Member’s Trip Reports in 2018

A Colombian Birding Adventure  – January 2018

Reporter Mary Walker

Morning on day eight dawned for us too early. The two alarms ringing in unison were a rude awakening. We were in the city of Manizales in Colombia.

Colombia is newly emerging as a top birding destination. It has an impressive list of over 1900 species of birds, found in many different habitats.

We had previously been staying in basic birding lodges, but somehow found ourselves relocated to the Penthouse suite in the Hotel Varuna. It was fabulous and brought out the child in us, as we pressed all the buttons on the multi-functioned shower and bounced around our huge room, no doubt dropping dirt and debris in our wake.

But it was short lived…………. there was birding to be done. Today we were heading to Nevado del Ruiz, which at 5321 metres is the highest volcano in Colombia, located in Los Nevados Parque National. Volcano Nevado del Ruiz’s last major eruption was in 1985, when 25,000 people died.

We wanted to be there before dawn and called at a community run cafe for scrambled eggs and corncakes (when I first read this, I thought it said scrambled eggs and corncrakes! – Ed.) Colombians accompany this with a bowl of hot chocolate, complete with a feta-type cheese floating in it. Try as we might this was a taste we simply could not acquire.

Less than an hour later we had climbed through the Cloud Forest to the Paramo and were tentatively stepping from our vehicle onto frost covered ground wondering how our bodies would react to the high altitude. Legs were wobbly, breathing difficult, but walking slowly we were OK.

Our first target bird on the way up was TAWNY ANT-PITTA. We saw him on the road, but there was not enough light to take any photos. Our second target was BUFFY HELMETCREST. Sure enough he was belting it out atop of a bush. This time the early morning light was too bright, so again no decent photos!

We spent a couple of hours above the clouds enjoying special birds. SEDGE WREN, MANY-STRIPED CANESTRO, ANDEAN TIT-SPINETAIL,STOUT-BILLED CINCLODES,WHITE-CHINNED THISTLETAIL and PLAIN-CAPPED GROUND-TYRANT, before we slowly made our way down the volcano and were able to breathe easily again.

Morning coffee time found us at Hotel Termales. Most visitors stop here for a dip in the natural hot springs. This was an option on our itinerary that we chose to decline – way too cold. It was Monday morning so thankfully we were the only folks here. What excited us was the Humming Bird Garden that attracts over 33 different species. A continual buzz of wing beats past our ears certainly tested our identification skills. We even had these delightful little birds landing on our heads and hands. SWORD-BILLED was our favourite and did indeed live up to its name. Many more including TOURMALINE SUNANGEL, RAINBOW-BEARDED THORNBILL, TYRIAN METALTAIL, VIRIDIAN METALTAIL, GOLDEN-BREASTED PUFFLEG, SHINING SUNBEAM, BUFF-WINGED STARFRONTLET, and GREAT SAPPHIREWING all zoomed about.

Too soon it was time to move on to our next destination, Tatama National Park in the Western Andes, staying at Montezuma Rainforest Lodge, which is as different as it is possible to be, to our hotel in Manizales. A rustic tiny bird-filled lodge in the middle of nowhere. Bliss.

We travelled with a Colombian company called Manakin Nature Tours and what an adventure they gave us. 526 species of bird seen, including 200 lifers.


A Good Day in the Valley     21st March 2018

Reporter Steve Chapman

With the prospect of spring-like weather with gentle winds I had originally planned to visit the coast today to catch up on winter visitors with the possibility of new spring migrants. Instead, with news yesterday of some interesting sightings at Sculthorpe Moor, I decided this morning I would stay in the valley and see what turns up. It was a good decision!

I started out checking the pools on the pig farm along Weston Road at Ringland (just up from the church). These are flood waters, and last week we had a pair of Green Sandpipers, Redshank and Dunlin. I drove along looking from the car so as not to flush anything, but no luck. I turned round and drove back to the gap in the hedge where we had seen the waders last week. This was a stroke of luck as with the new angle I was able to pick out a Little Ringed Plover on the edge of a small pool just behind the hedge. This was (as far as I know) the first sighting this year in the valley, so I quickly snapped a few record shots and put the news out on social media.

