Monday, 15 April 2019

Balearic Spring Migration Tour.

With the first southerly winds of the spring and the warmest day of the year so far greeting the arrival of our group we headed the short distance to Ses Salinas. And what a difference a day makes, as yesterday and the preceding week had been dominated by very cool weather and gale force NW winds. So with renewed vigour and a spring in our step we began birding on the party island of Ibiza! 

Things began slowly as there wasn’t too much to see from the hide but we enjoyed views of Iberian Yellow Wagtails, including some incredibly bright individuals. Several displaying Zitting Cisticolas were pretty close and we even scoped one bird, whilst a very smart-looking Sardinian Warbler was nesting in a nearby bush. Out on the saltpans were over 50 Greater Flamingos, newly arrived from who knows where? There hadn’t been any here just 2 days ago! Common Shelduck numbers have been gradually increasing and today over 70 were present, along with GadwallMallard, and both Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers. Driving out of the site got us close to a Woodchat Shrike of the badius race and is a potential split as Iberian Woodchat Shrike, plus a couple of Red-legged Partridges. We then drove around to the other side and in no time at all were watching the endemic Balearic Warbler singing from his song perch. 

Balearic Warbler

 We enjoyed first class views of this much-wanted bird for a good 10 minutes, as well as a pair of high-flying Western Marsh Harriers and several flyby Mediterranean Shags before walking back to the car and driving to our base for the next 4 nights at the fabulous Villa Rosa. 

Over lunch and a siesta we heard some migrating European Bee-eaters somewhere in the distance and wondered if we’d ever catch up with them…? So we drove down to the nearby harbour at 4pm and spent a very enjoyable hour watching and photographing up to 30 stunning Audouin’s Gulls. This is a really fine bird whether you’re into gulls or not and when they are a mere 2 metres away from you then you can’t fail to be impressed. I don’t know of anywhere else you can get such outstanding views of this charismatic gull. 

This must be the best place to see Audouin's Gull

In my opinion this is a sexy bird and at this time of year they are getting rather frisky as breeding is imminent, combined with all sorts of other behaviour as they scavenged from a fishing boat to their raucous call we had it all. Moving on to a viewpoint looking up to Cap Negret we scoped some distant Scopoli’s Shearwaters and found a pair of Blue Rock Thrush. 

Moving on to an area of meadow, orchards and agriculture just inland from the NW coast, this is a little migrant trap in the right conditions. Our arrival in this picturesque area was greeted by a large flock of hirundines, comprising mainly of Barn Swallows but with several pretty Red-rumped Swallows and a couple of CommonHouse Martins as well, plus a calling European Turtle Dove that flew alongside one of the meadows. We stopped beside one field to look at a pair of Thekla’s Larks and in doing so found ourselves amidst a fall of northerly-bound migrants. The fields and meadows hereabouts were full of Common Redstarts and everywhere we looked there were male redstarts either in the trees or feeding on the ground. A flock of Tree Pipits were also here, along with several male Pied FlycatchersWillow WarblerCommon WhitethroatTurtle Dove and a cracking pale-phase Booted Eagle. We also heard European Bee-eaters from somewhere in the distance and then spotted them flying across the valley so decided to go and look for them. Admittedly it was a bit of divine inspiration to turn right and not left at a junction resulted in us finding the flock and watching them feed over the orchards and scoping one beautiful perched individual. Also in the area was European RobinSong Thrush, many displaying European Serins and other common birds. So a very good day on this highly underwatched island and we were all excited to see what tomorrows excursion to Formentera would bring.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

NE Brazil Day 15: Porto Seguro

A bonus couple of hours was fitted in as all of our flights were later in the day saw us visiting some nearby mangroves where the first bird of the day was the delightful endemic Little Wood-Rail walking slowly below us. Wow! 

Little Wood Rail - endemic

If that wasn’t enough, a pair of Mangrove Rails suddenly appeared and chased the wood-rail away. 

