Dear Friends of Rockjumper,

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that we were wishing you all a Happy New Year and yet, here we are, well into 2016!

The year has kicked off to a flying start with our leaders and clients heading out to some fantastic birding destinations while, closer to home, there have been exciting new developments for the Rockjumper staff and their sister companies.

We are delighted, as always, to be sharing some of our latest news and updates with you. To those of you who are looking back on the first quarter with us, we hope this newsletter brings back many good birding memories and for those of you who are new to Rockjumper, we hope this offers you a taste of some of the great adventures you can enjoy with us!

Best wishes,
The Rockjumper Team


TEAM NEWS
One of the most important aspects of any company is its staff and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention their achievements and successes. This month, we’d like to congratulate two of our staff members who each have some very exciting news!
We are proud to introduce André Bernon as our newest Rockjumper tour leader. André was lucky enough to grow up in the biodiversity hotspot of Zululand. This fostered a keen interest in nature and he became a serious birder at the tender age of 14. After obtaining an Environmental Sciences degree, his yearning for nature brought him back to the Zululand bush in the role of a game ranger and guide.

After three years in the Zululand Rhino Reserve, André has extensive experience in exceeding his guests’ expectations and he developed a very keen eye and extensive knowledge of both fauna and flora. For much of this time he worked as a specialist bird guide and has now landed his dream job of guiding birders throughout Africa and beyond.

Crystal Brook is our senior scheduled tour consultant and all our clients would have had friendly and efficient contact with her during your scheduled tour booking process. Crystal had her first child on 13th of May with the birth of her beautiful daughter Lacey, weighing in at 7,5lb (3,4kg). Mom and baby are doing well.

While the office will not be the same without her, we wish Crystal everything of the best during this very special time with her precious angel. Rockjumper stalwart Alison Wakelin will be taking over Crystal’s booking duties during her maternity leave.

We also welcome Jeremy Exelby to the Rockjumper Birding team. Jeremy has worked in education, industry, and travel over the years, with the natural world always being an inspiration to him. In particular, plants became his first passion when he was a teen, with birds catching up to his interest levels over the years. As a result, Jeremy has lead birding tours all over Southern Africa, occasionally also doing trips on his own or with family. At present, he also has a friendly competition going with his wife and son for who can see the most Southern African birds in 2016.

With experience from working and travelling internationally, Jeremy suits his new role in the Private Tours department, where he arranges custom experiences for clients who desire something outside of our annually scheduled trips.

We would also like to congratulate Alison Wakelin on completing her first Comrades Marathon in an amazing gross time of 09:09:23!

The Comrades Marathon is the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race. Beginning in 1920, it is 89 km (approx. 56 miles), and is run annually between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. Each year, the routes alternate in direction between the “up” run (87 km) starting from Durban and the “down” run (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg. Well done Al!
 

NEW OFFICES
The Rockjumper offices are making strong headway since our last update and, although there is still plenty to be done, the South African based team is growing more and more excited about the approaching move. We have included some photos and an update so you too can share in our excitement!

The building of our new headquarters, duly named Rockjumper House, is progressing well, with much buzz and excitement. The final bricks and mortar have been laid and while we still have a way to go before the “big move”, furnishings and finishing touches are now being applied before we can call Garlington Estate our new home. Our South African office team is looking forward to the change of scenery, to what can certainly be described as an extraordinarily beautiful environment. We have included a few updated images, some of which were taken from the top of the building!


NEWS & UPDATES FROM OUR SISTER COMPANIES
We have some exciting developments from our sister companies. Oryx Wildlife Tours has now been re-branded with its focus on conservation tours in partnership with the prestigious Wildlife Conservation Society and Tusk Trust. Not only are Oryx Wildlife’s tours making a contribution to these global conservation organizations, but they are also able to offer guests privileged first hand experiences of ground-breaking conservation projects at sites not open to the public. Meanwhile Rockjumper Wildlife Tours has taken over the role of arranging scheduled and private wildlife focused tours to the world’s last great wildernesses. Finally, Out of Bounds continues to launch new and exciting general interest travel and cultural tours that will appeal to those with a desire to explore fascinating and remote pockets of our planet. Don’t miss out on reading about their latest developments.


ROCKJUMPER WILDLIFE TOURS AND ORYX WILDLIFE SAFARIS FOR CONSERVATION


Nelis Wolmarans
Rockjumper Wildlife Tours and Oryx Wildlife Safaris for Conservation are now both being managed by Nelis Wolmarans. From a very young age, Nelis has had an incredible passion for Africa’s fauna, and has spent the majority of his working career actively involved in a variety of wildlife related fields. These have included lodge management in South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya, Big 5 walking safaris, big game capture and translocation, as well as anti-poaching, where he focused mainly on rhino protection. Nelis’ 16 years working in these various industries and living in the wilds of Africa have resulted in him possessing an enviable knowledge of the region’s animals and their habits, and he has used this to good effect as a wildlife expedition leader.

We’ve been listening to you, our clients, carefully. It’s clear that for most of you, once you have enjoyed watching wildlife with us, both birds and animals, your interest in their conservation has increased quite dramatically; you want to know more: it is for this reason that we have created a distinct new brand, ‘ORYX – Wildlife Safaris for Conservation’.

The reason you haven’t heard much yet from ‘ORYX – Wildlife Safaris for Conservation’ is that we’ve been busy creating unique travel products through our newly created and incredibly exciting travel partnerships with the huge, global conservation organizations, Wildlife Conservation Society (www.wcs.org) based at Bronx Zoo, New York and Tusk Trust (www.tusk.org) that work across Africa. With these partnerships in place, we can now take small, exclusive groups to see all the classic ‘greats’, but added to that, we can also take you to the places these organizations work. We can introduce you to the ‘movers-and-shakers’ in conservation and get you into areas where most people just don’t have access.

Don’t forget to take a look at our new website www.oryxwildlifesafaris.com to see the range of exciting countries we can take you to visit where WCS and Tusk work. Please follow us on Facebook for updated news on conservation and tours. The important part is that we give money to these conservation organizations, so that as well as enjoying the fabulous wildlife, with your participation, we’ll also be leaving a legacy.


Rockjumper Wildlife Tours, meanwhile, has taken over the successful series of scheduled tours that used to operate under Oryx Wildlife Safaris and details of these can be found on our brand new website (link below). The primary focus of these tours are the charismatic, larger wildlife with which we share our planet, but we certainly don’t ignore the birds, reptiles, amphibians, smaller fauna, flora, culture and history of the handpicked top wildlife destinations to which we offer our tours. All our scheduled tours are guided by experienced, professional tour leaders.

At Rockjumper Wildlife Tours we are also experts at setting up exclusive, bespoke luxury safaris to the world’s most highly recommended and productive eco-lodges. These tailor-made luxury safari itineraries are based on our client’s specific interests, combined with our extensive experience in luxury travel, to create the ultimate luxury wildlife safari. If you have ever dreamed of experiencing an adventure to a selection of premier wildlife lodges then drop us a message and we’ll gladly put a proposal together for you.

Learn more about Rockjumper Wildlife Tours at www.rockjumperwildlife.com, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rockjumperwildlife

Brazil – Neotropical Mammals of the Amazon & Pantanal
26 September – 7 October 2016

Considered one of the ten “mega-diversity” countries of the world, Brazil is a dream destination for any naturalist. On this incredible tour we will explore two of this country’s most celebrated and awe-inspiring ecosystems, the verdant Amazon rainforest, replete with a diversity of life rivaled nowhere else on our planet, and the bountiful Pantanal, where the incredible wildlife viewing compares with the African savannas. Read More

Rwanda – Mountain Gorilla Safari
16 – 21 November 2016

Rwanda, the “Land of a Thousand Hills”, offers an unforgetable wildlife safari experience; one that will take you through mythical forests, walk in the shadows of dormant volcanoes and introduce you to her gentle giants of the Virunga - the Mountain Gorillas. Read More



OUT OF BOUNDS TRAVEL

Out of Bounds specializes in exploratory, off-the-beaten-path locations and complex, multi-country itineraries to some of the world’s most exotic and least-known regions of the world. Working closely with the most knowledgeable and reliable ground partners in each country we visit, our tours are meticulously crafted with an eye towards guiding travelers deeper than ever before, within areas of the world that are often overlooked but teeming with mysteries, adventures and surprises that will assure a rewarding and eye-opening experience.

Tours range from: an all-encompassing trek overland across Iran; an exploration to the furthest regions of Western & Central China; tribal areas of Laos & Cambodia; Northeast Brazil’s hidden islands and national parks; a nine-country sweep across Southern Africa’s most beautiful, exciting and wildlife-rich regions; a far-ranging tour throughout central and southern Mexico admiring colonial gems and Mayan ruins, and a pioneering cultural tour to all of the once-forbidden Seven Sisters states of Northeast India.

We at Out of Bounds Travel are excited that there are limited spaces available on our upcoming Iran Encompassed and Pamir Highway & The Stans tour. These one of a kind tours offer the very best that both regions have to offer and are a must for the discerning traveler and historian who have an interest in the culture and heritage of two extraordinary and unique countries.

Iran Encompassed

Visit 18 out of the 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout the country; explore 37 cities, towns and villages and interact with people who are famous for their exceptional hospitality. Over the course of this tour we will experience the varied, diverse and ever-changing terrain of Iran as we cover 3,000 miles in an overland loop. Read More

Pamir Highway & The Stans

A truly epic and once-in-a-lifetime trip visiting Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and traveling through some of the most rugged, beautiful and remote areas on earth while traversing the Pamir Highway - the least-visited, but one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Read More

Although we haven’t included their updates in this newsletter, our other sister companies; Oryx Photographic Expeditions and Tau Anthropological Safaris also offer a series of scheduled and bespoke private tours.

FEATURED TOURS


NEW ZEALAND SUBANTARCTIC ISLAND CRUISE
Tour Dates: 04 - 11 Jan 2017 (8 days)
Tour Price: from USD4,500 to USD5,940*
You won’t find them mentioned in a travel agent’s brochure; you won’t find them in most guidebooks, you probably don’t know anyone who has ever been there, and they don’t even appear on some maps of the South Pacific – these are the ‘forgotten islands’! Despite their low profile, they are among the most remarkable wildlife reserves in the Southern Ocean, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and afforded the highest protection of any nature reserves in New Zealand. Remote, uninhabited and on no regular shipping route, access is further restricted by a strict Management Plan which limits the number of people allowed ashore each year.

Rockjumper has recently partnered with the American Birding Association to deliver stunningly successful tours of South Africa and India. We have teamed up again to offer another remarkable tour, this time to New Zealand. We have taken a full charter on an expedition cruise ship to explore New Zealand’s forgotten Subantarctic Islands - The Snares, Auckland Islands and Campbell Island!

Departing the Port of Bluff (Invercargill), the first of the islands we visit are The Snares. No landings are permitted because the islands are honey-combed with seabird burrows. Of particular interest are Snares Penguin, and Snares endemic subspecies of Fernbird and Tomtit. We should see them all, as we enjoy the dramatic coastline and tree daisy forest from our Zodiac excursions.

