July 2007 Birdletter, Part I July 26, 2007

Part I of the July 2007 issue of the Birdletter includes articles about our spring 2008 Austin, Texas Birding & Nature Festival, our 2009 Cruise to The Seychelles, The Best of Vietnam, our new slate of Birds and Butterflies tours, South Africa, Brazil: Carajas, Grand Venezuela, and Belize: Chan Chich Lodge. (See Part II for articles about Ecuador: the Northwestern Andean Slopes, a list of VENT Cruises, Winter New Mexico, Holiday Tours, Thailand Highlights, Central Chile & Patagonia, Grand Southern India Train Odyssey, South Texas: Birds and Butterflies, Fall Hawaii, and the addition of Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis to the VENT staff.)

 

In this issue:

AUSTIN, TEXAS BIRDING AND NATURE FESTIVAL

THE SEYCHELLES

THE BEST OF VIETNAM

BIRDS & BUTTERFLIES TOURS

SOUTH AFRICA

BRAZIL: CARAJAS

GRAND VENEZUELA

BELIZE: CHAN CHICH LODGE

AUSTIN, TEXAS BIRDING AND NATURE FESTIVAL

By Victor Emanuel

April is a beautiful time of year in Central Texas—the wildflowers are at their peak, and the bats and breeding birds are back and on territory, including the famous Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. We have long wanted to share our home territory with folks who have traveled on VENT tours. In 2008 we hope many of you will be looking forward to being with us in Austin, one of the nation's most vibrant and exciting cities. We have planned a wonderful event complete with great field trips and evening programs, and a superb team of leaders.

On our daily field trips we will see a tremendous selection of waterbirds and landbirds. We will make a special effort to show everyone our two special birds, the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo. Our outings will be bird and natural history outings encompassing the full range of creatures and plants in this biologically rich area. We will see a great variety of wildflowers including our state flower, the bluebonnet—a lupine, and the lovely winecup—a deep burgundy-colored mallow.

One evening we will board a boat on Town Lake, adjacent to our hotel, to watch over one million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Participants who wish to come a day early might want to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center or the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

We have chosen the lovely Hyatt Town Lake Hotel as the headquarters for our celebration. It is located on Town Lake and next to the hike-and-bike trail that runs along the lake. From the hotel you can enjoy a beautiful view of downtown Austin. For those who would like to do so, there will be an opportunity to drop by the VENT office, which is only two miles from the Hyatt. Our office is in its own building in a natural setting adjacent to the greenbelt.

All field trips will be made up of 14 persons traveling in two vans with two leaders, and there will be only 14 participants at any location. Each day you will be with a different set of VENT leaders.

For those who would like to spend more time in Texas, this celebration can be combined with our High Island tour, April 13-17, which will be co-led by Brennan Mulrooney and David Wolf.

A VENT celebration differs from a regular VENT tour in having a larger group of VENT leaders, thus giving participants the opportunity to be in the field with different leaders over the course of the event, and also in having evening social hours and evening programs. We hope you will sign up soon. We expect a sellout for this marvelous event.

AUSTIN, TEXAS BIRDING AND NATURE FESTIVAL

April 9-13, 2008

With Victor Emanuel, Kenn Kaufman, Barry Lyon, Brennan Mulrooney, Michael O'Brien, David Wolf, Louise Zemaitis, and Kevin Zimmer

$1995 from Austin

Limit 56

REGISTER BY SEPTEMBER 15 AND RECEIVE A DISCOUNT OF $100

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THE SEYCHELLES aboard Le Ponant

By Barry Lyon

Remote and romantic, the island groups of The Seychelles are believed by many to be among the world's most beautiful places. Set off East Africa in the gleaming blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the archipelago sits as a paragon of island paradise. For those who make the journey to this distant corner of the world, awaiting are pristine coral atolls, crystal-clear lagoons, stunning granite-sand beaches, huge breeding bird colonies, and flourishing submarine preserves.

The Seychelles

The Seychelles — Photo: Courtesy Le Ponant

For this departure, VENT is chartering Le Ponant, an elegant 32-stateroom sailing yacht that offers what may well be the most comfortable way to experience the Seychelles. As we have the entire ship to ourselves, we're offering a customized itinerary designed to provide the ultimate Seychelles experience, combining birding, snorkeling, sightseeing, and historical interpretation. We will focus our activities on a wonderful network of national parks, preserves, and World Heritage Sites.