Mangrove Rail - split from Clapper Rail

But no worries as we saw both species several times on our short walk, as we searched and found both Bicolored Conebill and Plain-bellied Emerald

Bicolored Conebill

After a successful little visit, including sightings of Short-crested Flycatcher and Straight-billed Woodcreeper, we headed back to the hotel, stopping along the way to see a trio of Bat Falcons, a bird that had eluded us until now. 

Short-crested Flycatcher

Straight-billed Woodcreeper

New trip birds either side of breakfast were Tropical MockingbirdSemipalmated PloverSanderling, and Orange-winged Amazon bringing our trip list up to 409 species seen, including 89 Brazilian endemics. We also had only our second sighting of East Brazilian Chachalaca and a Geoffrey’s Black-tufted Marmoset as well. Apparently the monkey is of interest to some people...!


This had been a most amazing tour with the incomparable Ciro Albano at the helm and without his expert local knowledge none of this would have been possible.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

NE Brazil Day 14: Veracel Reserve

Breakfast at 5am was followed by a 25 minutes journey to Veracel Reserve again and we enjoyed another excellent morning’s birding. At the entrance we scoped an endemic Red-browed Amazon perched at the top of a tree, and we followed this with Swallow-wing, some Reichenow’s Parrots flying over (split from Blue-headed Parrot), Black-necked Aracari, perched Peach-fronted Parrot, and then we called in an endemic Black-cheeked Gnateater

Black-necked Aracari

Peach-fronted Parakeet

Walking along the sandy track, a cracking White-crowned Manakin posed nicely, and shortly after we found one of the rarest endemic hummers in Brazil – Hook-billed Hermit perched next to the track. Wow! We then spent some time scanning the edges of some open clearings for cotingas and eventually we had a couple views of endemic male White-winged Cotingas. Oh yes! 

White-crowned Manakin

Hook-billed Hermit - endemic

 Probably the weirdest find of the morning was a very young and recently fledged white-fluffy Common Potoo perched in a trackside tree. This spot also held Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Red-legged Honeycreepers and some Blue Dacnis. At the next clearing a Zone-tailed Hawk and a King Vulture flew over.

Common Potoo

The next spot we checked out along a side track held 4 species of manakin: a male Blue-backed, female Red-headed, female White-bearded and male White-crowned. Nearby a pair of Sooretama Slaty-Antshrikes showed well. 

Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike

Moving on we found 2 Screaming Pihas, called in an Eared Pygmy-Tyrantand a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper. By now it was 10:45am and the temperature was up in the 90’s so we headed back to the hotel for a long siesta.

In the late afternoon we headed back to the reserve and staked out an open area but didn’t really have any joy with parakeets coming in to roost. However, we walked a side trail and had fabulous views of a very bold Black-cheeked Gnateater that called and called from a branch very close to our astonished faces. 

Black-cheeked Gnateater - endemic

A short distance away we had some decent looks at a Ringed Woodpecker. Interestingly, HBW splits this species into Amazonian and Atlantic Black-breasted Woodpeckers – the bird we saw being the latter species. We saw a few other common species but basically we waited until dark before calling in a fantastic Black-capped Screech-Owl that posed beautifully in a dense tangle. 

Black-capped Screech-Owl

We literally had to crunch our way across the dry leaf litter to get into position and it didn’t care a jot! Ecstatic with this, we had just returned to the main track when a Mottled Owl began calling and sure enough, and yes you guessed it, this bird flew in and stared balefully down at us….. giving great views! 

Mottled Owl

A nice end to a good day… yet another on our NE Brazil tour..!