In the Auckland Islands, the largest of the island groups, we have the chance to spend the day ashore Enderby Island, arguably the most amazing of the Subantarctic Islands. Here we can hike through the windswept Rata forests, and along the exposed coastal cliffs. The wildlife is never far away, and its lack of fear means close encounters and great photographic opportunities abound. At Carnley Harbour in the south of the Auckland Islands, we can visit a White-capped Albatross colony, abandoned Coast-watcher’s huts, shipwrecks and castaway depots. Campbell Island, the southernmost island of this expedition is an example of what can be achieved in island restoration. In recent years, sheep, cattle, cats and rats have all been eradicated and the island is rapidly recovering. The great English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, a friend of Charles Darwin, visited Campbell Island in the 1840's and described the flowering fields of ‘megaherbs’ to be ‘second to none outside of the tropics’. We can say the same now, because of the removal of these introduced animals. This island is also the home of the majestic ‘Southern’ Royal Albatross, the endemic Campbell Islands Teal and ‘Campbell Snipe’, a rare, recently discovered and endemic sub-species of Subantarctic Snipe. Rockjumper’s dream team of Adam Riley, New Zealand based Erik Forsyth and Forrest Rowland will be guiding this tour with ABA’s Jeff & Liz Gordon and George Armistead as well as an experienced expedition team from Heritage Expeditions. Furthermore, this cruise is offered at a discounted rate and a significant contribution will be made to the ABA’s conservation funds.

Those wanting to seek the endemics of North Island can then join us for a 4-day extension based out of the cosmopolitan city of Auckland. It is on day trips from our comfortable base that we target many of New Zealand’s endemic birds; indeed, some of the world’s most wanted birds. In particular we will try to find representatives of all 5 bird families endemic to New Zealand: Kiwis; New Zealand Parrots; New Zealand Wattlebirds; Stitchbird, and New Zealand Wrens. We take a short ferry to the fabled Tiritiri Matangi Island, where we will bird this predator-free reserve for the prehistoric South Island Takahe, strange North Island Kokako, North Island Saddleback, Rifleman and Stitchbird. Visiting the coast, we will comb the Miranda shoreline and Puketutu Island for the bizarre Wrybill amongst numerous migrant waders and wildfowl and enjoy the Australian Gannet colony at Muriwai, before finishing off the tour with a night walk to seek North Island Brown Kiwi.

Furthermore, we have also added a number of additional extensions including Stewart Island, New Zealand’s South Island and Australia; covering the remaining New Zealand endemics, as well as many desirable species in neighbouring Australia.

For further details and the itinerary click here.



African Pitta by Adam Riley
MOZAMBIQUE – AFRICAN PITTA AND REGIONAL SPECIALITIES 2016
Tour Dates:
(5 days) 01-05 or 08-12 or 15-19 Dec 2016
(7 days) 01-07 or 08-14 or 15-21 Dec 2016
Tour Price (Per Person): From ZAR15,000 to ZAR21,750 From £710 to £1,030 From USD1,010 to USD1,460

We are thrilled to provide Southern African birders with the opportunity of a lifetime to seek the mega African Pitta, East Coast Akalat, White-chested Alethe, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Blue Quail and a plethora of other wetland and forest specialties in Mozambique’s Coutadas 11 & 12.

Rockjumper Birding has negotiated special tours with the concession holder for this amazing area, allowing us to stay in a forest camp with these and other highly sought-after birds right on our doorstep. Not only will we have exclusive access to one of the region’s most important birding and wildlife sites, but we will also venture to the Zambezi to locate Southern Africa’s only Böhm’s Bee-eater population.

We are offering three 7-day tours starting on 01 December 2016, 08 December 2016, and 15 December 2016. Alternatively, those who wish to leave out the Böhm’s Bee-eater can opt in for the first 5 days only. Prices are ZAR15,000 for 5 days and ZAR21,750 for 7 days.

CRUISES
If you are looking for a birding experience that is a little out of the ordinary, then you need look no further than one of our birding and wildlife cruises. Our cruises offer the opportunity to visit some very remote islands and land masses, many of which were previously inaccessible. These exciting voyages are tailored to allow you the opportunity to add a wealth of special birds and unique wildlife to your list, so if you are after the adventure of a lifetime, do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on one of our fantastic cruises!


Wilson's bird-of-paradise by Dubi Shapiro
As more countries and regions become accessible to the travelling birder, we find ourselves looking to the oceans and more remote landmasses of the globe; in search of new birds, mammals and experiences to add to our lists. Not only do distant islands and the open oceans offer the experienced birder a chance of augmenting their already big lists, they also offer the opportunity for more casual birders to experience birds and impressive landscapes that are rarely seen by other travelers. There’s no better way to do this than on a cruise which offers access to otherwise incredibly difficult-to-reach locations without compromising the high quality accommodation that we strive to offer. Rockjumper’s cruises are operated on vessels with the excellent standards of comfort, safety and professionalism and a crew with a sense for adventure.

So, where can we take you? Rockjumper operates cruises in both Polar Regions, as well as in a number of tropical and temperate areas in both hemispheres.

Our southern cruises include such spectacular locations as South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula, the Falklands and New Zealand’s Subantarctic islands. To put that into perspective, every species of penguin in the world is available on Rockjumper’s cruise and tour offerings! And this is not to mention the host of other rare birds and animals to be found in these scenically unequaled regions, including spectacular albatrosses and other seabirds, pinnipeds and, of course, whales and dolphins.

Our tours to the Arctic and northern Temperate regions are no less diverse or amazing, covering the icy shores of Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen and the Russian Far East throughout the boreal summer. Board one of these magical cruises to experience close-up encounters with numerous species of alcids, rare and beautiful gulls like Ross’s and Ivory, Polar Bears, Walrus, Musk Ox and even Spoon-billed Sandpiper!

If the idea of a cruise to warmer climates is more appealing, we do, of course, have some truly exciting trips at lower latitudes. Try a trip to the Maldives for some of the best whale and dolphin watching on the planet, all set in fantastic scenery, both above and below the water! Or perhaps you would prefer one of our ground-breaking cruises to Melanesia, in search of such tropical gems as the endemic birds of Vanuatu, New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.

Our new and exciting Remote West Papuan Islands birding cruise to the Raja Ampat Islands (Four Kings: Waigeu, Batanta, Salawati and Misool), plus the very rarely explored island of Kofiau, will seek out some of our planet’s rarest and least-known species. These include such extraordinary gems as Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise (regarded by many as the most spectacular bird on earth!), Red Bird-of-paradise, Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and Kofiau Monarch. Thereafter we cross Weber’s Line and head into the south Moluccas. Here we explore little-birded waters in addition to visiting several endemic-rich islands including Obi, Seram and Boano, ending in Ambon for many incredibly exciting endemics such as Carunculated Fruit Dove, Obi Woodcock, Lazuli Kingfisher, Seram Cockatoo, Boano Monarch and Long-crested Myna, to mention but a handful.

Finally, our epic Atlantic Odyssey will satisfy any birder’s craving for a taste of both cold and warm waters, very rarely seen birds and seldom-visited islands with names like Deception, Nightingale and Inaccessible!

Be sure to check out our calendar for the birding and wildlife cruise of a lifetime.

HONDURAS BIRDING FOR CONSERVATION TOUR




During the 10 days from 4th – 13th November this year, Honduras will be the focus for some very exciting birding! James Adams of Pico Bonito Lodge in Honduras has set up a birding tour like no other, with the support of not only the US Ambassador to Honduras, but even the President of Honduras. 5 prominent international birding personalities (Tim Appelton, Bill Thompson III, Jeff Gordon, Richard Crossley and Rockjumper’s Adam Riley) have all been personally invited by Juan Orlando Hernandez, the President of Honduras, to each lead a team of 10 birders to three of Honduras’ top birding sites. Each team will also be accompanied by a top local birder and the tour will consist of a low-key and fun competiton between the teams. The real winner will be conservation in Honduras and $40,000 has been pledged as prizes that the winning team can donate to their chosen projects. Furthermore, each member of the winning team will also be awarded a $1,000 Rockjumper voucher. The cost for this conservation tour is a bargain at $2,286 per person sharing and can be booked by emailing reserve@hondurasbirdtour.com. All profits from this tour will be donated to conservation. Further details can be found here.

PS: Adam’s team has only 3 spaces remaining so don’t hesitate in signing up if you’d like to join him on this fun conservation tour.

CONSERVATION
While we are the first to enjoy the delights of birding and the natural world, with its diverse habitats and wildlife, we also recognize the importance of conserving the very thing we enjoy the most. One such project to which we have recently contributed is the conservation of the critically endangered Great India Bustard, which Adam Riley recently had the privilege of observing. We are also pleased to announce our affiliation with the Rare Bird Club, whose proceeds have contributed greatly to the work that Birdlife International is doing to preserve the world’s avifauna. In facilitating their continued efforts, we are delighted to be putting together two tours for them, as we search for Ethiopia’s most endangered birds.


Indian Bustard by Adam Riley
GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD

This large and distinctive-looking Great Indian Bustard, which is the state bird of Rajasthan, is one of the world’s heaviest birds. It stands at about one meter tall, sporting a black cap that contrasts its pale head and neck. Its brown body has a black patch with white spots. In breeding season the males develop a black band across the chest while they puff out their black crowns when displaying – that’s if you are lucky enough to see one of these rare birds.

Unfortunately, the Great Indian Bustard has become one of India’s, and the world’s, most critically endangered species. Previously widespread throughout much of India, this magnificent bird is down to less than 200 individuals, most of which survive in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. Although an intensive BirdLife International conservation program is underway, the prognosis for this species is bleak unless drastic action is taken. Adam Riley was fortunate enough to photograph this male bird during his second visit to the park. The day before, he had accompanied the distinguished Dr Pramod Patil, head of the BirdLife Great Indian Bustard program to the park, who explained in detail the conservation threats facing the Great Indian Bustard and initiatives under way to protect this species. Although it is still subjected to hunting in small parts of its range, it is now primarily threatened by habitat degradation and loss. Rockjumper is very proud to have donated $2,000 to the Great Indian Bustard conservation fund in order to assist in the race to save the species from extinction. To read more about the passionate Dr Pramod Patil and the Great Indian Bustard please follow this recent article in the Telegraph.



Rouget's Rail by Markus Lilje
RARE BIRD CLUB

The Rare Bird Club, a name synonymous with rare and endangered bird species protection across the globe, is an exclusive international community that is committed to making a massive difference through high levels of sponsorship to Birdlife International. The Rare Bird Club comprises of 300 members and provides Birdlife International with important funding which is imperative to the overall success and positive impact that Birdlife International is able to have on the world’s avifauna.

Rockjumper is extremely proud to announce our recent collaboration with the Rare Bird Club where we will be operating two tours for them through Ethiopia during October and November this year. The focus of these special tours will be to explore the extraordinary diversity of habitat and take in the impressive birding and wildlife spectacle that the country has on offer. Time will be dedicated specifically to finding the critically endangered Archer’s Lark (previously Sidamo or Liben Lark) on the Liben Plain near the remote town of Negele. This extremely rare species is on the brink of extinction and requires all the help that it is able to get. Additional highlights are likely to include Ruspoli’s Turaco, Thick-billed Raven, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, Black Crowned Crane, Abyssinian Woodpecker and Yellow-fronted Parrot to name but a few. A superb selection of mammals will also be on show including Ethiopian Wolf.

It is indeed an honor to be selected by the Rare Bird Club to put these trips together for their members. For all of us, conservation is the key to our continued enjoyment of the world’s natural areas and Rockjumper’s stance has always been to assist and give back wherever possible.

