EXOTIC BIRDING NEWSLETTER
May 2015 - Thailand Scouting Trip - One of us just completed a 6-week scouting trip to Thailand with 630 species recorded, substantially more than typical group tours especially considering many Palearctic migrants picked up earlier in the season by most tour groups were already gone. We plan on offering tours to Thailand in the near future. Our trip covered the entire country including many places not visited on typical itineraries, and we used an in-country guide plugged in to the Thai birding commity and constantly informed of rare sightings. Special highlights included the vagrant and endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, several rather rare Chinese Egrets, the rare and much sought-after Nordmann's Greenshank, and the uncommon and highly endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia, two accidentals in one day (Wallcreeper - second Thailand record and Firethroat - first Thailand record) at Chaing Saen followed by a rare Brown-Cheeked Rail and, the next day, a very rare Common Shelduck on the lake, about 50 sporadically seen Nepal House-Martins at Phu Hin Ran Kla, only place where this species occurs in Thailand, followed by the rare and very local Jerdon's Bushchat at the same locale, an endangered and secretive White-winged Duck, the rare and elusive Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo, and the difficult and local Brown Hornbill at Phu Keio Wildlife Sanctuary, the very local Great Thick-knee, River Lapwing, and Mekong Wagtail along the Mekong River near Ratchathani, the very local Limestone Wren-Babbler near Saraburi, a Narcissus Flycatcher (first Thailand record in 2 years), a rare Gray-tailed Tattler, and a very rare Yellow-vented Green-Pigeon on Man Nai Island, the tough Rusty-cheeked Hornbill at Kaeng Krachan, a pair of rare Brown-breasted Flycatchers at Doi Inthanon, a very local Mangrove Blue Flycatcher at Yaring Mangroves, a very local Malayan Blue Flycatcher at Princess Sirindhorn Peatswamp Reserve, and a displaying male Great Argus at Sri Phang Nga. Notably, we saw 5 species of partridges, 6 pheasants, 21 raptors, 20 cuckoos, 8 owls, 12 kingfishers, 6 bee-eaters, 7 hornbills, 11 barbets, 26 woodpeckers, 7 broadbills, 5 pittas, 10 cuckooshrikes, 7 drongos, 10 corvids, 32 bulbuls, 22 leaf-warblers, 4 parrotbills, 35 babblers and fulvettas, 6 laughing thrushes, 53 Muscicapid flycatchers, 12 mynas/starlings, 7 flowerpeckers, 10 sunbirds, 8 spiderhunters, and much more. For full details please see our trip report reached from the GENERAL menu above.
November 2014 - New Photography Article - We've added a new article about photography to our website. The article is about the usage of sequences of stills to capture interesting snippets of animal behavior that are occasionally observed on tour. It can be accessed from the ARTICLES menu above.
October 2014 - Tanzania Photos - We've added a gallery of photos from our 2014 Tanzania scouting trip to the GALLERIES menu and also to the 2014 Tanzania trip report pages found under the GENERAL menu Trip Reports option above. We've also added photos to our Tanzania country page, reached from the AFRICA menu above.
August 2014 - Peru Birding Tour - Our July 2014 tour to Peru was a big success with 539 bird species recorded despite the absence of boreal migrants. The tour covered some coastal areas south of Lima, Aguas Calients, Machu Picchu, Abra Malaga and other highland sites, the Manu Road, and several lodges in the lowlands along the Rio Madre de Dios. Of special note were excellent views and sometimes photos of several rarities that included Brazilian Teal, two Blue-footed Boobies perched on a piling in Pucusana harbor, soaring Crested Eagle, a perched juvenile Black-and-chestnut Eagle, a perched Solitary Eagle, Amazonian Swift, Subtropical Doradito, Slaty Elaenia, Andean Tyrant, White-rumped Swallow, White-eared Solitaire, Reichenow's Seedeater, Gray-browed Brush-Finch, and Pale-eyed Blackbird.
We saw many other good birds such as Pale-winged Trumpeter, a family group of Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, a roosting Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Festive Coquette, Red-necked Woodpecker, Golden-headed Quetzal, Rusty-belted Tapaculo that came out briefly into the open on the trail, Rufous-capped Antthrush that posed briefly on a log, Red-billed Scythebill, a female Amazonian Umbrellabird, Wing-barred Piprites, Slaty Finch, and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch. In addition, we saw 18 mammal species including a pair of Tapirs crashing through the forest at full tilt just 15 ft from us. A full trip report with photos can be reached from the Trip Reports option under the GENERAL menu above.
