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Worldwide Birding Tours - Birding Ecotours
Ross's Turaco by Masa Wang - Uganda birding tour

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker

Electronic Newsletters

March 2016 newsletter

Dear Birders

Greetings, and welcome to our newsletter, which we send once every two months. We always love hearing from you, so please do send us a note if you don’t mind.

We want to mention that a couple of us will be at the Biggest Week in American Birding (https://www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com/ ), and we sincerely hope to see many of you there (hopefully over a Blackburnian Warbler or even a Kirtland’s Warbler!).

A Birding Ecotours team is also just about to head to Israel to participate in a 24 hour bird race for conservation. The specific aim of this exciting birding race is to raise money to try and bring an end to the massive-scale, illegal slaughter of birds trying to migrate through Greece (between Africa and Eurasia twice a year). We cover all the expenses (such as flights to Israel) for our team, and then all money kindly donated by our supporters is given directly to the Hellenic Ornithological Society. Full details about the cause, and about our team and how to support Jason, Dylan, Andy and Trevor, are shown at: https://www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/the-birding-ecotours-bandits/








We very sincerely thank those of you who have already generously donated to our team, putting us in position number 1 out of 15 international teams! We have already raised a spectacular £4,653! We humbly ask for any further donations (as other teams are, worryingly, threatening to overtake us – and rather more importantly, this friendly rivalry among teams only means more overall funds raised to help prevent the illegal killing of our migratory birds!). You can either use the team page link shown above to donate online, or you can reply to this e-mail for other options you may find easier. Many people donate $10; others choose larger amounts.

We will also give you a 2.5 % discount, and donate 2.5 % of the tour price to this Champions of the Flyway bird race for conservation, if you book any of the 7 upcoming 2016 tours featured in this newsletter, or any of our central/South American tours *, within the next 2 weeks. These 7 tours featured in this newsletter are: Taiwan (April 30 – May 11), Bulgaria/Romania (June 8-24), Uganda (August 1-19), and then our 4 southern African tours between October and December. The full details of the first 3 of these featured trips are shown below, then an article about the other 4 trips (in which we saw 85 % of the bird species regularly occurring in the southern third of the vast African continent, plus 82 mammal species, were recorded during last year’s tours spanning October 9 and December 5, 2015).

*a few examples of the neo-tropical tours are shown below:

Brazil – four separate tours that can be combined:

brazil tours








Birding Tour Brazil: Cerrado, Amazon, and Pantanal 2016

Duration: 15 days
Limit (Group Size): 2 – 8
Spaces Available:: 6
Date Start: August 28, 2016
Date End: September 11, 2016
Tour Start:: Cuiabá
Tour End:: Cuiabá
Price: US$7150 per person sharing
Summary: Please note: On this Birding Tour Brazil 1.5 days will be spent searching for the magnificent jaguar. Welcome to the first of our 2016 Birding Tour Brazil itineraries! In a country well known for its stagg…

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Birding Tour Brazil: Cerrado Endemics and Brazilian Merganser 2016

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 2 – 8
Spaces Available:: 6
Date Start: September 12, 2016
Date End: September 20, 2016
Tour Start:: Belo Horizonte
Tour End:: Belo Horizonte
Price: US$3930 per person sharing
Summary: Many people know of the immense Brazilian Amazon with its astonishing biodiversity. Some people might know about the highly endangered Atlantic Rainforest that once stretched across large sections of the B…

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Birding Tour Brazil: Comprehensive Southeast Brazil, Part I 2016

Duration: 13 days
Limit (Group Size): 2 – 8
Spaces Available:: 6
Date Start: September 20, 2016
Date End: October 02, 2016
Tour Start:: Rio de Janeiro
Tour End:: Rio de Janeiro
Price: US$5,360 per person sharing
Summary: When they first landed on its shores in the 1500s, the Portuguese discovered a vast stretch of verdant rainforest cloaking much of the Atlantic coast of what would one day be Brazil. Through centuries of d…

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Birding Tour Brazil: Comprehensive Southeast Brazil, Part II 2016

Duration: 14 days
Limit (Group Size): 2 – 8
Spaces Available:: 6
Date Start: October 02, 2016
Date End: October 15, 2016
Tour Start:: Vitória
Tour End:: São Paulo
Price: US$5,467 per person sharing
Summary: When they first landed on its shores in the 1500s, the Portuguese discovered a vast stretch of verdant rainforest cloaking much of the Atlantic coast of what would one day be Brazil. Through centuries of d…

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Costa Rica comprehensive in two legs (and please ask us about 7-day Costa Rica):

Duration: 24 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 – 8
Date Start: March 13, 2017
Date End: April 05, 2017
Tour Start:: San José, Costa Rica
Tour End:: San José, Costa Rica
Price: Part I: US$4725 per person sharing, part II: US$4449 per person sharing, entire tour: US$8909 per person sharing
Summary: This is a Neotropical Bird Club conservation trip. For each participant the NBC Conservation Awards Fund will receive a donation. As one of the most prosperous countries in Central America, Costa Rica, wit…

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The discount applies also to all our regular set of tours to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Gautemala, etc. – please see https://birdingecotours.com/tours/tours-by-destination/neotropics for more details


…and now for the 7 featured tours:




30 APRIL – 11 MAY 2016

Taiwan Scimitar Babbler












Taiwan Scimitar Babbler


Taiwan not only has brilliant birds but also a host of other winning points that make it a wonderful destination for a comfortable birding trip. With about 30 endemics, many endemic subspecies that could be split, and all its migrants and widespread Asian birds because of its position on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, there’s stacks to look forward to. Taiwan is located 100 km east of the coast of China, south of Japan and Korea, and north of the Philippines. Less than 400 km long and 150 km wide, with rugged central mountains and deep valleys, it boasts a very high biodiversity – in a very manageable package.
This tour focuses on the endemics and other East Asian specialities in Taiwan’s well- protected forests. Most of our time will be spent in the mountains, but we will also allow some time in the lowlands and at the coast, looking out for wetland birds. Orchid Island (Lanyu) has several interesting birds.


The Taiwanese are a very friendly and welcoming people. They have blended the best parts of unspoiled, traditional Chinese culture with the influence of colonial Japan, along with the native Austronesian culture. Taiwan is free and democratic, has good infrastructure, and is considered safe.


