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Worldwide Birding Tours - Birding Ecotours





By Chris Lotz www.birdingecotours.com

This is a topic we would sincerely love your comments on – please do e-mail us at info@birdingecotours.com and let us have your opinion on the matter!

Cuban Tody (photo Jean Kirkwood)

Cuban Tody (photo Jean Kirkwood) from our March 2017 Cuba birding tour – luckily not too difficult to see without playback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether to tick heard-only birds can be a contentious issue. My personal rule is to strictly exclude heard-only birds from all of my lists (including my world list, my southern African list, my Ohio state list, and any year lists that I attempt). My reasons for excluding heard-only birds are twofold. Firstly, because birding would then simply be too easy – the challenge of actually seeing elusive skulkers is a large part of what makes birding tough (in a good way). Finding owls, crakes (especially the tiny flufftails), and some of the more elusive warblers, such as Connecticut Warbler or Swainson’s Warbler, would be far too easy if one simply had to hear them to list them.

Secondly, and more importantly, one would miss getting to know some of the most fabulous birds out there if one was content just to hear them. For example, seeing the plumage of a Boreal Owl is of course a whole lot better than only hearing the species. Not to say that hearing the distant call of this tiny owl for the first time on a cold night in the mountains of Wyoming wasn’t one of the most memorable birding experiences I have ever had! The mountains seemed lifeless and completely quiet until the eerie tooting of this owl suddenly rang out!

On the other hand, one of the most compelling arguments to tick birds by hearing them only (and not continuing further to try and get visuals on them) is an excellent one that I certainly do spend a lot of time thinking about. By making it a rule to actually see (rather than to hear only) a species before listing it, birds can very much be disturbed, sometimes badly. There is, for example, hardly any other way of seeing a good number of the world’s owl species if one does not actually call them in and spotlight them. This is obviously not something the owls particularly enjoy. The same argument applies to rails, crakes, and flufftails, some of which birders call closer with playback before flushing them, which is a double whammy for the poor birds. Perhaps it might therefore be a good idea to count heard-only species on all one’s lists except for one’s main life-list? Let us have your comments.

The ethical concern mentioned above ultimately means that I have a shorter life list, as I sometimes opt not to bother the birds that I would otherwise want to get acquainted with (and list). Sometimes it’s just a matter of being more patient. The Connecticut Warbler that was a life bird for me very recently (earlier this month, May 2017) took a long time to see as I did not try and call it in with playback but instead waited for it (it took a couple of hours before I eventually saw this amazing little thing). With regards to the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail, I opted to join a controlled flushing event that minimizes disturbance to this species and in fact is used to raise funds to help its conservation (as participants pay into a conservation trust set up for this species, for the privilege of joining the controlled flush – see http://www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/terrestrial-bird-conservation/threatened-species/white-winged-flufftail ). In south-western Australia it was an absolute mission to see the three notorious skulkers of Cheynes Beach, because most birders try to see them there, so playback is a definite NO – you can read about my struggles at http://birdingecotours.com/trip-reports/australia.

Actually, with the massive increase in the popularity of bird photography, in which birders want to get photos and not just see the species, this whole controversy is brought to a whole new level. In this modern age probably more than half the birders out there want to photograph what they are finding, not just see the birds, and certainly not just hear them! When I started birding, hardly anyone was trying to photograph a species – folks were more than happy just to see each species and not get photos.

Seeing birds, or better still photographing them, adds to the challenge of birding, which is a good thing. If done in a truly caring way in which the bird’s welfare is genuinely put first (which is what most of my birding friends do), then to me this is the way to go. Other people will remain quite content to list birds simply by hearing them. If that were the case for me, I may have given up on that Connecticut Warbler more easily – but, believe me, I’m glad I spent a couple of hours trying for the species; when I saw this beautiful bird (first at eye level when singing territorially and then moving onto the ground where it moved to forage) it is one of the most unforgettable birding memories possible. The same holds for when I raised my binoculars to a Buff-spotted Flufftail after an arduous session in which my patience was tested to the absolute limit but was eventually rewarded. Flufftails must be the world’s most elusive birds (see http://birdingecotours.com/searching-for-africas-most-skulking-bird-family-the-incomparable-flufftails/), and many people settle for hearing them only. But I have to tell you that when you see these tiny spotted miniature chickens it’s the birding experience of a lifetime. That’s if you can stop shaking with excitement and actually get proper views.

At Birding Ecotours we also do not include heard-only birds in the final count – we mark the heard-only birds on our tour lists, but we are clear to state them as such and not include them with the trip tally. We feel that we have failed the trip participants if we have not got everyone onto the bird properly – that means everyone getting a good view of it. A poor view or a heard-only species can’t be included on the trip list.

For eBird, regional atlases, and other data-collecting exercises which can have scientific and conservation benefits we do, however, count heard-only birds.

On this topic, even more than most, we would love your opinion, stories, etc. Do you tick on heard only, and if so, why? Please e-mail us at info@birdingecotours.com and let us know, if you don’t mind!


Panama Birding Tours

Few places in the world offer such a variety of natural habitats in such a small surface area like Panama. Within its mere 29,159 square miles, Panama has habitats that range from dry “deserts”, where cacti and other succulents are common, to lush tropical rainforests and mountain cloud forests, where moss-covered, epiphyte-laden trees abound. Additionally, its location at the Crossroads of the Americas allows Panama bird species from North, Central, and South America. The Darien is Panama’s bordering region with South America, and it shares an abundant and diverse wildlife reminiscent to that of the Amazon Basin. All in all, in its tiny surface area, smaller than the state of South Carolina, Panama contains more than 977 different species of birds, making it a birdwatcher’s dream come true!

Red-billed Tropicbird by Ramon Fernandez

Birding Tour Panama: Wild Western Panama - the Caribbean and the Cloudforest Slope 2018

Duration: 9 days
Limit (Group Size): 6
Date Start: May 09, 2018
Date End: May 17, 2018
Tour Start:: Panama City
Tour End:: Panama City
Price: US$3236 per person sharing
Summary: Panama offers one of the greatest birding experiences in the Neotropics, conjuring up visions of the Panama Canal, Harpy Eagles, army ants, and ground cuckoos. However, less frequently visited by birders i...

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Birding Tour Panama - Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo by Dylan Vasapolli

Birding Tour Panama: Central and Eastern Panama and the Darien 2018

Duration: 12 days
Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8
Date Start: May 17, 2018
Date End: May 28, 2018
Tour Start:: Panama City
Tour End:: Panama City
Price: $4409 per person sharing, assuming 4 - 8 participants
Summary: Welcome to our new Birding Tour Central and Eastern Panama 2017! Panama is perhaps one of the best birding countries in the Neotropics. With easy access, an excellent logistic infrastructure, and a huge bi...

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Featured Guide - Eduardo Ormaeche

Head of our South/Central American office in Peru, and senior tour leader in this region. Since 2004 Eduardo Ormaeche has not stopped working for Birding Ecotours. He started guiding tours in his nati ...

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What our clients say

Diane and I participated in an amazing 12 day Western Cape Bird watching tour through Birding Ecotours in the fall of 2011 with Mark Harrington as our driver/guide. Mark was a very pleasant, good humoured, knowledgeable guide whose knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Western Cape area was outstanding. He was able to identify all of the birds we saw very quickly and took the time to make sure that all of our group was able to clearly see and identify each new bird or animal. As well his knowledge of the cultural history of South Africa made the trip an excellent learning experience for both of us. He was able to smooth over any rough patches in the tour and made all of us feel special. We hope that in the future that he can be our guide again.

Otto Peter, Canada



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