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From the Field

June 17:

Paul French reports from Mongolia

Mongolia is one of the world’s unique places. There are few places where you spend this much time off-road, off-grid and just following your nose when choosing which tracks to follow. It’s a truly special place, where people are scarce and wildlife is everywhere - if you stop and look! Our highlights were many, including Black-billed Capercaillies and Pallas’s Rosefinch in the forests of the north; Kozlov’s Accentor, Oriental Plover, Saxaul Sparrow and Henderson’s Ground Jay in the deserts of the south; Baer’s Pochards, White-naped Cranes, Mongolian Larks, Mongolian Short-toed Lark and Sakers in the steppes and lakes, and finally Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Altai Snowcock and Asian Rosy-Finch in the central mountains. All this while “glamping” in style with our amazing camp crew and drivers. 

Black-billed Capercaillie

Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch

Demoiselle Crane

Hodgson's Bushchat

Khukh Nuur

Lammergeier

Oriental Plover

Saxaul Sparrow

The Mongolia 2024 crew

June 10:

Oli Reville reports after a successful Bulgaria in Spring tour

Bird of prey enthusiast looking for a spring vacation? Our 2024 Bulgaria in Spring tour recorded 21 species of birds of prey, from the huge Eurasian Griffon Vulture to the rare Eastern Imperial Eagle. Of course there were plenty of other avian highlights, with Wallcreeper, 8 species of Woodpecker, and rare European species like Sombre Tit, Masked Shrike, Paddyfield Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, Pygmy Cormorant, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears, Semicollared Flycatcher, and Black-headed Bunting all featuring during the tour.  

Our 2025 tour is already online and open for booking: https://wingsbirds.com/tours/bulgaria-spring
Ebird trip report link: https://ebird.org/tripreport/245407

Egyptian Vulture: Egyptian Vulture is one of three vulture species possible on this trip, all rare breeders in Bulgaria

Eleonora's Falcon: A raptor which spends half the year in Madagascar and a rare sighting on our tour

Eurasian Hobby: This rapid dragonfly hunter gave amazing views on the Black Sea coast


European Honey Buzzard: A long distance migrant and beautiful bird of prey  

Griffon Vulture: A giant of the skies above Bulgaria, now doing better than ever in the Rhodope Mountains

Lesser Kestrel: A rare breeding species in the country but with very good views available at their nest site

Lesser Spotted Eagle: Another migratory species and seen regularly on our tour

Red-footed Falcon: One of Europe's most beautiful birds of prey

Black Woodpecker: Europe's largest woodpecker and a real experience to watch

Olive-tree Warbler: Not only found in Olive Trees but a very rare breeding species in Europe

Pied Wheatear: The east coast of Bulgaria is the best place to see this gorgeous species

Pygmy Cormorant: A unique looking bird with a very restricted range in southeastern Europe.  


Wallcreeper: An iconic species for any birder and the primary highlight of our tour

June 7:

Fabrice Schmitt reports from Northern Finland & Arctic Norway

Our tour to Northern Finland and Arctic Norway is another one of those dream trips! Blessed with wonderful weather for the duration, we were very successful having fantastic views on no less than six species of owls…

Here a Boreal Owl at the entrance of its next box

 

…and here a beautiful Northern Hawk Owl

We had repeated views of numerous Black Grouse

Capercaillie

Hazel Grouse

and we also found many arctic specialties like Pine Grosbeak

This is a fantastic trip to admire many shorebirds in their breeding plumage, displaying and singing, but the most charismatic were definitely the many colorful Ruffs! 

Our visit to Hornoya Island with its tens of thousands of breeding seabirds, like Common Murres

…and Atlantic Puffin stands out as one of the highlights of the tour  

along with the beautiful adult Yellow-billed Loon in breeding plumage

…and the smart males of Bullfinch

and Bluethroat.

An eBird trip report can be seen here: https://ebird.org/tripreport/243795

June 5:

Ethan Kistler reports from Florida 2024

Another WINGS South Florida spring tour has come to a successful end. The Fort Myers area provided pineywood specials such as Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Bachman’s Sparrow along with Snail Kite, Florida Scrub-Jay...

...and a bonus American Flamingo!

Crossing the peninsula from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast, we passed through Big Cypress and Everglades picking up Shiny Cowbirds and the Endangered Cape Sable subspecies of Seaside Sparrow before reaching the Florida Keys and ultimately the Dry Tortugas. The usual suspects were had including Black-whiskered Vireo, Antillean Nighthawk, White-crowned Pigeon, Masked and Brown Boobies, Black Noddy, and a whole host of migrants.

We finished the tour in and around Miami obtaining point blank views of the highly desired Mangrove Cuckoo...

...and a whole host of exotics such as this Spot-breasted Oriole, that was in a small tree right above our van.

Our tour was topped off with this lovely pair of Burrowing Owls, which have little areas roped off between soccer fields in a busy urban park.

