Ocellated birds: what they are and why they have that name

While guiding in the humid forest of Colombia, I spotted an Ocellated Tapaculo,  a beautiful but elusive bird. Upon hearing this species’ name, one of the birders asked  “Where do these names come from? What does that name mean?” At the time, I had no answer to give him. But I wanted to be able to answer this question for the next person who asked. So I did some research.

Ocellated Tapaculo in the Andean forest of Colombia

It turns out that the name comes from ocellus, a modern Latin word derivate and diminutive of oculus (‘eye’). So, ocellus literally means ‘small eye’. In this case, the name refers to the eye-like spots on the bird’s plumage. Therefore, the white ocelli (the plural of ocellus) that cover the body of the Tapaculo were the inspiration for its name.

We can find this bird from Peru to Colombia, within the Andean montane forest. If you are interested in seeing it, there will be good opportunities on our tour, Colombia: Three Andean Mountain Ranges.

The adjective is not exclusive of the Tapaculo

Many other species, curiously all in the Neotropics, also have  this adjective in their names.  Among the most interesting is the Yucatan Peninsula endemic, the amazing Ocellated Turkey. This bird – with a mixture of green and bronze colors and a bare, blue head, received its name from the astonishing blue and rufous ocelli on its tail.

Ocellated Turkey - Meleagris ocellata

During our tour, Honduras and Guatemala: Jewels of Central America, we will visit El Tikal National Park in the Peten region of Guatemala. This will be a great chance to spot this jewel. But,  if you would prefer a shorter tour,  our Belize: Birds of the Caribbean tour offers another good opportunity to see this species.

Finally, I should highlight one more spotted bird, which is widely distributed in Central America – the Ocellated Antbird. The black ocelli on its belly and back stand out against its otherwise brown plumage, making it look as if they were  painted on. That’s why this species  is one of the targets on Pipeline Road in Panama; and in La Selva Biological Station, which we visit on our new birding tour: Costa Rica: Wild Nature

Ocellated Antbird in Pipeline Road, Panama

Other Ocellated birds in the Neotropics

  • In the Oak-pine forest from southern Mexico to Nicaragua – Ocellated Quail.
  • A dark nightjar that we can find in many places in South America , and in Central America (Honduras to Costa Rica), we can also find a regional subspecies –  Ocellated Poorwill.
  • Found in Costa Rica and several countries in South America – Ocellated Crake.
  • The Mexican endemic  – Ocellated Thrasher.
  • One of the smallest woodpeckers found in Peru and Bolivia – Ocellated Piculet.
  • Found in the Northwest of the Amazonia – Ocellated Woodcreeper.

Common names aren’t the only ones use the word “ocellus”. Some scientific names also incorporate this word, such as ocellate, ocellatus, and ocellatum. For example, Podargus ocellatus and Leipoa ocellate are the scientific names of Marbled Frogmouth and Malleefowl, respectively.  The two species are in Australia – another upcoming destination for Whitehawk.

Top 10 reasons to visit Cuba for birders

Cuba is one of the most unique places in the Americas. It is the largest island in the Caribbean and has lots of natural habitat to support hundreds of species of birds including at least 26 endemics and even more regional endemics. It also features a rich and thriving culture that seems to propel us back in time. There are many reasons to visit Cuba. Here is our list of the top 10, though not in any particular order, because all are worth boasting about!

1.  26 endemic species of birds

Islands in general are known for having endemic species but Cuba possibly tops it all with 26 viable endemic bird species, plus a big handful of regional Caribbean endemics. Cuba’s endemics are incredibly unique; many species are placed in their own genera and even in their own families – Cuban Trogon (Cuba’s national bird), Oriente Warbler, Fernandina’s Flicker, Cuban Tody, Blue-headed Quail-Dove and Cuban Solitaire, just to name a few. We have had great luck seeing all 26 viable endemics during our previous tours, including the rarest endemic, Gundlach’s Hawk. Check out our 2018 trip report.

