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Found 48 results

  1. On the 3rd year of participating at Big Year, we will explore bird life on 3 different continents. We hope that birds will be cooperative, and that we all will enjoy in future days, weeks and months. We have started on day 1 of New Year 2018, in southern part of South Africa; Hermanus, De Hoop, Wilderness, Karoo NP, Montague, Franschhoek and Cape Town were our main stops. I will post birds in the alphabetical order of their English names. BY001 / SA001 Acacia Pied Barbet - Tricholaema leucomelas Karoo NP / 05.01.2018 juvenile Karoo NP / 06.01.2018
  2. I noticed from @Peter Connan's thread that this is the 5th year we've been doing this 'Big Year' thing. It took a couple of years to get going but now it certainly seems to have grabbed some interest. Brilliant. In the past I've been a really slow starter and relied on a late surge to even get into triple figures, so this year I thought I would try and start a bit better. so here are a couple from my garden, photographed in the wind and rain - 'cos we've had a fair bit of that. #1 Long Tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) Suffolk. Jan 2018
  3. I have just seen the first great spotted woodpecker of the year in my garden and I got to thinking what kind of a year 2018 will be. I see that many Safaritalkers have not only started their big years, but are racing away already. I think that 2018 will be less big for me, after 4 years of year on year growth, particularly the 105 extra I got last year. This is because both of my safaris this year will be self-guided in South Africa (Kruger and Kgalagadi), so we are more restricted in the range available. We will also not visit our friends' country place, which has been good for birds not seen in the Kruger in the past. However, we are visiting Cape Town for the first time in years, so it will open up a few more of their birds. There is also a week in California, so you never know.... The big year will start in earnest next weekend with @Peter Connan in Marievale, so at least we should have some quality shots to begin.....
  4. With the increasing popularity of this topic and the "beginners luck" that all of the new 2016 participants have had, I thought I should be the first to start this year, in the hope that it increases my total. Here are a couple before we leave for the Kruger next week, where hopefully we should get at least 100 (???!!??) Following on from the suggestion from @@JohnR in http://safaritalk.net/topic/16171-tdgraves-big-year-2016/page-21 I took out the "optimum" combination of Canon 7D mark ii, 100-400 mark ii and 1.4x extender mark iii a couple of days ago when the sun was out. There weren't that many birds around, but he was right, this combination is much better than even then new lens on the 5D mark iii So here are my first couple of birds of 2017
  5. FREE: Merlin Bird ID App This has been developed by Cornell University in conjunction with other birding organisations http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/download/ Links on this page for Android or IOS Apps I have been trying this free APP for the past couple of weeks. It has three sections (all free). Within “Settings” you can choose Language(for species names, not descriptive text), and if you want to see the Scientific Names. 1. Bird ID This section gives you a series of questions to answer about a bird (including location and time of year) and it comes up with a list of possibilities. I think this section is very much aimed at beginners. 2. Bird Packs Each Bird Pack contains information about birds found in a particular region. For each bird there is some text and a series of photos (e.g. Male, Female, Juvenile, Breeding plumage etc). The also include recordings of the Song/Call of each species. You can download the particular packs that are useful to you. (all free) Current Bird Packs are: Europe (Britain and Ireland) (251 birds) Europe (Scandinavia) – Northern Europe (325 birds) (clearly there is an overlap with different bits of Europe) Europe (Western) (It says France to Germany but I think it goes further south) (383 birds) (These are the 3 I have downloaded so far) United States and Canada (all) United States –regions Canada East, Canada West Mexico (regions or whole country) Guatemala Belize Costa Rica Note: No Africa or Asia at the moment. (I just downloaded the Costa Rica pack (750 birds) to have a look –I tried a few ) I think this section provides a useful supplement to a field guide – I find it helpful to have photos to compare to the drawings in the book, and having the song available is useful. The weakness for the Europe section is that it does not (yet) contain distribution maps (I think that the North American sections do contain maps, and these sections were developed first – so perhaps in future?) 3. Photo ID To a simple minded person like me, this section is MAGIC. You take a picture of a bird with your phone/tablet (in real life, from your computer screen, from the back of your camera, a magazine). (or you can use a photo you already have). You enter the location and date. It then identifies the bird (or sometimes gives 2 or 3 that it could be). It has been very accurate in all the instances I have tried, and when it has come up with 2 or 3 alternatives, they have seemed sensible. It links to the bird packs you have downloaded, so I have only tried European birds. (Note: I had a look at the Costa Rica pack – it has 750 birds on the list. I tried the photo ID on a Safaritalk Trip Report and it agreed with the first 6 birds in the report! Worth a look if you are visiting Costa Rica soon @michael-ibk @xelas) I found this section very useful and good fun! So - it doesn't cost anything - give it a try and see what you think.
  6. Blue-headed Tree Agama This prologue is for a trip report covering a recent Kenya safari I took with my friend Roger, who is a fellow birder-naturalist. Conditions were DRY throughout our travels, which ran from January 14 - 29. Throughout much of Kenya, we learned that the short rains came late or little this year, or almost failed completely - depending on the area in question. After reading @@michael-ibk's recent Kenya trip report, I suspect places like Kakamega Forest (that seemed OK when he visited) had dried out by the time we came through a few weeks later. Our guide Ben Mugambi said it was the driest he had ever seen Kakamega Forest - and also Aranbuko-Sokoke Forest on the coast. The forest trails and forest floor in Kakamega and Arabuko-Sokoke were carpeted with crispy dry leaves - which made moving quietly or stealthily pretty difficult. Dry Kakamega undergrowth - January 18 In the Mara, Musiara Swamp was almost completely dry, with dust devils blowing round. Orange-leafed Croton bushes were either shriveled or bare all around Mara North. Dry and dusty Musiara Marsh with Governor's Camp and the Mara River in the background -- But we still did very well - and the theme of the trip was "quality over quantity". Another theme was "improbable chance meetings". We got almost all our major bird and critter targets and the Mara delivered fabulously again. Some highlights of the safari included: - Three big cat species in 19 minutes in Mara North Conservancy, followed by a sighting of the "Offbeat male Leopard" from the porch of our tent #4 after lunch. Viewing two male Leopards within a couple of hours of each other was a real treat! Leopard stalking Leopard resting Cheetah - 18 Suni in Nairobi National Park! Photos and video obtained. - Black Rhinos parading and sleeping in the open in Nairobi National Park. And the first Verreaux's Eagle sighting in Nairobi NP in over 10 years. And a pair of Crowned Eagles over the forest just west of Nairobi Tented Camp. Black Rhinos - Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. (wait for that day's report for a photo) - Frank and Jesse the Offbeat pride males, are still large and in charge in Mara North. Had good quality time with the Offbeat Pride of Lions with cubs of varying ages. Jesse - A very enjoyable birding over lunch experience at Little Governor's Camp and finally meeting a "nemesis bird" - Schalow's Turaco. Crossing_Mara_River - Great shorebirding and coastal birds at Mida Creek and the Sabaki River Mouth. - A neat boat excursion on Lake Victoria to break up the drive from Kakamega Forest to the Mara. - Stumbling on a great birding spot at a crest in the Tugen Hills and photographing a Narina Trogon. Narina Trogon - Great birding at Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. Heuglin's Courser Pygmy Kingfisher - Ongoing evolution and improvements at Offbeat Mara camp. They are so flexible and accommodating to guest desires. For example: one day we did a bush breakfast and all-morning game drive, then afternoon game drive, transitioning into a fine bush dinner with some other guests and then straight into a night drive ending up back at camp after a couple of hours. Birding behind Offbeat Mara - down behind the dining tent, beside the Olare Orok River. - Shy and difficult-to-observe birds in Kakamega Forest Spotted Flufftail Dusky-crested Flycatcher -- Before the trip, I had warned Roger that "something will go wrong" and that we would just go with the flow and with Ben and his network's help, things would work out. Sure enough we had a few blips during our time on the coast, but things worked out just fine. Our first issue was before leaving the USA - our Emirates flight was very late departing JFK and we missed our connecting flight from Dubai to Nairobi. But we were met exiting the plane in Dubai with tickets for the next morning's flight to Nairobi, a hotel voucher, and an explanation that we did not need to collect luggage - it would be put on tomorrow's plane for us. So we got a free night in Dubai and had some good birding in the hotel garden that afternoon. The downside was that we would miss our day trip to Nairobi National Park on January 14 but I had a plan to address that. Our itinerary ended up being: January 14 - Arrive at JKIA one day late. Hit the Nakumatt, do some birding along Red Cross Road. Overnight Boma hotel. January 15 - Drive to Lake Baringo for lunch and afternoon birding, Overnight Tumbili Cliff Lodge. January 16 - Lake Baringo + Lake Bogoria. Overnight Tumbili Cliff Lodge. January 17 - Drive to Kakamega Forest by way of Tugen Hills and Kerio Valley. Overnight Rondo Retreat. January 18 - Kakamega Forest, overnight Rondo Retreat. January 19 - Kakamega Forest, overnight Rondo Retreat. January 20 - Drive to Mara North, via Kisumu. overnight Offbeat Mara. January 21 - Mara North Conservancy, overnight Offbeat Mara January 22 - Mara North Conservancy, overnight Offbeat Mara January 23 - All day in the Main Reserve, lunch at Little Governor's, overnight Offbeat Mara. January 24 - Morning game drive in Mara North, after lunch bush flight to Malindi, overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 25 - Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 26 - Sabaki River Mouth and Mida Creek. overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 27 - Morning birding at Mida Creek, fly to JKIA in Nairobi. Overnight Boma hotel. January 28 - All day outing in Nairobi National Park. Overnight Boma hotel. January 29 - Morning birding along Magadi Road south of Nairobi. Fly home in the late afternoon. -- I talked to Ben and Roger and we agreed to cut a day off our time at the coast, in order to return to Nairobi a day early and get a full day in Nairobi National Park. For this safari, I had obtained a new camera backpack - Think Tank Photo's Airport Commuter. I love this camera bag! It held my camera, lens, a Swarovski spotting scope, Swarovski binoculars, laptop, iPad, memory cards, batteries, a La Cie portable hard drive, cables, camera cleaning kit, and 1 day's clothing. I checked two bags, including a large duffel bag (Patagonia Black Hole Bag). This was to take my tripod, beanbag, and other bulky gear. When we arrived at JKIA, there was a long line of dozens, maybe hundreds, or people in the e-Visa line. Roger and I walked up to an empty desk for Visa-on-arrival passengers. I see no reason at all to put forth the effort and time (and online credit card activity) for an e-Visa. We spent part of our first afternoon in Nairobi birding Red Cross Road - the road where the Boma hotel and Boma Inn are located. We tracked down the ATM near the gate of the Boma Inn and of course we had our binoculars with us and started birding from the gate and out onto the sidewalk. There is a nice hedge and some trees across the street from the Boma complex - we had close to 30 bird species just standing by the gate. Both young security guards - a gentleman and a lady - were interested in the birds we were seeing. We loaned them our binoculars in turn - they could not both be distracted at once you know. They both relished seeing the birds closer and clearer and the young man in particular looked and looked at birds. He had fun tracking swifts and swallows especially. Boma birding We were guided throughout the trip by the incomparable Ben Mugambi, of Ben's Ecological Safaris. I booked all the accomodations and bush flights through Ben's as well. Ben and his office staff handled everything deftly - including a few unforeseen hurdles. Ben knew people everywhere we went, which came in handy a couple of times. The vehicles: Offbeat Mara won "Best Safari Vehicle" again - closely followed by Ben's Ecological Safaris. Offbeat continues to improve and evolve, and their vehicles are no exception. They seem to have taken @@pault's advice and added flat trays to the armrests of their game drive vehicles. These trays are great platforms for photo beanbags. Offbeat photo tray While at Campi ya Offbeat, we had the same trusty Landcruiser as last time - with the photo tray improvements. This vehicle has pop-top roof hatches over both rows of rear passenger seats, and another pop-top hatch over the driver and spotter's seats. These hatches let you see and photograph birds and other things directly overhead. Or stand on the seat and observe + photograph from above roof level. Or sit on the roof in certain situations. Or close the hatch if you need a break from the sun. Offbeat vehicle We used two of Ben's vehicles during the safari - his large Landcruiser for most of the non-Mara safari, then his pride and joy - a 1980 Toyota Landcruiser VX - in Nairobi National Park and Magadi Road the last two days of the safari. Ben's primary safari vehicle, with Ben and driver Simon parked in front of a Baobab Tree near Mida Creek. Ben's Safari Vehicle Ben's Landcruiser VX Ben's VX Landcruiser is the quietest safari vehicle (and quietest diesel SUV) I have ever seen! It is a 12-cylinder turbo-diesel and Ben has the idle speed turned down low. So it purrs along very quietly through field and forest. Ben has some real war stories about using it to deliver late-arriving clients to the Mara late at night in stormy weather and passing abandoned Landrovers and other Landcruisers stuck deep in the muck. The companions: We were fortunate to have Ben Mugambi with us the entire time. We also had great local guides helping in different areas. Super-sharp Francis Cherutich guided us on his home ground of Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. We were fortunate to have Josphat and Kapeen at Offbeat Mara. At Arabuko-Sokoke forest we had William (Willie), and on Lake Victoria and adjacent land birding we had Solomon. I hope this teaser post stokes some interest. Maybe a few videos will help:
  7. HUNGRY CROC Monday again so here is another Safari-memory, this happened in Botswana October 2010. Early morning Chobe River Photo Safari with private guests in small boat focusing mainly on Birding. After 15min up close to a couple of Saddle-Billed Storks so good start, then just behind them we spotted about 10 Wild Dogs finishing off a Kudu on the beach. Great sighting and no other boats or vehicles around, my guests very pleased. Then this big Croc surfaced next to our boat, crawled up on the beach and headed in direction of the kill. The Wild Dogs not happy and tried to scare off the intruder. The Croc very focused succeeded its mission then crawled back toward us with part of the kill. The Croc seemed very content. I got some good pictures and the whole sequence on Video as well and so far its Nr.4 of my Top10 Croc-sightings. That was a nice morning for Birding Have a nice week! /SAFARILEGEND
  8. Apologies for being very late in updating the trip report. My friend (Raghu) and I visited Tal Chapar and Bikaner during late Nov 2016. Was planning to write the trip report for a long time, but just did not get around to do that. Finally I have written the first part of the trip report, that covers Tal Chapar visit. You can find it at: http://wildwildindia.com/trip-report-tal-chapar-bikaner-2016-part-1/ Tal Chapar [2016] Trip Report
