WingsBirds Updates Updates from WingsBirds Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:54:10 -0700 en daily 1 <p>Rich Hoyer on his recently-completed tour, <a href="">Peru: Rainforest Lodges of the Madre de Dios</a></p> 2017-11-27 18:50:46 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>We had some marvelous experiences on our short tour visiting just two lodges in the rainforests of Peru's Madre de Dios department. At the wonderfully welcoming Los Amigos Biological Station, daily companions included a trio of Undulated Tinamous foraging on the open lawn, often right around our cabins. Nearby, sticking closer to the forest edge was an immature Rufescent Tiger-Heron as well, a very unusual occurrence in that habitat.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="508" /></p> <p>We rarely had to venture far from our rooms before stumbling into some really fun bird activity &ndash; either a mixed flock or a mob looking for an owl to harass, but some of our better finds were when things seemed very quiet at first &ndash; such as the covey of Starred Wood-Quail that nearly attacked us in response to an imitation whistle of a chick in distress. Or a nightjar flushed off the side of the trail, later determined to have been a rare Silky-tailed Nightjar. One of the favorite birds of the tour happened just like this when a lone Chestnut-capped Puffbird flew past the leader and landed just off the trail halfway past the group.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="489" /></p> <p>A totally different habitat was offered during our boat rides on the Madre de Dios and Tambopata rivers as we traveled to and from the lodges. One particularly memorable sighting was the sudden appearance of well over a hundred Sand-colored Nighthawks feeding over the river. On another day we had spectacular views of a pair of Horned Screamers very close on the shore.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="489" /></p> <p>We had two different boat rides on old oxbow lakes, both providing some of the most delightful and peaceful birding on the trip. A Sungrebe and multiple kingfishers were highlights at one, and a Western Striolated-Puffbird (the Obama-bird, we called it, as it was only recently described and named after him) was very cooperative on the other lake. At both, however, we were treated to many views of the most bizarre but beautiful Hoatzin.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="452" /></p> <p>We had one early morning at a parrot lick, and while macaws didn't visit this morning, we still saw several species of parrots at close range, including a noisy mob of Dusky-headed Parakeets.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="454" /></p> <p>At Explorer's Inn, we kept seeing new birds and wonderful mammals every time we wandered down the trails. On our very first outing, a ridiculously cooperative Black-faced Antbird found a low perch we could all see well and sang from it for at least 10 minutes.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="423" /></p> <p>On our last day we passed by a stretch of trail not far from our cabins for the umpteenth time, but we obviously still hadn't seen everything, as suddenly there was a pair of fabulous Pavonine Quetzals right over the trail that hadn't been there on any other pass. They stayed long enough for those who had hung back at the lodge to return and see them in their resplendent beauty.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="475" /></p> <p>Rich Hoyer on his just-completed tour, <a href="">Peru: Machu Picchu and the Manu-Kosñipata Road</a></p> 2017-11-27 18:32:06 Wings Staff Field Reports <p class="Default">Breathtaking views of Machu Picchu were just the beginning of this year&rsquo;s highlights of the tour to the department of Cusco, Peru. We had a full morning&rsquo;s tour at the ruins with a delightful local guide who didn&rsquo;t mind our interruptions to see Inca Wren and scan the skies for swifts.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p class="Default">After our tour of the ruins, a walk along the Urubamba River resulted in many great birds, such as Andean Motmot, White-tipped Swift, and Collared Inca, with a pair of Torrent Ducks particularly memorable.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="436" /></p> <p class="Default">Then began our drive over the mountains and down the Kos&ntilde;ipata Valley, darting in and out of the boundary of Manu National Park &ndash; and thence began a daily barrage of lovely scenery and some truly memorable bird experiences. At Wayqecha Biological Station some new hummingbird feeders were already starting to attract customers, and the most common species was the exquisite Amethyst-throated Sunangel.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="390" /></p> <p class="Default">Mixed flocks at these higher elevations contained many colorful birds such as Golden-collared Tanager and the favorite Grass-green Tanager, which we each saw just once. But the equally stunning Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager was in nearly every flock, often posing for great views and photos.