Monday, November 10, 2014

Costa Rica is Calling!

Costa Rica. The country is an all round destination, good food, great accommodation, scenically beautiful, fantastic wildlife and wonderfully friendly people. Next year will be my 10th tour and it never ceases to amaze me how varied a landscape such a small country offers and the diversity of birds reflects the great range of habitats present. I am often asked what country is my favourite to visit, well Costa Rica is right up there at the top of my list. 

"If you haven’t yet been to Costa Rica, then go or at the very least put it on your life’s wish list! Trust me you won't regret it" 

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, then high on the priority list for making journeys with groups a success is diversity of habitats, stunning scenery and of course a wide variety of wildlife, not to mention the birds. A good variety to birdlife is what keeps fellow travellers involved each day and certainly Costa Rica never fails to deliver. During my last visit we managed 450 species in our 2 weeks and heard another 30 odd, so another successful visit and yet again a very happy group made the whole trip a memorable one.

By way of relaxing before and after our main tour, I normally book an extra night prior to the start and at the end of our birding tour. I like to use the Hotel Bougainvillea in San Jose as my start and end point. I thoroughly recommend this hotel, set within its own grounds, beautifully landscaped and with several birds and plants to interest those given to strolling through gardens at their own pace. The ambience, the food and friendly staff all conspire to relax you after your journey and makes for an ideal last night in preparation for your homeward flight.

Costa Rica is one of the richest countries in the world for birds. More species have been recorded here than in the whole of North America yet the country is only the size of a small State! This tour has been organised to cover most of the best birding areas and aims to visit as wide a range of habitats as possible. Of course such a diversity of habitats will also produce diversity of plants, butterflies and amphibians. The scenery is stunning and sure to add an extra ingredient to make this a holiday to remember!

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.

On a personal note I managed 12 lifers on my last trip and being well travelled that is no mean feat, so thanks to my pal Steven Easley for not only helping the life list, but for making my job so easy and relaxed. Steven is most probably the best birding guide in the country, so these journeys mean I can step back, listen and watch and be more like a guest enjoying the holiday, its another reason for me to always look forward to these tours.

We have a few remaining places still available on our WBT 2015 tour. The tour begins January 31st and ends February 15th 2015. I very much hope you will consider joining me on what promises to be another incredible and enjoyable adventure. To find our more please contact me HERE

I hope you like this little collection of photos taken on our Costa Rica tour.

Well I hope you enjoyed what might be a preview of a few sights on our 2015 tour. I hope I might see you there.

For further in formation please contact me HERE

To view our full itinerary please visit our main web page on Costa Rica HERE

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


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Serranía de Ronda winter wildlife

A mixture of misty mountains, clear crisp blue skies and long awaited rains have conspired to paint a picture of transient days here as cloaks of autumn gently make way for the frosted blanket of winter. A chill is on the wind, sunshine looses its battle for domination and, although temporary, our temperatures subside sliding down a damp slippery slope created by recent rains. Mists swirl and gather in valleys, smoke rises from the brashings of olive trees and autumn piles, whilst many of our plants welcome their annual hibernation, celebrating their temporal retreat with a final flurry of plenty in the form of seed and berry.

And yet, remnants of a summer and warm autumn passing, still desperately cling to their existence, striving against hope to survive beyond their given time. Times, not only seasons, are changing with our climate playing tricks on natural cycles. Dragonflies and Damselflies are still awake, dancing over wet meadows and water filled streams, romance still in their lives as they copulate and lay next years eggs of hope and hence completed procreation, another reason for existence exercised. The sounds have subsided already from the earlier than usual callings of the rutting deer, local herds of female Ibex retreat from the attentions of following males. The awakening of a winter, not fully arrived, is late.

Some images from a busy week and again I hope you enjoy my world. Maybe join me on a tour here in my mountains? See the bottom of this offering.

Why not join Peter on one of his famous local tours?

Winter Break - Find out what you can be doing in the Serranía de Ronda this winter HERE

Design your own tour and arrangements for a tour in the Serranía de Ronda look HERE

Fancy something more exotic, want to visit some of the natural wonders of our world? Then look at our main site below:


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Birding South Africa - Countdown!

South Africa is beginning to occupy my thoughts now that my tour is fast approaching! I really can’t believe how quickly time has flown by and leaves me with such a short time to prepare for my journey. My employers took no time at all to achieve a fully subscribed tour, with many people disappointed we had no further places available. Never mind, there is always another year for friends to join me. I am due to leave home on 20th November and won’t get back until the 17th December! So another long while spent away, though reading below you might not have too much sympathy with me…

“We go to the Kruger National Park, where we also hope to see the Big Five, but also the Big Six birds: the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill and Pel's fishing-owl. And watch the oxpeckers busily hoovering up ticks and insects from the hides of antelope, buffalo and giraffe”. So guess who is VERY excited??

South Africa is a great destination for birding and the presence of big and small mammals, which can be easily found visiting one of the many National Parks or Game reserves, makes this country one of the most pleasant countries to visit. Our group will find a variety of habitats during our tour; almost treeless grassland, “bushveld” often referred to in South Africa as Savannah and the East Coast Littoral - a moist tropical to sub-tropical mosaic of forest, coastal thicket and grassland, and being as the whole group has signed up for the extension the Pelagic - open sea up to 200km off-shore. Of course each of these habitats has its own particular birds.

We have included several days to spend in the Kruger National Park, which is not only a paradise for those who are interested to see the African mammals, but also one of the finest birding destinations in South Africa.

