Panama's National Bird

Our third in a series of Panama trips is just wrapping up. What a great country to bird in Panama is, with an incredible concentration of birds in a small, easily accessible area. One bird, however, that defies the "easily accessible" label: Harpy Eagle, Panama's national bird and a symbol of the America's tropical wilderness. Adam Sell, guiding the Darién extension to our Top Birding Lodges of Panama tour, sent in this photo, which he took after a long boat ride and a two hour hike to the site! WHAT A BIRD!



A tremendous spring for rarities

Ever since the weather turned warm on April 30--very conveniently, the very day I got back from my Texas trip--the birding on the Chicago lakefront has been consistently excellent. This was great for my local spring guiding and it also meant we had a tremendous run of rarities. Here are photos of some of the less common birds that I saw this spring, including some excellent vagrants. Click on the photos and scroll through to see what the birds are and where the photos were taken [note that on a phone you might not be able to see the photo descriptions]. 

Upcoming free field trips in the Chicago area

Spring migration is in full swing, so it’s a great time to see birds as they are rushing north or setting up their breeding territories. Josh does a lot of leading free field trips at this time of year for local birding and conservation organizations, and there are still plenty more before he starts his busy summer travel schedule, with trips to Panama and South Africa. All of the trips below are free and open to the public. Just be sure to introduce yourself! Click the links for trip details. Josh is also available for personal guiding, which is a great way to learn about migration or to see the birds you want to see--just get in touch to start planning.

Thursday, May 17, 7:30am: Perkins Woods (Evanston) with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. Map of meeting location.

Sunday, May 20, 6:30am: Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary with the Illinois Young Birders (RSVP required; limited to students 8-18 and their families).

Thursday, May 24, 7:30am: Perkins Woods (Evanston) with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. Map of meeting location.

Tuesday, June 5, 7:30am: McCormick Bird Sanctuary/Burnham Wildlife Corridor (Chicago) for Audubon Great Lakes. Map of meeting location.

Saturday, June 9, 7:30am: Plum Creek Forest Preserve (southeast Cook County) with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club (space is limited, RSVP to Map of meeting location.

Northern Parula from a guided trip last week, at LaBagh Woods Forest Preserve in Chicago.

Back from Texas, straight into Midwest spring migration

Our recently finished TEXAS HILL COUNTRY & BIG BEND TRIP, guided by Josh Engel, was absolutely fantastic. We saw pretty much everything we were looking for: Colima Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, Varied Bunting (see photo below), Common Black-Hawk, Gray Hawk, Crissal Thrasher, Lucifer Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Olive Sparrow, and on and on. The mammals were excellent, too, with Black Bear, Bobcat, Gray Fox, and millions of Mexican Free-tailed Bats. The weather was pretty much perfect and, as always, the scenery was stunning. The trip report is now up on the TRIP REPORTS page and we’ve also added a PHOTO GALLERY of the trip.

Next year’s trip can be combined with UPPER TEXAS COAST SPRING MIGRATION for an incredible east-west cross-section of the birdiest state in the country. Not only will we see hordes of eastern and western migrants, we’ll see a huge diversity of shorebirds, wetland birds, desert birds, southern birds, and much more. Best of all, if you sign up for both Texas trips, you will receive $200 off. As always, you can send us an EMAIL WITH QUESTIONS or sign up for the trip using our BOOKING FORM.


Hear Josh's interview on NPR!

Red Hill Birding founder Josh Engel is a frequently interviewed by Chicago media when they are seeking comment on bird-related stories. Last week, he joined Judy Pollock and host Jerome McDonnell for a 30 minute segment on WBEZ's Worldview, talking about spring migration and answering listener's question about birds. It was a great time and a real thrill to have such a long interview to discuss birds on Chicago's NPR affiliate. You can listen to the interview here.

