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


Gourmet Birds News November 2009

With the New Year just a few weeks away, this latest newsletter is long overdue. For some time I have been debating whether to organise an expedition to somewhere warm and sunny in February, but in view of the current economic climate and the weakness of sterling, I've decided not to. However, I am planning something both hot and interesting for February 2011.

Rather to my surprise, the January trip to Lake Kerkini filled quickly. This is likely to be a somewhat chilly holiday, as winters in northeast Greece are usually cold. In contrast, early spring in Cyprus is invariably warm, hence the trip we are planning for March this year. Avoiding Easter, when airfares and accommodation prices double, is always a challenge, but past experience of Cyprus in March suggests pleasant weather and good birding, with the spring migration already well under way.

For the last three years I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Sierra Guara in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and I am much looking forward to a return visit again this year. The hotel we use, the Hosteria de Guara, is delightful. However, to broaden the appeal of this holiday we are planning to extend it to nine nights away, and use two hotels. Our first five nights will be in the Hosteria de Guara, with the second half of the holiday at an equally attractive hotel higher in the Pyrenees.

Estonia is, without doubt, one of the best birdwatching destinations in Europe. I have visited this delightful small, sparsely populated country several times, which is why I'm planning to go back again for a week in late May. This year's trip will, however, be slightly different and rather more relaxed than previous visits, as I'm not planning to use a local guide. We may miss a few species as a result, but the reduction in cost is considerable, while I'm confident that I can not only find most of the special birds, but also find my way around easily enough.

The collapse in the value of sterling is a major concern. Our prices are based on the euro being worth 90p. If it should fall farther and approach parity with sterling I might have to increase prices to allow for this, but I hope this won't be the case. All our destinations use the euro. As is normal with Gourmet Birds, these holidays will run with just two or three people, while we are not charging the dreaded single room supplement, either. The prices are all-inclusive, and include picnics and wine with dinner.

Lake Kerkini, Greece: 22-27 January
This trip is now full.

Cyprus: 23 - 31 March (eight nights)
As usual, we will be staying at Antony's Garden House in Episkopi, a delightfully quiet and comfortable guesthouse. By late March the spring migration is already well underway, and we should see a good variety of passerine migrants, many of which have usually passed through the island by the time of our usual late-April visits. Our last March holiday gave great views of Isabelline, northern, black-eared and Finsch's wheatears, along with a good variety of warblers and waders, several birds of prey including long-legged buzzard and pallid harrier, plus crane, little crake and the usual Cypriot specials - chukar, black francolin, Cyprus warbler, Cyprus wheatear and masked shrike. The weather is likely to be generally warm and sunny, allowing outdoor picnics, while the island should be pleasantly green. The price is £785, with the airfares with Easyjet (flying from Gatwick) currently a reasonable £143.48pp return, including taxes and luggage.

The Sierra Guara and the Spanish Pyrenees - 23 April - 1 May (nine nights)
This holiday starts in one of the most spectacular pre-Pyrenean massifs, with towering limestone cliffs and a rich variety of birds of prey. We can be confident of seeing lammergeiers, as the area has the densest population of these spectacular birds of anywhere in Europe. The family-run hotel we use is both charming and comfortable, and the food excellent. After five nights in the Sierra Guara we move higher into the Pyrenees, staying in the village of Sallent de Gállego. This will give us the chance to see a different selection of birds, and with luck we will find many of the mountain species like alpine accentor and alpine chough that we might not see in the Sierra Guara.

We fly to Zaragoza from Stansted with Ryanair (no one else flies there directly). The flight times are distinctly awkward: the outward flight leaves at 22.30, and arrives at 22.05, while the return leaves at 22.30 and gets in at 23.35, but perhaps a late return is better than an early morning start. Currently the return fare, including all the extra charges that Ryanair inflicts, is less than £100. The cost of the holiday is £985.

Estonia - Spring migration 20 May - 25 May (five nights)
For this short break we will be staying in the attractive seaside town of Haapsalu for all five nights. This is within easy driving distance of a number of outstanding bird habitats, ranging from forest for three-toed woodpeckers and hazel grouse to coastal wetlands for migrating wildfowl and waders. One of Estonia's best sites for watching the arctic migration is just half an hour's drive to the north, and here we can expect to see flocks of both black-throated and red-throated divers coming right overhead, along with packs of eiders and scoters. Our family-run hotel is on the edge of town and offers comfortable accommodation and good food, while you can enjoy good birdwatching right outside the hotel. The price is £675, plus the Easy Jet airfare from Stansted to Tallinn, which is currently around £100 return. The flight departs at 16.00 on the Thursday; the return flight leaves at 21.10, and arrives home at 22.05.

For more details of any of these trips contact David on 01359 269 657, or email Davidtom@aol.com.