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Around the World in 60 days (March – May 2019) with a bit of birding along the way.

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Old Thursday 21st March 2019, 21:38   #1
dandsblair
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Around the World in 60 days (March – May 2019) with a bit of birding along the way.

We have just started this "Around the World in 60 days trip"
I'll post at the end of each leg if there is birding involved.
----------------------------

I had long held ambitions to do a Round-the World trip.
After much studying of the Star Alliance RTW tool on their website I had a plan that started with a flight from Manchester on Singapore Airlines to Houston, Texas; and then zigzagged in a largely westerly direction, (you are are allowed certain detours within a continental block) taking in Ecuador, Panama, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Bali, Thailand, Myramar and Belgium before touching back down in Manchester.

The locations were a mix of new, some old favorites and the convenient. The trip wasn’t about bird or wildlife watching but being us we had a arranged a few stops to hopefully see some good species along the way.

We couldn’t really carry all the field guides around so I used the Audubon app for the US, Merlin for Panama and Hawaii, and copied the plates from my Ecuador, Japan, New Zealand and Indonesia guides and just took the concise Robson - South East Asia guide for the three countries it covers.

Rather than a day by day report – I’ll cover the locations we birded on the stops that had some wildlife element.

Houston

I had been to Texas on business a couple of times but Sarah had never been.
We decided to base ourselves in Clear Lake which is good for a few birding sites and very close to Houston Space Centre.
We birded Arnand Bayou, Anahuac Wildlife Refuge, High Island and Texas City Dike. Migration hadn’t really got going yet (we arrived on 15th March).

Armand Bayou we spend the best part of a day here – birding highlights were: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Parula, Black and White warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Purple Martin, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Cardinal and Great Blue Heron but we did really well with other wildlife getting sightings of a Bobcat, White-tailed Deer, Fox’s Squirrel, American Alligator and Green Anole. We also heard a Tropical Parula and missed a flock of Cedar Waxwings despite walking the flooded Ladybird trail where they had been seen earlier, we did get a quick flight view of three but not great; fortunately on return to our hotel I heard them out the window and managed to get Sarah on a group of around 100, we managed to see these birds feeding each day in the grounds of the hotel.

Anahuac Wildlife Refuge - nothing much at visitor centre only things worth mentioning were distant Eastern Bluebird, Blue Jay and American Goldfinch. In the reserve proper; a good 20 minute drive away; we did a bit of walking, drove the Shoveler’s Loop and did the boardwalk and woods.
Worth a mention were White-tailed Kite, Blue-winged Teal, Roseate Spoonbill, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pied-billed Grebe, Tri-coloured Heron, Osprey, Least Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpiper a very confiding Eastern Meadowlark and a flyover Bald Eagle.
We also saw all three Grackles and hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds.
In the ditch was a close up Alligator and a skulky Common Yellowthroat.
We then went to High Island (mainly spent at the rookery at Smith Oaks), great photo opportunities of Egrets, Spoonbills and Cormorants but only new migrant in the woods among dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers was a Blue-headed Vireo.

Houston Space Centre

Unlike the space centre in Florida there wasn’t a lot of wildlife to see in the margins of our visit – I did manage to photograph an Eastern Bluebird but that was about it. Until back at the hotel when watching the Cedar Waxwings we added Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher.

Texas City Dike

Texas City is famous as being the home of the first US Airforce, set up in 1913 but a volunteer at Anahuac told us that it was good for gulls and terns and there would be a few hundred Skimmers, so on our last day before handing back the car at the airport we decided to give it a look. It was a lovely relaxing place to visit and just watch American White and Brown Pelicans fish alongside the locals.
Terns were Royal, Caspian, Least, Forster’s and Sandwich Tern there were almost 400 Skimmers in a single flock and a few singles, we also had one Roseate Spoonbill.
Gulls were mainly Laughing but with a few Franklin, American Herring Gull, Mew Gull, Ring-billed and a single Bonaparte’s Gull.

In the little park with the Spirit of Texas statue we added Loggerhead Shrike and Marsh Wren.

Drive to the airport was uneventful and we got our evening flight to Quito.
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Old Friday 22nd March 2019, 05:08   #2
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Sounds like a wonderful trip, I hope you both have a great time! I will be following your travels with vicarious pleasure David and Sarah!

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Old Friday 22nd March 2019, 07:49   #3
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WOW David and Sarah.... what a great idea and a wonderful trip you have planned.

Hope it all goes to plan, but I'm sure it will!
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Old Friday 22nd March 2019, 08:02   #4
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Sounds great - really looking forward to the updates!
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Old Friday 22nd March 2019, 12:04   #5
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Thanks and a few photos

Thanks for the greetings.

