WingsBirds Updates Updates from WingsBirds Sat, 16 Oct 2021 02:56:23 -0700 en daily 1 <p>Rich reports from the Madre de Dios region of Peru. </p> 2021-10-11 22:53:55 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>The rainforest lodges of Madre de Dios were an abrupt but delightful change of pace from the first Peru tour, where we had been mostly in mountains of the neighboring department of Cusco. For one, it was warm and humid, though on two days we were under the influence of a late cold front, when the overcast skies and cooler temperatures were quite welcome. &nbsp;</p> <p><img style="font-size: 10px;" src="" alt="" width="640" height="450" /></p> <p>We walked every day, piling on the miles, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of this tour is being able to bird right outside our rooms. It was right there when we heard a ruckus from inside a dead, hollowed-out palm trunk, and we looked up to see this Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl indignantly poking its head out of the top.</p> <p><img style="font-size: 10px;" src="" alt="" width="640" height="438" /><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Another treat was walking the same trails on multiple days &ndash; and discovering how different they can be from one day to the next. On our first pass by a large tree dropping red fruits to the ground, a group of Pale-winged Trumpeters approached and put on quite a show. The next time we passed there, a stunning Plum-throated Cotinga sat just under the canopy for extended views. And on a third visit we flushed a Ruddy Quail-Dove off its nest with two eggs, right next to a stunning cannonball tree (<em>Couroupita guianensis</em>) that was dropping its flowers all around the tree.<img style="font-size: 10px;" src="" alt="" width="640" height="456" /><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And yet on another pass on the same trail, this female Cream-colored Woodpecker perched at eye-level very close to the trail and sat there for an extended time, seemingly unafraid of our presence.</p> <p><img style="font-size: 10px;" src="" alt="" width="640" height="421" /><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>We birded one of the closer trails to the lodge several times in search of its bamboo specialties, and we were surprised on one morning by a pair of very quiet Rufous-capped Nunlets low in the vegetation right off the trail.<img style="font-size: 10px;" src="" alt="" width="640" height="499" /><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Then again there were some reliable birds, such as the lek of Band-tailed Manakins which showed well when we stood still near their favorite display area, and on our second stop they were even more cooperative. Or the pair of Great Jacamars that we found along the same stretch of one trail on several days. We suspected they might have had a nest nearby.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="399" /></p> <p>Two surprises at Los Amigos were a rare Brown-banded Puffbird that flew in quietly while we were scanning the canopy for a singing Western Striolated-Puffbird (which we ended up seeing on another day). Another was the scarce and very unpredictable Amazonian Parrotlet, which if found is usually just a quick-flying flock through the canopy. This year we saw pairs and multiple small flocks on five days, perched in trees and feeding right over the trails, offering great views of this bird that Don Stap wrote about in his popular book <em>A Parrot Without a Name</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The last days of birding at Tambo Blanquillo were a nice change of pace, starting with a long boat ride on the Madre de Dios river. We spent most of a morning at the famous clay lick. It was a thrill to see a flock of about a hundred Red-and-green Macaws take off in a deafening flight. They never did come down to feed on the dirt, but many other species did, including this collection of Blue-headed, Orange-cheeked, and Mealy parrots.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="380" />&nbsp;</p> <p>We had a delightful paddle around one of the oxbow lakes, where Pale-eyed Blackbird, dozens of Hoatzins, Greater Anis, Sungrebe, and many other species presented themselves. A favorite bird of the tour and a very lucky find was this lone Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, perched typically in the deep shade of the overhanging vegetation.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="431" />&nbsp;</p> <p>We also saw a fantastic variety of butterflies and other insects, frogs, and mammals, including nine species of monkey, many in abundance. Along one trail we looked up into a tree cavity only to see this sac-winged bat scramble out and perch in plain sight on the trunk.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="406" />&nbsp;</p> <p>The station science coordinator at Los Amigos was very generous with his time, and he showed us this White-lined Leaf Frog that had been roosting on the same leaf for a few days right by the office; here it is in the evening setting off to forage.