes by a solitary Squacco Heron. Some Grey Herons were also in this part of the river. Tens of Rüppell’s Weavers were in the reeds and their whistles were a constant sound in our ears. In the sky, 2 Western Ospreys were patrolling the lagoon. One of them tried for 4 times to catch a fish but with no luck at all…Finally flew the area toward to sea in a short flight, probably to rest and wait until better times to come. The sky was providing a lot of activity. 4+ Black-eared Kites (race lineata of Black Kite) were also patrolling the sky, probably unhappy after the unsuccessful attemps of the Osprey. Waves of birds of prey were coming down the river from the rubbish dump, located some miles up by the river. They were mainly Steppe Eagles but along with them we spotted our firsts 2 Eastern Imperial Eagles of the trip! An intense scanning of the raptors produced also 8+ Greater Spotted Eagles circling and also stopping in the cliffs by the lagoons. They were clearly coming to take a bath and drink water. One of this Greater Spotted Eagles came down the lagoon and stopped right in front of us! An amazing view of such a incredible bird. Delighted after such a wonderful sights we walked a bit down the lagoons, approaching the area of pools were most of Storks and Herons were. We didn’t cover a long distance before we had to stop again due to 2 magnificent Great White Pelicans flying low over us. This a species considered as a rarity in Oman so we were not really expecting to enjoy them in this tour! The birds passed by us going to the see, joined by a small flock of Barn Swallows.

Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus roseus) in Raysut.

 

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) near Raysut ponds.

 

Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocratus), a really scarce species in Oman, were another of the main attractions in Raysut.

The ponds were fullfilled with birds. There were 120+ Grey Herons roosting in the roocky river bed, beyond the ponds. Along with them there were some Western Cattle Egrets, 1 Little Egret, some Western Reef Egrets (both white and dark forms) and 1 Intermediate Egret. The ponds were hosting Common, Wood & Green Sandpipers but also Greenshanks, Common Redshanks, 3 Ruffs and some Temminck’s Stints. A wonderful Pheasant-tailed Jacana already developing the typical breeding long tail projection was really showy and allowed some record shots. Here we also had good views on the impressive Pearl Emperor (Charaxes varanes) female, a wonderful large butterfly that flew over our group!

Beyond the ponds, the massive flocks of White Storks and Grey Herons were, for sure, hiding something else so we started scouting them. 1 African Sacred Ibis was found, to turn into 3 individuals later in the day. Also 1 Glossy Ibis was discovered feeding in what we supposed was a tiny pond. Beyond the Herons and the Storks, 1 Greater White-fronted Goose was moving in the scattered rank vegetation.

Beyond this area a small estuary was concealling the stream and the sea. A fast scanning concluded some 1000s of waders but also 4 Western Ospreys and some Greater Spotted Eagles on the beach. We just decided to come closer abd have a good scanning.

The area was simply great. Thousands of waders were feeding in the mudbanks. Many Dunlins, tones of Little Stints but also Common Sandpipers, Common Ringed Plovers, Common Redshanks, Greenshanks, Bar-tailed Godwits and some Kentish Plovers of the witish local race. 4 Eurasian Oystercatchers were counted along with several Eurasian Whimbrels. Here, some Lesser Sand Plovers were seen but the most popular wader were the Terek’s Sandpipers moving around. We counted at least 23 of them, some of them doing their typical short runs in search of food. These birds are authentical runners!

The lower Raysut ponds were hosting a incredible variety of birds!

In the sea, flocks of Socotra Cormorants were moving up and down and we enjoyed a pair of their typical massive flocks. Greater Crested, Lesser Crested & Caspian Terns were all around but the most interesting were two Saunder’s Terns moving South along the coast in what it turned out to be the two only Saunder’s of the tour, a species we were expecting to be commoner.

The area was really interesting. Also for gulls. Here we had good views on Heughlin’s, Steppe Gulls and also Caspian Gulls. It was funny to go throught the flock of gull, with some unclear individuals and many other showing typical characters of any of the species. A solitary Palla’s Gull was also noted in the flock.

The bay also produced good views on Delphins. In fact we got two different species with a small party of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and at least 1 Indian-Ocean Humpback Dolphin moving close to them.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophaisanus chirurgus), one of the most celebrated birds around Salalah.

After such a wonderful morning we just had a break for lunch. After our break it was time to go up in the hills to look for a number of other species. Now the landscape changed a lot with mild hills covered by a carpet of small decidous trees, with the impressive Dhoffar mountains in the back.

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi) enjoy huge densities in the Dhofar region. Image by Carles Oliver

Flocks of Rüppell’s Weavers jeweled the road as we were approaching the location. African Silverbills joined them. Few minutes later the whole group was enjoying wonderful views on Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and Abyssian White-Eyes. Many of them were coming to drink water in a small channel.
A short walk around was soon producing interesting birds including Palestine and Shinning Sunbirds as well as a lovely flock of African Silverbills. White-eyes were extremelly common , moving up in the canopies but also low in the branches, few inches from the ground. One of these flocks brought associated a lovely African Paradise Flycatcher, one of the most celebrated birds in the afternoon. In total, we counted up to 4 individuals, including one showing a full breeding tail in whitish colour!
The walk was being very productive, especially after 2 Blackstarts appeared really close to the path, delighting us with cracking views! The lower vegetation around was also promising so we went a bit out of the bigger trees to take a look. It proved to be a wonderful decision since we soon had 1 Arabian Warbler moving in one of the small trees. The bird showed nicely and its movements reminded us those of an Orphean Warbler. Right side by side from the Arabian Warbler we had another surprise since 1 Black-throated Tchagra pop up from the very dense vegetation to give us poor views. The bird was moving really low in the scrubland so a bit of wait was necessary until the bird decided to “jump” into the open for half a minute!

 

Abysssian White-ete (Zosterops abyssinicus), another common bird in bushland and forested areas.

 

Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura), another of the “African” specialities of the Dhofar region. Image by Carles Oliver

The locations was proving to be really productive and the landscape around was dominated by the impressive rock faces of the Dhoffar mountains. Here the cliffs were monitored by a good number of raptors. They were mainly Steppe Eagles but we could also see 3+ Eastern Imperial Eagles, 1-2 Greater Spotted Eagle and 1 Golden Eagle.

Arabian Warbler (Sylvia leucomelaena) showed really well despite the poor image.

 

African Paradise Flycatchers (Terpsiphone viridis) were not scarce but sometimes difficult to see, often moving associated with White-eyes flocks.

 

Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis) appeared briefly in the low scrubland.

Before heading to our accommodation we still had a last spot to try to add something else but we only added 1 male Blue Rock Thrush and several Isabelline Wheatears along with a superb Greater Spotted Eagle overwatching the whole area from a pilon.

Day 6. This day we drove some miles North from Salalah to enjoy our sea trip in search of some of the specialities living in this part of the Indic Ocean. The small harbour from where we depart was full of Sooty Gulls, alowing really close views on this lovely species. Moreover, the harbour was also hosting several Heuglin’s Gulls and some Caspian & Steppe Gulls. Inmediatly after our small boat left the harbour we had the first surprise in the form of a flock of Black-crowned Black Herons roosting on the external deck boulders. There were not alone but joined by several Gulls, some Grey Heron and 2 Western Reef Egrets. As the boat passed by we had really good views on the Herons.

Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii) portrait in the harbour few momments before starting our offshore trip. Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the open sea we started a hard work to attrack the some sea birds. Soon, a number of Sooty Gulls were following the small boat. A few minutes later we had the first target appearing in the way of a small flock of 3 Persian Shearwaters flying above the waves. Unfortunately they appeared as not interested in our small boat and kept flying away. Encouraged after such a good start we kept going off shore. Flocks and flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes were all over on the extremelly plain sea and their pure white bodies were like tiny lighthouses in the deep blue sea.
We enjoyed several close views on them but take good photos on them proved to be more difficult than expected.

Flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) were moving in the sea offshore Dhofar region. Image by Carles Oliver

The boat trip was going well but even improved as the 2 Masked Boobies flew over our boat! Great views on a really celebrated bird that, unfortunately seemed to have no interest at all in the food we were offering them. We kept scanning and feeding for long, expecting to attrack a Jouanin’s Petrel, one of the top targets in the offshore trip, but we had no luck in this…
We enjoyed up to 14 Masked Boobies with some great views and a second flock of Persian Shearwaters passed by us but no signal of the Petrel. Midway in the sea trip we got excellent views on Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and enjoy some great views on them while jumping in the waves and chasing tunas. A Green Sea Turtle was also a good addition to our list! It was a quite large one (about 1,5 metres) and it was in the surface only for few seconds…

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) was one of the most celebrated birds on our offshore trip.

 

Socotra Cormorants (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) were moving in large flocks along the coast.

 

Heuglin’s Gull (Larus heuglini) in winter plomage during our offshore trip.

 

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin during our offshore trip near Salalah. Image by Sergi Sales

Once back on the continent we just went for something to eat. Happy for the relative
good sights during the sea trip we just changed and went to the explore the highest area in the Dhoffar Mountains. A number of lanes go up in the slopes, allowing excellent birding all around. The way up produced excellent views on Long-billed Pipit, Blackstarts and Isabelline Shrikes.

This juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) was one of the most iconical image of the tour to Oman. Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the high plateau we were lucky enough to enjoy a nice flock of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, Long-billed Pipits and wonderful views on Singing Bush Larks. Beyond there, a male Arabian Wheatear Scanning the slopes inmediatly around we found a incredible flock of 20+ Yemen Serins feeding on the ground and showing wonderfully in a rocky area close to the road. We were amazed to have such a great views on this species, being this area the only one place in the world where it is possible to enjoy it!

Singing Bush Lark (Mirafra cantillans) offered lovely views on our exploration of Dhofar Mountains. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Tristam’s Starling (Onychognathus tristamii) is a scarce urban bird in Salalah and around. Image by Carles Oliver

 

The group enjoyed long views on a flock of the near-endemic Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis) in the Dhofar. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Female Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides) showing the orangy patch in the ear-coverts and the difusely barred breast. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a good views on many key species we kept moving in the slopes. Inmediatly around a small village we found 1 Eastern Imperial Eagle on a wood pilon. The bird showed nicely and allowed really good shots! Up in the sky, raptor action was increasing. In less than 15 minutes we counted 7 Eurasian Griffons, 10+ Eastern Imperian Eagles, Steppes Eagles, 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle and 1 Bonelli’s Eagle!
Still, the most wanted Eagle was not showing…yet. In our way up we did also a short stop in a pond and got one of the surprises of the trip.

The impressive landscape up in the Dhofar Mountains. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a great found we decided a proper stop in a pond and scan around. Many Abyssian White-eyes were moving around and 2 Shinning Sunbirds delighted us with its incredible colours.
Our last stop that day brought us to a wild scarpment. It was really windy and foggy so we were expecting little that afternoon. Fan-tailed Ravens were moving all around the cliffs and the area around produced wonderful views on Tristam’s Starlings. The scanning around was producing little else and we were already considering to leave when an enormous black and white shape emerged from the fog to fly up in the cliff: it was a Verreaux Eagle! The bird was just playing with wind, moving up and down in the cliffside. Few seconds after a second Verreaux Eagle appeared as well from the fog and we all enjoyed wonderful views in what is one of the most espectacular eagles on Earth! The birds kept appearing and disappearing from the bog for at least 15 minutes, doing incredible acrobatical flights and even stopping in the cliffs for short!!

We got some impressive views on Verreaux’s Eagles (Aquila verreauxii) despite the intense fog! Images by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a successful afternoon we just headed back to Salalah, where a good last stop was waiting for us. Urban birding in Salalah can be really good so we went to one of its urban parks, close to our accommodation, to finish the day. Out of the common Laughing Doves, one of the first birds we got were to Plain Rock Martins resting in one of the buildings of the complex. They offered good views on a bird we could see in flight so far. Beyond the building a small lagoon offered really good views on a flock of Whiskered Terns and also a pair of Caspian Terns. Citrine Wagtails were quite common in the flooting vegetation and 1 Palestine Sunbird showed superbly in low rank vegetation. 2 Indian Pond Herons were also present, catching the afternoon light in a wonderful way. Passing over the lagoon by a small bridge, we explored a palm tree orchad. Here we got one of the main targets of the visit in the way of 2 Bruce’s Green Pigeons showing in a wondeful way, first in a wire, later on a tree while feeding on fruits. This was again a really celebrated bird for everybody in the group.

Bruce’s Green Pigeons (Treron waalia) on a feeding tree in Salalah. Image by Carles Oliver

We kept moving in the area. An open field beyond was hosting waves and waves of Yellow Wagtails, including some nice summer plomaged “feldegg” and “beehma” birds. 1 Isabelline Weathear was also really showy in the area, as it was a Graceful Prinia. The channel around is an interesting roosting place for waders and, at that time, tens of Common Sandpipers were concentrating in the area along with 15+ Greenshanks and several Green Sandpipers. Sun was starting to go down but before we left we still had another top target appearing in the way of 2 Spotted Thick-knees posing for us under one fot he small olive trees in the garden.

Pale Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta) is much a urban bird in areas of Muscat and Salalah. Image by Sergi Sales

 

Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola) were again a major attraction for the tour participants. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Spotted Thick-knees (Burhinus capensis) resting on an urban park in Salalah. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a great views we just came back to our hotel to enjoy another great buffet dinner.

Day 7. This day we had a very early start with a small tranfer back to the desert, were in a small oasis we were expecting to find Grey Hypocolius as well as other top target birds. After our transfer we enjoyed our packed breakfast while scanning around. Not long at all until we got the first good bird in the way of a gorgeous mal Nile Valley Sunbird just around our car. Not many time for photographs in this wonderful bird because 1 Grey Hypocolius just flew over us (!!) stopping about 200 metres away from us. We just moved on and after some searching in the area we got brief views on a wonderful male up in a palm tree! But was a brief view as the bird pop down and disappear. Spent some time around with little result out of more views on the male Nile Valley Sunbird, joined now by a female!

Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica) showed superbly, including this male singing and displaying. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) female. A flock of 3 individuals were seen in our day in the desert. Image by Carles Oliver

We walked around hoping to have the Hypocolius appearing again but we got nothing but a pair of glimpses on 3 of them moving around. Blackstarts were singing around as the sun was getting higher.
Suddenly, a flock of birds appeared moving in the sky, Sandgrouses! A flock of 30 of them was moving in the distance, apparently moving down to drink water in a small pond beyond the vegetation. We just drove down the area, stopping in a decent distance to the pond. And then it came waves and waves of Sandgrouses, calling and flying extremelly fast around the pond. They were mainly Chestnut-bellied but also Spotted Sandgrouses were mixed with them.
First it was a flock of about 30. But then it came a second flock, and a third, and a fourth. Suddenly the sky look like full of them, with flocks coming in and out, landing, walking, flying fast from few inches to the ground or flying up in the sky while calling. This was propably one of the most remarcable momments of the tour. We estimated about 150 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses and 30+ Spotteds! In one the last flocks coming in we also got at least 1 Crowned Sandgrouse! It could not be better. Wrong. It could.
Right when all Sandgrouses were flying around with their noisy call, 2 Grey Hypocolious jumped on the wire just by our car, allowing some great views on them. ! female in particular stayed in the wire for about 5 minutes, allowing great images! We especially enjoyed the female, being there for some minutes while the male was only a little while…

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus), the commonest Sandgrouse in Oman in our 2019 tour. Image by Carles Oliver

More and more flocks of Sandgrouses were coming down to drink water. Now not only in this corner of the oasis but also in many other areas around. So we moved a bit to try to get better views on the different flocks and, maybe, something different. But we were already at the end of the spectacle and we only got closer views on a small flock of Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouses walking right in the tarmac. They were there for a pair of minutes and after that they flew off. Very little movement of Sandgrouses were left already…2 Blackstarts were singing in nearby cliffs. Got a nice view on them before heading back to Salalah.

Back in the coast we decided to spend some time in ponds in Raysut. There we were compensated with great views in a big flock of Abdim’s Stork, a species that we had only in flight until that moment. But in the ponds we had a flock of 200+ having a bath or simply resting in the gravel shore. Along with them, a good number of waders including several Temminck’s Stints and some Little Stints. Little Ringed Plover, Greenshanks and Common Sandpipers were also there.

Abdim’s Storks (Ciconia abdimii) at Raysut ponds. Up to 200 were seen! Image by Carles Oliver

After an early lunch we just got back to the hills. This time we went a bit inside the fabulous decidous forests covering much of Dhoffar Mountains Eastern slopes. Here we enjoyed with several flocks of Abyssinian White-eyes and some African Paradise Flycatchers. A pool in the forested areas produced good views on a male Shikra posted in the shade, waiting for potential preys to come. The trees around were hosting good numbers of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, Blacktarts but also 1 Siberian Chiffchaff that was calling in the canopies, making much easier to identify the bird. A small walk was done in nearby meadow, where we had a Red-throated Pipit flying over us.

This day we waited until dusk, and then we were to explore an interesting point for Arabian Scops Owl. We just waited until dark and after some minutes we got a wonderful Arabian Scops Owl calling really close to us. It was a question of minutes to get excellent views on the bird, and with the help of special lights we got incredible shots in the owl!

Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae) gave us excellent views on our nocturnal trip around Salalah. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a nice views we came back to the hotel for some dinner and rest.

Day 8. That sunny morning we went to try a different place for Arabian Golden-winged Hawfinch. In our way to the little pond were the birds use to come to drink we had a stop as 2 Arabian Partridges were standing by the road in lovely morning sun. Once in the pond, good numbers of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and African Silverbills were attending the water. We decided to wait a bit. 1 male Namaqua Dove passed by the pond at the same time that a Greater Spotted Eagle was flying over. Few more minutes of waiting and a female Shikra appeared up in the sky, offering good views.We kept scanning around the ponds, were some flocks of Abyssinian White-eyes were also coming. Then, something moved fast around one of the ponds, and a fast scanning produced a Grey-headed Kingfisher! This was a surprising sight since this species is suposed to arrive in Oman during early April (!!). We anyway enjoyed very much this really unexpected bird as was flying around the pond, chasing dragonflies in a really effective way! The bird showed really well for up to 20 minutes, until a big herd of cattle came to drink water.

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) was an unexpected goodie in our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

 

African Silverbills (Euodice cantans) came to drink water in a pond at the Dhofar Mountains foothills. Image by Carles Oliver

It was already quite and it was clear that Hawfinches were not coming to drink water, so we decided to move, missing this wonderful bird. This day we were facing a transfer North but before that we were still having some time to check the Salalah farms.
We checked s two of them before driving North. In our first location we got Clamorous Reed Warbler and up to 5 Graceful Prinias. The grasslands were hosting several Singing Bush Larks that were singing and performing around. Up in the sky, 4 Forbes-Whatson Swifts passed over us, offering good views in both the general colour and the white spot in the throat. Out of this, the grasslands were poor in birds so we decided to move to a second farm. A drive around this second place produced Hoopoe, Green & Wood Sandpipers and the only one Yellow-billed Kite of the trip. Still, the area was poor again in birds so we decided to leave the area and start moving North.

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis aucheri), a resident shrike in Omani deserts. Image by Carles Oliver

In our way North we did one stop midway. A short walk in the desert produced 1 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, 2 Black-crowned Sparrow-lark and 5+ Greater Hoopoe Larks chasing each other and doing acrobatical flights in a lovely afternoon light. After this good sight we just drive until Duqm, arriving a bit after sunset.

Day 9. This day we ha dan early breakfast and left North to explore the …… Bay. This is huge estuary concentrating hundreds of thousands of waders. When did arrive tide was low and birds very distant. Still, we had good views on several Bar-tailed Godwits, Kentish Plovers, Dunlins, Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlews and Lesser Sand Plovers. Flocks of Greater Flamingoes were roosting in the water, just few inches inside the Ocean. There were several Caspian Terns flying up and down the area and there were flocks of Sanderlings all along the shore.

Despite this, and after 45 minutes of scanning, we were uncapable to connect with our main target in this point, the Great Knot. So, we finally moved some miles North to keep scanning the estuary but from the Northern side. We drove some 40 minutes scan around the deck where some ferries are connecting with Marisah Island.

Impressive flocks like this of Sooty Gulls but also Steppe & Heuglin’s Gulls were a common view on the estuary around in front of Marisah Island.

 

Flocks of Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola) were moving in the inter mareal plateau along with several other waders.

In the beaches around there were literally thousands and thousands of Sooty Gulls. Along with them, huge flocks of Slender-billed Gulls were also a good views. Probably more than 7000 Slender-billeds and number even higher of Sooty Gulls! This wonderful espectacled were complemented by 100s of Caspian and Heuglin’s, being Steppe Gulls the less numerous in the area. A scan along the bridge giving access to the ferries produced a small flock of Common Terns, and not far away from them our only one White-cheeked Tern of the trip! Once in the deck we also enjoyed excellent views on Greater Crested Terns. Back in the mainland it was time for the tide to go down once more. Loads of waders came in. And along with the most common species we had wonderful views in 50+ Crab Plovers feeding in the shore and moving along with Bar-tailed Godwits. They were a bit distant but still this was definately one of the images of the tour for some of the tour participants and for sure a wonderful way to end the trip!

Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis) were showing really well in our way back to Muscat. Image by Carles Oliver

 

The best views on Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks (Eremopterix nigriceps) came right before heading back to Muscat. Image by Carles Oliver

In our way out of the area we still had a final stop since a really close Brown-necked Raven was offering nice views. Close by, a lovely Black-crowned Sparrow-lark gave us the best views on the trip, joined by a small flock of Tawny Pipits! These were the very last birds of the trip. After this we just drove back to Muscat for a nocturnal flight back home after a wonderful tour in Oman!

Please check our website for the upcoming issues of this trip. If not finding the information, please contact us: info@barcelonabirdingpoint.com

The Gambia Tour January 2019 Trip Report

Dates: 15th to 22nd January, 2019

Tour participants: 7

Seen bird species: 243

Day 1. We wake up on 16th January at our accommodation by the Gambian coastline. We just arrived the day before in an evening flight from Barcelona, where the tour participants had being assembling during the day from different countries.
Our first morning in The Gambia, and as the whole tour, was sunny and calm so we headed to the restaurant of the hotel for a good breakfast. While enjoying the coffee, we also had firsts contacts with some common birds in the area.
Yellow-billed Kites were ovicous in the sky along with Pied Crows. Speckled Pigeons were spotted in the roofs around and some Hooded Vultures were overflying the hotel grounds. Western Cattle Egrets were taking an eye to our tables and at some point they looked like seriously considerin to join us for breakfast… Flocks of Village Weavers were passing along with some Purple Glossy Starlings. The surprise of the morning came along with our second coffee in the form of 3 Royal Terns. A good surprise to get in the terrace of the hotel.

Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius) was the most celebrated of all targets appearing in the tour. Image: Philippe Marchessou

After breakfast we moved to the nearby Kotu Bridge. This is one of the main spots in coastal Gambia as it combines mangroves nicely preserved with paddy fields and scrubs. From the bridge we easily went on some common species: Pied Kingfishers were all around along with Long-tailed Cormorants and Pink-backed Pelicans. Several Western Reef Egrets were fishing in the shores along with some Squacco & Grey Herons and a single Great White Egret. In the muddy areas we spotted a flock of 20+ Common Ringed Plovers and 4 Little Ringed Plovers. Spur-winged Plovers were all over, calling and chasing each other. Around the bridge we found a obliging Broad-billed Roller and everybody in the group enjoyed excellent views in wonderful morning light. In the bush around we also had good views on the active Beautiful Sunbirds, including 2 wonderful mails, few inmature males and several female type birds. A proper scanning in the mangroves rapidly produced 1 Striated Heron down the river, joined by 1 Squacco and some wonderful Black Herons, some of them in the darkest area of the river banks.
Up in the sky there were Hooded Vultures and Yellow-billed Kites along with African Palm Swifts. A fast scanning produced also 2 Mottled Spinetails, a rather scarce bird in the area, and some Wire-tailed Swallows that happenned to come to the bridge, where they came down to stop in the wires around.
The bush land around the bridge kept producing good birds: Blackcap Babblers were seen flying over and 2 Long-tailed Glossy Starlings showed in glorious morning light. A pair of minutes after 1 Golden-tailed Woodpecker came out showing in some nearby branches. This was a quite celebrated bird as it was the first important target in the trip to appear. But the bird festival was not out, of course.

Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) is a massive kingfisher not always linked to water coursers. Image by tour participant Philippe Marchessou

A further scanning in the mangroves revealed 30+ Senegal Thick-knees roosting in the shade. Also 2 Malachite Kingfishers were pointed out. It was coming up a wonderful morning and was only to improve as the scanning from the bridge revealed 1 male Subalpine Warbler and close views on African Darter. One of the tour participants listened a Eurasian Reed Warbler so we came to try to have good views in the bird. This was a nice decision as we got the Reed Warbler but also a showy Northern Puffback male scattering inside the bush and finally crossing the small road with a short flight. Lovely views.
We started to scan beyond but before we even got any bird with the scope we had 2 Giant Kingfishers flying over our heads and heading the scrubs beyond the bridge. These massive Kingfishers can be difficult to spot but we were lucky enough to enjoy them for long, as one of the individuals came back to one of the wires of the bridge for a while. At this time we also got 2 stunning Blue-breasted Kingfishers coming out of the mangroves to stop in a low post inside the water, just by the bridge.
Scanning up the river we still got excellent views on Western Grey Plantain-Eater and African Grey Hornbills.
It was time to move and enjoy a walk in the paddy fields but we were again retained in the bridge. This time was a second male Subalpine Warbler showing well in the ranked vegetation and a small group of Red-chested Swallows that arrived to feed around.

This Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus) was the first thw group enjoyed as step down from the van. Image by Carles Oliver

We finally got to move from the bridge and started a short walk around. We inmediatly connected with the first of many Yellow-billed Shrikes while Senegal Coucals seemed to be common around. The followed a thin path getting inside rice fields and crossing a number of small marshy areas. Squacco Heron, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and Wood Sandpiper we all seen at this point. The place is known as a good spot for Little Bittern. Unfortunately we were uncapable to enjoy any of them. Flocks of Bronze Manninkins were flying around and we soon found ourselves enyoing Little Bee-eaters. They offered wonderful views when stopped in the low branches, sometimes few inches from the ground. The dense scrubland around is good for a variety of birds and we enjoyed more Manninkins, Red-billed Firechin, 2 Little Weavers, 1 Black-headed Weaver building a nest and 1 male Splendid Sunbird. A Common Whitethroat female came out of the dense vegetation and offered good but short views to most tour participants.

Blue-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon malimbica) -below- and Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) are two main targets for anyone visiting The Gambia. Images by tour leader Carles Oliver

Up in the air there were small parties of African Palm Swifts. The air was starting to be worm so more birds of prey were moving. They were all Hooded Vulture, Yellow-billed Kites and 1-2 Black Kites but we also got a Red-necked Falcon that gentlenly perched on the top of a tree, allowing excellent views in the scope. In our way back to the main road  2 African Spoonbills showed up in the sky.

Now we headed to a nearby pond while surrounded by Yellow-billed Shrikes, Senegal Coucals and Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters. Soon after a bright blue flash came from a palm tree and turned out in being a Blue-bellied Roller. This bird was particularly celebrated by the group and we kept enjoying it for some minutes. Belong the palm tree there were some scrubs and here we found out up to 4 Tawny-flanked Prinias that also performed really well.

We just kept going, enjoying Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Beautiful Sunbirds. Our next stop was a little pond near Kotu Bridge but before arriving we found a Lizzard Buzzard perched in our way. 2 African Pied Hornbills were trying to disturb it from that place, and they got it! The pond itself restulted a bit disapointed: 3-4 African Jacanas were in the shore but, out of this, we only got Greenshanks, Green Sandpiper and 2 Eurasian Moorhens (the only ones in the tour).

A beautiful dialogue was set up between Lizzard Buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus) and 2 African Pied Hornbills (Tockus fasciatus) as the Hornbills were concentrated in disturbing the small raptors. They succeed. Images by tour participant Philippe Marchessou

Our way back was equally as productive as the way in. A Green Wood-Hopooe appeared in the wire around, allowing some excellent shots. Along with this bird we got a flock of 4 White-billed Buffalo-Weavers. But the most celebrated bird at this point was a pair of Pearl-spotted Owlets found by the path. These small owls, with close relatives in both North America and Europe, were one of the main attractions of the day! Around them, several Senegal Coucals were visible, Blue-bellied Rollers were still up in the palm trees and a delicate Fork-tailed Drongo was scanning the sky from a bush. But probably the most interesting bird of the way back was a lovely Grey-backed Camaroptera showing in excellent way really low in a bush and also moving on the ground while collecting nesting material. All members in the group enjoyed very much (as I did myself) with this wonderful bird and such a good views!

Pearl-spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum) was the first of many species of owls appearing in the tour! Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Green Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus) is common in a palm trees groves and semi-arid countryside. Image by tour participant Philippe Marchessou.

Back in Toku Bridge we just went to the nearby water point, kept by the Gambian Bird Association staff. This tiny water pond attracks good numbers of birds and it is a really productive. In 15 minutes of wait in the shade we got Vinaceous Dove, Red-chekeed Cordon-bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, and Northern Grey Sparrow. The waiting there was even more productive as we got an Isabelline (formerly Western Olivaceous) Warbler moving in a small tree inmediatly above the pond and a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird up in a kind of fig tree.

All the group was delighted after such a wonderful morning! But it was lunch time so we moved into a nearby restaurant by the beach. Here we enjoyed some good food and had some rest from midday heat while scanning the sea. The sea watching was more or less productive as we got some Sandwich Terns moving up and down in the coast and 2+ Pomarine Skuas chasing terns far offshore. When about to leave we got the first Lesser Crested Tern of the tour perched on a floating balloon and everybody got nice views in the scope.

One of the 3 males Greater Painted Snipes (Rostratula benghalensis) roosting in the mangroves near Toku Bridge. A rather unexpected sight. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

After our lunch we just headed to a new pond. The walk produced first views on the spectaculars Yellow-crowned Gonolek and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers along with Village Weavers and African Thrush skulking on the ground. Here we also got good views on a quite remarcable Nile Monitor feeding on some rubbish in the ground. At the pond itself, we scanned hard looking for our main target and we soon could enjoy good views on 3 male Greater Painted Snipes in the scope! They were really hard to see but we were lucky enough as one of them just moved a bit and we catched this movement. A severe scanning of the bank finally produced the three birds. At the same pond we also had Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank.

Little Bee-eaters (Merops pusillus) are a common view in coastal The Gambia. Image by Philippe Marchessou.

