Our December emailing is out, with a fresh gallery of images from recent tours, short features on guide Marcelo Barreiros and Karen Turner from our Austin office, a cool antpitta slideshow in a new series, plus of course recent triplists, fresh 2020 itineraries, and spaces on upcoming tours. Click here or on the image below to have a look. Enjoy!
Halloween 2019 emailing
We have a special edition of our monthly emailing just in time for Halloween! Lots of news from recent tours as well as goings-on at Field Guides, plus of course recent triplists, fresh 2020 itineraries, some great video clips, and much more. Click here or on the image below to have a look. Enjoy!
Photo gallery: a preview of upcoming Spring in Cape May highlights
From the famous Red Knot/Horseshoe Crab spectacle to a rush of northbound warblers (20+ species possible) and other landbirds, our upcoming mid-May Spring in Cape May tour should record more than 160 species as we bird our way around North America’s premier migration hotspot. Guide Tom Johnson has assembled 11 images of highlights to be expected on this upcoming Field Guides tour in this gallery. The tour is scheduled for May 12-18, 2019 with Tom guiding, and space is still available for this exciting spring getaway.
Click this link or the image below to see the gallery and enjoy the images in their full-screen glory.
You can see complete info about the tour, including the itinerary and past triplists, on our tour page.
Warbler dreams: Pennsylvania in May
Brighten up your day by checking out guide Tom Johnson’s images of spring warblers and other highlights expected on the upcoming Field Guides Pennsylvania’s Warblers & More: From Cerulean Warbler to Henslow’s Sparrow tour in this gallery. The tour is scheduled for May 21-26, 2019 with Tom, and space is still available for this lovely spring getaway.
Click this link or the image below to see the gallery.
You can see complete info about the tour, including the itinerary and past triplists, on our tour page.
A day in the birding life: our Birds & Wine tours
Enjoy this piece by guide Marcelo Padua as he provides a glimpse into a day on each of the tours in our Birds & Wine series coming up in 2019: Birds and Wines of Chile & Argentina in February, Beyond the Ports of Portugal in April, and France’s Loire Valley: Birds, Chateaux & Wine in June. Each of these tours features great lodging, fabulous food, incredible scenery, an easier pace, and a focus on birding with some time spent enjoying the cultural riches of each destination.
Chile & Argentina
On a cool morning in Argentina you step out of your room onto the manicured garden of your lodge. Checking some flowering plants, you spot a Red-tailed Comet, a spectacular hummingbird that takes your breath away. Meanwhile, a Blue-and-yellow Tanager feeds in a nearby tree and an Austral Pygmy-Owl sings in the distance. Walking out of the lodge and away from the manicured vineyards, you move into desert scrub habitat, where a White-throated Cacholote sings from one of the few trees in sight and adds another stick to its massive nest.
As you walk farther into the desert, you marvel at the beauty of the Andes rising up beyond, covered in a mantle of fresh snow from the previous night. A movement catches your eye—a family of Elegant-crested Tinamous quietly running away from you. Later in the day you enjoy a typical Argentine barbecue—the asado—while sipping a delicious glass of Malbec. Your afternoon is devoted to visiting a museum and a state-of-the-art winery before returning to the lodge to enjoy a five-course dinner paired with wines produced on site. Life is good, and you are lucky to be here.
On a different continent you wake up to a strangely familiar bird call as a Common Cuckoo broadcasts its famous song. You find yourself in a medieval village along the Portuguese border. After a leisurely breakfast, you head out to bird the mountains that cradle the famous Douro River.
Along your way, an old man and his dog block the road as they patiently keep his sheep moving at a steady pace, and you realize that this scene has repeated itself here for hundreds of years. Moving ahead, you find an overlook from which to scan the valley bellow. From the roof of an abandoned house, a Blue Rock-Thrush lets other males know that this patch is taken, and it does not take long before the first Eurasian Griffons fly by at what seems to be an arm’s length.
You continue your journey through the mountains, taking in the spectacular scenery. At another perch on top of a hill, you enjoy a picnic lunch while Egyptian Vultures, Peregrine Falcons, and Cinereous Vultures seem to dance in the wind at eye level. On you return to the lodge, you take some time to explore a tiny village, learning about its history and inhabitants. After a delicious homemade dinner, you go to sleep listening to the calls of a Eurasian Scops-Owl.
