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May 2019 emailing

May 29th, 2019 by Field Guides· Add a Comment

Hello birders and friends, near and far! Where has the spring gone? Migration is winding down for most of us, here at our work stations in the Texas Hill Country and on the East Coast, and most of our field guides have begun their nesting-season tours. This post-Memorial Day breather is the optimal moment to consider your plans for the fall, for the holidays, and for the next year or so. In this post we’ll attempt to tempt you with the May Recent Photos Gallery‘s 96 photographs from recent trips spanning Ghana to Bhutan to Florida (as a teaser, guide Megan Edwards Crewe with participant Suzi Cole in Bhutan below), news of new tours in Uruguay and Brazil, and squibs on autumn and holiday departures. We also include another Meet the Tour Manager feature, news from the world of bird research and publishing, and 13 recent triplists and 10 recently posted itineraries for 2020 tours below, plus a roster of remaining spaces on our June-November tours, including some that depart soon, like Alaska, Papua New Guinea, and Iceland. We look forward to your company in the field!

Fall Birding Hither & Yon

Autumn is the relaxed season for migration, when birds might take months rather than mere moments to pass toward their ultimate destinations. Though we forgo some of the flashier plumages in fall, the opportunity to study birds at leisure is ample compensation. For many of us, fall migration is comfortable like a favorite old sweater, or like a long meal enjoyed with dear friends. Why not invite a few new friends along, species you haven’t seen in a while, or perhaps ever? We still have space on some great adventures. For Easterners, how about taking a big Slice of California with Chris Benesh, Sep 10-19, or an Oregon: Coast to Cascades run with Cory Gregory and Doug Gochfeld, Sep 4-14? Or add a few pink Ross’s Gulls to your season with Doug on the Alaska Fall Goldmine dash up to Barrow, Oct 5-9? For Westerners, maybe it’s a good year to refresh your affection for eastern migrants and Fall For Cape May with Cory Gregory and Micah Riegner, Sep 21-27, or with Tom Johnson, Sep 29-Oct 5. Or start even earlier, on Maine in Fallwith Eric Hynes, Sep 9-18? Alternatively, as those Neotropical migrants approach their wintering grounds, you could be there to greet them, on Machu Picchu & Abra Malaga (Peru) with Dan Lane, Oct 11-20, or in wild Roraima (Brazil) with Micah Riegner and Tom Johnson, Oct 23-Nov 3, or in the llanos of wonderful Colombia with Dan again, Nov 10-20. And would it be cheating to skip “fall” and take a second helping of spring migration—in Australia with John Coons and Doug Gochfeld, Oct 22-Nov 6? We think not. These world-class guides can all show you a new way to do fall. Our thanks to Chris Benesh for the male White-headed Woodpecker below to put a pep in our step. (And this news just in: With our first tour fully booked, we’ve added a second departure for Louisiana: Yellow Rails & Crawfish Tails, Nov 7-10 with Cory Gregory.)

The rise of passerines & iterative evolution

Two pieces in particular caught our eye this month:

  • Many of us have suspected, and scientists opined, that the passerines—more than 6400 species of perching birds in the order Passeriformes—arose in South America, the bird continent, where the proliferation of passerines is unparalleled on Earth at present. But a new study in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences offers genetic and biogeographic evidence that passerines share a common ancestor that arose in Australia! Granted, this ancestor might have lived 47 million years ago, but this paper provides yet another reason (as if we needed one) to be agog at Australia’s role in the evolution of all sorts of life on this planet. Himalayan Black-lored Tit (in a Tom Johnson photo here) is, well, sort of from Australia, then…
  • Aldabra White-throated Rail is not a bird one hears much about. But a recent paper in the Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society demonstrates that this species became extinct about 136,000 years ago, during a period of high sea levels—but then evolved back into existence, as presumably the same forebears from Madagascar re-colonized the atoll of Aldabra after the seas subsided. This phenomenon, called iterative evolution, had not been described in birds previously but was known in aquatic species such as sea turtles and sea cows. Who knew?

