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Worldwide Birding Tours - Birding Ecotours





By Chris Lotz www.birdingecotours.com

This is a topic we would sincerely love your comments on – please do e-mail us at info@birdingecotours.com and let us have your opinion on the matter!

Cuban Tody (photo Jean Kirkwood)

Cuban Tody (photo Jean Kirkwood) from our March 2017 Cuba birding tour – luckily not too difficult to see without playback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether to tick heard-only birds can be a contentious issue. My personal rule is to strictly exclude heard-only birds from all of my lists (including my world list, my southern African list, my Ohio state list, and any year lists that I attempt). My reasons for excluding heard-only birds are twofold. Firstly, because birding would then simply be too easy – the challenge of actually seeing elusive skulkers is a large part of what makes birding tough (in a good way). Finding owls, crakes (especially the tiny flufftails), and some of the more elusive warblers, such as Connecticut Warbler or Swainson’s Warbler, would be far too easy if one simply had to hear them to list them.

Secondly, and more importantly, one would miss getting to know some of the most fabulous birds out there if one was content just to hear them. For example, seeing the plumage of a Boreal Owl is of course a whole lot better than only hearing the species. Not to say that hearing the distant call of this tiny owl for the first time on a cold night in the mountains of Wyoming wasn’t one of the most memorable birding experiences I have ever had! The mountains seemed lifeless and completely quiet until the eerie tooting of this owl suddenly rang out!

On the other hand, one of the most compelling arguments to tick birds by hearing them only (and not continuing further to try and get visuals on them) is an excellent one that I certainly do spend a lot of time thinking about. By making it a rule to actually see (rather than to hear only) a species before listing it, birds can very much be disturbed, sometimes badly. There is, for example, hardly any other way of seeing a good number of the world’s owl species if one does not actually call them in and spotlight them. This is obviously not something the owls particularly enjoy. The same argument applies to rails, crakes, and flufftails, some of which birders call closer with playback before flushing them, which is a double whammy for the poor birds. Perhaps it might therefore be a good idea to count heard-only species on all one’s lists except for one’s main life-list? Let us have your comments.

The ethical concern mentioned above ultimately means that I have a shorter life list, as I sometimes opt not to bother the birds that I would otherwise want to get acquainted with (and list). Sometimes it’s just a matter of being more patient. The Connecticut Warbler that was a life bird for me very recently (earlier this month, May 2017) took a long time to see as I did not try and call it in with playback but instead waited for it (it took a couple of hours before I eventually saw this amazing little thing). With regards to the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail, I opted to join a controlled flushing event that minimizes disturbance to this species and in fact is used to raise funds to help its conservation (as participants pay into a conservation trust set up for this species, for the privilege of joining the controlled flush – see http://www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/terrestrial-bird-conservation/threatened-species/white-winged-flufftail ). In south-western Australia it was an absolute mission to see the three notorious skulkers of Cheynes Beach, because most birders try to see them there, so playback is a definite NO – you can read about my struggles at http://birdingecotours.com/trip-reports/australia.

Actually, with the massive increase in the popularity of bird photography, in which birders want to get photos and not just see the species, this whole controversy is brought to a whole new level. In this modern age probably more than half the birders out there want to photograph what they are finding, not just see the birds, and certainly not just hear them! When I started birding, hardly anyone was trying to photograph a species – folks were more than happy just to see each species and not get photos.

Seeing birds, or better still photographing them, adds to the challenge of birding, which is a good thing. If done in a truly caring way in which the bird’s welfare is genuinely put first (which is what most of my birding friends do), then to me this is the way to go. Other people will remain quite content to list birds simply by hearing them. If that were the case for me, I may have given up on that Connecticut Warbler more easily – but, believe me, I’m glad I spent a couple of hours trying for the species; when I saw this beautiful bird (first at eye level when singing territorially and then moving onto the ground where it moved to forage) it is one of the most unforgettable birding memories possible. The same holds for when I raised my binoculars to a Buff-spotted Flufftail after an arduous session in which my patience was tested to the absolute limit but was eventually rewarded. Flufftails must be the world’s most elusive birds (see http://birdingecotours.com/searching-for-africas-most-skulking-bird-family-the-incomparable-flufftails/), and many people settle for hearing them only. But I have to tell you that when you see these tiny spotted miniature chickens it’s the birding experience of a lifetime. That’s if you can stop shaking with excitement and actually get proper views.

At Birding Ecotours we also do not include heard-only birds in the final count – we mark the heard-only birds on our tour lists, but we are clear to state them as such and not include them with the trip tally. We feel that we have failed the trip participants if we have not got everyone onto the bird properly – that means everyone getting a good view of it. A poor view or a heard-only species can’t be included on the trip list.

