Previous FONT Birding Tour HighlightS IN 2001
with narratives of the tours, some photos, and comments by participants 

The following summaries are with the most-recent tours first. Click link to tours that you find of interest.
In the summaries, there are further links to UPCOMING TOUR ITINERARIES, BIRD-LISTS, and PHOTO GALLERIES

Chile - October/November 2001

Brazil - October 2001

Iceland - October 2001

Pacific Coast USA & Canada - September 2001

Brazil - August 2001

Southern Arizona USA - July/August 2001

Spain - June 2001 

North Carolina USA pelagic trip June 10, 2001

Delaware USA pelagic trip June 9, 2001

Alaska - May/June 2001

Hungary, Romania, Slovakia - May 2001

Colorado USA "Grouse Tour" - April 2001 

Japan - April 2001

Costa Rica -- March 2001

Caribbean -- February-March 2001
(Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, Jamaica)

Ecuador - February 2001

Japan -- January-February 2001 

New Zealand - November-December 2000

Chile - November 2000 

Pacific Coast USA & Canada - September 2000

October - November 2001 

The following account written by Armas Hill, the leader of the tour.

During our Chile Birding Tour, in October/November 2001, we conducted, on November 1st, our annual pelagic birding trip on the Pacific from Valparaiso - one of the best birding pelagics anywhere. Our first such FONT trip was back in November 1990. Our half-day pelagic in 2001 was again quite a success:

On our boat, it was indicated that the capacity was 80 passengers. There was excellent viewing from the sides and front of the boat. We certainly did not have 80 people onboard, but those with us were treated to hordes of birds around the boat, during virtually the entire trip. As always, we had plenty of chum to attract the birds close to us.

There were pelicans, petrels, penguins, and phalaropes. And more, much more.
4 species of Albatrosses were seen during the trip Black-browed, Gray-headed, Salvin's, and Buller's.
Shearwaters were numerous, both Pink-footed and Sooty.
Giant-Petrels and Diving-Petrels were seen well, Southern and Peruvian respectively. Storm-Petrels were Wilson's.
At our furthest point out, there were hundreds of birds close to our boat. Lots of pelicans and shearwaters. Nice numbers of albatrosses. From 40 to 50
Cape Petrels (or Pintados). Southern Fulmars flew nearly close enough for us to touch.

Terns, during the trip, included South American and Arctic, the latter from North America. Gulls included Kelp and Franklin's. The latter, particularly numerous, migrants from interior North America.

Also migrants from the Northern Hemisphere were the flocks of Red (or Grey) Phalaropes.

Add to the mix, Humboldt Penguins on the water, both White-chinned and Westland Black-Petrels, Guanay Cormorants, and Peruvian Boobies. It was a great outing at sea, off the Pacific Coast of South America.

Onshore, during our 2001 Chile Birding Tour, some of the highlights included: South American Painted-Snipes, Stripe-backed Bittern, and Many-colored Rush-Tyrant at a marsh. At another, Plumbeous Rail, and a couple rare Black-headed Ducks.

Among the numerous waterfowl during the tour, other notables included 3 male Torrent Ducks along a rushing river, and pairs of  uncommon Spectacled Ducks on mountain ponds in the south.

A particularly interesting observation in southern Chile was of about 60 Slender-billed Parakeets feeding in a dirt field, advancing in unison across that field as doing so. They did not pay much heed to us, as close as we were to them, so involved they were in getting their grub. The Slender-billed Parakeet, endemic to Chile, is a rather fascinating large conure, with its upper bill quite long and curved, designed for digging.  

Also in southern Chile, we enjoyed an observation of Black-throated Huet-Huet that couldn't have been better. The large tapaculo, usually heard more than seen, and often difficult to see, was seen well, in the early morning, perched on a snag. It gave its call which sounds like its name. That name is onomatopoeic. Other tapaculos seen during the tour included the Chucao, the Magellanic, and the enjoyable character known s the Moustached Turca.
The turca runs about on the ground, giving its odd call, on the mid-elevational slopes of the Andes near Santiago. As we were leaving that area, and darkness was falling at the end of the day, beneath a shining full moon in a very clear sky, we had good looks at flying and perched Band-winged Nightjars. We also heard their calls.

In far-southern Chile, on Tierra del Fuego, we had some good encounters with the very rare Ruddy-headed Goose (at least 3 pairs), the localized Magellanic Plover, and the threatened Austral Canastero.       

In far-northern Chile, a particularly memorable sighting was of 25 Peruvian Thick-knees, together on a sandy ridge. Nearby, in that area, we saw Peruvian Meadowlarks, with their bright red breasts, and a fine hummingbird, the Peruvian Sheartail. Yes, we were quite near Peru!

Other hummingbirds during our Chile tour were the largest of all, the Giant, and an attractive male Chilean Woodstar, showing a brilliant magenta gorget as it displayed. A female Oasis Hummingbird was seen on its nest. This species, and other hummingbirds, can be viewed in the FONT Photo Gallery of Hummingbirds. This, and other birds of Chile are in the Photo Gallery of Chilean and Argentinian Birds.

Oasis Hummingbird at its nest,
as seen during FONT birding tour in Chile, 2001
(photo by Harold Lebo)

A complete list of 334 birds that have been found during FONT birding tours in Chile, during the last decade, is elsewhere in this web-site.  

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October 2001

The following account written by Armas Hill, the leader of the tour.

Our October 2001 Brazilian Birding Tour included both Amazonian Forest in the state of Mato Grosso and Atlantic Forest in southeastern Brazil.

In the latter, in the Paranapiacaba Mountains, southwest of Sao Paulo, it was spring. In the treetops, Bare-throated Bellbirds were proclaiming their territories, with their clamorous calls carrying through the countryside. The male bellbirds, all-white, with a bare-throats actually bluish. This was just one of quite a few cotingas we were to see during our tour.
Our first day (in those mountains with the long name) began with a Swallow-tailed Cotinga on its nest. We were to see another one of those graceful birds at its nest a day or so later. Another attractive cotinga, was seen and heard in nearby forest, the Hooded Berryeater. At another southeastern Brazil location, another cotinga was observed calling from a treetop: the rare, localized Black-and-gold Cotinga.

In the Amazonian region, there were more cotingas, including a perched male Amazonian Umbrellabird, both male and female Pompadour Cotingas, Bare-necked Fruitcrows, and a nifty little fellow, the White-browed Purpletuft, seen in a scope perched atop a tree. Our tour was quite a "Cotinga Caper", but we also saw much more:

One of the true highlights was a female antpitta on its nest. Known for years as the Variegated Antpitta, the bird, at our eye-level was quite a sight for us as we stood ever so quietly. The nest was in a low "V" of a tree in the forest. We could very easily have continued on the path by it, as the bird sat absolutely still. The population of this denizen of the forest, more often heard than seen, in southeastern Brazil (where we saw it) may well be a species separate from the Amazonian population. Its name would be the Imperial Antpitta. As antpittas go, this is a large one, but its most interesting aspect may well have been its large dark eyes - apparently adapted to the darkness of the forest floor. As we walked away, the bird flew from its nest. We looked, and the eggs were a beautiful blue. We left quickly so the bird would return to them. 

Other birds of that forest that we saw well were the Mouse-colored Tapaculo, and the Long-trained Nightjar, the latter, with its very long tail, in flight against a beautiful twilight sky. It was one of a number of nightjars and related birds that we saw during the tour.

Along a river, in the Amazonian forest, during twilight we not only heard the mournful call of the Gray Potoo, we also saw the bird flying over the river, with its large mouth open catching insects.
Higher in the sky, Common Nighthawks, having migrated from North America, were also catching insects in their domain.   

Among the owls during our tour were Tropical Screech, seen very well, and Southern Tawny-bellied Screech, both seen and heard. These in addition to Crested, Mottled, and Amazonian Pygmy.

An Araucaria Forest in Southeast Brazil.
Home to the rare Vinaceous-breasted Parrot, 
and the specialized Araucaria Tit-Spinetail.
(Photo by Herb Cutler during Oct 2001 FONT tour.)   

We saw several species of birds with affinities to particular trees. An odd-looking tree, native to southeastern Brazil is the Araucaria. In it, we saw the endangered Vinacous-breasted Parrot, as well as the Araucaria Tit-Spinetail
In palm trees, along a river, in the Amazonian basin, we saw the Point-tailed Palmcreeper - restricted to palms as much as the tit-spinetail is to araucarias.
The palmcreeper we saw in palms. Woodcreepers on the trunks of trees. And the streamcreeper we saw well, yes, along a stream - acting much as it does like a waterthrush in the Northern Hemisphere.



