Home Comforts

I am always planning my next trip and will often spend weeks researching a dream birding destination – I admit to being smitten with the Neotropics, and I usually divert my gaze Southwards – Manu, Choco, Mata Atlantica and the Pantanal keep me dreaming but unfortunately life gets in the way. Free time is rarely in overabundance, not to mention it is an expensive proposition to spend a couple of weeks in the jungle with a guide. Texas and Arizona are great destinations within a short(ish) flying distance, but for a short break flights, car and B&B/hotel can add up to make it a relatively expensive trip.

Bald Eagle, yard bird on Whidbey Island, WA

Bald Eagle, yard bird on Whidbey Island, WA

During my weekly reality check, it always occurs to me that while instinctively I cast my gaze in other directions, I am lucky to live in an area that has some of the most varied habitats in the contiguous United States and as such have some fantastic birding right on my own doorstep. Within a 3 hour radius of Seattle I can be in alpine meadows, shrub steppe, temperate rainforest and of course we surrounded by some of the best shorebird and pelagic birding in the country. Washington State has a birdlist of 505 species and many Western specialties can be readily found within a short drive of Seattle. Only a birder could look forward to winter in the Pacific Northwest, but the gloom is lifted by the sight of thousands of winter seabirds that are regular sightings for the PNW natives but crippling lifers for everyone else.

Anna's Hummingbird, yardbird in Seattle, WA

Anna’s Hummingbird, yardbird in Seattle, WA

In my own backyard we have Anna’s hummingbirds year-round, rufous hummingbirds, Steller’s Jays , varied thrush, lazuli bunting, black-headed grosbeak, coopers hawk, Wilsons, orange-crowned and Townsend’s warblers, black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees, bushtits, all the kinglets, 5 types of sparrow, most Junco races, nuthatches, flickers, towhees… we have regular flyovers of Caspian terns, osprey and bald eagle (all of which nest within a mile of our house in suburban Seattle).

Not bad for a place I never think about as a birding destination. So I will try to look closer to home next time I need a birding fix, let’s hear it for Washington State!

Check my photos on the image gallery which will be continuously updated in the next few months. Come back often!

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Belize – a well kept secret

I am lucky to have been to many awesome birding locations, and for the hungry birder there are few experiences to match a trip to the Neotropics – species diversity can be unparalleled, landscapes can be jawdroppingly dramatic, and the cities jawdroppingly scary. Therein lies the problem. Unless you are comfortable and confident as an independent traveler, the only palatable choice is to take a guide which for most can be prohibitively expensive. As a result, many don’t get the chance to experience the Neotropics and are missing out on one of the great birding experiences of a lifetime – which is why I think Belize should get more press than it does. Aside from the well photographed Blue Hole, barrier reef and Mayan ruins (which, incidentally are incredible) Belize has some excellent birding options that are easily and safely accessible.

Osprey nest, Ambergris Caye

Osprey nest, Ambergris Caye

Belize is only 180 miles long, has a handful of highways that are easily drivable (even for those from the more polite driving cultures), is English speaking and is easily accessible from a number of international airports. We flew from Houston to Belize City direct in 2.5hrs, picked up our rental car and took off to our first destination – we had booked 4 nights at DuPlooys Jungle Lodge in the Cayo District, which included a side trip to Tikal in Guatemala, followed by 2 days at La Milpa Field Station in the Orange Walk district and 3 nights on Ambergris Caye. Over the next 9 days we would see 181 species, 44 lifers, ride horseback to Mayan ruins at Xunantunich, Canoe up the Macal river, stay at a superb Biological Field station and snorkel with turtles and sharks on the Belize Reef. Belize is a fantastic introduction to the Neotropics and is safe, easy to navigate, friendly and inexpensive. Above all it is birdy, very birdy!

 (George Scott)

Check our photos on the image gallery, and a full trip report will be posted in the next few weeks. Check back often!

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Arizona Roadtrip

What do you do when you have a long weekend and 4 days to use? Simple – book a flight to Tucson and spend the next 4 days birding from dawn till dusk in the canyons and riparian areas of SE Arizona. This outstanding birding location requires little introduction to experienced birders and we had previously visited about 2-3 times over the last ten years.

Acorn Woodpecker taken at Battiste's Bed Breakfast and Birds, Hereford AZ

Acorn Woodpecker taken at Battiste’s Bed Breakfast and Birds, Hereford AZ

Despite our relatively frequent visits we had never managed to get to the Huachuca Mountains and the famed Miller, Ramsey & Carr canyons and San Pedro riparian area. It was time to rectify our oversight of this small but rich corner of Southeastern Arizona.

We had booked 4 nights at Battiste’s Bed Breakfast & Birds in Hereford AZ, on the doorstep of Miller Canyon about 10 miles from the Mexican border, and used this as a base to bird the local area. In addition to outstanding proximity to some of North America’s best birding sites, Julie and Tony Battiste’s property has an impressive bird list itself including many of the local specialties and most notably a nesting pair of elf owls. Not many places can boast a yardlist that has elf owls, so there was no option for us but to stay in Owls Roost for 3 nights not 10 steps away from the nesting owls.

