Bird Holidays News

 

 

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LEEDS BIRDFAIR 2017

 

Saturday 24th June 2017 saw the second Leeds Birdfair held at Rodley Nature Reserve. Thank you to Linda Jenkinson for all her hard work and organisation, and to the volunteers at Rodley who have done an amazing job at the reserve and worked hard on the day to make it a success.

We ran a prize draw for a free copy of the Collins Bird Guide. The winner correctly identified Sri Lanka as the place featured on the cover of our 2017 brochure.

The winner was Debbie Crosthwaite from Leeds. Congratulations! A copy of the Collins Bird Guide will be winging its way to you.

 

Roger shares a joke with a visitor to our stand at the Leeds Birdfair.

 

 

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MYANMAR ITINERARY CHANGE FOR 2018

 

 Following winter storms, the sand bars and mudflats at the Gulf of Martaban have changed. This has meant that waders have had to find new roosting and feeding locations; an  entirely natural process.

The beach where we travel to see Spoon-billed Sandpipers is now filled with Lesser Sand Plovers and Kentish Plovers, but has reduced numbers of stints and sandpipers. Newly created feeding areas has resulted in the place being less reliable for locating Spoon-billed Sandpipers. The good news is that a survey this winter found 50+ Spoonies out in the bay. The bad news is that they are only reached by grounding a boat at low tide and even then it is likely that one would have to camp on tidal sand bars for a few days to guarantee seeing the birds. So for the time being, we have had to make changes to our Myanmar tour itinerary. So for January 2018, we will not be going south to Thaton and Sane Let Tin.

 Instead, we will visit Hlawgar Park near Yangon and continue to Moeyingyi as this is one of our favourite sites, but then we will go north to Inle Lake and Kalaw. High on the Shan Plateau, this superb wetland site, with high chances of seeing Jerdon's Bushchat, is combined with superb birding the forests around the old colonial hill station of Kalaw. So while we cant include Spoonies for the foreseeable future, we can can ensure an bird-filled trip to one a different part of the most ornithologically diverse country in South East Asia.

For more information or details of our new route, please contact our office.

 

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Newsletter - Spring 2017

 

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter is now online. Click here to see it.

 

 

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EARLY BOOKING DISCOUNT EXTENDED

There is still some availability on trips in the first half of the year. Our trips to Georgia, Czech Republic, Croatia and Transylvania are all guaranteed departures and we have extended the discount date for all these trips to the end of March 2017. Book before then to save hundreds of pounds.

 

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper update

The latest SbS newsletter has just been published. For all the news about work done to save the species in 2016 click here

the newsletter includes news from the Russian breeding grounds, news from Burma (Myanmar), collaboration projects between Russian and Chinese organisations and some quirky artwork relating to this iconic bird.

 

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SIBERIAN ACCENTOR AT EASINGTON, EAST YORKSHIRE !

Please don't worry, we haven't changed our business into a rare bird information service. We just couldn't help sharing the news that our very own Lance Degnan, bird finder extraordinaire, just found Britain's second ever Siberian Accentor near Spurn Point. It was lucky 13th October for Lance, when he was searching for migrants along a lane near the rather insalubrious Easington Gas Terminal. Fortunately, regular Bird Holidays co-leader Ian Smith lives just down the road, and was on hand to take some great photographs of this little beauty. Coming hot on the heals of Britain's first, on Shetland last week, this bird will be very popular, so you might want to give Spurn a rather wide birth this coming weekend (or you might want to join the queue to see it!).

 

Siberian Accentor at Easington, 13th October 2016 (Ian Smith).

The bird was watching feeding up after it's long journey, unconcerned by the presence of a huge admiring crowd.

 

You can read Lance's account of his discovery on Rare Bird Alert's website here.

 

 

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BIRDFAIR 2016

Once again, Birdfair was a fantastic success for us, despite some dodgy weather on the Friday. Many thanks to everyone who came to see us, and also to those who entered our free competition.

 

We asked you to name three of the birds and mammals featured on our new banner. The winners this year were:-

Friday - Martin Brookes from Oxon

Saturday - Ken Copleston from Essex

Sunday - Edward Roberts from Essex

Pheasant-tailed Jacana canvas prints are winging their way to you as we speak.

 

Ken Copleston receives his prize at our stand at the 2016 Rutland Birdfair.

 

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BOLIVIA 2017 ....a new tour

In 2017, we launch a new tour to Bolivia, an extremely diverse country. We had previously published some photos taken on our recce, but we have just posted a video of Titicaca Flightless Grebe

see the video HERE

 

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INAUGURAL LEEDS BIRDFAIR

 

Saturday 27th June 2016 saw the first Leeds Birdfair held at Rodley Nature Reserve. It true English fashion, we talked about nothing but the weather in the run up to the event, but it turned out beautiful and a great day was had by all. Thank you to Linda Jenkinson for all her hard work and organisation, and to the volunteers at Rodley who have done an amazing job at the reserve and worked hard on the day to make it a success.

We ran a prize draw for a free copy of the Collins Bird Guide. The winner correctly identified MADAGASCAR as the place where the Collared Nightjar is found, as featured on the cover of our 2016 brochure.

The winner was Teresa Todd from Leeds. Congratulations! A copy of the Collins Bird Guide will be winging its way to you.

 

Paul's daughter, Louise drawing the winner of the free prize draw on Saturday afternoon.

 

 

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BURMA / MYANMAR

 

Great News:   A 'write-in' on our first trip to Myanmar!

  On his first Bird Holidays tour in 2013, Phil stayed on afterwards with a friend that works in Yangon.

He was invited to a literary festival where he met an interesting person at the hotel. Little did he know that 2 hours later, he would see the same lady on a podium speaking to the masses. It was Aung San Suu Kyi  !!!

A big 'write-in' on his check-list, he was glad to hear that she has just won recent elections and could become the next president; the second president on his 'I've met them list'.

Aung San Suu Kyi's victory will usher in a new era, that could see the country becoming much more open. While this is great for the people, often wildlife suffer. With the last viable populations of Gurney's Pitta and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, we hope that she values Myanmar's natural wonders.

We have run 3 successful tours there and the birding is excellent, although we cannot guarantee sightings of the 'next President'.

Our next trip there is in 2017. Click here to see it.

 

 

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NEW TOUR to BOLIVIA

Following a great trip to Bolivia, we have a new tour coming up in 2017.

It will include Lake Titicaca home of the flightless grebe, and where Phil met the Bolivian boat-builder that helped Thor Heyerdahl make the Kon-Tiki from local reeds.

We will go to Tiwanaku, the city that spawned the Inca empire that would expand, culminating in the better-known city of Machu Picchu.

From Amazonian lowlands that include part of the Pantanal, we will see macaws and oilbirds, before gently rising through cloud forest and dry valleys with dippers and ground tyrants, to the high lakes with condors and flamingos.

Behind them, the snow-capped Andes are simply beautiful. Click here to see photos.

 

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Newsletter - Winter 2016

 

Our Winter 2016 Newsletter is now online. Click here to see it.

 

 

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On behalf of everyone at Bird Holidays, we wish you a Happy Christmas and very prosperous New year.

 

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BALI,  JAVA,  FLORES &  KOMODO  2016

Our 2015 tour was a great success so there is the possibility or us running two tours in 2016.

In addition, we will be making some slight changes to the itinerary. In 2016, we will spend one extra day on Java where birding in 2015 was incredible. We hope to visit an active volcano there too. The downside, is that we will have one less night on Flores, but that will mean less time travelling in a bus there. For more information, chat to Phil in our office by calling 0113 3910510.

 

both photographs taken by Cliff Buckton on our 2015 tour.

You can read a tour diary and see photos by clicking HERE

 

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LATVIA & LITHUANIA  2016

Ryanair now fly direct to Riga from Manchester, saving time and money.

We would not normally use this budget airline, but it is very convenient for those flying from the northwest.

So we will provide a discount for those choosing  to fly with Ryanair. Please call our office if you would like this option.

In 2015, we saw a full set of woodpeckers, Ural Owl, Bluethroat and even a Red-breasted Goose. We still have the place to ourselves as the birdwatching crowds have yet to realise how wonderful this country is. To see our the tour, click here

 

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TARIFA 2016

After resting this tour for a couple of years we are pleased to announce dates for September 2016. The spectacle of bird migration through the Straits of Gibraltar is unsurpassed in Europe, with thousands of Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Booted Eagles and Short-toed Eagles passing each season. For details of our tour please click here.

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BIRDFAIR 2015

Once again, Birdfair was a fantastic success for us. It is always lovely to see a few familiar (we won't say old) faces as well as getting to know people who we have only spoken to on the phone. Many thanks to everyone who came to see us, and also to those who entered our free competition.

 

The correct answer to where the Collared Nightjar can be found was Madagascar. You didn't have to look too far into our 2016 brochure to work that one out! The winners this year were:-

Friday - Ewart Dawson from Skipton

Saturday - Ann Thomson from Liverpool

Sunday - David Chaplin from York

Collared Nightjar canvas prints are winging their way to you as we speak.

 

 

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper ......Great News!!!!

Our friend Christoph Zockler has just posted the latest SbS Task Force newsletter, which has very encouraging news.

In Russia, 28 head-started chicks were reared and a new breeding colony has been discovered by the hard-working Russian team. For details and other Spoony-related news go to:

http://www.eaaflyway.net/spoon-billed-sandpiper-task-force-news-bulletin-no-14-august-2015/

 

 

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SPANISH LYNX 2015

Our local guides have just sent us some great news from Andujar, Spain !

Our friends have been working hard on a private estate to reverse a declining rabbit population, the main prey for the endangered Iberian Lynx.

The reduction of rabbits led to many Lynx roaming further afield to find food. This meant that in 2014, at least 22 were killed on the roads! Our friends on the estate have managed to improve the site for rabbits, thus maintaining enough food for the 7 adult Lynx there. This means that they do not have to risk death in their search for food.

The even better news is that this June, their camera traps caught the first pictures of a new addition on site. The photographs above and below is of a male that has been seen regularly there this year.   

 

This is the first camera trap picture to show the new arrival with Mum.

Behind them is an earth mound where an artificial rabbit warren was made to increase the number of rabbits. You can see that they are perfectly happy to come out into the open during the daytime and the lynx are not shy creatures here. Our tour contributes financially to the important work done here to maintain the rabbit population and build more warrens.

 

This is a picture taken by a remote camera in June 2015 that shows Mum on one of the trails that we will monitor during our tour in November. Quite obviously out in the daytime searching for rabbits for her kitten

all photos were supplied by Wildwatch Spain

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SOUTH INDIA SAFARI SCHEDULED FOR 2017

Khozikode, the return airport for this trip, has been closed with no guaranteed reopening date. The runway is being upgraded but local people are protesting vigorously and there is the threat of a legal dispute. Emirates have withdrawn all flights out of Khozikode. Roger and the local guide have spent ages trying to tweek the itinerary to compensate but each alternative compromises the quality of the tour. Therefore we will rest this tour in 2016 and next  aim to run it in 2017.

We here are obviously very disappointed to have to rest such a popular tour, but it really is in 'circumstances beyond our control'.

 

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BHUTAN WORLD CUP SUCCESS

 

Dubbed by the media as the world's worst team, the Bhutan's national football team recently secured victory over Sri Lanka in the first qualifying round of the 2016 World Cup.

Why, you might ask, is this news on the Bird Holidays website?

The national team manager is none other than Hishey Tshering, avid birder, and known to our Bhutan clients as our ground agent in this beautiful country. How he manages to run a ground agents, whilst managing the national football team is anyone's guess.

Having won the first leg away in Sri Lanka 1 - 0, Bhutan's government declared a national holiday so that everyone could watch the home tie. They won 2 - 1, and are through to the next round of qualifiers. Perhaps England can look forward to playing Bhutan in Russia in 2018 !

 

 

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SPANISH LYNX

 

 

Our guides have just sent us this photo of a Spanish Lynx caught on a camera trap.

This lynx is a heavily pregnant female,  well-known to the researchers on the private estate where we visit during our tour.

You can see that she was out hunting in the afternoon (14.57pm), in an area where over 300 rabbits have just been released.

