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October e-mailing & fresh photos

October 20th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

Our October e-mailing is online and includes an added Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista departure for early December 2014, birding news about California Condors, the latest Clements world checklist update, November to February tour openings, a fresh collection of great images in our Recent Photos gallery, plus recently posted triplists and itineraries. Click below to see it all — and enjoy!

October 2014 E-mailing


NEW TRIPLISTS: Ecuador, France, Brazil & Alaska

October 17th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

We have four new illustrated triplists for these recent tours with guides Rose Ann Rowlett, Megan Edwards Crewe & Jay VanderGaast, John Rowlett, and Eric Hynes & Tom Reed, respectively. Check them out at the links below, and enjoy!

Ecuador: Rainforest & Andes II 2014

France: Camargue & Pyrenees 2014

Serra dos Tucanos 2014

Barrow, Alaska: Search for Ross’s Gull 2014

Some images from these triplists: Black-bellied Cuckoo from Ecuador by guide Rose Ann Rowlett, Our France group in the Pyrenees by participant Donna Bray, White-eared Puffbird from Brazil by guide John Rowlett, and Ross's Gull from Alaska by guide Eric Hynes.

Some images from these triplists: Black-bellied Cuckoo from Ecuador by participant Marshall Dahl, our France group in the Pyrenees by participant Donna Bray, White-eared Puffbird from Brazil by guide John Rowlett, and Ross’s Gull from Alaska by guide Eric Hynes.

NEW TRIPLISTS: China, Montane Ecuador, Newfoundland & Nova Scotia

October 3rd, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

Our 2014 triplists, replete with photos and some video clips, are out for these three tours by guides Dave Stejskal & Jesper Hornskov, Mitch Lysinger, and Chris Benesh, respectively. Check them out at the links below, and enjoy!

China: Manchuria & the Tibetan Plateau 2014

Montane Ecuador: Cloudforests of the Andes 2014

Newfoundland & Nova Scotia 2014

Left to right: a White-browed Tit-Warbler from our China tour, Toucan Barbet from Montane Ecuador, and sparring Northern Gannets from Newfoundland & Nova Scotia (Photos by guide Dave Stejskal, participant C. V. Vick, and guide Chris Benesh)

Left to right: a White-browed Tit-Warbler from our China tour, Toucan Barbet from Montane Ecuador, and sparring Northern Gannets from Newfoundland & Nova Scotia (Photos by guide Dave Stejskal, participant C. V. Vick, and guide Chris Benesh)

EXTRA TOUR: Costa Rica/Rancho Naturalista III added with Jay VanderGaast (Dec 13-21)

September 24th, 2014 by Jay VanderGaast · Add a Comment

One of the joys of being a guide is the chance to get to revisit some of the places we love again and again, becoming intimately familiar with the area’s bird life, and making friends with the local staff at our lodgings. It gets to the point where it’s a bit like coming home at some places. For me, no place fits this picture better than Rancho Naturalista in Costa Rica, and for good reason: back in the 1990s, Rancho was truly my home!

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Chestnut-headed Oropendola, one of the frequent visitors to the fruit feeders at Rancho Naturalista (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Yes, from 1993 to 1999 I was the resident guide at Rancho. For 6 years, my days started before dawn, as I filled the feeders, then grabbed a cup of coffee and stepped out onto the porch to greet the day with my feathered friends. Hummingbirds buzzed around the nectar feeders to get the day kick-started with their equivalent of my morning coffee. Showy White-necked Jacobins, twitchy Green Hermits, pugnacious Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, and the rather stoic Green-crowned Brilliants would all jostle for position at the feeders, with me and the lodge guests enjoying our café con leches just a few feet away. Down below, at the flowering verbena hedges, Green Thorntails, Snowcaps (the lodge’s flagship bird), and the occasional Black-crested Coquette would be doing a similar thing in a more natural setting.

Meanwhile on the fruit feeders, raucous Gray-headed Chachalacas and Montezuma Oropendolas would be hoovering up many of the bananas placed for their enjoyment, while a wonderful mix of smaller birds were left to clean up their table scraps. Velvety-black Passerini’s Tanagers, with their brilliant red rumps, Blue-gray Tanagers in their lovely soft shades of blue, Black-headed Saltators, looking and sounding angry, with their glowering brows and harsh voices, were among the parade of birds we could look forward to seeing each morning from our lofty perch. Away from the feeders, Keel-billed Toucans, White-crowned Parrots, Golden-Olive Woodpeckers, and Gartered Trogons were just some of the many other species that we might add to our morning lists before the 7:00 a.m. breakfast bell would ring. And when it did ring, it wasn’t unusual for us to have already seen 50+ different species of birds!


Watching birds from the balcony at Rancho Naturalista — part of the daily morning ritual (Photo by participant Tom Ludes)

This was a morning ritual I never tired of, and still miss on occasion, so I am thrilled to get the chance to relive it once again on my just-added Holiday Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista III tour, running from Dec 13-21, 2014. If a relaxed-pace, one stop holiday tour sounds good to you, and you relish the idea of waking up to an abundance of beautiful tropical birds just outside your door (not to mention all the other species awaiting us in the forest, and at the other sites we’ll visit), then call or email our office and come join me on my tour to this home away from home for me. With Rancho’s comfortable rooms, excellent service, and scrumptious meals, no doubt you’ll soon feel right at home too!

