Greentours with Phil

In 2014 I am again leading or co-leading a number of tours for Greentours. I enjoy these tours as they allow me to look at more than just birds. I get the chance to re-visit old haunts and have a good look at other stuff especially dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles which I am increasingly interested in these days. Greentours itineraries are well-paced too, not too much dashing around, lots of time in the field instead and always plenty of wildlife to look at.

Why not join me on one of the following tours? Activate the link to read more about each tour on the Greentours website.

2014
   
Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountains are stuffed with endemic taxa, in 2012 we found the incredibly attractive Hyperolius reesi. This frog is endemic to eastern slopes of Udzungwa Mountains and adjacent areas of the Kilombero Valley.

We also photographed Notogomphus zernyi for the first time ever below the Kitulo plateau. Epic!
  • Tanzania in January - a tour together with Rondi Slater that focuses on two of Tanzania’s most beautiful national parks, the rainforests of Udzungwa and the flower-filled highland grasslands of Kitulo, renowned for their orchids. Both offer a rich and beautiful flora as well as a fascinating and diverse fauna, this including an impressive array of primates and smaller mammals as well as Africa’s better known species. Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles will also feature strongly – in short, a celebration of Southern Tanzania’s fantastically varied natural history, the big and the small, the brilliant and the bizarre. 
A young female, watched from elephant-back at Kanha on a Greentours trip in 2010.

  • Central India in February - a chance to see both Asiatic lion and tiger in the same tour visiting excellent wildlife locations in Gujarat as well as the world-famous Kanha NP. At Kanha we work with a world-class tiger tracker and he has a great track record of getting us multiple sightings during our week in the park.
  •  SW Turkey in March/April - a chance to explore the limestone mountains of this area of Turkey. Seda will be tackling the wonderful flora of the area whilst I will be enjoying spring bird migration as well as digging out the available mammals, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. My first Turkey tour of a year that sees me up for four, here's hoping for at least a hat-trick!
I have great fun on botanical tours like the Crete trip, checking out the birds and looking for longhorns, like this splendid Agapanthia cynarae.

  •  Crete in (April) - this tour is timed to coincide with a truly spectacular spring floral display with great swathes of colour that sit cheek by jowl with wonderful scenery and famed archeological sites. Our main base is the peaceful old village of Spili, beautifully situated under the great limestone ramparts of Kedros Mountain. Close by is the centre-piece of our holiday, the orchid and bulb rich plateau of the Gious-Kambos. We aim to see some forty species of orchid during the tour, including some of the rarest and most beautiful in Europe. Later we explore the magnificent White Mountains.  We then pass through the Imbros Gorge, where we will look for flowering Paeonia clusii, and on to stay two nights in a comfortable hotel on the Omalos, a high mountain-rimmed plateau inhabited by lammergeiers and Kri-kri (the recently de-bunked endemic Cretan wild goat).
  •  Cappadocia (May) - the marly steppe that erodes from Cappadocia’s weird and wonderful landforms hosts all manner of colourful flowers, purple Gladioli, deep blue Bellevalias, chunky Arnebia densiflora and vibrant blue and pink Moltkia. Rollers, Bee-eaters, Black-headed Buntings and Hoopoes are the common birds here. As well as exploring Cappadocia’s famed landscapes and archaeological sites we’ll take time to enjoy some of Konya’s finest sites. Home of the Whirling Dervishes, Konya has some magnificent Seljuk architecture and we’ll visit the Mevlana Museum and ancient Catal Hüyük, among the World’s oldest known communities, the remains dated from 9500 years ago! The slopes of Erciyes volcano are dotted with pink Colchicum szovitsii and golden Crocus sieheanus and yet another Iris, purple-lined yellow Iris schachtii. We’ll see fabulous stands of Iris kirkwoodii, and in the wide-open steppe country south of Tuz, the mighty salt lake at the centre of Turkey, we’ll enjoy the elegant beauty of Iris sprengeri. Kulu’s waters attract immense flocks of Greater Flamingos whilst the muddy lake shores attract many waders; Avocets and Black-winged Stilts are abundant, and we’ll also see Collared Pratincoles and Kentish Plovers. The Sultan Marshes by contrast have flocks of Glossy Ibis, Little Bitterns, abundant herons and egrets, Spur-winged Plovers, Ferruginous Ducks, Black Storks, and all manner of wildfowl and waders. We’ll glide serenely along channels where water lilies and water crowfoot bloom, dragonflies buzz everywhere, and the constant whirring and chattering of Bearded Tits, Great Reed, Savi’s and Moustached Warblers, is all about us – a wonderful experience!
  • Lake Van (May/June) - this is a huge favourite amongst the Greentours clientele and I have had to listen to so many of them extolling the virtues of this tour for many years. Now is my chance to experience it! Surrounded by snow-clad mountains beautiful Lake Van lies more than a mile above sea level, and not far to the north is the magnificent 17,000 foot glacier-capped Mt Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain. Kurdish herders and their families will be shearing their sheep, the women resplendent in their traditional costumes and in an extinct volcano crater the black tented encampments of Bedouin nomads overlook a deep blue lake.
Ultima Frontiera (Romania) is an excellent place to see golden jackal, by day and night. I found an active den with youngsters in 2013.