Rabbits have been suffering from myxomatosis in the Lynx's core range  in Spain. So rabbits are provided to prevent the cats from wandering about and getting run-over; the biggest danger to them.

Camera traps are placed all over the area to ensure they dont go missing and they are seen regularly. There is plenty of food for them and now with the patter of tiny paws on the way, we are hopeful for good views later in the year.

click HERE to see the tour details

 

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper - latest News

 

The latest Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force newsletter No 13 now downloadable at:

http://www.eaaflyway.net/spoon-billed-sandpiper-task-force-news-bulletin-no-13-february-2015/

 

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SOUTH INDIA SAFARI

This year, our tour to this beautiful area was one our best ever, with excellent feedback. Thank you to all the clients on that trip, especially John T who encouragingly said "you undersell this tour, it is absolutely fabulous!". It is really nice for us to hear such remarks.

 

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BELIZE - NEW DATES FOR 2016

 

Our March 2016 Belize trip filled up very quickly, so we have just added new dates, by popular demand.

 

These are 23rd February to 9th March 2016. Led by Paul Willoughby.

 

Details of this trip can be found here.

 

 

 

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Newsletter - Winter 2014/5

 

Our Winter 2014/5 Newsletter is now online. Click here to see it.

 

 

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Early Booking Discount

There is still availability on some tours in the first half of 2015. We have extended the discount date for the following tours to

 February 15th 2015. These include Morocco, Georgia, Croatia and Czech Republic so book now to save £100 on any of these popular tours.

 

 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA

2014 was an amazing Bird Fair for us with several tours full as we packed up on Sunday night.

However due to a cancellation, we now have a couple of spaces on our PNG 2015 tour.

 

 

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One Spoon-billed Sandpiper makes a "monumental" journey. read the latest news at

 http://www.eaaflyway.net/the-monument-spoon-billed-sandpiper-01-returns-to-rudong/


 

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BIRDFAIR 2014

Once again, Birdfair was a fantastic success for us. It is always lovely to see a few familiar (we won't say old) faces as well as getting to know people who we have only spoken to on the phone. Many thanks to everyone who came to see us, and also to those who entered our free 'Spot the Owl' competition.

The Brown Fish Owl was hiding in square 8N,

and the winners were:-

Friday - John Flood from Ilkley

Saturday - Jackie Aldridge from Northwich

Sunday - Brian Webster from Alava, Spain

 

 

John Flood receives his canvas print of a Blood Pheasant, taken by Phil Palmer on this year's Bhutan trip.

By a lovely coincidence, John was actually present when the Blood Pheasant was photographed!

 

 

 

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Our 2015 brochure is now online. Click here for details.

 

 

 

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MYANMAR (BURMA)  tour is benefiting Spoon-billed Sandpipers.

 

 

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper has reached a small conservation milestone just as we  announce the dates of our 2015 tour.  

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force estimates that as many as 80-90% of hunters in the Bay of Martaban, Myanmar (the most important wintering site in the world for Spoon-billed Sandpiper) have now signed agreements to stop hunting.

Donations from our groups and several other partners have allowed them to surrender their trapping equipment in return for help to start an alternative livelihood.

Our friend Egor in Russia reports that the breeding population seems to have stabilised this summer and that many birds have laid replacement clutches for those taken for the head-starting project. Adults reared in captivity by WWT staff there have been seen back in Siberia, proving that this initiative can work.

 On our Myanmar trip in February 2015, we will once again be looking for birds  marked by coloured flags as part of the on-going survey work. While also using the ex-hunters as guides.

 Together with consultants ArCona , Bird Holidays started an initiative to get birders to donate to money to end wader hunting. We are hoping other tour companies can also do the same now it can be shown to be working.

A nice new hotel has just been built at Mount Victoria. It is nice to see the infrastructure improving all the time and we are hopeful that tourism will help to encourage conservation of this important bird-rich site.

 

 

 

 

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BHUTAN 2015

 

 

 

 

It is with pleasure that we can say that we will be revisiting Bhutan in 2015. Our tour this time will be shorter and so cheaper to cater for those that cannot get the time off to do our 3 week tour. With the visa process now much simpler, it has never been easier to visit. We avoid the need to use tents as our guide has built a nice new lodge, so we remain one of the few birding companies that does not camp here.

We will still concentrate on finding the Tragopans, Himalayan Monals, Blood Pheasants and Ibisbills, so no need to worry about a lack of quality. It will be possible to visit the Tiger's Nest Monastery too and in fact if the weather is good and you sit on the right side of the plane, you can also see Everest!

 

 

Our run of good luck meant that we saw the White-bellied Heron. We have never failed with this species, which is probably the World's rarest

heron and may number less than 50 !

Look at the Bhutan Gallery page to see more pictures click here

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Oxpeckers, in Europe?

 

On the horn of this European Bison was a bird, we saw several pecking in the ears and on the faces of the in Belarus

 

a close look showed that they were Starlings and here they had no fear of the bigger bulls.

We thought this one looked ill and it was approached by the warden/guide

 

luckily (for the bull) it was quite well so we got a shock when it stood and faced us

thankfully his shock was greater, and after remembering that European Bison are very shy, he ran off !

Photos taken on our 2014 Belarus Tour

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LATVIA & LITHUANIA

 

Three-toed Woodpeckers were fighting right by our group

 

Following the success of our Latvia tour this year, we will again include Lithuania as part of the itinerary in 2015.

We popped over the border to see some Ural Owls this year, but general birding there was excellent too. With great views of displaying Roller, and superb views of many species of woodpecker, it is set to become a firm favourite. At Cape Kolka, four species of migrating harrier included a ghostly adult Pallid. We found the second Iceland Gull for Latvia while watching hundreds of Long-tailed Duck. Passage of migrants were diverse enough to include skuas, divers and Caspian Terns, alongside orioles, swifts, woodlarks, buntings and finches, all heading past us and out to sea.

As we stood on the beach with raptors overhead, groups of Yellow Wagtails would drop at our feet. Hawfinches attempted to cross the sea, followed by doves, crows, magpies: all things we don't think of as migrants. Many turned back, but wagtails, swallows and Sparrowhawks had no such worries. They just kept plodding northwards until a gull  took a dislike to them. The odd 'sprawk' would go into reverse gear whenever a particular Common Gull saw it. Afraid of being knocked into the Baltic, the hawk would turn tail and run for land, only to try again later.

 

All of the Baltic States are superb, and having been one of the first companies to discover the delights of Estonia 15 years ago, we are so excited about branching out into Latvia too. One of the nicest aspects of the 2014 tour was that we had the place to ourselves. Nobody has discovered Latvia yet and it is wonderful to have such a peaceful bird-filled location away from the crowds.

I could rave about this place for ages, but our clients will do that for us. I hope you can join us in 2015....

       Phil

 

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TRIPS FOR LOCAL BIRD CLUBS

Every year we take members of local bird clubs, such as RSPB member groups, on individually tailored tours usually from their regional airports. We have now run many trips all over Europe and further afield for groups of 7 to 28 people, and have become experienced in making these holidays successful for all concerned. This April we took the local Leeds RSPB group for the 7th year running. Having previously visited Tarifa, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Morocco and Estonia we set off for the famous Coto Donana, then the plains of the Alentejo. We have had great feedback, and here are a few photographs taken by Mark Newsome on the trip.

 

 

 

Lesser Kestrel, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Cuckoo and Booted Eagle

 

 

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BALI, KOMODO, FLORES & JAVA

 

.........a new tour for 2015

 

 

This summer we will be announcing a new tour that takes us to the paradise island of Bali, then on to Java, Flores, Rinca and finally Komodo; Land of the Dragon! 

Sounds hectic but it really isn't. A nice relaxed tour without the hardships expected of tropical birding.

 Like other recently announced tours for 2015, we expect it to fill fast. So please register an interest with our office or watch for details on this website and in our brochure.

see photos HERE

 

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Exciting Spoon-billed Sandpiper News

Following our tour to Burma (Myanmar) where we had great views of Spoon-billed Sandpiper, we were a little worried that we were the only people to see them in the gulf of Martaban this year.

When we left, our local guide Lay Win, went to search elsewhere and located two flagged birds. One was a bird hatched and ringed last year at the southern Chukotka breeding site by Pavel Tomkovich. Pavel works with Nikolai, Ygor and Nastia who form the nucleus of the Russian team that regularly monitor SbS here. This is where I helped to find nests for the head-starting project at Slimbridge.

But the most amazing news is that Lay Win's second bird was an old one trapped several years ago in Northern Chukotka. This was the core breeding area for the species until the main site at Belyaka was deserted. So it appears that this bird has relocated to another area a rare event. So where does he spend the summer now and how many friends does he have up there? Another mystery to solve and well done Lay Win.......Phil Palmer

 

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Searching for the Omani Owl

Back in October 2013, The Sound Approach team announced some unprecedented and exciting news.... the discovery of a new owl alive and well in the Al Hajar mountains of northern Oman. Sound recordings and some stunning photographs were published on the internet and in the journal Dutch Birding. Knowing I was to return to the country in early 2014 I made tentative plans to look for the bird myself. In the meantime I learned that an old friend of mine, Mike Watson, was organising an exploratory tour for Birdquest - their mission was to find the owl at the type locality as described in the Dutch Birding article.

So in early February I met up with Mike in the Jabal Al Hajar which rise steeply from the coastal plain. In brief, I was fortunate enough to find a new site for the bird, where a least one pair was nesting. The first nest ever to be found. The Sound Approach team flew out soon afterwards and are collecting more information. More reports and photographs will be added here when I return from my current trip to Morocco....  John McLoughlin.

 

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Bird Holidays' 500th tour

In January, we passed the milestone of 500 tours led by the current Bird Holidays leaders. Not counting those trips led by part-time leaders in the early days of Bird Holidays, Roger's trip to South India was our 500th. To celebrate the occasion, tour participants Chris and Ian Brookes created this lovely card and presented it to Roger on the tour. A collage of images they have taken on our tours. Thanks Chris and Ian.

 

 

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Spot the Spoon-billed Sandpiper !!!!

Participants on our January 2014 Myanmar tour had great views of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper. See if you can see it in the above photo.

Survey workers in the Gulf of Martaban were struggling to locate any this year so we were very fortunate.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force have just produced their latest newsletter, you can read it at

http://eaaflyway.net/documents/newsletter/SBS_TF_newsletter_no11_jan2014.pdf

you can read older posts and other Spoon-billed sandpiper news at http://www.eaaflyway.net/our-activities/task-forces/spoon-billed-sandpiper/

the photo below was taken by Lay Win, our local guide while the rest of us were soaking up the views.

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we also saw some other great birds including the endemic White-browed Nuthatch (below)

very few people have seen this bird as Mount Victoria in Burma has been closed to most foreigners

you can see more photos by clicking here

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NEWSLETTER - WINTER 2014

Our New Year newsletter is now available online. Click here to read about our highlights from 2013, plans for 2014 and beyond, Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and more....

 

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LATVIA

Local flights now available for 2014

We are pleased to announce that we can now get flights for this trip from local airports like Manchester & Leeds.

Our brochure trip flies direct from Gatwick but for a small additional charge, we can get connecting flights to Riga from local airports.

Please contact our office for details.

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Aye-Aye in Madagascar!!!

 

following our 2013 tour to Madagascar, Phil journeyed around to check out some other wildlife sites and was lucky to find this Aye-aye!

He was able to watch it for 30 minutes at close range where managed to snap some great pictures. You can see more as well as other photos from our recent tour by clicking here.

 

 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2015

 

we are pleased to announce that we will be running a 'Birds of Paradise' tour to Papua New Guinea in 2015.

It has been a long time in the planning but after a very successful recce, we are confident that this will be extremely popular.

With good accommodation, food and wildlife, this destination will avoid the 'extreme birding' tag that has put people off travelling to the most untamed island on the planet. In fact during our recce, we failed to see any of the promised mosquitoes during our time in the hills. Only after persistent searching in the lowlands did we finally catch up with a couple and even there, we dipped out on the leeches that we had been assured would make life difficult. This meant that we had to spend all of our time looking at Birds of paradise, Owlet Nightjars, Frogmouths and Kookaburas....oh dear!

