Saturday, 20 February 2021

India Tour - Himalayan Monal Quest

So with the Covid vaccine being rolled out, hopefully we can look forward to getting overseas later this year (2021). What i'm currently working on is a little change to the Classic Himalayas tour to include a visit to Chopta in search of the amazing Himalayan Monal. We'll be posting the new itinerary within the week on the Zoothera Birding website.

But just take a look at this beauty....




Thanks to Shyam Sharma/Asian Adventures for the photos.



Friday, 9 October 2020

Face Masks for Birders

 Like it or not, face masks are here to stay. Nobody likes them but the science suggests it's to protect others as well as ourselves, so let's do it! And if we have to wear them, then why not do it birder style?


There are a number of different designs for all sorts of situations...





Take a look at this website for birder's face masks and other gifts:

Country View Arts






Thursday, 17 September 2020

Monteiro's Storm Petrel Pelagic

Graciosa Island is Monteiro's Central, with a couple small islets just offshore being home to most of the world's population of this rare seabird. We had 3 pelagic booked but unfortunately after the first the weather began to deteriorate and we did just a short boat trip close to shore on the second day and everything was totally cancelled for the third day. However, our first and only deep water pelagic was good enough and we got to see double-figures of Monteiro's Storm Petrel. It was a great pelagic and I think we did pretty well during our 7.5 hours out to sea.

Classified as Vulnerable by BirdLife International as it only breeds on these few small islets off Graciosa Island in the Azores.The population is estimated at 375-1499 individuals making it probably the rarest regular breeding seabird in the Western Palearctic.













Monteiro's Storm Petrel


At this time of year the Monteiro's are approaching the end of their breeding season and are looking rather worn, with the base of the inner primaries missing on many of the individuals we saw - but not all. And most of them had noticeable deeply-notched (forked) tails too. We did have a few 'odd' looking petrels and two birds in particular looked like good candidates for Grant's Storm Petrel. This species replaces Monteiro's on the breeding grounds usually from September onwards, with a big overlap during that month. So the 2 darker, squarer-tailed stormies probably have to be left unidentified. There was a paler. greyer-looking stormy that 'got away' too!






Cory's Shearwater


During our time at sea we had awesome close views of 1000's of Cory's Shearwaters and with the news there had been a White-chinned Petrel the week before on the other side of the Azores we grilled every single one! But to no avail!

But we had several Wilson's Storm petrels attracted to our chum slick....





Wilson's Storm Petrel


We were all hoping for Swinhoe's Storm Petrel but there wasn't much variety in seabirds at all, not a single Great Shearwater or even any skuas... But we did see a few Azores (Yellow-legged) Gulls, Leatherback Turtle and stacks of Portuguese Man O' War....

Azorean Gull

Leatherback Turtle

Portuguese Man O' War


On the much shorter second trip we managed to find a Sooty Tern, a much wanted lifer for yours truly (and yes I know it's a tarts tick and I was constantly reminded of this by my 'ship mates'...!), but it's a good Western Palearctic tick. And it was this bird that got me excited about Western P listing, and after counting up I realised what a pathetic list I have for this region. So I made a mental note to do something about this... 






Sooty Tern


Thursday, 13 August 2020

Azores 1

Ok so i'm in the Azores. It's one of two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other being Madeira) and is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the Macaronesian region of the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360kms west of continental Portugal. It's literally in the middle of nowhere! 



And before you start to criticise about travelling during this pandemic, i'm not doing anything wrong and it's perfectly legal and we've followed the relevant government's advice.... You may have a different opinion and that's your prerogative but we've got to live alongside this virus as it's not going away anytime soon.

Anyway, I had a Covid-19 test done in the UK and it's negative (of course!), so after a 4 hour flight on an empty plane we arrived in Terceira Lajes airport, I quickly did the formalities and was soon on the way to our lovely accommodation in Praia da Vitoria. Ten minutes later a taxi whisked us off to the shorebird hotspot of the Western Palearctic at Cabo de Praia.... We noted Common Quail, flocks of Common Waxbills and an Atlantic Canary walking along the lane.



I must admit I was expecting to find an American shorebird or two very quickly and easily. But in birding I should know not to expect anything. Arriving at a little after 6pm there appeared to be very little about, but scanning from the vantage point depicted above eventually revealed 4 Eurasian Whimbrel, 10+ Ruddy Turnstone, 20+ Kentish Plovers, 8 LRP's, 3 Little Stints (and boy I really tried turning them into something else!), 1 Common Greenshank, 6 Common Snipe, 1 sum plum Red Knot, 3 Ruff, and over 18 superb Sanderlings in various stages of moult. To say I was disappointed is an understatement and I don't wear it well. But walking around to the other side, watching flocks of Common Terns passing by and scoping a big stream of Cory's Shearwaters along the way, we scanned again....

