Minnesota Global Birders
I am one of the organizers behind the Minnesota Global Birders group. We have monthly presentations by people about trips that they've taken to various global destinations. Our first few years we had in-person presentations, but with the onset of COVID-19, we switched to an online format. One of the silver linings has been that we can record these presentations so that people can watch them later. This page is where we will house those recordings to make it easy to find and go back to. Click on the date link to get taken to the Eventbrite page for signing up. For past presentations, click on the title of presentation to get to the recording (which is stored on Google Drive).
As a group, we are committed to equity, conservation, travel and a love of birds. For a more detailed mission and values statement, along with best practices and general information about our presentations, please see this document.
Travel and birding in Belize with Robin Oxley and Keith Olstad
Join us for a brief overview of travel and birding opportunities in Belize, a Central American country with over 60% of its land surface covered by forest. Robin & Suzanne Oxley and Keith Olstad offer brief comments on their two separate trips to Belize a month apart this past winter. They will show photos of the sites and birds they encountered. The Oxley's trip included Crooked Tree, San Ignacio, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the Belize Botanical Garden / DuPlooy’s, several Mayan ruins including Caracol, Green Hills Butterfly Ranch, stops along the Hummingbird Highway, Placencia, and Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve. Keith’s trip included Ambergris Caye, and both visited Black Rock Eco-Lodge and Xunantunich Mayan ruins.
Olaf Danielson will give a presentation on an epic voyage he took across the South Atlantic. After a start birding in Uruguay and Argentina, he headed to the Falklands and South Georgia, and on to Gough, Inaccessible, Nightingale, and Tristan da Cuhna, about the most remote islands on Earth.
While Asia is the largest continent, much of its landmass is remote and well to the north. The Himalayas boast great species diversity, but can be challenging to reach and navigate. It is the Southeast, extending well into the tropics, and having excellent accessibility, that offers the optimal birding. More specifically, Thailand is the perfect gateway to this lovely region, being easy to navigate, safe, and rich with birds and unparalleled architecture. Michael Hurben and his wife Claire Strohmeyer had the good fortune to live in Bangkok for some fourteen months for a work assignment, and birded extensively throughout the country that came to feel like their second home. In this presentation Michael will talk about birds, culture, and practical matters related to visiting "The Land of Smiles".
Robin and Suzanne Oxley visited southern Peru in 2016, first traveling independently through the "Sacred Valley" to the Inca ruins at Macchu Picchu. They then took a 9-day guided tour with Ramiro Yabar down the legendary Manu Road to the Amazon Basin, staying at the Cock-of-the-Rock and Amazonia lodges. Along with birds, they will present information on the travel arrangements, their prep work, and the varied things they encountered.
When Portuguese sailors reached the shores of southeast Brazil in the 1500s, they saw a vast tropical forested region that stretched hundreds of miles along the coastline. Today this forest is in remnants but is still large enough to be awe-inspiring and host a huge array of plants and animals. São Paulo state sits on the Tropic of Capricorn but has an entirely different mix of bird species when compared to the equivalent latitude in Mexico. Southeast Brazil is full of antbirds, cotingas, ovenbirds, and tanagers and has an immense wealth of flycatchers. Aside from the Atlantic tropical forest there is also the unique and beautiful araucaria forests in the mountains and the allure of the cosmopolitan mega-city of São Paulo, with its fantastic cuisine and captivating art. Please join Gregg Severson and Jason Caddy for this presentation on travel and birding to this wonderful region of the world.
France may not be on the top of birders' lists for birding destinations, but this diverse country offers a nice mix of cultural highlights and intriguing birds. In this presentation, Alyssa will describe her opportunistic birding hikes during a friend/family visit with her French partner. The trip took place in August 2021 and covers four locations in the southern half of France.
Armenia: Rich Birdlife in an Ancient Landscape with Judith Benka (recording not available)
“Armenia is a landlocked country surrounded by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. It has a total area of just under 12,000 square miles, mostly mountainous, and from time immemorial has been a migration route for birds between the European continent and places south of the Transcaucasus. Considering Armenia’s small size, its birds are highly diverse. A total of 346 species, resident and migrant, have been observed within its borders.
"We spent 10 days in Armenia. We visited a variety of habitats including semi-desert, forest, lakeshore, and mountain meadow. This presentation will cover many of the 139 species of birds we encountered. Often we birded at sites of historical and cultural importance, such as a medieval fortress, a caravanserai on the silk road, and a prehistoric stone circle. In addition to our British tour leader/bird guide and local Armenian bird guide, we were fortunate to have an Armenian cultural guide. Therefore, since Armenia is a relatively unknown travel destination, I shall include photographs of some of the sites we visited, the various landscapes, some plants and butterflies, and briefly mention other topics of interest such as food and accommodation."
With five days to go before Stephen Greenfield's trip to Uganda, the UK government put the country on their COVID "Red List," so the five British fellow birders could not go. He decided to go anyway and it worked out well, as the only client with the guide (and often also with additional local guides and park guards), as well as with fewer tourists around and less traffic. Along with stays at savanna National Parks, the focus of the trip was on the forest reserves in the west of the country, which he had not visited in his previous time in Uganda many decades ago.
Is your travel companion a non-birder who seeks more than birds when traveling? A trip to Lima, Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru and Quito and the Galapagos in Ecuador will provide ample opportunities to bird and to experience natural beauty, non-bird wildlife, culture, art and food. Peru is home to more than 1,800 bird species with about 120 of them endemic to Peru. 177 species have been observed on the Galapagos islands with about 45 endemics. Leslie Gillette will share her November 2019 trip. Highlights include several tanagers and hummingbirds and Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, Galapagos Penguins and Lava Herons among other Galapagos endemics.
