Arxiu de la categoria: Tours & Itineraries Reports

Tailor-made tour to Texas

  • Dates: From October 16th, 2022
  • Number of tour participants: 3
  • Number of species seen: 235

All images by Carles Oliver. All rights reserved.

Overview: With a delayof two years due to the pandemia, out tailor-made tour to Texas went on finally in October 2022 with 3 tour participants. Originally the idea was to start to the tour at the beggining of November, but part of the clients wanted to be moved to late October so finally the starting date was decided to be Otober 15th. During the tour we thinly explored the large woodlands North of Houston and the desert-like areas around Del Rio but the main effort was to enjoy birding in the many hotspots along the Mexican border between Hidalgo and the Golf as well as around Corpus Christi.

Weather in average was stable, with a couple of days of light rain and low temperatutes for the season. In Corpus Christi we had some days of strong winds, making birding a big uncomfortable and sometimes frustating. The last day of the tour was also marked by strong winds and rains.

Really looking forward to be back in Texas. This time in November, as originally planned!

Day 1. Our guests attented the tour from differents countries so we met at Houston International Aiport. It was the afternoon but we could still have almost a pair of hours of birding. We fastly moved to a corner nearby to enjoy the first bird in the Americas. Here, a short walk produced 5 Scissor-tailed Flyatcher, American Kestrel and Cooper’s Hawk but also common birds like Carolina Chickadee and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. A small pond was full of Killdeers as well as some Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipe and 3 Baird’s Sandpipers. Here we also had a flock of 4 Westerm Kinbirds, that turned out to be the only sight of this species nesting from the mid-West to the Pacific Ocean.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), a typical inhabitant of tall thickets and woodlands.
Flock of Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) along with a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Day 2. After a good rest we left our accommodation to explore Sam Houston National Forest. Before that, a 10 minutes short walk around the parking lot produced a good summary of the garden birds living in the area. Here we got some really common birds like Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

After a short transfer we did have a first stop inside Sam Houstol NF. Soon, we connected with some of the many Pine Warblers around and Brown-headed Nuthatches showed up very well but high. We certainly didn’t have to wait long for the very especialty of the area to appear, and after some minutes, a mixed flock of Woodpeckers revealed to not Red-bellieds but also 3+ Red-cockaded’s and even a rather unexpected Hairy Woodpecker! It took some time but everybody in the group had excellent views on the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, a quite endangered species linked to long-leave pine savannas. A further walk into the area produced several Carolina Chickadees but also the first White-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmouses and Eastern Phoebe of the trip.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), a specialist of pine jungles
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

After such a great start, we started moving East. While driving the area both Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks were noted. It was a sunny and calm day and by midday temperatures went high up.

We arrived around San Antonio by the early afternoon, and even if it was still warm we stop around Crescent Bend Nature Park for some birds. A nice flock of Eastern Meadowlarks provided good looks in the yellowish prairies and we were surprised by the presence of 5+ Crested Caracaras, some of them providing close up views. Once arrived to Betsen????? we had a short walk around. Here we got our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the trip but also Lincoln’s Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch and Nashbille Warbler. At sunset, we were surprised byt the wholoes of a Barred Owl that, despite our efforts, was reluctant to show out.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) can be surprinsingly common
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) male
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

Day 3. This day started with a massive rain and very low temperatures. Theoretically, the morning was devoted to explore one of the main wetlands south of San Antonio, but due to the bad weather we just went directly with the transfer West right beside the Mexican border at Del Río.

En route we had a first stop when the rain stop to explore some open lands and farming. Here we were surprised by a number of good birds including Western Meadowlarks, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Dickcissel, Vesper & Lark Sparrows and the first Vermilion Flycatcher that was extremely welcome by the group.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons)
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

The transfer to Del Rio was fast and easy, and marked by a Ferruginous Hawk spotted by the highway. The weather was still really fresh and temperatures clearly lower than average, even fresh! Just arrived to Del Rio we went to explore some corners around the city. Our first stop was to explore the Cementrey ______ and here we found 12+ Eastern Bluebirds, 10+ Vermilion Flycatchers, small flocks of Lark Sparrows feeding along with Lincoln’s and House Finches, several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and a dark form Red-shouldered Hawk. Following the border between Mexico and USA we also had our first of mane Great Kiskadee. The area is rich in lake and ponds, and in one of the them we got Ringed Kingfisher but also first views on Common Yellowthroat, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, a lovely male Northern Harrier and Neotropical Cormorant before going for dinner and rest at our comfortable accommodation.

Female (up) & male (down) Eastern Bluetail (Sialia sialis) in a mixed migratory flock
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)
Couch’s Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii)
Vermilion Flycatchers (Pyrocephalus obscurus) were really common at Del Rio

A great combination of birds in a single tree!
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) close up

Day 4. The day started as cloudy as the day before, and with temperatures 10ºC below the average of the season! A great weather to explore the desert. Our first visit to Seminole Canyon State Park was concentrated into exploring its plains and bushland, famous for its rich birdlife. A short walk throught the plains fastly produced a good number of species. After only a few minutes a calling came from the bushlands, and after checking we all glad to find a wonderful Pyrrhuloxia sitting near the top of the bush, calling. The excitation came to the group, the bird flew off and despite all our efforts we were uncapable to relocate the bird. Sparrows seem to be everywhere, with small flocks constantly moving in the grassland. Here we enjoyed great views on Cassin’s, Vesper, Lincoln’s, White-crowned, Clay-coloured and Lark Sparrows. Black-throated Sparrows looked like specially common in this dry ambient, and after checking several flocks we were surprised by a Harri’s Sparrow sitting along with Lark Sparrows! That’s a good bird, with really thin records in the area.

Turkey Vultures were pratolling the sky while a massive number of Monarch Butterflies were doing its way South to their winter. There were thousands of them, many times gathering in small “flocks”. Their number was so numerous than we drove over tens of them while approaching the area. Not possible to skip them all in the road, and the tarmac showed tens of them dead or badly injured in a very sad view.

After enjoying the plains we finally decided to go down to the rocky areas. In our way to the rock scarpments, a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher left the group wanting more of it. Once if the rocks, we were lucky to find out a lovely pair of Rock Wrens doing its thing along the cliff edge in a wonderful sight. In our way back the clouds cleared for a while, and we could only see a flock of Eastern Meadowlarks and some Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata)
Small flocks of Clay-colored Sparrows (Spizella pallida) were seen in different semi-arid countryside around Del Río.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

After lunch we moved North, amid to explore some more desert-like ambients. During the next 3 hours we explored different valleys and plains. The sky was again cloudy and we could enjoy a good selection of the birds living in the scrublands. The fast moving Black-tailed Gnatcatcher gave us a hard time but finally everybody in the group could connect with it. While searching for the Gnatcatcher we were surprised by a fly over flock of Woodhouse Scrub-Jays! Along the afternoon we had three flocks of this restless species but never got any shot! Canyon Towhee was another great adding to our list, providing excellent sights as Common Ground Doves did along the tracks of the area as well as at least 3 Chihuahuan Ravens along the roads.

Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Day 5. Early morning morning start to explore another corner in the Seminole State Park. This time we went into a very impressive gorge in search of the sought-after Canyon Wren, a specialist on rock faces that spend a lot of time in crevices and ravines and thus, difficult to locate. In our short walk in the ravine we got the first Black-crested Titmouse of the trip as well as Golden-crowned Warbler and Common Raven. It didn’t took long before we located the first Canyon Wren, moving in fast, almost mouse-like runs along the crags. Investing some time, we got more than decent views in this awesome bird and we even had a second individual in another corner of the canyon. Back to the vehicle we decided to drive back to the same place we were the morning before, expecting to find a Roadrunner in the area. Another walk was required to explore the place, and even if we didn’t find any Roadrunner, we were regarded with a fine selection of birds. The flocks of Sparrows were as active as they previous day, and we had the same species as the day before but adding a Lark Bunting and, the most unexpected, 2 Green-tailed Towhees that showed up at two different places! ere we also hot the only Say’s Phoebe of the trip along with a pair of Scaly Francolins flying out of the bushland.

Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) singing his heart out
Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus). Up to 4 individuals were seen
The impressive Seminole Canyon

After such a great morning at Seminole we still had a last stop at Del Rio to explore one of the urban parks. Here we got a nice selection of birds including the first House Wren of the trip but also both Ringed & Velted Kingfishers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroats and Lesser Goldfinches to name a few.

we drove South in search of the birding hotspots along the Rio Grande. Along the way, we enoyed several Harri’s Hawks in the posts, and also several Crested Caracaras. A stop in some small ponds near Freer provided the first Blue-winged & Green-winged Teals of the tour along with a minimum of 2 Cinnamon Teals. When approaching the our accommodation, a Broad-winged Hawk just passed over our van, giving a great end to this day!

Vesper Sparrow (Pooceetes gramineus)
Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus)
Harri’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Day 6. Our first day exploring Rio Grande was devoted to the Santa Anna State Park. This large natural reserve protects an extensive patch of indigineous evergreen forest. Once upon the time, this valley had been covered with this lush vegetation, but nowadays only small number of locations remain. Black-crested Titmouses, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireos and Grey-backed Gnatcatchers fullfilled the parking place with its song and calls, and the group enjoyed very much taking images of all of them. Green Jays appeared also almost inmediately, with their harsh calls announcing their arrival and 3 Inca Doves were feeding on the ground.

Walking into the habitats in Santa Anna is like transporting yourself into a different era, which majestic trees covered by !!!!!!!!. Once inside the park, we were surprised by the first Clay-colored Thrush perched in a low branch. Curve-billed Thraser was calling a bit beyond and we had to wait a bit until the bird showed up. The time invested was worth it not only because of the good looks on the Thraser but also because a Red-eyed Vireo decided to walk into view! The calls of the Great Kiskadees were constant and they were easily found in the top the trees along our way. At some point we saw a Kisadee chasing a smaller, colourful bird and we were all surprised to see that it an Altamira Oriole that decided to stop in the out at the top a dead tree! Couch’s Kingbirds were also around in a wonderful combination of birds. But the Altamira Oriole was not alone and we count not 2 but 5 of these great birds moving tree to tree, sometimes perching in the out and vocalising.

Santa Anna is preserving some remants of the rather pensive native habitats along the Rio Grande
Long-billed Thraser (Toxostoma longirostre)
Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)
Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula) close up
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus). One of the three species of Vireos seen during the tour.
Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)

This had been a great start of our day! Approaching the first basins we added some species to our list including both Pied-billed & Least Grebes, Lesser Yellowlegs, Snowy Egret, Long-billed Thraser & some Cave Swallows moving along with Northern Rough & Barn Swallows. In our way out, a wonderful Blue-headed Vireo jumped out from the vegetation, but only for a few second before flying bak up to the canopies. When arriving to the parking place, the first flock of Plain Chachalacas appeared in our way, providing great looks.

After a short midday break we went to explore the farming around the border wall between the USA and Mexico. Certainly not an easy place to do birding due to the several border patrols, but with great birds and gentle police officers all the way long. Our first stop could not be better as we got 1 Swainson’s, 2 White-tailed and 2 Red-tailed Hawks that seemed to be hunting the area along with 1 Northern Harrier. Here we also found 2 obliging Burrowing Owls that were extremely well appreciated by the group. The area was full of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and back to a woodland we enjoyed 1 Tropical Kingbird before has one of the surprises of the day, a wonderful Eastern Screeching Owl that was half way out of its nesting box and provided amazing scope views!

Back to the open lands, some paddy fiels around were full of Western Cattle Egrets but also White Ibis and one of the very few White-faced Ibis along the tour! A bit more of drive in such a great area allowed us to find a Grey Hawk hunting just by the road, and we could see how this very elegant small bird of prey captured a water snake a few meters away from us! Beyond this point we had a short-walk in a patch with dense scrubs allowed us to see the first Tenneesse Warbler of the trip and the second Clay-colored Thrush of the day.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)
White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)
We were lucky to find this Easter Screech Owl (Megascops asio) out of its nestbox in day light!
Gray Hawk (Buteo plagiatus) feeding a Snake deep in the woods

Day 7. Bentsen State Park is often related as a birding heaven due to the massive number of species noted here. Its extensive mesquite habitats, combined with woodlands, thickets and water bodies allows a wonderful birding all year round and it is specially noted for birds of prey both resident and migratory. Soon after getting inside the natural area we got a family group of Chachalacas feeding on the ground and a small flock of warblers including Nashville, Tennesse and 3+ Black-and-White’s, a wonderful start under any circumstance. The mesquite ambients were great and beyond Eastern Phoebes and Orange-fronted Woodpeckers we got excellent views on Verdin, Eastern Poo-weet and White-tipped Dove. A Lazuli Bunting flew over and briefly stop in a tree, but not everybody connected with the bird before flew off. A bit beyond, a pair of Grey Hawk flew low over the path, allowing again excellent views on the birds! The air was steadily warming up and by 10:20 we saw 2 Cooper’s Hawks circling. Red-railed Hawks were also noted right before an endless stream of Turkey Vultures appeared in the sky. With their characterystic flight, balancing their body and the wings up, hundreds of them were flying quite low. All the county is famous for being a natural corridor for birds of prey in migration, and in the half an hour that we spent at the Bentsen Hawk Torrer we enjoyed impressive raptor action involving not only hundreds and hundreds of Turkey Vultures but also some Swainson’s, 3 Broad-winged, some Red-shouldered’s, 3 Sharp-chinned’s, 1 Merlin, tens of American White Pelicans and the only 2 Wood Storks of the trip circling along with some Black Vultures. In our way back, we were delighted to find a flock of 15+ Wild Turkeys in the road itself.

Back to the thickets around the headquarters of the park, we got a nice flock of birds feeding on thickets around. New species for the trip inside the flock icluded: 3 Yellow-throated Warblers, 2 Wilson’s Warbler, Baltimore Oriole and Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Bentsen State Park
Flying Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)
Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps), the only North American bird in the Penduline Tit family.
Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina) in mesquite ambient
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)

In the afternoon went to explore a small natural reserve not far away from Bentsen and we got excellent views on Green Kingfisher, Wilson’s Warbler, Buff-bellied Hummingbird. Other interesting species here included Rufous Hummingbird, Spotted Sandpipers, Least Grebe and the only one Green Heron of the trip!

An evening stop was added in a small pond between roads. Here, the small lagoon produced Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs and Blue-winged Teals but everything vanished when 2 Cooper’s Hawk launched themselves in a king of coordinated attack to the waterfowl! The lagoon went empty, but only for a pair of minutes when 4 Mexican Ducks arrived, allowing great scope views before leaving. This is a great species to have. Formerly considered conespecific with Mallard, nowadays is treated as a different one, with small (but maybe overlooked) populations in the American side of the Rio Grande Valley.
In the fields around 3 Nothern Harriers were hunting along with a White-tailed Hawk. A walk in a small area of mesquite produced little songbirds but we were surprised to find a Common Parauque roosting on the ground! Delighted to find this speciality of the mesquite, we enjoyed walk-away views on the bird. Later in the evening we came back to the open fields, and with the very last light of the day we had a Common Whir-Pool flying around us. Some Burrowing Owls were calling around and in our nocturnal drive out of the area a Coyote appeared in front of the van allowing great views!

Back (up) and frontal (below) views on Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis)
Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana)
Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)
Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi)
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) in the mesquite

Day 8. A very early start of the day was necessary to accomplish the intense program for that day! First stop at Estero Llano State Park, where we were delighted with the image of tens and tens of Black-bellied Wistling Ducks early in main lagoon early in the morning. Bird activity was nice and the reedbeds around not only provided good views on Common Yellowthroat but also on Sora, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, American Moorhen and Solitary Sandpiper. The lagoons had good number of ducks including Gadwalls and Mottled Ducks. A walk around also produced Wilson’s Warbler, Lincon’s Sparrows, the first Bronze Cowbirds of trip as well as Great Kiskadees and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

A second stop in another nature reserve nearby produced our best views on Green Jays along with some Yellow-throated Warblers, the only one Northern Parula of the trip and close up views on Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

The very vocal Black-bellied Wistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Bronze Cowbirds (Molothrus aeneu)
A rather punk Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas)
Northern Parula (Parula americana)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Dryobates scalaris)

In the afternoon we drove inside the massive Atascosa Wildlife National Refuge. Soon we got the first White-tailed Hawks of the trip along with several Ospreys, Loggerhead Shrikes and American Kestrels in the posts and wires. Once in the main laggoon, an enormous flock of ducks and American Coots was waiting for us. There were hundreds of American Wigeons along with 200+ Redheads, several Pied-billed Grebes, 7 Canvasbacks, 5+ Ruddy Ducks and 2 Ring-necked Ducks. In the shores of the lake we got the first Willet of the trip. Tricolorated Heron, Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron were feeding along the shores, short distance from each, allowing good us to compare them with each other. In our way out of the Atascosa we were surprised to find the first Greater Roadrunner of the trip, gentlenly stopped by the road. It allowed wonderful views and some great shots. In the coming 3 miles we got another 3 Roadrunners, allowing all great views including a small hunting scene of the particular terrestrial cuckoo. But this was not the only surprise of the road, and some minutes a random stop in the road allowed us to find 3 Long-billed Curlews feeding in the farmland. Clouds of Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds covered the area, and a good scanning in the distance produced 2 Aplomado Falcons in an aerial fight. This is an endangered species with tiny populations in the grasslands and dunes in Southern Texas.

This massive flock of Coots and Wigeons was also having Northern Shovelers, Redheads, Pied Grebes, Ruddy Ducks and Canvasbacks
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Day 9. Parcs + Port Aransas Nature Preserve. Morning deserved to explore some urban parcs and small corners around Corpus Christi. Our first stop was at Pollywog Wildlife Sanctuary, where birding was a bit low but we still managed to enjoy good views in some migratory birds such as Yellow Warbler, Least Flycatcher and Audubon Oriole plus some interesting regular species including Marsh Wren, Sharp-chinned Hawk , Common Yellowthroat, House Wren and Grey Catbird. Our second stop, at Bucher Park, produced the best views on Blue Grosbeak of the trip along with and Ruby-throated Hummingbird and some warblers.

Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)

The shoreline around Corpus Christi is really interesting and a short stop in a marshy area produced excellent views on American Avocet, Western & Stilt Sandpipers, Sanderling, Ruddy Turstone, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew and some commoner species including Grey Plover, Black-necked Stilts and Brown Pelicans. A carefully scanning in the tidal plains produced not only Caspian & Foster’s Terns but also Snowy, Semipalmated & Piping Plovers, and Cabot’s and Royal Terns.

From here, we drove to the Port Aransas Nature Reserve to end our day exploring the reedbeds and freshwater ponds of these lovely corner. Here we were welcomed by a extremely tame Sora. The broadwalk along the marshes allowed us great views on Tricolorated Herons, white form Reddish Egret and lovely American White Pelicans & Short-billed Dowitchers in lovely afternoon light while a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls were flying over. A careful scanning of the reeds soon revealed an American Bittern appearing and disappearing, and a second Sora was seen walking along the edge of the reeds. There were some ducks, with the American Wigeons already back to show their lovely coloration and some Blue-winged Teals walking that path down. But our scanning of the reeds was abruptly broken by a Least Bittern that crossed the lagoon and landed really close to us, merging into the vegetion in a pair of seconds! Still enjoying this sight, a Clapper Rail just appeared from under our feet to do a short flight and land really close from where the Least Bittern blinded itself. After such a great afternoon we came to the hotel to enjoy a lovely dinner!

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) was really common all the way
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)
Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) close up
American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors)
Sora (Porzana carolina)

Day 10. Goose Island State Park + Skimmer. Early morning start to explore the Goose Island State Park, a first go for trying to connect with the Whooping Crane population overwintering in the area. A first walk in the forested areas produced the best views on Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the trip along with Grey Catbirds and White-eyed Vireos. From here, we went down to the island, where a few terns and waders were feeding. Here we were lucky enough to find a Wilson’s Plover feeding along with a Semipalmated Plover, and we all had goos scope views on both species feeding side by side. Walking in the marshes around we were also lucky, and a Clapper Rail just flew to us to land a few feet away from us. We could track the bird for over a minute allowing great views and photos on it! After a while and with no sign of any Crane we went to explore a close pond, where we found the first Anhinga of the trip plus 3 Indigo Buntings feeding in the grass around. and the only one Tree Swallow of the tour flying along with Barn Swallows

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheuticus ludovicianus)
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans)

After a midday break we went to another corner combining reedbeds and tidal plains. Soon after our arrival, a Grove-billed Ani called from the thickets around and after soe efforts we got short but solid views on it. Common Yellowthroats were really active, and when arrived to the tidal area we saw a lovely flock of Black Skimmers resting along with many Laughing Gulls, 1 Ring-billed Gull, Avocets, Sanderlings, 2 Western Sandpipers, Marbled Godwits and Foster’s Terns. While scanning around a short call came from the reeds, and a pair of seconds later a lovely Nelson’s Sparrow appeared in the top of a bush beside our platform, showing its wonderful orange/pumcacke face with a lovely, well defined grey auricular patch. Apparently this is a scarcity around Corpus Christi, and a really good adding to our list!

Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)

Day 11. Morning start to explore a bit more the Bucher Park where we got a good selection of birds. Just parking, a Summer Tanager showed out by the van, and soon we contacted with some Warblers including Orange-crowned and Tennessee. Great Kiskadees were active as ever, and while scanning the trees we got an Ash-throated Flycatcher, another scarcity in the area in these dates. Still not recovered from this finding, a 1st winter Yellow-bellied Sapsucker just landed by our small group, allowing excellent (but short) views on the bird. When leaving the park, a female American Redstart just appeared in the low branches of a small tree, giving us a great end to our hour-long walk!

Our second stop of the day was to explore Oso Bay Wetlands. Here we were welcomed by flocks of Sandhill Cranes, just arriving from their nesting grounds to spend the winter in Corpus. Several Lincoln’s Sparrows were moving around along with some Savannah Sparrows, and another Ani was calling in the thickets. Crested Caracaras were in the move around and while enjoying the Thrasers and Grey Catbirds around a Firecrest-like call came to us, and we fastly discovered a Golden-crowned Kinglet feeding in the mesquites by the track. A bit beyond a superb Yellow-throated Warbler allowed some good shots and our visit to this location ended with a Sprague’s Pipit appearing from under our feet to show briefly before flying away!

Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandvicensis)
Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)
Giant Walkingstick (Megaphasma denticrus)

After lunch, we went to the South Texas Botanical Gardens. Here we enjoyed the several ducks in the lagoons. American Pigeons and Blue-winged Teals were the most common but we also located 4 Mottled Ducks, 27+ Ruddy Ducks, 6 Ring-necked Ducks and 2 Lesser Scaups. 2 Black-necked Grebes were also noted, and Northern Harriers and Cooper’s Hawks were flying around to check the capabilities and reactions of the ducks. From here we moved North to end the day in __. There we got a Zone-tailed Hawk flying over being moved by a Red-shouldered Hawk, a really scarce species and fabulous adding for the trip! In the marshes it was little movement but we still got really close views on 2 Sedge Warblers that unfortunately didn’t allow any photo.

Day 12. Aransas Wildlife National Refuge is the very well known place where Whooping Cranes come to overwinter. Unfortunately we arrived a bit too early and the Whooping Cranes were not there yet. The exploration of the area started with a short-walk around the information center. It was a cloudy and windy day but we still got some small birds. Along with the typical species for the area, we enjoyed good views on a Yellow-breasted Chat, one of the largest warblers in North America, that appeared from a thicket along with Thrasers and Catbirds.

The marshes beyond produced good views on Herons and Egrets plus 2 Virginia Rails (one of them literally walking our path in front of us), 1 Clapper Rail, Common Terns, Gull-billed Terns, Reddish Egrets and the good views on Alligators. The main pond for ducks in Aransas didn’t produce so much, and a solitary Cinnamon Teal was the most interesting of a lagoon dominated by American Wigeons and Blue-winged Teals. We spent quite a long time looking for Whooping Cranes in the main watch tomer for them, but we didn’t get anything out a of a single Sandhill Crane moving in the marshes.

Back to the wood trails crossing the swamps we were lucky enough to find another American Bittern only 20 metres away from us. We waited quite long hoping for the bird to come out of the reeds, but never happened. In the meanwhile, another Sora walked around us providing, once more, great looks.

Wonderful habitat in Aransa Wildlife Refuge
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)
American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)

Day 13. Early morning stop in the marshes checking for something new to appear. The morning was warm and windy, and massive clouds in the horizon suggested the rain to come. In the tidal planes, Black Skimmers were again the main characters along with 2 distant Piping Plovers and Stint Sandpipers. 4 Frankling Gulls were noticed roosting along with Laughing Gulls, and a full adult American Herring Gull was a nice adding for the list of the trip.