We plan to visit all of the major island groups within the archipelago, including Aldabra, with its world-class snorkeling and magnificent giant tortoises. Time among the better-known Inner Isles is complemented with visits to the more outlying Amirante and Farquhar groups. We'll witness some of the most impressive breeding seabird colonies in the world. We will go in search of many, and possibly all, of the Seychelle Islands' endemic birds, including the Seychelles Kestrel, Bulbul, and Blue Pigeon, as well as the Black Parrot, Aldabra White-throated Rail, and Bare-legged Scops-Owl.

Zodiac landings on powdery white sand beaches may bring close encounters with green and hawksbill sea turtles on land. Snorkeling excursions offer superb opportunities to explore undisturbed reefs filled with clouds of tropical fish of all varieties and sizes. On inter-island transits we'll watch for whales, dolphins, and other marine life. While on board we'll learn about the early exploration of the islands, the ages of piracy and the slave and spice trades and, finally, colonization.

This voyage presents a true trip-of-a-lifetime, and when you are on board watching Le Ponant unfurl her 16,140-square-feet of majestic billowing white sails to catch the breeze, heading northward in the Indian Ocean, we know you'll agree.

THE SEYCHELLES

March 8-24, 2009

With Peter Roberts, David Bishop, Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, Joel Simon and TBA

$12,500 from Victoria, Mahe

Limit 56

REGISTER BY SEPTEMBER 15, 2007 AND RECEIVE A DISCOUNT OF $1,000

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THE BEST OF VIETNAM

By Susan Myers

Highlights of our 2006 trip to Vietnam included not only the remarkable birdlife but the fabulous food, varied and exotic culture, terrific people, and general atmosphere—I think we sampled all of these aspects very well. This year we had incredible luck with wonderful weather and the rewards were many!

This comprehensive tour of Vietnam covers a variety of habitats, thus allowing us to observe a range of the Indochinese/Southeast Asian avifauna and other wildlife. The forests of Vietnam have been severely depleted since the end of the war, and in fact are still being heavily exploited, so the birding here can be a challenge at times! That said, I have noticed so much improvement in the last few years it is quite heartening.

We started off at Cat Tien National Park, a few hours drive from Saigon. This large area (80,000 ha) of southern lowland rainforest provided much fascinating birding during our stay. The long jeep drive to Dac Lua gave us many birding opportunities. A full-day walk to Crocodile Lake was not only very pleasant, but we saw some more great birds. Excellent views of Scaly-breasted Partridge and Germain's Peacock-Pheasant were obtained, as well as a beautiful female Banded Kingfisher, a very entertaining pair of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, the near-endemic Gray-faced Tit-Babbler—quite common but not easy to see, and, to finish off, an incredible look at the stunning Bar-bellied Pitta. Once at the lake we enjoyed a relaxing lunch and wonderful scenery augmented by Bronze-winged Jacanas, Gray-headed Lapwing, Purple Swamphens, and Plain Prinias. Exploration of the C5 ponds allowed us to enjoy brilliant views of the endangered Green Peafowl, as well as many other wetland species such as Woolly-necked Stork, Painted Stork, Black-capped Kingfisher, and Schrenk's Bittern—in the only rain of the trip.

White-collared Yuhina

White-collared Yuhina — Photo: Susan Myers

Our next destination was the delightful highland town of Da Lat where we enjoyed sumptuous accommodation and truly great birding. We experienced a number of memorable moments here. But en route we birded at the Di Linh Pass with excellent results: Long-tailed Broadbill, many Maroon Orioles, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, and a very brief Vietnamese Greenfinch. A walk up Mount Lang Bian was off to a good start with a pair of Vietnamese Crossbills encountered along the path, followed later by super views of an incredible mixed flock comprising the endemic Vietnamese Cutia and Yellow-billed Nuthatch, and then nothing less than brilliant views of the endemic subspecies of Lesser Shortwing. Later we tracked down a very skulking Collared Laughingthrush, arguably the most beautiful of a very attractive group of birds.

Multiple visits to the delightful Ta Nung Valley never failed to turn up something new, but best of all were Indochinese Green Magpie, Spotted Forktail, the endemic Red-vented Barbet, the high-quality Gray-crowned Crocias, and the Black-hooded Laughingthrush that we so thoroughly deserved!

We had a good morning at Ho Tuyen Lam, catching up with Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Maroon Oriole, Burmese Shrike, the glorious Mrs. Gould's Sunbird, Ashy Bulbul, and Eyebrowed Wren-Babbler.