In France it is spring, and you wake up to a cacophony of sounds produced by hundreds of young Rooks roosting in nearby trees—it doesn’t take long to realize where the term rookery originated. You walk away from the noisy Rooks only to find a plethora of other sounds coming from warblers, tits, and nesting House Martins. You devote the day to exploring the fabulous Loire River, once described by French novelist Gustave Flaubert as “the most sensual river in France.” The Loire runs low and sedate, studded with sand and gravel bars that provide protected nesting sites for Yellow-legged, Black-headed, and Mediterranean gulls, as well as Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers.
Each stop along the river brings the group one step closer to the renowned gardens of Chateau Villandry, where a delicious French picnic awaits. Sated, you venture into the gardens of this chateau, a testament to love and determination. The evening brings a fine day to a close as you take advantage of famous French gastronomy paired with a lovely Sancerre.
Read more about each of these tours, see the itinerary and past triplists, and enjoy more images on their respective tour pages:
Birds and Wines of Chile & Argentina
New Zealand: see birds…seabirds!
Seabirds are some of the most remarkable and wonderful avian species on earth, yet the average birder doesn’t get to see many of them. But a trip to New Zealand–in addition to introducing you to a wonderful variety of endemic landbirds, from kiwis to stitchbirds–offers an unusual opportunity. Would you like to try out a little pelagic birding with a few shorter trips on the water to “find your sea legs”? If so, our November New Zealand itinerary makes for the perfect tour.
Have you noticed the diversity of tubenoses in the Pacific (say, off California), but ever wondered, “where do they nest”? For many, New Zealand is the answer. New Zealand is among the last large landmasses to have been colonized by terrestrial mammals (including humans), and as such the islands provided some of the safest nesting grounds for seabirds in the world. Today, the many smaller offshore islands of the country are still home to huge colonies of seabirds: shearwaters, petrels, prions, albatrosses, storm-petrels, penguins, gannets, and cormorants (or as they are called by most Kiwis, shags). Our main tour of the country includes not only much wonderful landbirding but also 8 boat rides, virtually all under half a day in length, and seabirds are a major target of those outings. We have had good luck with three species of penguins (Little, Fiordland, and Yellow-eyed), at least four albatrosses (Salvin’s, White-capped, Royal, and Wandering–these last two sometimes split into additional species by some authorities, in which case we can easily add another species of Royal to the tally), several larger petrels (Northern Giant, Cape, Westland, and White-chinned, for starters), Fairy Prion, and several shearwaters (including the endemic Fluttering and Hutton’s, as well as Flesh-footed). A pelagic on our optional Hauraki Gulf extension also has been very successful in netting two storm-petrels, including the endemic New Zealand Storm-Petrel, a species believed extinct until rediscovered a little more than a decade ago!
Of course, New Zealand is more than just seabirds. As a “land of birds” for so many millennia, the islands fostered the evolution of several endemic bird families: Kiwis (of course!), New Zealand parrots, wattlebirds, stitchbird, mohouas, and the adorable New Zealand wrens. Our tour route is designed to maximize our opportunities to see members of each of these families, and we usually see them well! There are additional endemics that make for a special tour to these enchanted islands, such as the odd Blue Duck, the orchestral endemic honeyeaters Tui and New Zealand Bellbird, the dinosaur-like flightless rail–the Weka–and a host of interesting and unusual shorebirds, perhaps most notably the unique Wrybill. And of course, if you ever wondered where Alaska’s Bar-tailed Godwits spend their winter, the answer may surprise you: New Zealand. And they get there via a non-stop flight every autumn!
Yes, the country of New Zealand is a fine destination if you want to experience something quite different from your “normal,” yet it seems oddly familiar. Besides the fact that New Zealanders speak English (with a lovely twist), you may recognize the epic landscapes we pass through from several blockbuster movie sets. And there is always something to look at as we travel from the bottom to the top of this impressive country. Interested yet? If so, consider joining me this November 15 for a visit to Aotearoa (“the Land of the Long Cloud,” the Maori name for the country), and see it for yourself. And see the seabirds!
