There are plenty of places for birders to indulge in their hobby while combining it with a dose of site seeing. Outside of their local vicinities, there are some of the most beautiful destinations, brimming with nature’s goodness and an array of eye-catching avian. Here are a few to look into:
South Georgia Island
National Geographic Travel lists South Georgia Island as one of the top bird watching destinations in the globe. The reason for this are the King Penguins. Here, you can find half a million of them, standing three feet tall in mesmerizing colonies that can be found in areas such as Elsehul Bay, Salisbury Plain and St Andrew’s Bay. They cover literally every square inch of these locations. Apart from the king penguins, you can also get to see brown squas and the northern giant petrels. At Willis Island you can take in the sights of macaroni penguins, grey-headed sooty albatross, black-browed sooty albatross and the light-mantled sooty albatross. It is also home to the vulnerable wandering albatross, famed for having the largest wingspan among all other birds which can reach a whooping 12 feet.
Hula valley, Israel
This area has a geographic uniqueness of being a crossing ground for migratory birds to and from Africa as they escape winter. A billion birds are known to pass through Hula valley and thanks to the effort by the Israeli government, some of the birds choose to spend the winter months there instead. The Hula Valley Nature Reserve is the result of such efforts. Species that stay include pelicans, storks, ibis, geese, cormorants, egrets and cranes. The reserve is open all year round and acts as a catalyst for much more diversity in the rest of the valley. With changing seasons, different bird species can be seen all year. There are guided tours, observation points and walkways to observe the birds and you can be a part of this colorful spectacle. The Hula Valley Bird Festival is world renowned as an event to attend for avid birdwatchers.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Due to the fact that the park sits on multiple eco-zones, different types of birds call this home. For those looking to tick off many birds from their to-see list while on a safari, this is the place to do just that. Examples of birds that litter the horizon include lappetfaced vulture, martial eagle, southern ground hornbill, kori bustard, saddle-billed stork and pel’s fishing-owl. These birds have been christened the Big Six and are a must see when visiting the park. Most of them can be found throughout the park in the woodlands and savannah. Saddle-billed storks are found in the northern parts of the park in riverine forests. These are in areas of Luvuvhu, Shingwedzi and Letaba. Pel’s fishing-owl is found mostly along river Luvuvhu. Best birding here is done on the roads that traverse the park extensively. Recommended ones include Lower Sabie Road, Engelhard Dam, Kanniedood Dam, Luvuvhu River Drive and the Mahonie Loop. The best time for birding at the park is late summer.
Norfolk is considered in some quarters as the bird-watching capital of the United Kingdom. It is easy to see why. It brings to the table an assortment of protected areas with wide varying habitats that are the domain of a vast range of birds. The Broads national park with its rivers and lakes is one such area. Therein can be found rare birds such as avocets, bittern and bearded tits. Other popular areas include the reserves of Cley, Great Yarmouth, Titchwell and Holme. They are home to migratory birds such as bluethroats, rüppel's warbler and hawfinches. Other birds that dwell in these reserves include geese, owls, kingfishers, bittern, stone curlews and marsh harrier. These areas are very child-friendly and are the perfect spots to introduce the little ones to birding..
Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad
Another birder’s paradise, this time found in the Caribbean, is Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) in Trinidad. Being one of the first nature centres in the Caribbean and a biodiversity hotspot, AWNC boasts of an extensive range of bird species to satisfy the birder’s appetite. You can view a large variety of those birds in the Arima valley from Jade Vine Verandah or organize for a guided tour through the centre, the choice is up to you. A breeding colony of oilbirds in the Dunston Cave is one of the star attractions. Birds such as toucans, parrots, hummingbirds and squirrel cuckoos are there to receive you as you enter. Through the Discovery Trail, you can also see the bearded bellbird, the white-bearded and golden-crested manakin lek.
