It’s That Time Of The Year…

Hi all,

So it’s about that time of the year, when we recall our mammalian highlights and plans for the upcoming year, and while we’re at it, say how much we appreciate this blog  (and Jon is OK too 😛 )

Well, it was very difficult to top 2014 with the snow leopard expedition.. not just because of the leopard (and wolves and marten and weasels etc.) but also because of the experience and the people. But I think 2015 just about did it with our amazing trip to the Greater Sunda islands. I almost can’t believe I finally went to Borneo and Sumata this year, after having fantasized about going there for over a decade. So, first of all, I want to say Thank You, Jon, for inviting me on this amazing expedition, which was my first to the region! From my first slow loris, to my first wild apes (lesser AND greater), it was really awesome! We even “discovered” a new species of macaque in Northern Sumatra ;-). Aside from Deramakott, where we scored 10-13 species of mammals on every night drive, I think Gunung Leuser was one of the biggest highlights, because it feels so remote, and it’s exactly how I imagined it, with the beautiful forested mountains and roadside orangutans (literally). I know we were just about “mammaled out” by that point, and didn’t spend as much time out at night as we did in any of our previous locations, but we still saw some really cool stuff, including a very friendly slow loris from a distance of 2-3 meters, and a colugo who decided to put on a cirque-du-soleil show for us.
Of course I had my fair share of criticism for Way Kambas, or more specifically for Satwa Ecolodge, but we still had a great time there with Jon and Jean-Michele, between the siamangs and the glimpse of otter civet and pen-tailed treeshrew (the latter, which I can’t really say I saw). And I’m sorry to say this, Jon, but the birdwatching there was especially awesome too… Lol. So really, a great expedition, that will be remembered for years!!!!

Other than that, I also saw some local stuff in Israel including onager, both mountain and dorca’s gazelle, but not yet my most sought-after caracal.

Clearly, my 2015 highlights were: Bornean & Smatran Orangutans, Y-T Marten, Proboscis Monkey, Sunda and Bornean Slow Loris, Siamang, Asiatic (Bornean) Elephants, binturong, banded, malay and otter civet, colugo, giant squirrel of both the flying and non-flying varieties, and the whole experience. Driving by an erupting volcano (Sinabung) was an added bonus for me! I’m sure had we been there in the dark, we would have seen red lava spewing down the mountain.

My 2016 focus is mainly on starting a new job (I just finished my thesis and getting my degree in the next few weeks) and on South Africa, where I’m hoping to get a good portion of the 20-species list I mentioned in that post. I might still try to score a caracal here in Israel prior to that trip, to take the pressure off from seeing that species. And, with my new job and new money, I might try to shoot for a few days in Spain to get the Iberian lynx. And last but not least, I will finally start putting together the plan for Dzangha-Sangha, which so many of you had asked me about J. What are everyone else’s plans for 2016? Cheers and happy new year, filled with the rarest, coolest and most unique mammals!



  • sjefo

    Just came back from Ecuador and we had nice set of goodies with Andean bear and mountain tapir (awful weather though in the paramo), olinguito, pygmy marmoset, white-bellied spider monkey, equatorial saki, and golden-mantled tamarin the highlights for me. And some outrageously pretty birds.
    Peru earlier this year: emperor tamarin, common woolly monkey and bald-faced saki were my favorites.
    Not lifers but a fantastic experience: both wolf and bear seen “in the wild” away from the hides in Finland plus the always cool wolverine.

    Not sure yet about 2016 because my traveling options are limited in the first half of the year, but I will do more research this Xmas holiday on Kazakhstan and central Asia in general, “the Kalahari”, Bolivia, Colombia, Gabon, Odzala (anyone been to the Wilderness Lodges?) and maybe even a revisit to Borneo.

  • vdinets

    For me it was the first year since the age of six with not a single new species of mammal seen (unless offshore killer whales get split – I saw a large pod a couple weeks ago). But I got excellent looks at a bunch of species from my “better view desired” list (Vancouver marmot, Cordilleran water shrew, Palmer’s chipmunk, pale kangaroo mouse, Camas pocket gopher, collared pika), and thoroughly updated my checklist in accordance with current taxonomy (except for microbats, but I’m working on it). I’m still hoping that a pod of pilot whales will show up in Monterey Bay in the remaining six days and save the year.

    In 2016 I hope to get a regular zoological job and/or get my mammalwatching tour guiding business running, to finally get to the last four interesting places in North America I haven’t been to (Bering Sea islands, Newfoundland, Baja islands and Nunavut), and to move to another continent (preferably not Europe).

