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Antpitta’s: the secretive birds of the South-American forest!

Antpittas are often described in field guides as a ‘plump ball on sticks’ which is an accurate description. Antpittas have in common that they are indeed like little featherballs on two legs that can sit very still. As a result, antpittas are also difficult to find and it is quite an achievement if you as a birdwatcher manage to pull one out of the forest. Some antpittas are known for not being so difficult to find, but some are so reclusive that they have never even been photographed in the wild. The frustrating thing can be that many antpittas often do make themselves heard. Just so you know they are there, but you don’t get to see them! However it is well worth the effort to try to find them because despite their similar form they can have very different plumages with beautiful patterns and colours. During my trip to Ecuador in 2021 I became acquainted with this species group.

Whale Shark at last!

Birders are good at keeping lists. The lifelist comes first (obviously), then often also a national list and then there are a number of regional lists. Birds are excellent for keeping lists because their ability to fly always gives an element of surprise which make your list keep growing. For mammals there are also some fanatic listers, but that takes a whole different approach. For birds and mammals I also like to keep a list, but if you really want to be a serious competitor you need to pick either one of the two and completely aim your trip towards those species. For me however it’s more about seeing very beautiful and attractive species. That’s why seeing a Whale Shark was high on my list. The whale shark is the largest fish on the planet and a beautiful animal. So I definitely wanted to invest some time in that one, although it didn’t count in the lists that I keep.

Underwater photography in the Veerse Meer

Although the Netherlands is not known as a typical destination for snorkeling, it is certainly possible to see beautiful underwater life here without too much effort. Since I was going to Mexico in a few weeks to do a lot underwater photography, I thought it would be a good idea to practice and test everything out. Not far from me is the Veerse Meer where there are a number of spots where the water is quite clear. At Geersdijk I went into the water and swam around for an hour. I focused on photographing the jellyfish with beautiful evening lighting and the crabs were also a nice subject. I could go to Mexico reassured and I got some nice photo’s out of it!

When Murphy’s law works in your favour

Murphy’s law in short is that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. If one thing goes wrong, the next thing will go wrong as well. For example when you’re in de supermarket and you happen to pick just that line that moves the slowest, when you try to pay you find out your bank account has been emptied and your car is being towed when you exit the supermarket. Then you’re not having your best day. It can also happen the other way around: a day that starts well only gets better. When you are looking for nice animals you might just be familiar with Murphy’s law. There are those days when you don’t manage to find anything good and then it quickly feels like Murphy has got it in for you. Luckily there are also days, scarce ones though (!), on which everything seems to go well. Those days make up for a lot that earlier went wrong.

Quest for the strangest cat in the world!

If there is one cat that doesn’t appear to be a cat at first glance it’s the jaguarundi. Because of the longish head with elongated body and short legs this cat appears more like a mustelid than a cat. Still it really is a cat and, if you manage to find a flattering picture of it, a pretty cute one too! This cat is quite widespread in Latin-America but it is nowhere easy to see. Some areas offer higher chances than others, but seeing a jaguarundi is often a chance encounter and most of the time they are just seen crossing the road in front of the car.

Twitching a Spectacled Bear

Twitching is a verb known in the birder community which means going out to see a specific rare bird that someone else has found. For a while Covid made twitching pretty much my only way to see a new bird species. Since 2019 I had not left Europa thanks to the pandemic. Finally in October of 2021 I could set out again! Sadly I had to cancel a planned trip to Asia because the country I was supposed to go to remained closed due to covid. So a month before I was supposed to go, I decided to change my destination to Ecuador and Bolivia. Ecuador because it’s a good country to see Spectacled Bear and Bolivia to add three much desired cats to my list: Jaguar, Jaguarundi and Ocelot. First I went to Ecuador for two weeks.

CUCKOO!

My time in Borneo, like many of my trips, was focused on seeing certain cats. Of course I don’t ignore birds on such a trip, but I try to see as many as possible. It had already been an excellent trip since I saw the special endemic Bristlehead, but I was also successful in seeing all hornbills, definitely one of my favourite birdfamilies on the planet. Now I am at the Kinabatang river and the goal is to get a Bornean Ground Cuckoo. This is an extremely elusive bird of the rainforest that you don’t get to hear that often and see it even less. So a real challenge!

A glimpse of a Flat-headed Cat

Three days I had planned at the Kinabatanganriver. My target here was to see Proboscis Monkeys and I also hopefully have a better look at Orangutans. Apart from that I will be going out with a guide to try to specifically try to see the Bornean Ground-Cuckoo. I also have another target in mind: Flat-headed Cat! This cat gets seen near this river, however usually for that to happen the water level has to be low and that’s not the case right now. For my first two nights here I did my best to find it, but for my last night I am not really hoping for anything anymore.  

Owls of Borneo

If you go looking for mammals at night, there are certain birds that you can also encounter: owls! Owls are never very easy to see, but if you put in a lot of hours, something always works out. I managed to capture five species really nice. Of the sixth: a Northern Boobook I didn’t get a good picture. Fortunately, we succeeded in seeing the most impressive species: a Barred Eagle Owl!

Sunda Leopard Cat

The Sunda Leopard Cat has recently been split by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group from Mainland Leopard Cat. This cat does not occur on mainland Asia and was a cat I expected to see in Borneo. As they were reported a lot in trip reports I expected to be successful for this cat and I was not disappointed. I saw my first in Danum Valley, but that went a bit fast. Luckily in Deramakot there were many good sightings.