Sunday, July 14, 2013

Spending time with me!

Its been a pretty hectic first half of the year, always fun, but also it is good as a guide to have the odd day alone, time to investigate other areas and sites, time to indulge yourself with a camera or the more common birds here in my mountains. I have been desperate to spend a little more time getting used to my new Canon SX50, it has been frustrating seeing so many great birds, butterflies, plants and animals whilst guiding others, but not having time to photograph these and at the same time give my full attention to paying guests. Of course another huge bonus for being on my own is I do not have to listen to myself talking all day!

Orobanche amethystea - Broomrape - Jaro
The year seemed strange from the offset with continual rains during the first 4 months, but then again each country I visited in this period had strange abnormal weather. Not only did we have record rainfall, we also had cold temperatures. The affect on wildlife was noticeable, although plantlife flourished in the wet conditions; insects were slow to emerge in the cool spring temperatures. Birds were late arriving, although certain species, such as Bee Eater, catch-up on themselves and soon are in sequence with a ‘normal’ breeding cycle. Bonelli’s Eagle have certainly suffered with many nest failing and others less successful than normal, not entirely sure why this is other than there must have been a lack of prey earlier in the breeding season.

Gull-billed Tern a beneficiary of high water levels on local lagoons
A bonus to the constant rainfalls in the winter and early spring has been the water levels in most lagoons this summer. Most lagoons here are water table fed and so the fact many have good levels is testimony to the record amount of rains experienced in winter and spring. So its been a case of win some loose some, waders, terns and other water loving birds have had a highly successful breeding season. Even the ill fated Little Ringed Plover, who’s first attempt at breeding on dry river beds soon got washed away in times of spring floods, but soon they were able to brood and successfully raise their young as more seasonal dry weather returned and river levels dropped.

Greater Flamingo are yet another species having a great breeding season
Anyway a few more photographic efforts with the Canon SX50 appear above and below, I very much hope you enjoy them, although I accept there is much room for improvement as I get used to using this versatile camera.

Red-veined Darter although late emerging they are abundant now!
Little Ringed Plover successful second time around after early floods
Marbled White have now emerged in huge numbers, such a spectacle.
Joining the large emergence of butterflies were Sage Skipper

You can read more about Peter's tours on Spanish Nature's website or if you want a day's trip in his mountains read about the details here

Monday, July 1, 2013

Thailand, Morocco, Brazil and Spain Birding!

Okay, a departure from my normal blog! I have just finished up the latest quarterly newsletter for Worldwide Birding Tours, so thought to share it here. I hope you don't mind? I used to use a mailing service for the newsletter and that could be accessed via Facebook, but now that has ceased I thought to try it here and hope for a reaction from regular readers. It's my work, so I'm hoping you can indulge me a little. Also you might find some of the destinations interesting, especially the details listed on the website. Let me know if this is taking a liberty with your loyalty.

Dear Friends,
Both Pieter and Peter have been extremely pleased to have been away leading so many tours during the first half of 2013, because here in our local area, the Serranía de Ronda, we have had the wettest winter and spring on record. Coupled to the cooler temperatures this made our journeys to warmer climates a welcome reprieve! There are always compensations for the weather and one such has been the fantastic carpets of colour veiling our mountains, the flowers have certainly enjoyed the rains and are thriving. After such a poor spring last year for flowers it has been a pure joy to see such a range of colour this year, certainly our flower days here have been busy and enjoyed by all of our many friends booking their ‘Walking in Flower’ days with us.
It is a time now for us to finalise our planning for various tours for the upcoming season and so we include one or two here, which we hope might tempt you to consider joining us. First up will be our tour to Brazil and if you are considering a tour to South America, then this is a must not miss opportunity. Our tour to this wonderfully diverse country is scheduled for the 10th to the 23rd of October, with an optional extension from the 23rd to the 29th; you can find more details below and on our website. It is worth mentioning that, due to demand, we have organised 2 tours to Costa Rica early next year and both are now fully booked, so if you were thinking to join these tours perhaps now consider the Brazil tour which has limited places available. If Costa Rica is on your list of tours to do with us, we thoroughly recommend booking for the 2015 tour as early as possible in order to be sure of your place.
We begin 2014 with a variety of tours and none more popular than the now fully booked consecutive tours to Costa Rica which will see Peter in that wonderful country for 5 weeks, life can be tough! Next up and with limited spaces available, is our ever popular Moroccan Safari Tour, with Peter leading this great itinerary through mountains to the Sahara. The tour begins 18th March 2014 and ends 28th March with of course options to take extra days before and after the main tour dates. More details below and on our website. We are also planning 2 very special and new tours for the spring of 2014, firstly an exciting photography tour to Thailand, where you can give all your time to capturing a wonderful array of wildlife, plus rare and elusive birds such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, then later a tour to photograph and study mainly flowers of Yunnan Province in China, of course plenty of other wildlife will be seen under expert local guidance.
Exciting times ahead and we hope to see you soon on one of our many tours, they are always friendly, relaxed and highly enjoyable, important for us too is that the accommodation and food are as an important ingredient as the wildlife! If you cannot make a tour anytime soon, why not visit us at the International Birdfair Rutland Water UK 16th to 18th of August 2013? Peter will be there on the Andalucia Wildlife Guides stand in Marquee 8 Stand 9 and be delighted to see you.
Best wishes, Pieter and Peter

