It is orchid season now around Kaş
Well, it has been since February, but early April is perhaps the best time to search for them here. The variety is impressive. We can’t quite compete with Crete or the Gargano for sheer number of species but within walking distance of the house there’s twenty species. And more down by the coast and in the mountains.
New UK Day Trips
We’ve added several more UK day trips including quite a number in Essex and Suffolk led by Ed Hutchings, and an exploration of land around Rosalind Salter’s home in the Highlands of Scotland. And in the heart of the Peak District National Park Fiona Dunbar will show you lovely Deepdale and its wonderful show of Cowslips and the contrasting high millstone grit moorlands the other side of Buxton.
A Recce in Deepdale
UK Day Trips are On!
Many of us have spent much of the last year getting to know our local wildlife better whether that be in our garden or the local woods or marshes. Now with outdoor meeting up of up to six people again possible we are delighted to offer the opportunity of exploring some of the UK’s varied wildlife and landscapes at sites known intimately to our UK based leaders.
A Wolf walked by
three weeks ago. It was at breakfast time and we were just clearing up when a movement down the bottom of the land caught my eye… The Wolf was trotting steadily up towards us. In true tour leader style getting everyone on it was paramount and I decided not to go outside for fear of spooking it, so no pictures, or only poor ones through the window. It passed the kitchen by thirty metres. The dogs down in the village knew too for they were giving it some bark. The Wolf didn’t seem too bothered, pausing briefly and looking back towards them.
Some fabulous images from Cheddar Wood during lockdown close by Kurt Vickery's home
New Tour Dates
With the news that international travel for leisure purposes for UK residents can commence from May 17th we’ve had a little look at the tours that were due to start on or close to that date. We’ve moved them back a few days.
This marvellous display of Anemone coronaria was simply the best we've ever seen
here's some images from lockdown around Ann Kee's place in Donegal
Coming out of Hibernation
Winter is starting to move into spring here. Seems early especially when we see the weather in the UK! January was cold at times with icy mornings and temperatures down to minus 4 or 5, but any snowfall was in the mountains. Some of the pictures here will show you the variation in weather we get at this time of year. A beautiful warm sunny day at the beach on Patara, the bottom of the land after heavy rain which we’ve had a few times this last month. One rain storm deposited at least 300mm on us and our water storage tells us that we’ve had a metre of rain since the start of November. Some of the farmers between us and the coast can only use water that they’ve collected – usually from the tops of the plastic houses – and so such winter largesse is really important.
Wolves and Wild Cats
The trap cameras have as ever been doing their stuff. The advent of rain has meant that springs are less attractive and thus there’s been a little less going past the cameras of late. It was very gratifying to see the two Wolves again after not receiving any news of them for almost two months. They are already getting their winter coats and look a sight better than the svelte summer version!
Crocuses and Cattle Egrets
The first snows are now lighting up the top of Ak Dagi every morning – they came all of a sudden. All was bare rock then ten days ago after a night of rain (here) the top 1000m or so of the mountains went pure white!
The Peloponnese this Autumn
There have of course been very tours running this past nine months, but one that did was to the Peloponnese in Autumn in late October. Kurt tells us the trip was as usual superb – the autumn bulb show is about the best there is in Europe and there’s much else to enjoy besides. Here are some of Kurt’s photographs from the tour…
The ones that got away.
The flow of migrant birds this autumn has added several new species to our verandah list but two ‘got away’ this week. The first was on my cycling route when a large Aquila eagle flew over. No binoculars! And I was trying to beat my record for the circuit! Long tail. Must be a Golden or an Imperial, either would be new for us here in the village.
Autumn Flowers are starting!
The sun hasn’t stopped shining and there’s no rain yet (we wouldn’t expect it just yet…) but those autumn blooms are already well under way! I drove up to the big mountain that dominates our northern horizon this morning and found lovely shows of Colchicum sanguicolle.
With all the understandable uncertainties that the governments travel corridors brings its not easy to think of booking tours in advance and it may be like this for a while. We’ve thought long and hard on how best to travel safely within these restrictions. Indeed we’ve been doing some research of our own by travelling ourselves a bit in the last month and a half.
More from the Pontics
A thousand butterflies in just ten square metres.
A Tour at Last!
What a pleasure it has been to be back in the field leading a tour again after the last few months of coronavirus chaos. We’ve just finished the Pontic Alps tour – two weeks of wonderful flowers and butterflies and some good birds and mammals too in the beautiful mountains and valleys of Northeastern Turkey. More on what we saw later but I think first I should describe how the tour went in terms of coronavirus and the behavioural adjustments expected, as I am sure many of you are wondering how rules and regulations and straightforward common sense changes may have changed the nature of tours.
Holiday Insurance with Cover for Corona Virus!
With more than 50 countries now accessible with the new travel advice from the FCO, tours are abroad are now becoming possible again, both in Europe and hopefully soon further afield. Holiday insurance is now available with cover for Corona Virus. Click here for more information for the best picks for over 66 and under 66 year olds.
Watch out Goat there’s a Wolf behind you!
I promised news of the butterflies we’ve been seeing round about and will put those up soon but had to put up some more trap camera news first! Life is never easy for a shepherd. Its been up to 38°C this last week here and they spend all day out in it. And they’ve got to stay alert enough to ensure that they are actually watching their animals. With the lockdowns some of the goat herds were being looked after by teenagers who had been sent home from school and they were spending perhaps too much time on their phones!?
White Letter Day
Nigel Sawyer sent us this piece a couple of days ago. It all proves that if you keep searching your local patch you never know what you’ll find.
Tours are Back!
We're on the road or more specifically in the meadows and mountains again. So July 15th will see our first tour since early Spring. The Dolomites tour is on and also the tour to the Pontic Alps in Turkey starting 20th July. See you there!
Summer moves in now with the snows on Ak Dagi receding fast. The nearer mountains lost their last snow a couple of weeks back. It’s a good time to visit the heights. Three days ago I went up there with Chris Gardner and the first person I met was the sheep shepherd who spends the winter with his herd in the lands around our house – don’t know who was more surprised me or him!
Come and visit the magical Dolomites with us this July
It is very nice to be able to write at last some positive news, at least partially so! Countries are re-opening their borders to foreign travel and in some form at least the UK will be too. Exact rules and guidelines are still uncertain though.
Israel's Oncocyclus Irises
Early next March Oron leads a very special tour to Galilee and the Negev. Israel has an unusual range of habitats from pure deserts to mountains topped by snow in the winter. In short, perfect conditions for bulbous species to proliferate and they have, with more than two hundred species.
New Wildlife at Leisure Tour to the Algarve October 2020
For lots more information on this tour click here Autumnal Algarve. Nestling in the limestone massif of the Algarve is the old village of Alte and here our hotel is beautifully situated on a hilltop with lovely views over the valley and distant sea. The sparsely populated hills are full of natural wonders, and we’ll spend some of the tour just walking out from the hotel or driving a few minutes from it. Azure-winged Magpies, Hoopoes and Sardinian Warblers are the typical local birds, whilst late season butterflies include Long-tailed and Lang’s Short-tailed Blues. Serene cork and holm oak forest are home to Dartford Warblers and Rock Buntings.
Trail Camera News
A few days ago I finally gave in to temptation and put a trail camera at a small spring about two hundred metres from the house. Actually it’s a leak in the village water pipe that’s been there for years but to everyone that uses it it’s a spring. The reason I hadn’t put one there before was that every day at least two herds of goats go through and a herd of cattle loiter… so not only would I have to sort through endless cow backsides there was some danger that it would get ‘lifted’. However I thought by now the local shepherds were pretty familiar with my cameras appearing in odd locations so worth a try… The first night a Wolf came through.
Next year is going to be Oncocyclus Iris year! By Ian Green
To me they are the most beautiful of flowers. Extraordinary large blooms of exquisite structure and pattern and colour, and in the wild they just take the breath away as the put on such a wonderful show often amid achingly beautiful montane steppes. They look pretty good too in Kurt’s greenhouses. Some of the attached pictures are blooming right now at Kurt’s, others were taken on trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan.
New tours for Autumn 2020
Bringing back an old favourite, a fungi foray in Norfolk.
The wonderful variety of colour and form is an allure to the photographer, the huge range of species keeps even the most ardent naturalist enthralled, and many of us just love the chance to try one of the more unusual species – a plate laced with purple Wood Blewits, yellow and brown Bay Boletes and orange and green Saffron Milk Caps is something to behold not to mention exceeding tasty!
Its been Oriole week. Every morning the flutey calls drift in to us as we have breakfast and a quick scan of the trees usually reveals a few, some mornings there’s been twenty or more. They are amazingly shy though, the best chance of a photo seems to be from the house, where the accept you should be, walk towards them and they fade away…
Red Grouse feeling the Joys of Spring
This lovely bird was calling with enthusiasm from the top of Buxton Boss. As we continue our daily walks I continue to be grateful for the ability to get out each day on the moors. All around us were Green Hairsteaks like little jewels. The Beech woods were coming to life too, the ferns and bluebells are a little further along each day. We think the Nuthatch is nesting nearby!
More on the Spring in Southwest Turkey
A marvellous morning with groups of Golden Orioles dropping out of the sky like ripe citrus fruits! Must have been thirty or forty in groups of half a dozen. Devilishly difficult to photograph though as they are quite shy and fly off quickly… Groups of Bee-eaters going over as well. For three months in the spring honey men are everywhere in the countryside around Kas, every half a kilometre in the hills around us is a collection of hives and the oak trees and banks of flowers are literally humming with activity. Of course the bee-eaters can’t resist and hang around the hives. The nearest are just below our garden and sometimes there’s twenty or more bee-eaters in the trees swooping down on the insects. It doesn’t always end happily for them as the bee men shoot them, but they seem to know that this bee man turns up around 09.30 most days and are gone by the time he arrives. This morning there was a lovely male Collared Flycatcher in the trees with the Orioles as well as Orphean Warblers and Olivaceous Warblers. A fine Lanner Falcon flew over, the third time this week, and I saw it circling by some cliffs a couple of kilometres away when I was cycling and wonder if it might breed there this year.
Red Squirrels & Pine Martens
We mentioned Ann from Aberdeenshire’s squirrels and pine martens. Well she has sent us some pictures and says “One squirrel in the last few weeks has discovered the delights of road salt on the mudflaps and underside of my car! It's not so long since we were still having salt put down on the roads up here. We thought at first it was going to chew the mudflaps (I already supply deer antler for them to chew so it seemed a bit ungrateful) but now watch with amusement as it gently licks the rubber. After a few minutes of that, it rushes off, understandably, to have a drink of water from a plant saucer.“
Happy Easter from Buxton
Happy Easter! What fantastic weather! The sun brought out lots of Buzzards, we watched them being harassed by Ravens and Lapwings, and eight together circling in a thermal above the rocks. Common Lizards and Green Hairstreaks and Peacock butterflies were all frequent, but too active for photographs. Unlike the pace eggs which we dyed with celandines and onion skins before rolling them down the hill, or these Canada Geese on a lonely moor!
Wildlife on Lockdown
Like many others I am not where I thought I would be this week. Usually I would be leading the Crete tour, eating wonderful Greek food, wandering through old terraces filled with orchids and anemones. On the plus side I am getting to know my local walks around Buxton with my daughters incredibly well! We are able to get to woods and moorland walking from the house. There have been numerous Lapwings and Curlews, and our first swallow sighting was a couple of days ago. We are blessed.
By Fiona Dunbar
Asphodels. Lovely plants with tall spires of white flowers with orange lines and anthers. Attractive to insects – the bees love them and Eastern Festoon butterflies are always visiting them. So why do I find myself beginning to dislike them! It’s the task of digging them up that does it. They tenaciously hang on to their spots between rocks and the great mass of tubers often erupts into pieces just as I bring it out. I am staggered by the sheer biomass both under the surface and on that these plants produce. I should say that we don’t live in a sea of asphodels but they are common and as the land we now garden was formerly goat-grazed albeit not heavily they thrived on it. But given free-rein now, they, and the wild Pyrus trees want to take over the world! The locals used to harvest it with more sympathy though, as it as widely used in this region as a food stuff. The tubers were eaten boiled or ground up to make a flour for breads. The ancient Greeks regarded them as the favourite food of the dead and planted them near graves. However the potato proved easier in the end though I wonder which produces more ‘crop’ in these dry terra rosa soils.
Kurt Vickery has sent us this image of one of my favourite plants - and he's found it growing in the wood behind his house at a previously unknown locality.
Here’s some pictures from Heather Hill’s garden. Heather lives near Blenheim at the northern end of South Island, New Zealand where they are in their third week of a four week lockdown. Heather’s last trip with us was to Bhutan last year where aside from the butterflies she very much enjoyed the chance of seeing so many Arisaema species in the wild. The one pictured here though is from her garden.
We live in an area not particularly known for its mammals but we’re discovering that in fact its quite a brilliant place for them!
The trail camera is such a helpful device for those wishing to find animals that are almost always far better at seeing you before you see them. That’s not to say that we don’t see mammals, there’s Weasel that appears just in front of the house from time to time, Persian Squirrels are resident in the oak trees and before we fenced the garden Wild Boar would frequently wander through.
During the first weeks of making the garden here we dug some holes to plant some trees and of course in the process found quite a variety of subterranean creatures, or just ones that live under rocks. It was the first time I’d seen an Amphisbaenan (Blanus strauchii) and I haven’t seen one since until yesterday when I turned a large rock and there is was. Half an hour later I found another! London buses… Amphisbaenans were once thought to be from a unique lineage of burrowing reptiles but genetic research reveals that they are closely related to lizards. But then genetic research also reveals snakes are… lizards! The Balkan Green Lizards are out and about now and Tortoises are starting to move too.
migrants on the move
The evening before last we had a noticeable change in the birdlife. Suddenly wheatears and buntings were dropping out of the sky to roost. Black-eared Wheatear is our regular bird, we expect to have a few around all spring now, but there was a surprise here in the shape of a Pied Wheatear. Not much is really known about how far west they come in Turkey, but this is certainly further west that expected! Cretzschmar’s Buntings were with the wheatears too. By the morning the bushes around the house were full of birds. The pear tree had six species of warbler over breakfast. Lesser Whitethroats the commonest, but there were also Eastern Orphean Warbler, a lovely male Rüppell’s Warbler, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and a Wood Warbler, the latter very uncommon here. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker was in the oak tree. Later a Short-toed Eagle sailed over…
wildlife from our place
I am sure most of us are having a little more time to appreciate our immediate surroundings at the moment! Being in the middle of nowhere (OK, about twenty minutes from Kaş) has its advantages as we only have wild land around us and can wander freely, as the local shepherds are of course still doing. So we thought it would be nice to bring you the passage of spring here in Southwest Turkey.
24th February 2021
With the UK government announcement that international travel for leisure purposes will not be allowed to recommence until May 17th (at least) we will not now be running tours for UK residents until after that date. Hopefully all will continue to go well with vaccination uptake and the covid situation worldwide will continue to gradually come under control. Our customers are our life and we want to ensure you that we’ll do our very best to look after you from the moment you think about booking to the tour’s end. We want you to be able to book in complete confidence and also have full confidence that Greentours will operate our tours safely following appropriate local and international protocols in relation to health and coronavirus. We hope the following information will give you that security and provide a picture of how things may be (a little) different on tours during coronavirus.
Highlights from the Borneo at Night Tour
An amazing trip for Mammals. We saw no less than fifty species and only five of them were bats! There were several major highlights. Perhaps first has to be the Flat-headed Cat which gave away its presence by pouncing on something at the water’s edge and then we had a few minutes with this chubby little character as it washed it face and then sauntered off.