</p> <p>The tour ended with an impressive total of about 375 species of birds. And though no one took part in both tours, the total 20-day total came to about 650 species.</p> <p>Raymond reports from our Alaska - Fall Migration in Gambell tour:</p> 2021-10-07 13:05:11 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>Fall migration on the Bering Sea islands is unpredictable and exciting, as this tour proved yet again! Few things had changed at Gambell since our last fall visit, in 2019. Many ATVs had fallen into disrepair during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which made for some bumpy birding, but the locals greeted us with beautiful smiles on their faces, breathtaking ivory carvings, and were as welcoming as ever. A notable difference from our last trip was the presence of sunshine, very little rain, and many vagrant birds from Asia! We encountered all expected trans-Beringean migrants, including large flocks of <strong>White Wagtails</strong> and <strong>Northern Wheatears</strong>, two <strong>Eastern Yellow Wagtails</strong>, many <strong>Bluethroats</strong> (all without blue throats), and multiple small groups of <strong>Red-throated Pipits</strong>. <strong>Arctic Warblers</strong> were surprisingly scarce with only two very brief, very poor views.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p>The group boarding the plane to Gambell (Howell)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="596" height="439" /></p> <p>Group photo</p> <p>Our list of rare Asian vagrants was impressive, with <strong>Siberian Chiffchaff</strong>, and <strong>Middendorff&rsquo;s Grasshopper-Warbler</strong>, representing the most unexpected, both with fewer than 16 records for North America. The juvenile Middendorff&rsquo;s Grasshopper-Warbler (right) was not merely seen, it was seen incredibly well, with extended scope views on open gravel &ndash; very uncharacteristic of the species. Perhaps it had just completed an open-ocean crossing moments before being found and was simply exhausted (most likey), or maybe Raymond scared it into sitting-still when he leapt from his ATV to document the fleeting bird upon initial discovery. Whatever the reason for the uncharacteristic behavior it was most welcome. It&rsquo;s not often that you hear, &ldquo;Middendorff&rsquo;s is in the scope&rdquo;, or even more impressive, &ldquo;Middendorff&rsquo;s is <em>still</em> in the scope!&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <img src="" alt="" width="459" height="571" /></p> <p>Middendorff&rsquo;s Grasshopper-Warbler</p> <p>The list of vagrants doesn't stop there, in addition to the two megas, we encountered multiple <strong>Dusky Warblers</strong>, and three <strong>Siberian Accentors&nbsp;</strong> during our routine boneyard stomps.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="566" height="463" />&nbsp;</p> <p>One of at least two Dusky Warblers seen on September 4th in the Far Boneyard</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="672" height="389" /></p> <p>Siberian Accentor</p> <p><strong>Gray-tailed Tattler</strong> made us work hard this year, encountering <strong>Wandering Tattler</strong> on three occasions, before finally finding one along the west side of Troutman Lake on the day before departure. In general, shorebirds were few and far between on this tour but what views we did have were very nice. A favorite moment <strong>for many was enjoying a spectacularly plumaged Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (</strong><strong>right</strong><strong>) mousing its way through the</strong> grass, mere feet from the group, for upwards of 10 minutes.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="583" height="449" /></p> <p>Sharp-tailed Sandpiper</p> <p>Seawatch seemed slow overall compared to previous years, perhaps due to the slightly later tour dates, or maybe because we had fewer days of north winds. Despite lower species diversity than expected we still witnessed impressive migratory activity with <strong>Short-tailed Shearwaters</strong> gunning past the point in the thousands, beginning their journeys back to nesting grounds around Tasmania. <strong>Yellow-billed Loons</strong> were only seen twice, and not for long. <strong>Steller&rsquo;s</strong> and <strong>King Eiders</strong> flew by but were always distant. We made up for these views with close encounters of <strong>King</strong>, <strong>Common</strong>, and <strong>Spectacled eiders</strong> around Safety Lagoon in Nome. Alcids of all shapes and sizes were seen most days at seawatch, with large groups of <strong>Horned</strong> and <strong>Tufted puffins</strong> barreling past most mornings. <strong>Least</strong>, <strong>Crested</strong>, and <strong>Parakeet</strong> <strong>auklets</strong> were seen mostly near their nesting cliffs, some of which were still attending burrows, but most of which were forming small, mixed species rafts offshore.