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Crete, April 2024

Crete more than lived up to its windy reputation this year. Several days of warm northerlies had the bonus of bringing the best year ever for birds in our base at Plakias, with daily wood & common sandpipers and little ringed plovers in the river, plus Temminck's stint, night heron and black-headed yellow wagtails. Other highlights included ortolan bunting, marsh sandpipers, migrating herons (several species) and bee-eaters. It was drier than usual albeit less dry than Valencia, though there were still lots of flowers: 20 orchid species, tulips and various endemics. Invertebrates added interest, with nosey grasshopper and rhinocerous beetle especially popular. Hospitality and taverna food all added to the holiday experience. Dates for 2025 are 8-16 April and it's never too early to put your name down.

Squacco heron Tulipa doerfleri

Squacco heron at Moní Préveli; Tulipa doerfleri, Spili; Lulworth skipper.

Rhinoceros beetle green huntsman spider
Rhinoceros beetle, Plakias sea front; green huntsman spider (on a loose-flowered orchid).

Valencia, March 2024

Valencia region had almost no rain in autumn and winter, which had quite an impact on the number of flowers on show - just two orchid species, for example. Birds on wetlands were plentiful, including huge flocks of glossy ibises, four species of Mediterranean ducks (white-billed, ferruginous and marbled ducks and red-crested pochard) and hundreds of Audouin's gulls. We found trumpeter finch, black wheatear and displaying Bonelli's eagles in a semi-desert area. Another wetland had purple swamp-hens and red-knobbed coots. We met local guide Pau Lucio's ringing group, who had bluethroat, moustached warbler and little bittern to ring and release. Sunshine brought out butterflies, including mallow skipper, green hairstreak and Provence orange-tip. Photos on Honeyguide's Facebook and more photo on Pau's Facebook. Report: Valencia March 2024 

little bittern sombre bee orchid
Little bittern about to be released by ringing group Pit-roig (Julie Durdin); sombre bee orchid Ophrys fusca.

Audouin's gulls

Audouin's gulls, Valencia region.

Extremadura, February 2024

Feedback from February's group in Extremadura was very positive, despite wintry weather, and the fact that four have booked to return to Extremadura in March 2025 speaks volumes — this holiday is already fully booked. Birds featured in the group's holiday highlights, inevitably, including lots of cranes, the raptors especially Bonelli's eagle and the large numbers of vultures, great bustard, hawfinch and great spotted cuckoo. Flowers included brown bells (Dipcadi) and two narcissus species, though it was least adder’s tongue fern that excited the group the most. Martin and Claudia Kelsey's hospitality and food was greatly praised. Report: Extremadura February 2024.

The conservation donation to SEO (BirdLife Spain) from this holiday was £330, which takes our running total of donations above £150,000, to £150,127.

griffon vulture (Tim Wright) hoopoe (Tim Wright)

cranes (Tim Wright)
Top: griffon vulture and hoopoe. Bottom: massed cranes. All in Extremadura and by Tim Wright. More photos on Honeyguide's Facebook.

Kruger National Park, October 2024

Two Honeyguiders are visiting Kruger National Park 10-23 October 2024 on a holiday arranged and led by Geoff Crane, who guides all of Honeyguide's holidays in southern Africa. They would be very happy to have up to three additional Honeyguiders with them (a practical number in one vehicle) - now one space available. This is a holiday that is already guaranteed to run. The cost within South Africa will be R105,000 (ZAR, rands) per person sharing (at today’s rate of exchange that is about £4,300). The idea is that you book directly with Geoff Crane - we'll put you in touch - though we can arrange a flight-inclusive package if you wish.

The itinerary - here - uses three bases within Kruger National Park for 13 nights. There is lots of information about Kruger National Park on our Kruger web page, including previous holiday reports. Photos of wildlife in Kruger NP, by Geoff Crane, on Facebook.


Some highlights from Kruger NP, October 2012: white-fronted bee-eater; zebras; giraffes with oxpeckers, African jacana (photos by Rob May). Click on the pictures to see full-size images.

