THIS BIRDING LIFE PODCAST | ZEISS PARTNERSHIP | 2 NEW RECOMMENDED PHOTO BOOKS | MEGA BIG DAY IN ECUADOR | NOAH STRYCKER WORLD RECORD | HONDURAS BIRDING FOR CONSERVATION TOUR | TOP SIGHTINGS | NEW BLOG POSTS | AMERICAN BIRDING EXPO | CUSTOMISED TOURS
A SELECTION OF 2016 TOURS | 2017 SCHEDULED TOUR CALENDAR NOW AVAILABLE
Dear Friends of Rockjumper,
A belated Happy New Year to all our friends and supporters. We hope that 2016 proves to be a highly enjoyable and successful year for all of you!
We have been busy over the last few months, both at the Rockjumper offices and top birding sites throughout the world, and its certainly time to share some of our latest news and achievements. As always we are very aware that we only exist because of your support and we thank everyone who has shared an adventure with us and we look forward to welcoming you on another Rockjumper tour in 2016 or 2017!
The Rockjumper Team
Rockjumper staff at a combined farewell event
The end of 2015 saw us bid farewell to several long term Rockjumper staff and we would also like to welcome several new team members to our growing staff compliment.
Lynn Swanepool has been involved in the background admin at Rockjumper since our early days, joining us in 2000 (when the Rockjumper office was a laptop at her home) and Lynn has finally retired 15 years later. Lynn has been with us during a time of phenomenal growth and we would like to thank her for her worthy contribution over these many years.
David Kaplan has also been with Rockjumper for many years, involved primarily with our website, social media and itinerary production. He is now moving on to professionally editing books and manuscripts and we thank him for his years of dedicated service and wish him well in his new career.
At the end of November we said goodbye to our marketing manager Yuraisha Chavan, who has relocated to Durban where her husband’s business has taken them. Yuraisha oversaw our marketing policy during three exciting years of massive developments at Rockjumper and made a wonderful contribution to the success of the company. All the best with your new adventures Yuraisha and thank you for all of your hard work at Rockjumper!
Finally Cailin Collier has also relocated to Durban where she will soon be getting married. Cailin worked in our private tour department. We wish her the best with her marriage and future career.
We would like to welcome to our Rockjumper team:
Noluthando Ndlovu, or Thando as she is affectionately known in the office, grew up in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal midlands town of Nottingham Road. Thando has a great work ethic and undertakes many tasks that ensure the Rockjumper office operates efficiently. Thando is presently studying for a degree in Education, whilst already putting her studies to good use teaching adult literacy when she has time.
Patrick Meyer has taken over the vital marketing manager position. Patrick hails from our home town Pietermaritzburg. He has spent most of his career working in the digital marketing field, an experience which serves him well in his current position. Patrick is primarily responsible for creating and implementing Rockjumper’s marketing initiatives. When he is not going through marketing statistics and strategy, he can be found outdoors, running, playing the drums or on the sports field.
Lundy Bredberg, outdoor enthusiast, wife and mother of three joins us in our ever expanding operations department. Here her vast experience in the travel industry, where she has been working over the past 15 years, will be a huge advantage as she delves into Rockjumper’s complex operations. Lundy has an unquestionable passion for travel, having explored some rather interesting parts of the globe.
Although we did announce Trevor and Dušan’s impeding addition to our Neotropical tour leading team in our last newsletter, we’d now like to officially welcome them as Rockjumper team members as from January 2016.
Originally from Hampshire in the UK Trevor Ellery spent time living and birding in Israel and Ecuador before settling in Colombia in 2008. Trevor has led numerous birding trips across Colombia and has also taken part in various expeditions to its remotest corners whilst he worked with the ProAves NGO. A keen photographer, sound record list and passionate conservationist Trevor delights in showing people the fantastic birdlife of the world’s richest birding country. Trevor has also travelled extensively in South America and has guided tours and birded in Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Argentina. When not guiding Trevor can often be found assisting Colombian conservation projects or sneaking off in search of new birds for his Colombia list. A keen mountain biker Trevor also holds a BA Hons in History and English Literature. In 2016 Trevor is scheduled to guide Rockjumper tours through Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
Originally from the Netherlands, Dušan Brinkhuizen spent much of his youth birding throughout Europe before relocating to the undisputed birding continent of South America. While Quito, Ecuador is home, Dušan has traversed not only South America, but much of the globe. He has conducted ornithological field research in Holland, Sweden, Hungary, China, Ecuador and Australia. Dušan enjoys helping others observe the amazing birds found in the neotropics. He has also added substantial records to Ecuadorian ornithology including the first Chocó Vireo found in Pichincha province (a significant range extension for this very rare species) A keen photographer and sound recordist, he also holds an MSc in Ornithology. This year Dušan is scheduled to guide a variety of Rockjumper tours through Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain, Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
We’d also like to welcome Sarah Dell back from her maternity leave. With the arrival of little Kaegan, she will now be working from home for a while to come. She too has taken on a new role for Rockjumper dealing with the invoicing; a big thank you to her for taking on this massive task!
OUT OF BOUNDS TOURS: A NEW SISTER COMPANY IN THE ROCKJUMPER GROUP
Out of Bounds Tours was formed to take travelers deeper into unknown and little-explored regions of the world than ever before. Fueled by the passion of traveler Ryan Trapp (author of Chasing 193: The Quest to Visit Every Country in the World — which is a collection of interviews with 30 of the world’s top travelers) and backed by the expertise of the Rockjumper Birding Tours team. Out of Bounds Tours offers wide-ranging itineraries meticulously crafted with the adventurous traveler in mind.
Tours range from a trek overland across Iran spanning 18 out of the 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; an exploration through 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 seven of the once-forbidden Seven Sisters states of Northeast India.
Some of the tours in the works going forward are a journey throughout Sierra Leone & Liberia, an Algeria adventure that spans the historic Roman north and the desert sands of the south, and an encompassing tour throughout northern Madagascar and the three islands of the Comoros.
Our new South African offices are under construction at the prestigious Garlington Estate in Hilton, a small village perched above Pietermaritzburg. Owing to the fact that our Rockjumper family is continually expanding, our new offices were driven by the need for more space as well as more parking! Our modern and comfortable new offices will consist of two floors with a boardroom and braai (barbeque) and drinks zone perched atop. We have already had some exciting birds whilst visiting the site including Grey Crowned Crane and African Fish Eagle flying overhead. We will keep you updated once we move in but in the meantime, here are a few pics of what’s in store:
Entrance to the Garlington Estate
View from the new Rockjumper offices
Rockjumper offices under construction
Rockjumper’s new head office is now located on the idyllic island of Mauritius, home to Green Island Rum and a few bird conservation success stories of worldwide fame to boot – the Dodo not withstanding! More specifically, our office is situated in the Labourdonnais Village, a large, beautiful estate within the tiny region known as Mapou. The estate dates back several hundred years and is also home to the Château de Labourdonnais, a magnificent colonial house, itself over 150 years old! A mere hundred meters away from the office, the Château, now serving as a restaurant and museum to colonial life on the island, is one of several converted buildings in the estate, including others that serve as boutique restaurants, a distillery and other spacious office areas, all set within acres and acres of greenery. Check out the images below for a peek at our island workspace and we think you might even want to pop in for a visit!
Finally we are also thrilled to announce that Rockjumper has its own game lodge. Zebra Hills Safari Lodge is situated within the 23,000 ha Zululand Rhino Reserve which was created 10 years ago to facilitate the range expansion of the Critically Endangered Black Rhinoceros. The Zululand Rhino Reserve have a very strong conservation track record and are also very involved in the betterment of the traditional communities which border the reserve. The teeming reserve now protects many threatened species including the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros and African Buffalo) as well as other iconic African species including African Wild Dog, Cheetah, both Spotted and Brown Hyena and Hippopotamus. In fact all wildlife species that ever occurred in this wilderness are now back and thriving in this well managed reserve. The birdlife is prolific and we are busy compiling the reserve list which is fast approacing 400 species. Specialities include Pink-throated Twinspot, Eastern Nicator, Neergaard’s Sunbird and Gorgeous Bushshrike. Our office team have already enjoyed a weekend at the lodge and were treated to many spectacular sightings. We will also be sending some of our tour groups to this luxurious lodge and it is also available for hire. More information can be found on the website www.zebrahills.com
NORTH AMERICAN BIRDING TOURS
Acorn Woodpecker Adam Riley
Green Jay by Keith Valentine
Golden-winged Warbler by Adam Riley
Bald Eagle by Markus Lilje
Prothonotary Warbler by Adam Riley
The Big Apple and the Rockies, the Empire State Building and the Gulf Coast, Washington DC and the Great Lakes – all iconic North American sites. A land of abundance in many respects being a financial powerhouse, world leader for democracy, people’s rights and technological development. This however is not the be all and end all of the continent and North America also has a natural side, splendidly scenic wildernesses and places where wildlife still thrives in abundance. Over the past 18 years Rockjumper has forged into every continent offering quality birding tours with exceptional guides and we now feel that it is time to break into North America with our own suite of specially selected tours. These will be led by one of our most popular guides, Forrest Rowland, based out of Livingston, Montana. His knowledge of the Americas is almost unsurpassed and we have no doubt that our North American offerings will produce fun, informative tours with some seriously good birding.
