World Migratory Bird Day is a global campaign dedicated to introducing the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them. This year’s goal is to reduce the impact of light pollution on migratory birds. To commemorate this day, here is a list of 5 Naturalist Journeys guided nature tours where you’ll surely find migrating birds.
Maine’s Monhegan Island
September 9 – 16, 2022 & September 17 – 24, 2022
Experience the joy of fall migration from Maine’s beloved Monhegan Island, a natural migration hotspot! Migrating birds flying south can get off track and find themselves at dawn out at sea. Once they correct, the almost two-mile-long island is a magnet, a patch of green where they can land for food and shelter.
This privately-owned island welcomes birders to enjoy its 350 acres of trails protected by a local conservation organization.
Notable Species: American Redstart, Northern Parula, Swainson’s Thrush, and over 25 species of warbler!
South Texas: Fall Migration!
October 9 – 16, 2022
As one of the greatest birding destinations in the United States, South Texas boasts over two dozen tropical bird species that spill across the border. During our October tour, we arrive at the height of the fall migration of raptors and other neotropical species.
Fall migration in Portugal runs from August into early November and our timing on this birding tour is perfect for arriving waders, waterbirds, and raptors. Enjoy refreshing temperatures, stunning cultural sites, delicious meals, and a wide array of coastal species.
Algarve, Portugal is a notable stop on this trip and is a region rich in protected wetland areas and migrating birds. and is situated on a major fly-way for migrants from Africa. Birding stops here will include the complex network of canals, saline flats and salt pans of the Castro Marim Nature Reserve and the Tavira area of Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Notable Species: Black Stork, Griffin Vulture, Spotted Flycatcher, Great-spotted Cuckoo
Veracruz, Mexico: River of Raptors & More
October 15 – 26, 2022
Our exciting Mexico birding tour to Veracruz, known as the migration crossroads of the Americas, explores the intersection of diverse biological realms, and sites of historical encounters between peoples of the old and new worlds. Not only will you get the chance to explore the world-renowned Veracruz River of Raptors, the largest hawk migration site on the planet, but you’ll find yourself at a major migration pathway for passerines, butterflies, and dragonflies.
Each fall, Veracruz hosts 4-6 million migrating raptors on their way to their winter dwellings. This includes 200,000 Mississippi Kites, which is nearly the entire world population!
Notable Species: Broad-winged Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Cooper’s Hawk, Black Vulture
Platte River Cranes
March 12 – 18, 2023 & March 19 – 25, 2023
Each year, half a million Sandhill Cranes descend upon Nebraska’s Platte River. By March, nearly 80% of the world’s population crowds a 150-mile stretch of the river, creating a migration spectacle that is simply mind-boggling to witness. This is the largest gathering of cranes anywhere in the world!
As the state of Nebraska proudly claims, “Some people regard Nebraska as a place you cross on the way to a more interesting place. About a million sandhill cranes disagree.”
We feel for the partners of birders who don’t (yet?) share their avian passion. That is one reason we offer many wildlife safaris and cruises each year, creating fascinating trips that are bigger than birding.
We have seen many bird-curious partners and friends converted by these trips over the years, which is, of course, gratifying. But for others, these more generalist wildlife safaris and nature cruises are simply a great opportunity to travel together with more to see and do than non-stop birding. That said, be advised that we are a birding company and there is a significant amount of birding on ALL our tours.
All of our African safaris, our Brazil Pantanal tours and our Panama: Introduction to Biodiversity trips are definitely bigger than birding! Spectacular and charismatic wildlife and gorgeous landscapes are hallmarks of all of these tours. Photos are probably the best and easiest way to show what you will see, so below are short slideshows from each of our tours with space available.
Our South Africa tour, which includes time enjoying the wines and culinary delights of Cape Town and substantial time enjoying one of the world’s most spectacular wildflower explosions, has already sold out for 2022. But watch this space for 2023 dates for a prime example of a ‘bigger than birding trip’ that is also a wonderful introductory trip to Africa!
We wrote a blog earlier this year about how to choose an African safari that is right for you, with many of Naturalist Journeys’ founder Peg Abbott’s insights. Below enjoy some of the sights available on our upcoming African safaris.