  9. 3rd Oct 2010 Cape Town to Gansbaai Trip Participants: Jo Dale and Helen Dale Today didn't quite go according to plan. We arrived into Cape Town in glorious sunshine, just about on time despite an hour's delay leaving London Heathrow. Whilst admiring the view of Table Mountain without its "table cloth" we picked up our hire car, an Opal Corsa and quickly realised that any plans to stop off en route to Gansbaai would be hindered by the fact that a lot of our luggage was on display. Consequently we put plans to stop at Rooi Els (to look for rockjumpers) on hold. We stopped briefly at a quaint little art cafe in Betty's Bay for a coffee on our drive along the scenic coastal route of the R44 and R43. We arrived and checked into our comfortable self catering accommodation at Gansbaai, which Helen had arranged over the internet. An interesting observation, coming from the UK, is that we were a bit stumped by the lack of facilities. We stayed at Air del Mar, in a twin bed self catering studio room on the ground floor with a sea view. The rate quoted on the website was R490 per unit. The studio was equipped with a fridge/freezer, microwave oven and utensils sufficient to prepare a light meal. I think we wrongly assumed that self catering here would be the same as in the UK, where we'd expect to get a hob and an oven, but to be fair we probably just didn't pay enough attention to what the facilities would be like. The owner was very friendly and even supplied us with some fresh milk for tea. There's supposedly a communal braai but we did not make use of this owing to the weather. We had hoped to arrive in time to arrange a whale-watching excursion, but this plan was scuppered by a rather inclement storm front that quickly closed in, whipping up the sea in the process. This, coupled with the scenery, made us wonder if we'd got on the wrong plane and found ourselves in Scotland! Cape Agulhas Not wishing to waste the day, we quickly decided that the best course of action would be to head down to Cape Agulhas, since that excursion wasn't weather-dependent. This was not ideal as we'd done the coast road down to Gansbaai and so it was a long drive for Helen on the first day. The most direct route turned out to be along a series of easily navigable gravel roads. This actually seemed to be a nice area to do some birding, but given it was now late in the day and we had a lot of ground to cover, we didn't stop very often. We did, however, make time to watch a slender mongoose attack a rather dead and smelly Puff Adder, dropping his prize as he crossed the road in front of us. We also observed a Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and Cape Long-claw. Several raptors were also seen, including Yellow-billed Kite, Steppe Buzzard, African Marsh Harrier as well as Ostrich. We arrived at Cape Agulhas and walked to the southern-most tip of Africa, admiring the view out onto a fairly rough sea. It was quite chilly with the wind and drizzle so we didn't linger long. We took a different route back along the tar road, which was much longer, but also quicker. We stopped off in Sandford for a delicious meal of BBQ ribs and chips before heading back to Gansbaai. It was with a sense of foreboding that we retired to bed. Looking at the weather we didn't expect that our dive with the sharks would be going ahead, despite assurances from Marine Dynamics that they were expecting us bright and early the next morning. Bird list: Cape Wagtail White-necked Raven Pied Crow Cape Crow African Pied Starling Blue Crane Denham's Bustard Ostrich Helmented Guineafowl White-breasted Cormorant Brimstone Canary African Marsh Harrier Egyptian Goose Steppe Buzzard Cape Long-claw Mammals: Chacma Baboon Slender mongoose S AFRICA JO 005 dev Blue Crane by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 015 Brimsone (Bully) Canary by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 021 African Pied Starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 024 Cape Wagtail by kittykat23uk, on Flickr shark dive 028 To the Southernmost tip of Africa by kittykat23uk, on Flickr shark dive 012 Cape Aghulus by kittykat23uk, on Flickr
  10. Instead of linking to my blog I thought I might paste a version here as it can be read in chronological order more easily. Here goes. When you have just returned from some decent weather in Spain having left your wife to suffer the rain and cold of a British Spring you feel somewhat guilty and have a need to make amends a.s.a.p. OK dear, let's see where we can go on a last minute package deal. To my surprise the cost of last minute deals seemed quite high across most of Europe and we seriously considered Cuba as an all inclusive there came in at around £800pp, then I spotted Bulgaria and the Bella Vista Beach Club in Sinemoretz on the south eastern Black Sea Coast. Now I have been to Bulgaria twice before ( with Mike whom I'd just been to Spain with!) and I have to stay it's a stunningly beautiful country for the most part with one exception. Sunny Beach and surrounds. I'd passed through previously and Mike and I had declared we wouldn't be taking a holiday with our wives there, that's for sure. My idea of holiday hell. The Bella Vista Beach Club was coming in at £420pp all inclusive for 11 nights. Half the price of Cuba and a lot less time to get there too. A quick check on Google Maps and the area looked good. Two hours south of Sunny Beach, surrounded by a national park. We read a couple of Trip Advisor reviews and took a punt and booked it to leave 17 days later. Then we read a few more TA reviews and to be honest, all the negatives that were being reported were seen as positives. It was allegedly boring, nothing to do, no shops, you had to pay extra for cocktails( at that price and they were still complaining?) it was at least a 90 minute drive from the airport even worse it was beyond hope of getting to Sunny Beach for a night out ( they obviously hadn't read the reviews or even thought to look at a map) and the food was cold, repetitive and with little choice. The latter concerned me slightly but we'd eat out if the worst came to the worst. Off we went then. An evening flight got us to Burgas for around 12.00am, there was a man waiting at arrivals to whisk us off to the hotel as we were the only ones heading that way. Thankfully, the mass of rather over excited youths we had suffered on the plane were heading to Sunny Beach. Arrival at the hotel was straight forward, a quick check in as there were just two of us and off we headed to our room. The hotel wasn't palatial by any means but what we saw was very acceptable. We had a huge room and they had even thought to leave us a picnic pack which was a nice surprise. By now it was 2.00am which even in UK time which is 2 hours behind is past my bedtime. Next morning we woke up to glorious sunshine and a view of our surrounds. Not bad, it was nearly 10.00am. We'd slept in but breakfast was served until 11.00am and there aren't many place that do so that late. The choice of food was amazing too. You name it it was there. Most people were already on the sunbeds by now so the good news was the restaurant was quiet and there was plenty of space to eat in the outdoors area. Bliss! OK at 10.00am the animation team sprung in to action, the loudspeakers were on full blast and Justin Timberlake boomed out " You've got sunshine in your pockets". This holiday camp atmosphere seemed to go down well with most of the clientele so fair do's. I note it's had over 633 million plays on Spotify and the Bella Vista wasn't far behind. It was played four or five times a day and signalled the start of another major event. " Can't stop the feeling" You end up can't stop humming the tune either. Well sunbeds and joining in the programme of activities wasn't on my agenda and fortunately there was a totally unoccupied roof terrace for wife Claire to have less intrusion from the general noise down below. Me? It was supposed to be a holiday for Claire but I was hopeful I'd be kept occupied with my camera too. I'd soon find out! T.B.C. I have taken a few European holidays in June/July time and for the most part the birding has been very poor so I wasn't too hopeful of what I'd find in Bulgaria either but I had decided to pack my 500mm lens just in case. Our baggage allowance was pretty miserable so no room for a tripod but I could hand hold the 500. Claire had suggested I take the 100-400 but I was adamant, the 500 it was! A decision I might come to regret later perhaps but one I thought worth risking. To save weight I left my heavy 1D camera at home and took the much lighter 7D2 and a back up 5D3 which also meant I could use the same batteries and charger