The Hawaiian Islands, one of the most remote archipelagos on the planet, feature as one of our more exotic offerings in this region. We have carefully developed a superb two week itinerary that focuses on four of the major islands namely: Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Oahu and Kauai and the tour is destined to become an extremely popular departure. These islands host many of the most threatened bird species on the planet and we will have good chances of finding a wonderful variety of those that still have viable populations. Sadly with each passing year the numbers of endemics on Hawaii continue to decrease making Hawaii one of those must-visit-soon destinations. Hawaii’s Honeycreepers, sometimes considered an endemic family, naturally take pride of place and targets include delightfully named species such as Akiapolaau, Iiwi, Akohekohe, Akikiki, Hawaii Akepa and Palila. Hawaii is also fabulous for seabirds and shorebirds and time will be spent viewing nesting Laysan Albatross while Hawaiian Petrel, White Tern and Bristle-thighed Curlew are also highly sought-after species.
The state of Texas has long been regarded as one of the birding meccas in the USA with a massive variety of habitat to explore. Being close to Mexico and the tropics results in high species variety and the state is also well known for producing many rarities. Texas also happens to be the last major refuge of one of the region’s most well-known species and a flagship for conservation around the world, namely the stately Whooping Crane. Our well designed itinerary is split into two halves with the first section taking in the spectacular Whooping Crane before moving into the beautiful Rio Grande Valley and then up into the scenic hill country around Kerrville. The Rio Grande offers up a feast of birding and highlights are likely to include a plethora of migratory warblers in addition to White-tailed Hawk, Long-billed Thrasher, Ferruginous Pygmy and Elf Owls, White-collared Seed-eater, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca and Green Jay while the Edward’s Plateau is home to the highly sought-after Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. The second half of this adventure takes us to Western Texas where time is spent in the remote Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains. The scenery in these areas is simply breath-taking and once again rarities are often around, especially at this time of the year. Naturally the region also has many decorated specials with birds like localised Colima Warbler featuring high on most people’s lists. Others such as Montezuma and Scaled Quails, Grace’s and Red-faced Warblers, Painted Whitestart, Greater Roadrunner, Blue-throated Mountaingem, Scott’s Oriole, Pyrrhuloxia and Varied Bunting are just a few other species that are sure to feature as additional highlights.
Arizona is a household name amongst local and international birders alike and is another exceptional North American destination. Our itinerary focuses on the finest sites in Southeast Arizona where mountain ranges, such as the famous Chiricahuas and Huachucas, rise above the Sonoran Desert creating what is locally known as ‘sky islands’. These mountains support wonderful lush woodlands of oak and sycamore and at higher elevations fir and spruce forests. These fabulous habitats in turn support a mouth-watering cast of avian delights from Elegant Trogon, Olive Warbler and Mexican Chickadee to Magnificent Hummingbird, Mexican Jay and Bridled Titmouse to name but a few. The lower elevations and desert habitats in turn hold their own selection if fine birds and time spent in this habitat should yield a wide variety of the dry country species that Arizona is so famous for. Highlights such as Crissal Thrasher, Albert’s Towhee, Gambel’s Quail and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher will all be looked or before we venture into the famous California gulch habitat where the star bird of the area is the localised Five-striped Sparrow. Owls are another major feature of any tour to Arizona and we have chances for up to 10 species including the tricky to find Flammulated.
Alaska is an incredible state boasting thousands of miles of coastline, the highest mountains in North America and vast wildernesses. Certainly one of the more remote regions of our planet, Alaska is a must for all adventurers in search of unforgettable birds and wildlife set within unrivalled beauty. The first of our suite of tours is Nome & the Seward Peninsula, timed for when the birds and wildlife are at their most abundant. We can expect a host of fine Arctic and Asian birds, including Bristle-thighed Curlew, Gyrfalcon, Hoary Redpoll and Bluethroat, with chances for Emperor Goose, Terek Sandpiper, Siberian Rubythroat and other rarities. The mammal highlight will be the remarkable Musk Ox. Next on our Alaskan Adventure is Barrow – the High Arctic where the focus will be three-fold: Snowy Owls, High Arctic breeding waterfowl and waders, and if we are very fortunate, the iconic Polar Bear! Spectacled and Steller’s Eiders will undoubtedly be highlights, and besides the regular breeding shorebirds we will also seek Asian vagrants during this unforgettable visit to the northernmost settlement of the USA. No Alaskan experience is complete without traveling through Denali & Kenai, and this tour is by far the most diverse offering in this dramatically scenic region. Activities include a boat ride through Kenai Fjords for auklets, puffins, murrelets, whales, Sea Otters and Orca, and exploring the Denali highway for Smith’s Longspur, Arctic Warbler and Rock and Willow Ptarmigan, with excellent chances for bears and wolves. We then search the lush forests around Anchorage for American Three-toed Woodpecker, Varied Thrush, Pine Grosbeak and more. Our final stop is the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, which boast an impressive list of Asian migrants and our visit is timed for optimum viewing of the massive breeding colonies of alcids, both kittiwakes, the charismatic Red-faced Cormorant and Asian vagrants.
NEWS FROM SOME OF OUR RECENT TOURS
Spotted Wood Quail by Adam Riley
Believe it or not, Rockjumper’s inaugural tour to famous Costa Rica only recently took place this past Autumn. While this country tends to be one of the first-in-mind for birders and nature lovers from the USA and Canada, Rockjumper’s expanding interests in world birding began in South Africa, spreading north throughout that amazing continent, East across Asia, West through South America, and finally into Central and North America where our major growth is now focussed. Therefore, last October this lovely little country entered the ranks of those birded by Rockjumper clients. And what a tour it was!!!
Beginning near the Caribbean in the northeast jungles, working our way across to the Pacific Coast, then down through the mountains and lush lowland forests of the Pacific, our very first tour to Costa Rica was an outstanding one. In just twelve birding days we managed to see a whopping 469 species! Incredible!!!
Highlights were many. The fruiting bushes in the La Selva gardens attracting scores of gaudy tanagers, honeycreepers, dacnises, manakins, even aracaris, provided one of the most exciting experiences of the tour. Competing for top honors, while this riot of color and sound was taking place at eye-level in the fruiting bushes, thousands upon thousands (literally) of migrating kites, hawks, and vultures were sailing past overhead! Our tour takes place during the peak of raptor migration and, for many participants, it was the most impressive spectacle of the entire tour. Topped off with one Great Tinamou that approached to within 3 meters, and a flock of 6 Great Green Macaws that cruised, slowly, past our party in the perfect evening light, and this, dear readers, is a summary of but our first day of the tour!
Displaying Yellow-eared Toucanets in the canopy, and gregarious Ocellated Antbirds kept us entertained between productive mixed flocks in the Arenal area. Add to that best-ever-views of White-throated and Uniform Crakes running around near our feet, and we have yet another candidate for “best site of the tour”. At Monteverde we enjoyed leisurely views of endemic Black Guans, Bare-shanked Screech Owls, Prong-billed Barbets, two species of leaftossers, one confiding Buff-fronted Quail-Dove (approaching for photos!), several displaying male Long-tailed Manakins, Azure-hooded Jays, and a bizarre, prehensile-tailed, Mexican Hairy-tailed Porcupine – an arboreal creature which defies proper description.
These were great, but perhaps the Pacific Coast was best to us. Gorgeous views of Lesser Ground-Cuckoo mournfully serenading us, Pacific Screech-Owls and Spectacled Owls coming in close for good looks at us, dazzling Turquoise Cotinga and eye-searing Scarlet Macaws, 5 species of trogons, 3 species of motmots, Orange-collared and Red-capped Manakins displaying, Streak-chested Antpittas underfoot, the list of great bird encounters along the Pacific was nearly endless!