Living Corpus, we transfered to Bolivar Peninsula via Houston. In our way we had a number of intense showers. We arrived to Houston with a windy and extremely cloudy ambient. A small park in the South West of the city was the place to explore. We only had 20 minutes before a massive rain started to come down. But we did have luck! The first bird we saw inside the park was an impressive Pileated Woodpecker doing its way in the woods. It called several times before flying away. Only a pair of minutes after that 3 American Robins showed out and 1 Downy Woodpecker came to feed around us. No time for more. A extremely intense rain started. We moved for lunch around the park, hoping for the weather to clear out in the meanwhile, but did the opposite. The rest of the transfer and afternoon we faced intese rains and winds and by the time we did arrive to the Bolivar Peninsula it was almost dark.

But right before going for dinner we had a short walk around our accommodation. The weather was surprisingly calm and clear, and in only five minutes of scanning we got a Great Horned Owl owling in the trees around and eventually it did fly over us, allowing a short but really intense sight!

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pyleatus)

Day 14. Our last morning in Texas was devoted to explore the marshy flatlands in the Bolivar Peninsula. After the strong storm and the heavy rain of the last afternoon, we faced a calm, cloudy morning. We had only a pair of hours, but it was worth to explore the Bolivar flat lands, specially after we had to cancel any birding in the previous afternoon due to rough weather.

In only a pair hours the group enjoyed the very last views on Crested Caracara, Northern Harrier, White Ibis, Loggerhead Shrike, Snowy & Reddish Egrets, Willets and Least Sandpipers. Clappers Rails were active in the marsh and we had a glimpse in a pair of them, and we were lucky enough to see a King Rail shortly flying above the vegetation, to land in the middle of the marsh and disappear but no before showing the nice contrast in the upperwings.. Here we also had excellent views on some Segde Wrens moving in the low vegetation, while a Nelson’s Sparrow showed shortly in the grass. After some checking, we finally connected with two Swamp Sparrows, and one of them allowed decent views while calling from the grasslands. Cabot’s & Fosters Terns were noted and in our way out of the peninsula we got a group of 4 Boat-tailed Grackles, another nice adding to the tour list.

From here we drove back to Houston with some juvelines Red-tailed Hawks and Blue Jays crossing the road, and two Bald Eagles cicling in the sky while refuelling was a magical way to end up our tour!

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

List of species of birds seen during the tour:

  1. Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
  2. Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)
  3. Mottle Duck (Anas fulvigula)
  4. Mexican Duck (Anas diazi)
  5. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
  6. Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
  7. American Wigeon (Anas americana)
  8. Green-winged Teal (Anas caroliensis)
  9. Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors)
  10. Cinnamon Teal (Spatula cyanoptera)
  11. Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
  12. Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
  13. Redhead (Aythya americana)
  14. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
  15. Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
  16. Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
  17. Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)
  18. Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata)
  19. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
  20. Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis)
  21. Common Poor-will (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)
  22. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
  23. Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
  24. Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
  25. Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Crotophaga sulcirostris)
  26. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia sp)
  27. White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
  28. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
  29. Inca Dove (Columbina inca)
  30. Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  31. White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi)
  32. Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris)
  33. King Rail (Rallus elegans)
  34. Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
  35. Sora (Porzana carolina)
  36. American Coot (Fulica americana)
  37. American Moorhen (Gallinula galeata)
  38. Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
  39. Pied-billed Grebe (Podylimbus podiceps)
  40. Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)
  41. Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
  42. American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)
  43. Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
  44. American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
  45. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  46. American Golden Plover (Pluvialis !!!!!)
  47. Killdeer (Charadrius vociderus)
  48. Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
  49. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
  50. Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus)
  51. Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia)
  52. Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
  53. Lesser Yellowlegs (Triga flavipes)
  54. Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)
  55. Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia)
  56. Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
  57. Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)
  58. Hudsonian Whimbrel (Numernius hudsonicus)
  59. Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)
  60. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
  61. Sanderling (Calidris alba)
  62. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  63. Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
  64. Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
  65. Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)
  66. Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
  67. Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
  68. Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)
  69. Franklin’s Gull (Larus pipixcan)
  70. Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
  71. American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus)
  72. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
  73. Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
  74. Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
  75. Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus)
  76. Cabot’s/Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus acuflavidus)
  77. Foster’s Tern (Sterna fosteri)
  78. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
  79. Black Skimmer (Rhynchos niger)
  80. Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
  81. Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
  82. Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
  83. Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
  84. White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)
  85. White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
  86. Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
  87. American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
  88. Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)
  89. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
  90. Agró blanc (Agrodiaetus albus)
  91. Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
  92. Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
  93. Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
  94. Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
  95. Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
  96. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  97. Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax violacea)
  98. American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
  99. Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
  100. Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
  101. Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
  102. Osprey (Pandion haliaetos)
  103. White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)
  104. Sharp-chinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
  105. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperi)
  106. Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)
  107. Harri’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
  108. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
  109. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  110. Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)
  111. Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus)
  112. Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
  113. Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)
  114. Bald Eagle (Hieraaetus leucocephalus)
  115. Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio)
  116. Barred Owl (Strix varia)
  117. Burrowing Owl (Athene cunilaria)
  118. Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
  119. Ringed Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata)
  120. Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana)
  121. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyapicus verius)
  122. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
  123. Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons)
  124. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
  125. Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
  126. Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris)
  127. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
  128. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
  129. Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)
  130. Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis)
  131. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
  132. Esmerla (Falco columbarius)
  133. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  134. Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)
  135. Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
  136. Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
  137. Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
  138. Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)
  139. Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)
  140. Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)
  141. Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
  142. Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)
  143. Couch’s Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii)
  144. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)
  145. Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)
  146. Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
  147. White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)
  148. Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
  149. Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)
  150. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
  151. Green Jay (Cyanocitta yncax)
  152. Woodhouse Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
  153. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  154. Common Raven (Corvus corax)
  155. Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)
  156. Carolina Chickadee (Poecile caroliensis)
  157. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
  158. Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus)
  159. Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps)
  160. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  161. Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva)
  162. Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
  163. Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripenis)
  164. Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)
  165. Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
  166. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus caledula)
  167. Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
  168. Sedge Wren (CIstothorus plantensis)
  169. Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus)
  170. Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus)
  171. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
  172. Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
  173. House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
  174. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura)
  175. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
  176. Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)
  177. Gray Catbird (Dumetella caroliensis)
  178. Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
  179. Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
  180. Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre)
  181. Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)
  182. Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
  183. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
  184. Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi)
  185. Eastern Bluebird (Sialias sialis)
  186. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  187. America/Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
  188. Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii)
  189. Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria)
  190. House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
  191. Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus)
  192. Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus)
  193. Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus)
  194. Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)
  195. Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata)
  196. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps)
  197. Cassin’s Sparrow (Aimophila cassinii)
  198. Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)
  199. Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)
  200. Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri)
  201. Vesper Sparrow (Pooectes gramineus)
  202. Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)
  203. Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandvichensis)
  204. Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)
  205. Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
  206. Harri’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)
  207. White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
  208. White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
  209. Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)
  210. Audubon’s Oriole (Icterus graduacauda)
  211. Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
  212. Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)
  213. Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  214. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
  215. Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
  216. Boat-tiled Grackle (Quiscalus major)
  217. Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
  218. Bronzed Cowbird (Molothrus aeneus)
  219. Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)
  220. Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla)
  221. Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata)
  222. Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina)
  223. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
  224. Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
  225. Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
  226. American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)
  227. Yellow-throated Wabler (Setophaga dominica)
  228. Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)
  229. American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
  230. Yellow Throated Chat (Icteria virens)
  231. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
  232. Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus)
  233. Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)
  234. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovica)
  235. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

Uganda 2022 Trip Report

Dates: From July 15th to 30th, 2022

Number of participants: 3

Number of bird species seen: 454

All images in this trip report by tour leader Carles Oliver and tour participant Mike O’Neill. All rights reserved

Oveview: After a long delay due to the well known global pandemia, we finally went on with our first tour to Uganda. And it was great. Not only due to the well known quality of the birdwatching in the country, but also because of the very rich mammal life living there, the quality of the lodges along the whole trip, the amazing landscapes all along the tour, the charming local people all along, and the very pleasant temperatures, with an average of 23ºC, and many sunny days that were only broken by a pair of showers in the first and the last day of the tour.

This tour was planned for some years, but the pandemia emerged in our lifes, and it had to be cancelled a pair of times. At the end, the many hours of talks with our local partners produced a tour with the perfect tone, focused in the many endemics, but not only, in an effort that at the end crystallized in 454 species of birds and 40 species of mammals! Indeed we not only enjoyed Shoebill Stork once, but three times! All in three different places. It is also to be noted in our list species such as the endemics Rwenzori Nightjar and Grauer’s Warbler as well as the rarely seen Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo and Yellow-footed Flycather. At the end of the tour we have enjoyed up to 6 African Finfoots! and had remarkable views on Chocolate-backed Kingfishers, Ituri Batis, Papyrus Gonolek, Black Bee-eater, Rwenzori Hill Babbler and Archer’s Robin Chat to name a few along with several African goodies including African Crowned Eagle, Yellow-billed Barbet, Blue Malkoha, Short-tailed Pipit, African Emerald Cuckoo or Dusky Crimsonwing getting in our list.

The massive Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata) was one of the highlights in the first morning of the tour
Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis). Probably the easiest raptor to see in Uganda

Day 1. Lake Victoria

After an evening flight from Europe, our group landed in Entebbe afer midnight, and in a magical start of the trip, only 10 minutes after leaving the airport we were crossing a small arm of the Lake Victoria in a small boat. It was there, in the calm waters of the lake, enjoying the fresh night with the ecos of the firsts Ugandans going to work arriving from the city, that we had the first unforgettable footprint of Uganda in our travel book!

In a few minutes we arrived to our accommodation at the opposite shore, where we enjoyed a well deserved rest before going out for breakfast.
Our first birding of the tour was in the gardens of the accommodation, where we had good views on several species including the firsts of many Pied Kingfisher, Village Weaver, Red-chested Sunbird, Broad-billed Roller and Yellow-billed Stork. Here we also had a selection of Weavers including Slender-billed, Golden-backed and Yellow-baked. Long-crested Eagle was hunting in the hotel grounds, and Black-and-White Shrike Flycather and Lesser Honeyguide were seen around the cottages. The area around the lodge is basically a farming area, but there are still interesting remants of the original forest, so we were not surprised when a gorgeous, enormous Great Blue Turaco appeared right in front our eyes to give us one of the first unforgettable momments of the trip.

From this lodge we headed to marshes around the Victoria Lake. The area opposed to Entebbe is still preserving a large complex of swamps and wetlands, and right after arriving we were enjoying not only common birds such as African Pied Wagtail but also Swamp Flycatcher, Widding Cisticola, Brown-headed Batis and the always breath-taking African Blue Flycatcher. Once in our boat, we started moving the swamp, and soon Squacco and Purple Herons flew from both sides of the channels, rich in lotus and other floating plants. Widding Cisticolas were singing everywhere, and were soon joined by Marsh Black Widowbirds. A White-faced Whistling Duck showed really well while a flock of White-winged Black Terns was a nice adding. Back to the swamps, Long-toed Lapwings were feeding in the marshes, some pairs already with chicks around, and Malachite Kingfishers were a common view along the channels.

A Little Egret caught our attention for a few seconds, but we soon forgot about as a massive figure was revealed about 30 metres away from us. A grey-blueyish, statue-like massive bird with penetrating eyes made us forget about the world. A Shoebill Stork. No movements. No calls. Just the iconical, imposing figure with its massive, prehistorical-like bill. We enjoyed of this incredible bird for about 20 minutes, and during all this time the bird moved only a pair of steps.

Northern Brown-throated Weaver (Ploceus castanops), one of the Weavers linked to water corpses
African Swamphen (Porphyrio madagascarensis), note the delicate greenish back
The massive Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps rex) feeds mainly in fish, but young coccodriles, small mammals and birds. Image by Mike O’Neill
No way to describe what it comes to your mind when a Shoebill looks at you that way…
White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata)
African Jacanas (Actophilornis africanus), so common and so smart!

We still had some time more in the swamps, and we enjoyed the very common African Jacanas, the flight of some African Marsh Harriers, the delicate dance of the Northern Brown-throated Weavers on the lotuses and the rather unexpected view of 3 Plain Martins passing over our little boat.

From here we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch and rest. After lunch we transfer North of Kampala, moving the Rhino Sanctuary, where we had a first contact with many of the birds leaving in the woodlands. Our arrival to this Sanctuary, devoted to protect an increase the thin population of this giant in Uganda, was precided by a strong storm. Once the rain passed away, we were scorted by a ranger to track some White Rhinos, and soon after we were enjoying of impressive views on 4 individuals feeding on the refreshing grass, and interacting nicely. At the same time that enjoying the Rhinos, we could move a bit in the bushland, and some birds were noted: Saddle-billed Stork, Hadada Ibis, Vinaceous Dove, Black-headed Gonolek, Grey Woodpecker, Northern Black Flycather and Bronze Mannikin were all noted. The short walk around produced also a Short-tailed Pipit, a really scarce species in the area, and a gorgeous White-headed Turaco that was feeding in the trees around. From here we just headed to our accommodation for a good dinner and rest.

The always impressive White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) is recovering in Uganda. Please, note the Piapiac (Ptilostomus afer). Images by Mike O’Neill and Carles Oliver
Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus) is suprisingly common in moisty grasslands

Day 2. Royal Mile – Murchinson Falls

After the rains during the previous evening, our day started with a fresh and clean atmosphere. This day was devoted to explore the famous Royal Mile, a wonderful track crossing a one of the largest areas of lowland primary forest in Uganda. Here, we explored both open lands and the forest, and in our first stop of the morning we had already a massive number of birds. Here, exploring a gentle slope mixing moisty grasslands and crops, we had a really nice collection of birds living in this habitat including Marsh Tchagra, African Moustached Warbler, Red-faced Cisticola, Fawny-coloured Waxbill, Dusky Twinspot, Lizzard Buzzard, Vielliot’s Black & Baglafecht Weavers to name some of them. Here we also got first views on other common species to appear several times later in the trip such Senegal Coucal, Copper Sunbird and Brown Babbler.

Once in the forest, the firsts of many Saw-wings & White-rumped Swifts of the trip were a wonderful setting for a flock of Black-and-white Casquet & White-thighed Hornbills, the last being a speciality of the Royal Mile, and having a really limited range within Uganda. While enjoying these incredible Hornbills and going throught the differences we got an African Grey Parrot flying above us at low range, providing with excellent views. From here we started our short-walk in the Royal Mile, and we didn’t have to wait long for the first African Pygmy Kingfisher to appear nicely. Chestnut-capped Flycatchers looked like very common that day, and in our first hour within the forest we got a wonderful list of birds that included good looks at Yellow-throated Tinkenbird, Western Black-headed Oriole, the rather scarce Honeyguide Greenbul, along with Tambourine Dove, Red-chested Cuckoo, Blue-throated Roller, White-breasted Nigrita, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, the always interesting Green Hylia and African Shrike Flycather. Greenbuls were really well represented as got Little, Little Grey and Slender-billed Greenbuls.

But the Royale Mile is famous because of the number species living here which are difficult to find anywhere else. The Ituri Batis is one of them, and we had to chances to follow the nervous movements of a pair up in the canopies. African Dwarf Kingfisher was reluctant to show but by the end of the morning we tresoured excellent looks at them. A pair of Gree-backed Twinspots provided also great looks moving in tall grassland of some clearings. Blue-breasted Kingfisher, often shy in Uganda, showed really well, and Forest Flycatcher, Rufous-crowed Eremomela, Narina Trogon, Buff-breasted Apalis and Little Green & Green Sunbirds were also added to the tour list.

Further on in the forest, a visit to a clearing allowed us to get good views on both Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spinetails, both with a very limited range. When coming back to our van, another stop was mandatory as Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo was calling in the forest. After a long waiting, we finally got some views on the bird as it crossed to track, and the sight had a warm welcome in the group as this is exremely shy bird that normally is reluctant to show out. Already close to our vehicle, a wonderful Chocolate-backed Kingsfisher was our very last discovery in the forest, giving a wonderful end an excellent morning.

The impressive primary forest at Royal Mile
White-thighed Hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus), is a scarce resident in primary forest
African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ispidina picta) provided the group with several views, and in different locations along the tour
Chestnut Wattle-eye (Platysteria castanea) female shining its wonderful contrast
The very handsome Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (Halcyon badia) was one of the most celebrated birds of the day!
The elusive Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher (Fraseria ocretata) showed up in the Royal Mile

Leaving behind the Royal Mile in our way to the Murchinson Falls National Park we still had a last stop in the primary forest, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a Forest Robin moving in the undergrowth. Scanning the sky, a massive, bulky African Crowned Eagle showed up in the sky, in a magnificent aerial display that let us enjoy many of its wing markings. Extremely happy after this great morning, we definately started our transfer to the Murchinson Falls National Park.

One in the park, birds were momentanely eclipsed by a wonderful array of game moving around us. Not the Mosque Swallows, neither the Pink-backed Pelicans nor White-headed Saw-wing could compete with the herds of Uganda Kobs and the lovely Oribis while family groups of African Elephants fed along the tracks a few feet away from our vehicles. Cape Buffalos appeared to a bit more scarce, but the magnificent silhouettes of the first Giraffes emerging in the sunset light with a chorus of Black-headed Gonoleks and Black-crowned Tchagras is something that will remain in our memories for long!

The firsts African Bush Elephants (Loxodonta africana) of every trip are always very special! Image by Mike O’Neill
African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus) is often found aroud towns, and many times inside hotel grounds. Image by Mike O’Neill

Day 3 – Murchinson Falls game drive & Rock Pratincoles

During the morning we enjoyed a mixed of game and birding drive in the Murchinson Falls National Park. Here we enjoyed a good variety of birds including the firsts Martial Eagles of the trip along with Rüppell’s Vultures, Black-winged Kites, Short-winged & Zitting Cisticolas, Speckled-fronted Weavers, Black-bellied Bustards, Spotted Palm Thrush, Crowned Lapwings and Black-rumped Waxbills. Here we also got the only 3 Brown-chested Lapwings of the trip, a very scarce species that many trips fail to find!

Endless herds of Uganda Kobs were covering the plains along with small packs of the very handsome Oribis. The slender silouhette of the Giraffes were also a common view in the park, and small herds of them were crossing here and there, sometimes not far from the much less common Hartebeest. It did’nt take us long before we located the first pack of Lions lying on the shade of the bushland. Two individuals, one of them a male, were out of the bushes and resting in the dry grass, providing a much better view.

Far away from this plain, we had a very short walk in an open bushland to cath up with some birds, and here we enjoyed Nubian Woodpecker, Red-chested Bee-eaters, Mariqua Sunbird and Spot-flanked Barbets. In our way back to the accommodation, we still enjoyed wonderful views on a flock of Banded Martins that soon were eclypsed by a flock of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters that delighted our group with extremelly close views!

Nubian Giraffes (Giraffa c. camelopardalis) taking advantage of the recent rain. Image by tour participant Mike O’Neill
Black-bellied Bustard (Lissotis melanogaster) favours rather moisty grasslands, and its range has been reduced in Uganda in recent years due to farming. Image by Mike O’Neill
Abyssinian Ground Hornbills (Bucorvus abyssinicus). We enjoyed up to four family groups of these impressive birds!
Greater Honeyguide (Idicator indicator)
Saddle-billed Stork ((Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), another African classic
Northern Carmine Be-eater (Merops nubicus)
Jacobin Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus)

After a nice lunch and some rest we went for more birding in the afternoon. Exploring some corners we enjoyed with good views on Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Brown Babblers, Yellow-throated Greenbuls but also Black-billed Wood-Dove and Jacobin Cuckoo. Later in the afternoon we visited the impressive waterfalls kwon as Murchinson Falls. Here, the White Nile jumps down a rocky scarpment in their way to South Sudan, and this incredible natural spectacle is even improved with the wonderful flights of the Rock Pratincoles living here. Yes, not far from the waterfalls we enjoyed several of this little jewels while busy trying to catch insects in flight over the waves of the Nile!

After enjoying this incredible site, we walked back to the van, having a Brown-headed Batis in our way back. This is again a quite scarce species, and the only one of the trip! Back to the woodlands, we tried to have some more birding, but we only got nice views on some Red-breasted Bee-eaters before a massive storm came to our way. After some driving trying to scape the rain, we finally decided to go back to our lodge for an early dinner.

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala)
Rock Pratincoles (Glareola nuchalis) at the White Nile rapids
Red-throated Bee-eater (Merops bulocki)
Oribis (Ourebia ourebi) at Murchinson Falls National Park

Day 4. Murchinson Fall – Kibale National Park

Morning birding in the Murchinson Falls National Park is always a wonderful experience. A short drive from our accommodation produced not only lovely views on the only Woolly-necked Stork of the trip but also Heuglin’s Francolin, African Wattled Lapwings, lovely views on Foxy Cisticolas, a lovely flock of Red-winged Grey Warblers, Lesser Striped & Wire-tailed Swallows while flocks of Violet-backed Starlings were moving all around.

Further on but still inside the National Park, we could enjoy a flock of the rather scarce White-crested Helmeted-Shrikes, and while tracking them in the woodlands, and wonderful Pennant-winged Nightjar simply appeared from under our feet to stop in a branch 60 metres away from us. Everybody in the group enjoyed great scope views on this amazing bird and took several images before ending our stay in the park with a family flock of Buff-bellied Warblers, great views on Northern Chanting Goshawk, several Red-headed Weavers and the first Barn Swallow of the trip.

Papyrus Gonolek (Laniurus mufumbiri), one of the first endemics appearing in the tour
African Bush Elephants foraging in the morning
Wolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)
Heuglin’s Francolin (Ptermistis icterorhynchus)
Yellow-winged Bat (Lavia frons)
Nubian Giraffes in a power quest
Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates)
Foxy Cisticola (Cisticola troglodytes)
Pennant-winged Nightjar (Caprimulgus vexillarius)
Lizard Buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus)

From this area, we drove South for the longest transfer of the tour (5h 30′) to arrive in the evening to the massive primary forest in the Kibale National Park. Midway down, we enjoyed the very tasty local food in a buffet restaurant, and we were surprised to see a small flock of Horus Swift flying above us for a pair of minutes!

From here still had a brief stop in a nice patch of forest, where we had 2 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters flying above the canopy, while inside we spotted Honeyguide Greenbul, Little Green & Olive Sunbirds and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. Our very last stop of the day was not far from our accommodation in Kibale, and we enjoyed good views on 2 Highland Rush Warblers, another endemic of this very rich plateaus.

Day 5. Kibale National Park

Our day in Kibale started really early. Before daylight we arrived to the National Park headquarters, and while waiting for our armed scort we spend some time with a pair of African Wood Owls that were houling around. Even if we never enjoyed the bird perched, a pair of fly overs were a good entertaiment for our group before starting the walk in the jungle. Our first and most important target that day was the Green-breasted Pita, a scarce breeder in South West Uganda.

It is always a nice experience to be inside the jungle at dawn, listening the calls of Greenbuls, Sunbirds and Flycatchers. During the next two hours we enjoyed good views on a good variety of species, being Purple-headed Starling, Fraser’s Rufous Thrush and Red-tailed Ant Thrush the most interesting. But despite our efforts, we failed to have a proper view on the Green-breasted Pita.

At mid morning we walked away the area to focus in a family group of Chimpanzees nearby. Their noisy behaviour was a clear indication of their presence, and after many hours in the forest we were granted with a really close encounteer with a the Chimps. Females and small ones were really approachable, with the apes only a few inches away from us! The males seemed to be away, hunting or locating potential preys. We enjoyed the Chimps for about half an hour, enjoying several interactions of adults with the young members of the family. The group was mainly on the ground, but probably the most exciting moment was to see a pair of pursuits in the branches, mid way up in the trees with a lot of screaming and violent behaviour. Chimpanzees groups are highly hierarchical societies, and tensions can speed up when a member of the group sees its position threatened.

Always a prvilege to spend time with wild Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Image by Mike O’Neill
Fraser’s Rufous Thrush (Neocossyphus fraseri) showed very well during our morning in Kibale

Once out of the jungle, we enjoyed a number of stops in key corners, enjoying the good variety of birds living in this area. In the way out of our accommodation, we were lucky to find a Marsh Tchagra feeding a Black Cuckoo in a small pond! Little Grey & Yellow-throated Greenbuls were noted, and an African Emerald Cuckoo catched all the attention while a small flock of Dusky Tits were moving high in the canopies. Here we also got the first Buff-throated Apalis of the trip, along with Chestnut-winged Starling and African Blue Flycatcher. The area was great for Sunbirds, and we got 7 species quite easily, including Grey-headed, Blue-throated Brown, Green-throated, Green-headed and Bronze!

Grey-headed Sunbird (Deleornis axilaris)
Uganda Mangabeys (Lophocebus ugandae) showed out in our way out of Kibale
African Blue Flycatcher (Elminia longicauda)

From Kibale we moved to the Semliki National Park. This sublime patch of Congolese jungle inside Uganda hosts some of the most scarce and difficult birds in the region. Unfortunately, to explore the area is not always easy due to the difficult terrain and umpredictable weather conditions.

In our way to Semliki, we had a pair of stops to add some interesting birds including Lead-coloured Flycatcher, Plain-backed Pipit, Piping Hornbill, Black Cuckooshrike, Grey-headed Nigrita, Sooty Flycatcher and a brief but intense view on a Scaly Francolin.

