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Worldwide Birding Tours - Birding Ecotours





This May I again had the wonderful opportunity to represent Birding Ecotours at The Biggest Week in American Birding (BWIAB). The BWIAB is a 10-day long event situated on the beautiful shoreline of Lake Eire in Northern Ohio. This was my second visit to this festival, the first being in 2015 and so I was full of excitement at the prospect of some good migration birding, catching up with many friends from my previous trip, and meeting many new people to talk to about our fantastic range of worldwide birding tours. I was also excited at the prospect of getting a few year ticks to go towards my 2017 tally!

I happened to be in the ‘New World’ just before BWIAB having led a tour of Costa Rica, and a scouting trip to Colombia so I had been watching many of the migrants in their wintering grounds, and those starting their northbound migration for the preceding couple of months.

On arrival into Ohio I met up with Chris Lotz Birding Ecotours owner, and his wife Megan and explored the Columbus area, their new home base and location of the new Birding Ecotours US office! It was clear there was passage underway with several birds noted immediately on arrival such as Indigo Bunting, Northern Parula, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. A short trip out at dinner time gave us very nice view of a Barred Owl.

The weather was not very kind for the first few days…. That’s putting it politely. It really was foul. Incredibly wet and windy, and cold. We drove up to Maumee Bay to set up our stand and drove through miles and miles of flooded fields. Thinking it was good weather for ducks, but less so for warblers…

Birding Ecotours stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birding Ecotours stand all set up displaying a wide-range of tours from around the world.

 

The weather didn’t let up and on Day 1 of the BWIAB I took an adventurous group of intrepid birders out along the lake shore and got suitably wet, and freezing cold. Birding was slow, as to be expected in these conditions but we did see Yellow, Palm, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Grey Catbird, and Baltimore Oriole amongst a range of much more common resident species such as Great Horned Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Brown Thrasher.

Grey Catbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grey Catbird is a very common migrant species with a noticeable arrival of birds mid-week. Suddenly they were everywhere!

 

Over the course of the next few days the weather improved slightly and our colleague Dylan Vasapolli arrived from Johannesburg. You can read Dylan’s thoughts on this years’ BWIAB here: (http://fatbirder.com/announcements/index.php?article=174). We got to birding around the world-famous Magee Marsh boardwalk and surrounds gradually picking off migrants one by one. Species were fairly plentiful but quantity was just not there, warblers included: Palm, Nashville, Orange-crowned, Prothonotary, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, and Pine Warblers, Ovenbird, and American Redstart, with Blue-headed, Warbling, and Red-eyed Vireos also present. Blue Jays were a dominant sight, with hundreds upon hundreds of them passing through over these days. Two pairs of nesting Bald Eagles provided ample entertainment when the migrants were quiet.

Birding Ecotours team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy, Dylan and Chris (left to right) freezing, and about to head on to the Magee Marsh Boardwalk…

 

As expected the huge amounts of water started attracting interesting shorebirds and gulls and as we were driving around we found several Bonaparte’s Gulls, Wilson’s Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Pectoral Sandpiper. Chris and I were in the right place at the right time when a Nelson’s Sparrow was reported. We were literally 50m away from it when news came out and so rushed straight over as that would have been a lifer for Chris, and a surprise year-tick for me! However, on arrival it was clear that the bird was in fact a Le Conte’s Sparrow – much scarcer in the local area at that time of the year, and an unexpected lifer for me, but not for Chris!

Le Conte’s Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Conte’s Sparrow – a phone-scoped record shot enough to clinch the ID. Iphone 7 and Swarovski ATX95 scope.

 

Over the course of the BWIAB we all led various van trips and guided walks, and I gave a talk on Birding in Australia – for those who wanted to escape the Ohio cold and dream of more colourful and exotic birds in a far-flung place!

Plains-wanderer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possibly the first Plains-wanderer to have featured at the Biggest Week in American Birding!