NEW: Jamaica with Eric Hynes

September 16th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

Guide Eric Hynes is bringing an exciting fresh Jamaica itinerary back into our schedule with two upcoming departures, Dec 2-7, 2014 and Mar 3-8, 2015, each limited to 8 participants. We expect these to be popular, so if you would like to hold a space, be sure to call or email our office. Have a look at Eric’s new slideshow for the tour, too!


Streamertail, Jamaican Woodpecker, Arrow-headed Warbler, and Jamaican Spindalis (Photos by guide Eric Hynes)

Sunrise view out from the pool area at Green Castle Estate (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

Sunrise view out from the pool area at Green Castle Estate (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

September e-mailing & fresh photos

September 15th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

Our September e-mailing is online and includes two new Jamaica departures in the next few months, a New Year’s tour with Jesse, cool bird links, and several upcoming guide events. Also: October to January tour openings, a fresh collection of great images in our Recent Photos gallery, plus recently posted triplists and itineraries. Click below to see it all — and enjoy!

September 2014 E-mailing


A Day Birding at Ecuador’s Shiripuno Lodge

September 9th, 2014 by Willy Perez · Add a Comment

At Shiripuno, a rustic lodge about fifty miles southeast of the town of Coca along the Shiripuno River in the remote lowland rainforest of the Waorani nation, our first day of birding sometimes begins in the evening, just after our arrival dinner when the chorus of nocturnal birds gets started. At other Ecuadorian sites I know, I’ve never heard such a combination of diverse species in one place, some of them rare: Bartlett’s and White throated tinamous lead the dusk concert, followed by Nocturnal Curassow and of course Great Potoo. With all these magnificent sounds around us, we find ourselves thinking that if this is night, what will tomorrow’s daylight birding bring?


Birding from the boat en route to Shiripuno (Photo by participant Barbara Williams)

Early the next morning, we have our answer: in the courtyard of the lodge, Spix’s and Blue-throated piping-guans compete for the best fruits of the cecropia trees, while just behind the lodge, at the head of a mile-long loop trail, we see birds which elsewhere we’d have to take a long walk to find. The first to appear are the Yellow-browed and Lunulated antbirds, then Yellow-billed Jacamar, and with patience, even Brown Nunlet. Walking a little farther we spot Black Bushbird, Fiery Topaz, and a Rufous Potoo on its dayroost. We have our eyes out for the elusive Gray-winged Trumpeter, a regular possibility here, too, and there are many other species of birds to be seen such as trogons, toucans, parrots, and of course my favorites, the beautiful manakins, including three of the prettiest—Blue-crowned, White-crowned, and Golden-headed. Checking our watches, we find that our entire first morning has quickly passed, full of amazing sightings.


White-banded Swallows along the river (Photo by participant Ken Havard)

Returning to the lodge for lunch, there’s more: with a cool drink in hand as reward for our morning’s efforts, we’re interrupted by kingfishers and barbets. After lunch, a canoe trip along the Shiripuno River is super productive as we spot Blue-and-yellow, Scarlet, and Red-and-green macaws, some flying in groups but others sitting in palms along the banks of the river. Our canoe ride continues with Olive and Casqued oropendolas crossing in front of us, and good views of both Lettered Aracari and Orange-cheeked Parrot. We keep our eyes open, too, for the rarely seen Salvin’s Curassow, which I’ve seen before along the river’s edge. At dusk, we put ourselves in place to try for Black-banded Owl, and then watch as a pair flies directly over our heads!

Our first 24 hours complete with the sightings of so many magnificent birds, we return to the lodge for dinner, and the dusk avian concert strikes up again. Once more my mind turns to tomorrow’s possibilities…perhaps Pearly Antshrike, Spotted Puffbird, Ash-throated Gnateater, and more. Fabulous stuff!

Willy’s next tour to Shiripuno Lodge: Heartland of the Waorani is scheduled for Sep 25-Oct 4, 2015. Check our web page for all the details, or contact our office to hold a space. And to see some fun clips from the lodge’s trap (trail) camera, check out their YouTube channel — here’s an example of trumpeters, and there are more fun clips in the right sidebar on that page.

Upcoming Galapagos talk by Megan on Sep. 23

September 7th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

Guide Megan Edwards Crewe will give a talk titled “Galapagos: The Enchanted Islands” at the Nature Center of Cape May at 6 p.m. on Sep. 23. If you’re in the area, come on by to say hi and hear about Megan’s travels in the archipelago!

More information about the Nature Center’s calendar is available at this link.


July e-mailing & fresh photos

July 31st, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment

Our July e-mailing is online and includes big news from our guide and office staff, two new “Great Rivers of the Amazon” tours in Brazil, an added Oaxaca II departure, links to two fun posts about birding in Peru, August to December tour openings, a fresh collection of great images in our Recent Photos gallery, plus recently posted triplists and itineraries. Click below to see it all — and enjoy!