After this last stop, we walked inside our accommodation for a cold drink and a good rest!

Black Cuckooshrike (Campephaga flava)
Crowned Hornbill (Lophocerus alboterminatus). Image by Mike O’Neill

Day 6. Semliki National Park

Early morning start to explore a patch of jungle that connects with one of the largest patches of continous forest in Africa, getting well inside Congo. During the morning we contacted with a number of interesting species, adding to the tour list Crested Malimbe, Xavier’s Greenbul, Blue Malkoha, the very impressive Black-casqued Wattled Horbill, the small Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black-billed Barbet, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul. A fast glimpse on a Fire-crested Alethe that left the group wanting more of it, and trakking a group of Red-tailed Monkeys led us to find a always wonderful Western Nicator.

Here we also got excellent views on our second Narina Trogon, and a nice swampy area we had excellent views on both Yellow-footed Flycatcher and African Green Pigeon. Almost back to the lodge, we still had great views on Great Blue Turaco and a nervous Dusky Crested Flycatcher.

In the afternoon we drove back to Fort Portal, but adding a stop in our way in a nice habitat where we finally found a wonderful Cabani’s Bunting in full song! Here we also had the only one African Citril of the tour!

Yellow-footed Flycatcher (Muscicapa sethsmithi). Image by Mike O’Neill
African Green Pigeon (Treron calvus)
Black-bellied Seedcracker (Pyrenestes ostrinus)
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (Halcyon badia)
Cabani’s Bunting (Emberiza cabanisi)

Day 7. Fort Portal – Queen Elizabeth National Park

Our overnight in Fort Portal allowed us to enjoy the good variety of ambients and birds. In another bright morning, along with the enchanting atmosphere of the volcanoes covered with dense forests and the deep blue of their lakes, we ejoyed anoher great birding day. A short walk in the forest beside our accommodation allowed excellent views on Green Crombec, White-chinned Prinia, Giant Kingfisher Joyful Greeful and African Goshawk. In the lake, Yellow-billed Ducks and Little Grebes were both feeding youngs while Palm-nut Vultures were still roosting in the trees arond the lake.

From here, two minutes inside te van were enough to reach a meadow rich in lush vegetation and papyrus. Here we got nice views on Black-capped Waxbills while getting the first of many Common Fiscals for the group while smalls flocks of Western Violet-back Starlings were passing by. An African Marsh Harrier was patrolling the area and several Tambourine Doves were in the move around, but after some minutes in the area we were hit by the wind, and or expectations to get some good from the papyrus vanished.

Back to the accommodation we went on with a short walk that explores an interesting mature forest. Here we got a number of interesting birds including Yellow-spotted Barbet, Joyful Greenbul, Little Greenbul, Buff-throated Apalis and Sooty Flycatcher while both Black-necked & Black-billed Weavers were new for the list. Here we also enjoyed wonderful views on Ashy Flycatcher & Lowland Masked Apalis, the last a top target bird for many birdwatchers visiting Uganda. Lühder’s Bush-shrike allowed good views even if never left the wines! Here we also got our first African Paradise Flycatcher for the trip, and Cassin’s Honeybird appeared shortly, leaving the group wanting more of it! During the walk we also tried to see White-spotted Flufftail, but despite our efforts and having the bird only a few meters away from us, we never contacted with it and the observation was reduced to a “good listening”. Here we still got to see some Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eaters in our way back to the accommodation, and when being really close to the cottages we were stopped by 8 Red Colobus hanging in the trees, joined by two Crowned Hornbills.

The wonderful secundary forest around Fort Portal
Hairy-breasted Barbet (Tricholaema hirsuta)
Joyful Greenbuls (Chlorocichla laetissima)
Red Colobus (Cercopithecus badius)
Lowland Masked Apalis (Apalis binotata)
Black and White Colobus (Colobus guereza)

After a light lunch we left our accommodation. In our way to Queen Eizabeth National Park we had a number of stops, and Red-faced Cisticola, Olive Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Dusky Flycatcher and Dusky-blue Flycatcher were added to the tour list. A further stop allowed us to explore some wooded hills. In these gentle hills covered with grass and scattered bush we got good views on Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, Northern Crombec, Red-cheecked Cordon-bleu, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Beautiful Sunbird and the very handsome White-shouldered Tit.

After a pair of hours of driving we arrived to the Queen Elisabeth National Park, crossing the Equador line that separates the Northern Hermisphere from the Southern. Only a few miles beyond, an impresive Martial Eagle perched by the road was the unforgettable welcome to the Southern Hemisphere!

A bit later we arrived to our accommodation, but before we still had time to enjoy some Sooty Chats and Striped Kingfishers. Once in our accommodarion, and taking advantage of its amazing terrace overlooking the National Park, we enjoyed in the evening a good selection of specialities such as Double-Toothed & White-headed Barbets, Copper Sunbird, and scope views on a Peregrine Falcon perched on a tree and feeding on a prey.

Arriving to our accommodation around the Queen Elizabeth, we enjoyed Uganda Kobs, Warthogs, Elephants and Cape Buffalos. Once in our accommodation we enjoyed some local birding, and the baranda of the dinner area, overlooking the grasslands and woodlands beyond, offered us good looks.

Red-faced Cisticola (Cisticola erythrops)
Black-winged Red Bishop (Euplectes hordeaceus). Image by Mike O’Neill
Northern Crombec (Sylvietta brachyura)
Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)
White-headed Barbet (Lybius leucocephalus)

Day 8 . Queen Elizabeth

Our full day in the Northern area of the Queen Elizabeth National Park was a wonderful mix of bird & mammalwatching. After the rains during the last night, we woke up in a fresh ambient, and went inside the park with our packed breakfasts, ready for action. As soon as getting inside the National Park, Red-necked Francolins appeared to be everywhere. The firsts Black-lored Babblers appeared soon after, and our attention was soon jumping from herds of Elephants to Yellow-throated Longclaws, and from them to Cape Buffalos when a lovely flock of Water Thick-knees made us come back to birds!

Rufous-naped Larks seemed common in the area this year, as were Grassland Pipits. A pair of Black-bellied Bustards were noted, and the scanning of small ponds finally produced an African Crake running above the back of a huge Hippopotamus that was almost totally inside a muddy corner.

While enjoying our take away breakfast, we had a locely views on a salty lagoon, and here we got about 20 Lesser Flamingoes feeding along with Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. Back to the grasslands, both Western Banded Snake Eagle and Common Wood-Hoopoe were really interesting addings before concentrating in Big Cats.

Our first goal to have more or less close views on Lions, and this quite easy to get as soon we were enjoying great views on a pack of 8 individuals that were enjoying some rest. But Lions are mostly active at the end of the day, so it means our pack was mostly resting (when not sleeping). Still, the impressive views of this huge predators is always impressing, no matter how far they are!

Our second target for the end of the morning was a it more difficult. Leopards are always tricky to get, but after some scanning around (and a bit of help) we finally enjoyed absolutely great views in one of this iconical predators. Leopards spend most of the daylight up in trees, where they are safe from attacks coming from Spotted Hyenas and Lions. And we can say that we were very lucky, not only because of the close views on the Leopard, but also because after 5 minutes enjoying the cat, it decided to go for a walk, and came down the tree to cross a patch of open terrain right beside us, providing once again in our tour an unforgettable moment!

Ugandan Kob (Kobus kob thomasi)
Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus)
Water Thick-knee (Burhinus vermiculatus)
African Rail (Rallus caerulescens)
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) close up
Young male Lion (Panthera leo)
You can never get enough of Leopards (Panthera pardus)

After such a great morning, we came back to our accommodation for some lunch and rest. The afternoon was devoted to explore the inner bank of the park. Here we were surprised by an old male Elephant that was blocking the traffic in a local road! We spend some time around a pair of lakes, where we found the first Golden-breasted Bunting and the only one Goliath Heron of the trip! The rest of the afternoon we searched for Common Buttonquail, but without success. Still, we enjoyed good views on Flappet Larks, Stout Cisticolas obliging views on a Palm-nut Vulture and, at sunset, we had gorgeous views on 2 Pennant-winged Nightjars displaying around us before a pack of Spotted Hyenas appeared a pair of metres away in front our vehicle!

Impressive male Bush Elephant. Please note the colony of White-breasted Cormorants above the paquyderm
Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis)

Dia 9 .Queen Elizabeth to Inshasha

This day crossed this massive National Park to explore its Southernmost part. Still, in the morning we had 3 hours of impressive birding around our accommodation. There, taking advantage of the good combination of moist grasslands and Acacia woodland, we enjoyed species such as Brown-backed Srub Robin, Brown Snake Eagle, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Nubian Woodpecker, Moustached Grass Warbler and White-chinned Prinia. In the thickets the group got good views on Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Black-headed Batis, Northern Black Flycatcher and Double-toothed Barbet while Spotted-flanked & White-headed Barbets and Great Scimitarbills remained always up in the trees. Holub’s Golden Weaver was added to the list, and the rich bird activity in the grasslands not only allowed us good views on Red-faced, Stout and Croaking Cisticolas but also favoured us with excellent scope views on both Dark-capped and Grey-capped Warblers!
All of this while flocks of Madagascar Bee-eaters and Lesser Striped Swallows were around us, and the very last Palm-nut Vultures were leaving their roosting sites.

Leaving behind the grasslands, we did a short visit to a papyrus swamp. Here, we were granted with good views on Lesser Swamp Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek, even if the location was more calm than expected. A fast check to the area around also produced good looks on Swamp Flycatcher and the firsts Striolated Herons of the trip. Indeed, here we also got the best views of the tour on Slender-billed & Yellow-backed Weavers!

Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni)
Yellow-throated Greenbul (Atismastillas flavicollis)
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
White-browed Robin Chat (Cossypha heuglini)
Slender-billed Weaver (Ploceus pelzelni)
Red-chested Sunbird (Cinnyris eryrhocercus). Image by Mike O’Neill

It was already mid-morning, so we started our way to the Southern banks of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Before going, the group enjoyed really close looks on 1 Forest Hog feeding by the road! Our transfer to the South didn’t produce much, but a pair of stops in the way allowed us to connect with the first Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Speckled Barbet & Dusky Tits of the trip, but also more chances to compare Little & White-rumped Swifts at close range. Still, the most wonderful moment of the stops along our way was when 3 Chimpanzees decided to cross the road right beside us while we having a break to eat something light.

Once in our accomodation, we could enjoy some of the good birds of the garden, that included Tropical Boubou, African Paradise Flycatcher and Arrow-marked Babblers. After a good rest we came back to birding, this time to explore the National Park on its Southern part. A few minutes after leaving the accommodation, we had a wonderful moment when 3 Green Wood-hoopoes decided to stop close to our vehicle while a Grey Woodpecker was seen working a lower branch nearby.

Contuining our driving among Uganda Kobs and Elephants we did get inside the National Park, exploring a small patch of grass which is great for larks. Soon we had good views on both Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, but the best was still to common, as a White-tailed Lark just flew right to side of the van, providing excellent views to all the participants.

After this wonderful spot, we drove a bit beyond to a water wole. There we enjoyed a large concentration of Uganda Kobs, but also African Sacred Ibis, Black Crakes, 1 Intermediate Egret, 1 Saddle-billed Stork and, the most impressive, a Shoebill Stork that, even if rather far if compared with the view that we all enjoyed the first day of the tour, it was still great!

We were moving fast to the sunset so we moved to our last spot, arriving once it was dark. There we tried to see African Scops Owls, as we had up to three individuals singing around us. Unfortunately and despite our efforts, we never got to see them!

Grey-throated Barbet (Gymnobucco bonapartei)
African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
Tropical Boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus)
Arrow-marked Babbler (Turdoides jardineii)
Green Wood Hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus)
Sooty Chat (Myrmecocichla nigra)
Topi (Damaliscus lunatus)
The woolands around Inshasha

Day 10 – Queen Elizabeth – Mwindi

Transfer day between the lowland woodlands and the impressive mountain jungle in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. During the day we had a number of stops to enjoy the good variety of birds leaving as we went the slopes up. Near our accommodation we got really close views on Double-tooth Barbets and 2 gorgeous Thick-billed Seeadeaters. From here we crossed a number of cropped valleys, with remants of the natural forest at the bottom of them. Here, the tea is again the dominant crop in the best slopes, while the most steep are reserved to other crops.

Further on, a new stop became mandatory when we found a small flock of Black Bee-eaters feeding about 100 metres away from the road. Once out of the car, all the tour participants enjoyed great views on this really sought-after species! Along with them, a flock of Dusky Tits was also present while some African Green Pigeons were also in the move.

Early in the afternoon we were already in the Impenetrable Forest, and we had a pair of walks trying to find some of the goodies living there. We were lucky to find some endemics including Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Mountain Masked Apalis and an obliging Rwenzori Apalis, but the very best bird of these two stops was to find wonderful Black-faced Rufous Warbler, a species normally heard but not that easy to see! Extremely elusive, it took several minutes to get everyone to have at least some views in this impressive bird. A bit beyond, a Cassin’s Flycatcher was waiting for us in a river, its flauting song emerging from the crystalline water and spreading out into the jungle! A scoped Fine-banded Woopecker was also an excellent adding to our list, but was less celebrated than the Sharpe’s Starling that appeared right by the car!

This road keeps going up the slopes for several miles, and a flock of Dusky Tits was a milestone for another stop. Here we didn’ have that much out of some lovely Brown-capped Weavers, the first Grey-throated Barbets of the trip and an impressive African Crowned Eagle perched in a distant branch! This sight was among the top 3 moments of the tour according to our guests. The views on the scope of this massive bird of prey made us think about all the Black-and-White guezera Monkeys in the area, and we counted ourselves lucky to be big enough to not be in its menu…

Double-toothed Barbets (Lybius bidentatus) with Vieillot’s Black Weaver (Ploceus nigerrimus)
Black Bee-eater (Merops gularis), without doubt, one of the top birds of the trip
African Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) taking an eye on some big Apes…
Red-faced Woodland Warbler (Phylloscopus laetus)
Cassin’s Flycatcher (Muscicapa casssini)
Sharpe’s Starling (Pholia sharpii)

Day 11 – Bwindi Gorilla Trekking

The Impenetrable Forest in Southern Uganda is an impressive 330 square kilometers area of ancient mountain cloudy forest. This jungle, survivor of the last glaciations, is one of the oldest forests in Africa. Its density is proverbial, and its dark slopes not only are home for over 300 species of birds including several endemics, but also for Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas and Chimpanzees. Indeed is the only natural spot in the world where you can find two apes. Besides, this beautiful landscapes of steep slopes and narrow valleys is also home for the very last Pygmy Humans in Uganda. Communities extremely threatened by habitat loss and contact with economic activities, including tourism.

After enjoying breakfast in our accommodations, we were back to our cabins deep in the forest to prepare ourselves for a intensive Gorilla trekking. This morning will be devoted to get in conctact with our closer relatives inside the mountain jungle. Before the march, we were conveniently adviced about all the security details to be considered for the safety of both Humans and Gorillas. Our group was lead by two rangers and one tracker that was able to follow the apes deep in the forestry.

During the walk we enjoy few birds, but we still had good views on Montane Oriole, White-eye Slaty Flycatcher and Northern Double-banded Sunbird. After 90 minutes of walk our traker was informed that a family group of Gorillas was nearby. In silence, we approach them and we were all soon having excellent views on a group of 1 individuals resting on the forest floor. Even if the most notiable was the sice of the massive “silverback”, the presence of the babies in the group provided us with unforgettable images of them playing, running and interacting with other members of the group.

The experience to have these massive animals, so close related to ourselves, is simply beyond any word!

The jungle at Impenetrable Forest National Park
Present and future of the Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). Image by Mike O’Neill
Some Gorilla’s close up

Back to road, we went back to our accommodation for some rest before coming back to birding bussiness in the afternoon. The birding after lunch was devoted to explore some forest patches inmediatly around our accommodation. There, we enjoyed excellent views on both Mountain and Yellow-striped Greenbuls and first but incomplete views on Rwenzori Hill Babblers and Rwenzori Batis. Regal Sunbirds showed really well, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a small flock of Tuftet-chested Sunbirds feeding, including a full mounted male! This sighting is specially nice since this species tends to be scarce, and many times difficult to find! Other good birds along our walk included White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, and Streaked Canary and Mountain Buzzard were also added to our tour list.

The last stop in the evening was reserved to look for one fo the most special endemics in the Rwenzori Mountains. With the very last lights of the night a Rwenzori Nightjar emerged from the shadows of the forest to fly around us, and after a pair of pass-byes, to stop a few meters away from the group, allowing everyone to have great views! This was one of the best moments in the tour, as this Nightjar, formerly considered to be conspecific with Montane Nightjar but no considered a different species based on DNA analysis, morphological assets and calls.

Olive Pigeon (Columba arquatix)
Rwenzori Apalis (Oreolais rwenzori)

Day 12. Bwindi Birding

After the long Gorilla trekking, much longer than expected, today we were suposed to climb up the hills in search of the poorly known Grauer’s Broadbill. But the evening before we all arrived to the consensus to swich the long walk for a relaxed birding in search of the long list of endemics living and other good birds living in these mountains.

So, after a not-that-early breakfast, we moved by food to nearby open slope. But even before leaving our accommodation we had a new adding to our list, as a wonderful Brown-crowned Tchagra popped out in the hotel gardens. This is a scarce species up the hills, and a great addition to the group list. Once beyond the hotel facilities, we explored a slope with remants of the former natural grasslands combined with different crops. Here we enjoyed the strong, unmistakable Chubb’s Cisticolas song, and the flauty sounds of the Cape Robin Chats. A pair of African Stonechats were catching insects from the tea bushes, and a flock of Yellow-bellied Waxbills were feeding on the ground. But the best bird of the stop was the pair of Dusky Twinspots feeding along with the Waxbills. Another endemic in the bag! From here we turned to the forest, and a short walk around the impenetrable tangles allowed us to enjoy close ups to Rwenzori Apalis & Batis. Some Red-faced Woodland Warblers were also feeding around, and Banded Prinia was appearing shortly but left a great impression in our group! As much as the bizarre bird was considered for some the bird of the day! The general birding was also great, adding Grey Cuckooshrike and Black-billed Turaco to our list. A bit beyond, a Mountain Buzzard was spotted sitting in a dead branch, at the same time that some Black-throated Apalis showed up in a superb way, and only a pair of minutes after a Grauer’s Warbler started to sing in the tangles. It took several minutes and some effort but at the end everyone in the group had at least some views in this enygmatic and really difficult to spot bird. A few meters beyond a pair of Western Canaries were also a good character for the photographers in the group. This species, recently split from the African Citril, is probably the very last endemic to the Rwenzori, so far! When coming back to our accommodation for a good lunch, we still had to White-naped Ravens flying above us.

Brown-rumped Bunting (Emberiza affinis)
Dusky Twinspot (Euschistospiza cinereovinacea)
Rwenzori Batis (Batis diops)
Mountain Greenbul (Arizelocichla nigriceps)
Black-throated Apalis (Apalis jacksoni)

After a nice lunch and some rest we went back to the forest, where we had a short but nice selection of birds. A Dusky Turtle Dove showed up just when living our accommodation, allowing some shots. Beyond, we had our first Stülhmann’s Starling, and a few meters beyond we were lucky enough to enjoy a mixed flock of this rather scarce species along with 4 Shaper’s Starlings. A long fight was necessary in order to bring a Archer’s Robin Chat into the light, but even if we had good views on the bird, it left us wanting more of it! Another great bird appeared only a few minutes later, as three White-headed Wood-hoopoes came in flight to stop right beside us, with lot of loud calls, flikering and social activity between individuals, that soon disappeared back in the jungle. We still searched for more specialities, but the weather was quite cold and cloudy, and bird activity collapsed after 18:00. After some more time we decided to come to our accommodation, but not without an expected view of a male Purple-breasted Sunbird at close range was one of the highlights of the afternoon.

The many times elusive Purple-breasted Sunbird (Nectarinia purpureiventris) performed really well for our group
Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens)

Day 13. Bwindi to Nburo National Park.
Transfer day between the high mountain in the Albertine Ridge to the dry woodlands in Nburo National Park. An early start was necessary to try to catch with more endemics in the highland forest. Despite that the morning was not that productive as expected, we still got excellent views on Chestnut-throated Apalis, Yellow-streaked Greenbuls and we added Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher and a lovely Handsome Francolin to our already long trip list. Here we also got the best views on Regal Sunbird in the trip, as this wonderful endemic stopped right in front of us to show itself for a pair of minutes while singing his heart out! Several Mountain Illadopsis were also calling around, and after some work we did get a glimpse in this shy underworth specialits than, despite our efforts, was not enough for most of the tour participants.

Regal Sunbird (Cinnyris regius), a Rwenzori endemics, and one of the most awesome Sunbirds in Uganda!
Handsome Francolin (Ptermistis nobilis)
Grey-crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum). Image by Mike O’Neill

From the mountains, we had a transfer to East, arriving to the Nburo National Park in the afternoon. Here we were welcomed by herds of Plain Zebras and Impalas, but our goal for the afternoon was our boat trip exploring the Nburo Lake. A family group of Giraffes in the track was about to ruin our plans… Finally on board, we were soon enjoying the first of 6 (!!) African Finfoots feeding along the lake shore along with Water Thick-knees, African Wattled Lapwings and 3 Wood Sandpipers. African Finfoots can be a really challenging bird, and we were all delighted to see so many of them. During the boat trip we had the chance to see them feeding, but also walking out of the water, interacting with Striated Herons, and we even enjoyed an individual roosting 2 metres high in a branch. The lake was full of Hypos, and some large Nile Crocodiles were also a main attraction along with the many African Fish Eagles around. Some Yellow-throated Greenbuls were also noted, but probably the most remarkable sight of the boat trip (apart from the Finfoots) was the unexpected sighting of a (distant) Great Painted Snipe having a word with 2 Wood Sandpipers.

Back to the ground, we were back to the main birding spots in the park, and we were soon delighted by some Bared-faced Go-away-birds when our van had a breakdown. The engine failed and the efforst of our driver didn’t work at all. Fortunately, we were really close to our accommodation, and we were “gentlely” rescued and transported to our lodge. In the way, a magnificent Leopard was a phenomenal reward for the hour of good light that we lost because of our van breakdown…

African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis)
African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
Nile Cocodrile (Cocodrylus niluticus)

Day 14. Nburo National Park – Entebbe.
Early morning start to catch up with the very first light and recover a part of the hour lost with the breakdown of our previous van, and enjoy the new car sent from Entebbe during the night. The day was fresh and partly cloudy, a wonderful weather to enjoy the good variety of birds living in the area. After a short walk around our accommodation we fastly connected with a good number of goodies including several Trilling Cisticolas, Grey-backed Fiscals and Bare-faced Go-away-birds. Here we also got the only one African Hoopoe of the trip, as well as wonderful views on Cardinal Woodpecker, Red-faced Crombec and Spot-flanked Barbets. Here we also added the majestic Meyer’s Parrot to trip list, and a pair of skulkers: Yellow-breasted Apalis and Red-faced Barbet. Despite all of this, the very best sight of the short walk was probably the great views on the Red-faced Lovebird that showed out in excellent light, but shortly!

Once inside the National Park, we kept enjoying the variety of mammals there, including several herds of Plain Zebras and Impalas, but also the always enchanting Giraffes moving around. A pair of Impalas were being attented by some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers but, even if having good views on them, we never managed a proper close up. The ambient of sparce thornbush woodlands and dense scrub is excellent for a number of species, and here we got the only Brubru of our trip along with a lovely White-winged Black Tit. The acacia woodland also produced the firs of many Lilac-breasted Roller, and excellent views on the always elusive Bearded Woodpecker. But birding in this corner can be really intense, and at the same of the Roller and Woodpecker, a small flocks of Vultures just passed over us, and could enjoy 3 Lappet-faced Vultures, 1 Rüppell’s & 1 White-backed in a good comparition of shapes, sizes and colours.

The area surrounding the National Park is now having a large number of cattle, depriving wildlife from an excellent habitat. Still, birdlife keeps being good here, and in our way out we enjoyed not only Black-crowned Tchagra, but also Crested Francolin and Green-winged Pytilia while small floks of Wattled Starlings were moving all arond the area!

Plains Zebra (Equus quagga)
Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flavida)
Bearded Woodpecker (Dendropicos namaquus). Image by Mike O’Neill
Spot-flanked Barbet (Tricholaema lacrymosa)
Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius)
Trilling Cisticola (Cisticola woosnami)
Cardinal Woodpecker (Dendropicos fuscescens)
Lapped-faced Vulture (Torgos trachilaetos)
Bare-faced Go-away-bird (Crinifer personatus)

Moving North in the way to Entebbe, we had a stop in the __ Marshes, were we enjoyed the best wetland of trip. Here we enyojed large flocks of Grey-backed Cranes, Yellow-billed Storks, Yellow-billed Ducks, Long-toed Lapwings and White-faced Whistling Ducks along with 12 Hottentot Teals, several Black Egrets, and lovely views on at least 8 Rufous-bellied Herons. Other species noted in this wonderful corner included 5 Spur-winged Geese, Grassland (aka African) Pipits, White-browed Coucal, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Squacco Herons, African Swamphens and the only Three-banded Plovers of the trip.