Look out for news in our 2015 brochure.

to see lots of photos taken from our trip this year Click HERE

 

 

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BIRDFAIR 2013 PRIZE DRAW WINNERS

 

 

We have just returned from another fantastic Birdfair. The weather was great and we all had a lovely, if rather hectic, weekend. Our stand was incredibly busy, and we must apologise to anyone who visited us and did not get to chat.

 

We are pleased to announce the winners of the free prize draw held each day. The three lucky winners of the White-throated Robin canvas print by Ian Smith are:-

Friday - Bill Reddish from Chesterfield

Saturday - Richard Pardoe from Swindon

Sunday - Jean Meldrum from Kings Lynn

 

Louise Willoughby drawing the Saturday winner.

 

     

Bill Reddish (left) and Richard Pardoe with their prizes.

 

 

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Our 2014 brochure is now online. Click on the image below for details

 

 

 

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New Latvia Tour

Phil visited Latvia in May 2013 to make final arrangements for our new tour. You can see his photographs HERE

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Protect Our Raptors

Our friend and customer, John Topham brought the following e-petition to our attention. If you care about the protection of birds of prey in the uplands of Britain, and are concerned about their persecution by gamekeepers, please consider signing this petition.

https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46473

 

Birds such as this young Golden Eagle are particularly at risk from poisoning.

 

If it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

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Late for Work!

 

If anyone tried to phone the office before 10am this morning (30th January) they will have had no reply. Sorry!

The reason - no less than 144 Waxwings have taken up residence in Mawcroft Close, Yeadon and this morning I just could not drag myself away from them. While Andy is in Ethiopia, Phil is in Myanmar, John is in Oman and Roger is in South India, I am left here holding the fort. But I could not help letting the office look after itself for once, with these beauties in my garden.

 

The birds first appeared on Saturday 26th January, when a flock of 18 made it on to our RSPB Garden Bird Count (allowing for a bit of 'Fergie time' after the hour was up!). Since then they have increased daily, and 166 is our maximum count. There are probably many more since it is almost impossible to keep track of them all.

Paul

(Last seen 3rd Feb - all the berries have been eaten).

 

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Newsletter - Winter 2013

 

Our Winter 2013 Newsletter is now online. Click here to see it.

 

 

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper exhibition in Anadyr, Chukotka 

a message from Elena Lappo of BirdsRussia

 

Elana at the opening ceremony

 

We are proud to see that Phil’s work from his Siberian expeditions has been used for a very special purpose. Supported by BirdLife’s Preventing Extinction Programme, the conservation exhibition “Spoon-Billed Sandpiper - life saved” was opened at the Chukotka Heritage Museum in Anadyr, Siberia on 8th October.  This is the first example in Russia, where a whole exhibition has been devoted to a single species of bird .

Phil’s photographs feature in the exhibition which displays general information about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and its flyway while focusing on the Chukotka region. The exhibition will stay in Anadyr for 2 months before moving to Meinypyl’gyno for permanent display. Anadyr’s schoolchildren will have organized visits and the exhibition featured on local TV and Radio every day for 5 days! Central media in Moscow also publicised this event.

 Spoon-billed Sandpiper (SBS) is the fastest declining bird species listed in the Russian Federation’s Red Data Book and is one of the hundred most threatened birds in the world. The population is estimated to be only 100 breeding pairs. Since 2000, a conservation program in Chukotka, led by Evgeny Syroechkovskiy and currently developed further by BirdsRussia has been working with BirdLife International, RSPB, WWT and a number of other leading conservation organisations under the umbrella of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership.

Phil has worked with Evgeny on three expeditions to Chukotka and openly admits that they have been one of the greatest experiences in his life, while being the most physically demanding. Entirely self-funded, Phil has helped survey this remote Arctic region and is one of the few people in the world to have found Spoon-billed Sandpiper nests – no mean feat! In 2012, he located eggs that were used as part of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force’s head-starting project and others that were brought to Slimbridge as part of WWT’s captive breeding program.

 This exhibition is the largest SBS conservation awareness action taken in the Chukotka region (and Russia?) so far and the first time so much publicity has been given to birds. Interestingly, the fact that a small bird is migrating so far to Southeast Asian countries was particularly surprising to locals. Lots of important issues including the need to create local protected areas in SBS’s breeding grounds were raised here for the first time.

The need for future exhibitions to focus on other bird conservation issues was highlighted and preliminary agreement about this was reached with Anadyr’s key decision makers. This is only first step – constant work is needed to make Chukotka citizens and decision makers proud and aware of their unique natural heritage. Only then will serious regional scale conservation actions follow.  

The opening ceremony was attended by Roman Kopin the Governor of Chukotka, all regional conservation officials, local Parliament representatives, Indigenous People’s organizations and invited guests from Anadyr. Representatives from Environmental Agencies in all Arctic countries also participated in the opening of the exhibition as the Arctic Council Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF) formed in Anadyr at the same time.  

The exhibition covers the three main subjects:

1) Situation on the Chukotka breeding grounds with a review of the results of conservation research and awareness work in the vicinity of the village Meinypyl’gyno where the last remaining SBS are still breeding.

2) Overview of migration highlighting the main threats (habitat change and catching of birds by local people for food). As well as the results of the work by SBS Task Force started in 2004.  

3) Ways to save the species – two major international projects "Captive breeding” and “Head Starting”.

 The exhibition also presents numerous scientific articles showing the scale of the birding world’s interest in SBS. This includes the “SBS migration game” for children, a non-stop video (from Cornell’s Lab. and WWT), PowerPoint presentation at touch-pad screens, drawings by artists (by James McCalum, Jens Gregersen and E.Koblik) and the photographs (by Phil, B. Scampion,  I. Kaurov, and G. Vyn) taken from the expeditions.

SBS and East Asian Flyway conservation issues were also on agenda of Arctic council CAFF meeting. During a simultaneous meeting, CAFF members agreed to sign up to the Bonn convention. So East Asian migratory birds will receive more attention in further conservation work.

 

 

TV crew and press at the opening ceremony in Anadyr                                                                                 one of the posters on display in the museum

 

A major success for the work of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Bird Holidays is proud to be its species champion.

You can join the survey team to count Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Myanmar  click here

 

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At a Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force meeting in Norfolk at the weekend, together with Christoph Zockler & Tom Noah from Germany, Phil was there to discuss the work done so far this year to help Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Christoph reported that he had recently seen 106 adults at their staging ground near Shanghai this autumn but this may be the entire adult world population!!

Thankfully this is not a large decrease from the 2012 counts giving hope that the rapid declines of recent years has ceased or at least stabilised. The birds have now begun to move south towards Myanmar for the winter. It will be interesting to see how many birds are counted there. At the same time a cheque was presented to the Task Force by the Birdscapes Art Gallery. They then went on to have a great days birding. As well as finding 8 Ring Ouzels among thousands of thrushes, Tom was able to see a Barn Owl hunting. Even though Tom is a member of the German Rarities Committee, he had never seen one in daylight. He remarked that the UK is the only place in the world where Barn Owls hunt in the daytime and we realised that despite seeing them in almost every country we visit, they are truly nocturnal: who would have believed it?

 

 

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SOUTH GEORGIA NEWS

 

As a supporter of South Georgia Habitat Restoration, we thought that you might like to read their latest update regarding their rat eradication programme. I know that the many people that travelled with us to this wonderful island want to help as much as they can. You can now view the latest edition of the Newsletter on the SGHT website at:

http://www.sght.org/sites/default/files/HR%20newsletter%20Oct%202012_0.pdf

 

 

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Bird Holidays becomes a BirdLife Species Champion

 

Bird Holidays is thrilled to announce that we have become a BirdLife Species Champion.

We are supporting them in their work to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other endangered species.

 

 

 

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper update

 

You couldn't miss it - at the Bird Fair, on the BBC news, WWT blogs, in the RSPB and a whole swathe of other magazines. Yes 17 baby Spoon-billed Sandpipers hatched at Slimbridge in July.

At birth, they are the cutest creatures on the planet. If you don't believe us, check out the video on the BBC news website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18767838

At Bird Holidays, we are proud of the fact that one of our leaders was part of the team that sss..sss.....surveyed  Arctic Russia (yes it was ccc....cc.....cold), to locate their nests this summer.

A team of Russian scientists visited known sites and located several nests while Phil was despatched north of the main group and found two more. Being the proud father of two clutches, he was not surprised to hear that his 'offspring' stole the limelight and were airlifted to the UK without him...aaargh!

What didn't make the news, was the fact that Phil was left for quite a while longer than the Spoonies before he managed to return to our office here in Leeds. All is now well and some of you may have seen him at the Bird Fair last week.

You may have read that Phil was with Christoph Zockler (head of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force) at Meinypil’gyno in Chukotka. Together they will be leading our Spoon-billed Sandpiper tour to Myanmar (Burma) in January where they hope to count the wintering birds there. Christoph was there earlier in 2012 to asses on-going conservation work and logistics for our tour. With luck, they may see some of the chicks that were ringed in Chukotka this summer and there are still places left on this tour if you are interested. See http://www.birdholidays.co.uk/Myanmar.birdwatching.holiday.htm

Nordmann's Greenshank is another wader that has been identified as being in a similar predicament to SbS and there may be as few as 500 left in the wild now, so they also hope to locate some of these birds too.

 

A full report (with photographs) has been supplied by Christoph and the task force, giving an updated account of their work in 2012 (see SBS_TF_newsbulletin_no8_august2012.pdf) to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from extinction.

 

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BIRDFAIR PRIZE DRAW WINNERS

 

We have just returned from another fantastic Birdfair. The weather was great and we all had a lovely, if rather hectic, weekend. Our stand was incredibly busy, and we must apologise to anyone who visited us and did not get to chat.

 

We are pleased to announce the winners of the free prize draw held each day. The three lucky winners of the Pacific Diver canvas print by Phil Palmer are:-

Friday - Roy Evans

Saturday - Jacky Buckton from Uxbridge

Sunday - Mr T Barker from Kettering

Alfie McLoughlin drawing the Saturday winner.

 

   

Jacky Buckton and Mr T Barker with their prizes.

 

 

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Protecting Seabirds on South Georgia

One of the most important projects in the world for seabirds is being undertaken by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (a small UK charity) on the remote island of South Georgia in Antarctica, where introduced rodents have devastated globally important seabird populations by eating millions of chicks and eggs - particularly those of prions and petrels. Funds are urgently needed to help clear the island of these rodents, with an expected increase in seabird numbers by well over 100 million birds! The South Georgia Pipit could also be saved from extinction. You can help by sponsoring a hectare for just £90 / USD$145. See www.sght.org/Habitat-Restoration for more information.

                                                                                                                                    photographs by Phil Palmer

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Our 2013 brochure is now online. Click on the image below for details

 

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Lost in Siberia.....

 

Phil is in far eastern Siberia, assisting the joint Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team / WWT project to save the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Today he sent us a note about what he's been up to....

Opening the zip of a tent to taste droplets of freezing fog is not something you want on a birding holiday! But I have returned to Chukotka at the request of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper recovery team to help locate the few remaining pairs of this critically endangered bird. Having only found one bird in two Russian expeditions in 2004 and 2009, I was more hopeful this time as I was allowed to go to Meinypil’gyno: the last remaining breeding colony for the species.

 

This time the SbS recovery team had been joined by WWT staff that were to take eggs for a captive breeding programme as well as making safe any wild chicks. This is termed head starting. We locate nests for WWT staff who take the eggs to keep safe from predators, replacing them with dummies. When incubated, we put one or two eggs back into a nest as they start to hatch. Spoonies never rear more than 2 chicks, so the 2 or 3 surplus eggs/chicks are reared in a hastily erected aviary and released onto the tundra just prior to migration.

 

So the species is being helped in 3 different ways here by not putting all its eggs in one basket so-to-speak.

 

During my time here (and yes I am still here!), I have found many other arctic birds like Spectacled, King and Steller’s Eider. Flocks of 800+ Harlequin Duck, Gyr Falcon and quite a few rarities. These include Bullfinch (1st or 2nd for Chukotka maybe?), Eye-browed Thrush and Brambling (2nd for Meinypil’gyno region), Common Sandpiper’s nest (1st for Meinypil’gyno region) and Mallard. The latter was a tick for Pavel T; the great Russian wader specialist who has been studying Arctic birds here for decades!