For more information on the Rare Bird Club and details of how to join this amazing and exclusive network, please email Jim Lawrence at jim.lawrence@birdlife.org or visit The Rare Bird Club website.


AMERICAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION (ABA) ROCKJUMPER SAFARIS
This year we once again teamed up with the American Birding Association (ABA), this time for another very successful and highly memorable safari. Together with the ABA management team and nearly 70 ABA members, we found ourselves bound for India in pursuit of Tigers, the Taj Mahal and of course, the very finest of India’s birds. Whether you’re taking a trip down memory lane or considering joining us in the future, we have included some of the highlights of this hugely successful event.

Tiger by Adam Riley


ABA INDIA – TAJ, TIGERS & BIRDING SAFARI
08 – 18 Feb 2016 by Forrest Rowland

Two years in the making, and now another outstanding American Birding Association Safari made its way into the annals of EPIC tours! With so much to offer, it is little wonder that our recent adventure through Central India was so spectacular – 350 species of birds, numerous Tiger sightings for every participant and the Taj Mahal – a more perfect foray onto the subcontinent could hardly be conceived. This tour’s particular success was due to several further factors, two of which include a fun gathering of like-minded birders and particularly good energy.

We started off congregating in the crowded metropolis of New Delhi. Participants and guides gathered from all over the world, many having already started their explorations on a pre-tour to the Himalayas, or other sites nearer to the capital. While the urban charms of Delhi were enjoyed by some, including a thrilling rickshaw ride through crowded medieval streets, others birded the ruins and fort at Tuqlekabad, outstanding wetlands at Okhla, and superb birding opportunities at Sultanpur; all wonderful precursors to the adventure ahead.

Traveling first to the city of Bharatpur, we visited the many cultural wonders of nearby Agra including, of course, the indescribably beautiful Taj Mahal (the world’s most famous monument to love). The impressive Agra Red Fort, and ancient deserted city of Fathepur Sikri, were fascinating additions to the tour of this area’s numerous and well maintained historic monuments. Birding was equally fabulous and memorable. Each day our group was divided into smaller units as we explored areas in and around Bharatpur, and then each evening everyone would gather and share adventures from the day and be dazzled by shows of Indian culture such as the fantastic Peacock dances, or educated by slideshows of the local birds and wildlife.

Visits to Keoladeo National Park and the area around Bund Baretha reservoir yielded up tons of beautiful species, many of which are very special to the region. The sheer abundance of approachable waterbirds in the Keoladeo park is something to behold, and photographic opportunities were limitless. Sarus Crane, Greater Painted-Snipe, Brown Crake, Bar-headed Goose, Black Bittern, Indian Vulture, Indian Spotted Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian Scops Owl, Dusky Eagle Owl, Indian Gray Hornbill, Black-rumped Flameback, Orange-headed Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Bay-backed Shrike, Sulphur-bellied, Hume’s, Greenish, Eastern Orphean and Moustached Warblers and Red Avadavat were among the many avian highlights of our visit to the area. However, the overall impression of birding Keoladeo National Park and watching thousands upon thousands of waterbirds as we were gently transported by knowledgeable and friendly bearded rickshaw drivers is one that will last a very long time!

We travelled further south to what would be our second base of operations –Ranthambhore National Park. Well known for currently being THE place to see Tiger, the Ranthambhore area has an incredible diversity of amazing bird and mammal species. Expectations were high upon arrival. We managed to arrive well in time for our first game drive into the park. Despite the lengthy list of possible birds, everyone naturally wanted to see the mythical king of the beasts - a Royal Bengal Tiger. Though possibly the best place on Earth to see a Tiger, seeing any species of big cat in the wild is a truly an amazing experience. It is a privilege, no matter the circumstance, just to get a glimpse. We were all being realistic in thinking that some of the 60+ participants might not, in fact, get to see a Tiger. Those were the odds. Luck, Karma, or perhaps plain old good energy, came in to play for the American Birding Association members in Ranthambhore: ALL of the guests got to see a Tiger on the very first afternoon of our 4-day-visit! That, the guides can confirm, just doesn’t happen…

Our good luck continued as we managed to pick up an incredible number of great birds including the likes of the stunning Painted Spurfowl, Jungle and Rock Bush-Quails, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked and Black Stork, Dalmatian Pelican, Red-headed Vulture, Short-toed, Booted, Imperial, Bonelli’s and Black Eagle, Jack Snipe, River, Yellow-wattled, and White-tailed Lapwing, Indian and Great Thickknee, Barred Buttonquail, Pallas’s Gull, Indian Skimmer, Chestnut-bellied and Painted Sandgrouse, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-naped Woodpecker, Alexandrine and gorgeous Plum-headed Parakeets, Rufous-tailed Lark, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Variable, Desert and Isabelline Wheatear and both Chestnut-breasted and Striolated Buntings, to name a few. And those are just the birds! India really does have the feel of a true safari. Mammals are numerous and abundant in the protected areas. With plenty of time to visit various routes through the diverse forested, grassy, and drier areas in and out of the park, we managed to rack up some incredible experiences. Spotted Deer, Sambar, and Wild Boar were relatively abundant. Sightings of Tigers were a daily occurrence, with some participants seeing tigers on as many as FIVE trips into the park! Golden Jackals, Indian Fox, Asian Palm Civet, and Indian Gazelle were seen by most tour participants. Among the scarcer inhabitants of the park, we came across at least three different Sloth Bears, and two Leopards, one of which was guarding a recent kill and allowed extended observation. Incredible!!! Truly, we could not have hoped for a more successful and eventful (in all the right ways) tour through the heartland of the Indian Subcontinent. Sloth Bear AR, Leopard, Asiatic, Tiger AR.


ABA INDIA (SRI LANKA – ENDEMIC BIRDS AND BIG GAME EXTENSION)
18 – 29 Feb 2016 by Cuan Rush

Indian Pitta by Markus Lilje

Sendip Scops Owl by Adam Riley


After the highly successful ABA India safari, a smaller group of us broke away to travel around the island paradise of Sri Lanka. This small nation is home to some incredible birds, including many endemics and, paired with its wildlife, it offers the naturalist a bounty of wonders. Our trip visited the hotspots of the central and southern regions of the country such as Kithulgala and Sinharaja Rainforest, the famous Yala National Park and the highlands around Nuwara Eliya. Over 230 species of birds were recorded on the tour including all the endemics and numerous specials to boot.

Elusive Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka & Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, the mythical and recently described Serendib Scops Owl, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Crimson-fronted Barbet, striking Crimson-backed Flameback, confiding Indian Pitta, unrivalled Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, popular Veltvet-fronted Nuthatch, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Spot-winged & Sri Lanka Thrushes, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and Forest Wagtail are but a few of the highly sought-after birds that we enjoyed during our explorations. Aside from these avian highlights we notched up a host of mammals including Leopard, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Asian Buffalo, Chital, the impressive Sambar, hordes of Indian Flying Fox, the quizzical Tufted and Purple-faced Langurs, Asian Elephant and Grizzled Giant Squirrel. All of this, plus the superb scenery and interesting culture of the island, blended together to weave an unforgettable experience for all! Serendip Scops Owl & Indian Pitta.

Interested in our ABA New Zealand Subantarctic Island Cruise?


NEWS FROM SOME OF OUR RECENT TOURS

Cauca Guan by Adam Riley
COLOMBIA MEGA I
17 Jan – 15 Feb 2016 by Trevor Ellery

Our Colombia Mega I tour kicked off in the wild Paramos of the eastern Andes above Bogota where we soon found such specialties as Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Rufous-browed Conebill, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Bogota Rail and Apolinar’s Wren. We then flew to Mitu deep in the Colombian Amazon which provided a complete contrast, both in terms of habitat and species seen. While we struggled with the intense heat on some days we did manage to rack up a fine selection of target species including Guianan-cock-of-the Rock, Tawny-tufted Toucanet, Gray-bellied Antbird, Azure-naped Jay, Bronzy Jacamar and Blackish-grey Antshrike amongst others. We then headed north to the Coffee plantations and oak forest of the Cerulean Reserve where we found Turquoise Dacnis, Niceforo’s Wren, Black Inca and Gorgeted Wood Quail. We were soon swapping the relative cool temperatures of the mountains for the steamy lowlands once again as we took in the El Paujil and Rio Claro Reserves. These provided us with Blue-billed Curassow, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Oilbird, Black Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Northern Screamer and Antioquia-bristle Tyrant. We then returned once more to the mountains taking in the Piha Reserve which added Chestnut-capped Piha, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Lanceolated Monklet and Tody Motmot. We followed this with Las Tanagaras Reserve which produced an absolute avalanche of Choco endemic specialties including Black-and-gold Tanager, Munchique Wood Wren, Black Solitaire, Beautiful Jay and Tanager Finch.

After this we struck south to Rio Blanco where we took in the famous antpitta feeding stations enjoying point-blank views of Chestnut-crowned, Brown-banded, Bicolored and Slaty-crowned Antpittas. We followed this by climbing to the high point of the tour at 4000m on the spectacular Nevado del Ruiz volcano which hosted a whole suite of special hummers including Buffy Helmetcrest, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Black-thighed Puffleg. Our final stop in the central Andes produced perhaps the most memorable moment of the tour where we enjoyed a pair of hip-swivelling Hooded Antpittas. We then jumped on a plane and headed north to the Caribbean for another complete change of birds and scenery. We had a wonderful time in the Santa Marta Mountains adding as many birds with Santa Marta in the name as we could including Santa Marta Brush-Finch, Warbler, Mountain-Tanager, Antbird, Bush-Tyrant, Tapaculo and Foliage Gleaner. The tour finished with a wonderful finale birding in the arid scrub deserts of the Guajira Peninsula which held such charismatic species as Vermilion Cardinal, Orinoca Saltator and Tocuyo Sparrow.

Aside from the birding we found Colombia to be a clean and safe country and the locals to be warm and friendly wherever we went. We quickly adapted to the local custom of drinking hot chocolate for breakfast – often exactly what was needed at the start of another long day birding in the mountains!

CUBA IV
05 – 13 Feb 2016 by Dušan Brinkhuizen


Cuban Tody by Dusan Brinkhuizen

Zapata Wren by Dusan Brinkhuizen

Gundlach’s Hawk by Dusan Brinkhuizen
 
Cuba is special. The old town of Havana transports you back to the 1950s with its narrow streets, beautiful tall old architecture, colorful cars of yesteryear everywhere around you, the elderly smoking their cigars in tranquil parks, people dancing in the streets and Cuban live music almost everywhere you go. Just visiting this country is a unique experience in itself.

The birding on the island is simply fantastic. Cuba holds a good number of fancy endemics like the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird, as well as Cuban Tody, Blue-headed Quail-dove, and many Caribbean specialties. In addition, it’s a great place for North-American warblers and other migrants that spent the boreal winter in Cuba. In general, the birding is easy and photographic opportunities are great. Rockjumper’s Cuba IV tour was fantastic. We saw all the possible 27 endemics and 12 near-endemics plus many more island specialties. Two unforgettable highlights of the trip were the Zapata Wren and the Gundlach’s Hawk.

