WingsBirds Updates Updates from WingsBirds Mon, 13 Jul 2020 08:07:05 -0700 en daily 1 <p>Paul French on his Feb-Mar 2020 tour to <a href=""">Senegal</a></p> 2020-06-16 16:15:47 Wings Staff Field Reports <div> <p>It's been many years since we did a Senegal tour, and much has changed in the interim. A increase in both local and visiting birders has really highlighted the enormous potential of this relatively small West African country, and its position straddling the Saharan, Sahelian, Sudanese and Guinean biomes makes for a fascinating birding adventure, with a couple of specialities and several species that are difficult if not virtually impossible to find elsewhere. Here are a few images from the tour.</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="233" />&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>Moving north from Dakar, we were soon into open savannah woodland, and one of the immediate highlights of the tour was this mixed group of vultures on a carcass. Ruppell's Griffons and African White-backed were most numerous, but there were also several Eurasian Griffons and a couple of hulking Lappet-faced Vultures.&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" />&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>The acacias and scrub in the north of Senegal are home to several of the specialities. One of the easier ones to find is Cricket Longtail, a demonstrative and striking&nbsp; bird, its calls and song carry a surprising way.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="360" /></p> </div> <div> <p>One of the biggest revelations in recent times has been the regularity with which Golden Nightjars can be found at day roost. Such beautiful nightjars, but so incredibly difficult to find at roost!&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <div> <p>Another of the charismatic birds is the Black Scrub Robin, a proper little charmer! Pleasantly common and even present in our hotel grounds.&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="230" />&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>From the Sahel zone we moved a short distance into one of West Africa's premier wetlands, the Djoudj National Park. This area of seasonally flooded wetlands is home to huge numbers of waterbirds, here are clouds of White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, plus a striking pink line of Greater Flamingos.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <p>Also here in good numbers is the recently identified African Golden Wolf, not quite as sturdy as its northern cousins but still a beautiful canid.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="360" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <p>Moving south into the Senegal heartlands, the low bushlands near Kaolack hold one of the most sought after birds of the tour, the enigmatic Quail-plover. Now thought to be an aberrant button-quail, this odd species has a huge distribution from Senegal to Kenya, but is incredibly hard to find. This is now by far the most reliable area in the world for them, and we enjoyed "walk-away views" of one as it sat under a bush, and then flushed and we experienced the remarkable wing pattern.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="360" /><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p> </div> <div> <p>Nearby is the famous Scissor-tailed Kite roost, hosting several thousand birds at its peak in mid-winter. Truly one of the most elegant and beautiful of raptors.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <p>Moving SE, we spent three nights at the excellent Wassadou camp, situated on the Gambia River. The birding here is great, and as well as walking from the camp through the scrub and open woods, we also take a boat trip down stream to get up close and personal with some of the species found here..</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="265" />&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>..such as the incomparable Egyptian Plover.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <p>The bee-eater colonies along the river are always popular, and seeing flocks of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters hanging off bushes like gaudy Christmas decorations always lifts the soul.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="360" /></p> <p>&nbsp;Alongside the Carmines, these Red-throated Bee-eaters are just as attractive, and while they may not have the size and long tails of their neighbours, those blue undertail coverts are&nbsp; a stunning feature in their repertoire.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <p>The Blue-breasted Kingfisher is pleasingly easy to see here</p> </div> <div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="360" /></p> <p>Our final destination was the dry woodlands and rocky escarpments of the Kedougou area in the far SE of Senegal. Here there are several more specialities, and we succeeded with them all.&nbsp;One of the main targets is the Mali Firefinch. We struck gold with this species, after this pair on our first evening, we found a spot with up to 40 birds coming to drink, plus a pair of Neumann's Starlings. While a bit distant for photos, 'scope views were more than good enough.&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> </div> <div> <p>Overhead, we always keep one eye on the raptors, and this striking Beaudouin's Snake Eagle was one such reward.