Good variety of waterfowls including Yellow-billed Ducks, Long-toed Lapwings and White-faced Whistling Ducks
Hottentot Teals (Spatula hottentota)

After such a great stop, we drove further North for a lunch stop by the Ecuator Line, and we were welcome back to the Northern Hemisphere by some light rains. Taking advantage of the end of the rain, we stopped in a papyrus swamp. No sign of any of the many papyrus specialists, but our efforts were regarded with another wonderful sight on a Shoebill Stork; the third of the trip! And this time the bird was moving in the moisty grassland in a disturbant slow motion while looking for food. The rain came back while enjoying this wonderful, always extremely impressive bird, so we decided to keep our way North to Entebbe.

Once in Entebbe, we still had time for a crepuscular stop around our accommodation, and once again we were lucky enough to enjoy close views on Meyer’s Parrot while the noisy Plantain-eaters were choosing its roosting place. A rather distant African Grey Parrot was a nice add to the day list, and right before sunset we got our first views on the fast flying African Hooby, busy in catching African Palm Swifts. Another crepuscular specialist, the Bat Hawk appeared as well, but left the group wanting more of it! Once it was dark, we were regarded with a wonderful close view on a Southern White-faced Scops Owl posing for us in a wire right beside our accommodation. This was the very last adding to our list, and a great way to end our first tour to Uganda!

From here only drove the short distance to our accommodation, where we had a nice dinner (and cold beer!) before taking our nocturnal flight back to Europe!

Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus)
A privilege to end the tour with another Shoebill!
Southern White-faced Scops Owl (Ptilopsis granti). Image by Mike O’Neill
Raising at Mburo National Park. Please note the African Hoopoe! Image by Carles Oliver

List of bird seen during the tour:

  1. Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
  2. Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis)
  3. Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)
  4. White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata)
  5. Hottentot Teal (Spatula hottentota)
  6. Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata)
  7. Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris)
  8. Handsome Francolin (Ptermistis nobilis)
  9. Heuglin’s Francolin (Ptermistis icterorhynchus)
  10. Red-necked Francolin (Ptermistis afer)
  11. Crested Francolin (Dendroperdix sephaena)
  12. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
  13. Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor)
  14. Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis)
  15. Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)
  16. African Open-billed Stork (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  17. Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)
  18. Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)
  19. African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
  20. Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)
  21. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
  22. African Spoonbill (Platalea alba)
  23. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  24. Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
  25. Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  26. Rufous-bellied Heron (Ardeola rufiventris)
  27. Striated Heron (Butorides striatus)
  28. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
  29. Black Egret (Egretta ardesiaca)
  30. Great White Egret (Casmedorius albus)
  31. Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia)
  32. Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)
  33. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  34. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
  35. Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala)
  36. Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)
  37. Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps rexs)
  38. Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens)
  39. White-breasted Pelican (Phalacrocorax lucidus)
  40. Long-tailed Cormorant (Phalacrocorax africanus)
  41. African Darter (Anhinga rufa)
  42. Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus aegyptius)
  43. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
  44. African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
  45. Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis)
  46. Hooded Vulture (Neophron monachus)
  47. White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)
  48. Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps ruepellii)
  49. Lapped-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus)
  50. Brown Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereus)
  51. Western Banded Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinarescens)
  52. African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus)
  53. Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates)
  54. Lizzard Buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus)
  55. African Sparrowhawk (Accipiter tachiro)
  56. Great Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucos)
  57. African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus)
  58. Augur Buzzard (Buteo augur)
  59. Mountain Buzzard (Buteo oreophilus)
  60. Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax)
  61. Wahlberg’s Eagle (Aquila wahlbergi)
  62. Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus)
  63. Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)ç
  64. Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)
  65. African Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus)
  66. Black-bellied Bustard (Eupodotis melanogaster)
  67. White-spotted Flufftail (Sarothura pulchra) – heard only
  68. African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis)
  69. African Crake (Crex egregia)
  70. Black Crake (Amaurornis flavirostris)
  71. African Swamphen (Porphyrio madagascariensis)
  72. Grey-crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)
  73. Water Thick-knee (Burhinus vermiculatus)
  74. Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis)
  75. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
  76. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
  77. Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus spinosus)
  78. Long-toed Plover (Vanellus crassirostris)
  79. African Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus senegallus)
  80. Crowned Lapwing (Vanellus coronatus)
  81. Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus)
  82. Senegal Lapwing (Vanellus lugubris)
  83. Brown-chested Lapwing (Vanellus superciliosus)
  84. Three-banded Plover (Charadrius tricollaris)
  85. Greater Painted Snipe (Rostratula benglahensis)
  86. African Jacana (Actophilornis afrivanus)
  87. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  88. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  89. Green Sandpiper (Tringa sttagnatilus)
  90. Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)
  91. Rock Pratincole (Glareola nuchalis)
  92. Grey-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus)
  93. Gull-billed Tern (Chlidonias nilotica)
  94. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias hybridus)
  95. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus)
  96. African Green Pigeon (Treron calva)
  97. Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea)
  98. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
  99. Olive Pigeon (Columba arquatrix)
  100. Blue-spotted Wood-Dove (Turtur afer)
  101. Black-billed Wood Dove (Turtur abyssinicus)
  102. Tambourine Dove (Turtur tympanistria)
  103. Ring-necked Dover (Streptopelia capicola)
  104. Red-eye Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata)
  105. African Mourning Dove (Streptopelia decipiens)
  106. Vinaceous Fove (Streptopelia vinacea)
  107. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
  108. Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelis lugens)
  109. Great Bllue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata)
  110. Ross’s Turaco (Musophaga rossae)
  111. White-crested Turaco (Tauraco leucolophus)
  112. Black-billed Turaco (Tauraco schuetti)
  113. Bared-faced Eastern Grey Plantain-eater (Corythaixodes personata))
  114. Eastern Grey Plantain-eater (Cinifer zonorus)
  115. Jacobin Cuckoo (Oxylophus jacobinus)
  116. Red-chested Cuckoo (Cuculus solitairius)
  117. Black Cuckoo (Cuculus clamosus)
  118. Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo (Cercococcyx mechowi)
  119. Klaas’s Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas)
  120. African Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx cupreus)
  121. Blue Malkoha (Ceuthmochares aereus)
  122. White-browed Coucal (Centropus superciliosus)
  123. Blue-headed Coucal (Centropus monachus)
  124. Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalessis)
  125. African Wood Owl (Strix woodfordii)
  126. Greyish Eagle Owl (Bubo cinerascens)
  127. African Scops Owl (Otus senegalensis)
  128. Southern White-faced (Strix woodforsii)
  129. Rwenzori Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruwenzori)
  130. Pennant-winged Nightjar (Macrodipteryx vexillarius)
  131. Little Swift (Appus affinis)
  132. White-rumped Swight (Apus caffer)
  133. Horus Swift (Apus horus)
  134. African Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus)
  135. Sabine’s Spinetail (Rhaphidura sabini)
  136. Cassin’s Spinetail (Neafragus cassini)
  137. Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus)
  138. Blue-naped Mousebird (Urocolius macrourus)
  139. Narina Trogon (Apaloderma narina)
  140. Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus)
  141. Blue-throated Roller (Eurystomus gularis)
  142. Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudata)
  143. Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
  144. Striped Kingfisher (Halcyon chelicuti)
  145. Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala)
  146. Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis)
  147. Blue-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon malimbica)
  148. Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (Halcyon badia)
  149. Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima)
  150. Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata)
  151. African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ispidina picta)
  152. African Dwarf Kingfisher (Ispidina lecontei)
  153. Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus)
  154. Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater (Merops oreobates)
  155. Blue-breasted Bee-eater (Merops variegatus)
  156. White-thoated Bee-eater (Merops albicollis)
  157. Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (Merops hirundineus)
  158. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)
  159. Black Bee-eater (Merops gularis)
  160. Madagascar Bee-eater (Merops superciliosus)
  161. Red-throated Bee-eater (Merops bulocki)
  162. Northern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus)
  163. African Hoopoe (Upupa africana)
  164. Green Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus)
  165. White-headed Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus bollei)
  166. Greater Scimitarbill (Rhinopomastus cyanomelas)
  167. Abyssinian Ground-hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus)
  168. African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus)
  169. Crowned Hornbill (Tockus alboterminatus)
  170. African Pied Hornbill (Tockus fasciatus)
  171. Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill (Tockus camurus)
  172. Piping Hornbill (Bycanistes fistulator)
  173. Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus)
  174. White-thighed Hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus)
  175. Black-casquet Wattled Hornbill (Ceratogymna atrata)
  176. Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus bilineatus)
  177. Yellow-throated Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus subsulfureus)
  178. Western Green Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus coryphaeus)
  179. Speckled Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus scolopaceus)
  180. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus chrysoconus)
  181. Grey-throated Tinkerbird (Gymnobucco bonapartei)
  182. Spot-flanked Tinkerbird (Tricholaema lacrymosa)
  183. Hairy-breasted Tinkerbird (Tricholaema hirsuta)
  184. Yellow-spotted Barbet (Buccanodon duchaillui)
  185. White-headed Barbet (Lybius leucocephalus)
  186. Black-billed Barbet (Lybius guifsofalito)
  187. Red-faced Barbet (Lybius rufrifacies)
  188. Doubled-toothed Barbet (Lybius bidentatus)
  189. Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator)
  190. Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor)
  191. Cassin’s Honeybird (Prodotiscus insignis)
  192. Fine-banded Woodpecker (Campethera thaelionaema)
  193. Nubian Woodpecker (Campethera nubica)
  194. Cardinal Woodpecker (Dendropicos fuscencens)
  195. Bearded Woodpecker (Dendropicos namaquus)
  196. Yellow-crested Woodpecker (Dendropicos xantholophus)
  197. Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae)
  198. Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus)
  199. Grey Kestrel (Falco ardosiacus)
  200. African Hobby (Falco cucieri)
  201. Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera)
  202. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  203. Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus)
  204. Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri)
  205. Red-headed Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius)
  206. Chin-spot Batis (Batis molitor)
  207. Black-headed Batis (Batis minor)
  208. Rwenzori Batis (Batis diops)
  209. Ituri Batis (Batis iturensis)
  210. Brown-throated Wattle-eye (Platysteira cyanea)
  211. Black-throated Wattle-eye (Platysteira peltata)
  212. Chestnut Wattle-eye (Dyaphorophyia castanea)
  213. Jameson’s Wattle-eye (Dyaphorophyia jamesoni)
  214. Tropical Boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus)
  215. Lüdher’s Bush-shrike (Laniarius luehderi)
  216. Black-headed Gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster)
  217. Papyrus Gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri)
  218. Northern Puffback (Dryoscopus gambensis)
  219. Brubru (Nilaus afer)
  220. Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegallus)
  221. Brown-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra australis)
  222. Marsh Tchagra (Tchagra minuta)
  223. Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike (Malaconotus sulfureopectus)
  224. Doherty’s Bush-shrike (Malaconotus dohertyi)
  225. Bocage’s Bush-shrike (Malaconotus bocagei)
  226. African Shrike-flycatcher (Megabias flammulatus)
  227. Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher (Bias musicus)
  228. White-crested Helmet-shrike (Prionops plumatus)
  229. Black Cuckoo-shrike (Campephaga flava)
  230. Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike (Campephaga phoenicea)
  231. Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris)
  232. Grey-backed Fiscal (Lanius excubitoroides)
  233. Mackinnon’s Fiscal (Lanius mackinnoni)
  234. Montane Oriole (Oriolus percivali)
  235. Western Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus brachyrhynchus)
  236. Fork-tailed Drongo (Dricurus adsimilis)
  237. African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
  238. Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone rufiventer)
  239. Piapiac (Ptilostomus afer)
  240. Pied Crow (Corvus albus)
  241. White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis)
  242. African Blue Flycatcher (Elminia longicauda)
  243. White-tailed Blue Flycatcher (Elminia albicaudata)
  244. Dusky Crested Flycatcher (Elminia nigromitratus)
  245. Dusky Tit (Parus funereus)
  246. White-winged (Parus leucomelas)
  247. White-shouldered Tit (Parus guineensis)
  248. Western Nicator (Nicator chloris)
  249. Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana)
  250. Flappet Lark (Mirafra rufoninnamomea)
  251. White-tailed Lark (Mirafra albicauda)
  252. Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus tricolor)
  253. Yellow-whiskered Greenbul (Andropadus latirostris)
  254. Little Grey Greenbul (Andropadus ansorgei)
  255. Little Greenbul (Eurillas virens)
  256. Plain Greenbul (Eurillas curvirostris)
  257. Mountain Greenbul (Arizelocihla nigriceps kikuyuensis)
  258. Slender-billed Greenbul (Stelgidillas gracilirostris)
  259. Yellow-throated Greenbul (Atismastillas flavicollis)
  260. Joyful Greenbul (Chlorocichla laetissima)
  261. Honeyguide Greenbul (Baeopogon indicator)
  262. Yellow-streaked Greenbul (Phyllastrephus flavostriatus)
  263. Xavier’s Greenbul (Phyllastrephus xavieri)
  264. Red-tailed Bristlebill (Bleda syndactyla)
  265. Red-tailed Greenbul (Criniger calurus)
  266. White-headed Saw-wing (Psalidoprogne albiceps)
  267. Black Saw-wing (Psalidoprogne holomelas)
  268. Plain Martin (Riparia paludicola)
  269. Banded Martin (Riparia cincta)
  270. Rock Martin (Ptynoprogne fuligula)
  271. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  272. Angolan Swallow (Hirundo angolensis)
  273. Wire-tailed Swallow (Hirundo smithii)
  274. Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)
  275. Mosque Swallow (Cecropis senegalensis)
  276. Red-breasted Swallow (Cecropis semirufa)
  277. Lesser Striped Swallow (Cecropis abyssinica)
  278. Moustached Grass Warbler (Melocichla mentalis)
  279. Green Crombec (Sylvietta virens)
  280. Lemon-bellied Crombec (Sylvietta denti)
  281. Northern Crombec (Sylvietta brachyura)
  282. Red-faced Crombec (Sylvietta whytii)
  283. Black-faced Rufous Warbler (Bathmocercus rufus)
  284. Chestnut-capped Flycatcher (Erythrocercus mccallii)
  285. Green Hylia (Hylia prasina)
  286. Red-faced Woodland Warbler (Phylloscopus laetus)
  287. Lesser Swamp Warbler (Acrocephalus gracilirostris)
  288. Dark-capped Warbler (Iduna natalensis)
  289. Highland Rush Warbler (Bradypterus centralis)
  290. Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)
  291. Wing-snapping Cisticola (Cisticola ayresii)
  292. Stout Cisticola (Cisticola robustus)
  293. Croacking Cisticola (Cisticola natalensis)
  294. Rattling Cisticola (Cisticola chiniana)
  295. Rufous-winged Cisticola (Cisticola galactotes)
  296. Red-faced Cisticola (Cisticola erythrops)
  297. Chubb’s Cisticola (Cisticola chubbi)
  298. Trilling Cisticola (Cisticola woosnami)
  299. Foxy Cisticola (Cisticola troglodytes)
  300. Short-winged Cisticola (Cisticola brachypterus)
  301. Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava)
  302. White-chinned Prinia (Prinia leucopogon)
  303. Black-faced Prinia (Prinia melanops)
  304. Banded Prinia (Prinia bairdii)
  305. Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flacida)
  306. Chestnut-throated Apalis (Apalis porphyrolaema)
  307. Buff-throated Apalis (Apalis rufogularis)
  308. Black-throated Apalis (Apalis jacksoni)
  309. Lowland Masked Apalis (Apalis bonitata)
  310. Mountain Masked Apalis (Apalis personata)
  311. Rwenzori Apalis (Oreolais ruwenzorii)
  312. Buff-bellied Warbler (Phyllolais pulchella)
  313. Red-winged Grey Warbler (Drymocichla incana)
  314. Grey-backed Camaroptera (Camaroptera brevicaudata)
  315. Green-backed Eremomela (Eremomela canescens)
  316. Rufous-crowned Eremomela (Eremomela badiceps)
  317. Rwenzori Hill Babbler (Sylvia atriceps)
  318. Green White-eye (Zosterops stuhlmanni)
  319. Mountain Illadopsis (Illadopsis pyrrhoptera)
  320. Arrow-marked Babbler (Turdoides jardineii)
  321. Brown Babbler (Turdoides plebejus)
  322. Black-lored Babbler (Turdoides sharpei)
  323. Wattled Starling (Creatophora cinerea)
  324. Purple-headed Starling (Hylopsar purpureiceps)
  325. Greater Blue-eared Starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus)
  326. Lesser Blue-eared Starling (Lamprotornis chloropterus)
  327. Rüppell’s Long-tailed Starling (Lamprotornis purpuropterus)
  328. Splendid Starling (Lamprotornis splendidus)
  329. Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricincus leucogaster)
  330. Chestnut-winged Starling (Onychognatus fulgidus)
  331. Slender-billed Starling (Onychognatus tenuirostris)
  332. Sharpe’s Starling (Peoptera sharpii)
  333. Stuhmann’s Starling (Peoptera stuhlmanni)
  334. Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus)
  335. Red-tailed Ant Thrush (Neocossyphus rufus)
  336. Fraser’s Rufous Thrush (Stizorhina fraseri)
  337. African Thrush (Turdus pelios)
  338. Fire-crested Alethe (Alethe diademata)
  339. Brown-backed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas hartlaubi)
  340. White-browed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas leucophrys)
  341. Lead-coloured Flycatcher (Myioparus plumbeus)
  342. White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher (Melaenornis fischeri)
  343. Northern Black Flycatcher (Melaenornis edolioides)
  344. Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher (Melaenornis ardesiacus)
  345. Pale Flycatcher (Melaenornis pallidus)
  346. Silverbird (Empidornis semipartitus)
  347. Ashy Flycatcher (Muscicapa caerulescens)
  348. Swamp Flycatcher (Muscicapa aquatica)
  349. Cassin’s Flycatcher (Muscicapa cassini)
  350. Yellow-footed Flycatcher (Muscicapa sethsmithi)
  351. African Dusky Flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta)
  352. Dusky-blue Flycatcher (Muscicapa comitata)
  353. Sooty Flycatcher (Muscicapa infuscata)
  354. Forest Flycatcher (Fraseria ocreata)
  355. Cape Robin-Chat (Cossypha afra)
  356. White-browed Robin-Chat (Cossypha heuglini)
  357. Archer’s Robin-Chat (Cossypha archeri)
  358. Forest Robin (Stiphornis erythrotorax)
  359. Spotted Palm-Thrush (Cichladusa gutatta)
  360. African Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)
  361. Moking Cliff Chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris)
  362. Sooty Chat (Myrmecocichla nigra)
  363. Grey-headed Sunbird (Deleornis axiliaris)
  364. Little Green Sunbird (Anthrepes seimundi)
  365. Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris)
  366. Green-headed Sunbird (Cyanomitra verticalis)
  367. Blue-throated Brown Sunbird (Cyanomitra cyanolaema)
  368. Blue-headed Sunbird (Cyanomitra aliane)
  369. Olive Sunbird (Cyanomitra olivacea)
  370. Green-throated Sunbird (Chalcomitra rubescens)
  371. Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis)
  372. Bronze Sunbird (Nectarinia kilimensis)
  373. Purple-breasted Sunbird (Nectarinia purpureiventris)
  374. Northern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris preusi)
  375. Olive-bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris chloropygia)
  376. Tiny Sunbird (Cinnyris minulla)
  377. Regal Sunbird (Cinnyris regia)
  378. Copper Sunbird (Cinnyris cuprea)
  379. Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venusta)
  380. Mariqua Sunbird (Cinnyris mariquensis)
  381. Beautiful Sunbird (Cinnyris pulchella)
  382. Red-chested Sunbird (Cinnyris erythrocerca)
  383. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  384. Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer griseus)
  385. Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver (Plocepasser superciliosus)
  386. Speckle-fronted Weaver (Sporopipes frontalis)
  387. Thick-billed Weaver (Amblyospiza albifrons)
  388. Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)
  389. Lesser Masked Weaver (Ploceus intermedius)
  390. Vitelline Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus)
  391. Spectacled Weaver (Ploceus ocularis)
  392. Black-necked Weaver (Ploceus nigricollis)
  393. Baglafecht Weaver (Ploceus baglafecht)
  394. Little Weaver (Ploceus luteolus)
  395. Slender-billed Weaver (Ploceus pelzelni)
  396. Golden-backed Weaver (Ploceus jacksoni)
  397. Yellow-backed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus)
  398. Northern Brown-throated Weaver (Ploceus castanops)
  399. Compact Weaver (Ploceus superciliosus)
  400. Holub’s Golden Weaver (Ploceus xanthops)
  401. Brown-capped Weaver (Ploceus insignis)
  402. Black-billed Weaver (Ploceus melanogaster)
  403. Vieillot’s Black Weaver (Ploceus nigerrimus)
  404. Crested Malimbe (Malimbus malimbicus)
  405. Red-headed Weaver (Anaplectes rubriceps)
  406. Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea)
  407. Fan-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes axilaris)
  408. Marsh Widowbird (Euplectes hartlaubi)
  409. Black Bishop (Euplectes gierowii)
  410. Yellow-mantled Widowbird (Euplectes macrourus)
  411. Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)
  412. Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus)
  413. Black-winged Red Bishop (Euplectes hordeaceus)
  414. Bronze Mannikin (Spermestes cucullata)
  415. Black-and-White Mannikin (Spermestes bicolor)
  416. Yellow-bellied Waxbill (Coccopygia quartinia)
  417. Green Twinspot (Mandingoa nitidula)
  418. Dusky Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza jacksoni)
  419. Grey-headed Nigrita (Nigrita canicapilla)
  420. White-breasted Nigrita (Nigrita fusconota)
  421. Black-crowned Waxbill (Estrilda nonnula)
  422. Fawn-breasted Waxbill (Estrilda paludicola)
  423. Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild)
  424. Black-rumped Waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes)
  425. Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda)
  426. Crimson-rumped Waxbill (Estrilda rhogopyga)
  427. Orange-breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava)
  428. Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus)
  429. Black-bellied Seedcracker (Pyrenestes ostrinus)
  430. Green-winged Pytilia (Pytilia melba)
  431. Red-winged Pytilia (Pytilia phoenicoptera)
  432. Dusky Twinspot (Euschistospiza cinereovinacea)
  433. Brown Twinspot (Clytospiza monteirei)
  434. Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala)
  435. African Firefinch (Lagonosticta rubricata)
  436. Bar-breasted Firefinch (Lagonosticta rufopicta)
  437. Village Indigobird (Vidua chalybeata)
  438. Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura)
  439. African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla aguimp)
  440. Cape Wagtail (Motacilla capensis)
  441. Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus)
  442. African Pipit (Anthus cinnamomeus)
  443. Plain-backed Pipit (Anthus leucophrys)
  444. Short-tailed Pipit (Anthus brachyurus)
  445. Brimstone Canary (Crithagra sulphuratus)
  446. Yellow-fronted Canary (Crithagra mozambicus)
  447. Thick-billed Seedeater (Crithagra burtoni)
  448. African Citril (Crithagra citrinelloides)
  449. Western Citril (Crithagra frontalis)
  450. Papyrus Canary (Crithagra koniensis)
  451. Streaky Canary Seeadeater (Crithagra striolatus)
  452. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)
  453. Golden-breasted Bunting (Emberiza flaviventris)
  454. Cabani’s Bunting (Emberiza cabanisi)

List of species of mammals appeared in the tour:

  1. African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
  2. Stripped Ground Squirrel (Euxerus erythropus)
  3. Isabelline Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus rufobrachium)
  4. Alexander Bush Squirrel (Paraxeus alexandri)
  5. Boehm’s Bush Squirrel (Paraxeus boehmi)
  6. Olive Baboon (Papio anubis)
  7. Patas Monkey (Erythrocebus patas)
  8. Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus)
  9. L’Hoest’s Monkey (Allochrocebus lhoesti)
  10. Red-tailed Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius)
  11. Blue Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis)
  12. Red Colobus (Cercopithecus badius)
  13. Uganda Mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae)
  14. Black and White Colobus (Colobus guereza)
  15. Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)
  16. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)
  17. African Straw-coloured Fruit-Bat (Eidolon helvum)
  18. Yellow-winged Bat (Lavia frons)
  19. Lion (Panthera leo)
  20. Leopard (Panthera pardus)
  21. Spotted Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta)
  22. Side-striped Jackal (Lupulella adusta)
  23. Slender Mongoose (Herpestes sanguinea)
  24. Common Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula)
  25. Plains Zebra (Equus quagga)
  26. White Rhinocero (Ceratotherium simum)
  27. Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus)
  28. Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzahageni)
  29. Hyppopotamus (Hippotamus amphibius)
  30. African Buffalo (Synverus caffer)
  31. Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)
  32. Impala (Aepycerus melampus)
  33. Oribi (Ourebia ourebi)
  34. Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)
  35. Uganda Kob (Kobus kob)
  36. Hartebeest (Alcephalus busephalus)
  37. Topi (Damaliscus lutanus)
  38. Common Duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)
  39. Rwenzori Duiker (Cephalophus rubidus)
  40. Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)

Oman Birding Tour 2021 Trip Report

Dates: October 26th to November 4th

Number of participants: 3

Species seen: 205

In the falll of 2021 it looked like the Covid-19 pandemia was at its end, or at least that it was giving us a well deserved truce. Several countries had relaxed their restrictions, and many reopened to tourism, even if still requiring specific tests or documents to go beyond their borders.