Grading: Easy walks on good surfaces. Good photo opportunities.



  • Around 30 endemic species (over 60 subspecies/dubious splits)
  • Many other resident and passage birds – lots of widespread East Asian species
  • Excellent scenery, varied habitats, flora, and butterflies
  • Interesting culture
  • Good food, supplemented with familiar snacks and drinks
  • Good infrastructure, comfortable, safe, and clean environment


Itinerary (12 days/11 nights)


Day 1. Arrival and Taiwan lowlands
On arrival at Taipei airport we will make full use of the evening light to explore a farming and coastal area very near the airport. As well as hoping to encounter things more exotic, here we will familiarize ourselves with some common lowland species, such as Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul, Red Turtle (Red Collared) Dove, Spotted Dove, Long-tailed Shrike, late-passage Brown Shrike, Black Drongo, Oriental Skylark, Plain Prinia, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Japanese White-eye, and various wagtails and munias.
With some work we may find a Crested Myna among the more common Javan. This may also be our first chance to run into the local subspecies of the Crested Serpent Eagle, Silver-backed Needletail, and Pacific (Fork-tailed) Swift.
We then travel to our well-located hotel. Tonight, after birding and dinner, those with an interest will have an option to explore Taiwan’s lively night-market and Taoist temple scene.


Day 2. Wulai
This will be our first opportunity to get into low-elevation forest birds. Wulai is a stronghold for some birds trickier elsewhere, such as the magnificent Taiwan Blue (Formosan) Magpie, Maroon Oriole, Taiwan (Formosan) Whistling Thrush, Plain Flowerpecker, Varied Tit, and Silver-backed Needletail. The valleys here are home to many altitudinal migrants and to raptors such as Besra and Grey-faced Buzzard. Mandarin Duck (proper native ones) can sometimes be spotted. Transient Grey-streaked and Ferruginous Flycatchers are also to be watched out for.
Transfer to a Central Taiwan Hotel


Days 3 – 5. Low to mid to high elevation Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area
We spend three days in the renowned Dasyueshan National Forest nearby, moving from subtropical lowlands to coniferous temperate mountains at over 2,000 meters. We stay in the comfortable cabins at Anmashan for two nights.
Lower down we are likely to encounter our first Collared Finchbill, Oriental Turtle Dove, Lesser Coucal, Taiwan Barbet, Grey Treepie, Striated and Pacific Swallows, Oriental Reed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Taiwan Hwamei, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, and Rufous-capped Babbler.
With a bit of luck we might also encounter Bull-headed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler, and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
A side road usually produces great views of Grey-chinned Minivet, Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Malayan Night Heron, and Striated Heron.
As we get higher we will find Bronzed Drongo, Black Bulbul, Striated Prinia, the striking Vivid Niltava, White-bellied Erpornis, and hopefully White-backed or Grey-headed (Grey-faced) Woodpecker, and probably Formosan rock (Taiwanese) macaque.
The first big birding highlight is usually Swinhoe’s Pheasant. While waiting for the right one to show we should be entertained by White-tailed Robin, Steere’s Liocichla, and red-bellied squirrel. A nearby hotspot may have Island Thrush and your first views of the abundant White-eared Sibia and Taiwan Yuhina. Asian House Martin can be found nesting under a bridge close by.
The main target in the forests above our cabins is the graceful Mikado Pheasant. While staking them out along the road, the very confiding White-whiskered Laughingthrush and Formosan striped squirrel will pose for you. Nearby we will be on alert for White-browed Bush Robin and the smart Collared Bush Robin. As we get into hemlock and dwarf bamboo forest at the highest points, we will meet the distinctive local version of Spotted (Eurasian) Nutcracker as well as Brown-flanked Bush Warbler, Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler, Taiwan Bush Warbler, and White-browed Shortwing.
Mixed flocks will hold the local crested version of Coal Tit, Green-backed Tit, Yellow Tit, Black-throated Bushtit (Tit), the cute Rufous-faced Warbler, Collared Owlet, and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. The excitement of a mixed flock often also attracts familiar birds such as Eurasian Nuthatch and Eurasian (Winter) Wren. The views here are breathtaking: in the distance we will have views of Taiwan’s highest peak, Yushan, which is just short of 4,000 meters (about 13,000 feet).
The excellent Trochodendron and pine forest around our cabins is often the best place for Ashy Wood Pigeon, the local sub-species of Eurasian Jay, Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, and Brown Bullfinch, and a local waterfall is home to Little Forktail.
After dinner we will be looking for the endemic subspecies of Tawny Owl as well as for two scops owl species and the charismatic White-faced flying squirrel. Taiwan serow and Reeves’ muntjac may also be encountered. In the mornings it is usually fun to search the grounds around our accommodation. The secretive Taiwan Partridge and the tiny Taiwan Wren-babbler are worth the extra effort to find them.
In the evening of Day 5 we return to the western lowlands and drive to the fishing town of Dongshan, just south of the Tropic of Cancer, and our hotel for the night.


Day 6. Coastal lagoons, Aogu Wetland Forest Park to Kenting National Park
Today, among the coastal lagoons, our targets will be any lingering Black-faced Spoonbill and passage delights such as Great Knot, Asian Dowitcher, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Also targeted are Oriental Skylark, Oriental Pratincole, Black-tailed Gull, Roseate and Bridled Terns, Intermediate Egret, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Terek and Marsh Sandpipers, and Broad-billed Sandpiper. Local fields and ditches attract Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Painted-snipe, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, White-breasted Waterhen, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, Far Eastern Curlew, and Red-necked and Long-toed Stints. Western Osprey, Black-winged (Black-shouldered) Kite, or Eastern Marsh Harrier may make a showing. Other familiar waders and ducks are likely.
Scrubby embankments can hold Zitting Cisticola, Golden-headed Cisticola, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and various starlings. We might also encounter Styan’s Bulbul at Kenting National Park.


