Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HELP! Blog by Mark Avery

Mark Avery friend and a well known campaigner for 'our' nature makes a case for signing the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.
I've signed and would put on my friendships here and ask you to do the same. Hen Harriers and other wildlife need your help. PLEASE DO SIGN.

Our e-petition passed 21,500 signatures yesterday, with less than two weeks to go (and after less than 10 months). HM Government e-petition Ban driven grouse shooting
The e-petition is on the Westminster government website which means that it has political clout. Already it is one of the most successful e-petitions ever – being in the top 0.5% of all e-petitions on this site.  The e-petition applies to England, but any UK citizen is entitled to sign it.
Driven grouse shooting, where lines of beaters chase the Red Grouse across the hills to fly past lines of ‘guns’ who pay large amounts of money to shoot at them, is the source of wildlife crime (killing of birds of prey), damaged wildlife sites (burning of blanket bogs), increased carbon emissions (from heather burning and soil erosion), increased water bills (through water discolouration requiring water treatment) and increased home insurance (through increased flood risk caused by land management in the hills).  It is of trivial economic value to the economy but your taxes are helping to subsidise this field sport. We’d be better off without it.
All attempts to negotiate a more sustainable future with grouse shooting interests have failed through their intransigence. The only way forward for the wildlife enthusiast, the taxpayer and the many, is to ban this unsustainable practice of the few.
This e-petition has already sent a message to grouse shooters that they need to change and to politicians that they need to act.  Your signature will help strengthen that message.
I am grateful to Chris Packham, the Green Party of England and Wales, Birdwatch magazine, the League Against Cruel Sports, Rare Bird Alert and a host of raptor workers and wildlife enthusiasts for their support in getting this e-petition so far. One last push and surge of signatures before the 30 March will strengthen that message.
But it’s up to you!
Thank you for your help.
Dr Mark Avery

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Serranía de Ronda, birds, mountains and things..

Dramatic scenery, dazzling wildlife, great hiking trails, amazing facilities and just one those places you have to visit at least once in your lifetime. In fact, once you’ve been to this stunning area, you are likely as not to return! Sound like a travelogue? Well, the area is precious and one of the ways to preserve it is to introduce elements to sustain it. One element, and not the least important, is nature tourism. Andalucia, and particularly rural Andalucia, is largely unspoilt but economically challenged! Tourism can bring incomes into the rural communities and not only help sustain local communities, but also encourage them to conserve and preserve their natural surroundings. Two birds with one stone so to speak.

The area known as the Serranía de Ronda is a natural gem and surrounded by natural parks, two of which are UNESCO Biosphere Parks, Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra de Grazalema. The diversity in habitats and hence wildlife is immense, in just ten minutes you can be driving through Mediterranean Forest and suddenly be in dramatic limestone mountains, contrasts easily reached and enjoyed by the many tracks and roads that make the whole area accessible. The area is a network of quiet country roads each leading to a famous ‘White Village’ which the area has become so well known for. It is an explorer’s delight; hidden valleys combine with a cultural heritage that beckons the adventurous tourist. Then of course there are the many local vineyards that seem to tug at the steering wheel as you drive by, my advice is not to resist, go and taste those fine wines and enjoy!

On the basis that a picture can paint a thousand words, and thus save my labours on this keyboard, I have compiled a pictorial of scenes from here during January 2015 until now (March 11th). I hope it gives food for thought and might help you decide to contribute to the conservation and preservation of the Serranía de Ronda by visiting this wonderful part of Andalucia, Spain. At the very least I hope you enjoy the photos.

Why not join Peter on one his Day Tours? See Links below.

Serranía de Ronda – My Mountains – for further information read HERE

Osuna – Steppe Country – for further information read HERE

Campillos - Mountains to Lagoons - for further information read HERE

Strait of Gibraltar - Migration, wetlands and so much more read HERE


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Costa Rica –The Tour Part 1

Pleasant climate, super food and wonderfully friendly people make visiting Costa Rica a real pleasure. However, as a tour leader working for Worldwide Birding Tours, high on the list of priorities for making tours a success is diversity of habitats, stunning scenery and of course a wide variety of wildlife, not to mention the birds! A good variety of birdlife is what keeps fellow travellers involved each day and certainly Costa Rica never fails to deliver. During my latest visit we managed to see over 430 bird species in our 2 weeks, so another successful visit and yet again a very happy group made the whole trip an extremely memorable one.

