Wildlife Holiday News

News in Brief: The Gambia, Borneo, Nepal, Sri Lanka, France, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Morocco

Read about highlights from recent tours to The Gambia, Borneo, Nepal, Sri Lanka, France, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Morocco …

In The Gambia ...

‘The final “Gambia in Style” of the spring did not disappoint’, writes tour leader, Richard Bashford. ‘This tour is perfect for those who want to relax and see some amazing birds, or those who want to put a bit more time in and perhaps discover a few additional species on the regular walks or canoe trips from the lovely Mandina Lodge. Here you can walk from the lodge into the surrounding countryside, protected for wildlife, and start seeing amazing things. You can also take a dip in the pool during the heat of the day or sample a cool drink from the adjacent bar.  

Highlights on this trip were singing Oriole Warbler, Western Bluebill, daily turaco sightings, Senegal Batis, Pygmy and Violet-backed Sunbird (two of ten species seen), White-fronted Plover, five species of Roller, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike and even a surprise White-crested Tiger Heron sitting next to a White-backed Night Heron. Add in a few crocodiles, chameleon and a couple of skinks and it was an amazing tour!’

Our next ‘The Gambia in Style tour departs on 15th November 2019, prices start at £2,395. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Blue-bellied Roller


In Borneo ...

‘Borneo’s Deramakot Forest Reserve once again delivered the goods, retaining its reputation as a mammal hotspot’, writes tour leader, Tim Low. ‘We encountered many species that are very difficult to find, including endangered Otter Civets, a Banded Civet, Malay Porcupine, Sunda Skunk, Yellow-throated Martens, Large Frogmouth, Barred Eagle-owl and Black-and-white Bulbul. Easier to find species such as Leopard Cats, lorises and gibbons added further interest.

We were entertained by 40 elephants swimming, bathing and struggling through mud; by otters thrusting their arms into mud to grab food; by orang-utans feeding on mangrove palm fronds and grass stems, including one that walked through elephant grass less than ten metres from us; and by glides from trees performed by a colugo, flying squirrels and flying lizard. In fact we saw all the gliding animals for which south-east Asia is famed – flying lemurs (colugos), flying squirrels, a flying snake, flying gecko, flying lizards and flying frogs!’

Our next ‘Borneo’s Mammals: Deramakot Forest Reserve tour departs on 17th August 2019, prices start at £3,795. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Bornean Orang-utan (Andrew Riley)


In Nepal ...

‘This bird-filled tour started from Phulchowki hill’, writes tour leader, Suchit Basnet. ‘The highlights included Golden-throated Barbet, Darjeeling Woodpecker, two Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, two Chestnut-crowned Warblers, five species of Laughingthrushes, an excellent view of a Scaly-breasted Cupwing (Wren-Babbler), perched on a rock singing, and a pair of Pied (also known as White-browed) Shrike-Babblers.

The second part of our trip began with the flight to Biratnagar. We had excellent views of the Himalaya and we could see four peaks above 8,000 metres: Sagarmatha (Everest), Lotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. We then visited Birju Tal where we found over 20 Cotton Pygmy Geese, two Pheasant-tailed Jacana and many varieties of ducks. Also, at the Koshi barrage, we saw about four Gangetic River Dolphins. The highlights at Koshi were a male Bengal Florican, several Swamp Francolins and Bengal Fox.

The last part of our tour was in the Chitwan National Park where we saw Giant Hornbills, Indian Grassbird, Savana Nightjar and many more bird species. We also enjoyed sightings of a Sloth Bear, 16 Rhinos and eight Gaur, all in a day.

The weather was variable, with temperatures ranging from 8 to 35°C, and some heavy rain. However, this did not detract from the amazing birdlife and mammals of this beautiful area. In total, we saw 278 species of birds (with another 19 heard only) and 18 mammal species during a great trip. ‘

Our next ‘Nepal – A Birdwatching Tour departs on 15th November 2019, prices start at £2,995. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Bengal Florican

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Giant Hornbills


In Sri Lanka ...