John Durdin 1926 – 2023

Honeyguide's Chris Durdin writes: My father, John Durdin, died on 20 December. He was 97. He was known to many Honeyguiders, having been on 27 Honeyguide holidays beteen 1991 and 2019. There is a brief biography here from his parish magazine, and a blog here: John Durdin 1926 – 2023. Tributes and donations to Norfolk Wildlife Trust in his memory can be made via this JustGiving link.

Algarve and Alentejo, November 2023

Honeyguide’s fifth trip combining the Algarve and part of Alentejo coincided with a spell of warm, sunny weather, exactly what you’d hope for during a late autumn trip. We followed our usual pattern of five nights at Alte in eastern Algarve followed by two in to Vila do Bispo to see parts of the western part of the Algarve.

There is a Honeyguide routine to collect holiday highlights, maybe two, three or four items that will particularly stay as a memory that you might mention if chatting about the holiday to a friend or neighbour. As we reviewed everyone’s highlights during our final evening meal, one group member produced a splendid long list that she had noted on her phone. Her list is a handy concise summary of the great variety of wildlife we saw. Scolopendra; horseshoe whip snake; tree frog; chameleon; whimbrel; worm lizard; mole cricket; dog sick slime mould; scorpions; praying mantis; bird ringing; Spanish imperial eagles; storks in an apparent housing queue; Iberian painted frog. And the most entertaining: leaping frogs catching red veined darters. Photos on Facebook (some, though not all, of these!) and Algarve & Alentejo holiday report here.

Stripeless tree frog Stonechat Crocus serotinus
Stripeless tree frog; stonechat; autumn crocus (Crocus serotinus).

Valencia: bird ringing study shows climate change affecting moustached warblers

This blog - Valencia: bird ringing sheds light on wetland warbler survival - written with information from Pau Lucio, Honeyguide's leader in Valencia reveals that the changing climate is affecting moustached warblers. Honeyguide's groups in Valencia have seen bird ringing in Pego Marshes, the second most important site for moustached warbler in Spain, where breeding birds are joined by wintering birds from France. Pau and colleagues have used data from 51 ringing sites across Spain to study weather and how it affects incubation and fledging success. This found that increased storminess in a crucial period in early spring is having a negative affect on moustached warblers, but not on the more widespread reed warbler.

Our Valencia holiday 8 —15 March 2024 has vacancies. Once again we expect to visit Pego Marshes and meet Pau’s ringing group Grupo de Anillamiento Pit-Roig.

Moustached warbler Pau with bluethroat
Moustached warbler; Pau with bluethroat.

Menorca, October 2023: Five photo blogs from Chris Gibson

Autumn in Menorca with Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays: Part 1 - Introduction

Autumn in Menorca with Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays: Part 2 - Flowers and fruits

Autumn in Menorca with Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays: Part 3 - Insects and spiders

Autumn in Menorca with Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays: Part 4 - Birds and other vertebrates

Autumn in Menorca with Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays: Part 5 - Landscapes of the island

Holiday report: Menorca October 2023 and Chris Gibson's Zoom talk on Menorca, here (35 minutes).

La Brenne (September 2023)

Though it was a personal visit, all travel has an element of recce about it, especially to such a wildlife-rich area. La Brenne, September 2023 - on the Honeyguide blog - explains. Bicycles and more ...

Protecting Montagu's and hen harriers in Salamanca

Vega Bermajo, our local guide for our South of Salamanca holiday, is also involved in a project to protect crop-nesting Montagu's harriers and hen harriers, run by SEO/Birdlife Spain Salamanca. Our holiday in May 2023 contributed €328 to this project. They've had a highly successful season, here in numbers: total nests located: 33 + one new territory. Harriers found: 121. Harriers saved from the harvest: 93.

How does all this work? You can read about it in two ways, either through this presentation on YouTube (a mix of still photos, movies and words) or in this PDF report.

Picos de Europa, June 2023

Last year's Picos holiday coincided with a heatwave; this year was more 'normal' weather. As always here, there were wonderful flowery meadows, glorious scenery, lots of butterflies and plenty of birds, especially close to the hotel in Boca de Huérgano, including regular rock sparrows, two nests of white storks and dippers on the local river. Other highlights included a cluster of Spanish purple hairstreaks taking nectar; a confiding red squirrel; English irises, ascalaphid (owlfly) and Egyptian vultures. 'Lovely group' and 'friendly company' were mentioned, too.

