So about a month ago I started contacting some VIP’s in the birding industry (and most friends as well) asking „I know it’s short notice, but would you like to go to Honduras with me next month?!?….“ Not surprisingly it didn’t take me long to fill the trip!
The purpose of the trip?!?… To give some amazingly, talented birding writers / bloggers / social media gurus the opportunity to test drive the NEW Leica Trinovid HD 42 binoculars before they hit the market in January from the incredible Pico Bonito Lodge!
Well, there’s me, an 11 year veteran at Leica Sport Optics. I came to my position through 20 years as „professional bird bum“ prior to this. That label includes time working for numerous agency & non-for-profits as (very) seasonal biologist chasing birds in exchange for floor space to sleep on & that ever elusive „small stipend“. Much of this work centered on live capture, radio telemetry, etc. of raptors (hawks, eagles, and owls), guiding professional bird & wildlife tours in Alaska, dabbling with writing birding articles & books, giving birding presentations and whatever else it took to feed myself while following birds around the U.S.
Joining me are:
Jonathan Meyrav – Birder and Birding tour leader, Tourism Director for the IOC (Israel Ornithological Center) // SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – The guy who gets the award for furthest travel to join this powerhouse team, trekking all the way from Israel! Jonathan is a force in the global birding community. An expert birding tour leader in Israel, with sharp identification skills and a keen interest in desert birds, migration and vagrancy patterns. Jonathan spends the migration seasons where the birds do, in Eilat in the spring and Northern Israel in the fall and winter. Although I was able to pry him away for a week with the promise of life birds!
Jonathan has served as the Tourism Director of Israeli Ornithological Center (IOC) since 2010. He still spends around 70 days a year guiding foreign birdwatchers, donors and birding tour groups. In recent years Jonathan and his team have proven their amazing creativity and foresight helping to remind the world that Israel is a fantastic birding destination. They developed numerous large scale international events, including the Hula and Eilat Birding Festivals and various seminars centered around global bird conservation.
My personal favorite though is the amazing, new project “The Champions of the Flyway” which Jonathan organizes. COTF is an international bird-a-thon that raises funds and awareness against the illegal killing of birds along the Flyways. Last year the Leica / Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers team won the Champions of the Flyway cup with the highest species total, but we were more proud to be among the top teams earning the most money for Birdlife Cyprus, the 2015 conservation cause. We were even able to contribute more in kind, when we donated our first prize binoculars to them as well!
„I was completely blown away and honored when asked to join this adventure. Although I have birded South America before I have never been to Honduras. I have heard incredible things about Pico Bonito, the lodge, the park and of course the birds so it is a great privilege to experience these things firsthand. Having spent much of the past years developing and coordinating the Champions of the Flyway project in Israel I am looking forward to spending time with my fellow Champions of the Flyway from around the world and to help James Adams with his amazing „Honduras Birding for Conservation tour“ in Nov 2016. I would like to thank Leica Sports Optics for inviting me along for the journey and I am looking forward to experiencing the pristine new Trinovid HD in one of the most beautiful and birdiest places in the world, I have about 60 potential lifers to chase so bring it!“
Laura Kammermeier – Travel Blogger, Managing Editor, Nature Travel Network
Laura’s brainchild the Nature Travel Network (NTN), is a growing compendium of global birding travel resources. Laura’s thirst for immersive experiences in nature has led her through Europe, Central and South America, Israel, and throughout the United States; she publishes her travel experiences on NTN and contributes to magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Laura is also the sole proprietor of My Digital Nature, a web development agency specializing in nature and tourism clients. Laura is passionate about growing and supporting the birding community and is president of her local bird club, the Rochester Birding Association. She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband, Paul, and two children, Max and Jack.
„It’s great to see Leica releasing a new entry level binocular and I can’t wait to test them in Honduras! Last time I was there I was able to observe the endangered Honduran Emerald at close range. Leica’s new Trinovid HD has an impressive 6 ft close focus, so I’m prepared if that should happen again.“
Laura with the cumulative prowess of this birding team, I think we can change that last sentence to „…when that happens again!“ I don’t think many birds & wildlife species will go undetected with this crew!
