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An adult Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta)

An adult Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta)

 

Pelagic Birding is a rather specific ‘art’ or aspect of birding, and it basically refers to an ocean-going trip taken on a boat in search of true ocean-going species, such as albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, storm petrels, etc. This is usually done as a day trip but can be slightly longer. These species are almost never seen from land (except during extreme conditions when they get blown close to shore), and in order to see them one has to travel out into the ocean. Due to the rather unpredictable nature of the weather and sea conditions on the day itself, each pelagic excursion is scheduled over two days, with the second day acting as a backup.

Pelagic birding offers some of the most exciting birding out there – as one quite simply never knows what will turn up! These species are known to travel vast distances in search of food and spend the vast majority of their lives out at sea, traversing the world’s oceans. The possibilities can literally be anything! The sight alone of these unique birds with their incredible flying skills and aerial prowess is quite simply awe-inspiring, and they leave us marveling at their capabilities time after time.

The port city, Cape Town, off South Africa’s south-western coast, is world-renowned for its pelagic birding. This is due to the rich waters located off Cape Town resulting from the meeting of the Benguela and Agulhas currents. This quite simply attracts a large number of fish and, in turn, the many pelagic species that feed on these fish. This whole process is augmented by the many fishing vessels operating in these waters, which attract even more birds. Birding Ecotours now run regular scheduled pelagic birding trips off Cape Town, and we will soon start arranging pelagic outings in other Southern African destinations (such as Inhambane in Mozambique, Durban and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, and Walvis Bay in Namibia), and also in other parts of the world such as off Lima along the Peruvian coast and off the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.

 

A White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis)

A White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis)

 

Antarctic Prion (Pachyptila desolata) ‘walking on water’

Antarctic Prion (Pachyptila desolata) ‘walking on water’

 

Great-winged Petrel (Pterodroma macroptera)

Great-winged Petrel (Pterodroma macroptera)

 

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche carteri)

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche carteri)

 

There are some seasonal differences during pelagics, and the austral summer brings in a few northern hemisphere species, such as Cory’s and Great Shearwaters, European Storm Petrel, etc., while the austral winter brings in many of the true Antarctic species from further south, such as Antarctic Prion, Cape Petrel, etc. One can experience a great day out at sea during any time of the year; however, the most productive months must be the period ranging from June/July through October. Here the regular frontal systems from the south bring in many rare and ‘exotic’ species from further afield, and the waters off Cape Town are regularly packed with thousands of birds – a true sight to behold!

 

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) is predominantly found during the austral winter

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) is predominantly found during the austral winter

 

Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis) is predominantly a passage species (Sep – Oct; Apr – May) but also is present in small numbers during the austral summer months

Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis) is predominantly a passage species (Sep – Oct; Apr – May) but also is present during the austral summer months

 

Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) is present in the austral summer.

Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) is present in the austral summer

 

Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) is present throughout the year

Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) is present throughout the year

 

Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) is present throughout the year

Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) is present throughout the year

 

The austral winter months are better for the ‘great’ albatrosses, like this Northern Royal Albatross (Diomedea sanfordi)

The austral winter months are better for the ‘great’ albatrosses, like this Northern Royal Albatross (Diomedea sanfordi)

 

The prized Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) is one of the most sought-after species

The prized Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) is one of the most sought-after species

 

Our upcoming schedule for 2017 is as follows:

  • 29/30 April — 4 places remaining
  • 27/28 May
  • 10/11 June
  • 15/16 July
  • 19/20 August
  • 16/17 September
  • 14/15 October
  • 18/19 November

 

For more information on these pelagic outings, please click on the link below:

Information Cape Pelagic Trip

 

Seasonality Table (click to enlarge):

Seasonality table.xlsx

Tours by destination



Bhutan

Ibisbill

Bhutan, known as the land of the Thunder Dragon, is a quaint, quiet, and scenically spectacular country with a strong conservation ethic rooted in ancient Buddhist traditions. Vast areas of unspoiled forest still cover the Himalayan foothills, that spread over much of the country. We expect to find most of Bhutan’s fabled Eastern Himalayan species such as Beautiful Nuthatch (and other nuthatches), Ward’s Trogon, the unbelievable Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ibisbill, and of course Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, and other vivid pheasants. Other highlights include Wallcreeper, spectacular sunbirds, five species of parrotbills, up to ten species of laughingthrushes, striking and gorgeous forktails along the fast-flowing rivers, in addition to a plethora of other tantalizing jewels.