First few photos
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Old Thursday 28th March 2019, 18:56   #6
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Mindo area

Quito / Mindo

Overnight at airport hotel before heading to Mindo our base for 5 nights. We visited Ecuador 15 years ago but although we visited Amazonia, the Quito area and the Galapagos, I always wanted to do the Mindo area and hopefully see the guy who had famously trained Antpittas.

Refugio Le Paz de Aves

This is the Angel Paz place that he runs with his son and extended family.

The first thing you do on arriving at the reserve just as day breaks is visit a Cock of the Rock lek, we have visited Leks in Peru and Colombia but I would rate this one best (just above Cock of the Rock Lodge in Peru) as the lighting is slightly better and a few perchs offer better photographs than any of the other organised places.
We saw 11 males and 2 female Andean Cock of the Rock in our spell here.

After spending an hour or so at the lek, most of the 16 people headed back down to Mindo with just a Chilean/Uzbekistan couple going on to hopefully see at least 3 species of Antpitta. Until now I had impression that all the Antpittas were fed on worms, as we had seen in Colombia, but a few actually favour bananas over worms.

Angel Paz - Nowhere else in the world can you experience a man calling out up to 5 species of antpitta, which he does using their individual names. Maria is a Giant Antpitta, Willamena and Esmereldas are Yellow-breasted Antpittas, and there are also Chestnut-crowned, Ochre-breasted and Moustached Antpittas. Angel Paz worked for the logging company that was logging in his area, but he wanted to save the forest on his families 60ha, as he went about his work he noticed the antpittas and tried to bring them into the open with meat scraps. Of course being antpittas they disappeared as soon as they could, however Angel noticed if he landed the food right at the antpittas feet it would quickly take it before disappearing. He worked on this for 2 or more months until he could get them to come at his call. They now hopefully pop out of cover right into the open of the path and with luck follow him to a view point. Entrance including Breakfast and Coffee is $35 or just $10 for the Cock of the Rock lek.

We had taken a taxi from our Lodge (La Terrazas de Dana) to the Refuge but although we got up to the Lek, the first feeding area and toilet area we couldn’t get further by Taxi, fortunately we were able to squeeze in with Angel and his son to the highest area. It worked OK for us but probably best to get 4 wheel drive transport as the other couple had done.
We used the same driver (Miguel who speaks a little English) to take us here, Santa Tadeo and Santa Rosa, we didn’t use a guide who charged about $90 per session per person.

We were pretty lucky at our first stop, we had the delight of two Giant Antpitta’s coming to a roadside clearing and giving us a stunning view and good photo opportunities, we next tried a place for Moustached Antpitta, no joy and then another spot but a Weasel was about and we didn’t strike lucky, although the much bolder Chestnut-crowned Antpitta did put in an appearance along with a chick.
Up to the highest area and while trying for Yellow-breasted Antpitta we heard a Toucan call and all managed to see Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and then the Antpitta came out and gave excellent views. We also saw Strong-billed Woodcreeper and Black-chinned Mountain Tanager

Fortunately we had taken some coffee and muffins before 5am when we left as breakfast was still some time away, as we first spotted a Toucan Barbet and got good photos of him and then walked down to a final Antpitta spot and had two Ochre-breasted Antpitta come out almost immediately – one of them Shakira showed us her dance moves. Finally around 11am we went to breakfast at the Hummingbird view point (a nice brunch as it turned out). We saw at the feeders Collared Inca, Green Crowned Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, White-necked Jacobin, Purple-throated Woodstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip and White-whiskered Hermit. We also got close up views of Blue-winged Mountain Tanager and the Toucan Barbet coming in really close.

In a productive time on the balcony we also saw Golden Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia and a Speckled Hummingbird.

San Tadeo (Tanager and Hummingbird Garden)

I had never heard of this place but it was recommended by Dave the manager at La Terrazas de Dana Lodge as a place that has really improved in the last year, it is only a $5 dollar taxi each way from Mindo and then a a $5 dollar entrance fee per person so $20 dollar for a morning birding we arrived at 8am and left after a few hours. The price includes free coffee or hot chocolate. While there are two really good viewing areas (upper is primarily for Tanagers and lower is for Hummingbirds, there are no trails just the walk from one level to the other and a path full of Orchids to the gift shop on which the lady owner pointed out two great little Lizards (yet to ID).

Best Birds at the Tanager area were: Golden Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Toucan Barbet, Tropical Parula, Thick-billed Euphonia, and a visiting Barred Hawk which moved things along.