July 2014 E-mailing


Iquitos: My quest for northern Amazonian birds in Peru

July 27th, 2014 by Pepe Rojas · Add a Comment

When I lived at Tambopata in the rainforests of southeastern Peru, I used to wonder about other parts of Amazonia, specifically that reaching into northern Peru, around the Iquitos area. There, the Marañon and Ucayali rivers join to form the mighty Amazon that meanders all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. How many other species of birds might I find there? Beyond the excitement of exploring a new area, I was attracted not only by the prospect of new birds but also by the knowledge that many of these were close relatives replacing the species I was so familiar with in southern Amazonia.


Scenes from Iquitos: stopping for a pic on the canopy walkway; a female White-shouldered Antbird; and white-sand tracks in the Allpahuayo-Mishana reserve (Photos by guide Dan Lane, participant Johnny Powell, and guide Rose Ann Rowlett)

The Amazon is a natural barrier in South America, dividing the avifauna of this part of the continent in two, north and south of the river. This division alone contributes to species richness in the Iquitos area, but it’s complemented by a complex web of habitats from varzea, oxbow lakes, and marshes to terra firme forest, palm swamps, and more. Add the shifting river islands that are peculiar to the silt-laden Amazon, as well as the ancient white-sand forest patches, and we are talking about a very different, rich set of new species to be seen.

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Birding by boat along rivers and cochas (oxbox lagoons) adds a fun dimension to our explorations of the rainforest around Iquitos. (Photo by guide Richard Webster)

Before my first visit to Iquitos, I had a long list of birds I hoped to find in Peru’s northern Amazonian reaches, ranging from large to small and inconspicuous. I was very excited about the possibility of seeing so many new ones, from Black-necked Red-Cotinga, Nocturnal Curassow, Black-faced Hawk, Short-tailed Parrot, Lanceolated Monklet, Pavonine Quetzal, and Black-tailed and Short-billed leaftossers to Undulated Antshrike, Hairy-crested Antbird, Reddish-winged Bare-eye, Black Bushbird, Ochre-striped Antpitta, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Wire-tailed Manakin, Purple-throated Cotinga, Orange-eyed Flycatcher, and Band-tailed Oropendola. As if that was not enough, there was a whole new set of highly specialized river-island birds and, to make things even better, four new species that had recently been discovered in the white-sand forests of Allpahuayo-Mishana within the town of Iquitos!

Additionally, I was keen to see the species replacing those I knew well from southern Amazonia. For instance, I wanted to see Black-capped Parrot, which replaces the White-bellied Parrot of the south; and White-eared Jacamar, which replaces the Purus Jacamar; and the same goes for Wire-tailed and Band-tailed manakins and White-shouldered and Goeldi’s antbirds, just to mention a few species pairs. So much to explore and to learn!

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This Gray-bellied Hawk, a rarely spotted raptor, was an unexpected highlight of our 2013 tour. (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

I started my quest even before joining Field Guides by visiting the Iquitos area for a series of birding workshops at several Explorama lodges, including the ACTS canopy walkway. Later, a combination of freelance birding trips and some research expeditions gave me the chance to return to the Iquitos area and to deepen my knowledge of the birds there. I spent time birding the white-sand forests of the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve, where a few years ago our very own Bret Whitney along with Jose (Pepe) Alvarez described four species new to science: Ancient Antwren, Allpahuayo Antbird, Mishana Tyrannulet, and Iquitos Gnatcatcher. With the exception of the antwren, which was found later in southeasternmost Ecuador, the other three are Peruvian endemics. The birding here can yield other species restricted to white-sand forests, among them birds not as easily seen elsewhere in Peru: Brown-banded Puffbird, Pearly Antshrike, the duidae subspecies of Fuscous Flycatcher, Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrant, Citron-bellied Attila, Zimmer’s Antbird, Pompadour Cotinga, and Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin.

I was also particularly eager to explore another habitat, the river islands, which in the 1980s had been the subject of study by Gary Rosenberg from LSU, defining a set of birds tied to this special environment: Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Pale-billed and Lesser horneros, White-bellied and Parker’s spinetails, Castelnau’s Antshrike, Ash-breasted Antwren, Black-and-white Antbird, Brownish Elaenia, River Tyrannulet, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, and Bicolored and Pearly breasted conebills. These were all new birds for me, and Iquitos was the best place to see them!

By now I’ve been able to see all but five of these exciting species, and that’s one of the many things I love about birding in the tropics — no matter how many times you bird an area, there remains something novel to find! I love being out on the trails and waiting for the unexpected, and I love the thrill of seeing birds, especially new ones. Each time I visit the Iquitos area I still get the same feelings I did the first time — the same butterflies in my stomach and the same sense of excitement at visiting a “new” area. I can’t wait to return, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing the thrill with our December holiday group!

Pepe Rojas returns to Iquitos December 20-31, 2014. With Pepe joined by Dan Lane, co-author of the Birds of Peru guide we’ll all be using, our group should be in excellent hands! Contact our office if you would like to reserve space.