Just happy after such a good views on one of the main targets of the trip, we just came back to the small water point we visited earlier in the day. A different set of species were seen there: Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red-billed Firefinches, Yellow-fronted Canary but also White-crowned Robin Chat! A final walk into the palm trees groves produced excellent views on Beautiful Sunbirds as well as the first sight on Senegal Parrot, a wonderful way to end the day.

Senegal Parrots (Poicephalus senegalus) are surprisingly noisy, even for a Parrot. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a great day we just came back to our accommodation for a great dinner and wonderful rest!

Day 2. This day we just headed North from our accommodation, arriving as far as the Northern border with Senegal. Our fist stop was at Kartong Mining Area. This is a former grave mining place, now closed and hosting a great birdlife. Just arrived we started enjoying good birds. Flocks of Piapiacs and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings seemed to be everywhere around, joined by Purple Glossy Starlings. Here we also got or first group of Callythrix Monkeys, a recent split from Grey Monkey. A first scanning around produced up to 3 Senegal Coucals, a common view in this location, as well as several Western Grey Plantain-eaters, Beautiful Sunbirds and 1 stunning Abyssian Roller perched on a fence. A White Wagtail passed by and stoped close by our van. This was moment that a Rufous-crowned Roller just punched the Abyssian Roller from its post! A walk around the area produced Tawny-flanked Prinia but also a Fine-spotted Woodpecker, both Greater and Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, Isabelline Warbler, 2 Zitting Cisticolas, 2 Black-rumped Waxbills and Woodchat Shrike. The water level in the whole area was really low and bird activity, limited.

You simply cannot get tired of Beautiful Sunbirds (Cinnyris pulchellus). Image by Carles Oliver

Scanning a second pond we had some African Jacanas, Malachite Kingfisher and 1 African Swamphen (the only one of the tour!) feeding out of the vegetation in a muddy area. Happy with this nice spot we all kept scanning around while taking a look to the skyes. It was already 10:30 and quite warm so it was a nice moment for raptors to move. As always, several Yellow-billed Kites and Hooded Vultures were seen soaring or circling in the sky but a proper scanning of the tree line in the distance revealed a mínimum of 3 Palm-nut Vultures, all of them wonderful adults.

This is a very special bird of prey spending most of the time in forest and palm-tree areas, where they look for palm-nut fruits, the base of their diet. They also scavenger, especially along water bodies and eventually predate on a long list of small animals, from invertebrates to young birds.

Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis) -below- and Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater (Crinifer piscator) performed really well in morning light at Kartong marshes. Images by Carles Oliver

The views on the bird were great, although a bit distant. We also enjoyed two of them flying around and showing their wonderful plumage. While enjoying this raptors I listened both Black-crowned Tchagra and Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike singing from the far tall thickets, about 300 metres away. Despite our efforts to locate these birds, it was impossible to find out. Our effort was conpensated by a Grey Kestrel that kindly came to stop in a nearby palm tree. All the group enjoyed great views on this bird!

We still spent some time scanning a pair more of pools but with really poor results so we decided to move on and take a look to the nearby beach in search of some major targets. Once parked by the beach we all walked down to the shore, ready for a shortwalk along the beach. A first scanning easily produced several Sanderlings, 2 Eurasian Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstones and 1 Grey Plover. The sky was full of terns moving up and down. As we walked North it was easy to find out Sancwich’s & Caspian Terns. Small flocks of Grey-headed Gulls were visible roosting on small rocks in the ocean or flying overs. We were fast in locate the first of many Lesser Crested Terns as well as several Caspians. We kept moving North with the wonderful blue of the sky and ocean as an unforgettable frame until we arrived to an area where the beach comes wider. A small scanning easily reveleaded 1 adult White-fronted Plover along with 3 Kentish Plovers. We all enjoyed great views on the tiny plover while moving on the beach. Again scanning the sea we got a female Western Marsh Harrier and the first small flock of Royal Terns moving along with other terns. We counted not less than 17 of them! A good number of birds where moving North in the bay. A Little Tern flying along with some Sandwich’s and Caspians. About 45 Pink-backed Pelicans where resting on the beach and the sea and then is when one of the local bird guides came to us to advice us on a group of Bee-eaters flying above the scrubland beyond the beach.

Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a common overwintering bird in coastal The Gambia. Image by Philippe Marchessou

I think I was not the only one to missunderstand “Common Bee-eater” so I thought they were having a small flock of European Bee-eaters. Good spot but I personally kept concentrated in a far flock of gulls including some Audouin’s Gulls and other beauties. The surprise turned out when the “Common Bee-eaters” turned on to be Northern Carmine Bee-eaters so I fastly adviced the guys and moved inside the bushland. Everybody followed us and all the group was enjoying these wonderful birds in a pair of minutes. There were 5 of them, catching insects with fast flights from the thin branches of a 4 metres tall dead tree, A small partie of Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters were moving alongside and allowed excellent comparatives of such incredible species.

A gorgeous flock of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters (Merops nubicus) showed really well during our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Structural differences between Northern Carmine Bee-eater (left) and Blue-checkeed Bee-eater (Merops persicus) are evident in this imatge. Image by Carles Oliver

Photographers were specially delighted with the views on these species of Bee-eaters and we spend enough time to scan around in a proper way. A good number of Pink-backed Pelicans were resting on the beach and we had good views on them and also a in some Hooded Vultures nearby. A Common Sanpiper, Eurasian Whimbrels and 2 Grey Plovers were around in the small ponds of the tiny estuary but probably the best bird were a pair of Senegal Eremomela moving quite fast in the dense vegetation.

After such as good spot it was time to head back to our van. It was already quite hot and the flock of gulls was not any more in the beach. Still, the walk back provided us with really good views on a juvenile White-fronted Plover and on a small flock of Mosque Swallows that were chasing insects above the scrubs.

White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus) is a scarce coastal Plover in West Africa. Image by Carles Oliver

Once arrived by our we still had time to enjoy a good refreshment. Natural orange juice or some soda before going to our restaurant for lunch! But even in this resting time we got our small piece of good bird since 1 Tawny Eagle was spotted at the beach. Unfortunably the bird just flew off but we still had good views on the bird flying away from us. It turned to be the only one of this species along the trip… Amazed after this lucky encounteer we just finish our drinks and drove for about 20 minutes until a small and lovely restaurant by the river that works as Southern Gambian border. Here we enjoyed the best fish (and probably the best meal) of the trip while having some good birds. At the opposite bank of the river was Senegal so those (me included) working on list per countries were delighted with this!

So, in the Senegalese side of the river we enjoyed 2 Bar-tailed Godwits that were also new for the trip. There were several Pied Kingfishers, Western Reef Egrets, Great White Egrets and 1 Eurasian Oystercatcher (the only one of the trip!). A pair of other good surprises appeared as we spotted 1 Great White Pelican and a really distant Goliath Heron (this one in the Gambian side) walking along the shore.

Western Ospreys were extremelly active at the site and we had several wonderful views in two adults performing and calling around. After lunch we just sat by the river, in a good shade and scan around. 1 Slender-billed Gull appeared in the river (not sure what side) and a small flock of Gull-billed Terns were a non-top show up and down the river. Also Common Ringed Plovers, Spur-winged Plovers and the closest views on an Eurasian Whimbrel I have ever had! From were I was I could listen a call up the trees, behind our position so I went for a small walk and found 1 Isabelline Warbler (formerly Western Olivaceous Warbler) moving up in the riverside vegetation. A second bird moved along with and after some minutes the bird was finally showing well; it was a Brown Sunbird! A fast call and the whole group joined to have an excellent sight on the bird preening and standing for long. And then we realised there were two Brown Sunbirds and not only one.

As most Eremomelas, Senegal Eremomela (Eremomela pusilla) were moving in small parties. Image by Carles Oliver

We left the area really happy after such a good combination of good birds and excellent food. Our next stop was in Tanji Beach. Here we decicated a good walk around the coastal scrub looking for Four-banded Sandgrouses. Unfortunately and despite our efforts we could not find any of them… Still, the area was really rich in birdlife. Senegal Eremomelas looked like being everywhere, including a good flock of 11+ moving in the scrubs. Common Nightingales were calling in the dense thickets but we never got any view on them. One of the first birds in the area was our first Violet Turaco of the trip, that kept moving agaisnt the sun all the time! Black-billed Wood-Doves were also common and got several of them being flushed while looking for Sandgrouses. In the middle of our search a fig tree kept being full of birds, including two wonderful Bearded Barbets moving along with Common Bulbuls (local race called now Upper Guinea Bulbul). It is always a pleasure to enjoy such a wonderful birds!

The wonderful Bearded Barbet (Lybius dubius) occurs in a variety of habitat in The Gambia. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

The area was also rich in finches, allowing excellent views on Red-billed Firefinches but also in Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and Orange-cheeked Waxbills. A mixed flock of both species along with Bronze Manninquins was one of the hits of this afternoon. Back to the van we just drove back to the esturary were we scanned the flock of gulls looking for something special. Unfortunately we only got a pair of Black-headed Gull amongst several Grey-headeds’. It was a bit late in the afternoon and some fishermen were coming back to the beach. The Tanji fish market was waiting for them and the treasures they were bringing from the Ocean. It was an excellent decision because we enjoyed very much with the activity and the colours of the fish market but also because many gulls were attackted to the fish market, including 2+ Kept Gulls. We had really good views on the birds and a good comparative with a 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. Well, don’t forget we got our first flock of House Sparrow of the trip!!!

Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala) is the commonest finch in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

The Tanji fish market is a wonderful way to understand how coastal human comunities live in West Africa. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy with this rather last minute addings we came back to our hotel for a good rest and dinner.

Day 3. This day we were going the explore inland Gambia. Despite we didn’t check out of our coastal hotel we were not coming back to sleep there but going to Tendaba Camp, probably the best option to explore inland Gambia while avoiding long transfers. Well, the planning of the day was a bit difficult. Due to the drought most of the Egyptian Plovers were already back far inland or in Senegal but we were still having chances in a small pond at the Northern bank of the country. So we left our accommodation and headed to the main ferry crossing the Gambia River near Banjul. Unfortunately that day it was a meeting between Senegalese and Gambian PM so the ferry was overbooked! The result of this was a long, long wait first to get the tickets and then to cross River Gambia.

In our way to the ferry we had far away views on a flock of Greater Flamingoes and we passed by one of the only 2 Black-headed Herons of the tour.

During our wait we enjoyed views on some Cape (Kept) Gulls in the decks along with absolutely wonderful views on Pomarine Skuas (at least 11 of them!!!) chasing gulls and terns (mostly Lesser Crested Terns) by the beach, many times passing over the fishermen in the beach itself. We enjoyed very much these views but probably not enough to forget about the four hours long wait… To see these Skuas chasing all those terns and stopping right by the beach or on the sea was one of the most unexpected sights for many of our clients, and very appreciated!

Once at the Northern bank we drove up the river and after some miles we did our first stop. The first Dark-Chanting Goshawk was up in a pylon so enough reason to stop and take a look. At the same place we had some Namaqua Doves flying around, a common view in Tendaba area. Another road stop allowed us to connect with the first 4 Black-headed Lapwings of the trip. We kept driving a bit more and got “typical” road birding such as Brown Snake Eagle and Gabar Goshawk.

Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates) during our exploration in Gambian Northern Bank. Image by Carles Oliver

A fast stop at Kaur produced flocks of thousands of Red-billed Queleas flying into the reeds that were dramatically chased by a Lanner Falcon. Squacco Heron, Wood Sandpiper and Pied Kingfisher were also showing nicely. Soaring above the reeds and the floodplains we also got 2 Montagu’s Harriers (juvenile and male) and 1 Western Marsh Harrier. Before our main destination we still had another road stop, this time for 4 Black-headed Lapwings posing by the road.

We finally arrived to the small pond where we were specting to have our target. We all jumped out of the car and inmediatly were enjoyed walk-away views on 1 Egyptian Plover!!! It was worth the extra effort, after all! The bird was moving in the shore along with other waders (Common Sandpiper, Spur-winged Plover, Green Sandpiper) and was extremelly tame, allowing all member in the group to enjoy suberp views and not worst images. It was also incredible to see the behaviour of the bird, a mixture between a Plover and a Stone Curlew…

Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius) cooperated to get a wonderful series of shots! Images by Carles Oliver

 

The pond itself was really rich in birdlife. While we were approaching the Plover we had 2 Pale Flycatchers moving low in the rank vegetation. A really short walk around allowed some excellent and unexpected specialities. 1 Brown Snake Eagle showed really well and the dead branched os a pair of trees were a true magnet for a good number of species. 2 Bearded Barbets were showing well, promptly replaced by 2 African Collared Doves! The largest tree was the most interesting small birds (mostly finches) were all the time moving around. A small group of 10+ Cut-throat Finches was moving around, also Red-billed Queleas and Red-billed Firefinches. 3 Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs showed up in the trees, 2 of them showing full lenght tails!! This was a very celebrated bird in the group. Finches were coming and going. A flock of 3 Northern Grey Sparrows came in but something smaller, rather yellowish appeared along with them; it was a female Sudan Golden Sparrow!! Wow, this was quite unexpected and an excellent bird to see, really! Next flock came in, this time lovely Namaquas Doves that were moved by 2 Long-tailed Glossy Starlings. It took a pair of minutes the finches to came back, this time more Cut-throat Finches than before but this time along with 3 White-backed Seedeaters.

Bearded Barbet (Lybius dubius) was one of the many species enjoyed at the tiny pond where the Egyptian Plover was. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

This was a great spot and I’m just looking forward coming back there next year! But it was time to move. Time to go back to the Southern bank of Gambia. This time the ferry near Tendaba was fast and still allowed us a final stop in the savannah before going to our accommodation. Dark-Chanting Goshawk was showing again superbly so we did a random stop, trying to find something else. I we did it. Nearby it was a small flock of 3 African Wattled Lapwings moving in the semi-arid contryside. Not easy to see and took us some time until everybody in the group enjoyed good views on them. Before going back to our van, 2 Bruce Green Pigeons flew over allowing fast but intense views on these magnificient birds.

Vinaceous Dove (Streptopelia vinacea) -left- and male Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) in a lovely comparative. Image by Carles Oliver

By the time we arrived to Tendaba it was almost dark but we were happy after enjoying excellent views on the Egyptian Plover and other great birds!

Day 4. Early morning start this time to enjoy the mangroves by Tendaba Camp. The mangroves are part of the large Kiang National Park. Here we enjoyed wonderful views on Western Reef Egret, Striolated Heron, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Fish Eagle, African Cormorant (lucida race of Great Cormorant), White-throated Bee-eaters, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Collared Sunbird, hundreds of African Darters and the only one Purple Heron of the trip. The boat trip goes in a laberinth of channels penetrating in the mangroves and it is wonderful way to explore such a incredible habitat.

The group enjoying the mangroves at Kiang National Park. Image by Carles Oliver

A quite hard scan was necessary to discover some of the White-backed Night Herons roosting in the mangroves but after some minutes everybody in the little boat got great views and some shots in the birds. We counted 4 birds in different spots, a number quite low if comparin with other times. Soon before living the mangroves we listened 1 African Blue Flycatcher so we stopped, scanned trying to find out the bird. Unfortunately it was no way and better views on the bird were relicted to a flash of a shadow moving up in the canopy. Back to the river we experienced how strong the wind was. The river at this point is about 1 quilometer wide so it can take some time to cross. It was quite hot and a pair of waves brought a kind of not very wellcome refreshment to some of the tour participants. Fortunalety was only a pair of times and we came back fast to Tendaba, where went to enjoy a walk around.

