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News in brief: Nepal, Chile, the Forest of Dean & Belgium

Fishing Cat, Nepal

Fishing Cat, Nepal

In Nepal …

Visitors to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve have enjoyed the wonderful new private facilities at our own Koshi Camp – one of the most tranquil and bird-rich places to stay in all Nepal, set within its own 10 acres of woodlands and wetlands. Here, two new species for Nepal – the spectacular Great Myna and the rather unobtrusive Ashy Minivet – appear possibly to have established small breeding populations, and have been regularly seen. We are also pleased to say that our groups are encountering the critically endangered Bengal Florican much more frequently – an astonishing 40+ birds having been counted in the reserve within recent times. This makes the grasslands of Koshi one of the most important of the surviving habitats for this species. Koshi also stands out as the best place in the world to see the endangered Fishing Cat, a species that has been sighted in the grounds of Koshi Camp almost every evening in recent months! Another endangered mammal, the Ganges River Dolphin, may also still be seen in small numbers, although an increase in fixed-net fishing is unfortunately posing an ever-increasing threat to this species.

Elsewhere in Nepal, Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve still offers us the rare luxury of having a 305-square-kilometre 'Tiger Reserve' to ourselves – our comfortable tented camp there offering the only tourist accommodation in the region. Both Tigers and Leopards are being seen by some (though not all) groups, with one lucky group managing two Tigers and a Leopard in the same day! It's Suklaphanta's rare grassland birds, however, that have been the biggest highlight – with Yellow Bittern, up to 30 Black Bitterns, Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Great Slaty Woodpecker, White-naped Woodpecker, Jerdon's Bushchat, Hodgson's Bushchat, Jerdon's Babbler, Bristled Grassbird, Rufous-rumped Grassbird and Finn's Weaver being amongst the highlights regularly seen this past winter. Good news has also been coming from nearby Bardia National Park, Suklaphanta's neighbour, where sightings of Tigers have been excellent this season, confirming government-led Tiger counts that indicate Nepal's Tiger numbers are healthy and increasing! Indeed, the government of Nepal has pledged to double the number of Tigers in the country by 2022, which will take the current population to 250 adults! So, if you fancy a chance of Tiger in 2015/16, Nepal deserves a thought! Call Rajan on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for more information about our holidays in Nepal.

In Belgium …

Clients on our 4-day ‘Belgium in Winter’ holiday enjoyed watching flocks of White-fronted, Bean, Greylag and Barnacle Geese grazing the open fields on the polders. Following a night in Bruges and a tour of this historic city they then headed south to the Ardennes region, stopping en route to watch Waxwing and Penduline Tits before finishing the day with views of Dipper and Eagle Owl. Highlights in the Ardennes included Hawfinch just outside the hotel with Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Crossbill and Crested Tit on woodland walks, and watching Wild Boar from a nearby viewpoint. Belgium’s snowy eastern plateau provided a scenic end to the trip along with sightings of Black Woodpecker, Nutcracker and Great Grey Shrike. So much wildlife and just a short train journey from the UK! Call Andy on 01962 733 051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for more information about our holidays to Belgium.

In the UK …

The Forest of Dean is one of the best places in the UK to see Hawfinch, and the forest’s star species was enjoyed by both our recent groups on this new short break. Other highlights included Great Grey Shrike, huge flocks of Lesser Redpoll and displaying Goshawk, as well as Treecreeper, Siskin, Coal Tit and the seemingly ever-present Nuthatch. After watching a wonderful family party of Crossbill, the appearance of a rare Two-barred Crossbill was a very welcome surprise! Our group watched this stunning male for about 15 minutes as it fed on larch, much to everyone’s delight. Brambling and Firecest showed very well and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen by a few tour participants; at Symonds Yat, a Peregrine pair performed well! A spotlighting session allowed superb views of Wild Boar along with Fox and herds of Fallow Deer. Call Tom on 01962 733051 or email tom@naturetrek.co.uk for more information about our next 3-day ‘The Forest of Dean’ holiday which departs on Thursday 4th June 2015.

In Chile …

Puma, Chile (Alex Macipe)

Puma, Chile (Alex Macipe)

Our Chile - Just Pumas! holiday in March was the most successful to date, with 12 different Pumas seen, some less than 10 metres from our group. Our group was delighted by close encounters with female Pumas with cubs, the sight of a Puma on a kill at night and during the day, and an exciting occasion when a Puma walked right past our whole group – the photo opportunities during the tour were fantastic! Hundreds of Guanacos, Patagonian Skunk, Andean Condor, the stunning scenery of Torres del Paine National Park and first-class wines added to the superb Puma sightings to make this an unforgettable holiday. Call Dan on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk to find out about our next Puma-watching holiday in Chile or about our other Big Cat holidays in South America.