Landscape Photography: Ultimate Namibia-Botswana Tour
This trip would be perfect for a photographer who is interested in dramatic landscapes to accompany the wonderful wildlife viewing that characterizes all of our safaris. Along our route we witness massive red dunes, fanciful granite outcrops, isolated, iconic inselbergs, colonial Swakopmund on the scenic coast, and world-renowned Etosha National Park.
Gorilla Trekking, Chimpanzees & Other Primates: Uganda
On both of our Uganda tours, guests have the option of adding on treks to interact with endangered Mountain Gorilla and on the July tour, Chimpanzee. Our optional Gorilla trekking is in Bwindi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to approximately half of the world’s endangered population of Mountain Gorillas. This vast reserve offers arguably the most productive montane forest birding in Africa and supports 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species.
Be aware: Gorilla trekking is not for the faint of heart (or the bum of knee), though these encounters offer a stunning and emotional payoff at the end of your trek. Guests sometimes encounter Gorilla after as little as an hour of hiking with our guides and porters, but four or five hours of hiking would not be unusual.
Our Chimpanzee trekking is in Kibale National Park, the single best safari destination for Chimpanzee tracking in East Africa, home to an estimated 1450 individuals. This park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of all tropical forests in Uganda and hosts 13 species of primates in total. It is also home to the rare L’hoest’s Monkey and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened Red Colobus Monkey. Other primates that you may see include the Black-and-white Colobus, Blue Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Red-tailed Monkey, Olive Baboon, Bush Baby, and Potto.
This year’s Panama: Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity Oct. 1-9, is guided by charismatic Ph.D couple Howard Topoff and Carol Simon, who deliver informative and entertaining presentations on a wide variety of tropical biodiversity topics nearly every day on this tour.
Lodging is at the world-famous Canopy Tower, surrounded by the lowland tropical forests of Soberania National Park, and the fabulous Canopy Lodge, in the picturesque foothills of El Valle de Anton, both perfect locations for exploring tropical ecosystems.
Among the non-birding highlights in Panama:
Watch Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Mantled Howler, and Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth in the surrounding forests
Spend time at the Summit Botanical Gardens, which houses more than 100 non-releasable animals — a great way to study many species difficult to see in the wild
Explore by boat on Gatun Lake, looking for Lesser Capybara, West Indian Manatee, and more
Enjoy an afternoon at the Panama Canal, learning its history and watching cargo ships go through the locks
Learn about the herps that live in Panama’s forests during a presentation by guide Carol Simon called “Poisonous Reptiles and Amphibians of the Rain Forest” and also get a bat presentation!
Visit Cerro Gaital to learn more about the butterflies of the region, from the large Blue Morpho to the pretty little Passion Vine butterflies
Cruises: Bigger than Birding
Our cruises to the Galápagos Islands and Alaska’s Northern Passages in particular are wonderful options for new birders, the birding-curious and friends and partners of birders.
Built for close encounters with some of the most charismatic animals found anywhere in North America, the Safari Explorer is designed to go where mega cruise ships simply can’t.
Charting our path amid Southeast Alaska’s island archipelago, we are all but certain to see Humpback Whales, Orcas, Sea Lions and seals, seabirds, shorebirds and many other species, including Grizzly Bear!
Completely isolated from hunting pressure and with little-to-no fear of humans, Galapagos wildlife can sometimes seem to be hamming it up for your attention in plain, nearby view. In fact, if there was ever a place where nature photography can be had without lugging around a heavy telephoto, it’s the Galapagos Islands.
As we move among rugged black “new” islands of the volcanic island chain and the soil-, plant- and animal-colonized “old” ones, we swim and/or snorkel among colorful fish, and sometimes dolphins, turtles or even penguins, whose frenzied fishing swirls the schools. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz provides context and history to the conservation of this most magical place.
Safaris, Cruises, and Private Tours
For the non-birder, the new birder and the birding curious, Naturalist Journeys Wildlife Safaris and Cruises are all fabulous choices. In addition, you can take further control of your adventures by booking any of our tours with a group of friends as a private tour! We can also plan an Invdependent Birding Venture around whatever it is you want to see!
The Collaboration with Naturalist Journeys Was a Win-Win-Win!
