Do you have time for a little video fun? See guides Jesse Fagan and Dan Lane in action during the December 2013 World Birding Rally Challenge in Peru in this entertaining episode of host James Currie’s Nikon Birding Adventures TV series. It’s the “Motmot” and “Barbet” having a great time for a week with fellow Team Field Guides colleague Fernando Angulo as they go from the Amazonian lowlands to famed Machu Picchu aiming for the first-place trophy. The whole episode runs just under 22 minutes, and the first three minutes or so introduce the event. Jesse first speaks on camera at about 3:55, and he and Dan are featured in much of the rest of the footage. It’s well done…enjoy!
February 19th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment
February 18th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment
Our February e-mailing is online. It has three great recommendations for spring birding in South Carolina, Arizona, and New Jersey, two titles for your birder’s bookshelf, March to August tour openings, and, as ever, 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!
January 11th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment
Our January e-mailing is online, this month with two spaces on a special 100th anniversary tour to the Rio Roosevelt, news about our Peru guides and tours, and February to July tour openings. As ever, we’ve also got 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!
January 10th, 2014 by Field Guides · Add a Comment
The word is out: Bret’s guiding a special 100th anniversary tour in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt and Candido Rondon in a wilderness area packed with newly described species. Dates are April 11-24 (yes, this April) and there are two spaces still open. If you’re interested in joining the tour you have till January 20 to put your name in the hat for a drawing to follow in Teddy’s wake; we’ll send confirmation and an invoice immediately on January 21. Read the full details on our Brazil’s Rio Roosevelt: Birding the River of Doubt page, or contact Peggy Watson at our office to add your name to the list. It’s going to be an amazing trip, and we’re guessing Teddy himself would join us if he could — we know his spirit will be right there!
December 29th, 2013 by Jesse Fagan · Add a Comment
Team Field Guides has won the greatest birding competition on the planet! The World Birding Rally took place December 3-10, 2013, in Peru, pitting five international birding companies against each other. The competing teams/companies represented the countries of South Africa, Colombia, England, and the United States. The grueling weeklong event took place at two different sites in southeastern Peru: along the Madre de Dios River in the Amazonian lowlands, and at Machu Picchu, the famous Inca ruin site. Both sites represent two distinctly different elevations and habitat types which include Amazonian rainforest and humid subtropical forest, respectively. This great event was sponsored by the Peruvian tourism board, PromPerú, and Inkaterra, a private company that runs a series of luxury ecolodges throughout Peru (see their blog post at this link). Our team included Field Guides leaders Jesse Fagan (yours truly) and Dan Lane, along with Fernando Angulo, a Peruvian biologist and conservationist. In addition, at each location all the teams had a local guide to assist them. In our case, the local guides were Leon (Madre de Dios) and Cecy Cabrera (Machu Picchu). Both were excellent and they helped us immensely on our way to victory.
It was a tense competition, and we got off to a rocky start when Team Field Guides came in fourth place on a rainy Day One. On Day Two, we fought our way into third place, where we remained until Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu. It wasn’t until these final two days that we managed to inch ahead and gain the top position. Our final species count was 457 (team highlights included White-chested Swift, Curl-crested Aracari, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, and Cusco Brush-Finch). The next two teams tied for second place with 455 species recorded. Indeed, it was a very tight race throughout the rally. All in all, it was a fabulous experience to bird and compete in one of the richest avian countries in the world. This competition is unrivaled in its length and number of species possible. The total species count for the competition among all teams was an astounding 619, a significant percentage of the world’s total species of birds! Team Field Guides would like to thank all of the sponsors and teams for a very memorable time. The winning team trophy, a pewter Black-faced Cotinga, will be placed in the Field Guides office in Austin, Texas, so come by and take a look!
In addition, Team Field Guides was competing in the name of bird conservation. Prior to the start of the rally, Field Guides Incorporated and Team Field Guides partnered with Birdlife International to help raise funds for a watershed conservation campaign benefitting the northern Peruvian communities of San Isidro de Maino and Levanto and further protecting critical habitat for the globally endangered Marvelous Spatuletail, one of the world’s most spectacular hummingbirds. There is still time to help us in this endeavor; if you are interested, please visit the following link and make a donation:
Birding unites countries, people, and our amazing biodiversity as few governing bodies or politicians are capable of doing. The commonality of seeing birds, and the enjoyment this brings us, breaks down many barriers of hatred, prejudice, racism, and socioeconomic divide. It empowers people to look and think critically, to identify, to listen, to ask questions, to seek out, to travel and, most importantly, to discover. Birds and birding can change the world.
The next World Birding Rally will be held in Peru from May 11-22, 2014.
–Jesse Fagan (aka Motmot)
Resting on their laurels now? No way! See what’s next on Jesse’s and Dan’s schedules from their guide page links!
Below are more pics from the Rally…
December 9th, 2013 by Jan Pierson · Add a Comment
Jesse’s just posted some pics from the team in several status updates on our Facebook page (no need to be “on” FB–anyone can see our page). Looks like it’s going to be a photo finish with some great competition going to the wire! Check it out on our page here!
