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E-mail: font@focusonnature.com
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HIGHLIGHTS FROM FOCUS ON NATURE TOURS in 2006

 

With tour narratives, photos, comments by participants, and links to lists of birds & other nature during the tours.
 

INCLUDED BELOW ARE BIRDING & NATURE TOURS THAT WERE CONDUCTED IN:   
ARIZONA, BRAZIL
(2 tours: 1 in Sep, 1 in Oct), the CAYMAN ISLANDS, COSTA RICA, the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GUATEMALA (3 tours: in January, in March, & in Dec/Jan), ICELAND (2 tours: in June & in Sep/Oct), JAMAICA, JAPAN, PANAMA, and SWEDEN.  



Orange-backed Troupial 
(Photograph taken during the FONT tour in Brazil, 
in September 2006, by Andy Smith)

 


The tour summaries here are given with the most-recent tours first. 
For some tours there are links below for longer NARRATIVES. Also there are links to UPCOMING TOUR ITINERARIES, and LISTS relating to BIRDS, MAMMALS, & OTHER NATURE. 


Links to tours:


GUATEMALA  (December 2006/January 2007)

BRAZIL  (Minas Gerais & Rio Grande do Sul)  (October 2006)

ICELAND  (September/October 2006)

SWEDEN  (September 2006)

BRAZIL (Iguacu Falls, Minas Gerais, & Rio Grande do Sul) 
& adjacent PARAGUAY & BOLIVIA  (September 2006)

ARIZONA  (August 2006)

ICELAND  (June 2006)

JAPAN  (May 2006)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (& adjacent HAITI)  (April 2006)

GUATEMALA  (March 2006)

CAYMAN ISLANDS & JAMAICA  (February/March 2006)

COSTA RICA (southern) & PANAMA (western)  (February 2006)

PANAMA (central & eastern)  (February 2006)

GUATEMALA  (December 2005/January 2006)
    


Guatemala - December 2006 / January 2007

Again, our annual holiday tour was in Guatemala, a great destination not just for the festivities of the season, but also for a nice assortment of birds and other nature. And certainly not to be ignored is that the weather during the time of the tour was, as usual, about perfect. Thus, there were the components for an enjoyable tour, in each of the varied habitats that we visited, including the marshes near the Pacific, the high mountain forests nestled between volcanic peaks, and during our treks along rivers and forest trails by temples remaining from a civilization that flourished over a thousand years ago. Collectively, we found over 250 species of birds in these settings, where we also saw animals, butterflies, and wonderful scenery, during this, the 13th FONT tour in Guatemala. 
Click the links below to a fine collection of photos taken during the tour, and lists of birds and other wildlife during both this tour and in Guatemala cumulatively during all of our tours there. About 550 birds are in the cumulative list.   

Links:

More about the FONT Guatemala Tour in Dec '06 / Jan '07

Photos of Nature & Scenery from our Guatemala Tour Dec '06/Jan '07

An article in a Washington DC newspaper about our Dec 06/Jan 07 Holiday Tour in Guatemala 
(with text & photos by our tour participants)


Birds & Other Wildlife during our Guatemala Tour - Dec '06/Jan '07

Cumulative List of Birds during our Guatemala Tours (with photos)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Guatemala

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Brazil - October 2006 (in Minas Gerais & Rio Grande do Sul)

This was the 40th FONT birding & nature tour in Brazil, during which we visited the state of Minas Gerais, where the Swallow-tailed Cotinga was among the birds and Giant Anteater & Maned Wolf were among the animals seen.
 
The second part of the tour was in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, one of our favorite birding locales, as it is one of the birdiest places that we visit. Some species we've seen there in the thousands, including ibises, whistling-ducks and other waterfowl, and gulls and more. 
Species in southern Rio Grande do Sul, include, on the whole, those common in nearby Uruguay & Argentina, including 2 types of swans, various ducks (with the Ringed Teal being common), 3 types of coots, and the Giant Wood-Rail
In that area during one day, we saw 7 species of Terns: Snowy-crowned, South American, Common, Antarctic, Large-billed, Yellow-billed, Royal, & Cayenne
Tyrants
in the region included: Spectacled, White-headed Marsh, Yellow-browed, Cattle, Blue-billed Black, and Crested Black. 
Blackbirds
included: Chestnut-capped, Yellow-winged, White-browed, Scarlet-headed (a beauty!), and Saffron-cowled (a rarity!), in addition to 3 species of Cowbirds and 2 species of Marshbirds
The Saffron-cowled Blackbird was one of the 3 notable rarities during the tour. The others were the Black-and-White Monjita and the Canebrake Groundcreeper
In all, over 300 species of birds were seen, including some, as noted, in spectacular numbers. 