The Zapata Wren is one of Cuba’s toughest endemics. It is listed as Endangered and has a very local distribution restricted to only a few reed beds of the Zapata swamp. We tried for it at two different sites but only heard its song at the first. On our final morning we went straight to a known territory. Singing birds were heard in the distance but drawing the wren closer to us seemed like a long shot, especially since individuals must have been exposed to tape playback fairly frequently, as we were not the only group looking for it that day! We decided to join forces with the others and we waited patiently together, along a channel, for the wren to appear out of the reeds. The bird came a little closer a couple of times but after a few hours of waiting it seemed that it had lost its interest completely and our chances of seeing the wren had become very slim indeed. Some other groups left to search for other species but we decided to wait a little longer because it was now or never. Suddenly, the wren sang loudly and it sounded like it was coming right from the edge. We quickly moved towards the sound and within seconds we had a Zapata Wren in view. Persistence and patience had certainly paid off!

The Endangered Gundlach’s Hawk is a rare and enigmatic species. It is considered to be the trickiest Cuban endemic (excluding Zapata Rail, Cuban Kite and Ivory-billed Woodpecker) and it is often missed during bird tours. Since we had cleaned up all our target endemics, we had extra time to dedicate to a hawk search. We did a ‘big sit’ at a tactical viewpoint and just waited for one to fly by. We knew our chances were very slim but it was our only shot and worth a try. We carefully scoped the forested hillsides for raptors but the only large birds present were Turkey Vultures. At around 9:30 a flying bird that was slightly smaller than a Turkey Vulture was spotted in the distance and almost instantly we knew it had to be a Gundlach’s! Luckily the whole group managed to pick up the hawk quickly and, with the telescope, we were able to fully confirm its identification. The bird suddenly changed its flight direction and flew straight overhead which was an overwhelming treat!


La Selle Thrush by Dusan Brinkhuizen

Ashy-faced Owl by Dusan Brinkhuizen
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
14 – 21 Feb 2016 by Dušan Brinkhuizen

Dominican Republic is a fascinating country in the Caribbean and holds a great number of near endemics (including six endemic genera) found only on the island of Hispaniola (split between the Dominican Republic and Haiti). The national bird is the Palmchat, a unique species that has been placed in its own bird family, the Dulidae. Furthermore, the island has an impressive variety of range-restricted birds plus rare and localized boreal migrants like Bicknell’s Thrush. During our February Endemics of Hispaniola tour we visited different corners of the country at different elevations, successfully targeting endemics and other specialties. We managed to see all the possible 30 endemics and 8 near-endemics except for Hispaniolan Nightjar, which unfortunately remained heard-only.

Some of our ultimate highlights included (in no particular order): 1) Bay-breasted Cuckoo, which is a rare and endangered endemic found in the foothills of the Sierra de Bahoruco. After a lot of work and patience the entire group enjoyed views of this large and impressive cuckoo. 2) La Selle Thrush, which is another an endangered endemic with a very localized distribution in the highlands. Two adults were watched foraging on the jeep track. 3) Ashy-faced Owl which is a highly sought-after Tyto owl and quite different from the widespread Barn Owl. The group had excellent looks of an adult in the spotlight. 4) Ridgeway’s Hawk which is sadly a critically endangered endemic and amongst the rarest raptors in the world. Watching a male to female prey-transfer in the telescope was just amazing.

EASTERN SOUTH AFRICA II & WESTERN CAPE EXTENSION
12 – 26 Feb 2016 & 26 Feb – 03 Mar 2016 by Gareth Robbins


Leopard vs Warthog by Gareth Robbins

Carmine Bee-eater by Gareth Robbins
We could not have asked for a better start to the tour, seeing a wide variety of birds on the Zaagkuildrift Road near Bela-Bela, observing such delights as Shaft-tailed Whydah, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Violet-eared and Black-faced Waxbills, Icterine and Olive-tree Warblers and of course the magnificent Crimson-breasted Shrike. Our Kruger section of the tour was absolutely phenomenal with our first day in Kruger National Park producing five Lion on a Buffalo kill, a large Herd of African Elephants which crossed the road in front of us and two Leopard sightings, one of which included a Leopard catching a warthog, next to the side of the road! We continued to have fantastic Lion viewings and we saw a lovely male Cheetah on our last day. On the bird front we enjoyed large numbers of colorful rollers and bee-eaters including European, Lilac-breasted, Purple and Broad-billed Roller and European, Blue-cheeked, Little, White-fronted and the unforgettable Southern Carmine Bee-eater. We continued to have some great sightings in Wakkerstroom enjoying great views of the endemic Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks, while during our time in KwaZulu-Natal we had excellent views of Woodward’s Batis, Livingstone’s Turaco and a couple of lovely sightings of Pink-throated and Green Twinspot. In the Natal Midlands our highlights included the Blue Swallow, Orange Ground Thrush and a lovely pair of Wattled Cranes. Another trip highlight was our ascent up Sani Pass into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho where we were very fortunate to see Drakensberg Rockjumper, Bearded Vulture, Lanner Falcon and Gurney’s Sugarbird.

On our Cape Extension we had a lovely pelagic, seeing four species of albatross; Indian and Atlantic Yellow-nosed, Black-browed and Shy. With windy conditions in the Cape, we still managed to have some great sightings of Cape Sugarbird, Verreaux’s Eagle, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Spurfowl, and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds. In the Tankwa Karoo we were very fortunate to locate the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Pririt Batis, Namaqua Warbler, Karoo Eremomela as well as having plenty of views of the ever popular Rufous-eared Warbler.


Blackiston’s Fish Owl by David Hoddinott
JAPAN IN WINTER
27 January – 25 February 2016 by Erik Forsyth

We started off our Japan tour with a quickly put together plan for a day’s birding, as a few of our participants had arrived early in Narita. We headed to a “swan sanctuary” nearby where we found good numbers of Tundra Swans, smaller numbers of Whooper Swan and two pairs of “Whistling Swans”, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Rustic, Meadow and Common Reed Buntings. A Scaly Thrush was located at the nearby Shinshoji temple.

The following day we flew down to Amami where time spent at Kinsakubaru Forest yielded excellent sightings of the rare Amami Woodcock, Ryukyu Scops Owl, Gray Nightjar, several Japanese Wood and Whistling Green Pigeons showed very well, brief looks at Amami Thrush, many wintering Gray-faced Buzzards, the stunning Ryukyu Robin, Ryukyu Minivet and even the rare Amami Rabbit was seen. Three of the scarce Saunder’s Gulls were found at Ose Wetland. Next up was Okinawa where a cold front thwarted our best chances of seeing the Okinawa Rail. Although we heard several birds and glimpsed two, we had to contend with a cracking bird at the nature center. The rare and endangered Okinawa Woodpecker was tracked down and seen on three occasions, while we enjoyed great views of the colorful Lidth’s Jay, Ryukyu Robins and Ryukyu Minivets at a small forest near the airport. Our last stop was the Sankaku wetlands that produced both Eurasian and the much wanted Black-faced Spoonbill along with Pintail Snipe, Red-billed Starling and a Pied Avocet - a scarce visitor.

Hokkaido started with a bang with three Ural Owls at their day roosts. Thereafter we enjoyed a spectacle of a hundred or more Red-crowned Cranes dancing in fields at Tsurui, moving on to Rausu where our first magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagles were enjoyed as they flew over the harbor and roosted in numbers on the hillsides above town. Smaller numbers of White-tailed Eagles joined their oversized cousins. Our vigil, nightly, for Blakiston’s Fishing Owl, at a traditional site, was very exciting, although it turned into a stressful occasion as the birds did not appear after 5 hours on the first night and disaster struck on our second attempt as we were stopped by a snow storm. It was of great relief when we tried an “old site”, near Nemuro, close to dusk, that a bird started calling. After a short wait, a bird flew over the road into a nearby tree and was joined by a second bird allowing fabulous views. Our Osch-chi Nature Cruise boat trip gave us Spectacled Guillemots, Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks, Pacific Diver, White-winged Scoters and a tiny Least Auklet.

Karuizawa, the well-known ski-resort area west of Tokyo, was blanketed in snow and ice and made for treacherous walking but we eventually tracked down Japanese Accentor, Japanese Green Woodpecker and Japanese Grosbeak whilst two of us saw a female Copper Pheasant. Moving on to Nagano we enjoyed our walk to see the “Snow Monkeys” at their thermal pools in the mountains. In the Komatsu area, we followed up leads and found a spectacular Siberian Crane associating with three Hooded Cranes - the latter a regular but rare visitor. This area also held hundreds of Tundra Swans, Merlin and a bonus Japanese Quail. At Lake Katano Kama Ike we had great scope looks at the much sought after Baikal Teal, Smew and Mandarin Ducks, along with our first Tundra and Taiga Bean Geese. Arasaki produced huge spectacles of thousands of Hooded, White-naped, Sandhill and Common Cranes, Chinese Penduline Tit and at Yutshiro Harbour were 4 Black-faced Spoonbills and 15 Saunder’s Gulls. Lake Miike gave us fabulous close looks at three Gray Buntings, a wintering Forest Wagtail and Crested Kingfisher - much to everyone’s delight!

Our last stop of the tour was Hyuga Harbor where we finished with fantastic close looks at the endemic Japanese Murrelet alongside the boat; a fitting end to a truly fabulous and successful trip.


Egyptian Nightjar by Markus Lilje
MOROCCO
14 – 24 Feb by Markus Lilje

Our first 2016 Morocco tour was once again a massive success, with a large number of north-west African specials seen very well. In addition to the birding, this country also has some beautiful coastal, desert and mountain scenery, which we enjoyed while crossing some breath-taking passes, as well as savouring the local cuisine and passing through some fascinating settlements. We visit this country at the end of their winter to increase our chances of finding some special winter species as well as getting a few of the early migrants.

In the Atlas Mountains, we found African Crimson-winged Finch, White-throated Dipper, Short-toed Treecreeper, Alpine Accentor, Ringed Ouzel, Hawfinch, Brambling, Common Firecrest, the near-endemic Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Horned Lark and Water Pipit. Along the coast, the absolute highlight was seeing many Northern Bald Ibis, near the final two colonies that remain. Nearby we had Red-necked Nightjar, a number of Razorbill, Manx and Balearic Shearwaters, many different gulls including Audouin’s, Yellow-legged and Mediterranean as well as a variety of ducks and shorebirds and Pallid Harrier - scarce in Morocco. Heading inland to the drier parts of the country we then added many other target species. Some of the top species we found included Egyptian Nightjar, Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Red-rumped and Desert Wheatear, Black-bellied and Spotted Sandgrouse, the near-endemic Moussier’s Redstart, Cream-coloured Courser, the difficult Dupont’s, Bar-tailed, Thick-billed, Temminck’s, Maghreb, Lesser and Greater Short-toed and Greater Hoopoe-Larks, Brown-necked Raven, Tristram’s, Spectacled and African Desert Warbler and Desert Sparrow. Other sightings of note included scarce Marbled Duck, Streaked Scrub Warbler (now placed in its own monotypic bird family), Spotless Starling, Cetti’s Warbler, Bonelli’s Eagle, Common Crane, Black and hundreds of White Storks, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Eurasian Siskin, Little Owl, Woodchat Shrike, Cirl Bunting, African Blue Tit, Spanish Sparrow, Bluethroat and Greater Flamingo.


