Iceland Autumn Tour 2018 – with contact info!

Iceland Autumn Tour 2018

Sorry to be repetitive but we have an excuse! Here is a link to download all the information about our 2018 autumn Iceland tour, this time with contact information, which we forgot to publish last time. We apologize for any inconvenience and take the opportunity to show a few more photos of this marvellous experience!

Autumn Iceland 2018 contact

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Icelandic horses near Akureyri (photo by Andrew Maranta)

iceland-bird-sign

Birds! Shades of Hitchcock?

iceland-godafoss

Godafoss waterfall. Godly.

iceland-hellnar

Headland near Hellnar

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A Humpback Whale has just spouted into my open mouth!

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The Snaefellness Peninsula glacier

Autumn Iceland Tour 2018

Iceland in autumn!

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Humpback Whales

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Geysers

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Gyr Falcon

 

Here is the pdf with all the information you need to get you warmed up for our autumn Iceland Tour 2018. There’ll be great birds, amazing scenery, whales and seals, maybe even the northern lights too. Oh, and some wonderful photo opportunities, so you really must bring a camera, even if it’s only on your mobile phone!

Autumn Iceland 2018

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Common Seal

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Short-eared Owl

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Northern Lights

Photo credits: Florinda Vidal – Whales and Geysers; Ólafur Larsen – Gyr Falcon; Pascal Mauerhofer – Common Seal; Dan Dzurisin – Short-eared Owl; Vincent Guth – Northern Lights.

Are you sure the best thing to do is to ignore this? Think about it…Iceland….Iceland….

Autumn Iceland Tour Video

 

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In September and October 2018 we will be visiting Iceland! Land of the naked elements, water, fire, air and land. And birds of course, plenty of interesting birds. Whales, seals and horses too. In fact, can you think of a reason not to come?

Click on the link to see the video, and then if you want more information we can send you a pdf with all the details.

https://vimeo.com/245338922

A brief Collins Bird Guide (for Android) App review, or – Who needs a microwave?

Collins Bird Guide App, a review of sorts.

Collins Bird Guide App for Android is here

Years ago, when we got married, my wife’s work colleagues at the time made us a gift of a new microwave oven. This was back in the early 1990s, when not everyone had a microwave, and well before the era of mobile phones. True to my luddite streak, in private, I rather ungratefully declared “Who needs a microwave”? Because if I wanted to boil milk I used a saucepan, I had the kettle for boiling water, cooking was done in the oven, and defrosting food was planned the night before.

I’ve mellowed somewhat over the years, at least that’s what my wife tells me now and then; even so, I must admit I was tempted to say, “Who needs the Collins Bird Guide as an app?”. Now I’ve always said that the Collins Bird Guide – in its traditional paper and ink form – would remain unsurpassed by any similar field guide for decades to come, and I feel that that particular statement has the ring of truth, unless we get pedantic and count second and third editions etc.

Collins Bird Guide Little Bustard

Collins Bird Guide Little Bustard

 

Collins Bird Guide App search feature

Collins Bird Guide App search                       feature

So I have the Collins Bird Guide if I want to see an illustration of the species itself, see the bird in its natural habitat, glance at a distribution map with colours for winter, summer etc, read a useful descriptive text, or even have a description of the bird’s song and calls. What more could I need? And, furthermore, how could an app replace the feeling of leafing through a bird book?

Well, what I didn’t realize is that it doesn’t need to replace anything, rather this app has made a niche for itself and is ideal for anybody who is out and about birding in Europe, and even more so if you happen to be a professional of the birding world. The book is still there for you on the shelf, perhaps in the car or at best in the backpack, although if you have the app on your mobile phone then you might as well save yourself the inconvenience of the latter.

