Upcoming FREE field trips in the Chicago area!

We have a series of FREE field trips coming up for fall migration, led by Josh Engel. They are to some of Josh's favorite places to see fall migrants.  

JARVIS BIRD SANCTUARY at Belmont Harbor, Chicago (map of trip location)
Fridays, starting at 7:30am. We will stay on (or very near) the viewing platform on the east side of the bird sanctuary for the whole trip, seeing what birds pass by, so you can come any time between 7:30 and 9:30. This trips were a lot of fun last year, so we’re doing it again. Jarvis is an excellent place to see migrants, including birds actively migrating south overhead. Warblers, swallows, flycatchers, vireos, hummingbirds, wrens, and much more. Coffee from a local cafe will be provided--please bring your own mug. Park in the lot on the north side of the sanctuary (metered parking). Trips are led by Josh Engel, sometimes with a guest leader. In partnership with Chicago Audubon Society.

Aug 30
Sep 6
Sep 13
Sep 20
Sep 27
Oct 4 (guest leader)

PERKINS WOODS, Evanston (map of meeting location)
Thursdays in September, starting at 7:30am. Looking for migrants in this small, suburban forest preserve. We have a long history of seeing great birds on these Perkins Woods walks, including Mississippi Kite, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Horned Owl, and most of the expected warblers, flycatchers, vireos, and other migrants. Trips will be led by Josh Engel and John Bates. In partnership with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. 


Sep 5
Sep 12
Sep 19
Sep 26


Jarvis Bird Sanctuary and Perkins Woods are both good places to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo in migration. Photo by Josh Engel.

Jarvis Bird Sanctuary and Perkins Woods are both good places to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo in migration. Photo by Josh Engel.

Busy busy American June!

We debuted two new United States tours in June—a four-night/five-day Maine trip and a five-night/six-day tour of Montana + Yellowstone. The trips were both private trips for local birding groups and we are looking forward to offering them on our website soon. It was fantastic to see so many great birds on their breeding grounds, along with loads of great mammals. In Maine we saw birds like Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Upland Sandpiper, and 17 species of warblers, along with Minke Whale and North American Porcupine. In Montana and Yellowstone we saw Baird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Mountain Plover, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Black Rosy-Finch, and mammals like Grizzly and Black Bears and Gray Wolf.

The trip report and photo gallery are posted for the Maine tour and will be posted soon for the Montana tour. Here’s one of my favorite photos from Montana, an American Dipper carrying food to its nest. You can see more photos from these trips and others by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

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New South Texas winter itinerary added

After a private trip to South Texas in February targeting a number of rare birds (check out the photo gallery from that trip), we decided to put an itinerary together for a trip to that incredibly bird-rich part of the county. Click here to see the trip details, which will be from March 1-9, 2021. That part of Texas is home to some of the most storied birding spots in the United States: Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, Aransas Wildlife Refuge, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, Estero Llano Grande, Sabal Palm Sanctuary, and more. The birds are storied, too. We will start with wintering Whooping Cranes, then move on to the Valley specialties, birds like Green Jay, Pauraque, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles, Plain Chachalaca, and many more. We’ll look for the less common birds as well, like Morelet’s Seedeater, Groove-billed Ani, Hook-billed Kite, and any rarities that are wintering in the area. Join us!

Altamira Oriole is found in the borderlands of South Texas. Photo by Nathan Goldberg.

Altamira Oriole is found in the borderlands of South Texas. Photo by Nathan Goldberg.

Mississippi Kite in Evanston!

We do a lot of leading of free field trips for local birding clubs in the Chicago area, especially during spring and fall migration. On this morning’s weekly Perkins Woods walk that Josh Engel and John Bates were leading for the Evanston North Shore Bird Club, we found a Mississippi Kite! It was first spotted by long-time Red Hill Birding client and friend Libby Hill and was seen by all 30 or so participants on the trip. There are only a handful of prior records for Cook County and this is the first record for Perkins Woods and for Evanston. This is by far the rarest bird Josh has seen in Perkins Woods after birding there regularly for 25 years. (The second rarest is Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, which was also found on a Thursday morning Evanston North Shore Bird Club field trip.) You can see the full list from this morning’s field trip here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56651730

Mississippi Kite at Perkins Woods in Evanston.

Mississippi Kite at Perkins Woods in Evanston.

Recent trip updates: Texas and Illinois

We’ve been very busy these last couple of months traveling, planning, and birding. In April, we had two Texas trips, first to the Upper Texas Coast, followed immediately by our third consecutive year of running a Hill Country & Big Bend trip. Both trips were outstanding, but great birding and fun groups of people. The trip reports and photo galleries for the trips can be found here. We are running the wonderful Upper Texas Coast trip again next year, for the same price as this year’s trip.

We’ve also done quite a bit of local guiding in the Chicago area and around Illinois recently—May is our peak season for local guiding, coinciding with the peak of spring migration. We’ve guided people this spring from Oregon, California, British Columbia, and from around Illinois. Besides day trips around Chicago, we guided a two night trip to far Southern Illinois, a beautiful part of the state with many birds that are rare or don’t occur farther north. You can read about the Southern Illinois trip here. We have another short Illinois trip planned for September 6-8, to study shorebirds and look for migrants in the Illinois River Valley of Central Illinois.