Days 7 – 8. Orchid Island (Lanyu)
With an indigenous culture that is closer to that of the Philippines and the Pacific, Lanyu is a nice contrast to mainland Taiwan. We take a 2-hour  ferry from Taiwan’s most southern point. Whistling Green Pigeon, Philippine Cuckoo-Dove, Brown-eared Bulbul, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, the endemic subspecies of Elegant Scops Owl (“Lanyu Scops Owl”), and Lowland White-eye can be expected, as well as other passage passerines.
On the way there and back we will look for Bulwer’s Petrel, Streaked Shearwater, Black-naped Tern, Little Tern, and Brown Noddy, as well as for dolphins and flying fish.


Day 9. Huben
Today we will focus on finding the breeding Fairy Pitta and Malayan Night Heron, as well as better views of lowland forest species.


Days 10 – 11. Alishan National Scenic Area, Hehuan Mountain, north coast
We return to the mountains for more views of Taiwan Barwing, Yellow Tit, and Taiwan (Taiwan Hill) Partridge, as well as  any species missed at Dasyueshan. We will keep a lookout for raptors such as Crested (Oriental) Honey Buzzard, Crested Goshawk, and Japanese Sparrowhawk. Black Eagle and Mountain Hawk-Eagle are sometimes encountered. Summer visitors include Large Hawk-Cuckoo and Himalayan Cuckoo. Bunting, flycatcher, and pipit species are possible.
In the evenings we will hopefully get views of Mountain Scops Owl and Collared Scops Owl, and maybe Savanna Nightjar, the local subspecies of Brown Wood Owl (“Himalayan Wood Owl”), or giant flying squirrel.
In the secondary forest our targets will be Rusty Laughingthrush, Dusky Fulvetta, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Common Emerald Dove, White-bellied Green Pigeon, and Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler. We may catch up again with Black-naped Monarch and Snowy-browed Flycatcher.
We then drive to the highest road pass east of the Himalayas at over 3,300 meters in search of Alpine Accentor, Taiwan Rosefinch, and Taiwan Fulvetta in the junipers and rhododendrons. Dropping down from the alpine-like areas, in the pine trees we will be on the lookout for Grey-headed Bullfinch and Flamecrest. The heather-like bamboo will give us more chances of Golden Parrotbill and Taiwan Bush Warbler.


Day 12. North coast
We will allow time today to make a visit to a coastal promontory on the north coast for uncommon Eastern Palearctic visitors such as Japanese Robin, Bluethroat, Siberian Rubythroat, and Chinese and Japanese Grosbeaks – as well as for more run-of-the-mill Blue Rock Thrush and Pacific Reef Heron. We will also survey the rocky shore for Chinese Egret and Grey-tailed Tattler.


Duration:                     12 days
Limit:                           1 – 6
Date:                            April 30 – May 11 2016
Start:                           Taipei
End:                             Taipei

Price:                          US$3884 per person sharing
Single supplement
:    US$490

Price includes:
Meals (mostly excellent Chinese, but supplemented by lots of familiar food, snacks, and refreshments)
Service of guide and driver
Admission fees
Snacks and water

Price excludes:
International and domestic flights
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
Travel insurance
Alcoholic drinks




       8 – 24 JUNE 2016

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker










Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker  is one of the specials on the trip.


This tour encompasses the majority of species-rich Bulgaria, along with the mighty Danube Delta in neighboring Romania. It offers a good chance of finding a number of tough and localized European birds, along with providing some great scenery and culinary delights! Some of the target birds for this trip include Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck, numerous shorebirds and terns (such as Caspian, Black, and White-winged Terns), and many raptors, including Eastern Imperial, Lesser Spotted, Booted, and White-tailed Eagles, Egyptian and Cinereous Vultures, Long-legged Buzzard, and Levant Sparrowhawk. Other localized and highly south-after species include the famous Wallcreeper, Masked Shrike, Sombre Tit, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears, Spotted Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel, Olive-tree and Paddyfield Warblers, Semicollared Flycatcher, and all the European woodpeckers.


Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)


Day 1. Arrival in Sofia, transfer to Bansko

Your international flights arrive at Sofia airport, where you will be met by your local guide and begin the transfer to Bansko, situated close to Pirin National Park. During the transfer we will visit the Rila monastery for Pallid Swift, if time permits.

Overnight: Bansko Банско


Day 2. Pirin National Park

Today we will visit Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, birding here all day. This area is located at high altitude, and hence we will be focusing on birding up in the high mountains. Target species for the day will include Spotted Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel, Red Crossbill, Eurasian Bullfinch, Common Firecrest, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, and Alpine Accentor (for those willing to undertake a short hike). Numerous other species can be expected, including Coal Tit, Black Redstart, European Serin, Eurasian Siskin, Dunnock, and Golden Eagle. There will be a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Bansko Банско


Day 3. Birding Pirin National Park and the Trigrad Gorge

We will bird in the morning around Pirin National Park, before beginning the transfer to Trigrad. During the transfer numerous stops will be made along the route. Here we will target White Stork, several shrikes, and numerous raptors. The Trigrad Gorge is famous for the few pairs of Wallcreeper it houses. We will spend some time in the afternoon scanning the rocks for this bizarre species. Here we should also see White-throated Dipper, Peregrine Falcon, Grey Wagtail, and Eurasian Crag Martin. We will again have a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Trigrad Триград


Day 4. Birding Trigrad, transfer to Krumovgrad

We will again visit the gorge for Wallcreeper, should we have missed it the previous afternoon. Otherwise we will do some birding around the village, where various woodpeckers, tits, and seedeaters can be expected. We will have lunch in a local mountain hut. After lunch we will begin the transfer to Krumovgrad. Due to the nature of the roads this is normally a drive of a few hours, which we will intersperse with numerous birding stops. We slowly move out of the high mountains associated with the western Rhodope Mountains into the lower-lying reaches of the eastern Rhodope Mountains. Along these stops we can find species such as Little Owl, Cirl and Black-headed Buntings, Woodlark, Woodchat Shrike, Eurasian Hoopoe, various woodpeckers, and the highly-prized Sombre Tit. Depending on our time of arrival into Krumovgrad, we will do some local birding in the afternoon. This will take us into prime rocky areas, holding specials such as Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue and Common Rock-Thrushes, Black Stork, Ortolan Bunting, raptors like Egyptian Vulture, and Masked Shrike. The thickets in these areas also play host to large numbers of warblers, and our targets will include Sardinian, Subalpine, Eastern Olivaceous, Barred, and Eastern Orphean Warblers.

