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Special Announcement

Birdwatch magazine voted Birding Africa as one of the TOP 5 most recommended bird tour companies in the world. (See www.birdingafrica.com for more survey details.)

Ortolan Bunting in Namibia – a first for southern Africa!

November 16, 2013

Claire Spottiswoode has just sent a photograph of an Ortolan Bunting, photographed a few days ago in Namibia by Paul Donald.

Paul has just arrived back in email contact in Luderitz and reports that the bunting, which would represent a first for southern Africa, was briefly on the verandah at NamibRand Family Hideout (which is here: 25°17’14.12″S 16° 4’5.45″E) on 13 Nov 2013 at about 9.20 am. It only stayed for about 10 seconds and he could not relocate it.

He can’t download the photo off his camera while travelling so this is a screen grab off the camera, sent from his iPod. Good luck if any of you are considering try to relocate it!

all the best
Callan

Ortolan Bunting, NamibRand, Namibia, (c) Paul Donald

New Trip Report: Uganda and Rwanda

August 31, 2013

Our journey through Uganda and Rwanda this month was once again a resounding success, with great views obtained of the four main target birds: Shoebill at Mabamba Swamp, Green-breasted Pitta at Kibale, Grauer’s Broadbill at Mabwindi Swamp in Bwindi and Red-collared Mountain Babbler at Nyungwe, Rwanda. We logged a total of just over 530 bird species, including heard-onlys.

Here follows the summary of the trip and the link to the full trip report.

Green-breasted Pitta photographed on this BIrding Africa tour © Andrew de Klerk

Green-breasted Pitta photographed on this Birding Africa tour © Andrew de Klerk

Our standard ‘Uganda Specials’ tour was supplemented with a quick pre-tour loop through the lower-altitude forests of Budongo and savannas of Murchison Falls, adding substantially to our species list. Our Specials tour also took in the endemics of the lofty Albertine Rift forests and various other habitats en route. During the two weeks we visited wetlands at Lake Victoria’s Mabamba Swamp, Lake Bunyoni and the Nyabarongo River in Rwanda, mid-altitude forests at Kibale and “The Neck” of Bwindi, grasslands and savannas at Queen Elizabeth, and montane forests at Bwindi and Rwanda’s Nyungwe. Some of the group also opted to spend a day tracking Eastern Gorillas.

Besides the four biggies, other highlights included Ituri Batis, Nahan’s Partridge, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Black Bishop, Cardinal Quelea, Puvel’s Illadopsis and Brown Twinspot in the Budongo area; Heuglin’s Francolin, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Red-winged Grey Warbler and Shelley’s Sparrow at Murchison Falls; Lesser Jacana, Long-toed Lapwing, Blue Swallow, Weyns’s Weaver and Orange Weaver at Mabamba Swamp, Papyrus Gonolek nearby, Speckle- breasted Woodpecker and White-winged Swamp Warbler en route to Kibale, Toro Olive Greenbul, Grey Parrot, Joyful Greenbul, Thick-billed Cuckoo and White-collared Oliveback at Kibale, Senegal Lapwing and White-tailed Lark at Queen Elizabeth, Swamp Nightjar and Red- throated Wryneck en route to Bwindi, Many-coloured Bushshrike and Grey-headed Sunbird at “The Neck”, Handsome Francolin, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Ruwenzori Nightjar, Grauer’s Warbler, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Regal Sunbird, Grauer’s Rush Warbler and Dusky Crimsonwing at Ruhija, Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Carruther’s Cisticola at Lake Bunyoni, Ruaha Chat en route to Nyungwe, Mountain Buzzard, Red-throated Alethe, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Equatorial Akalat, Dwarf Honeyguide, Kungwe Apalis, Willard’s Boubou, African Broadbill, Lagden’s Bushshrike, Neumann’s Warbler and Purple-breasted Sunbird at Nyungwe and Papyrus Canary at the Nyabarongo wetlands.