We saw Painted Bunting on both our Upper Texas Coast trip (where this photo was taken) and on our Texas Hill Country & Big Bend trips. Photo by Josh Engel.

Many new itineraries and trip reports posted

We’ve added many fresh itineraries to the Tour Schedule page, filling out our 2020 schedule. This includes our regular bi-annual trips to South Africa and Bhutan in late 2020 (both of which already have people registered!), along with a whole series of trips in Illinois and to some of the top birding destinations across the US for Illinois Audubon Society members (with discounts for those members). We’ve also updated some of our annual US trips and revamped our regular Top Birding Lodges of Panama tour to include looking for Harpy and Crested Eagles in the Darién wilderness on the main itinerary, rather than the extension.

We’ve also been steadily adding to our Trip Reports & Photo Galleries for each trip we’ve run, including two winter trips to Sax-Zim Bog & Northeast Minnesota and we will soon publish a report from our South Texas scouting.

Please have a look, enjoy the photos, and get in touch if you have any questions!!

A Red-backed Mannakin on one of our 2018 South Africa tours.

Very busy end to 2018!

We’re all caught up with our trip reports and photo galleries from three big trips between October-December 2018: South Africa, Bhutan, and Costa Rica. All of those can be found in our trip reports page. For example, check out the Costa Rica photo gallery. We’re looking forward to some closer-to-home trips in the first half of 2019: Minnesota, Texas, Maine, and Montana. There’s still space on the Montana trip as well as trips in the second half of the year, like our unique Chicago Birds & Architecture tour during the peak of fall migration, so check out out full trip schedule. We’ll be adding additional 2020 trips soon!

A cultural interlude, visiting Punakha Dzong, during our spectacular November Bhutan tour.

A cultural interlude, visiting Punakha Dzong, during our spectacular November Bhutan tour.

Purple Roller (also called Rufous-crowned Roller) during our October South Africa tour.

Purple Roller (also called Rufous-crowned Roller) during our October South Africa tour.

South Africa, Bhutan, and Thailand!

We’ve just returned back to Home Base after a fully around the world affair—a 17 day tour in South Africa, a 14 day tour in Bhutan, and a four night scouting trip in Thailand! It was truly astounding. Josh Engel was leading the trips and saw more than 850 species of birds across the trips. The tours themselves were outstanding—incredible birds, great camaraderie, spectacular scenery, excellent itineraries, delicious food, and just wonderful overall travel experiences. The trip report and photo gallery from the South Africa trip are now posted.

Here are a few photos from the Asian trips as well. Our next set departure South Africa and Bhutan trips will be in 2020, but we can do custom trips to those destinations any time. Just get in touch!

Himalayan Monal has to be seen to be believed. Our group had astounding views at a monastery in Bhutan. Photo by Josh Engel.

In Thailand, like in South Africa and in Bhutan, we saw a great diversity of spectacular sunbirds. This one is Plain-throated (or Brown-throated) Sunbird. Photo by Josh Engel.

In Thailand, like in South Africa and in Bhutan, we saw a great diversity of spectacular sunbirds. This one is Plain-throated (or Brown-throated) Sunbird. Photo by Josh Engel.

FIRST EVER CHICAGO BIRDING TOUR!!

We are thrilled to have successfully run the FIRST EVER commercial birding tour of Chicago, our wonderful home town along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. We had nice weather, good birding, delicious food, and an all-around great time. The tour, CHICAGO BIRDS & ARCHITECTURE, included two dedicated architectural tours of the city’s world-famous buildings and urban design. We birded places like Montrose Point, Jackson Park, Indiana Dunes, the Calumet area, and more. Our architecture tours took in a river cruise on the Chicago River and a private walking tour of downtown Chicago with an expert guide. We didn’t have any stellar migration days, but we steadily build up our bird list to over 100 species, with a mix of early season migrants like warblers and thrushes and late season migrants like sapsuckers and kinglets.

You can read the trip report here. I didn’t take a whole lot of photos, but you can see a selection of photos from the trip here. We hope to run this trip annually—you can find next year’s itinerary here. We can’t wait until the next one!

Josh & Amanda,
Thank you both for a very informative, enjoyable, and memorable tour. It exceeded our expectations!
— Chicago Birds & Architecture participants
A view of the Chicago skyline over South Pond, right near the trip’s hotel. We visited here on the trip’s first afternoon. Photo by Josh Engel.

A view of the Chicago skyline over South Pond, right near the trip’s hotel. We visited here on the trip’s first afternoon. Photo by Josh Engel.

Another tour photo gallery added

We ran two custom South Africa Birding & Photography Safaris during the southern winter and we’ve now added photo galleries of both to our Trip Reports & Photo Galleries page. Check out the newest photo gallery here, from the second of the trips. It was an eight-night trip to Kruger National Park, staying at two wonderful private lodges, one inside the park and one in a private nature reserve bordering the park. The trip was, of course, absolutely full of birds and wildlife and incredible experiences and everybody came away with incredible photos, bigger life lists, and many stories to tell. We can run custom trips like this any time, just send us message to get an itinerary and quote.

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