White-backed Night Heron (Gorsachius leuconotus) showed well despite being really deep inside the mangroves. Image by Carles Oliver

African Darter (Anhinga rufa) is a common view at Kiang National Park. Image by Carles Oliver

The hill beyond Tendaba Camp can be quite good for birding. Despite being quite windy we still had lovely views on Abyssinian Roller, Pygmy Sunbird (male and female), Beautiful Sunbird and European Bee-eaters. A pond equiped with a small hide provided excellent views on both Namaqua Doves and several Black-billeds Wood-Doves. Here we also had Red-billed Queleas, Northern Red Bishop, Black-rumped Waxbills, Red-chekeed Cordon-Bleus, 2 Bush Petronias and Northern Grey Sparrows.

Pygmy Sunbird (Hedydidna platura) ranks among one of the most espectacular Sunbirds in The Gambia. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

It was quite midday and time to move on. Our next stop was the famous Raptor Bridge, where we stopped for a pic-nic. Here we enjoyed the best raptor action of the trip. Just arrived we had a good troop of Hooded Vultures and Yellow-billed Kites moving over. Also 4+ Rüppell’s Vultures, 10+ White-backed Vultures and 2 Eurasian Griffons were flying over. 3 African Harrier Hawks were also well visible, including 1 juvenile. One pair of Grasshoper Buzzards was also appearing two or three times in the sky. The tree that was offering us its shade had 1 Isabelline Warbler and close to the bridge it was also 1 Black-headed Heron, Squacco Heron, Intermediate Egret and 1 White Stork (!). White Stork is a commonview on passage but really scarce in winter time in The Gambia so always a really good bird to see!! We kept scanning for raptors. Our efforts were compensated with a Wahlberg’s Eagle showing well as well as with 1 Palm-nut Vulture cincling along with White-backeds’.

Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) is one of many targets of the trip. We enjoyed several views on the bird. Image by Carles Oliver

After our canned pícnic we moved to our last stop of the day, to visit a small patch of untouched native forest. The walk around was really good and produced good views on Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, a juvenile Greater Honeyguide, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, ruff views on Double-spurred Francolin (one of our client got moret han ruff views), Blue-spotted Wood-Doves, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and wonderful Green-headed Sunbirds attending a small pond.

Green-headed Sunbird (Cyanomitra verticalis) is a scarce resident in a gallery forest and other habitats. Image by Carles Oliver

But these wonderful birds were not the real reason of our visit. When arrived a local guide was waiting for us. The first bird he showed us was a pair of Greyish Eagle Owl roosting low in a tree. 5 minutes more of walk were mandatory to arrive to our next target, and we got excellent views. Both female and male Standard-winged Nightjars gave us amazing views, the male showing the penants in the wings…Unforgettable! Last stop, deep in the forest, allowed us to enjoy 1 African Wood Owl up in the trees. Wow, a think these were the best 90 minutes of the tour for some of our clients!!

Greyish Eagle Owl (Bubo cinerascens) at its roosting place. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

 

Standard-winged Nightjar (Macrodipteryx longipennis) female (above) and male (below) was a nice and unexpected finding. Please pair attention in the male wing projections! Images by Carles Oliver

African Wood Owl (Strix woodfordii) was surprinsigly hard to find up in the gallery forest canopy! Image by Carles Oliver

After this wonderful last stop we just headed back to our hotel, where we had a wonderful extra long shower and also extra long dinner!

Day 5. In a new sunny and lovely day we directly went to the famous Abuco Natural Reserve. Several good birds to be discovered. A first scanning from one of the view points allowed to see Broad-billed Roller, Osprey (extremelly close), Giant Kingfisher (even closer), Squacco Heron, African Darter, African Grey Woodpecker, Black-necked Weaver and Heuglin’s Masked Weaver. The place was having a good activity and didn’t take long until one of the tour participants talk about a dark-and-reddish bird skulking on the ground…A fast scan in the area produced great views on 2 Western Bluebills! The small patch of vegetation was having a good activity and we also enjoyed Little Greenbul and Black Crake. 1 juvenile African Harrier-Hawk came into the trees nearby, moving into the water the only one Nile Crocodile that we saw along the tour.

We enjoyed obliging Western Osprey (Pandion halietos) -above- and Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) -below- at Abuco Natural Reserve. Images by Carles Oliver

A small walk around proved to be really productive. A tiny pond rich in floating vegetation produced excellent views on a pair of Western Bluebills along with Bronze Manninkin and a gorgeous Oriole Warbler feeding really low in the vegetation. A female Common Wattle-Eyed was also moving along with the Oriole Warbler, allowing good views to all tour participants. Here we also got excellent views on both male and female Grey Woodpecker working on a tree. 1 Snowy-crowned Robin Chat was quite showy for some time, alway on the ground under dense cover. Both African Paradise and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers were common in the forest, many times associated with White-eyes. Our walk deep inside produced also 2 Grey-headed Bristlebills moving low in the vegetation. This is a quite shy Babbler that can be quite difficult to see. Blackcap Babblers are not that difficult but always a pleasure to enjoy. A pair of flocks gave us good views. Our walk deep in the forest brought us until a place with really big trees. Was time to scan. Not long until we got a Westen Grey Plantain-Eater flying over…and then appeared the 1st Green (now called Guinea) Turaco. First one, but then more Guinea Turacos were joining the trees. Violet Turacos came also along. The birds were looking for the fruits they typically feed on so were moving slowly in the branches or “jumping” from one branch to the next. That corner was still rich in small birds and we catch up with a nice flock of 5+ Yellow-breasted Apalis moving up in the canopies.

Violet Turaco (Musophaga violacea), always in search of mature fruits, was showing really well in Abuco Natural Reserve. Image by Carles Oliver

Guinea Turaco (Tauraco persa) was always moving high up in the canopies. Image by Carles Oliver

Still time for exploring a pair more of corners so we went on and find an open space with good activity. Here we enjoy great views on Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, nice views on a Lesser Honeyguide and a small flock of Lavender Waxbills moving in and out in the low branched of a dead tree. Fanti Saw-wings were flying low in the clearing and eventually stopped by the Bee-eaters. A bit beyond we still had time check a last tree. Not less than Bearded Barbets were in the place!

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (Merops hirundineus) inhabits dense forest edges, normally moving at low level. Image by Carles Oliver

Little Greenbul (Adropapus virens) is common in gallery forest and dense mangroves. Image by Carles Oliver

Western Bluebill (Spermophaga haematina) is one of the most spectacular passerines living in the gallery forest. Image by Carles Oliver

For lunch we went to the nearby mangroves, where a restaurant in the tide area offered a good selection of food and shade plus obliging Callythrix Monkey feeding on the fish and Beer (!) and, in fact, anything they could get.

Mudskipper (Periophtalmus koelreuteri) -above- and Callithrix or Green Monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) -below- were two of the main attractions in our last visit to the Gambian mangroves. Images by Carles Oliver

In the afternoon we went to spend some time in Brufut Reserve. Here a local guide was waiting for us to guide us into a special tree. Both Brown and Blackcap Babblers were around, Western Red-billed & African Grey Hornbills appeared and some African Thrush showed briefly in the vegetation. In the tree, a superb pair of Northern White-faced Owls. All tour participants got again wonderful views in this unique owl. Great!

The group enjoyed 2 Northern White-faced Owls (Ptilopsis leucotis) roosting in a tiny tree. Image by Carles Oliver

We then kept scanning around. We got ruff views on Yellow-throated Leaflove and African Pygmy Kingfisher. A Grey Woodpecker didn’t stole the show and, with a perfect light, was the main character of several shots. A short walk around brought us (again) to a huge fig tree. Several sunbirds were feeding there including Beautiful, Variable and 2 Copper Sunbirds showing typical black, rather long undertail. The tree was full of Common Bulbuls, Yellow-fronted Serins and Village Weavers but also had some Western Grey Plantain-Eaters. Finally we got really good views on 2 African Green Pigeons feeding high up in the tree.

Copper Sunbird (Cynniris cupreus) male moulting to breeding plomage. Note the long, black tail. African Green Pigeon (Treron calvus) attended a busy fig tree (below). Images by Carles Oliver

Then we had a small walk around. 1 African Golden Oriole flew over while a obliging flock of Orange-cheeked Waxbill showed up in perfect light. A juvenile Greater Honeyguide also flew over our heads. Our guide brought us to another special corner where, after some reseach, we enjoyed Long-tailed Nightjars male and female. The birds looked like quite nervous so we worked quite hard to not disturb the birds at all. I have to say that the all tour participants did really well on this, despite being a bit challenging since the female was a bit to close to the path! Still not out because a final walk produced Klaa’s Cuckoo, another Copper Sunbird and several Red-chested Swallows. At the end we just sat down by a pond. Several birds came to it. Good numbers of Blue-spotted Wood-Doves, Lavender Waxbills, African Paradise Flycatcher, Guinea Turaco, African Yellow White-eyes, Yellow-throated Leaflove, African Thrush, Little Greenbul and Eurasian Reed Warbler all came our of the dense vegetation!

Yellow-throated Leafloves (Chlorocichla flavicollis) were one of the most celebrated birds from our visit to Brufut. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus) is one of the commonest small finches in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

Black-necked Weaver (Ploceus nigricollis) inhabits well forested habitats in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone rufiventer) at Brufu Natural Reserve. Image by Carles Oliver

Long-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus climacurus) was one of the most wanted birds by the group! Image by Carles Oliver

Well, happy all after such a wonderful day, we just came to our accommodation in a short transfer to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Day 6. The las full morning in the trip we went to explore Pirang National Forest. This is one main spot for the always extremely difficult White-spotted Flufftail. Best time for the bird is, probably, October-November. Despite this, we dediced to go and try (in Catalonia we say “let’s throught a stone and see what happens”). Well, this time nothing happened. We wait a long time but unfortunately nothing came out of the jungle. Despite this, Pyrang was giving us some good birds. The first was (finally) proper view on a Double-spurred Francolin when we were arriving to the location. Inside the forest we enjoyed a pair of excellent views Green Hylia and excellent views on African Pygmy Kingfisher on a water pond. A Little Greenbul was also really obliging despite the pond was quite deserted (probably 2 African Harrier Hawks were the responsable on this low activity). Deep in the forest we also got ruff views on a Buff-spotted Woodpecker. Once again we were brought to one of these special places. Deep in the forest, a Chattering Bluebill was listened callin but, despite our efforts, we could never conect with this small cuckoo. A nest of Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, where we could see one adult (probably a female) along with a chick. What a incredible view on such impressive bird.
At this corner of the forest it was a lot of activity. A flock of 30+ African Yellow White-Eyes were moving up in the canopies. Along with them Paraside FLycatchers, Common Wattle-Eyes, Isabelline Warbler and Yellow-breasted Apalis.

Green Hylia (Hylia prasina) was personally one of the birds of the trip. Look at the massive supercilium and the bulky, rather sunbird-like bill. Amazing for a warbler! Image by Carles Oliver

 

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird (Pogoliunus chrysoconus) appeared is a common bird in The Gambia, always in low densities. Image by Carles Oliver

 

A flock of Orange-cheeked Waxbills (Estrilda melpoda) delighted us while searching for African Pygmy Kingfisher. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Our best views on Palm-nut Vulture were deep inside the Pyrang forest! Image by Carles Oliver

 

We got intimate views on Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus) at its nest. Wonderful and rather unexpected! Image by Carles Oliver

A tiny African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ceyx pictus) was one of the most celebrated birds of the trip. It took as a long search! Image by Carles Oliver

Not a bad end to our visit to Pirang. For lunch we decided to go to another pícnic as this was allowing us to spend more time in interesting spots. A drive brought throught interesting places with some impressive butterflies. This little transfer was having a small and unexpected break since my cap get off my head and actually went off the car so we, of course, had to stop and went back (in a quite busy road) so I was able to get my cap back. Fortunelly I think only a pair of cars went over the cap before I could get it back!!!

Only got ruff views on 1 Guinea Baboon (Papio papio) despite being very vocal at Pyrang Forest. Image by Carles Oliver

Finally arrived to the place, a pair of selected stops produced some good birds, including a pair of views on Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, one of the main targets of the tour and quite celebrated in the group!

Some road birding was really productive with nice vice on Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, ruff views on Mottle Spinetail & Stone Partridge, Little Weaver and Variable Sunbird.
Once we arrived to the savannah we started adding some new species. A Black-winged Kite was really close to the road, as it was a Long-crested Eagle. Some skinny trees produced excellent birds including Striped Kingfisher, Northern Black Flycatcher, Dark-Chanting Goshawks, White-rumped Seedeaters and a very distant African Hawk Eagle. The final drive to our accommodation was still successful, with Fork-tailed Drongo, Shikra, Rufous-crowned Roller, Yellow-billed Shrike and Gabar Goshawk as road birds!

Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates) in typical tree. Image by Carles Oliver

Fine-spotted Woodpecker (Campethera punctuligera) joined a flock a Sunbirds attending the blossom in the savannah. Image by Carles Oliver

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) was one of the many raptors appearing in our afternoon in the savannah. Image by Carles Oliver

Striped Kingfisher (Halcyon chelicuti) is one of many species of Kingsfishers living far away from water cousers. Their main prey are grasshopers and dragonflies. Image by Carles Oliver

Long-crested Eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis) are a common view in Sub-Saharan Africa but always a wonderful bird to see. Image by Carles Oliver

 

This wonderful male Shikra (Accipiter badius) just turned out while enjoying a colony of White-billed Buffalo-weavers close to our accommodation. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 7. Last day of our tour. This day we were concentrated in the grounds of our hotel. After breakfast we just went down to the gardens, where we had really good views on Oriole Warbler, White-crowned Robin-chat, Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling, Grey Woodpecker, Piapiacs, Broad-billed Rollers, a surprising Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Village & Black-necked Weavers, Hamercop, Little Swifts, Purple Glossy Starlings and both Blackcap & Brown Babblers. Many of them allowing good photo chances. A short scanning in the sea produced a Great White Pelican, only the second of the trip!

Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae). Image by Carles Oliver

 

Western Red Colobus (Piliocolobus badius). Image by Carles Oliver

 

African Thrush (Turdus pelios). Image by Carles Oliver

 

Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor) was one of the main attraction of our morning in the gardens. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Oriole Warbler (Hypergerus atriceps) did really well in hiding. Images by Carles Oliver

 

Bronze Mannikins (Spermestes cucullatus) were really tame in the gardens. Image by Carles Oliver

 

White-crowned Robin Chats (Cossypha albicapilla), one of the most common and noisy birds in the gardens. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Long-tailed Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis caudatus). No comments. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) are extremelly common, even for this species. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Long-billed Shrike (Corvinella corvina) was also hunting in our hotel grounds. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Blue-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon malimbica) was showing superbly at the grounds. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Purple Glossy Starlings (Lamprotornis purpureus) are the commonest Lamprotornis in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Yellow-crowned Gonolek (Laniarius barbarus) is one of the most espectacular bush-shrikes in Africa. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava). Image by Carles Oliver

 

Hooded Vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) are extremely common in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Bronze-tailed Starlings (Lamprotornis chalcurus). Please note the short primary projection and the contrast between uppertail, rump and vental area. Image by Carles Oliver

After enjoying the grounds and a good lunch in the beach we just took off to the airport, where our plane back to Barcelona was waiting for the group!

It has been a gorgeous 1st issue for our The Gambia tour.
Remember, in December 2019 we go on with the 2nd issue!! Join us for birds & fun!!!!

The group, happy after some great birding days! Image by Junkung Jadama of Birding Gambia.