For eBird, regional atlases, and other data-collecting exercises which can have scientific and conservation benefits we do, however, count heard-only birds.

On this topic, even more than most, we would love your opinion, stories, etc. Do you tick on heard only, and if so, why? Please e-mail us at info@birdingecotours.com and let us know, if you don’t mind!


South Africa Birding Tours

South Africa is one of the best value destinations on the entire continent. The outstanding infrastructure, great accommodation, excellent food, wonderful South African hospitality, spectacular and varied scenery, and the presence of Africa’s big and small mammals makes it one of the most pleasant countries in the world to bird in.

Birding Tour South Africa - Buff-spotted Flufftail - Hugh Chittenden

Birding Tour South Africa: Elusive Owls and Flufftails 2017

Duration: 3 days
Limit (Group Size): 5
Date Start: October 31, 2017
Date End: November 03, 2017
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: Between R7267 and R9770 per person sharing, based on group size and various other factors.
Summary: This short Birding Tour South Africa adventure concentrates on finding four particularly tough birds: Grass Owl, Cape Eagle-Owl, Red-chested Flufftail, and Striped Flufftail. Although there is no guarantee...

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Birding Tour South Africa: Marsh Owl by Andrew de Klerk

Birding Tour South Africa: Zimbabwe/Mozambique pre-trip 2017

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 14, 2017
Date End: November 21, 2017
Tour Start:: Johannesburg, South Africa
Tour End:: Harare, Zimbabwe - or Johannesburg: a transfer is arranged before crossing the border
Price: 6 - 8 participants R22,827 per person sharing, 4 - 5 participants R27,122 per person sharing
Summary: This wonderful tour through less-traveled but very bird-rich north-eastern South Africa will have us explore such renowned hot birding spots as Zaagkuilsdrift, Magoebaskloof, and Mapungubwe National Park. ...

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Knysna Turaco - John Tinkler

Birding Tour South Africa: 12-day Western Cape February 2018

Duration: 12 days
Limit (Group Size): 8, rarely 9
Spaces Available:: 6
Date Start: February 14, 2018
Date End: February 25, 2018
Tour Start:: Cape Town
Tour End:: George
Price: R44,934 per person sharing (The prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.)
Summary: We often get feedback that the accommodation on this ‘Birding Tour South Africa’ adventure is great! Indeed, South Africa is one of the best value destinations on the entire continent. The exce...

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Birding Tour South Africa - Quailfinch - Andrew de Klerk

Birding Tour South Africa: Subtropical South Africa March 2018

Duration: 18 days
Limit (Group Size): 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: February 25, 2018
Date End: March 14, 2018
Tour Start:: Durban
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: R68,300 per person sharing (The prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.)
Summary: This subtropical tour provides a representative sample of the very best that African birding can offer. Huge numbers of species will be seen (the typical bird list for this adventure is in the range of 400...

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Birding Tour Kalahari - Aardvark

Mammal and Birding Tour South Africa: The Kalahari 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: April 02, 2018
Date End: April 09, 2018
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: Main tour: R40,987 per person sharing. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park pre-trip: R31,888 per person sharing. (The prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.)
Summary: We offer an optional 6-day Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park pre-tour extension to this tour. Welcome to our Birding Tour Kalahari expedition. The vast Kalahari area is semi-desert, where some very tough Africa...

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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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South Africa

Mammal and Birding Tour South Africa: Drakensberg and Zululand 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: April 10, 2018
Date End: April 18, 2018
Tour Start:: Durban
Tour End:: Durban
Price: R47,534 per person sharing.
Summary: KwaZulu-Natal is one of the richest places for mammals and birds in South Africa. On this ‘Birding Tour South Africa’ adventure we first sample the impressive Drakensberg, which has lots of bir...

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Birding Tour South Africa - Leopard - John Tinkler

Birding Tour South Africa: Kruger National Park and Escarpment June 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: June 01, 2018
Date End: June 09, 2018
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: R56,870 per person sharing
Summary: This is a tour for those who want the ultimate African mammal safari experience while also seeing a huge diversity of birds, a disproportionate number of these birds being very brightly colored, charismati...

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Birding Tour South Africa - Lappet-faced Vulture - John Tinkler

Birding Tour South Africa - Cape, Namaqualand and Kalahari 2018

Duration: 13 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 9
Date Start: August 15, 2018
Date End: August 27, 2018
Tour Start:: Cape Town
Tour End:: Kimberley
Price: R64,656 per person sharing
Summary: This is a birding adventure in which a large number of localized southern African endemics will be encountered. In addition, big mammals such as black-maned Kalahari lion will be an exciting distraction to...

