Friday, 23 December 2011

Destinations: Theosophical Society Gardens, Chennai

The gardens of the Theosophical Society in Chennai, India, are a pleasant and easy place to take a bird-walk in an otherwise hectic city. Birds include Orange-headed Thrush, Ashy Minivet, Yellow-billed Babbler and Black-rumped Flameback. Another highlight is a 400 year old Banyan Tree. Ask at the entrance whether cameras can be used and perhaps pay a small fee. The gardens are easily reached by taxi.  

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Wildlife: Vernal Hanging Parrot

Vernal Hanging Parrot Loriculus vernalis is a tiny (just 14cm long) agile, little parrot found in parts of India and a few other places in SE Asia. This one, living up to its name, photographed on South Andaman Island in November 2012 (Gerard Gorman). 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Destinations: Mount Harriet NP, South Andaman Island, India

This tropical evergreen forested mountain (at just 365m the highest point on South Andaman) is easily accessed by a tarmac road that runs from its foot to the peak. Great views over the sea from there, too. It is a national park and home to many of the Andaman Islands' endemic birds, including: Andaman Woodpecker, Andaman Shama, Andaman Bulbul, Andaman Drongo, Andaman Crake, Andaman Woodpigeon, Andaman Coucal and Andaman Serpent-eagle. To reach Mount Harriet, take the ferry from Port Blair to Bamboo Flats (20 minutes) and get a taxi to the top before walking down. Of course there is other wildlife too, for example, watch out for leeches!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Destinations: Havelock Island, Andaman Islands, India

Havelock Island (in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Sea) is a paradise of long, sandy beaches and coastal rainforest dotted with villages, coconut plantations and paddy-fields. Offshore is a rich coral reef where with luck Leatherback, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Green Turtles can be seen. Many endemic animals are found here including several birds. Whether one explores the land or the sea, photo opportunities are often excellent. The island lies in Ritchie's Archipelago, 54km NE of Port Blair in the South Andamans. It is accessible from Port Blair by ferry (about 2 hours). Look out for White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Flying Fish and dolphins from the ferry.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Destinations: Navarra - Spain

The Navarra region of Spain is a great birding destination with a range of diverse landscapes and habitats. In the south are steppes and wetlands, in the centre wooded hills and gorges, and in the north the magnificent mountains and pastures of the Pyrenees. Birds abound with raptors such as Lammergeier a major draw. Pamplona lies at the heart of the region and can be reached from Bilbao to the west, Zaragoza to the south, or through the mountains from France in the north.    

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Destinations: Langkawi Islands - Malaysia

This archipelago of more than 100 islands (Pulau Langkawi) lies off the north-west coast of Malaysia, up against the Thai border. They are a very popular holiday destination but away from the resorts still have some good forest, with hornbills and woodpeckers, and mudflats and paddy-fields which are good in migration periods. Mangroves, which are best worked on boat-tours, host a fascinating range of birds, fish and other wildlife. White-bellied Sea-Eagle is just one bird which is not hard to find around the coast. Access by plane or ferry from the mainland at Kuala Perlis or Kuala Kedah.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Destinations: Zahorie - Slovakia


Zahorie is a lowland floodplain in the very west Of Slovakia, along the Austrian border. Bratislava is less than an hour to the south. There are wet meadows, marshes, reedbeds, pine-dotted dunes and oak, poplar and willow woodlands here, all good for amphibians, dragonflies and lowland loving butterflies in summer. Breeding birds include both Black and White Storks, which are fairly common, Black and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, and raptors like Saker, Red and Black Kites and Marsh and Montagu's Harriers. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Wildlife: Common Nawab

The Common Nawab Polyura athamas is a large, attractive common butterfly in much of south-east Asia. It occurs from the Himalayas to Indonesia. It is fast-flying but often alights and is then easy to photograph.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Destinations: Penang Hill, Penang Island - Malaysia

Away from the beach-resorts and the busy city of Georgetown, Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) offers great views and birders some good opportunities. There are still some decent tropical forests here and residential areas also host some typical birds. There are various swifts and swiftlets, swallows, bee-eaters, bulbuls, munias, babblers, flycatchers, sunbirds, spider-hunters and White-bellied and Rufous Woodpeckers. The top of the hill is reached by regular funicular trains from Air Itam. But best to visit on work-days not weekends to avoid the crowds. Penang Island lies off the west coat of Peninsula Malaysia. It is accessible by a road-bridge, the longest in Asia, from near Butterworth on the mainland. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Wildlife: Water Monitor

Water Monitor Varanus salvator. This lizard is quite common in parts of SE Asia. They can grow to over 3m (over 10 feet) in length.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Destinations: Cameron Highlands - Malaysia

These hills in Malaysia lie around 2 hours north of Kuala Lumpur. Though parts can be heavily touristed, especially at weekends, there are many spots off the beaten track where birds and other wildlife can be found. The hills are mostly forested, away from the fruit and tea-plantations, and being up top 2000m asl are cooler than the lowlands. Several trails, not always well-marked or maintained, sometimes steep, lead from the road between Tanah Rata and Brinchang, which are the best bases. Key birds include Rufous-vented Niltava, Bay Woodpecker, Mountain Peacock-Pheasant, Green Magpie and Slaty-backed Forktail.  

