I can’t resist including this, one of my favorite pictures of the year.
In the Honduran highlands a cow tried to pilfer scope views!
The Highlights of 2011
A New Year is a good time to look back on the highlights of the past 12 months — and what highlights they were!
AS USUAL, WE OFFERED THE WIDEST VARIETY OF TOURS OF ANY GROUP TO ALASKA. We traveled to Adak, St. Paul Island, Gambell on St. Lawrence Island, Nome, Denali Park and highway, Kenai Peninsula, Barrow and Dutch Harbor. It was a good year, though not as productive in Asian vagrants as some years. One of the highlights for me, however, was our close encounter in Denali National Park with a pair of copulating Grizzly Bears. This is something I’ve never observed nor had our driver with 25 years of experience in the park. It was truly an XXX-rated moment! Please see our Alaska schedule for 2012 below. We have spaces available. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to experience one of these great Alaska moments!
A WINTER TRIP TO SOUTH TEXAS offered the usual great sightings of species seen only in there within the US. Among our best birds were close-up views of Whooping Cranes, a vagrant Crimson-collared Grosbeak, as well as the more expected Red-billed Pigeon and White-collared Seedeater. Our biggest surprise, however, was the Black-vented Oriole that showed up at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park. We all got excellent looks after returning for a second visit. Winter is an especially good time to visit South Texas. It’s not very crowded, and the birding is great! We’ll be going again this year from February 24 – March 3rd and have a few places left. Check it out here.
ANOTHER MAJOR HIGHLIGHT of 2011 WAS THE INAUGURAL TRIP TO HONDURAS in March. Although I had been to Pico Bonito, I had not birded much of the Honduras highlands. Alex Alvarado from Copan was our local guide, and a fine one at that. He found a number of exceptional birds for us, none more exceptional than the elusive Blue-throated Motmot. This bird’s range is restricted to a narrow strip in the highlands of Chiapas, Guatemala and Honduras. In addition, we found a number of birds most people in the group had not seen before, including Prevost Ground-Sparrow (right), Keel-billed Motmot, Rufous-collared Robin, Resplendent Quetzal, Black-capped Swallow, Slate-colored Solitaire, and Blue-and-white Mockingbird. It was a great trip! We don’t have availability for 2012, but we will be taking reservations later in the year for February or March 2013. Meantime, read this year’s full tour report here.
OUR TRIP TO ECUADOR was, as usual, a great success. Our long-time local guide, Juan Carlos Calvachi, outdid himself: I finally got to see, rather than only hear, an Ocellated Tapaculo! We had great birds throughout the trip and tallied over 600 species. One of my favorite birds was the Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, a bird that even Juan Carlos has only seen once before! This was just after getting great looks at the rare Tanager Finch and the handsome Green-and-Black Fruiteater. We also tallied a record eleven Antpittas on this trip. We’ll be offering our Northern Ecuador trip again from September 10 – 24, 2012. We’ll also be offering a Southern Ecuador trip next year (January 10 – 25, 2013), where we’re certain to see the recently discovered Jocotoco Antpitta.
THERE ARE ALWAYS LOTS OF HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR BELIZE TRIPS. We stay at the three best ecolodges in Belize (and perhaps all of Central America): Lamanai Outpost, Chan Chich Jungle Lodge, and Hidden Valley Lodge. We had a very good 2011 for raptors, totaling 20 different species including Black Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Double-toothed Kite, Black-collared Hawk, and Orange-breasted Falcon. Belize continues to be the best single destination in Latin American for finding raptors, at least from my experience. My favorite picture of the trip, however, was one taken by Rick Woodruff of this Jabiru flying past us from its nest on the New River Lagoon at Lamanai. We will be offering this trip again at Thanksgiving next year, November 16 – 28, 2012.
That’s it for now. Our next newsletter will contain all the best tours for 2012, including our tour to Southern Africa.
In the meantime, here are a few LATE AVAILABILITIES:
Happy New Year . . . and Happy Birding
High Lonesome BirdTours