  • Romania (June) - a new tour recce'd last year by myself and one I am eager to lead out given the chance. We will spend time in the southern and eastern Carpathians after brown bears, birds, butterflies and flora before heading for the tranquility of Ultima Frontiera on the edge of the Danube delta. Here we can enjoy sole occupancy of a large area of reclaimed fish-ponds as well as taking boat-trips out into the National Park. Last year we found a genuine wild cat whilst spotlighting so be ready to do some night work!
  • Pyrenees (June/July) - Wildlife at Leisure tour. Tours that take the strain out of enjoying Europe’s flora and fauna! Tours under this banner will be based in a single good quality hotel, and will have direct flights, and these at kind times of day! And most importantly field trips will be kept to a maximum of six or so hours giving you plenty of time to relax before and after. Direct flights are available from some regional airports. I did this tour in 2013 and it was fantastic for birds, butterflies and other invertebrates.
  •  Lapland (July) - a tour based around Abisko NP which often gets the vote from botanists, entomologists and birders alike as one of the very best natural sites in Lapland. It seems that the entire northern Swedish flora is jostling for space on Njolta Mountain which rises immediately behind our hotel. It looks a long way to the top so it’s a fine thing to have a working ski lift whisk us to 900m above sea level. The dry tundra is the nesting habitat for elegant Long-tailed Skuas and overflown by merlin and rough-legged buzzard. Bluethroats and bramblings nest by our hotel, whilst slavonian grebes and immaculate black-throated divers rear their young on Tornetrask’s still waters. Red-necked phalaropes spin on boggy pools home to Aeshna caerulea and we might get lucky with Somatochlora alpestris. Snow Bunting and Reindeer should be seen as we explore the magnificent glaciated Trollsjön Valley where pale arctic clouded yellows and cranberry blues fly amongst dwarf cornel and a fine show of wild azalea. If like me you enjoy Arctic landscapes and fauna and flora, and prefer to spend as little time as possible travelling, then this tour is for you. It is barely an hour to Abisko from the airport at Kiruna and you’ll spend the entire week thereafter less than an hour’s drive from the hotel.
  • Dalyan (September/October) - another Wildlife at Leisure tour to a wonderful location in Turkey. Colourful cliffs beset with spectacular Lycian Rock Tombs dominate the pleasant little town of Dalyan nestled against a bend in the Dalyan (ancient Calbys) River. Dalyan could hardly have more diverse habitats. Within a few kilometres are reedbeds, lakes, beaches, limestone maquis, pine forests, globally important Liquidambar Forests, mountains and cliffs. Not surprising then that Dalyan is so rich in wildlife. A gentle walk takes us through the ruins of the Carian Port at Kaunos where Rock Nuthatches shout from ancient arches and you’re sure to see numerous Agama Lizards and even the odd Balkan Green Lizard sunning themselves. Tall spires of Maritime Squill line the track and we’ll photograph the tessellated stars of Colchicum variegatum. White-breasted Kingfishers can be seen from the river front of our hotel and perching on the wires of the many little boats moored up along the river. We’ll use one of these boats to explore the river system and Lake Köyceğiz, a wonderfully relaxing trip, and with plenty of birds; Herons and Egrets, Terns and Harriers. Lesser Emperor Dragonflies and Slender and Epaulet Skimmers race by, or perch on the boat’s rails. Marshy pools and reedbeds next to the Liquidamabar woods, themselves full of autumn colour, are home to the gorgeous Indigo Dropwing, Eastern Willow Spreadwing and the rare Turkish Red Damsel Ceriagrion georgifreyi. Eleonora’s Falcons and Short-toed Eagles drift overhead as we take another boat trip to see Euphrates River Turtles – over a metre long with extraordinary leathery shells and tube noses – and you can see them just a couple of feet away! Another turtle, the impressive Loggerhead, sometimes basks in the reed fringed lagoon that sits behind Dalyan’s beach. They nest on the beach from spring to mid-summer and at this season the last of the hatchlings will be scurrying for the sea. 
The Ethiopian wolf is a handsome dog.