The Limpkin,
one of the common birds
in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil 

Links:

More about the FONT Brazil Tour in October 2006

Birds & Other Wildlife during the FONT Brazil Tour -  October '06

Birds in Rio Grande do Sul, in far-southern Brazil (with photos)

Birds in Minas Gerais (with photos)

Mammals & Other Wildlife during FONT Tours in Brazil (with photos) 

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Brazil


 

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Iceland - September/October 2006


This was the 14th FONT birding & nature tour in Iceland. In October, migrating birds from both mainland Europe and North America can occur in Iceland. Among them, during this tour, we saw from America: Sabine's Gull, Snow Goose, and Long-billed Dowitcher, in addition to the birds of Europe, and those that are specialties in Iceland, including: White-tailed Eagles (we saw 5), Iceland Gull, Great Skua, and Harlequin Ducks
Among the best of the waterfowl was a large flock of dozens of Barrow's Goldeneyes (both males & females) riding the rapids of a stream. Our waterfowl included 5 species of geese
Non-avian fauna included a tremendous male Caribou, with a huge rack of antlers. 
After dark, we saw a wonderful display of Northern Lights, and one afternoon there was a brilliant rainbow over the beautiful volcanic countryside. The rainbow, as bright as one can be, was complete, and partially double. It was one of the fine sights that we had during the tour.  

 



Above: A Reindeer at Dusk  
(Photograph taken during the FONT tour in Iceland, 
in October 2006, by Claude Bloch)
Below: The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights
in the Icelandic Sky at Night.  

 

Links:


More about the FONT Iceland Tour in September/October 2006

List of Birds during our Iceland Tour - September/October '06

Cumulative List of Birds during our Iceland Tours (with photos)

Complete List of the Birds of Iceland

Cumulative List of Birds during our European Tours (with photos)

Previous Iceland Tour Highlights

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Iceland

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Sweden - September 2006

During this tour we experienced the fall migration of birds - European birds, at two Swedish locations that are outstanding for the phenomenon autumnal avian migration: Falsterbo, at the southernmost tip of Sweden, and the long island of Íland in the Baltic.  
Both of these are pleasant places to be, and some of our highlights included: 
Steller's Eider
(from far-northern Europe), Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler (both from Russia), and a Pectoral Sandpiper (from North America). 
In flocks, there were Eurasian Cranes and Barnacle Geese
There were over a dozen raptor species. Particularly nice among them was the Eurasian Hobby. A group of them were circling about in the blue sky above us, catching insects. 
In all, 110 species of birds were tallied during the tour.  

Links:

More about the FONT Sweden Tour in September 2006

List of Birds during our Sweden Tour - September '06

Cumulative List of Birds during our Sweden Tours (with photos)

Cumulative List of Birds during our European Tours (with photos)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Sweden

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Brazil (& adjacent Paraguay & Bolivia) - September 2006
 

This tour, our 39th in Brazil, was dubbed the "J & J Tour", for the Jabiru & the Jaguar. And appropriately so, as we saw both. The Jabiru is easy; the Jaguar is more of a challenge. During open-vehicle excursions in the southern Pantanal, on two consecutive nights, the Jaguar was one of a number of animals that we saw. Others were: 7 Ocelots, a Pampas Cat, a Maned Wolf, 2 Brazilian Tapirs, 3 Giant Anteaters, both Crab-eating Foxes & Crab-eating Raccoons, a dozen or so Marsh Deer, the Tapiti (or Brazilian Rabbit), and many Capybaras
Also during those nocturnal jaunts, both Striped & Barn Owls were nicely seen, as were Nightjars of various species including the Scissor-tailed. Also heard those nights were Rufous Nightjar and the Gray (formerly Common) Potoo.
Other animals during the tour in the Pantanal, in the daytime, included Giant Otters, and Brocket Deer

Many birds were seen in addition to the Jabiru. Notable among them was the Hyacinth Macaw. But the most notable of the birds of the tour was during our time in the region of Minas Gerais - the extremely rare Brazilian Merganser. We enjoyed a pair of these birds in our scope as they rested on and by streamside rocks.

