October 12th, 2010

Preparing for Peru: Postponed

Unfortunately, my trip to Peru has been postponed since there weren’t enough participants on that departure. Hopefully, I’ll get to go sometime next year.

I had set aside a large chunk of my vacation days for it, and since I can’t carry them over to next year, I had to find something else. So my wife and I are going island-hopping in the Caribbean. A few days in Puerto Rico, and then a cruise to the US Virgin Islands, Antigua, Dominica, and Grenada. I’ve got bird guides lined up in the latter two. Anyone have suggestions/tips for the others?

August 10th, 2010

Preparing for Peru: Other Books

In December, 2010 I’m heading to Peru for a birding tour with Kolibri Expeditions. Preparing for Peru is a series detailing the preparations that I’m making for the trip.

When a birder plans a trip to a new location, especially a foreign one, the first item they get is a field guide. But after that, there are still some more books needed. Here are some that I have gotten, or looked for, for my upcoming trip to Peru:

Bird-finding Guide

Where to Watch Birds in PeruA bird-finding guide is one of the most important items on a birding trip, sometimes even more important than a field guide. After all, you need to know where to go and what to expect. The internet has lessened a traveler’s dependence on such guides, but to me, nothing can beat having a hard copy of a good bird-finding guide, such as the ABA/Lane series.

Unfortunately, it seems that Peru is without such a guide. [Update] Gunnar points out in a comment below that there is, indeed, one for Peru: Where to Watch Birds in Peru, by Thomas Valqui.[/Update] But since I’m going on a guided tour, I don’t absolutely need one. However, I would encourage anyone even on a guided tour to get a bird-finding book for your destination, if available. While preparing for your trip, they can be an invaluable resource in discovering what to expect.

Travel Guides

National Geographic Traveler: PeruThere are many travel guides to Peru, such as National Geographic Traveler, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s. Like bird-specific guides, these aren’t required for those going on guided tours, but can still be helpful. Even if you don’t need one to plan your itinerary, they can still help familiarize you with the history, culture, and “feel” of the place. Since I’m not going to have much (or maybe any) non-birding time in Lime and Cuzco, I haven’t gotten one of these. But if it looks like I’ll have any city-time to myself, then I will definitely be doing some reading.


Other Field Guides

Travellers' Wildlife Guides PeruBirds aren’t the only animals I’ll see in Peru, of course. I’m really hoping for some monkeys, Giant Otter, even snakes. But that means more field guides. Luckily, Travellers’ Wildlife Guides Peru covers a sampling of the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians of Peru, and probably most of the ones I’m likely to see. Well, maybe not the birds, but that’s why I have a bird-specific field guide.




A Neotropical CompanionJohn Riutta recently wrote about some books for visitors to Panama. The ecosystem-level books he recommends – A Neotropical Companion, A Naturalist’s Guide to the Tropics – are also applicable to Peru. Those two are still on my list of must-read books, but I have read the similar Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America, and it’s incredibly fascinating.



Bird Ecology

Birds of Tropical America: A Watcher's Introduction to Behavior, Breeding, and DiversityLast, but certainly not least, is Birds of Tropical America: A Watcher’s Introduction to Behavior, Breeding, and Diversity. This is a fantastic overview of the ecology and behavior of the birds one will see in Peru and elsewhere in the neotropics. Ever wonder why there is such high bird diversity in the tropics or why they’re so colorful? Steve Hilty discusses it here. I read this book years ago, but should again to help understand the birds I’ll be seeing. It’s not enough for me to simply pin a name on the birds I see; I want to understand them as much as possible. I would recommend this book even to those not planning on birding the tropics.

If anyone knows of other books that would be helpful, please let me know.

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July 1st, 2010

Preparing for Peru: Bird Field Guide

In December, 2010 I’m heading to Peru for a birding tour with Kolibri Expeditions. Preparing for Peru is a series detailing the preparations that I’m making for the trip.

Besides binoculars, when birders travel to an unfamiliar place there is one item of paramount importance. Clothes? So what if you forgot to pack any, you can just keep wearing what you traveled in. Deodorant? The birds won’t mind the smell. No, you can forget everything else as long as you’ve got your field guide.

Birds of Peru field guideWhen it comes to a field guide for the birds of Peru, there are a couple of options, but really only one choice – Birds of Peru. This guide was updated in May, 2010 and is as up-to-date as you can expect a neotropical field guide to be. (I think there is at least one new species that has subsequently been discovered, but I don’t think it has even been officially described yet.). The artwork is very nice, and even though different plumages (gender, age, and subspecies where appropriate) are illustrated, the plates are not crowded. The maps and text accounts are on the facing page. The accounts are not extensive, but include the details needed for identification.

This is a relatively small and portable field guide (for the neotropics, at least!). You won’t be able to fit it in a back pants pocket, but you should be able to find a way to carry it into the field, such as a pack or vest.

Anyone birding in Peru should have a copy. I know I’m planning to have mine with me at all times when I go.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at this excellent field guide, I’ve written a full review at The Birder’s Library.

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May 23rd, 2010

Preparing for Peru

In December I’ll be heading to Peru for a birding tour with Kolibri Expeditions. Obviously, I’m very excited! But also more than a little daunted. This will be my first time in South America, and my first birding tour ever. So I’ve got a lot to prepare for. I need to figure out what to pack, what to wear, what medicines and immunizations I need, and many other things that I probably haven’t even realized I need to think about. Oh, and then there’s the 800-1000 bird species that I need to study.

I’ll post about the actual trip itself when I get back, of course, but I thought the preparations beforehand also deserved to be discussed. After all, there are plenty of trip reports on the web, but not many resources to tell you how to prepare for a trip. So over the next few months I’ll be posting about the preparations as they are made. Hopefully, it will be helpful to others, just as I hope it will keep me from forgetting something important!

If you have a suggestion of topics or tips that should be covered, please let me know.

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