Mammal highlights were Chimpanzee at Budongo, Leopard in a tree at Murchison Falls, Central African Red Colobus and Grey-cheeked Mangabey (Uganda Mangabey) at Kibale, Leopard beside the road in Queen Elizabeth, l’Hoest Monkey and Eastern Gorilla at Bwindi and Angola Pied Colobus at Nyungwe.

See the detailed trip report.

See the 2014 tour dates and prices.

To join Michael Mills in July and August 2014, please contact Marje Hemp: info@birdingafrica.com.

 

Back from the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland!

August 25, 2013

Thanks everyone for visiting our stand at the British Birdfair, and for attending Callan’s lecture on combining birding with the wildebeest migration in Tanzania. It was great to connect with new and old friends and talk about the exciting tours we have planned over the next year. A huge thanks to the birdfair team (including Tim Appleton, Martin Davis and everyone) for making it all happen! See you all next year…

Callan, Deirdre and Marje at the British birdfair

Callan, Deirdre and Marje at the British birdfair

Southern Cameroon tour: the enigmatic Bates’s Weaver?

August 13, 2013

Cameroon’s rarest endemic, the enigmatic Bates’s Weaver Ploceus batesi, only occurs in the area due south of Yaounde towards the Gabon border. Besides Bates’s Weaver, a whole mouth-watering array of rare lowland forest birds occur in Cameroon’s far south. To our knowledge, this area has never been part of a bird watching tour.

Long-tailed Hawk is a squirrel-eating special of African lowland forest and is possible on our Southern Cameroon extension tour.

You may as such not be surprised that our ornithological knowledge of the area is based primarily on the collections of Bates, who lived in the region for a period in the first half of the 20th century. A long time has passed since then and we seem to be none the wiser regarding the status of some of the rare birds Bates collected. Besides the rarely-seen weaver, other species Bates collected in this area include Yellow-capped Weaver, Grey Ground Thrush, Black-eared Ground Thrush, Eastern Wattled Cuckooshrike, Shelley’s Eagle Owl, Maned Owl, Sandy Scops Owl and Forest Penduline Tit.

In recent years access to the area has improved, with the main tar road to Gabon skirting the western edge of these interesting forests. To see what these forests might hold, we’ll run an exploratory trip from a reasonably comfortable base. Following our nose and what roads and forest we can see from satellite imagery, we’ll try our upmost to reach some of these special forests in hope of finding one or more of the special birds they hold. No doubt many other species will be seen, with goodies possibly including Gabon Batis, Gabon Coucal, Yellow-throated Nicator, Falkenstein’s Greenbul, Black-collared Lovebird and a host of more common lowland forest species.

This four day Birding Africa trip to Southern Cameroon’s lowland forest will run as a pre-tour extension of our main Cameroon tour and will be led by Michael Mills.

Cameroon Pre-tour Extension: Southern Lowland Forest
Dates: 25 to 28 February 2014 (starts in the morning at Douala and ends in the evening at Douala)
Price per person sharing a room: GBP 880
Single room supplement: GBP 90.

Cameroon: Picathartes, North & South
Dates: 28 February to 21 March 2014 (starts with the nights accommodation in Douala and ends in the evening at Douala)
Price per person sharing a room: GBP 4290 including local flights or GBP 3990 without local flights.
Single room supplement: GBP 330.

Please contact info@birdingafrica.com to enquire or join.

Mission: Cape Rock-jumper

August 13, 2013

Birding Africa guide Tertius Gous writes: Keen Dutch birder Erik Ernens joined me yesterday for a half-day trip to Rooiels with one singular aim, to see the Cape Rock-jumper. We knew the weather would be against us and the day started with intermittent pre-frontal rain that would continue throughout the morning. Fortunately the day was successful and we had great views of a male bird, first high up on the slope and then again later right down along the path. We were drenched, but very happy, and according to Erik, the Cape Rock-jumper is the most beautiful South African bird! Other good birds were Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Rock-Thrush, Cape Grassbird, Victorin’s Warbler, nesting Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Grey-backed Cisticola, Yellow Bishop and on the way back we found Lesser Flamingo, Maccoa Duck and Southern Pochard.

