Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Friday, 18 April 2014

A two week tour of the Gambia scheduled for Feb 2015 including 4 nights/5day up river.
We will be looking for Northern Carmine, Red-throated Bee-eaters, Egyptian Plover and a whole host of other goodies.
If this trip fills up quickly, which we expect we will run another one in November 2015.
Total price including the flights is just £1100-£1200. Price to be fixed when brochures are published.
This will include B&B on the coast and full board up country. All transport, guiding etc is included.
Email Sandwich Bird Tours for details.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


WE HAVE JUST RETURNED FROM A MOST AMAZING TRIP TO THE ANTARCTIC WHICH HAS INSPIRED ME TO ORGANISE THE FOLLOWING TRIP FOR 2016. Photos of our last trip can be seen on my flickr site accessed via the front page of www.sandwichbirdtours.co.uk.

Antarctic to Ascension: An Atlantic Odyssey

March /April 2016

A 32 day voyage from Ushuaia to Ascension via the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena with an optional 7 day extension to Cape Verde Islands.

Join us on this holiday of a lifetime!

Voyage Summary

  • Day 1  Departure from Ushuaia
  • Day 2-3  At sea
  • Day 4  Deception Island
  • Day 5  Continental landing on Antarctic Peninsula
  • Day 6  Paulet Island
  • Day 7  At sea
  • Day 8  South Orkney Islands
  • Day 9  At sea
  • Day 10  -12  South Georgia
  • Day 13-17  At Sea
  • Day 18  Gough Island
  • Day 19-21  Tristan da Cunha
  • Day 22-25  At Sea
  • Day 26-28  St Helena
  • Day 29-30  At sea
  • Day 31-32 Ascension Island
  • Day 33-37  At Sea
  • Day 38  Arrive Praia, Cape Verde Islands
  • You may wish to extend by two days either end for some birding.
  • This is a trip full of Zodiac landings and cruises.

PRICES :   Day 1-32

Quad  cabin Euro 6350 pp      Extension Euro 750 pp

Triple Porthole  Euro 7050 pp  Extension Euro 850 pp

Twin Porthole Euro 7750 pp        Extension Euro 950 pp

Twin Window Euro 8050 pp      Extension Euro 1000 pp

Please note that these prices refer to 2015 so please allow for a small increase for 2016. The increase between 2014 and 2015 was on average Euro 200 for the first 32 days. Prices do not include flights or accommodation at either end.

The exact dates are yet to be announced.

A 20% non-refundable deposit at the time of booking will secure a place .

We will need about 8 people to make this trip viable.

More information is available from John including possible bird sightings from all the islands.



There are still two places left on the India tour in November 2014 and a few places on the Spitsbergen tour in July 2015. Please contact John for details. Due to lack of interest I have cancelled Sri Lanka and Namibia trips for 2015/16.

John van der Dol      john.vanderdol1@btinternet.com



Sunday, 2 March 2014


Wandering Albatross in the Drake Passage

We started off in Buenos Aires between flights from Paris and onward flight to Ushuaia. An hour or so to walk along the prom and some Monk Parakeets were noted. Not a lot else though.

Monk Parakeet

The first few photos of this blog were taken in Ushuaia where we spent two nights waiting to board our ship for our voyage to the Antarctic. We stayed in a great hotel on the Beagle channel where we were able to get great views of some nice birds. we also spent a whole day in the Tierra del Fuego National Park where some of these photos were taken. 
Magellanic Oystercatcher