The Rio Claro, in central Mato Grosso.
It was along this river that we saw a perched Amazonian Umbrellabird,
the Point-tailed Palmcreeper in the palms, 
and where at dusk potoos with open mouths were seen catching insects. 

Other memorable moments during the tour included:
In forests: a nice look at a Red-headed Manakin, encounters with  Pheasant Cuckoo and Pavonine Quetzal, and a flock of colorful Paradise Tanagers.  

Overhead, during the tour, we saw soaring King Vulture, and a procession of Swallow-tailed Kites. Perched we saw a wonderful Mantled Hawk, and a group of Greater Yellow-headed Vultures.   

We enjoyed sightings of common Dusky-legged Guans, and the rare Black-fronted Piping-Guan.

We met up with migratory flocks - of Fork-tailed Flycatchers enroute to their breeding grounds further south, and a large mass, one afternoon, of thousands of Cliff Swallows that bred in North America.    

On a dirt road, we saw a Greater Rhea with about a dozen young. The large male and the little ones were crossing in front of us.
On another dirt road, not crossing, but rather running in spurts ahead of us for about a mile, was a Red-legged Seriema. That bird normally prefers an open habitat. We saw it, though, along a forest road, and maybe as it viewed the road ahead as "open", it continued to run ahead until there was a junction where it went to the left and we went to the right.        

We enjoyed our birding throughout the tour. One of the last places we visited was a plantation at the forest edge, filled with fruit - food for motmots, nunbirds, aracaris and toucans, thrushes and tanagers.

In all, during our 10-day October 2001 tour, we tallied nearly 400 species of birds. 864 species have been found, cumulatively, during our 26 FONT birding tours in Brazil.

All of the places we visited were great, but one in particular deserves a special mentioning - a place now visited during 5 FONT Brazilian Tours. The place known as the "Jardin da Amazonia", or the "Garden of the Amazon", in Mato Grosso State. A picture of the pleasant accommodations is here in our web-site, as is a list of the birds we've found there. We'll be going again, in 2002, during March and August.  

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October 2001

The following account written by Armas Hill, the leader of the tour.

Rock Ptarmigan, photographed during the FONT Iceland Tour
in October 2001, by tour participant, Peter Ferrera.

Seeing Ptarmigans, and seeing them well, has been a highlight of our annual birding tour in Iceland in the autumn. We've been going to Iceland (and seeing ptarmigans) in October for 6 years. The ptarmigan in Iceland is the species that in North America we call the Rock Ptarmigan. In Iceland, the ptarmigan population fluctuates in 10-year cycles. As does the population of Gyrfalcons that feed on ptarmigans. The maximum population of ptarmigans may be 10 times the minimum population. Recently, we understand, the ptarmigan population has been at a low point in the cycle. Even so, we had great looks at ptarmigan again in 2001, as reflected by the above photograph.

October is a good month for ptarmigan. The resident Icelandic race is augmented by birds from Greenland. There are actually 3 races of Rock Ptarmigan living in Greenland. There are 27 races of Rock Ptarmigan world-wide, with a number of them inhabiting islands. Remember, regarding Greenland and Iceland, the place names are misnomers: Greenland is actually the place with the most ice. And Iceland the place that has some green (grass and moss, and a few trees). 

Overhead in the night-time sky, again during our October 2001 tour, there was some green - the wavy green of the Aurora Borealis, or "Northern Lights". We have observed it previously, and again this year, away from the city lights of Reykjavik, on a bluff at the edge of a small town by a beautiful bay. Our hotel is atop that bluff. We've actually, after dark, seen the aurora from the windows of our rooms. The view during the day, a clear day, is certainly spectacular scenery. Inside, our meals have included some of the most delicious fish anywhere. 

The birds by the nearby bay also find the fish there to be good eating. Among those birds are numerous eiders and alcids. In the evening, Black Guillemots come into the harbor to spend the night. Black Guillemots are said to be "loners" among the alcids, not flocking as much as others. But one night, we counted as many as 24 Black Guillemots resting on the water in a tight group. It's interesting that juvenile Black Guillemots from the area GO to Greenland for the winter. Coming from Greenland to the harbor in October are Iceland Gulls. Iceland Gulls are not Icelandic birds in the summer. They do not breed in Iceland. We always like to see Iceland Gulls in Iceland!

Barrow's Goldeneye and Harlequin Duck only occur normally in Europe in Iceland. During our tour, we saw both.

One of the most plentiful of the shorebirds (or waders, as Europeans call them) in Iceland during October is the Purple Sandpiper. Among a flock of them, this year, along a shoreline, we saw a couple vagrants from North America, two White-rumped Sandpipers. That species, which nests in the far-north, we've seen routinely thousands of miles away during our tours in far-southern South America in Argentina and Chile. The species does occur in Europe annually, all be it as a vagrant.       

During our autumn tours in Iceland, we see some birds in tremendous numbers that are about to leave for the winter (mostly for places like Ireland and Scotland). Among these birds, in large numbers, are Whooper Swans, European Golden Plovers, and Redwings. Other birds about to depart that we saw this year were: White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, and Northern Wheatears. On the other hand, we observed a bird that comes from northern Norway to spend winters in Iceland, the Eurasian Curlew. Along the coast, we saw a dozen of them that had just arrived. The Eurasian Curlew visits Iceland every year, as we do. We'll be back with FONT tours in Iceland in 2002, in June, and again, in October.

Aurora Borealis  

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Our Pacific Coast Tour - Washington State USA 
(and adjacent British Columbia, Canada)
September 2001

This was the 11th annual FONT Pacific Coast Tour.

The Pacific Northwest conjures images of tall majestic mountains, huge evergreen trees, lots of moss, and tall ferns on the forest floor. That we had. Also conjured are cool, often damp, sometimes rainy days. That we did not have. There was no rain at all. Temperatures ranging from 70 degrees F to nearly 90 degrees farther inland.
September is an ideal month for birding in this part of North America, and this year, even with the unusually dry and warm weather, was no exception.

On our first day, we headed from Seattle southwest to the coast. Even though we saw birds of the shore and sea, the most memorable of the birds that day was the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, as bands of them flew between the trees with perfect light hitting their backs and sides.

The next day we participated, as we do each year, on a Pacific Ocean pelagic trip from Westport. The weather conditions were wonderful, as was the birding. Calm waters and cooperative birds made this one of the best of our pelagics. Alcids, such as Cassin's Auklet, opted to stay on the surface rather dive, providing us with some fine views. Equally cooperative was the Tufted Puffin who watched us watch him (or her).

All of the jaegers were seen well and in good numbers. There were 3 South Polar Skuas, at different times, all close to the boat. There were rafts of seabirds, mostly shearwaters. Good looks were had of Buller's, Pink-footed, Sooty, and 2 Flesh-footed Shearwaters, in addition to both light and dark morphs of the Northern Fulmar. Always present and also seen well were Black-footed Albatrosses. With the placid ocean, we also enjoyed wonderful views of Sabine's Gulls, on the water and in flight.

The Westport pelagic provided more than birds. For many, the sight of a Thresher Shark flapping its sickle shaped tail on the surface was new. 4 Ocean Sunfish were viewed closely. 3 Humpback Whales were fun to watch especially when one fluked its tail. We also passed by a Northern Fur Seal floating on its back, and for a time we were joined by a pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins.

The next 2 days our base was Bellingham, the closest city of any significant size to the Canadian border. We traveled to Anacortes, a picturesque seaport on the northwest Washington coast. Ferries depart from there for the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island, Canada. We bordered our ferry for the 2-hour voyage to Sidney, British Columbia. While weaving through the San Juan Islands, in the upper Puget Sound, we saw Pelagic Cormorants, Pacific Loons, alcids including Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets, along with Bald Eagles perched on coastal snags.

Our target bird on Vancouver Island was the introduced Eurasian Sky Lark. There's been a population there for years. Our first attempt produced Savannah Sparrows. When we backtracked across a small part of the field that we had initially bypassed, 3 Sky Larks flushed up into sky, landing too far away to be seen. Another nearby field was much more productive, where we flushed over 30 birds, the most we've ever found during our annual tour. We were certainly pleased that conservation measures is paying off for the bird and bringing its population to a stable, higher number.

