WingsBirds Updates Updates from WingsBirds Sun, 22 Oct 2017 12:12:47 -0700 en daily 1 <p>Susan Myers on her on-going tour, <a href="">Indonesia: The Moluccas</a></p> 2017-10-10 14:53:27 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>The inaugural Wings tour to the far flung islands of the Moluccas in east Indonesia is about half over and so far it&rsquo;s been nothing but an outstanding success! I&rsquo;m writing this from my comfortable hotel room on the little known island of Kai Kecil, from where we ventured out this morning to the neighboring island of Kai Besar. Our main target was the diminutive Little Kai White-eye, sometimes perhaps more romantically known as Pearl-bellied White-eye. A speedy boat trip took us to the sleepy town of Bombai and we climbed on board the little local bus that took us for a bumpy, but fun, ride up to Bukit Indah &ndash; the Beautiful Hill. The hill is still cloaked in wonderful floristically diverse tropical rainforest and we soon connected with the small island endemic whilst taking our morning tea. We then turned our attention to some other fancy specialties of these islands of Wallace fame, which are such hotbeds of faunal diversity shaped by millennia of natural selection. All the while we were accompanied by an astounding array of different and fancy butterflies. An early encounter with the scarce Kai Cicadabird (or Cuckooshrike) created much excitement and we chased this very handsome member of the caterpillar-eater family as it flitted through the trees &ndash; presumably living up to its name, disappearing and then reappearing on cue. &nbsp;Later we found our first Varied Trillers (a possible future split?), Black-faced Friarbirds, Island Monarchs, Kai Coucal and very cute Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrots. Maybe the biggest hit for the morning, though was a stunning White-tailed Monarch, another fascinating endemic of the amazing islands of Maluku!</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>The fast boat to Kai Besar</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em> An unknown but spectacular orchid emblematic of the natural richness of the Moluccas</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Morning tea in the field with our helpful crew</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Searching for the Kai Coucal</em></p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="384" /><br /><em>Mistletoebird, or Salvadori&rsquo;s Flowerpecker if split</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="384" /><br /><em>White-tailed Monarch</em></p> <p>Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, <a href=""">Ecuador: The Amazon Lowlands</a></p> 2017-10-09 10:28:20 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>There may not be any pronounced dry season on the Equator in the Amazon Basin, but if there was one week-long dry spell this year, we found it. It was hot as usual in the tropics, but that was an even tradeoff for not being forced to take time off due to rain. It was a wonderful week that passed by all too quickly, filled with great birds and some incredible tropical diversity in the way of lizards fighting on trees, killer mushrooms invading insect brains, and a very friendly, almost even loving, Amazon Tree Boa. We saw some marvelous birds at the canopy platform, such as a perched Orange-breasted Falcon and Yellow-billed Nunbirds, while along the various trails elusive species such as Collared Puffbird, Wire-tailed Manakin, and Black-faced Antbird performed well. Super delightful were the several boat rides on the lake (cocha) and stream (yacu), where rare kingfishers such as American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous were ridiculously abundant and easy to see. But we didn&rsquo;t have to go far from our rooms (or the lodge&rsquo;s bar) to enjoy some of the best birding in the area &ndash; with the exception of the Orange-breasted Falcon, all of the following photos were taken right around the lodge&rsquo;s buildings.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="384" /><br /><em>Orange-breasted Falcon</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Scarlet-crowned Barbet</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Hoatzin</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>American Pygmy Kingfisher</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="470" /><br />White-eared Jacamar</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="477" /><br /><em>Masked Crimson Tanager</em></p> <p>Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, <a href="">Costa Rica</a></p> 2017-10-07 11:47:58 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>Costa Rica in July was the perfect summer getaway offering an amazing selection of tropical species in an agreeable climate. We had nearly flawless weather throughout, beginning and ending in refreshingly cool higher elevations.