Rob Ripma is one of the owner-operators of Sabrewing Nature Tours leading birding and photography trips around the world. He is also owner and creator of www.NuttyBirder.com, “the place to go to find birds”. Rob is currently the President of the Amos Butler Audubon Society (ABAS) in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Secretary of the Board for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). In addition to his work on the BSBO board, he is on the planning committee and serves as Field Trip Coordinator for the organization’s largest event, The Biggest Week in American Birding (also the largest birding event in the US by attendance). Prior to joining the ABAS and BSBO boards, he served on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President.
Rob co-founded the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. Rob loves working with new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect birds and their habitats. He is the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms and periodically has articles that appear in the printed magazine. When he’s not birding or traveling, Rob works part-time at Wild Birds Unlimited. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 with a degree in Marketing and lives with his wife Stephanie in Carmel, Indiana.
Also traveling across „the pond“ for this bird party, is Dominic Mitchell from the UK!
Dominic Mitchell is the Managing Editor of Birdwatch, the magazine he founded in 1992, and also Managing Editor of the leading website BirdGuides.com. He is the author and editor of several bird books, including A Photographic Handbook of the Rare Birds of Britain and Europe, Where to Watch Birds in the London Area and a comprehensive new checklist for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, to be published by Lynx Edicions in 2016. A lifelong conservationist with more than 40 years’ birding experience, he has visited over 70 countries and every continent; he also guides tour groups, his favourite destination being the Azores (15 trips and counting). Dominic sits on the Portuguese Rarities Committee and is a former Council Member of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East. His special interests include identification, gulls and photography, and he also contributes to popular blogs (including Birdwatch Blog) with a global following on social media.
“…sounds like a great itinerary, and I’m keen to find out more about the new product too. Really looking forward to it, and thanks very much for facilitating this opportunity.”
David La Puma, PhD – Director of New Jersey Audubon’s, Cape May Bird Oservatory (CMBO)
Not unlike myself, David spent much of his younger days chasing birds for research, difference is he made it legitimate by earning his Doctorate of Ecology & Evolution from Rutger’s University, where he studied the ecology and conservation of the federally endangered „Cape Sable“ Seaside Sparrow. For many years it seemed I kept tripping into David in the field be it on Christmas Bird Count in Florida, or birding in Cape May, NJ. He was the one of the first people I knew to dabble with digiscoping and the first person I’d ever heard utter the term back near 2,000. I’d describe him as a passionate birder but also a „techno-junkie“ loving to figure out, combine and utilize technologies in birding. Not surprisingly he was drawn to radar studies of migration in his years of post-doc work, but what makes David special is his unique ability and desire to bring this marvel and make it understandable to the non-scientific lay community as he did in his website Woodcreeper.com. David has incurably, infectious energy & enthusiasm and is always wonderful to be around.
Drew Weber is the founder and editor of Nemesis Bird (a massive multi-authored bird blog) and now works to curate some of the best content the web has to offer on birding and ornithology from an energetic crew of ornithologists, field researchers, tour leaders and photographers.
Drew is originally from PA but now lives in central New York where he is enjoying the long and snowy winters. He has done various bird jobs including bird surveys for the 2nd PA Breeding Bird Atlas, tracked saw-whet owls from dusk to dawn with Scott Weidensaul and counted hawks for several years for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. His master’s research at Penn State University focused on grassland birds and their relationships with different agricultural practices.
Drew is an avid lister, especially on smaller scales, and enjoys adding new birds to county, state and life lists. A sucker for competitions, he has placed 2nd in the World Series of Birding (with Nemesis Birders Andy McGann and Mike Lanzone) and is the part of the winning team for the Onondaga Audubon Bird-a-thon in Central NY and the Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup (2 years running with Nemesis Birder Alex Lamoreaux).
He also enjoys digiscoping and making apps for birders. He is project manager for the North American Rare Bird Alert and coordinates the development of BirdsEye, BirdLog and BirdsEye Hotspots. He is active in the Pennsylvania birding community as chairman of the bird records committee, as well as a reviewer for sightings submitted to eBird.
Plus he is another fantastically enthusiastic gentleman with a „can do“ attitude.
When looking at the roster of talented birders coming together for this Drew said:
„This is looking awesome!“
I couldn’t agree more!