The Manu road in October: A birder’s dream
Few places on the planet offer birders the opportunity to explore as amazing an altitudinal gradient as the Manu road in southeastern Peru. In an ecologically complex mosaic of habitats ranging from about 2600 feet elevation in the foothills up to tree line at 11,150 feet, researchers have found nearly 1000 species of birds. Imagine the birding potential–there are new species waiting at every turn!
Our trip starts in the city of Cuzco, nestled at about 12,000′ feet. To reach our destination on the east slope we must first drive through a very dry and barren landscape where bird diversity is low, yet we have a chance to find interesting endemics such as Bearded Mountaineer, Rusty-fronted Canastero, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, and Creamy-crested Spinetail, to mention a few.
At the Accjanaco pass at treeline elevation, the landscape starts to change dramatically. The heart of our route will span from the high elfin forest all the way down to the forested foothills at the base of the Andes. But where to begin our description? In the higher sections, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucans, Grass-green and Hooded tanagers, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Barred Fruiteater, Masked and Moustached flowerpiercers, and White-collared Jays are certainly highlight species. At lower elevations mixed flocks can appear at any bend in the road, adding a burst of excitement as we scan each of these gatherings. In addition to Golden-headed and Crested quetzals, there can be Masked Trogon, Black-streaked Puffbird, Lanceolated Monklet, and Versicolored Barbet to delight us. And at a lek we should see the unofficial national bird of Peru, the colorful Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
At our lowest elevation, in the foothills, the birds we’ll find are a mix of lowlanders reaching up the slopes and species from above occurring at their lowest elevation. Military and Blue-headed macaws, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, several species of antbirds, bamboo birds and, if we are lucky, even Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo are all possible!
I can’t guarantee we will see 1000 birds, but I can assure you an exciting and thrilling trip. Come join me for the Mountains of Manu tour October 1-16, and let’s have some fun!
Enjoy looking through an illustrated and annotated triplist from our 2014 tour!
Bolivia: a stealth birding treasure
South America is universally known as the “bird continent,” and rightly so: nearly half of the world’s birds are found there alone! Five of the birdiest countries (the countries with the biggest bird lists) in the world are in South America: Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Bolivia, you ask? Who ever thinks about birding Bolivia? Well, we do! Field Guides has been leading tours to Bolivia for decades, providing our participants with great experiences in one of the world’s great unsung birding destinations. Bolivia is not yet famous for its ecotourism, but it should be–there are fabulous birds and landscapes, we can stay in comfortable lodgings in the main cities, and there are even some ecotourism-geared lodges closer to our birding destinations.
Bolivia is replete with incredible scenery: from the open plains within sight of the “bend in the Andes” near Santa Cruz city, to the striking arid landscapes of the intermontane valleys at the border of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba departments, to the (quite literally!) breathtaking beauty of the high Andes of Cochabamba and La Paz. Those with cameras and a good eye will have their hands full if they want scenics! These settings are a fine backdrop for the amazing biogeography that has generated the country’s avian wealth. Bolivia, near the very center of the South American continent, is also at the nexus of many of the continent’s characteristic habitats, from the Altiplano and high, snow-capped peaks of the Andes, and the humid cloudforests on the Amazonian-facing slopes, to the arid rainshadow valleys that harbor many of the country’s true endemics, to the mixture of Amazonian and semi-deciduous forests at the foot of the Andes and out into the open grasslands in the lowlands of Santa Cruz and Beni departments.
These habitats provide Bolivia with an extraordinarily rich avifauna that compares well to any of its better-known neighbors as a birding destination…only its lack of a coast prevents it from climbing the list into the top-most tier! “Endemism” is a term known to many world birders, and though Bolivia has not fared well “officially” in the endemism game (fewer than 20 species that are true endemics), the fact is many near-endemic species just barely spill over political borders into neighboring countries, and in many cases these species are far easier to find within Bolivia than in the remote mountains of Peru or the border regions of Brazil or Argentina. Taking such species into account, the number of specialties in Bolivia suddenly jumps up to about 100 or so — essentially stealth endemics. Plus, there are still distinct forms within Bolivia that may be separated as species and may cause the Bolivian specialties list to swell yet more.