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos), a common sight in some Omani wetlands. All images in the post by Carles Oliver unless otherwise indicated

In this context, we arranged with a small group of clients a trip to Oman. This tour was delayed from January 2021, but circumstances forced them to choose the end of October to visit the country, even when probably the best season to explore this unique nation goes from mid-November to January. The option proved really productive and interesting despite the rather high temperatures (from 21 to 34ºC), and some windy afternoons, especially in the North of the country.

Day 1, October 26th. The group arrived in stages during the day before (October 25th) to meet during the evening in the inmigration checkpoints at Muscat International Airport, and we all transfer for a welcome dinner in our nearby hotel.

After enjoying the Omani food, our first day was devoted to explore some wetlands inside Greater Muscat. Our first stop was at Al Ansab wetlands, a small area of ponds and reedbeds recently recovered by the local water company. But even before arriving to our first spot, we got a first good surprise in the way of a 1st winter Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) right in front of our hotel. We didn’t know at that moment, but that was our only Woodshrike of the whole tour!

White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis), a common bird in Northern Oman.

Al Ansab was starting to get the winter visitors. There we got good numbers of Eurasian Teals (Anas crecca), Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Gadwalls (Anas strepera), Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax), Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola), Little Stints (Calidris minuta), Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago), Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) and Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii). A flock of 5 Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca) was a nice surprise, and the group enjoyed very much the good and different views on Marsh Sandpipers (Tringa stagnatilis) along the lagoon. Here we also had first views on some common species in the area: Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus), Delicate Prinias (Prinia lepida) and Indian Silverbills (Eudice malabarica) were showing all around while flocks of White-eared Bulbuls (Pycnonotus leucotis) were noisily feeding in the tamarisks around. Some dizzing up in the sky announced the presence of some Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola) in the area, moving to the extensive grasses where flocks of Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis) were feeding. In the distance, the distinctive call of a flock of Grey Francolins (Francolinus pondicerianus) pointed us to the correct corner, and allowed us all good views on them.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) in Al Ansad lagoons.

A short walk exploring the area produced a good number of other species. In the reedbeds and scrubs we got good views on Clamarous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) and on a fast-moving Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides). The extensive canopies around had 2 abietinus-like Common Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and at least 1 Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus tristis) answering to the calls + a very vocal Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), and the first of a long list of Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata) along the tour. The channels around were full with Great White Egrets (Agrodietus albus) and Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) + 2 Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and one 1st winter Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). Small flocks of Arabian Green Bee-eaters (Merops cyanophrys) & Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (Merops persicus).

In the way out, we still had a chance to enjoy 5 Garganeys (Spatula querquedula), 1 male Wigeon (Anas penelope) and our first Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) patrolling the wetlands and showing usperbly, but probably the best bird was a male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) showing well in our way out of this hotspot.

Garganeys (Spatula querquedula) at sunset

Our second move was to explore some coastal areas, where we had first views on several common waders but also the very firsts Greater Sand Plovers (Charadrius leschenaultii) and Lesser Sand Plovers (Charadrius mongolus) of the tour. Here we also got good views on a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers (Pluvialis fulva), sometimes showing side by side with Lesser Sands. In the sea side we had also good views on Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bangalensis) and good comparition with Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo). A fast seawatch revealed here 1 Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus) and 3 Common Gulls (Larus canus) moving along with 2 Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans).

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) and Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)

After some rest we moved to Al Qrum Natural Park for an evening birding. Despite being a bit quiet if compared with other visits, especially when talking about passerines, the area still produced excellent views on Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola), Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), Purple & Striated Herons (Butorides striata), the first Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) of the tour while it was being harrased by a flock of House Crows (Corvus splendens) , several Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalensis) and a rather surprising Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispanoliensis) male!

Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalesis) are common during winter in Northern Oman, but they keep being a rarity in the Southern part of the country

Day 2. Early morning start to explore some of the wonderful inland landscapes in Northern Oman. A short transfer from Mascate allows a substantial change in the landscape, and the impressive Al Harar Mountains show up. This morning we enjoyed some gullies and open, dry plains with scattered thornbush. It is a wonderful landscape and prove to be full of birdlife.

A combination of short walks soon prove to be really productive. The firsts Lesser Whitethroats (Sylvia curruca) were soon seen, some of the singing. Here they all look like from halimodendri, with evident black lores and absence of supercillium. A small flock of Sand Partridges (Ammoperdix heyi) were feeding around, but only allowed short views as they were running away. As we got inside the gullies, we found some normal birds for this landscapes including Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), Plain Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta) and our firsts Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) and Levant Grey Shrikes (Lanius excubitor aucheri) of the tour + a rather distant Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha). The areas with some vegetation concentrated several Purple Sunbirds, and along with them Lesser Whitethroats but also 1 Wood Warbler and, at least, 1 Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida). Here we were also delaighted with close views on 2 Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps), a species often difficult to find! While enjoying these wonderful birds we got a bird sitting in a bush, and turned out to be a Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus). Now the group split into two, with some people admiring the Shrike, while others trying to get good shots in the nervous Babblers. But the party was no over, because right there a pair of Levant Scrub Warblers (Scotocerca inquieta) just showed out in the same scrub where Shrike was shinning out! This was a brilliant moment of the tour, with three top birds showing simultaniously!

Obliging Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) during our exploring the Al Harar Mountains
Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps), a bird that keeps expanding its range in Arabia
The first of 2 Brown Shrikes (Lanius cristatus) during the tour appeared at the same time & bush than Arabian Babbler, Levant Scrub Warbler and Sand Pratridge!
Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)

The sun was already really high, and it was getting warm so we started to move towards our lunch stop. After a good rest and food in the shade, we move to our afternoon location. During the next hours we were to explore one of the many huge gorges in the area. Here we were expecting to find the poorly-known Omani Owl (Strix butleri), but our chances were really decimated due to the strong wind. Even inside the gorge, the wind and the dust made birdwatching quite difficult and uncomfortable. We explored some oasis like corners in the gorge, and despite the difficult conditions, we got good views on Hume’s Wheatears (Oenanthe albonigra), Striolated Buntings (Emberiza striolata), Palestine Rock Dove (Columba livia palaestinae) and a single Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus). We spend some time scanning the cliffs, despite the poor visibility due to the dust in the air, but we got no sign of the owls. Still, our perseverance was granted with good views on a single Arabian Tarh (Arabitragus jayakari)!

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) are extremely common in Northern Oman
Palestine Rock Doves (Columba livia palaestinae) in a large gorge in Al Harar Mountains

Day 3. Early morning transfer to Liwa, the Western patch of mangroves holding a pair of very interesting species. Our hope was to connect with the endemic & scarce race of Collared Kingfisher (Alcyon chloris kalbaensis) living here. The area is also noted for herons and waders. Here we got some Striated Herons & Western Reef Egrets along with Clamorous Reed Warblers, but got no sign of the Kingfisher. Still, the area was filled up with migratory birds. Here we got the only Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and the only Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) of the trip. Here we also got first views on Desert (Oenanthe deserti) and Isabelline Wheatears (Oenanthe isabellina). We counted 8 Indian Rollers feeding in the wires around, and minimum of 2 Pied Wheatears (Oenanthe pleschanka) moving in the same area. The large scrubby plains around the mangroves also produced excellent close up into Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana), and 2 Eastern Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe melanoleuca) feeding along with a flock of Tawny Pipits (Anthus campestris) and Crested Larks (Galerida cristata)!

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis), a common in Oman
Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe melanoleuca)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), the commonest Lark in Oman. Amazing how distinctive they are from Iberian Crested Larks!

In our way back to Mascate we did a stop in a golf course, enjoying flocks of Ruffs feeding in the short grass and being joined by Citrine & Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava). Here we also got some Common Snipes, Lesser Sand Plovers, a single Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and flyby male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) before going back to our accommodation.

Day 4. This was the day of our transfer between Mascate and Salalah. And despite the long driving, it was also a great birding day. A number of selected stops produced a really interesting list of birds.

In the North, we enjoyed some birding in the stonnny planes beyond Al Harar Mountains, where we were lucky enough to have intimate views on Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (Pterocles linchtensteinii) just by the lane! Here we also Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) and Indian Silverbills.

Lichtenstein Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) male in the stony desert
Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

For our picnic time, we enjoyed a small garden where a Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) seemed to be waiting for us. Here, already quite in the South, we got our firsts Abyssinian White-eyes (Zosterops abyssinicus) and intimate views on Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata). In the afternoon we had some time to explore some grass farms along the road, despite having another windy afternoon. It can be said that we arrived at the right time, as the fields were filled up with Greater Hoopoe-larks (Alaemon alaudipes), Isabelline Wheatears and Tawny Pipits. It always fascinated me how these areas, surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of desert, can hold such a wonderful birdlife!

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), a scarce bird in Oman during winter
1st winter Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), putative sarudnyi race

The fields were full of birds, and a minimum of 2 Pallid Harriers and 3 Montagu’s Harriers (Circus pygargus) were hunting in the area along with 10+ Common Kestrels. Here we also counted 10+ European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) & Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides). The place was covered with Larks. Beyond the very common Crested Larks, we were surprised by a flying flock of Greater Short-toed Larks (Calandrella brachydactyla) that never stop in the short grass in front of us, but a pair of minutes later we got a small flock of 4 larks stopping close to the fields, and we were all happy to see that they were Arabian Larks (Ammomanes eremodites), formerly considered conespecific with Dunn’s Lark (Ammomanes dunnii), and a scarce bird in Oman!

Crowned (left) & Spotted Sandgrouses (right) in flight
Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)

Back to the road, we still had a last detour, this time to enjoy some Sandgrouses. Just in time, we were granted with several flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus) flying around us and stopping in the desert, while flocks of both Spotted (Pterocles senegallus) and Crowned Sandgrouses (Pterocles coronata) were also offering excellent flight views! A wonderful way to end our birding time. Only one hour after this we arrived to our accommodation in Salalah to get some rest and comment all the excellent birds that we got along the day!!

Day 5. Our first day in Salalah was one of the most wonderful that I remember in this area. We had an early start and covered the short distance between our accommodation and the first location of the day, and area of open woodland mid way up to the Dhoffar plateau.

Here we were soon enjoying a long list of specialities. The area was fullfilled with Cinnamon-breasted Buntings (Emberiza tapahisi), small flocks of Rüppells Weaver (Ploceus galbula) and some African Silverbills (Eudice cantans). The firsts Palestine Sunbirds (Cynniris osea) were also seen feeding in the highest part of the fig trees while the whistles of Tristam’s Startlings (Onychognatus tristamii) announced the arrival of some of flocks of them.

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tapahisi)
Arabian Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegallus percivalis)

2 Brown-headed Kingfishers (Halcyon leucephala) were perched in low branches, trying to locate one of the large locustes that they predate on, while the always nervous African Paradise Flycatchers (Tersiphone viridis) looked like concentrated around a small pound nearby. A short walk around the area soon allowed us to find the first of 4 Arabian Warbler (Sylvia mmemelanea) seen that morning while feeding in some dense thickets. This individual was moving along with a Lesser Whitethroat, and allowed a good comparisition of size, structure and behaviour. One bush away, a Isabelline Shrike was also a good find, and a fast check in the thickets below it revealed a wonderful pair of Arabian Black-crowned Tchagras (Tchagra senegallus percivali) and our first Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis). The morning was being wonderful but it took better was a distant pale Shrike was seen. When landed, the Shrike described a cercle with its tail, and that meant only one thing! We fast moved closer and enjoyed good views on a 1stw Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), a pretty scarce migratory bird in Oman! The bird was quite nervous and didn´t allow any close ups.

African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca) type blythi
1st winter Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), a scarce migratory bird in Oman

Back to the denser area we then found a wonderful mixed flock moving in the thickets: Here there were 2 Tchagras, 2-3 Arabian Warblers, some Abyssinian White-eyes, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 1 African Paradise Flycatcher and 2 handsome Eurasian Wrynecks (Jynx torquilla) that gave excellent views! Just beside them, but not really moving along, we also got excellent views on one pair of Blackstars (Oenanthe melanura). Another great adding to our wonderful morning list! We then decided to explore better the stream nearby. Here we had good numbers of Buntings, African Silverbills, Laughing Doves and White-eyes that were coming down for a bath. Here it was also a handsome Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) and 2 Green Sandpipers (Tringa ochropus). Suddenly, a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) landed in a nearby tree. But the most exciting of that corner was the flock of 4 Arabian Grosbeaks (Rhyncosthrurus percivali) flying over us and briefly landing on a tree, some 50 metres away from us. Two o the tree clients got good but brief views on them, but one of the members of the group could not connect with them. We spent quite a long time trying to relocate them, but we got nothing at all. Instead, we got our only Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) along with Spotted Flycatcher, Turkestan Shrike and a minimum of 6 African Paradise Flycatchers feeding in a lovely corner!

Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)
Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)

After such a wonderful start of the day we moved into a small gorge having a wonderful stream with rich swamp vegetation. Despite the heat, we also got an excellent selection of birds here: 2 Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) were hunting in the area (one of them hovering for almost 1 minute!), a large flock of 40 Pallid Swifts were also feeding in the skies. Down in the stream, a flock of 4 Wood Sandpipers were a good start. Citrine Wagtails were calling around and some Western Reef Egrets were feeding. Bird activity was low due to heat, but butterflies and dragonflies were at its best! We still spent some time by the stream, and our persistance was finally granted when a Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) flew from a patch of reeds to the next, showing well, but briefly.

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucephala)
Pearl Emperor (Charaxes varanes)
African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus) at Raysut, 2nd record for Oman

After some rest, we went to spend the afternoon in the Raysut river mouth. Here we got a long list of specialities, but probably the most unexpected bird was an African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus) resting along ith Grey Herons! It turned out to be only the 2nd record of this species for Oman!

The areas was as good as always about birding. Here we got our first full adult Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus) of the trip. Also a minimum of 7 Terek’s Sandpipers (Xenus cinereus) that were really celebrated. Largo flocks of gulls (mainly Heuglin’s) were in the shore along with a flock of Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus roseus). Around, several waders that included Lesser Sand Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) and several Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia). A flock of Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was flying around, trying to decide where to stop. A nearby Greater Spotted Eagle seemed really interested in the flock, while the 3 Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaetos) in the area were concentrated in the rocky outcrops. Several species of terns were around, including 4 White-winged Black Terns (Chlidonias leucotos), 1 Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) and several Lesser Crested Terns.

Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)

The last stop of this exciting day was in some sea cliffs South of Salalah. Here, the sea was fullfilled with Gulls and Terns. There were literally thousands of Terns, mainly Lesser Crested and Greater Crested, but here we also got Sandwich & Common Terns and at least 12 Bridled Terns (Onychoprion fuscata). Still, the most celebrated bird of the stop was one pretty close Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus) that all the tour participants got in the scopes! A wondeful way to end a extremely productive day!

Day 6. A new early start, this time to go back to the desert in search of some of the most iconic species living in Oman. We arrived to the location soon after the sun raising and soon had good views on Blackstarts and a confiding Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica). This oasis is a particularly good place for Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius amberinus), although it was a bit early in the season for them. We spend some time scanning different corners of the lush vegetation in search of this wonderful bird.

Sand Partridges (Ammoperdix heyi) were singing in the desert around, and a small walk allowed us to have good views in a male singing from the top of a small cliff. When coming back to the oases, a pair of Desert Larks (Ammomanes deserti) stole the show and gave us excellent views, and good photo chances. Back to the oases, 2 Lesser Whitethroats were calling in the trees right at the same moment that the first flock of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses arrived calling and passed over us in search of water. Only a pair of minutes later we had the only Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica) of the tour, as one male showed briefly in the top of one of the trees. Almost at the same time, a flock of 18 Crowned Sandgrouses landed in a nearby plateau. We walked up but, unfortunately, we couln’t refind them on the ground… It was already mid-morning, and hundreds of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses were flying around the oases, providing amazing flight views that the whole group enjoyed very much. From our advantatged point, we also found a Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) feeding in the bare soil. Here we also enjoyed the best views on Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys) along the tour. We still spend some more time in the area, trying to find any Hypocolius, but we couldn’t not find any of them and the only remarkable addings to our list were a pair of Desert Wheatears and a distant Turkestan/Isabelline Shrike.

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)
Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica)
Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys)
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus)

Back to Salalah for lunch and some rest, we spent the afternoon visiting a pair of hotspots around Raysut. Our first stop was to visit a water compound, where we got some European Rollers and a good set of waders including some Marsh Sandpipers and the only Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius). Still, the most remarkable in this site was the flock of 27 Abdim’s Storks (Ciconia abdimii) that were resting around the compounds. This was a very awaited bird for the tour participants, and the presence of 2 White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) made a perfect combination to compare sizes and bills.

Then we moved inland to explore a gorge. In our way, an African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) flew over the car: another extra adding!

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
Ruffs, Stilts, Marsh Sandpipers, Greenshanks & Little Stints at the Raysut compound
Abdim’s Storks (Ciconia abdimii), a very localised bird in Oman

Once in the wady, we enjoyed some good views in 1 male Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha) while flocks of Sand Partridges were flying all around. It was a really quiet afternoon, and the songs of some Striolated Buntings helped us in our wait to the sunset. Big rock boulders were scattered in the way, and we had good views on a Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) moving in the rocky terrain. Once the night arrived, it didn’t take long until some “hooloes” came out of the cliffs around, and a pair of minutes after that we got horrific views on 1 Desert Owl (Strix hadorami) calling from different places around us in a magical moment that was considered for most of the tour participants and the best moment of the tour!

Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)

Happy after such a wonderful sight, we came back to our accommodation for a great dinner and rest.

Day 7. After enjoying a good breakfast we lived our hotel and drived North to enjoy a wonderful offshore in search of the good specialities living in the Arabian Sea. It was a pleasant and calm day, a bit warm but excellent to go into the sea. Our short transfer was not free of excitement because along the way we enjoyed the first Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) of the tour and an intimate view on Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos) when arriving to the harbour.

Once in the getting out of the harbour, we got good views on Striolated Heron before getting out to the Ocean. Only a few minutes after leaving the harbour we got the first bird of interest as 2 Persian Shearwaters flew quite close to our boat. There were several Sooty Gulls around, with some Great Crested Terns passing over and Heuglin’s and Steppe Gulls in the move. A pair of Green Sea Turtles () were seen as getting away from the continent, but they didn’t allow any photo. Only some hundreds of yards away a black silhouette was seen flying over the water: The first Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)!

Striolated Heron (Butorides striata)
1stw Steppe Gull (Larus fuscus barabensis)

During the next 2 hours we enjoyed a minimum of 12+ Jouanin’s Petrels, with some really close views. This was, by far, the best offshore for Jouanin’s of all our trips to Oman. The calm day also allowed us to have good views on 4+ Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes), 7 Masked Boobies (Sula dactylora), 2 Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) and a distant Bridled Tern.

3 images of the Jouanin’s Petrels (Bulweria fallax)
Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)

Back to the continent, we headed to the impressive plateaus of the Dhoffar Mountains. In our way up, we found an Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleon arabicus) and forced up to stop our way up. Once in the upper areas, we soon were enjoying good views in some large flocks of Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus) that were concentrating in large fig tree along with Tristam’s Starlings. The wires around proved to be producive and time to time a Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus) was sitting on them, providing some great views. Our next target was the rather enygmathic Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis). We first tried at the typical place, but got nothing out of a nesting Blackstart and 2 Tree Pipits (Anthus trivialis). Then we drove some miles away to a place that worked really well during our last tour. Soon after parking we saw that the place was full of birds. Here we had 5+ Red-throated Pipits, 2 Tawny Pipits, 1 Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana) flying over, 1 Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis) showing superbly in a stone wall, 2 Singing Bush Larks (Mirafra cantillans) feeding on the ground and a wonderful Yemen Serin that appeared in the same stone wall by one abandoned house. This was again one of the top moments of the tour, as confidence in finding this bird was low among the tour participants. The place was even more productive than that: 4 European Rollers, 1 Montagu’s Harrier and the first Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) of the trip were an awesome complement to this site list!!

Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleon arabicus). Image by tour participant Josep del Haro
Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis). This time we only found 1 individual!
Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis)
Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides)
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
Tristam’s Starlings (Onychognatus tristamii)
The misty ambient in the Dhoffar plateau

We kept riving North to arrive to some stunning cliffs overlooking the coastal plain and the ocean. In our way, several Isabelline Wheatears were seen along with Tristam’s Starlings and Common Kestrels. Once in the cliffs, we soon had good views on Arabian Wheatears (Oenanthe lugentoides) and Blue Rock Thrushes (Monticola solitarius) plus distant views on 1 Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii).

It was still early afternoon, so we drove back to Salalah to explore some areas in the palm tree orchads. Here we got excellent views on 10+ Spotted thick-knee (Burhinus capensis), Indian Pond Heron (Squacco grayii), 3 Shining Sunbirds (Cinnyris habessinicus), 1 Crested Honey Buzzard and 2 Arabian Chameleo. The sunset was close, so a new short transfer brought us to small gorge where we enjoyed some wonderful owling.

only a few minutes after our arrival we started listening the typical ouling of the Arabian Eagle Owls (Bubo milesi). Formerly considered conspecific with African Spotted Owl (Bubo capensis), this is now a new Arabian endemic and a much sought-after speciality. There were some birds calling around. 3, 4? Difficult to know. They all appeared to be quite high in the cliffs until one bird sunddenly started to call from only 150 metres away from us, in a large tree. We moved close to the tree, trying to locate the bird while was still calling, but got nothing. Fortunately, a 2nd individual appeared in the sky, flying over us and stopping in the same tree! That was a lucky sight!!

Very happy after such a great sight we then concentrated in the many Arabian Scops Owls (Otus pamelae) calling around. It didn’t take long before we were all enjoying a wonderful Scops Owl right in front of us. Another magical moment to add in this tour!! Little Owl (Athene noctua) was also noted calling in the clifffs, despite we never arrived to see it.

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae)

Day 8. This day we started to have a last visit to the open Euphorbia habitats inmediatly South of Salalah. Here we had excellent views on both Steppe and Eastern Imperial Eagles. We were in search of better views on Arabian Grosbeak, but never got them. Still, we did get 1 Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius pallidirostris) and a 1 “lucionensis” Brown Shrike (3rd official record for Oman if accepted)!

Adult Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
1st winter Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius pallidirostris)
Putative adult “lucionensis” Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus lucionensis) at Ayn Harar, Dhoffar.

After this good start, we then drove all the way to the sewage farms beyond Thumrait. There we got some excellent birding despite the intense heat. When arriving, we got 2 males Pallid Harriers having a nap in a small shade. Such a gorgeous sight took most of the group by surprise since they were resting right by the lane! Once inside the farms we were surprised by 4 Namaqua Doves (Oena capensis) flying over the grassy fields. The number of birds was low, but of top quality. Here we found 1 Pied Wheatear, 2 Siberian Stonechats (Saxicola maurus), 1 Eurasian Wryneck and 2 Rose-coloured Starlings (Pastor roseus) that were really celebrated in the group! Here we also got some Tawny Pipits, White Wagtails and a good number of Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix nigriceps) and Crested Larks, the only larks that afternoon.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellinus)
Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Rose-coloured Starting (Pastor roseus)
Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
Male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus). Image by tour participant Josep de Haro

Day 9. After enjoying a wonderful breafkast in our hotel in Duqm we drove North to explore the massive mudflats around Masirah Island. Our main target for that day was to locate some Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola), a large black-and-white wader specialised in feeding on crabs and other hard-shield arthropodes. Desite their large size, they can be surprisingly hard to find, especially in the vasts tidal plains around Masirah Island. Fortunately we had a good place from previous years, so we headed directly to that place.

This very extensive mudflat concentrates around 1 milion waders in winter, so it is always a great place to visit. Here we had Tereks Sandpipers, Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers, Kentish Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Ruddy Turnstones, Little & Temminck’s Stints and also 7+ Broad-billed Sandpipers (Limicola falcinellus), some of them moving in mixed flocks with several other species. We arrived soon after high tyde, so many waders were really close to the shores when we arrived. In the bush around 1 Clamorous Reed Warbler was calling, and 2 Red-throated Pipits were also in the move. Still, the most interesting passerine was being harrased by a Dunlin in the beach. I first thought that it was a Sparrow, but fastly I found myself screaming to everybody since we were having a Turkestan Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei) right in front of us! We were lucky because everybody had good views on the bird before the Dunlin became really agressive and defitanely expulsed the lark away from the algae! Excellent!