too. No space for my laptop but I had plenty of camera cards for storage space. All set then! I bade goodbye to Claire up on the roof top terrace ( where I took this shot) and headed along to dirt road behind the beach which soon led to some open semi ploughed fields. Red-backed Shrike,Starling and Corn Bunting were all seen but the photo opportunities were not good. A pair of Turtle Doves were the best spot but that was about it. I returned to the hotel only to wait for the heat to lessen before returning for another look. My Shrike shots were not worth sharing but I was delighted when the usually elusive Nightingale came out in to the open for a brief moment or two. I have only ever seen two or three in the past so I was happy with that one, I also heard and spotted distant Golden Oriole. Things were looking interesting. If I just managed one decent subject a day I'd be happy, anything else was a bonus. Photo's weren't exactly coming thick and fast though so to make life more interesting I decided to diversify! Dragonflies in flight are as frustrating as swallows and the like but it's fun trying, well for a while anyway. If you continue too long you might be tempted to chuck your gear in the stream they were flying over. Butterflies in flight are probably even worse as they are so unpredictable, far easier to catch them sitting on a plant! I still haven't figured what that one is yet, there's a whole world of new species to discover. Once you diversify though there's no bounds to what Mother Nature has to offer, some make splendid subjects too. No, I decided I was going to be happy here for the next 10 days, well 9 full ones actually. TBC Our second day in Sinemorets was another late start. Catching up 2 hours takes a little doing when you are not forced to get out of bed so it was 9.30am before we hit breakfast. The previous evenings meal, a huge buffet selection had been a lot better than expected, I even had seconds of the Lasagne, and we had spent the evening in the downstairs bar where the G&T's were stronger than I realised! Still, once again I was ready with my camera and after Justin Timberlake had welcomed in the new day I headed off across the beach shown in the last post. I felt a little uncomfortable carrying a rather large telephoto lens amongst scantily clad sunbathers and naked children paddling in the sea and river but no one challenged me and I was thankful to reach the far corner where you can make a short scramble up on to the headland beyond. A fairly large grassland area on the cliff top overlooks the Black Sea which is currently extremely blue due to an algae which has made international news . Just like Spain, I was really impressed by this wild flower and grassland area which is protected as part of the nature park. There were butterflies everywhere. I , being more interested in birds really, targeted a Corn Bunting which had just caught a Grasshopper. Moving on across the grassland I found myself overlooking a small and well sheltered but rather rocky beach. I was only 10-15 minutes away from the hotel but it was so, so peaceful. Beyond this beach and the headland was a larger more sandy beach again which was virtually deserted. Not many people made the effort to get this far which is a shame. However this seclusion was obviously attractive to the few that favoured naked sunbathing. Once again I felt a bit ill at ease carrying a telephoto lens even if I was perched up on a cliff top far from their view. It was those few that passed me heading that way that might get the wrong impression! The answer was simple. Make sure they could see why I was there and start photographing butterflies! It was actually good fun as I found it very challenging. So much so I started realising how many different insects that were around. Our second day in Sinemorets was another late start. Catching up 2 hours takes a little doing when you are not forced to get out of bed so it was 9.30am before we hit breakfast. The previous evenings meal, a huge buffet selection had been a lot better than expected, I even had seconds of the Lasagne, and we had spent the evening in the downstairs bar where the G&T's were stronger than I realised! Still, once again I was ready with my camera and after Justin Timberlake had welcomed in the new day I headed off across the beach shown in the last post. I felt a little uncomfortable carrying a rather large telephoto lens amongst scantily clad sunbathers and naked children paddling in the sea and river but no one challenged me and I was thankful to reach the far corner where you can make a short scramble up on to the headland beyond. A fairly large grassland area on the cliff top overlooks the Black Sea which is currently extremely blue due to an algae which has made international news . Just like Spain, I was really impressed by this wild flower and grassland area which is protected as part of the nature park. There were butterflies everywhere. I , being more interested in birds really, targeted a Corn Bunting which had just caught a Grasshopper. Moving on across the grassland I found myself overlooking a small and well sheltered but rather rocky beach. I was only 10-15 minutes away from the hotel but it was so, so peaceful. Beyond this beach and the headland was a larger more sandy beach again which was virtually deserted. Not many people made the effort to get this far which is a shame. However this seclusion was obviously attractive to the few that favoured naked sunbathing. Once again I felt a bit ill at ease carrying a telephoto lens even if I was perched up on a cliff top far from their view. It was those few that passed me heading that way that might get the wrong impression! The answer was simple. Make sure they could see why I was there and start photographing butterflies! It was actually good fun as I found it very challenging. So much so I started realising how many different insects that were around. From the huge wasp like creatures to tiny little bugs Weird and wonderful shapes and colours. The biggest problem was that with my telephoto lens I had to move back 3.7m as that's the minimum focus distance. Even with a 1.4 teleconverter to magnify the image they were still probably no bigger in the frame than you could achieve using a shorter lens...... like my 100-400 where you can focus from about 1m away although if you get too close the subject is likely to fly away of course. The big problem with telephoto lenses is also the very shallow depth of field, the area were you get everything in absolute focus. You can make that area larger by altering the lens aperture ( sorry my attempts of technical detail are neither well explained or interesting to many) but in doing so it does effect shutter speeds and ISO. Even in good light the 7D2 I was using doesn't have a particularly good higher ISO performance. Anyway, it was a good cover, and I was actually enjoying this new world I was exploring. I spotted a trio of Cormorants perched on rocks at the furthest point out to sea and decided I'd take a closer look. One flew but the other two stayed for a photo before I found myself gingerly walking across the steeply sloping rocky outcrop that led to the big sandy beach........... and two naked people who were only a few metres away. Hopefully they had seen me first from their little hiding place in the mini cove and would have seen me photographing the birds, anyway I shuffled past, eyes averted and they said nothing. I decided to get off the beach a.s.a.p. just in case someone took exception! Heading inland I found it led to endless miles of woodland tracks. You can walk for ages and not see a single person. I repeated the walks at least 6 or 7 times and probably bumped in to three other groups of 2 or 3 in the whole time I was there. This is apparently one of Europes oldest original forests and it must be a wildlife heaven.It stretches for 450 square miles inland but if it's similar over the whole area it's largely oak trees growing there and they provide food and homes for countless species. The biggest problem for me was seeing what was about. There was a reasonable amount of bird song but with all the leaves views were fleeting if managed at all. Jays , love oak trees and the other woodland bird that was in evidence was the Chaffinch. I heard and saw Nuthatch,Chiffchaff but Woodpecker remained out of sight so I couldn't be sure which species it was. I wasn't too bothered about getting decent shots as I have seen them before instead I carried on photographing insects whenever I came