Photo by Jack Dodge
NETHERLANDS & BELGIUM: This wasn't intended as a birding tour, but .... We were lucky to have discovered Flevo Birdwatching on-line. Unfortunately it is no longer listed. We took a day from our Amsterdam pre-trip to ride a train for 30 minutes to meet Taco Spanbroek for a wonderful day, despite a.m. fog, in the Oostvaarderplassen, a wildlife preserve, to check out the marshland and willow woods for birds. Click here for our photos from that visit.
He suggested in Belgium we visit Het Zwin on the coast, near the resort town of Knokke-Heist, for more birding. This also was a delightful trip, even though the nature center office was closed on the Monday we visited. There is a stork breeding program here, as well as acres of wetlands preser.
ECUADOR: The Napo Wildlife Center has to be one of our favorite spots for seeing birds. It takes effort to get there, but once you're there it's comfortable and exciting. Other bird-watching sites on our itinerary were Yanacocha Ditch near Quito; the grounds at La Cienga near Mount Cotopaxi; Papallacta Pass; San Isidro Lodge near Cosanga; Tinlandia between Quito and Guayaquil; Sachatamia Lodge at Mindo; and Bellavista Cloudforest Reserve at Tandayapa.
LAPLAND Miles and miles of spruce and birch, moss-covered tundra and a guide who knew where most of the birds were, what a great way to spend two weeks with Audubon in northern Finland and northeastern Norway. With Toni Eskelin of FinnNature, we managed to see 133 species (about half of them new to us) in June 2002, in spite of our leisurely pace. Others on the trip saw even a few more. Click here to see a list of those seen.
CELESTUN ON THE YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO: During fall and winter, flocks of flamingos, 25,000 or more, make this their home. (They move around east to Rio Largatos to breed in spring and summer). Flamingos of the brightest red orange I've ever seen, even in photos, lined the shore in deep groups. The boat tours aren't allowed real close, so bring binoculars. We were lucky that a small courting flock danced their way within a block of the boat. The entire preserve at Celestun has huge numbers of herons, gulls, pelicans, shore birds, including roseate spoonbills, zone-tailed hawks and pygmy kingfishers.
It can be a day trip from Merida, but why not stay a couple nights. The optimum place to stay in the Celestun area is Eco Paraiso Xixim, delightful thatched roof cottages on the beach about seven miles from town. They run tours to the flamingos and elsewhere, so you only have to drive in and out the 6 miles of washboard road once. This relatively news ecological resort is a real "island" paradise with fabulous staff, good food and a pool. The fastidious should be warned, that although the cottages are kept scrupulously clean, gangs of geckos (which you may never see) feed on the insects in the thatch. You don't see the insects, but you do see some gecko droppings to remind you how close you are to nature.
COSTA RICA : Costa Rica has to be one of the best places in the world to see lots of colorful birds in relative comfort, esp. if you have a guide like Carlos "Charlie" Gomez of Costa Rica Expeditions. To see the list of 356 species birds (combined from three trips), including the resplendent quetzal, that he helped us spot, click here. Charlie actually spotted about 20 to 40 more species, but we didn't see them long enough to count. To learn more about the second trip, when we saw almost all on the list, read Ruth Marie Lyons Journal (with photos by Jack) on this site.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. Click here to see the list of birds we saw in the 10 days at the Asa Wright Nature Centre and in Tobago. More intrepid birdwatchers saw a few more, including Trinidad's elusive Piping Guan, which we saw later in Ecuador, on the Napo River. Click here for the trip photos and here for bird photos.
OAHU NATURE TOURS: We had limited time on Oahu, Hawaii, to check out the birds, but Michael Walther of Oahu Nature Tours helped us sight quite a few and provided an interesting view of other natural wonders, flora and fauna. Knowledgeable and accommodating.
SLIMBRIDGE WILDLIFE AND WETLANDS CENTRE, England. This is actually a zoo, but a well-presented one where much is done to preserve and educate. It is a wonderful stop as part of a trip to the nearby Cotswolds. In addition to thousands of exotic birds in near-natural settings, there are viewing blinds to spot the local -- and listable -- birds. Part of a trust started by naturalist Sir Peter Scott.
NORTHWEST BIRDS, birding holidays in Cumbria, England. A heaven on earth for serious birders, a wonderful find for travelers to northern England who enjoy birdwatching. Operator Mike Robinson really knows his birds and the territory and shares the information with joy and good humor. Wife Annie loves to garden, and the grounds and floral arrangements show it at Barn Close, this large home in the small village of Beetham. Annie's also a great cook and decorates with a real knack for pleasing color combinations.
Check out Mike's web site above for more information. He's serious enough to carry a beeper for rare bird alerts and has also led European birding trips for the English company "Gulliver's Natural History Holidays."