We ended our tour at the luxurious Savegre Mountain Resort, where hummingbirds reign. Granted, Long-tailed Silky Flycatchers, Black-and-Yellow Phainoptilas, and Spotted Wood-Quail certainly competed with numerous Resplendant Quetzals and Wrenthrush (that nearly landed on me) for the Tour Top 10 list. But the hummingbird activity, which to-date included Black-crested and White-crested Coquettes as well as Snowcap, was most dramatic and impressive here in the mountains. Mountain-gems, violetears, stunning Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, and an array of fruit-feeding birds were coming to various feeder set-ups in the beautiful San Gerardo de Dota valley.
While a typical two week visit to this scenic, very comfortable, country can expect to net around 400 species, we all felt privileged to enjoy such unmitigated success, and wonderful company, on the tour. Costa Rica’s outstanding reputation as a nature-lovers’ paradise proved very well deserved, indeed. I already look forward to our next tour to this birding paradise.
Jaguar by Rich Lindie
11 – 24 Sep 2015 by Rich Lindie
This year’s third of four Brazilian Pantanal and Amazon departures was a resounding success, with over 450 species of bird and several great mammal species recorded in just two weeks, reaffirming that Brazil is one of the planet’s best destinations for a combined birding and wildlife-viewing trip.
Our Brazilian adventure began in the vast tropical savanna ecoregion known as the Cerrado, where Collared Crescentchest, Black-throated Saltator, White-eared Puffbird, Horned Sungem, White-rumped and Shrike-like Tanager, Coal-crested Finch, Blue-winged Macaw and Rusty-backed Antwren were among the highlights.
We then made a move for the Pantanal; one of the world’s largest wetland areas and home to equally large numbers of conspicuous and special birds. Timed for the dry season, and therefore localized concentrations of these numbers, some ‘easy’ birding there provided countless encounters with species like Jabiru, Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Greater Rhea, Southern Screamer, Chaco Chachalaca, Bare-faced Curassow, Wood Stork, Buff-necked Ibis, Rufescent Tiger and Capped Heron, Limpkin, Sunbittern, Toco Toucan, Hyacinth Macaw and Peach-fronted Parakeet. A little extra work produced sightings of Helmeted Manakin, Mato Grosso Antbird, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Grey-crested Cacholote, White-lored and Chotoy Spinetail, Red-legged Seriema and Rufous-sided Crake.
On top of the great birding, the group was rewarded with views of Giant Anteater, Puma, scores of Capybara, Giant Otter, Crab-eating Fox, Yellow Armadillo, Southern Tamandua and six Jaguars!
The tour concluded with an unbeatable six days at the renowned Cristalino Lodge in Brazil’s southern Amazon, with its two 50m observation towers and network of trails through some of the best swathes of Amazon around. Highlights included Harpy Eagle, Dark-winged Trumpeter, the newly described Alta Floresta Antpitta, Rufous-capped Nunlet, Redfan Parrot, Agami Heron, Gray Tinamou, Kawall’s Amazon, Bare-eyed Antbird, Xingu Scale-backed and Banded Antbird, Black-spoted Bare-eye, Red-billed Pied Tanager, Tapajos Hermit, Spectacled Owl, Brown-banded Puffbird, Pompadour Cotinga, Black-collared Swallow, Razor-billed Curassow, Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, Tooth-billed Wren, Rose-breasted Chat, Dwarf Tyrant and Flame-crested Manakin, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak and Dusky-billed Parrotlet. Mammal highlights included several sightings of Tapir and Red-nosed Bearded Saki.
There is no denying that the group enjoyed some fabulous sightings and were able to savour some of the best that Brazil has to offer!
Orange Fruit Dove by David Hoddinott
Southwest Pacific Islands (Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia)
11 – 31 Jul 2015 by David Hoddinott
When it comes to birding, the Southwest Pacific Islands offer quality rather than quantity with some very special birds occuring. We searched for some of the planet’s least known species, targeting the region’s rarely-seen endemics. Our inaugural tour was therefore quite a success, racking up 148 species including an impressive 80 endemics.
Owing to its separation from Gondwanaland, New Caledonia produced some fabulous species including Horned and New Caledonian Parakeets, Barred Honeyeater and the much anticipated Kagu. Other encounters included the Goliath Imperial Pigeon (the world’s largest arboreal pigeon), New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, the lovely New Caledonian Whistler, several approachable and rather adorable Yellow-bellied Robins, Streaked Fantails, the strikingly coloured New Caledonian Myzomela, and New Caledonian Friarbird to name but a few. From New Caledonia we made our way to Vanuatu or the “New Hebrides”. The natural indigenous forest and coastal scrub of Santo proved a great place to seek out the Vanuatu specialties that included the likes of Vanuatu Scrubfowl, MacKinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Tanna Fruit Dove, Vanuatu Kingfisher and Buff-bellied Monarch.
We continued east to the lovely Fijian Islands to bird their coastal forests. Here we enjoyed views of the incredible Orange Fruit Dove as well as the exquisite Many-colored Fruit Dove. Other great sightings included but were by no means limited to the Tongan Ground Dove, Barking Imperial Pigeon, Fiji Whistler, Azure-crested Flycatcher, Fiji Shrikebill, Giant Honeyeater, Fiji Bush Warbler and Fiji Parrotfinch, the highly desired and unique Silktail and an elegant endemic Whistling Dove.
Our final destination was the Samoan islands with more great forests to explore. We were thrilled to see the striking Samoan Flycatcher, Samoan Fantail and Flat-billed Kingfisher as well as the unusual-looking Samoan Triller and a handsome Samoan Whistler. Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable and successful tour with almost all our targets located, fine dining and superb scenery to boot!
Our next Southwest Pacific Island tour is scheduled for the following date:
Southwest Pacific Islands: 10 – 28 Jul 2016, Price to be announced
Rosy Bee-eater by Markus Lilje
11 – 24 Sep 2015 by Markus Lilje
Gabon, with its still very intact forests and large swathes of untouched habitats is often considered one of the top birding sites on the African continent. The main attraction here is not so much for the absolute numbers of birds, but rather the number of special and unusual species that can be found. A recent private tour here was no exception when we visited 2 national parks, Lope and Loango. Some of the highlights included the sought-after and enigmatic African River Martin, Black-headed and Rosy Bee-eaters, Crested Tiger Heron, White-bellied and many Shining-blue Kingfishers, Forbes’s Plover, Cassin’s Spinetail, Banded Prinia, Blue Cuckooshrike, White-crested and Red-billed Dwarf Hornbills, Blue-headed Wood Dove, Pel’s Fishing Owl and White-bibbed Swallow among many others. The mammal sights were also exceptional; we had some fantastic sightings of Forest Elephant, Red River Hog, Forest Buffalo, Red-capped Mangabey, Crowned Monkey, Black Colobus as well as seeing many Slender-snouted Crocodile along the riversides. Another big attraction here must surely be to just experience driving through rich rainforest for hours and then the ancient mosaic of grassland and forest in Lope National Park and to boat along remote narrow channels bordered by palms and mangroves in Loango National Park, searching for a wealth of wildlife in areas where other tourists are very seldom seen.
Our next Gabon tours are scheduled for the following dates:
Gabon – São Tomé & Príncipe Endemics Extension: 07 – 14 Aug 2016, €2,900 per person sharing (approx. price USD3,150*)
Gabon – Rainforest Birds & Mammals: 14 – 28 Aug 2016, €7,250 per person sharing (approx. price USD7,870*)
Gabon – Ivindo National Park Extension: 29 Aug – 02 Sep 2016, €1,950 per person sharing (approx. price USD2,110)
Hooded Mountain-Toucan by Alisdair Hunter
28 Aug – 27 Sep 2015 by Forrest Rowland
Bolivia has a very distinctive allure. It does not have the longest list of birds of a South American country. It does not have the best infrastructure or accommodations of a South American country. It doesn’t even have a field guide to the birds of the country! However, Bolivia has more intrigue and potential new finds than any other country. Bolivia has more unaccessed natural area, habitats yet to be explored, and opportunity for visiting birders to contribute to the avian knowledge-base than any South American country. In short, Bolivia is an incredibly rewarding, mysterious, and fascinating country to explore!
The above paragraph says nothing of the endless, impressive, awe-inspiring backdrop on which a birding adventure in Bolivia plays out. Towering peaks soaring tens-of-thousands of feet, canyons plunging thousands of feet, and the largest inland lake in all of South America are daily landscapes one enjoys. Dry Chaco forests, swampy pampas grasslands, endemic-rich arid Andean valleys, and the Bird-rich Yungas extending up to scree slopes and bufedal wetlands at 15,000 feet are some of the habitats in which we spent valuable time. In order to comprehensively bird Bolivia, we were treated to the most diverse, spectacular scenery and bird species, while being utterly immersed in truly remote, intact Andean culture.