to a tiny clearing in the forest. I have seen those big black bee-like creatures many times before but still don't know what they are called. The Burnet moth is easy to identify as we get them here in N Wales during the summer but butterflies are an altogether different problem for me as so many look so similar. I decided my shots were getting a bit better with practice too! You can see what I mean about depth of field though. If you get the right angle or a side on shot it looks better. For this Balkan Green Lizard though even F22 doesn't bring the whole body in to focus and the subsequent shutter speed of 1/320 isn't the best for hand holding a big lens. Mind you if I went any closer the Lizard would have run so there are some advantages I gained. No the biggest problem of the lot is identifying what you have seen. Where do you start looking for something like this? Anyway, for the time being it remains a mystery but if anyone want's to tell me I would appreciate the answer. Back in Bulgaria it was now mid afternoon and the sun was getting hot. Arriving back at the hotel it was too late for lunch and besides I wasn't that hungry. Instead we headed down for the pizza and burgers that are on offer from 2.30-5.30pm. Showing great restraint I limited myself to a burger without chips but decided I would try just one tiny square of pizza too. There were two types available so I relented and had both. Looking around me I noted the typical physique of my fellow diners and it did ring alarm bells. Justin Timberlake again belted out "You got sunshine in your pockets" at 4.00pm on the dot and some of the diners got up to watch the animation team and their followers performing a choreographed dance routine at the poolside . Other diners ignored them and carried on troughing. We were on holiday but guilt had already caught up with me. We had another evening of food and drink ahead of us so I suggested to Claire we went for a walk together in preparation. I took her the same headland route I had walked that morning to show her the butterflies. We reached the part overlooking the naked male sunbathers. Don't look Ethel! It was too late, she'd already got an eyeful! T.B.C. Another day ahead, same procedure as yesterday. Breakfast Conditioning with Justin at 10.00am https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ru0K8uYEZWw (If you haven't heard it give it a go!) Then, leaving Claire on her sun bed I head off in the opposite direction heading up Main Street Sinemoretz. It's exactly as expected, a few restaurants, bars and shops but delightfully quiet and uncommercial as it's largely a residential area. not exactly a nightclubber's dream location then! Beyond the village there is another glorious sandy beach which is currently undeveloped but it looks like things are about to change with a couple of wooden buildings being erected. I hope they limit it to just a couple of beach bars as it's a lovely spot at the mouth of the Veleka river . Just behind the beach a pond and reed bed look potentially interesting. There are even two bird hides one which you can just see in the photograph. On the pond I find a sunbathing European Pond Turtle In the dried out bed behind the reeds a Little Ringed Plover and in the reed bed over by the river, a Great Reed Warbler. A pair of Red-backed Shrike were hunting this area too. Things were looking up on the avian front. It was Sunday but still not particularly busy on the beach, still I headed away following a track alongside the river passing a few anglers along the way. There was much bird song but the dense foiliage was once again giving me problems seeing things. Eventually though I arrived at a more open area on the edge of some farmland. Brilliant, all on one tree a Nuthatch and only my second ever confirmed sighting of Middle Spotted Woodpecker. A feeding flock of small brown warblers was moving through the bushes and I'm guessing they were all Willow Warblers. Returning towards the beach I heard a weird unrecognisable call and further investigation revealed this bird high up in deep shade but open branches. I have since asked the question as to what species and some people have been good enough to reply that it's a Nightingale and the call is actually it's alarm call. I had hoped it might be a Savi's or a Marsh Warbler, neither of which i have seen as yet but hey, Nightingales are something I have seen little of in the past. The day was certainly giving more than I'd had previously and there was more to come. On the steps of the bird hide a Lizard. A European Green Lizard I think. Arriving back at the beach car park a man was stood stark naked whilst his wife rubbed suncream on his back. Some people have no shame! Mind you his modesty was saved by a huge pot belly. Not a pretty sight and one I was hardly likely to want to photograph so he had no need to worry and neither did I despite having the big lens. There was still more to come on the track over the headland. A displaying male House Sparrow failing in trying to distract a hungry female. and this I think is an Edible Frog. I hadn't totally forgotten about the butterflies though but they had retreated in to reserve targets! All in all an excellent day. I returned for afternoon tea and this time restricted myself to two small slices of pizza and a piece of melon. The forecast for the next two days wasn't very good so I had a hire car booked from the hotel which at 24 euros a day represented pretty good value I thought. Another evening stroll with Claire then beers, dinner and G&T's. A pattern definitely had set in! T.B.C. For once the weather forecast proved accurate. Well not quite accurate but they had the right idea. The rain had other thoughts and it was 10 times heavier than expected. We watched the downpour from the bedroom balcony and it reminded me of when our home town got flooded twenty or so years ago it was that heavy. To make matters worse it was announced on the news that North Wales and the whole of the UK was in the middle of a heat wave. Typical! At least we'd reserved the car so off we went after breakfast ( what no music? no conditioning today? As it happened the animation team get a day off it seems. They'd be cursing their luck too!) First we headed south to the Turkish border which is only a few kilometres away and on passing through a two man checkpoint they appeared surprised to see anyone the rain was coming down that heavily. They waved us through and we continued on to the border village of Rezevo where the road comes to an end. Apparently there is a wildlife park in the vicinity but a) I had left my gear at the hotel deliberately as this was a trip for Claire as well as me and there was a sign up saying no photography. We sat for 20 minutes looking at the biggest flag I have ever seen whilst the rain eased off. Of course this shot wasn't taken by me using my pocket camera, it's one I found on the internet. Honest. Heading back north were waved through the checkpoint without the two smiling guards bothering to come out of the sentry hut and who would blame them. It was raining again and our car was too small to put anyone in the boot. We decided to head to Tsarevo further up the coast from Sinemoretz. It proved to be a decent sized town but a quick look was enough to convince us to continue on to Sozopol which is an old seaside town and tourist magnet. Very quaint it is too. We ignored the first huge parking area which appeared to be extremely busy, particularly with coaches off loading tour groups heading up the cobbled streets in to town. Instead we continued along the waterfront. At the end there was a circular turning area to head back again but there was also a small street heading up the hill. A policewoman on duty made no attempt to stop us so we headed up that direction. Mistake! Although there were other vehicles parked we were the only one moving and we were soon driving through narrow cobbled streets that were full of pedestrians. We edged our way through the masses and after passing through the main square we thought we had found a way out of the place only to find that pillars in the road prevented traffic entering... and worse still, us getting out! I had to return through the masses and back in to the square only to find to my horror the road we had entered town on was a one way street . Well it had to be I suppose it was very narrow. We took one of two alternatives and despite all the people, prams, pushchairs and other obstacles, got splendid views of all the old buildings and famous wooden