Cuban Trogon the Cuba's national bird
Cuban Trogon, Cuba’s National bird

2.  Zapata Swamp

Located on the Zapata peninsula 93 miles southeast of Havana, the Zapata Swamp is one of the key habitats to visit during any birding trip to Cuba. It is home to three key endemic species that bear its name, the Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow and the virtually flightless and critically endangered Zapata Rail (by some, presumably extinct). The Zapata Swamp itself is comprised of one million acres of lowland wetlands. It is part of the Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve, designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in the year 2000, and is the largest protected area in all of the Caribbean.

The Zapata Wren is the most restricted endemic bird in Cuba
The Zapata Wren is the most restricted endemic bird in Cuba

3.  Old Havana

Founded in 1519, Old Havana is the old town city center of Havana. Full of fortresses, cathedrals and plazas, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is not to be missed. Draped in baroque and neoclassical architecture everywhere you look, the old cobblestone streets are full of color and culture. Old cars add even more color to the landscape, and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. Take a stroll down the Malecón on the waterfront or visit the National Capitol; enjoy a concert or ballet in the Great Theater or go museum-hopping to experience Cuba’s art and history. There is much to see here!

4.  Cuban Food

Latin America has a tropical flare in just about all aspects, and food is a major part of that. Like other things in Cuba, the country has great Spanish, African and Caribbean influences when it comes to food. When visiting Cuba, get ready for delicious dishes of arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), ropa vieja (shredded pork), boliche (Cuban pot roast), black beans cooked to perfection, or indulge in a frita (Cuban hamburger – shoestring fries come on the burger!). Tropical fruits are abundant here – guava, plantain, papaya, pineapple, coconut – and are served fresh and are included in many recipes. Be sure to leave room for dessert – arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding), coconut flan, tres leches cake, Cuban pastries and more!

5.  Casas particulares

There are hotels and resorts in Cuba, but to really immerse yourself in Cuban culture, a stay at a casa particular provides a truly rewarding experience. Casas particulares are houses run by local people that rent the rooms or houses where they live. It is a grand experience of family hospitality, a great opportunity to share stories and learn about the life experiences of local Cubans. It promotes tourism within community and has mutualistic rewards for both the home owner and visitor. We stay in casas particulares for most of our Endemic Birds of Cuba tour.

6.  Smallest bird in the world

Cuba is home to many unique species of birds, including the Bee Hummingbird. Weighing in at only 2.6 grams and a mere 6.1 cm long, it holds the record as the smallest living bird in the world! Both male and female show iridescent plumage, and the male is adorned with a brilliant gorget showing a rainbow of fiery reds and oranges fading to yellows and greens in the right light. It is found throughout the Cuban archipelago but can be best found at the mogotes and Zapata Swamp. The Bee Hummingbird is locally known as zunzuncito – an incredibly cute name for a hummingbird, we think!

Bee Hummingbird the smallest hummingbird in the world
Male Bee Hummingbird, the smallest hummingbird in the world

7.  So many flamingos

Cuba boasts one of the best spectacles of flamingo­­s in the world. American Flamingo (also known as the Caribbean Flamingo) is found here in great numbers, with an estimated 70,000 breeding adults. Cuba is home to the largest breeding colony of flamingos in the western hemisphere. These salmon-colored waders are always a highlight when we visit Cuba. We’ll look for them at Cayo Coco and in the Zapata Peninsula.

American Flamingos at Salinas de Brito, Zapata Peninsula
American Flamingos at Salinas de Brito, Zapata Peninsula

8.  The Mogotes

In the plains of the Viñales Valley, odd rounded mountains called mogotes pop out of the rural landscape. These vertical-walled hills are made of hard limestone left over after millennia of erosion. Cuban Trogon, Fernandina’s Flicker, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Gundlach’s Hawk, Yellow-headed Warbler and Cuban Bullfinch can be found in the area, among others.

