• info@naturebylennart.com

Birds blog

A few days in the Azerbaijani Caucasus

We have arrived in the Caucasus! The plan was to see the Siberian Crane Omid on migration during the first week of our time in Azerbaijan, but Omid decided otherwise and stayed in Iran, for the time being, in its wintering area. Before our stay in Azerbaijan would end we had planned a few more days of birdwatching in the Caucasian mountains and so we decided to go do that. The plan is to immediately return to southern Azerbaijan if Omid does fly. So we are now in the Caucasus! Along the way we already enjoyed beautifully colored rock formations, but in the higher areas there is mostly a lot of snow.

Out and about in Shirvan National Park in Azerbaijan

In the spring of 2022 I suddenly find myself in Azerbaijan. The reason for this is this time not a special cat, but a special bird! The Siberian Crane is an endangered bird of which only a few thousand remain in the wild. In the eastern part of Asia that is. As far as we know, there is only one left in the western part of Asia and of course this bird has been given a name by now: Omid. That name was given to him in Iran, where it has been wintering in the same rice field for years. Equally dutifully, the bird takes off every year to fly back to Russia to its breeding grounds, only to fly back again in the autumn without any breeding succes. There won’t be a partner for Omid. Among bird watchers, there is an avid group that likes to see as many bird species as possible within the Western Palearctic (WP) ecozone. The chances of seeing a wild Siberian Crane within this area after Omid are virtually nil. However, Iran is not considered to be in this ecozone, which means that it is not possible to easily ‘tick’ the bird in its wintering areas. Therefore a small group of fanatic WP birders made an attempt to pick up the bird on its way to Russia when it passed through neighboring Azerbaijan. This was in 2020. A bird seen in Azerbaijan does count for the list! And they saw Omid! In 2021 there was a number of bird watchers that wanted to repeat their success, but corona prevented a trip to Azerbaijan. 2022 was the year it had to happen. I happened to be able to go and it seemed like a nice enough trip in any case so I landed in Baku on February 25, 2022.

A bumpy road to the Red-fronted Macaws

In November 2021 I traveled to Bolivia after first having visited Ecuador. I had about two weeks left to spend in Bolivia, of which at least five days would be in Jaguarland: a place where I hoped to see Jaguarundi, Jaguar and Ocelot. For the remaining part I wanted to go birding. I often have a certain or a few specific species in mind to go and this time the Red-fronted Macaw was at the top of the list.

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.

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!

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!

Andean Cock of the Rock: an extraordinary beautiful bird!

After about three months of travelling the end of my stay in South-America was near. After three weeks in the Amazon the plan was to spend another week in the Peruvian Andes and after that I would take a flight home. A visit to the Peruvian Andes of course also meant a visit to thé touristhotspot in South-America: Macchu Picchu!

Enjoying birds at a clay lick

Photographers that go abroad often return with nice pictures of the most beautifully coloured birds. This might give the impression that in those countries it must be a lot easier to take pictures and all the birds are patiently waiting for you. However often it takes quite a bit of effort to get that shot of a parrot or parakeet! Of course in one place it can be easier than in another. In Tambopata I walked around for three weeks, but in those weeks I actually barely got the opportunity to really get a good shot of a parrot or parakeet. Of course sometimes I got a nice flight shot, but trying to approach a perched macaw proved difficult! Fortunately there were still ways to get close: a clay lick offered great opportunities.

Visiting Barba Azul Nature Reserve

In my South-America trip I still had to fill in a gap of two weeks. The plan was to travel first for four weeks in Chile. I had arranged to visit a language school in Cusco, Peru, two weeks after that. So it would make a lot of sense for me to travel through Bolivia: new country, new experiences and new animals! Only I didn’t really have a clue of what I would be doing. Three weeks before I was heading off to Chile I stumbled upon the webpage of Asociación Armonía, the Bolivian version of BirdLife. The page about Barba Azul Nature Reserve looked very interesting and I noticed there was also a possibility to stay there working as a volunteer. I was supposed to get in touch with Tjalle Boorsma, which is a very Dutch name! So I just sent an email to Tjalle in Dutch and also received a reply in Dutch. Fortunately it was possible for me to stay there as a volunteer. So after Chile it was on to Bolivia!

Inca tern

The Inca Tern is a unique South-American bird species that I really wanted to see. A gray tern with a red bill and with two white plumes on either side of the head that makes it look like it has a moustache. In the end I was only successful in one place: the harbour of the town Arica all the way in the north of Chile at the coast. That was sufficient though! The harbour was a nice place to visit anyway with pelicans, night herons and sea lions battling for the available fish.

12