 

I have also ripped both pairs of trousers, worn out two pairs of gloves and an Arctic-proof rain coat, worn holes in all socks, and even managed to wear out a pair of new wellies by hiking across 20-30km of tundra each day. And I am paying to do this too! The satisfying payback was to find 2 SbS nests and see these amazing birds again.

 

 

 

 

Numbers of SbS females are perhaps a shade lower than last year, but this has yet to be confirmed when we finish our survey. Christoph and his team have been working very hard to prevent hunting in Myanmar, so the population decline has slowed considerably. Even so, it is estimated that less than 120 adults remain in the wild so the slightest mishap could tip SbS over the edge.

 

This is the last year of taking eggs for captive breeding and my impression is that it is going to be a poor breeding season for all species here anyway. So this impact may not be as great as it appears. Many wildfowl and waders have failed to lay eggs or have been predated. Luckily many arctic birds like SbS are long-lived, so they would perhaps only hope for one good year in every 10 to maintain the population. Hunting on the wintering grounds and development along their migration routes has tipped SbS close to extinction, so to do nothing was not an option.

 

I have been fortunate to see SbS on migration during our China bird tours and next year’s Myanmar tour will allow us to search for ringed birds from Meinypil’gyno. It is all quite exciting, but tinged with sadness when the eggs you have worked so hard to locate are taken.

 

 

Phil Palmer

(Middle of nowhere, Meinypil’gyno, Chukotka, Russia).

 

Click on the following link to read the latest news.

http://www.saving-spoon-billed-sandpiper.com/news/

                                                                                 photos by Phil Palmer, Siberia, June 2012

 

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Algarve Conservation

 

Algarve birder, Frank McClintock sent us this message earlier today. Perhaps you would consider signing the petition he has started:-

    ''You may not have heard but unfortunately, and to Portugal's shame, this government has just given the go-ahead for development totalling

    359 hectares all around Salgados, (or "Pera Marsh" as it's known to some), down in the Algarve, an area just as valuable for butterflies,

    dragonflies and moths as it is for birds and other animals.
 

    Salgados is a unique and internationally recognized Wetland Sanctuary and once gone - as it will be if the developers start work - it will never return.
 

    I urge you, PLEASE, to sign the on-line petition by clicking here. ''

 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_Salgados_a_unique_internationally_recognized_birding_sanctuary_from_being_destroyed/

 

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Scottish BirdFair

 

Come meet us at the Scottish Birdfair, 19th and 20th May 2012, at Hopetown House, Edinburgh

Click here for details.

 

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Dont mess with a Fork-tailed Flycatcher!!!

 

 

This bird took a dislike to an Aplomado Falcon that strayed a little too close to its territory.

 

For some reason he didn't care for a Kingbird either!!!!

on the same trip we found this Many-coloured Rush-tyrant:- the most beautiful bird in the world??

Click HERE to see more photos from our latest Argentina tour. If you fancy joining us, we will be running another tour here in 2013.

 

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China 2012

 

Siberian Cranes Poyang Hu (Phil Palmer)

 

Our first Southeast China tour in December was a great success. Building on our with experience in finding wild Giant Pandas we were able to locate some of the rarest birds in the world. Poyang Hu held the world population of Siberian Cranes and we saw over a thousand on one lake! Bird numbers were incredible, flocks of a thousand-strong Avocet, 10,000 Spotted Redshank, hundreds of Spoonbills and a thousand Oriental White Storks take some beating.

Wuyishan provided us with a party of 13 Scaly Mergansers as well as a big flock of Mandarin Duck. They were so smart that we revisited them the following morning for a second helping. Brown Dipper, Little Forktail and some crazy Bay Woodpeckers were further highlights before finishing off with Pied Falconets in the centre of a small village.

On the coast we logged four Black-faced Spoonbills and eight Spoon-billed Sandpipers to round off our hit-list of special birds as well as Relict and Saunder's Gulls.

Our tour ended in Beijing where grey-headed woodpecker and Azure-winged Magpies were garden birds. The Great Wall and Summer Palace provided some memorable scenes as well as birds.

See photos from this tour HERE

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Our Winter 2012 Newsletter is now online. Click here to see it.

 

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FROZEN PLANET

 

ANTARCTICA 2011 & beyond

 

 

David Attenborough's incredible new programme on BBC1 as highlighted how wonderful this region is. So we are showcasing some pictures from our recent tour there.

 

The Bird Holidays tour to Antarctica this year took in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands as well as a little birding in Buenos Aires and Patagonia.

To see a selection of photos taken by Phil, Click Here

We will be running another tour to the region in the winter of 2013/14, so please call us to register an interest in this trip.

While our 2011 Spitsbergen tour still has places available if you would like to enjoy Polar Bears and Ivory Gulls.

 

 

 

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SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPER on the UP ?

 

Christoph Zockler has just sent us news that 103 adult Spoon-billed Sandpipers have just been counted at a high tide roost in China.

This is excellent news and although it may conceivably represent the world breeding population, it is likely that there are more out there. If we add the youngsters from last year's breeding season that will still be in Myanmar and this year's juveniles that will move south later, it makes for a more optimistic view than recent trends have indicated.

Observers are watching for this star bird on the Chinese during the migration season and our visit in December will allow us to check one of the estuaries there. Following this, our Myanmar tour in January will enable us to count wintering birds. (3 places left).

Young birds from Russia are still in quarantine and it is hoped that they will be settled into their new home at Slimbridge by Christmas. More updates to follow when we get them.

 

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Madagascar tour

Phil's tour to Madagascar went very well with Couas and Ground-rollers galore! Ring-tailed Lemurs were seen among the 19 lemur species recorded! This included the recently discovered Golden-brown Mouse Lemur. A lesser Hedgehog Tenrec was another mammalian highlight while the elusive Madagascar Serpent Eagle, White-browed Owl, Crab Plover and Meller's Duck were birdy highlights but the group fell for the dancing Running Coua that performed so admirably in the Spiny Forest near Ifaty.

Chameleons, Giraffe Weevils and Thorn Spiders, together with the eggs of the extinct Elephant Bird were other distractions in this incredible, but fragile country.

We now have one place left on our 2012 tour due to a cancellation with 2 trips there already full!!!. Places for 2013 are also filling fast.

 

The sun was quite intensive at the Betsiboka Delta as the gang searched for Bernier's teal, Madagascar Sacred Ibis & Humblot's Heron. So Captain Phil was forced to resort to a Michael Palin-style knotted handkerchief head dress. (Blackmail...ooops! sorry I mean Photo by Ben Wilson)

 

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Bird Holiday trip to Tarifa with the Bradford Ornithological Group

 

In mid September we took seven members of BOG to southern Spain, visiting the east side of the Guadalquivir Delta and Tarifa. We had a great time, with masses of migrants streaming through. As well as hundreds of Honey Buzzards, Booted Eagles, Black Kite and Short-toed Eagles we saw smaller numbers of Black Storks, Montague's Harriers and Lesser Kestrels. During the trip we also saw Little Swift, White-headed Duck and Marbled Duck. Surprises came in the form of a winter plumaged Marsh Sandpiper and this Royal Tern, a rarity from West Africa with fewer than 50 European records!

 

Royal Tern, Los Lances Beach, Tarifa, Sept 2011

Kite surfing was invented at Tarifa.

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BIRDFAIR PRIZE DRAW WINNERS - THE NORTH-EAST CLEANS UP !!!

We have just returned from another fantastic Birdfair. The weather was great and we all had a lovely, if rather hectic, weekend. Our stand was incredibly busy, and we must apologise to anyone who visited us and did not get to chat.

 

We are pleased to announce the winners of the free prize draw held each day. By pure coincidence, all the winners were from the north-east of England. The three lucky winners of the signed Ivory Gull canvas print by Phil Palmer are:-

Friday - Donald Martin from Billingham

Saturday - Michael Hall from Chathill, Northumberland

Sunday - Peter Cunningham from Beverley, East Yorkshire

Thomas Willoughby drawing the Friday winner.

 

We asked people to choose their favourite Bird Holidays brochure cover from the last 12 years, all displayed on our stand. The winning brochure cover, not surprisingly, was the 2012 Ivory Gull. Here are the top three:-

1st - 2012, Ivory Gull, 17% of the votes

2nd - 2005, Shoebill, 15% of the votes

3rd - 2011, Little Green Bee-eater, 12% of the votes

 

The Friday winner with his Ivory Gull print. Left to right. Phil Palmer, Donald Martin and Paul Willoughby.

Michael Hall (above), winner of the Saturday draw

The Sunday winner. Left to right Paul Willoughby, Marge Cunningham and Peter Cunningham. Incredibly, Paul used to meet up with Peter and Marge when they were birding at Flamborough in the 1990's. It's a small world...

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Bird Holidays 2012 Brochure

 

our 2012 brochure is now online. Click on the image below for details

 

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Our  Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation tour can be seen by clicking HERE

 

A Spoon-billed Sandpiper news page can be viewed by clicking HERE

 

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MANITOBA, CANADA

 

Loads of smart pictures from our recent visit can be seen by clicking  HERE

This Hudsonian Godwit was one of two ringed birds that Phil was able get pictures of. Being able to read the letters AX on the left leg allowed him to forward information to researchers at Churchill who sent details of its movements.

 

A brief synopsis of the average migration of a Churchill godwit would include: -

Three weeks staging on the western coast of James Bay before a non-stop flight from James Bay to Buenos Aires, Argentina; a flight of 10,000 km and 7 days.

A month staging along the northern Argentine coast before moving south to Tierra del Fuego where they spend five months wintering. 

A return non-stop flight northward to southern Texas in early May (another flight of ~10,000 km) before hop scotching through the Great Plains with an average of 3 stops along the way.

And, finally a return to Churchill in late May.....phew

 

This adult Glaucous-winged Gull was a fabulous find. As Phil was on his way back to the hotel, he decided to check out some large gulls hoping for a Thayer's Gull. To his surprise, he saw the bird above. He didn't realise how rare it was here as they are common in Alaska and he had even seen one in the UK!!! Some people were sceptical about the record, but Rhonda Reid, a local birder was with him and together with a set of superb pictures there was no doubt that the bird had been there - albeit briefly.

This reply came back from the local birders:- The Glaucous-winged Gull was a great find Phil. The only documented Glaucous –winged Gulls in the province were collected at Churchill: a second-year female on June 1, 1964 and an adult female on June 24th, 1965.

This means that this is the first sight record for Churchill & the second for Manitoba.

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NEW TOURS

 

Azure Tit, Belarus (Gabor Orban)

 

BELARUS

A new tour for May 2012 will take customers to Belarus in search of Azure Tits, Great Grey Owls and Terek Sandpipers among many other East European delights. Gabor, our local guide who some of you may know from previous trips, has sent us these images of this gorgeous bird that he took this May.  More information will be in our brochure, but we are happy to provisionally put your name down for this trip to avoid disappointment later.

Azure Tit and Terek Sandpiper by our guide Gabor Orban

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MANITOBA, CANADA

This spring, Phil visited Canada. He toured the taiga belt & prairies of southern Manitoba in search or the many brightly coloured American wood warblers and sparrows  that were singing in readiness to breed. Loons wailed from every lake, Sharp-tailed Grouse danced on the prairies and flocks of migrating wildfowl homed in on the many ponds and marshes. In addition, he wanted to look at the prospects of finding large mammals like bears and bison, as well as some smaller ones like beaver, chipmunk and muscrat - he found them all! Heading north towards the end of the tree-line, he reached the town Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay.

Famous for polar bears that walk into town, he turned his attention to the birds and couldn't have been more pleased. Thousands of Lapland Buntings attracted harriers and falcons, the displaying shorebirds were watchful for Bald eagles and the Spruce Grouse only broke cover when they were confident that the Golden Eagles were gone. Feeders attracted grosbeaks, finches and sparrows and melting ice in the river brought Sabine's and Bonaparte's Gulls closer to large flocks of cranes and Ross's Geese.