houses. It must have taken 15 minutes driving various streets when Claire announced we were actually heading back down to the square on the street we had entered on. People dining in the pavement cafes were giving us that look which suggests all isn't quite what's expected. i.e Who are these idiots?! We were even more embarrassed now but after another 10 minutes we found a car that was reversing before taking a left turn. Instinct told me to "follow that car" and it proved right. Taking turns we would never have found we followed him out of the old town breathing a sigh of relief having done so. We never did set foot in the place though nor take a single photo which was a shame. Instead we headed back home as the weather had improved and the sun was out again. More food, more drinks, more sleep and it was day two of the hire car. I wanted to check out the countryside heading in to the mountains hoping to show Claire some similar beautiful scenes to ones I had witnessed on previous visits . It was incredibly hot now and the road was flanked by deep forest with little to see other than trees. We abandoned the idea and headed back to the hotel returning the car at lunchtime. The manager told me had he known I was a birdwatcher he could have told me where to go. Burgas! I know all about Burgas and the possibilities having been there and I also explained that, at 90kms, it was too far away to enjoy the best light of the day. Besides, Claire would not have been amused to find herself watching me taking endless photos! Instead I took another walk along the back of the beach to see what was lurking! The wind was quite strong so the sea was choppy but it was also looking quite muddy as a result of the rains the day before. The sun however was beaming down once more. One butterfly I always recognise was enjoying it too. The pools in the track had grown substantially and in places difficult to get past due to the way the track cut through the undergrowth but onwards I went. I had hardly taken a photo in 48 hours so I had withdrawal symptoms. I'd settle for anything again. you name it Flowers, Bees,unknown Damselfly like creatures. There was certainly lots of insect life around as there usually is when it's been raining. There were Grasshoppers everywhere providing a feast for the birds. and this Shrike had had it's attention drawn elsewhere enabling me to get a bit closer than my previous visit here. The birds I was really after though were the Golden Orioles I had seen flitting around distant tree tops when I had been here before. After some searching I located a tree that held at least two pairs but they insisted on staying way up high. My best effort of the male. The female possibly slightly better but neither will win a competition. By now the insects had turned the tables and i was the victim. I was being attacked by mosquitos so I abandoned what I perceived to be a fairly hopeless mission. Orioles have a reputation for being difficult to photograph so with hindsight this one I got on my visit in 2015 wasn't as disappointing as I thought at the time! Hey, the birding was secondary really. It was a sunshine break for Claire that mattered. With the weather much warmer than it had been on previous evenings we ventured out to sit by the pool for drinks both before and after dinner. Sadly in a smoke filled atmosphere on the outside dining area eating was confined to indoors. That however put me closer to the buffet area and temptation. A huge range of salad, cooked meats and cheese to start, pasta , pizza and burgers for the kids and 3 or 4 hot dishes to choose from for mains. Then there were the sweets. Those delicious filo pasty and honey delicacies, cream cakes, ice cream. It was all too much to resist. The only thing that helped me restrain myself was looking around at some of the people loading their plates. There were more Hippo's in here than you'd ever see on safari. Claire assured me I had a long way to go to catch up.... so I continued eating everything that took my fancy promising a diet when I got home. TBC
  11. Find out more here. Might be a useful reference for anyone visiting - @Peter Connan when are you next going and will any STer's be with you? Matt
  12. I have been reading several tour itineraries and I have realized many says that of late things have changed in lake Nakuru National park and that at times there are not as many flamingos. They go ahead to say that they are on high population when the lake is shallow alkaline and warm. Its basically the time algae grows and flamingos flock the lake to feed on it. My question now comes in. When is the right time to have these conditions? I will appreciate your help fellow travelers.
  13. What a change our 2017 trip would turn out be, when compared to the parched, drought-affected trip of last year http://safaritalk.net/topic/16169-kruger-jan-2016-drought-duiker-and-dead-hippos/ We were too late to arrange a GTG in 2016, when several of us Safaritalkers were in RSA at the same time. So as soon as we were back and the flights were booked, I arranged to meet @@Peter Connan who offered to drive us around Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve to try and get some shots of widowbirds in flight. I think he would have preferred to take us to Marievale, but given that it was in the opposite direction to where we would be going later in the day, we opted for Rietvlei instead. As we like to spend a few days with friends at their country place, I couldn't squeeze in any extra nights in KNP, but I think 10 is a good total. We tried a different wilderness camp as we had liked them last year, but also as Skukuza was booked out, presumably for a conference and by the time I booked, Lower Sabie only had very basic accommodation available. Itinterary 13/1 Friday the 13th! Arrive Johannesburg 14/1 Rietvlei day trip and then drive to Ditholo 3 nights 17/1 Drive to KNP via Phaloborwa gate, Letaba 2 nights 19/1 Satara 3 nights 22/1 Biyamiti 3 nights 25/1 Berg-en-Dal 2 nights 27/1 Drive back to Johannesburg 28/1 Return to UK We had upgraded with miles, so the journey was fine. Arrivals into OR Tambo was slightly better than last time and we were in our rental car and off by an hour or so after we landed. The downside of landing on Friday rather than Saturday, is that the traffic is busier, especially with the roadworks, but it still better to get an extra day in Africa!
  14. I recently took a trip to Spain along with a birding friend of mine. I don't think Safaritalk is probably the right place to post the report but I do know a lot of members are in fact birders. If you want to read my report it's available on my blog site. You can share the "Trials and tribulations of a wannabe wildlife photographer" here:- http://davewilliamsnaturephotography.blogspot.co.uk and there certainly were quite a few!! Hope you enjoy the read and it gives some insights and ideas for the future. cheers Dave
  15. Started off to Bhigwan, situated on the border of Pune Solapur Highway, early morning with bunch of Architects, some professionals & some students, who were completely unaware about the birding and tge magical feeling it gives. As soon as our boats started moving, their unawareness turned into excitement and further turned into hunger to know more and more. We saw many many birds just like any Bhigwan Visitor would, like Herons, Egrets, Ibises, Storks, Godwits, Lesser Cormorants, Purple Moorhen, lots of Shovelers, Coots, Gulls and Terns & the highlight of the visit were many many Flamingos. But the exceptional sighting this time was the *Bar-headed Geese*...the highest flying migratory bird..! Something we badly search for, everytime we visit Bhigwan. After this exciting boating of Bhigwan, accompanied by lots of Migratory & Resident birds, we headed to Bhuleshwar. Our friend & an archeology student & a soon to be an expert in historical monuments, Digvijay escorted us all to each and every details of the temple of Bhigwan. One of the oldest monuments we have so close to Pune. The information he shared kept everyone mesmerised and completely changed the angle of looking at the temples. A great contribution it was for our group. In all, the day was full of Nature & History which made those Monument lovers the Nature lovers, and nature lovers the Monument lovers. Each and everyone bagged something new from this one day tour. Thanks to all the participants who were constantly excited and were ready to accept and absorb whatever they were offered. One of the best one day outing it was...!!!
