Green Honeycreeper, Costa Rica, April 2022 (Kevin Elsby)

News in Brief: Spain, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka & Poland

Extremadura in Spring – A Beginner Birdwatching Tour

‘This tour is specifically designed to bring the wide range of species of this wonderful part of Spain to a beginner’s audience’, writes leader Martin Pitt. ‘From our base north of Trujillo, we focused on the full range of habitats and the species special to each. After a dry winter, local rains had ‘greened’ the steppes and plenty of singing and territorial behaviour was noted. Many summer migrants had already arrived and it was great that the Montagu’s Harriers appeared in good numbers, after low numbers in previous years. Although the focus is undoubtedly on birds, other taxa were not ignored and most noteworthy was the good showing of eight species of orchids amongst the plentiful flowers.

The weather was variable but with winds generally from the south it was clear that migrants were arriving almost on a daily basis. Garganey and Osprey were just passing through, however the large numbers of Bee-eaters would be a mix of local breeders and those heading further north. European Rollers came during our visit and other recent arrivals included the charismatic Black-eared Wheatear. Winter visitors had not wholly departed and we found Eurasian Siskin, Merlin and Eurasian Wigeon later in the season than usual. Overall, we recorded 130 species of birds which included most of the local specialities: Great and Little Bustard, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Iberian Magpie, Black Stork, Griffon, Egyptian and Cinereous Vulture, and Spanish Imperial Eagle. Other highlights included European Eagle and Scops Owls, both at day roosts and a plethora of waterbirds including the bizarre Western Swamphen.’

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Pin-tailed Sandgrouse


Montagu's Harrier

Costa Rica – A Wildlife Photography Tour

‘The small country of Costa Rica should be on the bucket list of all who are interested in photographing the natural world’, writes tour leader Kevin Elsby. ‘The biodiversity is simply astonishing and few countries can match it. Having been ‘off limits’ for the last couple of years due to Covid, it was a real pleasure to return there with a group of clients on our latest photography tour. During our 18-day visit, we were based at four destinations, at varying altitudes, each chosen specifically to maximise wildlife photography opportunities. From páramo at 11,000 feet to lush primary rainforest near sea level, there was wildlife everywhere we went.

Among our subjects, over 25 species of hummingbirds were a major attraction. Parrots included the threatened Great Green Macaw. Numerous colourful tanagers, honeycreepers, woodpeckers, wrens and doves gave us great entertainment for our cameras. Added to this were bedazzling trogons, motmots, jacamars and the more challenging flycatchers. Photographing the truly impressive King Vulture from a hide less than 3 metres away was one of the highlights.

Others included a river trip which gave us the chance to photograph American Crocodile, whilst mammal encounters included White-faced Capuchin and Mantled Howler Monkeys, Two-toed Sloth, Paca, Agouti and 9-banded Armadillo. A lucky encounter was with a Margay, a rare cat of Central America. Insects were not forgotten and the huge Blue Morpho butterfly and simply stunning Rothschildia moth were both photographed well. Coupled with great food, excellent accommodation and local guide, it was a wonderful trip.’

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Keel-billed Toucans


Violet Sabrewing

Sri Lanka by Night

‘The pre-tour extension started with excellent sightings of Blue Whales and Spinner Dolphins in the south of the island’, writes tour leader Mukesh Hirdaramani. ‘Red-billed Tropicbird is a not a frequent sighting, yet we were lucky to get a good view of this spectacular bird.

On the main tour, we were fortunate to get some superb views of Grey Slender Loris, Otter, Small Indian Civet and a Brown Fish Owl enjoying a freshly caught fish close by a river. The highlight of our night drives in Sigiriya was coming across a male Fishing Cat by the roadside. We followed him cautiously, observing various behaviours – such as scent marking – for more than 15 minutes. He spent another 10 minutes cleaning himself up before finally disappearing into the bushes overlooking a reservoir.

Our Leopard sighting was equally exciting during our day safari to Lunugamwehera National Park. We saw a male Leopard defecating on the roadside and then hurrying off into the bushes, but it held its position by an opening long enough for us to take the perfect shot! Towards the afternoon we were further surprised by a good sighting of the rare Spot-bellied Eagle Owl which we followed in flight and saw perch on a branch. The Giant Flying Squirrel, Golden Palm Civet and Indian Porcupine were all seen within a span of 15 minutes of each other in our lovely hotel garden in Kandy. Overall, we recorded 34 mammals, 154 birds and 14 reptiles on the tour.’

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Small Indian Civet (Mukesh Hirdaramani)


Sri Lankan Leopard

Poland's Mammals – In Search of the Eurasian Lynx!

'Our second spring tour exploring the Carpathian landscape in the south of Poland provided plenty of mammal sightings and between us we notched up an amazing 16 species’, writes leader Neil McMahon. ‘Many of these were active during the early evening as darkness fell and we were fortunate to encounter Wild Boar, Pine and Stone Martens, Badgers and Wildcat during this period, with diurnal highlights including Eurasian Beaver, Carpathian Red Squirrel, numerous Red Foxes, plenty of deer and a couple of encounters with those wonderful wolves! A pack of five wolves at the side of the road one early morning was very special, with an opportunity of watching interaction at very close range. Another wolf was encountered mid-morning as it loped through a meadow near our accommodation, and that is the joy of the Bieszczady National Park, everything is on your doorstep!

A Brown Bear provided a close encounter for two of our party and a herd of Eurasian Bison initially gave themselves up in the daytime on a just-greening meadow but were only seen at night thereafter.

Visible migration of birds was particularly noticeable, with large movements of Chaffinches and other finches and thrushes. The White Storks arrived and other highlights included Golden Eagle (one with a Brown Hare), an unexpected Pallid Harrier, Goshawk and lots of nocturnal sightings of Tawny and Ural Owls during our lamping sessions. A single Fire Salamander was a super find one morning, and all this against a backdrop of mountains, forests, meadows, rivers and crystal-clear night skies.’

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Grey Wolf (Linda Crook)


Ural Owl (Linda Crook)