Saturday, 31 March 2012

Eaglenest 2012

We have a tour to Eaglenest in the mountains of north-east India departing soon. It's definitely one of my favourite places in the world and to be in the Himalayas in springtime is to be in birding heaven. In fact we've been guiding groups of birders here longer than any other tour company - FACT! So here's just a few photos of some special birds we've seen there over the years.....

Beautiful Nuthatch

Fire-tailed Myzornis


Green Cochoa

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Office Work!

This late March/early April period is a time for us at ZOOTHERA to catch up with the office work before heading out on short holidays and preparing for tours to Taiwan & Lesvos later in the month.

Exciting new tours currently being prepared include Northern Peru (Jan 2014), Peninsular Malaysia (April 2013), West Java & Sumatra (Nov/Dec 2013), Japan (Nov 2013), as well as several new Brazil tours.

Well here's a few nice shots from our last Brazil - Atlantic Rainforest tour:

Saffron Toucanet

Shrike-like Cotinga

Streamer-tailed Tyrant

Swallow-tailed Hummingbird

Versicolored Emerald

Yellow-fronted Woodpecker

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fraser's Hill

Our last morning was spent along the Telecom Loop and will probably be remembered by most of us for the pair of Pygmy Wren-babblers giving prolonged views on a relatively bare earth bank. They gave the full show of singing, feeding and just looking cute and it was a rare opportunity to study them at leisure. And as so often is the case, ‘yesterdays lifer is todays dross’ which appeared to be the case when a Long-tailed Broadbill was out in the open calling from the top of a bare tree and promptly ignored! Well we were looking for a Bay Woodpecker at the time, which incidentally failed to show despite calling for ages. A nice Slaty-backed Forktail, a perched Mountain Imperial-pigeon, numerous Blue-winged Minlas and Little Spiderhunter followed, along with lots of other decent birds as we walked along the road. In particular views of Fork-tailed Swift flying at eye-level, as we admired a wonderful view of forested ridges stretching to the horizon, allowed us to see far more plumage detail than before. However, just when we were beginning to think our time was up and thoughts turned to packing our cases than a Malayan Partridge burst from the undergrowth at the side of the road and flew right in front of us. Then another called from the hillside above and was being answered by others on the opposite side. Eventually another flew across the road and as we waited patiently one bird materialised out of the forest and walked slowly across the road in front of us. Simply amazing. Then, as we approached our waiting minibus a random trawl of the ipod resulted in a Rusty-naped Pitta responding from the slope below us but it just didn’t move its position, and we were already behind schedule so had to leave. We headed to a restaurant for lunch before returning to the hotel to shower and pack before saying our goodbyes to Mike and Marilyn. Our last new bird for the trip was Rufous-bellied Swallow down by the reservoir before we reached Kuala Lumpur and caught our evening flight back to the UK and conclusion of a great tour.

Pygmy Wren-babbler

Pygmy Wren-babbler

Pygmy Wren-babbler

Malayan Partridge (record shot)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fraser's Hill

Inevitably the birding was a little slower than yesterday, but was nevertheless full of quality with a number of sought-after species found. We began at a stake-out for Mountain Peacock-pheasant which failed to show but we more than made up for that with a Silver-breasted Broadbill that came in very close. As we looked at this little beauty a pair of Greater Yellownapes flew in and gave us good comparisons with the Lesser Yellownape we’d seen earlier. Then we began walking along the road to the Waterfall Trail, the road being closed to traffic due to a landslide. This turned out to be a good move as we initially heard and then a few of the group managed to see a Ferruginous Partridge after a lengthy search. We also had Hill Blue Flycatcher, male Red-headed Trogon, Ferruginous Flycatcher and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, and Ian managed to spot a Spectacled Spiderhunter as well. After lunch we drove around to The Gap and slowly walked uphill for a few kilometres. This resulted in decent views of a pair of Checker-throated Woodpeckers performing in the roadside trees, as well as Orange-breasted Trogon, Silver-rumped Needletail a gang of 4 Dusky Broadbills, Javan Cuckooshrike, Ashy Bulbul and Arctic Warbler. A couple of calling Marbled Wren-babblers remained invisible despite us putting quite some time in for them, and we also heard a Red-bearded Bee-eater as well before returning to the hotel for dinner.