&nbsp; There were so many wonderful experiences with the birds we saw that there was no outstanding favorite. Great Tinamous singing their haunting songs (audible from our rooms), Snowcaps darting amongst the porterweed flowers, a Crested Owl called into view at Celeste Mountain Lodge, and adorable Pied Puffbirds near Maquenque received high votes. This exquisitely cute Central American Pygmy-Owl took the prize with the most votes on the tour, but just barely.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="453" /></p> <p>We had one of the most unexpected birds of the tour within the first hour of birding and just down the street from our San Jos&eacute; area hotel when a juvenile Bicolored Hawk flew in and landed for extended views.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p>In the Cerro de la Muerte Highlands, we soon connected with several Resplendent Quetzals, getting our best views right from our rooms.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="743" /></p> <p>The recently split Northern Emerald-Toucanet was one of the highlights we came across in our quest for the quetzal.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="373" /></p> <p>The hummingbirds at Rancho Naturalista were tops, including both Black-crested and the very rare White-crested Coquette, as well as the incomparable Snowcaps. Our time in Tortuguero National Park began with a wonderful night boat ride on the canals where we our <em>capit&aacute;n </em>showed off his skills at spotting many roosting birds, including a juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron and this sleeping American Pygmy-Kingfisher.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="434" /></p> <p>There was nothing wrong with the one morning downpour we waited out at Tortuguero, especially when the clearing of the skies was coupled with a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle leaving the park&rsquo;s forest for its morning soar. The weather held out for our memorable viewing of a Green Sea Turtle laying eggs in her laboriously excavated nest that same night. One of the most-viewed and liked videos leader Rich Hoyer ever posted to Facebook was of this Bare-throated Tiger-Heron going into its &ldquo;sun salutation&rdquo; pose from the roof of the boat dock at our jungle lodge. The video can be seen here: <a href="" target="_&quot;blank&quot;"></a></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="858" />&nbsp;</p> <p>And thanks to our boatman&rsquo;s amazing vision we were able to see a handsome Black-and-white Owl on its day roost.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="522" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Maquenque Lodge&rsquo;s dining hall was a great place to get your fill of gaudily plumaged birds, such as Purple Gallinules feeding chicks just below the building or like this Crimson-collared Tanager at the bananas.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="534" /></p> <p>The tour was so much more than just birds &ndash; the moths at Rancho Naturalista were out of this world, with a the huge and gorgeous silk moth <em>Copaxa rufinans</em> the highlight.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="327" /></p> <p>We didn&rsquo;t see many snakes, but the most memorable encounter was a tiny Cope's Vine Snake gingerly threading its way through the vegetation at Tenorio National Park.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="500" /></p> <p>And finally, this mother and her baby Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth were spotted by our driver, who was birding with us for the morning. The video of them cuddling was also one of Rich&rsquo;s most watched videos, which can be seen here: <a href="" target="_&quot;blank&quot;"></a></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="432" /></p> <p>Fabrice Schmitt on his just-completed tour, <a href="">Colombia</a></p> 2017-10-01 15:44:34 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>It was another fantastic tour to Colombia! Visiting the three cordilleras, crossing both the Magdalena and Cauca valleys, birding from sea level to 15,000 feet elevation, and even adding a few days in the isolated Santa Marta and Guajira Peninsulas, we had an amazing overview of the Colombian avifauna.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Our group at 15,000 feet in Nevado del Ruiz National Park</em></p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Superb cloud forest in the Western Cordierra</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Sunset in the Santa Marta Cordillera</em></p> <p>&nbsp;It&rsquo;s hard to pick the best birds of the trip amongst hundreds of wonderful species, but here are the top ten as voted by the group: Santa Marta Screech-Owl, Rosy Thrush Tanager, Ocellated Tapaculo, White-whiskered Spinetail, Buffy Helmetcrest, Santa Marta Antpitta, White-headed Wren, Chestnut Piculet, Munchique Wood-Wren, and tied for ninth place, Dwarf Cuckoo and Blue-naped Chlorophonia.