Here are photos of two amphibians that were much enjoyed. There are more photos on Facebook. Holiday report here: Picos June 2023.

tree frog midwife toad
Tree frog; midwife toad, a male with eggs.

Corsica, May 2023

Honeyguide's first group on Corsica — much delayed by Covid — was a success, despite distinctly mixed weather, though to be fair for guide Christopher Hall it was about his fifth visit. From a birdwatcher's perspective, the two Corsican endemics of Corsican finch and Corsican nuthatch are inevitably on the wish-list, and as the photos below show, we saw both well. There was a good supporting cast, including scops owl, hoopoe and golden oriole in Isola Hotel's garden, plus bee-eaters, black-winged stilt, Marmora's warbler and close Cory's shearwaters elsewhere in the coastal part of the holiday. Then Moltoni's warbler, bearded vulture, firecrest and alpine chough were among the birds while at our second, inland base at Hotel E Caselle near Corte. Spotted flycatchers were everywhere. Considering the mixed weather, we saw good butterflies: Corsican heath, Corsican wall brown, scarce swallowtail and many caterpillars of Corsican swallowtail. Many of these are illustrated in our photos on Facebook, plus two curious parasitic plants and an amazing fungus.

Corsican finch (Christopher Hall) Corsican nuthatch (Christopher Hall)

Corsican finch Corsican nuthatch (Christopher Hall). More photos on Facebook plus Honeyguider David Bennett's photos on Googledrive.

In Spain's Wild West - South of Salamanca

Honeyguide's first group was here in early May and Honeyguider Helen Crowder reports that they saw some amazing things, including very good views of a male Montagu's harrier (and hen and marsh harriers) on the wheat fields. Harrier protection is also our conservation contribution, for which we sent €328 to SEO/Birdlife Spain Salamanca. There were excellent and prolonged views of many other birds. "Highlights for everyone were two very well grown ocellated lizards, male and female and obviously a pair, sunning themselves on a big rock and we watched them closely for ages. The lavender habitat was at its best and produced some very good butterflies and a stunning broad-bordered bee-hawk, and my plant highlight was three birds flying toadflax."

blue rock thrush ocellated lizards
Blue rock thrush, 'ocellated lizards, sunning themselves on a big rock' (Cheryl Hunt). More photos on Honeyguide's Facebook. and Facebook photos (Birding in Spain's Wild West) here.

Crete, April 2023

We arrived in cold weather, then it was near-perfect for the week + a day. The flowers were brilliant, including 24 species of orchids and a wonderful show of tulips on the mountain plateau at Omalós. Bird migration was slower than some years, herons in particular, though bee-eaters were on the move and showed well near Festos. Red-throated pipit, Montagu's harriers, Bonelli's eagle, Rüppell's warbler and marsh sandpiper were some of the notable birds. Two charismatic migrant insects were a highlight: scores of vagrant emperor dragonflies (it's quite a year for these across Europe) and African Monarch butterfly. More photos on Facebook.

Tulipa bakeri at Omalos whinchat
Tulipa bakeri at Omalós; whinchat on a perch at a base at Plakias.

Crupina Lulworth skipper on pitch trefoil Fritillaria messanensis
Crupina, Lulworth skipper on pitch trefoil, Fritillaria messanensis.

Extremadura, March 2023

With more than 20 groups over the years, Extremadura is familiar ground for Honeyguide, though this was only the second under the new arrangements with one minibus and one guide, Martin Kelsey, staying at Martin's Casa Rural. Extremadura and wonderful wildlife go hand in hand, and this was no exception. Black-winged kites, night herons, great spotted cuckoos and the many orchids on show were among the many highlights. Of course there were vultures, eagles, storks and many butterflies, including Queen-of-Spain fritillary, vagrant emperor dragonflies and much, much more. Extremadura 2023 report here.

Great spotted cuckoo Italian man orchids
Great spotted cuckoo and Italian man orchids (Martin Kelsey) in Extremadura.

Morocco, March 2023

Honeyguide's third group at the wonderful Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge was blessed by warm and sunny weather – though perhaps better still, it followed a winter with some rain, which can be hit and miss. This part of Morocco is unlikely to be lush and green, but there was lots in flower: sheets of purple Moroccan toadflax, fields full of hollow-leaved asphodels and many wayside flowers.

