World Birding Rally, Peru: the FG Team takes first!

Team Field Guides has won the greatest birding competition on the planet! The World Birding Rally took place December 3-10, 2013, in Peru, pitting five international birding companies against each other. The competing teams/companies represented the countries of South Africa, Colombia, England, and the United States. The grueling weeklong event took place at two different sites in southeastern Peru: along the Madre de Dios River in the Amazonian lowlands, and at Machu Picchu, the famous Inca ruin site. Both sites represent two distinctly different elevations and habitat types which include Amazonian rainforest and humid subtropical forest, respectively. This great event was sponsored by the Peruvian tourism board, PromPerú, and Inkaterra, a private company that runs a series of luxury ecolodges throughout Peru (see their blog post at this link). Our team included Field Guides leaders Jesse Fagan (yours truly) and Dan Lane, along with Fernando Angulo, a Peruvian biologist and conservationist. In addition, at each location all the teams had a local guide to assist them. In our case, the local guides were Leon (Madre de Dios) and Cecy Cabrera (Machu Picchu). Both were excellent and they helped us immensely on our way to victory.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 7.35.03 PM
Dan, Fernando, and Jesse celebrate their victory with local guide Cecy Cabrera.

It was a tense competition, and we got off to a rocky start when Team Field Guides came in fourth place on a rainy Day One. On Day Two, we fought our way into third place, where we remained until Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu. It wasn’t until these final two days that we managed to inch ahead and gain the top position. Our final species count was 457 (team highlights included White-chested Swift, Curl-crested Aracari, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, and Cusco Brush-Finch). The next two teams tied for second place with 455 species recorded. Indeed, it was a very tight race throughout the rally. All in all, it was a fabulous experience to bird and compete in one of the richest avian countries in the world. This competition is unrivaled in its length and number of species possible.  The total species count for the competition among all teams was an astounding 619, a significant percentage of the world’s total species of birds! Team Field Guides would like to thank all of the sponsors and teams for a very memorable time. The winning team trophy, a pewter Black-faced Cotinga, will be placed in the Field Guides office in Austin, Texas, so come by and take a look!

In addition, Team Field Guides was competing in the name of bird conservation. Prior to the start of the rally, Field Guides Incorporated and Team Field Guides partnered with Birdlife International to help raise funds for a watershed conservation campaign benefitting the northern Peruvian communities of San Isidro de Maino and Levanto and further protecting critical habitat for the globally endangered Marvelous Spatuletail, one of the world’s most spectacular hummingbirds. There is still time to help us in this endeavor; if you are interested, please visit the following link and make a donation:

Birding unites countries, people, and our amazing biodiversity as few governing bodies or politicians are capable of doing. The commonality of seeing birds, and the enjoyment this brings us, breaks down many barriers of hatred, prejudice, racism, and socioeconomic divide. It empowers people to look and think critically, to identify, to listen, to ask questions, to seek out, to travel and, most importantly, to discover. Birds and birding can change the world.

The next World Birding Rally will be held in Peru from May 11-22, 2014.

–Jesse Fagan (aka Motmot)

Resting on their laurels now? No way! See what’s next on Jesse’s and Dan’s schedules from their guide page links!

Below are more pics from the Rally…

At Machu Picchu with Cecy
Dan — nice shirt!
Hard at work in the field (definitely some multi-tasking going on!)
The win makes the Peruvian newspapers!