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    Peter Burke is a birder, artist, and author who started birding more than 35 years ago. He devotes much of his time to illustrating and also works as a biological ...Read complete biography

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Mysteries of Southern Peru: a new slideshow

July 4th, 2015 by Field Guides

Check out guide Jesse Fagan’s fresh, annotated slideshow for his new tour, scheduled for Nov 21-Dec 5, 2015, when he’ll be joined by fellow Field Guide Chris Benesh. It will give you a nice sense of the tour and the special sights to be seen and sites to be visited. And did you know there are three as-yet undescribed species possible on the tour? Cool!

You can see the slideshow at this link.

For more information about the tour, visit our Mysteries of Southern Peru tour page.


June e-mailing & fresh photos

June 26th, 2015 by Field Guides

Our June 2015 e-mailing is online and includes birding news items about bird calls, sage-grouse, nests, and a photo ID app, an offer to join our September California pelagic, an update by Jesse Fagan on his new 2016 Western Panama tour, 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!

June 2015 E-mailing

May 2015 Field Guides emailing

New for 2016! Western Panama — Chiriqui & Bocas del Toro

June 22nd, 2015 by Jesse Fagan

Our new Western Panama: Chiriqui & Bocas del Toro tour scheduled for March 2016 with guide Jesse Fagan promises to be a real Panamanian adventure. Imagine yourself spending four nights on a Caribbean tropical island, surrounded by lush tropical rainforest, turquoise blue waters, a birding tower for viewing challenging canopy flocks, and a three-toed sloth lazily feeding on Cecropia fruits over your most comfortable cabin. Now you’re beginning to understand the essence of what is Tranquilo Bay. Then you cross the Continental Divide, take a short 4X4 journey, and climb into the primary cloud forest at the edge of La Amistad National Park, where another premier birding lodge awaits. Bellbird Lodge in the Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve will be our base for the final four nights of this fun new offering. Bellbirds and quetzals are not too far away!

Below is a selection of photos of the lodgings and from guide Jesse Fagan’s recent scouting trip. You can read more about the tour on our website’s tour page, and about Jesse’s upcoming schedule on his guide page.

tranquilo bay main building by Tranquilo Bay

The Lodge at Tranquilo Bay (Photo courtesy of Tranquilo Bay Lodge)

Boating at Tranquilo Bay phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

A boat ride is our transportation to some birding sites around Tranquilo Bay. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Golden-collared Manakin 2 phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

This male Golden-collared Manakin was displaying on his lek. The species is quite common on Isla Bastimento, very near our lodge at Tranquilo Bay. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Tower view at Tranquilo Bay phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

The view from the tower at Tranquilo Bay (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Double-toothed Kite phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

This adult Double-toothed Kite was photographed over Isla Popa in Bocas del Toro. This small forest raptor frequently soars over the canopy and has a distinctive shape in flight, wings pinched at the body with a long tail. The species is fairly common in this region. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

tranquilo bay cabana 2 by Tranquilo Bay

One of the cabanas at Tranquilo Bay (Photo courtesy of Tranquilo Bay Lodge)

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

The Brown-throated three-toed Sloth is common on Isla Bastimento. Note the distinctive brown patch on his back. This one was photographed by guide Jesse Fagan just outside his cabin at Tranquilo Bay.

Dendrobates auratus phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

The striking Dendrobates auratus (the Green-and-black Poison-Dart Frog) loves the ground litter of old cacao plantations. Guide Jesse Fagan photographed this individual in Bocas del Toro.

King Vulture phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

From Bocas del Toro, we will cross the Continental Divide, sampling the foothill and highland forests before dropping down to the Chiriquí Highlands on the Caribbean Slope. This King Vulture gave some great views at the divide. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

bellbird lodge 1 by Bellbird Lodge

The Bellbird Lodge at Mount Totumas is nestled into lush cloud forest with some great birds! (Photo courtesy of Bellbird Lodge)

Resplendent Quetzal phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve is an excellent place to see Resplendent Quetzal, as evidenced by this fabulous male. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Green-crowned Brilliant phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

This male Green-crowned Brilliant allowed guide Jesse Fagan an easy photo. This species is a common visitor to hummingbird feeders at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve.