From Vancouver Island, we sailed on another ferry to the British Columbian mainland. Along the way, at Boundary Bay, we had close looks at Black Oystercatchers and Harlequin Ducks. Our standard location in downtown Vancouver City produced a top-notch view of an adult Crested Myna, one of the few remaining individuals of this introduced species in North America. We completed our Canadian leg of the tour on Iona Island observing waterfowl and shorebirds.

The following day we returned to Anacortes on the Washington coast. Here we had our best views ever of several pairs Marbled Murrelets. They were very close to us, and it was quite an experience to hear them calling to each other. Also up close and in good light were Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murres (parents and young), and Red-necked Grebes. All of this in front of us as a Winter Wren sang its beautiful song from the coniferous forest behind us. In view, during our time here, was the truly scenic backdrop of the Olympic Mountains.

After taking our group photo (above) in this picturesque area, we headed east to the Cascades Mountains. As we entered the foothills, numerous Violet-green Swallows used the rising warm air from the valleys to lift themselves to higher elevations, where they were joined by Vaux's Swifts soaring against a backdrop of 6,000-foot mountain peaks.

Just beyond Steve's Pass (at 4,000 feet) we were on a peaceful road in the  Snoqualmie National Forest. In the mix of firs, pines, and hemlocks, typical of the west slope of the Cascades, were corvid families of Gray and Steller's Jays, and Ravens. We spotted some Golden-crowned Sparrows with more numerous White-crowned Sparrows.

As we descended into the drier eastern side of the Cascades, the habitat changed to mostly Ponderosa Pine forest with an open understory. Along the Wenatchee River, an American Dipper gave us a look before going behind a rock for the evening. It was time for our first evening in the town of Ellensburg, in central Washington.

The next morning, Tuesday, we drove east to the Columbia River to bird the nearby sagebrush county. Between tall cliffs and the river, we heard the calls of Chukars and the sweet song of the Western Meadowlark. White Pelicans were grouped along the river. Campgrounds and irrigated fruit orchards provided an oasis for migrant birds, among them Western Tanager, Willow Flycatcher, Townsend's and Orange-crowned Warblers.

It was during a stop in this area for late breakfast that we learned of the disastrous terrorist attacks on the other side of our Country. The terrible events, of course, changed what would remain of the tour. This was to have been our last day in Washington, prior to flying to California. That flight was not to be, and so we would stay longer in Washington State.  

During our drive back to Ellensburg, at one stop we saw a Townsend's Solitaire, just a few feet away in a stand of trees. At another stop, we saw our most unusual raptor of the tour. With several soaring Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers, a single large buteo was apparent. What initially appeared as a white rump of a harrier, was in fact the white on the upper tail of a Ferruginous Hawk. We were at the northwestern limit of its range, and it was a first for 11 years of FONT Pacific Coast tours.

The next day, as we had more time near Ellensburg, we went again for Chukar, aiming to see it. Enroute, in sagebrush, we saw 2 Sage Thrashers. Then, to the cliffs for the Chukars. But they were elusive. We saw & heard a Canyon Wren sing its beautiful descending song, and flushed a Great Horned Owl from the rocks. A Say's Phoebe pursued it, as nearby Rock Wrens chased each other.

After we crossed the Columbia River, we stopped at an overlook by the river where we could see its cut through enormous rock cliffs. At the Potholes Reservoir, we saw numerous Western Grebes, mostly with juveniles calling to be fed.

Then, in the afternoon, we saw what we had hoped to earlier - a covey of no less than 10 Chukars crossing the road in front us. We all had a good look at them climbing an arid embankment next to the road. Then, along a creek, flowing through a mostly Ponderosa Pine forest with some Aspen,  we found a Blue Grouse. We heard a light tapping of a woodpecker. It was a Red-naped Sapsucker. Also with us were White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadee in the pines. Several Western Bluebirds around us were showing their fly-catching skills.

As we were returning to Ellensburg we watched a Coyote, one of several spotted during the week. At a distance were 10 Wild Turkey. Near dusk, we found a Baird's Sandpiper, and a Common Nighthawk fly overhead.

The following morning, in an area of large open fields in the foothills of the eastern slope of the Cascades, we saw more Wild Turkey and a Mountain Bluebird. We continued north to a higher elevation. At about 4,000 feet, we found Clark's Nutcrackers and Hairy Woodpecker. Later, this day, we found Lincoln's Sparrow.  The day was Thursday. Overhead, we saw our first commercial airliner in 3 days. 

On Friday, we turned our efforts toward getting home. Four more species of birds were added: Swainson’s Hawk, Pine Siskin, Wilson’s Warbler, and Yellow-headed Blackbird. This brought the number of bird species during our 2001 Pacific Coast Tour to 158 - a tour this time during which we birded well in Washington State and adjacent British Columbia, but not California. We can look forward in 2002 to being in the West again, and finding the birds we seek in central California. 

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Brazil (Mato Grosso & the Southeast)
August/September 2001

This account written by Armas Hill, a leader of the tour with Paulo Boute, our local Brazilian birding guide.  

In August, we had some stupendous birding during our tour in Brazil - our 25th birding tour in that ornithologically-intriguing country.

In southeastern Brazil, the most special of the birds included these "goodies" both Swallow-tailed Cotinga and Black-and-gold Cotinga, Spotted Bamboowren, Vinaceous-breasted Parrot, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Long-trained Nightjar, Buff-throated Purpletuft, and a bird that has been called the Shrike-like Cotinga. That name, apparently, was too easy to say - so the species is now called the Brazilian Laniisoma (and, no, that's not Portuguese!)

During our tour in Mato Grosso, including the bird-rich wetlands of the Pantanal and the dry habitat of the Cerrado, many birds were seen as always. And always great to see are the large Hyacinth Macaws and Jabirus. And the Sungrebe and Sunbitterns, the Red-billed Scythebill, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Helmeted Manakin, and Scissor-tailed Nightjar. The list can go on and on.

From a lookout where we had hoped to see a Harpy Eagle, we saw instead a fly-by Orange-breasted Falcon.

Then, we went to one of our favorite places, the Jardin da Amazonia or the "Garden of the Amazon". We had good looks at many "Amazonian species", some of them even with that adjective the Amazonian Umbrellabird, Amazonian Royal-Flycatcher, and Amazonian Pygmy-Owl (yes, we SAW the owl, sitting in a tree by day. On the ground, we saw Razor-billed Curassow. At an ant swarm, among the best of the antbirds was the Black-spotted Bare-eye. Blue Ground-Doves were common. Red-headed Manakins were enjoyed. In the treetops, sat both Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas. Among the tanagers, one called "Paradise" in a place that is.

But, then, somehow, it got even better. We went to an area of Amazonian forest, 2 hours to the north, where no one have ever birded in the past. It was a wild, very wild area. On the dirt roads, there were many tracks of wild cats, many of the Jaguar. On a road, a Tapir was seen. Trumpeters cross the road too. Among the birds, there were others that were tremendous the Pavonine Quetzal, both male and female Pompadour Cotingas, a White-browed Purpletuft (a small cotinga) feeding young, and a striking Black-necked Red-Cotinga!! Yes, it was a tour for cotingas! And much more.

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Southern Arizona
July/August 2001

This account written by Armas Hill, who co-led the tour with Art McMorris who will be leading this tour in 2002. 

In Arizona, July 27 - August 5, 2001, we visited the array of birding sites in the southern part of the state, from those in mountains with names such as Chiricahua and Huachuca, to those in lowlands with habitats ranging from dry cactus-filled desert to moist cienega .

Each of these places were with their assortments of birds. During the tour, we saw some that we especially enjoyed.
Among them were the raptors:
Gray Hawks at a few places, Black Hawk in a particular canyon,
and Zone-tailed Hawks appearing in the sky as vultures.
Harris' Hawks were observed close-at-hand.
Mississippi Kites were seen catching dragonflies,
and White-tailed Kites were seen hovering above their prey.
There were also sightings of Goshawk and Golden Eagle,
Swainson's Hawks, and an early Harrier.

Hummingbirds are a principal part of a late-summer birding tour in Arizona.
We had the good fortune of seeing Violet-crowned Hummingbirds at 3 places. At one, there was a female sitting on a nest.
At another nest we watched a Berylline Hummingbird feeding its young.
And there were the more-common hummingbirds such as the noisy Broad-tailed, the bright male Rufous, and the Anna's with the gorget that could "knock your socks off".

By two bodies of water, we saw 2 species of birds unusual for Arizona the Green Kingfisher near Nogales, and an Elegant Tern near Tucson.

The latter was not the only bird with that adjective. The Elegant Trogons, that we saw by their nests, were voted "tops" by the participants following the tour.

The young Spotted Owl, tamely sitting in a tree above us, was another treat. We thank our friend and Arizona birding contact, Bill Stocku for leading us to that one.
He led us as well, along a rather easy route, to the Five-striped Sparrows we saw well.
A couple days earlier, views of Varied Buntings were "as good as it gets".
One day, a male Painted Bunting was brilliant.

The flycatchers, more common from Mexico south, were fun to see and hear the Buff-breasted and the Sulphur-bellied, the Dusky-capped (with it characteristic whistle), the Kingbirds the Tropical and the Thick-billed; the Greater Pewee, and the diminutive Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (with a name seeming longer than the bird).

Phainopeplas and Pyrrhuloxias when seen well (as we saw them) can then easily be pronounced properly.

One afternoon we drove on dirt road a couple hours, with late-afternoon sunlight shining on the mountains and the desert. 
We saw over a dozen Roadrunners along that road (yes, running). 
And families of Quails, Gambel's
Elsewhere we saw the Quail more elusive, the Montezuma.

In the open country, there were sparrows, named after Matteo Botteri and John Cassin. Others with rufous wings or rufous crowns. Boldly patterned were Lark and Black-throated.

In the mountain coniferous forests, there were Mexican Chickadees along with Olive and Red-faced Warblers. Painted Redstarts are always favorites.

In addition to birds, we observed animals (over 15 kinds), butterflies (35 species tallied), and reptiles (yes, including rattlesnakes of a couple different sorts).

Some nature in the sky (higher than the birds) was also spectacular lightning displays and complete rainbows.

We were not in Argentina, even though we were at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and we spent a couple nights in a place called Patagonia.
But all of us in our tour-group certainly had a wonderful time in Arizona. A photograph of our tour group follows, along with the "top birds" as voted at the tour's end by the participants.

FONT Arizona Tour Group, Jul-Aug 2001
including members of VAAS, the Venice Area
Audubon Society of Florida 

The "top ten" birds as voted by participants after the tour were:

 1 - Elegant Trogon 
 2 - Spotted Owl 
 3 - Five-striped Sparrow
 4 - Vermilion Flycatcher
 5 - Greater Roadrunner
 6 - Violet-crowned Hummingbird
 7 - Arizona Woodpecker
 8 - Green Kingfisher
 9 - Berylline Hummingbird
10 - Gray Hawk

List of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife during FONT Arizona tours.

Itinerary for FONT tour in Arizona July/August 2002

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Spain (Extremadura & the Gredos Mountains)
June 2001

This account written by Armas Hill, who led the tour - the 12th FONT birding tour in Spain.

Our annual Spain birding tour, in June 2001, was truly enjoyable. 
A number of birds were seen feeding young, including Nightingales and Bluethroats.
Wheatears and Wagtails were doing their displays. 
Juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoos were flying about. 
Colorful and striking were the Bee-eater, Roller, and Hoopoe
As good as ever were the raptors (eagles, vultures, and others), the bustards, and storks

There was a lot to enjoy, throughout the days (the birds, the culture, and the food). And as days ended, some nice birding continued:
At dusk, Eurasian Nightjars were heard and seen in flight. Elsewhere, Red-necked Nightjars were seen as darkness fell, by the ruins of an old church where Barn Owls were feeding their young in the steeple, and Little Owls were flying about outside.

As many as 34 Great Bustards were seen during the June 2001 FONT Spain Tour. They were at a few places in an area of vast plains. 
Our largest single group was of 9 birds. 
We were fortunate to observe some of these large and wary birds very closely. 
All the more exciting, as the species is a rarity
 that's become threatened where it continues. 

There have been FONT birding tours in Spain since 1992, with cumulatively 277 species of birds seen.

Cumulative list of birds found during FONT Spain Tours.

Itinerary for FONT Tours in Spain June/July 2002 

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North Carolina USA pelagic trip June 10, 2001

During this trip, both Bermuda Petrel (the Cahow) and Fea's Petrel were seen.
Also during the trip, 5 Cuvier's Beaked Whales were seen very well.    

Delaware USA pelagic trip June 9, 2001

Participants on this trip enjoyed a good day with SEABIRDS and MARINE MAMMALS.

A South Polar Skua that flew in toward the boat stayed with it for about half an hour. It was so close that it filled photographer's frames - sometimes so close that all of the wings were not in view. (A photo or two will be here soon.)
The skua seemed as if it might even land onboard the boat. It also kept occupied by chasing neaby gulls and storm-petrels.
According to trip leader, Andy Ednie, this South Polar Skua was "the 3rd in 4 Delaware FONT pelagic trips".
Seabirds, in addition to the skua, included: both Leach's and Wilson's Storm-Petrels; Sooty, Cory's, and Greater Shearwaters, and a Pomarine Jaeger.

A total of 9 Finback Whales were seen. They put on quite a show, blowing and rolling on their backs on the surface of the water. This was as Common Dolphins were riding the bow. The count of dolphins was 30. Four Loggerhead Sea Turtles were also seen.

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May-June 2001

This account written by Armas Hill, who with Art McMorris, co-led the tour. 

During our May-June 2001 FONT Birding Tour in Alaska there were some tremendous birds, particularly in the Pribilofs, where a Far Eastern Curlew was seen on St. Paul Island. Only the 3rd time there for that Asian species in 20 years. One was seen the previous year (in the Spring of 2000) as a fly-over. Prior to that, the most-recent record was in 1986. The bird in 2001 stayed for a couple days, giving all of us a fine look.
The Far Eastern Curlew breeds in Siberia, and winters, predominately, in Australia. It's also called the Australian Curlew. The species has been seen during FONT birding tours in Japan in the spring.

Other notable birds during the Alaska tour included: 

both male and female Steller's Eiders, a fly-by female Spectacled Eider, a flock of 6 Bramblings, and Wood Sandpipers doing flight displays (on St. Paul Island), both Olive-backed and Red-throated Pipits the same day, both Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, and Ivory Gulls at Nome - as many as 3: an adult, an immature, and a 1st-summer bird.

Ivory Gull (immature)
3 Ivory Gulls were seen during the FONT Alaska Tour
in  May/June 2001: a bird such as this, an adult, and a 1st-summer bird. All seen closely and well, near Nome.

(Photo by Alan Brady)

On the Pribilofs during our FONT tour, in addition to the Asian strays, birds that were enjoyed included:
singing Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs, and the colonies of alcids, Red-legged Kittiwakes, and Red-faced Cormorants. And, oh yes, the nesting Rock Sandpipers.

The "top ten" birds as voted by participants after the tour were:

 1 - Ivory Gull 
 2 - Far Eastern Curlew
 3 - Steller's Eider
 4 - Willow Ptarmigan
 5 - Boreal Owl
 6 - Brambling
 7 - Pacific Loon
 8 - Red-throated Pipit
 9 - Harlequin Duck
10 - Crested Auklet

During one day, near Nome, over 100 ptarmigans were seen, mostly but not all males in breeding plumage - both Willow and Rock.

During the tour, nearly 40 Moose were seen.

Alaska is, of course, a BIG place. So there's more to a tour there than the birds and animals we saw as we traveled through the tundra and taiga. There was stunning scenery, particularly with the mountains, including Mt McKinley, which we saw nicely on a clear day.

Cumulative list of birds & mammals found during FONT Alaska tours

Birds seen in the Pribilofs (St. Paul Island) during FONT tours

Some photographs of birds that have been seen in Alaska as Asian vagrants  can be viewed in the Photo Gallery of Japanese Birds & Other Wildlife.

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Hungary, Romania, & Slovakia
May 2001

Our first FONT birding tour in Hungary, and adjacent Transylvania (in Romania), and Slovakia May 5-17 2001, was tremendous. It sold-out early, and we expect it will to do so again in 2002. It was  led in 2001 by the expert Hungarian birder, Janos Olah, Jr., and Armas Hill of FONT.

The following account, written by Armas Hill, gives some of the numerous highlights of the tour:

Transylvania is a place that not many from North America (or elsewhere for that matter) visit. Maybe some are not sure where it even is. It's a beautiful area, with rolling green hills, with fields and forests, in northern Romania. It's inhabited by Hungarians, and others, who live in a countryside much as it was years ago. They hoe in farm fields much as generations did before them. On the roads, there are often more horse-drawn carts than automobiles. In one small city, there's a sign at a McDonald's even advertising a burger called the "McRustic" (no, we didn't eat there).