This, Rockjumper’s inaugural tour to Bolivia, was one of the most exciting tours this author can recall guiding. Trucks, vans, buses, boats, planes, small aircraft; every form of transport was employed to arrive at the various choice locations we had carefully selected for this tour. As for the birds and the birding – it was the successful tour to Bolivia as I have ever read about. It exceeded our wildest expectations. All-tallied, 701 species were seen during the tour, with the number recorded reaching nearly 750 species. A staggering total! Ranging from the glorious Palkachulpa Cotinga and Hooded Mountain Toucan, right through to the skulking tapaculos, similar-looking canasteros, and wondrous variety of lovely tanagers and finches, we catalogued an impressive array of birds species including nearly all endemics possible, a number of critically endangered and endangered species, as well as many birds that are simply difficult to find most places, save here. I already look forward to our next visit!
Our next Bolivia tours are scheduled for the following dates:
Bolivia Comprehensive – Chaco Endemics Extension: 01 – 05 May 2016, USD1, 400 per person sharing
Bolivia Comprehensive: 05 – 26 May 2016, USD7, 150 per person sharing
Bolivia Comprehensive – Apollo Dry Valley Extension: 27 – 31 May 2016, USD1, 675 per person sharing
Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls IV
12 – 29 Aug 2015 by Wayne Jones
Our Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls tours are perennial favourites due to the combination of scintillating birding, a good number of range-restricted species, fantastic mammal-viewing and sweeping African landscapes coupled with first-class infrastructure and accommodation. We recorded 370 species on the August 2015 tour including Afrotropical highlights like Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Skimmer, Slaty Egret, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Rockrunner, Gray’s Lark, Secretarybird, Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, Ludwig’s Bustard, Wattled Crane, Burchell’s Courser, Damara Tern, Schalow’s Turaco, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Racket-tailed Roller, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Southern Ground Hornbill. World-renowned Etosha National Park provided the bulk of our wildlife viewing, with daily sightings of Lion, Gemsbok, Springbok and African Elephant. Cape Fox, Honey Badger, Spotted Hyena, Sitatunga, Roan Antelope, Black Rhino, Dassie Rat and Afro-Australian Fur Seal were also among the 49 species of mammals we saw during the 18-day tour.
Click here to view our complete list of Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls tours.
King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise
by Markus Lilje
Southern Crowned Pigeon by Markus Lilje
Papua New Guinea
28 Jun – 8 Aug 2015 by Glen Valentine
Of all the world’s birding destinations, Papua New Guinea must certainly rank amongst the most fascinating and exotic. The second largest island on Earth, New Guinea was the last inhabited island to be explored by Europeans, and even today many areas have little or no exposure to Western influence. The virtually untouched forests come alive with incredible fruit doves, fig parrots, fairywrens, jewel-babblers, pittas, honeyeaters and berrypeckers, while over twenty species of dazzling birds-of-paradise present unbelievably iridescent colours and wild tail and flank plumes in one of the most astonishing exhibits of the natural world!
We were thrilled to run three scheduled departures to this magical island between June and August and every trip was a resounding success with the most notable difference being the unusual timeliness and reliability of all the internal flights. With this grand improvement our Papua New Guinea birding tours will no doubt continue to be even more successful, memorable and enjoyable each year!
The moss-draped forests of the highlands gave us an array of mouth-watering New Guinea specialties such as King-of-Saxony, Blue, Superb and displaying Lesser Birds-of-paradise, Black, Brown and Black-billed Sicklebills, Ribbon-tailed and Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, Lawes’s and Queen Carola’s Parotias, Papuan (New Guinea Harpy) Eagle, the secretive Forbes’s Forest Rail and Bronze Ground Dove, Archbold’s Nightjar, Mountain Owlet-nightjar, Mountain Kingfisher, every possible berrypecker and longbill, rarely seen Black Sitella, Madarasz’s and Modest Tiger Parrots, Archbold’s Bowerbird, Papuan Treecreeper and Olive Straightbill, exquisite Loria’s and Crested Satinbirds, unique Lesser Melampitta, monotypic Blue-capped Ifrit and Mottled Whistler (now Berryhunter and placed in its own monotypic family), stunning Garnet Robin, Torrent-lark, outstanding endemic Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher, Spotted and Chestnut-backed Jewel-babblers, Blue-collared and Orange-fronted Hanging Parrots and Salvadori’s Teal.
In the savannas and dense, tropical forests of the lowlands we were rewarded with some of the rarest and most wonderful birds in all of New Guinea! Highlights were plentiful and included displaying Twelve-wired, King and Greater Birds-of-paradise, rarely seen New Guinea Bronzewing, the inexplicably rare Papuan Hawk-Owl, Papuan Nightjar, Wallace’s Owlet-nightjar, furtive White-eared Catbird, the dazzling Flame Bowerbird, Blue Jewel-babbler, Painted Quail-thrush, near-mythical Greater Melampitta and the magnificent Southern Crowned Pigeon.
We welcome you to join us in 2016 on what will no doubt be a birding adventure of a lifetime on the enchanted island of New Guinea!
Click here to view our complete list of Papua New Guinea tours.
Santa Marta Screech Owl by Rob Williams
08 Nov – 07 Dec 2015 by Rob Williams
It took 45 minutes from when we first heard its plaintive whistle in the predawn until we finally managed to get good looks at the Hooded Antpitta; the bird moved fast and was often surprisingly high in the sub canopy, but with patience and concentration we managed to get great looks at this seldom-seen and scarce denizen of humid montane forest. It became bird of the trip and was a lifer for all, including the leaders! Just one of many great birds we found on the latest Colombia Mega tour that ran in November and December 2015. In total we found an impressive 1004 species, including 59 Colombia endemics.
The tour saw us journeying from the Amazon lowlands, through the three Andean Cordilleras, the Magdalena and Cauca Valleys that separate them, onto the northern lowlands and impressive Santa Marta Mountains beside the Caribbean. This tour visits most of the main ecoregions of the country and results in an unequalled species list. The Amazonian lowlands at Mitu gave us great views of many white sand forest specialists with highlights including Fiery Topaz, Grey-breasted Crake, Red-fan Parrot, Grey-bellied Antbird and Point-tailed Palmcreeper. The Andes never fail to impress and every time we changed site a whole suite of new birds became available. Star birds through our time in this region included Blue-billed Currasow, Gorgeted Wood Quail, Chestnut Wood Quail, Chestnut-capped Piha, Gold-ringed, Black-and-gold and Multicolored Tanagers and Buffy Helmetcrest.The Santa Marta Mountains gave up their endemics without too much fuss and we enjoyed fabulous views of most of the gettable species. We also found some particularly tricky species such as Black-backed Thornbill. We finished on the arid Guajira Peninsula catching up with the near-endemics only shared with a small area of Venezuela.
The tour list included a staggering 90 species of hummingbird and 108 species of tanager, as well as 16 antpittas and 13 tapaculos!
Our next Colombia Mega tour with space available is scheduled for the following date:
Colombia – 1000 Birds Mega Tour II: 01 – 30 Nov 2016 (30 days) USD9, 250 per person sharing
White-throated Treerunner by Markus Lilje
27 Nov – 14 Dec 2015 by Adam Walleyn
Our trip through Chile was both highly enjoyable and incredibly successful with plenty of wonderful birds on show in an indescribably beautiful landscape.
Our adventure began with a pre-tour extension to the north and time spent in and around the Arica area produced the critically endangered Chilean Woodstar, along with Tamarugo Conebill, Peruvian Thick-knee and South Polar Skua. Three days were then spent at high elevation and included a visit to an area of salt flats which held numerous Andean and James’s Flamingo. Our explorations through the puna and pre-puna habitats produced Puna Rhea, Diademed Plover and White-throated Earthcreeper while the varied birding opportunities in the central region produced Humboldt Penguin, Torrent and Black-headed Duck, Andean Condor, Moustached Turca, White-throated and Dusky Tapaculo, Crag Chilia, Dusky-tailed Canastero, Creamy-rumped Miner and Ticking Doradito. We also ventured out to sea and a pelagic trip into the Humboldt Current produced a variety of quality seabirds including Juan Fernandez Petrel and Northern Royal Albatross. The Talca area then offered up Chilean Tinamou, Burrowing Parrot, Bronze-winged Duck and the nearby Nothofagus forests produced a nest of Magellanic Woodpecker plus Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet and Rufous-legged Owl to boot. Further south the lake district produced Slender-billed Parakeet, Chucao, Magellanic and Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, Black-throated Huet-Huet, Des Murs’s Wiretail and Patagonian Tyrant. The tour ended with a busy few days in the far south of the country where highlights were King and Magellanic Penguin, Ruddy-headed Goose, Rufous-chested and Tawny-throated Dotterel, Austral Canastero, Band-tailed Earthcreeper and White-bridled Finch. Pride of place however went to a fabulous Magellanic Plover – the bird of the trip for many!