Dawn over Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

Dawn over the Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Sulphur-winged Parakeet phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

Peek-a-boo! This Sulphur-winged Parakeet was feeding young in the tall oak forest of Mount Totumas. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Hoffmanns Two-toed Sloth phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

This Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth was in the cloud forest of Mount Totumas, where at this elevation the species is quite rare. Two-toed sloths are nocturnal feeders (unlike three-toed sloths) and, surprisingly, are not closely related to three-toed sloths. The two are placed in entirely different families and appear to have adopted their arboreal lifestyles independently, an amazing case of convergent evolution. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

bellbird lodge 3 by Bellbird Lodge

Bellbird Lodge offers a great birding perch and some fabulous views! (Photo courtesy of Bellbird Lodge)

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird is common at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Three-wattled Bellbird phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

A Three-wattled Bellbird at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve, Chiriqui, where many males were singing on territory. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Southern Nightingale Wren - Whistling type phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

A Scaly-breasted Wren or Whistling Wren belting it out on Mount Totumas. (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Scintillant Hummingbird f  phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

Female Scintillant Hummingbird, Mount Totumas (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Slaty Flowerpiercer phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

Male Slaty Flowerpiercer, Mount Totumas (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

White-throated Mountaingem phf16 scouting Jesse Fagan

White-throated Mountain-gem is a Chiriqui Highland endemic (i.e., endemic to Western Panama and adjacent Costa Rica) and fairly common at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve. This male was photographed by guide Jesse Fagan.

May e-mailing & fresh photos

May 14th, 2015 by Field Guides

Our May 2015 e-mailing is online and includes birding news about migration and descriptions of 15 new Amazonian bird species, an update on the whereabouts of guides Pepe Rojas and Willy Perez, 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!

May 2015 E-mailing

Field Guides May 2015 emailing

April e-mailing & fresh photos

April 12th, 2015 by Field Guides

Our April 2015 e-mailing is online and includes schedule updates (Cape May II and Brazil’s Rio Roosevelt), birding news about fancy male birds and redpoll taxonomy, notes on our 2015 Holiday Southern Peru and Alaska tours, 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!

April 2015 E-mailing


Our new Holiday Southern Peru tour for November 2015: Big Country!

April 6th, 2015 by Jesse Fagan

Peru is Big Country (yes, I am hearing that popular 80’s song in my head right now), and like any big country (think Brazil, Mexico, or Australia) with lots of birds, it deserves complete coverage. I mean, Peru has more than 1850 species of birds, 139 or so endemics, and is twice the size of Texas. That equates to 20% of all bird species in the world (and second in total number), and it ranks fifth in number of  endemics!

Black-faced Ibis by guide Jesse Fagan

Black-faced Ibis, photographed by guide Jesse Fagan

Why so much diversity?  Isolation, topography (remember the Andes?), lots of different habitats and microclimates. Indeed, this is the very reason to visit Peru: variety.  And we are not just talking about birds and landscapes, but also a rich indigenous culture (Inca and pre-Incan) and some of the best food in the world (where to get started?! aji de gallina, lomo saltado, ceviche, pisco sours,…).

Titicaca Grebe by Jesse Fagan

Titicaca Grebe, which we’ll search for on its namesake lake (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Our new Holiday Southern Peru tour, schedule for Nov 21- Dec 3, is a  comprehensive central Andes tour that visits most of the southern third of Peru. This includes many areas not reached on other tours, offering new birds and new sites. Several days around Lima will give us a chance at coastal specialties normally bypassed (Lima is usually a jumping off point, not a destination). The cold offshore currents are home to millions of seabirds including the lovely Inca Tern and playful, Humboldt Penguin. We will not ignore the coastal desert, however, and though low in diversity, it’s high in species endemism (most of them a sandy brown color!).


Spectacular Colca Canyon is one of Peru’s most scenic sites and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

We’ll fly from Lima to Cusco and snake our way westerly up the Andes to Abancay. Here we will be after the “Apurimac” endemics including Apurimac Spinetail, a brush-finch, Vilcabamba Thistletail, and an undescribed tapaculo, “Apurimac” Tapaculo. It’s then on to Puno (but not before visiting impressive Sacsayhuaman), where the lake endemic Titicaca Grebe awaits.

Peruvian Sierra-Finch by Jesse Fagan

The colorful Peruvian Sierra-Finch, photographed by guide Jesse Fagan

South of Puno is the expansive Altiplano, the largest “high plain” or desert outside of Nepal. We will be attentive, scanning for Lesser Rhea or a sneedsnipe, while carefully searching bog edges for White-throated Sierra-Finch or a Puna Yellow-Finch. Around Arequipa we will have a night in the Colca Canyon, famous for close encounters with Andean Condor, but also a place to look for Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (and look we will). The La Mejia marsh site south of Arequipa is the only place in Peru to find Red-fronted Coot, which seems more like a gallinule.

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover by Jesse Fagan

A specialty of high-elevation bogs: Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (Photo by guide Jesse Fagan)

Finally, we’ll drive north to Nazca, taking in the lunar-like landscape that is the spectacular Atacama Desert (now we are in the driest non-polar place in the world). Above Nazca we will find time to photograph the elegant Vicuña, the wild ancestor of the domestic llama, which will be around in good numbers. Other targets here will include Thick-billed Miner, “Dark-winged” Canastero, and Black-hooded Sierra-Finch (around the Polylepis). Then, of course, we will want to actually see the Nazca Lines. Strap in for the ride of your life!

Guide Jesse Fagan’s new tour is scheduled for November 21 to December 5.  He’ll be joined by fellow Field Guide Chris Benesh.

Canyon Canastero by Jesse Fagan

Canyon Canastero. photographed by guide Jesse Fagan

Alaska: My first trip to the top of the world

March 5th, 2015 by Pepe Rojas

When I received my first full-time tour schedule for Field Guides in 2012, there was one trip that immediately jumped off the page and caught my attention: Alaska. As a kid growing up in Peru, the image I had of Alaska was one of epic snow-covered mountains, never-ending empty forests, and of course wildlife: Orcas, seals, Walrus, Polar and Grizzly bears, Bald Eagles, Moose, and Wolves — all roaming wild across vast areas of land, ice, and sea at the “top of the world.” I also knew that many of the waders I saw every year during the austral summer on the Peruvian coast migrated to breed in Alaska. Later, while reading Scott’s Weidensaul’s book Living on the Wind, I learned about Spectacled Eiders and the discovery of their wintering grounds in the middle of the Bering Sea. Needless to say, by the time my invitation to guide in Alaska arrived, I was more than intrigued to visit. Reading the tour itinerary got me even more excited, and I remember barely sleeping the night before I left!

Alaska birds and wildlife

An Alaska sampler: Northern Hawk Owl in Denali, Red-legged Kittiwake from the Pribilofs, Humpback Whale at Seward, and Bluethroat at Nome. (Photos by participant Spike Baker and guide Chris Benesh)

Our first stop was St. Paul Island, part of the Pribilof Islands off the southwestern coast of Alaska. What an amazing place — it is hard to imagine a better spot in the world to see (and photograph) alcids. On average, we can expect to see eight species. During the most recent tour, we also had great looks at Ancient Murrelet in the harbor. St. Paul is also well known for unexpected vagrants. We had Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, and Common Cuckoo during the first leg of the 2014 tour I co-led with Chris Benesh.


The incomparable Denali on a beautiful, clear day (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

Our next destination was Denali National Park. As I’d always imagined it, I had the chance to see my first Moose and Grizzly — such an amazing experience! In addition to the many interesting things I learned about the birds of this region, I have a very vivid image of Lesser Yellowlegs perched in trees and Long-tailed Jaegers sitting on the tundra, birds which, until then, I’d only seen wading or flying at sea, respectively!