  • Alan D

    2015 was a down year for mammal travel. We did get to Glacier National Park finally where we had a great encounter with Mt Goats. Other than that, the year was spent moving and then settling in to our new house North of Tucson. The mammal watching on our property has been great with 12 species seen so far (the herping is even better). It’s great fun to have trail cams set up to see what wanders by in the middle of the night.

    2016 will be different though. We have trips planned to Costa Rica, Yellowstone, and our big bucket list trip to the Pantanal. So hopefully, a year from now I will look back fondly on 2016 with lots of new species seen.

    Happy New Year to all and a big thank you to Jon for continuing to keep this site active.


  • geomalia

    2015 was quite a good year for me. To celebrate the completion of my PhD, I went on a trip to NE India, where I saw some great mammals: Indian Leopard (3!), Indian Rhino, Asian Elephant, Wild Water Buffalo, Swamp Deer, Gaur, Capped Langur and Golden Langur in Assam, and Asian Golden Cat and an undescribed Pika in Arunachal Pradesh. I also observed some of the best birds in the world. I’m almost done writing my trip report, which I will post here sometime in the next month or so.

    I also went on a last minute, week-long trip to the Peruvian Amazon near Iquitos, where the mammalian highlight was Bald Uakari. I’ve wanted to observe one since watching the National Geographic documentary on the flooded forest as a kid (it’s on youtube: I’ll post about that trip shortly, now that I have finally cleared enough hard drive space to locate a photo of an unidentified rodent.

    Stateside, my best sighting was a Moose in Maine.

    I don’t have any definitive travel plans for 2016 yet, as it will be a busy year for my research. I will continue looking for mammals around New England, including Lynx in northern Maine and ice seals in the Gulf of Maine. My Fisher search has been unsuccessful so far, but I am optimistic that I will eventually see one in Assabet River NWR or another park near Boston. Finally, I’ll be between jobs for much of December 2016, and I am hoping to go on an ambitious trip. I have no specific plans (waiting to see what my teaching load is for Spring 2017), but perhaps I will finally go to Africa (Madagascar? CAR? Ethiopia?).

    – Ben

  • Michael Kessler

    Mammalwise 2015 was a good year for me, especially the 6 weeks in the US with my family, seeing grizzlies and wolves, black-footed ferret, all 4 prairiedogs, etc., etc. and a month in Colombia which was not so exciting for mammals (but very much so birdwise) except for a several monkey species (cottontop was the cutest). Finally, Mexico in October was also great with cacomistle my favourite mammal and the amazing Horned Guan one of my favourite birds ever.
    For 2016 my plans are 3 1/2 weeks in Costa Rica in April/May first with the family and then students where I should get over 800 mammal species and a summer trip to Austria, Hungary and Croatia, again with the family and not expecting too much in the way of mammals. Plus perhaps 1-2 weeks in Yunnan, but mostly botanizing and not looking for mammals. In any case, for 2017/2018 I am planning botanical field work in New Zealand, Sumatra, Seram and perhaps West New Guinea. That should allow for some mammal- and birdwatching on the side, even though most of these places are species poor regarding mammals. Let’s see…

  • mikehoit

    Ahh, what a nice idea to bring back some good memories Tomer.
    My highlight of 2015 cam quite late, when I finally – FINALLY! – caught up with Leopard in NW India, amongst a host of other great species such as Striped Hyaena (trip report in progress). In the UK I also managed to at last see a fantastic Pine Marten, an ambition realised.
    Georgia was less productive, but with a few nice species (again, notes will but finished soon I hope), with Atlantic Humpback Dolphin in Western Sahara another high point.
    Next year looks worrying quiet for the most part, with the summer taken up with weddings, stag weekends and other things that normal people have to do, although one of those should involve some Biscay cetaceans. Hopefully I can fit something else in, otherwise it’s October-November till the excitement kick in – my first trip to Australia is planned! It’s another bloody wedding, but after those few days I should have at least three weeks free to chase wildlife… Then start plotting 2017!
    Hope you’re all having a fun-filled and peaceful festive period, here’s to a great 2016

  • Mike Richardson

    I’ve enjoyed a fantastic mammal watching year despite work commitments taking up most of my time.