Our next Chile tours are scheduled for the following dates:
Chile – Arica Extension: 27 Nov – 02 Dec 2016 (6 days) USD2, 150 per person sharing
Chile – Birds, Wildlife & Andean landscapes: 02 – 14 Dec 2016 (13 days) USD5, 550 per person sharing
Chile – Torres del Paine Extension: 14 – 18 Dec 2016 (5 days) USD2, 750 per person sharing
THIS BIRDING LIFE – PODCAST FOR BIRDWATCHERS EVERYWHERE
Rockjumper is thrilled to announce its sponsorship of This Birding Life Podcast This podcast (think of a podcast as an online radio show, each show consists of individual episodes that you can listen to in several ways—on your PC, using your MP3 player, or with a web browser) is hosted by entertaining US birding personality and editor of The Birdwatchers’ Digest, Bill Thompson III and we are honored to be associated with this innovative, enjoyable and worthwhile cause. We can certainly recommend Bill’s podcasts and encourage you to take half an hour off to be entertained by Bill as you listen to his latest podcast and the story of the rarity he discovered in his own back yard!
Competition Winner – Betty Kelly
We recently held a competition in conjunction with our sponsors ZEISS where entrants had a fantastic opportunity to win a pair of ZEISS’s leading edge Victory SF binoculars. Entrants were required to tell us about their most memorable birding moments and the winner was selected from a random draw.
We would like to congratulate Betty Kelly from Tennessee for her winning story which we have posted below together with just a few of top stories that were submitted to us from our entrants. Betty was delighted with her win saying, “As a serious bird photographer I am so excited to have won these excellent binoculars. It is a dream come true. I am very grateful to have won.”
We hope she continues to enjoy her birding with these precision optics from ZEISS!
I found a dead tree with a forked top, ‘planted’ it in my back yard and have gotten some good photos of birds on it. Especially the Red-headed Woodpecker. All this on a 1/2 acre lot in a subdivision. Plus I am 76 years old and love to sit in my small blind with my camera.
SOME OTHER MEMORABLE BIRDING MOMENTS
Carl Bendorf – In June 1986, I was lucky enough to be on Attu when we found Spoon-billed Sandpiper. I knew it was rare but naively asked Noble Proctor if this was a really good bird. He looked around and scanned our entire group including a number of the most eminent listers and tour guides and simply said, “Well, none of us has ever seen one!” I was using my ZEISS 10X40 BGAT bins that I purchased in 1985 just for going on this trip. I loved those binoculars and owned them for nearly 30 years.
Eva Lydick – On a trip to Namibia, we were told that we could take a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi River. No one in our group would miss it. After a couple of miles up the river, we pulled ashore at a sandy bank and were told to climb up. At the top was a wide mesa covered with small burrows with pairs of Carmine Bee-eaters sitting beside each nest. The birds filled the air with scarlet and blue flashes, coming to rest beside their own particular burrow and then taking to the air again. We estimated that there may have been as many as 2000. Soon, a black kite soared in to in to view. The kite made a pass over the bee-eaters which resulted in a swirl of birds taking flight only to alight again on the ground or in the trees. The kite had missed, but it made another pass and another and another. All came up empty but the swirls of bee-eaters responded to every pass. And then, another pass by the kite and success for him and death for a bee-eater. Nevertheless, the show would go on tomorrow.
Stefan Williams – March 8, 2008 Danum Valley, Borneo. It was the last full day in the field and the bird we had traveled half a world away to see, had yet to be spotted. But, our tour leader, Keith Valentine, demonstrated both skill and persistence in leading us to not just a ‘bvd’ but a full on, extended view of a pair of Bornean Bristlebill as they perched on an open vine, so close that scopes were superfulous and binocular views were super satisfying. Another family conquered!
Guy Roberts – Bird: African Pitta. Venue: Zambezi Coutadas, Central Mozambique. Date: 30 November 2015. Our party of 9 had never seen the Pitta – except of course Adam Riley of Rockjumper who we were privileged to have on tour with us. It was not the sole focus of the tour, but it was certainly the Holy Grail for all of us. The rains hadn’t started yet, so the Grail wasn’t cooperating. But in Adam we had a King shrewder than Arthur, and on Day 2 he located it on the forest floor: everyone got to see it except me. I felt like the only man to have failed the Officers’ Course. But Adam was unphased. We returned to the same location the next morning – and he got us 2 who showed themselves to us in all their splendid glory. The Quest was finally at an end after years of dreaming. King Adam had achieved what King Arthur never succeeded in doing. Fortunately he got to take some beautiful pics of one – which will serve as a permanent memory of that special encounter for the rest of time.
Rockjumper Guides Receive Their Sponsored Victory-SF Binoculars
Rockjumper Birding Tours would like to thank our recommended optics supplier ZEISS for generously providing 17 pairs of the new ZEISS Victory SF binoculars. We can testify that these binoculars are the new benchmark for birding and wildlife observation! These are a giant step up from previous models, offering a brilliant visual experience with their wide-angle field of view as well as being lightweight and easy to focus. With 125 years of development behind them, ZEISS have continued to combine cutting-edge technology with quality and precision to optimize birding. We have had a long and proud working relationship with ZEISS and are pleased to recommend them as the leading brand in optics.
Rockjumper guides with their new binoculars
ZEISS Victory-SF Binoculars
2 NEW RECOMMENDED PHOTO BOOKS
Birds of Morocco
by Ignacio Yufera
Aleteo – Birds of the Tropical Andes
by Murray Cooper
We would also like to feature two hot-off-the-press ground-breaking books by friends of Rockjumper.
Firstly, Spanish master photographer Ignacio Yufera has just published his Birds of Morocco and this is truly a spectacular book featuring incredible images of Morocco’s top birds as well as the breathtaking scenes and Ignacio’s tale of multiple adventures in Morocco to obtain these images. This book can be ordered here.
The second book is by long time Ecuadorian resident (ex-South Africa) Murray Cooper and is Aleteo – Birds of the Tropical Andes. Murray is a master photographer and this book is his “opus magnum” displaying the very best of 9 years of outstanding bird photography in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in deluxe coffee table format. This book can be ordered directly from Murray on
MEGA BIG DAY IN ECUADOR: A NEW WORLD RECORD BY DUŠAN BRINKHUIZEN
For the first time in history a team of birders surpassed the magical 400-species boundary during a big day count in Ecuador. It is hard to believe but on 8 October 2015 Rudy Gelis, Mitch Lysinger, Tuomas Seimola and Rockjumper’s own Dušan Brinkhuizen identified a total of 431 bird species within a 24-hour period. The team knew that with careful preparations they had a reasonable chance for a world title but nobody had expected that they would better the previous world record that was set in Peru by 77 species!
Ecuador is a mega-diverse country with a list approaching 1700 bird species and only Peru and Colombia can boast a higher country list. Ecuador is however much smaller and is arguably the most biodiverse country on the planet. Furthermore, Ecuador has good infrastructure, allowing access to a huge variety of different habitats and altitude: the perfect ingredients for a world record attempt.
The effort was conducted following ABA rules (found here). A total of 305 species were seen (70.8%) and 126 species (29.2%) were heard-only. There were 16 so-called “dirty birds”, which are species that were not recorded by all the team members (3.7%). The shared total was 415 species recorded by all four members (96.3%). Novel to world record big days was the fact that this effort was fully documented with professional audio equipment (and partly video) by non-participating companion George Paul. In this way the effort was made confirmable with details like when, where and how each species was identified. The total species list can be downloaded here.
The big day count started at midnight at Cabañas San Isidro, a renowned cloud-forest reserve on the east-slope of the Andes at 2100m. At 00:01 Rufous-banded Owl was the first species for the day quickly followed by the “San Isidro” Black-banded Owl. White-throated Screech-owl was bagged higher up at the Guacamayos Ridge and lower down in the foothills the team got Rufescent and Foothill Screech Owls. The night birding went according to plan with a Blue-fronted Lancebill sitting on the nest while a Nocturnal Currasow calling beautifully from terrafirme Amazon forest next to the road was one of the highlights for the night. White-throated Tinamou and Barn Owl were bonuses whereas Andean Potoo and Band-bellied Owl could not be relocated at their territories. A total of 12 species of owls where recorded during the big day!