Southern Lapwing

Crested Duck 

Female Crested Duck sitting on chicks 

Rufous-chested Dotterel and White-rumped Sandpipers

Rufous-chested Dotterel 

Chimango Caracara

Ringed Kingfisher 

Patagonian Sierra-Finch

Fuegian Fox

Austral Thrush

Dolphin Gull

Chilean Skua

Wednesday, 21 August 2013




July/August 13

Minke Whale
Around Spitsbergen on the Noorderlicht, 28 July - 12 August 2013
We left for Longyearbyen feeling excited and full of anticipation. Were we going to see polar bears? Fin whales? Or perhaps even a rare sighting of a blue whale? And what would sailing on the Noorderlicht be like?
Flying over Svalbard was already a treat, with magnificent pointed peaks showing through the clouds. After our first encounter with a polar bear (stuffed!) at the airport, we caught our first glimpse of the Noorderlicht, moored in front of a huge 2,000 passenger cruise ship. It only emphasized how privileged we were to experience Spitsbergen from a sailing ship with a small group of other people appreciating its nature and wildlife. For the next two weeks, we would be depending on the elements and Mother Nature.
We headed south, sailing around Spitsbergen anti-clockwise. The British birdwatchers were immediately in their element, as from day one the number of birds we saw was spectacular. During the trip, we must have seen tens of thousands of kittiwakes, 60,000 pairs of brunnich's guillemots on one cliff, thousands of blue phased fulmars, barnacle geese, common eiders, arctic and great skuas, sabine's gulls in their summer dress, little auks, purple sandpipers, snow buntings, some puffins, nesting arctic terns and the occasional ringed plover. We also spotted 13 ivory gulls, had 2 sightings of king eiders and saw one pair of long tailed skuas which made the bird watchers very happy.
On the second night the bell rang at 3 in the morning. A lot of sleepy people arrived on deck. White spots in the distance and water spouts. About 15 belugas were swimming under a golden sky. And these were not the only whales we saw during the trip. A minke whale toyed with us swimming from one side of the boat to the other, repeatedly catching us out on the wrong side of the boat. It came to the side of the boat, looked at us and swam graciously along the entire length of the ship. Humpback whales provided a spectacular display by fluking their unique white under tails. They too were having fun. A group of fin whales came to join the humpbacks' show and then.... our biggest surprise of the day, the biggest animal on earth, a blue whale, surfaced close by and stayed with us for a little while. Its blue freckled skin could clearly be seen through our binoculars. This made the cetacean people very happy.
After a long day and night of sailing we entered bear territory. A mother and her cub were leisurely strolling halfway up the mountain side. Later that day, another 4 bears were spotted in the distance. But then... a little further north we spotted a bear in the water. A string of kelp elegantly draped over its head, it swam within 10 meters of the ship and enabled at least one of us to shoot an image suitable for a Christmas card. At the end of the trip the bear count was 13. This made even the bird people very happy.
Almost every day, we did a landing with the zodiac to go on short or longer walks. We walked over the tundra, seeing many beautiful mosses, mushrooms and flowers. The reindeer liked these too. They did not seem to mind us walking through their dinner at all. The Arctic foxes were a bit more shy and had to be approached very carefully. We stood very still and on one occasion a very curious fox visited every member of the party. Some hikes took us through rocky valleys, making us all look very small in a majestic landscape. The funniest landing was a visit to a group of walrus. We approached them in a long line, covering the last meters in combat mode. At about 30 meters ‘distance, we watched them, took pictures and after about half an hour we all stood up and walked away. The walrus could not give a monkeys, which made the guide very happy.
Over the centuries many people tried to make a living from Svalbard's rich resources. The whaling and walrus hunting enterprises were very successful for man, but nearly wiped out the bowhead and blue whale and diminished the other species to only a fraction of their original population size. Mining operations for marble, iron and gypsum were completely unsuccessful. The remains of these operations are scattered all over the coast, adding human drama to the landscape. The only mining enterprise that has been carried out with some success is for coal. One day we visited Barentsburg, a Russian mining settlement. It was like being in a time warp from Soviet times gone by. It had a sad beauty about it, which made some photographers very happy.
The guide often read from a historical book which he carried in his backpack. Short passages about the history of Svalbard whilst in the field made the past more alive to us urbanites. Many stories involved hunting and the polar bear stories always engendered much interest. A bear encounter is a real risk during any landing. This is why the group always had to stay close together. The guide had a gleaming riffle and was always the first to land and the last to leave. We were due a landing at Smeerenburg, but the mist descended, the wind got up, the landing was cancelled and the bear turned up. This made us all very happy.
Life on board was very happy and the four nationalities mixed well. We all hoisted the sails and were involved in some of the daily running of the ship. The chef worked daily miracles from a tiny galley, the bar was well stocked at the beginning and the crew was second to none. We all had a great voyage and have memories that will live with us for ever more.
Nathalie Steins & John van der Dol

The Noorderlicht

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

More images from Estonia
 Great Crested Grebes having a set to.

Slavonian Grebes

Spotted Flycatcher is a very common bird in Estonia

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Some comments from our guests who joined our orchid tours. Many thanks to all for your company and your feed back.