We had an aggressive itinerary – Miller Canyon, Beattie’s for the hummingbirds, Carr Canyon, San Pedro riparian area, Madera Canyon, Box Canyon Road and Patagonia-Sonoita reserve. Our target species included Mexican spotted owl, elf owl, white-eared hummingbird, buff-breasted flycatcher, Arizona woodpecker and we also wanted to be reacquainted with some of the Southwestern species that we hadn’t seen for a while (who gets tired of blue grosbeak and acorn woodpecker?).

Blue grosbeak, Hereford AZ

Blue grosbeak, Hereford AZ

We wouldn’t be disappointed and over the next 4 days we would see 138 species, 14 lifers and have numerous photo opportunities that would want us coming back (seriously, we have already booked our next stay at Battiste’s). This is truly one of the best birding destinations in N. America with surprisingly diverse habitat and a crippling species list. Being only 1.5hrs from Tucson International Airport makes it the perfect location for those with little spare time to take a short but memorable birding trip. Check our photos on the image gallery which will be updated in the next few days, and a full trip report which will be posted in the next few weeks. Check back often!

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Ecuador 2012 Trip Report

In 2010 we finished an amazing trip to Brazil with the optimistic intention of getting the same group together for another avian adventure in 2012. For a while, it looked nothing more than wishful thinking and then, in October 2011, the idea began to circulate about a trip to Ecuador. By November, we were all booked up and ready to go.

Pale-Mandibled Aracari - Sachatamia Lodge, Ecuador

Pale-Mandibled Aracari – Sachatamia Lodge, Ecuador

Ecuador is viewed by many as the premier destination for birding and is the most biodiverse country in the world by land mass, boasting an incredible bird species total of over 1600. For this trip we used the services of Tropical Birding and decided to visit the North-western Slope of the Andes, using Tandayapa Bird Lodge as our base and adding an extra day in the Paramo that lies in the shadow of the mighty Antisana volcano. With day trips out to various elevations, we would be able to cover all of the major ecological zones, Paramo, temperate forest, subtropical forest, foothills, and lowlands in an elevation range of 350m up to 3800m, and thereby rack up an incredible bird list. As you would imagine, the trip was amazing and had many highlights and spectacular photographic opportunities – we saw 337 species in a week and had 138 species in a single day!
Red-headed Barbet female, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

Red-headed Barbet female, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

Ecuador really lives up to expectations and I am certain we’ll go back to explore the other regions of this fantastic destination.

Read the trip report here and check the final triplist here. Check the image galleries for more photographs from this trip

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Brazil Trip 2010

In June/July of 2010 my wife Jenny and I travelled to Brazil with the intention of experiencing as much of the amazing species diversity as was possible in a two week trip. mata-atlanticaAfter flying into Rio de Janeiro we met Pete Carroll from Scotland and spent our first week in the Atlantic Rainforest staying at REGUA, the inspirational conservation project enthusiastically championed by owner Nicholas Locke. The amazing bird life is made even better by the experience of staying at REGUA – the lodge staff, the food, the accommodations, the scale of the project and it’s success so far made this an incredible introduction to Brazil. Most memorable were the personal experiences with the lodge staff – Nicholas was a warm and kind host whose passion for this project can only be described as inspirational. Special mention for our guide Adilei who can not be described in mere superlatives – what a birder, and what a guide! Take the opportunity to read our trip report, and even better take the opportunity to visit REGUA – you will not be disappointed.


After a memorable week we flew to Cuiaba to meet the last member of our group Bryce Harrison who had just flown in from New Jersey, and our guide Bradley Davis for a week in the Pantanal and Chapada dos Guimaraes. The Pantanal had always been in the top ten places I wanted to visit, and this trip would only confirm why this place was considered to be special. Bradley also proved to be an exceptional guide and pulled out all the stops to make sure that we would see as much as was humanly possible in a week, leaving us with tired bodies but great memories of not only birds but fantastic experiences that we wouldn’t forget very soon. Please read our trip report, and make sure you visit the websites for both REGUA and Bradley Davis. If you are planning on visiting Brazil, do yourself a favor and speak to these guys first you won’t regret it!

Photos are posted in the Image Galleries

Download the trip report here and the detailed taxonomic bird list here

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Entering the Pantanal!

Welcome to the Pantanal!

I am a freelance photographer based in Seattle, WA and love travelling and birding. Throughout the last twenty years I have been fortunate enough to visit some amazing places in search of birds and have had some great photo experiences. I am passionate about Neotropical and North American birds, and have travelled throughout North America, and also Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Brazil and Ecuador. In 2013 we have trips planned to Costa Rica, Scotland and the Peruvian Amazon – check back often for updates!

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