  16. Started off to Bhigwan, situated on the border of Pune Solapur Highway, early morning with bunch of Architects, some professionals & some students, who were completely unaware about the birding and tge magical feeling it gives. As soon as our boats started moving, their unawareness turned into excitement and further turned into hunger to know more and more. We saw many many birds just like any Bhigwan Visitor would, like Herons, Egrets, Ibises, Storks, Godwits, Lesser Cormorants, Purple Moorhen, lots of Shovelers, Coots, Gulls and Terns & the highlight of the visit were many many Flamingos. But the exceptional sighting this time was the *Bar-headed Geese*...the highest flying migratory bird..! Something we badly search for, everytime we visit Bhigwan. After this exciting boating of Bhigwan, accompanied by lots of Migratory & Resident birds, we headed to Bhuleshwar. Our friend & an archeology student & a soon to be an expert in historical monuments, Digvijay escorted us all to each and every details of the temple of Bhigwan. One of the oldest monuments we have so close to Pune. The information he shared kept everyone mesmerised and completely changed the angle of looking at the temples. A great contribution it was for our group. In all, the day was full of Nature & History which made those Monument lovers the Nature lovers, and nature lovers the Monument lovers. Each and everyone bagged something new from this one day tour. Thanks to all the participants who were constantly excited and were ready to accept and absorb whatever they were offered. One of the best one day outing it was...!!!
  17. As a frenchman residing in Santiago, Chile, I have many possibilities to discover the Bolivian National Parks. Here are some good ideas at really low prices compared to neighboring Brazil and Peru. 1- Madidi National Park. This is the masterpiece of the hug he Amboro - Manu corridor. It was created thanks to the support of the WCS. On the Northern side of the frontier, in Peru, is the Bahuaja Sonene and Tampobata reserve. Both places are well known and luxury lodges operate in the Tambopata reserve. Madidi is really wild. It streches from the icy peaks of the Chaupi Orco to the lowlands of the Heath pampas. It encompasses a really diverse set of habitat: andes and altiplano steppe, paramo grasslands, yunga cloud forests, amazonian forest, opened grasslands. Some few species present in the park: andean deers, spectacles bears, condors, ocelots, jaguars, amazonian and andean puma sub-species, white lipped and collared peccaries, brazilian tapirs, giant otters, blue throated, red and green and blue and yellow macaws, bush dog, giant ant-eaters, spider monkey, lerochi monkey. I have travelled twice in Madidi and have seen so many animals, including puma, jaguar, and the really rare giant otters. The biomass is really high along the Tuichi river. Some studies determined that the jaguar density is even higher in Alto Madidi than in Pantanal... Only the community land of the indigenous village of San Jose de Uchipiamonas developed tourism. Many lodge operate there while Alto Madidi I stayed twice in the Berraco del Madidi ecocamp (80 dollars per day all included), which the wildest part of the park of easy access to tourists. Density of animals are amazingly high in this primary forest area, with huge groups of white lipped peccaries. The presence of a salt lick is a major asset for this place. It is the most pristine part of the park, with undisturbed wildlife populations. http://www.berracodelmadidi.com Another good place to stay is Chalalan ecolodge, owned by the indigenous community of San José. I'll make a trip report as soon as posible. 2- Yacuma river in Beni It is an amazing birding destination, especially during the dry season, when all the birds and migrants gather along the banks of the small yacuma river. Lots of swamps around the river where you can find anacondas and aquatic birds such as jabiru, storks, etc.. The trips are organized by boat on the river to see the fauna. During the dry season it's thousands of spectacled caimans and capybara that can be observed on the banks, the biomass is just outstanding. There are some squirrel, howler and brown capuchin monkeys. Can also be seen night monkey. The star of the trip are the pink dolfins really playful. They start to migrate down to the Mamoré river during the dry season but still are easily seen throughout the year. The best ecolodge to discover the "pampas" is Balatours. Another good place to stay is Mashaquipe ecolodge. Both have tours at 80 dollars per person. I have been twice to the pampas with bala tours and have seen: tens of howler and brown capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkey night monkey at the ecolodge, porcupine, southern tamandua, two giant ant-eaters, brazilian rhea, blue and yellow macaws, tens of pink dolfins, thousands of caimans and capybaras, agoutis, monitor lizard, coati... I have seen tapir footprints but local say they are really hard to see. An amazing place to combine with Madidi. A paradise for birders. 3- Barba Azul Nature reserve Set to protect the last breeding place of the re-discovered blue throated macaw in the heart of the Beni grasslands, the fundación Armonia is currently working on extending the size of the reserve, monitoring the macaws and working on research. While organized as a research ecological station, tourist are really welcomed. Access is really hard during rainy season. Aircraft has to be hired to avoid long, exhausting road transfer from Trinidad, only feasible during dry season. The blue throated macaw was first thought to be extinct before Charles Munn from the WCS rediscovered it. I am planning to visit this amazing place in the following years. Scientists say it is one of the best places to see maned wolf. Big specimens of black caiman are still there too. 4- Amboro National Park: I have been to los Volcanes lodge in october and had a mitigated impression. While the place is just amazing - breathtaking landscapes - I did not see many birds due to the drought. It is the highest biodiversity place in Bolivia for insects and birds. It is really endangered by the narco-trafficants and its Northern boundary. Amazing turn forest close to Samaipata that I really enjoyed. The tropical part is not really interesting compared to Madidi. 5- Kaa Iya National Park: A small new agency called Nickadventure offers tour to the Chaco from Santa Cruz. They have been really successful for showing jaguars during dry season (from june to october), as well as brazilian tapirs. I will definitely visit the place in the following years. Accommodation is now really bad, we have to camp under 45 degrees which could be a problem for may people. Safaris are done along the gas pipeline between Paraguay and Bolivia. Animals gather around the last pounds during dry season. Here is Nickadventures link: http://www.nicksadventuresbolivia.com 6 - Noel Kempff National Park Another out of the beaten track protected area. Some few operators go there. Nickadventures will soon offer fixed departures by aircraft as road access is definitely unpredictable. I now looks more as a adventure destination, with expensive aircraft, it will soon become an amazing destination. Tourists stay at an ecological research station. Trips by boat on the river and by foot in the jungle. Giant otters almost guaranteed. I will try to visit this place in the next 5 years.