 

List of mammals of the tour:

  1. Guinea or Red Baboon (Papio papio)
  2. West Red Columbus (Piliocolobus badius)
  3. Patas Monkey (Cercopithecus patas)
  4. Callithrix Monkey (Cercopithecus sabaeus)
  5. Gambian Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus gambianus)
  6. Striped Ground Squirrel (Euxerus erythropus)

List of reptilians of the tour:

  1. Gambia Agama (Agama weidholzi)
  2. Brook’s House Gecko (Hemydactylus brookii brookii)
  3. Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)
  4. Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)

    One of the three diferent Nile Monitors (Varanus niloticus) that we saw along the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Czech Republic Spring Tour. 2017 issue

Dates: March 8th – 12th, 2017

Number of participants: 3

Number of species: 84

Day 0. After our arrival to Prague and assemble with the rest of the group on March 8th, we started driving South towards Sumava National Park. The transfer is normally of about 120 minutes, but due to some works in the highway, our transfer was a bit longer than expected.

Because to this delay we were arriving during the night to our accommodation and lost the chance of searching for some owls around. We still had a short time around but unfortunately we got nothing of interest.

Day 1. After a very early breakfast we headed directly to look for one of the main target species of the trip: Black Grouse (Lynurus tetrix). After a short driving we arrived to the proper habitat and we started scanning all around looking for some birds already lekking in the meadows.

It didn’t take long to located the first 4 males in the open, standing up and very showing. After enjoying this very successful start we decided to move a bit to have a better view. This movement allowed us to find 2 more males even closer to us. One of them was in full display, showing the beautiful white feathers of the open tail and also heard the calls of the male.

Black Grouses in their leck in Sumava National Park. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

Records shot showing the complex wing pattern in Black Grouses. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

 

It was a quite active morning for birds and these same fields we had the firsts of many Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella), Mistle Thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) and Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo). A distant European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) called from a lane of poplars.

In the while, 4 Black Grouses were flying over the field, showing their long, lyre-like tail and their wing white band, and stopped near the displaying male, reacting quite agresively…  This was one of the best moments of the trip! Wonderful.

Delighted for such as fast a wonderful sight in one of the main targets of the trip we decided to spend more time scanning some other of the favourite places for this species to display in the Sumava area. After a short drive we scanned different places around for them but we had no other views on the birds. Still, we got white-headeds Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus caudatus) showing very well around as well as Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris), Great Tit (Parus major), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Redwing (Turdus iliacus) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) as well as Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and 2 Common Teal (Anas crecca).

This area also produced lovely views on Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) showing very well in the taller bush while overwatching the open fields for preys. A further exploration of the area only produced some groups of Roe Deers (Capriolus capriolus), a pair of Ravens (Corvus corax) and a lovely flock of Eurasian Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula europaea) feeding on ground.

After this we decided to try a pair of places for Hazel Grouse (Bonasia bonasa), a very shy species, very shy and thus many times not appearing. A first trial brought us to a typical habitat of spurce forest with some fir and, of course, hazel trees. Here it was a lot of activity with several Crested (Lophophanes cristatus) and Coal Tits (Periparus ater) moving around as well as Common Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), European Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Marsh Tit, Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) moving around. Unfortunately we found no grouses in this spot but our effort was not lost since we had good views on 1 Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes).

When coming back to the car we listen a Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) calling by the minor road we came by so we decided to go fast to try this really good bird. Once we arrived the bird was calling really close so we decided to walk a bit inside a field to try have the best view possible. We walked about 200 metres inside the area scanning all around but the bird seemed to move further away, clearly out of patch we were in. We were about to withdraw when a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) called from really close so we walked few metres towards the area where the huge woodpecker was calling from and, suddenly, two birds flew off from the ground, ten metres in front of us: Mistle Thrush to the left… and Hazel Grouse to the right!

We immediatly concentrated in the Hazel Grouse. The bird typically flew some 20 metres to stop inside a low fir. We decided to envolve the tree and scan very carefully the inner branches… nothing.

We decided we get a bit closer and then the bird flew off rear. We decided to do some waiting… 5 minutes and nothing. We are about to withdraw when, suddenly, the bird started singing from the canopy! It had to be really, really close (less than 20 metres!!). Still some more waiting (and taping) to try to attrack the bird, a main target for anyone in the group! Our waiting proved to be useful since the bird was suddenly appearing flight and stopping deep inside a fir, right in front of us!! We still waited, breathless. Some seconds after the bird flought immediatly above us in a impressive view, showing the very long neck and typical small crest of the males!! The bird stopped for a while in a visible place up in a fir, unfortunately too short for any shot right before it did a second flight over us!!

We had really good views on Hazel Grouse, despite it was really hard to photograph. Image by Bauke Kortleve.

What a view!! We all agreed we would not get a better views on that male as it was quite unlikely to do anything else but fly over us over and over. Very content with such a great (and rather unexpected) sight we headed to our accommodation for a wonderful garlic soup & gulash and some rest before concentrate in woodpeckers during the afternoon.

After lunch & rest we still had some three hours before dinner and we went directly to try to have good views on woodpeckers. After a short drive we arrived to one of the best places for them in Sumava and the place fastly proved its value since immediatly after leaving the car we had a Black Woodpecker calling really close to us. This time we enjoyed of really close views on it! Excellent start!

Black Woodpeckers are common in most of the forest in Bohemia. Here one obliging view in Sumava NP. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

We kept going on and walked a mile or so, carefully scanning and listening for the main target, Grey-headed Woodpecker. We went into two different territories, trying to locate them, but everything we got was Great Spotted Woods, Nuthatches and a pair of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) mating not far from us. Still, a wonderful sight! Landscape here was also impressive, with a mature Beech forest with some impressive Maple trees (Acer sp.) as a secundary tree.

As our scan was being not very successful we decided to come back to car and try somewhere else. But only 200 metres after walking we had a Grey-headed Woodpecker calling really close from the path! After some waiting we had excellent views on both male & female, perched in the trees around!!

Grey-headed Woodpecker has been decreasing in several spots accross Europe but is still having good population in Czech Republic. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Everybody was really happy after such a excellent and long views on the bird! But, as it took longer than expected, we decided to directly come to our accommodation in order to have dinner and to enjoy longer time to scan for owls during the sunset and dusk.

After an, again, wonderful dinner (salad & stew, good combination!) the group headed to our first place for owls. We didn’t have to wait long since even after we closed the doors of the car we were hearing a Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) some 100 metres from the parking place. We immediatly go for it and, after some minutes of accurately scanning of the canopies we got the male singing from one of the trees! It was a beautiful image kept singing for several minutes, watching us at times but mainly taking an eye around… what a view!

Encouraged for this early success we then moved to an open area around, were Ural Owls (Strix uralensis) are likely to be hunting at dusk… unfortunately we had no luck this time… Still, we had a very close Ural Owl singing from the canopies but, despite we tried to find the bird, our efforts produced nothing. A further exploration of another territory still produced a good listenning in 1 Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus), also known as Boreal Owl, singing in the area. Unfortunately, we got no sights in any of them…

Got really good views on Pygmy Olw despite the poor light! Images by tour leader Carles Oliver

Day 2. New very early start this time to scan in the highest areas of the Sumava National Park. After a good breakfast and about 40 minutes of driving we arrived to our first location of the morning. This is an open spurce forest where it Capercaillies are likely to show up in the tree branches during very early morning. Unfortunately, weather didn’t helped us so much, since it was quite foggy at times, windy when not foggy…

Despite our efforts scanning all canopies around we could not have any Capercaillie… only a distant Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) and a overflying Northern Bullfinch (P. pyrrhula pyrrhula) were of interest. But just when thinking about leaving for a coffee, we listened a very, very distant Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) calling in the large forest… We then decided to invest some time scanning and taping, and after some efforts, the bird came close and it was briefly located while calling from the top of a spurce tree!!! Excellent! The bird was very showy and turned up the white tail while calling, as normally Nutcrackers do when marking its territory. This sight was really short and, unfortunately, not every one in the group enjoyed the bird… We still invested quite long scanning all canopies around but no new signal of the bird was found…

After a short break for a coffee and warm up we headed to our next location. Our main goal was Three-toad Woodpecker, a really endangered species only living in mature conifer forests. Unfortunately, when arriving to the location was really windy and, during the two hours that we spent walking in the impressive primary forest we had no contact on any woodpecker at all! The best bird here was a pair of Willow Tits (Poecile montanus) quite showy when walking up the trail.

After lunch we started the transfer to Moravia (Eastern Czech Republic) but, before, we had time to visit an enclousure where about 25 Eurasian Bison (Bison bonasus) are living in half-freedom. A free population has been already living not far from Prague during the last years but unfortunately they are inside a military area so they are not possible to visit. Still, we were lucky to see the Bisons so well, as they were out of the forest and allowed good views on them! White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Fieldfares and Yellowhammers we also all around!

A small herd of Eurasian Bison is visible in some enclousures near Sumava National Park. Unfortunately not released, yet. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

After this and short stop in Holasovine village (UNESCO site) we drove to Nové Mlyny area for two more overnitghts.

Day 3. After a good rest we soon realised that this was in the way to become a great day. Even before leaving the parking place of the accommodation we had a fast-flying Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)!! We searched for the bird, but was lost quite far away…

A pair of minutes later we were enjoying a large flock of some hundreds of Tundra Bean Geese (Anser fabalis rossicus) and White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons). A carefully scanning of the flock produced at least 2 Taiga Bean Geese (Anser fabalis fabalis)!

Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Common Gull (Larus canus), Marsh Tit, Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), Magpie (Pica pica), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) were also around.

White-tailed Eagles gave us several good views during the lasts days of the trip. Images by participant Bauke Kortleve

After such a wonderful start we decided to take a look to the lake. Just few metres after leaving the car we had a Black Woodpecker overflying us! Wow! Once in the lake, we got even better views on the geese and also Mallard, several Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and drake Smews (Mergellus albellus) and Goosander (Mergus merganser). Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) were flying around and, a bit more far away, wonderful Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans) were also easily spotted along with Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) and a flock of Common Pochards (Aythya ferina). Here Bauke spotted probably the only one Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) of the trip, while Eurasian Jays (Garrulus glandarius) were all around…

A second stop along the Nove Mlyny lake produced a wonderful view on thousands of geese that were probably resting in their migration back to the North from their winter grounds in South East Europe. Here we also enjoyed our firsts 14 White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) of the trip! One of them showing really well while perched on a tree but most of them flying above the lake. What a impressive birds!!

Still with plenty of time that morning we decided to explore a pair of smaller ponds for geese and ducks… Our first stop was really, really impressive since a not very large flock of mainly White-fronted Geese were in front of the hide. A fast scanning produced 4 Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna), 6 Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Great White Egrets (Casmerodius albus) and Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea). A carefully scanning of the geese was promptly reporting the first surprise: one superb Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) was swimming along with them!! The whole flock was moving quite fast left to right and we soon got blocked by the reedbed. Still, everybody in the group had really good views in this impressive goose!!

Red-breasted Goose is a rarity in Czech Republic. I was told it was one in Nové Mlyny this winter but I didn’t think we could be lucky enough to have the bird, especially after the news informing of massive geese migration flying back to the far North in the previous days before our arrival to Nové Mlyny!!!

Red-breasted Goose among Greater White-fronted Geese in Nove Mlyny. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

A further scanning of the flock was still even more surprising, since our local guide located what it looked like a Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) sleeping along with White-fronteds!!! He was not totally sure, thought. But we all pointed our scopes and, yes, it was a wonderful Lesser White. What a spot! The bird was actually sleeping but, even when doing so the yellowish ocular ring was obvious and the shape and coloration of the bill were also indicating to a Lesser White-fronted Goose. A bit of patience and finally the bird showed the full neck and head. Excellent views!

Lesser White-fronted Goose (the bird with the head up) is a globally endangered bird and we were really lucky to pick up one in Nové Mlyny. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve.

Especially because only 30 seconds after the whole flock flew out (because of an overflying White-tailed Eagle) and didn’ show any more as we were totally blocked by the reedbeds… The wonderful views of the White-tailed Eagle fishing in the lake and latter being chased by 3 other WT’s didn’t compensate the rather short views on the geese… Still, we had been extremelly lucky. Only five minutes later and would miss these really good birds!

The last stop in this long morning was in a small quarry. And well, I felt as being at home, as our target bird was a Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). We were told one of them was overwintering in this area so, as having time, we decided to invest some time and try to have this wonderful bird. Once again that day we were lucky and even before arriving to the quarry we could easily spot the bird, a male, that was showing very well and even singing!!!

After some minutes enjoying the bird around us and having incredible views with the scope we decided to go for lunch and a bit of rest. It had been a wonderful morning!

We also enjoyed this very showy male Wallcreeper, a really scarce species in Czech Republic. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Our short siesta time brought us back to the field full of energy so, before taking the car, we just did a short-walk around our accommodation. 3 Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) were feeding in the orchads around and a Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) flew off around us.

Soon after we had a Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopus syriacus) flying around a line of poplars. The bird was not really cooperative but we finally got long and excellent views on the bird! After that we decided to spend some time in some large gardens, expecting to have more woodpecker. Surprisingly the gardens were quite busy and we failed to have any woodpecker. Instead of that we enjoyed several views on Hawfinches, some of them really close! Here we also took a look to a Long-eared Owl winter roosting place for but, as expected, was already empty.

After enjoying for a while the magnificient XVIII gardens in Lednice we decided to come back to our accommodation for an early dinner. This was allowing us a better rest and an earlier start in our last morning, when we were having less than two hours of light before heading to the airport!

We got nice views on Syrian Woodpecker not far from our accommodation in Moravia. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Day 4. Very last morning! Priority to woodpeckers. We directly headed to an oak forest since our goal was to have good sights on Medium & Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.

When we arrived to the area several Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming around. After some scanning we got nice views on 1 Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis). Black Woodpcker was also calling in the distance. After some scanning we soon had a Medium Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius) showing really well and, with a bit of patience, we got excellent views on the bird! Wonderful sight!

Middle Spotted Woodpecker is not scarce in riberside forests as long as having some large oaks. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

We then moved a pair of miles up the same minor road. Once we went out of the car we enjoyed scoped views of a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) sitting on a branch deep inside the canopy. After much scanning for LSs we finally managed to have one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) in the top of an oak, calling and drumming. Some 3 more males were listenned drumming around!

We still had time to stop for a final view on the lake, with good views on Smew, Goosander, Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) and the only 3 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) of the trip!

It has been a wonderful birding break! I’m already looking forward our 2018 issue, it will be even better, for sure!

Feel like joining us?

 

 

Fuerteventura Birding Tour 2016. Trip report

Dates: December 6th to 10th, 2016

Number of participants: 3

Weather conditions: Sunny all long. We had, as usual, early morning clouds but breaking after 10am. A soft brise was also present most of the days. Temperatures; 18ºC to 24ºC.

Day 1. December 7th. After our late afternoon arrival to Fuerteventura from our Barcelona flight we woke up early in our seaside hotel in El Cotillo to enjoy a good breakfast before starting birding. Still, in the gardens of our hotel a first of many, many Spanish Sparrows (Passer hispanoliensis) was spotted doing its typical call. This is the only one species of Sparrow living in the island being really common in every single garden! After breakfast we did the short transfer to our first location. El Cotillo-La Oliva area is a well known area for steppe birds, hosting most (if not all) the especialities living in the island. In our first stop we soon located some Berthelot’s Pipits (Anthus berthelotii), the first Canary Islands endemic of the trip, along with several very vocal Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens).