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Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Photo and Birding Tour South Africa: Western Cape, with extension to Kruger National Park 2018

Duration: 11 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 7
Date Start: September 01, 2018
Date End: September 11, 2018
Tour Start:: Cape Town
Tour End:: George
Price: Main tour: R50,562 , Kruger NP extension R26,889
Summary: South Africa’s Western Cape Province is scenically stunningly beautiful and hugely varied – from rocky sea cliffs and impressive mountains rising straight out of the sea to everything from moist temper...

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Leopard - John Tinkler

Birding Tour South Africa: Kruger National Park and Escarpment October 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: September 30, 2018
Date End: October 08, 2018
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: R56,870 per person sharing
Summary: This is a tour for those who want the ultimate African mammal safari experience while also seeing a huge diversity of birds, a disproportionate number of these birds being very brightly colored, charismati...

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African Oystercatcher

Birding Tour South Africa: 8-day Western Cape October 2018

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: October 07, 2018
Date End: October 14, 2018
Tour Start:: Cape Town
Tour End:: Cape Town
Price: R31,700 per person sharing, (The prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.)
Summary: “The Fairest Cape” is an apt name for this part of the world, with the iconic Table Mountain, the picturesque Cape Peninsula, winelands in spectacular valleys between the Cape Fold Mountains, and argua...

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Quailfinch - Andrew de Klerk

Birding Tour South Africa: Subtropical South Africa October 2018

Duration: 18 days
Limit (Group Size): 8 (rarely 9)
Date Start: October 14, 2018
Date End: October 31, 2018
Tour Start:: Durban
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: R68,300 per person sharing (The prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.)
Summary: This subtropical tour provides a representative sample of the very best that African birding can offer. Huge numbers of species will be seen (the typical bird list for this adventure is in the range of 400...

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Birding Tour South Africa - Buff-spotted Flufftail - Hugh Chittenden

Birding Tour South Africa: Elusive Owls and Flufftails 2018

Duration: 3 days
Limit (Group Size): 5
Date Start: October 31, 2018
Date End: November 03, 2018
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: Between R8430 and R11333 per person sharing, based on group size and various other factors.
Summary: This short Birding Tour South Africa adventure concentrates on finding four particularly tough birds: Grass Owl, Cape Eagle-Owl, Red-chested Flufftail, and Striped Flufftail. Although there is no guarantee...

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Birding Tour South Africa: Marsh Owl by Andrew de Klerk

Birding Tour South Africa: Zimbabwe/Mozambique pre-trip 2018

Duration: 8 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: November 14, 2018
Date End: November 21, 2018
Tour Start:: Johannesburg, South Africa
Tour End:: Harare, Zimbabwe - or Johannesburg: a transfer is arranged before crossing the border
Price: 6 - 8 participants R26,479 per person sharing, 4 - 5 participants R31,462 per person sharing
Summary: This wonderful tour through less-traveled but very bird-rich north-eastern South Africa will have us explore such renowned hot birding spots as Zaagkuilsdrift, Magoebaskloof, and Mapungubwe National Park. ...

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Rufous-eared Warbler

Northern Cape Larks and other regional endemics – 3-5 days

Duration: 3 days
Price: On request
Summary: Southern Africa is the lark capital of the world, and larks are at times the favorite group of birds for Chris (when he is not chasing owls) and some of the other Birding Ecotours guides. And a disproporti...

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Blue Crane - Andre Stapelberg

2-day Agulhas Plains (Overberg) Birding Trip

Duration: 2 days
Tour Start:: Cape Town
Tour End:: Cape Town
Price: on request
Summary: This trip forms part of the 12-day Western Cape Birding Tour. This is a trip in which a disproportionate number of large and spectacular birds are encountered. We bird the stronghold of the world’s p...

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Ground Woodpecker - Ian Merrill

2-day Tankwa Karoo Loop

Duration: 2 days
Tour Start:: Cape Town
Tour End:: Cape Town
Price: on request
Summary: We fetch you from your hotel in the early morning and head through spectacular scenery to the beautiful town of Ceres (2.5 – 3 hours’ drive from Cape Town). Ceres is the gateway to the Karoo. T...

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Orange-breasted Sunbird - John Tinkler

Cape Peninsula Birding Tour - 1 day

Duration: 1 day
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, is located near Table Bay on the northern extremity of the stunning Cape Peninsula. This morning we will fetch you from your Cape Town hotel and s...

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Cape Rockjumper - Andre Stapelberg

Cape Peninsula and False Bay Birding Tour - 1 day

Duration: 1 day
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: This tour will give you a chance to see some of the Cape’s best scenery while taking in some of its best birds as well, like Orange-bellied Sunbird, Knysna Warbler, and Victorin’s Warbler. ...