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China

Blue Eared Pheasant

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, China is the world’s second-largest country by land area. China’s landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. Particularly interesting for birders are the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Qinghai.

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India

Sarus Crane - India

Joining a birding tour in India, a vast country twice the size of South Africa, should be on any birder’s wish list! The country shares borders with Pakistan to the west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan  to the northeast, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.  Sri Lanka lies to the south, the Maldives to the southwest, and Indonesia to the southeast of India in the Indian Ocean. India is the seventh-largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population, although its much higher birthrate makes it likely to reach pole position in less than ten years. It is an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language, and ethnicity across its expanse, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth.

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Indonesia

Green-backed Kingfisher

The fauna of the vast island country of Indonesia is characterized by high levels of biodiversity and endemism due to its distribution over a vast tropical archipelago. Many sources credit Indonesia as the most species-rich country on earth. Indonesia is divided into three ecological regions; western Indonesia, which is more influenced by Asian fauna, and the east, which is more influenced by Australasian species. The Wallace Line, across which lies the Wallacea transitional region, notionally divides the two regions. There is a diverse range of ecosystems, including vast rainforests, beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, coastal mudflats, tidal flats, algal beds, and small island ecosystems. 1718 avian species are distributed across the entire country, which straddles all three of the Asian, Wallacean, Australasian regions.

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Israel

Long-eared Owl - Oz Horine

Israel is at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many birds’ migration paths pass straight though Israel twice a year: each spring about half a billion birds migrate through the country northwards to the breeding areas, and each autumn they move to their wintering areas to the south. The continental bridge effect also means that Israel has more birds than expected – about 540 species. For some of these, Israel is the northern distribution boundary; for others the southern.

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Japan

Whooper Swan - Mark Brazil

Japan’s avifauna is incredibly rich, with more than 600 species having been recorded here.  More than 60% are migratory, therefore winter is the preferred birding season in Japan. This is the time for watching wintering Hooded and White-naped Cranes in addition to the native Red-crowned Crane. and many other resident and migrant species  in addition to the approximately 60 endemic or regionally endemic species.

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Malaysia (Borneo and the Peninsula)

Black-and-yellow Broadbill

To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia – a bubbling, bustling melting-pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese, and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony. This multiculturalism has made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise and home to hundreds of colorful festivals. It’s no wonder that Malaysians love celebrating and socializing. As a people, they are very relaxed, warm and friendly.

Geographically, Malaysia is almost as diverse as its culture. Eleven states and two federal territories (Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya) form Peninsular Malaysia, which is separated by the South China Sea from East Malaysia, which includes two states (Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo) and a third federal territory, the island of Labuan.

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Mongolia

Eurasian Hoopoe

The very name Mongolia conjures up images of a vast, remote and distant land — the land of Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan) and the Mongol hordes. While Mongolia is certainly vast and much of it is remote, it is also home to an exciting array of poorly known and rarely observed birds that occur only here. As we traverse this vast land we will often be traveling on rarely used roads, and occasionally driving across steppe grasslands, using GPS to navigate our way to exciting wetlands where no roads venture.

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Nepal

Ibisbill

The former kingdom of Nepal, now officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a land-locked country in Asia and one of the most mountainous on the planet. It is located in the central Himalayas, and of the world’s ten highest mountains eight are in Nepal. This land was cut off from the outside world for many decades after the second world war. But now it has opened up its boundaries to travelers, and it offers birders the opportunity to experience the immensity of birding the world’s highest mountain range without the high costs associated with visiting Bhutan.