Tydal plains around Masirah Island, a paradise for waders
Broad-billed Sandpiper (left) & Greater Sand Plover (center,up) feeding along with Dunlins and 1 Little Stint
A pair of images of Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola)
Heuglin’s Gull (Larus (fuscus) heuglini)
Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
juvenile Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii)

We were right comenting this rather unexpected adding when they appeared. At the beggining only two of them. Distant. Adult and a 1st winter still asking for being fed. Always great to see one of the most spectacular waders in the world! After almost half an hour more Crab Plovers appeared. Extremely far away, but they were coming every time a bit closer until we got excellent views on a small flock of 5 that provided more than decent views and allowed some shots. At the end of the morning we counted some 55 of them!

Here we were also scanning for Terns and Gulls. Still far from the gull concentrations in winter, we were delighted with several close ups to Heuglin’s Gull, with some Steppe & Caspian Gulls in the middle. A rather Saunder’s Tern (Sternua saundersi) showed up for us, and some further scanning produced 1 Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus) harrasing Slender-billed Gulls. After some more views in the Crab Plovers, we moved to our accommodation for some afternoon rest after 3 very intense days!

Day 10. Very last day of the tour. In our way to Mascate from the East coast we still had time to stop and have some proper birding. In the way North there are a pair of reliable stops for raptors. We didn’t have a lot of time but in our visit to a small recicling place we saw 5+ Lappet-faced Vultures (Torgos tracheliotos) and 27+ Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) along with some Brown-necked Ravens (Corvus rufisollis) and 2 Steppe Eagles!

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos trachelietos)
Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)

Happy after such a great stop we decided to have a last stop in some meadows near Mascate. Here we were again granted with some good surprises, since we got views on Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minumus) first and on 1 Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura) later! Here we also got Marsh Sandpipers and a female Pintail (Anas acuta) as the very last species appearing in the tour before covering the short distance to the airport for a late afternoon flight back to Europe!

List of species seen along the tour:

  1. Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi)
  2. Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus)
  3. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
  4. Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
  5. Pintail (Anas acuta)
  6. Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
  7. Garganey (Spatula querquedula)
  8. Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
  9. Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
  10. Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
  11. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
  12. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)
  13. Crowned Sandgrouse (Pterocles coronata)
  14. Spotted Sandgrouse (Pterocles senegallus)
  15. Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii)
  16. Feral Dove (Columba livia)
  17. Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  18. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
  19. Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
  20. Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  21. Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
  22. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
  23. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  24. Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
  25. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
  26. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)
  27. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
  28. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
  29. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  30. Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
  31. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  32. Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  33. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
  34. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  35. Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
  36. Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
  37. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
  38. Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura)
  39. Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minimus)
  40. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  41. Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
  42. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
  43. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
  44. Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
  45. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
  46. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  47. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
  48. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  49. Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
  50. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  51. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpress)
  52. Sanderling (Calidris alba)
  53. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
  54. Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)
  55. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  56. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
  57. Broad-billed Sandiper (Limicola falcinellus)
  58. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
  59. Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
  60. Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
  61. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  62. Heuglin’s Gull (Larus heuglini)
  63. Lesser-black backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
  64. Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
  65. Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii)
  66. Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
  67. Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
  68. Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis)
  69. Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
  70. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
  71. Saunder’s Tern (Sternula saundersi)
  72. Bridled Tern (Onychoprion fuscata)
  73. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hydridus)
  74. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
  75. Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)
  76. Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes)
  77. Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)
  78. African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  79. Abdim’s Stork (Ciconia abdimii)
  80. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
  81. Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)
  82. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
  83. African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
  84. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
  85. Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)
  86. Striated Heron (Butorides striata)
  87. Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  88. Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
  89. Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
  90. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  91. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
  92. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  93. Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
  94. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
  95. Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus)
  96. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
  97. Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos)
  98. Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos)
  99. Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
  100. Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
  101. Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
  102. Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
  103. Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii)
  104. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)
  105. Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
  106. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
  107. Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)
  108. Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae)
  109. Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)
  110. Arabian Eagle Owl (Bubo milesis)
  111. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
  112. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)
  113. Eurasian Roller (Coracias garrulus)
  114. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
  115. Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucephala)
  116. Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys)
  117. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)
  118. Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
  119. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
  120. Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria)
  121. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
  122. Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis)
  123. Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
  124. Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
  125. Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
  126. Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
  127. Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)
  128. Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
  129. Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius pallidirostris)
  130. Levant Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor aucheri)
  131. Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps)
  132. African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
  133. White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
  134. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus afer)
  135. White-spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos)
  136. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
  137. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)
  138. Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus)
  139. Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
  140. Greater Hoopoe-lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
  141. Turkestan Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei)
  142. Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)
  143. Arabian Lark (Ammomanes eremodites)
  144. Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
  145. Singing Bush Lark (Mirafra cantillans)
  146. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
  147. Sand Marting (Riparia riparia)
  148. Pale Rock Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta)
  149. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  150. House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
  151. Levant Scrub Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta)
  152. Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)
  153. Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida)
  154. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  155. Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus tristis)
  156. Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus)
  157. Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
  158. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
  159. Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides)
  160. Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus)
  161. Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
  162. Asian Desert Warbler (Curruca nana)
  163. Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca)
  164. Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
  165. Abyssian White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus)
  166. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
  167. Rose-coloured Starling (Pastor roseus)
  168. Tristam’s Starling (Onychognatus tristamii)
  169. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
  170. Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
  171. Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
  172. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
  173. Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
  174. Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
  175. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
  176. Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
  177. Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe melanoleuca)
  178. Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
  179. Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)
  180. Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides)
  181. Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra)
  182. Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha)
  183. Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
  184. Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)
  185. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
  186. Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica)
  187. Palestine Sunbird (Cinnyris osea)
  188. Shinning Sunbird (Cinnyris habessinicus)
  189. Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)
  190. Rüppell’s Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
  191. African Silverbill (Eudice cantans)
  192. Indian Silverbill (Eudice malabarica)
  193. Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
  194. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
  195. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
  196. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  197. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
  198. Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis)
  199. Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
  200. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
  201. Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta)
  202. Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis)
  203. Arabian Grosbeak (Rhyncostrurhus percivali)
  204. Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolata)
  205. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)

Other wildlife (Mammals)

  1. Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)
  2. Arabian Tahr (Arabitragus jayakari)

Other wildlife (Reptilians)

  1. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  2. Desert Monitor Lizzard (Varanus griseus)
  3. Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleon arabicus)

Other wildlife (Butterflies)

Coming soon

OrnitoRepte sisó (Tetrax tetrax), abril de 2021

Participants: 22 Guies: Sergi Sales i Carles Oliver

El dia va començar amb un cel quasi ras i temperatures fresques. A trec d’alba els participants van anar arribant al punt de trobada vora Tàrrega, i força abans de l’hora acordada ja hi èrem quasi tots. Hi havia força ganes de tombar i de retrobar-nos amb la natura i els amics després de força setmanes amb la mobilitat força reduïda degut als diferents confinaments.

Aquesta sortida, enmarcada en la sèrie d’OrnitoReptes que impulsem junt amb la Fundació Plegadis i Birding Catalunya, pretèn apropar espècies emblemàtiques o poc conegudes a ornitòlegs de tots els nivells.

Blat espurnejant als Secans de Belianes. Imatge: Enric Pàmies

Un cop recordat el protocol anti-Covid, ens vam dirigir als vehicles. Alguns van quedar aparcats per tal de fer la corrua més sostenible. Uns pocs quilòmetres van ser prous per contactar amb les primeres espècies. Alguna arpella vulgar (Circus aeruginosus), cogullades vulgar (Galerida cristata), els omnipresents cruixidells (Emberiza calandra) i vols esporàdics de grives (Turdus viscivorus) entre els ametllers, que ben ràpidament van deixar pas al complexe cant de la calàndria (Melanocorypha calandra), amb bones densitats a la zona.

La primera parada del matí va servir per observar algunes espècies de força interès. L’ambient era força agradable i la llum, perfecta. Les calàndries emplenaven el cel amb els seus cants mentre un llunyà esparver cendrós (Circus pygargus) mirava de trobar algun talpó despistat als guarets plens de flors. Mentre resseguíem l’esparver el primer sisó (Tetrax tetrax) es va fer notar a les nostres oïdes. Un mascle cantava no massa lluny, als guarets. Poc després en vam sentir un segon, i després encara un tercer. Abans i tot que els poguéssim trobar, el típic so de les ales d’un mascle va imposar-se als cants de les calàndries, i tot el grup va gaudir del primer de molts vols de sisons.

Val la pena recordar, que els mascles de sisó disposen d’una adaptació a les seves plomes de vol. Unes poques d’elles presenten un perfil asserrat que, en vol, produeix el típic “siseig” que dóna nom a l’espècie.

Mascle de sisó (Tetrax tetrax) als secans de Belianes. Imatge: Enric Pàmies

Al llarg del següent quart d’hora vam gaudir de tot un seguit d’observacions de sisons en vol i aturats en diferents guarets. Hi havia força activitat de mascles marcant els seus territoris de festeig, alhora que sortien a perseguint altres mascles, considerats “intrusos”. Entre aquestes observacions val la pena destacar la de 3 mascles perseguint a una femella en vol. Quan no ens miràvem els sisons, anàvem repassant els aligots (Buteo buteo) i arpelles vulgars que tombaven per la zona cercant alguna cosa d’esmorzar. La nostra petita caravana de vehicles va continuar explorant la zona, i poc després es va veure forçada a aturar-se, ja que en Sergi Sales va trobar un mussol banyut (Asio otus) aturat a un arbre a una banda de la pista. Ràpidament vam fer sortir tothom i, un cop enfocat el mussol amb els telescopis, tots els participants van poder gaudir d’una bona observació d’un adult de mussol banyut!

Aquesta troballa va provocar força somriures. El dia començava força bé: repte assolit amb fantàstiques observacions de un mímim de 6 sisons (encara en vindrien més) i un mussol banyut…

El nostre periple pels guarets ens va portar llavors fins a un punt elevat des d’on poder gaudir d’un extens camp ple de flors. Aquí vam trobar una parella de torlit (Burhinus oedicnemus) que segurament tenien el niu a la zona. Una mica d’espera va ser prou perquè al mateix guaret aparegués un mascle de sisó cantant, seguit uns minuts després per una femella de la mateix espècie, en actitud d’exhibició! Cua aixeca, passos curts i mesurats, ales a voltes un xic caigudes… Semblava la típica actitud que precedeix l’aparellament. La femella va passar un parell de vegades amb la cua aixecada i parcialment oberta a tant sols un parell de metres del mascle, aturant-se ara i adés. Però, increïblement, el mascle no va arribar a mostrar cap tipus d’interès per la femella… Llàstima, perquè una còpula de sisó no és una cosa que es vegi cada dia!

Abans de marxar d’aquest punt encara va aparèixer una perdiu roja (Alectoris rufa) al mateix guaret, poc abans que una terrerola vulgar (Calandrella brachydactyla) i una piula dels arbres (Anthus trivialis) passesin pel damunt del cap dels guies, reclamant.

Abellerols a tocar de la seva colònia de cria a Ivars. Imatge: Carles Oliver

La temperatura començava a pujar de forma notable. La previsió metereològica alertava de temperatures altes per l’època de l’any; no es va equivocar. La última parada a la zona de conreu de secà va ser per visitar una zona de cria de xoriguer petit (Falco naumanni). De camí, però, un parell de bitxacs rogencs (Saxicola rubetra) en migració va fer les delícies del grup! Un cop arribats als encontorns de la colònia, els xoriguers petits no van fallar, i tot el grup va poder apreciar alguns dels atributs que permeten diferenciar l’espècie del força més abundant xoriguer comú (Falco tinnunculus), com la coloració de cap, ales i pit del mascle; la llargada de les ales respecte de la cua; els seus singulars reclams…

La comparació amb altres rapinyaires passavolants com milà negre (Milvus migrans), aligot comú (Buteo buteo) o esparver cendrós (Circus pygargus) potser també va ajudar a establir relacions de mides. Qui sap!

Des d’aquí vam començar a sortir dels secans, tot gaudint del vol d’alguna puput (Upupa epops), algun estol de gralles (Corvus monedula) o les corredisses d’alguna perdiu roja a tocar de la pista. Però tot es va aturar en aparèixer el primer gaig blau (Coracias garrulus). Amb tothom fora dels vehicles, vam poder gaudir d’un bon espectacle mentre un parell d’aquests increïbles ocells feia els seus acrobàtics vols nupcials, tot deixant veure el blau elèctric de les seves ales. Tot un espectacle de color d’una espècie que ens regala la seva presència només al llarg de 4 mesos i escaig, de començaments de maig, a començaments de setembre.

Un cop sadojats de gaig blau i de secans, ens vam dirigir al proper Estany d’Ivars. La temperatura ja quasi havia deixat de ser agradable, i ens enfrontàvem a uns dels primers dies de calor de la temporada.

Un curt desplaçament en vehicle va ser prou per fer-nos arribar a un punt d’observació privilegiat sobre l’estany. Només sortir del vehicle vam poder sentir els cants de rossinyols (Luscinia megarhynchos), tallarols capnegres (Sylvia melanocephala) i algun esporàdic oriol (Oriolus oriolus). Mentre disposàvem els telescopis, un conspicu teixidor (Remiz pendulinus) va aturar-se ben a prop, permetent una molt bona observació. També es va deixar veure una bosqueta comú (Hippolais polyglotta) que cantava ben a la vora i que gentilment es va acabar exhibint a dalt de tot d’una figuera. Amb els telescopis va ser una observació excel·lent.

Part del grup gaudint de les vistes i els ocells a l’Estany de Ivars i Vila-Sana. Imatge: Enric Pàmies

El punt d’observació de l’estany permet una bona visibilitat de la llàmina d’aigua i de les abundoses zones de fanguissar que l’estany deixava veure, fruit d’una assecada total que pretén eliminar diferents espècies invasores (tant sols el temps dirà si amb èxit, o no). Diferents estols de cames llargues (Himantopus himantopus) aprofitaven aquesta circumstància, i força d’ells ja estaven niant, o amb actitud de fer-ho properament. També hi havien força cabussons emplomallats (Podiceps cristatus), així com importants contingets de gavina riallera (Chroicephalus ridibundus) i gavià argentat de potes grogues (Larus michahellis). Amb ells, un estol de 8 fumarells carablancs (Chlidonias hybridus) acompanyats per un solitari fumarell negre (Chlidonias niger) que van fer les delícies dels participants.

El sol picava una mica, i mentre el Sergi anava explicant la història recent de l’estany, hom aprofitava per anar repassant els limícols presents als fanguissars. Corriols petits (Charadrius dubius) i grans (Charadrius hiaticula), un parell de territs variants (Calidris alpina) i un estol de 7 fredelugues (Vanellus vanellus). Però la sorpresa va arribar quan el Carles Oliver va trobar un territ gros (Calidris canutus) en plomatge estival alimentant-se a la zona. Cares de sorpresa, també de incredulitat. No era pas per menys; aquesta suposava la 1a cita d’aquesta espècie a l’estany. Però és que el territ gros es movia, ni més ni menys, que amb un territ de tres dits (Calidris alba), una espècie també excepcional a l’Estany. La reacció no es va fer esperar: tothom als telescopis!

Només un parell de minuts després de la troballa del territ gros, en Sergi Sales cantava un tètol cuabarrat (Limosa lapponica), una espècie terriblement escassa a Ivars! La cosa estava força interessant, i mentre continuàvem repassant la zona, anàvem gaudint dels estols de cigonyes blanques (Ciconia ciconia) i els voltors comuns (Gyps fulvus) que s’anaven remontant per sobre l’estany, amb l’aparició també d’un falcó peregrí (Falco peregrinus) que de ben segur s’havia sentit atret per l’abundància de preses potencials.

El gaig blau (Coracias garrulus) no es va deixar apropar massa aquest cop. Imatge: Carles Oliver

Les polles blaves (Porphyrio porphyrio) es deixaven veure a la vora dels canyissars mentre anàvem mirant de trobar algun altre limícol de interès. Unes quantes valones (Tringa glareola), un estol de 8 gambes roges vulgars (Tringa totanus) i 2 territs menuts (Calidris minuta) van engrossar la llista, fins que el plomatge negre i blanc d’un remena-rocs (Arenaria interpres) va aparèixer alimentant-se de bracet amb el territ gros! Un altre limícol amb comptadíssimes observacions a l’Estany d’Ivars. El remena-rocs, no podia ser menys, va originar noves cues als telescopis!

Després de gaudir moltíssim des d’aquest punt d’observació, ens vam apropar a l’estany per fer una exploració a peu i de més a prop. El curt trajecte va trobar un grup d’abellerols (Merops apiaster) com a companys de viatge que va fer les delícies dels fotògrafs del grup. Un cop arribats a peu d’estany els cants dels rossinyols bords (Cettia cetti), rossinyol comuns (Luscinia megarhynchos), boscarles de canyar (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) i balquers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) van col·lapsar les nostres oïdes amb el seu fantàstic paisatge sonor. Des de la nostra nova posició vam revisar un altre cop les zones a on es concentraven els limícols, trobant-les totes, però malgrat ser-hi més a prop, el poc angle entre la vegetació va dificultar una mica l’observació.

Bosqueta comú (Hippolais polyglotta) ens va dedicar un bon concert des de un dels miradors de l’Estany d’Ivars. Imatge: Carles Oliver

Deixant de banda els limícols, ens vam endinsar al bosc de ribera, a on vam poder gaudir de bones observacions de rossinyol, i de rapinyaires passa volants com milà negre o àguila marcenca (Circaetus gallicus). Les boscarles de canyar es van deixar veure unes quantes vegades, mai massa estona, però sí que vam gaudir força en trobar un niu d’aquesta espècie, típicament ancorat a dues tiges de canyissar.

Això va ser ben bé la cirereta final d’un matí d’allò més espectacular, amb un balanç d’espècies força complert i variat, fins i tot per a l’època!

Una forma prou espectacular d’enllestir el primer de molts OrnitoReptes! Consulta el calendari aquí i escull quin és el que més t’interessa!

Cape Town 2019 Birding Tour. Trip Report

Start Date: August 15th, 2019

Number of species seen: 247

Group size: 4

All images by Carles Oliver

Day 1. During August 14th the tour participants arrived to Cape Town. The lovely accommodation where we were hosted welcomed them or organised a transport from the airport, and we all met in the next morning, when an early start was mandatory to catch up with our boat. Yes, today was offshore day! So, before raising we all met, and drove the short distance to the harbour. Our small boat was there waiting for us and during the short chating with our experienced captain we really saw the firsts birds of the tour. Harbault’s Gulls were really common, and the harbour had some Kelp (Cape) Gulls flying around. In a close dek we had a small flock of Ruddy Turstones, and a flyby Grey Heron pointed the right direction to connect with the first flock of Cape Cormorants having some rest in the outer dek.

Once the last details were ready, we sailed off in a really calm ambient. The raising light produced some epic views on the bay, while our boat was gaining distance from the coast. We didn’t have to wait long until we saw our first speciality; as usual, one or two Subantarctic Skuas were soon wondering around, to lose interest after some seconds. Our boat kept its way while enjoying flocks of Cape Cormorants flying low over the sea, and some African Penguins close to a small bay, probably getting in the ocean from a nearby colony. Soon after we got the firsts Sooty Shearwaters of the day, a sign of being close to leave the Bay, and soon as meeting the waves of the open ocean we contacted with the first of many White-Chinned Petrel. Some of these lovely birds were flying around along with a pair of Sooty Shearwaters when we got the first unexpected sight as 1 Flesh-footed Shearwater appeared along with the Sooties to do a pair of fasts flybies and go back into the sea!

Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) during our offshore from Cape Town. Image by Carles Oliver

That was a very fortunate encounteer since this species is normally easier to see in the North-east of South Africa. We were just chating about when the captain informed us of some whales around. The boat change the direction from South to West, and a pair of minutes later we were enjoying 2 Humpback Whales right in front of us. Humpback’s are often found around the boundary of the continental platforms, so this was the rights place for them to be. Happy after such a nice sight we turned South to keep exploring the ocean. 3 Shy Albatrosses pointed us the right way, even if they were not really close. We got some 15 minutes of rude sea, and after that the ocean appeared as calmed as the Aegean Sea in a summer day! More White-Chinned Petrels appeared and inmediatly after we got a very close Shy Albatross that landed some metres from our boat. One of the tour participants spotted the first Black-crowned Albatross of the tour while the captain adviced us about 3 Wilsons’s Storm Petrels in the back! Personally, I was concentrated in a majestic Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross coming from the front of the boat. I was enjoying the view when second bird appeared behind, clearly bigger and greyish than the Sooties Shearwaters around. It didn’t take long to see that it was a massive Southern Giant Petrel that came really close to the boat to fly around and stop on the sea. We spent some 10 epic minutes enjoying all of these species. Unfortunately the Wilsons’s Storm Petrel (the only ones of the tour) never came really close but some really close Pintado (Cape) Petrels were a good consolation for all tour participants.

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) just South of New Hope Cape. Image by Carles Oliver

For some time we were having Shy, Black-crowned & Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses flying around plus Cape & White-Chinned Petrels passing close to the vessel. We moved half a mile just to explore a bit beyond and there we got a superb Northern Giant Petrel that directly came to our boat to pass by extremely close before stopping and harrasing an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albratross.

We were all delighted of being so lucky when our captain got a message: a fish carrier was close. These massive boats fish in the deep water South of the Good Hope Cape and can wonder for weeks in large areas of the ocean.

Even 2 miles away from the boat the massive concentration of wildlife was evident. Thousands of sea birds were following it, including all the species that we saw before but also the firsts Cape Gannets of the trip. There were also an important number of South African Fur Seals  and tens and tens of Albratrosses of different species. We approached a bit more and a carefully scanning revealed at least two Antarctic Prions, a scarce species that was really celebrated by the tour participants. For some time we were trying to keep track on these small, lovely petrels to try to get some shots, but it was really impossible to get them close in the mess of 100s of Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Gannets, Antarctic Skuas and Albatrosses around.

Adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche carteri).

Subantarctic Skua (Catharacta antarctica)

Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus)

 

Even when approaching we realise that there were some major species among the long queue of birds following the carriers. And now that we were close we could confirm at least 7 Southern Royal Albatross following the carrier. These authentic giants cover enormous distances to feed. It is known that they can come to Southern Africa to feed for some days from their nesting colonies in New Zealand!

The movement of the birds was constant, with waves and waves of birds getting in and out. And then, along with 3 Southern Royal Albratross we saw at least 2 Northern Royal Albatross, a really scarce species in these trips and something we never expected to see in our tours to South Africa! All tour participants enjoyed good views and photos on the birds, and we were about to go back to Cape Town when a last surprise was still waiting for us: Our captain found 1 Spectacled Petrel just passing by us along with White-Chinneds!! This was the perfect way to start our way back to the coast.

Southern Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora)

This was our only one Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata), a species not very common in the area.

Southern Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora)

A mess of South African Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) moving along with Sooty Shearwaters (Ardenna griseus), Cape Gannets (Morus capensis), White-chinned (Procellaria aequinoctialis) & Cape Petrels (Daption capense), Kelp (Cape) Gulls (Larus dominicanus vetula) , Subantarctic Skuas (Catharacta antarctica) plus Shy (Thalassarche cauta) & Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris).

Back in the Bay, we still had a pair of stops to have close views in both Bank & Crowned Cormorants. Both species are endemic to Southern Africa, and globally endangered. We all had good views along with South African Fur Seals having a good sun bath.

Back on ground we had a moment to sit and enjoy some extra meal. The sandwiches on the boat were great, but it was also nice to enjoy some food on the ground, actually! After a passionate chating on seabird conservation efforts, we moved to our next location. Still time to visit two spots, both really close to our accommodation.

Crowned Cormorant (Phalacrocorax coronatus), an endemic near threatened of Southern Africa.

As anyone coming to Cape Town, it is always mandatory to enjoy some one of the African Penguins colonies around the city. African Penguins started to colonise some beaches in the Greater Cape Town about 25 years ago in a natural process of expansion. Our time in the African Penguin colony not only produced excellent views in this highly especialised birds, but also served as a first contact for the group with some common species such as Cape Wagtail, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Karoo Prinia, Cape Bulbul, African Oystercatcher, Cape Turtle Dove, and Yellow Canary. We also enjoyed good views on Yellow Mongoose and Cape Hyrax, both endemics of Southern Africa and a good adding to our mammal list!

African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus) really close to Cape Town.