The dawn chorus was done at the Rio Napo in secondary Amazon woodland. Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Riparian Antbird, Fuscous Flycatcher, Castelnau’s Antshrike, White-lored Antpitta and Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner were among the specialities that the team had staked-out. Buckley’s Forest Falcon and Cream-coloured Woodpecker were nice bonus species. A magic stop at a terrafirme site near the Jatun Sacha reserve yielded rare birds such as Red-necked Woodpecker, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Spangled Cotinga, Olivaceous Flatbill, Lemon-chested Greenlet and Casqued Oropendola. There must have been an antswarm in the forest since Hairy-crested, White-plumed and White-cheeked Antbirds were all vocal from the same forest patch.
Late morning the team got back into the foothills where they ran into a few substantial mixed-species flocks. Goodies that they had picked out included Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Orange-eared Tanager and Lafresnaye’s Piculet. Striolated Puffbird and Coppery-chested Jacamar were a good finds too. In the lower subtropics near Cocodrillos they run into a mega mixed-flock that added Rufous-crested Tanager, Yellow-throated Tanager, Blue-browed Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher and Chestnut-bellied Thrush to the ever bulging list.
Black-bellied Cuckoo by Dušan Brinkhuizen
San Isidro Owl by Dušan Brinkhuizen
Pied Water Tyrant by Dušan Brinkhuizen
Up at the Guacamayos ridge a mixed-flock produced Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Sharpe’s Wren, Green-and-black Fruiteater and Bluish Flowerpiercer. Back at Cabañas San Isidro the team added a lot of new species including rarities such as Barred Antthrush and Black-chested Fruiteater. A long-staying Pied Water Tyrant was successfully twitched in Baeza town (2nd documented record for Ecuador) together with a male Vermillion Flycatcher. A pair of Torrent Duck was showing nicely at the police checkpoint and an adult Black-and-chestnut Eagle was spotted from the gas station.
Also memorable was the sighting of a calling Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant that was picked out while driving on the highway towards Guango lodge. At Guango bird activity was fairly slow but it was a good place for adding a few hummers including Sword-billed Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Buff-tailed Coronet, Tyrian Metaltail, White-bellied Woodstar and Tourmaline Sunangel. Up at Papallacta a good number of new species were added including rare birds such as Agile Tit-Tyrant, Rainbow-bearded, Purple-backed and Blue-mantled Thornbills. Hard to believe but the Plumbeous Sierra Finch was missed at the pass! At the Quito airport pond a few more species were added including migrants like Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers, Wilson’s Phalarope and Sand Martin. A splendid Peregrine Falcon hunting above the pond at dusk was the last new species before the team took the evening flight to the coast. At this time the counter was standing at 392 species and the team had already broken the existing world record by a fair number!
A rather crazy night strategy to boost up the list was the flight to Salinas. Next to the airport there is an extensive saltpans system that was carefully scouted two weeks beforehand. In town the team had staked-out Long-tailed Mockingbird, West Peruvian Dove and Red-masked Parakeet at their roosts plus a few Magnificent Frigatebirds were targeted on the lampposts at the Santa Rosa harbour. At the mangroves in Punta Carnero a Wilson’s Plover responded well to tape, just according to plan. The Ecuasal Saltpans were highly productive with a wide range of species present including Roseate Spoonbill, Chilean Flamingo, Tricolored Heron, White-cheeked Pintail, Peruvian Pelican, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Gull and four species of tern all observed with the spotlight! A vagrant Marbled Godwit was a long-stayer that the team managed to pick out by telescope. A Snowy Plover at 23:50 was the last new bird for the count.
Within 24 hours the team had birded Amazon lowlands, Andean cloud-forests and paramo plus a coastal extension on the Santa Elena Peninsula. The highest elevation reached was at Papallacta Pass (3950m). The total distance covered by vehicle was c. 385 km. Previous world big day records include Peru (331 species; Ted Parker & Scott Robinson 1982), Kenya (342 species; Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe 1986) and again Peru (354 species; Dan Lane, Mike Harvey, Glen Seeholzer & Fernando Angulo 2014).
NOAH STRYCKER SETS A NEW WORLD BIRDING RECORD
We mentioned in our last newsletter that Rockjumper friend Noah Strycker was doing a world big year and attempting to break the world record for the number of bird species recorded in a year (previous record was 4,341 species set by Alan Davies and Ruth Miller from the UK.) Noah set out with a goal of 5,000 species. During his big year he covered 41 countries, birding every single day including joining us on two Rockjumper tours, the Shiripuno Extension to our Northern Ecuador tour and our Budget Eastern South African tour and Adam took him out birding for a few days after his tour. In the end Noah smashed the record and far surpassed his target by recording an amazing 6,042 species – well done Noah! He wrote a daily blog which can be found here and is now in the process of writing a book about his adventures. Noah has also just posted a fun 5-minute video of his trip around the world
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. All profits from this tour will be donated to conservation. Further details can be found on http://hondurasbirdtour.com/
PS: Adam’s team has only 3 spaces remaining so don’t hesitate in signing up if you’d like to join Adam on this fun conservation tour.
1.Hooded Mountain-Toucan by Forrest Rowland in Bolivia (Photo by Alistair Hunter)
Toucans are iconic Neotropical birds. Amongst Hummingbirds, Tanagers, and Antbirds, they are probably the most easily recognizable to shape, form, and function. They’re even on cereal boxes! So, it might seem a bit mundane to label Hooded Mountain-Toucan as a ‘Top Sighting’, but not all toucans are as easy to see as Toucan Sam in your grocery aisle. Hooded Mountain-Toucan is a mythical creature that all birders venturing into the Southern Andes dream of seeing. Few actually do. We can count ourselves among the lucky, as we had one incredibly gorgeous, obliging, Hooded Mountain-Toucan pop up at eye-level, 10m away! Bill clapping, leisurely foraging, even a bit of preening were all observable behaviors we enjoyed as this beauty put on a truly unexpected, jaw-dropping show for us high in the Andes of Bolivia.
2. Regent Honeyeater by Glen Valentine in Australia
In August, on a private tour around southern Australia, we were extremely fortunate to encounter one of the continent’s rarest birds, the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater. Most closely related to wattlebirds and with a population of no more than 1000 birds, this large and attractive honeyeater remains one of Australia’s most sought-after and elusive species. It is often considered a flagship species within its range and huge efforts are being made to conserve the species, which in turn has had a terrific positive impact on many other box ironbark endemics.
While birding the beautiful and bird-rich eucalyptus woodlands at the Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park in north-eastern Victoria we encountered a pair of these iconic honeyeaters amongst many other fabulous species like Turquoise and Swift Parrots. A very lucky sighting indeed and undoubtedly one of my top recent sightings!
3. African River Martin by Markus Lilje in Angola
Towards the end of the time we spent in Loango National Park, on the coast of Angola we were boating along one of the many channels for which this area is known. These trips are always exciting and we had just seen White-bibbed Swallow, Forest Elephant and a fantastic male Sitatunga along the water’s edge. This area is possibly the most reliable place to find the still very poorly-understood African River Martin, but we were there very early in the season and not really expecting to find them. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity around us, we switched off the engine and were able to enjoy watching a mixed flock of African River Martin and Rosy Bee-eater drink and splash in the river within meters of us – what an incredible bonus sighting!
4. Snowcap by Adam Riley in Costa Rica
Another top bird sighting from Costa Rica was the minute Snowcap which is one of the world’s most distinctive and sought-after hummingbirds. It is restricted to the mid-ranges of the tropical Central American mountains. Adam photographed this male in Braulio Carrillo National Park.
5. Wrenthrush or Zeledonia by Adam Riley in Costa Rica
Adam has recently returned from birding Costa Rica with Forrest Rowland and one of the many highlights was finding this Wrenthrush or Zeledonia. This small skulking cloud forest species is quite a taxonomic enigma and has been previously placed in thrushes as well as New World warblers but latest genetic evidence indicates that it should belong in its own monotypic family.
6. Fossa by Wayne Jones in Madagascar
On a private Madagascar tour in September we visited Kirindy Private Reserve. The group had only been at camp for a few hours when the call of “Fossa!” rang out. We all burst out of our cabins and headed in the direction of the shouts to find a slinky and muscular female Fossa sniffing around the camp. They really are the most incredible-looking creatures, with big snake-like eyes, blunt snout and long, stiff cord of a tail. The creature was quite relaxed and allowed us incredibly close views. Not only that, before embarking on our night walk we saw a pair of older, darker Fossas on the camp perimeter. Kirindy’s widely regarded as the best place to see Fossas but we never expected three in our first few hours!
7. Helmet Vanga by Wayne Jones in Madagascar
The private Madagascar tour also visited the Masoala Peninsula where our main target was the island’s most iconic bird, the Helmet Vanga. Over the course of three days we ended up finding eight birds, and we had sensational views of most of them. Truly a spectacular bird!
8. Bengal Tiger by David Hoddinott in Northern India
On a recent tour of Northern India we were incredibly fortunate to have several Tiger sightings in Ranthambhore National Park. One sighting in particular was especially noteworthy. We were on our way back to our lodge when a Tiger was spotted not on the ground as is usually the case but lazing on the branch of a large tree. Not only this but the fact that we were able to watch it for a good 10 minutes at such close proximity and in a very relaxed state made this a most memorable sighting!
9. Yellow-eyed Penguin by Erik Forsyth in New Zealand (Photo by Maxine Read)
One of our most memorable sightings would have to go to Yellow-eyed Penguin seen on our recent New Zealand tour. It is a threatened species, declining rapidly with only 3,000 remaining, and only nesting on the lower eastern side of South Island, Stewart, Snares, Auckland and Campbell Islands. With only a few hours of daylight left we were out patrolling the coastline on the Otago Peninsula when a bird came riding in on the surf and waddled up the beach for its nesting area, what a sighting! Our final endemic on the final day of the tour.
10. Akun & Fraser’s Eagle Owls by Rich Lindie in Ghana
For me, the top sighting during my recent private Ghana tour enjoys pride of place not only for the species involved, but more so for the circumstances under which they were seen. That’s right, the sighting includes two species!
It all started with the intention to take a brief night walk around the headquarters of Kakum National Park. Having played the call of both species on a couple of occasions and receiving no response, we thought we’d give it just one more try in another area. Scanning with the spotlight as we walked, I immediately picked up some eye-shine, not 40m further up the road. It turned out to be an Akun Eagle-Owl, the rarer of the two species, and a very elusive owl to boot. Elated, we walked a little further up the road to try for Fraser’s Eagle-Owl – apparently not convinced we’d already used up our luck for the evening! Spotting a large owl in a tree not long after, I honestly had a moment when I couldn’t believe it was Fraser’s so I turned to look at the spot where the Akun Eagle-Owl was. Also unbelievably, it was still there, making both owls visible from the same standing spot!
Red-and-white Crake by Rich Lindie
NEW BLOG POSTS
Our blog posts are intended to add another dimension to our tours and to birds and birding in general, by focusing on certain specific aspects, species, bird families, interesting and unusual sightings etc. Their purpose is to be both informative and entertaining at the same time, and they are replete with some great images taken by our very photographically talented tour leaders. Below is a selection of some of our most recent blogs.
Bird of the Year 2015
Every year our tour leaders reflect back and choose their favourite bird sighting. Many of them visit an extraordinary number of countries and their year lists are often extremely high so the difficulty in choosing a number one bird of the year is rather challenging. Click here to read about these interesting accounts.
The Amur Migration by David Erterius
The longest flight time of any commercial aircraft is 17½ hours. In the avian world however, there’s a flight that’s even longer: the very impressive, long distance migration of Amur Falcons! These remarkable birds fly continuously from remote northeastern India to the Horn of Africa every year during their bizarre migration from Eastern China to South Africa! Tour leader David Erterius witnessed the Amur migration whilst birding in Happy Island, China! Click here to read his story about this spectacular event
“Mythical” Bird Spotted on Rockjumper Tour!
Tour Leader Glen Valentine and his group have had the incredibly good fortune of seeing one of our planet’s rarest and most ‘mythical’ birds – the Golden Masked Owl!! Not only that, but he has also managed to take the a photograph of this bird in the wild. Click here to read his blog about this discovery.
Top Birding destination in Africa by David Hoddinott
Tour leader David Hoddinott has often been asked, if he were to choose only four countries to travel to in Africa, what would they be? Not an easy question to answer; however, it helps when breaking the continent down into regions. Click here to read David’s informative blog.
Ric and Betty Zarwell and Eric Pozzo at the Rockjumper booth
during this year’s American Birding Expo
AMERICAN BIRDING EXPO
Rockjumper Birding Tours were one of the key sponsors on the inaugural American Birding Expo which concluded on the 04 October 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. Congratulations to Bill Thompson III, Wendy Clark and The Birdwatcher’s Digest team for creating such a prestigious and successful event. We at Rockjumper are very proud to have been involved right from the start and it was great to meet so many US birders in Ohio! The next American Birding Expo will be in Columbus from 16-18 September 2016 and we can assure all North American birders that this event is well worth attending for many reasons.
Click here to view some of our upcoming events.
Customised or private tours are an increasingly popular option amongst our guests due to the greater flexibility and excellent value that such tours have to offer. Whether you are a single traveller with a specific target list, a group of birding friends, or a family seeking a relaxing and educational wildlife vacation, we have the passion and experience to create a customised private tour that will perfectly suit your particular requirements. In fact, we pride ourselves on being one of the world leaders in creating and guiding such tours!
We invite you to contact our dedicated Private Tour department operated by Cuan Rush and Alison Wakelin, on email@example.com, to discuss your own custom/private tour ideas to a birding destination of your choice.
Our tour participants are now able to choose their ideal tour from our range of over 250 tours to 100 destinations worldwide offered annually. Rockjumper Birding Tours continues to maintain its reputation of offering quality birding tours, solid value and a long-established track record.
Jocotoco Antpitta by Owen Deutsch
South Ecuador Endemics
Tour Date: 11 – 26 Mar 2016, Tour Price: USD4,350 per person sharing
Our South Ecuador endemics birding tour takes us to one of the most diverse range of habitats in the world to look for a host of special and endemic birds. We will sample seven distinct areas in search of numerous specialties.
Targets include El Oro and White-breasted Parakeet, El Oro Tapaculo, Watkins’s and Jocotoco Antpitta, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Rainbow Starfrontlet and extremely localized Orange-throated Tanager.
Satyr Tragopan by Markus Lilje
Bhutan – Birding the Buddhist Kingdom II
Tour Date: 14 Apr – 03 May 2016, Tour Price: USD7,196 per person sharing
Our fabulous Bhutan birding tours traverse the breadth of this remarkable country, passing through lush broad-leaved forests, seemingly endless coniferous forests, and arguably the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. The Bhutanese birds are no less extravagant with seldom-seen rarities including species that are unlikely to be encountered elsewhere.
Targets include Himalayan Monal, Satyr Tragopan, White-bellied Heron, Ibisbill, Ward’s Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Beautiful Nuthatch, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler and Fire-tailed Myzornis.
Little Bustard by Ignacio Yufera
Birding Spain II
Tour Date: 08 – 23 May 2016, Tour Price: USD4,575 per person sharing
Our Birding Spain tour is especially timed for the European Spring, when the area’s many resident and breeding birds are joined by migrants en route from Africa to their northern nesting areas. Some of the fabulous species we hope to see include Spanish Imperial Eagle (up to 23 raptor species are possible!), Great and Little Bustard, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spectacled Warbler, Alpine Accentor, both species of noisy Chough, White-throated Dipper and the fabulous Wallcreeper.
Swinhoe’s Pheasant by Glen Valentine
Best of Taiwan
Tour Date: 25 May – 05 Jun 2016, Tour Price: USD3,975 per person sharing
Taiwan not only has great avifauna, but a host of other highlights that make it a wonderful destination for a comfortable and relaxing tour. With 25 endemics and many endemic subspecies, not to mention the incredible East-Asian Flyway, Taiwan has much to offer both the serious and casual birder alike. Targets include Malayan Night Heron, Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasant, Black-faced Spoonbill, Ryukyu Scops Owl, Fairy Pitta, Steere’s Liocichla, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Taiwan Wren Babbler, Flamecrest, the stunning Collared Bush Robin and the beautiful Taiwan Blue Magpie.
Andean Cock-of-the-rock by Adam Riley
Classic Peru – Machu Picchu to Manu
Tour Date: 05 – 24 Jun 2016, Tour Price: USD6,775 per person sharing
Our Classic Peru tour explores the coastal deserts of Peru, a ‘must do’ pelagic, the rarely explored Apurimac Valley, Machu Picchu, the famous Manu Road and Manu WC.