More info on our Cape Town tours is here:

http://www.birdingafrica.com/cape_tours/cape_tour_schedule.htm

Cape Rock-jumper on a day tour from Cape Town

Cape Rock-jumper on a day tour from Cape Town

Primate and Mammal Tours: Uganda gorillas, chimpanzees and bushbabies!

August 10, 2013

We’ve launched a new series of tours: specialist primate and mammal watching trips!

We’ve started this exciting new venture with a Uganda Primate Tour earlier this year; as you can see from these photographs.

We run three types of trips per year to our most popular and mammal-rich destinations:
* specialist Uganda Primate Tour from 4 until 16 February 2014.
* specialist Tanzania Wildbeeest migration and Hadza bushmen tour from 8 to 19 April 2014 and
* specialist Madagascar lemurs and fosa tour from 24 October to 10 November 2014.
Bookings have opened, so if you would like to join or enquire, please contact Deirdre at info@birdingafrica.com.

On these trips for keen mammal watchers, we’ll track primates up close, and watch them play, groom, vocalise, eat or hunt… Inbetween, we’ll find other interesting mammals and birds and take in the best of the landscape too. The trips focus on intimate and close encounters with much sought-after but also unusual mammals, while staying in comfortable lodges and tented camps set in remote and scenic locations. We spend time at sightings, watch behaviors and interactions, learn about the animals and soak up the landscape. There is time for photography, comparison and discussion. We encounter the sightings on foot where possible, to create intimate and unique experiences.

Our tour combines high quality primate and other mammal observations with stays in luxury tented camps, chosen for their wilderness feel, comfort and location. Under the shade of this Acacia tree, participants are discussing the day’s sightings while sipping sundowners in Uganda.

Here are some photos taken on our inaugural Uganda Primate Trip last January. We tracked Mountain Gorillas on the slopes of Bwindi National Park, which only required a 20 minutes hike! This group of gorillas was so well habituated that they nearly came to sit on our laps! We kept on walking backwards! A community of Chimpanzee sat around us at Kibale forest and others ran through the beautiful old gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. We watched them play, groom, race up trees, cross rivers, drag branches and drum buttresses! We were kept excited even at night, as we searched for bushbabies and were rewarded with incredible views of Thick-tailed Greater Galago (Otolemur crassicaudatus) up close, including some beautiful black melanistic ones!

On the mammal front, we enjoyed special sightings such as a pride of lions up a fig tree, Giant Forest Hog in front of our luxury tents, Black-and-White Guereza Colobus above our cabins, Spotted Hyena with cubs in a cave and right in front of our private boat, African Elephants taking a bath!!

To join Deirdre in 2014 or to enquire, please contact Deirdre at info@birdingafrica.com.

Mountain Gorilla up close in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Who’se watching who?

Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park, where some of us spent a full day following these close relatives.

We were very lucky to see a family of the elusive Giant Forest Hog here near the border of Virunga National Park. Spotted from our tour-leader’s balcony, we all krept closer and were rewarded with these rare views!

One of a pride of seven lions in a Sycamore Fig tree in Queen Elizabeth National Park. So, why do you think lions climb trees?

Never a dull moment on this primate tour! These Thick-tailed Greater Galagos kept us entertained after dinner. Some individuals only develop dark pigment, such as this melanistic black one, and are very well camouflaged!

To see these primates and other mammals up close, join Deirdre from 20 January until 2 February 2014. For more information, or to to enquire about other dates, please email info@birdingafrica.com.

Donation to Nyungwe Bird Club, Rwanda

August 8, 2013

Narcisse Ndayambaje, a specialist bird guide from Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda, has set up a birdwatching club for the kids in the local village, both to train the guides of the future (thus providing for sustainable livelihoods), and to educate the local community on the importance of conserving and protecting their forest. He and a colleague, Claver Ntoyinkima, do this entirely out of their own generosity and commitment to their love of birds and education.