Local birds like Moussier's redstart, house bunting, common bulbul, black wheatear and African chaffinch (now a full species - see below) were easy to see, as expected. Local woodchat and great grey shrikes showed well, though the star local bird was a little owl. We found northern bald ibis, black-eared wheatear and various wetland birds in trips into the National Park. A good range of butterflies, some dragonflies and other invertebrates added to the mix. Photos on Facebook.


Little owl (Ann Greenizan); Moroccan toadflax Linaria maroccana; an unusually dark Spanish festoon on Rumex vesicarius.

spoonbill Sahara marsh frog (Ann Greenizan)
Spoonbill and Sahara marsh frog (Ann Greenizan); preparing a fresh orange juice in Agadir's souk.

Madeira chaffinch recognised as a species

Madeira chaffinch Fringilla maderensis is one of five species of chaffinch recognised in a recent split by the International Ornithological Committee. This becomes an 'armchair tick' for any Honeyguider who has been to Madeira, as the chaffinches are easy to see. The photos below are from the Balcões viewpoint at Ribeiro Frio where the chaffinches are particularly tame. We said in our October 2018 holiday report that the chaffinch "sounds and looks so different from European chaffinches that a future ‘split’ must be possible." And so it proved.

African chaffinch - which we see in Morocco - is also recognised as a new species, here Fringilla spodiogenys subspecies africana.


Madeira chaffinches: female (left), male (right). More photos on Facebook.

Bulgaria ~ Red-breasted Geese & much more

The above is a holiday idea for keen winter birdwatchers. It isn't a Honeyguide wildlife holiday, though we are happy to give it a plug as it is run by two of our friends and partners, namely Christopher Hall of New Horizons, and Neophron in Bulgaria. Christopher is Honeyguide's leader in Corsica, Iceland and Falsterbo; Neophron looks after our local arrangements in Bulgaria's Western Rhodopes.

Full details of Bulgaria ~ Red-breasted Geese & much more are there by following the link. Dates are 4 - 9 February 2024 and the price is £1595 (sharing), single supplement £100. Bookings are through New Horizons.

RBGeese-by-Mladen-Vasilev (Neophron)

Sombre tit Dalmatian pelicans by Dimiter Georgiev
Photos courtesy of Neophron. Red-breasted geese by Mladen Vasilev; sombre tit; Dalmatian pelicans by Dimiter Georgiev.


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ATOL certificate

Honeyguide's Air Travel Organiser's Licence 2024-25 here (Honeyguide's 31st renewal).

Passports

You may have seen a recent news story about travellers finding that their passport was not still in date when they thought it had some months to run e.g. here on the BBC’s website. This is due to the passport’s ten year life span being counted from the issue date.

Under the "10-year rule", for the EU your UK passport must have been issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the EU country (ie the "date of issue"), and be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave (ie the "date of expiry").

Honeyguide booking forms request that you note passport issue and expiry dates, so we may spot when there is a problem – this happened earlier this year. In the end, it’s up to any traveller to be sure that their passport is valid.

Spain, Greece and face masks

Spain has introduced the mandatory use of face masks in healthcare settings such as doctors' surgeries, hospitals or pharmacies, "Due to an increase in respiratory infections such as flu and COVID-19" (January 2024). No end-time for this is set.

The same applies to Greece. Our holiday pages have links to FCO travel advice, which explains this and more.

Conservation donations 2023

Three recent donations from Honeyguide - linked to Menorca, north Norfolk and Algarve & Alentejo - are described in this blog: Conservation donations from Honeyguide in 2023

The blog gives details of all that we have done to support conservation projects in 2023, and gives our running total of £149,797 donated to nature conservation since Honeyguide started in 1991.


North Norfolk, October

Two rather different highlight photos from our N Norfolk break in October. Bird highlights included three egret species, long-billed dowitcher, and close Manx shearwater and razorbills at sea. This white-tailed eagle is known to be from the Isle of Wight.

The ivy bee seems to be the first record of one feeding on hogweed, now published here: Natterjack 164, February 2024, p6

Holiday report: North Norfolk break 

White-tailed eagle

White-tailed eagle, Holkham (RL).

ivy bee on hogweed

ivy bee on hogweed, Wells.