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="485" /></p> <p class="Default">At our mid-elevation stop, mentionable highlights were two Solitary Eagles &ndash; one flying by quickly over us and another soaring at length below &ndash; and the Buff-tailed Sicklebill that appeared at staked-out clump of pendant <em>Heliconia</em> flowers (something which you always try but rarely succeed at). A big surprise was a Rufous-breasted Antthrush that had been singing below the road behind a curtain of impenetrable foliage. But a lucky hole and a well-pitched whistle made it pop up where we could even put the spotting scope on it.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="430" /></p> <p class="Default">One of the main attractions at our mid-elevation lodge is the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, and we paid an early morning visit and experienced one of the world&rsquo;s most amazing products of evolution.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="443" /></p> <p class="Default">Our stay at Villa Carmen was a treat with the very comfortable rooms and great food. Perhaps the most mind-blowing thing we witnessed there was the Pheasant Cuckoo that flew towards us over a hundred yards across the Pi&ntilde;i Pi&ntilde;i River at Los Amigos, landing in a bamboo thicket just a few yards away from our astonished faces. No one expected that to happen! We added a huge number of species from the garden, the main road, and the trails passing through bamboo and other types of forest. A quietly calling trogon with an odd voice teased us for several minutes before we discovered a motionless fledgling Blue-crowned Trogon just a few feet right over our heads.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="457" /></p> <p class="Default">The butterflies were out of this world, for example the <em>Panacea prola </em>(Red Flasher) that landed on most of the participants as we paused on one of the trails.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="507" /></p> <p class="Default">Another fun surprise find was a Black Hawk-Eagle on our last day as we began the drive back to Cusco. It was perched at eye-level just a few yards off the road, and it sat there rather indignantly as we tried to get perfect photos between the passings of noisy motorbikes and local taxis that drove between our parked bus and the bird.</p> <p class="Default"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="505" /></p> <p class="Default">It was a particularly fun group of participants, and our wonderful driver Eliazar did a great job of keeping the bus clean and working and us safe and on time.</p> <p>Steve Howell on his and Jake Mohlmann's ongoing tour, <a href="">Chile: Tierra del Fuego to the Atacama Desert</a></p> 2017-11-14 09:00:03 Wings Staff Field Reports <p class="p1"><span class="s1">From King Penguins and Royal Albatrosses to Magellanic Woodpeckers and Many-colored Rush-Tyrants, we&rsquo;ve enjoyed a wonderful trip in Southern and Central Chile. Carpets of wildflowers and choruses of birdsong have marked our days here in Central Chile, interspersed with a fabulous pelagic trip into the Humboldt Current, surrounded by record numbers of albatrosses and petrels. Here are a few images to date:</span></p> <p class="p1"><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Our picnic lunch in the wilds of Tierra del Fuego, after seeing the enigmatic Magellanic Plover, and...</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">... before heading on to view King Penguins at the recently founded colony on Useless Bay.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Within minutes of leaving our rooms the iconic Magellanic Woodpecker appeared wonderfully, right beside the road!</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">This year, the very local (and recently split) Ticking Doradito showed very well.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">A handsome Chilean Skua passed right overhead in the Humboldt Current, ...</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">And we enjoyed repeated studies of five albatross species, included this stunning Southern Buller&rsquo;s.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Yesterday an Andean Condor perched on a ski lodge greeted us in the Andes, before sailing off right over our heads&mdash;wow!</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">And today we found the incomparable Diademed Sandpiper-Plover in record time&mdash;less than a minute, with this image taken from the van window! Now on to the finale in Northern Chile.</span></p> <p>Gavin Bieber on his recently completed tour to <a href="">Western Australia and Northern Territory</a></p> 2017-11-13 05:57:33 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>We spent the first week around Perth and the southwest corner of the country. A wetland park in central Perth provided our first waterbirds, including a very approachable Yellow-billed Spoonbill, a fine Buff-banded Rail and a roosting family group of Tawny Frogmouth.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="460" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="448" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>The drier forests around Dryandra and the Stirling Ranges were very productive, with repeated views of Carnaby&rsquo;s (Short-billed) Black-Cockatoos and the aptly named Splendid Fairy-Wren.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="424" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="423" /></p> <p>The gorgeous coastline near Cheyne&rsquo;s Beach was our backdrop for several days, where we managed especially good views of Brush Bronzewing and all three of the coastal heathlands infamous skulkers.