Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Lesser Sundas - July 2017

In this ZOOTHERA adventure we visit the tropical paradise that is collectively known as The Lesser Sundas, and in particular Timor, Sumba, Flores, Roti and Komodo. These beautiful islands are home to an amazing number of endemics, which currently stand at around 70, including some of Indonesia’s rarest and least known species and are the most varied of the vast Indonesian archipelago which stretches across some 5000 kilometres. These islands are relatively undeveloped, thinly populated and seldom visited by birders but they give us access to some of the rarest birds on the planet. 

Australian Pratincole

Bare-throated Whistler

Black-fronted Flowerpecker (Flores)

Chestnut-backed Thrush

Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher
Starting on the arid island of Sumba which is the most isolated and least often visited and we have an excellent chance to find some of the world’s most critically endangered species such as Sumba Hornbill, Sumba Myzomela and Apricot-breasted Sunbird.

Elegant Pitta

Indonesian Honeyeater
Sumba Hornbill
Sumba Jungle Flycatcher
Then we visit the largest island, Timor with its dry grassland, acacia scrub and montane forest holds the greatest number of endemics and the avifauna more closely resembles those parts of northern Australia that lie not far away to the south. And we have now altered our original itinerary to visit Roti island, which despite its close proximity to Timor has four endemics and several endemic subspecies for us to find. We follow this with a visit to the elongated island of Flores and is certainly one of the most beautiful and idyllic in all of Indonesia. 
Moluccan Scops-Owl

Rusty-capped Tesia

Spotted Harrier

Zebra Finch (Timor)

Many of the rugged mountains of Flores are still covered with humid rainforest dotted by rumbling volcanos, and bisected by deep wooded valley and are home to such delights as Flores Lorikeet, Bare-throated Whistler, Flores Jungle Flycatcher and Flores Monarch amongst a wonderful variety of localised and endemic species. Everyone has heard of the island of Komodo and here among parched hills and dry gullies lives the rare and incomparable Komodo Dragon

The Mysterious Island of Komodo

There can be few wildlife experiences to compare with the sight of these unique beasts! 

Komodo Dragon
And the birds are pretty fantastic as well with Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl and Yellow-crested Cockatoo present here. So if you fancy something a little different, birding far off the regular birding circuit and set amidst beautiful scenery then this is the tour for you.
Green Junglefowl

Yellow-crested Cockatoo

Sunday, 29 May 2016

West Mexico - Feb/March 2017

This specialised itinerary is designed to concentrate our efforts in finding as many of the 40+ endemic bird species of Western Mexico as possible. While we will visit areas in Sinaloa, along the Durango Highway and San Blas, the majority of our time will be spent in the bird rich areas of Colima and Jalisco and the twin volcanos of Volcan de Fuego & Volcan de Nieve that hold a staggering array of bird diversity.

Volcan de Fuego

So our journey begins in Mazatlan, which shortens our route along Mexico's Pacific Coast allowing us more time in the field and we begin our first morning's birding amongst some nearby scrubby foothills, before travelling uphill via the Durango Highway. Turning inland toward Durango the habitat changes from brushy, secondary thorn forest margins separated by fields and houses to hillsides covered with beautiful thorn forest filled with birds. Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Mexican Parrotlet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl, White-naped Swift, Golden-crowned Emerald, Berylline and Sparkling-tailed Hummingbirds, Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Blue Mockingbird, Fan-tailed and Rufous-capped Warblers, Blue Bunting and Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow top the list of specialties. 

Russet-crowned Motmot

Colima Pygmy-Owl

Elegant Quail

As spectacular as this list may appear, the real objects of our search are found in the pine woodlands at higher elevations - Tufted Jay and Eared Quetzal, two of Mexico's most impressive and interesting birds. Although the jay can be conspicuous at times, the quetzal is quite the opposite. 

Tufted Jay

Other endemics we hope to find here include Mountain Trogon, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Mountain Pygmy-Owl, White-striped Woodcreeper, Pine Flycatcher, Grey-collared Becard, Spotted Wren, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Aztec Thrush, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Crescent-chested and Red Warblers (here the 'grey eared' form), Red-headed Tanager, Rufous-capped and Green-striped Brush-Finches, Hooded Grosbeak and Black-headed Siskin. 

