One thing I’ve learned about birding now that I have a few years under my belt is that it is truly a group sport. Yes, the only looks at a bird that really count are your own, but if you try to track down each avian without assistance, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak. Neither familiarity nor time is enough sometimes, even when covering your own local haunts. And once you venture into new terrain, forget about it… identifying a bird by General Impression, Size and Shape (GISS) is pretty tough when dealing with species you’ve never seen before!
This is a wide, wide world we live in, with enticing avifauna behind every bush, atop every mountain, and upon every pond, lake, and sea. The myriad joys of travel are increased immeasurably when one takes an interest in the native flora and fauna of a place. To truly optimize your opportunities for observation and understanding when you travel, put your pride to the side and rely on experts: get a birding tour guide.
If you’ve never been in position to require the able services of guide steeped in the knowledge of a region unfamiliar to you, let me start by saying you should get out more! Travel expands the mind while it sharpens the senses. The Core Team travels as much as possible, and we’ve tried birding foreign lands both ways. We retained an excellent guide for half a day in the Bahamas and spotted nearly all our target species. Regrettably, we couldn’t find one for Puerto Rico and left that lush isle with impressions of little more than doves and grackles. I look forward to returning to PR, but if a good guide still doesn’t turn up, I may have to skip it.
Matching the right guide to the right locale can indisputably turn a good trip to a magnificent, utterly memorable one. Have you retained birding tour guides in your travels? Please feel free to praise (or bury) them below!