Some scanning around produced 2 Hoopoes (Upupa epops) landing on some rocks, one of them doing its wonderful song. A male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) was spotted in the steppe and broke some hearts as a close relative of it was expected instead… still, this was the only European Stonechat of trip!

img_9530

Berthelot’s Pipit (Anthus berthelotii) is probably the commonest passerine in Fuerteventura.

In our way to our very first important stop we enjoyed views on Canary Islands Ravens (Corvus corax tingitanus), a superb and very different bird from European race due to their shorter tail, more rounded wings, smaller head and very distinctive (rather crow-like) calls. This a good candidate for a future split… In the distance, some Stone Curlews were calling but we could not locate them…

Once we stopped we immediatly spotted a magnificient Houbara Bustard (Chlamidotis undulata) preening about 100 metres away from us. The bird was really concentrated in cleaning its plomage so we could enjoy it as long as necessary to have excellent views. At the same time we kept scouting looking for some females but we had no luck… Instead we had some really confiding Canary Islands Shrikes (Lanius (elegans) koenigi) around. The status of this bird is still controversial. Nowadays there are two main theories; the first arguing to be a different species (Lanius koenigi), the second (and more accepted) arguing to be conspecific with Desert & Algerian Shrikes (Lanius elegans koenigi), and still some other theories. Wherever these birds were really cooperative and photographers appreciated very much really close views on them.

We kept scanning ditches around and our work proved not to be unhelpful since we had 2 Barbary Partridges (Alectoris barbara) feeding in one of the ditches. It was a great spot since this can be a difficult bird to spot so it was great to have so early in the trip!

img_9657

Canary Island Shrike (Lanius (elegans) koenigi) is a splitable endemic easy to find in Fuerteventura.

 

img_9588

Barbary Partridges (Alectoris barbara) can be difficult to spot but we had several good sights on them.

After such a good start we decided to explore a small canyon (barranco) close by. Several Berthelot’s Pipits were around and here we had very good views on some really confiding Spectacled Warblers (Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis). We decided to walk a bit up the “barranco” and, after only 100 metres of walk we found an extremelly close Fuerteventura Chat (Saxicola dacotiae) male on a Cactus. Soon after we found the beautiful female around and enjoyed of very long and close views on them. This is the only endemic bird of Fuerteventura and one of the main target birds for any single birdwatcher visiting the island…

img_9761

Fuerteventura Chat (Saxicola dacotiae) is restringed to this island and a must for any birdwatcher visiting it!

While enjoying the chats we also had another good encounter since a small flock of about 6 Trumpeter Finches (Bucanetes githagineus) came to stop only 20 metres from us! Again, we could enjoy them quite long while feeding on seeds in tiny bush. A few after a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo insularum) appeared in the sky. This is again an endemic race of the Canaries, and a bird that looks like quite different from continental forms! In this barranco we also had our firsts Greenish Black-tips (Elphinstonia charlonia) moving around along with Painted Ladys (Vanessa cardui) and 1-2 Red Admirall (Vanessa atalanta).

img_9725

Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus) is the commonest finch in Fuerteventura.

After such a wonderful mid-morning we decided to have a change and go to Los Molinos reservoir, the main wetland in the island. In our way to the reservoir we stopped a pair of times to enjoy some flocks of Spanish Sparrows. Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and Robin (Erithacus rubecula) were also seen. Our last stop produced also 2 Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) but, unfortunately I was the only one to see them…

Even before arriving to Los Molinos reservoir we started to enjoy the visit. Birding in this location is highly variable depending on water level but this time we were lucky, as water level was high and the whole “barranco” beyond the dump was having water running down. 1 Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus dacotiae) was gliding over and allowed us excellent views on this (again) endemic race! Ruddy Shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) we common this year as we count no less than 60 of them in the lake! When approaching the reservoir we had really close views on them. Some of the birds around included Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) +70, Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 2, Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 3, Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) 1, Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 1, Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 6, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 2, Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 2 and 3 Little Egret (Egretta Garzetta).

img_0133

Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandrella rufescens) are good imitating other birds. This bird imitated Fuerteventura Chat, Stone Curlew and Berthelot’s Pipit amongst other birds.

The best birds in the wetland this time were +15 Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) and one unexpected Garganey (Anas querquedula). Here we also had our only one Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) of trip, perched on a wall along with Canary Islands Shrike & Hoopoe, good combination of birds! It was lunch time so we head to a close place to enjoy some food and, why not, some shade! Before that we had to do an emergency stop since a Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus majorensis) was spotted perched in one slope. Despite the bird was quite far away, we enjoy good views on the bird while feeding around joined by a pair of Ravens… This was a good spot and, surprisingly, our only Egyptian Vulture in this trip!

img_9835

Spanish Sparrows (Passer hispanoliensis) are the only sparrows in Fuerteventura.

After lunch we came to the semi-desert area around El Cotillo. Here we spent some time scanning some farming areas, where we had 2 Barbary Partridges and our only one Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) of trip. A short drive around the area produced our main target that afternoon since 3 obliging Cream-coloured Coursers (Cursorior cursor bannermani) were located, doing their typical short runs. They were really cooperative and delighted the whole group! Nevertheless it was considered one of the birds of the trip!! corredor-sahariano-071216-1-copy   img_9876

We hept moving in this area, having always confiding Berthelot’s Pipit around. Not long after we had a flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) flying not far away from us… They stopped in a hill but, as we had not so much light left, we decided to move.

We still had to have a last stop. After a short transfer we arrive to an area were one of the main targets of the trip is normally moving. A short wait was done in late afternoon light and then, with the very last light, it was appearing a wonderful Barbary Falcon (Falco peregrinoides) with a prey, flying fast around the valley! We were lucky as the bird decided to do a pair of rolls in the air so we could have good views on the falcon before desappeared! We were all really happy of having such a view on a bird that many birdwatchers visiting the island are missing!! The population here is tiny, probably only 2-3 pairs!! Happy after such a successful day, we head back to our hotel for some rest (& good food!).

Day 2. December 8th. After the success of the day before, we decided to do a pre-dawn start and go to the same place where we had our first Houbara Bustard the day before. When we arrived to the place the bird was immediatly located and we were delighted to see it in full display! It was evident that that place was his lek this year. Displays of Houbara Bustard are really spectacular and even funny. Males place the head rear on their back and then open and show all white feathers in their breast and along the neck. Once in this position, the bird starts running in small, 5-6 metres of diameter cercles. Like this, the bird looks like having no neck, neither head. It looks like a running snow ball, actually! We enjoyed very much of such a exhibition, that was repeated several times. Unfortunately the bird was a bit far away to take any proper photo… After such a good start in our second day we decided to do some further exploration in the same area, that was soon producing to more distant males displaying in different corners, in the semi-arid countryside. No females were spotted, suprisingly!

When we were about to leave the area we had a wonderful Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus insularum) sat down some meters away from our car! This was a wonderful spot and photographers in the group (once again) really appreciated it! Stone Curlews living in Canary Islands are, in average, darker and more contrasted than those living in Africa and are good candidates for a future split.

alcaravan-insularum-081216-8

Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus insularum) are not uncommon in Fuerteventurs, but always challenging to find.

After leaving the semi-desertic area we headed towards maybe the only one reliable spot for Atlantic Canary (Serinus canaria) in Fuerteventura. We arrived quite at midday to the place and soon after parking we had a male Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) singing close by. This sight was followed by our only one seen Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) of the trip. After some meters of exploration we listened some Canaries moving up the slope, at the other side of the barranco, so we headed to that area and soon we were enjoying a wonderful, 4-5 metres away male singing and calling from its perch. As an interesting point, this male looked like being imitating the calls of African Blue Tits… never listened thst before. This finch is also an endemic bird but this time shared by Canary Islands, Maderia and Açores.

img_9901

Atlantic Canary (Serinus canaria) is Macaronesian endemic having a tiny population in Fuerteventura.

We counted up to 4 Atlantic Canaries in the slope, not a big number but enough for the small group! Several obliging Spectacled Warblers were also very active in that slope, singing from the bush land but also performing song flights so we invested some time in having even better views than the previous day!  Even before being back to the village we had our last target bird in this location, as 1 African Blue Tit (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus) was seen flying over our heads. We followed this bird to have better views and soon were enjoying really close views on two individuals in a dense tree, joined by 2 Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita).

img_9974

img_9996

African Blue Tits (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus) are conspecific with those living in Morocco.

We also had some wonderful butterflies here, including the first Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) of the trip, Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshallii) and +5 Bath White (Pontia daplidice). A Blue butterfflie was also flying around but couldn’t have proper views on it…

img_9956

Bath White (Pontia daplidice) is probably the commonest butterfly in the mountainous orchads in Fuerteventura.

We leaved Betancuria for our next stop, this time in the South part of the island. After lunch we arrived to the area around Oasis Park Fuerteventura, where so scaped birdlife can be seen. Just a few miles before arriving a new Laughing Dove was spotted crossing the road in flight. Again I was the only one in having the bird our efforts in recolate the bird were useless. Once we arrived to the are around Oasis Park we had some good views on impressive Monarch (Danaus  plexippus) joined by some Plain Tigers (Danaus chrysippus). These butterflies were really celebrated by the group! We did some walks around but only had 3 Chiffchaffs, +2 Blackcaps singing from some bush, 1 Robin and the omnipresent Spanish Sparrows & Collared Doves… A bit more of effort was done and we finally got something as 1 Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) was appearing and showing well (although distant) in the top of one tree. It looks like there is a small population breeding around this zoo. We still had some more time around but only produced a small Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) flock calling inside a fenced area…

img_0011

Red-vented Bubul (Pycnonotus cafer), an scaped that is probably having a tiny self-sustained population.

  img_0017

We decided to change our location and explore the urban “forest” at Costa Calma. We found the place really quiet and for 10-15 minutes we only had 2 Chiffchaffs… and Spanish Sparrows. But when thinking about leaving the area we spotted a wonderful Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus). We approached the bird until we could have really good views (and shots) and then is when we realised a second YB was calling deeper inside the canopies! That was a really good bird a quite celebrated. We still had some more time is this spot, hoping for something different but we only got a flock of 7-8 Eurasian Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis).

img_0053

img_0065

One of the two self-found Yellow-browed Warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus) at Costa Blanca.

It was only one hour left until dark so we decided to explore some semi-desert areas around Costa Calma. Right when arriving to the designated place we had a wonderful flock of 13 Black-bellied Sandgrouses that allowed a long sight while feeding on ground in the afternoon light. A short drive after this encounteer we also had really good views on 2 close Cream-coloured Coursers showing really well! We still had time for a further exploration and got what we were looking for… 2 magnificient females Houbara Bustards feeding close by, in lovely sunset light. This time we really enjoy the way they delicatelly feeding on the bush around and how they were running around in the middle of the steppe land!

img_0105be

hubara-fuerteventura-081216

Houbara Bustard (Chlamidotis undulata) was showing really well almost daily along our trip!

An amazing view to end a wonderful second day of the trip!!

Day 3. December 9th. This day we were supposed to “jump” to Gran Canaria to add some different species and, especially, the really scarce Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch (Fringilla polatzeki). Unfortunately this option was finally not possible and we had to stay in Fuerteventura. We invested the morning in scan the shore around El Cotillo. Here we spotted Eurasian Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) in several spots as well as Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula). Along the coast several Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis atlantis), a slightly smaller and less powerful race if compared with the nominal race living in the Mediterranean. Other birds appearing here include 2 Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis), 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) and my first ever Trumpeter Finch by the sea! The best birds along the morning, still, were located around El Cotillo, where we had +13 Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), 3 Dunlin (Calidris alpina), 1 Little Stint (Calidris minuta) and 1 Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola).

img_9056

Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) is a good resident bird along Fuerteventura beaches.

Several stops were done to scan the sea, looking for Shearwaters or other sea birds but, unfortunately, nothing of interest was spotted along the whole morning… After lunch we came back to the semi-desert area, trying to have a second look on Barbary Falcon. We explored the same area where we had the bird a pair of days before but we had no luck. Instead we got a new flock of 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouses, really close views this time, as well as a lovely view on a pair of Barbary Partridges that, this time, was allowing good shots.

img_9591

Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara), always a good bird!

Day 4. December 10th. Last morning in the island. We decided to have a last look to the semi-desert specialities. 3 Houbara Bustards were located again easily but the best of that visit was 1 Stone Curlew close by the dart road. After this good start we decided to go for Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), a species that had been escaping from us, so far. We stopped in the same area I spotted two individuals a pair of days ago and we were lucky since we had a really good view on a bird perched in a wire even before leaving the car!

tortola-senegalesa-101216-4-copy

Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) is a pretty scarce dove in the Canary Islands, and beautiful bird!

As we were close to Los Molinos reservoir we spent some time there, as well. New and excellent views on Fuerteventura Chats and Trumpeter Finches were done and allowed good photos. We also added some new species to the tour list. 5 Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were seen along with 2 Pintails (Anas acuta), 2 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) and 4 Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) but the best birds in this stop were the flocks of at least 18 Black-bellied Sandgrouses flying really low all around and stopping to drink water around the reservoir! It was a lovely view and quite unexpected, actually! img_0187

img_0198

Female & male Fuerteventura Chats (Saxicola dacotiae), personally the besg bird living in Fuerteventura!

Right before arriving to the airport we still had time to do some exploration in some Golf courses nearby. 2 Ruddy Shelducks were walking along the greens, a very different sight! 2 Common Sandpipers, 3 Common Ringed Plovers and 1 Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) were also seen as well as 2 White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), 2 Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea), 1 Chiffchaff and a pair of Greenfinches (Chloris chloris) flying around…

And this was the end of a really successful trip, expecting to have a even better trip in 2017 or early 2018, when we will look for the very scarce Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch!

Join us for more fun & birds!!!

img_20161223_105213

Morocco: from Atlas to Sahara tour. 2016 issue

 

Dates: from April 1st to April 10th, 2016

Number of participants: 5

Number of species: 189 + 4 races

This is the official report of the 2016 issue Moroccan early spring trip by Barcelona Birding Point led by Carles Oliver. Our trip started this year in 1st April, some weeks later than in previous issues but having more or less the same itinerary.

Day 1. After a good breakfast in our hotel in Marrakech we head to the Atlas. Here the landscape becomes more wet than around the city and the valleys start to show river side forests along every single stream while the slopes around are covered by juniper scrub lands.

Our first stop in this ambient fastly produced the first birds of the trip. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major numidus) showed really well in the popplars. Right behind us we had 5 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes buvryi) showed out in the top of a close orchad tree. Some other birds around included African Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs africana), Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), European Serin (Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) and African Blue Tit (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus), what a beauty!

Common Nightingales (Luscinia megarhychos) were singing around but we could not get any view on them, yet! Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) were all the time flying around while the firsts Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica) of many during the trip showed well flying over the orchads. Andreas spot also the first Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) of the trip calling from the top of a roof!

The main goal of the stop was, still, not hard to find out as a male Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vallantii) was appearing along the tree line and showing really close. We all got excellent views on the bird moving along the tree and even drumming! What a bird!!