Mogotes in Cuba, Valley of Viñales
Mogotes, in the Valley of Viñales

9.  Excellent Botanical Gardens

A natural gem in the heart of Havana is the National Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1968, the gardens feature collections of Cuban plants, orchids, succulents, palms, ferns, and other plants from all over the world. Knowledgeable guides share information about the ecosystems of Cuba and Cuba’s plant life. The botanical gardens are quite large, and there is much to explore. The variety of habitats here provides a great home for birds and other wildlife, and we kick off our Endemic Birds of Cuba tour here as Great Lizard Cuckoo, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Kestrel, Cuban Emerald, Antillean Palm-Swift and West Indian Woodpecker, among others, are common here. There are other beautiful botanical gardens to visit in other regions of Cuba as well.

10.  Meet leading Cuban Ornithologist

We feel one of the best parts of our Endemic Birds of Cuba tour,  in addition to indulging in the exquisite birding and culture during, is meeting Nils Navarro, Cuba’s leading ornithologist. Nils is the author of Endemic Birds of Cuba, a revolutionary field guide and the first of its kind focused on Cuba’s endemic birds. It was 10 years in the making. Nils is also an accomplished wildlife artist and did all the illustrations for the field guide. We’ll meet Nils in his studio in the Viñales Valley and delight as he shares his expertise and stories of birding in Cuba.

Nils Navarro talking with our group in Viñales
Nils Navarro talking with our group in Viñales

There you have it! Of course, we feel there are many more reasons to visit Cuba, especially if you are a birder or nature lover. Join us January 25 to February 4, 2019 for our popular Endemic Birds of Cuba tour and relish in all that Cuba has to offer!

 

New Tour for 2019! Costa Rica: Wild Nature

When one thinks about the tropics and tropical birds and animals, the first place that usually comes to mind is Costa Rica. Costa Rica means “Rich Coast” in Spanish, and refers to the wealth of natural beauty found along its coastlines. This small Central American nation has been on the map as the prime ecotourism destination for nearly 30 years now, and they take this honor quite seriously. With 26 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 major wetland areas, 11 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves –  26% of Costa Rican land is protected for environmental conservation. It has been the traditional hub for tropical studies for decades, and much of the flora and fauna is well-documented. That means that for the nature lover, there is much to feed the eyes and soul in Costa Rica.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird in Costa Rica - by Yeray Seminario
Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Smaller than the state of West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to approximately 850 species of birds, found in a wide variety of habitats from coastal mangroves to highland volcano peaks, and everything in between. Protected areas offer safe havens for rare and endangered species, such as Scarlet Macaw, Great Curassow, Baird’s Tapir and Jaguar, and a plethora of beautiful common birds and animals. Costa Rica also has an extensive network of ecolodges to delight birders and eco-travelers.

Female Great Curassow at La Selva, Costa Rica - by Yeray Seminario
Female Great Curassow

Costa Rica is a birder’s paradise. As specialists in Central America, it is a no-brainer that we feature an all-encompassing tour to this enchanting country! Whitehawk is introducing our COSTA RICA: WILD NATURE tour in 2019, and we are excited to experience some of the best birding and nature it has to offer us. During the 10-day tour, we will visit a variety of ecosystems and seek out some of Costa Rica’s extraordinary bird life – from long-tailed quetzals to tiny hummingbirds, and from colorful tanagers to secretive owls – anything is possible here!

During this tour we will bird among the mangroves of Guacalillo in search of specialties such as the Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Vireo and national endemic Mangrove Hummingbird; we will explore lush cloud forests of Savegre Valley, where Resplendent Quetzals, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatchers and Black-faced Solitaires adorn the mossy branches; and we will travel to the highest peaks in Cerro de la Muerte, in search of highland species including Volcano Junco, Timberline Wren and Volcano Hummingbird. Other hopefuls on this tour include Snowcap, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Ocellated Antbird, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Black Guan, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo and the adorable Ochre-breasted Antpitta! While national endemics are few in Costa Rica, we will look for Coppery-headed Emerald and Cabanis’ Ground-Sparrow, and dozens of regional endemics will keep our hearts and checklists full of local birds found primarily in Costa Rica.