New tours & an added departure for 2020

For 2020, we are thrilled to announce the addition of two new itineraries that we know fans of South American adventures will want to jot down. Our latest addition to the Birding Plus series, Uruguay: Birds and Wines in the Land of the Gauchos, Nov 28-Dec 10, 2020, will be guided by sunny Marcelo Padua (see above), whose birding and wine-tasting tours have enjoyed your rave reviews. A small, sometimes overlooked country between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is home not just to an outstanding bird list but to Garzon, a winery dubbed by Wine Spectator as the best in the New World! For those enamored of the Amazon, and for our many Bret Whitney followers, his latest opus is Great Rivers of the Amazon III: Mamiraua, Amana & Tefe, an exploratory tour to the pristine forests around the Rio Japura and Rio Tefe (tributaries of the Rio Solimoes) that he’s co-leading with Micah Riegner, Dec 1-14, 2020. If Bret’s comment “extraordinarily poorly known ornithologically” makes you daydream, well, take a look at the itinerary. (Hint: Bret has a knack for changing that “poorly known” part…)

And in itinerary & added tour news: Field Guides has been visiting Suriname since the 1980s, but next Jan 18-29 we’re offering a Succinct Suriname: Cotingas & Trumpeters with veteran Dave Stejskal and (once again!) Micah Riegner, whose affable nature and command of South American birds continue to astonish us equally. The interior of Suriname incorporates one of the truly great wilderness areas in all of South America, and our itinerary (just out) includes over a week in lowland rainforests around Brownsberg Nature Park and nearby Fredberg in search of some of the continent’s most colorful, showy, even bizarre species. And before we leave the subject of fine wines, we should point out that we’ve just added a second departure for Marcelo Padua’s Beyond The Ports of Portugal for next year, Apr 13-24. In vino, veritas (et aves), may we say?

Holiday Tours: Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day

June is the time for holiday planning, especially for air travel, as there are still plenty of flight options. We have eight departures with openings between Thanksgiving and the New Year, all to wonderful locations. Celebrate Thanksgiving on the Yucatan & Cozumel tour with Chris Benesh, Nov 23-Dec 2, on the Jamaica tour with Cory Gregory, Nov 24-30, or even on the majestic Chile tour with Willy Perez, Nov 10-30. Christmas and Hanukkah would be mighty festive in Costa Rica on the Holiday Costa Rica tour at Rancho Naturalista with Dan Lane, Dec 21-29. Or ring in New Year in Trinidad & Tobago with Tom Johnson, Dec 27-Jan 5, in Arizona with Chris Benesh, Dec 28-Jan 3, at Ecuador’s Wildsumaco Lodge with Willy Perez, Dec 28-Jan 7, or in Panama—whether with John Coons at Panama’s Canopy Camp, Dec 27-Jan 4, or Jesse Fagan and Micah Riegner at Panama’s Canopy Lodge, Dec 28-Jan 4. That’s a lot of options for a holiday birding escape…

New book with a few familiar faces

David Brewer’s Birds New to Science, newly published in late 2018, has just arrived in the mail here! The 416-page book presents 288 species discovered or described since 1960. We were delighted to see our own Dan Lane’s Scarlet-banded Barbet on the book’s cover. Dan’s discovery of this distinctive species in Peru is detailed in the text, along with our other guides’ fortuitous finds over the years, including Richard Webster and Rose Ann Rowlett’s Spectacled Flowerpecker in Borneo and Bret Whitney and Jan Pierson’s Cryptic Warbler in Madagascar. Dan’s rediscovery of White-masked Antbird and description of Rufous Twistwing are also cited. And then, of course, there are Bret’s many contributions to the study of the South American avifauna. Bret is cited in the accounts for (hold onto your hats) Plain-tailed Nighthawk; Western Striolated Puffbird; Yungas, Chico’s, and Mishana tyrannulets; Acre Antshrike; Rondonia Bushbird; Caatinga, Ancient, Aripuana, Predicted, Bamboo, and Sincora antwrens; Manicore Warbling-Antbird; Allpahuayo Antbird; Diademed and Rock tapaculos; Pink-legged Graveteiro; Iquitos and Inambari gnatcatchers; and a few species-in-development, Sucunduri Flatbill and Roosevelt Stipple-throated Antwren. And let us not forget the fetching Bahia Spinetail, originally named in Bret’s honor, Synallaxis whitneyi, although Bret subsequently published a note pointing out that the bird had been named S. cinerea in the 1800s, thus synonymizing his own name. We live in an age of discovery, and all of us at Field Guides read this roster of new species with joy and with appreciation for the hard work our colleagues have put in over the decades to bring these birds to the light of ornithology and birding alike. Go, team!