June 2014 - Tanzania Scouting Trip - We completed a 3-week scouting trip to the major game parks of Tanzania plus northeastern Tanzania including the Usambara Mountains. The tour was a great success. We saw all the major mammals including 3 Leopards, 6 Cheetahs, and many Lions plus 342 bird species on the main tour and 206 bird species on the extension (total 433 species), a good count considering that no Palearctic migrants are present during May-June. We saw some significant rarities including just the second record of Black-billed Barbet at Speke Bay. Our mammal count was 36 species on the main tour plus an unidentified fruit bat at Speke Bay and an unidentified mouse at Gibb's Farm along with 3 additional mammals during the extension (total=41 mammals). See our trip reports for details of this trip.
March 2014 - ANYTIME Tours - We've added many new tour choices as ANYTIME tours that allow guaranteed departure at your option with 2 participants at affordable prices similar to the price of many comparable group tours. Check the country of interest to you for available itineraries.
December 2013 - Southeast Asia - We plan on offering birding tours to southeast Asia in future. To that end we are currently researching the region and have posted initial birding data for selected countries in the Orient, including descriptions and checklists for selected birding locales in Thailand and Vietnam. We'll be adding information for more countries during coming months.
December 2013 - Kenya Birding Tour - Our November 2013 Kenya birding tour was undersubscribed. However, we happily converted it to a private tour at cost upon our client's request. The tour was highly successful with 631 bird species seen during 17 days covering the central plateau, western region, and Masai Mara.
September 2013 - New Gallery Photos - We've added many new photos to our Galapagos Photo Gallery taken on our successful June cruise. We've also added a few new photos to our Brazil Photo Gallery.
September 2013 - Website Update - We've re-designed our website with the goal of putting the extensive information we offer about birding and our bird tours more readily at the fingertips of our visitors.
May 2013 - Tanzania Birding Tour
Our new Tanzania birding tour is scheduled for late May, 2014 at the end of the long rains when birds will be in breeding plumage and game animals will be plentiful. The main 2-week tour visits all the major game parks of northern Tanzania while theone-week extension visits the Usambara Mountains, an ancient mountain range where many endemic plants and birds are found, and Pemba Island off the Tanzania coast. Pemba is best visited either before or after the rains of April-May, so we'll arrive there in early June.
January 2013 - Just completed Kenya Tour - We've just returned from a 3-week birding tour to Kenya with a private group. During the tour we recorded over 500 species of birds and nearly 40 species of mammals. Details can be found on our trip report of the tour. The tour was conducted during the last 3 weeks of December, a great time to go birding in Kenya since a preponderance of bird species are in breeding plumage following the short rains of November.
September 2012 - New Brazil & Peru Photos - We've added new gallery photos from our 2011 tour of SE Brazil. We've also added a new gallery of Jim's photos from his recent scouting trip to Peru.
September 2012 - Peru Scouting Trip - One of us (Jim) spent 3 weeks on a scouting trip to the central highlands of Peru, Manu Road, and the Tambopata region of the Peruvian lowlands. A total of 503 species were recorded including a second record of White-bellied Dacnis for south-central Peru along with 38 endemics & near endemics. The trip report can be reached from our GENERAL>Trip Reports menu above. We'll be offering a tour to Manu during July 2013.
February 2012 - We've added numerous new photos to the Costa Rica and Panama gallery and country pages. These were taken on recent tours to those countries.
September 2011 - SE Brazil Tour - We just completed a very successful birding tour to the SE Atlantic Forest region of Brazil. We recorded 486 species including some of the most prized target birds such as Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Snowy-crowned Tern, Giant Snipe, Long-trained Nightjar, Hyacinth Visorbearer, Helmeted Woodpecker, Black-billed Scythebill, Salvadori's Antwren, Southern Antpipit, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Gray-winged Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird, Wing-barred Piprites, Black-capped Piprites, nearly every possible antshrike, antwren, antbird, and antvireo, 4 antthrushes, both possible gnateaters, 5 tapaculos, and much more. We also saw 2 Maned Wolves at Caraca Natural Reserve, a Black-eared Opossum at Guapi Assu, a family of Common Marmosets, Brown Capuchin monkeys, and a Masked Titi Monkey. Click here to view trip report.
May 2011 - Neotropical Endemics List - We've added a list of all endemic and near-endemic species in the Neotropics excluding Caribbean islands. It can be accessed from the About Menu under Neotropical Birding. An interesting thing to note is that slightly more than ¼ of all neotropical species are endemic or near endemic, in part because of habitat destruction that has reduced the range of many species and driven them extinct locally and in part because of the extraordinary speciation that took place in the neotropics.
March 2011 - Panama Hotspots Tour - We had a very successful spring tour to Panama. Aside from the usual specialty birds such as Blue Cotinga and Resplendent Quetzal, we picked up a number of very good species. One person and the guide had quick looks at the rare and local Black-breasted Wood-Quail in the lakes area of Chiriqui. Also seen in Chiriqui was the secretive Wrenthrush (Zeledonia) in the cabins area above Los Quetzales Lodge. Everyone had very good, close-up looks of the secretive Pheasant Cuckoo near Achiote Road. Finally, most people saw Rosy Thrush-Tanager in Metropolitan Park.
February 2011 - Colombia Fam Trip - We spent a week in Colombia at a trade fair sponsored by ProExport and Colombia Tourism ministry. As part of the visit, we spent 6 days birding the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve near Jardin, the Rio Blanco Reserve and Los Nevados National Park near Manizales, and Chingaza National Park near Bogota. Highlights are almost too many to mention, but here's a few of the special birds we saw. La Florida Park: Bogota Rail, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Yellow-hooded Blackbird. Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve: Yellow-eared Parrot, Ocellated Tapaculo, Golden-fronted Redstart, Scrub Tanager, Tanager Finch. Road between Jardin and Manizales: Moustached Puffbird, Grayish Piculet, Bar-crested Antshrike, Apical Flycatcher. Rio Blanco Reserve: Chestnut Wood-Quail, Rusty-faced Parrot, Longuemare's Sunangel, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Brown-banded Antpitta, Dusky Piha, Black-collared Jay, Sharpe's Wren, Golden-fronted Redstart, Gray-hooded Bush Tanager, Plushcap, Red-hooded Tanager. Los Nevados National Park: Andean Condor, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Purple-backed Thornbill, Bearded Helmetcrest, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Golden-crowned Tanager. Chingaza National Park and Mundo Nuevo: Solitary Eagle, Andean Snipe, Brown-breasted Parakeet, Longuemare's Sunangel, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Rufous-browed Conebill. Details of our exciting week of birding in Colombia can be found on our trip report.
October 2010 - Tour Maps - We've added tour maps for every tour we offer. These maps can be accessed from any tour webpage on our site by clicking the 'Map' tab. These maps will give participants a clearer picture of where each tour goes.
June 2010 - Southern Ecuador Tour - We completed a successful birding tour of Southern Ecuador with over 500 species recorded in 15 days. We saw some amazing birds, including the rare Orange-breasted Tanager in the Cordillera del Condor, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan and Jocotoco Antpitta at Tapichalaca, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan in the Cajanuma section of Podocarpus National Park, Subtropical Doradito in the central highlands, a male Long-wattled Umbrellabird booming on a lek plus a female feeding a chick in the nest at Buenaventura Reserve, Amazonian Umbrellabird in the Cordillera del Condor, several Masked Tanagers in the Cordillera del Condor, and a first record of Yellow-cheeked Becard at Jorupe Reserve. We also conducted an 8 day extension of areas around Macas in the east-central foothills followed by several days in the northwest. During the extension we saw several Esmeraldas specialties, notably Rose-faced Parrot, Barred Puffbird, Moustached Antwren, Black-headed Antthrush, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, and Scarlet-breasted Dacnis. We also had stunning looks at the normally secretive Barred Forest-Falcon perched on an open branch in a tree along the road. We added 60 species during the extension that were not seen on our southern tour. For full trip reports click on the highlighted links.
April 2010 - Species Abundance Data - We're gradually adding species abundance data to our bird checklists. Data are not available for all sites. We have added abundance (common-ness) codes for many birding locales in Costa Rica and Ecuador. These data are then consolidated on our birding tour checklists for those countries to indicate the locales where each species is most likely to occur. We hope this information will help serious birders when making their birding travel plans. We'll be adding data for other countries if available over coming months.
February 2010 - More Informative Color-coded Checklists - We've color-coded all the checklists on our website to indicate species status (critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near-globally threatened) according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). We've also added codes on every checklist to indicate whether a species is migratory, very rare, vagrant, or accidental in each country. We've been constantly frustrated by vanilla checklists that don't provide that information, as such lists inflate expectations or mislead people on what species they might actually be able to see in a given country.
We've also worked to improve the accuracy of our checklists. During the course of this effort, we've become extremely aware of the gross inaccuracies found in many species lists on the internet. We have done our best to remove the numerous inaccuracies that had crept into our previous lists. We're constantly striving to improve our accuracy, so please let us know of any errors you may find.
December 2009 - New On-Line Magazine Article - We've published a new article in our on-line magazine about the techniques Laura uses to capture the images shown on our website. We hope the article is useful for bird nature photographers.
October 2009 - Expanded Target Bird lists - We've added lists of target birds for various birding locales in Ecuador. We've also added consolidated target lists for all birding tour pages we offer to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, and Panama as well as for each of those countries. They can be accessed from the tabs on the country pages or birding tour pages. These target lists are intended to help participants focus on which species they should especially try to see at each location they visit while on tour as well as help them decide which tour would be most suitable for them.
August 2009 - Target Bird Lists - We've started creating lists of target bird species for the locations we visit while on tour and selected other sites within our destination countries. These target bird lists are reached from our country pages or tour pages from the left sidebar links under BIRDING LOCALES. The first country we're covering is Costa Rica. We'll be adding similar lists for other countries during the next few weeks. Our target species lists are intended to be an aid for birders visiting each area. Our tour participants will hopefully find these lists useful while on tour as they provide a basis for asking our guide questions about seeing target species. Each list indicates likelihood of seeing every target species. We would appreciate any feedback or corrections our visitors care to provide.
August 2009 - New On-line Magazine - We are now publishing occasional articles about bird photography on our website for those wanting more in-depth treatment of various subjects pertaining to style and techniques. Our first articles are about Laura's vision of capturing birds as they go about their lives in the natural world. Later articles will discuss techniques that Laura uses to capture the beautiful images she has displayed on our website.
Nov 2008 - Guyana Scouting Trip - We spent Nov 10-22, 2008 scouting the prime birding locales in Guyana, all the way from the savannas of Dadanawa Ranch in the south to the rainforests of Iwokrama Forest Reserve in the country center to coastal areas in the north. It was a very productive trip, and we are now fully prepared to do a Guyana tour right. We'll be adding images from this trip to our website in future and have begun making plans for a March 2010 tour. We feel March is a better time of year to visit than November based on our first-hand experience for several reasons. One is that Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock is in full breeding plumage in spring but not in November. Another is that the best part of the Mori Scrub trail at Iwokrama was still underwater in November but is dry by April. A third reason is that we found bird activity to be somewhat better in April, though that was only our own personal impression.
Apr 2008 - Guyana Scouting Trip One of us (Jim Wittenberger) visited Guyana on a familiarization tour in April 2008 at the invitation of the Guianan Tourism Ministry and funded in part by USAID with a group of other tour operators from Europe and the US. He was enthralled with the birding opportunities in this as yet little known birding destination. The group saw or heard 319 species during 9 days, including specialty birds and endemics such as Black Curassow, Harpy Eagle, Little Chachalaca, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Black-headed Parrot, Caica Parrots, Tepui Swift, Crimson Topaz, Guianan Puffbird, Guianan Toucanet, Blood-colored Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Antwren, Todd's Antwren, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Capuchinbird, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Cayenne Jay, Finsch's Euphonia, and Red Siskin.
May 2008 - Spring Photo Tours - We began offering bird and nature photo tours to some of our favorite destinations in spring 2008. On our Costa Rica tour we made numerous excellent photographs of forest birds including Resplendent Quetzals and hummingbirds at famed Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, water birds including Jabirus during a boat trip through Palo Verde National Park, and various lowland tropical birds at Carara National Park. On our Panama tour we made photographs of numerous tropical birds along famed Pipeline Road, on the Caribbean side of the Canal Zone, and in the western highlands of Chiriqui Province. Some of the notable birds we photographed were Harpy Eagle, Mealy Amazon, Spectacled Owl, Black-throated and Western White-tailed Trogons, Ocellated Antbird, White-whiskered Puffbird, and several species of hummingbirds.