Arabian Partridge by Forrest Rowland


Akhdar Heart-toed Gecko by Forrest Rowland
OMAN AND UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
12 – 29 Jan 2016 by Forrest Rowland

Desert landscapes and habitats are amongst the most intriguing in the world. Squinting across vast expanses of red waves, the Aeolic dunes of Arabia, one cannot help but scratch one’s head and ask, “How can anything survive here?” Such is the mystery and fascination that drew us, once again, to the eastern end of Arabia – the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman are the most hospitable, enjoyable and stunningly beautiful places in the Middle East. Our last tour here, in January, was the most successful to date: more birds, more mammals, and more amazing reptiles than any tour in the past!

Of course, many of the species we encountered were found in the lush wadis of the Hajar Mountains, and monsoon-effected Dhofar region of southern Oman, rather than the bleak desert expanses of the Rub al-Khali. You know a tour’s off to a good start when Pharoah Eagle Owl is the first bird of the trip! Birding, and herping, around the Al Ain area was definitely a highlight of the trip. Sand and Arabian Partridge, Hume’s, Hooded, and Eastern Variable Wheatear, Plain Leaf and Eastern Orphean Warbler were among the avian highlights, while trolling up and down the amazing red dunes South of town in search of (and finding!) gorgeous Arabian Sand and Doria’s Comb-fingered Geckos was an unforgettable experience. The view from at Jabal Hafeet, alone, is worth getting there.

The Hajar Mountains of Oman are home to many recent discoveries, including Omani Owl and two new species of Geckos. Stellar encounters with Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Sykes’s Warbler, Asian Desert Warbler, Pallid Scops Owl, and the Omani Owl itself, all found at the base of the jagged, insanely steep, north slope of the high Hajars, came within the first 48 hours of setting foot in the Sultanate of Oman! Spending time in search of new territories for the Omani Owl, on the south slopes of the mountains, not only yielded up two new territories of the owl, but we had two counter-singing Streaked Scrub Warblers on either side of the track from us, one breeding-plumaged adult Menetrie’s Warbler in the ancient Tanuf ruins, and the critically endangered endemic Jabal Akhdar Heart-toed Gecko!

South across the vast Rub Al Khali, we made a stop en route at Barr Hikkman to enjoy Crab Plovers, Great Knot, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers, plus other species of shorebirds in the tens of thousands. We also spent a few nights in the depths of the stony deserts of the Rub al Khali, enjoying time with the Sand Gazelle and Arabian Oryx at the Ja’alunii Preserve, where we observed the amazing spectacle of 3 species of sandgrouse coming in droves to the water features, as well as displaying Greater Hoopoe-Larks and singing Bar-tailed Desert Larks! The biggest prizes of our time in the most remote section of the tour came from visiting a few lush oases and newly-established fodder farms. Naturally, these isolated spots being the only green in the endless browns, whites, and grays of the Empty Quarter, attract an incredible number of birds. Seeing nearly 40 kestrels hovering over one small, recently-cut field was incredible!!! Cream-coloured Coursers, Dunn’s Lark, Nile Valley Sunbird, and, the prize bird of any trip to Oman in winter, Gray Hypocolius, were complimented nicely with close views of Eurasian Scops Owl, Arabian Jackal, and charismatic denning Ruppell’s Sand Foxes.

We finished up our time in Arabia on the white sand shores of the Dhofar, in southern Oman. The low mountain range traps tropical Indian Ocean moisture in the form of mist, and some rain during monsoons. Baobab trees abound in the steep canyons, and there are some amazing birds here. Owling was fantastic, with cooperative Arabian Scops Owl, Arabian Spotted Eagle Owl, and Hume’s Owl all behaving very well. Palestine and Shining Sunbirds rank up there with African Paradise Flycatcher and Bruce’s Green Pigeon as the showiest, but Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak stole the show this year. We had three separate encounters with small flocks of this very enigmatic, often difficult species, including having a few coming down to drink right in front of us. Viewing 400+ eagles of 5 species soaring over Raysut, Masked Boobies and Persian Shearwaters cruising the nearshore waters off the stunning rocky cliffs near Janjari, and a surprise flock of dainty Trumpeter Finches foraging and singing in scenic Wadi Hashir all contributed to our sublime experience in Arabia.


Blue Pitta by Rich Lindie


Burmese Fireback by Markus Lilje
THAILAND I & SOUTHERN THAILAND EXTENSION
27 Feb – 15 Mar 2016 & 15 – 21 Mar 2016 by Erik Forsyth

A tense but excited group of birders arrived at Pak Thale, famous for its winter wader flocks. Within half an hour we were watching the target of our journey here, to the Gulf of Thailand, the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. We were relieved and happy to discover that this species still visits the area annually. Other great birds in this area included forty Nordmann’s Greenshanks, three hundred Eurasian Curlews, four Far Eastern Curlews, six Slender-billed Gulls and at a nearby beach we saw three Pallas’s Gulls, “White-faced” and Malaysian Plovers, the latter a newly described species!

Kaeng Krachan National Park, our next port of call, produced many highlights, including great views of Red-headed and Orange-breasted Trogon, Jerdon’s Baza, a stunning male Gray Peacock Pheasant, stunning Sultan Tits and the massive Great Slaty Woodpecker was also much enjoyed. A fruiting tree produced Great, Wreathed and Oriental Pied Hornbills as well as several White-handed Gibbons and Ratchet-tailed Treepie at its only site in Thailand. Khao Yai National Park was up next and we scored well here, with a male Silver Pheasant crossing the road, three Black-thighed Falconets, Banded, Black and Yellow and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Siberian Robin and the beautiful Blue Pitta watched for 10 minutes at point blank range! A visit to a nearby wetland gave us the highly desired Pheasant-tailed Jacana while a visit to a bat cave at dusk, where millions of bats were departing for their night’s feeding and preyed upon by Oriental Hobby, Gray-faced Buzzards, Shikra and Eastern Buzzards. A short visit to the woodlands of Sab Sadou produced the goods with Rufous-winged Buzzard, Brown Hawk Owl, Black-headed and huge White-bellied Woodpeckers, while a nearby reserve produced a stunning male Siamese Fireback.

From here we flew north to Chiang Mai and our first port of call was Doi Inthanon National Park. Our three days in this area produced an array of new birds including Speckled Wood Pigeons, Bar-throated Minlas, Blue-fronted Redstart, Mrs. Gould’s and Green-tailed Sunbirds, Pygmy Wren Babbler, White-browed Shortwing at the highest elevations, while dry woodlands at lower elevations gave us White-headed Bulbul, Collared Falconets, Savanna Nightjar and the stunning Black Baza. From here we headed to Doi Lang which lived up to its reputation as a fabulous birding area with Giant Nuthatch, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Crested Finchbill, three Mrs Hume’s Pheasant including two males having a territorial dispute, Spot-breasted and Gray-headed Parrotbills, Siberian Rubythroat and White-bellied Redstart while a family group of five sought after Himalayan Cutia showed really well. Doi Ang Khang was our last stop of the tour and we scored here with many very desirable birds including a pair of the much wanted Green Cochoa, seen down a precarious slope with our group hanging on to the vegetation so as not to tumble down the hill; an exhilarating but stressful highlight! No less impressive was the Rusty-naped Pitta seen at 10 meters, Rufous-bellied Niltava and brilliant looks at the glowing Scarlet-faced Liocichla.

This ended our mainland tour and we had done exceptionally well with the birds as well as enjoying good weather and having great fun as a group.

The southern extension got off to an amazing start with four owls in less than two days at the famous Khao Nor Chu Chi Forest Reserve. First we started off with scope looks at a Barred Eagle Owl, an adult and chick…wow! A short drive away and three Spotted Wood Owls were seen allowing fabulously good looks. Our third owl was a dream come true for most birders, Oriental Bay Owl on a day roost!!! We enjoyed fabulously close looks and managed great pics of the highly desired species. Our fourth owl was a Brown Wood Owl hooting one morning in the forest and we managed to locate it and set up a scope. This was not the last nocturnal bird as we managed brilliant looks at a Blyth’s Frogmouth, seen at close range. Other goodies at this forest were Golden-cheeked Barbet, Crow-billed Drongo, Long-billed, Grey-breasted and Purple-naped Spiderhunter, Green-backed Flycatcher and the electric green of the Green Broadbill was enjoyed at close range. A day visit to the Si Phra Nga National Park produced a few great birds and it wasn’t long before we were watching a stunning male Malaysian Banded Pitta, Chestnut–naped Forktail, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and a wintering Forest Wagtail. A delightful day tour to the Similan Islands gave us the stunning Nicobar Pigeon feeding on the ground and allowing close approach while Pied and Green Imperial Pigeons were seen in the surrounding forest.

Our final destination was Krabi Mangroves where a short boat tour produced Brown-winged Kingfisher, two adult and two juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagles and very close looks at a colorful Mangrove Pitta, calling just meters away!

FEEDBACK FROM OUR GUESTS

As a company, we strive to find the balance between great birding, quality, comfort and a fun and educational experience for our clients. So we are always pleased to know when we have got this right. We’d like to thank those participants who have taken the time to give us feedback and let us know how we are doing. Here are a few comments from our recent tours.

From our management team and office staff to our ground agents and leaders, we strive to provide our clients with the highest levels of satisfaction. While we aim to put together top-quality birding tours we also recognize the need for comfortable accommodation, good food, low participant to leader ratios and personable leaders with a wealth of knowledge and expertise to make your birding tour, the very best experience it can be. So we are always glad to hear when we have got this right and the recent number of fantastic comments about our leaders and staff are testament to what we have to offer. Here’s what some of our clients have to say about their tours:

CUBA - CARIBBEAN ENDEMICS I Feb 13-21, 2016
“This was an excellent trip. I couldn’t have written a better story. Our guide, Chris Sharpe was knowledgeable in birds and other scientific topics. He was very keen on details of our arrangements and itinerary, keeping our time productive and enjoyable. He had a very pleasant demeanor, was enthusiastic about the birds we were searching for, and was a good story teller, which helped make the whole experience a lot of fun.