</p> <p>A small, and lucky, group of birders witnessed a male <strong>Snowy Owl</strong> fly right over the lodge late one evening while preparing for an evening of seawatch and sewage. Despite our attempts to track it down the runway, with ATVs at full speed, we were unable to refind it. Snowies are a rare sighting this time of year at Gambell, with encounters during only 4 of the last 14 fall trips.</p> <p>Our group&rsquo;s good fortune extended well beyond avian sightings as one morning, after a good hard boneyard stomp, we noticed a group of <strong>Rough-legged Hawks</strong> diving aggressively on something high on the ridgeline of Sivuqaq Mountain. They were persistent, and so were we, hoping to catch a glimpse of their aggravator. Before long an <strong>Arctic Fox</strong> appeared, running in short bursts along the ridge and then ducking to avoid the talons from above.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="582" height="449" /></p> <p>Arctic Fox</p> <p>To top it all off, on the clearest night of our tour, all participants (and WINGS cooks, Debbie and Larry) were able to watch the aurora borealis dance about above the village of Gambell, while Steve and Raymond slept soundly in the annex, earplugs buried deep in their skulls, completely unaware of the atmospheric lightshow going on outside. It&rsquo;s fine, we&rsquo;re not jealous at all.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="642" height="408" /></p> <p>Aurora Borealis above Gambell</p> <p>Ironically the clear skies that allowed for aurora viewing signaled departure for many of the migratory songbirds that we&rsquo;d enjoyed during our stay and the next morning was very slow &ndash; everything comes with a price, but this was a welcome trade.</p> <p>Congratulations go out to Gary Rankin for reaching an impressive milestone of 800 species for his ABA list while on this tour, and to Len and Cheryl as the winners of the 2nd annual &ldquo;What Do You Call Your Clunker: ATV Naming Contest&rdquo; who clunked into 1st place with their winning name of Middendorf&rsquo;s Red-backed Aviraptor (<em>Aviraptorix metallica gambelii, </em>obviously).</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="683" height="383" /></p> <p>Birders from the perspective of the Middendorff&rsquo;s Grasshopper-Warbler</p> <p>It was an absolute blast of a trip and I&rsquo;m already looking forward to what next year holds. Hope to see you there!</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="503" height="521" /></p> <p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Quu-qu&rdquo; the juvenile Emperor Goose (pronounced &ldquo;Coco&rdquo; with a throaty quality) out for a stroll with its St Lawrence Yupik family. This bird was taken from a nest over the summer and is being raised as a pet. We hope to see it next year as an adult!</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Winter is coming, as evidenced by this Arctic Ground Squirrel prepping its food stores. (Howell)<img src="" alt="" width="574" height="456" /></p> <p>Frontal view of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in the Ooynik Lagoons south of Troutman Lake.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="497" height="526" /></p> <p>Juvenile dark morph Pomarine Jaeger along the Ooynik Lagoon shoreline.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Siberian Chiffchaff in the far boneyard, can&rsquo;t you tell? (Howell)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p>Lining up for a bit of &ldquo;fun&rdquo; at the Circular Boneyard, everyone&rsquo;s favorite mid-morning activity&hellip; not! (Howell)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="443" height="591" /></p> <p>Your intrepid leaders, Steve Howell and Raymond VanBuskirk (Kay Hawklee)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" /></p> <p>Driving past the dump (Howell)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Not so white White Wagtail (Howell)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Not so yellow Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Howell)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="443" height="591" /></p> <p>Debbie and Larry Brooks, our fabulous chef and her bubble master. (Kay Hawklee)</p> Lesser Antilles 2021-10-01 14:08:05 Will Russell Recently updated tours These 10 stunningly beautiful Caribbean islands form the eastern border between the placid Caribbean Sea and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Each tropical island gem is separated by turquoise seas and boasts rich wetlands, vast open grasslands, dynamic coastlines and lush tropical rainforests. These diverse habitats are home to a lengthy list of highly threatened single-island endemics and near endemics along with a host of indigenous regional specialties. <p>Rich Hoyer reports from our first tour to Peru since the start of the pandemic</p> 2021-10-01 10:00:02 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>Rich Hoyer reports from our first tour to Peru since the start of the pandemic, and everything went exceedingly well. Some of the lodges and hotels were running with a much-reduced staff, still rebuilding since opening back up to international tourists in July, but you wouldn&rsquo;t have known it. Clean rooms, excellent meals, and well-maintained trails greeted us at every stop.