December 8th, 2013 by Jan Pierson · Add a Comment
Our December e-mailing is online, this month with links to recent posts about our Northern Central America tours, Honduras, Team Field Guides in the World Birding Rally, and January to June tour openings. As ever, we’ve also got 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!
December 6th, 2013 by Field Guides · Add a Comment
This just in from Jesse: “Very poor internet here, but quickly on day two Team Field Guides with a phenomenal 202 species recorded. I am very happy to be a part of this. Tired and now ready for a pisco sour!– Jesse Fagan, aka Motmot (with Daniel Lane and Fernando Angulo)”
Sounds like they are off to a great start. No pics yet but we’ll post any as we get them! Check out our full post about the event and our Team Field Guides participation (and how you can help, too, if you wish).
December 2nd, 2013 by Jesse Fagan · Add a Comment
In this post I summarize our Northern Central America (NCA) tour offerings, each of which is a great introduction to tropical birding as well as superb birding for anyone. All are convenient, relatively short trips (9 to 12 days) that work well with most schedules. In addition, travel to and from these countries is easy, with direct flights from major US cities like Miami, Houston, or Los Angeles.
Guatemala has a magical hold on those who visit — it’s the land of the quetzales, where active volcanoes still shape the terrain and descendents of proud Mayans sell wares in bustling, colorful markets. We offer a comprehensive tour to the country, and Guatemala is a country you don’t want to miss.
Our Guatemala: Shade-grown Birding tour focuses on the Pacific Slope, visiting six coffee plantations as well as making stops in historic Antigua and taking a boat ride across Lake Atitlan (a caldera lake and one of the most beautiful in the world). It’s no surprise that Guatemala has some of the best coffee on Earth: coffee is cultivated at mid-elevations along the Pacific Coast where the temperature, moisture levels, and fertile volcanic soils create ideal growing conditions. Many of the coffee plantations that dot the hillsides of Guatemala have set aside patches of forest as conservation easements or for erosion control. Birding on shade-grown coffee plantations is excellent (many birds take advantage of the canopy above the coffee), and it’s especially so when natural habitat has been preserved at various elevations throughout the farm.
What can we expect to see? Resident species that favor the coffee canopy or surrounding edge habitats include Blue-crowned Motmot, Rufous-capped Warbler, Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, Bushy-crested Jay, and even Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge; and there are common wintering visitors such as Tennessee and Wilson’s warblers, Warbling Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, and Summer Tanager. Above the coffee belt, the humid semi-deciduous forest and coffee gives way to pine-oak and cloud forest. It is here that many specialty birds and regional endemics occur including Fulvous Owl, Highland Guan, Azure-rumped Tanager, Resplendent Quetzal (national bird of Guatemala), Blue-throated Motmot, Black-throated and Unicolored jays, and Wine-throated Hummingbird. Of the 40 NCA endemics, Guatemala has a fantastic 34.
Many dream of visiting the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal, and that dream comes true on our pre-tour Tikal Extension. Imagine spending two days among other-worldly Mayan temples of the Classic period, where we might watch a pair of Orange-breasted Falcons nesting on Temple IV or a parading group of Ocellated Turkeys in the main plaza! Tikal offers some of the best birding in all of Central America, as the surrounding forest of the Peten (northern Guatemala) is one of the last large areas of intact lowland Caribbean rainforest in North America.
Honduras is the last birding frontier in NCA, and with its towering peaks, virgin rainforest, endemic hummingbird, and 738 species of birds (300 of which we see on the tour!), it is a compelling destination. Our Honduras: Land of the Emeralds tour begins in the highlands at La Tigra National Park and then cuts a comma-shaped path north to end along the north coast in the unexplored wilderness of Pico Bonito National Park.
Pico Bonito is a massive east-west chain of mountains between Tela in the west and La Ceiba in the east. The mountains rise from sea-level almost straight up — there are few foothills to speak of — and because of this rugged topography, the Cordillera Nombre de Dios (protected by Pico Bonito National Park) is covered in virgin forest, and all the large animals like Baird’s Tapir, Puma, and Jaguar are present. Fortunately, one of the nicest lodges in Central America sits at the base of this range: The Lodge at Pico Bonito, with its luxurious cabins and excellent restaurant, makes for an ideal base to explore the surrounding region. The lodge itself sits on approximately 400 acres, and trails behind the lodge are great places to see Keel-billed and Tody motmots, Lovely Cotinga, Sunbittern, Tawny-faced Quail, and Black-and-white Owl among the 417 other species that have been recorded at this site.
The Honduran Emerald, a medium-sized hummingbird of interior dry valleys and a Honduran endemic, is another important reason to visit the country. The species was largely unknown until 1988 when it was found to be locally common in the arid Aguan Valley. It has now also been found in several other interior valleys, including the Agalta Valley, where I saw my lifer in August 2003. Despite being locally common in a few areas, this species is still extremely rare (it’s listed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International) and highly susceptible to continued habitat destruction.