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> <p>Susan Myers on her local Cooper's Hawks</p> 2020-06-10 12:25:52 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>Although I&rsquo;d rather be out working, it&rsquo;s definitely been rewarding getting out every morning and studying/photographing local birds. The Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks are gearing up for the arrival of their chicks and I&rsquo;ve been following progress and documenting their fascinating activities.&nbsp;I&rsquo;ve been observing three pairs with nests here in Seattle. The nest building began about three weeks ago and the location of one of the nests allowed me to closely follow the collection of the twigs and branches used in construction. The work was shared but the female seemed to be the supervisor, while the male, maybe being a bit inexperienced, behaved a bit like the class clown.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="960" />&nbsp;</p> <p>The larger female was more skilled at choosing and transporting branches; she appeared to pick a suitable branch in advance, then fly in to break it off and bring it back to the nest located in a small stand of poplar trees.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>The male however was more active and mobile during most of my sessions watching them.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>And how do I know which was the female and which was the male? This is how:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="961" />&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of weeks down the track, and the female of all pairs on the nests I&rsquo;m watching seem to be incubating. It&rsquo;s hard to be sure that they&rsquo;re all still active as the female is often not visible on the nest. I do know that one pair are so far successful, as I watched the male hunting close to the nest, jumping onto the ground from low branches and presumably searching for small rodents or the like.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="433" /></p> <p>So, even though this time of Covid sometimes makes me feel like this:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="960" />&nbsp;</p> <p>I&rsquo;m not too unhappy as long as I can get outside with the birds!&nbsp;</p> <p>Stephen Menzie from his non-birdtour a bird observatory,</p> 2020-05-27 17:07:15 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>It&rsquo;s been a spring of changes for me, and not just for the obvious reasons. In early March, I moved from the UK to southern Sweden where I began work as the new manager of Falsterbo Bird Observatory. It&rsquo;s an area I know well, having worked here as a bander in the past and, indeed, leading the WINGS fall tour &ndash;&nbsp;but, nonetheless, a permanent move abroad is always a much bigger step than three months here and there. My flight in landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, before I took the short journey across the Oresund bridge into Sweden. I was lucky. Very lucky. Had I arrived a week later, I wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to cross the border.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s been well publicized that Sweden has taken a rather relaxed approach to the current global situation. Friends in Stockholm would beg to differ that the situation up there is far from normal &ndash;&nbsp;Swedes are good at social distancing, even without government enforcement; but, down here, away from the cities, life is, by and large, carrying on as normal. At least it is at the observatory. There are just a few of us working and living here and every morning is spent banding birds as part of the observatories 41-year systematic monitoring of migrant passerines.</p> <p>2020 has been a fairly average spring &ndash; although average in Falsterbo means over 3,000 birds banded so far.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="518" /></p> <p>The bulk of these have been European Robins, above, and Willow Warblers.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="757" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="539" /></p> <p>Niceties amongst the usual fare has included a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler, both above, and an above-average number of Common Redstarts.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="645" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="579" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="385" /></p> <p>Of course, walking the net rounds all morning inevitably results in some birding, and notable sightings whilst &lsquo;working&rsquo; having included a Eurasian Green Woodpecker, several Wrynecks, both above, a young female Hen Harrier, flocks of Western Yellow Wagtails (including many of the dark-headed subspecies <em>thunbergi,</em>&nbsp;above), White Wagtails, and Eurasian Sparrowhawks.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="429" /></p> <p>It&rsquo;s not just birds that have been the focus of my photographic attempts. The small windmill outside the bird observatory building &ndash;&nbsp;which will look familiar to anyone who has been on my Falsterbo tour; it&rsquo;s a great raptor watching spot! &ndash;&nbsp;has provide photo inspiration day and night, above.