Morocco earthquake: Atlas Kasbah is OK

The earthquake in Morocco near Marrakesh has not directly affected Atlas Kasbah, where Honeyguide groups stay.

There is a statement on Atlas Kasbah's Facebook (9 & 11 September 2023) plus a suggestion on how to donate to help the people of Morocco.

Honeyguide carbon offsets 2022-23

Above is our 'Certificate of Forest Protection' for carbon credits bought in August 2023, contributing to the protection of Gola Forest in Sierra Leone.

Read more about this on our Carbon offsets web page.


Honeyguide blogs 2023

On the Honeyguide blogspot.

John Durdin 1926 – 2023

Whitlingham Country Park, 15 December 2023

Valencia: bird ringing sheds light on wetland warbler survival

Conservation donations from Honeyguide in 2023

La Brenne, September 2023

Snettisham, 31 August

Hickling Marshes, 24 August

Thompson Common, 10 August

Eaton Park, Norwich, 13 July

Cley Marshes, 7 July

Eaton Park, Norwich, 11 May

Upton Marshes, 7 April

The Brecks, 16 February

Hickling Marshes, 9 February

A crane with a rubber ring, January 2023

Strumpshaw Fen, 20 January

Blogs list continues on News 2022 and News 2020-21


ATOL is 50 years old

The Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme began 50 years ago.

More here on the anniversary and here on ATOL's history (source: Travel Weekly).

Honeyguide's ATOL is now in its 31st year - so in place for much more than half of ATOL's existence. More on our ATOL page.


Contacting Honeyguide by phone - OK now

Honeyguide's landline was out of action from 29 March to 10 May: happily 01603 300552 is working again now. A long saga with Virgin Media. Chris's mobile phone (those who have travelled with Chris should have this number) is OK. Our apologies to anyone unable or struggling to make contact during this time.


Malloca revisited

In late April and early May, Julie and I travelled to Mallorca by train and ferry via Paris and Barcelona. We did it that partly for carbon footprint and partly for ‘slow travel’ reasons. It works, though the extra logistics compared with flying would be a challenge with a Honeyguide group. What do you think?

Many noisy, free-flying monk parakeets with huge nests added interest in Barcelona, and there was lots of good wildlife on Mallorca. The growth in cicloturismo since I was last there was a surprise: lycra everywhere, adding a challenge when driving in some areas. It makes sense: nice weather, lovely landscape, winding roads, using similar bases and times of the year to naturalists.

Mallorca photos on Facebook

ATOL 3252

Honeyguide's Air Travel Organiser's Licence 2023-24 here (Honeyguide's 30th renewal).

Carbon credits helping Gola Forest

Honeyguide's purchases of carbon credits in recent years have supported Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone. This is all described on our Carbon credits page.

There is a very good summary of how carbon credits work to support Gola Forest's wildlife and local communities in this BirdLife story from March 2023.

White-necked spurfowl [Guy Shorrock, rspb-images.com], a key species in Gola Forest.

Picos de Europa 2022

The picture above is from a short article about Honeyguide's Picos de Europa holiday in June 2022.

The article was written by Honeyguider Graham Phillips and was in Butterfly Conservation Norfolk Branch's Newsletter 103 in autumn 2022.

Click here, or on the photo, to read the article.

Certificate of Forest Protection 2022

Above is our 'Certificate of Forest Protection' for carbon credits bought in September 2022, contributing to the protection of Gola Forest in Sierra Leone.

You can also see this as a PDF certificate here and read more about this on our Carbon offsets web page.


 

Passport validity

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Insurance and EHIC/GHIC

Travellers should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or its successor the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), pictured below. Be aware that the EHIC has an expiry date: renew online here. Beware of unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them.

Look for travel insurance with cover for coronavirus. Some insurances specifically exclude from their policies' cover any claim relating to Coronavirus (Covid-19). It could be worth asking if any policy you are looking at provides Covid-19 cover for cancellation prior to travel, for curtailment of your trip, for medical expenses while overseas related to Covid-19 and costs if you have to extend your stay to self-isolate.

More information about insurance on our booking page.

GHIC

Blogs list continues on News 2022 and News 2020-21

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Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

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