‘This excellent trip started with a Grey Slender Loris mother, with her baby clutching on to her stomach, merely inches above our heads’, writes tour leader, Mukesh Hirdaramani. ‘Our nights spent in Anamaduwa and Wilpattu yielded some superb sightings of Indian Crested Porcupine, White-spotted Chevrotain and Jungle Cat. At Sigiriya we added good sightings of Golden Jackal, Common Palm and Small Indian Civets, and finally a very good view of a Fishing Cat that had come to a pool of water. Rufous Horse-shoe Bat and Schneider’s Leaf-nosed Bat were seen well in their roosts, while daytime encounters included many Toque Macaque, Grey Langur and Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys. Asian Elephants were plentiful in Minneriya, with over 300 counted during our evening safari.

In the hills, we made the acquaintance of the nocturnal Giant Flying Squirrel, Yellow-striped Chevrotain and Muntjac all within reach of each other, amongst other species, while our outings in the southern plains yielded some of the best sightings of Leopards, Jungle Cat and Sloth Bear in the area. To finish off a successful journey, our visit to Kanneliya brought us incredibly close to the rare and elusive Red Slender Loris. We were amazed and privileged to have a full, uninterrupted view of this mammal, clinging on to a bare vine.

A total of 35 species of mammals, 128 species of birds and 16 species of reptiles and amphibians were seen throughout this wonderful tour.’

Our next ‘Sri Lanka by Night tour departs on 28th March 2020, prices start at £2,995. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Jungle Cat (Mukesh Hirdaramani)

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Red Slender Loris (Mukesh Hirdaramani)


In France ...

'The “Provence in Spring” trip was initially blessed with fine, sunny weather as we explored the beautiful region around Mount Ventoux’, writes tour leader, Neil McMahon. ‘Specimens of Giant, Lady and Early Spider Orchid delighted us and very close views of a habituated party of Wild Boar were quite unexpected. Other mammals included the shy Chamois and successive views of Red Fox and Brown Hares on our short night drives. Other nocturnal scouting provided excellent views of Eurasian Scops Owl and the early morning walks were good for Common Redstarts singing alongside Black Redstarts, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Wood Warbler and a variety of small birds.

In the Camargue the weather turned, but this didn't stop us finding the usual specialities, the Camargue White Horses showing particularly well. The aquatic Coypus provided more delight as did the pink army of Greater Flamingoes and our timing was perfect to see migrating flocks of waders dominated by Wood Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank. The terns were arriving too and included Gull-billed, Whiskered, Black and White-winged and La Crau was good for Stone Curlew, Montagu's Harrier and similar fare.

Both our hotels delivered impeccable service and provided outstanding meals which were appreciated by all and ensured another successful trip to this exciting and unique region of south France.'

Our next ‘Provence in Spring tour departs on 16th April 2020, prices start at £1,595. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Eurasian Scops Owl (Neil McMahon)

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Wild Boar (Neil McMahon)


In Poland ...

Poland’s Primeval Forests

‘We do like to make the most of the long weekend trip to Białowieża Forest, and the 2019 tour was no exception’, writes tour leader, Richard Bashford. ‘After landing at Warsaw, we headed straight for the trees, arriving at our lovely guesthouse in time for a walk to the nearby marshes; first birds were Hawfinches, Waxwings and a singing Savi’s Warbler. But it was the post evening meal walk which really got us into the spirit, with a Pygmy Owl a few metres away, and later an atmospheric forest walk to hear a Tengmalm’s Owl. We also heard Long-eared Owl! 

The next two and a half days were spent at various locations in the forest, gradually adding to our woodpecker list, first with Wryneck, Lesser and Great-spotted, then Grey-headed, White-backed, Middle-spotted and Three-toed. Finally, after a rather too brief flyover, a pair of magnificent Black Woodpeckers. 

We saw a wealth of other species too, but a special mention must go to the European Bison a local farmer took us to see – we’d walked quite near to it earlier but on the way back, he led us about 50 metres off the track to see this huge animal resting on the forest floor. Amazing!’

Our next ‘Poland’s Primeval Forests tour departs on 24th April 2020, prices start at £995. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Tengmalm's Owl

Poland’s Mammals: In Search of the Eurasian Lynx!

‘During our third and final “Poland’s Mammals” tour of 2019, excellent winter conditions provided ideal hiking opportunities to explore the forests and meadows of Bieszczady’, writes tour leader, Jan Kelchtermans. ‘Footprints of iconic mammals were, as usual, ubiquitous. We were lucky enough to spot a lynx one night while spotlighting, which was given away by its eyeshine. It was lying down, facing away from us, invisible until the cat turned its head, sat up, then slowly skulked into a willow thicket.