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em> Santa Marta Screech-Owl - <span style="font-size: xx-small;">Image: Bruce Sorrie</span></em></p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Rosy Thrush-Tanager</em></p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Munchique Wood-wren</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Dwarf Cuckoo</em></p> <p>We visited more than 10 different hummingbird feeding stations and saw no fewer than 57 species of these fascinating birds!</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Tourmaline Sunangel</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Long-tailed Sylph</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Violet-tailed Sylph</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Velvet-purple Coronet</em></p> <p>We also visited several antpitta feeders, allowing great views of several members of this secretive group.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Chestnut-crowned Antpitta</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Santa Marta Antpitta</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>Bicolored Antpitta</em></p> <p>We were amazed as well by the remarkable range of flowers, orchids, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, etc. Colombia is definitely THE biodiversity country!</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>One of the numerous glass-winged butterflies</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /><br /><em>One among many, many species of orchid</em></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. <p>Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, <a href="">Brazil: Marvelous Mato Grosso</a></p> 2017-08-01 12:16:48 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>This year&rsquo;s Marvelous Mato Grosso tour was amazing. Each of the four areas we visited provided indelible memories of fabulous birds, mammals, and other critters. On our first stop at the Chapada dos Guimar&atilde;es we connected with most of the cerrado specialties such as Coal-crested Finch and Chapada Flycatcher and enjoyed the marvelous scenery and the best food of the tour at our wonderful lodge nestled in the middle of the national park. Among the favorite birds we saw there was the stunning Helmeted Manakin.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="516" /><br /><em>Helmeted Manakin</em></p> <p>Cristalino Jungle Lodge was even more amazing, and we&rsquo;ll probably never repeat this year&rsquo;s unbelievable sightings of Crested and Harpy Eagles in the same week. The former we discovered perched in large trees close to a trail, being mobbed by toucans, aracaris, and woodpeckers, and we had it in the spotting scope right over our heads before it flew, landing on an open branch for an even better view. Three days later, the Harpy was found by two of the boatmen running an errand, and guide Diego sped 20 minutes upriver to fetch us; remarkably the bird stayed on its riverside perch for at least 45 minutes, and we got there just in time &nbsp;(one minute!) to marvel at this monster of a raptor.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="440" /><br /><em>Crested Eagle</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="466" /><br /><em>Harpy Eagle</em></p> <p>Then came our time in the Pantanal, with so many birds and animals, and all so much easier to see than those in the Amazonian forests. The Jaguar experience was unbeatable and the best we&rsquo;ve ever had &ndash; on three outings upriver from our hotel we spotted five different individuals, with excellent views of all, one even successfully catching a small caiman as we watched. With each animal&rsquo;s spots like an individual fingerprint, we were amazed to discover that these were all different individuals than any of those seen on the previous seven tours we&rsquo;ve taken here &ndash; now totaling 24 jaguars. The birding was fabulous too, with White-naped Xenopsaris, Hyacinth Macaw, and Great Rufous Woodcreeper among the favorites, but we were especially lucky to have one stunning Scarlet-headed Blackbird perch next to the Transpantaneira on our way back north.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="434" /><br /><em>Jaguar</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="721" /><br /><em>Scarlet-headed Blackbird</em></p> <p>We finished the tour with an extension to Foz do Igua&ccedil;u, then transferring to the Argentinean side for birding and visiting Iguaz&uacute; Falls. The falls were as spectacular and beautiful as imagined, as we birded our way to three different viewpoints. A Blond-crested Woodpecker, Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher, Rufous-capped Motmot, and Black-fronted Piping-Guan were some of the highlights in the area, but we saw many other attractive, more common birds such as the stunning and unusual Magpie Tanager in the national park where they have become acclimated to people on the trails below.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /><br /><em>Iguaz&uacute; Falls</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="464" /><br /><em>Magpie Tanager</em></p> <p>In the end we saw or heard a mind-boggling 560 species, and I&rsquo;m already looking forward to next year.</p> 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;