From Da Lat we drove to the seaside town of Nha Trang and then on to Da Nang and Hue in Central Vietnam enjoying some birds and plenty of history and culture along the way. From Hue we headed up to Ha Noi and then drove to Cuc Phuong, Vietnam's oldest national park. Located in the Red River Delta, the park protects a 22,200 ha area of limestone peaks and evergreen tropical rainforest. Our explorations of the park included a walk through a semi-cleared valley, a longer walk to the 1,000 Year Old Tree (Terminalia myriocarpa) through many limestone crags, and exploration of the numerous trails around the headquarters. Simply birding along the park road proved to be most rewarding, however. We racked up a good number of excellent sightings. Of special note were superb and prolonged views of Pied Falconet, scope views of Asian Barred Owlet, Green-eared Barbet, Blue-rumped Pitta, some really lovely Silver-breasted Broadbills, brief views of White-winged Magpie, the rather odd looking Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Crimson Sunbirds in the headquarters' gardens, a couple of rather recalcitrant Large Scimitar-Babblers, Sultan Tits, and some super-sneaky White-tailed Flycatchers.

From here we struck north for our next destination, Tam Dao. This former French hill station lies north of the capital at an altitude of 930 meters. Again we enjoyed the best weather I have ever experienced here as we basked in bright sunlight but cool days! With this came some wonderful birding moments. Of particular note were stunning Orange-bellied Leafbird, the elusive Gray Laughingthrushes that put on a beautiful show for us, a pair of rare and shy Coral-billed Scimitar-Babblers, and stunning close views of Fujian Niltava.

Returning to Ha Noi we boarded our luxury overnight train to the town of Sa Pa in Vietnam's far northwest. Our afternoon visit to the Ham Rong Gardens is probably best not mentioned, but we were soon back on track at Fan Si Pan and O Quy Ho with great looks at Little Bunting, hundreds of Brown-breasted Bulbuls, and White-browed Laughingthrush. We found Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler before heading up to Mount Fan Si Pan, Vietnam's highest peak. The trails at Hoang Lien Son Forest Reserve enabled us to thoroughly explore this remnant forest. During our stay here we caught up with some wonderful birds including Gray-bellied Tesia, Black-faced Warbler, Red-tailed Minla, Golden Parrotbill, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Little Forktail, and a delightful pair of Plumbeous Redstarts. Beautiful Nuthatch was a surprise gob-smacker!

Apart from the terrific birding, I think it is safe to say that other highlights of our trip included the wonderful and varied scenery, the never-ending enterprise that we observed as we sped around the countryside, the sheer variety and deliciousness of Vietnamese beer and wine, the superb food, and above all, the Vietnamese themselves, who were endlessly accommodating and friendly and made our visit such a pleasure.

The Best of Vietnam may be taken alone or in combination with our Cambodia tour, January 17-February 3, 2008.

THE BEST OF VIETNAM

December 28, 2007-January 18, 2008

With Susan Myers

$5095 from Ho Chi Minh City (ends in Hanoi)

Limit 8

 

CAMBODIA

January 17-February 3, 2008

With Susan Myers and Dion Hobcroft

$5795 from Siem Reap (ends in Phnom Penh)

Limit 12

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BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES

With the publication of some new and excellent field guides, butterfly-watching in the United States has taken off explosively, and in some areas butterfly-watchers are becoming almost as common as bird-watchers. In fact, many birders are crossing over to become active seekers of both birds and butterflies, as well as dragonflies and other wildlife.

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak — Photo: Michael O'Brien

The primary focus of our "Birds & Butterflies" tours will be to introduce interested birders and naturalists to the hobby of butterfly-watching. The relative emphasis of birding vs. butterflying will be slightly different on each tour, but in all cases our aim will be to see the specialty birds and butterflies of each region while learning to appreciate all aspects of the natural world.

