27th April - Santiago, Cape Verde

 The final stop on the Hondius was Praia in Santiago and we hopped out and immediately went on a day-long birding tour which was great fun.  At the first stop there were good sightings of Cream-coloured Courser, Greater Hoopoe-lark and Black-crowned Sparrow-lark.  Hopping about in the bushes were also the endemic Iago Sparrow.  

Onwards to the next stop where we were lucky enough to catch up with the Cape Verde Buzzard.  As we were driving between all these stops we were also seeing numerous Grey-headed Kingfisher which really are beautiful.

Grey-headed Kingfisher

A stop off at the dam was a bit lacking but then as we headed back to the buses I picked up a Spectacled Warbler so it was not all in vain!  

Some gorgeous plants
Finished off the day with Cape Verde Swift and Cape Verde Warbler and that was the end of the birding for the trip, although I would go onwards to meet with friends in Lisbon and Funchal before heading home.  

Cape Verde Warbler

Life List: 1128

15th to 24th April - St Helena, at sea aboard the m/v Hondius & Ascension Island

 St Helena was antoher place on this trip I'd meant to have a lot more time on, but due to the way the flight in and the boat out worked, I only had 3 nights there which was not nearly enough.  There were people on the yachts in the harbour who had arrived intending to be there for a week and were still there two years later!  It's certainly a unique, brilliant place and I hope I have the opportunity to go back.  If anyone is heading there, I stayed at Wellington House with the delightful Ivy and her adorable cat and I'd highly recommend it.  Anne's Place is wonderful for a bite to eat and you must visit Paul and Sally up at the distillery for a short tour and guided tasting. 

St Helena
Bird wise, I headed out of Jamestown to see the only endemic species, the wirebird (St Helena Plover) and got to see quite a few.  Talking of endemic species, there used to be a St Helena Giant Hoopoe and I would have LOVED to have seen that.  There were Red-Billed Tropicbird nesting behind the hotel which was a delight to wake up to and see out of my window and plenty of White Tern nesting all around the island, especially in the trees in Castle Garden, where you could watch them roost as you ate and drank at Anne's Place.  Out on a boat trip around the north-west coast there were tonnes of birds including Black Noddy and Masked Booby, as well as loads of dolphins, a turtle and my first ever whale shark.

St Helena Plover

Masked Booby

Black Noddy
It was then onto the Hondius for the trip up to Cape Verde, with a stop off on Ascension Island.  I didn't get to do as much sea-watching from deck as I would have liked due to my M.E having a few dodgy days but I still had sightings of some wonderful pods of dolphins, some whales and a good few birds.  A lot of Band-rumped Storm Petrel were seen down towards the St Helena bit of the voyage, slowly giving way into an area filled with Leach's Storm Petrel instead.  Once we got to Ascension Island, I added Ascension Frigatebird and White-tailed Tropicbird to my life list as well.  

White Tern

White-tailed Tropicbird (and baby!)

Ascension Frigatebird
The it was onwards to Cape Verde!

12th & 13th April 2023 - South Africa (flying visit!)

Back in 2019 I booked an awesome trip which centred around taking a ship from St Helena to Ascension Island to Cape Verde and I had planned for a good amount of time before the ship in South Africa, including Cape Town and a safari up near Johannesburg.  This trip got postponed for covid reasons and now that it was finally able to go ahead, I sadly had other commitments that meant I only had 3 days in South Africa.  I split that into two days in Cape Town (wine tasting and birding) and a day in Johannesburg (birding).

First off on the Cape Town birding day I met with guide Mark Hawthorne at my hotel and we headed to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which is incredibly beautiful. I am incredibly envious of anyone who has that as their local patch!   The great thing about birding in a new area is that nearly every single bird I saw was brand new for me.  There were lots of Olive Thrush around, with Cape White-eye hopping through the trees and a Jackal Buzzard soaring off in the distance.  A few beautiful White-backed Mousebird were seen as we wandered along and the star of the show were the incredibly tailed Cape Sugarbird.

Cape Sugarbird

Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Sadly we couldn't stay at Kirstenbosch all day and it was onwards to the peaceful Rondevlei reserve where we added some waterbirds to the list, along with Fork-tailed Drongo and a few stunning Black-shouldered Kite.  Round to Strandfontein and to the list we managed to add ducks in the form of Yellow-billed Duck, Fulvous Whistling Duck and Cape Teal, as well as Black-headed Heron.  A really cool snake was headed along the road too but I can't remember the name of it.  

Black-shouldered Kite


Black-necked Heron

Greater Flamingo
Popped in briefly to Boulders Beach to see the tiny penguins which are LOUD and then finished the day off down at the Cape of Good Hope, adding Cape Bunting, Cape Cormorant and Cape Starling amongst others.  A great day to start off my trip!

African Penguin
I got a flight the next morning up to Johannesburg and Safari Wian picked me up to head out to Rietvlei Nature Reserve for the afternoon.  We started with African Wattled Lapwing and Crowned Lapwing, then added a tonne of Common Fiscal and Stonechat along the drive around.  I rather liked the personality of the Arrow-marked Babbler and we rounded off the day with a grumpy Spotted Thick-knee.  

