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.

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


HOLIDAY COSTA RICA: RANCHO NATURALISTA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Dec 21-29, 2023 ($3675) 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 13 - Feb 3, 2024 ($7375) 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: Open
Feb 17-23, 2024 ($3050) 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
Mar 30 - Apr 18, 2024 ($11350) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
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 11-18, 2024 ($3675) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 7
Exciting migration birding at several premier hotspots on the Lake Erie shore.
CENTRAL ASIA: UZBEKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN & KAZAKHSTAN
Status: Open
May 22 - Jun 12, 2024 ($8975) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 12
A three-country tour exploring the scenic Central Asian steppes, deserts, canyons, and high mountains, for an enticing mix of localized resident species and northbound migrants, with the added cultural element of the beautifully preserved Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
CANADIAN ROCKIES: ALBERTA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Jun 16-26, 2024 ($4925) with Jay VanderGaast & Dan Arndt
Tour Limit: 10
A great western birding tour with spectacular landscapes of the Rockies.
NEWFOUNDLAND & NOVA SCOTIA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Jun 30 - Jul 10, 2024 (Fee TBD / 2023=$5775) with Chris Benesh & Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 14
Boreal specialties, seabird colonies, and numerous breeding landbirds in the beautiful Canadian Maritimes.
MOROCCO
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Sep 3-17, 2024 (Fee TBD) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
Endemic, rare, and specialty birds from coastal wetlands and towering cliffs to the Atlas Mountains and the northwest corner of the Sahara.
NEW GUINEA & AUSTRALIA
Status: Open
Oct 12-31, 2024 (Fee TBD / 2023=$10150) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
A rich and diverse sampler of the best birding of New Guinea and Australia.
HOLIDAY COSTA RICA: RANCHO NATURALISTA
Status: Open
Dec 20-28, 2024 (Fee TBD / 2023=$3675) 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: Open
Jan 11 - Feb 1, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2024=$7375) 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: Open
Feb 15-21, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2024=$3050) 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.
CLASSIC COSTA RICA
Status: One space available
Mar 8-23, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2024=$6475) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 12
Birding tour for Resplendent Quetzals, Three-wattled Bellbirds, Scarlet Macaws in a beautiful country with easy travel.
POINT PELEE MIGRATION SPECTACLE
Status: Open
May 10-17, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2024=$3675) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 7
Exciting migration birding at several premier hotspots on the Lake Erie shore.
CANADIAN ROCKIES: ALBERTA
Status: Open
Jun 12-22, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2024=$4925) with Jay VanderGaast & Dan Arndt
Tour Limit: 10
A great western birding tour with spectacular landscapes of the Rockies.
NEWFOUNDLAND & NOVA SCOTIA
Status: Open
Jun 29 - Jul 9, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2023=$5775) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 14
Boreal specialties, seabird colonies, and numerous breeding landbirds in the beautiful Canadian Maritimes.
MOROCCO
Status: Open
Sep 9-23, 2025 (Fee TBD) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
Endemic, rare, and specialty birds from coastal wetlands and towering cliffs to the Atlas Mountains and the northwest corner of the Sahara.
May be combined with France: Camargue & Pyrenees
NEW GUINEA & AUSTRALIA
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Oct 4-23, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2023=$10150) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
A rich and diverse sampler of the best birding of New Guinea and Australia.
ESSENTIAL SHORT UGANDA: SHOEBILL, GORILLAS, CHIMPS & ALBERTINE RIFT BIRDING
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available
Nov 1-14, 2025 (Fee TBD) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 8
A new tour for those wishing to see the major Ugandan birding and mammal highlights in just two weeks time.
MEXICO: OAXACA VALLEY
Status: Open
Dec 20-27, 2025 (Fee TBD / 2024=$3450) with Doug Gochfeld & Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 14
Superb birding with two dozen Mexican endemics and fascinating ruins while based in lovely Oaxaca City.