16th, 19th & 20th December 2018 - Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

For a break before Christmas, I found a cheap flight and headed to Mexico for the first time.  I planned a small itinerary travelling around the Yucatan Peninsula, with a couple of days allocated to birding.  My first full day was spent on a boat tour of a small part of the Sian Ka'an reserve, south of Tulum, on the east coast of the peninsula.  As would be expected, there were many water birds, with Little Blue Heron, Osprey and Magnificent Frigatebird amongst them.  The first lifer of the trip for me was the lovely Couch's Kingbird - similar to the Tropical Kingbird, it was once classed as a subspecies of the latter.

Common Black Hawk
Beautiful view with a Great Egret
5 buses and 2 days of sightseeing later, I arrived at Rio Lagartos, where I was to spend a delightful 24 hours.  The first thing to do (after a couple of beers, a huge plate of ceviche and a lifer in the form of Mexican Sheartail) was to get out in the boat for the afternoon, where we saw a lot of the same species as my boat trip at Sian Ka'an, but it's always a delight to see birds no matter how recently you've last seen them!   Notable additions were Willet and Royal Tern, as well as a lone Reddish Egret.

Mexican Sheartail
Reddish Egret
As we were whizzing along the edge of the water I spotted a falcon shaped blob at the top of a tree a little inland and asked if we could go back.  As we slowly got closer to the spot I thought I had seen, it, I worried it had already flown but we rounded a bush and there was a gorgeous Laughing Falcon, a lifer! 

Laughing Falcon
Yellow-crowned Night-heron

A little further into the area, we stopped at a small jetty and had a wander into the mangroves.  I spotted a Coati (a first for me) and a few smaller birds - Hooded Warbler and American Redstart.  A Morelet's Crocodile lazed next to the boardwalk and I saw my first Yucatan Woodpecker, although it was rather far away!  As we got back into the boat a Boat-billed Heron took flight from just metres away. 

American Flamingo
A point of interest came up during the afternoon boat trip when the Yucatan Nightjar was mentioned in passing - having no access to a car meant I had written off seeing this endemic.  I was informed it was regularly seen around the reserve at night, so the second I hopped off the boat, I signed up for the night boat tour.  

Over beers and quesadillas that evening, I got chatting with a delightful Californian couple who run an organic farm and two friends from Denmark, who sounded like they were having the trip of a lifetime after a semester of study in the USA.  I managed to persuade them all that a nighttime boat trip was exactly what they needed in their lives and after stocking up on more beers in an ice box we headed out on the water.

The two main aims were the nightjar for me and crocs for everyone else.  Within minutes we came across a Yucatan Nightjar and throughout the next couple of hours we probably saw around 10 and were able to get remarkable views (obviously not translated in my photos, because I am an abysmal photographer).  A few distant glimpses of crocodiles were seen (the slightly more aggressive American Crocodile this time), but it took until the last hour to get close enough to see any detail beyond the glare of their eyes in the torchlight.   A family of Racoons foraging, a pair of Black Skimmer and a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron completed the list as we raced back to shore.

Yucatan Nightjar
It was up bright and early the next morning for a delicious breakfast and to have a wander around on land.  Almost straight away there was a lifer in Zenaida Dove, followed by the stunning Yucatan Jay (was too in awe to get a photo, but google it!) and Yucatan Wren in close succession.  Lots of smaller birds were around, with Scrub Euphonia and Canivet's Emerald darting around my head.  After adding plenty more to my list, including the most adorable flock of Yucatan Bobwhite, it was time to hop on another couple of buses to get to Cancun in time for my ridiculous dinner of 20 courses...

Yucatan Wren

21st to 23rd September - Estonia

With work, uni and illness, I've pretty much given up on UK birding and am just going to stick to world birding!  A weekend in Estonia helped with that, adding a small number of cool species including Capercaillie (FINALLY) to my life list, as well as the actual target of the weekend, Brown Bear.  Massive thanks to Oliver Simms for letting me tag along and for doing the driving! 

