World Birding Rally, Peru: Update through Day 2

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).

What? 15 new bird species? Yep!

This definitely falls in the “cool bird news” category: Field Guide Bret Whitney and various of his LSU-associated colleagues (including Mario Cohn-Haft at INPA in Manaus, Alexandre Aleixo at the Goeldi Museum in Belem, and Luis Fabio Silveira at the Universidade de Sao Paulo) have been hard at work sleuthing out an amazing diversity of 15 new bird species from Amazonia, all of them presented in a special volume of the Handbook of  the Birds of the World series. There’s been nothing quite like it before. Do we have your attention? Well then, you can check out more details in this article on the LSU Research News site. And our hearty congrats to Bret and colleagues!

“Manu Manu” (as Mork might have said…)

If Mork from Ork descended to Earth in a spaceship, I’d put my money on him checking out Manu before he headed to Boulder, Colorado, to hook up with Mindy and have a hit 70s sitcom. Why Manu? Because there’s a whole lot of life there! I’m sure you’ve all read several times about how western Amazonia has some of the highest biodiversity of terrestrial organisms anywhere on earth. There are now several lodges where you can see this diversity up close and personal, and the Manu area of southeastern Peru hosts some of the best.

From the cloudforests of the Andean slopes to the lowland rainforest with intermittent patches of Guadua bamboo, Manu encapsulates the phenomenon of ‘ridiculous biodiversity,’ and we run two separate tours into the Manu area: one, Mountains of Manu, that concentrates on the cloudforests and foothill forests along the Manu Road, and the second in which we spend about a week at the comfortable Manu Wildlife Center and explore the many different habitats available in the rich lowlands along the Madre de Dios River.

Just a few of the birding delights from our past Mountains of Manu and Manu Wildlife Center tours: Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Hoatzins, Paradise Tanager, Plum-throated Cotinga, Semicollared Puffbird, and Rufous-crested Coquettes (Photos by guides Dan Lane and Richard Webster and participants David & Judy Smith)

Consider your chances to see incredibly attractive tanagers, cotingas, toucans, and barbets from canopy platforms; to see tens of species moving through the understory or canopy of rain- or cloudforest in mixed-species foraging flocks; to see hundreds of parrots (including macaws) squabbling for the best positions at a clay lick. For that matter, you could see quetzals lazily cranking their heads around as they wonder how in the world everything was so GREEN where they live! Or a troop of Wooly Monkeys watching us (and, probably checking us off on their mental checklists) as intently as we watch them.

Now, if these possibilities make you think “huh, yeah, I can see myself doing that!” then ask yourself “why not now?” What else are you doing this summer that offers you these possibilities? Would it help if I added that this will be our last offer of the Manu Wildlife Center tour for a while? Or that the accommodations on both our Manu tours are very comfortable, offer fine food, and that there’d be zero chance that your office can call you to ask you for a favor while you’re on vacation? Come on down to Peru and join me on a visit to this incredible area! You and Mork will have something in common to discuss…should you ever meet!

Tour dates are July 2-14 and October 13-25 for Manu Wildlife Center and July 21-August 5 for Mountains of Manu. Come check out the ‘ridiculous biodiversity’ — and some fantastic birding — for yourself!

Meet Marcelo Padua!

Folks, we have a wonderful new guide we’d like you to meet. His name is Marcelo Padua and he’s from Belem — that big Brazilian city at the mouth of the Amazon River. Marcelo has been leading his own birding tours in Brazil for a few years now and has gained a remarkable knowledge of not only the amazing bird life of Brazil, but also of what it takes to be a superb tour guide.

Marcelo Padua

I’ve known Marcelo since 2005, and last year he informally co-led parts of tours with me at Alta Floresta, Manaus, and Carajas. We had a great time on each of those trips and participants have had overwhelming praise for him. Marcelo loves guiding tours and it shows! Marcelo will join me for most of the Brazil tours I’ll lead in 2010 and 2011 (we just completed a great Northeast Brazil together; see the tour’s Birding Wrap-up); so you lucky folks already signed up for those trips are going to have two guides for the price of one! That’s “Beleza!” with two big thumbs up! Indeed, many of our Brazil tours fill quite early, often going to waitlists, and we don’t have enough staff to handle the flow. Marcelo will soon be guiding Field Guides tours on his own, and you’ll have even greater opportunity to see beautiful Brazil and all of its rare birds.

Marcelo is already first rate around his home in Cuiaba, both in the Pantanal and cerrados and also the complex rainforests of Alta Floresta, and he’s learning fast how to consistently show people the rarest endemics of the Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil and the treasures of the northern and central Amazon. For the talented birder, the birds come with practice and patience. What doesn’t always come naturally are the people and logistical skills that make for an outstanding tour guide, but Marcelo comes with the complete skill set, everything you expect of one of our Field Guides guides. He went to high school in Middletown, Pennsylvania, speaks English fluently, and even taught English in Brazil for a couple of years.

We encourage you to come birding in Brazil and to meet Marcelo on his home turf, either with the two of us as guides or on one of his new tours starting in 2011. A sneak-peek into Marcelo’s future (details will be up on our website soon): a new, 12-day tour to the Pantanal and neighboring areas of Mato Grosso to maximize chances of spotting a Jaguar and the ultra-rare Cone-billed Tanager (on the books as Conothraupis mesoleuca). The tour will be scheduled for July/August of 2011 and the itinerary will be available in spring 2010. Check out Marcelo’s complete upcoming schedule of tours on his guide page.

