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?)