June 2019 emailing

June 26th, 2019 by Field Guides· Add a Comment

Summer’s here, a time for us to exhale! A handful of our guides are still in the field in Alaska and Iceland, while others have just finished up tours to the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, and the mountains of northern Peru. Today, guides will set out to take travelers toward Spitsbergen in Arctic Norway and to lovely Sacha Lodge in Ecuador. But the solstice lull is the time that most guides get caught up on life, sleep, and paperwork. Then July brings fresh departures to Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Kenya, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador–and Arizona, where the monsoon season ushers in the marvelous “second spring,” a season in which, it so happens, we meet many of our tour participants for the very first time. Summer is also a great time to break out the books and study for your next adventure. What’s that — no travel plans yet? Well, perhaps some vicarious travel through our June Recent Photos Gallery will inspire a notion or two. Also in this emailing, an added Thanksgiving Belize departure with Megan, a welcome word about Brazil visas, our new hummer slideshow, the latest bird research news, videos from South America, a Meet The Tour Manager feature, and our usual updates on tour openings, new itineraries, and recent triplists published. (Thanks to participant Myles McNally for the inspirational Whitehead’s Broadbill above, from the Borneo I tour!)

Just added: Thanksgiving in Belize with Megan

What better way to avoid cranberry stains than to celebrate Thanksgiving in Belize this year (Nov 23-Dec 1)? Guide MeganEdwards Crewe began taking folks to Chan Chich and Hidden Valley in 2001 and loves this corner of the New World. At Chan Chich, Megan writes, it’s “luxury in the rainforest, with parrots, tanagers, and oropendolas right over the cabins and nine miles of walking trails fanning out from the clearing the cabins sit in. We might even see Ocellated Turkeys like this one gobbling on the grounds! Hidden Valley, where we stay in the Maya Mountains, boasts Thousand Foot Falls on the property, with Orange-breasted Falcons and King Vultures among the many highlights here in the higher elevations.” Contact Karen Turner in our office to request space; the fee is $4550, and the detailed itinerary will be ready in a few days. (Full disclosure: There might be cranberry sauce one night!)

Visa-free travel to Brazil!

Pick up a compadre & head to Brazil

We are delighted to report that as of last week, U.S. tourists traveling to Brazil no longer need to have a visa. So now is the easiest time in years to come on down! We still have a few spots on the Roraima Adventure with guides Micah Riegner and Tom Johnson (Oct 23-Nov 3), on Parrots & Cotingas: The Mouth of the Mighty Amazon with Marcelo Padua (Aug 2-15), and on Safari Brazil: The Pantanal & More with Marcelo Padua & Dan Lane (Sep 21-Oct 6). Roraima, like many remote parts of Brazil, is quite underbirded, with many exciting possibilities and certainly some surprises in store. Roraima offers new birds, among them Sooty-capped Hermit, Green-bellied Hummingbird, and Tepui Swift, as well as the critically endangered Rio Branco Antbird and Hoary-throated Spinetail. And spots are also still open on Colombia: The Llanos & More tour with Dan Lane (Nov 10-20), which also explores habitats much like those of Venezuela; birds like Orinoco Goose, Pale-headed Jacamar, White-bearded Flycatcher, Double-banded Puffbird, Red-capped Cardinal, Purple-throated Euphonia, and Chestnut-eared Aracari are all likely in the llanos portion. And who doesn’t love a mother Giant Anteater with pup? We see them, and so much more, in Roraima, the Pantanal, and the Colombian llanos.

Trochilidae on Tour: our new hummer slideshow

Nature’s Works of Art (1899, Kunstformen der Natur) by Ernst Haeckel features hummingbirds, shown in the illustration above, that are all part of our tours 120 years later. Ornithologists recognize up to 363 hummingbird species, and that number will grow, with analysis of birds currently classified as subspecies and with more exploration of remote areas. There are a few species of hummingbirds that our tours (and guides) have not yet encountered, but not very many! From Colombia to Chile, we offer 21 tours in the Andes, the epicenter for hummingbird diversification, which occurred simultaneously with the uplift of that mountain range over the past 10 million years. (And we offer another 65 tours with hummers in addition to the Andean ones!) Our New Hummingbird Slideshow presents an array of hummingbirds of all sizes, shapes, and colors (and maybe a few surprising facts). At the very end of the slideshow, you can check your identification of Haeckel’s flock of hummingbirds!

Birds of a Feather

Plumage makes our theme this month:

  • The endangered Gouldian Finch is a bird that some of you have encountered on our Australia tour over the past 25 years. We have often wondered why on earth males can have different plumages, with black, red, or reddish-orange faces. Polymorphism of this sort is rare in birds, to say the least. In a new paper in the journal Nature, a team of scientists reveals that they have discovered the gene that controls whether a male will have a black or red face (the rarer reddish-orange type, here seen at center, is still a mystery). They speculate that “balanced selection” maintains these two plumage types: although female Gouldian Finches much prefer the scarcer red-faced males, which are dominant in the flocks, the cost for having a red face is high, with much higher levels of stress hormones, for instance. Thus the advantages of having the more colorful (and preferred) plumage do not outweigh the disadvantages. It isn’t easy, it seems, being a redhead!
  • When did birds, as we know them, arise–that is to say, when did the dinosaurs start to get feathers? A recent paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution presents evidence, based on analysis of Chinese fossils, that feathers arose far, far earlier than in Archaeopteryx–and apparently as far back as the early Triassic period, when terrestrial life was just recovering from Earth’s most severe extinction event. Feathers may have evolved to meet the need for insulation, rather than flight, and this research suggests that feathers may have evolved before scales, perhaps present even in the first dinosaur! Scientists have long considered the scales on modern birds’ legs to be modified feathers, so maybe they’re onto something!