At the Hummingbird station the stars were: Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Andean Ermerald, Velvet-purple Coronet, Brown Violetear, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Booted Racket-tail, White-whiskered Hermit and Green-crowned Brilliant.

Santa Rosa (Birdwatching Resort)

This seems to be a much touted spot, and is famous as the best place to see Plate-biiled Mountain Tanager and some shy birds that come in at first light to month lights that the owner has set up with a blind. It also has a nice round walk where we spotted a few nice birds.

On arrival just before first light we headed to the moth traps. Even before sunset we had Striped Treehunter, Spotted Woodcreeper, Spillman’s Tapacula, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Slaty-backed Thush-Nightingale, Russet-crowned Warbler and Choco Brush Finch (we believe as one guide in the hide called it this but another later said it was too low – but it looked slight different in head pattern to a Tri-coloured we saw later).

We then went to the Toucan blind as urged by the owner but due to a noisy guide and her party the bird stayed in the trees and didn’t come near to the fruit. We did go back after having our breakfast by the Hummingbird feeders and got excellent views of two Plate-billed Mountain Toucans, also here was Flame-faced, Golden and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.

On our walk we added Pearled Treerunner, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Green Lancebill, Hoary Puffleg, Ecuadorian Thrush, Grey-headed Bush Tanager and Masked Flowerpiercer.

The hummingbird garden was also pretty productive with a glorious Gorgetted Sunangel, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Empress Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet, Collared Inca, Purple-throated Woodstar, Violet-tailed Sylph and just below the feeded a Band-tailed Barbthroat. Having mentioned earlier the noisy guide it was nice to hear her and the owner confirm our ID’s as they pointed them out to there guests.

On way back down the hill we added an always welcome Golden-headed Quetzal and a Plumbeous Pigeon.

Mindo Area (around Lodge and up to Tarabita waterfalls)

There were plenty of birds around the town and on the walk to the waterfalls, highlights for us were Choco Toucan, Cock of the Rock (really pleased Dave that a bird had checked out a new month area he was setting up), nesting Tropical Parula, Slaty Spinebill, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Black-striped Sparrow, Orange-billed Sparrow, Tri-coloured Brush Finch, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, White-whiskered Hermit, Supercillaried Hemisphingus and Green-crowned Brilliant.
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Old Saturday 30th March 2019, 03:23   #7
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A few more photos

Some more photos
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Old Saturday 30th March 2019, 04:10   #8
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Totally amazing trip and cracking photos.
I'm sorry if I'm bringing bad news, but please compare the photo you have labelled as Giant Antpitta with the following link: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.ed...wqua1/overview
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Old Saturday 30th March 2019, 04:59   #9
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Wonderful stuff, keep it coming D & S!

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Old Saturday 30th March 2019, 13:09   #10
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D&S ,

Mew Gull is rather rare in Texas. It's a review list bird, I think.

There are very few recent reports on eBird and none from the coat between Houston and Beaumont. Most eBird records in E. Texas are 5 years old or older

JH
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Old Sunday 31st March 2019, 07:48   #11
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Wow that Toucon is immense.
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Old Monday 1st April 2019, 01:31   #12
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Not bad news but embarassment for me

Quote:
Originally Posted by RafaelMatias View Post
Totally amazing trip and cracking photos.
I'm sorry if I'm bringing bad news, but please compare the photo you have labelled as Giant Antpitta with the following link: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.ed...wqua1/overview
So we were watching the Giant Antpitta creeping through the vegetation, he/she (Maria) never totally showed 100% in the clear then a second bird much redder clean front, the first Giant was lined and less rufous, I remembered field guide showed NW race as much redder fronted than E so assumed the new bolder bird coming right to the food in front of the first Giant Antpitta was an adult male. Sarah did say to me take photos of both birds but I told her I was concentrating on the open bird. Stupid me I only have back side and half bird shots of the Antpitta but we do have another lifer the Wood Quail that we thought we hadn't seen well enough to identify later on the trip.

So I feel a little stupid, Sarah is gloating but we do have an additional bird.

Thanks for pointing it out.
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Old Monday 1st April 2019, 01:39   #13
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Looked like Mew

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff hopkins View Post
D&S ,

Mew Gull is rather rare in Texas. It's a review list bird, I think.

There are very few recent reports on eBird and none from the coat between Houston and Beaumont. Most eBird records in E. Texas are 5 years old or older

JH
Thanks Jeff - it looked like Mew Gull but I will go through photos when in an airport lounge tomorrow to see if I have a photo that would support the claim
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Old Monday 1st April 2019, 01:45   #14
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A few more photos

Will try to do an update on travel day tomorrow.
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Old Tuesday 2nd April 2019, 07:18   #15
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Panama

Off to Panama City

There are many spots we could have tried to go in Panama, in fact a couple of friends are on separate birding trips to Panana in the next two weeks but for us this more of a convience stop getting us a trip to the Canal and a couple of birding walk on the Radisson Summit Resoprt Trails. We picked this as the trails ajoin the Rainforest Reserve (no guide required and easy access) and there was a shuttle bus to the canal and it was within an hour of the airport.