Passerini's Tanager in Costa Rica - by Yeray Seminario
Passerini’s Tanager

Join us for this enticing tour to experience Central America’s biodiversity and exquisite birding. COSTA RICA: WILD NATURE will run April 6-15, 2019, starting and finishing in San Jose. Contact us to reserve your spot on this tour, spaces will fill up quickly!

Colombia: New Tour, New Country, New Continent

It’s so hot right now – Colombia, that is, in terms of birding. One of the birdiest countries on Earth, Colombia has for decades been off the radar in terms of general tourism for security reasons. Now, as this celebrated South American nation becomes safer by the day, Colombia has risen to the top of the charts of places to visit for birding, and rightly so. Boasting nearly 1900 species of birds and over 80 endemics, with just about every tropical habitat imaginable, Colombia is not to be missed for any serious birder.

One of our favorite birds in Colombia - the Blue-naped Chlorophonia
Blue-naped Chlorophonia

The northern section of the mighty Andes is broken into three ranges (western, central and eastern), each offering birds unique to their peaks and slopes. The Inter-Andean valleys, Cauca and Magdalena, likewise are hotspots for bird endemism. The biodiversity here can be overwhelming! Such fantastic species as the Golden-crowned Tanager, Andean Lapwing, Andean Tit-Spinetail and Buffy Helmetcrest hail from the high-Andean paramo, while specialties including the Yellow-eared Parrot, Cauca Guan, White-mantled Barbet and Crested Ant-Tanager can be found in the slopes and valleys.

Los Nevados National Park in Colombia
Los Nevados National Park

Whitehawk is introducing COLOMBIA: THREE ANDEAN MOUNTAIN RANGES and we couldn’t be more excited about it. This tour features all three of the aforementioned Andean ranges, as well as both Cauca and Magdalena valleys. We will seek out Colombia’s most exotic and special birds, with the possibility to see over 25 endemic species. The tour starts in Cali and finishes in Bogota, taking us from the paramo and high-Andean lakes to the lush inter-Andean cloud forests. We will also visit some great sites for water birds such as the Northern Screamer and Black-capped Donacobius. Along the way we will be awed by antpittas, and the arrays of colorful tanagers, fruiteaters, and trogons. Turquoise Dacnis, Golden-winged Manakin, Crested Quetzal, Golden-breasted Fruiteater and the endemic Multicolored Tanager await us! What’s more, we will enjoy all of these birds with the breathtaking backdrop of the Andes.

Another beauty found in Colombia - the Masked Trogon
Masked Trogon

This tour also features dozens of species of hummingbirds, both at natural sites and fantastic feeder locations. After all, Colombia boasts the highest number of hummingbird species of any country – 165 species can be found here, nearly 50% of all hummingbirds! Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, White-tailed Hillstar, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Lazuline Sabrewing, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph and Tolima Blossomcrown are just a few species we will likely encounter.

Once of Colombia's many hummingbird species - the Velvet-purple Coronet
Velvet-purple Coronet

Join us for our COLOMBIA: THREE ANDEAN MOUNTAIN RANGES tour coming up July 2-14, 2019. This tour is not to be missed! Contact us to reserve your spot and be part of a new adventure, this time to experience the sensational birds of Colombia.

National birds of Central America

Bird facts are always of interest to any birder, so cool facts about national birds are no exception! Most countries have officially (or at least unofficially) selected a national bird to best represent their local avifauna, and the Central American countries have done a great job of boasting some of the most beautiful and powerful birds that the region has to offer. So, without further ado, here we go!