</p> <p>Mid-May is two-thirds of the way through the spring season, but it&rsquo;s just about now when we start to see some of the really exciting summer migrants arriving. Species such as Red-backed Shrike, which should be with us any day now. They&rsquo;re one of those species that&rsquo;s a joy to see at such close range but a nightmare to handle. Their nickname of &lsquo;butcher bird&rsquo; is well deserved. Watch this space for further updates including photos of Red-backed Shrikes and butchered bander&rsquo;s fingers&hellip;</p> India: The North 2020-04-06 16:39:40 Will Russell Recently updated tours India is a mystical and exotic country that for many people epitomizes foreign travel. It is an extraordinarily varied land, and long after you have returned home images will remain to enrich and liven your daily round: the cool marble splendor of the Taj Mahal; the snows of the Himalayas, flamingo-pink at dawn; and the lush green jungles. And above all the birds: the thrill of your first Siberian Rubythroat, a Red-flanked Bluetail or Altai Accentor beside a mountain stream a Sarus Crane striding majestically through the cornfields an Orange-headed Thrush lighting up the undergrowth or minivets streaming through the emerald canopy. With so many birds on the potential list, the examples can only be arbitrary, and the total for the tour should be between 380 and 400 species. Portugal in Spring 2020-04-02 15:41:14 Will Russell Recently updated tours Portugal possesses a fine diversity of habitats and birds in a relatively small area.&nbsp; Within 30 minutes drive from Lisbon city center and its International Airport we find the Tagus Estuary and the Sado Estuary Nature Reserves, two protected wetland areas with extensive bird lists including Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-shouldered Kite, Little Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike and Spotless Starling, and an excellent selection of ducks, waders, gulls and terns. Zambia 2020-02-14 14:18:48 Will Russell Recently updated tours Zambia is a wonderfully scenic country in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa with numerous parks and safari areas.&nbsp; It is also unusually diverse biologically, and&mdash;although under birded&mdash;has one of the largest bird lists in Africa, surpassing 750 species.&nbsp; We&rsquo;ll visit a range of habitats, each with its own set of species, beginning in the extreme northwest corner on the border of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This remote area, rarely visited by tourists, offers a chance to see many Congo Basin species normally inaccessible to birders. From here we&rsquo;ll travel south towards Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, with its extensive Miombo woodlands interspersed with grassy depressions called &ldquo;Dambos.&rdquo;&nbsp; Here we may see the highly localized Black-cheeked Lovebird and very likely some of Africa&rsquo;s iconic mammals. Continuing south we&rsquo;ll stop near Choma for the endemic Chaplin&rsquo;s Barbet, before spending the last couple nights in the Lower Zambezi Valley where we&rsquo;ll target the iconic African Pitta, one of Africa&rsquo;s most sought-after birds. Scotland 2020-02-06 10:39:20 Will Russell Recently updated tours The Scottish Highlands are one of the last truly wild places to be found in the United Kingdom. Ideally placed to explore the region, the imposing Grant Arms Hotel is home to The Birdwatching and Wildlife Club which provides its own Club room with a wildlife information centre, a bookshop and a natural history library. It also has a large lecture theatre which hosts evening talks from a range of guest speakers. Just released: American Birding Association’s Field Guide to Birds of Ohio by Ethan Kistler 2020-01-02 14:46:14 Sara Pike Miscellany <p>WINGS leader Ethan Kistler just had released his book, the ABA&rsquo;s "Field Guide to Birds of Ohio". This is the perfect companion for birders who reside in Ohio or plan to visit, especially for the annual Biggest Week in American Birding festival at Magee Marsh. Filled with gorgeous color images by Brian E. Small, each species account also includes usual information including habitat, voice, identification, and the best locations in the state to find them.</p> Lesser Antilles 2019-12-18 19:03:39 Will Russell Recently updated tours These 10 stunningly beautiful Caribbean islands form the eastern border between the placid Caribbean Sea and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Each tropical island gem is separated by turquoise seas and boasts rich wetlands, vast open grasslands, dynamic coastlines and lush tropical rainforests. These diverse habitats are home to a lengthy list of highly threatened single-island endemics and near endemics along with a host of indigenous regional specialties. Recent Publication: The Birds of Gambell and St. Lawrence Island 2019-05-31 10:58:46 Matt Brooks Miscellany <p>Western Field Ornithologists has recently published Paul Lehman&rsquo;s book, <em>The Birds of Gambell and St. Lawrence Island</em>. This WFO Special Publication will be a valuable resource for many who visit this island on birding tours. All those with an interest in patterns of vagrancy, Alaskan birds, and eastern Palearctic migrants will want to get their hands on this book. You can purchase the book <a href="">here</a>. Available in paper or digital versions. </p>