We saw European Bison almost daily, counting a total number of 62 individuals. We had two separate Wolf sightings at the same location and saw nine Beavers on one stake-out! Another special experience was watching an Otter using a beaver pool to fish in. As well as Roe and Red Deer, Red Fox and European Hare were seen daily and other remarkable mammals were Polecat, Pine and Stone Marten and Eastern Hedgehog.

The birding was excellent, with some striking spring arrivals and migrants including a smashing male Pallid Harrier passing overhead near our hotel! Other highlights included several Ural Owls, Hoopoe, White-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted and Golden Eagle, Goshawk, White and Black Stork, Dipper, Hazel Grouse and Ring Ouzel. Camberwell Beauty was an outstanding butterfly, while the striking Yellow-bellied Toad and Fire Salamander added further interest.’

Our next ‘Poland’s Mammals: In Search of the Eurasian Lynx! tour departs on 29th March 2020, prices start at £1,895. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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European Bison

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Hazel Grouse


In Spain ...

Extremadura in Spring – A Beginner Birdwatching Tour!

‘This “Beginner Birdwatching” tour provided us with a wonderful look at the rich bird diversity of Extremadura’, writes tour leader, Robert Manzano. ‘From the pseudo-steppe habitats surrounding the historical town of Trujillo to the pristine Mediterranean Holm Oak forest of Monfragüe National Park, we had magnificent views of both steppe and woodland species, including Great Bustard, five owl species and Spanish Imperial Eagle.

The tour started with visits to Santa Marta de Magasca and Cáceres plains, with superb observations of Great Bustard and Little Bustard at their best. The Downy Oak forest of Madroñera did not fail with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch flying overhead and plentiful Golden Oriole. Our residence is exceptionally placed in a rich environment, with Great Spotted Cuckoo, Booted Eagle, Scops Owl and Eagle Owl on the doorstep. A visit to Monfragüe National Park gave us close-up sightings of Egyptian Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Stork, Cirl Bunting and Alpine Swift. This tour could have not ended better: a picnic dinner with views of a stunning Short-toed Eagle eating a snake in the Santa Marta de Magasca plains and a family of Black-winged Kites having their breakfast in Arrocampo Reservoir!’

Our next ‘Extremadura in Spring – A Beginner Birdwatching Tour! tour departs on 29th March 2020, prices start at £1,695. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Black-winged Kite

Extremadura & Gredos Mountains

Extremedura is one of our favourite destinations with its rolling plains, cork woods and rocky outcrops providing some wonderful birding throughout the year. Jim Andrews and Keith Buchanan led this tour and they report great views of Short-toed Eagle, both bustards, and amphibians (not normally seen) including Marbled Newt and Natterjack Toad. Other highlights included a fantastic group of Red Deer and the very dainty damselfly, the Iberian Bluetail. Plants included several orchids, such as Champagne and Bug.

The Gredos, slightly cooler with a touch of snow, also had some great wildlife to boot, with a fantastic herd of Spanish Ibex feeding on the mountain slopes and jumping the melt-filled river with ease. The Bluethroats had just reached the breeding grounds and put on a good show. Other highlights included a lovely Schriebers Lizard sunning himself and good numbers of butterflies on several of our woodland walks including Spanish Festoon and five species of fritillary. At both hotels you didn’t have to go far to see good wildlife, whether it was the Iberian Magpie in Extremedura or the Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest in the mountains. It was a wonderful trip!

Our next ‘Spain – Extremadura & Gredos Mountains tour departs on 27th April 2020, prices start at £1,595. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Bluethroat (Jim Andrews)

Go Slow in Mallorca

‘Our wonderful hotel with its amazing food is perfectly situated backing on to S’Albufereta Marshes’, writes tour leader, Andy Bunten. ‘We were literally able to get out of bed and be birdwatching across extensive wetlands less than five minutes later. The fact that this is a single venue holiday was also greatly appreciated – no packing and unpacking!

On one day we had astonishing views of hundreds of Scopoli’s and many Balearic Shearwaters feeding urgently just below our vantage point, as Atlantic Bluefin Tuna drove smaller fish to the surface. With a Peregrine patrolling the cliffs and a Blue Rock Thrush perched just feet away, it was difficult to know where to look first. Black Kites, Booted Eagles and Ravens soared overhead as we searched for Balearic Warbler in the famous Bocquer Valley, while the Cuber Reservoir once again came up trumps with Cinereous and Griffon Vulture and close-up views of three Wrynecks on a tree stump.