Guatemala – Resplendent Quetzal

Guatemala has taken the prize for selecting one of the most iconic and most beautiful birds on Earth as its national bird – the Resplendent Quetzal. It is found throughout the highlands of Guatemala and is revered for its shimmery green plumage contrasting with its bright red belly, and its most outstanding feature, the long trailing upper tail coverts of the male. The Resplendent Quetzal has played an important role in Mesoamerican mythology – the name “quetzal” is an Ancient Mayan term for tail feather, and the Mayans were said to have used the long tail feathers for currency. The Resplendent Quetzal is found on the Guatemalan flag and coat of arms, and the country’s currency is also called, you guessed it, the Quetzal.

Resplendent Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird
Resplendent Quetzal, Guatemala’s national bird

Belize – Keel-billed Toucan

The Keel-billed Toucan, with its large, multicolored bill, is another emblematic bird of Central America. It was declared the national bird of Belize along with the country’s other national symbols when the country declared its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. Widespread throughout Belize (and through most of Central America, for that matter), it is a welcome sight to anyone, and easily distinguishable with that huge colorful bill. Being easily recognizable, common and beautiful makes the Keel-billed Toucan a great choice for Belize’s national bird.

Keel-billed Toucan, national bird of Belize
Keel-billed Toucan, national bird of Belize

El Salvador and Nicaragua – Turquoise-browed Motmot

One of the most beautiful species of the motmot family, it’s no surprise that two Central American countries have chosen the Turquoise-browed Motmot as their national birds. Found throughout El Salvador and the Pacific slope of Nicaragua, this elegant bird of Mesoamerica sports rich olive-rufous plumage highlighted with bright turquoise blue, and a long racquet-tipped tail – it is a bird not to be missed in either of these countries. It is known locally as Torogoz in El Salvador and Guardabarranco in Nicaragua.

Turquoise-browed Motmot, national bird of El Salvador and Nicaragua
Turquoise-browed Motmot, national bird of El Salvador and Nicaragua

Honduras – Scarlet Macaw

Another brightly-colored and well-known bird associated with the Neotropics, the Scarlet Macaw was declared the national bird of Honduras in 1993. This threatened species, rare in the country, was chosen to raise awareness of Honduras’ bird life among its population and beyond. Like other Central American national birds, it is attractive and calls attention easily, in hopes of sparking conservation interest globally to assist the small population in Honduras and throughout its extensive yet fragmented range. The Scarlet Macaw is locally known as La Guara Roja in Honduras, and a small population thrives in the La Mosquitia reserve in the eastern part of the country, and can be seen along the northern Caribbean coast.

Scarlet Macaw, national bird of Honduras
Scarlet Macaw, national bird of Honduras

Costa Rica – Clay-colored Thrush

Instead of choosing a more recognizable, colorful, beautiful bird associated with the tropics like many Central American countries have, Costa Rica took a different approach to selecting their national bird. Instead, they decided to honor a bird that can be seen by everyone who lives in and visits this highly biodiverse country – the ubiquitous Clay-colored Thrush! Costa Rica reveres this bird for its abundance and ease of observation, its charismatic nature in suburban gardens and most of all, its melodic song. The dawn song of the Clay-colored Thrush during its breeding season is sweet music to everyone’s ears, definitely making up for its drab brown plumage. A close cousin of the American Robin, the Clay-colored Thrush ranges from extreme southern US (Texas) throughout all of Central America and into northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.

Clay-colored Thrush, national bird of Costa Rica
Clay-colored Thrush, national bird of Costa Rica

Panama – Harpy Eagle

In such a small country, Panama has the greatest biodiversity of all of Central America. With over 1000 species of birds to choose a national bird from, Panama made a great decision by making the largest and most powerful eagle, the Harpy Eagle, its official national bird. Panama’s easternmost province, Darién, supports the largest population of Harpy Eagles in Central America, and sightings of this elusive forest eagle are uncommon but more frequent here than in the rest of the region. The Harpy Eagle represents sovereignty and is an indicator of a healthy environment. The Harpy Eagle was designated as Panama’s national bird in 2002 and is on the top of the coat of arms of the Republic of Panama.

