Wallcreeper

A bird many enthusiasts want to add to their European or Asian or World Lists is the very elusive Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, a small passerine bird found throughout the high mountains of Eurasia from southern Europe to central China. The genus name Tichodroma comes from the Ancient Greek teikhos “wall”, and dromos “runner”.

Its plumage is primarily dull blue-grey but its most striking plumage feature is its extraordinarily bright crimson wings. It is easy to see why its alternative name is the Red-winged Wall Creeper.
Wallcreeper

It prefers rocky regions, typically including steep, rugged cliffs and boulder-strewn slopes, and damp, shady gorges in mountains. In some areas in winter it may even be found in quarries and sea cliffs, also earth and clay banks and even city buildings. It is surprisingly difficult to spot on rock faces, as many birders can attest to!
It is the only member of both the genus Tichodroma and the family Tichodromidae. There is some disagreement among ornithologists as to where the wallcreeper belongs in the taxonomic order. Initially it was placed along with the treecreepers, while others believe it is very closely related to the nuthatches.
The female wallcreeper builds a cup nest of grass, plant fibres and moss, sheltered deep in a rock crevice, hole or cave. The nest is lined with softer materials, often including feathers, hair or wool, and typically has two entrances. The female usually lays three to five eggs and incubates them for about 19 days until they hatch. During incubation, she is regularly fed by her mate. Both parents feed the nestlings for a period of 28–30 days, until the young birds fledge.

The Wallcreeper is an insectivore, feeding on terrestrial invertebrates (damselflies, spiders, crickets, beetles, woodlice, centipedes, ants, bees and others) gleaned from rock faces. It usually forages alone and progresses mainly with short, jerky hops, sometimes with sidling, creeping and walking on vertical surfaces sometimes makes upward leap accompanied by single rapid wingbeat. It occasionally also takes prey in flight.

Join us on a Nature Travel Birding trip to Spain, India or China to see this rare and elusive, but very special red-winged bird.

Ibisbill

Ibisbill FB.jpg
“Unique” is an overused word these days, but, as a descriptor for the Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii), it is surely appropriate. It is a bird related to the waders, and in the same order as sandpipers and plovers, but still sufficiently distinctive to merit its very own family Ibidorhynchidae. The species is named in honour of Dr Struthers of Glasgow who collected specimens of the bird from the Himalayas in the 19th century.
It is a strikingly unmistakable wader; grey with a white belly, red legs and long down-curved brown to crimson bill, and a black face and black breast band.
It occurs on the stony shingle riverbanks of the high plateau of central Asia and the Himalayas, all the way from Kazakhstan to China, at an elevation of 1500 to 4400 metres (5000 and 14400 feet) above sea level. It occupies the same habitat in winter, but at lower altitudes, being an altitudinal migrant. The river valleys frequented by the Ibisbill tend to have very little vegetation and gentle slopes to ensure a slow flow of water. It must live near slow-flowing water in order to feed, limiting its habitat despite having a very large range.
They are generally not shy of humans. They are good swimmers and prefer crossing rivers by swimming instead of flying. Ibisbills are vocal birds and produce a ringing ‘klew klew’ call.
The Ibisbill is a monogamous breeder. The nest is located on a riverbank, river island or surrounding peninsula and is little more than a scrape on the ground, sometimes lined with small pebbles. Eggs are laid in the end of April and the beginning of May. The clutch size varies from two to four eggs. They behave similar to lapwings around the nest site, defending it quite vocally. Both parents share incubation duties.
It feeds on land and water invertebrates including mayfly larvae, stoneflies, beetles and crustaceans. It forages by pecking, probing and raking, usually while wading in water roughly reaching up its belly. It will also eat fish and insects such as grasshoppers.
Due to their striking appearance, distinctive taxonomy, solitary nature, the high elevations and special habitats where they live as well as their relative rarity, they are highly sought after by birders who often consider this species to be a “most wanted” bird.
Join us on a Nature Travel Birding trip to India for a chance to see this unique bird.

Chestnut-banded Plover: Namibia’s Special Plover

Chestnut-banded Plover.JPG

It is Africa’s smallest and palest Plover and with a total population estimated at 18 000 individuals, the Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) is one of the birding specials in Namibia. The chestnut breast band is diagnostic in adults with the juveniles only sporting an incomplete grey band. Adult birds are only about 15cm in length and they are easily overlooked unless moving.

Their habitat consists of Salt Pans (of which the Etosha Pan in northern Namibia is a massive example), soda lakes (East Africa), estuaries and coastal wetlands. In Namibia they are found on the Etosha Salt Pan when wet but the Walvis Bay coastal lagoon is home to the majority of the world population and in fact one of the reasons why this wetland is considered a RAMSAR site in terms of water bird habitat protection. They are a sought after bird on our Namibia Endemic and Namibia, Botswana and Zambia birding safaris.

Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli)

Pel's Fishing Owl

There are very few birds that bring more excitement when spotted by a birder for the first time than the Pel’s Fishing Owl. You can sense the anticipation as you slowly and quietly approach a possible roosting spot trying your best to not step on any dry leaves or twigs that might alarm the birds while not taking your eyes of the roosting tree in case it takes off. We recently had the fortunate encounter with a wonderful  individual on Impalila Island in the far Eastern Caprivi or Zambezi region of Namibia.

This very large ginger-coloured owl is between 60 and 64cm tall and can weight around 2.4kg with a streaked or spotted breast. Their most striking feature is their huge black eyes that stare down at you with a look of annoyance when you have found them at their day-time roost which is usually in a big, dense tree closer to the water. They are found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa but is patchily distributed as they are only found in Riverine Forest/Woodland around lakes or slow-moving rivers. The Pel’s Fishing Owl is always a highlight and big attraction on our Nature Travel Birding’s Namibia, Botswana and Zambia Birding Safari.

Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)

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This enormous (measuring 120-140 cm), strange-looking bird with its massive bill is placed in its own family. Their diet consists of mainly fish but they will also prey on Nile Monitors, baby Crocodiles, frogs and snakes with their main hunting technique standing motionless for long periods. They are endemic to Africa and are found in fresh water marsh habitat but due to human disturbance and habitat destruction they are classified as vulnerable.

There are currently just two places where they are reliably found. The first is the Bangweulu swamps of northern Zambia extending into the DRC. We visit this fascinating wetland as an extension on our Zambia Birding safari and is a destination for the adventurous birder with a charter flight the best way of getting there. The second and by far the most reliable and easier to get to destination is Uganda and we currently have a 100% success rate with this species on our Uganda Birding Safari.