Boasting a truly remarkable mosaic of habitats, ranging from Stone Pine woodland and open grassland to sprawling marshlands, the Coto Doñana makes for some of the most diverse birdwatching in Europe. In the Coto del Rey area, visitors have the chance to encounter the mighty Spanish Imperial Eagle, as well as Griffon Vulture, Goshawk and both Booted and Short-toed Eagles. Species which, together, provide an unprecedented boon to raptor-lovers. The wetlands of Donana are equally enthralling, playing host to iconic regional specialities like Red-Knobbed Coot and White-headed Duck, and supporting an eclectic mix of other wetland fare. Among these: Marbled Duck, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis and the outlandish Purple Swamphen. While Europe boasts many top birding locations, few can rival the variety found in Doñana.
Few birds capture the popular imagination quite like hummingbirds and fewer still can rival the striking beauty and uncanny grace of these little marvels. All in all, Honduras boasts 43 species of hummingbird and this tour promises to bring guests up-close and personal with at least three-quarters of these. Violet Sabrewing, Salvin’s Emerald, Green-breasted Mountaingem, the list of species potentially observed as you move between the islands mountain peaks is staggering; although even among this vibrant bunch, some species, in particular, stand out. Eyes-peeled for the undeniable gorgeous Wine-throated Hummingbird, boasting it’s vivid, purple throat patch.
Endemic species – those found only within one particular area – are the name of the game in world birding. Often unique and always superbly adapted, South Africa boasts 19 such species and this tour promises the chance to observe and enjoy a great many of them. Among these, the kaleidoscopic Orange-breasted Sunbird, a species associated with Erica (Heather) species found exclusively in Southwestern South Africa. Other noteworthy birds likely encountered on this tour include Knysna Woodpecker, found solely in the coastal lowlands of South Africa, and the near-endemic Sclater’s Lark. If endemics do not float your boat, it is worth bearing in mind that this tour is also likely to deliver Black Harrier – arguably one of the most attractive birds of prey in the world!
Spain again but this time to the open plains, mountains, heathland and dehesa – grazed holm oak forest – of that most special region: Extremadura. This tour promises an entirely different experience to that mentioned earlier, facilitating encounters with iconic species such as Azure-winged Magpie, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Scops Owl. The sprawling plains of Extremadura should deliver memorable run-ins with Little and Great Bustards; as well as Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. While, better still, a full day in Monfragüe Natural Park promises the unprecedented opportunity to observe one of the most impressive gatherings of vultures in all of Europe. The sight of hundreds of Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vulture riding thermals, and the chance of not one but five species of eagle is certainly not to be scoffed at. Extremadura really does have it all, whatever your ornithological inclination.
Does it get much better than an Inca Tern? I think not, they’re outstanding, and this tour promises attendees the opportunity to observe this dazzling species in droves, alongside a suite of other birds characteristic of coastal Pucusana. Among these, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Diving-Petrel and Guanay Cormorant. The rich seas here, fed by the Humbolt current, also coming up trumps with Humbolt Penguin and, where waves crash into the land, the endemic Surf Cinclodes. A true marvel of a bird which spends its life foraging on rocks at the surf zone and dodging some of the most formidable waves known to man.
This comparably short tour crams a great deal into relatively short space of time, allowing you to marvel at freshwater assemblages as well as marine. With highlights from the quaint coastal lagoons here including Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Andean Duck and Grey-headed Gull. A birdwatchers dream, if ever there was one.
Inca Tern – a real beauty
It is hard to beat the breathtaking diversity of Columbia, the second most biodiverse nation on earth. With 1826 species, Colombia has more species of birds than any country on Earth, something which makes birding in the country nothing short of a delight. This tour, courtesy of Manakin Nature Tours, promises to bring guests up close and personal with some of the regions most sought after species – not least Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Mountain Toucan and Golden-fronted Whitestart. Taking in a startling array of habitats, ranging from lush rainforest and verdant foothills to the altogether different dry forests of Soata, you will be utterly spoilt for choice. Enjoy Andean Pygmy-Owl and Golden-crowned Tanager in the cloud forest, savour Smoky-browned Woodpecker in the Soata Oak Forest and ultimately, engross yourself in a once in a lifetime experience in a truly exquisite setting.
It seems odd to mention the relatively humble expanses of Yorkshire in a post also featuring Peru, South Africa and Honduras. I can, however, and I will, for the British Isles hold a remarkable array of birdlife. Yorkshire is an incredibly diverse county, and this tour with Yorkshire Coast Nature takes you from the Great Yorkshire Forest, where you will enjoy cryptic Nightjars, Turtle Doves and Crossbills, to the coast where you will experience a feast for the senses as you ogle bustling seabird colonies. Puffins are one of the more iconic species to be seen here – you can keep your Inca Terns after all – although visitors will also enjoy Gannets, Kittiwakes and other species typical of coastal Britain. Throw in the odd Barn Owl, Goshawk and Kingfisher elsewhere in the region and you have the making of truly wonderful days birding.
The tours mentioned above represent just a fraction of those listed on Blue Sky Wildlife – an entirely unique collection of wildlife tour operators and companies from around the world specialising not only in bringing you up close and personal with the natural world but in safeguarding it too through the promotion of ethical ecotourism.
For those looking for a little more guidance when travelling in search of birds, consider booking a guided tour. With myriad knowledgable wildlife specialists ready and willing to share their knowledge, and tours that vary in location, focus and price, Blue Sky Wildlife has something for everyone. Check them out and, should you choose to embark on your own wildlife holiday, do so safe in the knowledge that your money will be going only to organisations with the best interests of nature at heart.