The holidays have once again come and gone, and for birders this means the beginning of a new year and a new year list! At Avocet Tours we have a nice selection of tours to offer for 2016 including trips across North America, as well as destinations in Central America, Australia and South Africa. A few of them are highlighted here, and these, plus others can be found on our website (www.avocettours.ca).
If you’re looking for a tour in North America, why not try out Point Pelee, Canada’s number one migration hotspot, where over 20 species of dazzling and colorful warblers can be found including Golden-winged Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Cerulean Warbler and if you’re very lucky, the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. This particular trip is suitable for all levels of birder from beginner to expert and is nice in that we don’t have to travel around from one hotel to the next, optimizing our birding time. For bird photographers, Pelee offers good chances to photograph some of these exciting migrants. Not only do we visit Point Pelee, but we also visit other well known birding locations in southern Ontario including Rondeau Park and Long Point. In addition to warblers, vireos, flycatchers, tanagers and other songbird migrants, we will spend some time at wetlands where good numbers of migrant shorebirds, gulls and terns can be found. Guide, Chris Charlesworth, has led this trip many times and knows the area well so why not join him in May 2016!
Also on offer this year at the end of August and into early September is our Southern California Tour. This fantastic trip coincides with fall migration and we should see well over 200 species of birds including many that are only found in the California area such as Yellow-billed Magpie, California Gnatcatcher, Bell’s Sparrow and the newly split Ridgway’s Rail to name just a few. This tour begins in the Orange County area, a remarkably good place for birds considering it is on the doorstep of one of America’s largest cities. During our first day alone, we often tally close to 100 species of birds including such delights as Wandering Tattler, Wrentit, California Thrasher, Allen’s Hummingbird and much more.
Two days to explore the world-famous Salton Sea will give us the opportunity to see a great spectacle where thousands of waterbirds gather during migration. Up to 20 species of shorebirds are possible at the Salton Sea, along with huge flocks of ducks, pelicans, cormorants and terns. This is the only place in North America where one can find the Yellow-footed Gull, a Mexican species that wanders north to the Salton Sea.
After visiting the Salton Sea, we pop into the very spectacular Joshua Tree National Park, where the bizarre scenery will momentarily distract us from spotting birds and other creatures. A stop in the Mojave Desert provides us with the chance to find the elusive LeConte’s Thrasher and the newly split Bell’s Sparrow, and also gives us the chance to find some interesting migrant birds at local oases. Our tour finished off back at the coast and we enjoy a half day whale watching trip upon which we often find the world’s largest mammal, Blue Whales, in addition to interesting birds such as Black-vented Shearwater, Black Storm-Petrel and Pomarine Jaegers to name just a few. A visit to the Channel Islands for the endemic Island Scrub-Jay is also included on this trip.
Looking for a Canadian destination? Why not try out our Haida Gwaii tour, an exciting trip which highlights seabirds, shorebirds and gives us the opportunity to find some very rare birds. During our first Haida Gwaii tour, run in Sept 2015, we were dazzled by great numbers of one of North America’s most beautiful ducks, the Harlequin Duck.
Our Haida tour begins in Prince Rupert and we take the ferry across the Hecate Strait to the archipelago. During our crossing we could see a number of exciting seabirds including Short-tailed and Pink-footed shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Pomarine Jaegers and perhaps even a Yellow-billed Loon. Once on the islands we will explore the various habitats for the numerous endemic subspecies found here including Steller’s Jay, Pine Grosbeak, Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Saw-whet Owl. The scenery is spectacular on Haida Gwaii with rugged, rocky coastlines and forests draped in moss. Because of Haida Gwaii’s geographic position the islands get their fair share of stray birds from Asia and over the years the list of unusual species found here is mouth-watering. Just a few of these stray birds have included Red-throated Pipit, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Brambling, Rustic Bunting, Common Redshank, Red-legged Kittiwake and Common Crane.
Always wanted to visit Africa, but don’t want to do it alone? Join Avocet Tours in October 2016 on a repeat tour to South Africa, one of the world’s best countries for birding and watching wildlife in general. Our comprehensive tour of South Africa begins in Cape Town, a spectacular city situated right on the southern tip of the African continent. Here there are many endemic birds, as well as endemic plants and animals too! With birds like the stunning Bokmakarie, the elegant Cape Sugargbird and a brilliant selection of sunbirds, The Cape is a must visit place for birders.
Included in this tour is a pelagic trip out of Cape Town and on previous tours here we have found four species of albatross, a nice selection of shearwaters, storm-petrels, giant-petrels, Africa Penguins, and many other birds, not to mention cetaceans such as Humpback Whales!
Several days spent exploring Kruger National Park will certainly be a highlight of this tour, giving us the opportunity to see most of Africa’s exciting mammals including Leopards, Cheetah, Lion, African Elephant, Hippos, jackals, hyenas, and much more. On our 2014 tour, we tallied close to 70 species of mammals!
After the excitement of Kruger, we’ll follow the east coast down to Durban, stopping in along the way at St. Lucia, a fantastic wetland area where birds and wildlife abounds. We use the best local guides who have an intimate knowledge of the country and who will show you all their favorite haunts. With a lovely, climate, over 400 species of birds, 70+ mammal species, great food and nice accommodations, you will never forget your South African experience with us.
One more exciting tour to tell you about, our South Queensland Australia Tour in Oct 2016 will be led by our own Gary Davidson, along with Australian birding expert Ken Cross. This tour begins in the lovely city of Brisbane and takes us north through the famous Sunshine Coast where many beautiful beaches are a highlight. Up to 250 species of birds are possible on this tour, many of which are endemic to ‘The Land Down Under’.
Just to name a few of the species we should encounter along the Sunshine Coast, we look forward to finding Crested Shrike-Tits, Black-chinned Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrikes and Painted Button-Quail. Our explorations will take us to a number of national parks where birds abound and a visit to the Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island will give you the chance to find seabirds, as well as indulge in some snorkeling if you wish. In addition to birds we should see a nice selection of marsupials including kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, platypus, koalas, and possums. Your guides know this part of the world very well, and they will give you a very personal experience, even doing up a nice bbq for us at Ken’s home. Join us on this tour in Oct 2016 and enjoy some fantastic birding, great scenery, excellent food, and the best leadership you can find!
All of these, and other tours can be found on our website at http://www.avocettours.ca.
Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours