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.
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.
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.
Sep 21 (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. Trips will be led by Josh Engel and John Bates. In partnership with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club.
Sep 20 (John Bates only)
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!
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!
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].
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.
Sunday, May 20, 6:30am: Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary with the Illinois Young Birders (RSVP required; limited to students 8-18 and their families).
Tuesday, June 5, 7:30am: McCormick Bird Sanctuary/Burnham Wildlife Corridor (Chicago) for Audubon Great Lakes. Map of meeting location.
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.
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.
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.