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Twitching a Spectacled Bear

Since 2019 I had not left Europa thanks to Covid, but in October 2021 I would finally travel a bit further away again! Sadly a trip to Asia did not go through because the country I was supposed to go to remained closed due to covid. So a month before I was supposed to go, I decided to change the destination to Ecuador and Bolivia. Ecuador mainly because I always had wanted to see a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and Bolivia to add three much desired cats to my list: Jaguar (Panthera Onca), Jaguarundi (Hepailurus yagouaroundi) and Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). First I went to Ecuador for two weeks.

LennartVerheuvel
Banded Civet

Civetspecial

Civets belong to a group of mammals that I hadn’t seen before. They are sometimes called civetcat, but personally I don’t really see a cat in them. They are also known for the special coffee that is made by giving a civet a certain coffee berry to eat and the pit that is found afterwards in de civets poo would apparently make very tasty coffee… On Borneo a total of eight species occur and during my Borneo trip in October 2019 these animals were mostly a ‘bycatch’ while I was looking for cats. Since they are pretty cool mammals and I did manage to see five of the eight species, hereby a civetspecial!

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Owls of Borneo

When you go out at night looking for mammals there are certain birds that you might encounter as well: owls! Owls are never very easy to see, but if you spend a lot of hours at night usually you get lucky a few times. I managed to capture five species quite nicely. The sixth: a Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica) didn’t pose very well. Luckily the one I liked the most did: a beautiful Barred Eagle Owl (Bubo sumatranus)!

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A glimpse of a Flat-headed Cat

Three days I have planned at the Kinabatanganriver. My target here is to see Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) and I also hope to have a better look at an Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). Apart from that I will be going out with a guide to try to see the Bornean Ground-Cuckoo (Carpococcyx radiceus). However I also have another target in mind: Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps)! This cat gets seen near this river, however usually for that to happen the water level has to be low and that’s not the case right now. The first two night I’m there, I put in my best effort and hope for the best, but in the last night I’m not expecting anything at all anymore.

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CUCKOO!

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!

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Sunda Leopard Cat

The Sunda Leopard Cat (Prionailurus javanensis) has recently been split by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group. For me this was one of the least difficult cats I ever searched for. They also get reported on pretty much every tripreport if people searched in the right areas for mammals. I saw my first in Danum Valley, but that went a bit fast. Luckily in Deramakot there were many good sightings.

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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.

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Already a succesful trip: Marbled cat!

When I’m going on a trip I always try to estimate somewhat realistically what is possible. Of course there is also some room for a bit of wishful thinking. The big target for me in Borneo was to get as much new cat species as possible, but I knew that that could be very difficult. There is only one cat easy on Borneo and that’s Sunda leopardcat (Prionailurus javanensis). After that it gets hard! There are five species of cat that live on Borneo. The already mentioned Sunda leopardcat (Prionailurus javanensis), Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps) the big one Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) and the most rare Bay Cat (pardofelis badia). In regard to that last one I knew it would be pretty much impossible to see, but also every single one of the other cats would be very diffcult to see. So i had decided for myself that my trip would be a success if I had seen a Sunda leopardcat (Prionailurus javanensis) plus one of the other cats.

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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!

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Red-and-green macaw / Groenvleugelara

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.

LennartVerheuvel