3 Toed Sloth (male)
Because of the length of this tour, 2 weeks, and because there is so much to tell you, I have broken this blog, or more correctly Trip Report, into 4 parts! The final part will be a bird species list with the centre pieces, parts 2 and 3, giving a day by day account of our fabulous journey. To start with I have decided to list our mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. I hope you will forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed accounts of my tour.

Green Iguana (male)
Note. The extraordinary number of bird species recorded in Costa Rica is a result of the tremendous diversity of habitats in the country. Not only does Costa Rica have coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean), but forest types ranging from dry deciduous forests in the lowlands to lush evergreen cloudforests in the highlands. It also has rivers, marshes, swamps and subalpine paramo.

Highland Rubyspot
Worldwide Birding Tour – Costa Rica Comprehensive Tour – February 2015

Tour Leader: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours & Author)
                     Steven Easley (Birding Guide)

Black River Turtle
Preface: This comprehensive tour of Costa Rica by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 2 week journey across a wide range of habitats in this wonderful country, from the highland area of Savegre and the Cerro de la Muerte with its subalpine paramo habitat, to the Tropical Research Institute in La Selva and across to Arenal, where scenery is as much a reward as the birds found under the shadow of the Arenal Volcano. We then ventured northwards to Cano Negro for wetland species and 2 boat rides into the centre of this wetland complex before visiting the high elevations of Monteverde. Finally our tour took us to the lowland Pacific area around the Carara National Park, taking yet another boat ride into the mangroves and the open waters of the Rio Tarcoles.

Arenal Volcano
During the course of our tour we were fortunate to see many other species of Costa Rica’s fauna, other than birds. We manage 18 mammal species, 21 reptile and amphibian species, 24 dragonfly and damselfly species with 35 butterfly species adding to the colourful encounters we had with our visits to various habitats. Our lists are below.


2 Toed Sloth
Northern Tamandua or Lesser anteater
Common ‘Tropical’ Opossum
Northern Tamandua
Brown-throated (Three-toed) Sloth
Hoffman’s (Two-toed) Sloth
Nine-banded Armadillo
Long-nosed ‘Proboscis’ Bat
Greater White-lined Bat
Greater Fishing Bat
White-throated Capuchin
Mantled Howler
Central American Spider Monkey
Red-tailed Squirrel
Variegated Squirrel
Central American Aguoti
White-nosed Coati
Long-tailed Weasel
Collared Peccary
Red Brocket Deer
Greater Grison

Reptiles and Amphibians

Deppe's Whiptail
American Crocodile
American Crocodile
Green Spiny Lizard
Smooth-skinned Toad
Tropical House Gekko
Green Iguana
Central American Whiptail
Yellow-headed Gekko
Slender Anole
Green Basilisk
Tropical Night Lizard
Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
Spectacled Caiman
Black River Turtle
Valliant’s Frog
Red-eared Slider
Striped Basilisk
Marine Toad
Striped Palm Pit-Viper
Spiny-tailed Iguana
Deppe’s Whiptail
Pacific Basilisk
Litter Skink

Dragon and Damselflies

Tawny Pennant (female)
Red-faced Dragonlet
Chiriqui Meadowhawk
Blue-faced Darner
Highland Rubyspot
Wandering Glider
Grey-waisted Skimmer
Bromeliad Helicopter
Large Woodskimmer
Tawny Pennant
Red-mantled Dragonfly
Plain-tailed Pondhawk
Great Pondhawk
Hyacinth Glider
Spot-tailed Dasher
Amelia’s Threadtail
Plain Amberwing
Red-tailed Skimmer
Smokey Rubyspot
Mangrove Darner
Bluepoint Dancer
Caribbean Yellowface
Andagoya Dragonlet
Red-faced Dragonlet
Olmec Dancer
Redstripe Rubyspot


