Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Birding Trips Bucket List

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Guianan cock-of-the-rock.
I have a friend who travels professionally, running high-end tours and events for corporations and organizations all over the world. I used to think of myself as a well-traveled person, having been to 30+ countries around the world. That is, until I saw an Instagram post by my buddy (I'll call him Tim) as he was visiting this 200th country!! TWO HUNDRED COUNTRIES! That's an epic level of world travel.

There are a lot of places I've always wanted to visit, and of course I want to visit them primarily for birding. But things like culture, history, cuisine, music, and meeting local people interest me almost as much.

So, here are 10 places that are on my Birding Travel Bucket List, and a brief explanation of why. I'm hoping that this blog post will act as a penny tossed in a wishing well, bringing me the chance to some day cross these off the list with an actual visit.

Birders lunching near a village in Papua New Guinea.

10.  Kazakhstan. I love being in the wide-open steppe and big sky habitat, and from what I've heard, this country is just that, in spades. Add in some fantastic birds, interesting culture, and the fact that much of the former Soviet Union was off limits for most of my life and you've got a winner.

9. Nepal. The opposite of flat. While I have no desire to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, I have always been fascinated with the culture and people from this part of the planet. Also: very phunky pheasants.

8. Chile. Birds & wine. Wine & birds. And the end of the Earth.

7. Morocco. I've always wanted to travel in the deserts of North Africa. Lots of endemic birds, too.  I also have a fez collection.

6. Thailand. Pittas, hornbills, and actual Thai food. Oh my!

5. Tanzania. To be fair, there are half a dozen African countries to which I'm equally drawn. But somehow this one seems to creep to the top thanks to its national parks and natural abundance. Tanzania has some world famous sites associated with it: Kilimanjaro, Lake Tanganyika, Ngorongoro Crater, Gombe Stream, Zanzibar. And 1,100 species of birds.

4. Ecuador. While we're on the topic of bio-abundance, Ecuador ranks near the top in terms of its bird list, with 1,660 species recorded. A birder can go from the highest elevation cloud forest to lowland forest in a single day and rack up a significant list en route.

Rainforest birding in Central America.

3. Hawaii. OK so I realize that this is not a country and its native bird life is pretty much doomed thanks to climate change, habitat loss, and introduced exotics. But it would be my 50th U.S. state and I've always wanted to put nene (Hawaiian goose) on my North American life list.

2. Antarctica. Getting to go to Antarctica would solve several things: I'd be able to brag about visiting all seven continents on Earth; I'd be able to drop arcane facts on people, such as: Antarctica is the largest desert on Earth; I'd get to see snow petrel.

1. Australia. For some reason, Oz has always topped my list of most-desirable birding destinations. Certainly the birdlife there is wildly appealing, and the Aussie people are, too. The landscape of Australia is as varied and alluring as the continent's history. There are things everywhere in Australia—on land and water—that can kill you. Besides all these reasons for my attraction, the first article I ever edited for Bird Watcher's Digest,  way back in May of 1988, was about birding on the Cape York Peninsula in Australia. From that moment I was hooked.

These are just 10 places I'm eager to visit for birding and the other reasons mentioned. Ask me tomorrow or next month and I'd probably come up with a slightly different list. After all, there are more than 10,000 bird species out there and I've still got 160-some countries to go to catch up to my pal, Tim.

If you'd like to read more about some of the places I've been (and God bless you, if you do) try scanning back through the last decade of posts on this blog. There are some great trips among the spots, including trips to Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Guyana, Guatemala, Uganda, South Africa, and more.

If you enjoy listening to podcasts, I've shared many of my birding adventures via my podcast, "This Birding Life," which is sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics and Rockjumper Birding Tours.

Some of the trips I take—both domestic and overseas—have room for other people to join me. One in particular, co-hosted by Rockjumper and the American Birding Association, is taking place in January of 2017, is a New Zealand birding adventure. A special invitation has been extended to "This Birding Life" podcast listeners to join us on this "trip of a lifetime!" New Zealand is so very close to Australia—my number one dream birding destination—and it has sheep instead of snakes! Bonus!
While on this fantastic trip, participants will be invited to be a part of a "This Birding Life" podcast episode. But the more appealing aspects of the trip are all the birds we'll see, the islands we'll visit, and the new friends we'll make.

BOTB birding in Israel in 2016.
 I'll be posting more about the trip here and elsewhere, but for now, you can get more information on the Rockjumper Birding Tours site here:

Thanks for reading and I'll see you out there with the birds.


p.s. I'm sure you have your own Birding Trips Bucket List. If you want to share, please do so via the Comments section.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I Went for a Walk

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On Sunday late afternoon I went for a walk by myself. I'd been on a five-mile hike earlier in the day with Julie and two old friends visiting from central Ohio. The morning hike was birdy and fun: ceruleans and rose-breasts, dogs splashing in the creek. This evening walk (not hike) was just to decompress.

Taking a walk works for me.

I'm not someone who naturally finds time to relax. In fact, I need to make myself take some downtime every so often. The normal mode for me, it seems, has always been go-go-go. I see something that needs to be done and I move to take care of it.

While doing so I uncover or discover several other things needing some attention and move to them. Pretty soon a day is used up and gone. Never to return. Some days I feel a sense of accomplishment—"I got a lot done today!" Other days I'm frustrated at the lack of a measured, linear progression. Those are the days when I feel like a hummingbird flitting from blossom to flower, never staying long in one place, never perching to rest, burning up all the fuel I take in just to keep on flying and eating.

That seems like an expensive, not very centered, way to live.

Adding to my need to find a bit of peace on a meandering walk is the ever-present bombardment of news, social media, email, text messages, push notifications, phone calls. It's head-in-a-blender maddening. Makes me want to find a cave somewhere and pull the boulder over the entrance. I keep looking on Air BnB for a furnished cave but have yet to find one.

I've never been much of a self-help-book reader. A chapter or two and my mind drifts away from the author's arc, no matter how deep and poetic. I mark my place with the best of intentions, close the book's covers (which are usually laden with praise-y blurbs from other self-help peddlars) and almost never return to discover the as-yet-unread pearls of wisdom.
Nope. A walk is what helps me. And a good night's sleep, which is something that is helped by a walk. Breathing deeply on the walk also helps me.

And not watching a gory episode of "Game of Thrones." That reduces the nocturnal teeth-grinding in general. Which leads to better sleep and fewer crowns—though not the Game-of-Thrones kind of crowns. The dental kind. [Hey! Look! I used "dental" and "kind" in a sentence fragment!]

Music also helps a lot, but that's the subject for another blog post. Just saying "another blog post" opens the stopcock on a small drip-feed of guilt for not keeping this blog going. I could make excuses, but who'd buy them? The honest answer is: I was busy going too fast in some other direction and I forgot. Blogs are like walks: it takes time to do them right.

Let's hope it's not too late. After all, it's later than we think.

But first, let's talk a walk...