In addition to being beautiful, the Transylvanian countryside is wild. We spent 3 nights in comfortable lodging at the edge of extensive woods, in which there are wolves and lynx, boars and bears. Late one afternoon, our group split into 3 smaller parties (of 4 people each), going into hides, awaiting and then watching, closely, large Brown Bears come into clearings in the forest. These huge animals being much like the Grizzlies of the American West. It's said there are 6,000 bears in Transylvania. We also saw Red Deer (much like Elk in North America) and Red Fox.

And we saw birds - among them, Capercaillies in the Transylvanian forest - 2 of them, taking a dust bath on the side of a dirt road, just outside the windows of our bus. Also in the coniferous forest, Spotted Nutcrackers and Crossbills were seen on treetops. Sounds included the beautiful notes of the Ring Ouzel and the hoarse croaks of the Raven.

In a rocky gorge in Transylvania, there were not only White-throated Dippers at their nest, but 2 pairs of courting Wallcreepers were seen flitting on the cliff-sides above us.

At the castle grounds of Dracula, a figure of the Transylvanian past, birds present for us included Redstart and Robin.

But only part of our tour has been in Transylvania. Also we've been in the Great Hungarian Grasslands, where birds have included:
Storks on nests in the towns and villages,
Cranes in the fields,
Herons and Egrets, Spoonbills and Ibises in the marshes.
Bitterns (both Great and Little) heard or seen in the reeds.
Cormorants (both Great and Pygmy) seen at their colonies.

Among the waterfowl, there were Ferruginous Ducks and Garganey.And all 3 "marsh Terns" were seen together - the Black, White-winged, and Whiskered. (Reminding those of us from Delaware of the one time that ever happened in North America).

Other birds of the open Hungarian countryside ranged from the huge Great Bustards to the contrastingly diminutive singing Bluethroats and the rare Aquatic Warbler. By the water's edge, there were Bearded Reedlings and Penduline Tits. On a mudflat, a brightly-plumaged Red-throated Pipit landed tamely by us.

In all, we saw 23 species of shorebirds. Among them, there were Ruffs in an assortment of colors chestnut, black, white, tan, and various combinations - with feathers in an array as the birds would display. In all, there were hundreds of Ruffs and Reeves. Other shorebirds included Spotted Redshanks, Curlew Sandpipers, and a Marsh Sandpiper in breeding plumage, Temminck's Stints, Black-tailed Godwits, Curlews, and Avocets.
But foremost was a species that's normally in Asia, a White-tailed Plover - a bird that's been spreading west. The first breeding of the species in Europe was in 2000, in the Danube Delta of Romania. Prior to 1999, there were only 4 records (ever) in Hungary. Since then, there have been about that many per year. Our bird in Hungary in 2001 was the first found there this year. (The species was seen previously during a FONT European birding tour - in the late 1990's in Bulgaria.)

Outside the lodge where we stayed in Hungary, Nightingales and Cuckoos sang and called through the night. Early in the morning, there was the beautiful sound of the Golden Oriole, which was seen beautifully, later in the morning sunlight. 2 Black Woodpeckers were territorial just outside our windows.

Among our raptors in the nearby Hungarian countryside were both Montagu's and Western Marsh Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards, and Red-footed Falcons - the latter in flocks seen feeding on insects low over fields, both the males and females with their distinctive plumages.
A Steppe Eagle was seen well overhead. The species is a rarity in Europe west of Russia. The last seen in Hungary, prior to our bird, was in 1998.
Among other raptors seen was the Saker, the largest of the world's falcons after the Gyr, and a bird depicted on Hungarian coinage,
- and one of over 200 different birds seen during our Hungarian FONT Tour in 2001. Others included: Corncrakes (seen well), owls (seen well): Ural, Tawny, and Eagle.
Eagles themselves, included: Imperial, Lesser Spotted, Short-toed.

List of Birds & Mammals during May 2001 Hungary Tour.

"Top Birds" as voted by participants at tour's end, May 2001.

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Colorado USA Tour for Grouse and other Birds
April 2001 

The following account written by the FONT tour leader, Art McMorris:

We all enjoyed our April 2001 tour of Colorado and nearby southwestern Kansas in search of grouse (7 species) and other regional specialties. 2001 was the second year for this FONT tour. Both were very successful and enjoyable.
Our aim was to find grouse during their spring lekking displays: Greater and Lesser Prairie Chickens, Greater and Gunnison Sage Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Blue Grouse (which display but do not lek), and White-tailed Ptarmigan (which do not display). Lesser Prairie Chickens and Gunnison Sage Grouse are among the rarer North American birds, and White-tailed Ptarmigan can be among the harder to find. We found and had excellent views of all our avian target, and nearly all of the "bonus birds" we had hoped for, as well. Our final tour count was 168 species, 175 birds including subspecies. We also saw a good variety of mammals.

During our first full day of birding, one of the first birds we found was a Mountain Plover (a threatened species rather related to dotterels). It was the ABA bird #650 for one of our tour participants. (Another participant topped 700 later in the tour). Also on day one we observed both Clark's and Western Grebes, and a good assortment of other waterbirds and shorebirds, including avocets and White Pelicans. Later, a brilliant male Vermilion Flycatcher, a flock of Evening Grosbeaks, and Pine Siskins. Among the species in southeastern Colorado canyons were: Canyon Towhee, Rock Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Black-chinned Hummingbird.
The short-grass prairie in adjacent Kansas produced: Scaled Quail, Swainson's Hawk, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Long-billed Curlew, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Lark Bunting, and about a hundred Chihuahuan Ravens.

Day two started at dawn with a visit to the Lesser Prairie Chicken lek. Ten males and one female came to the lek, and we watched the males puff up their purple air sacs, boom, dance and display for nearly an hour before breakfast (for us). The current population of Lesser Prairie Chickens is estimated at only about 2,000 birds. After our breakfast we headed for sewage ponds, making it a "real birding tour". We saw both the "Audubon's"  and the "Myrtle" Yellow-rumped Warblers, before heading north to the tall-grass prairie of northeastern Colorado, the home of the Greater Prairie Chicken. Along the way, and in a gathering storm (wind and rain turning to snow), we saw many Swainson's Hawks (both light and dark morphs), Ferruginous Hawk, and Pronghorn Antelope.
The next day we would be seeing lekking Greater Prairie Chickens on private property. Visiting the home of our kind hosts, this evening, we were treated to a presentation on dinosaurs! We were shown a Triceratops skull that had been excavated on ranchland in South Dakota, and had been assembled from hundreds (thousands?) of fragments, and we were given a vivid description of life in North America during the late Cretaceous period, 70 million years ago.

The next morning (day three) we were on the lek just after 5am for close-up views of Greater Prairie Chickens. Approximately 40 birds were present (2 females, the rest males). The red-rimmed yellow air sacs and the lower-pitched "booming" of the males was quite distinct from that of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. It was amusing to observe the contrast between the ardor of the males and the seeming indifference of the females! During the afternoon this day, in grasslands, we saw both McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs.

On day four we headed west into the Rocky Mountains to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan in their exquisite snow-white winter plumage. And we found four of them, quite close to the road. We enjoyed leisurely looks, and then turned to see the stunning scenery at the pass on the Continental Divide. As we descended the mountain, we enjoyed foraging Dippers in a stream. As "dessert for the day", at a feeder, we observed 5 different subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos, as well as the Rocky Mountain "Slate-colored" race of the Fox Sparrow.

During the morning of day five there were more mountain birds, starting with small friendly group of Gray Jays, and then all of the Rosy Finches: Gray-crowned (both the nominate and "Hepburns"), Brown-capped, and Black. Also there were Pine Grosbeaks, Cassin's Finches, and more juncos.
At a reservoir, during the middle of the day, both Barrow's and Common Goldeneye were seen. 
Mountain Bluebirds were seen long the road we traveled north into Sage Country. 
Bird-wise, this was a "three sage day" for us, with, first, Sage Thrasher being seen. Then, in the evening, we went to the site of a Greater Sage Grouse lek, where, at the appropriate time, the birds appeared and displayed until dark. There were 47 males and 4 females. Also in the area of the lek there were 4 species of raptors: Swainson's Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, and American Kestrel. And there was the third of the species entitled "Sage", the Sparrow.

Day six began with a visit to a reservoir where there were all three teal (Green-winged, Blue-winged, and Cinnamon), four members of the genus Aythya (Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, and Lesser Scaup), plus other waterfowl and shorebirds.
In a nearby alpine-meadow area, we found Rough-legged Hawk and displaying Common Snipe, and in aspen and coniferous forests there were Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers and Red Crossbills. At the forest edges, there were 4 Moose.
After driving further west, a final birding stop this day produced Sandhill Cranes, Marbled Godwit, and many Wilson's Phalaropes.

