Gourmet Birds News September 2010
This has been a successful year for Gourmet Birds, with trips to Greece in January, Cyprus in April, Spain in late April and early May, Estonia in late May and Greece again in June. The infamous volcanic-dust cloud forced the cancellation of a private trip to Spain in late April.
Fine weather blessed all the early trips, and when we arrived in Estonia the temperature was nudging 30degC. Two days later it had plunged to a mere 6degC, together with heavy rain, a reminder that spring temperatures in northern Europe can fluctuate wildly. Greece in June was hot, but we managed to miss the strikes.
Our March visit to Cyprus produced some of the best birds we have seen there for a long time, with great views of dotterel, cream-coloured courser, spotted crake and Isabelline shrike. Spain was notable for finding almost all our target birds. We did get terrific views of wallcreeper, and a very satisfying and unexpected encounter with great bustards.
Isabelline shrike, Cyprus
Slavonian grebe, Estonia
Yellow wagtail, Estonia
There were no surprises in Estonia, but there were great views of such species as Slavonian grebe, wryneck, red-backed shrike and thrush nightingale. It was a reminder why this is one of my favourite European destinations.
The Greek trip was primarily for butterflies, and among the 75 species we found were such delights as Camberwell beauty, large copper and large blue, while my favourites were clouded Apollo and southern white admiral. There was time to look for birds, too, and the final tally was 117 species, including nearly all of the Kerkini specialities such as Dalmatian pelican, little bittern, pygmy cormorant, glossy ibis and penduline tit.
Squacco heron, Greece
Dalmatian pelican, Greece
STONE CURLEWS IN THE BRECKS
Monday 11th to Wednesday 13th October 2010 (two nights)
Our annual short autumn break in East Anglia, timed to coincide with the pre-migration gatherings of the stone curlews. It will include a visit to the North Norfolk coast. B&b locally, dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights at Forge Cottage. £225.
WINTER ON THE TAGUS.
Thursday 20th to Tuesday 25th January 2011 (five nights)
For many years January trips have been a feature of GB: this year we continue the tradition with a five-night visit to Portugal. We fly to Lisbon, we then have a short drive to the Barrocad d'Alva estate where we will be staying. We will have such birds as black-winged kites, woodlarks and azure-winged magpies within walking distance, while not far away is the estuary of the Tagus, which in January supports internationally important numbers of wildfowl and waders, including spectacular numbers of avocets and godwits. We will engage a local bird guide on one day to ensure that we don't miss any of the specialities of the area, which range from great bustards to a number of naturalised African birds.
£675, with flights from Luton to Lisbon with easyJet, though other options are available, including BA from Heathrow.
Tuesday 15th February to Saturday 5th March (17 nights in Namibia, one overnight travelling).
From the ochre dunes of the Namib Desert to the expansive plains of Etosha Park, this promises to be a richly varied holiday. I'm currently working on our itinerary, but after flying to Winhoek, Namibia's capital, we will drive through central Namibia to Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, before continuing our circuit to Etosha and then back to Windhoek. To ensure that this is an affordable trip we will be doing self-drive and staying in comfortable guesthouses, while our itinerary is being planned for us by one of the leading South African bird-tour companies.
To make this as relaxing a holiday as possible we will aim at three-night stays at all of the major destinations. We can expect some great birds, ranging from desert specialities like Burchell's courser and Rüppell's korhaan to thousands of flamingoes and waders on the coast, plus the rich variety of raptors typical of the major African game parks. We are also sure to see many mammals, from gemsbok to black rhino. However, there is a fair chance that rain will have greened the countryside, so we are unlikely to see the concentrations of game typical of the dry season.
There are currently no direct flights from London to Windhoek, so the most attractive options are flying with BA to Johannesburg and then connecting across, or flying to Frankfurt and connecting to a direct flight. The BA option is expensive, so I'm researching alternatives.
A detailed itinerary and price will be available shortly.
CYPRUS IN SPRING
Thursday 31st March to Friday 8th April (eight nights)
Cyprus in spring has become one of our regular destinations. The weather is generally warm and sunny, the birds are always interesting. We expect to see around 140 species, while early April is the peak period for seeing migrating warblers and flycatchers. Every year brings surprises, depending on the weather and the migration pattern. We are, however, sure to see all the local specialities, such as Cyprus warbler and wheatear, black francolin, chukar and long-legged buzzard. There will be butterflies on the wing, too, and we will see the endemic Paphos blue, as well as eastern festoon and black-veined white.
As usual we will be staying in Antony's Garden House in Episkopi.
£795, plus flights (there is a choice, but we use easyJet from Gatwick to Paphos).
POLAND IN MAY
Monday 9th May to Sunday 15th May (six nights)
Thanks to the combination of the wonderful Biebzra marshes and the primeval Bialowieza Forest, Poland offers some of the best birdwatching in eastern Europe. With luck this holiday should enable us to see all of Europe's woodpeckers, from the elusive three-toed to the impressive black, and two sought-after species of owls: pigmy and Tengmalm's. Great snipe are one of the many attractions of the marshes, along with one of Europe's rarest passerines, the aquatic warbler. Our timing should be perfect for wader migration through the marshes, with big flocks of ruffs in breeding plumage, while we can also be confident of seeing such birds as white-tailed eagles and cranes. We will be using the services of one of Poland's leading bird guides, who should know exactly where to find all of the most elusive species.
£825, plus flights. The best flight option seems to be London Heathrow to Warsaw with BA.
BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES IN MACEDONIA
2nd June to 9th June (seven nights)
A return to an outstanding destination: Lake Kerkini. We will be staying once again at the Hotel Viglatoras, one of our all-time favourite hotels where the accommodation is excellent and the food exceptional. With the experience gained from our five previous holidays we are confident of finding most of the local specialities of both birds and butterflies, while the quiet, unspoilt countryside and the constant song of nightingales adds to the charm. Expect Dalmatian pelicans, black storks, several species of eagles and shrikes plus a wonderful variety of butterflies.
£825. Flights with either BA or Easy Jet from Gatwick to Thessalonica. We usually use BA.
Please note that the price of each trip is inclusive of everything from lunches to wine at dinner. Not included is the flight, and though we can advise, we are reluctant to book flights for people for both legal and practical reasons. Dates are still flexible for these holidays, and are subject to availability of flights.
We try and avoid charging a single room supplement, but may have to do so on certain holidays.
For more details of any of these trips contact David on 01359 269 657, or email Davidtom @ aol.com.