Rondonia Bushbird, Brazil - June 2022

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Monday, 30 December 2019

End of a decade

The past ten years can only be described as 'action-packed'. It was back in 2011 when my foreign birding got underway, and since then a convenient job with lots of time off has allowed me to venture to all seven continents in the hope of setting my eyes on some of the most iconic birds and mammals on Earth.

Although birds have been the top priority when arranging the trips, on several occasions the land mammals have proved to be the top highlights. Such standouts include the following:
  • Ethiopian wolf in Ethiopia that circled our vehicle in the Bale Mountains NP.
  • A female Leopard in Yala NP (Sri Lanka) that caused mayhem when vehicles manoeuvred for the best positions as she laid in a tree very close to the road.
  • Photographing Brown Bears inside a remote hide in Finland.
  • The delightful Island Fox found on Santa Cruz Island, just off the Californian coastline.
  • Tracking the Eastern Chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.
  • Several excellent Lion encounters in southern Africa.
  • Fin and Humpback Whales circling our ship in the southern oceans.
As difficult as it is to pick my favourite birds from the decade, below is the best I could come up with from the many fantastic trips I've been on. 
  •  The Rockjumpers of Southern Africa are staggering birds, and if the Cape Rockjumpers had shown better then they may have been top. However, the Drakensberg Rockjumpers just inside the Lesotho border were superb, and although almost out of breath due to the high altitude, to watch them bouncing around the rocky terrain in front of us proved to be the highlight of our South African trip.
Drakensberg Rockjumper in Lesotho - 2011
  •  Having seen two species of Turaco prior to my trip to Ethiopia, I was desperate to see this exquisite bird in its restricted range. Having left my group to wander off, little did I know that they were watching a Turaco. Thankfully whilst on my own, a Turaco flew into view and showed well and stayed put so the others in the group could also enjoy it. 
Ruspoli's Turaco in Ethiopia - 2012
  •  Surely one of the most striking waders in the more words needed other than when I went in January, these were the only known plovers along the route we were taking, so very fortunate.
Egyptian Plovers in The Gambia - 2013
  •  Again at high-altitude, this Mikado Pheasant was so tame that members of our group were hand-feeding it. The Pheasants of Asia are renowned for being secretive and shy, so the birds we encountered clearly hadn't read the script.
Mikado Pheasant in Taiwan - 2014
  •  I had been wanting to see a Great Grey Owl for years. The year we visited Finland was a good 'owl year'. Although we had seen a Great Grey before the bird below, it was on a nest and not as dramatic as this bird, that was perched not too far away from the Russian border.
Great Grey Owl in Finland - 2015
  •  Although a roadrunnner was expected during our trip to California, setting eyes on the first one was very memorable. It went about exactly as it was meant to be doing....running across a road. We later saw many more of these around the Salton Sea.
Greater Roadrunner in California - 2016
  •  Once again, a truly iconic bird and views could not have been better. This beast stood motionless for twenty minutes before it started fishing among the vast swamp. 
Shoebill in Uganda - 2016
  •  I won't go into this one as hopefully most know the story behind the finding of the rare and endangered Hooded Grebes, found in a remote Patagonian plateau.
Hooded Grebes in Argentina - 2016
  •  No doubt my top wildlife moment to date. St. Andrew's Bay on South Georgia holds onto a population of a few hundred thousand pairs of King Penguins. As we landed on the beach, many penguins walked up and investigated us as we advanced onto their patch. The noise of this colony is truly embedded into my brain.
King Penguins on South Georgia - 2016
  •  The tropics are home to many brightly coloured species, though from what I've seen so far nothing compares to a male Cock-of-the-rock perched within the dark understorey.
Guianan Cock-of-the-rock in Guyana - 2017
  •  Another species I had long been wanting to see. The new world warblers are sensational in their spring plumage, and watching the likes of Blackburnian and Magnolia Warblers fresh in from their north bound migration and showing down to a few feet was brilliant.
Blackburnian Warbler in Ohio - 2017
  •  Having first seen the spoonies back in 2013, a return visit provided much better views and is a firm favourite of mine.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Thailand - 2018
  •  As a seabird enthusiast I had been wanting to visit Madeira for years, especially when my trip back in the previous decade had been cancelled. I finally got round to visiting this island with a great group of friends, and enjoyed a few pelagics where we had a good success rate with a handful of Zino's Petrels.
Zino's Petrel off Madeira - 2018
  • Certainly one of the rarest birds I've seen in the world. This day we may have seen perhaps 5% of the species population within the remote dry grasslands of Rajasthan. The future is bleak for this Bustard, and is why it was a top priority for our trip to India, and the trip highlight.
Great Indian Bustard in India - 2019
  •  In all honesty the majority of the Birds-of-Paradise seen this year in PNG could be a firm highlight, but the Emperors on the Huon were not only the most striking in plumage, but very characterful as the males did their best to entice a female in. 
Emperor Bird-of-Paradise in
Papua New Guinea - 2019