Main Tour Dates: Main tour to the Pantanal 10th to 23rd October 2013. 
Optional Tour Extension Dates: Atlantic Forest 23rd to 29th October 2013.
Full details on our website – Brazil
Our main tour dates have been chosen to coincide with lower water levels where both birds and animal life are concentrated into smaller and more accessible areas. The Pantanal is one of the richest and most diverse areas for wildlife in South America. So many spectacular sights await the visitor and carefully selected accommodation ensures not only first class comfort and food, but also access to localized areas for those specialist birds and animals of the region. The rarest of the hook bills in the world, the Hyacinth Macaw, can be seen daily; indeed it is a regular in and around some of our accommodation. Whilst the chances to see the elusive Jaguar are good, Giant Otter will be almost certain as they play on the river systems where we take our boat rides. The area has good forest, wetland and savannah areas, in fact the open areas between forests are exceptionally rich in birdlife and the open nature of the landscape makes for easy viewing. All in all a wonderful destination for seeing a wide range of bird species.
An exciting option at the end of our main Pantanal tour is to opt for our tour extension to the Atlantic Forest, known as the Selva Atlántica. The Atlantic Forest is characterized by a high species diversity and endemism, the Atlantic Forest is now designated a World Biosphere Reserve, which contains a large number of highly endangered species, also endemic species such as lion tamarins, woolly spider monkey, and marmosets. New species are continually being found in the Atlantic Forest. In fact, between 1990 and 2006 over a thousand new flowering plants were discovered. There are a total of 124 endemic bird species dependant on the forest according to a study conducted by T.Brooks et al. So the reason for wanting our friends to visit is the chances of so much of this disappearing in the future, due to human pressure on the resources of the forest. Like the Pantanal, this area combines to make the visit to Brazil a rewarding and enriching experience. We hope you will join us, more detailed information on our website - Brazil

Spain – Bird Migration Expedition
Main Tour Dates: 8th to 15th September 2013.
A special tour with our own Peter Jones and David Lindo (popularly known as ‘The Urban Birder’).
The tour is organised by Frontier Holidays in collaboration with Worldwide Birding Tours and promises to be a great spectacle. As summer turns to autumn, hundreds of thousands of birds converge on one small area in SW Andalucia, before making the hazardous sea crossing to Africa. For those in the know, there is a window in autumn, when the well positioned visitor can witness the awe inspiring spectacle of mass migration.
In the excellent company of two great ornithologists, we will be taking our time to enjoy each habitat and the camaraderie of the journey. South West Andalucia is a country of contrasts. Snowy sierras, arid plains, rich fertile valleys and hillside, forested mountains, vast sandy beaches and coastal marshes. With its geographical proximity to North Africa, this is a highly significant area.
The Strait of Gibraltar, where Europe and Africa are separated by only 7.7 nautical miles, is the favoured crossing point for hundreds of thousands of species. Here at the narrow extremity of the "European Flyway", migrating birds are funnelled to the very furthest tip of the continent.
Important. This tour only has places for 4 more persons, so please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to partake.

Main Tour Dates: 18th to 28th March 2014.
Options to extend your stay at both the beginning and end of our main tour dates, contact us for details.
Full details on our website – Morocco Safari
On our tour, such a grand landscape is presented with perspectives beyond words, from the towering High Atlas Mountains to endless rolling dunes of the Sahara, from Palm lined valleys to multi-coloured striated flat topped mountains; it is a place of unimaginable beauty. The country also has an added attraction and great bonus for birding acting as it does as a bridge between the more southerly regions of Africa and Europe for migratory birds. Little wonder we are constantly drawn by the calling of this exotic place and also its people, these are just a few of the reasons why it is such a popular tour with our friends.
We would guess, for the uninitiated, Morocco most probably conjures-up visions of just sand and dust. Nothing could be further from the truth! Conditions here, despite its close proximity to Europe, are very different with wadis, deserts, plains, forest, mountains, coasts and islands. The diversity of these habitats are reflected in the number of bird species found in this most exotic of north African countries, with over 450 species it is a must visit country for any with a passion for our feathered friends. Our next Safari Tour promises to be a treat for those with an interest in exotic places, scenery and birds, so why not join us? More detailed information and the full itinerary can be found on our website – Moroccan Safari

Main Tour Dates: March 2013
A tour designed especially for the nature photographer
This tour has been designed for the nature lover who goes on a tour with the objective of getting quality photos of birds and a variety of other subjects, not to end the tour with an all important 500+ seen bird list. This tour will focus on birds that we know we can get close enough to for a decent photograph; we concentrate on visiting known stakeouts for birds. With a large photographic community in Thailand, it is quite easy to plan a promising and enjoyable itinerary visiting the active and productive stake outs, where we probably will also see some really spectacular species.
What we absolutely will not do is worry about chasing rare and difficult to see species or amassing a large and impressive bird list. We will spend time at good locations, and even repeat certain parts to have a second chance, when we think we can get better photographic opportunities. We will never be in a hurry, because it is quality rather than quantity that we are aiming for.
The group will be small, to give all participants good opportunities to get his/her best shot. The maximum group size will be 4 guests accompanied by a WBT tour leader and a local guide. The tour price will depend on the number of participants. The WBT tour leader will be an experienced photographer who will help fellow travellers to obtain the best results. See our downloadable .pdf  brochure for comprehensive details!

Of course there are so many other tours to view, please visit our main website WBT