 

By the end of the festival (about 4 days out) the migration really started to kick off with a noticeable increase in terms of both species diversity and quantity and this was where things started to get exciting. This sudden arrival of birds was brought about by the movement of a blocking weather system that had been directing birds to the east and the west of us, as is the way with migration birding – a lot is down to luck!

Our first real hit of activity occurred when we were at the wonderful Pearson Metropark. Here, on getting out of the car is was immediately clear ‘it was on’! A vociferous Northern Parula was serenading anything that would listed and it seemed to be the focal point of activity over the next couple of hours with an assortment of warblers (including the stunning Blackburnain and Chestnut-sided Warblers) present but moving very quickly through the canopy. More obliging was the flock of Scarlet Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeak that loitered a short while. A Hermit Thrush was hopping about on the lawn right in plain sight but a cuckoo species didn’t play ball and frustratingly went unidentified as it cleared off all too quickly before any of us could really get anything on it.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak – one of the perils of migration in America is lots of tall buildings with lots of glass, this stunning male grosbeak had flown into a window as I was eating breakfast. Thankfully he was one of the lucky ones that was just stunned before he went off on his way again. Many are not quite so lucky unfortunately.

 

On our last full morning birding together – the Saturday, we headed out to Oak Openings in the hope of finding some special birds, and the morning far exceeded even our high hopes – we got staggering views of Prairie Warbler, soon followed by Yellow-breasted Chat (a lifer for Dylan and myself), and a stonking Kentucky Warbler in the same bush – with Blue-winged Warbler singing overhead! As we headed back to Maumee Bay we stopped off to admire a very smart male Bobolink and a Sora walking about out in the open! The area around Maumee Bay was fully loaded with Ovenbirds, along with Veery, Swainson’s and Wood Thrushes and it was hard not to trip over them at times! Spectacular sight.

The final morning of the BWIAB, Sunday was one of the best. The weather had delivered the birds. Chris and I were leading a tour around the Pearson Metropark (my new favourite spot in Ohio!) and the place was dripping in warblers – it took us almost 2 hours just to get out of the car park! Swainson’s Thrushes were everywhere but the warblers took some beating – Blackburnian, Magnolia, Yellow, Cape May, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Nashville,

and Tennessee Warblers, American Redstart, Northern Parula etc. Blue-headed Vireos were showing down to a matter of a few feet and there was Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers pouring through. However, once we got out of the car park into the forest it was clear there were birds everywhere! Connecticut Warbler was the star bird and was seen briefly (I’d only heard this species back in 2015), more showy were Canada, Wilson’s, and Mourning Warblers, as was Grey-cheeked Thrush, and Black-billed Cuckoo. Finally Bay-breasted Warblers and Blackpoll Warblers were also ‘in’, but in small numbers really, certainly compared to 2015. I was just relieved not to have missed them altogether as was looking likely as each day passed by.

Black-billed Cuckoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-billed Cuckoo – finally a cuckoo that gave itself up and was even twitchable for the masses asd it was the first one found during the BWIAB! Phone-scoped with my IPhone 7 and Swarovski ATX95 scope.

 

On the final afternoon we all got together to have a quick look at Magee Marsh boardwalk for the final time adding several more warblers to our already impressive day list – such as Prairie, Prothonotary, and Golden-winged Warblers. It was a fitting end to what had ended up being another really enjoyable weeks birding in Ohio. On the drive back to Columbus we had a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flying across the road – surprisingly our first of the trip.

The BWIAB 2017 was totally different from 2015, and is likely to be totally different to 2018 if I’m lucky enough to be there! That’s all down to the vagaries of migration birding, and what makes it such a fun and frustrating thing – often in the same day! It was great to catch up with old friends, and make new ones and spend hour upon hour talking all things ‘bird’ and ‘birding’. I offer a huge thank you to everyone at Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Maumee Bay Lodge for making the event the huge success it undoubtedly was, and is, and to Chris and Dylan for their great birding and being great companions again!

Until the next time…. Andy.