    Although in the past I’ve avoided joining organised tours, a trip to Nicaragua in February lead by Fiona Reid and Jose Gabriel Martinez proved too good to resist. The trip greatly exceeded my already high expectations due to Fiona and Jose’s limitless skill, dedication and expertise. Mammal highlights for me included the three species of skunk (S. Spotted, Hooded and Striped Hog-nosed) and witnessing first hand Fiona’s inexhaustible bat and rodent knowledge. The trip was mammal watching heaven from start to finish!
    Other highlights include capturing three UK species of shrew at a site 10 minutes from my house. Also Wildcat, Beech Martens and Golden Jackals in Bulgaria and a trip to California which netted several much wanted kangaroo rats, chipmunks and my first Kit Fox.

    Meeting many members of the mammal watching community for the first time this year was also memorable. Fiona Reid, Jose Martinez and Paul Carter in Nicaragua, and Jon Hall (along with Katy and Patrick) for a couple of mornings mammal trapping in California.

    I don’t have any solid plans for 2016 although an early trip to Israel looks likely (RFI to follow).

    Thanks to all the members of this community for sharing information on the blog and writing trip reports. I wish you all a happy and mammal filled New Year.

  • vnsankar123

    Happy to say that this was a pretty good year for me mammal-wise.

    Despite serious drought conditions, I managed to pick up a decent number of new species in CA – highlights including San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel, Long-tailed Weasel, a bunch of Chipmunks, Riparian subspecies of Brush Rabbit, and some more stuff. I plan on doing one or two trips with Vladimir next year (probably Eastern Sierra/Mono Lake and Humboldt County) and also spending more time in the ocean in the Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay, and Farallones for Northern Right-whale Dolphins, Fur Seals, and maybe Beaked Whales. I’m also hoping to spend more time in the Delta and Pt Reyes (currently, I mostly spend time in San Benito, Pinnacles, and Panoche Valley) to find reliable sites for more species which is fun for me and would be of interest for out-of-state mammal watchers.

    The undoubted highlight of the year for me was a trip to Sangha Lodge in Central African Republic, something I’ve been dreaming about for years. What a place!! It was a real privilege to visit this stunningly beautiful, wild region and was the biggest flood of new mammals I’ve had in some time – highlights included Forest Elephants at Dzanga Bai, Western Lowland Gorilla (and 4 other primate species at the same time too!), Tree (wild) and Long-tailed Pangolins (pet but now wild), Bay and Peters’ Duikers, Brush-tailed Porcupine, Lord Derby’s Anomalure (twice!), and Black Hawk Bats during stunning sunsets. Also got to see Picathartes, which was really fun, and nearly stepped on a De Brazza’s Monkey hiding silently in the undergrowth at the edge of the swamp forest (still didn’t quite manage to see it though!). I must go back for the Bongo.

    As for next year, I haven’t really firmed up global plans yet. Considering a revisit to Kenya (Aberdare, Laikipia, Northeast) but Uganda is even more enticing (Bwindi, Kibale, Murchison, maybe Semliki)…

  • Charles Foley

    This was a reasonable mammal year for me. I really enjoyed seeing Pudu and Marine otter in Chile and a close up Puma sighting was also pretty special. I dipped on wolf and bear in Spain in the summer, although I knew it was the wrong time of the year to be looking, so I wasn’t too put out. I did however see a fantastic courting pair of Pine martens, which, like Mike Hoit, I’d also wanted to see for some time. I’ve seen the usual assortment of Tanzanian savanna mammals, of which the highlights were probably 2 Slender mongooses attacking a 6 foot long Black necked spitting cobra (it ended in a draw), a Wild dog den with newborn pups, and a snarling Honey badger running across the short grass plains in Ndutu. I’m off to the Serengeti with the kids tomorrow for a few days, so I expect we’ll see a wildebeest or two on the plains and, as always, will keep my eyes open for Pangolins…

    I’m still figuring next year out, but I have confirmed a trip to South Africa where I’ll be looking for the two otter species, Riverine rabbits and Sharpe’s grysbok. Mongolia is another possibility.

    As always a huge thanks to Jon for providing the platform for us to share our experiences and adventures. Happy New Year to everyone!

  • Jon Hall

    2015 was a pretty good year for me – the highlight definitely a long overdue trip to Tibet to see Pallas’s Cats, Wild Yaks and a whole raft of other goodies, closely followed by the trip to Borneo and Sumatra that Tomer already talked about. I try to see 50 new species each year and managed 80 in 2015, a record I am unlikely to top for sometime, if ever.