Join Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis on one of these exciting new "Birds & Butterflies" tours:

2007

SOUTH TEXAS

November 11-16

$1645 from Harlingen

2008

SOUTH FLORIDA

January 11-19

$2595 from Fort Lauderdale

BELIZE

March 15-23

Price TBA

 

SOUTHWEST COLORADO

July 16-26

Price TBA

SOUTHEAST ARIZONA

August 2-10

Price TBA

with Michael O'Brien only, limit 7; all others limit 14

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SOUTH AFRICA

By Geoff Lockwood

Our first visit to the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens was a great introduction to the fascinating flora and birds of the Cape. Our driver dropped us off at the top gate and we slowly meandered our way through the various sections down towards the main entrance, reveling in the spectacular scenery and the chance to stretch our legs. Tiny, jewel-like Southern Double-collared Sunbirds darted between flowering proteas and heaths; gorgeous Swee Waxbills foraged along the edges of the flowerbeds; and a high-pitched trill drew our attention to a feeding Forest Canary only yards away. A flock of Red-winged Starlings took to the air in noisy flight—the afternoon sunlight illuminating their rust-colored primaries. The dashing shape of a Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk explained the sudden panic—and then the gardens quietened down again. The ringing, duetting calls of a pair of Southern Boubous (an endemic bushshrike) drew our attention to the birds as they quietly foraged around the base of a clump of grass-like restios, and then a harsher crowing announced a female Cape Spurfowl picking her way across the lawn with a covey of small chicks. A stand of proteas provided our first sightings of the striking Cape Sugarbird, and then breathtaking views of a male Orange-breasted Sunbird busily probing for nectar only feet away from us.

Wakkerstroom—in the high-lying grasslands in the eastern interior of the country—always offers great birding, and this year was no exception. We arrived in the afternoon and, after checking in to the lodge, we headed for the bridge over the Wakkerstroom Vlei (or wetland). The late afternoon light was brilliant and illuminated a nest of three large Spotted Eagle-Owl chicks that gradually became more active as evening set in. Their bobbing and weaving as they studied us (and each other) had us all entranced, while all around us African Snipe, Purple Swamphens, and a variety of ducks and herons vied for our attention.

The next morning we drove out of town on a road that took us up into the high plateau grasslands. Stopping at likely habitat on the way, we were treated to stunning views of a pair of striking Yellow-breasted Pipits displaying over a small marshy hollow, and then, as we were about to drive off, even better views of a gorgeous male Sentinel Rock-Thrush feeding in the short grass next to the road. Great views of the tiny Ayres' (or Wing-snapping) Cisticola followed and, as we were about to turn around to head back for breakfast, an Eastern Long-billed Lark was located feeding only yards from our bus. The bird gave us superb views, and it was a happy and hungry group that headed back for breakfast—a great start to a day that would later give us a further three endemic lark species, as well as four different species of bustards!

SOUTH AFRICA

October 4-25, 2007

With Geoff Lockwood

$7245 from Cape Town (ends in Johannesburg)

Limit 10

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BRAZIL: CARAJAS

By Andrew Whittaker

On our first day in the field, we greeted the dawn at Brasilia National Park. Here, we marveled at a tree filling up with Toco Toucans, their long (even for a toucan) bills nearly glowing, even in the early morning light. A crimson-and-black flash revealed a stunning male Helmeted Manakin that perched at point-blank range in front of us. Spellbound, we admired its beauty as the sun's rays highlighted its uniquely shaped crimson helmet. Other highlights included excellent studies of Bare-faced Curassow, the rarely seen Planalto Foliage-gleaner, Planalto Woodcreeper, Saffron-billed Sparrow, and the striking and highly localized White-striped Warbler. Entertainment was provided by a group of boisterous black-capped capuchin monkeys.

By midday we were flying over an immense green carpet of Amazonian rainforest and descending to land at Carajás. We scored early, when our first morning in the reserve produced repeated superb studies of the mythical bird everyone dreamt of seeing—a spectacular male Black-chested Tyrant! Scope-filling views of a pair of displaying Red-fan Parrots, and a fearless display put on by a very tape-responsive male Black-and-White Tody-Tyrant were also memorable.

Other trip highlights on subsequent days were numerous. Hard work produced stunning views of the King of the Forest Floor, the spectacular Black-bellied Gnateater (voted the top bird of the trip). You know it's a great tour when you get close studies of a male Black-chested Tyrant, and it isn't even voted the Bird of the Trip! This year, our trip coincided with the fruiting of many trees in the stunted canga, which produced more than its share of highlights, especially with parrots. We had crippling views as a flock of nine magnificent Jandaya Parakeets responded to tape-playback by flying right over us and circling, showing off their spectacular hues of yellow, orange, rust, blue, and green before landing at close range for amazing scope studies. We also enjoyed flight views of a group of rarely seen Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlets. A family of diminutive White-browed Purpletufts was also drawn to fruiting trees in the canga, but an Orange-breasted Falcon spotted flying overhead was entirely serendipitous. The overlook at the edge of the canga provided a spectacular backdrop of pristine forest as far as one could see, with several male White Bellbirds clanging out their odd bell-like songs from atop their treetop perches. This isolated, endemic subspecies was named after one of the world's greatest naturalists, Alfred Russel Wallace, who explored Amazonia from 1848 to 1852.