Eventually, I picked up an apparent juvenile Common Ringed Plover at the back of the pools and my heart began racing. It had to be right? Thin breast band and those dark lores do look like they meet the bill above the gape line.... Hmmm... After watching the bird for a good while I was happy with the identification of Semipalmated Plover - a bird from the USA that has been fairly regular here, but it's just a shame it was too far away for photos. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.... 

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Azores Pelagics

I'm running 3 pelagics out of Graciosa island on the Azores next week. The dates are 14th, 15th & 16th August and the cost is £150 per pelagic. We will be heading out to the Bank of Fortune to look for the endemic Monteiro's Storm Petrel, but if the sea gods allow then hopefully Swinhoe's Storm Petrel and Barolo Shearwater too. There are some previous reports of Grant's Storm Petrel, as well as Sooty Tern, Desertas Petrel and Brown Booby. Who knows what we will see? And for anyone interested in cetaceans it's a great opportunity to see a variety of whale species too. Each pelagic will run for 6/7 hours and we'll be chumming for some of the rarest seabirds in the Western Palearctic.

If interested or you want further info just send me a message to: info@zootherabirding.com or WhatsApp me on +44 771 226 3475




Sunday, 2 August 2020

#BirdersTogether

So what is #BirdersTogether you may well ask? Well, this is the hashtag for a link that has been used on Facebook to help raise money for people at the grass roots level of Colombia's birding community who have zero income due to Covid-19. So what's that got to do with us right? And that's not an easy question to answer really, except from my own personal point of view having birded in that great country last year and meeting some of these people I just felt I wanted to help. For some reason, and I've honestly looked at this in the most naive way, I thought I could do something to help. My company (Zoothera Birding) sent a donation to the Vaki Crowdfunding platform almost straight away and I kept following to see if the donations total was rising and it was..... but very slowly. In fact, too slowly. At the same time, my wife was tinkering with an idea that has been burning with her for a while and she suggested we design something to sell and raise money that way. You know, what i've seen during this year is that many, many people have their own agenda and rarely do people do something for anyone else without there being something in it for them! Sad but true. You may even call me a cynic. So we both wanted to do something good.....Anyway, she designed some greetings cards from my photos and then got in touch with a nearby printers and we now have the finished product. And here they are....


Bicolored Antpitta

Brown-banded Antpitta

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer

Chestnut-naped Antpitta

The exquisite Crescent-faced Antpitta

Northern Tawny Antpitta

Pale-naped Brushfinch

Purplish-mantled Tanager

Slaty-crowned Antpitta

The daddy of them all.... Undulated Antpitta

They really are top quality greetings cards, printed on really thick card and being 158mm x 158mm - they are rather large. So despite the Vaki Crowdfunding deadline has passed we can still get money to these people who desperately need it via PayPal. And it's not the big tour companies who are getting the money, it's the people at the grass roots level of Colombian birding. The guy who walks miles to dig for worms and then goes every day to feed the antpittas we all so desperately want to see. It's the other people involved in doing the mundane jobs around the feeding stations, restocking hummingbird feeders, tinamou feeding stations etc. It's the drivers who ferry us birders up precipitously narrow mountain tracks and whose main source of income is this. It's the small B&B's in remote villages, it's the people who cook for groups of birders, the people who do the laundry. The ones who do the dirty work, the hard work. Can you even begin to imagine the hours and hours of legwork and patience required to start an antpitta feeding station...? Me neither but it's tough! Can you imagine having zero income at all for the whole year and beyond, due to this killer virus and zero tourism for a year? So by purchasing a pack of 20 greetings cards you can contribute to a small monthly wage for the hardest hit of Colombia's birding community. It's just £20 for a pack of 10 good quality cards with free 2nd Class postage if you live in the UK. 


Front and Back of one of the cards...
My wife has set up a website where you can buy the Colombia cards right now. It is called Country View Arts and the website is www.countryviewarts.co.uk 

And during these strange times you might even want to purchase a face mask too. Love them or hate them they are going to be around for a while, so why not go to Tesco's looking like a birder?

Crescent-faced Antpitta face mask

Apologies if i've bored you, but i'm off birding now! Stay safe everyone.