The last stop in this long, intense, and incredible first day was to explore a small marshy patch really close to our accommodation. This small wetland is just under a rocky slope, providing a good mixt of species, from the hills to the reedbeds. A first look in the area allowed us to locate the firsts Blacksmith Lapwing of the tour, feeding in the short grasses around the pond along with 2 Crowned Lapwings. The water level in the pond was surprising low but stil supporting some birds including several Cape Teals, some Yellow-billed Ducks, African Black Duck, 1 Hottentot Teal, Malachite Kingfisher and 2 Red-knobbed Coots; Grey Heron and Little Egret were fishing around while a colony of Cape Weaver were busy preparing the nests. A lovely song came down from the rocky slope and soon were all enjoying a Cape Rock Thrush singing from the small ridge. A bit lower in the slope we found the 2 firsts Cape Spurfowls, while a Common Fiscal was overlooking the area in search of the last prey of the afternoon. The group withdrew to the van, that was parked by some Common Starlings & Red-eyed Doves. Happy after such a great day, we came back to our accommodation for a deserved dinner & rest!

Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris)

In this small pond we got the only 2 Red-knobbed Coots (Fulica cristata) of the tour.

Day 2. The second day of the tour was devoted to explore False Bay Eastern side. Here we were to explore a pair of spots expecting to find some of the specialities living in the famous fynbos and rocky areas around. Always with the Ocean as a background, we first explored a small plain with some rocky outcrops. The group didn’t move from the van when we found the first Cape Grassbird of the tour, along with Red-winged Starlings and a gorgeous male Orange-breasted Sunbird. Great start! In front of us, a short walk along a beautiful, open fynbos with a large rocky slope to the left, that soon produced Cape Bunting, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cloud, Zitting & Pipping Cisticolas (or Neddicky, its wonderful local name), Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, and some Cape White-eyes. A pair of White-necked Ravens provided excellent views both in flight and on the ground.

The morning had been sunny and warm until that far, until a cold fog came front the Ocean. We kept on for a further exploration revealing one of the main targets of the stop, as after some scanning we located a Ground Woodpecker perched on a rock. We all enjoy great views on what soon turned up into two individuals. They were really active, moving from a pair of big boulders to the ground to feed, and then back to the boulder to rest. This is a endemic species of woodpecker living in areas without trees. They nest on banks, where they do excavate a tunnel as a kind of bizarre Kingfisher. As we were enjoying the bird, the only one Cape Siskin of the tour just flew over and stopped for some time in a dead branch! This is another endemic, and sometimes a hard target!!

Ground Woodpecker (Geocolaptes olivaceus) male providing excellent views.

Cape Rockjumper (Chaetos frenatus) was one of the main targets in the tour.

We were clearly in the good way. A pair of Rock Kestrels came to the sky just by the time that a Sentinel Rock Thrush started singing. It was being a great morning, but even improved when a whistle came from the slope. It took us quite a lot of scanning but we finally found out 2 Cape Rockjumpers moving on the grouns while calling each other. We could enjoy over 5 minutes of these birds moving in the slope, appearing and disappearing in the rocks. Mid way beetwen a Wallcreeper and Roadrunner, these birds are really worth to see!!

Back into the car, we had a short drive until our next stop, a small Botanical Garden by the hills carpeted with fynbos. In here we had a first contact with common species living in woodlands or tall scrubs such as Olive Thrush, Southern Masked Weaver, Laughing Dove, Brimstone Canary, Cape Robin Chat but also enjoyed great views in a small flock of Swee Waxbills and the only views on Cape Sugarbid and Blue-Mantled Crested Flycatcher of the trip!

Glad after this great morning, we had a small lunch break in a lovely road restaurant. After enjoying some local cuisine, we still had one stop before driving back to Cape Town. A close coastal wetland provided us with a different set of species. The wetland is surrounded by a rich grassland where we enjoyed Cape Spurfowl, African Pipit, Plain-throated Martin, African Stonechat, Bokmakierie and Jackal Buzzard.

Swee Waxbill (Coccopygia melanotis)

Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecularius).

Once in the marshy area, a general look into the area revealed large flocks of Hartlaub’s Gulls roosting in different islands and, along with them, a small flock of 3 Antarctic Terns. This is again a scarce species so we were really glad to enjoy them.

The vast salt lagoons and marshes were also having small flocks of Kittlitz’s Plovers as well as several Greater Flamingoes and Pied Avocets. A distant juvenile African Fish Eagle being harrased by a African Marsh Harrier female was also a great sight, Back in the car park, our 3 firsts Levaillant’s Cisticolas were singing around, allowing good views.

It was time to go back to Cape Town, were we would spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the wonderful False Bay Nature Reserve. Due to a traffic jump, we did arrive to the False Bay NR a bit later than expected. Despite that, the birding was stunning. In the lagoons around it was a complete set of the ducks living in the area including several Cape Teals & Shovelers, Yellow-billed Ducks, Red-billed Teals plus the most sought-after species: Southern Pochards (30+) and Maccoa Ducks (12+). We also got two flying Spur-winged Geese, a Purple Heron plus flocks of Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibises. The ponds were also having small numbers of Little, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes, all of them with nesting populations in the tip of Africa.

Southern Pochard (Netta erythrophthalma) in False Bay Nature Reserve at sunset.

A short walk around provided first views on Black-shoulded Kite and the endemics Grey-winged Francolin & Cape Sparrow. It was some gorgeous patches of reedbeds, and there we found our only 3 African Swamphens of the tour along with Black Crakes, a nice Little Bittern (African race), Lesser Swamp Warblers and flocks of the very soiny Little Rush Warbler. A really sought-after African Rail called a pair of times but, despite our hopes, never appeared in the out…

It was already time to go back to the car. Pied Kingfishers and Great White Egrets were hurring to catch a last fish when we discovered a small flock of Spotted Thick-knees in a plouged area. Back to car, we still had at least one more African Rail calling… No time for more, time to enjoy a nice local wine and have some dinner!

Day 3. The weather became stormy during the last evening, and during the whole night we were having a heavy rain in Cape Town. This day we were supposed to spend most of the day in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. When we did arrive the weather was even worst, with some strong wind. So we did a second coffee and wait for some time. After some wait we managed to spend 90 minutes of birding in Gardens, always with some rain and poor visibility. Still, we got good views in 2 Sombre Greenbuls, Common Chaffinches (introduced here by the British), Cape Batis, 4 Forest Canaries, Familiar Chats, 1 flyby Lemon Dove and several Cape Robin-chats. A lovely Knysna Warbler was singing in the undergowth but despite our efforts it was not possible to see this elusive bird. So, after some time in the gardens, it was clear that the weather was not going to improve so we decided to start moving to our next area to explore.

But before we could enjoy 2 Spotted Eagle Owls roosting in one of the largest trees in the Botanical Garden! It was really a pity that we had to cancel the wonderful walk we had in mind.

Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo capensis) roosting in Cape Town Botanical Gardens.

Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) female, one of the commonest birds in the area.

Cape Robin-Chat (Cossypha caffra), one of the many endemics to enjoy.

The rain was still heavy, so we moved a bit earlier than expected to the West Coast National Park, a coastal area inmeadiatly North of town. The weather in that area was clearly better, with only some high clouds and a really comfortable temperature. Our first stop was to do a walk in a small open area. Here, with the dense scrubland surrounding the dense scrubland, we had first views on really common species living in this dry fynbos such as Karoo Scrub Robin, Bokmakierie, Karoo Prinia and Grey-backed Cisticola. A short walk around also produced Speckled & Red-faced Mousebirds, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, African Hoopoe, Ant-eating Chat and Cape Clapper & Karoo Larks. Small herds of Bontebock and Eland were feeding along with Common Ostriches and flocks of  Pied & Wattling Starlings. This was a really enjoyable place but time was running and we had to check a different corner. 

Karoo Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas coryphoeus), one of the most conspicuous birds living in the Karoo bushland.

Cape Shoveler (Spatula capensis) female.

Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler (Sylvia subcaeruleum)

South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana).

Stenbook (Raphicerus campestris), one of the mammals we could enjoy at West Coast National Park.

A small pond in the middle of the karoo beyond provided with other interesting birdlife. Here we got Black Crake, 2 Cape Shovelers and Little Rush Warblers while a small flock of Common Waxbills were drinking water. In the short walk to pond we got the first of many Black Harriers flying over the karoo in a majestic image. In the water, a pair of the endemic South African Shelducks were really celebrated. But the best was to come. After a while checking the pond, a call came from the swamp, barely few metres from us; a Red-chested Flufftail! No movements allowed and after a pair of minutes of wait, a Flufftail just runned in front of us!! Great!! In the way to car we still enjoyed more Black Harriers but it was already a bit late so we drove to our accommodation close to the National Park but we still had a last stop in an open area close to the B&B, where good views on 2 Fiery-necked Nightjars flying around, singing and performing a beautiful display!

Glad after this wet but incredible day, we had a good dinner and better rest.

Day 3. Early morning breakfast in our small sea-side accommodation, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from a small cliff. This day was calm and bright but it was a ruff sea out there! From our terrace we enjoyed some Rock Martins flying around but also sometime far more special. Distant in the sea we got at least two Southern Right Whales breathing under the waves. Not every day you enjoy some whales while having your first coffee!

After breakfast we went back to the North Coast National Park, to concentrate in a walk in the limit of the dense fynbos and a large grassy patch. The karoo was full of birdlife and we enjoy great views on Levaillant’s Cisticolas, Karoo Larks, Karoo Scrub Robins singing. The walk was extremelly productive. In a short time we got all 3 species of Mousebirds living here: Red-faced, Speckled and the endemic White-backed). Temperature was extremely pleasant and that favour small birds to show including Protea Canary, Bar-throated Apalis, a gorgeous Malachite Sunbird displaying and the really sought-after Layard’s-Tit Babbler in a great view at short range!

Bar-throated Apalis (Apalis thoracica).

Karoo Lark (Calendulauda albescens), endemic to South Africa.

The also endemic White-backed Mousebird (Colius colius).

The amazing display of Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa).

Southern Black Korhaan (Afrotis afra), another sought-after endemic.

Wonderful meadows at West Coast National Park.

A short incursion in the seaside provided with excellent views on African Oystercatchers (Haematopus moquini)

One of the many Black Harriers (Circus maurus) that we saw at West Coast National Park.

Once inside the grasslands, we enjoyed the songs of Bokmakierie mixing with the ones from Cape Longclaws and Cloud Cisticolas singing in flight, with a small herds of Elands feeding here and there, and Common Ostriches suddenly appearing from the karoo. An close, explosive song announced the first Southern Black Koorhan of the tour. This is another really sought-after endemic!

We were really lucky as the Koorhan was lekking close to us for some time, and all tour participants had amazing views on this bird. A further scanning soon reavealed some Cape Spurfowl (they had been noisy the whole morning) but also a flock of its more scarce relative, the Grey-winged Francolin, feeding by the end of the grass. A Cape Capped Lark just flew from our feet at the same moment that one of the tour participants found the first pair of Blue Cranes of the tour! What an amazing birds… The birds in this area look like endless! An African Hoopoe showed up in a dead tree, and soon was joined by a different bird; a lovely Acacia Pied Barbet!

Our next stop was to explore a shore of the main lagoon in the National Park. This big lagoon, mainly salty, has several patches of reedbeds due to small springs coming from the subsoil. Here we got lovely views in both Greater and Lesser Flamingoes but also Hadeda Ibises, several Black-winged Stilts and Pied Avocet plus close views on a pair of Cape Longclaw nesting in the grass by the path. Here we also got Cape Teals, Crowned Lapwings and our only one Common Sandpiper of the tour. Among the several Cape Wagtails we were greeted with a Yellow Wagtail, a rather unexpected sight!

The lagoon itself was having some waders including Eurasian Curlews, Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Whimbrels, Greenshanks, Common Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and 20+ Curlew Sandpipers. But probably most eyes were concentrated in some close African Oystercatchers. Around the bank we had some Western Reef Egrets and Grey Herons but also 1 Squacco Heron and Purple Heron. In the distance, we enjoyed 7 White-fronted Plovers moving along 2 Wood Sandpipers. Flocks of Great White Pelicans were moving over the lagoon, towards the depeer areas, mixing with the many Caspian & Gull-billed Terns that were pratolling it. In this location we also got 1 Black-tailed Goodwit, a really scarce species in the area…A really good bird for South Africa with most of the locations concentrated in this same lagoon!!!

Back to the fynbos, we headed to our next stop. We did some haults in the way to enjoy some Bonteboks appearing here and there. This beautiful antelopes were really close to extinction and by 1830 only 22 remained. Black Harriers were also stopping our way as we got not less than 6 of them in a short drive, including some close views. Once parked, we did a short walk in the area, a dry fynbos with some sandy open areas, and we soon had excellent views on our main goal, a Cape Long-billed Lark moving in the open area. But this corner was about to produce a bigger surprise. A small flock of birds was moving, mainly Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, but it also appeared our only Grey Tit of the tour, another sought-after endemic. And when we were about to go back to our van, a wonderful male Dusky Sunbird appeared in the vegetation to provide us with a short, but terrific view! This species, is normally referred to live in Northern areas, but it has been expanding the range in recent years.

We then had a stop for our picnic enjoying some great views on the central lagoon, with large flocks of Cape Cormorants getting in and out from the sea. For us it was time to leave this National Park and drive inland to the karoo areas. The 90 minutes long drive proved to be extremelly productive. Along with several large flocks of Southern Red Bishop along the way, we had two stops in our way. Still close to the coast, we spend some time in a farm land, where we found several African Pipits, at least 2 Nicholson’s Pipits (a recent split from Long-billed Pipit due partly to allopatric distributions and sedentary habits of both populations) along with them, 3 Capped Wheatears, some Red-capped Larks  and Malachite Sunbirds.

Next stop was already close to Ceres. Here, close to a mountain pass, we were surprised by 2 magnificient Verreaux’s Eagles and joined in the sky by 1 Peregrine Falcon. Here we also had first views for the tour on Alpine & African Black Swifts flying low at incredible speed!

Nicholson’s Pipit (Anthus nicholsoni).

Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii), another majestic bird of prey for the tour!

Beyond Ceres and the hills around, the landscape faces a dramatic change. An inmense desertic plain extends in an endless way. This is the karoo, an incredible ecosystem for wildlife, and especially for birds. Due to the limitations of time in this pre-tour, we only had some hours in the afternoon to explore the area. In future tours, we will dedicate one day and a half to explore this amazing place!

Even with our limited time, we can say that we did pretty well. A first stop in a small valley surrounded by mild bushy hills produced a number of goodies. Here we enjoyed more endemics such as Cape Penduline Tit, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Long-billed Crombec, Mountain Wheatear and Karoo Thrush. But probably the most celebrated bird in this stop was a wonderful male Black-headed Canary superbly perched in a small reedbed. Unfortunately the bird didn’t stay there for long before it came back to the plains beyond the small valley.

During the next hour, a combination of road birding and some selected stops provided with some good addings like Lark-like Bunting, Rufous-eared Warbler, Grey-backed Cisticola, Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Chat and larks including Large-billed, Karoo Long-billed & Karoo Larks. A last stop was made in a dry stream and there we could enjoy good views on 1 male of the also endemic Namaqua Warbler that was singing in a really active way.

After such a nice (but unfortunately rather short) exploration of the karoo, we drove to our next accommodation beside Bontebok National Park, where we did arrive a bit beyond sunset.

Day 4. Bontebok NP & De Hoop Nature Reserve After a nice breakfast we drove the few miles into Bontebok NP, a small but really interesting protected area. Here we spent 3 hours in the morning, that were really productive!  & De Hoop Nature Reserve. Some drive into the reserve produced excellent views on Bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Grey Rhebok and Red Hartebeest.

A fast scan in the grasslands of the park from an advantage point produced the first of several Denham’s Bustards during the morning. Here we had some Red-capped Larks singing and we were surprised by a Secretary Bird flying over us, stopping in the grasslands and feeding not far from Denham’s. A further stop to enjoy some distant Cape Mountain Zebras was even more surprising since we found a Karoo Korhaan just beyond them, moving in the tall grass!

Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus)

This Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) was rather unexpected, and really celebrated!

Grey Rhebok (Pelea capreolus), a wonderful antelope living in small herds.

The Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra), a very endangered endemic.

Denham’s Bustard (Neotis denhami) at Bontebok National Park.

Duets of Bokmakierie (Telophorus zeylonus) can be listened in nearly every thick bush.

Levaillant’s Cisticola (Cisticola tinniens)

We still some more time driving in the area, adding 2 Southern Black Korhaans displaying and 1 rather unexpected Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk going for Levaillant’s Cisticolas in the grasslands. After this driving we explored the evergreen vegetation along the Breerivier. Here we got excellent views on Southern Tchagra, Bokmakierie, Pied Acacia Barbet, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, White-backed Mousebird, Bar-breasted Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Grassbird, Greater-double Collared Sunbird & Pin-tailed Whydah among many others.

We enjoyed a nice picnic by the Breerivier before driving to the coast for an afternoon exploration of the De Hoop Natural Reserve. In the between both natural sites we enjoyed many flocks of Blue Cranes feeding on the farming areas, many times around the water holes  but most of the times feeding in the fields, many times really close to the lane. Along with them several Capped Wheatears and African Pipits. Here we also enjoyed a pair of small flocks of Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark. Surprinsigly the only sight of the species during the tour. Around the ponds there were plenty of Egyptian Geese and Spur-winged Geese.

Once we arrived to De Hoop Natural Reserve we didn’t have to wait long until we got our first good bird since we had a stop by the lane to enjoy a small flock of Cape Vultures feeding in a carrion! Cape Vulture is an endemic species with decreasing populations. In Western Cape there is only one colony left, inside the De Hoop Natural Reserve. There were 8 birds and we even were granted with a massive Martial Eagle joining them in the carrion!

Blue Cranes (Anthropoides paradiseus), another endemic to enjoy during the tour.

Agulhas Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda brevirostris), a Lark only living around the Agulhas Cape.

Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres). There is only one colony left in the this South African province.

Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus), a superb endemic antelope living in South Africa.

Cape Spurfowl (Ptermistis capensis).

We went throught grasslands and fynbos with scattered herds of Elands, Bontebok and Red Hartebeest while driving towards the sea. In our way we got good views in a number of birds but nothing really special out of 2 Southern Black Korhaan displaying. Once by the ocean, we concentrate in locating the main goal for the late afternoon; to find some whales.

All the coast East from Cape Town has become really famous since host good densities of Southern Right Whales that come here from June to December. The can be seen all along the coast but there are some areas wheere the whales can come especially close to the coast.

After some scanning enjoying African Oystercatchers, Antarctic Skuas and Kelp Gulls we were able to locate up to 3 Southern Right Whales, two of them really close to the beach. It was a female and her calf that spent half an hour feeding and playing only 40 metres away from the sandy beach!

We were lucky and could enjoy the whales for long before driving to our accommodation in the De Hoop Natural Reserve.

Day 5. Knysna & Garden Route. This day we drove East to explore the famous Garden Route and its impressive montane broad-leave forests, the Southernmost of the Afromontane ecoregion! This can be considered as a small adding for our clients that year, and something not planned to do in futures issues of the tour, since we will broadly cover this ecosystem in our main tour exploring South Africa.

After leaving Bontebok early in the morning, we drove for a pair of hours until the Garden Route. During the way we had some nice birds as we got some Black Saw-wings here and there, and some Forest Buzzards along the way. Even some miles before arriving to Knysna the change in the habitat is evident with some wonderful corners covered by a gorgeous broad-leave forests and large Yellowwoods (Afrocarpus & Podocarpus) just by the road.

Knysna Turaco (Tauraco corythaix) is restricted to the coastal Afromontane forest in South Africa and a small patch inside Kruger National Park.

Grey Cuckooshrike (Coracina caesia).

White-starred Robin (Pogonocichia stellata).

Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)

Our first stop in the morning was a short walk North of town. In a 90 minutes short-walk we enjoyed a good number of specialities including large flocks of Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler normally joined by some Cape Batises. Terrestrial Brownbuls & Sombre Greenbuls were also common and their calls filled the moist atmosphere. After some walk we were granted with great views on one of the targets that morning, as a Chorister Robin-Chat showed up by the path; a bird that was really celebrated for everybody in the group. Some monumental trees were along the path, with some Outeniqua Yellowwood (Afrocarpus falcatus) growing above 40 metres tall!

More and more Yellow-throated Woodland Warblers were showing in mixed flocks with Cape White-eyes and lovely Collared Sunbirds, but not far from one of these flocks we got 2 Southern Black Tits, the only ones during the tour! With little time to enjoy them as they were moving fast, a superb Grey Cuckooshrike appeared from the undergrowth to show superbly for a couple of minutes while moving in the branches. But the most celebrated species in this stop was the Knysna Turaco, another beautiful South African endemic. In our way back to the van we still enjoyed great views in 1 male White-starred Robin while moving in the low strate of the forest.

After a short driving we arrived to the second spot to explore the moist forest. A lovely path that partially runs along a small stream. Here we got some good birds even before getting in the forest. In a clearing by the van, some Amethyst Sunbirds were feeding around us. Once inside the forest, we were surprised by the 2 Lemon Doves taking off at close range. The birds flew into the forest and took us really long to relocate them! Some Knysna Turacos appeared in the while, and provided again excellent views. Some Red-billed Wood-Hoopooes were also moving high in the canopies. After such a nice start we decided to walk a bit more. Activity was low but we were granted by finding a lovely Knysna Dwarf Cameleon in the path!!!

Happy after such a great finding we kept a bit more inside the forest. And we were granted with some nice birds, at the end! A small flock of Black-headed Orioles were moving up the trees, calling and singing and we got nice views on them. Suddenly, a Greater Honeyguide appeared right in front of us, while a Klaas’ Cuckoo was calling deep in the forest. We moved a bit closer to the Cuckoo and then the Orioles started to move, and along with them we got 3 Grey Cuckooshrikes, 1 Olive Woodpecker and 1 Scaly-throated Honeyguide!

African Spoonbill (Platalea alba).

After some lunch we drove some miles to a salty wetland to look for different specialities. Here, our main target was the rather scarce Chestnut-banded Plover. And after some scanning we found at least 14 of them feeding in the salty marshes. The area was plenty of Curlew Sandpipers and Pied Avocets, and some Little Stints were also present.

Lesser & Greater Flamingoes provided gorgeous views in sunset light. Here and in the fresh water lagoons around we got good views on African Spoonbills, Whiskered Terns and the only Goliath Heron of the tour!

Day 6. Garden Route – Cape Town. Last morning of birding around the Garden Route. This time we choosed an open land with some old trees. The landscapes resembles the acacia thornbush even if the forest is really close. The area proved to be extremely productive!

Red-necked Spurfowl (Pternistis afer).

Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus).

Cape Longclaw (Macronyx capensis).

Yellow Mongoose (Cynictis penicillata).

Burchell’s Coucal (Centropus burchelli).

Southern Tchagra (Tchagra tchagra).

Pale Chanting Goshawk (Melierax canorus).

We enjoyed a good mixed of open land, woodland & scrubby areas. Emerald-Spotted Dove, Fork-tailrd Drongo, Yellow Weaver, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Southern Boubou, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Burchell’s Coucal, Cape Longclaw, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Hoopoe, Southern Tchagra and Capy Glossy Starling to name a few, but the most celebrated bird of the last morning of the tour was the Knysna Woodpecker, again an endemic with a small range that appeared after a long scanning in a open woodland by the savannah open space

Really happy to enjoy all of these birds, we started the drive back to Cape Town where evening flights were waiting for all the tour participants, and the guides!

Please, take an eye to all our birding tours here: Barcelona Birding Point

Thanks for reading us!

Cape Turtle Dove (Streptopelia capicola).

 

 

 

Pyrenees Winter Break (+ Ebro Delta), 2020 Trip Report

Number of days: 6

Tour participants: 5

Dates: February 6th to 11th, 2020

All images along the tour by Brian Buffery, Giovanni Grieco and tour leader Carles Oliver.

The tour participants to the tour flew into Barcelona prior the tour started. We met the next morning in their hotel neat the airport for an early morning transfer to the Pyrenees. Temperature was high as a result of several days of high pressures, and temperatures escalating above 20C in the days before the tour started.

Day 1. Once in the Pyrenees, we drove up until 1600 metres high and spent some time in a rocky slope with small cliffs. There, we got good views on Rock Buntings, singing and showing up really well. European Crested Tits were also noted, but we didn’t have any other good bird. From there, the lovely lane brought us throught Mountain forests with small flocks of Mistle Thruses and Common Crossbills. Once the forests end, the lane crosses some alpine meadows show. Due to the long period of high temperatures, the snow was few, and concentrated in a certain slopes. We spent some time scanning, with little success. Only a few Eurasian Griffons were moving in the sky, joined by 1 Common Raven.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), a common but always wonderful flycatcher to see.

We spent some time scanning the snowed slopes with little luck, and we were about to leave when 3 Snowfinches flew from a spinned slope, really high up in the mountain. Despite teh birds were extremelly far away we decided to spend some time scanning the slope.  But nothing. Sowe drove half a mile, and scan again. And now we were more lucky as a nice flock of about 25 Snowfinches showed in the sky, flying from a close slope. The birds we actually doing some short flights to inmediatly reland in the slope, so we got excellent views on the birds walking on the snow, feeding and preening. Unfortunately all birds were a bit far up in the slope, so not really excellent chances for photography. We spent about half an hour waiting for the birds to eventually come down the slope and have closer views. Unfortunately the birds never came really closer.