The morning of day seven was a "three grouse morning" for us. First, after a few minutes of looking and listening, we found a single Blue Grouse, then another, and four in all - two males and two females. A female being actively pursued by one of the males took flight - and came directly over our heads, so close we could feel the rush of the wingbeats - and then it landed just beyond us. The male followed immediately, flew over our heads, landed, and kept right on displaying. After 20 minutes or so of watching, we tore ourselves away and headed down the road to a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek, where we watched 12 males eagerly doing their wind-up-toy display before 3 females - wings outspread, tails cocked, head bowed, rapidly stamping their feet. Then, a bit further down the road, we watched 5 Greater Sage Grouse display, while Sandhill Cranes bugled overhead and landed on a hillside near a herd of 20 to 30 Elk.
We then did our long drive toward Gunnison, with a few birding stops on the Grand Mesa where, in the arid lower canyon, we found: White-throated Swift, Canyon Wren, Rock Wren, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Say's Phoebe. Higher up, amid snow, there were Gray and Steller's Jays and Clark's Nutcrackers.
Closer to Gunnison, in the open country, before the day's end, there were Coyote and Badger, Horned Larks, Vesper Sparrows, and beautifully-singing Western Meadowlarks. 

Our last birding day began with us, at dawn, at the lek of the Gunnison Sage Grouse. There were 30 displaying males and 2 females. This bird was only recently recognized as a species distinct from the Greater Sage Grouse, and only about 4,000 are believed to exist. The birds arrived about 20 minutes after first light, diplayed for an hour, and then all flew away at once. That was our cue to go away for breakfast, before heading east toward the airport. At a stop along the way, we found two loose groups of Pinyon Jays - completing our sweep of Colorado Corvids (10 species in all). and yet another nice bird was to be seen this day, the Lewis' Woodpecker. We saw 4 of them, with their stunning green, white and rose in the afternoon sunlight. As the day ended, so did our fine birding tour in Colorado and Western Kansas, USA.         

This tour is scheduled for 2002, again with Art McMorris as the leader. 3 people have already registered. The April 19-28, 2002 tour itinerary is in the web-site.
Bird-lists (cumulative and for 2001) are also in the site.
Visit our North American Bird Photo Gallery for photographs of Blue Grouse, Greater Prairie Chicken, and White-tailed Ptarmigan during the April 2000 tour.

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Japan Spring Birding Tour
April 2001

(Including a little island with a big fallout of migrating birds)

Our early spring birding tour in Japan in 2001 was one of the most enjoyable FONT tours ever done. With fine spring weather, and lots of trees in colorful blossom, there were some wonderful birds that fit well into the setting. Among them:
colorful Mandarin Ducks, in small flocks, floating on still ponds,
Japanese Murrelets on the sea, along with hundreds & hundreds of Streaked Shearwaters,
male Copper Pheasants, early in the morning, displaying close at hand in the forest (they drum their wings as a Ruffed Grouse does its tail),
also flocks of migrants from shorebirds (including Great Knot, Far Eastern Curlew, and Mongolian Plovers) to buntings and finches (a lingerer was a Pallas', or Siberian, Rosefinch).
Signs of spring were Japanese Reed Buntings singing on territories and the rare Japanese Marsh Warbler doing its display flight.

But the highlight of the tour was a visit to a small island (only 1 kilometer by 2 kilometers) in the Sea of Japan where there was a tremendous fallout of northbound migrants. The island called Hegurajima, about 50 kilometers offshore, reached by boat. We overnighted on the island in an inn - one of very few buildings. One could easily walk the circumference of the island in just over an hour. The few residents there earn a living by fishing and collecting seaweed. It's such a picturesque place, with a tall white lighthouse, and no automobiles. Just small lanes and paths. But, oh my, were there birds!

As we walked from the boat dock to the inn, between small buildings and in the brush, birds abounded. Many of them: Siberian Stonechats, Red-flanked Bluetails, Daurian Redstarts, Dusky Thrushes, Bramblings, Rustic Buntings, and Eurasian Siskins. But others too. Among the 70 or so species found on the small island: Japanese Robins, Siberian Rubythroat, White's Ground Thrush, Hoopoes, Eastern Crowned Warblers and Sikhalin Leaf Warblers just to name a few. There are no tall trees so birds that can be hard to see at other places were not on Hegurajima. Vagrants for Japan were Black Redstart and Greater Short-toed Lark.

Bird List Japan April 2001

Our April 2001 tour was the 12th FONT birding tour in Japan. 

Over the years, our Japanese Winter Birding Tours have been very popular (understandably with cranes, eagles, Blakiston's Fish-Owl and more). During the winter tours, the length of Japan is covered, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. A nice feature of our Spring tour is less travel - we're only on Honshu, with migrant birds coming, actually, to US in various habitats.

Itineraries for FONT Japan birding tours in 2002 & 2003 are now in our web-site, for the Winter and the Spring tours. 

FONT birding tours in Japan have been led by Armas Hill, with the aid of various local birding contacts throughout the country. Armas has  birded in Japan extensively since 1984. 

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Costa Rica Birding Tour
March 2001
(A Potoo Wake-up Call & Great Green Macaws) 

Again, in March 2001, we did a birding tour in one of our favorite destinations, Costa Rica. That tour was our 23rd birding tour in that country.

As always, there were highlights (with Costa Rica, how can there not be? - where toucans & trogons, oropendolas & orioles, and other colorful birds of the tropics are common).

In addition to those birds:

To be especially remembered were the "wake-up calls" about 5 o'clock two consecutive mornings, given by the Gray (formerly called the Common) Potoo outside our windows. Surely the sound is one of the most beautiful in the natural world. And it was a nice experience indeed to lie in bed and hear that melodic sound, in the dark, just prior to the explosive dawn chorus of other birds - in the tropical rainforest in the Caribbean lowlands at Laguna del Lagarto.

Later during the day, from the edge of one of the small lagunas there, we enjoyed the sight of a Sungrebe swimming along the opposite shore. The previous day, another good sight was of a Striped Owl looking at us, from a tree, by the edge of the road, on our way to Laguna del Lagarto.

In forested slopes, by other roads, earlier in the day, our birds ranged from the Barred Becard (not often seen as well as it was this time) to colorful tanagers and warblers. Among the latter, one deserving mention was the dapper Collared Redstart. And there were a number of hummingbirds (at a place we visited with feeders) - among them the Green Thorntail, Violet Sabrewing, and the Coppery-headed Emerald (the latter one of the few birds endemic to Costa Rica). All of the hummingbirds were great to watch.

But a particular highlight during the tour, in addition to the birds that we've mentioned, was certainly the pair of Great Green Macaws in a tree above us, almost oblivious to our presence. This magnificent species, the 2nd largest of the New World Psittacine, is one of the rarest of Neotropical birds, having a limited distribution in wet lowlands from eastern Honduras to western Colombia, with a very small isolated population (of less than 2 dozen birds) in western Ecuador.

In Costa Rica, it's been estimated that there are fewer than 35 pairs of Great Green Macaws breeding annually. It was really a wonderful experience for us to spend some time with one of those pairs.

Great Green Macaw
(Photo courtesy of Kurt Schmack)

Photographs taken during previous FONT birding tours in Costa Rica can be found in this web-site in the Photo Gallery of Birds of Central and South America.

Upcoming Costa Rica birding tours.

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Caribbean Birding Tours
February-March 2001 

Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico
Cayman Islands

Again, in 2001, we had some very good birding during FONT tours in the Caribbean.

Just imagine - in the West Indies, sitting by a pool of water high in the pine-clad mountains of the Dominican Republic, and watching about a dozen Hispaniolan White-winged Crossbills drinking at the waters edge. And with them, some colorful Andean Siskins.

One day earlier, from a boat floating quietly on a nearby lake, imagine being surrounded by pink flamingos walking at times, in unison, and even-pinker Roseate Spoonbills moving their bills back-and-forth in the water as they fed, in the distance, endemic White-necked Crows were going to their evening roost in the palms.

The day before that, two species of todies, both of them bright and perky, were seen from along the same road - one in dry lowland shrub, the other in highland forest. Somewhere in between, along that road, there were in one tree, parrots, parakeets, and trogons.

Also during the Dominican Republic tour there were birds such as tiny Vervain Hummingbirds, sitting and calling atop high perches, the rare (and rarely seen) La Selle's Thrush, and the unique Palmchat.