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p>Leaving the temperate SW corner behind we traveled to the heart of the country around Alice Springs where stunning desert landscape hosted an array of fantastic species such as the comical Spinifex Pigeons, charismatic Dusky Grasswren and intricately patterned Western Bowerbirds, here seen in mid display at a bower in the botanical gardens.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="424" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="521" /></p> <p>Our second week covered the tropics of the Top End around Darwin and the outpost town of Kununurra, near the East end of the Kimberley Mountains.&nbsp; These diverse habitats yielded aremarkable array of birds and mammals and the humid and comparatively lush lands surrounding Darwin seemed especially stuffed with new birds.&nbsp; Waterbird concentrations were excellent, with hundreds of Magpie Geese surrounding the remaining patches of water and waiting for the arrival of the rainy season.&nbsp; Rainforest patches around Darwin hosted gorgeous and somewhat approachables Rainbow Pittas, and in the Botanic Gardens we located both Barking (below) and Rufous Owls on day roosts.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="444" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="573" /></p> <p>Kununurra had the feel of a real outback town, with isolated and very beautiful grottos, and almost comically swollen Baobab Trees dotting the savannahs.&nbsp; Although it was very dry this year, we still found 10 of 11 species of finches possible in the area (including the fabulous Gouldian (below) and the scarce Yellow-rumped Mannikin), and the day trip out to Lake Argyle went extraordinarily well, with dozens of Yellow Chats, a few White-quilled Rock Pigeons and tame Short-eared Rock Wallabys.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="443" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="446" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>We wrapped up the 17 day itinerary back in Darwin, with an amazing 325 species seen!</p> <p>Since my camera failed early in the tour, I owe thanks to my co-leader Tim Dolby and especially Bob Pease (Bush Bronzewing,Rainbow Pitta, and Yellow Chat) for the use of their images.</p> <p>Jake Mohlmann on his just-completed tour to <a href="">Northern Argentina - High Andes, Chaco and Iguazú Falls</a></p> 2017-11-12 14:14:02 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>On our recently completed tour through northern Argentina we encountered 429 species of birds as we scoured lush cloud forest, arid altiplano, dense Chaco thickets, and riverine rainforest.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="361" /> <br />Our group was delighted to have&nbsp;<a href="">Iguaz&uacute;</a> Falls all to ourselves</p> <p>Four days based in the Yungas forest produced a fine list of birds and one particular experience had us all slapping high fives at the end. While quietly watching a Rufous-throated Dipper carefully hold on to the slick rocks while somehow foraging in the raging waters of the Yala River, we noticed a family of Torrent Ducks, including 2 recent youngsters, struggling upriver within a few meters of our group and setting off a picture-taking frenzy. We were wondering why they were so 'tame' when we realized we're weren't the most feared creatures on the river bank. A hungry Tayra, a three foot long member of the weasel family, was working the riverbank nearby. Immediately after this encounter several range-restricted Red-faced Guans hurled overhead and perched on moss covered branches for a trifecta of specialties.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="365" /><br /> A Tayra lurks on the riverbank</p> <p>Hummingbirds were in good supply this year with 16 species visiting an abundance of flowering plants; highlights included the dainty Slender-tailed Woodstar, the jet Black Jacobin, the near Bolivian endemic Wedge-tailed Hillstar, and the ridiculously colorful Red-tailed Comet.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="442" /><br />A male Red-tailed Comet poses for pictures</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="440" /><br />With 99% of its range in Bolivia this Wedge-tailed Hillstar was a welcome treat</p> <p>The high Andean altiplano hosted a horde of species including three varieties of flamingo including Andean, Chilean, and James&rsquo;s. At one of the high elevation bogs near the Bolivian border, a pair of Diademed Sandpiper Plovers appeared (before we could get out of the car!) and foraged very closely before taking flight far down the canyon. Nearby another high altitude specialty was heard, then seen, and we watched a trio of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe work through a moist vegetation.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="400" /><br />Diademed Sandpiper Plover</p> <p>We spent several days in the unique Chaco habitat where this year we encountered both members of the highly sought after family Cariamidae: we watched at length both Red-legged and Black-legged Seriemas taking breaks from screaming their dog like &lsquo;songs&rsquo;. Other birds unique to this region were the vibrant Many-colored Chaco Finch, the enormous Great Rufous Woodcreeper, and the docile Spot-backed Puffbird.