Judy Pollock and me_WBEZ.jpg

South Africa trip report and photo gallery posted

We're catching up on trip reports during a break between tours. Here's one from a wonderful, short South Africa trip from last November. We also posted a photo gallery. It was a 10-day road trip loop from Johannesburg, to Wakkerstroom, through Kruger National Park to Magoebaskloof, and back to Johannesburg via the Kalahari scrub north of the metropolis. We tallied 388 species of birds and 47 of mammals--a very successful trip! Below is the trip report's introduction--click on the link above to read the whole thing and see the trip's bird and mammal lists.

South Africa in early summer is bursting with animal life. Birds’ breeding season is kicking into gear, migrants are pouring in, and birdsong is at its peak. This itinerary was designed as a driving loop starting and ending at the international airport in Johannesburg, taking in some the best birding spots in the region along the route and the visiting a wide diversity of habitats full of endemic birds and other wildlife. In just ten days we packed in some of the finest grassland, bushveld, and forest birding the country has to offer, racking up 388 species of birds, including almost all of the top birds on the route, along with an amazing 47 species of mammals. It was a great introduction to African birds, animals, and experiences for the group, none of whom had been to Africa before. Among the bird highlights were Botha’s, Rudd’s, and Short-clawed Larks, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Bush Blackcap, Southern Ground-Hornbill, all five of the endangered vultures possible on the route (among 27 species of hawks, eagles, and relatives), Cape Parrot, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Wattled Crane, Bat Hawk, Green Twinspot, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, African Crowned-Eagle, seven species of bustards, and excellent numbers of migrants.

Back from CUBA

We recently returned from the inaugural Red Hill Birding tour to Cuba! It was a wonderful trip. The birding was great, the people welcoming, and the traveling easy. Despite the strained relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States, the immigration and customs processes were straightforward on both sides of the 'border.' 

In addition to seeing most of Cuba's endemic birds, we enjoyed seeing its classic cars, beautiful architecture, and gorgeous coast, meeting Cubans along the way, and drinking the occasional Havana Club rum cocktail. Check out the trip report and photo gallery. We will post additional photos on our Facebook page, so be sure to "Like" it. 

Although we are not offering a set departure trip to Cuba at the moment, we have a great local guide who is not used by any other tour company and we are happy to arrange custom trips for bird clubs or groups of friends. We will next offer a set departure trip in 2020. 


2019 Texas in Spring itineraries available

Our TEXAS: HILL COUNTRY & BIG BEND Tour in 2018 filled up a full year in advance. We are now ready with our 2019 itinerary, which we have made one day longer to take in some excellent west Texas wetland birding and to make the arrival and departure city the same (San Antonio). We also added a pre-trip extension, which can also be done as a stand-along tour, to the Upper Texas Coast for some of the best spring migration birding anywhere. Check out the itineraries and fill out the booking form if you want to join the adventure, or feel free to shoot us a message if you have any questions. See you in Texas!

Here's a Mexican Jay from the Chisos Mountains on our 2017 tour. You can find the trip report from that your here


TRIP REPORT: Sax-Zim Bog and Northeast Minnesota in Winter

We are just back from a wonderful trip through the winter wonderland that is Northeast Minnesota in Winter. It was a great trip, with wonderful birds (five species of owls!), a fun group, and memorable experiences. Check out the trip report to see the details. We will be offering this trip again in 2019. It's a short trip with very high quality birds and beautiful (if cold!) environments. Here's a photo of a Boreal Owl from the trip, which was a lifer for the guide.


Back from South Africa

We've just returned from guiding three wonderful trips to South Africa. Each was unique, with personalized itineraries, great birds, incredible wildlife, fun people, and many fantastic experiences. We'll add photos and trip reports in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! Next year's South Africa trip, 15-31 October 2018, is guaranteed to run and there are a few spaces remaining. Check out the tour details here and don't hesitate to contact us with questions or to get a customized itinerary for you and your friends. 

Here's a photo of one of our recent groups looking at the rare Short-clawed Lark near Magoebaskloof, Limpopo Province.