New Extension on the Snow Leopards of Monglia tour for Pallas's Cat
Following on from a sighting of a Pallas's Cat on our Snow Leopards trip this year we've learnt about a protected area where the combination of rolling grasslands and little rocky tors provide the optimum habitat for these gorgeous little felines. Here they are common and reasonably easy to observe in daylight. Of course it will still require some patience, but experience suggests that even on a one day visit seeing them is likely so we have a very good chance on a two day visit. This area is also very good for Wolves and so early mornings will see us busily scanning the step for them. There are also good numbers of Argali, rare at the other sites we visit, and plenty of Mongolian Gazelles and Corsac Foxes too. See our Snow Leopards trips for more details...
This year's Mammal Watching trip to Mongolia was a memorable trip with the prime objective of seeing Snow Leopard achieved and excellent views of the animal obtained by those that spent the second day with this lovely cat culminating in watching it roll onto its back and wait for one of us to fly across the gorge and tickle its tummy!
Snow Leopard Sightings
A sighting of a Snow Leopard is perhaps the ultimate for most mammal-watchers. Very few westerners had seen these beautiful cats in the wild until ten years ago when Hemis came ‘online’ as a place one could go and see them.
Chiapas by Amanda Richardson
Amanda Richardson an artist based in Cornwall was on our Chiapas tour last February and she has sent us an image of a totally wonderful work inspired by her visit to this vibrant region of Mexico - it certainly reflects the colourful nature of the wildlife there!
This year's tour to Bathurst Inlet (Arctic Canada) sadly may be our last for a while as the lodge is staying closed in 2019 and plans are uncertain thereafter. A great pity as you'll see from Marvyn Griffin's photographs from the visit this year. He saw a Wolverine as well....
Ian Bennallick has just sent us a couple of pictures from the Gotland tour where they hit the Ladies Slipper flowering time perfectly and the fields look a picture too!
Greentours leaders captured by an Olive!
this rather nice picture of three Greentours leaders, looking rather like three naughty school boys caught hiding in a tree, was recently sent to us. We'll go back and let them out next year! From left to right, Ian Bennallick, Kurt Vickery & Panagiotis Nyktas
Sri Lanka at Night
We’re very excited by the images arriving from our first Sri Lanka at Night tour. Uditha, the leader, has sent us a fantastic image of Golden Palm Civet, and his picture of the Ceylon Frogmouths just makes you want to pack your bags and go… Kate and Ian Bruce who were on the trip have furnished us with a wonderful image of the diminutive Rusty-spotted Cat, and their image of the Barnes’ Cat Snake is truly exceptional… more on this soon I think!
The Hazelhen is surely one of Europe’s most charismatic birds, a beautiful creature so often hidden in the forests and glimpsed by most birders before disappearing into its own world. This world has been explored in amazing photographic details by Jean Guillet who in his wonderful new book brings us intimate images of the life of the Hazelhen. You can find more details on Jean’s website https://www.jeanguilletphotos.fr/
Narcissus in Andalucia
Ian Bennallick sends us another fine image from the Andalucia trip currently running - a huge field full of Narcissus cordubensis close to Montejaque. Weather looks a bit dodgy in the background though!
Narcissi in Andalucia
Ian Bennallick who is leading the first of our two spring Andalucia tours sent us these pictures showing a tremendous show of Narcissus bulbocodium in the Coto Donana and also abundant Acis trichophyllum. Ian said that there were around a million of the Narcissus in that field!
We thought we’d share with you this lovely piece of work by Amanda Richardson inspired by her visit to Sichuan with Greentours last July.
Stunning! And brightens up any day, though as I (Ian Green) write this I’m sitting two-thousand feet up above the Mediterranean with a thousand Romulea requienii opening their purple stars around me – spring is here at least!
What's Happening in the Highlands of Mexico
...Some Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets at Lago Cuitzeo this morning and a Magnificent Swallowtail from the Mil Cumbres this afternoon. Some Spanish will allow you to understand Mil Cumbres means a thousand peaks. Beautiful area with blue ridge after blue ridge and all the oak trees covered in Bromeliads.