Spruce Grouse

Spruce Grouse north of Seward (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

The second part of our tour began with a visit to coastal Seward, south of Anchorage, and the unforgettable experience of seeing a wild pod of Orcas (I refuse to call them Killer Whales). It was an incredible moment in nature for everyone on the tour, one I will never forget. The landscape of the fjords is breathtaking in this region, and we were thrilled to take in sightings of Kittlitz’s Murrelets around Aialik Glacier.

Bristle-thighed Curlew

Bristle-thighed Curlew (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

Leaving Seward, we flew to Nome, just below the Arctic Circle and the absolute best place on the continent to look for Bristle-thighed Curlew. This fascinating species covers around 5000 miles in a single flight to reach its wintering grounds in the South Pacific — amazing! Seeing this curlew on the tundra was one of the great birding highlights of this tour. Other noteworthy species for me (and our group) here were my first Gyrfalcon, a bird that remains on the tundra in winter, and Blackpoll Warblers. I had previously seen these warblers wintering in the Peruvian Amazon, and I’m fascinated that they can cover so much distance on migration. On a similar note, I was so pleased to see Arctic Warblers for the first time here, and a special mention also went to the Kougarok road for its spectacular scenery.

Spectacled Eiders

Spectacled Eiders (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

The last leg of our tour took us to Barrow, quite literally the “top of the world.” My first trip north of the Arctic Circle was nothing short of remarkable. I could never have imagined seeing with my own eyes (from a safe distance, of course) a Polar Bear feeding on whale blubber. As a result of our explorations around the roads of Barrow, we came across Common, Steller’s, King, and Spectacled eiders. This last species was of particular interest to me since its wintering grounds were a total mystery until the mid 1990s, when GPS tracking showed that they winter in the Bering sea, feeding on mollusks and other invertebrates, and help to maintain areas of open water among the sea ice with their movement and body heat. Wow! To top things off, we scored great views of Snowy Owls and also a male Ruff displaying among Pectoral Sandpipers.

My first trip to Alaska was incredible and exceeded my imagination in a big way. It has quickly become one of my favorite destinations, and I am lucky enough to have returned two more times with Field Guides since then. My next trip is this June, co-leading with Megan Edwards Crewe, and I can already feel my blood pumping with excitement for what’s to come. I hope you will join us!

–Pepe Rojas

Visit our Alaska tour page for full information on our upcoming 2015 Alaska departures (two tours, each in two parts, with the first tour beginning May 29 and the second June 5).

February 2015 newsletter

February 20th, 2015 by Field Guides

Our February newsletter is making its way to mailboxes of all of you on our mailing list. It features an article on our Galapagos tours, an Alaska feature page, reports on the latest from 8 of our stellar guides, 6 pages of exciting photos from recent tours in our Fresh From the Field section, plus the latest on our Upcoming Tours. You may also now see it online at this link.

And if you are intrigued by all those lovely Borneo photos on the back page, you can view them in larger format, along with their IDs, on our fieldguides.com/borneophotos page.

Enjoy the new issue!

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.20.01 AM

February e-mailing & fresh photos

February 18th, 2015 by Field Guides

Our February 2015 e-mailing is online and includes birding news about Snowy Owls and flock cooperation, our 2017 schedule added to our website, last North American tour spots through June, a note on our 2015 Central Peru trip, 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!

February 2015 E-mailing


Central Peru’s High Andes: Adventure Awaits!

February 6th, 2015 by Dan Lane

Did you know our Central Peruvian Endemics: The High Andes tour will run this summer (Jun 5-21) and then not again until 2018? Guide Dan Lane takes us through the highlights below with some great images. Check out our tour page for more info and contact our office to hold a space.


Peru is a magical place. It combines so many climatic extremes into a remarkably small area. It has (as most Peruvians will proudly inform you) three main regions: the Coast, the Mountains, and the Rainforest.

