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Wild cats blog

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.

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.

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.  

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.

Headlights in the mist

“Shall we drink some coffee?” “No, let’s wait a bit longer”. There are those little things that cause you to be in a certain place at a certain time. A short stop because it rains and you want to put on some raingear, waiting for a second to check out some eyeshine just in case it’s something more exciting than a flying squirrel and indeed waiting a bit longer to take some coffee. All those things can be the difference between only just missing out on a species and having a spectacular sighting.

An early succes: Marbled Cat!

When I’m going on a trip I always try to make a somewhat realistic estimation of what is possible. My main goal in Borneo was to see as many cat species as I could find, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy to see more than one. There is only one cat easy on Borneo and that’s Sunda Leopard Cat. After that it gets tough! There are five species of cat that live on Borneo. The already mentioned Sunda Leopard Cat, Marbled Cat, Flat-headed Cat, the big one: Sunda Clouded Leopard and the most rare: Bay Cat. Bay Cat is in my opinion the most difficult cat to find on the planet so I knew I probably wouldn’t see that one. It would not be that much easier to see any of the others though. So I decided I would consider the trip a success if I saw even one other wild cat apart from the Sunda Leopard Cat.

Torres del Puma’s

Two years ago I already started planning this trip, I always wanted to do a long trip after I had finished my studies at university. During that time my thoughts about what I was going to do changed many times, but eventually there was a plan! My plan is to visit three countries: Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Of course one goal is to work on my cat list, but I also want to improve my Spanish and of course I’ve got my eye on a few birds. The trip started at the most southern airfield of Chile: Punta Arenas. The goal of this part of the trip is Torres del Paine: a park that is supposed to be the best place in the world to see Puma’s.

Sweating for a Sand Cat

After my visit to Botswana, Namibia and South-Africa my worldcatlist had reached the impressive number of four! So there is still enough room for improvement! A cat on which I’ve had my eye on for quite some time is the Sand Cat. This animal is about the size of a house cat with a preference for desert like areas. For some years the most reliable place to see it is the Western Sahara near the town of Dakhla. We went there in January to try and see the cat.

The night is dark and (sometimes) full of animals!

In the Western Sahara we were searching for a Sand Cat. The way to see it is to drive the road between the places Dakhla and Aousserd up and down at night and then spotlight in the desert hoping to encounter a Sand Cat or another nocturnal animal.

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