Filling up Fast
There are still a few places left on Winter tours to wonderful places
Three places on Assam and Bhutan (20th Jan- 5th Feb) - mammals especially Indian Rhinos in Kasiranga, and wonderful birdlife and culture.
Four places left on Chiapas, Mexico (1st - 16th February - Toucans, Oropendulas and Scarlet Macaws aquamarine rivers adn 250 species of butterflies.
Two places left on Costa Rica Motmots and Manikins (7th - 25th February) - stuffing landscpes, virgin forests dazzling wildlife.
Encounters with Megafauna
This year’s Poland trip had some memorable encounters with European Bison – here’s an image from early one morning in Bialowieza Forest taken by the tour leader Phil Benstead.
Fungi in Poland
Linda Morris has sent us this marvellous composite image of fungi taken on the Poland trip in September. We’ll see if we can get some images of all the Bison they saw soon too.
Dionysias in Iran
Dionysias somehow remind me of those boxes of Quality Street that we used to get at Christmas, the intense pink fudgy one and the brilliant yellow toffees! This year’s trip to the Iranian Zagros, was if you are into Dionysias, like visiting the proverbial sweet shop. We found no less than fifteen species in bloom, and my what bloom.
Wolves on Arctic Canada trip
As we took off from Yellowknife bound for Bathurst Inlet we were talking about whether we would see Arctic Wolf but as it turned out when we landed there we were already in state of exaltation. We had landed half way up to refuel and there, unbelievably, on the edge of the gravel runway was a fabulous Arctic Wolf, pure white, and clearly at the height of its powers. We taxied back and forth in front of it taking photographs.
Engadine Lodge Canadian Rockies
My brother very calmly said without seeming to move his lips let alone do any pointing “there’s a Lynx staring at me five metres away”.
Our first night boat trip along the Sendero River in the Montes Azul National park in Chiapas was successful with two Kinkajous spotted and great views of Paraques, Crocodiles, Pottos and the impressive Greater Fishing Bat, but the second night trip proved to be so much better.
Wild India 2016 - Tigers and Leopards and Bears, oh my!
It was great to be back in India after a long tour-leading break. As I could expect, it was a great tour with fantastic sightings - although we were sometimes in different vehicles, everyone in the group had at least three tiger sightings! The last time I was leading this tour was pre-digital for me, and I noticed how easy it now is to get good bird photos compared to before. Black-necked Storks and Blue-bearded Bee-eaters were highlights, and the dancing Sarus Cranes. And loads of different owls! A short extract from the trip report - 'Amanda, James and Hongie had started on the G and Ts by the time we arrived back at the hotel, brought on by the half hour they had spent in Zone 1 with a magnificent male Leopard and a Tigress that chased it off, do I need to say anymore than that? Cheers' - the rest of the trip report is accessable from the Wild India page.
The scenery at Ranthambhore and up in the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve, and of course the mountainous area around Nainital was fantastic - see the gallery from this tour for photos. And of course, great Indian food and hospitality too
Seen a few days ago on the Mammals of the Roof of the World tour!
Red Panda photographed today!
Two photographs Jesper has just sent us of a Red Panda that the group were watching and photographing today on their first morning in Laba He on the Mammals of the Roof of the World trip. We'll bring you more news soon!
Seen today on the Mammals of the Roof of the World Tour!
Jesper says that they watched two Pallas's Cat kittens as well!
9 Tibetan Wolves seem on the crossing of the Cang Tang, the Roof of the World
The Art of Cretan Flowers
These superb silk collages are by artist Amanda Richardson, and were inspired by her Greentours trip to Crete in the spring of 2015.
Here are two of the four Pallas's Cats seen on the fifth day (October 5th) of the Mammals of the Roof of the World tour currently running!
Flora of the Silk Road
Başak and Chris are delighted to announce the arrival of their photographic guide to the Flora of the Silk Road, a compilation of 700 photos of 545 species of the most beautiful flowers, landscapes and cultural sights from Turkey, Syria, Iran, Central Asia, China and Sikkim.