Dusky Broadbill

Silver-breasted Broadbill

Silver-eared Mesia

Long-tailed Sibia

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fraser's Hill

One of the trickiest birds to find at Fraser’s Hill is Malayan Whistling-thrush so we were in position at our stake-out before daylight and were rewarded for our patience with prolonged views of a bird feeding at the edge of the forest. With new birdsong all around us it was extremely exciting to be finally able to see Silver-eared Mesia, Mountain Fulvetta, Mountain Bulbul, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, numerous Streaked Spiderhunters, and a showy Streaked Wren-babbler. A cracking Fire-tufted Barbet then appeared and we followed this up with the common Long-tailed Sibia and Orange-bellied Leafbird. After breakfast we set off on a long walk along one of the trails and began this session with a Javan Cuckooshrike demolishing a Cicada on the roof of a nearby building and our first Black-and-crimson Oriole, Little Spiderhunter and Little Pied Flycatcher. On entering the trail a Rufous-browed Flycatcher appeared and refused to go away, appearing to have a nest close by. Then a White-throated Fantail was found on a nest, a Large Hawk-cuckoo flew in and in quick succession we had Golden Babbler, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Buff-breasted Babbler, Large Niltava, Mountain Tailorbird, Mountain Leaf-warbler, Everett’s White-eye, Chestnut-crowned, Yellow-browed and Arctic Warblers. Once we made it back onto the road we there was a showy Blyth’s (White-browed) Shrike-babbler, along with Mountain Imperial-pigeons and Little Cuckoo-doves flying over a few times. A Mugimaki Flycatcher was very obliging and a Black-throated Sunbird fed on some nearby flowers. A little siesta over lunch enabled some of the group to watch Fire-tufted Barbet, and both Chestnut-capped and Malayan Laughingthrushes at the feeders in the hotel garden. In the afternoon we birded the new road and immediately came across a perched Blyth’s Hawk-eagle, followed by a couple of stunning Long-tailed Broadbills which initially refused to cooperate but then flew in and treated us to prolonged views. At the same spot a Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler did the opposite and came in but then simply melted away again. A good run of Brown, Gold-whiskered, Black-browed and Red-throated Barbets followed around a fruiting tree which also held a few Scaly-breasted Bulbuls again. There was also the usual losing battle with Bamboo Woodpecker and a heard only Crimson-winged Woodpecker, but Rufescent Prinia and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker showed well! After dinner we spent quite some time and not surprisingly failing miserably to connect with a very close calling Mountain Scops-owl, but did see Brown Wood-owl and Grey Nightjar.

Buff-breasted Babbler

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

Blyth's Hawk-eagle

Long-tailed Broadbill

Rufous-browed Flycatcher
Brown Wood-owl

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Fraser's HIll

We headed to a different area of mangroves this morning and quickly notched up several White-headed Munias amongst a large gathering of Chestnut Munias. A short walk then produced a couple of reasonably cooperative Mangrove Pittas, as well as Copper-throated Sunbird before returning to the minibus a little damp in the light drizzle that had descended. We checked out the nearby mudflats and added plenty of waders to our lists, with the pick of the bunch being Terek Sandpiper and Greater Sandplover amongst the more familiar shorebirds, with a few Lesser Adjutants patrolling the tideline as well. A few White-winged Terns were found amongst a gathering of Whiskered Terns along a narrow creek a little later before we began our journey towards Fraser’s Hill. A wetland area full of dead trees meant plenty of perches for species such as Dollarbird, Black-shouldered Kite, Long-tailed Parakeet and all the usual mynas and Asian Glossy Starlings. A Changeable Hawk-eagle was seen attending to a large nest and a Crested Goshawk was scoped before a pair of Grey-headed Lapwings flew in. Then we spent the next few hours driving towards the highlands and once the road began to rise steeply the habitat became very good with plenty of stands of bamboo amidst the lush tropical forest. Our first stop was simply amazing as a large mixed flock came into view with Brown Fulvetta, White-bellied Erpornis, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Green Iora, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Scaly-breasted and Grey-bellied Bulbuls present, and a cracking Whiskered Treeswift perched prominently. Overhead, hundreds of Oriental Honey-buzzards were migrating north as the skies began to clear after a day of low cloud and drizzle. Moving up to The Gap we walked slowly up the hill adding Hill Blue and Ferruginous Flycatchers, Black-browed Barbet, Glossy Swiftlet, Little Cuckoo-dove, Yellow-bellied Warbler and Ochraceous Bulbul to our day’s tally. 

Peninsular Malaysia Extension

Moved on to Malaysia and headed north to Kuala Selangor, stopping en-route at a park where we quickly located a pair of fabulous Barred Eagle-owls perched in some tall trees beside the path. After checking-in to our hotel we drove the short distance to Kuala Selangor Nature Park and walked out towards the mangroves. Along the canal, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Golden-bellied Gerygone and the first of many Laced Woodpeckers were spotted, along with a tiny Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. Ashy Tailorbirds were numerous here and gave fantastic views before we headed along the concrete boardwalk through some dense Mangrove habitat. A Mangrove Blue Flycatcher performed well, along with Mangrove Whistler, Pied Triller and a migrating Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. Groups of Pink-necked Green-pigeons were flying in to roost, along with Common and Javan Mynas, whilst Brahminy Kites and a Peregrine Falcon soared overhead. Around the lake both Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers were showing well. Other species present included Intermediate Egret, Little Heron, Common and Greater Flamebacks, Arctic Warbler, Asian Glossy Starling, House Swallow, Grey Tit, and lots of Edible-nest Swiftlets. After dinner we spent several hours owling and came up trumps with 2 Buffy Fish-owls, a Spotted Wood-owl and 2 Barn Owls despite the rain to round off a great day’s birding.

Barred Eagle-owl (female)

Barred Eagle-owl (male)

Ashy Tailorbird

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher

Laced Woodpecker