The whole place was amazing and we are currently planning a tour there as soon as we can. As a taster of the incredible views we had, the photo above shows one of thousands of White-crowned Sparrows that Phil saw. This species hit the headlines in 2008 when one turned up at Cley in Norfolk. The bird stayed for weeks allowing hundreds of birdwatchers to enjoy it, while raising thousands of pounds for the local church. A picture of the sparrow appeared in one corner of a new stained-glass window in recognition of the birds contribution to the restoration fund.

.More photos & details of this new tour will follow soon.

 

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 CHINA - Shaanxi Panda tour

 

Can this squirrel fly?......click HERE to see

Other pictures from our tour can be found here too.

 

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ESTONIA  2011

John and Phil have just returned from yet another successful tour of Estonia, a place we have been visiting annually for well over a decade now.

The weather was cool when we arrived meaning that Long-tailed Ducks remained and we were lucky enough to find four Steller's Eider with them!

The thousands of wintering Barnacle Geese were on the move, with some Bean, Whitefront and Pinkfeet with them. A run of rarity finds included Pallid Harrier and Black Kite, while some Rough-legged Buzzards had lingered to be joined by Montagu's Harriers and Honey Buzzards fresh in and displaying. Slavonian Grebes swam by our hotel watched over by squabbling White-tailed Eagles and migrants included Wryneck, Bluethroat and Waxwing. We found superb Nutcrackers, Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Black Woodpeckers in the woods before moving inland.

As the temperature rose, Golden Orioles, Rosefinches, River and Blyth's Reed Warblers began to arrive; joining Thrush Nightingales, Little Gulls and Red-necked Grebes. Rarities here included White-winged Black Terns and nesting Citrine Wagtails. Evening forays provided Spotted Crakes and a series of wonderful mammal sightings. These included several Wild Boar, Elk and Beaver, while a Pine Marten was possibly our best find?

This tour has been full every time we have run it and of course we will be returning there in 2012.

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MAY  NEWS

While the boys are away missing all of this wonderful sunny spring weather, maybe we should fill you in with some news from our tours this year and maybe news of others?

"I don't think we can find a glass big enough" said one client on our January Antarctica Tour! (photo by Chrys Mellor)

Such has been our success this year, that most trips have been oversubscribed and several tours for 2012 are already provisionally full, with the odd one in 2013, the same! We have already discussed plans for new tours in 2012 and it looks like there will be exciting new tours to Belize with Paul, Chile with John and Ethiopia with Andy. Phil will have a spring tour to Belarus, probably the only place where you can expect to see the much desired Azure Tit in Europe? The country has wonderful Northern European species like Great Snipe and Great Grey Owl, as well as good populations of European Bison and other big mammals. So watch this space.

Our leaders always do a risk assessment before going birding, but being pecked from behind was not considered! (photo by Chrys Mellor)

 

Our Nepal in March tour ran very well with Cutia, Ibisbill and Wallcreeper all seen very well, along with Indian Rhino and Jungle Cat. The big surprise was a smart White-tailed Blue Robin that fed right by the hotel in Kathmandu.

 The China Tour ran particularly smoothly with the group seeing two Giant Pandas in the wild!!!! Phil had been nervous that the walk to the research station may be hard work for some, but it passed very quickly and rather tirelessly as they saw birds like Nutcracker, Red-flanked Bluetail and Little Forktail on the way. We were told that one of our clients of 79 years was the oldest visitor to see a wild panda here! An extension was arranged to enjoy other sights and Godlewski's Bunting was seen right beside the Great Wall of China and a vagrant Japanese Waxwing joined a flock of its commoner cousins at the Emperors Palace. There will also be chance to enjoy the historical sights of China after next year's panda tour.

John found loads of Steller's Eider in Estonia and has just called the office to say that he managed Terek Sandpiper in Greece yet again. Paul is in Turkey and Andy is probably now in some forest in the Czech Republic so it is quiet here in Yeadon.

Fire-tailed Myzornis photographed on Andy's Bhutan tour.

Christoph reports that his projects in Myanmar are paying dividends with regard to Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation. His schemes have reduced hunting of Spoon-billed Sandpipers by 50% this winter in their most important winter stronghold. We know this is not enough but it is a step in the right direction. Another bird guide has been trained there and he was so excited when he found two Spoon-billed Sandpipers in breeding plumage this spring. He says that this is the first time birds have been observed in this plumage in Myanmar and was so proud of himself. We hope to continue supporting this scheme and now with Birdlife International board, we hope that it is not to late to save this critically endangered bird. Our next tour there is planned for January 17th 2012, so if this marvellous wader is on your wish list, please join Phil & Christoph.

The Antarctica tour early in the year went like clockwork again. Our new ship was almost too luxurious for birders but we coped with the fine cuisine and the views of the bow piped directly into our cabins via a video-link!

Killer Whales seemed to be everywhere on this trip with the Bird Holidays gang finding all of them as others rushed to reach the deck each time. The endemic Cobb's Wren was seen well on Falkland and some smart Antarctic Petrels joined the many Snow Petrels that swooped over the deck this year.

                                                                                                                                                                              (all photos by Chrys Mellor)

For those customers that have travelled with Troels (left photo), we are delighted to let you know that he plans to marry this year and so we send our congratulations. Sadly he will be settling down now and changing his job. So will not be a leader on the polar cruises.

For those of you that cannot imagine what it is like to 'meet' a Wandering Albatross, the picture of 'Little' Chrys stood next to one in Grytviken museum will show you how awesome these birds really are. Museum staff have even had to bend its wings to get it into the room!!!!.

The Orca on the right was photographed by Chrys and shows the yellow algae-stained skin that some of the cetaceans in the region possess.

While we are on the subject of cruises & polar regions, we will be running our trip to Spitsbergen again in 2012 so it is perhaps time to start planning before cabins fill up?.

 

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper

2011 survey update & Myanmar extension for 2012

 

 

A new shaded shelter built for birdwatchers to observe waders. Part of Christoph's work with the locals.

 

Christoph Zockler has sent us a brief report from Myanmar regarding this year’s Spoon-billed Sandpiper survey results.

His work with the local villagers’, who in the past had been trapping the birds, is vital to prevent the extinction of this enigmatic bird. A storm had damaged part of the village where the birds winter, but with funding from the Lighthouse foundation, the people have built a brand new viewing facility complete with a toilet (a big deal in this very poor area). We are keen to assist with eco-tourism here and various initiatives are already in the pipeline to help.

 This winter’s surveys showed that 22 Spoon-billed Sandpipers were wintering in the bay. This may not sound like a lot but the most optimistic of estimates say that there are now no more than 100 pairs left in the world and possibly much less! Birdlife International are taking things very seriously and things are moving, albeit slowly. The situation is now so critical for this mysterious bird that they are even considering taking some birds into captivity.

Phil and Christoph will be leading our tour to Myanmar in January 2012. This will enable us to count the birds next year, while enjoying the many other special birds of the region. We hope that you can join us as our contribution to the local economy both financially and through raising awareness is vital to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s future.

If you would like to take part in our tour to see some super birds and enjoy the strange sight of a wader with a spoon, then please get in touch as soon as possible.

 

This is a new toilet under construction by local villagers. Specially built for birders visiting the site.

There is an option to extend the 2012 Myanmar tour, with a visit to Mount Victoria with Phil & Christoph. This will be dependent on client numbers.

 

 

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Our Early Spring 2011 Newsletter is now online. Click here to see it.

 

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Phew!!! spring is not even here and things are busy in the office. Roger has been to Kerala, John is in Yucatan and Andy has just returned from Ethiopia.

Phil has just returned from yet another great trip to the White Continent (Antarctica), and is doing some slide shows at the moment, while Paul is licking and sticking envelopes to get the spring newsletter out.

There are some places left on a few tours coming up soon and most of Phil's group travelling to see Pandas in China have opted to stay a couple of nights in Beijing to see the cultural sites.

As well as the Great Wall, they intend to visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tomb and the Summer Palace. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then you consider adding this to a wonderful Chinese tour?

By the way, it will be warm then as Phil's recce was in snowy February 2010.....brrrrrr!

 

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Panda Week

If you saw Nigel Marvin' series on Channel 5, you will have seen the magnificent wildlife & scenery of the Qinling Mountains.

This gave you a flavour of what to expect on our Shaanxi Province tour in China in April.

 

To see the a series of photographs from our trip there, CLICK HERE

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OUR 2011 BROCHURE IS NOW ONLINE. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.

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Bird Holidays help save Spoon-billed Sandpipers

in conjunction with  Arccona

 

 

 

 Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Kamchatka - Phil Palmer

 

   Bird Holidays  are proud to support the work of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper recovery Group. You can now help by counting Spoon-billed Sandpipers on our tours to China and Myanmar. At the same time you are doing something positive to prevent the hunting of birds on their wintering grounds. 

We will be announcing new tours to China and Myanmar in our 2011 Brochure launched at the end of August .

 

The enigmatic Spoon-billed Sandpiper is unique among shorebirds, famous for its bizarre-shaped bill. The challenges of seeing one are rising as it plunges towards extinction. It is estimated that only 120–220 pairs remain.

 Phil has taken part in two expeditions to the bird’s summer breeding grounds on the Russian Chukotskiy peninsula and northern Kamchatka with Christoph Zöckler and Evgeny Syroechkovskiy of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Group. This place has been inaccessible to all but a few ornithologists.

 Despite occasional sightings across a vast range from India, Malaysia and Japan, the main wintering sites were unknown until recently. Christoph and Evgeny have led the way in unravelling the mysteries surrounding this bird. They show that the worst threat is to the over wintering birds and those threats can be reduced (C. Zöckler et al. Wader Study Group Bull. 117, 1–8; 2010).

 With no apparent sign of habitat degradation at the breeding site, Christoph organised expeditions to search for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers wintering area. Having had success in Myanmar during trips in 2007, 2008 and 2009, in January 2010, they found an estimated half of the global over wintering population in the Bay of Martaban. The team also identified one bird that they had tagged with a leg flag on the breeding grounds in 2003.

 Analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes from the few, winter-grown, feathers collected when the bird was tagged showed that this individual was in the centre of the densest data cluster, implying that it was in the heart of the wintering area.

 Christoph found that local hunters use mist nets to catch birds for food. About.30,000 shorebirds are killed annually in this bay alone from an estimated 150,000 waders. Most of the 26 hunters from 15 villages interviewed were familiar with Spoon-billed Sandpipers and admitted that they regularly catch them. There were only five full-time professional hunters and their preferred targets are much larger species like Whimbrel. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper corpses were often discarded!

During the earlier trips, Christoph's team had found a good number of  Spoon-billed Sandpipers in a smaller neighbouring bay. Christoph offered incentives to the villagers to conserve the birds and this worked very well.

A small fund was set up to provide alternative food for the families and village elders ensured that there was no hunting. Their surveys this year proved that it was working as numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpipers there remained stable for the first time.

 It is hoped that this scheme can be extended to Martaban and they are working towards this. Without this intervention, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper could become extinct within 10–20 years. Thankfully, through persistent investigation and willingness to engage with local people, we may be able to pull it back from the brink.

This tale illustrates how conservationists must engage with local people for it to be successful. At last there is hope for this bird if small changes are made.

Spoon-billed Sandpipers wintering in China 2010 - Phil Palmer

 

 Bird Holidays Spoon-billed Sandpiper Tours

Phil and Christoph met with the rest of the Bird Holidays team and found that there was actually something practical that we could do. We will be supporting the local villagers and the Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the most practical way we can.

 We will be taking over the management of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Group’s trips to Myanmar. It is important that the birds are counted each winter and that the locals continue not to hunt Spoon-billed Sandpipers. A contribution is made to prevent hunting and tourism there is increasing awareness of the star bird that visits them each year.

We have organised special birding tours to this superb area that include time to see and count the Spoon-billed Sandpipers in one bay as well as getting to grips with some other superb birds (see our brochure page for prices and details ready at the end of August 2010).

At the same time we will maintain the link with the villagers and provide a donation to their fund.

Christoph is a professional tour leader and will lead our first Spoon-billed Sandpiper trip in 2011.

You can meet Christoph at the 2010 Bird Fair where he will be at the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Group's stand

Spoon-billed Sandpiper in China 2010 - Phil Palmer

 

 

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We have just released our 2011 program of tours. Click here to read about them.