During this tour, in the Brazilian areas of Iguazu Falls, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Minas Gerais, with visits to parts of Paraguay and Bolivia, about 400 species of birds were found.



One of the 7 Ocelots seen during the FONT Sept '06 Brazil Tour.

Links:

More about the FONT Brazil Tour in September 2006

Photos of Birds & Animals from our Sep '06 Brazil Tour

Birds & Other Wildlife during our Brazil Tour - September '06

Cumulative List of Birds during our Brazil Tours - Part 1 (Greater Rhea thru Eastern Streamcreeper)

Cumulative List of Birds during our Brazil Tours - Part 2 (Fasciated Antshrike thru Hooded Siskin)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Brazil

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Arizona - August 2006

This tour, once again, was particularly good for hummingbirds with as many as 14 species seen, including Lucifer, Violet-crowned, White-eared, and Berylline Hummingbirds (these 4 species primarily Mexican). 
Another bird, primarily Mexican, seen during the tour was the Rufous-capped Warbler
Some Aztec Thrushes (a species endemic to Mexico other than occurring in Arizona as a stray) had been reported in areas that we visited, but we unfortunately did not encounter any. We were, however, treated to a bird named after a particular Aztec, the Montezuma Quail (both male and female) walking in front of us across a dirt road. 
In all, we saw nearly 200 species of birds during the tour, along with an assortment of mammals (including coatis & coyotes), and reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife (among them, a tortoise, toads & tarantulas, and a few rattlesnakes). 
 

Links:

Birds & Other Wildlife during our Arizona tour - August '06

Cumulative List of Birds during FONT Arizona Tours (with photos)

Mammals during FONT Arizona Tour s (with photos)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Arizona

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Iceland - June 2006

During this, our 13th birding & nature tour in Iceland, there were a number a highlights, including: male and female Gyrfalcons seen cliff-side, a Yellow-billed Loon (unprecedented for Iceland) close to a ferry-boat, a White-tailed Eagle flying around us as we were on another boat, a male and a female King Eider on a beach along the Icelandic north-coast (as very unusual occurrence in Iceland), Red Phalaropes (3 breeding-plumaged females) near their nesting site, Snow Buntings feeding their young. These were in addition to lots of wonderful looks at the "regulars" including: Puffins on grassy cliff-tops and on the water (during the tour, there were many Puffins), other alcids including 2 species of Murres, Razorbills, and Black Guillemots, plus colorful Harlequin Ducks in rushing streams, pairs of Red-throated Loons in breeding attire, more Snipe winnowing in the sky than could be imagined, both light and dark Parasitic Jaegers, and as many as 100 Great Skuas during less than a half-hour as we traveled one evening along a highway. Iceland has its share also of "strays". The best of those that we saw was a drake Garganey. Birds are just one aspect of nature to be experienced in Iceland. There's also fascinating geology, wildflowers, and the largest glacier in Europe. Mammals during our tour included: a dark Arctic Fox, Minke Whales (from shore), and Harbor Seals. This was, as noted, our 13th Iceland Tour, but if there were "luck" with it, it was good. 