The club is going well (see Facebook link below), but growing and they need more binoculars and field guides. Luckily Narcisse will be at Birdfair this year manning the Rwanda Birding Association stand, so it was decided to organise a small presentation ceremony to provide publicity to this very sustainable cause. We are hoping that Birdfair, bird magazines, RSPB and other charities can publicise the event in their magazines and newsletters as a good news story for Rwanda, both in print and online. We would also like to see it on the Birdfair website and through Birdfair TV. Tim Appleton, co-organisers of Birdfair, will unfortunately not be able to attend the presentation (he will be facilitating the Bird Brain of Britain with Bill Oddie) but said, “What great news coming from Rwanda. Lets hope the Nyungwe Bird Club can spread to more villages in the future and help young people understand their wonderful environment”.

Here are the presentation details:
Where and when: Birding Africa Stand (Marquee 3: stand 29) at 15h30 on Saturday 17 August

The guide: Narcisse Ndayambaje (e-mail: ndaynarc)
The club: Nyungwe Kids Birdwatching Club (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nyungwekbw.club )

The donations:

22 pairs of binoculars, generously donated by members of RSPB; Colin Hawkins from RSPB to present
10 Birds of East Africa field guides donated by Nigel Redman (commissioning editor of Helm Field Guides)
4 copies of My First Book of East African Birds published by Struik, Cape Town

Facilitation: Callan Cohen and Marjorie Hemp of Birding Africa at their stand (Marquee 3: stand 29)

Supported by interested parties: John Caddick of African Bird Club (john.caddick), Boaz Tumwesigye of USAID Nyungwe Nziza Project (boaz_tumwesigye), David Mugisha, President Rwanda Birding (david)

We envisage a short photo opportunity and interview with Narcisse and a selection of Colin Hawkins, Nigel Redman, Callan Cohen, Boaz Tumwesigye, David Mugisha and John Caddick if they’re free (10 mins max.) Photo opportunities will also be arranged at the RSPB stand (Marquee 4: stands 33-37) and at the Rwanda Birding Association Stand (Marquee 5; stand 30).

Further details, photos and e-mail addresses can be supplied.
Marje Hemp, E-mail: info@birdingafrica.com (based in Kigali, Rwanda)

Join us birding in Rwanda, contact us info@birdingafrica.com.

Photos of Narcisse (top left), Narcisse and Claver (middle and bottom left), Claver birding in Nyungwe (top and middle right), Nyungwe Young Birders Club members (bottom right).

African Green Broadbill on Uganda tour!

August 6, 2013

Birding Africa guide Michael Mills reports an excellent stay at Bwindi National Park in Uganda, with Mountain Gorillas, and African Green Broadbill showing well. Another big birding highlight was good views of Papyrus Yellow Warbler.

This African Green Broadbill showed well on our last Uganda Specials tour.

This African Green Broadbill (sometimes known as Grauer’s Broadbill) showed well on our Uganda Specials tour.

Franklin’s Gull in Uganda!

July 31, 2013

Jan Arras reports a mega-rarity from East Africa: last week (24 July 2013) he photographed a Franklin’s Gull on the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park! We are aware of a previous record by Jonathan Rossouw on 8 June 2011 along the Nile River in Murchison Falls NP and would be interested if there are other records for East Africa? For details, please write to Jan at myriam.jan (at) belgacom.net

A Frankin's Gull in Queen Elizabeth NP in Uganda -- a major rarity for East Africa.

A Franklin’s Gull in Queen Elizabeth NP in Uganda — a major rarity for East Africa.

Green-breasted Pitta for the 3rd consecutive tour in a row!

July 30, 2013

Guide Michael Mills reports excellent views yesterday morning by the members of the Birding Africa tour in Uganda. Our tour is designed to focus on Uganda’s specials such as Green-breasted Pitta, African Green Broadbill, Shoebill and more, and so far, we’ve seen the pitta on 3/3 of our “Uganda specials” tours.

Green-breasted Pitta displaying on a Birding Africa tour to Uganda

Green-breasted Pitta displaying on a Birding Africa tour to Uganda

Cliff does it again: Spectacled Petrel and Southern Royal Albatross on Cape Town Pelagics trip!