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s also worth noting that we actually saw five species of tinamous, quite a feat for any birding trip. These included bright-billed Tataupa, Ornate, Red-winged Huayco, Andean, and the regal Elegant Crested, with young in tow.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="443" /></p> <p>An adult Elegant Crested Tinamou stands guard with chicks nearby</p> <p>Our final days were spent exploring the various roads and trails weaving through Iguazu National Park and getting exposure to an entirely new set of birds. Having the upper falls trail all to ourselves before the masses arrived one morning was a wonderful experience we&rsquo;ll not soon forget!</p> Guatemala 2017-09-21 16:16:45 Will Russell Recently updated tours Just a three-hour flight from the US, the highlands of Guatemala&rsquo;s Pacific slope are famous worldwide for two birds: the improbable-looking Pink-headed Warbler and the bizarre and critically endangered Horned Guan. And with an expected split happening soon, one more species will be added to the list of specialties: the only true Guatemalan endemic, the incomparable Goldman&rsquo;s Warbler. Less well known are the astonishing concentrations of boreal migrants&mdash;especially wood warblers&mdash;that share these cool montane forests with a vast selection of Central American specialties. Though our tour specifically targets the resident warblers and the guan, we&rsquo;ll also take time to enjoy fully the diversity of the region&rsquo;s birdlife and to appreciate the charm of baroque Antigua. Uganda: Shoebills to Gorillas 2017-09-19 11:16:57 Will Russell Recently updated tours Uganda is the jewel in the crown of East Africa, generally recognized as having some of the best remaining forest in Africa and with it some truly remarkable birdwatching. Our first taste will be a search for the enigmatic Shoebill at the edge of Lake Victoria. We&rsquo;ll continue our journey to the papyrus-fringed lakeshore of Lake Mburo National Park, renowned for its mammals and birds, including White-backed Night-heron. The wonderful Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a magical place of mists, hanging mosses, and luxuriant vegetation, and it is also where we&rsquo;ll see some of the rarest and most exotic birds of the trip. However, it will probably be a mammal that is uppermost in people&rsquo;s minds here. Over half the world&rsquo;s population of Mountain Gorillas can be found in this forest, and during our stay there will be the option to take part in a guided trek to search for a group of these magnificent animals. In Queen Elizabeth National Park we&rsquo;ll encounter a variety of habitats more typical of East Africa along with an equally varied array of birds and mammals. In Kibale Forest we&rsquo;ll be surrounded by birds as well as some of the eleven species of primate, including Chimpanzee, and in the rainforest at Budongo Forest Reserve we&rsquo;ll explore the famous Royal Mile, a wide pathway through the forest that simply drips with birds. We&rsquo;ll conclude at Murchison Falls National Park, where we&rsquo;ll take to the water, not only to visit the spectacular Murchison Falls on the Victoria Nile but with another chance to appreciate the unique Shoebill in its papyrus home. Guyana 2018 price reduced 2017-07-12 14:08:26 Matt Brooks Miscellany <p>Our tour to <a href=""><strong>Guyana</strong></a> in 2018 has experienced a price reduction. There has never been a better time to go to this little-explored country tucked away in northern South America. A few spaces still remain on this tour. We'd love for you to join us!</p> Study in White: Polar Bears and Ivory Gulls of Svalbard 2017-06-21 15:00:25 Will Russell Recently updated tours The Norwegian island of Svalbard, or Spitsbergen, is full of spectacular landscapes and wildlife. It lies within a stone&rsquo;s throw of the North Pole, at around 80 degrees latitude, with twenty-four-hour sunshine for the entire summer. Our new cruise, with Oceanwide Expeditions (See &ldquo;Notes&rdquo; below), will explore this wonderful destination, with a particular focus on finding two of the planet&rsquo;s most stunning Arctic residents: Polar Bear and Ivory Gull. The supporting cast will include numerous jaegers, Great Skua, Reindeer, Walrus, millions of seabirds, and a sprinkling of whales and seals. The Solomon Islands 2017-06-05 13:57:29 Will Russell Recently updated tours The Solomon Islands archipelago stretches from Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, in a southeasterly arc across the Pacific. Consisting of several large islands and numerous small ones, many of which are uninhabited, it is a must-see destination for serious birders. The archipelago is known for endemics, especially among pigeons, monarchs, fantails, myzomelas, and white-eyes. It also has a couple of near legendary flightless rails and some of the least-known birds on the planet. This tour, while visiting a number of the main birding sites within the Solomons, concentrates on areas that are most easily accessed. We&rsquo;ll see a good selection of Solomon Island endemics, but it won&rsquo;t be possible to reach a number of high-altitude specialties because of difficult terrain and steep trails. Some of our accommodations will be basic with limited facilities.&nbsp;