May 26:

Ed Corey and Rich Hoyer report from a successful May cruise off the Pacific Coast

Our May repositioning cruise was a smashing success, with a great diversity of seabirds and marine mammals! As with our April tour, we were able to see all four of our "targets", with great looks at all three petrels AND Laysan Albatross! The Murphy's Petrels were a bit more scarce, but we had good numbers of Hawaiian and Cook's Petrels, including some fairly close to the ship. Our mammal list included Fin, Sei, Humpback and Sperm Whale; Cuvier's Beaked Whale; Orca; Dall's Porpoise; and several pinnipeds, including point-blank looks at Northern Elephant Seal!

We were also treated to spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis (see pictures at the end).

We're excited to offer a Fall tour this October, with a focus on seabird migration and rarities, as well as two more Spring trips in 2025!

Black-footed Albatross were present throughout the voyage, with well over 100 seen by the group. We had lots of opportunities to look at all age classes, too!

Fin Whales were our most numerous whale species, and several gave us up close views as they sounded near the bow.

The Hawaiian Petrel, or 'Ua'U, is a bird quite at home in the deep water off of the continental shelf.

Laysan Albatrosses hold the longevity record for birds, with a female named Wisdom having lived at least 73 years and STILL attempting to nest!

Murphy's Petrels were not nearly as numerous on our May trip, but still gave amazing looks as one passed within 20 meters of the bow!

Jaegers always add a bit of excitement to any pelagic trip, and this close adult Pomarine Jaeger was no exception!

Our ship tacked further offshore than is typical, to adjust for sea conditions. This put is in better range for the uncommon but astoundingly beautiful Red-billed Tropicbird. This is only the second time they've been seen on these repositioning cruises, and we were lucky to observe 4 individuals!

Phalaropes were in strong migration throughout our cruise, with fairly even numbers of Red and Red-necked (pictured here).

Gorgeous Sabine's Gulls were moving north along with us, and we were fortunate to see several hundred over the course of the voyage.

It is not unusual to see shorebirds far offshore in the Spring, though it was quite impressive to have these three Whimbrel keeping pace with the ship for over 2 hours!

May 24:

Skye Haas reports from our latest Pacific Coast cruise

The WINGS April 2024 West Coast Seabird Cruise was a total success with a great selection of both seabird and sea mammals observed. All four the "big targets" were seen well, and while Cook's & Hawaiian Petrels were a bit scarce, we did well for Laysan Albatross and had a fantastic total of 240 Murphy's Petrels for our time at sea. Other highlights included flocks of Sabine's Gulls, a pair of Brown Boobies, alcids like Tufted Puffins and Cassin's Auklets, multiple Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers, and a nice selection of Storm-Petrels with Leach's, Fork-tailed, Ashy and Black all being observed. The cetacean show was unbelievably good as well with Blue, Fin and Humpback Whales, Cuvier's & Baird's Beaked Whales, and on the last morning a trio of Orcas! Pinnipeds were well represented too with rarities like Elephant Seal and Guadalupe Fur Seal.

Common Dolphins were seen on multiple occasions 

A big surprise was a pod of 10 Baird's Beaked Whales that surfaced right next to the boat! 

Murphy's Petrels really stole the show on this cruise with 240 being observed!

In addition of several Laysan Albatrosses, we saw over a hundred Black-footed Albatrosses! 

A delicate little Short-Billed Gull trailing after the ship. 

A last minute surprise on our final morning of travel was a pod of Orcas that surfaced by us!

Several alcid species were seen, including these fetching Pigeon Guillemots

A Pacific Loon tries to flee the ship by crashing through a large group of Vellala (By-the-wind sailors) 

May 15:

Susan Myers reports from Vietnam

Once again, the Vietnam tour exceeded expectations, showcasing diverse birdlife, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural encounters. Beginning in Hanoi and ending in Saigon, each step revealed varied ecosystems, picturesque vistas, and fabulous birds. Our journey southward started at Cuc Phuong, Vietnam's premier national park, established in 1960, and led to remarkable bird sightings amidst limestone karst mountains and verdant valleys. Exploring Van Long Nature Reserve, we marvelled at its labyrinthine waterways and diverse bird species. Phong Nha, with its vast karst system and caves, provided sightings of elusive birds like the Sooty Babbler. In Khe Sanh area, site of an historic battle, we spotted many excellent birds, including Silver-eared Mesia and Black-crowned Barwing, and pursued the elusive Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrushes. Ngoc Linh offered sightings of Grey-bellied Tesia and Brown-crowned Scimitar-Babbler, while Yok Don showcased a mosaic of forests with species like the Black-headed Woodpecker. Di Linh’s unique fauna included the Blue Pitta and Bar-backed Partridge. Cat Tien National Park provided a finale with diverse habitats and remarkable bird sightings, rewarding us with encounters with endemic species like the Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant and Indochinese Green Magpie. From vibrant cities to remote villages, Vietnam offered an unforgettable birding experience, showcasing its rich biodiversity and natural wonders.