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Paul recently completed a recce to the lovely island of Madeira. Due to his special interest in seabirds he had been hoping to visit for many years, and got the chance in early June. He was concerned that last winter's storms might have caused lasting problems, but there was nothing to worry about. He had a lovely time with his family, seeing many exciting seabirds as well as walking the famous levadas. He is planning a tour there for 2011. Click here for a selection of photographs that might whet your appetite.

Pico de Arieiro is the only place in the world where the Zino's Petrel nests. A visit at dusk would be worthwhile just for the magnificent sunsets, above a carpet of cloud.

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Spring News

Phew, what a hectic time. All of our tours have been running and many of them are over subscribed! We seem to be fortunate whenever there are problems in the travel business as nothing seems to dent our enthusiasm. Our leaders were affected by the volcanic ash situation with most of them abroad (fortunately not with groups), however no trips were cancelled. The only inconvenience for customers was on the Bhutan tour, where the group had to endure Andy's company for an unscheduled tour in India on the way home.

Roger suffered a short delay in Spain while on a recce and John was late back from a recce to some new sites in Estonia. Both made it back in time to lead their tour to Turkey. Phil was just a day late returning from Ascension Island but utilised his time well, by watching Sooty Terns courting and Green Turtles laying eggs.

In Kerala, Roger notched up Ceylon Bay Owl yet again to top the list of endemics found on this popular trip. Oman rarities included Amur Falcon and Crested Honey Buzzard, but topping the list was the False Killer Whales seen hunting dolphins. Staying with cetaceans, Phil's Antarctica season provided good sightings of Blue Whale but True's and Sowerby's Beaked Whales were serious fare for any sea-mammal enthusiast. The seabirds are mentioned in his brief write-up below and all sea crossings were incredibly calm until reaching Tristan. Strong winds here made landing impossible, but the Gough zodiac cruise allowed the endemic Moorhen and Bunting to be located. 

Smyrna Kingfisher and Red-fronted Serin were highlights in Turkey with additions like Cinereous Bunting and Rufous Bushchat enjoyed by all. Andy's Bhutan tour was a pheasant fest with Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan showing off to everyone's glee. His Tiger tour found three adults and three cubs during an excellent week in India. John's Costa Rica tour managed so many birds that it is difficult to highlight them all but the smart photos he showed us of Boat-billed Heron were mouth watering.

Paul is currently in the Coto Donana and Andy leaves for the Czech Republic this weekend. Phil, Roger and Paul will head to Greece next week where they will be taking York RSPB on a private tour. We still have a few last minute places available on our Poland, Ecuador, Okavango and Bulgaria tours, but there are few gaps in the calendar before the autumn season. Here we have spaces for Gambia, Taiwan, Morocco and Florida with one space left on the popular Namibia trip.

 

 

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Atlantic Odyssey tour news

Snowy (Wandering) Albatross, Prion island, South Georgia (Phil Palmer)

  Our epic journey from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina visited Antarctica, South Georgia, Gough, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Ascension Island. It proved to be a seabird spectacular, possibly the finest ever undertaken in the Atlantic Ocean.

  All the expected seabirds were seen well, including Snow, and Antarctic Petrels, topped by all the monster albatrosses: White-capped, Tristan, Snowy, Yellow-nosed, Black-browed, Grey-headed, Sooty and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses. The endemic seabirds included Ascension Island Frigatebird and landbirds included the St Helena Wirebird. Throw in a million or two penguins shearwaters, storm-petrels, noddies, boobies and tropicbirds, and you can begin to see why this was a special journey.

  We celebrated the last trip of the Professor Molchanov in true style by locating a Juan Fernandez Petrel, probably the first authenticated record in the Atlantic Ocean and an amazing sequence of Trindade Petrel sightings. Just one sighting of this threatened bird would have been incredible but several birds were involved. Some hung around the ship and the total count may have exceeded double figures. 

Juan Fernandez Petrel (Phil Palmer)                                                                                       Trindade Petrel (Phil Palmer)

 In 2011, our tour takes in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. We still have a few places left. We can also include an extension to the Iguazú Falls on the Argentina/Brazil border. Please phone for details.

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA TOUR

Phil has just returned from a trip to China where he was finalising plans for a new tour in 2011.

Having been to China many years ago, he was pleasantly surprised to see how far things had progressed with regard to the logistics of travelling around. Improvements to roads, accommodation and food, together with some superb birds and animals, has led  him to arrange two new tours.

Seeing a genuinely wild Giant Panda has been almost impossible until recently. Phil visited a remote mountainous area where there is the highest density of pandas. Phil expected a hard time as he had chosen to visit during the cold snowy part of the year, but saw two pandas on his first day!!!!!

After this awesome start, he settled down to help locals tackle the difficulties of bird location and identification. Between them they forged a great friendship and found some superb birds. Several were ticks for his guides and finding out that their greatest desire was to see a Wallcreeper, he used his previous experience to ensure they got one as reward for showing him a big black and white bear.

 Seeing a wild panda requires a lot of luck and Phil has always carried that in buckets everywhere he has visited. Following his time spent watching a smart male resting in a tree (above photo), he saw some blue-faced Golden Monkeys, various deer, Flying Squirrels with a 1m wingspan and Takin; a massive ivory-coloured forest buffalo.

 Primarily there for the birds, Phil realised that clients would want to see a panda given the chance but would struggle to tackle the terrain. When birding the wide trails he found many footprints, scent posts and droppings every day so knew that pandas could be viewed from the trails.

Sure enough, prints in the snow one morning revealed that one had walked right past his bedroom window in the night. The following day the cook found one crossing the path near the buildings and Phil found a female feeding just 5m from the path the next morning. This proved that it was possible to undertake a  birding trip that provides us with a better than average chance of seeing a wild panda. For those people prepared to follow the guides deep into the forest, this chance also increases. So we intend to run this tour in April 2011. 

The Chinese Crested Ibis has just been brought back from the brink of extinction, but can easily be seen on our proposed tour.

Moving off from the mountains, Phil travelled east towards the sea through mountains containing the rare Scaly-sided Merganser, past lakes holding thousands of cranes, including the Siberian White Crane, then finally on the coast he located at least four Spoon-billed Sandpipers and some Black-faced Spoonbills. All these are star billing for a tour that will run in November 2011.

 

 

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new photographs have been added to a Namibia & Caprivi web page

click here to view

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click here to read our 2010 New Year newsletter

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January News

Pearl Spotted Owlet being mobbed by Crimson-breasted Shrike & friends (Crombec, Lesser Grey Shrike & Grey-headed Sparrow), Namibia, December 2009. (Phil Palmer)

As 2009 drew to a close, our last tours of the year produced some great birds. Roger took a full tour to Taiwan where the stunning pheasants were supported by a cast of Black-faced Spoonbills and some  mouth watering megas that rarely reach the UK: Siberian Rubythroat, White's and Eye-browed Thrushes and Red-flanked Bluetail.

The final trip of the year was Phil's highly acclaimed Namibia tour. Spotted cats stole the show with Cheetah and three Leopard sightings heading the mammal list in Etosha. They were bolstered by too many Lions to mention, gangs of Hyena, Porcupines and both species of Rhino.

White Rhino has recently been re-introduced to Etosha and Phil's new safari guide, Raymond was shocked when Phil took him to see one! Raymond knows the park very well having worked there for some years, but had never seen a White Rhino. Phil has found them on four recent trips and when he told Ray that he had an appointment with one, Ray was shocked to find the animal exactly where Phil had said it would be. Ray had travelled the same road many times but was never even hopeful that he could ever see one!

The Namibia tour provided a few other surprises for this seasoned safari guide as Ray often works with some serious African twitchers. He was shocked that we did not have to do the 4am starts, long drives or sub-standard accommodation to see the endemics. He said it was one of his most relaxing trips where we saw all the goodies and still had time to look at animals and some Welwitschia plants too.

Jameson's Red Rock Rabbit is barely known about and the number of photographs of them taken in the wild can be counted on one hand. Again, Phil produced the goods with a Spotted eagle Owl and a Namaqua Dwarf Adder in the same half hour's pre-breakfast desert amble that logged three of these crazy bunnies. 

One of the few photographs ever taken of Jameson's Red Rock Rabbit. This bunny lives in the rocky granite kopjes. Its oversized bushy black tail is obvious in this photograph. (Phil Palmer).

For those that remember our previous guide Charles, the good news is that having learned many of Phil's birding secrets, he has taken on the managerial role at one of the Namibia's newest luxury lodges. Our leaders are happy to assist local birders in their careers and it was nice that Charles went out of his way to visit the group in Etosha. We wish him well in his new post.

It goes without saying that the desired birds on the trip were all found. Herero Chat, Gray's Lark and Dune Lark are the hardest of endemics to locate and several of each showed well, but the excitement of birds gathered to mob a Pearl-spotted Owlet at Namutoni will be hard to beat. The picture at the top of the page shows this diminutive hunter with four unhappy neighbours near it. The two shrikes are actually bigger than the owl!

At least four kinds of shrike led over 17 species of birds that came to offer support to the angry mob in a short period of time. 

 

Christmas was a time to reflect on 2009 and a newsletter will be winging its way to you in the post as soon as it returns from the printers. All five of us gathered for our traditional Christmas Dinner near the office and congratulated each other on a successful year.

2010 already looks very busy with most of the tours in the first half of the year already full. Many of you are now signing up for 2011 to avoid disappointment and some of these are full too! Don't worry if you are unable to make plans this far ahead as we may be running two trips to some destinations, but as places are limited, we would urge you to start thinking about it. There is still space on our two Namibia trips in 2010. The first in August  includes the famous Okavango Delta and is the perfect compliment to the standard tour that many of you rate as one of your finest. Both bird and animal species are very different, with little overlap in regard to sightings.

At the moment, John is in the Camargue and a phone call yesterday told how his merry band had already seen some Wallcreepers. Roger is in Kerala and Andy has just departed to Northern India. Paul and Phil are manning the phones if you want to chat about trips. This month's Birdwatch magazine contains the tale about our Siberian Stonechat mentioned lower down this news page and John has his regular piece about the North-East's rare birds.  The snow failed to bring any Waxwings to our gardens this year, but a Raven regularly commutes over Phil's garden; amazing for a Nottinghamshire locality. Some RSPB slide shows had to be cancelled for safety reasons, but we still made it to Southend, Lichfield, Long-Eaton and Oxford. Others in the coming days include Bedford, Wakefield, Coventry and Warwick.

 

This Leopard was caught drinking at the Halali waterhole for just 5 minutes. (Phil Palmer).

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HELP for Swifts & Bats

 

We are asking customers to consider signing a petition on the website for the Prime Minister of the UK.

If it has any success it will see the mandatory installation of Swift and Bat nest places within UK buildings, whether new or restored. This I hope you will agree would be a very good thing. Even if it does not succeed, someone in the Government is going to notice it, and maybe think about it.

The Conservative Shadow Environment Minister was briefed on much the same issue too, so the word is getting about in the "Corridors of Power" about the need to make and keep places for Swifts and Bats. If we can keep up the pressure, then one day we will see results!
 

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/BirdsBats/
 

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click on the above photograph for more images of this lovely bird

On 17th December, this striking-looking male Siberian Stonechat was found at Bevercotes in North Nottinghamshire, close to Phil's home. The strange bird was first seen by Bob Stevens in a heavy shower. He thought it was very much like a Whinchat but Bob felt sure it was a Stonechat. Aware of various identification pitfalls involved with Stonechat races and unfamiliarity with foreign birds, Bob asked Phil to take a look.
 
Aware of a whole range of identification pitfalls and recent reports of Continental birds showing pale rumps, Phil quickly confirmed the identification as Nottinghamshire's first Siberian Stonechat and one of less that a handful of winter records in the UK. As a result, this plumage is rarely seen and depicted in field guides.
 