Spotted Wren

Red Warbler

We have two days to fully explore this beautiful area, with vistas from a perch overlooking Barranca Rancho Liebre sure to take your breath away and at least one evening will be spent looking for owls. We then move on to the superb birding sites around San Blas and during our first afternoon we will look for Military Macaw, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Hermit, San Blas Jay, Sinaloa Crow, and there's an evening outing to find our first Buff-collared Nightjars. 

Fancy a nice, slow cruise along the creeks...?

The following morning will be spent aboard small boats gliding quietly through coastal mangroves and after exploring the estuary and its waterbirds, looking especially for Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Boat-billed Heron and a huge variety of other herons, egrets and raptors, we'll circle a pair of offshore rocks where Blue-footed & Brown Boobies are often present, and perhaps a pelagic species cruising close to shore. 

Northern Potoo

Boat-billed Heron

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Blue-footed Booby

Heerman's Gulls

Neotropic Cormorant

Rufous-necked Wood-Rail

We'll also be birding areas that hold a number of new birds for our list such as Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Lesser Roadrunner, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Woodnymph and Bumblebee Hummingbird (as well as a host of wintering northern hummers for our Mexican lists), White-striped Woodcreeper, Spotted, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens and Red-headed Tanager. 

There's plenty of great scenery on this tour

One night along the Pacific coast en-route to Colima gives us a chance to explore some lesser-known locales that hold impressive wetlands, thick thorn forest and vast agricultural areas that provide further opportunities to find Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, along with Mexican Parrotlet, San Blas Jay and Yellow-winged Caçique.

However, the bulk of our time during this birding adventure will be spent in the well known birding states of  Colima and Jalisco and these areas possess some of the finest birding to be found in tropical America. The quality and number of birds to be found in this habitat rich area is just amazing. And as the birding is so spectacular, we are allowing three whole days to fully explore this one site! Home to a wide variety of endemics, Volcan de Fuego is an experience that needs to be savoured slowly and after visiting a number of other memorable birding spots that is exactly what we will do. We begin along the Jalisco coast in thorn forest, move inland to fields, ponds & wetlands, visit more dry forest and then climb through changing habitats on the volcano that include scattered oaks, dry oak/pine forest, humid oak/pine forest and finishing with pine/fir forest just below the timberline. This diversity of habitats in such a small geographical area is the reason the birding here is so spectacular.

Collared Towhee

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker

Grey-crowned Yellowthroat

Lesser Ground Cuckoo

Orange-breasted Bunting

Mottled Owl

Snail Kite

Orange-breasted Bunting

More great scenery....

Stripe-headed Sparrow

Many endemics, beautiful scenery and comfortable lodging provide an unbeatable combination. While these sites are our primary areas for Flammulated Flycatcher, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Red-breasted Chat, the complete list of endemics we expect to see around the volcanoes is full of many other spectacular birds. Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, Singing Quail, West Mexican Chachalaca, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Thick-billed Parrot (found in the winter season only), Bumblebee Hummingbird, White-striped Woodcreeper, Lesser Roadrunner, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Golden-crowned Emerald, Citreoline Trogon, San Blas Jay, Happy, Sinaloa and White-bellied Wrens, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Fan-tailed Warbler, Grey-collared Becard, Spotted Wren, Aztec Thrush (present here in wintertime flocks), Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Dwarf Vireo, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Green-striped Brush-Finch, Collared Towhee, Black-backed (Abeille's) Oriole. Blue and Orange-breasted Buntings, Black-vented Oriole and Yellow-winged Caçique are the primary members of this list. 

Garnet-throated Hummingbird

Similar habitat inland offers back-up support in case any species are missed while providing our most reliable areas in Colima/Jalisco for Banded Quail, Balsas Screech-Owl,Whiskered Screech-Owl, Mountain and Colima Pygmy-Owls, Stygian Owl, Spotted Owl, Eared Poorwill, Mexican Whip-poor-will and Buff-collared Nightjar. Our return home will be from the international airport at Puerto Vallarta giving folks the largest selection of departing flights possible.

For full tour itinerary and info - click here.

All photos copyright Kim & Cindy Risen - NatureScape Tours.