Black-breasted Thrush (female)
A widespread but uncommon and shy forest floor dweller, this thrush is very reliably seen in Cuc Phuong NP in North Vietnam where we begin our tour.

Fujian Niltava
This non-breeding migrant to Vietnam is a shy and unobtrusive forest dweller that we were very lucky to observe in N Vietnam.

Puff-throated Babbler
Although common and widespread throughout much of Asia, it’s always a delight to see this, and hear, this lovely little babbler whose favourite food is cockroaches! 

Indochinese Green Magpie
This captivating corvid is always a big hit! Although found in China and parts of Thailand, it’s most reliably found in Vietnam.

Blue Pitta
The Blue Pitta population in Vietnam and Laos, isolated from other populations, has led to the emergence of an endemic subspecies known as willoughby, distinguished by the distinct blush of red adorning its breast.

Collared Laughingthrush
Even amongst the wonderful laughingthrushes, the endemic Collared Laughingthrush stands out as a real beauty!

Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant
Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, a shy ground-dweller, is found only in South Vietnam and just into Cambodia. Although typically considered rare elsewhere, it thrives in Cat Tien National Park, where it is happily still quite common.

Indochinese Blue Flycatcher
Despite its widespread presence throughout Southeast Asia, the charming Indochinese Blue Flycatcher never fails to be a welcome sight wherever it is found.

Scaly-breasted Partridge
The population of Scaly-breasted Partridge we encountered in South Vietnam is sometimes spilt as Green-legged Partridge.

Bar-bellied Pitta
Surely one of the most stunning birds in the world!

May 13:

Paul Holt reports from Taiwan

Once again we saw all of the island’s 31 endemics on this year’s Taiwan tour– with several Swinhoe’s and Mikado Pheasants, multiple Taiwan Thrushes, several Taiwan Blue Magpies, Rusty Laughingthrushes and four Chestnut-bellied Tits as well as umpteen Taiwan Yuhinas perhaps topping the bill. As is so often the case Taiwan Partridge proved the most awkward and required two visits to their preferred bird blind. Other goodies included the endemic race of Maroon Oriole, several close range Malayan Night Herons, two equally obliging Fairy Pittas and a whole host of migrant song (six Pechora Pipits) and shorebirds (think Red-necked, Long-toed and Little Stints, Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers)… Despite a few small tremors than lingered after the early April earthquake and the effective closure of the spectacular road down through the Taroko Gorge we still saw some stupendous scenery…

Several Malayan Night Herons, here a second calendar year, were seen.

Several Black-faced Spoonbills lingered long enough for us to meet them…

Our ferry crossing to Lanyu Island was smooth and produced a few birds…

Once there the local goats vied for our attention...

...with flocks of Eastern Cattle and the occasional Chinese Egret.

 

Some of us enjoyed the local Flying Fish delicacy for dinner!

May 6:

Skye Haas reports from the recent Colorado: Lekking Grouse tour

WINGS has once again successfully completed yet another tour of Colorado, Kansas & Nebraska for the various lekking species of grouse. We observed 140 species of birds this year, including all our target grouse species as well as a bonus pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan. Other highlights include a Eurasian Wigeon, Barrow's Goldeneye, Mountain Plovers, American Goshawk, several Ferruginous Hawks, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Burrowing Owl, Pinyon Jays, Pine Grosbeaks, and all three species of Rosy-Finch- Gray-crowned, Brown-capped and Black! In addition to the fantastic list of birds observed, we enjoyed lots of charismatic mega-fauna such as American Bison, Pronghorn, Elk, Bighorn Sheep as well as the more demure such as Yellow-bellied Marmot, White-tailed Jackrabbit and the endangered Gunnison Prairie Dog. And of course, all of this was set against the incredible scenery that the Rocky Mountains provide around every corner!

Greater Prairie-Chicken

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Greater Sage-Grouse

Ferruginous Hawk

Mountain Plover

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Bison

May 1:

Jon Feenstra reports from the Upper Texas Coast

We just finished up a great week on the Texas coast, where it only takes the right kind of wind to turn a good place into a great place. Though south winds dominated, the north wind blew for two days and we were treated some to bird-filled woods. It was busy, and on one day we saw 24 warbler species.

The crowd favorite was Golden-winged Warbler, but it was too busy to get a photo, but the Prothonotary Warbler was also popular and posed nicely.

There were also dozens of Yellow-billed Cuckoos around: flying by on the highway, sitting on fence wires, eating huge caterpillars, and sometimes just hanging out.

When the south winds were blowing we spent time away from the woods and out in the fields for things like this Dickcissel, singing away…

…or this Upland Sandpiper, one of about 20 we saw that day. This one was exhibiting its ideal behavior of perching on a roadside fence post.

No matter how the winds are blowing, the resident birds are always around. Purple Gallinule was one that lurked across the marshland.

And, everyday was a picnic lunch. There was plenty of Cajun food for dinner, so sandwiches and salads were good, and we didn’t need to stop birding!

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