Beautiful sea
I must have taken 20 photos of this bloody Nuthatch and this was still only the best I could manage.  Sigh.  
Grey-headed Woodpecker
 And now for what you've all been waiting for - the worst ever photos of a bear, tahdah! 

Bear blob
Bear blob 2
Lady Caper!

26th May 2018 - Dubai

The trip to Dubai was a relaxing bank holiday break, but I managed to get a half day of birding in with Mark Smiles, who was a great guide.  Whilst by the end of the time it was getting a bit too hot for me, I was very happy I went out as I hadn't birded in the Middle East area before and so added 22 lifers to my list.

Mark picked me up from my hotel at 5am and we drove out of the city towards the south to start looking for birds.  We stopped on a piece of land that has seed regularly put out and within minutes we saw my first lifer, the Black-crowned Sparrow-lark.  It was followed by a flock of Greater Flamingo rising up above the treeline and a lone Cream-coloured Courser doing its funny run across the sand.  Back on the main road and we saw White-eared Bulbul, Brown-necked Raven, the noisy Red-wattled Lapwing and skittish Grey Francolin at the side, all lifers for me!

Cream-coloured Courser
We then drove off the road in search of Greater Hoopoe-lark and luckily Mark's sharp eyes managed to find one hopping around amongst the low shrubs.  The next stop was a walk to a small lake, where I added Clamorous Reed Warbler and Purple Sunbird (such an awesome little bird) to my quickly expanding life list.

Greater Hoopoe-lark
Yellow Wagtail
Purple Sunbird
Waders were the target then, with Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt being seen in large numbers, with White-tailed Lapwing a lifer.  It was starting to get a little too hot for me at this point, but a Streaked Weaver and Green Bee-eater cheered me right up!

Black-winged Stilt and White-tailed Lapwing
One last quick stop at the Ras Al Khor Sanctuary provided amazing views of Striated Heron and Western Reef Heron and was an excellent finish to the birding. 

Trip list: 62
World list: 946
Lifers this year: 24

Arabian Oryx
Graceful Prinia
House Sparrow and White-earred Bulbul
These guys are from a night walk the following night
These guys are from a night walk the following night

3rd & 6th May 2018 - Maryland

I've been a bit lacking in the birding department this year, constant flare-ups of the illness put a stop to it temporarily.  I did manage to drag my boyfriend out for a birding walk when I was in the States though (apologies to him!) and it was such a delight to see birds again.  As you'll know if you've read my blog before, I'm terrible at IDing things - I may need to make a birdforum post for assistance... However, I did get a definite lifer, a beautiful Eastern Bluebird.

I feel like I should definitely know what this is...but I don't.  Help?

Black-capped Chickadee

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (?)

2017 Recap

How on *earth* did I get through an entire year without posting a blog post?!  I saw some pretty cool birds (and other animals!) so I'm not very impressed with myself.  I shall try to do better this year.

A quick run down of the birds of 2017 then...

UK birding wasn't really paid attention to too much, but I did get to see my first White-winged Black Tern, which was awesome.

The main trip of the year was to Honduras and the second I left I wanted to go back.  Part of the trip was at the gorgeous Pico Bonito which I can highly recommend for a relaxing bird watching base.  We had two superb guides, Elmer and Esdras, both great guys with amazing bird knowledge.  Here's basically a photo dump from the trip.

I did a bit of birding in Central Park on my first trip to New York on an organised bird walk.  Great fun!

August was the time of the other big trip of the year - not a birding one but obviously some took place!  A couple of days in Singapore produced some very cool birds, birding in Australia for the first time was amazing (and I found an echidna!) and on the way home a stop off in the Maldives produced tropicbirds, a resident heron and a couple of waders.

Towards the end of the year was the annual trip to Las Vegas and I especially enjoyed my walk around the Springs Preserve.  I thought I'd left plenty of time to visit but it was so interesting that I ended up not having enough time - will allocate a lot more time this year!