A coastal trip brought us Eleonora’s Falcons dashing close overhead and Audouin’s Gulls feeding at our feet but as ever the wonderful S’Albufereta Marshes were the highlight. They came up trumps once again with close views of Collared Pratincole, waders galore, Glossy Ibis, Marbled Ducks, Purple Swamphens, Red-knobbed Coots, Moustached and Great Reed Warblers. And with Cetti’s Warblers, Stone Curlews, Stilts and Serins (among many other birds) our constant companions at the hotel site, this was a wonderful relaxing introduction to Mediterranean birding.’

Our next ‘Go Slow in Mallorca tour departs on 14th September 2019, prices start at £1,495. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Eleonora's Falcon

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Collared Pratincole


In Portugal ...

‘This two-centre holiday picked up the best of southern Portugal's wildlife, despite a slow spring for migrant birds held up by northerly winds’, writes tour leader, Pete Stevens. ‘The ancient town of Mertola was our centre for exploring the rolling hills and plains of the Alentejo. Cistus-covered hills delighted the group and plant highlights included an abundance of flowering herbs such as the French Lavender of the Portuguese type, the delightful brown bluebell or Dipcadi and the endemic pink, Diantus lusitanus. Southern Grey Shrikes and Iberian Magpies were common, and we managed to catch up with both Spanish Imperial and Short-toed Eagles, while a highlight was a Cinereous Vulture that flew low over our heads one afternoon. We also had fine views of both Great and Little Bustards. 

For the second part of the trip we were based in Sagres, close to the south-western extremity of Europe. En route we called into a lagoon reserve where Greater Flamingoes strode up and down and amongst other wetland birds we found three Collared Pratincoles. From Sagres we explored the coast and hills of the Algarve. At Cabo St Vincente a pair of Peregrine wowed us with their aerial acrobatics and stoops. In the hills we found Mirror Orchids of the Portuguese sub-species (Ophrys speculum lusitanica) and Tongue Orchids (Serapias lingua) while Sardinian Warblers chatted away in the Cistus. Spanish Fritillary was a colourful insect find here. Later at the coast Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) was the highlight plant. The Alvor Estuary produced both Slender-billed Gull and Audouin’s Gull and the strange large parasitic plant Cistanche (Cistanche phelypaea).’

Our next ‘Spring in Southern Portugal tour departs on 14th April 2020, prices start at £1,495. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Spanish Imperial Eagle

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Little Bustard


In Italy ...

Flowers of Italy’s Gargano Peninsula

‘I have just returned from my 10th year of leading Naturetrek’s “Wildflowers of Italy’s Gargano Peninsula” tour and once again the “orchid capital of Europe” lived up to expectations’, writes tour leader, Andrew Cleave. 

‘We enjoyed breathtaking displays of orchids with around 50 species found during the two trips. In some areas it was impossible to walk because of the density of the flowers, and in other areas careful searching revealed some very rare and beautiful species, known only from Gargano. Endemics such as Ophrys sipontensis and Ophrys parvimaculata were found but we also saw spectacular displays of more common species such as Orchis pauciflora and Dactylorhiza romana. The keen photographers had plenty of subjects to keep them occupied. The other flora was equally spectacular with woodlands filled with Narcissus poeticus and Anemone appenina, and sunny slopes covered in Iris lutescens in various colour forms. Shady woodlands were visited where we found Cyclamen repandum and Paeonia mascula flowering, and the delicate Verbascum phoenicium was seen on a quiet country lane.

There were many butterflies out on sunny days, including two species of Swallowtail, Southern Festoon, Glanville and Queen of Spain Fritillaries and various species of blues. Italian Wall Lizards were found at most sites and our days were also filled with bird-song, some from familiar species, but we also saw and heard Cirl Buntings, Subalpine Warblers and Serins regularly. On the coast we saw beautiful pink-flushed Slender-billed Gulls, many species of waders and a few Pygmy Cormorants. At Peschici our hotel was close to a nesting colony of Alpine Swifts which appeared in the evenings and gave exciting aerial displays.’