July 10, 2013

Cliff Dorse does it again! Trip highlights from the 29 June 2013 trip with Cape Town Pelagics include Southern Royal Albatross, Spectacled Petrel and thousands of Pintado Petrels — also four Humpback Whales and hundreds of Common Dolphins!

See full report here: http://www.capetownpelagics.com/cape_reports_TR1305_29junCD.htm

Next trip is with Barrie Rose this weekend, 13/14 July (1 place left). Bookings: info@capetownpelagics.com or call +27 83 270 7452.

CTP-SpectacledPetrel-CD29JunCTP-SouthRoyalAlbatross-CD29Jun

Spectacled Petrel and Wandering Albatross seen with Cape Town Pelagics

June 23, 2013

Our Cape Town Pelagics trip last Satudary 15 June included some fantastic sightings, such as Spectacled Petrel and two Wandering Albatross! We also saw 5 Albatross species and 4 Shearwater species, including Manx. See the trip report and some photographs.

Cape Town Pelagics is a non-profit organisation that supports albatrosss conservation and research. Browse our trip reports and book a trip. Email info@capetownpelagics.com or call +27 83 270 7452.

Spectacled Petrel photographed by guide Cliff Dorse on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.

Spectacled Petrel joined us at a few meter from the boat while we were having lunch. Photograph by Cliff Dorse on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.

Wandering Albatross photographed by guide Cliff Dorse, as it inspected our boat and circled around us on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.

This Wandering Albatross inspected our boat up close, then flew in circles around us. Photograph by Cliff Dorse on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.

 

Update from our Tanzania birding and mammal tour!

May 4, 2013

Callan and Deirdre are just back from our first Tanzania tour this season. The rains have been good over the last month, so everything is breeding and the birding and mammal sightings have been excellent (as well as butterflies, dragonflies and wildflowers!). Birding highlights have been Dwarf Bitterns, Karamoja Apalis, Golden-winged Sunbirds, Rosy-throated Longclaws, Hartlaub’s and Schalow’s Turacos, African Crowned Eagle on the nest, Bar-tailed Trogon, Beesley’s Lark, point-blank Martial Eagles, squabbles of vultures, and more.The short grass plains west of Ngorongoro crater are awash with wildebeest and their calves, and large numbers of predators, and some intrepid wildebeest are already forming columns and heading north. Our next Tanzania birding and mammal tour starts in a few days…

Golden-winged Sunbird on the Ngorongoro crater rim in Tanzania

Golden-winged Sunbird on the Ngorongoro crater rim in Tanzania

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Cape Rockjumpers to celebrate Easter

April 1, 2013

Tertius Gous has just guided a Birding Africa day trip. They searched for some of South Africa’s fynbos endemics such as the Cape Rockjumper. Patience and dedication paid off, as this hard-to-see bird showed so obligingly. What a great way to celebrate Easter!

Cape Rock-jumpers photographed by Tertius Gous, on a Birding Africa day trip from Cape Town.

Last spaces: Tanzania in April and May

March 15, 2013

Our Tanzania birding trips in April and May are timed to coincide with one of the greatest mammal spectacles on earth: the migration of a million wildebeest through the Serengeti. Birds, big cats, good accommodation and timeless scenery will be your focus for this holiday in April and May. Just a few spaces remain, with departures on 21 April and 7 May.

To enquire, please contact deirdre@birdingafrica.com

This Schalow’s Turaco was photographed from the deck of our hotel on the Ngorongoro Crater rim © Callan Cohen

Herds of wildebeest and plains zebra follow the rains through Serengeti National Park © Deirdre Vrancken.

Usambiro Barbet at Tarangire, Black-bellied Bustard in the Ngorongoro crater, Fisher’s Lovebird at Ndutu and Grey-breasted Spurfowl at Tarangire on a Birding Africa tour © Callan Cohen & Deirdre Vrancken

Lion and leopard at Serengeti and African elephant at Tarangire National Park. All photos © Callan Cohen or Deirdre Vrancken.

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