If you are looking for a quick holiday getaway, we also offer a relaxed, one-site tour over New Year’s, Holiday in Honduras: The Lodge at Pico Bonito. This tour visits many of the sites on the north coast that we visit on the main tour, including a trip to the Aguan Valley for the Honduran Emerald, yet one returns each night to the same bed (and what a bed it is, as you will find the accommodations at the lodge quite satisfactory)!
Featuring a list of more than 550 bird species and with nearly 70 percent of the country covered in natural vegetation, Belize is a birder’s paradise. On our updated itinerary we’ll visit two standout sites that are sure to get your birding juices flowing: Lamanai Outpost Lodge and Hidden Valley Inn — together they optimize our Belize experience. Lamanai Outpost Lodge sits on the shores of the Northern Lagoon in Belize district. During the dry season when water levels are lower, numbers of waterbirds — from cormorants, herons, egrets, ibis, spoonbills, and Limpkins to even the rare Agami Heron and Jabiru — gather to take advantage of the concentrated food supply. Lamanai offers a superb diversity of other habitats within easy reach as well — from tropical hardwood forests to secondary scrub to open pine savannah — making it a premier birding destination in Belize! We can expect to see toucans, chachalacas, aracaris, jacanas, and many other tropical birds, and we’ll also seek regional specialties like Yucatan Jay, Gray-throated Chat, and Yucatan Woodpecker.
From Lamanai we’ll travel west into the Maya Mountains to visit two other important tropical habitats of Belize: broadleaf evergreen and mountain pine forests. From the comfort of Hidden Valley Inn on Mountain Pine Ridge, where both of these habitats are close by, we’ll enjoy a wealth of species that includes everything from Blue-crowned and Tody motmots, Gartered, Slaty-tailed, and Black-headed trogons, and Ivory-billed, Tawny-winged, and Olivaceous woodcreepers to Pale-billed, Lineated, and Chestnut-colored woodpeckers, Golden-hooded, Crimson-collared, and Blue-gray tanagers, Red-legged Honeycreeper, and many more on a long list of possibilities. With luck, we may even find three of the world’s scarcest raptors in the Mountain Pine Ridge area — Orange-breasted Falcon, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, and Solitary Eagle. Hidden Valley offers very comfortable accommodations with the wonderful advantage of being central to a number of birding locations within a 30-minute drive — and the grounds themselves are very birdy. For a quick trip only a couple of hours south of the US, Belize can’t be beat!
Our tours to Northern Central America are designed to see a great variety and number of birds and regional endemics (while learning more about them), to experience the rich local culture from Mayan to Spanish colonial, and to give us an appreciation of the countries we visit. (Did you know, too, that Jesse Fagan is hard at work wrapping up a new field guide to Northern Central America, and that Peter Burke is contributing some illustrations as well? Great stuff! An example of Peter’s lovely work is at right.)
From towering volcanoes to lush lowland rainforest to arid valleys and dry forest, let us show you why we love this region. Our December 2013 and calendar-year 2014 tours and guides in Northern Central America include:
November 30th, 2013 by Jesse Fagan · Add a Comment
Many birders ask me what their first Neotropical birding destination should be. You could, of course, dive right into Colombia or Ecuador with a 500-species triplist filled with multiple species of antbirds, antpittas, woodcreepers, tapaculos, and Tangara tanagers. My suggestion, however, given a little bit of patience (gosh, all those new birds!!), is to get to know these groups of birds instead by taking a couple of birding trips a bit farther north, where the avian diversity is a little less overwhelming and no less interesting.
In terms of endemism, in fact, Mexico and Northern Central America offer roughly 100 species found nowhere else, a number larger than Colombia and Ecuador’s endemics combined (about 80 species). Whereas a typical Ecuador triplist may offer 24 species of woodcreepers, 35 species of antbirds, and 129 species of flycatchers (!), a trip to Honduras, as an example, would offer 10, 8, and 51, respectively. It makes sense to get an initial grasp of these largely tropical groups with a more manageable number of possibilities – you’ll then be better prepared for the amazing diversity found in South America.
I think Honduras makes an ideal starting point: 738 species of birds, 23 regional endemics, and one country endemic (the very local Honduran Emerald). It also offers birding in spectacular natural areas. Our Field Guides tour cuts a comma-shaped route sampling the best the country has to offer, from rich pine- and oak-covered mountains at La Tigra National Park to humid tropical rainforest on the grounds of the lovely Lodge at Pico Bonito. Our tour typically observes around 300 species of birds out of a potential list of 450, with highlights often including Keel-billed Motmot, Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Resplendent Quetzal, Scaled Antpitta, Lovely Cotinga, Black-throated Jay, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and of course the endemic Honduran Emerald. At just 9 days, the tour fits easily into any working schedule and offers a quick trip south of the border to satisfy that tropical birding urge.
On a long road trip through eastern Honduras in 2003, I was amazed at the beauty and wildness of the area. At that time, not a single major birding tour company was working in the country. That has changed as people have realized that Honduras offers some of the best birding in Central America. Why not experience the good infrastructure, excellent lodging, and superb birding opportunities in a variety of habitats for yourself – I’d love to show you around!