In snow showers, horizontal at times, the bird rarely kept still, but showed a white rump bordered with some buff. The completely unstreaked rump ruled out the British race of which two birds were present on site for comparison. Together with black axillaries, the pallid colour and a tail that lacked any white, it was narrowed down to belonging to the race S. t. maura
 
The amount of black on the face appears to be unusual at this time of year, and the contrasting white throat even more so.
It is understandable that some would think it was a Whinchat on first impression and it is also reminiscent of Fuerteventura Chat, but the rump and tail pattern quickly eliminate these species. All-in-all, it is a beautiful bird and may remain for the winter if it survives the pre-Christmas cold spell and snow.
 

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NOTE - Due to late availability on some 2010 Antarctic cruises, we are pleased to announce that we can offer a considerable discount for some cruises. Please phone for details as prices fluctuate with currency changes.

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November News

Cranes at sunset, Phil Palmer

Our Autumn programme is in full swing, Roger and Phil have just completed their reports & edited pictures from two tours to Hungary. As reported last month, their targets included Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon, almost all of the European Woodpeckers, Dotterel and an awesome gathering of 41,000 cranes. This was achieved without a hitch among some of the most wonderful scenery. Despite being there in October, they were basking in more than 80 degrees of heat, but this didn't stop them finding wintering birds like the globally threatened Lesser White-fronted Goose, Smew and White-tailed Eagles. The wonderful colours of the Zemplen Hills were slightly cooler and clothed in the reds and golds of autumn. We are planning to return in 2011 with a bird tour and a repeat of our successful bat tour. Please register an interest at our office to avoid disappointment. For a look at some superb photographs from this tour click HERE.

Paul has returned from his Brazilian tour, where the rare Brazilian Merganser was seen along with superb Maned Wolf and Anteater. Without allowing the dust to settle he has taken a group to Goa while Andy is in the Gambia. Good moves considering the damp dark weather here in Yeadon! Phil's pictures from trips to Brazil and Ecuador have graced two new photographic guides to the area, published by New Holland. Both are worth a look if are considering going or want to reminisce about what birds you saw there.

Roger is getting ready to lead his second tour to Taiwan and Phil his umpteenth visit to Namibia. Both tours were oversubscribed so are repeated in 2010. Phil and John work with Birdguides, the country's leading bird information website. John has just written an article for their webzine about the identification of Green and Greenish Warblers.

There are only a few places left on our spring 2010 trips, so check availability before sending your booking forms in. Traditionally we expect a rush of bookings just after Christmas but it is already too late for some trips. There is still room on several Autumn 2010 trips. 

There are cabins left on our Antarctica tour, but flights are filling fast. If you want to visit the famous Białowieża Forest or Biebrza Marshes in Poland, please let us know soon as hotels are filling. If you have never seen a Moose (European Elk), then this is undoubtedly the best place to go. We saw several grazing near some Aquatic Warblers last year as a pair of cranes flew over. As it had been a good waxwing winter, there were several seen fly-catching; a crazy sight in May.  It is also a good place to get to grips with a smart male Bluethroat, most of the European Woodpeckers and Great Snipe, while the rare European Bison is a possibility too. Click HERE to see photos from this year's trip.

 

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First for Britain.

Many of you will know occasional Bird Holidays co-leader and great friend Mark Newsome. Mark hit the headlines (and even appeared on the BBC's News at Ten!), when he recently identified an Eastern Crowned Warbler in Co Durham, the first British record of this Siberian bird. Hundreds of twitchers travelled to see the bird on 23rd and 24th October 2009. If you know Mark (most recently he was with us in N Greece and Goa) and would like a giggle, check-out his appearance on the News at Ten by clicking on the following link. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8323930.stm


Eastern Crowned Warbler, Co Durham, First for Britain.

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A quick city tour of Budapest en-route to the airport closed a couple of wonderful Hungary tours.

October News

Autumn is in full swing and our trips have been full and busy, finding some great birds.

Roger took a group from Leeds RSPB to Hungary that was followed by Phil and a second group the week after. Amazing views were enjoyed of Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, hundreds of Dotterel scattered by a Saker and a fine selection of European woodpeckers. Rarities found involved Black-winged Pratincole and Lesser White-fronted Geese with American shorebirds like Pectoral Sandpiper and American Golden Plover. A humorous evening in a winery and a quick city tour of Budapest rounded off these excellent trips.

Paul is currently in Brazil leading a new tour after a great trip to Romania where Terek Sandpiper was a good find. In Tarifa, Paul's group saw Ruppell's Vulture as well as the more numerous raptors crossing the Straits of Gibraltar.

Phil had led our first bat tour to Hungary in August and that was a real success. Our experts used high-tech equipment to pick up invisible hunters before mist netting some for close-up views. The large daytime roosts impressed everyone as they unlike anything experienced in the UK. We also notched up two species of dormouse and an impressive butterfly list as well as Imperial Eagle, Saker and some rare woodpeckers. Our next bat tour will be in 2011 and already we have some bookings, so please don't miss this pioneering opportunity.

Andy and John continued to man the office preparing for their next trips while Roger took Doncaster RSPB to Bulgaria in late August . They chalked up Masked Shrike, Orphean Warbler and Pied Wheatear as well as spectacular numbers or migrants like the 14,000+ White Storks!

Roger is now preparing for Taiwan again and we have just got news of a discount on our Antarctica cruise in 2010. We have yet to finalise exact details of the cost, so please phone if you are interested as the ship is almost full.

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ANTARCTICA & ATLANTIC ODYSSEY

 

King Penguins meet reindeer on South Georgia - taken on our 2009 tour.

LATE   AVAILABILITY

The cruises to the Southern Oceans in early 2010 are filling fast. There are just a few cabins left so if you are thinking of joining one of these trips, please get in touch soon as we have extended our booking discount date.

Giant Petrels at Tristan da Cunha (2009 tour)

A pair of Sooty Albatross display over Tristan's cliffs (2009 tour)

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Our 2010 brochure is now online. Click here to see it.

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CAMARGUE IN WINTER

 

Due to a change in winter flight schedules we are now offering new departure airports for our Camargue in Winter trip. The tour is centred in Arles just north of the Camargue and offers a great opportunity to see wintering Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentors, Citril Finch and Snowfinch.

 In addition we have excellent sites close to our hotel where we can watch both Bonelli's Eagle and Eagle Owl. The Camargue itself holds large numbers of wintering wildfowl as well as the resident specialities such as Greater Flamingo and Purple Gallinule. Moustached Warblers can be easier to see at this time of year and Penduline Tits may also put on a show.

Our tour has a one centre base at a small hotel on the outskirts of the ancient city of Arles. There will also be time to explore the both the city and its stunning amphitheatre which is undergoing a splendid restoration.

The tour will run from Manchester and Gatwick airports to Marseille giving you the opportunity to fly from whichever airport which is the most convenient. The tour will run from January 16th to the 23rd.

to see brochure write up click here

 

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Our photo page has been updated with many pictures from Ecuador, Romania and our first bat tour.

Lesser Horseshoe Bat  - for more pictures of bats click HERE

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Bird Fair News

We would like to apologise to all the people that tried to chat to us and found us too busy. This year’s British Birdwatching Fair was a great success but absolutely manic on Friday and Saturday with large numbers of friends stopping to say hello to us.

Phil, Andy and John were present all three days and were very pleased to meet some of our local guides and ground agents.

Our Taiwanese friends made a fuss of us as we were their best clients in 2008 and 2009. Apparently other companies cancelled trips there while we ran full.

It appears that some companies only ran one out of five advertised tours when the recession hit, while the opposite was true for Bird Holidays. It seems that our unbroken record of NEVER having surcharged a tour has repaid dividends and so we must send a big thank you for supporting us.  Bracing ourselves for a quiet time at the fair, we found that you are keener than ever to join us on a trip and the last 2 places on our Brazil tour were snapped up on the first morning!

Only 2 weeks have passed since our brochure was mailed out, but five tours in 2010 are already full with others are filling quickly. Please don’t leave booking too late to avoid disappointment.

We still have places on one tour in 2009 - Goa. Please call if you are interested.

 

Spoon-billed Sandpiper research

You may have seen that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper research group attended the Bird Fair. Phil is an active member having assisted in two long expeditions to the Russian Arctic with them. This is a small group of concerned individuals that have funded their own visits and research. Recently Birdlife International and the RSPB have become more active as the bird's plight has been more obvious. Some supporters have been found to help pay for a Russian team to protect the birds on the last significant breeding site.

On Friday, the opportunity for an ad-hoc conference was grabbed with Phil joining representatives from Japan, Korea, Burma, Germany, Russia and Denmark as well as Birdlife International and RSPB.

This year’s surveys have confirmed most of the reasons for the bird’s decline, but raised other questions. Some action can now be taken immediately, but at present, this may only slow the rate of decline. Following the meeting, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper recovery team are to draw up an action plan.

It is intended that the team will re-visit Burma this winter which is now the major wintering ground for the species. It is hoped that meetings with locals will reduce the by-catch of birds trapped in the estuaries. It is possible to donate towards this work, so please contact Phil if that is something you wish to consider.

 On a lighter note, Christoph Zöckler chaired this important international gathering where it was priceless to see Phil’s 10 year old son Max, proudly sat beside Dad with his chest puffed out like a Ruff as he was introduced. Prof Evgeny Syroechkovski presented him with some home-made jam made from dandelions gathered during this summer’s expedition to Kamchatka by his wife Lena.  

Phil, Lena, Evgeny and Alex Hellquist from Sweden, were the only people to find a Spoon-billed sandpiper during the expedition this summer. Clearly action is needed urgently.

 

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SPOON-BILLED  SANDPIPER..... a race against time!!!

 

 

 

These photographs were taken on a special expedition to locate the breeding grounds of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

   Listed as critically endangered with a population estimate of 450 - 1000 birds, Phil has been fortunate enough to assist  Russian researchers on  their expeditions in the past. The future for this bird looks extremely bleak as it is affected on its breeding and wintering grounds as well as on migration.

Breeding habitat is very specific and always close to the coast. In recent years surveys have covered almost every possible location and it has become evident that even these low estimates are over optimistic. It is likely that there are less than 150 birds left now. For example, the sites surveyed this year were estimated to hold between 5 - 50 pairs. In reality only one territorial bird was found: - the one in these photographs.

It did not appear to have a mate as Phil monitored the area for 3 days!

We would like to do more to help this wonderful bird but funding is very limited. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper winters mainly in Myanmar (Burma). A country where few people are prepared to fund anything because of the government's record on human rights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Aleutian Tern eggs are collected by locals in Kamchatka. During this season at least 95% of all nesting birds monitored were robbed. This species whose wintering grounds are still unknown, is listed as being of "Least Concern" but clearly such losses will have a massive impact on this little-studied bird.  

 

Flocks of 200+ Long-tailed Skuas hang around Spoon-billed Sandpiper habitat hoping for an opportunistic meal.

All photographs by Phil Palmer

 

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 Bird Holidays helps with Slender-billed Curlew quest

The Slender-billed Curlew is Europe and the Western Palearctic's rarest bird, listed as critically endangered, many consider it already extinct. Our friend Tim Cleeves from the RSPB has the role of Slender-billed Curlew Database and Fieldwork Coordinator and is currently assisting with the final push to find and save the bird.  

A team of researchers are waiting for a phone call from anywhere in the world if someone can find a bird. His fieldworkers will fly there at a moments notice to try and trap the bird and put a transmitter on it. It is hoped that this will lead them to the breeding grounds so that a concentrated effort can be made to secure their safety.

Bird Holidays leaders have joined forces with Tim and the RSPB to help look for them on our tours. Our trips to Morocco, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Oman and Bulgaria are all on the old fly-ways of Slender-billed Curlews. So a solitary bird could be found on any of our tours there.

Luckily Bird Holidays leaders are a few of the people with first-hand experience of living Slender-billed Curlews and so we have an advantage over other fieldworkers. As a result, we will check any Curlews and Whimbrels found on our tours for Slender-bills. We will then contact Tim to get his team ready.

 You can find more information and downloadable video or sound recordings at  www.slenderbilledcurlew.net

 

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SAVE  the  ALBATROSS

Black-browed Albatross, Antarctica. Photograph taken on our 2009 tour. Phil Palmer

Gough Island, in the South Atlantic, holds one of the world's most important seabird breeding colonies with more than a million albatross, shearwater and petrels. Their existence is threatened by descendants of the British House Mouse, which are eating chicks alive.