A huge, abandoned nest of a colony of Palmchats, in the Dominican Republic, near the Haitian border. The bird is endemic to Hispaniola.
(Photo by Jennie Gaitskill, during FONT birding tour, March 2001.)

Not an Hispaniolan endemic bird, but particularly memorable to see during the March 2001 tour was a pair of Prothonotary Warblers in a city botanical garden, close at hand - the male displaying for the female, walking on a branch above a still stream, spreading his tail. On the water, below, there were a pair of Least Grebes, with chicks, ever so least - small bundles of striped fluff riding on the back of one of the adults.
On the other side of the stream, there stood a Limpkin. 

Memorable to hear, at another time during the tour, in the mountain forest, were the echoing flute-like calls of the Rufous-throated Solitaire.

The Puerto Rico Birding Tour, the previous week, had memorable moments, as well. During that tour (the 23rd Puerto Rico tour for FONT), all but one of the island's endemic birds were found - from the skulky Elfin Woods Warbler to the sometimes boisterous Lizard-Cuckoo. Other birds found included Masked Duck, on a pond with White-cheeked Pintails, and a Key West Quail-Dove.

During the FONT Jamaica Birding Tour this year, all of the endemic birds were found, including the often-elusive Jamaican Blackbird, and the Crested Quail-Dove. The latter, known locally as the "Mountain Witch", was seen very well - on the ground just feet away from us.

During our tour on the Cayman Islands, all of the bird specialties sought were found - the parrot, warbler, vireos, and bullfinch. And more from 2 to 3 hundred "rare" West Indian Whistling-Ducks. 

West Indian Whistling-Ducks,
many places can be hard to see, but not on here at this pool on the Cayman Islands.
(Photo during FONT Feb. 2001 tour by Susan D'Amico)

Also seen during the FONT 2001 Cayman Islands Tour was a lone duck (actually a drake) certainly rare (more aptly, unheard of) in the Caribbean a male Baikal Teal, among many (hundreds of) Blue-winged Teal. With the Baikal behaving just as were the Blue-winged. 

Male Baikal Teal (right) with male & female Blue-winged Teals
thru a telescope during FONT birding tour
on Little Cayman Island in the Caribbean, Feb. 24, 2001.
(Photo courtesy of Susan D'Amico.)

Not far from the Baikal Teal, on Little Cayman Island (10 miles long and 1 mile wide), and certainly more expected there, were numerous Red-footed Boobies (of both color morphs) and Magnificent Frigatebirds at their breeding colonies. Some males with big red sacs. Elsewhere, White-tailed Tropicbirds were seen (in flight among the seacoast). 

Birding in the Caribbean is fun. 
Future FONT Birding Tour Schedule for the region.

Also in the web-site are complete lists of birds seen during FONT Caribbean tours.

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Ecuador Birding Tours
February 2001
two consecutive tours:
Andean & Amazonian Birding
Hummingbird & Tanager Birding Tour

During these tours, a total of 546 species of birds were found, bringing the cumulative total for FONT tours in Ecuador to 1,101. 

The following account written by John Janowski:

Up and down we went during the FONT "Andean & Amazonian" Ecuadorian Birding Tour in February 2001. Down from the approximately 10,000-foot elevation of Quito, the capital city, to Sacha Lodge in the Amazonian rainforest. And then back up again to Quito enroute to the Guango Lodge at 8,000 feet above sea level, followed by San Isidro at about 6,500 feet, on the east Andean slope, before returning to Quito over the Papallacta Pass at 12,000 feet. At each of these elevations, there was some wonderful birding.

In the center of Quito, at our hotel grounds, we watched Sparkling Violetears at the flowers in the courtyard. It was only a short walk to the largest park in Quito, where we saw: Andean Siskin, Southern Yellow-Grosbeak, Vermilion Flycatcher, and hummingbirds - among them the Black-tailed Trainbearer was great to see.

Much of our first day was along the old Chiriboga Road, west of Quito. It's a wonderful birding road, with little traffic. Soaring over the ridges were raptors including: Carunculated Caracara, and Variable and Plain-breasted Hawks. Along the roadside, we had very good views of both spinetails, Azara's and White-browed, and tapaculos that can be hard-to-see, including: Ash-colored and Blackish. The calls of Chestnut-crowned and Rufous Antpittas were heard.

At dinner in Quito that evening, we were entertained by a troupe that performed traditional dances from the various provinces of Ecuador. Especially notable were the musical instruments, including flutes that date back to the time of the ancient Incas.

The next morning we were on a flight from the highlands of Quito to the lowlands of the Amazon. It was breathtaking to fly through the Andes and impressive to leave the clouds and see an immense rainforest below us. From the frontier town of Coca, where we landed, we took a 3-hour boat ride on the Napo River to Sacha Lodge. Along the river there were: Short-tailed Hawk, both Swallow-tailed and Pearl Kites, both Yellow-headed and Black Caracaras, and both Turkey and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures. 
Where the river was shallow, we weaved between large sandbars with: Cocoi Herons, both Pied and Southern Lapwings, and both Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns. There was a single Black Skimmer, and even more surprisingly, a single Laughing Gull. 

It's hard to single out one particular, best memory from our stay at Sacha. There were so many good things to remember. Certainly among them were the numbers of various tropical species of birds, such as: parrots, trogans, toucans, nunbirds, antbirds, hummingbirds, and tanagers. Of course, that's why we were there, but really striking, if thought about, would be how we blended into such a world, even if only for a few days, seeking birds. There was the darkness of the jungle floor, the dense green foliage of the forest, and an apparent calmness that added to both our challenge and our experience. Our local guides were excellent. They taught us how to position ourselves in order to see birds. And of course the 150-foot high tree tower enabled us to see the area from another vantage. We could see the canopy-dwellers eye-to-eye. Raptors included Gray-headed and Plumbeous Kites. Masked Crimson Tanager, Black-spotted Barbet, and Plum-throated Cotinga were in the trees. (By the way, taxonomy is fluid, and since this account was written, the Black-spotted Barbet has become known as the Gilded Barbet, according to the new field guide "The Birds of Ecuador" by Robert Ridgely.)                   

Before we left Sacha, our last morning,  we were treated to some excellent sights and sounds, including those of: 2 Zigzag Herons by us at dawn as we boarded canoes, hundreds of Parrots - Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and Blue-headed - congregating at a mineral lick, 3 marmosets scurrying up a thin tree truck, and spider monkeys with their young moving through trees above us.   

At Coca, we boarded the plane back to the Quito in the High Andes. From there, we went to a lodge, called Guango, on the upper eastern slope. Enroute, we saw Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, and a couple notable hummingbirds: the Giant, the largest of all hummers, and the Sword-billed with that striking long bill.

High in the Andes we saw a Tawny Antpitta, a nice sight. And we birded stands of polylepis forest, where we saw the Giant Conebill and Stout-billed Cinclodes, nice sights as well.

The road to the Guango Lodge in the cloud forest was wonderful. It followed a rushing river with numerous waterfalls. In one set of rapids, there was a family of Torrent Ducks. At stops along the way, there were flocks of tanagers and flower-piercers. Overhead, Swallow-tailed Kites at 8,000-feet seemed a bit out of place. The area is also a wintering locale for Broad-winged Hawks from North America. They were perched on snags as lively Redstarts (more properly called Whitestarts), both Spectacled and Slate-throated, were in the bushes and low trees. Among them, was even an American Redstart (no white in its tail!) The tanagers were a colorful tribe indeed, with Flame-faced and Grass-green, bright indeed.

At Guango, there were, upon our arrival, both a warm meal and a fireplace. And during our stay, there were some good birds: Bar-bellied Woodpecker and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, and some spectacular hummingbirds such as Mountain Velvetbreast and Mountain Avocetbill.

From Guango, we decended the eastern slope of the Andes to a place called San Isidro, where the good birding continued. Along the trails there, we encountered a number of mixed flocks, and a some specialty birds: both Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Andean Solitaire, Green-and-Black Fruiteater, and Long-tailed Sylph. Our nightbirds included: Black-banded and Rufous-banded Owls. Not bad, but even better, were, the next morning: a thrilling lek of Andean Cock-of-the-Rock near the lodge - one of many highlights during our tour in Ecuador in February 2001.      

Photos from our Ecuadorian Tour in February 2001.

A list of the birds during the February 2001 FONT birding tours.  

A Photo Gallery of Hummingbirds has been being put into our web-site. In it are some fine photographs of Ecuadorian hummingbirds - these photos, which we are appreciative to have, by Larry O'Meallie, of Louisiana, USA.