So birding around the Rainforest Trail, there are 4 trails, Summit ( the longest and best but quite a few steep climbs, La Palma ( good birds especially just before the railway), La Palma ( not a lot seen) and Heliconia – mainly tanagers and flycatchers.

There was a lot of visible raptor migration and the area near the first tee was good to watch this , mainly Swainson’s, Broad-winged, Red-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks, we also saw a couple of Bat Falcon’s hunting at the forest edge from here.

We saw quite a lot but less than if we had paid the $150 for a guide and a few got a way as we couldn’t identify fleeting glimpses of flycatchers or antbirds.

Notable birds were Black-tailed Trogon, Moustached Antwren, Lesson’s Motmot, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Ruddy Woodcreeper, Bicoloured Antbirds, Green Manakin, White-shoulded Tanager, Crimson-backed tanager, Brown-throated Parakeet, Saffron Finch, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Spotted Woodcreeper and perhaps best a Rosy Thrush Tanager (unfortunately heard only when we tried to point it out to a couple of birder the next day).

Not many photos of this section as the lens mount on my camera lost three screws and was in a case until I reached LA and could buy a tiny screwdriver and screw kit to mend it.
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Old Tuesday 16th April 2019, 09:16   #16
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Los Angeles and Oahu Hawaii

Los Angeles

This was definitely not a birding stop, we had birded California a few times and there were no real targets in the area.
We did see a few common birds at Universal Studio, around Pasadena and at the Santa Rita race track but the only real attempt was a couple of hours at Huntington Gardens and Museum.
Nothing stunning but good to see Acorn Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, California Blue Jay, Red-whiskered Bulbul, House Finch, Red-tailed Hawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Osprey and Violet-green Swallow.

I also managed to buy a spectacle repair kit to mend my lens mount.

Hawaii

Originally we wanted to do a couple of islands but the RTW ticket didn’t cover the internal flights and costs were mounting up, when we added car, amenities tax, etc, so we stuck with just 4 nights in Oahu and we planned to at least try to see a few endemics and see some of the other colourfiul birds. We had a hire car but with Valet parking costing $45 a night at our hotel (Aston Waikiki Beach), we chose to leave it a mile or so away where parking was free albeit we had to drive around the block a couple of times to find a space and once I had to leave it on a meter for an hour and a half.

The first thing to say about Oahu is that most birds you see are not native even if they now have sustainable and growing populations and trying to see native birds was quite difficult.

We visited Aeia three times the first was rained out and it wasn’t until the third trip when we did the full loop that we got good views of the three main targets Oahu Elepaio, Oahu Amikihi and Arapane although I only managed to photograph the flycatcher despite the Amikihi coming out in the open on two occasions (light was poor) but I was pleased to be able to tell a local guide and her party where we had found the last two species. We also saw all the usual introductions like Red-headed Cardinal, Red Junglefowl, White-rumped Shama, Japanese White-eye, both Bulbuls
There were also a few Pacific Golden Plovers

Moana Waterfall park and entry area to Arboreatum – we saw a couple of distant Arapane,
but everything else was strangely familiar with Red-billed Leothrix, White-rumped Shama, Red-vented Bulbul, Northen Cardinal, Japanese White-eye, Hwamei and House Finch all about the paths and stream.

Makapu’u Lighthouse trail was good for seabirds and we saw plenty of Sooty Tern, Red-tailed and Red-Billed Tropicbirds, Great Frigatebird, White Tern and a distant Laysan Albatross.

Ka’ena Point – the most westerly point and famous for its breeding Albatross, we did see a few chicks and about a dozen Laysan Albatross adult birds fly in to nests or chicks, we also saw a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters including one in a burrow and best of all two Hawaiian Petrels that flew in off the sea into and over the cliffs.

We did look briefly on the golf course / air strip for Bristle-thighed Curlew but wih no success; as we were in to April, I assumed ,I think wrongly, from a conversation with the group we net at Aiea that a few are still around if you know where to look.
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Old Friday 19th April 2019, 07:13   #17
dandsblair
David and Sarah
 
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: lancashire
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Some more shots from Hawaii

Mostly introduced

Red crested Cardinal, Zebra Dove, Red-billed Leiothrix, N Cardinal and Oaha Elepaio
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