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May is another location that benefits from being on the migratory route of birds during fall and spring in North America. The Higbee beach is the first stop for a birding tourist. The spot, with its dune forest that overlooks the Delaware bay is home to more than a million migratory birds as they rest on their north-south journey. The perfect time for bird-watching is early in the morning. You can glimpse upon warblers, sparrows, orioles, kinglets among others as they fly by. Viewing them from an elevated platform will put you at eye level with them. The colorful display is akin to a fashion show. Other birding hotspots are Cape May Meadows for egrets and helons, Cape May Point State Park and Hawkwatch for northern harriers, bald eagles, golden eagles, merlins, goshawks and many more. Added to this list are Avalon Seawatch, Stone Harbor Point, Nummy Island and Belleplain State Forest.
Broome is considered to have the largest species of shorebirds in the world and consistently rated among the top birdwatching destinations worldwide. Roebuck bay with its large numbers of waders hosts the Broome Bird Observatory. The waders are seen from late March. Others are white-winged black tern, intermediate egret and the red-backed button quil. Oriental plovers and little curlew can be seen from September. Chats, quails, finches, rosy starlings and black-headed gulls are seen from late October. Some rarities such as the common redshank, broad-billed sandpiper and Asian dowitcher can also be glanced on. Areas for birding apart from the observatory are the former Crab Creek road that has Quarry Beach mangroves where one can see the red-headed honeyeater, Broome town where the town ovals are hosts to little curlew, straw-necked ibis and even a red-throated pipit. Northern of Broome is the Coconut Well for waders and sanderling while Roebuck plains station has lakes and langoons which are perfect for waterbirds such as whistling duck, black swan, green pygmy goose among others.
Mai Po, Hong Kong
This is a nature reserve wetland where up to 90,000 birds spend their winter. The mud flats and marshes here are also known for the wide selection of birds that pass by during spring. Species such as great cormorants, gulls, herons, egrets, ducks and grebes can be seen here in large numbers as they migrate north to their breeding grounds. Some of the regular migrants here are threatened species such as the falcated duck, eastern imperial eagle, spoon-billed sandpiper, greater spotted eagle, swinhoe’s egret and nordmann’s greenshank. Perhaps the most famous of these is the black-faced spoonbill. Mai Po happens to be one of the few places on earth where they go to in winter. Starting from the Visitor Centre where one can spot azure-winged magpies and the Chinese blackbirds among others, one can walk along the path lined with casuarinas and reedbeds for a glimpse of Chinese penduline tits, black-browed reed warblers, little buntings and various herons and ducks. The Deep Bay and the Scrape are perfect for water birds and shorebirds like the black-winged stilts, slaty-breasted rails, waders and terns. This is however dependent on tides.
The Pantanal is the largest tropical wetland in the world. It sprawls from Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay and has an astounding collection of birds and other animals. The Chapada dos Guimarães is home to white-rumped tanagers, coal-crested finch, black-throated saltator, chapada flycatchers, white-eared puffbird and the collared crescentchest. Some of these birds are unique to the Pantanal and Brazil like frilled coquette. They can be brightly coloured like the king vulture or rare like the orange-breasted falcon. The Cristalino offers unforgettable views of treetops on canopy towers. Here, you get a chance to view species such as cream-colored woodpeckers, spangled cotingas, curl-crested aracaris amd many more. Scattered rocky outcrops are habitats for localized species such as spotted puffbirds, fiery-tailed awlbills and the white-fringed antwren.
Białowieża Forest, Poland
For forest bird species, Białowieża Forest in Poland is an excellent place to visit. The forest is one of the last and the largest remaining primeval forest. Some of Europe’s rarest birds like the aquatic warbler can be found here. Woodpeckers such as three-toed, white-backed, middle-spotted and grey-headed are all found here. Other impressive species of birds that can be seen are flycatchers such as collared flycatcher and red-breasted flycatcher. The forest is also the habitat to a wide variety of owls like the pygmy owl, eagle owl and the great grey owl.