Next stop was a (undisclosed) site in the north of the WVBS recording area where I sat and watched 3 Goshawks for about 15 minutes. From their size it looked like 1 female, 1 male and 1 I wasn’t sure about. They disappeared from view for a while but then a male and female reappeared. With the female high above the male started its display of ‘wing- clapping’ which is brilliant to watch. It was very relaxing there with Skylarks singing all around, Buzzards displaying and a Reed Bunting calling in the hedge behind me. I was shaken out of my reverie though with a message from Dave Appleton that he had found a drake Garganey at Bintree Mill. I quickly jumped back in the car and soon caught up with Dave at the Mill and we had excellent scope views of this truly stunning bird.

Next stop was Sculthorpe Moor (Hawk and Owl Trust) where I had excellent views of Mealy Redpoll, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Brambling, Red Kite, Chiffchaff calling and Marsh Tit singing. Sadly no sign of the Willow Tit, Firecrest and Willow Warbler that that been reported yesterday.

As the reserve was soon closing it was time to head home, but on the way I took a detour to Bylaugh church and sewage works, where I had singing Chiffchaff (my first of the year), singing Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail. Back along to Elsing Mill where I saw a Barn Owl hunting over the water meadows, and 2 Sparrowhawks ( male then a bit later a female) dashing in to trees by the river.

The Great White Egret had been reported at Sparham Pools again today so I had a quick scan from the Easthaugh road but no luck. It was starting to get dark so time to call it a day – a good day!


Coincidentally, one of our members had a birding trip to Southern Spain at the same time as our group visit (our reports in Members Field Trips 2018)…………….

A Day In Tarifa Charles Sayer 25th April 2018

An early walk along the cliffs which overlook Morocco: it is riot of colour as southern Spain has had a spring much like ours – cool and wet. Kidney vetch scrambles over clumps of yellow Sea Aster. Borage, Honeywort and Star of Bethlehem are on the banks and higher up are stands of stunning red/pink Gladiolii. The whole area is a mixture of reds, yellows, whites, blues and pinks amongst the green of the coastal sierras. In the low scrub Sardinian Warblers are rattling while each thicket seems to hold a Nightingale bursting into full voice. Stonechats are everywhere and one or two Whinchats have just arrived.
Suddenly overhead is the flight call of Bee-Eaters: 2, then 6 are joined by another 10, 12, 15 and soon between 30 and 40 are around my head, too close to focus with binoculars. And as quickly as they come, they continue inland – but are soon replaced with 2 smaller flocks which have just crossed the strait.
Raptors start to move: 6 Black Kites and a Honey Buzzard: Lesser Kestrels are flying East along the cliffs as they cross the coast, so I scuttle off for breakfast and ponder where to go for anymore birds of prey. The SE wind will push birds towards Tarifa where we are staying. We elect for the watch-point at El Estrecho, about 2 miles East. On arrival there are a several people looking towards where we have just come from [we should have stayed on the roof terrace!]. There is a thermal of about 100 birds which look like Black Kites, but are very distant. Back to Tarifa: nothing moving: move again to between Tarifa and El Estrecho: migration seems becalmed although the wind is strengthening. Maybe birds are being pushed beyond Tarifa. 2 Egyptian Vultures and a Short Toes Eagle tempt us to stay. Out at sea 120 Flamingoes pass out of the Med and into the Atlantic – a shimmering pink against the blue sea.
We move again to Los Lances, 2 miles north of Tarifa, and immediately birds start coming in off the sea. Black Kites and Booted Eagles are arriving – a steady flow of about 60 birds. Behind us is a thermal of 55 Black kites, 10 Booted Eagles [ both plumage phases ], 6 Honey Buzzards, 2 Egyptian Vultures, and 4 White Storks. More Black Kites are pouring in over Tarifa. A Black Stork comes in alone. More Booted Eagles and a single Imperial Eagle pass over…… and then the passage stops……….apart from the continuous arrival of Swallows, Red Rumped Swallows, Swifts and more Bee-Eaters. While on the beach there is a selection of waders which include Kentish Plovers, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Whimbrel and Bar Tailed Godwit. 2 Audouin’s Gulls are with the Yellow-legged and overhead there is a display from 8 Collared Pratincoles.
The soaring birds we saw were roughly 450-500 Black Kites, 40-50 Booted Eagles, 4 Egyptian Vultures, some distant Griffons, 10 Honey Buzzards, 4 Short-Toed Eagles, 1 Imperial Eagle, 20 Lesser Kestrels, 1 Black Stork and 10 White Storks.
100’s of Swallows and Swifts: about 200 Bee-Eaters and 8 Collared Pratincoles all added up to a really good day.




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