Overnight: Krumovgrad Крумовград


Day 5. Birding Stouden Kladenets

Today we will visit the Stouden Kladenets volcanic region. This is similar in habitat to the area visited the previous afternoon, but houses larger numbers of raptors with more regular sightings. Raptors to be seen include Griffon, Egyptian, and the prized Cinereous Vultures, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Black Kite, and Eurasian Honey Buzzard. Most likely we will also encounter Northern Raven. We will also target various Wheatears like Black-eared and Northern, Shrikes including Woodchat and Masked, and various Warblers, the same as mentioned for the previous day – Sardinian, Subalpine, Eastern Olivaceous, Barred, and Eastern Orphean. Alpine Swifts grace the sky, and the ubiquitous Crested Lark struts around on open patches of ground. We will have a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Krumovgrad Крумовград


Day 6. Birding the Dolna Kula rocky valley

Today we will visit the Dolna Kula rocky valley. The entire Krumovgrad region is absolutely spectacular for birding and also plays host to some incredibly scenic routes. This valley has more woodland and bush than other parts of the region and hosts virtually all of the warblers occurring in Eastern Europe. Following up on the mixed and jumbled calls is the best way to find them. Hawfinch also inhabits the seeding trees. Great emphasis will be placed on Blue and Common Rock-Thrushes and Western Rock Nuthatch, as this must surely rank as one of the best sites in Europe for them. Black Stork breeds on inaccessible ledges in this area, and various species of Buntings Cirl, Black-headed, Ortolan, Corn, etc. – occupy the prominent perches. Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Golden Oriole, European Roller, Eurasian Wryneck, and Common Nightingale litter the trees along the river, while in addition to the warblers occurring within thickets and bushes Sombre Tit is another inhabitant. This is also a good area to get to grips with Eurasian Turtle Dove, which is becoming less common around Europe. Various hirundines can also be expected (Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and Common House Martin). We again will have a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Krumovgrad Крумовград


Day 7. Transfer to Pomorie, birding on the way

We will have an early morning start for another transfer filled with a few birding stops. We will be leaving the region, heading north-east to reach the southern Black Sea coast. In the late afternoon we expect to arrive at the seaside resort of Pomorie, where we will be staying at a local hotel for two nights. During the transfer the birding stops will hopefully be filled with sightings of Eastern Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Olive-tree Warbler, and Masked Shrike. Numerous other species can also be sought, including Spanish Sparrow, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Black-headed and Corn Buntings, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Quail, and various woodpeckers. We will have a packed lunch for the day. In the afternoon we will visit some wetlands around the town of Burgas (just before Pomorie), where a large number of waterbirds can be expected. Specials here include Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Great Crested Grebe, Purple and Squacco Herons, Black-crowned Night Heron, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Common Kingfisher, and various Warblers, including Sedge, Cetti’s, and Great Reed.

Overnight: Pomorie Поморие


Day 8. Birding the wetlands around Pomorie and Burgas

Today we will spend the day focusing on the waterbirds in the immediate Pomorie/Burgas area. The main habitats include salt pans, freshwater lakes, and woodland fringing the lakes. We expect to see many shorebird species today, together with woodpeckers, raptors, herons, and warblers. Some of the exciting shorebird species we expect to find include Common and Spotted Redshanks, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Temminck’s Stint, Dunlin, Eurasian Curlew, Wood and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, and Collared Pratincole. Various gulls and terns can also be expected, including Little, Mediterranean, Slender-billed, Yellow-legged, and Black-headed Gulls, while the tern front holds Common, Sandwich, Black, Little, and White-winged Terns. We will also search for waterbirds like Pygmy Cormorant, various herons, Little and Spotted Crakes, Western Marsh Harrier, Western Yellow Wagtail, Great White Pelican, Mute Swan, Eurasian Teal, etc. The reed beds will be scoured for Eurasian Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, and various warblers. The woodlands surrounding some of the wetlands are host to specials like Lesser Spotted and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers (both sought-after European birds) along with the likes of Collared, European Pied, and Red-breasted Flycatchers. Once again, we will have a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Pomorie Поморие


Day 9. Transfer to Vetren, birding on the way, birding Srebarna Nature Reserve

This morning we will do some birding around the nearby salt pans, should we have missed any species the previous day, before transferring to Pelican Birding Lodge, located on the Danube River in the small town of Vetren. During the transfer we’ll visit a highly productive portion of the woods located in the Balkan range. Here targets will include Semicollared Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Eurasian Nuthatch, and Wood Warbler, along with various tits and Woodpeckers (including Black and the scarce White-backed). Lunch will be had in a local village restaurant, offering national cuisine. We will be arriving at Pelican Birding Lodge in the afternoon, where a visit to Srebarna Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in order. Birding around this lake is brilliant, with sublime waterbirds and a good compliment of woodland birds. Dalmatian Pelican is the stalwart species here, where we should see them on their breeding platform. Various other waterfowl occur, such as Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, and all the heron, bittern, and egret species occurring in Europe. A few scarce White-tailed Eagles also breed on the reserve. Eurasian Scops Owl occurs in the grounds of Pelican Birding Lodge and usually serenades guests after darkness has fallen.

Overnight: Pelican Birding Lodge, Vetren Ветрен


Day 10. Birding local wetlands

Today we will concentrate on wetland birding with visits to some of the local marshes and pans, including Srebarna Nature Reserve, Malak Preslavets Marsh (a Bulgarian IBA), Garvan Marsh, and Nova Cherna, along with the mighty Danube River. Along the Danube River vast tracts of pristine woodland still exist and add to the birding complement here. Species targeted for the day are Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy and Great Cormorants, Red-necked, Black-necked, Little, and Great Crested Grebes, Ferruginous Duck, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Caspian Gull, Gull-billed, Black, Whiskered, and White-winged Terns, Northern Lapwing, Spotted and Little Crakes, Water Rail, Little Bittern, numerous herons and egrets, and White-tailed Eagle. The woodland plays host to some fantastic species, including the likes of Grey-headed, Syrian, and Black Woodpeckers, Eurasian Nuthatch, Long-tailed, Marsh, and Willow Tits, Eurasian Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Eurasian Blackcap, Common and Thrush Nightingales, River Warbler, Eurasian Golden Oriole, and Northern Goshawk. An eye should be kept skyward for various raptors along with hirundines (Sand Martin) and swifts. There will be a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Pelican Birding Lodge, Vetren Ветрен