    I’m not all that sure what 2016 will hold yet, though I should be in Tanzania in February for a few days work and hope to catch up with Charles and one or two new mammals then, and will spend a week in Nicaragua in March where a tick-fest of bats is on the cards. I’m also trying to go to Mongolia in June to lo0k for Camels, Long-eaed Jerboas and whatever else I can find. After that who knows though there remains a whole bunch of stuff to see in California which, thanks to Venkat, Vladimir and others is becoming easier to find. I have also revamped and hope to launch site 2.0 early next year. Happy New Year everyone and thanks for taking the time to share so much information and experience this year. Mammal watching would be much harder without you all.

  • Richard Webb

    Mike. I will be very interested in seeing the Georgia notes as I have five days out there at the end of April. Hope to find something interesting at Kazbegi or Chacuna.

    To answer the original question Mongolia was the clear highlight in 2015 with untickable views of a probable Andean Cat in Chile the low point.

    2016 should be a mammal fest as taking redundancy/ early retirement from work in January and have trips to Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Sichuan, Georgia, Borneo & Northern Sumatra, South Africa and Namibia, Indonesia (Way Kambas, Java, Kalimantan & Komodo) plus SA again in 2016. Four are tours I am leading so unlikely to produce anything new but the others should be productive.

    Hope everyone has a great year. Richard

    • mikehoit

      Hi Richard – I don’t think anything I saw will have you changing your plans! I was volunteering as a raptor counter in the southwest, and only saw a few bits and pieces. Sadly time pressures meant I didn’t have time to get to Kazbegi as I originally hoped, but I’ll be back out there sometime in the next couple of years so look forward to hearing what you see. I should get those notes sorted next week in case they are of interest.

      • guigna

        Ok thanks Mike. We’ll be visiting Kazbegi and Chacuna in the south-east so I’ll hopefully have some new information to report back.


      • vdinets

        Kazbegi is a really nice place, but prepare for long uphill hikes if you aim for East Caucasian ibex and particularly chamois (ask locals where to look – both species move around a lot). Wood patches around town have Kazbegi birch mice (diurnal and often seen climbing tall grass). Robert’s snow voles are common in alpine meadows. There’s probably a lot more stuff there but I’ve only been there for a few days. I’ve heard that it’s really good for bats during fall migration.

  • SLahaye

    This year Tim and I had some memorable encounters with mammals. In Europe we saw some pretty nice stuff in the UK (trip report is on the site) and I had a great encounter with a highly active stoat in the Alps during a student’s excursion.
    We mainly invested time in mammalwatching during our trip to southern Africa. We saw four aardwolves in about two hours, we witnessed lions mating, heard a male lion literally crack the bones of his prey, and we nailed two new mammal orders within 12 hours when we spotted a bushveld elephant shrew in Erongo in the late morning and an aardvark south of Tsumeb at 8pm. That will never happen again, unless we spot our first colugo and dugong on the same day 🙂

    Next year we’re going back to Africa. It will be a student’s excursion to Tanzania for a biology course. It won’t be easy to see anything new, but it will also be nice to see the usual suspects again. We also have high hopes for spotting wild dogs during an extension after the excursion. We missed those in Botswana, although we tried pretty hard.

    Before that, we’re off to Poland during the first week of February. We hope to photograph wisent in the snow, but the hidden mission of the trip is finding a lynx… We’re usually not so lucky with cats, but who knows; maybe we’ll manage to break that tradition.

    And my resolution for the New Year is to finally write up the trip reports from our past trips. Peninsula Malaysia + Borneo, Western Sarah, Thailand and Southern Africa have to be finished before we can do any more trips (or in any case shortly after the Poland trip…)

    I wish you all a great year full of mammals that pop out of nowhere and show themselves graciously, preferably while they are doing something awesome at close range!


  • Van Niel John

    Memorable mammal moments of 2015? January: Introducing my Australian relatives to West Indian Manatees at Crystal River Florida. March: Visiting three Black Bear dens with my students as part of a cooperative undergraduate research project with our State agency. Measured nine cubs and obtained fantastic camera trap images. June: Visited Big Bend National Park in Teas with my daughter. Saw and photographed Davis Mountain Cottontail and other species. July: Family holiday (we manage one large international trip per year) to Borneo. Trip report to come. Enjoyed every bit of it. No super rarities. August: Taught a camera trap workshop in Jackson Wyoming (Trip report submitted). Saw my first Northern Pocket Gopher. December: Aussies are now hosting me in Perth. Mammal count stands at one with Western Gray Kangaroo but will increase next week. This isnt really a wildlife trip but I will squeeze in some nature time.