This app does everything the book does, as you’d expect, and without getting dog-eared, but what else can it do? Well, the list is quite substantial:

(i) Instant alphabetical search function – just type in the name of the bird species and the options appear as you write. Of course this is a commonsense feature, but just think of any beginner birders you may know and the difficulties they have finding their way through the standard guide, “Why aren’t the birds in alphabetical order?” is a question I have often been asked.

(ii) Comparison feature allowing the user to compare similar species or any species they want, up to 6 in all – even if you think Crested Larks and Hoopoes both have a crest and so need to be compared the app will not put up any obstacles or raise any objections.

Collins Bird Guide App Compare FeatureCollins Bird Guide App bird families

 

(iii) Recordings of most species’ songs and calls – making redundant the very variable interpretations of the phonetics of descriptions such as “voy voy…vüüü(cha)… vüüü(cha) swe-swe-swe-swe-swe sisisi … svee, sveeh” (can you tell me which species that refers to off the top of your head?). Just play the call (looped) and there is no need for any words to get in the way – however, they’re still in the text if you’re a fan.

(iv) The “My list” feature offers you a simple note-taking capacity. Admittedly, I personally still prefer the written notebook, but that may change.

(v) Add-to (and pay-for) features already available or nearly so include Bird Atlas 2007-11 maps if you have a special interest in Britain and Ireland, and species videos, many of which are brand new and have been filmed especially for this app.

In summary, in the field this all this translates to:
What does the bird look like? That.
What does it sound like? That.
What’s its range in Europe? That.
How is it different from a Hoopoe? There.

OK, so having established that this app is the best thing to happen to European birding since the Collins Bird Guide was published, is there anything the app doesn’t do, and perhaps could? Well, I miss a bit of “fun”, for example a quiz option where you can challenge your buddies or students to identify the species from the song (fingers on the buzzer or not) or the distribution map, or even “bits” of the bird in question. Furthermore, some of the recordings are of below average quality, although I have been informed that this is a shortfall which is likely to be rectified in later editions. Another thing is that, as with any app, it’s not as easy to lend as a book is. Come to think of it, that’s got to be an advantage.

The Collins Bird Guide app or, “Who needs a microwave?”. I do!

A Few Simple Ways to Bird-Proof Your Home

A Few Simple Ways to Bird-Proof  Your Home

 

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

 

Attracting birds to your home is one of the easiest ways to birdwatch, requiring nothing more than a gentle touch to ensure you don’t spook them.

However, your home can be a potentially dangerous location for birds. In a world where we already have to balance environmental interests with bird safety, there are some steps you can take to make your own little impact and hopefully attract some birds to your home.

Windows

Birds flying at high velocities perceive “the gap”, which is in reality a window, to be nothing but air. Needless to say, it can easily injure the bird, or in the worst case scenario, kill it. The first option to rectify this, if you’re committed and have time and money, is to change the glass. You can make your windows bird friendly by switching from purely transparent to etched or angled glass. These particular methods alter the way the bird looks at the ‘gap’ to prevent it thinking it can just fly through.

If you’re a bit more strapped for cash and time, consider creating distractions; wind chimes, external shutters and strips of tape, for example, to either deter the bird from being in the vicinity or, again, change their perception of what they’re flying into.

http://www.penn-jersey.com/ensuring-your-windows-are-bird-safe

Protecting the Birds

Aside from windows and wind turbines, one of the biggest international killers of birds are cats. To cite an example from the USA, cats kill 3.7 billion birds every year. Cats are a big issue in Spain, with whole colonies living in the towns and cities; so in your backyard, birds will be unlikely to visit without a bit of protection.

To make your property a less inviting proposition for cats, consider spraying citrus around the garden, which is a known cat ‘repellant’. You can also employ the use of chimes to alert birds and try and discourage skittish felines.

We’re currently living in somewhat difficult times for birds, with several bodies harming bird populations. If we all come together, however, and make small changes in our own lives, we can together create a much more bird-positive environment, and enjoy the benefits ourselves.