LATEST NEWS 17 May 2013
Green-winged are now in full flower albeit very late, bit they caught very quickly. Early Spider too is flowering although quite small specimens at the moment, Early Purple is fully out and some Fly Orchids are already in flower. Some Lady Orchids are also in flower but these last a long time so there will be plenty more later in the month. Some idiot has mown some of the rosettes of Lizard Orchid on the roadside but fortunately there are plenty more. I am looking forward to the full array of species at the end of the month.

It is now the 16th July and the Marsh Helleborines are in full flower. What a sight!
Henry was enjoying himself too.

Good morning John,
Just to say thank you for such a great day on Thursday, I really enjoyed it. You were so knowledgeable and interesting to listen to, and it was thrilling to see so many orchids in one day.  I think my favourite site was the beech wood, in that I was so surprised by what we found there. An amazing sight to behold in the gloom of the wood. Thank you for sharing your love of orchids with me and making it such a memorable day.  I will return to the orchids with my tripod and take some considered macro shots.  When I have written my blog I will send you the link, hope your next tour is successful with the promised warm days I am sure you will find more wonderful specimens.
You may well hear from me again when we have checked our finances, and see which overseas tour appeals to us for next year.
Kind regards,
   Melanie refers to a spectacular display of Birds Nest Orchids and White Helleborines on May 30th, although neither were flowering properly yet. Things really are very late this year due to the cold spring. Lady Orchids were tremendous and a few Monkey were flowering and many more in bud. Some nice Fly Orchids, and many Man Orchids mostly still in bud but beginning to open up. One Greater Butterfly in flower in a wood was a surprise as the ones in open country were still in bud.
Orchid tour
I did not have time to do a full days tour due to circumstances beyond my control. However John took me round to the (rare) species I wished to see. En Route he showed me meadows and woods full of Orchids of a large variety of species, many more than I have seen before. The highlight for me other than the rarities was a small wood full of Birdsnest orchids and the largest White Helleborines I have ever seen (I know size isn’t everything).  It was an amazing few hours, next year I shall do the full tour.
Jim fell 
04 July 2013
Hi John,
Just a few words of thanks for organising the orchid day trip.  Given that it has been the most extraordinarily topsey-turvey year for plants it was quite remarkable to see so many species in a single day out.  Particularly impressed with the birds nest orchid, perhaps not the most glamorous orchid but a very fickle plant that frequently fails to show up at known locations.  Having spent a season trying to locate a specimen in west Kent and failing dismally it was quite staggering to be taken into a wood and finding excellent specimens whichever way you turned.  The lady orchids were excellent and remarkable to see them in such huge numbers. It was my first visit to that site but will definitely be on my itinerary next year whilst Park Gate is always a joy regardless of when you visit.  It might have been a very long day but for me it was over all too soon.
Best regards
Chris  07 July 2013 
Dear John,
We now have a new computer so are once more in communication.
It has taken us a long time to come back to you, but we have been on our annual visit to the Swiss Alps to make sure that the Edelweiss still blooms. It does.
We greatly enjoyed our visit to Kent in June. We were most impressed by the way you looked after us, and your patience with three octogenarians who don’t find hopping over stiles as easy as it once was.
It was very exciting for us to see so many orchids in one very full day, and especially to be introduced to six which we have never seen before (we cannot, alas, in all honesty, count those which were merely in bud).
Thank you, too, for making the arrangements for us to stay at the Observatory, where we were very comfortable.
We would greatly encourage others who might be thinking of joining you to do so. Our day was never to be forgotten.
Yours sincerely,
Peter & Patricia Moore  12.07.13
Hi John,
"I went on an Orchid Safari with the Sandwich Bay Bird Tours at the beginning of June, which is the height of the orchid season in east Kent. John's knowledge ensured that we saw many different species, and during the tour he was able to give us all great additional information about the orchids and other plants we saw during the day.

Highlight is always going to see the Monkey Orchids, another superb year for them in Kent, but special mention should be made of the display of Lady Orchids, something I could have stayed and looked at all day. John's knowledge also allowed us to see the hard to find Fly Orchid in two locations, as well as two Greater Butterfly locations. All in all we saw: Early Spider, Man, Fly, Lady, Birdsnest, White Heleborine (but these were not out due to the late spring), Monkey, Lady and Lizard (also not out). A wonderful day, and one I would heartily recommend to anyone."
 Ian 15 July 2013