Harpy Eagle, national bird of Panama
Harpy Eagle, national bird of Panama

Well, there you have it, the full list of national birds from the beautiful Central American countries. We challenge you to join us to see all these birds on our tours!

New two-country tour: Honduras & Guatemala

Keel-billed Motmot sit quietly in the forest understory
Keel-billed Motmots sit quietly in the forest understory.

Central America is full of natural beauty and cultural richness, and it is difficult for many to choose a favorite place within this special area of the world – each country has its own natural marvels, but two countries stand out from the rest – Honduras and Guatemala. In the heart of the ancient Mayan world, these two countries host incredible biodiversity and geological and cultural attractions, often right on top of each other! From grandiose Mayan temples to lava-spewing volcanos, from dense tropical rainforests and cool highland cloud forest and hot, dry open savanna, and such impressive species as the Resplendent Quetzal and endemic Honduran Emerald, they should rise to the top of any nature lover’s list of places to visit.

The Resplendent Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird can be seen on our Honduras and Guatemala tour
Resplendent Quetzal, Guatemala’s national bird

We are excited to introduce our first tour exploring and birding Honduras and Guatemala in a pleasant manner – focusing on the great bird and wildlife diversity while enjoying comfortable lodging, intriguing ecosystems and breathtaking scenery, awe-inspiring Mayan ruins and inviting local culture, from the Caribbean lowlands of Honduras to the cool highlands of southern Guatemala.

This 16-day tour is tailored with the best birding in mind – starting with seeking out Lovely Cotingas and Keel-billed Motmots at the ultra-luxurious Lodge at Pico Bonito, followed by the remainder of the tour in Guatemala, where we walk among ancient Mayan temples at Tikal where Ocellated Turkeys strut on the grounds, to experience local culture in Antigua and Atitlán, climbing to the highland haunts of the near-mythical Horned Guan. Along the way, we hope to find such fantastic species as Pink-headed Warbler, the endemic Goldman’s Warbler, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Mountain Trogon, Resplendent Quetzal, Bushy-crested Jay, White-bellied Chachalaca and so many others. You won’t want to miss out on this exciting Central American birding adventure!

Mayan temples peak above the rainforest canopy at Tikal
Mayan temples peak above the rainforest canopy at Tikal

Honduras and Guatemala: Jewels of Central America tour will run from February 15 to March 2, 2019, 16 days from $4885 per person (price based on 8 participants). Eight places are available, please contact us for more information.

Cuba Trip Report is now online!

Cuban Tody was seen several times during the trip. This and more pictures on our last Cuba Trip Report - by Yeray Seminario
Cuban Tody was seen several times during the trip. You can see this and more picture on our last Cuba Trip Report.

In February we had a fantastic trip to the largest island in the Caribbean: Cuba. Here, we present you our last Cuba Trip Report.

Birding in Cuba

Cuba boasts a great variety of habitats, supporting hundreds of species, both terrestrial and aquatic, and over two dozen viable endemics, making it a very popular destination for birders and nature lovers alike. Furthermore, Cuba has a rich culture, which we indulge in during the trip as well. Overall, it is a very unique country and a favorite trip of ours!

This year’s trip was extra special, as we were fortunate to have Nils Navarro, renowned expert and author of the book, “Endemic Birds of Cuba,” with us for the entire duration of the tour. Then of course, there were the birds! From the pretty Blue-headed Quail-Dove to the impressive Cuban Trogon, Cuba’s national bird, we were pleasantly entertained by Cuba’s avifauna. We even managed to see Cuba’s rarest endemic, the Gundlach’s Hawk, carrying a snake! We saw all the viable endemics during this 11-day tour – Bee Hummingbird (the smallest bird in the world), Cuban Tody, Zapata Wren, Cuban SolitaireCuban Parakeet and a great selection of regional endemics as well. And to our surprise, while not an endemic, we did come across Cuba’s second record (and first photographed) Wilson’s Phalarope.