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Wildlife: Camberwell Beauty

The Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa is a stunning butterfly found in temperate Eurasia and North America. It is found in sunny, wooded areas particularly with willow and poplar trees. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Wildlife: Osprey

The Osprey Pandion haliaetus breeds across much of the northern hemisphere and is a fairly common visitor in the south when on spring and autumn passage and in winter. This fine photo taken by Laszlo Becsy in Hungary.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Wildlife: Fire-bellied Toad

The Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina is a common little amphibian in wetlands across much of lowland Central and Eastern Europe. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Destinations: Velebit Nature Park - Croatia

The Velebit Nature Park covers a rugged area of the southern Velebit Mountains in Dalmatia. There are gorges, clear rivers, scrubby hillsides and patches of woodland. In summer there is a rich range of butterflies, a selection of reptiles and some endemic sub-Alpine plants. It is a great region for walking.     

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Wildlife: European Serin

European Serin Serinus serinus is a common but charming little bird found throughout southern Europe in spring and summer. It is a mainland relative of the Canary that is found on some Atlantic Islands.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Destinations: Varanger Fjord - Norway

Varanger Fjord lies at the very northern tip of mainland Europe, in the Finnmark region of Norway. It is a famous wildlife and birdwatching destination. It is a sparsely populated land of uplands, glaciers and tundra with a rich and accessible Arctic birdlife. It can be a harsh place but in spring large numbers of sea-duck gather along the coast, including beautiful Steller's Eiders and King Eiders as well as skuas and gulls. Gyr Falcon is another key bird here and there are grouse on the tundra. Mammals include Arctic Fox and various cetaceans in the waters of the fjord. But luck with the weather is always needed here. Varanger is also an area where the 'Northern Lights' can be watched.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wildlife: European Pond Terrapin

The European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis occurs across most of southern and eastern Europe and as far north as Latvia. It has however declined in many areas. Males reach 12cm in length and can live for 40 years. Photo of several in typical basking poses taken by Nigel Sprowell in Croatia.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Wildlife: Rhesus Macaque

The Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta is a common primate found in Asia (in China, India, Bhutan, Laos, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Afghanistan). The only other primate with a wider distribution is the human! Macaques are often rather confiding (sometimes decidedly pushy) and easy to photograph.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Books: Wildlife & Conservation Volunteering

The full title of this original book by Peter Lynch is Wildlife & Conservation Volunteering: The Complete Guide, and it is just that. It details over 50 conservation organisations and companies, includes accounts from actual volunteers, tips on how to raise funds and obtain permits and all kinds of advice on where to go and which projects to join. A must for anyone who wants to get involved in wildlife conservation. Published by Bradt.   

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Wildlife Photography: Devil's Flower Mantis

This superb mantis Blepharopsis mendica is also sometimes called Thistle Mantis. It is found in north Africa, the Canary Islands, the southern Med and the Middle East. This fine specimen was photographed in Cyprus by Alan Outen.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Destinations: Samoborsko Hills - Croatia

The Samoborsko Hills (Samoborsko Gorje) lie around an hour's drive north-west of Zagreb, Croatia's capital. just north of the small town of Jastrebarsko. This wooded, protected upland is a good area to walk all-year round and great for birds in spring and butterflies in summer.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Wildlife Photography: Adonis Blue

This stunning little butterfly was photographed in the Aggtelek National Park Hungary in June 2010.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Accommodations: Boreal Wildlife Centre, Finland

The Boreal Wildlife Centre is tucked away in the Karalia region of Finland, in the hamlet of Viiksimo, close to the Russian border. This region of Taiga forest, lakes and bogs has good numbers of Brown Bear, Wolf and Wolverine. These mammals can be watched with the help of expert guides from the centre who also have hides (blinds) from which wildlife can be photographed. It is a great place to stay, a converted frontier station in fact, but advanced booking will be needed!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Destinations: Deception Island - Antarctica

This remote islands is an active volcano in the South Shetlands, off the Antarctic Peninsula. Its landscape comprises bare volcanic slopes, and ash-layered beaches and glaciers. The island is horse-shoe shaped with a large flooded caldera. Nine seabird species breed on Deception, including the world's largest colony of chinstrap penguins Pygoscelis antarctica at Baily Head, on the south-west coast. An estimated 100,000 pairs nest here. The only way to realistically get to Deception Island is to join an organised wildlife cruise of the Antarctic that takes in this incredible place. Photo of Chinstrap Penguins on the island by Doug Kirwin.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Accommodations: Villa Philadelphia, Sinemoretz - Bulgaria