    This blog and john’s website are such amazing resources. I want to thank everyone who has made me feel welcome. John Van Niel.

  • Curtis Hart

    Thanks for a great site, I spend way too much time on here.
    2015 was one of my top years for mammal watching ever. After changes in work in 2011, I was unable to travel as much for a couple years, then when I could, I went to the Bahamas for the winter, so didn’t get many new mammals. For me the fall of 2014 and all of 2015 were the beginning or mammal targeted travel again. I began the year on the southern beaches of Bioko, spent 6 weeks in Ethiopia, actually got a new bat at work, spent 2 months based in Las Vegas with access to AZ netting and trapping permits, saw a few more chipmunks (Alpine, Palmers, Long-eared), and spent December in Borneo. I saw more species this year than I ever have before, but I had more lifers in 2009, the year I first went to Sulawesi, South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. Top species this year, were African Wild Dog, Gelada, Tree Pangolin (even though I first saw them in late 2014 as well), Ethiopian Wolf, Walia Ibex, Serval, Gerenuk, Evening Bat, Mexican Long-tongued Bat, Fisher, Western Spotted Skunk, Smooth Otter, Binturong, and Sun Bear.

    I will start 2016 in a customs line for Indonesia, 60 day visa in hand. Stops include Flores, Komodo, north Sulawesi and the Togians, and finally Raja Ampat. I head home in March, and will work all summer, in the fall/next winter we will probably do one of the following: Madagascar/Tanzania, Siberut/Australia, or South America/maybe Antarctica.

    Good luck this year everyone!

    Curtis Hart

  • kittykat23uk

    This year has been very difficult and only really got going in August with a trip to Finland where I had fantastic views of wolves, wolverine and lots of brown bears. Spent a very frustrating six months trying to organise a trip to Ethiopia which I eventually had to abandon due to difficulties with the other potential tour participants. So I eventually booked a last minute volunteering holiday with Wildlife Act monitoring wild dogs in Somkhanda community reserve in KZN, South Africa. Had some great experiences with our pack of seven dogs and got a few other new mammals, including greater galago, caracal, red duiker, mountain reedbuck and some new birds, narina trogon and Livingstone’s turaco.

    Doing Ladakh for snow leopards in Feb and a week in Tadoba afterwards. After that, I am open to ideas/offers for later in the year. Be interested in more opportunities for predator or lagomorph research, or opportunities to visit areas with a good variety of mammals that I haven’t seen before. Particularly anything that will cover a range of habitats, a good variety of predators, or looking for the smaller, nocturnal mammals. If anyone is aware of anything that might fit the bill please do let me know. I would still be interested in visiting Ethiopia too.

    • cmh78

      Just curious on your Ethiopia issues, what kind of daily budget were you looking at, and what kind of comfort level do you require? Our car/driver fee was $210/day and then three of us stayed under $90/day with food, housing, and park fees. So $100 per person per day. That said we camped a lot, and we far preferred small, goat-filled restaurants to the tourist places. It is FAR cheaper to book just the car and driver and pay as you go for the rest. Just be ready to bargain/argue when appropriate. Good luck!

      • vdinets

        You can actually rent a car without a driver in Addis for something like $70 per day (2009 info, but rental prices have gone down rather than up). You are not supposed to drive it outside Addis, but nobody ever checks – just try not to get into accidents you can’t pay your way out of. Not having a 4wd means you have to avoid Afar, the far west and the rainy season, but otherwise you should be fine. And you can also sleep in that car – that helps avoid fleas, bedbugs and lice.

        For me Afar was the best part, but not so much because of mammals, and it’s risky in one car anyway, even a 4wd.

  • bwkeelan

    Eileen and I had a good year for mammals stateside. She saw her 200th species in the continental US + Canada (Robust Cottontail in Big Bend NP), and we almost finished the southwest bats, with the best additions being Underwood’s Mastiff Bat (Organ Pipe NM), Lappet-browed Bat (Chiricahua Mtns.), and Ghost-faced Bat (Big Bend NP). Pygmy Rabbit in Idaho was totally adorable (thanks, Matt!), and we had a fine mammal big day with 42 native species in central Calif. We don’t have any international travel planned next year, but hope to spend some time on eastern bats. Thanks, Jon, for maintaining this forum, and thanks to all for the great info and interesting commentary! — Brian Keelan

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