Links:

More about the FONT Iceland Tour in June 2006

Photos of Icelandic Birds & Scenery from our June 2006 Iceland Tour

List of Birds during our Iceland Tour - June '06

Cumulative List of Birds during our Iceland Tours

Complete List of the Birds of Iceland

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Iceland

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Japan in the Spring - May 2006  
             

This was the 26th FONT birding & nature tour in Japan, the 10th in the Spring, and our 5th to Hegura Island, a small island in the Sea of Japan where there can be a big bird migration. Again as we have previously, in 2006, we had some truly tremendous birding on Hegura. One day, we saw 8 species of egrets, including the rare Chinese (or Swinhoe's) Egret, the Asian race of the Purple Heron, and a fine Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage. At that one corner of Hegura that day, it was like a small piece of China, as all 3 of those species are of more normal occurrence there. Other birds too, more common on the Asian mainland, migrate on Hegura. In that category, we also saw the Rufous-tailed (or Swinhoe's) Robin, the Tristram's Bunting, and the Tricolored and Mugimaki Flycatchers. In all, we enjoyed 90 species of birds on Hegura Island in May '06.  

Links:

More about the FONT Japan Tour in May 2006

List of Birds & Other Wildlife during our Japan Spring Tour - May '06 

Cumulative List of Birds during our Japan Spring Birding Tours

Birds of Hegura Island

Upcoming FONT Birding & Tours in Japan

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Dominican Republic (& adjacent Haiti) - April 2006 

During this, our 14th tour on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola
, we did well with the interesting rare & endemic birds of the island, including a number of them with the adjective "Hispaniolan". 
Notable among them was the
Hispaniolan Quail-Dove (1 of 3 quail-doves during the tour). 

On the rare Golden Swallow, a fine sight was its golden sheen in the sunlight. 
As the sun was setting one day, from a small boat with the motor off, on a lake, we looked at nicely-lit Caribbean Flamingos walking in shallow water. 
After dark, another day, we saw an Ashy-faced Owl, and then, moments later, a rarely-seen creature also endemic to Hispaniola, an odd mammal called the Hispaniolan Solenodon (over a foot-long, with a long snout & long tail, as it passed in front of our vehicle)!

Links:

More about the FONT Dominican Republic Tour in April 2006

List of Birds during our Dominican Republic Tour - April '06

Cumulative list of Birds during our previous Dominican Republic Tours

List of Birds during FONT tours in the West Indies (with photos)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic 

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Guatemala - March 2006

This was the 12th FONT tour in Guatemala - it was in both the highlands and lowlands of the country. It was different than our other previous Guatemala tours in that during it there as many as 6 boat-trips. They were in areas of coastal mangroves & marshes and along an inland river away from civilization and small clear-watered rivers filled with little fish flowing into a large lake. Conducting so many boat trips was certainly productive as among the many birds seen there were: Pinnated Bittern, Agami Heron, Boat-billed Herons, and hundreds of Wood Storks and American White Pelicans. During one day from a boat, all 5 species of North American kingfishers were seen. There were also avian highlights away from water. In the area of the Mayan ruins at Tikal, an Orange-breasted Falcon was by a temple, and a Pheasant Cuckoo was seen and heard doing its odd display on the ground.

Links:

More about the FONT Guatemala Tour in March 2006 

List of Birds during our Guatemala Tour - March '06

A Cumulative List of Birds during FONT tours in Guatemala

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Guatemala

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Cayman Islands & Jamaica  - February/March 2006

During these tours (done either in combination or separately), a nice number of Caribbean endemic & specialty birds were seen. 
Highlights in the Caymans included well over a hundred West Indian Whistling-Ducks and a colony of a couple thousand Red-footed Boobies & Frigatebirds, in addition to "target birds" such as Rose-throated Parrot, Yucatan Vireo, Cuban Bullfinch, and Vitelline Warbler.  
Among the best in Jamaica, in addition to the endemics, were a pair of Masked Ducks, a fine look at a Yellow-breasted Crake, and about 20 White-tailed Tropicbirds seen nicely as they flew close to us cliff-side.  

Links:

More about the FONT tours in the Cayman Islands & Jamaica in February/March 2006  

List of Birds during our Cayman Islands & Jamaica - February/March '06

Cumulative list of Birds during FONT Cayman Island Tours

Cumulative list of birds during FONT Jamaica Tours

List of Birds during FONT tours in the West Indies (with photos)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in the Caribbean    

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Southern Costa Rica & Western Panama - February 2006

During this tour, in the highlands and on the Pacific side of southern Costa Rica and in the adjacent Chiriqui province of Panama, 267 species of birds were observed. 
238 of them were found in Costa Rica. 
107 were found in Panama during only 2 days in that country. 
78 of the 267 species were found in both countries, while 29 species were found in Panama alone. In the last category were: the Veragua Parakeet (an isolated population that has been considered a subspecies of the Brown-throated Parakeet of northern South America), the Veraguan Mango (which was considered part of the Green-breasted Mango; we saw a female on a nest), and the White-throated Mountain-gem (closely related to other mountain-gems, particularly the Gray-tailed Mountain-gem that we also saw - in Costa Rica).

