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My time in Borneo, like many of my trips, is focused on seeing certain cats. Of course I don’t ignore birds on such trip, but I also try to see as many as possible. It’s already been an excellent trip with the special endemic Bristlehead, but I was also succesful in seeing all hornbills, definitely one of my favourite birdfamily on the planet. Now I am at the Kinabatang river and the goal is to get a Bornean Ground Cuckoo. This is an extremely elusive bird of the rainforest that you don’t get to hear that often and to see much less. So a real challenge!


Headlights in the mist

‘Shall we drink some coffee?’ ‘No, let’s wait a bit longer’. There are those little things that cause you to be in a certain place at a certain time. A short stop because it rains and you want to put on some raingear, waiting for a second to check out some eyeshine just in case it’s something more exciting than a flying squirrel and indeed waiting a bit longer for some coffee. All those things can make the difference between just missing out on a species and having a spectacular sighting.


Andean Cock of the Rock: a crazy beautiful bird!

After about three months of travelling the end was near. After three weeks in the Amazon I would be going for about a week into the Peruvian Andes and after that I would take a flight home. In the first place a visit to the Andes meant a visit to thé touristy hotspot in South-America: Macchu Picchu!

Machu Picchu was a nice experience, but after that it really was time for a bird that I had looked forward to for my entire trip: the Andean Cock of the Rock!

It’s a very special bird that looks peculiar because of the feathers on his head that makes it so that his beak is barely visible. The males of this species court near a so called lek. There you’ve got the opportunity to encounter multiple Cock of the Rocks that all try to win the attention of the females. Near the small village Quellomayo, not so far from Machu Picchu is such a lek and that’s where I went.

Accompanied by a local guide that knew the place well we walked early in the morning through the beautiful cloudforest of the Peruvian Andes. At a certain point we hear the call of the Cock of the Rocks: they are still there! Carefully we follow the path and then suddenly I see one perching! That one is in the bag, but now some photos! I spend the next two hours photographing the Cock of the Rocks. Very patiently I approach them and that gets rewarded when a couple of birds get in close. It’s a great experience, right in the middle of courting Cock of the Rocks in the high Andes.

In the end I get home with a nice series of photo’s!

This is without a doubt the most beautiful bird of the trip, saved the best for last! In about a week I’ll be home and then in three weeks to the other side of the world: Sabah on Borneo!


Enjoying birds at a clay lick

Photographers who went abroad often return with pictures of the most beautifully coloured birds. That might give the impression that in those countries it must be a lot easier to take pictures and all the birds are patiently waiting for you. However often it takes quite a bit of effort to get that shot of a parrot or parakeet! Of course in one place it can be easier than in another. In Tambopata I walked around for three weeks, but in those weeks I actually barely got the opportunity to really get a good shot of a parrot or parakeet. Of course sometimes you get a nice flight shot, but try to approach a perching macaw! Fortunately there are still ways to get close. A very nice option then is a clay lick.

Clay licks are bare wall that attract birds and also many mammals to get minerals. They can also come to be because of a treefall. However because there are actually quite a bit of clay licks to find throughout the Amazon also at a clay lick you often need to be lucky that it attracts birds. Of course lode owners like to advertise that the clay lick near their lodge offers loads of macaws and other beautiful birds, but more often than not you end up disappointed. The clay lick that was near where I stayed however, turned out to be really good! I went there for two mornings and it’s really great fun to watch all those beautifully coloured birds mess about at a distance of 10 meters.

That looks something like this!

Of course there are all kinds of species among them. For example a Yellow-crowned Amazon!

The mint green Southern Mealy Amazon kind of looks like it, but there are some subtle differences.

However in the case of the Orange-cheeked Parrot the difference is clear!

Sadly I didn’t see a Blue-headed Macaw, but fortunately the Blue-headed Parrot looks like it!

These three Dusky-headed Parakeets are neatly lined up.

White-bellied Parrots are a bit less structured.

And then there are the macaws! Chestnut-fronted macaws often like to be with some company.

I was also lucky that on one morning one of the big ones decided to pay a visit: Red-and-Green Macaw.

To show that with walking around in the jungle or by standing on a canopy tower you can also see pretty nice birds, here a small selection of the other birds of Tambopata!



Lobo del Rio!

During my time in South-America there was another mammal that was high on my wish list: Giant Otter! It’s the largest otter in the world and since hadn’t seen any other in my life ever, it seemed nice to start with this one. In Tambopata I finally got the chance. Because I was asked at the last minute to help guide around some German tourists (hadn’t thought I would speak so much German in South-America), I also got the chance to search for them at a good spot. An oxbow lake called Triastianbatis where they get regularly seen. Of course the tourists wanted to see them, but I could tag along!


Looking at monkeys in Tambopata

After Bolivia I went to Peru. First two weeks to a language school in Cuzco to learn Spanish and after that three weeks to the Tambopata park in order to see as many animals as possible. I went to volunteer for the organisation Fauna Forever. My goal was to see at least one species of cat, but sadly I did not succed. Fortunately there were many other beautiful mammals, for example the different species of primate in Tambopata!


Barba Azul: Blue-throated Macaws and so much more!

My South-America trip still contained a gap of two weeks. The plan was to travel four weeks in Chile first and about two weeks after that would be my first day on a language school in Cusco. So it would make a lot of sense to travel through Bolivia, new country, new experiences and new animals! Only I didn’t really have a clue of what I was going to do. Three weeks before I would go away to Chile I suddenly stumbled upon a page from Asociación Armonía, the Bolivian version of BirdLife. The page about Barba Azul looked very interesting and I noticed there was a possibility to stay there working as a volunteer. I was supposed to get in touch with Tjalle Boorsma, which is a very Dutch name! So I just sent an email in Dutch and also received a reply in Dutch. Fortunately it was possible for me to stay there as a volunteer. So after Chile it was on to Bolivia!


Incatern: the most beautiful tern in the world!

Next to the Torrent Duck the Inca Tern was another  unique South-American birds species that I really wanted to see. Gray with a red bill and with two white plumes on either side of the head that makes it look like he has a moustache. In the end I was only successful in one place, the harbour of the town Arica all the way in the north of Chile at the coast. That was sufficient though! I don’t have a big story, but what a beautiful and special bird!


Every cloud has a silver lining

When I went away for my trip to South-America there were some birds I really wanted to see. One of those was the Torrent Duck. Really the coolest duck in the world. The male as well as the female is really beautiful and on top of that they both make a living by swimming up fast streaming currents. Amazing how they can keep doing that the whole day long. Finding Torrent Ducks turned out to be a bit harder than I thought.


Milkyway in the Andes

If you want to take photos of the stars it’s of course nice when it’s not too cloudy. If you are somewhere between April and December in the Chilean Andes you’re in the right place, then it is the dry season so that means almost no rains. No rains means no clouds and clear skies. The other advantage is that you can easily drive up to 4000 meters or higher which places you that much closer to the stars and also means less light pollution. If you’re in the Andes it’s therefore not a bad idea to take some pictures of those beautiful star skies!