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Pelagic trawler - Martin Benadie

Cape Town Pelagic Trip - 1 day

Duration: 1 day
Limit (Group Size): 8 - 10
Tour Start:: Simon's Town
Tour End:: Simon's Town
Price: R1900, with occasional discounts to R1700 (please ask). This is based on a group size of 8 - 10 participants plus the guide.
Summary: Pelagic trips off Cape Town are among the most amazing in the world, with at least four species of albatross virtually guaranteed, the splendid Cape Petrel (winter), many other petrels, storm petrels and s...

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Orange-breasted Sunbird - Gareth Robbins

1-day Garden Route

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Plettenberg Bay
Tour End:: Plettenberg Bay
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: The Garden Route – a special gem, offering spectacular and unique bird sightings, complimented with breath-taking scenery and phenomenal landscapes, all encompassed within lush forest lands, fynbos, thic...

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Black Harrier - John Tinkler

West Coast Birding Tour - 1 day

Duration: 1 day
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: The West Coast National Park is a 1-hour drive (if traveling directly) from Cape Town, But we certainly will be birding all along the way instead of driving directly! ...

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Buff-spotted Flufftail - Hugh Chittenden

1.5 - 2-day Trips for Rare Owls, Flufftails, Drakensberg Endemics, and more, near Johannesburg

Duration: 2 days
Price: on request
Summary: We often run a 24-hour trip out of Johannesburg or Pretoria, with one night in Dullstroom, targeting Cape Eagle-Owl. Often we run this trip purely as fund-raising trip to raise money for bird conservation....

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Verreaux's Eagle-Owl - Alan van Norman

Other / miscellaneous 1 - 3-day birding tours available in the Johannesburg / Pretoria area

Duration: 3 days
Price: on request
Summary: We take birders to sites for some exciting birds that can be found on the doorstep of Johannesburg and Pretoria, if you know exactly where to go, like our guides do. We can also arrange 2-3 day Wakkerstroo...

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Black-headed Oriole - John Tinkler

Johannesburg - Walter Sisulu Botanic Gardens

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: These beautiful botanic gardens are one of Johannesburg’s most idyllic natural sites, and here one can see Verreaux’s Eagle and other raptors soar in front of a lovely waterfall, while the beau...

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Malachite Sunbird - John Tinkler

Johannesburg - Highveld and Wetlands

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: Our birding guide will fetch you after breakfast from your hotel anywhere in the Johannesburg/Pretoria area, and take you first to Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in the morning, then to Marievale wetlands in...

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Purple-crested Turaco

Durban Day Tours

Duration: 2 days
Summary: We do a variety of excellent 1-day and 2-day tours around Durban, in addition to our longer, 16-day KwaZulu-Natal and Subtropical South Africa birding tours. Please contact us for further details or click ...

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The ascent up Sani Pass, one of the most famed birding routes in South Africa, provides easy access to most of the birds endemic to the Drakensberg.

Birding the Sani Pass and Lesotho

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Underberg, Himeville, or in some instances Creighton, Kwa-Zulu-Natal
Tour End:: Underberg, Himeville, or in some instances Creighton, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: The ascent up Sani Pass, one of the most famed birding routes in South Africa, provides easy access to most of the birds endemic to the Drakensberg Escarpment and highlands, plus spectacular mountain scene...

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Cape Starling - James Reveley

Dinokeng / Zaagkuilsdrift

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Johannesburg
Tour End:: Johannesburg
Price: Please see http://birdingecotours.com/birding-day-trips/.
Summary: After an early collection at your hotel in Johannesburg or Pretoria, we’ll head north into prime “bushveld” habitat north of Pretoria. A summer outing here offers over 100 species in a ...

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Secretarybird by John Tinkler - South Africa Birding Tour

1-3-day Northeastern Gauteng

Duration: 1 day
Tour Start:: Johannesburg/Pretoria
Tour End:: Johannesburg/Pretoria
Price: On request
Summary: The 1-3-day trip to the northeastern parts of ‘wider’ Gauteng offers both species richness and species diversity. A day list of 150 in the summer and 120 in the winter is not an uncommon achievement. ...

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Featured Guide - To be assigned

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What our clients say

During our tour of Costa Rica Mike was a huge advantage in our quest for the target birds. His body bristling with equipment, he used his ceaseless enthusiasm, know-how, sharp eyes and keen ears to readily uncover and identify those that mattered – from the gregarious to the rare and the secretive. And after dark he would make relevant contributions to most camp-fire topics. Great to have him on the team!

Mike and Inger Lear, Johannesburg, South Africa



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