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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



Destinations

Argentina

Buff-fronted Owl - Alan van Norman

Argentina is blessed with some amazing scenery and birds to go with it. The northwest has some fantastic birding, with high Andes Puna down to cloud forest, where several endemic and regional specialties can be found, like Moreno’s Ground Dove, Rufous-throated Dipper, James’s, Chilean, and Andean Flamingos, and Red-faced Guan, to name a few. The northeast holds the mighty Iguazu falls, whose surrounding lush forests hold species seen nowhere else in Argentina. To the south of here the huge wetlands of the Ibera Marsh area are great for water species, including the mighty Jabiru.  Farther to the east the dry Chaco region with its odd tyrants adds to the avian splendor of the northeast, making this one of the most avian bio-diverse spots in the country. The chilly south is home to one of the most endangered grebes, the Hooded Grebe, as well as several austral specialties of the Patagonian steppe. In the center the Cordoba region is home to several endemics. Any of these places will allow you to find some of the country’s 1000+ species.

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Bolivia

Red-fronted Macaw - Ken Logan

Bolivia’s variable altitudes, ranging from 90 to 6,542 meters above sea level, allow for vast biologic diversity. The territory of Bolivia comprises 4 types of biomes, 32 ecological regions, and 199 ecosystems. Within this geographic area there are several natural parks and reserves. The country has more than 2,900 species, including 398 mammals, over 1,400 birds (being the sixth most diverse country), 204 amphibians, and 277 reptiles. In addition, there are more than 3,000 types of butterflies.

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Brazil

Hyacinth Macaw - Charly Sax

The Amazon  basin is a marvel of the world and the imagination, an ecosystem of unrivalled size and diversity, and a place of near mythical status among travellers. The Amazon River has more water than the next eight largest rivers combined, and is twice the area of India, and the basin spans eight countries. It’s a life spring of the planet, the source of so much of the air, water and weather we all depend on. However, unreasonable travel expectations – like seeing jaguars and semi-clothed Indians around every bend – can be a recipe for disappointment. For all its size, the joys of the Amazon are mostly subtle: the ghostly roar of howler monkeys, the remarkable variety of plant life, the kindliness of riverside communities, and the quiet but awesome power of the river itself.

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Colombia

Brown-banded Antpitta - Christopher Calonje

Colombia, with its diverse landscapes, is home to more bird species than any other country in the world.  The Andes make their northern terminus here, splitting into three fingers. In between lie valleys full of endemic birds, 74 at last count, and the famous Santa Marta region to the north hold 17 of these. With almost 2000 species be prepared to be in awe of the spectacular avifauna as we explore Colombia’s lush cloud forests, wetlands, and high mountain plains.

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Costa Rica

Snowcap

Sitting astride the ridge of mountains that divide central America in half gives this jungle paradise an amazing array of fantastic neotropical birds. With Caribbean slope and lowlands, highlands, and Pacific slope and lowlands we’ll have the opportunity to bird it all. From extinct and active volcanos over 4000 meters to moist, tropical jungle on the Osa Peninsula we’ll look out for such stunners as the Resplendent Quetzal and other trogons, flocks of tanagers, cotingas, toucans, hummingbirds, and many endemic and range-restricted species, along with some interesting mammals like three- and two-toed sloths, several species of primates, colorful butterflies, and lovely scenery. This itinerary gives us the best opportunity to search out the regional and Costa Rican endemics without missing spots or rushing past rewarding sites.

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Cuba

Cuban Tody - William Price

The tour starts in Cuba’s famous Zapata Swamp, one of the richest single sites throughout the West Indies, and continues across much of the western two-thirds of this island, which is widely regarded as the last bastion of communism in the world but is now gradually becoming slightly more liberalized. We will have good chances of finding all of Cuba’s endemics with the exception of the near-mythical Zapata Rail, whose voice is still not definitely known, and the extremely rare Cuban Kite, which is restricted to the extreme east of the island and requires a trip of near-expedition proportions for any chance of seeing it.