Videos: Beauties from the Bird Continent

On our recent Southwestern Ecuador Specialties tour with guide Willy Perez, well-traveled friends David & Judy Smith captured rare video of a foraging Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, a large Campephilus that can be quite scarce and unpredictable in occurrence over its range from the Andes of Bolivia to Panama. Thanks to David & Judy and dozens of other folks for sending us photos and videos from the tours! We all get a vicarious thrill.

Bret Whitney has compiled video clips from his recent Nowhere But Northeast Brazil tour, including some lovely footage in the state of Bahia from the famed Raso da Catarina, the red-rock gorge where the deep-blue Lear’s Macaws roost, also known as Indigo Macaws. The birds are splendid, but the scenery alone is worth a gander!

Comments from participants

We read carefully each post-tour evaluation we receive from our participants, so that we may continue to offer the best possible birding experiences and service on Field Guides birding tours. Here are a few representative recent comments. From all of us at Field Guides, our thanks for all your valuable feedback.

“This was my sixth Field Guides tour, and all have been very enjoyable. I was interested this time in trying some tropical birding, and I’d understood that Costa Rica was a good place to start. It worked our very well! I would like to say that Jay VanderGaast did a really great job for us on our trip. He’s very personable and encouraging, fields questions with aplomb, is an incredible birder and just fun to be around. I hope we can travel with Jay again, and I hope he feels the same about us!” E.D., COSTA RICA 2019

“We have now done 12 tours with Field Guides and have been pleased with all of them. We chose the South Florida tour to ‘bag’ some hard-to-find North American lifers. It was a wonderful tour. Good group experience. Everyone got along well, observed good birding etiquette, and was punctual. I enjoyed the wit and camaraderie of guides Doug Gochfeld and Jesse Fagan and definitely benefited from their extensive knowledge of the birds. They really worked hard to make sure that everyone got to see the target bird, including scope views if possible. I also appreciated the timely review of group etiquette and splitting the group into three for seating – it was a system that seemed to work well.” J.C., FLORIDA 2019 

“The experience was just wonderful. This is the first time that I have ventured out on a tour, and I was very impressed with guide Cory Gregory. Even though he does these trips with some frequency, it doesn’t seem to get old for him. He is hard-working, patient, informative, humorous, desirous that his group should see and learn…?the birds were his gift to all of us. I hope that there will be more adventures with your company, and it is thanks to Cory. He made the experience so delightful that I would like to go to Big Bend again next year if I can.” S.S., ARIZONA: BIRDING THE BORDER 2019

“I have always wanted to see more species of warblers so this trip looked interesting. I chose it primarily because Tom Johnson was the leader. I went to Cape May with him a few years ago and really enjoyed that tour. This experience was awesome! The best feature was birding with Tom. He is a top-notch birder and has an amazing ear. I loved the detail he gave about each species… plumage, habitat, migration, etc. I learned a lot about birds and places to bird in Pennsylvania. Office service was excellent. I will take another tour soon.” K.M., PENNSYLVANIA’S WARBLERS & MORE 2019

Triplists from recent Field Guides tours

Click on any image or link below to see our annotated and illustrated online triplist. (And be sure also to see our June Recent Photos gallery for other great images.)

Lucky Field Guides: we found Caroline Lewis!

Meet the Tour Manager

Caroline Lewis has been a part of the Field Guides family for nearly five years now, and the time has just flown by! “I love working at Field Guides,” she says, and we add: It sure shows! Caroline manages tours across Central and South America, as well as all the summer Arizona tours. Over the years, you might have heard her cheery “hello” if you called to inquire about a Costa Rica tour. Caroline began visiting Costa Rica with her family in 2009 and even lived there for a while, getting to know the many facets of that enchanting country. From her home office now, she manages all four Costa Rica tours as well as our private tours there. Caroline comes by her love of travel honestly! As the daughter of first-generation Polish immigrants to the United States, she and her parents often spent summers in Europe, traveling and visiting with family. Now married, and with a son Austin and daughter Lucy (and a dog!), she delights in sharing her love of Europe and the Americas, of cultural treasures and wilderness adventures, with the next generation.

Tour openings: July through December

?Our tours from July through December 2019 listed below have spaces open. They include departures that take in Arizona’s wondrous “second spring” season, splendid autumn migration on East Coast, West Coast, and the south of France, Thanksgivings To Remember in Belize, Chile, Jamaica, and the Yucatan Peninsula, and a great variety of other adventures, from Colombia to Papua New Guinea. Contact our office to request space on any of the tours below. If you have a group of 6 or more people and would like to arrange a private group tour, we’ll be happy to chat about that, too.

Recently posted 2019 & 2020 itineraries

Click on any image or link below to see the detailed itinerary for the following 2020 tours. Lots of info in these, and some great images as well.

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