Top species include White-cheeked Cotinga, Peruvian Sheartail, Bearded Mountaineer, Golden-collared and Paradise Tanagers, a host of endemic spinetails, canasteros, tapaculos, inca finches, wrens and antpittas, Black-spotted Bare-eye and Cerulean-capped and Fiery-capped Manakins.
Blue-headed Pitta by Rainer Summers
Malaysia & Borneo – Rainforest Birds & Mammals
Tour Date: 06 – 24 Jun 2016, Tour Price: MYR22,750 per person sharing (Approx. Price £3,720* USD5,280*)
Rockjumper’s Malaysia & Borneo – Rainforest Birds and Mammals tour visits some of the world’s most famous birdwatching sites. From Fraser’s Hill to the Danum Valley we will seek out many species of stunning pittas, hornbills, trogons, broadbills, bee-eaters and kingfishers. Other sought-after targets include the stately Great Argus, Crested Fireback, Storm’s Stork, Bornean Bristlehead, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Fruithunter, Rail-babbler and the incredible Bornean Ground Cuckoo while also enjoying memorable experiences with Bornean Orangutan and Proboscis Monkeys.
Philippine Eagle by Rich Lindie
The Philippines – Endangered Endemics
Tour Date: 01 – 19 May 2016, Tour Price: USD5,300 per person sharing
Our Endangered Endemics birding tour explores the Philippines’ three largest islands and covers the best of the remaining habitats in our attempts to find some of the world’s most spectacular and threatened birds.
On Luzon we visit sites for Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Scale-feathered Malkoha, the sensational Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove, secretive Whiskered Pitta and recently discovered Chocolate Boobook. On Palawan, white sandy beaches, extensive coral reefs and an underground river make a spectacular backdrop for a number of the specials we are likely to find. Highlights include the mound-building Philippine Megapode, Red-bellied and Hooded Pittas, the incredibly beautiful Blue Paradise Flycatcher and glittering Palawan Peacock-Pheasant. Mindanao hosts the largest tracts of remaining lowland forest and here we search for the secretive Wattled Broadbill, Azure-breasted Pitta and beautiful Philippine Trogon. The forested slopes of Mt. Kitanglad are the most reliable site for the magnificent Philippine Eagle, this giant raptor often rated as the world’s single-most desirable bird! Here we will also search for another recently discovered bird, Bukidnon Woodcock, as well as Apo Myna and Giant Scops Owl.
Purple-crested Turaco by Markus Lilje
Budget Eastern South Africa I
Tour Date: 24 May – 04 Jun 2016, Tour Price: ZAR27,750 per person sharing (Approx. Price £1,190* USD1,690* )
On our Budget Eastern South Africa adventure we will explore the classic African savanna of the world-renowned Kruger National Park, the teeming Zululand game reserves, and the endemic-rich mist-belt forests and grasslands of the Natal Midlands.
Target birds include Southern Bald Ibis, Blue and Wattled Cranes, Blue Korhaan, Knysna Turaco, Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks, Orange and Spotted Ground Thrushes, Bush Blackcap, Rudd’s Apalis, the lovely Pink-throated Twinspot, Barratt’s Warbler, Olive Bushshrike, delightful Swee Waxbill, Forrest Canary, Buff-streaked Chat and the highly endangered Cape Parrot. Our chances of finding the classic ‘Big Five’ (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino) are excellent, while less common mammals on our route include African Wild Dog, Cheetah and the endemic Black Wildebeest.
Exchange Rate Note: The recent devaluation of the South African Rand against other major currencies such as the US Dollar, Pound Sterling and Euro has meant that our South Africa tours have become even cheaper than they were a few months ago.
Raggiana Bird-of-paradise by Markus Lilje
Papua New Guinea: Birds in Paradise III
Tour Date: 15 Aug – 01 Sep 2016, Tour Price: PGK25,750 per person sharing (Approx. Price £5,688* USD8,897*)
Of all the world’s birding destinations, Papua New Guinea would have to rank as the most fascinating and exotic. These virtually untouched forests come alive with the sights and sounds of fruit doves, fig parrots, fairywrens, whistlers, paradise kingfishers, jewel-babblers, honeyeaters, berrypeckers and bowerbirds, whilst more than twenty species of dazzling birds-of-paradise display their iridescent colors and elaborate plumes in one of the most astonishing exhibits of the natural world.
Our Papua New Guinea tours offer incredible coverage with regards to the avian highlights of this enchanting island and we can expect a phenomenal variety of exotic birds while we explore some fabulous, remote forests.
Long-tailed Ground Roller by Rich Lindie
Madagascar Highlights II
Tour Date: 13 – 27 Oct 2016, Tour Price: USD5,100 per person sharing
For our Madagascar Highlights tour we have cherry-picked the very best of Madagascar and are offering it as a shorter package, This tour still produces all 5 endemic bird families, plus an exciting selection of lemurs and other representative wildlife.
Highlights are numerous with a short selection including Subdesert Mesite, Cuckoo Roller, all 5 ground rollers, Red-breasted, Blue & Giant Coua, Velvet Asity, Nuthatch, Lafresnaye’s & Sickle-billed Vanga, Banded Kestrel, Crossley’s Babbler, Madagascar Sandgrouse, Madagascar Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl, Collared Nightjar, Madagascar (Crested) Ibis and Madagascar Wood Rail.
Drakensberg Rockjumper by Adam Riley
Eastern South Africa IV
Tour Date: 03 – 17 Jun 2016, Tour Price: ZAR47,250 per person sharing (Approx. Price £2,020* USD2,870)
Our Eastern South Africa birding and wildlife tours combine the great birds and animals of the world-renowned Kruger National Park, the teeming Zululand game reserves, the endemic-rich mist belt forests and grasslands of the Natal Midlands and the lofty magnificent Drakensburg.
Target species include Southern Bald Ibis, Bearded Vulture, the rare Taita Falcon, Blue and Wattled Crane, Blue Korhaan, Ground Woodpecker, Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark, the endangered Blue Swallow, Spotted Ground Thrush, Drakensburg Rockjumper, Gurney’s Sugarbird, and the lovely pink-throated Twinspot. Our chances of achieving the classic ‘Big Five’ (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo, and Rhino) are excellent, while less common mammals include African Wild Dog, Cheetah and the endemic Black Wildebeest.
Exchange Rate Note: The recent devaluation of the South African Rand against other major currencies such as the US Dollar, Pound Sterling and Euro has meant that our South Africa tours have become even cheaper than they were a few months ago.
Boreal Owl by Jari Peltomaki
Birding Finland & Sweden
Tour Date: 09 – 20 May 2016, Tour Price: €3,975 per person sharing (Approx. Price £3,120* USD4,420*)
Our Birding Finland & Sweden tour is timed for the prime spring period and encompasses a wide selection of habitats, so we can expect to notch up most of the region’s important species. In Sweden we visit lowlands, the vast forested montane areas and the migration hotspot island of Oland in the Baltic Sea, and in Finland we concentrate on the Oulu and Kuusamo region. Targets include the stunning Smew, magnificent White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Gyrfalcon, Hazel and Black Grouse, the giant Western Capercaillie, Corn Crake, frilled Ruff, Eurasian Dotterel, Great Grey, Ural, Boreal, Eurasian Eagle and Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Siberian jay, Grey-headed Chikadee, Red-flanked Bluetail and the tiny Eurasian Penduline Tit.
European Bee-eater by Markus Lilje
Birding Central & Eastern Europe
Tour Date: 21 May – 02 Jun 2016, Tour Price: USD3,975 per person sharing
Central and Eastern Europe are quite simply superb for birdwatchers. There are plenty of ‘eastern’ specialities that rarely, if ever, venture into the western regions of the continent; in fact, many species are far more abundant and easier to find in the east, no doubt due to its lack of development compared to the more affluent west.
The likes of Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon, Little Crake, Syrian, Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers (in fact all 10 European woodpecker species that come to mind. Other more widespread but no less spectacular birds include Golden Eagle, Great Bustard, Common Crane, Eurasian and Little Bitterns, Black Woodpecker, and beautiful Bluethroat.
*Please note: these prices are subject to foreign exchange fluctuations
2017 SCHEDULED TOUR CALENDAR IS NOW AVAILABLE
We are pleased to announce that our 2017 scheduled tour calendar is now up on our website – we again are offering over 250 scheduled birding tours to over 100 countries throughout the world. Many of our most popular tours are already selling out. Please contact Crystal, our efficient and friendly senior tour consultant on firstname.lastname@example.org for information on our 2017 scheduled birding tours.