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Ecuador

Ocellated Tapaculo - Charly Sax

Ecuador lies both on the equator and over the spine of the Andes, affording it some spectacular birding. The western slope holds some staggering birding, especially hummingbirds — from the amazingly long-billed Sword-billed Hummingbird to the visual candy of Velvet-purple Coronet. Antpittas, owls, tanagers, and the many Choco specialties make the western slope so appealing. Crossing over the Andes from the capitol Quito affords the chance to visit Papallacta pass for species like Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe as well as giving access to the eastern slope and its many treasures. The Andes have split once-joined species, and here you can pick up the eastern counterparts leading all the way down to the lush forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This gives Ecuador an impressive list of over 1600 species in a country the size of the state of Nevada.

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Guatemala

Horned Guan

Guatemala is blessed with some amazing habitats for birds, from the steaming volcanoes of the highlands of southern Guatemala to the hot jungles of the Mayan empire. Birding in Guatemala is an unforgettable experience.

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Guyana

Guianan Cock-of-the-rock - Christopher Calonje

Guyana, South America’s “Biggest Little Secret”, is an unspoiled, untouched, pristine nature destination. With its natural beauty, biological diversity, and land of some of the world’s largest, rarest, and most spectacular creatures, a trip to Guyana will be an unforgettable experience for everyone. Guyana’s natural beauty is unsurpassable, with 75% of the country covered with rainforest.

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Honduras

Bushy-crested Jay

Honduras, still mostly off the beaten track, is a hidden birding gem in Central America. Many people do not realize that this small country is the regional leader in terms of the percentage of land set aside as national parks and preserves, surpassing even Costa Rica in this regard. Sitting astride the Northern Central America endemic region, this increasingly popular country also boasts an impressive diversity of regional endemics within its many ecosystems.

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Jamaica

Jamaican Mango - Alan van Norman

Despite its location almost smack in the center of the Caribbean Sea, the island of Jamaica does’t blend in easily with the rest of the Caribbean archipelago. To be sure, it boasts the same addictive sun rays, sugary sands, and pampered resort life as most of the other islands, but it is also set apart historically and culturally. Today’s visitors will appreciate their trip to Jamaica all the more if they embrace the island’s unique character and the inherent “African-ness” of its population. Aside from its people, Jamaica has much to offer the curious, thirsty, or weary traveler. The Blue Mountains boast the world’s best coffee, try a cup in the century-old factory at Mavis Bank. There are world-class reefs for diving, including those at Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios, and great stretches of palm-fringed sand at Treasure Beach or Frenchman’s Cove near Port Antonio. There are offbeat bush-medicine hiking tours, congenial fishing villages, pristine waterfalls, cosmopolitan cities, wetlands harboring endangered crocodiles and manatees, and unforgettable sunsets.

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Panama

Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo by Dylan Vasapolli

Few places in the world offer such a variety of natural habitats in such a small surface area like Panama. Within its mere 29,159 square miles, Panama has habitats that range from dry “deserts”, where cacti and other succulents are common, to lush tropical rainforests and mountain cloud forests, where moss-covered, epiphyte-laden trees abound. Additionally, its location at the Crossroads of the Americas allows Panama bird species from North, Central, and South America. The Darien is Panama’s bordering region with South America, and it shares an abundant and diverse wildlife reminiscent to that of the Amazon Basin. All in all, in its tiny surface area, smaller than the state of South Carolina, Panama contains more than 977 different species of birds, making it a birdwatcher’s dream come true!

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Peru

Hoatzin - Ken Logan

Peru has the second-highest species list on earth and a huge list of 125+ endemic species; ever more are being discovered as the forests are studied now more readily than in the past. There is a huge amount of habitat to discover, and the remnants of the Inca Empire add to the majesty of any trip here. Because of its large size several trips or one long one are recommended to cover the major regions and give all of the fantastic EBAs (Endemic Birding Areas) due birding.

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Trinidad & Tobago

Oilbird

Trinidad and Tobago are a remarkable set of islands, with such close proximity to the mainland of South America the islands enjoy both mainland and Caribbean species. With the Northern Range of mountains, savannas, beaches, and tropical swamps there is a great variety of birds here to enjoy. Tobago also has some nice seabird colonies, making for a well-rounded species list, including several sought-after regional endemics. Combined with its lovely beaches, friendly people, and a wonderful mix of carib/creole/Indian cuisine, this is a great destination to do some fantastic birding.

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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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