A new FONT publication is now available (in 2 volumes) listing "BIRDS & OTHER WILDLIFE during over 10 Years of FONT Tours in South America". Nearly 2100 species of birds are listed, with information as to where they've been found in: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Venezuela. If you'd like to receive a copy of the set, please let us know.      

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Japan Winter Birding Tours
January-February, 2001
2 Tours:
the first on Honshu & Hokkaido (with a pelagic trip in between), Kyushu, Amami, and Okinawa,
the second on Honshu & Hokkaido (with a pelagic trip in between), Kyushu, Amami.  

FONT has been conducting these tours since the early 1990's.
Armas Hill, the FONT tour leader, has been birding in Japan since the early 1980's. 

During our annual Japan Winter Birding Tours in 2001 some wonderful birds were seen. Among them were:

A rare Siberian Crane among beautiful White-naped Cranes. 6 species of cranes were seen during the tour. As always, a particularly wonderful experience was being with the Japanese (or Red-crowned) Cranes, dancing, calling, feeding, on the snow in Hokkaido.

An Oriental Stork (a species that formerly bred, years ago, on Japanese roof-tops) was seen.

Both Steller's Sea-Eagles and White-tailed Eagles were seen closely. During one day, there were over 50 Steller's Sea-Eagles.

Spectacled Guillemots were seen well just beyond the surf. (That species is restricted to the region of the Kurile Sea and Hokkaido, Japan.)

Whooper Swans were enjoyed (seen and heard) in the mist on a mostly frozen lake. Some other brilliant species of waterfowl during the tours were: Baikal and Falcated Teals, Mandarins and Smews.

During both tours, large and rare Blakiston's Fish-Owls were seen eating fish. Both male and female owls were observed. During the first tour, as the Blakiston's Owl was being seen, a Ural Owl was heard calling nearby. During the second tour, both the Blakiston's and the Ural Owl were seen the same evening.

Other owls during the tour included Long-eared (a number of them on Amami above a road crisscrossed by mice), Short-eared, and the Ryukyu Scops.

Colorful Lidth's Jays were seen well. Amami Woodcock, too. Both of these specialties on the island of Amami.

A Greater Painted-Snipe was flushed from a flooded field on Okinawa. About 20 species of shorebirds (or waders) were seen on that island.

As was the Okinawa (or Pryer's) Woodpecker  -possibly the rarest woodpecker in the world. Also on Okinawa:  Black-faced Spoonbills (the rarest spoonbill in the world), and Saunder's Gulls (one of the rarest gulls in the world).

Our greatest challenge was the elusive Okinawa Rail (heard, but not seen, by all).

Pelagically, birds from the ferry between Honshu and Hokkaido included: a number of Laysan Albatrosses. Also: Short-tailed and Streaked Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Pomarine jaeger, 8 species of gulls, and 6 species of alcids (among them numerous Least Auklets).
At least 15 whales were seen pelagically during the first tour: 2 Finbacks (between Honshu & Hokkaido) , and Humpbacks, and Bryde's Whales (between Amami & Okinawa).

More gulls were seen from shore during the second tour: on Kyushu with rare Saunder's Gulls others from mainland Asia: the "Mongolian" Yellow-legged and the "Heuglin's" Herring. On Honshu: a Thayer's Gull and the "Kamchatka" Mew or Common Gull.

A seabird that was seen well from shore during the second tour was the Japanese Murrelet.  It was photographed, and is one of nearly 50 species in our Photo Gallery of Japanese Birds elsewhere in this web-site.

Also here in this web-site, there's itinerary information for upcoming FONT Japanese birding tours, and a cumulative bird-list of all the species found during FONT tours in Japan.

A booklet listing of the 332 species of birds that have been seen during FONT birding tours in Japan is available from FONT. It contains information as where (the islands) and when (the months) the birds have been seen. For a copy, write to FONT at: PO Box 9021, Wilmington, DE 19809 USA, or call in the USA: 1-800-362-0869, elsewhere 1-302-529-1876.

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New Zealand Birding Tour
November-December 2000

The following written by one of the tour participants, Steve Gantlett, of England, the editor of the top-notch birding magazine "Birding World":

The FONT New Zealand birding tour in 2000 was a great success and the local leaders (Caren Shrubshall & Mark Hanger) were excellent.

During the tour (very comfortable and pleasant), we virtually 'cleaned up' with the birds, without the pace being over-hectic.
New Zealand does not have a huge species-list of birds, but what it lacks
in numbers it more than makes up for in quality. There are just so many good and special birds! 

THE highlight had to have been the Brown Kiwis on a beautiful forest-backed beach on Stewart Island (watched in the light of a torch, as close as a few feet from us). 

Almost the entire bird-list (of a total of 124 species seen) consisted of 'star' species. 
There were three species of penguins (two of them rare endemics). 
There were some excellent pelagic trips which produced five species of albatross and a host of other exciting seabirds. 
The rare, unique Blue Duck was seen on a mountain stream in the spectacular scenery of Fjordland.
There was a fine assortment of shorebirds (or waders), including good numbers of the delightful endemic Wrybill and the endangered Black Stilt.
There were wonderfully entertaining and superbly confiding Kea parrots, and a host of very special passerines (like the endemic Rifleman and the Tui).

As for New Zealand itself, with its varied scenery that's spectacular at places, it's an enjoyable country that's not crowded.
In all, we had a thoroughly recommendable tour.

Itinerary for the FONT New Zealand birding tour Nov-Dec 2001.
Bird-list from the tour in 2000. 
Visit our Photo Gallery of New Zealand birds, photographed during the Nov/Dec 2000 FONT tour.

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Pacific Coast USA - Washington State & California
(and adjacent British Columbia, Canada)
September 2000

The following account written by the FONT tour leader, John Janowski:

2000 was our 10th year for this tour, during a prime time for bird migration along the West Coast. Over the years, an avian rarity or two has been present at the time of the tour along with the more regular migrants.

At the beginning of our Sept 2000 tour, in Washington State, we viewed, at close range, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits among a large flock of Marbled Godwits. The full-day pelagic trip from Westport, Washington has always been productive for us, and was again this time. This is one of the most reliable of trips for the Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel. In addition to numerous seabirds, and some marine mammals, if the weather's clear, there's a fine natural setting of the distant mountains of the Olympic Peninsula as we're returning to shore.

There's yet more beautiful scenery, and even more good birds, during this tour, in the area of the Puget Sound. Our trip to Vancouver Island, Canada, by ferry, through the San Juan Islands provided fine views of seabirds and marine mammals. Among the seabirds, the Marbled Murrelet. On land, we saw 5 Skylarks on Vancouver Island. In the city of Vancouver, we saw another bird species introduced into North America years ago (and one that has been declining recently), the Crested Myna. Along the coast, in that area, we saw a Eurasian shorebird, the Ruff.

In the Cascade Mountains of Washington, we enjoyed a family of Gray Jays and 5 Varied Thrushes, on the wetter western slope. On the drier eastern slope, we enjoyed (as much, maybe more) a Ruffed Grouse and 5 Blue Grouse. This was our best PC tour for grouse. Red-naped Sapsuckers were again, as during other years, nice to see. A sighting rather unusual for us was a close view of a  Porcupine sleeping in a tree.  

During the second portion of the tour, in California, we had an excellent look at a pair of Golden Eagles. And we saw both Clark's and Western Grebes at one place, and all 3 of the North American goldfinches. There was a total of 7 White-tailed Kites, with two of them in an aerial display. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen in a river valley. In all, 207 species of birds were found during our September 2000 Pacific Coast tour, bringing the cumulative bird-list for the tour, over 10 years, to 320 species.

The cumulative list of birds and mammals is in this web-site, along with the itinerary for the Pacific Coast tour in September 2001.

John Janowski, who has led this tour the last few years, and will again in 2001.

In the past, Mr. BJ Rose has also done a fine job of leading this tour. Armas Hill led the first PC birding tour in 1991. Rare birds that have been seen during this tour, over the years, have included: Red-tailed Tropicbird (once, during the pelagic trip we do annually out of Monterey, California), Mongolian Plover (now called Lesser Sandplover), Little Curlew, Long-toed Stint, and White-winged Tern. In 1998, we saw the Xantu's Hummingbird that was visiting a feeder in British Columbia. That same year we saw Xantu's Murrelet out of Monterey - making it a 2-Xantus Tour! Visit our Photo Gallery of North American birds.   

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