Gourmet Birds
No 1 for Specialist Birdwatching Holidays
Gourmet Birds
Birdwatching Holidays
Forge Cottage,
Bowbeck, Bardwell,
Suffolk IP31 1BA,
Tel. 01359 269657



 

GOURMET BIRDS PROGRAMME 2009

The collapse in the value of sterling against the euro is worrying, and has prompted changes to the 2009 programme. Estonia in March was already looking rather expensive for a five-day excursion, so I've reluctantly decided to drop this holiday and replace it with a more affordable excursion to the Coto Doņana instead. The other alteration worthy of note is the fact that Greek holiday in May (being run in conjunction with the Hawk and Owl Trust) will now be seven days instead of five, and there has been a slight change to the dates.

The prices are based on 1 euro being worth 84p. If sterling should fall even further (and I suspect that it might), than a percentage change to the final price is possible. As none of the trips rely on local ground agents, I'm quite prepared to run the holidays with as few as two clients, so you can book flights with confidence.


Discovering Doņana - 20 to 25 March - Ģ675
I first visited the Coto Doņana in September 1968: it has changed hugely in the last 40 years. My most recent visit was last September, courtesy of the Andalucian Tourist Office, and it reminded me what a productive area the Doņana still is for birds, with wonderful sightings of many interesting species, including an adult Spanish imperial eagle. There is also excellent accommodation available in El Rocio - there wasn't 40 years ago.

The easiest way to reach the Doņana is to fly to Faro, and drive east into Spain, and this is what I plan to do. Many airlines fly to Faro: Easy Jet has flights from Gatwick, and the current return cost for the days we want is Ģ71.00. By late March the first nightingales will be back, and many other migrants, from swallows to short-toed eagles, will be returning. Add in the local specialities, such as azure-winged magpies and marbled teal, and there will be plenty to see. With luck we should also enjoy some warm sunshine as an added bonus.


Cyprus in April - 21 to 28 April - Ģ875
One of our favourite holidays which we repeat each year, staying in Episkopi at Antony's Garden House. We plan to fly with Easy Jet from Gatwick, but at the time of writing Easy Jet hasn't published its April schedule. There are, of course, plenty of alternative carriers on this popular route. Expect lots of spring migrants, warm sunshine and Eleonora's falcons. Butterflies will include black-veined whites and the Paphos blue.


Bulgaria in May - 6 to 13 May - Ģ925
There's still good value to be had in Bulgaria as it's not in the euro zone, while the Black Sea coast offers lots of really good birdwatching in attractive surroundings. We will fly with BA from Gatwick to Varna, and use just two different bases during our seven-night stay, involving little internal travel. The dates have been moved slightly to fit in with the BA flights.

The birds we can expect include a host of warblers and a fine selection of water birds. The Black Sea is certain to give a few surprises, too, such as eider and Yelkouan shearwater. The food is often surprisingly good in Bulgaria, as is the wine. Bulgaria remains an easy country to travel in, with good roads and light traffic, while the standard of the hotels is surprisingly high.


Spring in northern Greece - 24 to 31 May- Ģ925
Our visit to Lake Kerkini in 2008 was a great success, with a delightful hotel and outstanding birdwatching within a short distance of our base. For 2008 I'm running a holiday there for the Hawk & Owl Trust, but there's certain to be spaces available. This holiday has now been extended to seven nights rather than five. Flights to Thessalonica with either Easy Jet or British Airways (both from Gatwick).

The attractions of the lake and its immediate area include big colonies of pelicans and herons, a wide variety of birds of prey, four species of shrikes, numerous bee-eaters, plus such Balkan specialities as rock partridge, rock nuthatch and olive-tree warbler. The butterflies will be interesting (we saw large copper this year), and we will also find tortoises and a variety of reptiles and amphibians.


Booking flights

None of these holidays include flights: where possible, the best thing is to book them yourself over the Internet. (Check with me beforehand to get the precise details you need). When to book is debatable. Many flights get more expensive as the departure date gets closer, but sometimes (if the flight is still quite empty) the price drops. British Airways invariably has a sale in January, so this can be a good time to book BA flights; while I'm sure that next year's market will be very competitive, with some good deals available, even at the last minute.


Single rooms

No one hates single-room supplements more than me. In recent years I have tried to absorb them into the price of the holiday and not charged extra for them, but the flexibility to do this does depend on the destination. I always charge the minimum amount possible for the SRS; for Cyprus there is no SRS.


What the price does include

As is usual with GB trips, wine is included with both lunch and dinner. Lunch is usually a picnic with local produce.


Travel

We normally travel in self-drive minibuses that give us the flexibility needed for a good birdwatching holiday. In Cyprus it's impossible to hire minibuses, so we use two large 4x4s.


Insurance

Is not included: we expect you to have your own.


If you would like a detailed programme for any of these holidays, plus a more extensive species list, then please ask.