The Blue-headed Quail-Dove is one of the beautiful endemics of the island.

Casas Particulares: a nice local touch

Staying in local Casas Particulares, we got a good feel for the rich culture of the Caribbean nation, and not to mention the delicious food we were served every day of the trip! Great local guides and great participants also made the trip very memorable. Thanks to everyone for their enthusiasm and for enjoying Cuba with us!

For all the details, read our Cuba trip report, and consider joining Whitehawk’s upcoming Endemic Birds of Cuba trip, January 25 to February 4, 2019.

The new Madagascar Trip Report is online

What? The new Madagascar Trip Report is out??? – Malagasy Scops-Owl at Andasibe-Mantadia NP

In November, Whitehawk completed its first tour to Madagascar. Covering the southern and eastern parts of the country, tour participants were treated to an amazing mix of habitats – from the unique spiny forests of Ifaty, to the incredible rock formations of Isalo, to the expansive rainforests of Ranomafana National Park. As you can imagine, such a diversity of habitats often equals a comparable diversity of wildlife – and Madagascar does not disappoint, specially when you consider that over 90% of its flora and fauna are endemic!  You can read our Madagascar Trip Report here

We got to see many species on this trip: eighteen different lemur species including the largest living lemur, the Indri, in Perinet and one of the smallest – the Gray-Brown Mouse Lemur in Berenty Reserve. We also saw 6 species of chameleons – mostly on our night walks!

White-footed Sportive Lemur at Berenty Reserve

But, of course, this was a birding tour and so our focus  was on the unique and beautiful species of the island. We saw close to 160 species on our two week trip, with some of the highlights being the Helmet Vanga, all five species of ground-rollers, the Sickle-billed Vanga and the Madagascar Cuckoo-hawk.

The Amazingly-looking Sickle-billed Vanga

If you are interested in Madagascar and want to explore the possibilities of doing a trip with us, contact us and we will either arrange a private tour or inform you of an open space in one of our future trips.

Costa Rica Birding Challenge and some Owls

Costa Rica Birding Challenge: Crested Owl near Guapiles, Costa Rica
Crested Owl near Guapiles, Costa Rica

The Costa Rica Birding Challenge finished last week with an amazing number of birds seen or heard collectively: more than 550 species in over a week’s time. The Tico Tickers, Yeray’s team, came in first place with 488 species!

We want to congratulate all the participants and organizers for an amazing event, which we are sure will be repeated in the future.

Here  is a selection of the owls seen during the competition, which shows the great potential of the country when it comes to Owling!

Costa Rica Birding Challenge: Bare-shanked Screech Owl at Monteverde, Costa Rica
Bare-shanked Screech Owl at Monteverde, Costa Rica
Tropical Screech Owl seen during the Costa Rica Birding Challenge
Tropical Screech Owl seen during the Costa Rica Bird Challenge
the Pacific Screech Owl seen during the Costa Rica Birding Challenge
You couldn’t get any farther from this Pacific Screech Owl, it was in a very low branch!
Young Spectacled Owl seen during the Costa Rica Birding Challenge
Extremely cute young Spectacled Owl

Zapata Wren during our last tour in Cuba

Zapata Wren
Zapata Wren

The Zapata Wren is the most restricted endemic in Cuba, only present in the Zapata Peninsula and certainly a must-see when you go to Cuba. It is also the only member of its genus: ferminia! We got to see it this well during our last tour, allowing everyone in the group to have good looks and even take some pictures with the sunrise light!

If you want to know more about our next tour to Cuba, follow this link.