</p> <p>We hit the ground running with a full day in the high wetlands near Cusco and superb birding in the Sacred Valley, where a hummingbird feeding station with Giant Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam, Black-tailed Trainbearer, and Tyrian and Scaled Metaltails was a highlight. We ended the day with this Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, which came in cooperatively for a tour first. The ruins of Machu Picchu were as fabulous as they promise to be, and while there we had a very close encounter with a pair of the lovely Inca Wren as we climbed through the bamboo to the upper platforms and their magnificent views. We then birded the forests along the Urubamba River and had wonderful views of this gorgeous Masked Fruiteater.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="456" /></p> <p>Peruvian Pygmy-Owl</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="383" /></p> <p>Inca Wren</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="445" /></p> <p>Masked Fruiteater</p> <p>After birding the dry, rain-shadow side of the mountains north of Cusco, where we saw Mourning Sierra-Finch, White-winged Cinclodes, and Streak-backed Canastero, we dropped down through the moist cloud forests to Wayqecha Biological Station with its enchanting view of hillsides in all directions covered by pristine montane forests. We saw most of the specialties here, including a pair of Urubamba Antpittas at close range in the dark mossy understory. This Yungas Pygmy-Owl and this ridiculously fearless Puna Thistletail just down the road were among many other wonderful birds we saw here.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Yungas Pygmy-Owl</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="376" /></p> <p>Puna Thistletail</p> <p>One of the most exciting sightings of the tour was a mammal in the higher cloud forests at 2000 m elevation. We were in touch with a couple of regular WINGS clients who happened to be on a totally separate tour just a week ahead of us, and they spotted what turns out to be Brown&rsquo;s Tor&oacute; clambering into its mossy nest, a caviomorph rodent (that is, related to the guinea pig, capybara, agouti, spiny-rats, and not closely related to rats). What was most amazing is that this species was discovered only in 1999 (described in 2006), and the only evidence of its existence until this week was the lone type specimen in the Lima museum. We hope that some more details of its natural history can be learned from this amazing find.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="441" /></p> <p>Brown&rsquo;s Tor&oacute;&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the highlights at our mid-elevation stop were the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, Peruvian Piedtail at garden flowers, a pair of Squirrel Cuckoos on the roadside (one carrying a praying mantis back to their nest), a kettle of 87 Swallow-tailed Kites taking off from their night roost and heading south to winter in Bolivia and Brazil, and this male Versicolored Barbet accompanied by a female Silver-beaked Tanager at the lodge&rsquo;s feeders.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="650" height="439" /></p> <p>Versicolored Barbet and a female Silver-beaked Tanager&nbsp;</p> <p>Our last birding lodge was Villa Carmen, where an explosion of tropical diversity greeted us, and the soundscape of so many birds singing was almost overwhelming. We saw over 100 species before lunch each day, with a glowing male Band-tailed Manakin getting the most votes for most memorable bird of the tour. Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Rufous-capped Nunlet, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl (nesting down in the top of a small, dead palm stem behind cabin 3), multiple Bluish-fronted Jacamars, Blue-throated Piping-Guan (with it&rsquo;s amazing rattling wing display), Gray-cowled Wood-Rail in the trail almost at arm&rsquo;s length, and this ear-piercing Red-throated Caracara putting on a show were just a few of the favorite sightings.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="466" /></p> <p>Red-throated Caracara&nbsp;</p> <p>Two new hummingbird feeding stations just up the road from Villa Carmen really filled out our birding list, one of them hosting 18 species at the feeder, including this amazing male Rufous-crested Coquette. A bonus there was Buff-tailed Sicklebill that came to its favorite heliconia that was growing off to the side of the garden.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="418" /></p> <p>Rufous-crested Coquette</p> <p>Finally, among the exciting non-bird highlights were the amazing butterflies we saw everywhere. This minute metalmark <em>Syrmatia lamia</em> on our first morning at Villa Carmen was special, as this rarely seen species represents the first sighting in the entire Manu region, the most diverse area in the world for butterflies and also one of the most thoroughly sampled regions anywhere.