Day 11. Birding along the Danube, transfer to Kavarna, birding Kaliakra and Bolata

We will visit the Danube River in the morning, where various waterbirds can be expected, along with a sizeable number of woodland species. We will transfer to Kavarna on the northern Black Sea coast. During the transfer numerous observations along the road will be made. This is a good area for raptors, with specials such as Lesser Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Long-legged, Eurasian Honey, and Common Buzzards, Eurasian Hobby, and Red-footed Falcon. We will visit a European Bee-eater colony, and we can also expect to see species like Sombre Tit, Woodlark, Woodchat Shrike, and various Woodpeckers, including White-backed. We will have lunch in the restaurant of our hotel. After lunch we will visit the Kaliakra Nature Reserve and Bolata for a completely different suite of birds. Here we can expect to see Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, Eurasian Skylark, Tawny Pipit, Pied Wheatear, and the local subspecies of European Shag. We will also search for Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

Overnight: Kavarna Каварна


Day 12. Birding Durankulak Lake, Shabla Tuzla Lake, and Kamen Bryag

Today a day trip will lead us to the productive Durankulak Lake, along with visits to Shabla Tuzla Lake and Kamen Bryag rocky steppes. We will have a scan for various seabirds, including Black-throated Loon, Yelkouan Shearwater, and Parasitic Jaeger. Target species for the day include Montagu’s, Pallid, and Western Marsh Harriers, Eurasian Bittern, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Great White Pelican, Paddyfield Warbler, Bearded Reedling, and Spotted Crake. We will also make another attempt at the larks, should we have missed any of them yesterday, and will have another opportunity for pipits including Red-throated Pipit. We will also be able to add European Stonechat, Eurasian Stone-curlew, European Pied Flycatcher, Rosy Starling, Levant Sparrowhawk, Common Reed Bunting, and Isabelline Wheatear to the list. Again we will have a packed lunch for the day.

Overnight: Kavarna Каварна


Day 13. Transfer to the Danube Delta in Romania, birding on the way

Today we will transfer to the Danube Delta in neighboring Romania. During the transfer we will have observations at Babadag Lake, along with some woodlands en route. Here we will target difficult species that may have been missed on the tour up until now, such as Hawfinch, Eurasian Treecreeper, flycatchers, and various Woodpeckers (including Black), along with a large compliment of waterfowl, shorebirds, and general waterbirds. Lunch will be had at a local road restaurant. We will likely arrive in the late afternoon at our accommodation, situated on an island in the Delta. We will stay here for three nights.

Overnight: Hotel Complex Cormoran, Uzlina


Day 14. Birding the Danube Delta

Fishponds, associated flooded meadows, woodlands, and small pans, situated on a neighboring island, will be the areas we will be birding today.  We will have a packed lunch for the day. Specials here include White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, Western Marsh Harrier, Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Mute Swan, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Gadwall, Black Stork, Eurasian Spoonbill, Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, Great Crested Grebe, all the European species of egrets and herons, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Common Snipe, Glossy Ibis, various shorebirds (including Green Sandpiper), Terns including Caspian, Black, Whiskered and White-winged, Common Kingfisher, Woodpeckers including Syrian, along with a new compliment of warblers, including Savi’s, River, Common Grasshopper, Moustached, and Aquatic Warblers. We will mainly be on foot for the day, as we slowly bird the area.

Overnight: Hotel Complex Cormoran, Uzlina


Day 15. Birding the Danube Delta

Today we will visit the numerous lakes and channels situated in the delta by boat. We will, again, take a packed lunch for the day, and we will again be focusing on the huge array of waterbirds occurring within the Delta. If anything will stand out as a fabulous experience, it will surely be this – visiting the Danube Delta (which is basically the European equivalent of Africa’s Okavango Delta) and experiencing the absolutely huge volumes of birds present. Seeing a feeding party of a few hundred pelicans swarm around certain corners of pans, along with feeding rafts of thousands of terns, is a sight hard to beat! We will concentrate on the same bird species as on the previous day.

Overnight: Hotel Complex Cormoran, Uzlina


Day 16. Transfer to Bucharest

Today we will transfer to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, for your final night at a local hotel of your choosing. We suggest Hotel Charter, Otopeni. This night will be for your own expense (see details below of what is excluded from the trip price). Observations will be had en route, where we will target any species (whether they be wetland or woodland species) still missing from our list, before arriving in Bucharest.

Overnight: Hotel Charter, Otopeni (or similar hotel of your choosing).


Day 17. Departure
Today our international flights will leave for home.

Duration:                   17 days
Limit:                          4 – 8
Date:                           8 – 24 June 2016
Start:                          Sofia, Bulgaria
End:                            Bucharest, Romania
Price:                          €2937 per person sharing for 6 – 8 participants

€3373 per person sharing for 4 – 5 participants

Single supplement:    € 243


Price includes:

Ground transport

Boat transport in the Delta


Full-board – packed lunch where indicated

English-speaking guide

Entrance fees

Price excludes: 

Personal insurance

Alcoholic beverages



Items of a personal nature

Hotel and dinner for the last night in Bucharest



with 5-day extension to Budongo Forest and Murchison NP

1 – 19 AUGUST 2016










Shoebill (photo Oz Horine) is one of our special targets on this trip.


Here you can experience “the Best of Uganda” in just 14 days! The essential birds of Uganda are Shoebill (this is the easiest country to see this monster in), the 20-plus Albertine Rift endemics (including African Green Broadbill), and finally a few other birds tough to locate elsewhere, such as Green-breasted Pitta. Most other birds can be seen in other countries and are not focused on during this tour, although you’ll certainly see a lot of some widespread spectacular species such as Great Blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, amazing barbets and so many others. If time is short, this is the tour for you, which focuses on the Ugandan “must-see” birds. Apart from the birds mentioned above, we also expect to see other star species such as Red-faced Barbet, along with mountain gorilla, eastern chimpanzee, and a host of other primates. We’ll also see spectacular scenery, including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the Virunga Volcanoes and Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria.