The other tour members were all very nice people, considerate and interesting in their own life experiences. It was a good group and I enjoyed everyone. I can’t say enough good things about the local guides we used during the trip. They had exceptional field skills and their ability to get to the birds we wanted was extremely valuable. In the end it was the fact that we saw the endemics and targeted specialties we hoped to find that made this trip one of my best ever. An all-round exceptionally good time.” JP

JAPAN IN WINTER Feb 8-25, 2016
“Having a guide like Bryan, who is fluent in Japanese, was absolutely essential given the very, very limited knowledge of English by most of the hotel, restaurant, and convenience store staff. Both Bryan and Erik Forsyth are excellent birders, knowledgeable and also attentive to helping everyone locate the birds in question.” BB

ETHIOPIA BUDGET BIRDING Feb 23-Mar 6, 2016
“David Hoddinott’s knowledge of the birds and sites on this route was comprehensive and his ability to find target species was amazing. He was very good at getting everyone on to the birds, and he consistently pointed out field marks and behavior to watch for, and sundry interesting points of the critters’ biology, considerably enhancing the experience. His handling of logistics was excellent; he had a tight schedule very well planned to maximize good sightings and he kept everyone to it, making for a very successful trip. And he was great company. Kudos all around.” KH

ECUADOR - BIRDING THE ANDES TO THE AMAZON Apr 3-18, 2015
“Janette and I had a truly wonderful Ecuadorian experience and were in awe of our guide (Forrest’s) field skills. In addition, he possessed the rare combination of great organizational and people skills that gelled the whole group together from day one. We certainly plan to join future tours led by Forrest [Rowland].” JR & JR

HONDURAS Dec 11-19, 2015
“Having known Chris [Sharpe] for many years, we knew this was going to be a great tour. And it was. The Honduran tour is good in that there are basically only 2 different destinations, making one feel like you are putting down roots. Chris is personable with a delightful sense of humor. One always feels comfortable around him. He takes excellent care of his birders (clients) by ensuring them what the daily plan is, where we are going and why. His birding skills are beyond excellent. He makes sure everyone sees the bird, if possible, explaining what we’re looking for and where. His ability to provide directions is a skill that goes a long way to making the bird spotting pleasurable and possible. Chris’s keen hearing ensures that birds that aren’t being seen have the potential to be called into view. Rockjumper is fortunate to employ Chris, an extraordinary individual. We look forward to traveling with Chris in the future.” JM & MW

And not forgetting our office staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our clients’ every needs are met:

HONDURAS Dec 11-19, 2015
“Communications were always answered promptly and thoroughly.” JM & MW

CHILE - BIRDS, WILDLIFE & ANDEAN LANDSCAPES WITH ARICA EXTENSION Nov 27-Dec 14, 2015
“I really appreciated the rapid email responses to all my many enquiries regarding the tour.” CI

CHILE - BIRDS, WILDLIFE & ANDEAN LANDSCAPES WITH ARICA EXTENSION Nov 27-Dec 14, 2015
“I had a lot of questions and special requests, and, as always, the support staff dealt with these promptly and graciously.” RL


TOP 10 SIGHTINGS
Our tour leaders not only visit some impressive destinations but their proficiency, competence and sheer knack for spotting both birds and mammals means that our clients have the opportunity to enjoy some memorable birding moments. Here, we have shared just a handful of some of these top sightings with you.
UNIDENTIFIED BEE-EATER
David Hoddinott in Ethiopia



We found four of these bee-eaters with a Blue-breasted Bee-eater en route to Bishangari at Lake Langano. Markus Lilje and Wayne Jones first photographed this very strange bird at this site in early 2013 recording one bird, while Wayne subsequently recorded three birds in March 2013 and a further three birds in February 2014. The birds are of similar size to the Blue-breasted Bee-eater and could potentially be a hybrid. Whatever they are, they are definitely worth investigating!

BEE HUMMINGBIRD
Dušan Brinkhuizen in Cuba



The tiny Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world and a highly sought-after Cuban endemic. It was voted for as Number 1 bird of the trip during the recent Cuba IV Rockjumper tour. A crisp adult male was observed for a prolonged time, while singing and foraging, sometimes at a very close range!

GRAY HYPOCOLIUS
Adam Riley in Western India



The Gray Hypocolius represents one of the world’s monotypic bird families and is thus highly sought-after by those birders trying to see a representative of every avian family. The fact that this species breeds in remote parts of central Asia and winters mostly in Arabia doesn’t make matters much easier. Rockjumper’s founder Adam was down to just 3 remaining bird families when he did a tour of western India and fortunately, the very most western region of Gujarat, close to the Pakistan border, happens to also be the very easternmost wintering range of this unusual bird. A predawn start had us at the site where a local guide took us around fields separated by fruiting bushes favored by the Hypocolius. Tensions were running high when none could be located, but suddenly one appeared, then another and over the next half an hour, at least 30, all feverishly gorging on berries for a few minutes before seemingly disappearing into thin air. Adam now just needs Plainswanderer and cassowary in Australia….

RODRIGUES FODY
Rich Lindie in Rodrigues



On a recent scouting trip to Rodrigues Island, in preparation for planned upcoming tours to several of the Indian Ocean islands, I had the pleasure of watching these great birds displaying in complete peace - something quite rare now, with all the habitat destruction taking place on the island. Seen by very few birders and a very attractive variation on the fody theme, I enjoyed snapping several photos for almost two hours!
HODGSON’S FROGMOUTH
David Erterius



On a recent tour to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, remote northeast India, one of our most memorable encounters would have to go to the bizarre Hodgson’s Frogmouth.

Of the world’s 16 species of frogmouth, this is a rare species found in subtropical evergreen forest on foothills in northeast India and Myanmar, extreme south China and further east to northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and also occasionally in Bangladesh. Birding at the lower elevations in the late afternoon, we decided to await dusk and try for this sought-after bird. On our first attempt at around 1000 meters, nothing was calling, so we carried on a little further and tried another spot. We had been waiting with bated breath, when all of a sudden, the distinctive of a Frogmouth was heard at close quarters and… there it was!!! Right in the beam of the flashlight! We all watched in awe, ending up with views down to a few meters! What a thrill!

LONG-BILLED THRUSH
Wayne Jones in Northern India



We were in the Ramnagar area of Northern India, on a private tour in February, when our jeep drivers excitedly called us over. This is one of the better areas to seek out Long-billed Thrush and they’d found one alongside a forest stream. We all had great looks at this odd, short-tailed thrush with its over-sized (and frankly kind of creepy-looking) bill. A few days later we were lucky to enjoy even better views when another individual was spotted near Sattal.

WHITE-WINGED DUCK
Glen Valentine in Northeast India



On a recent trip to Nameri National Park in Northeast India David Erterius and I were fortunate to see one of Asia’s rarest birds, the endangered White-winged Duck. Nameri is one of the last remaining strongholds for this rare and declining species but a trip to the reserve by no means guarantees a sighting of this special bird.

On our first morning in the park we immediately struck out for the “duck site”, a small, secluded pond deep within Nameri’s beautiful, untouched forests. The birding along the way was superb and added a major distraction to the task at hand but we managed to bird the flocks and pick out some great species while still reaching the duck site by mid-morning. Our pace slowed down to a crawl as soon as we reached the pond and we began diligently scanning for a large goose-like duck. No luck! We edged forward, still scanning intently and trying not to break a single leaf or twig for this species is usually ridiculously shy and timid. Soon we reached the end of the small pond when suddenly John exclaimed that he had “the bird”. He did indeed, as perched no more than eighty yards away, was a male White-winged Duck sitting on a large limb, over-hanging the pond, fairly high up off the ground. Sensational! We scoped this mega-rarity at length and the photographers managed to snap superb photos of this rarely seen and very seldom photographed species before eventually leaving the duck to preen in peace.  



EGYPTIAN PLOVER
Markus Lilje in Ghana



During our tours in Ghana, we target Egyptian Plover near the Burkina Faso border. Being the only member of its family, this species has become highly sought-after as more people are interested in targeting bird families. In this area, the birds are quite used to seeing people as many locals are always busy in the area, although they tend to keep their distance as soon as any attention is given to them. This particular bird seemed totally unconcerned though, as we lay down close the Volta River to enjoy the sighting! Typically these birds occur on sandbars along larger rivers but since the Nile was dammed in southern Egypt, it no longer occurs in its namesake country at all. Surely one of the most distinctive and stunning shorebirds around!

AFRICAN WILD DOG
Heinz Ortmann in South Africa

Photo by Magnus Jäderblad

Whilst on a recent private tour through the Eastern parts of South Africa our group had the privilege of having an incredible sighting of a pack of fifteen African Wild Dogs in Kruger National Park. It had been a long day of travelling from the central region of the park to our next camp in the south at Skukuza. With about 1 km to go before we reached camp, we decided to make use of the final hour and a half before the gates close to explore an area south of Skukuza. Less than a kilometer down the road we were greeted by a spectacular sight; a group of Wild Dogs being trailed by two safari vehicles as they made their way towards us! This is an image that will stick in our minds for a long time. The pack comprised of eight adults and seven pups and represented a significant portion of the less than 400 dogs remaining in South Africa. Some of the adults passed within just a few meters of our vehicle rendering us speechless at this chance encounter.

What was to follow was an unforgettable half hour watching these incredible animals on the hunt. Whilst the adults did the hard work, and we watched keenly as they twice chased Impala across the road, the pups either lay in the road or walked slowly along waiting for their meal. This behavior allowed my guests the chance to take some great photographs and also observe one of Africa’s most critically endangered mammals at close quarters! At one point the dogs were less than 500 m from the entrance gate to Skukuza camp and all the while seemed unperturbed by the presence of an increasing number of vehicles. Unfortunately, due to the dense vegetation we were unable to see the kill take place but did have wonderful views as two of the adults returned and provided the pups with some fresh red meat to appease their appetites. The dogs moved off into the denser bush away from the road and we returned to camp having experienced something incredible with memories that will not be forgotten!

RIDGEWAY’S HAWK
Dušan Brinkhuizen in Dominican Republic



The critically endangered Ridgeway’s Hawk is one of the rarest raptors in the world. This Hispaniolan bird was once widespread on the island but is sadly now extinct in Haiti. A small population still survives in Dominican Republic where a few pairs are being protected by locals with the help of eco-tourism. We had a male flying overhead with an anole lizard in its talons. Through the scope, we witnessed the male-female prey transfer which was a truly spectacular sight.



  
PODCAST INTERVIEW ON CLIFFCENTRAL WITH HEINZ ORTMANN

We had the privilege of being interviewed this month by Ainsley Hay on Animal Central, a division of CliffCentral. Have a listen to her chat with Heinz Ortmann about Rockjumper, birding technicalities, and the ins and outs of our tours here.






 





PAGES TO KEEP YOUR EYE ON
We are often asked if we have any last minute tours, last minute deals or whether our tours are guaranteed for departure. For ease of access, we have compiled answers to these questions to facilitate your search without having to wait for someone to get back to you. So don’t forget to bookmark these important links!

SPECIAL OFFERS
From time to time we have some great specials; don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy any of our featured offers. If one of our featured destinations is on your bucket list, these specials may offer just the kind of break you need! Click here for further details.

LAST MINUTE TOURS
Feeling spontaneous? Looking for a last minute birding adventure? Click here to find out more about our upcoming tours for the month ahead. If something grabs your fancy, let us know and our friendly and efficient support team will gladly assist you!

GUARANTEED DEPARTURES
Concerned about whether or not a tour is guaranteed for departure? Put your fears to rest and bookmark this handy page which will give you the most up-to-date information on all our scheduled departures, any time, any day, and anywhere!

A SELECTION OF SOME OF OUR UPCOMING 2016 TOURS
With years of experience, a talented group of birding tour leaders and dedicated office team, we now offer over 300 tours to 100 of the world’s most productive birding destinations, all carefully designed to ensure that our clients enjoy the world’s finest birding. Whether you are relatively new to birding and are looking to find the highlights of a new area or you’re an experienced birder looking to add that elusive bogey bird to your list, we’re here to help. Coming up, we have some exciting tours on offer including Best of South Africa – Cape and Kruger II, Northern Peru, Western Ecuador, Best of China – Tibetan Plateau & Beidhaie, Northern Argentina Comprehensive Birding, Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls Overland VI, Guyana - Birds & Wildlife, Ghana Mega Birding Tour I, Madagascar Comprehensive III, Sri Lanka - Endemic Birds & Big Game III, Australia’s East and Southeast and Brazil’s Atlantic Coastal Forest II!