Sunday, 17 March 2019

NE Brazil Day 13: Serra Bonita - Porto Seguro

We left after the usual 5.30am breakfast and headed down to the steamy lowlands for better views of Banded Cotinga. Well, we waited an hour and had a female come into the palm fruits but not the male we hoped for. We did scope some endemic Golden-capped Parakeets feeding in a huge tree and see some commoner species including Scaly-headed ParrotRufous-breasted HermitCliff Flycatcher, before setting out on a trail where we quickly found our main target, Eastern Striped Manakin

Eastern Striped Manakin

What a corker this is and this bird performed amazingly well and kept coming back to the same branch. A Buff-throated Woodcreeper seen along the trail was also new for the trip. Once we’d had our fill of this bird we walked back to the clearing and Mark spotted a fantastic male Banded Cotinga in a large tree. Again, what a bird!

Leaving here we drove some 200kms to the coastal town of Porto Seguro in southern Bahia state. After lunch and a siesta, because boy it’s hot here, we headed to Veracel Reserve some 25 minutes away. This white-sand forest patch was quite productive despite the mid-afternoon heat and the first bird we saw was a Grey-crowned Flatbill

White-bellied Tanager - split by HBW from Turquoise Tanager

A mad 15 minute spell resulted in Band-tailed Antwren, Silvery-flanked Antwren, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike and a Bahia Antwren– all endemics. A flock of White-bellied Tanagers (split by HBW from Turquoise Tanager), female White-chinned Sapphire and a Brown Schiffornis. We stayed until dark but failed to get a whiff of White-winged Potoo.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

NE Brazil Day 12: Serra Bonita

We were told when we arrived yesterday that Serra Bonita was having a drought and we need to conserve our water for showers etc. Well today it poured down with several very heavy showers whilst we were out on the trails. Anyway, the day began with a Short-tailed Nighthawk flying around the clearing near our rooms and walking to the main building for breakfast a Barred Forest-Falcon showed pretty well in the early morning gloom. 

Barred Forest-Falcon

After breakfast a 4-wheel drive took us up to the radar tower and we began walking down the road, and low and behold the first bird was the endemic Bahia Tyrannulet. Nearby a Sharpbill was sitting out in the open, a Three-striped Flycatcher didn’t want to be seen and a Reddish Hermit was equally elusive. 

The first Sharpbill of the day

Continuing on a Surucua Trogon appeared, along with Yellow-legged Thrush, endemic Grey-hooded Attila at last, endemic Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher, and a male Spot-billed Toucanet was displaying over the road. 

Spot-billed Toucanet in the mist

We then followed an excellent trail and at a clearing we saw our first endemic Azure-shouldered Tanager, as well as Lemon-chested Greenlet, female Green-backed Trogon, Buff-throated Saltator, Variegated Flycatcher, Black Jacobin, endemic Sombre Hummingbird, Long-tailed Tyrant, and two more Sharpbills

Green-backed Trogon

Another Sharpbill

The trail wound its way through excellent forest and we hadn’t gone very far before coming across a pair of the elusive endemic Pink-legged Graveteiro feeding in the canopy above us. Wow! 

Pink-legged Graveitero - endemic

We’d looked hard for this bird yesterday and here we were getting pretty decent views. Next up was Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner that shot off before everyone could get on it. But when Ciro heard an endemic White-bibbed Antbird calling we couldn’t have expected to get such stunning views of this forest floor skulker, but this bird just sang away from its spot beside the trail and gave awesome views. 

White-bibbed Antbird - endemic

At the same time a Short-tailed Antthrush began singing and this too posed very nicely indeed from its song perch. Wow again! 

Short-tailed Antthrush

A short time later we had another White-bibbed Antbird displaying beside the track, puffing his white mantle feathers up and bowing up and down. Unbelievable! 

White-bibbed Antbird

The walk back to the lodge began to get quieter and the showers seemed to have stopped, but we still saw a pair of Spot-billed Toucanets along the way before Vito picked us up and took us to lunch. 

Crescent-chested Puffbird - endemic
Grey-hooded Attila - endemic
The afternoon session was quieter but we still enjoyed views of Crescent-chested Puffbird, White-necked Thrush,Lesser Woodcreeper, Black-throated Grosbeak, Grey-hooded Attila, and best of all a Mantled Hawk that we saw a couple of times.