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News in brief: Trinidad & Tobago, France & Sri Lanka

Sloth Bear with Cubs (Prahdeep Singh)

Sloth Bear with Cubs (Prahdeep Singh)

In Trinidad & Tobago ...
Participants on our March 2015 ‘Trinidad & Tobago’ tour were able to observe 13 species of hummingbird during their stay on the islands and eight of these provided regular entertainment as they repeatedly returned to feeders in front of the legendary Asa Wright Centre verandah. The constant ‘traffic’ of tanagers, honeycreepers and other forest inhabitants to the bird tables gave a perfect introduction to the diversity of Neotropical birdlife and this was consolidated by excursions into the Centre’s grounds where Bearded Bellbirds sat at close range uttering their ear-splitting calls, and the world's most accessible Oilbird cave gave us an unforgettable glimpse of these strange nocturnal fruit-eaters. Elsewhere on Trinidad the group added still further to the Asa Wright experience with a steady flow of new birds including a Pinnated Bittern stalking fish at just a few metres’ range, plus trogons, parrots and the spectacle of the evening roost at Caroni Swamp where hundreds of Scarlet Ibis, herons and egrets turn the foliage of a mangrove island into a living carpet of birds. Rum punches are part of the daily ritual at the Asa Wright Centre but on this final evening of our stay in Trinidad there was an almost surreal quality to the ceremony as drinks were dispensed on board the boat as we moored in the middle of Caroni Swamp watching line after line of Ibises flying low over the water, their ‘day-glo' plumages illuminated by the setting sun! After an action-packed week at Asa Wright, we flew to the neighbouring verdant island of Tobago for a contrast in both scenery and birds. Specialities such as Blue-backed Manakin, Yellow-legged Thrush and White-tailed Sabrewing were soon added to the holiday list as we explored the Tobago Rainforest, whilst a visit to Little Tobago Island brought a more maritime focus with nesting Red-billed Tropicbirds, Red-footed and Brown Boobies running the gauntlet of numerous Magnificent Frigatebirds seeking to rob them of their fish prey. The laid-back uncrowded island of Tobago is a perfect complement to the somewhat frenetic style of life on Trinidad but the birdwatching is of an equally high standard; tour members will savour many enduring memories, such as the almost hand-tame Trinidad Motmots in the Rainforest, roadside pairs of Rufous-tailed Jacamars or perhaps the comparison of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs standing side by side alongside Solitary Sandpipers. The superb setting of the Blue Waters hotel made an ideal base for our stay in Tobago and the private beach was also a winter home for an amusing flock of Turnstones which have found that swapping the Arctic for the Caribbean also offers new opportunities for feeding such as scrounging tit-bits from tourists!

Call Dan on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk for more information about our next 14-day ‘Trinidad & Tobago' holiday which departs on Monday 7th March 2016.

 
In France ...
Our 8-day holiday in April to the Corbières enjoyed colourful spring blooms and fields of poppies and 20 species of Orchid, including three local endemics, as well as rock-roses, euphorbias, peaflowers, umbellifers and lilies on the garrigue. Bird migration was in full swing, with Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Bonelli’s, Subalpine, Orphean and Melodious Warblers and hundreds of Honey Buzzards among the highlights. Other birds seen during the week included: Hoopoes and Nightingales waking our group at the hotel each morning; White Stork, Kentish Plover, Squacco and Purple Herons, Greater Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard and Marsh Harrier; and 9 hunting Lesser Kestrels. Over 30 insect species were recorded, including: Common and Scarce Swallowtails; Cleopatra; Bath and Black-veined Whites; Chapman’s and Common Blues (seen together making comparisons easier!); Mallow Skipper and hundreds of Painted Lady on migration. Cultural visits to Quéribus Castle, Carcassonne and the beautiful heritage villages of Lagrasse and Minerve all added to a very successful week’s wildlife watching.

Call Andy on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for information about our holidays to France. Our next 8-day ‘France - Carcassonne & Cathar Country' holiday departs Thursday 21st April 2016.


In Sri Lanka ...
In the airport gardens at Colombo, participants on our February 2015 ‘Sri Lanka - Wildlife and History’ holiday saw Purple and Long-billed Sunbirds, Common Myna, Oriental Magpie Robin and Yellow-billed Babbler along with a Palm Squirrel - and that was before the holiday had really even begun! It is the visits to major cultural sites combined with superb wildlife makes this tour so special, and our holiday this February encountered 226 birds and 18 mammals in total. The itinerary takes in the Anawilandawa Wetlands, Sigiriya, the central hills of Kandy and tea plantations, before heading to Yala National Park, where an excellent sighting of Sloth Bear was a highlight. At Sinharaja Forest Reserve White-faced Starling, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Scaly Thrush, Lesser Yellownape, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Malabar Trogon, Grey Hornbill, Dark-fronted Babbler, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Black-throated Munia, Green-billed Coucal, Junglefowl and Lesser Hill Myna were among the myriad species seen.

Call Rajan on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for more information about our holidays to Sri Lanka. Our next 17-day ‘Sri Lanka’s Wildlife & History' tour departs Saturday 7th November 2015.