Our next ‘Flowers of Italy’s Gargano Peninsula tour departs on 1st April 2020, prices start at £1,495. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Sawfly Orchid (Andrew Cleave)

Puglia in Spring

‘This was the third Naturetrek trip to Puglia in southern Italy and the sheer abundance, range and diversity of orchids were breathtaking’, writes tour leader, Jessica Turner. ‘We also enjoyed the colourful swathes of Crown Daisies and Poppies, and plenty of other Mediterranean spring flowers, many localised to Puglia or with a peri -Adriatic distribution such as the maroon-flowered Figwort Scrophularia lucida and the blue spikes of the bellflower Asyneuma limonifolium by Capo d’Otranto.

The regular flocks of Lesser Kestrels were a delight, as were the two views of Lanner Falcons. Whilst there was less visible migration this year, we saw a number of Marsh and Hen Harriers (the latter possibly all male), a couple of Montagu’s Harriers, and at least one dark-phase Booted Eagle and a Bonelli’s Eagle overhead. Bee-eaters and Hoopoes are always a joy, as were the Risso’s Dolphins and Audouin’s Gulls off Capo d’Otranto, and the Black Stork at the Laterza Gorge. We enjoyed, too, the range of architecture from cave dwellings via trulli to cathedrals, with Matera being especially fascinating. For most of the time we were able to enjoy sun, and pleasant temperatures, but the exceptionally vivid rainbow over the sea will remain in our memories a long while.’

Our next ‘Puglia in Spring’ tour departs on 12th April 2020, prices start at £1,595. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Matera

Sardinia

Pete Stevens and Mike Crewe led our second tour of the spring to Sardinia. Though breezy at times this was a holiday with great weather. The roadsides were full of huge Wild Carrot (Daucus carota), Smooth Golden Fleece (Urospermum dalechampii) and Galactites (Galactites tomentosa): a thistle with a delicate coloured flower. We made contact with most of the orchid species and other plants that we looked for. In the north-west of the island we enjoyed some magnificent scenery. In the mountains Crocus minima were in their thousands, but the Corsican Peony (Paeonia corsica) was just showing petals in the bud. For some, Corsican Finch and Rock Thrush were highlights. On a boat trip we were thrilled by the huge sea cliffs with Bottlenose Dolphin and Yelkouan Shearwaters offshore. Another day saw us on a successful hunt for Woodchat Shrike and we were delighted by a bank full of Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum), plus Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Giant Orchid (Himatoglossum robertanium).

Heading south we stopped off at the west coast for a picnic. A short stop first saw the group enjoying a wonderful display of flowering herbs and shrubs in the coastal Macchia, plus Small-flowered Tongue Orchids (Serapias parviflora) and the lovely Rainbow Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca iricolor). During our picnic Spectacled Warbler and Tawny Pipit showed themselves. On the south coast we stayed in a hotel with lovely grounds where we found Moltoni's Warbler and Mediterranean Flycatcher. Heading for the hills we were able to find Sardinian Spider Orchid (Ophrys fuciflora ssp chestermannii), Morris's Spider Orchid (Ophrys x morisii) and Wild Grape Vine (Vitis vinifera) among other interesting and exciting species.

Our next ‘Sardinia’ tour departs on 19th April 2020, prices start at £1,595. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Mirror Orchid

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Woodchat Shrike


In Morocco ...

‘The trip to southern Morocco in March was one that was occasionally affected by some unseasonable weather, but we managed to connect with a wide range of species that this spectacular route through Morocco can bring’, writes tour leader, Martin Pitt.

‘The Tagdilt track yielded larks and wheatears and later, singing Moussier’s Redstart was a good endemic to find. However, it was the day in the desert near Erg Chebi that brought a rush of species from the near mythical Houbara Bustard, the cryptic Egyptian Nightjar, flocks of Spotted Sandgrouse and a supporting cast of African Desert Warbler, Desert Sparrow and a range of larks and wheatears.

Returning to the coast we had good views of the endangered Bald Ibis and regionally scarce Brown-throated Martins. Our final day was also marked by seeing only Morocco’s second Isabelline Shrike.

Overall we had a successful trip that notched up nearly all the local targets, with a good mix of butterflies, Odonata and special plants.’

Our next ‘Birding Southern Morocco tour departs on 19th September 2019, prices start at £1,695. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Moussier's Redstart