Category Archives: Wildside Nature Tours

Great and Double-crested Cormorants

Along the Delaware River in Philadelphia we can find two species of cormorants – Great and Double-crested. While Double-crested is common and widely distributed throughout the US, Great is found along the northeastern and mid-Atlantic coast and the lower reaches of major rivers, such as the Delaware, leading to the Atlantic.

With winter nearing an end, most Great Cormorants will be heading further north to the Canadian Maritimes to breed. The photo illustrates the difference between these two species, with the largest of North America’s cormorant, the Great, on either side of a Double-crested.

There is clearly a size difference between the two species, with the Great being at least 10% larger (and almost twice as heavy) with a blocky head, thick neck and more robust bill.  By mid-winter adult Greats begin to get their diagnostic white flank patch which is very obvious when it stands and in flight. Another difference can be seen on the face. Double-crested have an orange gular (bare skin on the throat) that has a rounded border, whereas Greats have a smaller duller orange gular with a pointed at the back, outlined with a broad white border. Even at a distance this is most noticeable.

As the birds near peak breeding plumage, thin white feathers can be seen on the side at the top of the neck on Great Cormorants, and a shaggy nape also appears. Though from the distance that this photo was taken, it is hard to see, but the Double-crested is just beginning to get its crests! These are feathers, or tufts, growing out on either side of the top of the head, and from where it gets its name.

photo © adrian binns

Minnesota Feb 2018 : Winter Specialties

Minnesota provides a wonderfully-rewarding experience to birders who venture into frigid, snow-covered landscapes during the winter. This February, Tom Reed guided Wildside Nature Tours’ 4-day tour into the north country of the state, highlighted quality over quantity, as species are sparse this time of year. Owls are a big attraction especially during irruptive years, andContinue Reading

Botswana Nov 2017: Okavango Delta

Our last leg of the 12-day African safari was spent deep in the heart of the Okavango Delta, at the beautiful Xigera Camp. The location accessible only via plane, is a short puddle-jump from Savuti. From the air we marveled at the vast, colorful wetlands, featuring large swathes of greens, beige and blues reflecting aContinue Reading

Botswana Nov 2017: Linyati

Our African safari continued into Botswana, where we explored the famous Okavango Delta and Linyanti regions. The Linyanti concession, adjoining the western boundary of Chobe National Park, consists of mopane woodlands, riparian forest and ancient floodplains. After several years of drought, a decent summer rainfall filled the flowing Savuti Channel, which made our stay allContinue Reading

Zambia Nov 2017: Toka Leya

Transferring by bush plane from Zimbabwe to Botswana we had a brief one-night stay in Zambia at Toka Leya. Set within Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the banks of the Zambezi River, the beautiful tented camp is perfectly situated for a sundowner cruise towards Victoria Falls. Though one cannot get close to the falls, we enjoyedContinue Reading

Zimbabwe Nov 2017: Hwange NP

From Mana Pools we flew over the Zambezi and Kariba Dam to Hwange National Park in eastern Zimbabwe on the border with Botswana.  Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest reserve, holding one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, in particular buffalo and elephants. More than 45,000 elephants roam here (considerably more than the area shouldContinue Reading

Zimbabwe Nov 2017: Mana Pools NP

  Our 12-day African safari began on the eastern edge of Mana Pools National Park in northern Zimbabwe. From our bush camps at Ruckomechi and neighbouring Little Ruckomechi, we enjoyed exploring a range of habitats teeming with wonderful wildlife. Elephants were among the first to greet us, as they roamed freely amongst the tents. WeContinue Reading

Sri Lanka Jan 2018 : Yala NP & Lowland Wetlands

Our last destination was the magnificent Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s second largest and most popular park, hugging the Indian Ocean along the southeast coast. Encompassing nearly 400 square miles of habitat, mostly off-limits to visitors, the park is famous for a high density of leopards, along with abundant elephants, deer, monkeys, and birds. WeContinue Reading

Sri Lanka Jan 2018 : Horton Plains & Highlands

In the south-central highlands around Nuwara Eliya, we reached elevation 6000 ft at the very scenic Horton Plains National Park. Our morning in the park dawned in a swirling mist that gave way to expansive stunning vistas. Amid undulating grasslands framed by lush green valleys and mountain peaks, we found a wonderful assortment of birdsContinue Reading

Sri Lanka Jan 2018 : Sinharaja Forest Reserve

We began our wonderful 11-day adventure in Sri Lanka with an overnight stay in an ocean-side hotel a short distance from the Colombo Airport. Our time there was brief, but we enjoyed observing fishermen launch their boats at sunrise, and seeing Whiskered Terns dive and swirl over the waves. From there, we worked our way southeastContinue Reading