Please note that this trip is moderate in terms of fitness required, except for some days which are considered quite strenuous, such as the day of gorilla trekking and the day hike into Mubwindi Swamp and back. Chimpanzee trekking and looking for Green-breasted Pitta can also involve quite a lot of walking. You are welcome to opt out of any activities if you don’t feel you’ll manage them.


We also offer an optional five-day extension to Budongo Forest and Murchison Falls National Park.


Itinerary (14 days/13 nights)


Day 1. Arrival and birding Entebbe

Your international flight arrives in Entebbe. This is a travel day, but time permitting we can do some birding around the garden city of Entebbe, away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala. Entebbe is on the shores of Africa’s greatest lake, and it’s hardly a bad place to spend a few hours – birding the grounds of the hotel, the beautiful botanical gardens, and other sites. The town has many specials including African Hobby, gorgeous Black-headed Gonolek, Broad-billed Roller, a plethora of weavers, and a host of others. You will already start getting a good sampling of Uganda’s massive bird diversity.

Overnight: Boma Guest House, Entebbe


Day 2. Mabamba Swamp, Lake Mburo National Park

We embark on a morning boat trip on Mabamba Swamp, which must be the world’s most famous site for Shoebill. We should also see a great variety of other birds on the lake, including Lesser Jacana, lapwings, several water-associated weavers, and Red-chested Sunbird (also usually near water). We might find specials such as Orange Weaver, the massive and weird Great Blue Turaco, the beautiful Ross’s Turaco, characterful Eastern Plantain-eater, truly stunning Double-toothed Barbet, and masses of others en route.

In the afternoon we leave for Lake Mburo National Park. Birding and wildlife viewing here is a delightful experience and one of the highlights of a birding trip to Uganda. We shall look out for birds like the highly localized (a small part of Uganda and nearby Tanzania) Red-faced Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, African Finfoot, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Blue-naped Mousebird, Brown-backed Scrub Robin, Black-headed Gonolek, Tropical Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, and Golden-breasted Bunting. We will also enjoy great looks at mammals like common eland, the beautiful plains zebra, impala, Bohor reedbuck, bushbuck, topi, defassa waterbuck, common duiker, buffalo, hippo, and many others.

Overnight: Rwakobo Rock, Lake Mburo National Park


Day 3. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

We head to the beautiful Mgahinga Gorilla National Park bordering on Rwanda. Here we begin our birding of the fabled Albertine Rift, which is full of endemic birds. At Mgahinga we look specifically for birds often missed on standard Uganda birding tours. The aim of this specific tour is to maximize the number of Albertine Rift endemics seen, and Mgahinga offers the only opportunity for Ruwenzori Turaco, a must-see turaco since it is in its own genus, meaning it is a really unusual (and incredibly beautiful) member of the turaco family, but extremely localized. We also search very hard for the critically endangered Shelley’s Crimsonwing here – but sightings of this species are sadly becoming rarer and rarer; the species seems to be going extinct from natural causes.

Overnight: Travellers Rest Hotel, Kisoro


Day 4. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

A full day at Mgahinga, where the backdrop of the Virunga Volcanoes enhances the birding experience.

Overnight: Travellers Rest Hotel, Kisoro


Day 5. Transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, birding Ruhija

We drive to the high altitude Ruhija section of the fabulous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, arguably Africa’s greatest forest for birds (and gorillas), looking for Albertine Rift endemics en route. This is a sprawling forest covering beautiful hills.

Overnight: Trekkers Tavern, Ruhija


Day 6. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: birding Mubwindi Swamp

After breakfast we spend the whole day doing a strenuous walk to Mubwindi Swamp (actually it’s the uphill trek back that’s so tough), where we’ll look for African Green Broadbill (with luck we might find it at a nest) and other species like Mountain Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, African Hill Babbler, Mountain Illadopsis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Chubb’s Cisticola, Mountain Masked Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Ruwenzori Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Ruwenzori Batis, Bar-tailed Trogon, Blue-headed Sunbird, and Regal Sunbird, among others, and last but certainly not least Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, which is amazingly localized but not too tough to find once you are in its incredibly limited habitat.

Overnight: Trekkers Tavern, Ruhija


Day 7. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: birding The Neck and Buhoma

We bird en route to the Buhoma section of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We travel via “The Neck”, a well-known birding area. On our way we are looking out for species like Augur Buzzard, Ross’s Turaco, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Black Bee-eater, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Grey-throated Barbet, Red-throated Wryneck, African Grey Woodpecker, Mountain Wagtail, Red-tailed Greenbul, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Chubb’s Cisticola, Banded Prinia, Mountain Masked Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Cassin’s Flycatcher, Black-and-White Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, African Blue Flycatcher, Bronzy Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Grey-chinned Sunbird, Mackinnon’s Shrike, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Baglafecht Weaver, White-breasted Nigrita, Yellow-crowned Canary, and Yellow Bishop, among  others.

Overnight: Engagi Lodge, Buhoma


Day 8. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: birding Buhoma

After an early breakfast, we find that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park doesn’t quite live up to its name as we enter it, looking out for species like Black Bee-eater, barbets and tinkerbirds (“mini-barbets”), woodpeckers, African Broadbill, a host of greenbuls, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Mountain Masked Apalis, Bocage’s Bushshrike, Lühder’s Bushshrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, starlings, sunbirds, and Black-billed as well as Brown-capped Weavers, among others.

Overnight: Engagi Lodge, Buhoma


Day 9. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: gorilla trekking or birding Buhoma

After breakfast we start our gorilla trekking (optional) or continue birding (for those who opt not to do the gorilla trek) in the fabled Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We recommend you wear sturdy walking boots and carry a good rain suit and enough drinking water in a backpack. Trekking can be tough and challenging, and therefore a reasonable level of fitness is required. You will carry a picnic lunch with you, and you will be thrilled to see these rare apes (no guarantee, although rarely missed). We can spend an hour right next to these gentle giants (again, no guarantee, but probable).

Overnight: Engagi Lodge, Buhoma


Day 10. Transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park

After breakfast we will set off for Queen Elizabeth National Park, about three hours away. We’ll look out for birds like White spotted Flufftail, Yellow-billed Barbet, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-billed Turaco, kingfishers, Lesser Striped Swallow, cisticolas, shrikes, starlings, widowbirds,  barbets, White-browed Robin-Chat, Sooty Anteater Chat, Black Cuckooshrike, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Bronze Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Copper Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, and Red-chested Sunbird, among others. We also hope to see mammals like topi, Uganda kob, and African buffalo.

Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park


Day 11. Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second-largest national park of Uganda, covering an area of 1978 sq. km. This park was named after the Queen of England and is located in the western part of Uganda. It was gazetted in 1952 and opened officially by the Queen herself in 1954. The park has the most incredible ecosystem, from its habitats to the animals found here. It also features an impressive bird list and is said to have more bird species per square kilometer than any other protected area on the African continent. Indeed a birder’s paradise, with over 600 avian species. With close to 100 mammal species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is also a superb territory for game drives. The Ishasha Sector is famous for its tree-climbing lions, and the Kyambura Gorge offers chimpanzee trekking.

We’ll have a cup of tea or coffee and a muffin at 6:15 a.m. in the lounge and set off with our packed breakfast for a birding safari. Lunch will be at the lodge, and in the afternoon we’ll have a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel to see a variety of wildlife, hundreds of hippos, crocodiles, and bird life from a boat for two hours.

We’ll be entertained by birds like Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Striated Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Martial Eagle, Kittlitz’s Plover, Senegal Plover, Wattled Lapwing, and kingfishers and larks, among many others, during our day, and look out for mammals like Uganda kob, bushbuck, defassa waterbuck, African buffalo, African elephant, warthog, and, if we’re lucky, a leopard among other carnivores like lion and spotted hyaena. A very special find indeed would be the uncommon and shy giant forest hog, a Queen Elizabeth National Park mammalian specialty.

Overnight: Mweya Safari Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park


Day 12. Transfer to Kibale National Park

After breakfast we proceed for the drive to Kibale National Park and the Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse. We’ll drive through Queen Elizabeth National Park, cross the Equator, and drive along the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains through Kasese, birding en-route and planning to arrive in time for a hot cup of tea and hopefully some new trip birds!

Overnight: Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse, Kibale National Park


Day 13. Kibale National Park

Today we bird Kibale National Park and do chimpanzee trekking (optional)! After breakfast, we proceed to bird the vicinity of Kanyanchu, looking out for the spectacular Green-breasted Pitta and other species like Yellow-billed Barbet, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-billed Turaco, Narina Trogon, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Sabine’s Spinetail, Chestnut Wattle-eye, and Narrow-tailed Starling, and many others.

Then we look for chimpanzees nearby. We may actually also encounter a number of other primates here in addition to chimpanzees; Uganda red colobus, Guereza black-and-white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, red-tailed monkey, and L’Hoest’s monkey all occur in this park. What a day!

Overnight: Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse, Kibale National Park


Day 14. Transfer to Entebbe and departure

We’ll drive back to Entebbe, planning to get there in the afternoon for an evening flight home.



Optional extension to Budongo Forest and Murchison Falls National Park


Day 14. Entebbe to Masindi

After an early breakfast with a packed lunch we will transfer to Masindi, birding on the way We hope to see birds like Western Banded Snake Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Striped Kingfisher, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Black-billed Barbet, Mocking Cliff Chat, Spotted Palm Thrush, Northern Crombec, Rattling Cisticola, Foxy Cisticola, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, and perhaps even Marsh Widowbird, among others.

Overnight: Masindi Hotel, Masindi


Day 15. Birding the Royal Mile (Budongo Forest)

After an early breakfast we will proceed to bird the Royal Mile, looking for birds like Crowned Eagle, Heuglin’s Francolin, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, African Dwarf Kingfisher, White-thighed Hornbill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Little Grey Greenbul, Plain Greenbul, Spotted Greenbul, Fire-crested Alethe, Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Whistling Cisticola, Black-throated Apalis, Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Black-headed Oriole, and Purple-headed Starling, among others. In the afternoon we’ll head back to our hotel in time for dinner.

Overnight: Masindi Hotel, Masindi


Day 16. Birding Murchison Falls National Park

After breakfast, and again with a packed lunch, we’ll proceed to Murchison Falls National Park. We’ll start exploring this magnificent park from the top of the falls. After a short walk around the top of the falls, we can walk down a steep path to the river’s edge and see how the waters of the majestic Nile narrow, as they are forced through a rocky cleft only seven meters wide to plunge down 35 meters in a majestic cascade. Birds we might encounter are several raptors, Rock Pratincole, Crested Francolin, White-crested Turaco, White-headed Barbet, Narina Trogon, Red-throated Bee-eater, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Silverbird, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, and a number of waxbills, finches, sunbirds, and canaries, among others.

Overnight: Paraa Safari Lodge, Murchison Falls National Park


Day 17. Birding Murchison Falls National Park

After an early breakfast we will have a game drive during the morning, getting back to the lodge in time for lunch. After lunch we will enjoy a boat trip on the river Nile up to the bottom of the falls, during which it is possible to view hundreds of hippos and crocodiles as well as a large variety of bird life.

Today we hope to find birds like Northern Ground Hornbill, Black-headed Lapwing, Rock Pratincole, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Red-throated Bee-eater, Black-billed Barbet, Spotted Palm Thrush, Speckle-fronted Weaver, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, and more. Look out for mammals like the graceful Rothschild giraffe, Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kob, oribi, defassa waterbuck, African buffalo, African elephant, common warthog, hippo, and perhaps a leopard or lion. It is also possible that we might encounter the uncommon patas monkey here.

Overnight: Paraa Safari Lodge, Murchison Falls National Park


Day 18. Transfer to Entebbe

Today we’ll drive back to Entebbe, birding on the way. We hope to see Bateleur, Crested Francolin, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Meyer’s Parrot, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, and rollers, kingfishers, barbets, and cisticolas, among others.

Overnight: Boma Guest House, Entebbe


Day 19. Departure

Today our international flights home will leave from Entebbe.



Duration:                                           14 days

Limit:                                                  1 – 8

Date:                                                   1 – 14 August 2016

Extension 14 – 19 August 2016

Start:                                                  Entebbe

End:                                                    Entebbe


Price main tour:                                US$6630 per person sharing

Price extension:                                 US$2408 per person sharing.