The birdlife of Bolivia features some real stars that will captivate your imagination with their beauty and charm: from the mind-blowing aqua rump of the Black-hooded Sunbeam to the stealth of the Rusty-faced Antpitta, from the garrulous flocks of Bolivian Blackbirds to the solitary lifestyle of the Scribble-tailed Canastero. Bolivian birds are also quite varied in their coloration. In the dusty, semi-arid habitats such as in the intermontane valleys, humble brown and gray birds abound, such as the Bolivian Earthcreeper or Gray-crested Finch, but when you enter more humid forests, eye candy such as Hooded Mountain-Toucan and Orange-browed Hemispingus brighten up the list. Hummingbirds are well-represented, too, such as the fantastic Red-tailed Comet and the impressive Wedge-tailed Hillstar. And of course, we can’t leave out parrots, such as the endemic Red-fronted Macaw and the endemic intermontane forms of Monk Parakeet and Blue-crowned Parakeet, both of which are likely distinct enough that they will be split once research has exposed their differences from other populations of those species!
We’ve revamped our Bolivia tour with visits to a few more foothill localities that should increase our chances at finding rare specialties such as Bolivian Recurvebill and Ashy Antwren, at the same time getting us out of the bustling cities and closer to our birding sites. We still offer an extension to the Beni, a region of incredible diversity with habitats similar to the llanos or Pantanal, but with birds all its own such as Blue-throated Macaw, Unicolored Thrush, and endemic forms of Plain Softtail and Velvet-fronted Grackle, as well as a huge potential list of other open country and gallery forest species!
Why not join us to discover Bolivia’s bird bounty? Our tour this year is scheduled for September 3-19, with the optional pre-tour to the Beni beginning on Aug 29. There are still a few spaces left to join me!
Read more about Dan and his upcoming schedule on his bio page.
Surf and Turf: A New, Spicy Western Panama Tour in March
There is still space on our exciting new itinerary to Western Panama. The tour runs from March 20-29, 2016, and visits two important birding sites, one located in the Caribbean lowlands (surf) and the other in the Chiriqui Highlands (turf).
The first site, Tranquilo Bay, is based in the tropical lowlands on the island of Bastimentos with views of the Caribbean from the dock or on their 100-foot-tall birding tower. It’s ideally set with spacious cabins located amidst the lush forest teaming with birds, monkeys, and sloths. Exploration of the surrounding areas will be on foot and by boat with plenty of time for siestas in the hammock, a swim off the dock, or lounging by the bar (surely holding some fruity drink with a small umbrella).
The second site is in altogether different habitat and climate, a welcome and striking contrast to the lowlands: Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve. The lodge is located in the Chiriqui Highlands, a region famous for bird endemism, including species from small (Silvery-fronted Tapaculo) to large (Black Guan), and other special birds, like Three-wattled Bellbird and Resplendent Quetzal. The lodge is part of an old shaded coffee plantation built in the highlands with surrounding primary montane forest and cloud-forest. The trail system is excellent and camera traps have documented healthy populations of Puma and tapir. And the home cooking at both lodges is reason enough to take this tour.
Click to visit our web page for this tour…
So, still need convincing that this is just the right tour for you? Think about this: it’s a short (9-day) trip to tropical Panama (with direct flights from the US) that visits just two sites, which means less unpacking and more time birding or relaxing. However, even in comfort, this tour offers some of the best birding in Central America.
Not mentioned above (but noted here for emphasis!) are two days along the Fortuna Road, the famous birding road that crosses the Continental Divide from the province of Bocas del Toro to Chiriqui. Here we’ll have chances for a number of high quality birds too numerous to mention but including Orange-bellied Trogon, Prong-billed Barbet, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-thighed Grosbeak, and Black-and-yellow Tanager. Lastly, if you feel so inclined, you can arrange to take on an extra day or three to explore the Canal Zone or visit the Canopy Lodge or Tower for very productive Canal Zone birding!
It’s easy enough to request an itinerary from our office, and I hope you’ll join me for what will be a thoroughly fun and birdy time!
All the best for your birding in 2016,
Jesse Fagan (aka Motmot)
Central Peru’s High Andes: Adventure Awaits!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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