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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South Africa photo gallery added

We added a photo gallery from our first of two South Africa trips over the southern winter. The bird was primarily focused on bird and wildlife photography, so rather that writing a trip report I've made a larger-than-usual photo gallery. Check it out!

It was a tremendous trip, with incredible birding and great mammals. We had amazing views of Secretarybird, Southern Ground Hornbill, Lion, Leopard, countless Elephants and Giraffes, and much more. We stayed in many wonderful hotels and thoroughly enjoyed the people, places, food, and experience. 

Upcoming FREE field trips!

We have a series of FREE field trips coming up for fall migration. 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. It's 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--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 24
Aug 31
Sep 7
Sep 14
Sep 21 (guest leader)
Sep 28
Oct 5

PERKINS WOODS, Evanston (map of meeting location)
Thursdays in September, starting at 7:30am. Looking for migrants in this small, suburban forest preserve. Trips will be led by Josh Engel and John Bates. In partnership with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club


Sep 6
Sep 13
Sep 20 (John Bates only)
Sep 27

 

Both Jarvis Bird Sanctuary and Perkins Woods are good places to see Olive-sided Flycatcher in the fall. Photo by Josh Engel.

Both Jarvis Bird Sanctuary and Perkins Woods are good places to see Olive-sided Flycatcher in the fall. Photo by Josh Engel.

Update from the field

We've just finished up our first of back-to-back birding and wildlife photography tours in South Africa. What a great trip it was. I love introducing people to Africa for the first time and seeing things anew through their eyes. We racked up over 200 bird species in 11 days driving a loop from Johannesburg, but more importantly we got many incredible photos and simply had an incredible trip. 

Among the highlights were a pride of 12 lions around a waterhole, including six cubs; four leopards; incredible, close encounters with elephants, giraffes, hippos, and many other African savanna animals; watching Southern Ground Hornbills carrying around mice they had caught; a tif over food between an African Gray Hornbill and a Black-shouldered Kite; incredible photo opportunities at the feeders at the stunning Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge; a day to see the sights of Johannesburg; and interesting and varied food and accommodations throughout.

It will take a while to go through all the photos to get a photo gallery posted, but here's two for a sample. Can't wait to get back into the field tomorrow for more!

One of many unforgettable moments from the trip: Spotted Hyena pot o' gold at the end of a glorious rainbow,.

THE iconic African birding safari bird: Lilac-breasted Roller. 

THE iconic African birding safari bird: Lilac-breasted Roller. 

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!

 

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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 josh@redhillbirding.com). Map of meeting location.

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