Single supplement main tour:          US$862

Single supplement extension:            US$368


Price includes:
Bed and breakfast in Entebbe
All accommodation while on tour
All meals while on tour
Bottled water
Private transportation in a 4×4 vehicle
Park entrance fees
Guiding fees
Boat rides on the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth (and the Nile on the extension)
Nature walk fees
Canoe fees at Mabamba Swamp
Price excludes:
Optional gorilla permit (subject to availability) US$600

Chimpanzee trekking permit (subject to availability) US$150

International flights
Tips and items of a personal nature (such as gifts and laundry)




These 4 trips (South Africa – Cape and subtropical birding tours, Namibia/Okavango/Victoria Falls and highland Zimbabwe to coastal Mozambique) are described in the following “trip report with a difference” – combining 4 back to back trips) – the 2016 prices are also shown below – right now southern Africa is remarkably inexpensive:
Article/trip report with a difference: 85 % of the bird species of the southern third of Africa (705 species out of 829 regularly occurring ones), and an amazing 82 mammal species, seen in two months by combining four of our regular back-to-back tours

We collated the bird and mammal lists of four of our October to December southern African birding tours we ran in 2015 and found the result very rewarding and exciting. These trips, which run for almost two months (combined) from October 9 to December 5 each year (and which can be joined back to back or separately) evidently allow a birder to see the bulk of the regularly occurring birds and mammals (as well as a great many reptiles, amphibians, plants, etc.) of the southern third of the vast continent of Africa. By joining these bird tours over this two-month period (or by joining one or two of them each year for a couple of years), you will find yourself safely within the prestigious “700 listing club” for southern Africa (kept at https://zestforbirds.co.za/), even if you have never previously birded in Africa before. This will put a lot of local birders to shame. The southern African listing region consists of the seven countries south of the Zambezi and Kunene Rivers, namely Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe and the southern half of Mozambique.

African Pitta-chittenden










Our usual Mozambique/Zimbabwe bird tour is timed for African Pitta, but we also do winter trips to Mozambique for Madagascan migrants and others (photo by Hugh Chittenden).


The combined list from the four tours shown below totaled 705 bird species and 82 mammal species (excluding, as we always do, heard only and leader only birds – we’ve failed if trip participants don’t see each species well):

https://birdingecotours.com/tour/birding-tour-south-africa-western-cape-october-2016?type=country&where=South%20Africa (8-day Western Cape, South Africa, birding tour) US$1650 per person sharing at the current exchange rate, less 2.5 % discount, 2 places left

https://birdingecotours.com/tour/birding-tour-south-africa-subtropical-birding-adventure-october-2016?type=country&where=South%20Africa (eastern – or “subtropical” – South Africa birding tour) US$3150 per person sharing at the current exchange rate, less 2.5 % discount, 2 places left

https://birdingecotours.com/tour/birding-tour-namibia-okavango-and-victoria-falls-18-day-2016 (18-day Namibia/Botswana/Zambia birding tour) US$4300 per person sharing at the current exchange rate, less 2.5 % discount, 2 places left

https://birdingecotours.com/tour/birding-tour-zimbabwe-and-central-mozambique-2016-2 (a productive birding transect from highland Zimbabwe to coastal Mozambique) US$4235 per person sharing given the current number of people signed up; might be reduced with more participants, less 2.5 % discount

If you go to the bottom of each of the links shown above, you can download a sample trip report (from recent tours), and we are proud that we have the highest lists out there for our birding tours to South Africa as well as to Namibia/Okavango/Victoria Falls. And few birding tour companies do Mozambique and Zimbabwe, so it is difficult to make comparisons, but we do very well there too, finding the strategic birds and accumulating large lists. Despite the fact that our lists are top, we do not like to set a crazy pace, so we’d rather add a day or two (and use good accommodation), since trip enjoyment and having fun is extremely important to us – high bird lists alone are not good enough according to our philosophy.

Some of the top birds we find on these tours are the plethora of Cape, Karoo, and Drakensberg endemics (e.g. both rockjumper species and a myriad others), the whole suite of Namibia/Angola endemics, including those marginally entering Namibia at the Kunene River Lodge/Ruacana area (such as Angola Cave Chat, Cinderella Waxbill, Herero Chat, and all the others), the Okavango Delta specials (e.g. Pel’s Fishing Owl and Slaty Egret), the often neglected endemics straddling the mountainous border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique (such as Chirinda Apalis and Roberts’s Warbler), and all the Mozambique lowland birds (including the stunning African Pitta, East Coast Akalat, and lots of others – these parts are very bird-diverse!).

Drakensberg Rockjumper-chittenden












Drakensberg Rockjumper (photo by Hugh Chittenden) is easily seen at around 10,000 feet in Lesotho on our classic subtropical (eastern) South Africa birding tour.


Looking at the combined bird list for 2015 for these four tours, we did very well with flufftails (three species actually seen; looking at other trip reports out there, most do not report seeing even one, although many report hearing one or two, especially Red-chested Flufftail), owls (11 out of 12 southern African owls were seen, but sadly we missed African Grass Owl – we do have quite good success with this species on Johannesburg/Pretoria day trips, though), an incredible 55 birds of prey and vultures, every single bustard/korhaan in the region (an amazing 11 of them!), all 10 kingfishers, 7 spectacular bee-eaters, and of course all the others.

Red-chested Flufftail-deKlerk









Red-chested Flufftail photographed by Andrew de Klerk on one of our South African birding tours

We also see Africa’s big and small mammals, incredibly varied, spectacular scenery, and stacks of plants (including the richest biome on earth for plants, the Cape fynbos) on these trips.

One can also combine some of these trips with our annual October Madagascar birding and wildlife tours, but since that large island is so very different from Africa I did not include Madagascar in this current combined bird/mammal list comparison. Needless to say (being a world apart from southern Africa from a biodiversity point of view even though it is geographically so close to southern Africa), Madagascar adds a great many unique birds, mammals, etc.

The combined bird list (of 705 species), as well as a list of which birds we missed in 2015, can be seen at the blog at https://birdingecotours.com/blog/ and this list modeled directly after the “official” southern African bird list used by the “700 club” at www.zestforbirds.co.za . The mammal list of 82 species is also shown at that link.

Good Birding, from the Birding Ecotours team!

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