By Sally Perkins

Northern Spain: Mammals, birds and butterflies of Asturias and Cantabria

A trip report by Kathie Claydon. To read just click on this link:

Northern Spain: A trip report by Kathie Claydon

We were very happy to draw up an itinerary and guide Kathie and Mick Claydon around Asturias and Cantabria in early September this year. We saw plenty of birds, 40 species of butterflies and at least 7 Brown Bears! We had great weather and all shared enthusiasm for the fauna and flora we managed to encounter. The company was enjoyable too, so that it just did not feel like work – what else could we ask for (apart from wolves)?

Watching Brown Bears in Asturias

Watching Brown Bears in Asturias

Kath admiring the scenery in Asturias

Kath admiring the scenery in Asturias

Wolves in Cantabria

Searching for wolves in Cantabria

Birding In Spain Feedback and Reviews

More reviews from clients of Birding In Spain

Lee Wilkinson says:

Birding in Spain – 2 excellent tours

Three mates and I had a fantastic tour with Birding In Spain seeing 140+ species including all our targets including Bonelli’s Eagles, both Bustards and Wallcreeper. Steve West’s knowledge of the birds of the area is formidable, as are his call recognition skills. I remember one time he simultaneously identified by call three birds which sure enough popped into view. He’s also very good company. Great accommodation and comfortable vehicle. Later in the year I did their Lammergeier photography trip, which Florinda organised for me to perfection.

Winter Wallcreeper in SpainWallcreepers winter in the Sierra de Guara in Spain

Birding Sierra de Guara, Spain

Alquézar in the Sierra de Guara is a lovely place for a birding stroll. Photo courtesy of Lee.

Lee Wilkinson from the UK arranged a birding trip with Birding In Spain for himself and three friends in early April 2016. Then he returned alone later in the year to enjoy some hide sessions on his own taking photographs of Lammergeiers and vultures galore. You can see some of Lee’s birding trip photos at this link:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/45727856@N05/albums/72157664553377224

Birding In Spain

 

Birding In Spain says:

 

“Lee, thanks to you and the lads I had an excuse to be out and about in the countryside looking for birds just when things were on the move for the spring season. We managed to see the last wintering Wallcreeper, and the first Red-rumped Swallow, and the air seemed so alive and refreshing at that time of the year. So I should thank you for getting me out of the city! It was also fun playing the numbers game, although I can’t remember who the winner was, can you?

Another thing: Do you remember how thrilled Pete was at seeing the wild boar (the one you photographed, and included here)? And that you really have to return one day for another try at Black Woodpecker and Penduline Tit?”

Wild boar, run, Spain

Photo: Wild Boar on the run, by Lee Wilkinson

Our regards to Pete, Pete and Rick.

Rick kindly sent a list of the birds we saw on the trip, which can be seen here:

Birdwatching in Spain Lee

Birding in Spain in the Pyrenees

Pyrenees birders. Photo courtesy of Lee.

Birding In Spain Feedback and Reviews II

Following with more feedback and reviews from Birding In Spain clients.

Simone Wolthius says:

“Fantastic experience”

“Every time we visit Spain, we arrange a birdwatching tour with Steve West. We are never disappointed! He is a very good guide, who almost always finds the birds he has promised! So, we go out for a long half day touring in the beautiful Spanish countryside and are really happy when we return home. Steve even came all the way to the Pyrenees to be our guide. Birding in Spain is a special experience with Birding In Spain!”

Birding in the Pyrenees

Wryneck

Photos: Birding in the Pyrenees and Eurasian Wryneck

Simone and husband Alexander from the Netherlands are regular visitors to Spain. They contracted guided birding days around different parts of northeast Spain in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Apart from birding we have discovered that among Simone’s and Alexander’s other interests are those of playing golf and staying at lovely rural hotels.

