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

Status: Open
Jan 15 - Feb 5, 2022 ($7125) 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).
Status: Open
Feb 18-24, 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.
Status: Waitlisted
Mar 29 - Apr 17, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$15975) with Jay VanderGaast & local guide
Tour Limit: 6
Southwestern Africa's bird specialties, striking scenery, wilderness, and the famed game of Etosha and the Okavango Delta.
Status: Waitlisted
May 7-14, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$2975) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 7
Exciting migration birding at several premier hotspots on the Lake Erie shore.
Status: Waitlisted
May 16 - Jun 6, 2022 (Fee TBD) 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.
Status: Waitlisted
Jun 20-30, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$3975) with Jay VanderGaast & Dan Arndt
Tour Limit: 14
A great western birding tour with spectacular landscapes of the Rockies.
Status: Open
Jul 1-22, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$10350) with Jay VanderGaast & Errol de Beer
Tour Limit: 12
Our new tour to this endemic-rich off-the-beaten-path destination will seek numerous endemics and pass through some impressive landscapes.
Status: Waitlisted
Aug 27 - Sep 6, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$3950) with Megan Edwards Crewe & Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 12
Two of Europe's finest birding destinations combined in this wonderful eleven-day tour, with varied highlights and some great French food.
Status: Waitlisted
Sep 23 - Oct 11, 2022 (Fee TBD) with Jay VanderGaast
Tour Limit: 9
A rich and diverse sampler of the best birding of New Guinea and Australia.
Status: Open
Oct 28 - Nov 14, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$6475) 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.
Status: Open
Nov 20-26, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$4175) 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.
Status: Open
Dec 22-30, 2022 (Fee TBD / 2021=$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.