The African Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs africana) is a common view in the Moroccan forests and it is also a possible future split. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P11104861704765193

Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vallantii), a scarce near-endemic living in the Atlas Northern slope. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_162995014.opV1uoPM20175606

Our second stop of the day produced also a really good list of birds. Only after getting out of the car we got +4 Sardinian Warblers (Sylvia melanocephala) along with 5 migratory European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster). Soon after we got excellent views on the local race of Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans inornata) singing and hiding, as tipically, really well, in the scrublands. A short walk in the area produced a Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), a briefly seen pack of Barbary Partridges (Alectoris barbara), a male Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) singing from a perch,+4 Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica) and one wonderful Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) singing from a really tall perch and flying away. But the best of the stop were the awesome views on Tristam’s Warbler (Sylvia deserticola) when a male came out from the bush land around. We were lucky as we could follow the bird among the vegetation for some minutes!!! This bird is also a Moroccan near-endemic and, well, sometimes not easy to spot.

tmp_P1110354672025633

Tristam’s Warbler (Sylvia deserticola), a tricky near-endemic warbler living in mountanious open scrubs. Image: Carles Oliver

After that we just head to Oukaïmeden, the main stop of the day, since it is the best place for high mountain birds in Morocco. Still, even before arriving to Oukaïmeden we had to stop three times. The first spot to enjoy a flock of +8 Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanii). The second stop produced a wonderful combination of raptors in the sky with both Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus cirtensis) and Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) soaring over the slopes and a wonderful flock of over 40 Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). In the last stop we enjoyed a pair of light forms Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) disturbed by Ravens (Corvus corax).

Once in Oukaïmeden we promptly had our first Common Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) and the near-endemic Seebohm’s Wheatear (Oenanthe seebohmi), counting over 20 of each of them at the end of our stay in Oukaïmeden. A flock of over 200 Alpine Choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus) were flying over the opositte slope, impressive! A short walk around produced a good flock of Common Rock Sparrow and, alomg with them, Linnets (Acanthis cannabina), 2 Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus deichleri) and our 3 Common Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) along the trip. Soon after Bauke spot the first Atlas Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas) of the day! Walking around we spot about 30 of them and didn’t have to wonder more to have our 2 firsts African Crimson-winged Finches (Rhodopechys alienus) showing close but briefly!! Still expecting a better views we walk a bit more further when Bauke spot, in a private moment, wonderful flock of 5 finches perched on a rock. What a view! This was to rank among the highlights of the trip!

tmp_162996002.DsgjDv2O-800227594

Seebohm’s Wheatear (Oenanthe seehbomi), again a near-endemic living in the high mountain grass lands in Morocco and Algeria. Image: Bauke Kortleve

tmp_P111039661063234

Atlas Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas), an endemic race (and possible future split) endemic of NW African high mountains. Image: Carles Oliver

tmp_P1110398-886624818

African Crimson-winged Finches (Rhodopechys alienus) has been recently split from Asian Crimson-winged Finch. This was, of course, one of the highlights of the trip! Image: Carles Oliver

After a good lunch around we still enjoyed of the beautiful view of over 100 Choughs feeding on the grasslands around. They were mainly Alpine but some Red-billeds were providing really close views! A little walk further away still produced some really good birds. 1 Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) was singing from the top of a ridge. Below, 4 Water Pipits (Anthus spinolleta) were feeding along the stream along with a pair of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea), Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) and Mistle Thrush. A wondwerful Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) male was really celebrated in the group and gave us excellents while moving on ground. The last bird in appear up here was a distant but good view on a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), a bird which has here its southermost population. Before coming back in our car, we still had 1 Booted Eagle in the sky.

tmp_162995895.zArcEkQ4379124863

Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) light form flying. This species nest in good numbers around Marrakech. Image: Bauke Kortleve

A new stop in a phantastic Spanish Fear (Abies pinsapo) spot produced some birds regarded to canopies. Coal Tits (Periparus ater) and Firecrests (Regulus ignicapilla) showed really well. A flock of 4 Siskins (Spinus spinus) was a really good bonus!

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), a gorgeous bird that we could enjoy up to 4 times along the tour. Image:Bauke Kortleve tmp_162989808.9rq534VV524274501

Day 2. An early morning start for our transfer to the area around Agadir. In our way we could see some flocks of European Bee-eaters in their migratory way and both Woodchat (Lanius senator) and Algerian Shrikes (this last a probable future split from Northern Grey Shrike).

Once arrived there we did a stop in the Tamri Stuary. From here we could see our 2 firsts Northern Bald Ibises (Geronthicus eremita) preening by the water. It was a far but really intense view because all the extremely delicated situation of this species worldwide! A fast view on the stuary produced a flock of 5 Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia), Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), 2 Ruddy Shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) and a good flock of gulls and terns roosting on the beach.

We decided to do along the beach to have better views on the Ibises. Soon we discovered a pair of Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) that provided excellent views along with Moroccan Wagtails moving on the beach while several Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) were moving over us. During the walk we had at least 2 Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans) in the scrubs along the sandy area. When arrived closer to the stuary we had excellent views on the Ibises but also good views on +20 Audouin’s Gulls (Larus audouinii) sleeping on the beach along with +20 Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis) along with Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis), 2 Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), 2 Common Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) and Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra). In the way back to the car we had more views on Subalpine Warblers and a pair of flocks of Spanish Sparrows that had wonderful views on some males showing full summer plumage.

Not satisfied with the views we had on Northern Bald Ibises we went to explore the fields around expecting to find any group feeding on the sandy areas or going for water somewhere. After a short exploration we had some individuals flying around. Finally, we had at least 7 individuals moving on the slopes, feeding on ground and enjoyed of really close views of birds flying around us!!!

tmp_162990663.wCPk9nM7-1417787750

Above & below Northern Bald Ibises (Geronthicus eremita) flying in some of the really close views we enjoyed in Tamri. Images: Bauke Kortleve

tmp_162990203.eytMTA9q-1674484015

These slopes are also great for other birds as we had at least 2 Spectacled Warblers (Sylvia conscipillata), Thekla Larks (Galerida theklae) and wonderful views on at least two pairs of Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe hispanica). Before leaving the area we had to stop again since a Long-legged Buzzard was soaring really close of the car, along with 1 Common Kestrel. Close by we also enjoyed 1 Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus brookei).

Our next stop was in Cape Tamri, expecting to have some migratory sea birds. We did not do a long stay because of the strong (and cold) wind but still we had +100 Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) flying North along with +3 Manx Shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) and, the best, 1 Razorbill (Alca torda). This bird was my first Razorbill so far South, despite during this winter it had been some sights along this coast.

Last stop of the day was to explore the Souss River just beside Agadir. This really well known site is excellent to locate gull, terns and waders that cannot be located anywhere else during the trip! Before arriving we had some beautiful views on Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) and Moroccan Magpie (Pica pica mauretanicus). The mudflats along the river had +30 Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola), 1 Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), Curlew (Numenius arquata), 2 Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus), several Eurasian Oystecatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Common Ringed Plovers and good views on 5 Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica), a pair of them showing a wonderful summer plomage.

There were several flocks of gulls in the mudflats. Scanning them we had 5 Mediterranean Gulls (Larus melanocephalus), 2nd year all of them, +15 Slender-billed Gulls (Chroicocephalus genei) and Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) along with Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A big flock of over 50 Gull-billed Terns (Gelochelidon nilotica), some of them offering great views all around. Here we also had our firsts Zitting Cisticolas (Cisticola juncidis) of the trip. When arriving to our hotel we still had a wonderful view on a flock of over 40 Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus) flying over the area. Without doubt was an incredible end for our second day of the trip!

Day 3. Even before getting inside the car we already had a pair of really good birds. A pair of Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) was showing really well (and close) and, beyonf them, a pair of wonderful Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) were sleepping in the bare slope. After a good view from the scope we just got inside the car and approached the birds, getting excellent views on them without disturbing them!

During the trip we had estremely close views on a pair of Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) roosting just by one of our accommodations. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110474874202186

Our first stop in the morning produced an amazing range of birds. A small pond in the river Massa produced our Savi’s Warbler (Locustella naevia) and Little Crake (Porzana parva) listened in the reeds around. Here we also had good views on +3 Isabelline Warblers (Iduna opaca), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae), 2 Cetti’s Warblers (Cettia cetti), 2 Western Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli), Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), several Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans) and Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) as well as commoner birds including Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficallis), African Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Common Bulbul and several Laughing Doves (Streptopelia senegalensis). The area around was being highly productive and we could wish to do not move from there in the whole week!! We came out of the vegetation to have a better view on the pond when a Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) appeared flying over the small pond. The bird was really celebrated although the best bird in the stop were two wonderful Black-crowned Tchagras (Tchagra senegalensis) appearing really close to us. We could enjoy of really close views on the birds while moving on ground and around us. What a start for the day!

tmp_P1110301658253305

The Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis) has in Morocco its most Northern population and the only one in the whole Western Palearctic. Image: Carles Oliver

Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri), a wonderful near-endemic that can be surprisingly common in some areas. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110574-597447472

 

tmp_163009098.5Wen19qi-1281162645

This was our only one Marbled Duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris) during the trip. A bird that was highly celebrated by the group. Image: Bauke Kortleve

The transfer to our next stop produced wonderful views on a group of 4 European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) in the wires along the road. New stop, new pond. First sight here were two beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) sleeping in a tamarisk with a wonderful Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) singing right beside them. What a good combiation of birds! Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and Little Grebe were also present here.

In the fields around we spotted a pair of European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) and Corn Buntings (Miliaria calandra) while both Black-crowned Tchagras and more Turtle Doves were singing around us. A new Little Bittern was appearing from the reeds and flying over the pond but unfortunately we couldn’t relocated when stopping again among the vegetation. At the same time a Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) joined the pond, stopping close to the Grey Heron. Again some Isabelline & Subalpine Warblers were moving by the edge of the reeds and our only one Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) of the trip flew over us moving to the West…

Last stop of the morning. A tiny pond that was really productive for migratory birds. Again Subalpine Warblers and Blackcaps were moving here as well as Western Bonelli’s Warbler. A carefully scan of the area produced Isabelline Warbler, European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Sedge Warbler, Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), Cetti’s Warbler as well as 3 Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides), 1 Great White Egret (Chasmerodius albus), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) and Italian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava cinereocapilla). The third Little Bittern (this time, a male) appeared from the lush vegetation! Here we also had the “rarity” of the trip; a Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) showing really well, but rather shortly, in a tamarisk along with other warblers. This is a quite scarce bird in migration in West Europe and NW Africa so we can considered as the “best” bird of the trip! After such a successful morning we just came back to our accommodation for a good lunch and a bit of rest! During the afternoon we just travelled back to Marrakech after enjoying a bit of the dunes in the National Park.

Day 3. This day we were just crossing the Atlas to start exploring the Southern slope of this huge mountain range. But before and during the crossing we had some good stops.

First stop of the morning we did some birding in the olive orchads immediatly around Marrakech. Here we had some of the near-endemic Spotless Starlings (Sturnus unicolor) as well as several Common Bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus). Sardinian Warblers, African Chaffinches and Greenfinches we also present along with Africcan Magpies. Flocks of Little (Apus affinis) and Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus) were flying over us. Here we had a good selection of migratory birds. Subalpine & Willow Warblers were common and we had also 2 Common Whitethroats (Sylvia communis) and Western Bonelli’s Warbler. The first of many Common Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) were also showing out here and we also enjoyed the first Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) of the trip showing really well in the out and even allowing good comparitions with both Willow and Isabelline Warblers!

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) is a common (and beautiful) migratory bird in Morocco. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163012942.08mAHsr0957271599

 

The second stop of the trip was even more interesting. While driving the road up to Ourika Valley Bauke was having a new pack of Barbary Partridges by the road and a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) was appearing in the sky. We stop, of course. We all had excellent, but short, views on the Kite flying around. Scanning the fields around we had a Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) on a post. Also a really good bird. There, European Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola), Cirl BuntingsZitting Cisticolas and Corn Buntings were all showing well.

A bird calling not far from us decided us to explore a bit further away, just at the moment that 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos (Clamator glandarius) were appearing, calling both of them, from the olive trees! We had great views on the birds flying and, after some wait, we had them also on a tree top, calling, preening and giving us a really good show!!

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius), sometimes a tricky bird, gave us an excellent view and was considered as one of the highlitghs of trip by some members of the group. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163013527.9VbkDwtG-1955674302

 

While driving up the Atlas we still had to stop a pair of time. The first because of a really close Short-toed Eagle flying over the car and the second because Andreas spot 2 European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) on a wire just by the road. Those birds gave us excellent views (and shots) during a pair of minutes. After they were living we just came out of the car to enjoy the landscape and at this moment a small flock of 6 migratory? Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanii) passed over us, flying North!

European Roller (Coracias garrulus) was an unexpected (and very wellcome) bird while crossing the Atlas. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_162991385.KQmAv8yO-235324741

 

Moment to have lunch, and some birds. 2 Booted Eagles were flying over the terrace while waiting to be served. Around the restaurant 1 Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) was singing quite close so we decided to try to have a look on the bird. And what a look!! We could see the bird calling and singing during 5 minutes, extremely close (4 metres?). Not bad for be waiting in a restaurant!

This Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) was the first of many of them during the trip. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110591244564080

Our driving along the Atlas still gave us some more birds. Louise spot 2 Ravens and 1 Long-legged Buzzards. We did a pair of stops expecting to have, soon or later, some migratory raptors. Unfortunately we had nothing and our only migratory success were over 25 European Bee-eaters and a big flock of +100 Western House Martins (Delichon urbicum).

Once in the Northern slope we did a first stop in a typical migratory area. Here we had close views on common migratory birds such as Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans), Western Bonelli’s Warblers, Woodchat Shrike and great views on 2 Western Orphean Warblers (Sylvia hortensis) skulking inside a tiny almond tree along with Great Tit. The bird was also really celebrated! This place also offered our first of many Maghreb Larks (Galerida macrorrhyncha), a recent split from Crested Lark.

tmp_162991676.OWkvO9FT1193768910

After some minutes of scanning a tiny almod tree this Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) was finally giving us wonderful views! Image: Bauke Kortleve

A last stop of the day was done along the road to look for the near-endemic, and very scarce, Maghreb Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens). After some scanning of the slopes around we got a really nice male up in the ridge of the cliff, moving in and out of some big hollows. What a bird! A probable female was also moving down in the slope but couldn’t be confirmed because of the wind and because the bird was disappering in the slope. We still had some more scanning trying to have better views but was impossible to relocate the birds and only got White-crowneds

Stream in the Atlas Northern slope. This kind of ambients can be really productive. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163035790.Y1nud5AF182175417

 

After such a good day we just did the short transfer to our accommodation, located in a wonderful oasis-like area. During the short transfer we still had a Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) and 1 British Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flavissima) in some fields being irrigated as well as several Maghreb Larks and some family groups of White-crowned Black Wheatears were spotted as well as a pair of migratory Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) as well as our firsts Fat Sand Rats (Psammomys sp.).

Day 5. Early morning start and first scanning of the area around our accommodation. In the stream nearby we found 2 Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius) and 1 Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) along with Grey Heron. A first stop in the steppes around produced 2 Desert Larks (Ammomanes deserti) and a first look on Desert Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor elegans) despite the really, really strong wind…

The day before, by passing with the car, we just saw a good place with some water so we decided to do a stop there and enjoy the birds moving around. We had a good flock of over 20 Yellow Wagtails (mainly Iberian), 3 Little Ringed Plover, +4 Common Sandpipers and one pair of Ruddy Shelducks being this the first close view on this species so far.

After that we just went to the big dam immediatly South of Ouarzazate. Here, as always, there were tones of birds. Andreas spot 5 Eurasian Spoonbills roosting in the edge of the water while +100 Greater Flamingoes and +60 Glossy Ibises were feeding around. Here we also had our firsts Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) as well as +15 Collared Pratincoles (Glareola pratincola) roosting in the mudflats. Other birds here include 1 Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) and our only one Dunlin (Calidris alpina) of the trip. Our only Calidris, actually…

Great White Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron and Cattle Egret were all around the dam and 1 Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) was also flying over.