This guest-house is located in the village of Sinemoretz near the border with Turkey in the south-east of Bulgaria, right on the Black Sea coast. The Strandja National Reserve, which is nearby, is an important forested hill region with various breeding raptors, resident woodpeckers and a speciality of this region Semi-coloured Flycatcher. The area is also a major migratory bottleneck site with more than 1000s of White Storks and 100s of eagles passing overhead each autumn. The villa is eco-friendly and birder-friendly and even arranges birding trips, with advanced notice, in conjunction with the Bulgarian Society For Bird Protection. Here is their website: Villa Philadephia.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Destinations: Triglav National Park - Slovenia

The Triglav NP lies in the Julian Alps in the north-west of Slovenia. It is around 800km2 of mostly rugged terrain with great scenery. The highest point is Mount Triglav at 2864m. Wildlife includes Chamois, Alpine Marmot, Mountain Hare, Golden Eagle and Wallcreeper. Though the tourist infrastructure is good, with marked trails and mountain huts and plenty of hotels lower down, this is ultimately trekking country and the weather can be unpredictable so good planning and proper gear are needed on any visit.  

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Destinations: Calilegua National Park - Argentina

The Calilegua Nacional Park lies in the south-east of the province of Jujuy, in the very north-west of Argentina. It was created in 1979 to preserve the Yungas forests of the pre-Andes, particularly the flora and fauna of cloud forest habitat. With a surface of 295 m2, it comprises the largest national park in the region and is crossed by marked trails. The park is rich in birdlife and the top-predator is Jaguar.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Wildlife Photography: Brown Bears

Brown Bears fighting. The best way to get wildlife shots like this is to visit a photographic hide. The chances of coming across wildlife in action like this and getting good photos is slim at the best of times. This photo was taken from such a hide by Kari Kemppainen in Karalia, Finland. Email this blog to arrange a visit to wildlife photo hides in Finland.    

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Destinations: Karalia, Finland

The Karalia region of Finland is one close to Finnish hearts. It is a region that has been fought over several times. Nestling up against the Russian border it is not densely populated and in parts very wild. It is a land of Taiga forests, lakes and bogs with good numbers of Brown Bear, Wolf and Wolverine. These mammals are not easy to see without local help but a variety of lodges with local guides, sometimes with photo-hides, can assist in that. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Wildlife: Forest Reindeer

Reindeer Rangifer tarandus (called Caribou in North America) are often easy to see in the Arctic areas of Eurasia and Canada. But many of the animals encountered are not truly wild, though they wander freely for much of the year they are actually owned by people and "farmed" for their meat, milk and hide. But in some areas real wild-living reindeer do exist. For example, in Finland some populations inhabit boreal coniferous forest and rarely venture out onto the open Tundra. These are on average smaller beats and referred to a Forest Reindeer. Photo Kari Kemppainen, Karalia, Finland.    

Monday, 31 January 2011

Accommodations: Jungle Lore Birding Lodge - India

The Jungle Lore Birding Lodge lies in the village of Pangot near Nainital, in northern India in Uttarakhand Province. It is not a luxury lodge but has running water and ensuite cottages and is perfectly adequate for keen birders wishing to see the regions special wildlife which includes Lammergeier and Cheer, Koklass and Khalij Pheasants. Leopards are sometimes seen by the lodge itself as they hunt for the local monkeys. The staff are very helpful, birding guides available, there is a bird book library and the food is authentic local fare.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Wildlife: Moths and Mothing

There is a growing interest in moths. An increasing number of folks are travelling the world to observe them and some tour companies are even organising group tours based on moth trapping and photography. There are innumerable species, some large and spectacular, some very colourful, others rather bland. Most are nocturnal, others not. If you take up moths as a hobby, mothing, you will never run out of subjects to look for and study. This subtly coloured Geometer Moth species was photographed in Hungary.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Wildlife: Southern Giant Petrel

This huge impressive seabird, with a wingspan of some 190cm, breeds on remote islands in the southern seas. But it spends much time on the wing and is often best seen when following ships, which it often does. This fine photo was taken by Doug Kirwin off the South Shetland Islands.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Destinations: Skomer Island - Wales, UK

Skomer is a island reserve in the Irish Sea, off Pembrokeshire in SW Wales. It is run by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and is accessible by boat from 1st April to 31st October (weather permitting). Several trails criss-cross the island, short ones and a longer circular one which follows almost the coastline. Skomer is home to one of the most accessible seabird colonies in Europe: the Puffins here are very photogenic! You can reach the island by boat from the village of Martin's Haven. Take the B4327 road from Haverfordwest and follow it south-west until the turning for Marloes. Continue through Marloes until you reach the car park by the harbour.