Jay VanderGaast

Field Guides Leader

Jay VanderGaast's obsession with birds was evident by age seven when he memorized the plates in Peterson's eastern field guide. He went on to earn a B.S. in biology and briefly contemplated a career in research, but two years on the buggy arctic tundra soon put an end to that plan! Instead, he began roaming the world in search of birds. His travels led him to Costa Rica, where he stumbled into a job as a birding guide at Rancho Naturalista Lodge.

Jay joined Field Guides in 2000, and since then he has guided more than 100 tours on several continents. He lives near Montreal.

Scroll down to see Jay's current schedule of tours.

Have you checked out our new OutBirding with FieldGuides video series? It features episodes covering not just guided tours of great birds and habitats but also interviews with fascinating bird-folks, field techniques, tools of the trade, field recipes, and much more. This is a long-term venture that will share much of what our guides love about birds and birding, both their own experiences and their tips for enjoyable, enriching field time. Why not subscribe for a modest annual or monthly fee?

Client comment
"Jay is an excellent guide. The trip would not have been the same without him. His acute hearing and sight and genuine interest and caring resulted in our seeing many exquisite birds. He made certain that everyone saw each bird, and he took great care of us from handling things at airports to choosing super restaurants. The pace was perfect." S. M., NEW GUINEA & AUSTRALIA

"Point Pelee is famous for spring migration and we had never been there. We knew that a Field Guides led trip would be a great experience. Take six compatible, fun and capable birders, add a superior leader in Jay VanderGaast, factor in his local knowledge as a Canada resident and 'linked-in' bird finder, and you've got a winner. Jay is a wonderful, caring, thoughtful, smart guide who knows the birds. More importantly, he is a great person and includes everyone while seeing each bird. Your office service was excellent. It is a pleasure to work with Field Guides Staff from arranging airline tickets to receiving materials to prepare for the trip." J.R., POINT PELEE MIGRATION SPECTACLE


Jay's Upcoming Tours


SAFARI BRAZIL: THE PANTANAL & MORE
Status: Open
Sep 16 - Oct 1, 2022 ($6475) with Marcelo Padua & Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 12
The spectacular wetlands of the Pantanal, with Hyacinth Macaws and Jabirus, combine with the many specialties of Brazil's Planalto Central to make for the perfect first birding trip to Brazil.
(Brazilian Merganser Extension to Oct 5, 2022)
JAMAICA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Nov 20-26, 2022 ($3825) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 8
A quick adventure in search of Jamaica's 27 endemics and numerous regional specialties at Green Castle Estate.
HOLIDAY COSTA RICA: RANCHO NATURALISTA
Status: One space available
Dec 22-30, 2022 ($3550) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 12
One-site holiday tour based at the comfortable Rancho Naturalista Lodge, with excursions to other habitats on Costa Rica's bird-rich Caribbean slope.
HOLIDAY COSTA RICA: RANCHO NATURALISTA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Dec 30, 2022 - Jan 7, 2023 ($3550) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 12
One-site holiday tour based at the comfortable Rancho Naturalista Lodge, with excursions to other habitats on Costa Rica's bird-rich Caribbean slope.
THAILAND
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Jan 14 - Feb 4, 2023 ($7250) with Jay VanderGaast & Uthai Treesucon
Tour Limit: 12
A wide variety of forest birds in the friendly heart of Southeast Asia (and fabulous Thai food).
OWLBERTA: ALBERTA'S OWLS & MORE
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Feb 17-23, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$2675) with Jay VanderGaast & Dan Arndt
Tour Limit: 10
A short tour targeting owls and other winter specialties in the boreal forests, prairies, and foothills of the Canadian province of Alberta.
BHUTAN
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Apr 1-20, 2023 (Fee TBD) with Megan Edwards Crewe & Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
Spellbinding birding amidst awe-inspiring landscapes on a journey through the lush forests and mountains of this culturally fascinating Himalayan kingdom.
POINT PELEE MIGRATION SPECTACLE
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
May 7-14, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$3225) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 7
Exciting migration birding at several premier hotspots on the Lake Erie shore.
POINT PELEE MIGRATION SPECTACLE
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
May 14-21, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$3225) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 7
Exciting migration birding at several premier hotspots on the Lake Erie shore.
CANADIAN ROCKIES: ALBERTA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Jun 12-22, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$4575) with Jay VanderGaast & Dan Arndt
Tour Limit: 10
A great western birding tour with spectacular landscapes of the Rockies.
NEW GUINEA & AUSTRALIA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Sep 23 - Oct 11, 2023 (Fee TBD) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
A rich and diverse sampler of the best birding of New Guinea and Australia.
JEWELS OF ECUADOR: HUMMERS, TANAGERS & ANTPITTAS
Status: Open
Oct 27 - Nov 13, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$6775) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 8
Survey birding tour of Andean Ecuador; diverse avifauna dominated by colorful hummers and tanagers and more subtle and haunting antpittas.
HOLLAND -- BIRDS & ART: WATERFOWL SPECTACLE & DUTCH MASTERS
Status: Open
Nov 25 - Dec 4, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$5125) with Godfried Schreur & Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 12
A tour for some exciting winter birding, in particular waterfowl, combined with an exploration of great Dutch art masters.
HOLIDAY COSTA RICA: RANCHO NATURALISTA
Status: Open
Dec 21-29, 2023 (Fee TBD / 2022=$3550) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 12
One-site holiday tour based at the comfortable Rancho Naturalista Lodge, with excursions to other habitats on Costa Rica's bird-rich Caribbean slope.