Not to be outdone, the forest birding came through with its share of the action. While we were observing a breathtaking male Purple-breasted Cotinga, an equally stunning male Spangled Cotinga materialized in the same scope view to compete for our attention. To our sheer amazement, it was followed by a rare Blackish Pewee, which landed in the same field of view! Later, we were lucky enough to find a pair of Blackish Pewees constructing their nest right over the road. This localized bird has been seen by very few birders. Puffbirds performed well on this trip, as we enjoyed wonderful close studies of the striking Rufous-necked, Collared, and Striolated puffbirds. A stunning adult male Opal-crowned Manakin on a display-perch dazzled us with its opalescent crown lighting up the dull understory. We were also lucky with big woodcreepers, obtaining close looks of the rare Brigida's and Black-banded woodcreepers, and excellent studies of the recently described and poorly-known "Carajás Woodcreeper." Our night trips produced prolonged scope studies of the rarely seen, forest-dwelling Silky-tailed Nightjar (my personal trip highlight).

I could not finish the highlights without mentioning the excellent looks we had at the recently described Cryptic Forest-Falcon; the endemic White-crested Guan (excellent scope studies) and White-tailed Cotinga; the confidingly close Pavonine Cuckoo; scope studies (!) of a singing Peruvian Recurvebill; and great looks at the rarely seen, endemic Para Gnatcatcher and, of course, King Vultures galore—we recorded 20+ adults at point-blank range.

We also enjoyed encounters with lots of mammals, including Brazilian tapir, three-toed sloth, red-handed howler monkeys, South American coatimundi, and red-rumped agouti, not to mention my encounter with a huge (estimated at 15 kilos) armadillo near the hotel at night! And that jaguar was oh so close!

Despite record drought (the worst in 150 years) which greatly suppressed vocal activity, our trip was a stunning success, and demonstrated just how good Amazonian birding can be. All in all, a wonderful group of people enjoyed nine days of spectacular Amazonian birding, recording 365 species of birds, including some of the most localized and least-known species of South America.

BRAZIL: CARAJAS

November 7-18, 2007

With Andrew Whittaker

$2945 from Brasilia

Limit 8

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GRAND VENEZUELA

By Steve Hilty

A final dinner review of highlights and best birds or experiences of our 2007 Grand Venezuela trip revealed, as expected, a diverse array of comments, but there was almost unanimous support for one event—a defining moment, perhaps, of what nature travel in new and exotic lands brings to those who take the time to look. That moment was when a lovely pair of Pearl Kites came to sit and watch us (or so it seemed) in the desert. We have no inkling of what triggered their arrival or what thoughts, if any, fired across the neuronal synapses in their tiny brains as they watched our gathering, but we do know that, for us, it was one of those rare moments when the lives of birds and humans seem to transcend boundaries.

Deserts everywhere are magical at dawn, for it is a time when birds are active and songful, and cool breezes caress and give life to a spare land that stands in sharp focus. At dawn, desert air is crisp and clean, not tortured by withering heat and deceptive images sculptured in shimmering waves of light. It is a time when sounds are clear and minds eager with anticipation, even urgency, because we know that soon the moment will be lost. Soon a white-hot sun will draw up the last drops of morning dew, silence the morning chorus, and lend strength to fickle winds that bring dull haze and grit to a land that waits colorless and silent in withering midday heat.

Pearl Kite

Pearl Kite — Photo: Steve Hilty

We were mindful of this "dawn" urgency because we knew these moments would not last. So, while we were busily trying to see a furtive White-whiskered Spinetail that moved with tantalizing stealth in a dense shrub, two kites, unbeknownst to us, came to perch on adjacent cardon cactuses that stood like sentinels on the opposite roadside. With backs turned and attentions distracted, we were unaware of the presence of these ethereal creatures until someone turned and noticed them, whereupon we immediately lost interest in the spinetail, not incidentally one of the most dramatically marked of its genus. But the spinetail, with its perverse habits and furtive nature, was no match for this sight of the angelic kites—lovely creatures exuding a kind of charisma and disarming fearlessness as they sat so close, contemplating us from atop thorny perches. Fluffing, turning their heads, occasionally preening, and forever peering down at us through dark red eyes and visual acuity beyond human imagination, it was as if they were attempting to comprehend the mass of shuffling creatures beneath them. We stared back through Zeiss- and Leica-equipped eyes.