Huascaran National Park

The spectacular Andean scenery of Huascaran National Park (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

This actually over-simplifies the variety of habitats, climates, and elevations you can find within the country. It is a place where, to understand it well as a birder, you will need to visit more than once—happily, we offer just such opportunities here at Field Guides!

White-cheeked Cotinga by Ken Havard

The endemic White-cheeked Cotinga (Photo by participant Ken Havard)

Peru is home to a remarkable 100 (approximately) endemic species, many of which are located either on isolated ridges in the high Andes or in intermontane valleys separated from others by those ridges. More than a third of these endemics (and a few “waiting to happen”) are found in the area of Central Peru covered by our tour. What’s more, Peru is ranked in the top three countries worldwide for overall number of bird species!

White-bellied Cinclodes by Dan Lane

The lovely White-bellied Cinclodes, another high-elevation Peruvian endemic (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

With a little challenge to our hemoglobin count will come the rewards of high-elevation sites where fabulous birds such as White-cheeked Cotinga, Plain-tailed Warbling-Finch, and Striated Earthcreeper occur, not to mention the incredible panoramas of the valley at Huascaran National Park and its beautiful Polylepis forests where jewels such as Tit-like Dacnis and Giant Conebill play, or the windswept puna where White-bellied Cinclodes, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, and Olivaceous Thornbill eke out a living under challenging conditions.

Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager by Dan Lane

The spectacular Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager, an endemic with a small range in central Peru. (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

To get the most out of our quest for the areas fabulous birds, our itinerary includes two nights of outfitted camping under the stars and the hunched mass of Unchog peak. It will be here that we’ll have an opportunity to encounter the legendary endemics of the region such as Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager, Bay-vented Cotinga, Pardusco, Large-footed Tapaculo, and several others.

Bosque Unchog by Dan lane

Our camp at Unchog with the namesake rock formation in the background — a beautiful spot to wake up to! (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

Huascaran scenery by Dan Lane

Not a bad spot for a picnic lunch, right? (Photo by guide Dan Lane)


Huascaran peaks by Dan Lane

Sunrise with Huascaran (Photo by guide Dan Lane)


Giant Conebill by Dan Lane

Giant Conebill, a specialist of the Polylepis groves (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

At lower elevations, we’ll be looking for antpittas, tyrannulets, tanagers, hummingbirds, and other Andean gems on the Carpish Tunnel and Paty trails of the Carpish mountains, and even enjoy the oxygen cocktail at sealevel at coastal wetlands around Lima, where seabirds and shorebirds abound, and the unusual lomas habitats in the hills not far from the city, where endemics such as Thick-billed and Peruvian miners, and Cactus Canastero mingle with the likes of Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Mountain Parakeet, Burrowing Owl, the glowing Vermilion Flycatcher, the rude Croaking Ground-Dove, Least Seedsnipe, Tawny-bellied Dotterel, and others, forming a rather unlikely avifauna.

Black-breasted Hillstar by Dan Lane

A male Black-breasted Hillstar shows off his fine emerald gorget. (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

Junin and Slivery grebes by Dan Lane

A group of three Junin Grebes with a smaller Silvery Grebe (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

Lake Junin by Ken Havard

Sunrise at Lake Junin (Photo by participant Ken Havard)

Flame-faced Tanager by Dan Lane

Flame-faced Tanager (Photo by guide Dan Lane)

The birding on this tour offers many rewards as you can see! So, if you feel up to the high-elevation birding and a couple nights of outfitted camping to reap the benefits, contact our friendly Field Guides office and reserve your space on our tour for this year. The next opportunity isn’t scheduled until 2018… that’s a long time to wait to see these fabulous birds.

I look forward to seeing you there! –Dan

  • Fun, professionally guided birdwatching trips to 100 destinations worldwide. Providing the best tour experience is the continuing goal of our friendly, top-notch guides and staff
  • Guide Spotlight
    Terry McEneaney is a retired staff ornithologist for Yellowstone National Park, where he was known for his vast knowledge and experience of the park and of the Greater Yellowstone area. ...Read complete biography

    Meet our guides


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