This was the 27th FONT birding tour in Costa Rica. Prior to it, our cumulative total of birds for CR was 684. During this tour, 1 new species was added to that CR list, the Southern Lapwing. 2 of them were seen in a pasture south of Golfito; they appeared to be on territory. 
Other notable birds found during the southern Costa Rica portion of this tour included: Masked Duck, Barred Hawk, Sunbittern, Scarlet Macaw, Baird's Trogon, Chiriqui Yellowthroat (has been considered part what has been the Masked Yellowthroat of South America), Zeladonia, Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, Red-breasted Blackbird, Volcano Junco
Also, in all there were a number (22 species) of hummingbirds, and some notable Finches: the Peg-footed, the Large-footed, and the Yellow-thighed.
Nature other than birds included some mammals (notably Mantled Howler & White-faced Capuchin Monkeys, and a Kinkajou in the daytime - in the photo below), and Morelet's Crocodile, Spectacled Caiman, Green Iguana, and an assortment of butterflies.  
             



A Kinkajou photographed in the forested mountains of southern Costa Rica 
during the FONT tour in February 2006.
(Photo by Rosemary Lloyd) 

Links:

More about the FONT tour in southern Costa Rica & western Panama in February 2006

List of Birds during our Costa Rica & Panama Tours - February '06

Cumulative list of Birds during FONT Costa Rica Tours

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Costa Rica & Panama
 

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Central & Eastern Panama - February 2006

During this tour, we traveled from the Canal Basin and east into the lowlands and foothills of Darien province. The further east we went , the "wilder" Panama got, in that the Pan American highway dead-ends, the population dwindles, and that the habitats for birds, and the numbers of birds, increase. 
Among the birds were some more common in South America than in Central America. 
Birds in that category that we saw included: Capped and Cocoi Herons, Pearl Kite, Red-throated Caracara, Red-and-green Macaw, Golden-green Woodpecker, One-colored Becard, Pied Water-Tyrant, Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher, and Orange-crowned Oriole
Other interesting birds, among the 200 or so species we saw in less than a week, included some that are restricted to only eastern Panama and adjacent Colombia. 
Among those birds were: Double-banded Graytail, Black Antshrike, White-headed Wren, Black Oropendola, and the White-eared Conebill (a favorite!).  
A boat-ride along a river in the Darien foothills produced, in addition to the Red-throated Caracara and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, some other good ones including Agami Heron, American Pygmy Kingfisher, and some wonderful looks at Crane Hawks
A rarity for Panama was a Long-billed Curlew (and unusual for this tour as it's a bird mostly of North America!)  

Links:

More about the FONT tour in central & eastern Panama in February 2006 

List of Birds during our Panama Tours - February '06

Cumulative list of Birds during FONT Panama Tours

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Panama

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Guatemala - December 2005 / January 2006

This tour, in the highlands & lowlands of Guatemala, was at a wonderful time of year to be there. 
A couple months earlier, in October 2005, particularly in the highlands, there had been some destruction due to severe weather (Hurricane Stan). 
But during our tour the weather could not have been better. And the birds were fine too. 
In the highlands, among the best were the adult male Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, the Prevost's Ground Sparrow, and the Pink-headed Warbler, a perennial favorite. 
In the area of the Mayan ruins of Tikal, birds ranged from the large, such as the Great Curassow (great looks!), to the small & colorful, such as the Manakins. The males of the White-collared & the Red-capped were favorites. 

Links:

More about the FONT Holiday Tour in Guatemala in December 2005/January 2006

List of Birds during our Guatemala Holiday Tour - December '05-January '06

Cumulative list of Birds during our previous Guatemala Tours

Upcoming Guatemala Tour Itineraries

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