Of the 900 or so species that have been recorded in South Africa, about 725, or c.85%, are resident or annual visitors, and about 50 of these are endemic or near- endemic to South Africa, and can only be seen in this country.

We have planned an extension to Cape Town. This extension includes a pelagic trip out of Cape Town. This trip offers the chance to see large numbers of Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Petrels and Storm-petrels. We will also visit the West Coast National Park and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

The outstanding infrastructure, great accommodation, excellent food and spectacular and varied scenery make South Africa a very attractive destination for my employers – Worldwide Birding Tours - to visit. The country is synonymous with wildlife and nature. Here, you can not only find the Big Five, but so much more – a superb range of species amid dramatic, unspoilt landscapes.

For the birder it is a truly inspiring and wonderful destination with over 900 species, ranging from the familiar – Swallows, Robins and Thrushes – to the lesser known, such as Turacos, Penguins and Sunbirds. It could take a lifetime to spot all South Africa’s birds! But even on our relatively short birding visit, we’ll still be able to tick off plenty while bird-watching.

Our habitats include wetlands, desert, riverine bush and woodland – and then of course there’s the sea, take a look at our 6 day optional extension for an unforgettable pelagic opportunity and experience, see the link here. Although fully booked this year, why not think about joining me in 2015?

Birding in South Africa is amazing – whether you're on safari, cruising round the Cape Winelands, hiking in the Drakensberg or sunning yourself by the sea, you will never be far away from bird-watching opportunities. There are many great birding routes all over South Africa; some take just a few hours, others a day or more. Coming on tour with us means you are in good hands with local information on the best routes and times to visit. Although fully subscribed this year (2014), why not join us me on this marvellous adventure due to begin once more during November 2015?

To view my full itinerary and perhaps get an idea of what to expect for 2015, see the link to Worldwide Birding Tours - South Africa HERE

For many other wonderful destinations and nature tours click on the WBT Logo text below!


Friday, October 24, 2014

High Mountains, Long Shadows

It’s amazing just how quickly time seems to flyby. It seemed as if it was only yesterday when summer’s visit painted our skies in the deepest of blue and softened the rough hues of our mountains with shimmering haze. It was only yesterday when Black Kite, Honey Buzzard wheeled high in their thousands gathering to make their southwards pilgrimage to Africa. But now our autumn has abruptly cast her door wide open and the days are becoming shorter, trees are baring their skeletal shapes, where once they had been adorned in many hues of green. It’s a time where nature takes a rest, where life seems to move along at a leisurely pace and prepare itself for the harshness of winter.

A lazy sun casts deep shadows on the hills and mountains of my landscape giving a velvet texture to the high slopes, but Bonelli’s Eagle are already pledging themselves to their partners, ignoring the message of winter and preparing already to reaffirm their bonds of parents to be. Late departing Barn Swallows still chatter and busy themselves over our local river, whilst newly arrived Chiffchaff hawk insects from every vantage point aligning the river’s edge. It is here where winter will first be felt with the cooling waters spreading their mist and clinging to all that are unable to escape its reach. Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper use this river as a highway to warmer climes, but some are attracted to spend winter here and lend character to a day’s foray by birders, their constant bobbing and strutting combining to perform a dance to entertain the observer, a performance enhanced by a watery reflection.

In the higher reaches of the surrounding mountains, Ring Ouzel have at last arrived in good numbers and are busy raiding the horde of Hawthorn berries that are so bountiful this year. Song Thrush and an occasional Redwing join the harvest, whilst Alpine Accentor put in brief appearances before vanishing behind the rock strewn slopes beneath high mountain crags. A Mistle Thrush performs a forlorn defense of its chosen fruit tree and is distracted; overwhelmed by sheer numbers of marauding Ring Ouzel, whilst large flocks of Spotless Starling join-in the sacking of the bird’s chosen cache. And all played out beneath the ever watchful eye of a Sparrowhawk, that has taken to the valley as a likely winter’s retreat. Crag Martin skip the rock face and mock the Sparrowhawk with twists and turns unmatched by their would-be foe. In the high grasslands, Meadow Pipits tiptoe and are joined by ever increasing numbers of White Wagtail, where Water Pipit have recently arrived to feast on various larva in the soft grounds surrounding small pools of the Llanos de Libar.

With an optimistic gaze, my eyes are always drawn skywards for autumn and winter raptors. The area can have an attraction, even a mystical lure, not just for me, but for the wanderings of such species as Black Vulture and Imperial Spanish Eagle. For the most part, these scarce birds tend to be juveniles, displaced by the sudden chastening of their parents. Lost souls searching for their place in an unforgiving world, they must find a niche and wander far on a journey of discovery. Merlin and Hen Harrier put in fleeting appearances, whilst individuals can also take-up winter residence. Small populations of resident Lesser Kestrel inhabit the rocky crags of the Serrania de Ronda and their numbers appear to have increased, no doubt milder winters having assisted them with finding food. Golden Eagle is another species increasing and often rewards my diligence, whilst scrutinising the circling clusters of Griffon Vulture, a practice regularly enacted when looking for raptors, many birds of prey seem attracted by circling Griffon Vultures and normally these take the high space above these large and apparently intimidating giants of my skies.

And so onto a pictorial of the current season here in my mountains, I very much hope you enjoy the view and do let me know if the read and viewing was a pleasant experience!

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 - also wetlands and so much more read HERE