  • Ethiopia (October) - an exciting new tour that teams me up again with Rondi Slater.
    This tour concentrates on the Ethiopian Highlands and the dramatic rent in the volcanic plateau formed by the Great Rift Valley. The highest asphalt road in Africa takes us into the Bale Mountains where we’ll watch and photograph the iconic Ethiopian (or Simien) Wolf, as they stalk through the heathy moorlands of the Sanetti Plateau, the beautiful landscape dotted with Giant Lobelias and Red Hot Pokers. The afro-alpine moorland certainly has a rich diversity of plant life but it still defies belief that it can support 4000kg biomass of rodents per hectare! Chunky one-kilo Giant Mole-rats form the bulk – they are the wolf’s chief prey, and also support six species of Aquila eagle. In silvery grasslands we’ll see elegant Mountain Nyala whilst Wattled Cranes stride past the spectacular red blooms of Ammocharis tinneana, striped Crinum abyssinicum and the crenulated blooms of the sea daffodil relative Pancratium tenuifolium. We’ll seek the rare Bale Monkey as well as the recently split Ethiopian Klipspringer, and endemic birds such as Abyssinian Owl and Abyssinian Catbird. We’ll spend an evening watching the grasslands for Serval, we’ve a good chance of seeing this gorgeous cat here.
    Another cat, the African Wild Cat, is often seen along the tracks through the rift valley Awash National Park. As dusk falls on the slopes of volcanic Mount Fantalle, we’ll watch Spotted Hyenas emerging from the black lava caves, a famed denning site for these enigmatic creatures. Awash is home to Arabian and Kori Bustards, Somali Ostriches, Northern Lesser Kudu, Soemmering’s Gazelles and Beisa Oryx, and we’ll see lots of stunning Northern Carmine Bee-eaters. Troupes of Hamadryas Baboons forage across the plains, whilst in the wild mountain country around the monastery complex at Debre Libanos, is the endemic Gelada Baboon, each Gelada adorned with a ‘bleeding heart’. Photographing Lammergeiers is easy here as bones are regularly put out for them! We’ll finish with two days at a superb lodge set amid majestic figs on the shores of a Rift Valley lake. Here is an abundance of typical African species such as White-cheeked Turaco, Narina Trogons, tinkerbirds, bee-eaters, and barbets, as well endemics such as the Black-winged Lovebird and Yellow-fronted Parrot. Spotlighting will reveal Civets and Bush Babies. Ethiopia is an extraordinary country, its diverse wildlife still abundant, its culture unique, and distinctive and its landscapes often ‘other-worldly’ and frequently magnificent.
Green heron, common in the area around Jaguar Reef where we are based for eight days on the Belize leg of the tour.
  • Belize and Tikal (November) - last but not least is a great tour that takes in coastal Belize and a side-trip into Guatemala to look at and around the world-famous Tikal ruins. I love this tour, gentle mostly easy birding, some great mammals and a host of invertebrates to catch your eye.