Did they know, or could they comprehend what they were seeing? Were they merely curious, or were we intruders to be regarded amicably until contrary evidence was presented? It was, in all regards, one of those rare moments in nature when humans and the birds that they so admire seemed joined in harmony and spirit, in unspoken communication. The kites remained, in kind, to regard their human beholders too, oblivious to the clatter of cameras and rude unfastening of Velcro, and it was as if neither party wished to break this momentary bond. A Troupial calling on the hillside behind and a Pale-headed Jacamar's shimmery trill in a nearby wash reminded us that this desert had many treasures, but still the kites held us, fixed us with their gazes, and we, in turn, remained transfixed, holding onto this wonderful moment. More than ten minutes passed. Then, without a sound, without warning, the pair took wing, silently, effortlessly moving up the valley.

What else topped our list of nature moments? A half-dozen Agami Herons one morning; a steep descent into the display arena of perhaps 20 Andean Cocks-of-the-rock; exquisitely coiffed Vermilion Cardinals in a desert valley (something about that desert morning); the play of light and dancing colors on a Golden-tailed Starfrontlet; the anticipation and eventual tentative appearance of a Plain-flanked Rail, now (sadly) one of Venezuela's rarest and most endangered species; an exquisite Crested Quetzal in an Andean cloud forest; a Great Potoo mute and immobile on a tree branch; the rush of color and noise of Red-and-green Macaws passing overhead; and perhaps even the near-whisper-quiet emergence of Band-tailed Nighthawks flicking over a llanos river at dusk.

GRAND VENEZUELA

January 5-22, 2008

With Steve Hilty and David Ascanio

$5050 from Caracas

Limit 14

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BELIZE, CHAN CHICH LODGE

"The plaza was constantly busy with large mixed flocks of Olive-backed and Yellow-throated euphonias in the abundant tangles of mistletoe, and larger fruit predators such as Red-lored, Mealy, and White-crowned parrots. Other spectacular fruit-eaters such as the Crested Guans, Collared Araçaris, Keel-billed Toucans, and Slaty-tailed Trogons were not abundant—but all put in some stellar appearances. Pride of place among fruit-eaters, though, must go to the female Lovely Cotinga on New Year's Day which, for me, stole the show. I can think of no better way to start the New Year than to walk from the lodge to the suspension bridge, and then edge back home along the picturesque Logger's Trail."

?Paul Wood, Chan Chich New Year 2006

In its short history, Chan Chich has become something of a legend, not only in birding circles but also among those seeking the thrill of immersing themselves in a true tropical forest wilderness. At Chan Chich you can combine some of the best tropical birding in the Americas with easy access, exceptional comfort, and first class service.

Chan Chich Lodge

Chan Chich Lodge — Photo: Courtesy Chan Chich Lodge

Protected from hunting and logging, many species that have been heavily persecuted elsewhere are now common sights in this area. Ocellated Turkey, Crested Guan, and Great Curassow are among these. Spider and howler monkeys abound, and probably nowhere else on the continent will you have as good a chance at seeing one of the five species of wild cats. In one recent year there were over 80 jaguar sightings alone! Combine this with such special birds as Ornate Hawk-Eagle, White Hawk, King Vulture, Tody Motmot, four species of trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and Red-capped and White-collared manakins, and you have the recipe for a fabulous tropical birding experience.

For those who are unable to travel during the holidays, Michael O'Brien will lead our early December trip to Chan Chich. Our New Year's tour will be led by Paul Wood, and offers an extension to Hidden Valley and Caracol where possibilities include the rare Orange-breasted Falcon and Keel-billed Motmot.

BELIZE, CHAN CHICH LODGE

December 7-15, 2007

With Michael O'Brien

$4225 from Belize City

Limit 8

BELIZE, CHAN CHICH NEW YEAR

December 28-January 3, 2008

With Paul Wood and TBA

$3195 from Belize City

Limit 14

HIDDEN VALLEY EXTENSION

January 3-6, 2008

With Paul Wood

$1295 from Belize City

Limit 8

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