Menapsis Tigerwing
Temple Scintillant
Painted Lady
Cloudless Sulphur
Rusty-tipped Page
Banded Peacock
Zebra Heliconian
Julia Heliconian
Juno Heliconian
Cabbage White
Lamplight Actinote
Mexican Silver Spot
Grining Heliconian
5 Spotted Heliconian
Common Blue Morpho
Blue Morpho
Sara Heliconian
Red Tail Pierella
Short-tailed Morpho
White Peacock
Banded Peacock
Menapsis Tigerwing
Brown Longtail
5 Lined Stripestreak
White Satyr
Orion Cecropian
Wedge Spotted Cattle-Heart
Banded Orange Heliconian
Erato Heliconian
Pale Sicklewing
Montane Heliconian
Tropical Buckeye
Black and Yellow Prestonian
Variable Prestonian
Cryptic Morpho
Isabella's Heliconian
Temple Scintillant
Orange-barred Sulphur
Crimson Patch

Well that about sums up the 1st instalment and hope you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. Why not consider joining me and Steven next year (2016) on another of our Costa Rican adventure tours? Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link

White-nosed Coati

To see other destinations we visit, please visit our main website. Thank you.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birds and wildlife of Serranía de Ronda

Winter is always a hard time for wildlife, even in the more temperate climes of the Serranía de Ronda. January has been a real mixed bag in terms of the weather, rain (although insufficient for now), snow, high winds and blue sunny days, although our nighttimes have been plagued by more than our fair share of frosts even at night temperatures above freezing! Whatever the weather, whatever the time of year, getting up and into my mountains is just so rewarding and my local scenery always amazing.

Tim Appleton birding the Serrania de Ronda
My month has been hectic, sorting out tours, finishing outstanding trip reports, preparing for another journey to Costa Rica, getting fellow travellers up to speed and informed on all the details of the tour they need in order to prepare. Yet, the call of my mountains beckoned on several occasions and not least taking a very old friend with me to share and indulge in the amazing wildlife of the Serranía de Ronda. It was great to see Tim Appleton and spend time together searching for and finding a large list of target birds, although we did dip on Alpine Accentor!

Dartford Warbler putting on a fine show whilst impressing his mate
High points for January were finding one of my resident pairs of Bonelli’s Eagle back on territory (they were displaced by Griffon Vulture last year) and displaying, nest building and generally giving me some real thrills and memorable moments. Another was setting out with Brenda, my wife, to find early signs of Giant Orchid; we were successful and enjoyed many other flowering plants on the day. Finding very showy Dartford Warbler and Rock Bunting also made my journeys rewarding, funny how Rock Bunting are so obvious right now, they become a fairly difficult bird later in the year.

Stunning views from our 'new' photography hide near Ronda
It was also great to see our ‘new’ photography hide welcome it’s first client. The hide has been a long time in the making, complete with interior toilet and wash basin. Set in an ancient oak forest and standing within a clearing it provides amazing scenery from the hide windows and of course has a water feature for all the resident and visiting birds. I can’t wait until the Spring and see some of the summer visitors coming to feed and drink in front of this luxury facility, Sub-alpine, Bonelli’s and Orphean Warbler are just some we expect on a regular basis, with Nightingale and Iberian Chiffchaff a couple of others I particularly want to photograph. The woodland holds a few pairs of Booted Eagle and a nesting site close-by for Short-toed Eagle, so expectations are running high!

Bonelli's Eagle male fly by, not a brilliant photo, but a brilliant bird!
Hopefully my upcoming tour to Costa Rica will be as productive as my last visit, I have led 10 tours there previously, but even as an exotic destination as this will not dampen my yearning to return to my mountains and experience its wonderful wildlife.

Rock Bunting has been another showy bird during January.

Some snaps from January and hope you will enjoy them.

Broad-leafed Iris an abundant winter bloom
White Wagtail are a very common winter visitor, but scarce in summer.
Paperwhite Narcissus is a very common winter bloom 
Our scenery here can be so beautiful
Little Egret adds a touch of elegance to the shores of our lakes
Chiffchaff provides winter entertainment in abundance!
Red Deer and also Ibex can be more obvious in winter
Libar track can be such a rewarding route in winter
Griffon Vulture flies over the 'new' photography hide near Ronda

To see other destinations I visit, please see our main website. Thank you