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Philippines

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant

The Philippine Archipelago (more commonly known simply as the Philippines) is a remarkable collection of over 7000 individual islands. From a birding point of view, it uniquely combines influences from tropical south-east Asia and the more temperate parts of the continent (Japan, China and Korea). However, about a third of the birds are endemic, including some of the most spectacular species on the planet. Philippine (Monkey-eating) Eagle is the largest eagle on earth, and is reason enough for most wildlife enthusiasts to visit this island nation. This critically endangered bird (see http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3528) has a world population of just a few hundred, and as the national bird of the Philippines it is an appropriate representative of the disgusting plight of this archipelago’s avifauna. This is, quite simply, one of the “must-visit immediately” countries of the world, since the birds are quite literally going extinct due to massive scale deforestation. Palawan Peacock-Pheasant, Luzon Bleeding-heart, 17 endemic owl species, six kingfishers, 10 hornbills, 11 parrots, two broadbills, two pittas, Celestial Monarch (which truly does look celestial) and Sulphur-billed Nuthatch are just a few of the over 200 endemic birds that are becoming increasingly out of reach to the birder as each year goes by. If you’re a serious birder, we strongly advise that you visit the Philippines, but do it now before it’s gone.

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Sri Lanka

Red-faced Malkoha

Sri Lanka is a picturesque island situated at the southern tip of India and home to 33 currently recognized endemic species. Sri Lanka is a continental island and has been connected to India for much of its geological past through episodes of lower sea level. Despite these land-bridge connections, faunal exchange between the rainforests found in Southern India and Sri Lanka has been minimal. This lack of exchange of species is probably due to the inability of rainforest organisms to disperse though the interceding areas of dry lowlands. These dry lowlands are still dry today and receive only one major rainy season, whereas Sri Lanka’s “wet zone” experiences two annual monsoons. This long insularity of Sri Lankan biota in a moist tropical environment has led to the emergence of a bewildering variety of endemic biodiversity. This is why southwestern Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats of southern India are jointly regarded as one of the globe’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is the westernmost representative of Indo-Malayan flora, and its abundant birdlife also shows many such affinities.

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Taiwan

Mikado Pheasant - Chun Hsien Huang

Taiwan has more than 200 mountains that soar above 3,000 meters in height, and its unique geology and topography have created breathtaking scenery and alluring coastal scenes. Geographically, Taiwan is situated at the point where the Asian continental shelf meets the vast Pacific Ocean, providing it with an unparalleled ecological diversity and a huge number of plant and animal species concentrated in a relatively small place, perfect for ecotourism. Taiwan has world-class geological features, such as the awesome Taroko Gorge, and it has the highest mountain in Northeast Asia, Yushan or Jade Mountain. The island also has some of the friendliest people in the world and eight magnificent national parks, and it is a gourmet’s paradise with the finest of Chinese cuisine – all of which imprint indelible memories in the minds of its visitors.

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Thailand

Silver-eared Leiothrix

Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand and the capital of the Chiang Mai Province, 700 km north of Bangkok. The district is covered by many mountains, chiefly stretching in the north-south direction. The river Ping, one of the major tributaries of the Chao Phraya River, originates in the Chiang Dao Mountains. The highest mountain of Thailand, Doi Inthanon at 2 565 meters, is located in this district. Several national parks are also found here: Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep-Pui, Mae Ping, Sri Lanna, Huai Nam Dang, Mae Phang, Chiang Dao. Here in the north the birder will find numerous Himalayan foothill species, while in the south the avifauna mainly consists of Malay Peninsula birds.

The peninsula of southern Thailand, part of geological Sundaland, is a birders’ and naturalists’ paradise. Bounded by the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the Andaman Sea to the west, this lush tropical region boasts a maritime climate and a unique combination of terrestrial and marine attractions that rank among the best globally. Our tour is designed to incorporate the most spectacular of the region’s unique karst limestone scenery while searching for the region’s diversity of specials.

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We can run any of our tours privately any time and we can also arrange custom itineraries - send us your wish-list and we'll put the itinerary together! See more here.



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