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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.


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.

Knysna Turaco - John Tinkler

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

Duration: 12 days
Limit (Group Size): 8, rarely 9
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)
Spaces Available:: 6
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: R2100, with occasional discounts to R1900 (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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What our clients say

Dear Chris, Thank you for your interest in the outcome of our tour. It is not possible to answer you in one note, so I will try to do so in a few ‘to the point’ remarks. Yes, the trip met all our expectations, and more! We saw and experienced the Cerrado, the Amazon forest, even better than previously at Tambopata, and the Pantanal with its amazing variety and volume of wildlife. For me the sight of a Hyacinth Macaw, which drew me to the Pantanal, already made it worthwhile. Then, of course, come the excellent sightings of the Jaguars and the Otters and then all the birds for which Eduardo made special efforts to find for his goals. In the Cerrado we stayed in an excellent farm-lodge where we were lucky to experience the sighting of the Maned Wolf and the Burrowing Owl (which was on Elzine’s bucket list), apart from a number of colourful specials like the Motmot and Jacamar. In the Amazon we were also very lucky to find another of Elzine’s target species, the Anaconda, and also another member of South America’s big five, the Tapir. We had an excellent session of forest birding on one of the towers where we could really appreciate the advantages of our private tour which, we think, was good value for the additional cost. Together with the Cristalino guide we had the tower for ourselves, and with an excellent guide like Eduardo also with us, we experienced a feast of good sightings. On EDUARDO:  It was a pleasure to travel with him again and having him as a guide who showed his expertise even in the presence of other local guides. It is good to hear that he also enjoyed our company. In summary, we came back as very satisfied customers of Birding Ecotours  and wish to thank you and Lynn for the opportunity to experience the Heart of Brazil. Regards Jacques and Elzine Smuts

Jacques and Elzine Smuts , Pretoria, South Africa
10/07/2015



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