Videos: Colorado Memories & Texas Bat Cave

Guide Doug Gochfeld compiled a short video of highlights from the Colorado Grouse tour—here, not the stars of the show, like Greater and Gunnison sage-grouse or Greater and Lesser prairie-chickens, but the supporting cast: Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Plover, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Dusky Grouse, Evening Grosbeak, American Dipper, Pine Grosbeak, Cassin’s Finch, Brown-capped and Black rosy-finches (some cool clips), and a few nice mammals. Click on guide Cory Gregory’s Mountain Bluebird to enjoy.

To the south, on our Texas’s Big Bend & Hill Country tour, participant Dixie Sommers made this video of (many of) the millions of Brazilian Free-tailed Bats leaving the Rio Frio cave at sunset. North America abounds with great wildlife spectacles, and we love showing them to you.

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.

“I always travel with Field Guides because of the excellent guides and office support. I chose this tour to see the lekking grouse. I hesitated to sign up for a tour in the US (I prefer to “guide myself” in my home country!), but I am so glad I did. I could never had found the incredible grouse on my own, or come even close to the variety of birds our guides found for us. I can’t wait to travel with either Doug Gochfeld or Cory Gregory again, and will look for tours which they lead. Both are superb birders, skilled guides, and best of all interesting, caring, and funny guys! Your office service was excellent, as always. Field Guides is always the gold standard in my book. Another perfect experience.” P.P., COLORADO GROUSE 2019

“A great tour, one of the best ever. Great birds, excellent guide in Megan Edwards Crewe, really great tour group. Plus beautiful, clean country, good food, fun cultural visits, happy people. Especially noteworthy was the ground crew providing in-the-field hot meals for every breakfast and lunch, a superb effort. Your office service was very good, no problems for me and they were very helpful to other tour members who had major flight disruptions by the airlines.” D.M, BHUTAN 2019

“I’d enjoyed two previous trips with Field Guides and was impressed with the quality and organization I’d seen. This tour was exceptional. Guide Dave Stejskal was amazing. His knowledge and ability to find and bring in the birds was incredible. The information and facts he shared about particular birds were always interesting. Tour Manager Caroline Lewis’s responses to questions and requests were always prompt and helpful. Her service in making our flight reservations was informed, thorough, and much appreciated!” J.L., BELIZE: TROPICAL BIRDING SHORT & SWEET 2019

“I have traveled with Field Guides before and know that you do a great job. I chose this particular tour as I not only have an interest in birds but also wine. I thought this would be a fun way to see Portugal, and it did not disappoint. This was an excellent tour! Marcelo, JT, and Pedro make an awesome team. They saw to our every need, made things run smoothly… We laughed our way through the country. This tour has to be in the top three of the many tours that I have taken.” J.F., BEYOND THE PORTS OF PORTUGAL 2019: A BIRDS & WINE TOUR

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 May Recent Photos gallery for other great images.)

Christine Boilard is in the house!

Meet the Tour Manager

Christine Boilard is new to the Field Guides team as of April 2018, but in her first year she has hit the ground running—and fast! In addition to handling office work on all 150+ tours we offer, Christine is the primary Tour Manager for tours in Florida, New Jersey, Alberta, Holland, Iceland, and Great Britain, plus our Arizona winter trips, and she’s now tackling five key South American tours in Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru as well. Whew! Christine has a lifelong love of the outdoors and enjoys central Texas birding, especially in the context of camping trips, rock-climbing, off-roading, and hiking. Like many on staff, she’s an aficionado of local breweries, so if you have the pleasure of a phone conversation, feel free to get the inside scoop on Austin’s latest and greatest!

Tour openings: June through November

Our tours from June through early November 2019 listed below have spaces open. They include departures from the Andes to the Amazon, from top of the world in Alaska to down under in Australia, with guides who love showing people the places and birds they adore themselves. Contact our office to request space on any of the tours below. And, as ever, 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 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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