Our Trinidad and Tobago birding guides found 237 species of birds in the off season during a win-win-win eBird checklist collaboration with Naturalist Journeys that benefits birders everywhere. They submitted 20 eBird checklists representing two dozen birding hotspots throughout the islands.
“We should all be encouraged by this outcome and for the impressive numbers of birds which we now know can be seen during what we generally consider our off season; including dozens of rarities and even a few lifers,” wrote Jason Radix, our longtime lead guide for Tobago, who coordinated the e-Bird checklist project. “This update can now be used as a reference list for future bird watching tours.”
Helping our guides cope with a loss of tourism income was the primary motivation for Naturalist Journeys owner and founder Peg Abbott to create the eBird checklist incentive program. In a COVID-induced lull in ecotourism she paid the guides a modest monthly stipend to keep getting out in the field and to keep their birding skills sharp, while contributing to important citizen science.
It is a bonus that their eBird checklists will be a great encouragement to birders who have begun to return to the just-opened country, as they demonstrate that a great variety of birds continue to proliferate in Trinidad and Tobago, even in what’s considered off-season. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the country shut to tourism for a long 16 months, during which, UNESCO named Northeast Tobago a Man and the Biosphere Reserve, underscoring just how precious it is to biodiversity.
In all, our guides visited more than two-dozen birding hotspots and submitted 20 eBird checklists.
Surprising them both, our longtime Trinidad and Tobago birding guides actually recorded life birds during the project: Our Tobago expert Jason Radix saw his first Bran-colored Flycatcher, after many years of birding the islands, and Lester Nanan, a third-generation ecotourism pioneer in Trinidad, saw his first Hook-billed Kite.
Their eBird checklists are especially important in the absence of reports from visiting birdwatchers. This bird data drought was observed all over the world, as described recently in the journal Biological Conservation, not only with birds but for all user-dependent collaborative nature data collection.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 followed by stay-at-home orders have definitely affected the quantity and quality of data collected by participants,” according to lead author Wesley Hochachka, a researcher at the Cornell Lab quoted in an article about the study on eBird’s website.
Studying eBird checklist data from New York, Spain, Portugal and California, “(o)ne of the biggest changes they noted was in the type of habitat the reports were coming from,” eBird wrote in its piece, Pandemic-related Changes in Birding may have Consequences for eBird Research. “With more people at home, more people reported birds around urban areas…Less common habitats, such as wetlands, may then be under-sampled because restrictions on human travel make it less likely that birdwatchers will go there.”
Our guides not only traveled to wetlands but to all the varied habitats our guests get to experience on our tours in Trinidad and Tobago. Below, enjoy descriptions of those habitats and see galleries representing the many wonderful birds that can be seen even in the “off season” with Trinidad and Tobago birding.
In Caroni National Park, we moor up at a quiet spot in the mangroves to let the sunset show begin. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Scarlet Ibis cloud the sky as they fly in to roost, an experience you won’t soon forget.
The best area for finding shorebirds in Trinidad is the extensive area of tidal mudflats along the west coast—an area locally known as “Waterloo”. We plan our departure time with tides in mind. Of significant interest are birds arriving from mainland South America.
We bird the swamp formed where the Nariva River reaches the sea; freshwater environments of herbaceous swamp and mangrove swamp forest make for spectacular birding. This is a very full day with many stops and the discovery of species found nowhere else on the island.
We visit the hummingbird retreat called Yerettê, “Home of the Hummingbird.” Located in the Maracas Valley, this private home and lush garden attracts up to fourteen of the eighteen species of hummingbirds found in Trinidad and Tobago.
A remnant of a once major lowland habitat, the seasonally-wet Aripo Savannah is surrounded by sugar cane fields. We explore the tropical birds unique to this habitat, as well as the distinctive flora that has adapted to the savannah’s harsh conditions—alternating from wet to dry.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve
We visit the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, tracing the spine of Tobago. Founded in 1776 and considered the first forest reserve created for a conservation purpose, it’s a great place to find furtive species.
Full List of Birds:
Common Ground Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Common Black Hawk
Great Black Hawk
White-headed Marsh Tyrant
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Grey-necked Wood Rail
Our Adventures in Nature, Birding, and Ecotourism www.naturalistjourneys.com