Namibia Birding Tours

Namibia is a must-visit African country since it is so very unique, with the world’s oldest desert including the highest sand dunes in the world, which are a spectacular red color, other massive sand dunes coming right down to the sea, rugged desert mountains along the Namibian Escarpment, desert elephants and rhinos, one of the world’s greatest game parks, the vast Etosha National Park. And, last but not least, Namibia has a whole bunch of birds that are only found there or in adjacent Angola.

Rockrunner - Ian Merrill

Photo and Birding Tour Namibia and Botswana: 13-day Adventure 2018

Duration: 13 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 7
Date Start: March 09, 2018
Date End: March 21, 2018
Tour Start:: Windhoek, Namibia
Tour End:: Maun, Botswana
Price: R89,797 per person sharing, based on 4 – 7 participants in a 14-seater van with some seats removed.
Summary: This is a photographic birding tour that gives you time in some of Africa’s greatest (no exaggeration!) wildlife havens. We begin our Photo and Birding Tour Namibia and Botswana in Namibia with three da...

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Birding Tour Southern Africa - African Scops Owl - Martin Benadie

Birding Tour Southern Africa: Owls of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa 2018

Duration: 15 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: April 10, 2018
Date End: April 24, 2018
Tour Start:: Windhoek, Namibia
Tour End:: Johannesburg, South Africa
Price: R66,462 per person sharing
Summary: Owls of Africa: The southern dozen – Birding Tour Southern Africa This is a trip in which we concentrate on finding the fine suite of owls inhabiting Africa south of the mighty Zambezi River. Most of...

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Dune Lark - Ian Merrill

Photo and Birding Tour Namibia - Quintessential Namibia 2018

Duration: 11 days
Limit (Group Size): 2 - 6
Date Start: September 02, 2018
Date End: September 12, 2018
Tour Start:: Windhoek
Tour End:: Windhoek
Price: This is an exclusive tour, prices on request.
Summary: Experience the Namib in all its splendor – the oldest desert in the world with towering red dunes. The essence of Namibia is encapsulated in this wondrous photographic birding exploration, which takes in...

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Rosy-faced Lovebird - Ian Merrill

Birding Tour Namibia: Namibia, Okavango, and Victoria Falls 2018

Duration: 18 days
Limit (Group Size): 6 - 9
Spaces Available:: 7
Date Start: November 02, 2018
Date End: November 19, 2018
Tour Start:: Walvis Bay, Namibia
Tour End:: Livingstone, Zambia
Price: R85,655 per person sharing
Summary: This is a truly marvelous 2.5-week birding adventure, during which we sample three different countries and spectacular, diverse scenery. We start in the coastal Namib Desert with its impressive dune fields...

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Monteiro's Hornbill - Niall Perrins

Namibia day tours

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Windhoek
Tour End:: Windhoek
Price: Please ask us.
Summary: For most Namibia day tours, out of Windhoek, we do not have a set or fixed itinerary. We basically provide a list of specials/birds that could be realistically seen, and then, once we have the wish list of...

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Peru was extraordinary!!!!!! My “to do” list includes a message to Eduardo with some images that we captured and a tally of the last day’s birds seen with Dennis near Lima, so he can prepare a complete trip report. Wil and I completed our tally while he was still here visiting after our trip and it came in at a staggering 430+ species seen, and a trip total of 460 species either seen or heard by the Taylor brothers. Your guys delivered BIG TIME on this trip, with three stellar guides and nearly flawless logistics, including two excellent drivers as well. Can’t thank you enough, Chris. Eduardo, as you no doubt already know, was top notch. It was tough saying good bye to him and Raul when they dropped us at the Cusco airport. We could not have had a better guide/driver combo for the core of the trip. Wil and I have never hesitated to recommend you and BE to our acquaintances, and we now know that our unconditional recommendation can be extended to your Peruvian office as well. Thanks a million for your help in getting the Peru trip arranged. We’ll be in touch. I attach a photo of satisfied customers with their weary guide near the lower end of the Manu Road, with the Rio Union in the background. For my part, the tour with you was the best overall of all the tours we’ve taken; most memorable, rewarding, and enjoyable.

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