Oh yes, and when you’re down there, ask Marcelo to tell you the full story of how he suddenly became a birder…and watch out when you see displaying manakins of any kind — he’s got a weakness (or is it a strength?) there!

Bret’s Brazil Book

I have now birded or relaxed in, and have led Field Guides tours through, most of the enormous Republic of Brazil, and there remain just a handful of Brazil’s nearly 1900 species of birds I haven’t yet met in the field (aarrrgh, I missed the only Kinglet Calyptura in a hundred years by just a couple of days in October, 1996—my friend and Brazilian colleague Fernando Pacheco was the second of five amigos to see it!).

Bret (l.) and Fernando just before they got their lifer Stresemann’s Bristlefront (an ultrarare, endemic tapaculo-thing) in Minas Gerais, Oct. 2005 (you should have been there just after!).
Bret (l.) and Fernando just before they got their lifer Stresemann’s Bristlefront (an ultrarare, endemic tapaculo-thing) in Minas Gerais, Oct. 2005 (you should have been there just after!). (Photo by Paulo Sergio Fonseca)

In the process of getting around to find and learn about all of those species, even describing some new to science, Fernando and I decided that what Brazil needed was a good guide to field identification of its birds. And as I have continued to spend half of every year in Brazil over the past decade, it has become increasingly apparent that the very best thing that I personally could give back to Brazil, with all its wealth of ecosystems and challenges to protect them, would be to produce an authoritative, beautifully illustrated, yet very inexpensive bilingual series of regional field guides to the country’s birds.

Our project, to be published by Lynx Edicions (publishers of the Handbook of the Birds of the World series), and those of colleagues working with Princeton University Press, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and others producing field guides for Brazil are together soon going to result in a huge surge forward in the interest and fervor that an already growing number of Brazilians feel for enjoying and protecting their birds and other wildlife. Our first volume will focus on the Atlantic Forest biome of southeast and southern Brazil, where the majority of Brazilians live, where an unequaled number of endemic species have evolved, and where conservation problems are severe. I am 100% confident and optimistic that the conservation tide can and will be turned to an increasingly positive direction largely through the accessibility of birds to the Brazilian people.

Peter Burke, surrounded at far right by some of his fabulous work for the project, is, in addition to everything else in his life, one of the main artists for the Brazil field guides. He’s currently hard at work finishing the 12 raptor plates for Volume 1, all to be auctioned off to help with funding for subsequent volumes (stay tuned!).
Peter Burke, shown with some of his fabulous work for the project, is, in addition to everything else in his life, one of the main artists for the Brazil field guides. He’s currently hard at work finishing the 12 raptor plates for Volume 1, all to be auctioned off to help with funding for subsequent volumes (stay tuned!).

My co-authors are my excellent friends Luís Fábio Silveira of the University of São Paulo and, of course, Fernando, both of them incredibly knowledgeable Brazilian ornithologists and committed conservationists. As we head into the final two years of work to publish this first volume (three others will follow at much shorter intervals!), we invite all of you to contribute to our IRS-accredited, tax-deductible account at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Through low-key, unpracticed fund-raising and online investing of personal resources, I’ve gathered enough to pay artists, mapmakers, and sound-digitizers for these 10-plus years. I am deeply appreciative of all of you out there who have already contributed (and to timely picks with APPL, JBLU, and especially EWZ)!

Lynx has generously provided to me as much of their excellent HBW art as I can use, and they’re tremendously supportive of helping to produce an inexpensive Brazilian edition of the books for which none of us will receive royalties, commissions, reimbursements, or other monies—it’s truly a labor of love, and truly a conservation-enabling gift to Brazil.

Please help us make great things happen with your kind contribution to an everlasting celebration of Brazilian birds!

Contributions may be sent to:
Kristen Kepics
Science Administration
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
215.299.1065 (phone)
215.299.1079 (fax)
kepics at (email — change ” at ” to the @ symbol to complete the address…we’ve omitted it here to avoid spam)

Checks should be made payable to “The Academy of Natural Sciences,” with “Whitney Birds of Brazil Book Project” on the memo line or in an attached note.

ABA’s Roger Tory Peterson Award: The envelope please…

We’re delighted to announce that our very own John Rowlett is to be honored at this year’s American Birding Association’s convention (Apr 27-May 3) in Corpus Christi on the Texas coast with the Roger Tory Peterson Award!

John Rowlett (right) with Chris Benesh on our Virginias' Warblers tour
John Rowlett (right) with Chris Benesh on our Virginias' Warblers tour

The award is given for a lifetime of achievement in promoting the cause of birding — a perfect tribute to John as he has been getting folks excited about birds for many years from his native Texas and current home in Virginia to numerous other destinations around the world. Congratulations, Peppershrike!

If you’d like to join John in the field, check out his upcoming schedule. And if you plan to be at the ABA convention, we hope to cross paths with you in Corpus. To help John celebrate, a group of our Field Guides will be there for the Thursday field trip and evening presentation, including Chris Benesh, John Coons, Bret Whitney, Peggy Watson, and Jan Pierson. See you there!