Nina (pronounced nīna with long I sound) is a native of Wisconsin and an enthusiastic observer of the natural world. She writes, „A few years ago, I made the transition from a professional juggler to optics nerd, and it opened a whole new world for me. Some of my favorite and most memorable birding experiences have been the crane migration in Nebraska, the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge off the coast of Cape Cod, the raptor migration at Hawk Ridge in Duluth, MN; and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. One cold, magical winter in Wisconsin, I hosted 10 Eastern Bluebirds in my „Pink B&B,“ an old Peterson box in my prairie that I insulated just for the guests. That same winter, I discovered a dozen Short-eared Owls in a field adjacent to my property. I don’t keep a life list. I just enjoy every bird on the day, and in the place, that I see it! This will be my first visit to Honduras–I spent an amazing week in Costa Rica earlier this year.“
Beyond Nina’s enthusiasm and passion for all things wild, she is both a true expert on optics as well as an uber, eloquent writer. Amazingly, she had just posted this blog post on Honduras the week before she received her invite… purely coincidental without knowing she had an invite coming. Perhaps, you should blog about exotic, far-away, dream locations more often, Nina! 😉
„I’m going to relish being surrounded by the beauty of Honduras and the warmth and camaraderie of friends old and new. It’s a dream come true!“
Nate Swick – manages many of the American Birding Association’s social media platforms including the very active ABA blog with many authors throughout the world contributing. Hailing from NC, Nate also writes about his birding adventures on the Drinking Bird since 2007 & is featured regularly on 10,000 Birds. Away from the tech, he has worked as an ardent environmental educator & interpretive naturalist. He is an eBird reviewer for the state of North Carolina & a member of the NC Bird Records Committee. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with his wife, Danielle, and two young children who will hopefully grow to love birds as much as their Dad! 😉
Nate was someone I always heard of in the community, had corresponded with through email, and once in a while we even saw each other at distance across a crowded show floor or event. I knew of his prowess as a birder, but was pleased to also discover his quick wit when were finally able to bird together at the ABA Rally in San Diego, CA, in October 2013. I remember thinking, „Damn, this guy’s funny, too!“ Of course I should have picked that up already through his writing in the Drinking Bird he describes himself in this way:
„I am Nate. I’m a birder, and thus, most everything I do revolves around that in some way. I grew up in the midwest but currently make my home in Greensboro, North Carolina, with my wife and 2 young children, who are not yet aware that they are birders too. When I’m not looking for birds, which is not often, I enjoy music with banjos in it, good beer, progressive politics and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and I’m not particularly shy about sharing my opinion on any of those things. Just so you know.“
I look forward to birding with him again and hopefully even discovering a new beer in Honduras!
As the others had noted Nate quipped,
„Looks like a great crew!“
Our final guest / participant, Ed Hutchings, a wildlife journalist & bird tour guide from the UK. Ed and I again have tripped much of the same ground over the years and have undoubtedly rubbed shoulders at the Leica stand at the British Bird Watching Fair, and then again recently when we both attended the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival last month, but it seems we have still not properly met. So this is yet another, „lifer“ to look forward to in Honduras! Ed’s writings regularly occur in Bird Watching Magazine (UK – not to be confused with the US publication by the same name) whom he will be representing on this trip. As well as Coast, Discover Britain, Nature’s Home, Nature Travel Network and The Telegraph/Travel Media Awards Finalist 2015.
Born in East Anglia, but raised in the Arabian Gulf, Ed was always going to have two things – itchy feet and an inquisitive mind. After leaving university with a degree in hospitality, he embarked on a career as a sommelier for a decade, working at various Michelin-star restaurants; in the process winning the prestigious sommelier competition UK Torres Quizmaster in 2004.
Clearly a great writer, Ed and I are just playing catch up as he was a list minute addition to the crew when one member had to bow out just last week. Also a keen birder, I can tell already we will get along famously! Of his joining the trip Ed wrote:
„Great to be joining you… I’m sure great birds will
come thick and fast… I want the full set of motmots!“
I’ll be asking your opinions of the wines now as well, Ed!
So to James Adams and our hosts at Pico Bonito Lodge, prepare yourselves a storm is coming. To my friend and our local guide Elmer Escoto, we can’t wait to finally bird with you on your home turf. For all the rest please follow along at home. Expect exciting posts and great images coming at you from Honduras all week starting next Tuesday Dec 8th. With this stellar crew the interwebs will be alive at the links above, on this site, and on the Leica Birding Facebook & Twitter feeds!