Spotted Thick-knee


18th to 25th October 2022 - Socotra & Abd al-Kuri, Yemen

 I don't really remember how I ended up choosing this trip a year ago but I am extremely glad that I did.  Socotra is an island around 380km off of Yemen, who it belongs to and it has multiple endemic species - a third of its flora is endemic!  A quick 2 hour flight from Abu Dhabi with Air Arabia and we landed in Hadiboh, the largest town on Socotra.

Somali Starling

Dragon Blood Trees

We spent the rest of the arrival day and the full next day travelling to different spots on the island, starting our list to try and cover the 10 or so endemics.  The first bird I spotted coming out of the airport was an life lister - Somali Starling! With that great start we proceeded to rack up the list including Socotra Sparrow, Socotra Bunting and after dark, Socotra Scops Owl

Socotra Sparrow
Socotra Scops Owl
The third day was the day we headed onto the small fishing boats to travel across open sea to the second largest island in the archipelago, Abd al Kuri.  The trip took about 7 hours and I am still bruised from how bumpy it was!  Abd al Kuri is so beautiful and despite my absolute hatred for camping, I did rather enjoy camping on the unspoiled beach and waking up to the sea.  I also thoroughly enjoyed how nosey the crabs were, you'd turn around at dinner and have one a foot behind just staring.  

The fishing boats to take you to Abd al Kuri
Camping on Abd al Kuri

The trip to Abd al Kuri was to see a specific bird - the Abd al Kuri Sparrow.  We didn't find it at the supposed normal spot but as we headed into another village, there were quite a few hopping around!  A flock of nearly 100 was seen later so that's excellent news.  As it's a very under birded location, plenty of unreported birds were seen and logged over the couple of days we were there, including my first and second Ortolan Bunting - the second hopping onto the tent in front of me as I was resting later that day. My kind of birding.  

Abd al Kuri Sparrow
Abd al Kuri Sparrow having a little jump
First ever Ortolan Bunting

Second Ortolan Bunting of the day (and of my life)

Yet another gecko?

The boat trip there and back (when I wasn't being distracted by trying not to be thrown out of the boat) was a great opportunity to increase my very small seabird list and I added quite a few, including Swinhoe's Storm Petrel, Masked Booby and Jouanin's Petrel.

Masked Booby stalking the boat and catching flying fish

 Masked Booby buddies

For the last couple of days, we continued on with our pursuit of a full Socotra endemics list, adding Socotra Sunbird and not an endemic but one I had really been looking forward to seeing - Bruce's Green Pigeon.  Still annoyed I didn't manage to get a decent picture as they're beautiful birds.  

Trip Lifers: 44 

Some sort of gecko

First Antlion I've ever seen and it was HUGE - Palpares inclemens maybe?
Another gecko

Great Grey Shrike (maybe to become a Socotra endemic?)
Dragon Blood Trees

9th October 2022 - Burgas Lakes, Ropotamo & Strandzha Mountains, Bulgaria

 I'd been meaning to go out birding since I moved to Bulgaria but work got in the way.  I finally got away out to the coast for a day trip with Dimiter Georgiev and we headed out from Burgas south towards the border with Turkey.  

We had a bumper day for woodpeckers, with 5 being seen including the lovely but elusive White-backed Woodpecker.  I met my target of both Pelicans (Great White Pelican and Damatian Pelican) so was chuffed with that.  The day was finished off with a new one for me, a Pallas's Gull.

My photos were abysmal so here are some flamingos and that's all I salvaged from my memory card. I saw 4 lifers so that was ace!  

28th & 30th January, 2022 - Las Vegas, USA

It's been a while!  I am still alive and trying to get out birding more - I had a birthday trip to the USA and took myself out to a couple of lovely places to birdwatch whilst I was there. First was a quick visit to the Springs Preserve - nobody I speak to in Vegas has ever been there which is baffling as it's pretty central and is absolutely gorgeous.  The trails are lovely to walk or jog around and there are plenty of things for kids to get involved in.  

My main target bird for Las Vegas every single time I go is Greater Roadrunner and without fail, I never see one.  So when one casually strolled by in front of me, there were some select swearwords uttered - I was very excited!  The Preserve was quite quiet birdwise but I spotted regular locals like Verdin, Northern Flicker and Phainopepla.  I also discovered the cutest tiny fluffy things - White-tailed Antelope Squirrel I think?

Greater Roadrunner!


White-tailed Antelope Squirrel

A couple of days later I went to my absolute favourite place in Vegas - Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  It's a bit of a way off the strip but it's absolutely worth it.  I meant to only spend about an hour there but ended up wandering around for over 3 and I could have easily stayed a lot longer.  This was a lot more productive bird-wise, but also means a lot more birds that I am not sure of the ID of!  I had a list of 35 in the end which I felt was fairly decent and a few more I couldn't ID which I've stuck up on BirdForum if anyone wants to give it a shot.  

Different view of Las Vegas Strip

Plenty of ducks around, including Bufflehead, Cinnamon Teal and a lone Wood Duck, as well as a goose lifer for me, Snow Goose.  A single Snowy Egret was hanging out at the edge of the path and by the time I was heading out, there were lots of raptors up and about.  


Snowy Egret

Northern Mockingbird

Other hummingbird 😬

These two visits brought my life list up to 998 - really need that 2 more.  Perhaps in Bulgaria or Mexico later this year, or even the ones from Vegas I couldn't ID might bring me to that elusive 1000 bird mark!


Ruby-crowned Kinglet (I think?)