Marvelous Spatuletail by Dubi Shapiro
NORTHERN PERU - MARAÑÓN ENDEMICS & MARVELOUS SPATULETAIL
Tour Dates: 04 - 25 Sep 2016 (22 days), Tour Price: USD5,550

Marvelous Spatuletail, Long-whiskered Owlet, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, 4 endemic Antpittas, Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant and possibly the Spectacled Bear – these are just a few of the highly sought-after species we’ll be looking for at only one of the premier Peru birding sites we visit on our comprehensive Northern Peru Endemic Birding Tour!

Starting on the dry coastal scrub at Chaparri, we will bird the best sites for the vast myriad of endemic and special species of the Tumbesian region, before continuing into the heart of the Marañón Valley. Here we will seek out the whole suite of Marañón endemics before heading to the depths of this famous valley to the highlands of Abra Patricia. We descend the Eastern Andes, traversing an endemic-rich strata of habitats as we go, ending the tour passing back across the Marañón drainage to Cajamarca. The chance to see 700+ species is a testament to how incredibly diverse and rich the east slope of the Andes actually is.



Przevalski’s Finch by Glen Valentine
BEST OF CHINA - TIBETAN PLATEAU & BEIDAIHE
Tour Dates: 30 Sep - 19 Oct 2016 (20 days), Tour Price: CNY37,500 USD5,830

China is a vast land of remarkable diversity and brilliant birds. By combining the Tibetan Plateau and the spectacular natural phenomenon of China’s east coast migration, this birding tour showcases two of China’s finest and most rewarding birdwatching hotspots. In Qinghai we will explore some of the most pristine and remote regions of China where we will enjoy birding this forgotten land for sought-after breeding residents and northern migrants that pass through in good numbers. Next, with the migration at its peak in October along China’s eastern coast, there is no better place to experience this incredible natural gathering of eastern Palearctic migrants than on Happy Island. We then end the tour marveling at one of the new 7 Wonders of the World with a visit to the Great Wall of China. Fascinating cultures, dramatic and breath-taking landscapes, plus a bounty of exceptional birds all make for one of the most rewarding birding experiences that Asia has to offer! Some of these top birds include Blue Eared Pheasant, Chinese Grouse, Black-necked Crane, and Przevalski’s Finch.



Red-tailed Comet by Dubi Shapiro
NORTHERN ARGENTINA COMPREHENSIVE BIRDING TOUR
Tour Dates: 27 Sep - 17 Oct 2016 (21 days), Tour Price: USD6,550

Our tour kicks off in the seldom-explored northwest Argentina, a haven of endemicity that provides the avid birder with a selection of little-known, range-restricted species along with some of the finest scenery in all Argentina.

We continue across the rarely-visited Gran Chaco of north central Argentina before settling in for some remarkable wetland birding on the Esteros del Iberá, one of the largest marshland ecosystems in the country. Continuing into the province of Misiones to search the last remnants of San Pedro’s native Araucaria forest, we conclude the tour at one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world, the gargantuan Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazú Falls).

Amongst the many fine birds we will specifically target are such desirable and localized species as Rufous-throated Dipper, Tucuman Mountain Finch, Tucuman Amazon, White-throated Cacholote, Strange-tailed Tyrant, Yellow Cardinal, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Black-fronted Piping Guan, Helmeted Woodpecker, spectacular Andean Condor, exquisite Red-tailed Comet, and the extraordinary Lyre-tailed Nightjar.



Rockrunner by Adam Riley
NAMIBIA, OKAVANGO & VICTORIA FALLS OVERLAND VI
Tour Dates: 15 Oct - 01 Nov 2016 (18 days), Tour Price: ZAR89,500

Our popular Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls overland safari visits some of the major highlights of three of Africa’s most remarkable countries. From the Okavango Panhandle to the Namib Desert, Victoria Falls, Etosha National Park and Walvis Bay, this tour provides incredible contrasts and an eco-tourism experience like no other. Birdlife abounds and we target many localized as well as more widespread African species, including Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Ludwig’s Bustard, Rüppell’s Korhaan, Secretarybird, Pel’s Fishing Owl (one of ten possible owls!), Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, the huge Coppery-tailed Coucal, Rüppell’s Parrot, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Rockrunner, Violet Wood Hoopoe, Bare-cheeked and Black-faced Babbler, Rosy-faced Lovebird, White-tailed Shrike, Herero Chat, Dune and Gray’s Lark, Violet-eared Waxbill, Southern Africa’s largest breeding colony of magnificent Southern Carmine Bee-eaters – and so much more!

We aim to see an exciting array of African big game, including the “Big 5”. Spectacular and dramatic scenery, coupled with quality mammal viewing and exceptional birding, all combine to make this one of our most popular adventures!


Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock by Rich Lindie
GUYANA - BIRDS & WILDLIFE
Tour Dates: 23 Oct - 3 Nov 2016 (12 days), Tour Price: USD5,275

Guyana, a small English-speaking South American country nestled on the Atlantic Coast east of Venezuela, is fast becoming recognized as one of South America’s top birding and wildlife destinations. Due to a tiny population and an incredibly high proportion of undisturbed habitat, Guyana hosts some of the last relatively unexplored wildernesses on Earth. A variety of pristine ecosystems occur here, from lowland rainforests that stretch as far as the eye can see, to the savannas and waterways of the famed Rupununi region, not to mention the dramatic Kaieteur Falls (one of the world’s highest single-drop waterfalls), all of which ensures that this magical destination has something to offer every birder and nature enthusiast.

Locations we visit include Iwokrama, Atta and Surama Lodges and the Karanambu Ranch. Here we search for Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Scarlet Ibis, Guianan Red Cotinga, Capuchinbird and both Crested and Harpy Eagle, among many birding highlights that can be anticipated. Mammals form a major emphasis of this tour and we can expect species ranging from the amazing Giant Anteater to Giant River Otter and chances for Jaguar.



Australian King Parrot by Adam Riley
AUSTRALIA’S EAST AND SOUTHEAST
Tour Dates: 01 - 18 Nov 2016 (18 days), Tour Price: AUD10,735

During this exciting Australia birding tour we will cover an incredible range of habitats traveling across the eastern portion of the country, including lush expanses of dense tropical rainforest to the dry endless stretches of the desolate outback. As a consequence of these varied biomes, our combined birding and wildlife Australian safari adventure will see us encounter a fantastic collection of endemic birds and incredible mammals, most of which occur nowhere else on our planet!

We will commence our tour in northern Queensland in search of Victoria’s Riflebird from the bird-of-paradise family, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, rare Golden Bowerbird, Beach Stone-curlew, and the outrageous Southern Cassowary! We continue to the world-famous Lamington NP in search of highlights which may include the Superb Lyrebird, Australian King Parrots and the strikingly plumaged Regent Bowerbird. Flying south, we stop in at Sydney for a pelagic trip, before birding into the interior for several dry-country species, including the strange Plainswanderer, endangered Regent Honeyeater, and colorful parrots including Galah, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and Long-billed Corella!



Schlegel's Asity by Glen Valentine
MADAGASCAR COMPREHENSIVE III
Tour Dates: 03 - 24 Nov 2016 (22 days), Tour Price: USD7,750

This highly recommended tour begins in the deciduous woodlands of the northwest of this remarkable island. We continue through the bird-rich sites of Perinet and Mantadia National Park in the eastern rainforest zone. We travel south via the Isalo NP and Zombitse Forest to the Spiny Desert around Ifaty with its twisted baobabs and spiny pinnacles and endemics. We visit the specialized coral rag scrub of the southwest, home to the recently discovered Red-shouldered Vanga. Our final days are spent enjoying the natural riches of Berenty, the most famous of Madagascar’s lemur reserves!

Highlights include White-breasted Mesite, Schlegel’s Asity, Van Dam’s Vanga, Madagascar Fish Eagle, Bernier’s Teal, Madagascar Sacred Ibis, Madagascar Ibis, Madagascar Wood Rail, Red-breasted Coua, Velvet Asity, Nuthatch Vanga and Brown Emutail. Other targets include Long-tailed Ground Roller, Sub-desert Mesite, Madagascar Plover, Thamnornis and Sickle-billed Vanga. We will look for Indri, Golden and Greater Bamboo Lemurs and other primitive mammals as well as chameleons, cryptic leaf-tailed geckos and other bizarre reptiles, amphibians and insects!

Join us for a truly comprehensive birding and wildlife tour of this otherworldly land!



Swallow-tailed Cotinga by Adam Riley
BRAZIL’S ATLANTIC COASTAL FOREST II
Tour Dates: 13 - 20 Nov 2016 (8 days), Tour Price: GBP1,375

Throughout this tour we will be based at a comfortable and beautifully located eco-lodge, situated in the 57,000 hectare Tres Picos State Park only a relatively short distance from Rio de Janeiro. We explore the numerous mosaics of trails around the lodge grounds and take short drives to explore several other habitats and elevations surrounding the reserve as well as visiting the nearby Serra Dos Orgaos National Park that holds a number of special birds.

Some of the avian gems include Three-toed Jacamar, spectacular Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Saffron Toucanet, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Saw-billed Hermit, Black-billed Scythebill, Giant & White-bearded Antshrike, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Shrike-like and Black-and-gold Cotinga, and the beautiful Brazilian Tanager. Fruit trays and hummingbird-feeders placed throughout the grounds attract a variety of parakeets, hummingbirds and tanagers and photographic opportunities are excellent. Is this description accurate for the new venue of the lodge?

This tour captures the best of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest endemic bird species, and after a week of birding you can expect to have seen up to 250 bird species, including 70 endemics!



Sri Lankan Blue Magpie by Markus Lilje
SRI LANKA - ENDEMIC BIRDS & BIG GAME III
Tour Dates: 22 Nov - 02 Dec 2016 (11 days), Tour Price: USD2,950

Our Sri Lanka birding and wildlife tour takes us to without doubt one of the world’s most pleasurable birdwatching and game viewing destinations. This friendly island nation boasts verdant scenery, characterized by terraced tea plantations and forest patches, and is blessed with many surprisingly large national parks brimming with game and birds. Top birds on our target list include such specials as Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Indian Pitta, Kashmir Flycatcher, and the Red-faced Malkoha. These attractions, coupled with a fascinating history and vibrant culture, make this a truly exotic destination and a pleasure to explore. From the central highlands to the rich lowland rainforests, Sri Lanka is one of only a handful of magical destinations where it is possible to see every single country endemic in a well-planned trip such as this, making this extension a ‘must’ for the keen birder!



FLOCK AT SEA

 
Date: April 24-28, 2017
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Every year the MSC Sinfonia heads to the Cape for its regular cruising schedule; however, in 2017 Birdlife South Africa have come up with a different cruising opportunity that has attracted birders from all over the world. This unique five day pelagic heads out into the deep ocean to the south-east of Cape Town, to an area known as the Agulhas Bank. This area harbors nutrient rich waters that are critical to the region’s general biodiversity.

The birding opportunities are fabulous from a pelagic point of view and could include an incredible 10 species of albatross from the magnificent Wandering to the sought-after Sooty, 12 species of petrel including both giant petrels and the endangered Spectacled, 6 species of shearwater including Little and Flesh-footed, 7 species of storm petrel with good chances for Black-bellied, White-faced and European plus a suite of other species from gulls, terns, cormorants, gannets, skuas and prions. We expect the pelagic list to go beyond 40 species, which is rather phenomenal for a five day cruise. Rockjumper will also have 12 guides on board the vessel so come and join Adam, David, Keith, Glen, Rich, Wayne, Clayton, Heinz, Greg, Gareth, Andre and Mark for what is bound to be an exceptionally fun and exciting cruise.

