February 2018 emailing
February 1st, 2018 by Field Guides· Add a Comment
What an exciting start to 2018! We’ve enjoyed multiple departures to Costa Rica, Texas, Guyana, and Ecuador, plus tours to Colombia, Kenya & Tanzania, and Thailand, and our late-January groups to Japan, Chile, Suriname, and Antarctica are on their way. Below, in two of more than 80 great images featured in our February Recent Photos Gallery, are guide Jay VanderGaast at right doing bellhop duty on his recent New Guinea & Australia tour, and guide Dave Stejskal and participant Jenny Golden enjoying some birding from a skiff in Vietnam. Scroll down to see 8 recently completed triplists, fully annotated and illustrated. You’ll also find 14 updated itineraries for summer and fall 2018 tours, as well as remaining spaces on our March-July tours and links to articles on fire-spreading birds of prey (!) and Turkey Vultures. Thanks for checking it all out — we’ll see you in the field!
Raptors in northern Australia spreading wildfire
A recent article published in the Journal of Ethnobiology by an international group of researchers describes fascinating behavior by Black Kites (one pictured below in an image by guide Eric Hynes), Brown Falcons, and Whistling Kites across a wide swath of northern Australia. The article requires a subscription, but you can read a good summary here. These “fire-foraging” raptors pick up and relocate burning sticks with their feet or beak, thereby spreading wildfire and presumably enhancing their chances of flushing prey. Based on ancient artwork by Aboriginal people, this behavior has long been known to locals. A controlled study is planned in May to try to observe and film the behavior.
A May highlight: Uganda with Jesse Fagan
Pictured above are just two of many reasons to join our upcoming Uganda tour, May 19-Jun 8: Shoebill, aka “Whale-headed Stork” (here in a photo by participant Rachel Hopper), and guide Jesse Fagan, fondly known at Field Guides as our “Motmot.” The immense Shoebill is one of the most bizarre birds in the world, assigned to a family all its own, Balaenicipitidae. Jesse, of course, is pretty tall himself, but more important and in the words of a participant on a recent Peru tour, “Jesse is an outstanding leader and he made every single event memorable. Not only that, he is personable and engaging with all members of the group, the driver, and the local guide. He has an instant rapport with the service representatives at the hotels and venues that are used. He is truly an asset to Field Guides.” We couldn’t agree more!
Of course a bird tour to Uganda involves so much more than Shoebills. There are numerous Rift endemics and specialties, and in addition to all the fabulous birds, we’ll attempt to see Mountain Gorillas — one of the most unforgettable wildlife experiences on the planet. The wonderful photo below by guide Phil Gregory comes from a slideshow of past tour highlights. There are still two spaces left for Jesse’s small group of 9, so if you are interested in more details about our May departure check out the itinerary or contact our office.
Teddy’s presidential patch list
Triplists from recent tours
Private tours: plan your own for 6 or more
Want to organize your own tour with a group of special birding friends and one of our staff guides? We regularly put together private departures for groups of 6 or more (recent examples include Panama, Guyana, Colombia, and Namibia/Botswana), and they are invariably a big hit. Here’s an example of an illustrated triplist from one such 2017 tour, a wonderful Thailand survey with guides Dave Stejskal and John Rowlett. You can start planning your group’s next great birding trip — just contact our office.
Tour openings: March through July
January has been a blast, and we have more birding fun ahead over the next few months. The gorgeous setting above is Eleuthera Island, photographed by Jesse Fagan on a previous Bahamas: Endemics & Kirtland’s Warbler tour. Jesse notes:
“The Bahamas were largely spared the wrath of several large hurricanes that passed through the Caribbean this past season. I’ve been in touch with one hotel owner, Floyd, who told me that Eleuthera received little impact: ‘We lost a few shingles.’ So, if you are looking for a fun, short spring tour, then there isn’t a better trip. We visit three of the most interesting islands (and least populated) in the Bahamas: Abaco, Andros, and Eleuthera. Targets include five Bahamian endemics, a few regional endemics, and, yes, Kirtland’s Warbler on its wintering grounds! Short and sweet. I hope to see you there.”
So you can still join Jesse Mar 31-Apr 4 for a spring break from winter. If that doesn’t work for your schedule, we have a host of other tours in the upcoming months, with more than 20 still open, listed below. If you’re interested, contact our office.
- Brazil Nutshell, Mar 3-17 with Marcelo Padua & Marcelo Barreiros (spaces open)
- Costa Rica, Mar 10-25 with Jay VanderGaast & local guide (1 space)
- Israel Migration Magic, Mar 14-25 with Doug Gochfeld & local guide (1 space)
- Spring in South Texas II, Mar 17-25 with Tom Johnson (3 spaces)
- Ghana, Mar 29-Apr 17 with Phil Gregory (1 space)
- Bahamas: Endemics & Kirtland’s Warbler, Mar 31-Apr 4 with Jesse Fagan (4 spaces)
- Texas’ Big Bend & Hill Country, Apr 21-30 with Chris Benesh & Cory Gregory (1 space)
- Beyond the Ports of Portugal (Birds & Wine), Apr 24-May 5 with Marcelo Padua (1 space)
- Florida, Apr 28-May 6 with Doug Gochfeld & Mitch Lysinger (1 space)
- Classical Greece, May 5-19 with Megan Edwards Crewe (1 space)
- Spring in Cape May, May 13-19 with Tom Johnson & Doug Gochfeld (spaces open)
- Uganda, May 19-Jun 8 with Jesse Fagan (2 spaces)
- Pennsylvania’s Warblers, May 22-27 with Tom Johnson & Micah Riegner (4 spaces)
- Maine in Spring, May 26-Jun 3 with Eric Hynes & Cory Gregory (4 spaces)
- Mongolia, May 31-Jun 17 with Phil Gregory (1 space)
- Brazil: Alta Floresta & the Northern Pantanal, Jun 22-Jul 7 with Marcelo Padua & Marcelo Barreiros (2 spaces)
- Peru’s Magnetic North, Jun 23-Jul 5 with Dan Lane & Jesse Fagan (3 spaces)
- Amazonian Ecuador: Sacha Lodge, Jun 29-Jul 8 with Mitch Lysinger (4 spaces)
- Newfoundland & Nova Scotia, Jul 1-11 with Chris Benesh & Cory Gregory (spaces open)
- Brazil: Jaguar Spotting I, Jul 9-20 with Marcelo Padua & John Coons (4 spaces)
- Arizona’s Second Spring I, Jul 14-23 with Chris Benesh (3 spaces)
- Brazil: Jaguar Spotting II, Jul 9-20 with Marcelo Barreiros & Jesse Fagan (spaces open)
The nose knows: Turkey Vulture discovery
Turkey Vultures probably show up on more Field Guides checklists than any other bird in the Western Hemisphere. This is the world’s most widespread vulture, and the latest research puts some hard data behind how TVs manage to be more successful than other vultures in some habitats. It has long been accepted that TVs are scent-guided foragers, and we see this when they are soaring lower than other vulture species and circling an area. They also manage to discover carcasses in closed-canopy environments. Their brains have enlarged olfactory bulbs, four times larger than those of the sympatric Black Vulture, and relative to brain size larger than those of any other bird. This latest research discovered that the number of mitral cells (responsible for transmitting scent signals to the brain) is much higher, too. For a creature with no “nose,” a TV sure can smell!