  18. What started as an exchange of travel plans between two TA (and ST) members and fans of Namibia & Kgalagadi, way back in January of this year, has ended as an exceptionaly interesting visit to the South Africa's iconic park, the Kruger, and as one lasting friendship! Debbie ( @@wildlifepainter ) and I have been exchanging quite a few emails as we have both fallen in love with Namibia and Kalahari. When she announced her and Jim's upcoming trip to Kruger, Zvezda and I were yet to start with the Kgalagadi trip, and I was still working on figuring out how to hard-sell the summer self-driving trip through Sri Lanka. In April I have already made my mind up about joining them, but had yet to speak with Zvezda about my intentions. Within mid June my sweettalk had done its magic, and flights were bought so I was more than happy to inform Debbie and Jim that they would be accompanied by us for about 8 days. Below is our final itinerary; places in italic are those where we were guests of Debbie and Jim. Main Kruger accommodations were booked by Debbie already in 2015, I think. She went for "The Best View" in each camp, and those places all have 2 (or more) rooms with 2 (or more) bathrooms. Thus plenty of space not to »walk on each others feet«. Another important rule was that we would share the same part of the park but each would do their own game drives, cook their own food and drink their own drinks ( we did not strictly adhere to all of the above, and mostly forgot about the rule #3 ). Of course we shared the costs of accommodations 50-50. Flying again with Turkish Airlines; it is an excellent option as it starts in Ljubljana, and has only about 2 hours of connecting time in Istanbul. This time around food and movies were again good, but seats not so much. Even for us short people like us the distance between rows was a tad too close. Zvezda decided she will never again sit by the window. We arrived at JNB on time, and after 90 minutes spent at immigration, we had been again warmly welcomed by @@Peter Connan . He is just such a fine person, great birder and excellent photographer, and now I can also add, a close friend. Even though we were going to start the drive immediately after the landing, he took away some of his precious time (as you must know, he is building an off-road camping trailer) to meet&greet us, and to bring us some much needed photo equipment (plus more). Rental car company was AVIS; they have office downstairs from the main arrival lobby. Before going there I visited an ATM (first floor) and Vodafon store. The pick-up process at AVIS was surprisingly quick; even though there were about 10 clients before me, it did not take more than 20 minutes for us to receive the keys of a fairly new Honda Mobilio. My frist choice and booked car was Toyota Avanza but unfotunatelly they ran out of them. Honda is in the same category, just a tad lower seating position. It is a big car, with a third row of seats. I liked its interior volume, and a lot of space in the trunk once the seats were stored away. Its engine was powerful enough for mostly flat and tarred roads, and suspension did its job on gravel ones.
  19. These photos were taken today around Elderslie in southern Tasmania. Brown Falcon Laughing kookaburra
  20. I'm starting far too late for this to resemble a big year but I did manage to at least photograph some species on my recent trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia.
  21. As we prepared for our safari to Botswana we found little information regarding birding especially around Maun. After some deep digging we ran across Richard Randall. Reporting back so that others may have some additional information. . . . Our trip to Botswana was amazing and getting us started on the right foot was Richard Randall, from 'Birding Botswana'. We arrived in Maun on an early June afternoon and were to head out the next morning on the first day of our safari trip. We wanted to take advantage of our free afternoon and get exposed to some of the local birds right out of the gate. Our time with Richard helped us do exactly that. He picked us up at our hotel (Riley's) and, because we just had a short amount of time, took us to a few birding hot spots. Being birders ourselves, we didn't bat an eye when he asked if we were willing to visit the local sewage ponds in Maun (a source of nearby freshwater...even if not perfectly clean). We were fortunate to spot a Black-necked Grebe, last seen in Maun more than 10 years ago. We also visited the town dump where we saw an incredible display of Marabou storks--literally thousands of them. In between, we birded the countryside. In a couple of hours, we got approximately 40 species and were that much better informed when we headed off into the bush. Richard was truly enjoyable to spend time with and was quite knowledgeable about the region. We would not hesitate to book an outing with him again and, for the bird inclined, he's an excellent resource for those traveling in the Maun area of Botswana.
  22. With a few days of leaves pending at my disposal, I had to plan something before the year end. I ended up going to Uttarakhand for a birding trip. After a very fulfilling birding trip, I have just started writing my trip report. Part 1 of the report is up at : http://wildwildindia.com/uttarakhand-birding-prologue/ This is justa prologue and will be updating the rest of the report soon. I managed to see about 100 species of himalayan birds (most were lifers to me), and managed to get some decent photographs too. Cheers
  23. Kenya Birding Trip Report May 27th – June 19th 2013 654 Species Recorded Black-Headed Gonolek Trip Summary Kenya has once again proven itself to be one of the finest birding destinations in the world. This diverse country truly paid homage to the diversity of habitats located within its boundaries, revealing to the trip’s 6 participants a myriad of incredible species. The timing of this trip was initially feared due to the absence of palearctic migrants, however, we did manage to locate many over summering/ late birds. This pioneering African Birding Tour recorded 654 species in 23 days. Highlights of the trip included spectacular sightings of Papyrus Gonolek, Black-billed Turaco, Swamp Nightjar, Abbot’s Starling, Gambaga Flycatcher and Sharpe’s Longclaw. At one moment in the trip we found ourselves observing a Lesser Moorhen, an Allen’s Gallinule and a Dwarf Bittern all in very close proximity in a forest swamp within Arabuko Sokoke Forest. In addition to the birds other interesting sightings included a brief view of a Brush-tailed Porcupine in Kakamega, a Striped Hyena at Nakuru, 4 Wild Dogs hunting in the Mara, the infamous Enesikiria Lion Pride on two Wildebeest kills in Naboisho Conservancy and a relaxed female Leopard on the road in Tsavo. This trip would not have been possible without the help of the many local guides that we utilized at various locations throughout the country. A big thanks to Dickson, Joram, Willie, Titus, Joseph and Winston. All photos in this trip report are courtesy of trip participants Jeffery Sole and David Lang Guide: Stratton Hatfield Guide/Driver: Sammy Ndungu Lesser Flamingos on Lake Bogoria Trip Itinerary and Route:
  24. Good afternoon, Safaritalkers! We'd like to take some time to introduce ourselves here on Safaritalk, for those who may be interested. African Birding Safaris was founded in 2013 with the goal of providing quality birding tours in Africa that focus on memorable birding experiences and high species-counts per trip. We aim to do this by providing our clientele with an experienced and passionate local guiding team that will serve them throughout their tour. African Birding Safaris offers clients an exclusive experience at an affordable price. Our guide to guest ratio is 1:6 and we are proud to offer an excellent standard of accommodation and food at our birding locations. We look forward to welcoming you on a birding safari with us. African Birding Safaris is committed to supporting local conservation initiatives. We do this by not only hiring local guides at every opportunity, but also by donating and supporting well respected conservation organizations in the countries in which we operate. In Kenya we support Nature Kenya and their efforts to protect Kenya’s endemic and endangered bird species. We're working on getting our new website up and running. Once it's up we'll post it here for you to take a look at. We'll be posting a couple of birding trip reports soon. We'll also make example itineraries available with info on what special birds to look out for on each leg, as well as an expected approximate species total per itinerary. If you're interested in birding anywhere in Africa with us, please don't hesitate to get in contact! You can email us on info@africanbirdingsafaris.com or stratton@africanbirdingsafaris.com
  25. Hi Safaritalkers! I'm living in Ghana for four months this year (at least four months... the rest of the year remains to be planned....), while involved in developing a business. I'm living in a small town outside of Accra, high up in the hills to the west of the city. My first month here has been very busy with business related stuff, but now that I'm settling in I really hope to be getting out on the weekends to visit some wildlife reserves. I'm doing a blog on daily life in Ghana, which I'm calling my online diary. Here's the most recent post: https://dailylifeinghana.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/march-30-2015/ You might also be interested in my business project, supporting economic development and women's empowerment in Ghana - my website is: http://www.batiksforlife.com/ I'll be posting the blog links in this thread, and I'm very happy to have comments and questions!

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