Birding In Spain

Birding In Spain says:

“I still remember the Wryneck in the Sierra de Guara and how delighted you both were that we had come across it. It’s reactions like that that give us a gentle smile and a lot of job satisfaction. We hope you continue to enjoy birds like that for many years! On the negative side, we’re sorry about the long drive to the very disappointing salad on your last visit!”

Birding in Ordesa, Spain

New Posts! Your Feedback and Reviews of Birding In Spain

Feedback and reviews of Birding In Spain

Here you can see new reviews from Birding In Spain clients!

Jean-Christian Pioch, bird photographer

Jean-Christian Pioch, bird photographer

Jean-Christian Pioch says:

Many thanks for a fantastic birding photo trip in Catalonia. From the first contact up to the accommodation and food everything was perfect and very well organised, in a professional manner.  Cherry on the cake the lammergeiers were present, and I came back home to France with beautiful pictures.

Jean-Christian is a French wildlife photographer who came to our hides on a raptor photo trip in December 2016. He photographed Bonelli’s Eagles, Goshawks, vultures and his “cherry on the cake” Lammergeiers.

One of Jean-Christian Pioch's photos from the Goshawk hideBirding In Spain Goshawk hide in Catalonia

Some of Jean-Christians photos are on display at this link.

http://www.fils-de-saone.fr

Birding In Spain

We at Birding In Spain say:

“We’re so glad that everything fell into place for you Jean-Christian, and that you got some marvellous shots of all those superb raptors. Of course it is our job to make that possible, and while we have delivered countless photographic opportunities to so many photographers over the years not all of them express their satisfaction so openly! It was a pleasure to share in your positive energy and enthusiasm for the birds and we hope that you will be able to return to us in the not-too-distant future for the like of Golden Eagles and more.”

Growing up with a Birding Dad

 

Growing up with a Birding Dad 

by Alex West*

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Bringing a child to this world and educating him doesn’t seem like an easy task. Having a birding enthusiast as a father isn’t either, especially when you are a kid, not very interested in birds, and who just wants to play football and mess around. Sometimes you won’t see your dad for weeks because he is leading a birding trip to Scotland, and sometimes he won’t move from his desk at home because he is contacting customers around the globe.

I remember when I was scared of grasshoppers, the idea of them jumping and getting stuck on my face terrified me. One day, on an excursion with my dad and my brother to the grasslands of Lleida, a giant grasshopper sneaked through the window of the car and landed on my side. I instantly started panicking and screaming, and jumped to the other side of the car next to my brother, fearful of what that devil’s creature would do to me. My father slammed on the breaks, unaware of what was happening, while my brother and I were hugging, squeezed into one corner of the car. He came out and grabbed the grasshopper with one hand, and showing it to me told me – See? It doesn’t do anything. I know you don’t like them but look at its wings when they fly. Moments after the grasshopper jumped and I saw a beautiful blue colour with black dots going away. How could such an ugly insect have those amazing colours on it? Since then I lost all my fear of grasshoppers and I started noticing all the different tonalities of their wings that I missed before just because I didn’t like them. That day my father taught me a lesson, everything has its beauty, it may be hidden or you may not see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

grasshopper

Grasshopper! Image by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

I started listening more to my father, I became more interested in birds and I realized he knew facts that no one else did, I learned why Lammergeiers bathe in pigments and how they get their food, by dropping bones onto the rocks from hundreds of feet. I fell in love with the colourful Bee-eater and I was amazed by the sound the plumage of vultures makes when they pass metres away from you.

And then I realized how cool it was to have a birding father, he would take me to secret places with breathtaking views, he would teach me about ecosystems and the balance of nature, drive me out of the city and its monotony to breathe fresh air. Thanks to him I even stood face to face with a fox and shared laughter about the strange noises they make. He showed me to love nature, and that was his way of loving me.

Having a birding father is not easy but I could not wish for anything else.

Growing up with a birding dad

 

* This is Alex’s first post on the Birding In Spain blog and we think he’s done a great job. I’m sure he’d welcome any appreciative comment!