Happy after the enjoying a species I was not expecting to find, we kept our way and came back to the mountain pass. There, there was a good number of Eurasian Griffons passing by, producing some really good views. Here we also got excellent views on a flock of Alpine Chough flying over, calling, and playing in the sky as only a Chough can do.

Only a pair of minutes after the Chough did its show, a large raptor was seen along with Eurasian Griffons. Moving slowly above the slope, an impressive adult Lammergeier was moving to our position. Everybody connected with the bird of prey way before the bird was close, so everybody enjoyed excellent views on the bird approaching us… The majestic bird just passed over us, the snow reflecting on the underwings so we all enjoyed the details of the axiles, the underwinds and its iconic moustache. The bird was around for some minutes, and we still had a second Lammergeier passing by before we moved to our accommodation for some rest.

We got our first views on Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) in the first morning of the tour.

After some resting, we still had time to explore a wooded slope in search of some new species. The area was full of Common Crossbills, some of them singing. A lovely Iberian Green Woodpecker was a celebrated spot in the group. The area was full of birds: Eurasian Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Rock Bunting, Shorttoed Treecreeper and Crested Tit were also noted. Big flocks of migratory Common Chaffinches were around. We did a number of stops along the lane, and among them 2 Citril Finches passed over our heads, calling. Unfortunately only one tour participant had a view in these birds.

The afternoon was going away and as the night came we moved to a proper spot for the most difficult of the Owls in Europe. We didn’t have to wait long because soon after sunset we had a Tengmalm’s Owl singing quite close to our van! The bird started singing about 80 metres away so we just walked inside the open woodland, trying to find the small owl. We enjoyed a wonderful listening but despite our efforst, we never so this scarce owl!

Sunset is to arrive to the Pyrenean subboreal forest.

Day 2. After a good rest, we just started our second day by spending some time in the same lane where we were the last afternoon. Our goal was to have better views on Citril Finches. But that morning we were no lucky about them. After this we spent the rest of the morning in a mountain pass closeby. A huge flock of above 70 Red-billed Choughs was feeding on the greenish slopes that were supposed to be snowed. High temperatures for 15 days in a row right before the arrival of the group had been meltering the snow, and despite our efforts we were uncapable to find any Alpine Accentor, the main goal of the morning.

Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne rupestris) showinfg the tail markings.

After lunch we drove to the steppes for some afternoon birding. Our first stop was to check some corners looking for one of the most sought-after species in this habitat. Meanwhile, we enjoyed very much to find a large flock of over 150 Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Several other species were recorded around including Eurasian Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting, European Stonechat, Eurasian Skylark, Northern Lapwing, Common Kestrel, Crested Lark, Common Buzzard, Meadow Pipit and several more!

To spot Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax) out of the nesting season can be difficult.

In our second stop we were more lucky, and after some scanning we found 12 Little Bustards in a nearby field. They were hiding in a filed with tall vegetation and we could only count them after a long wait and search of the small neck appearing above the grass. While enjoying them, we got other good birds around including 1 Great White Egret, Grey Heron , Mistle Thrush and Zitting Cisticola.

But a good surprise was to come. In a nearby field, a large flock of over 150 European Golden Plovers was resting. It look like the typcical large premigratory flock. While trying to count the Bustards, Gio was scanning the plovers and he was lucky enough to find out a 1st winter Eurasian Dotterel right in the center of the flock! What a nice spot!!!

Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) in a flock of Golden Plover close to Linyola.

After such a great spot we just moved to a nearby wetland for the last stop of the day. The large fresh water lagoon is placed in the middle of a large plain, and attracks good number os Western Marsh Harriers that roost in the reedbeds. We counted no less than 23 of them! Eurasian Teals, Northern Shovelers, Common Snipes, Reed Buntings, Water Rail, Northern Lapwings, Redcrested Pochards and big numbers of Great Cormorants and Western Jackdaws were all enjoyed, but probably the best birds for most of the tour participants were the Western Swamphens showing in the reedbeds, and noisily calling as the sunset approached. A wonderful end of the day!

During the afternoon we found this roosting place with +150 Eurasian Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus).

Day 3. This day we drove up a long valley, into the a Catalan shire called Pallars, to look for some Pyrenean especialities. Our first stop was in a huge gorge. There, we hope for the most wanted bird for many birdwatchers visting the Pyrenees in winter, the Wallcreeper. During a pair of hours we walked and scouted the rocks all around, hoping for any movement in the cliffs. Whitebellied Dippers were singing, very active in the river, and we counted 4 in single corner of the river! Some Eurasian Griffons were also moving in the sky, and didn’t take long until the massive silouhette of 1 Lammergeier appeared from the massive cliffs. Red Kite and Rock Bunting were also enjoyed.

After a long search, we finally found an extremelly distant Wallcreeper in a big, plain rock face. Only 1 tour participant saw the bird, so we all spent a lot of time trying to refind the bird. Some minutes passed away, and nobody was having the Wallcreeper…but suddenly a something moved in the rocks really close to us, inmediatly at the other side of the river: Wallcreeper!

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), always a challenging bird!

We were having a Wallcreeper right there, and this time everyone in the group found the bird without difficulties! We spent a pair of minutes enjoying of the bird moving in the rock face, beside a huge cavity. As always, it was great moment for anyone in the group!! After taking photos and recording videos we were enjoying the bird until it moved away from the rock face… and then came the typical question, was that the same bird that we were looking for extremely high up, or was it a different one? Who knows…

In this stop we still enjoyed a pair of other good birds before going for a coffee stop as Shorttoed Treecreeper and Eurasian Crag Martin showed really well in our way to the car.

After our pic-nic stop, we spent a pair of hours exploring a wooded lane, a wonderful spot for Citril Finches. Again, Common Crossbills were common and active. There were flocks of Eurasian Goldfinches and Common Chaffinches and, while scanning the flocks looking for something different, we enjoyed 2 superb Lammergeiers flying ove us in beautiful light. After a long, long scanning, 2 Citril Finches were seen when driving down the lane so we inmediatly stopped, with the finches calling around and moving in the trees for a some seconds before they moved away as they seemed associated to a huge flock of Common Chaffinches. We scanned over and over the flock but we were uncapable to refind them. Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Hawfinch were noted in the while.

One of the 4 Lammergeiers (Gypaetos barbatus) seen during that day.

The last stop of the day was to look for Eurasian Black Vulture. The Catalan Pyrenees holds a small population of about 50 individuals, concentrated in a pair of valleys but expanding in range and numbers. The whole day had been poor in raptor activity and, when we did arrive to the observation place, the raptor activity was minimal. Still, there were some Eurasian Griffons flying and after some hard scanning we found at least three distant Eurasian Black Vulture circling along with them. Another Lammergeier was also found, by the way. Here we also enjoyed some small birds including Cirl Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sardinian Warblers. After this stop we drove back to our accommodation for a good dinner and rest.

Day 4. Early morning start to explore the steppes. After a transfer we did arrive to the dry lands where most of the specialities are to be found. Unfortunately the weather was not good at all, as it was extremelly windy… Windy days can be terrible in the steppes, being quite easy to miss most (or all) the good birds in such a conditions.

But we were confident so our first stop was in a corner were Sandgrouses use to feed in early morning. A first look to the area revealed no activity at all. Only 1 or 2 Calandra Larks were flying, almost no songs in the sky. A distant Red Kite was the most notiable… We moved slowly along the lane, carefully scanning the fields that were hurt by the wind. It took us a good while until we found the first Blackbellied Sandgrouse on the ground. A male. Did an effort to get the scopes out so everybody could enjoy despite the really strong wind. Some minutes later, a small flock of 5 Pintailed Sandgrouses moved from a nearby filed, coming closer to us. It took some time to put everybody in the birds as they mild so well even if it was so few grass! Our happiness was complete when we realised that there were also some Blackbellied Sandgrouses on the ground, only few metres away from the Pintailed’s!! So, at the end, we had both species together side by side, feeding, preening and enjoying the hard morning weather!

Due to very strong winds, this is the best image we got on a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) during one of the last tours to Morocco. No images during this tour…

A short drive in the area around provided us with good views on Thekla, Calandra & Sky Larks. Also Little Owl, Iberian Grey Shrike and Redbilled Chough. Due to the wind it was again little movement of raptors in the sky, or that is what it looked like until 4 Golden Eagles appeared in the sky at the same time! Two adults and 2 juveniles playing long time with the wind at short range.

This obliging Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) was the first of the 5 seen during the day!

After a coffee stop we still had time to enjoy some good views on Lesser Shorttoed Larks before changing the habitat to explore some cliffs nearby.

The short drive to the clay cliffs produced several White Storks, some of them in their nests, Spotless Starlings, and Common Buzzards. Once arrived, we were suprised by a bird moving in the cliff.A Wallcreeper!!! Amazing. It is not normal to see a Wallcreeper so low, and it is even more strange to see it in a clay cliff which is not especially in the middle of the plains! Again everybody enjoyed the bird while moving up. Higher, a Blue Rock Thrush was also really showy. After a pair of minutes enjoying the bird we lost it and spent some time looking for the Black Wheatears living in this spot. After some minutes we had a pair of Black Wheatear moving in the broken slope. Here we also got the firsts Black Redstarts and Common Chiffchaffs of the tour.

This Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) was totally unexpected, and shared cliff with Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear.

After such a wonderful stop, we faced our transfer to Ebro Delta, a pair of hours of driving with several surprises in the way. The area between Lleida Steppes and Ebro Delta is a complex, hilly area crossed by Ebro river. It is good nautral border and a natural corridor that many birds use between the Mediterranean coast and the Pyrenees. The afternoon was sunny and calm and soon we realised that it was a good number of birds of prey migrating. After a pair of stops we had 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle, 1 Black Kite, 1 Northern Goshawk, several Common Buzzards and a few Eurasian Sparrowhawks moving North.

Once in Ebro Delta, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Northern Bay, where we enjoyed good views on a long list of species. Slender-billed & Audouin’s Gull were the most celebrated but the list also included Whiskered, Caspian & Sandwich Terns, Black-necked Greve, Red-crested Pochard, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Knot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Little Stint, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, big flocks of Greater Flamingoes and Mediterranean Gulls plus ruff views on a female Bluethroat that showed shortly due to the strong wind! After such a great end of the day, we drove to our accommodation for a good rest and plentiful dinner. 

Day 5. After enjoying our breakfast we went out to take a fast look to a small pond just by our hotel. There, we had a good surprise as a male Little Bittern moved in the reeds providing good looks. Cetti’s Warbler and Little Egret were also seen there!

But our first serious stop of the day was by the largest fresh water lagoon in the delta, called l’Encanyissada. A pair of stops were enough to catch with some of the most sought-after species. While flocks of Greater Flamingoes were passing over, we enjoyed wonderful views on Western Swamphens. In the lagoon there were flocks of Blacknecke Grebes but out attention was focused in the reedbeds. Cetti’s Warbler was showing well in some small plants by the reeds and 2 Water Pipits were seen in a nearby channel along with Green Sandpiper. But all alarms went on when a “tak-tak” came from the reeds. There was a Moustached Warbler just along the edge of the reedbed, calling and moving really low in the brown steems. It didn’t take long until all tour participants were enjoying good views on this shy species!

But the bird spectacled kept going. A flock of 5 Wood Sandpipers flew over right at the same time that 1 Whitespotted Bluethroat male called from the reedbed. A bit of scan was required before all tour participants enjoyed excellent views on this bird. The male was actually quite showy and it was calling a pair of times as it was moving along the shore of the channel. A further scan along different channels revealed at least 5 Bluethroats, 2 of them being males in full summer plomage.

Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) in typical winter habitat.

After such a successful stop we decided to move on to explore some salt marshes. The area is an important nesting place for several species, including Audouin’s Gull, and we could see that many of them were already back in the area. At least 80 Audouins’s were there along with Caspian Terns, Grey Plovers, Kentish & Common Ringed Plovers, 100s of Dunlins and at least 7 Little Stints in the middle.

Audouin’s Gulls (Ichthyaetus audouinii) already busy in their colony.

From there we end the morning by exploring a sand bar facing South. This is a good place where to enjoy waders, Terns and Gulls. Several Great Crested Grebes were on the sea, as the sand bar protects a large inner bay. Along with them, 4 Blackthroated Divers were fishing and offering great views, but the best was to discover 1 Great Skua resting on the sea, far away but still offering a god view. Closer, flocks of Dunlins & Kentish Plovers were really appreciated by the group, along with the Slenderbilled Gulls side by side to Mediterranean Gull. A good way to walk the path of telling them apart. Northern Gannet and Ruddy Turnstone were also enjoyed in this stop.

Western Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) has become a common view in Ebro Delta.

To enjoy our picnic we went inside a wooded hide. From the hide, it didn’t look like a lot of birds, but we were having a good fun with the nice views on Western Swamphens and Cetti’s Warbler while a Booted Eagle was circling. Suddenly, a Great Spotted Cuckoo crossed the lagoon to stop right beside the hide! Wonderful!! This species of cuckoo arrives really early in the season and by the end of February you can expect some of them moving around, but due to the few time we had in the steppes, I was not expecting to see them at all!

Slim numbers of Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) overwinter in Ebro Delta.

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) is a scarce migratory bird in Ebro Delta itself.

During the afternoon we drove up along a lane to explore a mountainous areas some 30 miles away from Ebro Delta. It is extremelly windy and we had to drive up and down the lane a pair of times before we succeed, but finally we got what we were looking for and 2 Alpine Accentors were seen in the lane, right in front of the car!!! The birds were just feeding by the lane despite the extremelly strong wind but unfortunately they flew off down the slope before we could take any image of them…

Spanish Ibex (Capra hispanica) in a typical view.

Really happy about this spot, we moved to our final stop. A lovely Mediterranean gorge hosts some really good specialities. Weather conditions were hard so bird activity was really low. Still, we got good views in a female Spanish Ibex and we were about to leave when a call came from high up the cliff and a wonderful male Bonelli’s Eagle came down to inmediatly display over the valley. It called again just when dramatically dived in the sky to come back to the cliffs in a fast movement!!! What a incredible sight to end the day!!!

Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) displaying in late afternoon.

But this was not all. After dinner we just went out to the hotel grounds, were the tour participants enjoyed wonderful vews on 1 Eurasian Scops Owl that is actually nesting in a nest box right there!!!

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops) already at nest at the end of February!

Day 6. Our last day of the tour we spent the morning in the delta. In our first stop we were scouting a large marshy area: big flocks of Blackwinged Stilts and Pied Avocets were resting there along with Northern Shovelers, Pintails, Blacktailed Godwits, Common Kingfishers, Shelducks and other goodies. Beyond this spot, the paddy fields around provided good birding and an accurate scan we enjoyed good views on 30 or more Ruffs but also Dunlins, European Golden Plovers, huge flocks of Glossy Ibises, obliging Lesser Shorttoed Larks and 1 Peregrine Falcon (probably a calidus race).

Young Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus roseus) love to feed in the paddy fields.

It was time to head back to the airport but we still had time for a pair of fast stops around Barcelona. Our picnic stop by the airport reported Water Pipit. The afternoon was rainy and cold but we still tried to get the impressive Red-billed Leiothrix, an alien species living in some well forested areas in Greater Barcelona. By the time we did arrive, the temperature was low but we still managed good views on Firecrest as well as Monk Parakeet, Coal, Longtailed and European Crested Tits.

Ans this was the end of this wonderful tour to the Pyrenees, despite the really high temperatures!! Already ready for our next adventure, happening very soon.

Do you want to join us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oman Birding Tour 2020 Trip Report

Dates: February 5th to February 14th, 2020

Number of participants: 5

Number of species: 195

All images in the trip report by tour participants Bauke Kortleve & Philippe Marchessou and tour leader Carles Oliver.

Flocks of Tristam’s Starlings (Onychognatus tristramii) can be seen in rocky scarpments in the Dhofar, but also inside mountain villages.

Day 1. Coming all tour participants from a variety of countries, we all flew into Oman along February 4th. We met for dinner, and those arriving later in the evening, for breakfast early in the morning, in February 5th. 

After enjoying our delicious breakfast we left the accommotadion and started the tour. Temperature was 18ºC in a lovely sunny day. After negotiating the traffic in Muscat we did arrive to Al-Ansab Lagoons, a small natural reserve inside Muscat providing really good birding.

Despite some diversion at the main gate, we did arrive to the typical places. Inmediatly after getting out of the van we got the firsts Purple Sunbirds of the tour. A lovely male singing in bright glossy black coloration and a female feeding in the rich vegetation of a rocky slope. White-spectacled Bulbuls were also seen around.

Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida), one of the first birds to appear in the tour.

One of the view points over the lagoons was offering a wonderful spectacle. A flock of 9 Greater Flamingoes was an evident spot in the lagoon while waders were coming in and out. We soon noticed some Marsh Sandpipers feeding along with Ruffs, Little Stints and at least 1 Temminck’s Stint. In the wàter surface there were several Mallards, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Pintails as well as Little Grebes and Eurasian Coots. The few bushes around the view point were also having some nice birding activity, and we got our first Clamorous Reed Warbler, and 3 lovely Indian Silverbills and some Delicate Prinias feeding on the grassy vegetation.

A short walk around produced several Common Chiffchaffs (probably all of them abietinus race) and 2 Grey Wagtails in a nearby stream. A second pool was flattered with ducks, including several Common Pochards, 1 Tufted Duck and 3 Garganeys. In the shores of the lagoons, some Great Cormorants were roosting along with Great White Egrets and Grey Herons. And with them, 1 first winter Purple Heron was trying to don’t be discovered.

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) are a common view in Northern Oman.

Al-Ansab has three different hides, and from the last one we enjoyed the first Citrine Wagtail of the tour, a bird highly celebrated in the group. Several Common Moorhens were feeding in front of the hide, but everything moved fast when Keith spotted a Grey Francolin beside the reedbed! The bird provided with really short views before it went behind a tamarisk. Decided to improve our views, we just walked to the opposite side of the hide and got good views on 3 birds moving around. While looking for the bird we got our first Lesser Whitethroats of the trip! Some Green Bee-eaters were flying around, showing superbly, and the photographers in the group hap time to enjoy with them while some Pale Crag Martins were flying around. Beyond, in a hilly area, we found 1 Persian Wheatear at the same moment that 3 Pallid Swifts screamed in the sky because of the fast flight of a Western Marsh Harrier. That was definately a good start for our tour. 

We later came back to this same spot for our picnic lunch, with a similar list of species and the only (and really interesting) adding of 1 Eastern Orphean Warbler that move from a low bush in front of us and produced short but decent views before flying back up to the canopies, and blind out.

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) in almost full summer plomage.

After such a good start we moved to the coast, a short transfer of 15 minutes, to explore a number of mudflats. In two locations we got a good list of waders including a flock of 15+ Temminck’s Stints, Lesser Sand Plover, several Ruffs, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, and Dunlins.

We then move to the Al-Qurum Natural Reserve, inmediatly East of Muscat, where we did two stops, seaside and inland.

In the seaside we had the change for first views on Caspian Gulls along with Greater Crested, Lesser Crested & Sandwich Terns. Heughlin Gull were common, as they were the Steppe Gulls. In the beach we also got Eurasian Whimbrel and a nice flock of mixed Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers roosting on the river mouth. Everything under the close view of Common Mynas.

Small numbers of Crested Honey Buzzards (Pernis ptilorhynchus) overwinter in Oman.

Our second stop was to explore a pair of corners inland., just following along a small stream. We parked the car and inmediatly had two raptors in the sky, being moved by House Crows. There were 2 juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle, one of them quite pale, that were having some difficulties against the crows. Happy with such a nice encounteer we entered the path to stop again as 1 Isabelline Shrike catched our attention. The bird was standing high up in a bush, with a lovely afternoon light. Few minutes after the group was delighted to see 1 Crested Honey Buzzard circling quite low above the area, joined in the blue sky by the first Western Osprey of the tour. The path brought us to a nice corner of marsh while Rose-winged Parakeets were calling in the sky. A short walk around revealed a lovely and rather surprising Desert Whitethroat, a bird considered still a race of Lesser Whitethroat (treated sometimes as a form of Asian Lesser Whitethroat) for many, but considered as a full species for others. The bird was showingly small and extremely pale, depending on the angle being almost as sandy as a Asian Desert Warbler, with a slight contrast between the mantle and flight feathers. It gave us a great view of some minutes long, being able to have proper looks to the rather dark lores, well contrasted with the sandy mantle. Once everyone in the group had good looks on the bird, we all kept moving along a rich vegetated corridor, where 1 Song Thrush flew out of our way. Just few metres beyond, 2 Clamorous Reed Warbler were showing superbly in the dense vegetation, joined by a Great Reed Warbler some meters away!

Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) showed really well in Al Anqsar.

Once in the marsh we enjoy some nice waders and kept scanning the few Common Snipes, hoping for a Pin-tailed Snipe to appear. Never did it. Al-Qurum Natural Reserve is having several interesting corners. A short-walk around brought us to a place with some big trees and several open spaces, here we had 3 Indian Rollers flying around and showing really well in the afternoon light.

Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalensis) are common in a variety of landscapes in Northern Oman.

The well known central lagoon was the only place during the trip where we saw Indian Pond Herons, a minimum of 3 of them were seen along with some Squacco Herons. A correct identification of these species is always challenging, and the best way to tell them apart is from the bill and lore coloration. Indian Pond Heron is always having a black final area in the lower mandibule, a well defined and contrasted patch (above 30% of the bill length) while Squacoo Heron shows a more difuse blackish area in the lower mandibule. Besides, Indian Pond Herons usually shows blackish lores, helping a lot in a correct identification of the bird.

The central pond not only produced all Indian Pond Herons of the trip, but also 2 Red-crested Pochards females (scarce bird in Oman), 1 female Tufted Duck, Gull-billed Tern, and the firsts Striated Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron of the tour. 

Back to the car, we just drove to a different corner of the park while enjoying the sunset. Was not still dark when we got inside a lovely, quiet corner, having some big trees. After some minutes of scanning we found our goal for that evening, a wonderful Pallid Scops Owl singing and showing superbly. We had the bird for about 25 minutes, barely 15 metres away from us. The view was so great that even some local people came to enjoy the views in the scope!!!

Pallid Scops Owl (Otus brucei) produced long views in our first evening in Oman.

Glad after such a good start for our tour, we came to our accommodation for a great dinner based in Arab, Indian and International cuisine.

Day 2. After a good rest we drove West to a small river mouth with rich mangroves, a good place to look for some specialities. Our main hope was to contact with the local race of Collared Kingfisher, a splitable population with slim populations along the Eastern coast of Arabia. We arrived quite early to the place, enjoying good views on Indian Rollers along the last part of the road, but despite our efforts we could not contact with any Collared Kingfisher. Instead we had 2 Common Kingfishers moving in the mangroves, Western Marsh Harrier, Western Osprey, Lesser Sand Plovers, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, Lesser Whitethroats (blithy), and the best views on Greater Hoopoe Lark along the tour as one bird was singing and displaying just beyond the mangroves.

Numbers of Steppe Eagles (Aquila nipalensis) were less spectacular than in previous years, but we still enjoyed tens of them during the tour!

We then had a stop and some rest before driving up Al Hajar Mountains, where we were going to spend the rest of the day, staying there a bit beyond sunset. After a 60 minutes transfer we did a first stop in the mountains, in a savannah-like ambient. There we enjoyed good views on 1 female Hooded Wheatear just next to 1 Isabelline Shrike. Once around the gorge, we explore a bit the area, and we all got good views on 3 Desert Larks feeding on the wadi, but also Eastern Black Redstart, Hume’s Wheatear, Pale Crag Martin, 1 juvenile Blue Rock Thrush and 3 singing Striolated Buntings that never produced a proper view. But probably the most interesting bird at that point was 1 Variable Wheatear moving in the rocky slopes, a bird that is one of the long list of scarce winter visitors to Oman.

White-spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos), the commonest Bulbul in Oman.

After this exploring we move to our last destination that day, one of the impressive gorges West of Samail. Here we had some time explore the bush in the wadi, producing really good looks on 1 Hume’s Whitethroat, Striolated Buntings and at least 4 Plain Leaf Warblers moving in the small trees in the wadi. The afternoonn was advanced and we spent some time scanning the cliffs in search of the most enygmathical bird in Oman, the poorly known, Omani Owl.

Plain Leaf Warbler (Phyllosocpus nitidus), one of the smallest on its genus, overwinters in small numbers in montane oases in Northern Oman.

In the time we were scanning, we were lucky to find out a nest of Egyptian Vultures high up in the cliffs, and enjoyed good views on the scope. A further scanning in the skyes around produced 4 more Egyptians, joined in the sky by the massive shape of a Lappet-faced Vulture. The birds were soaring and the Lappet-faced started to fly lower and lower above one slope, until it landed. Despite it was far away, everyone in the tour had excellent views on the scope of this scarce giant of the Omani skyes!