Rockjumper are also pleased to announce that we have put together a suite of tours that have been specially crafted around the Flock at Sea dates. This provides a great opportunity for those who are considering joining the event and would like to tag on some additional land-based birding during their time in South Africa. Tours that can be selected include our extremely popular Comprehensive South Africa tour, which consists of two parts: A Western Cape Extension taking in the very best sites through the Cape where highlights include Cape Rockjumper, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Southern Black Korhaan and Black Harrier. The second leg of this tour is 2 weeks in length and includes sites such as Kruger where big game abounds, Wakkerstroom for upland grassland species including Southern Bald Ibis, Blue Crane, Blue Korhaan and the endangered Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks. The tour will also take in Mkuze Game Reserve where headline species include Pink-throated Twinspot, Gorgeous Bushshrike and African Broadbill, before we head further down the coast to St Lucia for additional specials such as Woodward’s Batis, Southern Banded Snake Eagle and Livingstone’s Turaco. Our tour then finishes off in the foothills and high mountains of the Drakensberg where we aim to find Drakensberg Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Parrot, Wattled Crane and Bush Blackcap amongst many others. We have two of these fabulous tours scheduled (one before and another after the Flock at Sea dates) which are limited to only 6 participants with a Rockjumper guide.

Another fabulous option is our Cape and Kruger combination. This tour is only 10 days long and gives visitors to the country an opportunity to focus on two of the country’s most talked about regions – the fair Cape and game-filled Kruger. We are also offering a 4 day extension that takes in the mighty Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River and Chobe National Park. Besides the falls themselves, which will be in all their glory in April, highlights here are bound to include Schalow’s Turaco, Collared Palm Thrush, Brown Firefinch, Slaty Egret, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah and Orange-winged Pytilia while the game viewing is simply extraordinary. We will no doubt have magnificent views of African Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus and stately Giraffe while Lion, Leopard and African Wild Dog are also regularly sighted.

Our final South African offering is a tour through the beautiful Garden Route. This region lies to the east of Cape Town and includes sites such as Swellendam, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Addo Elephant National Park. Here we will target a wonderful section of endemic birds in the forest and fynbos habitats along the coast while also enjoying the wildlife spectacle in Addo Elephant National Park where, as the name suggests, African Elephant thrive. Other highlights here could include Lion, Leopard and Cheetah with a bit of luck.

Further afield we also have fabulous tours heading through Kenya & Tanzania and Cameroon that can be linked up with the Flock at Sea event.

Tours around Flock at Sea: Start Date End Date
Eastern South Africa IV 04 Apr 18 Apr
Cape Extension IV 18 Apr 23 Apr
Eastern South Africa V 04 May 18 May
Cape Extension V 29 Apr 04 May
Best of South Africa - Cape & Kruger I 13 Apr 23 Apr
Victoria Falls Extension I 10 Apr 13 Apr
South Africa’s Garden Route 29 Apr 07 May
Cameroon - Northern Extension 01 Apr 10 Apr
Cameroon - Rainforest & Rockfowls 10 Apr 22 Apr
Kenya & Tanzania - Birds & Big Game I 04 Apr 21 Apr
Wandering Albatross by Markus Lilje
 
About the Ship:
With its impressive array of new features and facilities, the MSC Sinfonia is now even better equipped to satisfy every need. They’ve added spacious new cabins with balconies to delight our guests with superb panoramic views, enlarged the restaurant and buffet areas to serve up a great variety of culinary treats, and included a new 319 square meter area to fill with music and dancing. With the help of prestigious partners like Chicco, LEGO® and Namco®, they’ve created fabulous new play areas for children of all ages, starting with an exciting spray park packed with fun water features. Additionally, the ship has enhanced the lavish MSC Aurea Spa with more space for massages.

Prices and Booking:
Prices and booking details can be found over here. Please note that prices are dependent on availability. Alternatively, feel free to e-mail info@rockjumperbirding.com where Crystal will be happy to assist.

 
NEW BLOG POSTS
Other than the elation of finally aiming your binoculars at your quarry, one of the most exciting aspects of birding is the preparation and planning that goes into finding those sought-after species! No matter what stage of birding you’re at, there is always more information to be gleaned, experiences to be shared and tips and tricks to help you find your target. We have put together a selection of blog posts filled with useful tips, wonderful photographs and a wealth of information!

BIRD TOUR ESSENTIALS – PACKING FOR YOUR TRIP BY WAYNE JONES

As you can well imagine, our tour leaders are on the road (or in the air) fairly frequently and have learned the art of what to pack and how to survive when they are far from home and very often, far from any basic amenities. Wayne Jones has compiled a list of things he’d recommend you take along with you. Some of these items may seem obvious but you’d just as soon not leave home without them and then there are a few unexpected items that you might want to consider adding to your own packing lists. Click here to make sure you have everything you need! Read More

BOGEY BIRD BY FORREST ROWLAND

Many of our birders will know what it is like to target an ever-elusive bird that, no matter how great their efforts, just won’t show itself to them. And for those of you who have not yet found yourself in this situation, count yourselves most fortunate! In his blog, Forrest Rowland describes his efforts to track down and tick his Bogey Bird which proved to be quite a challenge! Read More

NEWS FROM RECENT EVENTS
GODWIT DAYS

More than 600 registrants enjoyed the 21st annual, and largest ever, Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival, which took place 13-17 April in Arcata, California. This event took place where Pacific Ocean meets groves of Redwood trees, the tallest trees in the world, in northern California. Rockjumper representative Ric Zarwell, and his wife Betty, met with scores of enthusiastic birders, wildlife lovers, and nature photographers during this event, and distributed 223 Rockjumper catalogs.


Ric Zarwell and Mr. & Mrs. Schumaker

Ric Zarwell and Dan Ehresman
 
UPCOMING EVENTS
With a growing interest in the environment, birding and wildlife, the general public can now find out more about Rockjumper and what we have on offer at a number of fantastic fairs and events. Watch out for events that are nearest to you and diarize the date so you can come and enjoy what’s on offer as well as chat to members of our team. We look forward to meeting you!


BRITISH BIRDWATCHING FAIR
Date: August, 19-21, 2016
Location: Egleton, Rutland


Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the birdwatching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation. A wide range of fantastic conservation projects have been supported by Birdfair. So, if you’re into birds and wildlife, this is the British event of the year!

There are hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts. You’ll find everything, from scopes to sculptures, binoculars to bird food, eGuides to eco-holidays! The folks at Birdfair are busy planning a long list of events and lectures for you to enjoy including presentations from our very own Adam Riley and Keith Valentine, along with many other keynote speakers. With 6 event locations, all running full programmes throughout the fair’s duration, there is something for everyone to get excited about. For more information click here.


AMERICAN BIRDING EXPO
Date: September 16-18, 2016
Location: Columbus, Ohio


The American Birding Expo is a retail-sales-oriented showcase of products for birders and nature enthusiasts. Exhibitors from around the world, representing all aspects of the birding and nature market, will be there to present and offer their products, goods, and services.

The Expo is the largest and most diverse shopping experience available to bird watchers in North America. It is free and open to the public, though attendees who preregister enjoy the added benefits of being VIPs. A portion of the proceeds from the Expo, generated by sponsorships, raffles and games, and voluntary contributions, will be earmarked for three distinct conservation projects at local, national, and international levels. Be there, September 16-18, 2016.

You are welcome to join key members of the Rockjumper Birding Tours team at the FeatherFest. Please come along to pick up a complimentary tour catalogue and chat to our team. For more information visit the official website.


HAWAII ISLAND BIRDING FESTIVAL
Date: September 24-25, 2016
Location: Hawaii Island


The Hawaii Island Coast to Coast Birding Trails (HICCBT) and Hawaii Island Birding Festival are being planned by a dedicated group of volunteers who work in tourism, planning and environmental services. Over the next few months content will be added weekly as planning makes progress.

HBT’s mission is to inspire awareness, understanding, and protection of Hawaii Island’s natural heritage by broadening Hawaii Island’s brand as a birding and eco-tour destination beyond ocean and volcano based activities. They aim to provide focus and incentive for west side residents and travelers to explore the less frequented east side, and encourage east side residents and travelers to explore the west side. For more information, check out the website.


WFO FORTUNA CONFERENCE
Date: September 28 to October 2, 2016
Location: Humboldt County, California


Each year WFO holds a multi-day conference with scientific papers, field trips, workshops, panels, a keynote address, the annual membership meeting, and other events. The location varies each year as WFO attempts to span its region of coverage while also making its conferences accessible to the bulk of its members.

Having just concluded a very successful 40th WFO conference in Billings MT, WFO is now heading to Humboldt County for the 41st conference. The location will be the Fortuna River Lodge Conference Center and surrounding motels. See highlights from previous years on the website.

RECOMMENDED READING
AFRICAN BIRDLIFE MAGAZINE GOES DIGITAL

In an age where the world is becoming more environmentally friendly and companies are aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, its fantastic that BirdLife South Africa’s popular ‘African Birdlife’ magazine is now available in digital format. This bi-monthly magazine offers its readers insight into birding and birdwatching in Africa. Included in their features is information about bird conservation, photographic tips, equipment reviews and competitions with great prizes, as well as advocating for BirdLife South Africa and their conservation and research initiatives.

This highly recommended, world-class magazine is now expanding its subscriber base to include a more international audience. So for those of you living abroad, you no longer have to miss out! For further details or to subscribe to this high-quality publication click here.

THE SOUTH AFRICA RED DATA BIRD BOOK

We would like to highlight BirdLife South Africa’s publication of the '2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland'. This landmark book is an updated and peer-reviewed conservation status assessment of the 854 bird species observable in South Africa, the Prince Edward Islands, Lesotho and Swaziland (of which 132 species are considered threatened.) The Red List determines the relative likelihood for the extinction of each species, while also acting as a stepping stone for prioritising the conservation efforts necessary to save these bird species.

To request an order form for this highly recommended and important book, please send an email to martin.taylor@birdlife.org.za.



 
ROCKJUMPER LOYALTY PROGRAMS
At Rockjumper we value the continued support of our customers and as our way of giving back to you, we have three incredible offers to say thank you for your loyalty. Book frequently or refer new clients to us and we have discounts on offer that you’ll definitely want to cash in on.

In order to reward the loyal support of our valued guests, Rockjumper Birding Tours has 3 loyalty programs in operation:

1. BACK-TO-BACK DISCOUNT
Sign up for two back-to-back tours and we will deduct US$300 from your total tour price.

2. 5TH TOUR DISCOUNT
Sign up for your 5th tour with us and you will be offered a 10% discount off the tour price, up to a maximum value of US$600.

3. REFERRAL DISCOUNT
Refer a guest to us who has not previously traveled with Rockjumper Birding or its affiliated companies and, provided the referred person signs up for one of our full-priced scheduled departures, we will award you a US$400 discount voucher.

We thank all our loyal customers for their continued support and hope that you will enjoy taking full advantage of the above-mentioned offers. Rockjumper Birding Tours look forward to welcoming you aboard one of our fantastic birding adventures in the near future.

All offers are subject to Terms and Conditions, for a full list of these, please visit our website.