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EGYPT – SPECIALITIES

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Saunders's Tern and Yellow Bittern

15–22 June 2017

This tour has been designed to look for three of the Western Palearctic’s most sought-after birds: Yellow Bittern, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Saunders’s Tern. The former and latter have only recently been discovered breeding in Egypt and the sandgrouse has been rediscovered after an absence of a number of years. We are also likely to encounter a number of other specialities including Goliath Heron and Crab Plover.

Day 1 Early morning flight from London via Rome to Cairo followed by a four-hour drive to Menya, our base for the next two nights.

Day 2 We will make an early start this morning and head to some nearby agricultural fields where Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse has been rediscovered at its only outpost in the Western Palearctic. We have set aside the whole day to search for the birds feeding in the fields, drinking in one of the irrigation pools or flying between sites.

Day 3 If we were unsuccessful in our search yesterday, we have the option to return to the agricultural fields early this morning before heading across the Suez Canal and south down the Sinai Peninsula for an overnight stay in Ras Sadr.

Day 4 This morning we will drive the short distance to the recently-discovered only breeding colony of Saunders’s Terns in the Western Palearctic. We should be able to study them at close quarters so that we can see the subtle differences between this species and the closely-related Little Tern. Late in the morning we will head back up the Sinai Peninsula, recross the Suez Canal and head south down the western Red Sea coast. It is a long drive with little time for any other birding, but we need to be in Wadi Lahmi for the morning. Three nights in Wadi Lahmi.

Day 5 Early this morning we will walk to the mangroves to search for another recently-discovered Western Palearctic species, Yellow Bittern. This species is relatively common throughout Asia and breeds in small numbers on the southern Arabian Peninsula but was a totally unexpected find in Africa. Mornings are by far the best time for this species as the birds are quite vocal, which narrows down our area of search. There is also the possibility of finding Goliath Heron here as well as commoner species such as Western Reef-heron and Crab Plover, whilst Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns and White-eyed and Sooty Gulls can be seen offshore. After lunch, if we haven’t been successful we will drive north to Hamata Mangroves to continue our search. If we have been successful, we have the option to take a boat trip (at extra cost) to the Hamata Islands where Bridled Terns should just have arrived to breed and we can search through the colonies of Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns for the rare Sooty Tern. We also have a good chance of seeing Crab Plover on the islands.

Day 6 Depending on our success rate yesterday, we have the option to return to the Wadi Lahmi mangroves early this morning either to look again for Yellow Bittern or to try for better views. Mid-morning, we will drive south to Shelatin to have our lunch and to look for Lappet-faced Vulture and African Collared-dove. We will then return to either Wadi Lahmi or Hamata Mangroves to resume our search for Yellow Bittern if necessary. We should also encounter mangrove sub-species of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Eurasian Reed-warbler, both of which may warrant upgrading to species level in the future.

Day 7 We will have a final early morning to conclude our search for Yellow Bittern (and Goliath Heron) before the long drive back to Cairo birding en route.

Day 8 Early morning flight back to London, arriving late morning.

General Information Egypt can be very hot at this time of year, so we will spend a lot of time birding in the early mornings and evenings, taking breaks in the shade in the heat of the day when bird activity is relatively low. There are some health requirements, so please consult your doctor. Only a general degree of fitness is required, although the heat can be tiring at times. Birdfinders will follow FCO advice regarding security. Visas are required.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 16 with 2 leaders.

Yellow Bittern

Yellow Bittern

Recommended books available from NHBS