The mice attack at night, singly or in groups, gnawing into the chicks' bodies when they sit on the nest, and eventually kill them through blood loss or destruction of vital organs. It is that some of the 22 species of birds that breed on Gough may eventually be driven to extinction. The number of fledging Tristan Albatross chicks has decreased rapidly and it is now five times lower than it should be. The mice are also affecting the endemic Gough Bunting, one of the world’s largest finches.

There are fears that the UK Government is not placing enough of its financial resources into its Overseas Territory to save and enhance wildlife for which we have a clear responsibility. The petition below draws attention to a British problem that can and should be solved by the British Government, and in particular the threat

* Please help to motivate the Government to take notice of this problem by signing this petition: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Territories

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calling all BRAZIL  NUTS!

Over the years our series of Brazilian Tours have been extremely successful with Bird Holidays pioneering successful Jaguar watching in the Pantanal.

Building on this success as others follow in our trail, we have created a fascinating new tour to show you Giant Anteaters and Maned Wolves as well as some superb birds. Our October 2009 trip was full within days of our brochure being published last year, but we have just had two people cancel due to ill health. To grab these last places, please contact us for more details, or if you would like to book. click here to read more...

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new HUNGARY tour flights

Our Hungary tour this October departs from Manchester but we have had requests from some customers to fly from Heathrow.

We have managed to find corresponding flights for them and so a Heathrow departure is also possible for new bookings.

We realise that the continual fluctuation in flight costs and fuel surcharges is often a point of frustration to some people, so we will continue to include the cost of the flight in all our tours rather than provide a guess. Remember that you are free to make your own travel arrangements if you wish.

 Although our tours have a departure airport listed, please allow us to arrange flights from the airport of your preference.

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JULY UPDATE

July is usually a quiet month as we make final costings and corrections for our forthcoming brochure and 2010 tour season. As a result Paul has been beavering away in front of the computer, while the rest of us attended the Great Yorkshire Show for our 4th year there.

Roger is currently in Ecuador, no doubt showing the group his Cock-of-the-Rock (ooh-er, that sounds wrong?). He had just returned from Spitsbergen where he went to check out a new ship for the 2010 tour there. He found that it exceeded our expectations and his most unusual sighting was to witness a case of infanticide. It is commonly known that male Lions are known to be a threat to unrelated cubs, but Roger saw an adult Polar Bear eating a cub. Witnessing this is extremely rare and not a pleasant sight, but part of the natural fight for survival in a rapidly melting landscape. Long-tailed Skua and Grey Phalarope sightings were higher than normal and a stunning drake King Eider was a real highlight.

Andy has departed for the Okavango Delta, Caprivi Strip and Victoria Falls. This is our first official trip there for some time with a few changes to the routing. Phil has spent a lot of time in this northern part of Namibia and Botswana and says that it is very different to usual Namibia tour. Over the years this has been one of our most popular tours and ranked by many as their favourite. Our 2009 tour is already close to full and concentrates on the Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast, while the game in Etosha is also very different to that of the Okavango. Both tours complement and contrast each other well. It is the perfect time to visit Namibia if you have considered returning this great country.

John and Phil have manned the office and are girding their loins for the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water in August. As usual, we shall be in Marquee number 1 and would love to chat about any aspect of our trips.

In a few days, Phil will lead a pioneering Bats and Birds Tour to Hungary, concentrating on large roost sites in cave systems that stretch into Slovakia. While not something we would run each year, we have been pleasantly surprised by the response having gained privileged permission to enter some strictly protected sites. Between bat encounters, he is confident of seeing many of the special birds of the region too like Saker and Imperial Eagle.

Hungary has proved popular for some time and we follow this trip with two bird tours there in autumn. One of these is a privately arranged tour for Leeds RSPB.

Phil is missing smoked salmon and raw fish eggs after his adventure in the Russian wilderness that is northern Kamchatka. He says that the wild berries that he picked from tundra bushes work very well with chocolate. This time he found a little outpost beside a statue of Lenin where he cleaned out their stock of chocolate. This meant that the long treks across tundra bogs were kinder then the last expedition where he lost two stone in weight!....at least he doesn't have to watch out for Grizzly Bears in Yeadon

We see that one of his photographs has just appeared in this months Birdwatch magazine. During our Atlantic Odyssey (Cape to Cape), Phil identified a heron flying over the ship as an adult Purple Heron. At the time, the vessel was near Gough Island which is in the middle of the South Atlantic and the next port of call after Antarctica and South Georgia. The closest point to their ship where the Purple Heron could have originated was Cape Town, 2000miles away. Far from being weak and tired, the bird had bypassed Tristan da Cunha and continued flying strongly over Phil's ship towards South America!

Purple Heron near Gough Island, South Atlantic April 2009. (Phil Palmer)

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Namibia Tour vehicles

Our Tour of Namibia is justifiably one of the most popular. If we take the maximum group size of 10 clients, we use this  large vehicle specially adapted for birders. You can see that this has extra height for better views while travelling and birding.

As well as plenty of window seats, there are 2 big roof-top openings for use in Etosha where it is forbidden to leave a vehicle when big game is nearby.

The massive windows can open allowing excellent photographic opportunities and easy use of a telescope with plenty of room for your tripod!

We don't think there is a better safari vehicle for birding than this.

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CAPE to CAPE 2009

Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Tristan da Cunha...... Phil Palmer

APRIL UPDATE..........

The Swallows have all arrived above our office, but spring is far from over. Roger has just returned from leading a tour to the Algarve and John from Morocco. John then joined Paul in Turkey, while Phil goes to Poland this weekend. Soon Roger will be off to Spitsbergen in preparation for our 2010 tour there. Please contact him if you are interested as places are limited.

Andy is manning the office having just completed his pheasant and crane quest to Bhutan in readiness for a tour next year. Hopefully, he will find time to load some mouth-watering photos on the photopage when not dealing with invoices and enquiries.

Our great adventure in the Southern Oceans was a success. Phil managed to bring everyone home safely last week having taken them from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope - surely he has some of Captain Cook's blood in him?  Congratulations to Jim & Liz Lidgate who celebrated their anniversary on the ship. Birding Tierra del Fuego before crossing Drake's Passage to Antarctica, the intrepid band pushed through the ice to reach South Orkney, then South Georgia. Phil's group continued to Gough and Tristan da Cunha before landing in Cape Town where they saw the last of eight penguin species before flying home. Amazing sightings combined a million King Penguins and countless albatrosses with 500 Dusky Dolphins and a bunch of Hammerhead Sharks!

Perhaps the most shocking of all was the sight of a Purple Heron flying strongly past Gough; actually closer to South America than Africa!!! Not satisfied with being the first record for the Tristan archipelago, it  may have reached South Georgia to be listed as part of Antarctica?

Once again, we are grateful to all those that travel with us and we hope to include some photos from our 2009 Antarctic cruises soon.

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Don't forget that 2009 is Darwin Year.

CHARLES  DARWIN  ANNIVERSARY  TOUR

GALAPAGOS 2009

12 February 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, with 24 November 2009 marking 150 years since of the publication of his book On The Origin Of Species. To celebrate Bird Holidays have organised a Galapagos Tour.

Our previous tours have provided intimate views of Darwin's finches, Marine Iguanas and the Giant Tortoises as well as so many other birds and animals. Using one of the finest tourist yachts, we leave large crowds and overpowering tourist cruise ships to enjoy the antics of Galapagos Penguins, Waved Albatross and Flightless Cormorants in peace. A short break between landings could allow one to swim with seals or penguins!!

Don't miss this trip. CLICK HERE.

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This Great Dusky Swift was taking a shower in the powerful waters of the Iguazú waterfall, during our recent Argentina Tour. To see incredible pictures of these birds on Click Here.

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POLAR TOURS

........ANTARCTICA,  SPITSBERGEN,  FALKLAND,  SOUTH GEORGIA,  TRISTAN DA CUNHA.......

We have no personally led tours to Spitsbergen planned for 2009, but a close relationship with our agents and Phil's work as an expedition staff member means that we can offer considerable discounts for those that would like to travel independently.

We will of course be heading south in the winter of 2009/2010 to visit Antarctica and South Georgia again on our Cape to Cape tour. If you would like us to arrange a tour to visit the region or even join a quest to see Emperor Penguin, we are able to offer great discounts on many cruises. As ships fill and prices are constantly changing, please get in touch for the best possible deal.

TEL: 0113 3910510

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This Short-eared Owl was seen on the way to work!....... Phil Palmer       Click Here for the full story.

FEBRUARY update.

Paul returned from Madagascar having completed a recce for our inaugural tour in 2010 (we are already taking names of interested customers). He then promptly boarded a ship with his group bound for the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. This is one of two tours that we are running to the region this spring as interest in this awesome region has risen annually. At the time of writing, Paul is still there but returns for 5 days before taking a group to Panama.

Roger continues his run of over-subscribed trips by leading the Oman tour before flying on to Nepal. Because of their popularity, both tours have a list of clients wishing to go in 2010. There are only a few places left despite us not even confirming dates & prices! Let us no quickly if you fancy joining Roger next year. 

Andy and John are in the Yucatan, again with a full complement (who said there was a financial crisis?). On their return, they will not have much time to unpack before heading to Costa Rica and Morocco.

That leaves Phil manning the office while preparing to go to Antarctica. Excited about the epic journey from Cape Horn to Cape of Good Hope, he has been signed up as a full member of the expedition staff to advise on ornithological matters. This will be his first visit to Tristan da Cunha, one of the most remote places on earth. He will also be working there in 2010 and there are still places left.

In the meantime a Red Kite was seen over our Yeadon office in mid February with Common Buzzard a few days later. Waxwings were in both Andy and Paul's gardens this month but Phil spent a considerable time attending meetings to advise the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and local police about how to deal with an upsurge in wildlife crime in North Nottinghamshire recently.

In addition both Phil and Paul have some work in print this month. Phil has photographs in a brand new photographic guide to African birds by Ertel Rainer and a publication about biomes published for students in the USA. Paul has contributed an article about the finding of a Blackpoll Warbler at Flamborough in a book about Rare Birds in the UK written by Russell Slack,

For details of Russell's book or to order at a pre-publication discount Click Here

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Save the Bogs

Bird Holidays staff like to help with conservation issues and support the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts.

30% of the world's carbon is locked in the northern peatlands so we would like to draw your attention to the Wildlife Trusts web page that informs you about where you can buy peat-free products in the UK. Click Here

To find out about Wild and Free, The Wildlife Trusts’ own brand, 100% recycled, multipurpose compost and soil improver, and to find out which Wildlife Trusts stock it, contact: info@staffs-wildlife.org.uk or phone 01 889 880 100.

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Studying birds in Siberia - click here to see this news story.

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A photo essay of Phil's trip to the North Pole has been added - Click Here to see it.

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We are delighted to welcome John McLoughlin as a principal tour guide. His first tour will be in early 2009. John has the highest credentials. He has led and co-led a number of tours for us over the last 12 years. After graduating from Leeds University he worked on many conservation projects, including the first census of Thailand's critically endangered Gurney's Pitta. More recently he has worked closer to home on upland birds in Northern England. This includes population monitoring of the threatened Hen Harrier, Black Grouse and Twite. You may also have come across John in his role of managing the Denby Dale arm of In Focus, the binocular and telescope specialists. He has worked there since the shop opened in 1993. In addition, he has a keen interest in bird identification issues. John served on the British Birds Rarities Committee between 1996 and 2006.

Living in Denby Dale, John is close enough to Leeds to work in our office when not away leading trips. He lives there with his wife, Dawn, and their three young sons. There’s no basis to the rumour that he’s taking up full-time tour leading to get some peace and quiet! We are sure that he will quickly fit into the routine here at Bird Holidays, and in no time will become a fully established part of our team.

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Did you know that we have organised private tours for RSPB Members Groups

In 2207/8, we ran trips for York, Doncaster & Leeds.

Our tour leaders have also given up their time in assisting conservation groups.

Most recently in 2007 we have been spotters on the RSPB Bridlington Skua Pelagics as well as negotiating the acquisition of a massive new reserve  for the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. We were also called as expert witnesses in the controversial proposal to install wind farms on Humberside.

See some of the things we do for conservation  here

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