Archive for September 2014

New Trip Report – Finland

September 29, 2014

A new report

Finland, 2014: John Wright, 4 days & 6 species including Wolverine, Brown Bears and a Grey-sided Vole.


Trip Report: Crested Porcupines (Italy)

September 26, 2014

I was back in Italy in September for a week’s work in Turin and wanted to spend a weekend to try again to find a Porcupine. After asking around I decided to focus on two places. Penna San Giovanni in La Marche, and Maremma Regional Park in south west Tuscany.

La Marche

Penna San Giovanni

Eleanor and David Brown retired to Penna San Giovanni 21 years ago. The region is absolutely lovely, and the only blots on the landscape are the porcupines that frequently attack Eleanor’s garden. She’d posted on the mammalwatching blog several times asking how to stop them and so I got in touch to say I had no idea on porcupine prevention but could I visit anyway to try to see them.

Three weeks later I was enjoying a fabulous – a really fabulous – dinner that Eleanor prepared in her beautiful house, deep in a valley next to Penna San Giovanni. They have a great story, taking early retirement 21 years ago and moving to Italy when Eleanor was in a wheelchair and neither she nor David spoke Italian. Eleanor is no longer in a wheelchair, and they’ve both become a part of the community – which seems blissfully well functioning – and enjoy a variety of wildlife on their doorstep including Porcupines. Just 2 days before I arrived they had returned to the garden to eat a favourite iris.

After reluctantly turning down a final slice of apple pie I drove around the back roads from 10.30 – 1.30 that night looking for Porcupines. I didn’t find any, but did see a heap of Fallow Deer, at least 7 Red Foxes and a couple of Badgers. David was surprised I hadn’t seen any Boar, also common in the area, and they see Pine Martens from time to time.

Eleanor and David

I stayed in the friendly local pizzeria, which has comfortable rooms for just 30 euros a night including breakfast. This is now officially my favourite part of Italy. And I want to thank again Eleanor and David for welcoming me into their home and for feeding me so well. If there was a Nobel prize for Pavlova then Eleanor would win it!

Next stop Maremma Regional Park. My last RFI on Porcupines prompted Charles Foley to suggest I speak to Paolo Tanta, who had contributed a Crested Porcupine picture – taken in Italy – to Charles’s excellent field guide on the larger mammals of Tanzania.  Paolo in turn contacted Emilano Mori, a phd biology student in biology and expert in Porcupines, who suggested I try Maremma Regional Park, near Grossetto in southern Tuscany.  They were, he said, quite common  particularly the north of the park and away from pine trees.


I got there in the late afternoon and saw a couple of very tame Red Foxes on the road to the beach – the  Strada del Mare – from just north of Alberese.  That road looked like it had good Porcupine potential but it was a park road and shut at 2030. so I decided to focus on the area around Alberese and began spotlighting at 19.45, working the Strada Provincale Alberese that runs south of the town and borders the park, including the side roads off of it.  I saw a lot of Fallow Deer, several Red Foxes, a couple of Brown Hares and a Western Hedgehog.

At 21.15 I saw a Crested Porcupine 70 metres off the road to the west in an olive grove exactly 500 metres south of the Sasso Rosso Agriturismo (I was pretty much at the 500m signpost when I saw the animal to my left, as I was travelling towards Alberese). It didn’t stick around for long and I didn’t even try to get a photo but I was very happy to have seen this species after trying several times before.  Though I was tempted to keep spotlighting to get better views, I also had a 4 hour drive to Bologna airport and so sleep won the day.

Thank you to Paolo and Emiliano for their help as well as to everyone else who responded to several Porcupine RFIs over the years. I can stop being a pest now (at least on this species).


New Trip Report: Martino’s Snow Vole in Bosnia & Herzegovina

September 26, 2014

I’ve uploaded a short account of a successful attempt to catch Martino’s Snow Vole

Next stop Hemis National Park – and hopefully a Snow Leopard – next week



New Trip Report – Western USA

September 25, 2014

Western USA, 2014: Janco van Gelderen, 3 weeks & 41 species/ssp including Bobcat, Grizzly and Long-tailed Weasel. (Lots of great photos though it also means the file is 15mb)



New Trip Reports: Scotland, Borneo, Way Kambas and Ethiopia

September 24, 2014

I’m still catching up with a backlog of trip reports, including a brief one of my own, but here are some more great reports.

Scotland & Northern England, 2014: Steve Morgan, 10 days & 13 species including Minke Whales and Water Voles.

Kinabatang River (Sabah), 2014: Steve Morgan, 4 days & 12 species including Flat-headed Cats, Malay Civet and Orang Utan.

Way Kambas & Indonesian Borneo, 2014: Ian Loyd, Lorna Watson and Steve Morgan, 2 weeks & 36 species including Feather-tailed Tree Shrew, Malayan Tapir, some nice bats and a probable Marbled Cat and Banded Linsang.

Ethiopia, 2014: Juan Luis Ortega Herranz, 2 weeks & 52 species including Bale Monkey, Caracal, Ethiopian Wolf, and Striped Hyena.


New Trip Reports: Paraguay, Argentina & the Philippines

September 24, 2014

Some new trip reports on, with more to follow tomorrow

The Philippines, 2014: Steve Anyon-Smith, 3 weeks and mainly birds but a great read, as always, and mammals including Golden-crowned and Giant Flying Foxes.

Argentina, 2014: Hugh Buck, 1 week mainly birding & 5 mammals including Lesser Grison and Patagonian Mara.

Paraguay, 2014: Hugh Buck, 3 weeks of birding but nevertheless 32 mammals including Lesser Grison, Chaco Peccary, Geoffroy’s Cat and a Puma.


China mammals

September 22, 2014

Hi all

Like a few others on here I travelled to China recently – the bulk of the tour was on an Oriental Bird Club fundraiser to Qinghai. Depsite being primarily a birding trip we saw a fantastic array of mammals due to the knowledge of our superb guide, Jesper Hornskov, who will hopefully add a trip report at some point. Anyone travelling to this region would do well to arrange it with him! There were also a few troublesome rodents (see my reply to Sjef Oller’s post), one of which is pictured below – if anyone has an ideas please let me know.

The main reason for this post though is to draw attention to some other possibilities people may not be aware of. After Qinghai, I travelled with Jesper to Beidaihe on the Hebei coast – famous for migratory birds, but not so much for mammals. This Wildwings report gives an idea of what can be seen:

To these sightings I can add that Tolai Hare can be seen on the saltmarsh in Beidaihe, and Jesper has seen Amur Hedgehog there in the past, though I failed. The Great Wall at Jiaoshan (c50mins from Beidaihe by car) is good for the squirrels – you can get a chairlift to decent habitat on the ridge  .

However, on Jesper’s advice, I found two Amur Hedgehogs quite easily around the grounds of the CITIC Hotel at Beijing airport between 9-10pm one evening – a good place to stay if passing through Beijing.

The only other mammal sighting in Hebei was a pipistrellus sp around my hotel near Hengshui Lake  – I guess Japanese Pipistrelle is most likely.


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