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="650" height="408" /></p> <p><em>Syrmatia lamia</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>I&rsquo;m now heading onward for our Jungle Lodges of the Madre de Dios tour, where more fabulous birding and natural history experiences await us.</p> Florida: Winter Birds 2021-08-09 13:01:46 Will Russell Recently updated tours While the rest of the country can already be shrouded in the wet, cold, and generally disagreeable tones of winter, in South Florida the days are usually full of sunshine with temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees. Our getaway will explore some of Florida&rsquo;s best birding destinations in the central and southern reaches of the state, including Cape Canaveral National Seashore, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, the Everglades National Park, and the sprawling suburbs of tropical Miami. Along the way we&rsquo;ll look for a staggering array of wintering waterfowl and shorebirds, local specialties including hard to locate sparrows such as Henslow&rsquo;s, LeConte&rsquo;s, Grasshopper and Sharp-tailed (both species are possible), the endemic Florida Scrub-Jay, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Short-tailed Hawk, and the somewhat bewildering number of introduced exotics that have settled into the suburban jungles of Miami. Add in the weather, the overall bird and wildlife diversity and the ever-present chance of a Caribbean stray and it&rsquo;s easy to see why Florida in mid-winter is such an appealing destination. Zambia 2020-11-19 12:33:30 Will Russell Recently updated tours Zambia is a wonderfully scenic country in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa with numerous parks and safari areas.&nbsp; It is also unusually diverse biologically, and&mdash;although under birded&mdash;has one of the largest bird lists in Africa, surpassing 750 species.&nbsp; We&rsquo;ll visit a range of habitats, each with its own set of species, beginning in the extreme northwest corner on the border of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This remote area, rarely visited by tourists, offers a chance to see many Congo Basin species normally inaccessible to birders. From here we&rsquo;ll travel south towards Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, with its extensive Miombo woodlands interspersed with grassy depressions called &ldquo;Dambos.&rdquo;&nbsp; Here we may see the highly localized Black-cheeked Lovebird and very likely some of Africa&rsquo;s iconic mammals. Continuing south we&rsquo;ll stop near Choma for the endemic Chaplin&rsquo;s Barbet, before spending the last couple nights in the Lower Zambezi Valley where we&rsquo;ll target the iconic African Pitta, one of Africa&rsquo;s most sought-after birds. Global Birding Event 2020-11-18 16:36:51 Matt Brooks Miscellany <p>The Global Birding Event held on 17 October proved to be an amazing success. 32,790 people took part around the world and between them recorded an incredible 7111 species through The combined number of species seen by the WINGS/Sunbird team was 595 and the event as a whole raised in excess of $30,000 for Birdlife International. But perhaps its greatest achievment was pulling together all those birders around the world and it was wonderful to be part of something so big - we are already looking forward to next year&rsquo;s event. You can read all about the big day and see all the statistics at&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p><br />If you would like to contribute to Birdlife&rsquo;s continued work trying to end the senseless trade in wild birds, donations can be made direct to Birdlife International by clicking&nbsp;<a href=";_gac=1.263092478.1605609806.Cj0KCQiAhs79BRD0ARIsAC6XpaWdmnCHNWNrgH8DrANdTglJf2eWDxGmaF1GerJ8B_aerYSre8OBpsYaAntrEALw_wcB"><strong>here</strong></a>.</p> The Solomon Islands 2020-09-23 16:36:25 Will Russell Recently updated tours The Solomon Islands are one of the few remaining places where one can well and truly get away from it all. Many of these islands support only tiny coastal villages where the main mode of transport is dugout canoe and where fishing on reefs by hand is commonplace. They are very much off the tourist map and, until recently, have been difficult and expensive for birders to reach, and the Solomons are worth reaching. The tour of these islands and the optional extension to the islands of the Western Province offer the opportunity to see more than 70 endemics and more than 20 near endemics (also found on other Melanesian islands), in addition to a large number of regional specialties. Scotland 2020-02-06 10:39:20 Will Russell Recently updated tours The Scottish Highlands are one of the last truly wild places to be found in the United Kingdom. Ideally placed to explore the region, the imposing Grant Arms Hotel is home to The Birdwatching and Wildlife Club which provides its own Club room with a wildlife information centre, a bookshop and a natural history library. It also has a large lecture theatre which hosts evening talks from a range of guest speakers.