Maghreb Lark (Galerida macrorhyncha), a recent split and a common bird in farm land ambients South of the Atlas. Image:Bauke Kortleve

tmp_163005170.R7pnM3YZ309794029

Also in the mud around, several Yellow Wagtails were feeding… and along with them were pipits… I think the very first pipit we had that day was a meritory Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), being this species a scarce migratory bird in Morocco. At least 3 Water Pipits (Anthus spinolleta) were there along with the wagtails along with 2 Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis), a rather late birds.

Migratory birds were moving around and Bauke spotted the first Blue-checkeed Bee-eater (Merops periscus) of the trip and the unfortunately only sight on Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), a female. A small flock of Common Swift (Apus apus) was also moving here along with several House Martins and Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) and some beautiful Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica).

On the water, huge flock of +200 Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) gave us good views and a distant Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) was a good bird to add to the bird list of the trip. Around the water, in the tiny riparian vegetation we had a Chiffchaff moving on ground as well as the most strange sight on Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides) I’ve ever had. The bird was clearly nervous and moving in the open, showing really well despite the really strong light. It was moving also on ground for a while, a behaviour quite common, but normally impossible to see in the field.

tmp_162999202.rOO7G09Y1866016626

During the trip we also enjoyed other wildlife, like this wonderful and impressive Bell’s Dabb Lizzard (Uromastyx nigriventris). Image: Bauke Kortleve

After arrived to our accommodation in Boulmane du Dades, we still had the afternoon to enjoy the famous Tahdild Road. That afternoon we had our firsts sights of many Temminck’s Lark (Eremophila bilopha), a wonderful, beautiful bird for me. We had also our only 2 Cream-coloured Coursers (Cursorior cursor) in a long, wonderful sight of the birds running in the steppe-lands. 1 Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) was also showing well and we had our firsts 2 Thick-billed Larks (Rhamphocoris clotbei) flying over the steppes. Unfortunately only Gerda had them along with me so the next day our goal was to find a better ones!

Day 6. Full day in the steppe-lands around Boulmane and also some time to enjoy the Gorge du Dades. A first stop in the steppe land immediatly around Boulmane produced 3 Red-rumped Wheatears (Oenanthe moesta) and wonderful views on +6 Trumpeter Finches (Bucanetes githagineus) along with with Thekla, Temminck’s and our only one Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) of the trip. 2 Seehbom’s Wheatears and 2 Woodchat Shrikes were a nice bonus, especially the wheatears!

tmp_P1110650-1067284061

Temminck’s Lark (Eremophila bilopha) a wonderful beauty living in the highland steppes. Image: Carles Oliver

A second stop around produced +3 Desert Wheatears (Oenanthe deserti) and wonderful views on Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandrella rufescens) & Fat Sand Rats. 1 Long-legged Buzzard was moving around and he had good views on the bird while perched in the steppe. 4 more Trumpeter Finches were also a good bonus here.

Third stop, this time in a good corner for larks and sandgrouses. We walked along one “stream” and got really nice views on Desert Wheatears and a favolous male of Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocori clotbei) that Andreas spot moving on the sand. We all enjoyed really good views on the bird while typically moving in the open areas, looking for food. As always, several Temminck’s Larks were also around and, when coming back to car, we still had a wonderful Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) moving on ground and providing us with really good views while following it!!

In this issue we have had, again, wonderful views on Thick-billed Larks ( Ramphocoris clotbei) being this male the first we had on ground. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002769.naPwKCbi859924125

After lunch and some rest we just went around to explore one gorge just by Boulmane. Here we start to scan around when, suddenly, the impressive call of a Pharaon Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus) came to our ears. The bird was really, really close so we just ketp slowly moving and scanning around until Bauke was finding the bird in a hollow in the cliffs! We all enjoyed the bird while sleeping and calling every 4-5 minutes… What a view!!

Pharaon Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus) at its roosting place. It is wonderful to remember it singing among the rock while sleeping! Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_162999255.FM967Sc9634381549

In the gorge around we also had some other birds including Common Kestrel, White-crowned Black Wheatears, Crag Martins (Ptynoprogne rupestris) and Desert Larks that showed really well and allowed really close views! An impressive Bell’s Dab Lizzard (Uromastyx nigriventris) was also a good bonus for all the group.

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti), a common bird living in semi-desertic areas. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110741356951003

After that we still had some time to explore the Gorge du Dades. A first stop here looking for a better view on Barbary Partridge produced nothing at all… Despite this and along the road, we had some Blue Rock Thrushes and Black Wheatears as well as +10 Crag Martins (Ptynoprogne rupestris).

The next stop provided us with a distant but good view on a Barbary Falcon (Falco peregrinoides) right in the top of a cliff. The bird didn’t stole the show and after a pair of minutes just left the cliff to directly fly towards a really distant Booted Eagle that was on ground! After some fight in the air, the Falcon just left the area a second Booted appeared in the sky, stopping both of them on a dead tree up in the top of the cliff. A really different view from those I’m more used in the Pyrenees!

Still in our way back to the hotel we had to do a stop in the road since another Barbary Falcon was flying just over the car and did an incredible flight down chasing a small bird and losing itself in the palm orchards around the Dades River…

Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) is a near-endemic bird living in cliffs and bare slopes. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110361-2024504895

Day 7. Early morning start with the main goal to locate some Sandgrouses, a bird that was scaping us, so far. A pair of stops during the morning provide us with good looks to many interesting birds including +8 Red-rumped Wheatears, Desert Wheatears, Trumpeter Finches, Temminck’s Lark, Greater Short-toed Larks, 4 Long-legged Buzzards (including 2 juveniles) and 4 migratory Black Kites (Milvus migrans) but so signal of Sandgrouses any where…

Typical semi-arid countryside at the Southern slope of the Atlas mountains. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163035764.KotVvjuH-770739485

Finally we arrived to one place with some water… we didn’t have to wait for long until the first flock of Sandgrouses was appearing flying around! 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) showed their great way of flying! We decided to go closer to the water and had really close, wonderful views, on a pair of Black-bellieds, great! After some waiting there we could determine that at least 25 Black-bellied Sandgrouses were moving there in different flocks and we enjoyed of great views on some big flocks in the slopes around the water. Unfortunately we had to leave the area without signal of Crowned Sandgrouses (Pterocles coronatus), a bird that we finally missed during the trip, despite the many efforts to find one!

tmp_P11107851528891148

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis). This year we enjoyed of extremely close views on this bird. Always a wonderful experience! Image: Carles Oliver

Male (left) and female (right) Black-bellied Sandgrouse approaching to a pool in the morning light. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110790-461008862

After such a wonderful encounter we just drove some mile East to explore a point where in 2015 we had Scrub Warbler. Unfortunately, a walk around only produced Spectacled Warblers, Woodchat Shrike, Maghreb Lark and a distant Lanner Falcon.

After lunch, we explore a second location for Scrub Warbler. A walk around was extremely productive. Along the ouadi (local name for the dry river beds in the desert and semi-desert) we had some flocks of Trumpeter Finch, Woodchat Shrike, 2 pairs of Spectacled Warbler, several Temminck’s Lark and one wonderful Thick-billed Lark moving around us!!

The scanning of the many scrubs around was not producing the desired bird until Bauke spot 3 Scrub Warblers (Scotocerca inquieta saharae) about 50 metres from us. It was probably a family group and the birds showed out for some seconds. We fastly moved there to re-scan all the area but unfortunately we couldn’t have again the birds. Still, when looking for them, we got again a distant Lanner Falcon and a  really unexpected Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) moving in the sandy area!! A good bonus, anyway!

This Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) was a great surprise while scanning for Scrub Warblers. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002617.48BUvk1R1540056097

In our way down to our hotel in Merzouga we still had time to admire some of the many flocks of Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters moving in the oases along the road including some really close views!

Definately not a bad view on Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters (Merops persicus). Male and female that were also maiting by the car. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P11108091577880534

Day 8. Our day in the desert started in an excellent way. While waiting for some of the group, Gerda and I had a wonderful Lanner Falcon perched on ground directly in front of our hotel!! The bird just flew off and came to us, flying really close to the main building, going behind it and reappearing soon after joined by… a second Lanner!! Amazing!

The first stop of the day produced some typical migratory birds such as Common Redstart, Subalpine Warbler, Willow Warbler and European Bee-eater. Still, the main sight here was a phantastic pair of Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) showing out really well while perched along with House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) or while looking for food in the dunes around… what a beauty!

Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) was one of the highlights of the trip and we enjoyed of walk-away views on them. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002416.lzGjpXr798094972

In our second stop that day we explore a “ouadi”. Here we had our first of many (+8) Greater Hoopoe Larks (Alaemon alaudipes) that day. The birds were singing and displaying in a wonderful view, despite being a bit far away. Other birds here include Desert Grey Shrike, 3 Black Kites migrating North, Woodchat Shrike and 1 Greater Short-toed Lark. Still, no signal of the main goal in this stop… Some minutes later we had one of them calling and, finally, our local guide spot 1 African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti) about 200 metres “down” the ouadi. After a fast run towards the bird (and after a second running, actually…) we finally had really good views on one of the warblers (there were two moving around).

African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti) was finally appearing, despite required a long scanning (and some running!). Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163040525.JSQhrLFN-1391371798

Happy for the good bird and the good exercise we came to the car. In the transfer we had some Brown-necked Ravens (Corvus ruficollis) flying here and there as well as several Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) flying North.

In our next stop we had 2 Egyptian Nightjars (Caprimulgus aegyptius) roosting on ground under the scarce vegetation of another ouadi. We, of course, had really long views on them and observed how they were oppening the eyes every minute or so, to check the area around… Other birds here included African Desert Warbler and Hoopoe Larks singing around and 3 Bar-tailed Larks! After some driving we also got 2 Spotted Sandgrouses (Pterocles senegalus) showing really close. It was also an excellent sight and very good for photographers in the group. After some more driving we had up to 8 Spotted Sandgrouses in different locations… Still, we didn’t get any Crowned, that was again the main goal of the driving.

Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius), again one of the highlights of the trip. This year we enjoy two birds while roosting. Below, Spotted Sandgrouses (Pterocles senegalensis), a “common” sandgrouse living in the desert. Images: Carles Oliver   tmp_P1110870-1473069912

 

tmp_P1110893586568729

After a good lunch we just kept looking for birds. In the oasis-like areas we had several Maghreb Larks, Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters, Turtle Doves, Greenfinches, White-crowned Black Wheatears, House Buntings, Laughing Doves and Common Kestrels but probably the best birds there were 1 Little Owl (Athene noctua) roosting in a tiny cliff and two family groups of Fulvous Blabblers (Turdoides fulva) skulking really low and inside the low palm trees, moving on ground and performing their really characterystic calls. Again a wonderful bird! We just finished the day with some relax in our hotel and, who wanted, enjoyed also the Common Nightingale and even Orphean Warbler showing in the grounds of the hotel.

Day 9. Just when opening the door of my room that day I could see a good day was waiting for us since a Grasshoper Warbler (Locustella naevia) was right in front of me, 5 metres to me, moving in the open! Unfortunately I didn’t have my bins ready… well, I was not expecting such a sight!!! I have to say that it was the first of the day, but not the last. The first stop of the day was in an oasis-like area, just following a small stream surrounded by large tamarisks. Here we soon listened our first Saharan Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida reiseri), a race that some argue as being a different species from Eastern Olivaceous. A minimum of 5 individuals were singing around and, after some carefully scanning of the canopies, we all had good views on the birds! Other birds moving here included also Isabelline, Willow, Subalpine & (many) Western Bonelli’s Warblers. Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters were flying around along with European Bee-eaters, a nice combination!

Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) was again one of the highlitghs of the trip and a bit unexpected sight due to the dates of the trip. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110938 copy1137287082

After spending quite a long time enjoying the birds in the stream we spent the rest of the morning trying to locate Crowned Sandgrouse around. Unfortunately we had no contact with this species althought we still got 2 Trumpeter Finches and really close view on 2 Hoopoe Larks and +30 Brown-necked Ravens, many of them really close.

tmp_163002753.ImQjzJT1788667931

Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis) can be common around the desert. Image: Bauke Kortleve

Even before having lunch we had time to take a look into a pool in the desert. Here we had no big surprises out of Sedge & Eurasian Reed Warblers singing in the reeds, Little Ringed Plover and Little Grebe enjoying the water and 1 Marsh Harrier flying over…

tmp_P1110953-606422891

Greater Hoopoe Lark (Alaemon alaudipes), a quite common bird in the desert that gave us great views on its wonderful display flights. Image:Carles Oliver

During the afternoon we just did a walk in a forested land close to our hotel. This was probably one of the best spots in the trip… here we had +6 Common Redstarts moving along with both +2 Spotted (Muscicapa striata) and +5 Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). We spent some time enjoying really close views on both Savi’s (Locustella luscinioides) and Grasshoper Warblers (Locustella naevia), both of them skulking in the vegetation and showing really close! Bauke spot two new Scrub Bush Robins moving on ground! Willow, Western Bonelli’s and Subalpine Warblers were all around us and we also got Turtle Dove and Eurasian Reed Warbler in the orchads. While walking in the area Louise spot a Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) moving in the canopy. After several scanning we finally managed to have the birds (there were two!), first in a short flight and finally both of them flying up in the sky and moving to the North, hopefully expecting to arrive to South-West Europe in the next days!!

Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), a common bird in the oases-like areas. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163035084.a2k58pWH256717357

This was a really wonderful end of our really last birding day in the trip… I could personally be there for weeks but it was already dark so we came to our accommodation to have a good dinner and rest!

Day 10. The very last day of the trip was a long, but good, transfer from Merzouga to Marrakech. In the way up we still had some good surprises, like a wonderful Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) flying really low over the car around Rissani! It is always nice to see them in Morocco, since there are really few left of them in the country…

White-crowned Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga) becomes a common view immediatly South of the Atlas mountains. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002691.I9YQHCrV-1320209401

One stop after lunch produced several warblers. Out of the “normal” migratory birds down here we got again nice views on Western Orphean Warbler, Goldfinch and Saharan Olivaceous Warbler.

While crossing the Atlas we had a pair of stops to try to find some raptors. Again we were not really lucky and we only got a really distant eagle moving East. It was a Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) but unfortunately nobody in the group had good views on the bird. A second stop in the Atlas was more productive. Here we had African Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail, +5 Nightingale, Blackcap, Winter Wren, Great Tit, European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and our only one Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) of the trip! Probably the best birds in this stop were a gorgeous Booted Eagle, dark form, hunting in the fields around and 3 Hawfinches showing really well just by the road. Excellent!

tmp_P1110970-596736897

The very last stop of the trip was in some open fields, no very far away from Marrakech. Here we had good views on Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike and a new Western Orphean Warbler was showing a bit far, but well, good views after all. The best bird was, still, the 4 Barbary Partridges enjoyed while moving on ground in the fields. This bird didn’t offer any good view during the trip so far so it was a wonderful end for the trip!!

When we finally arrived to our hotel we were a bit tired of the long trip but we really satisfied of the wonderful trip we had. Weather this year was perfect all the days and we all enjoyed a good group of birdwatchers with really interesting chatings about the natural and human history of Morocco…

tmp_P11109651961468438


Sunset in Ourika Valley, in our very last stop of the trip… Image: Carles Oliver

Well, this was the trip… 2017 issue of the trip will run from 21st March to 30th March. Do you really wan to miss it?

You can have more images of the trip by following this LINK Many thanks to Bauke Kortleve for sharing his excellent images!!

To see the report of the 2015 issue please follow this LINK