With a land area well larger than that of the continental USA, Brazil has an incredible variety of habitats and bird species - even without the Andes mountains entering the country. This past winter, Michael Hurben and Claire Strohmeyer birded three different regions: Amazonas (north-central), Sao Paulo (southeast Atlantic rainforest), and the northeastern states of Ceara and Bahia, recording 672 species over the course of 25 days. This presentation will focus on the first two regions; time permitting a few highlights from the northeast may be covered as well.
Despite its relatively small size, the country of Panama hosts an impressive 1002 bird species. Gerry Hoekstra will report on a trip to Panama made several years ago with five other Minnesota birders. Although the trip lasted only ten days and covered only the eastern half of the country, he was able to chalk up 296 of them (unfortunately, not including the Harpy Eagle).
Ecuador is an inconspicuous and unassuming South American nation with much it could brag about. From its coastal lowlands to the Andes cordillera that cuts down the middle, and down to the upper Amazon Basin—not to forget the Galapagos archipelago located some 600 miles off its Pacific coast—this equatorial country offers a lot in a pint-sized package, and holds what may well be the highest biodiversity on Earth. Only a little larger than Minnesota, it contains more than 1700 species of birds.
Paul Greenfield, illustrator and co-author of the field guide and app "The Birds of Ecuador," will present an overview of this fascinating nation, focusing on its distinct geographical regions through the prism of Ecuador’s National Birding Trail Network and its avian hot-spots, highlighting a sample of bird species that characterize each sector. That network—which he helped create—has sparked a boom in local birding initiatives in even the most remote and least-accessible corners of its territory.
While Colombia is acknowledged as the country with the most bird species in the world, Peru is close behind. In October 2018 Paul was able to join a small group touring the northern part of the country, from the head of the Amazon Basin to the Pacific Ocean. Each mountain ridge and valley brought its own surprises, especially to one who was birding South America for the first time. In all, the group tallied over 750 species with only 50 or so heard-only birds. But more special than the numbers were the introduction to such new families as Antpittas, Tapaculos, and Crescentchests; exploring the incredible diversity of families such as Hummingbirds and Tanagers; and the excitement of finding endemics and birds that have been described to science only within the last few decades. This will be a bit of a whirlwind tour, but should convince you that this area is well-worth visiting or re-visiting.
Kellie Hoyt and Gregg Severson will present on their February 2020 trip to Guatemala. The impetus for the trip was for Kellie to join a group of mosaic artists traveling to San Lucas Tolimán (on the shores of Lake Atitlán) to make and install two mural-size mosaics in collaboration with local artists in one week. Happily, they were able to take extra time to explore Guatemala, and to go birding! They visited Guatemala City, Antigua, and the Lake Atitlán area. Both aspects of their trip (birding with local guides and participating in the mosaic program) gave Kellie and Gregg a unique connection to the local people and their culture.
This month’s presenter for Minnesota Global Birders, Scott Clark, will highlight his two trips to Colombia in 2019 and 2020. These trips collectively covered portions of the central and eastern Andes (up to 13,000 ft.), the Magdalena River valley, the Caribbean coast, and the famous “sky island” of Santa Marta. With its amazing biodiversity, this geographically small country claims almost 2,000 bird species, 20% of the world’s bird population. Each trip netted around 400 species, and after eliminating duplicates the trip lists totaled around 575 species. Colombia’s varied geography affords a remarkably high level of localized speciation, and 45 endemic or near endemics were found, including one of the rarest birds in Colombia.
Although it wasn’t specifically a birding tour, Gerald Hoekstra’s circuit around southern Peru offered many birding opportunities, including stops at Lake Titicaca, the famed Colca Canyon (where one can see the Andean Condor), a ride across the altiplano, and a birding trip with a guide across the Malaga Pass. The last stop of the trip was Machu Picchu. His presentation will include photos of both the sites and the birds.
Guatemala in northern Central America is less visited by American travelers than neighboring Belize or Costa Rica, but has a lot to offer for birders. Over 750 species of birds are found in a range of habitats including volcanic mountains, Pacific and Caribbean coastal lowlands, dry scrub thorn forest, and the tropical lowlands surrounding the Mayan ruins in the north. Our two-week visit yielded more than 320 of those species, as well as other non-avian wildlife. A number of these birds are regional endemics, not found in the more visited countries of Panama and Costa Rica. The presentation will also include some discussion of the challenges of birding in Guatemala.
November 17, 2020 7:00pm
For the October gathering of Minnesota Global Birders, Judith Benka will give a presentation on a 3-week trip to India in February, 2020. She and her family travelled almost 1,800 km overland, mainly in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The trip combined sightseeing (temples, forts, palaces, and ancient monuments) and wildlife viewing. They visited the National Chambal Sanctuary, Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve, and Keoladeo National Park/Ghana Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur. They saw around 180 species of birds (many on local walks and in the grounds of hotels and resorts) and various mammals and reptiles.
October 19, 2020 7:00pm
Belize is a popular travel destination for Americans thanks to its rich Mayan heritage, English language, and proximity to the United States. But few tourists, let alone seasoned birders, know about its hawkcount secret. Join Alyssa in exploring the fall hawk-counting site of Punta Gorda as she describes the raptors and other avifauna of southern Belize.
September 30, 2020 7:00pm
In our August online gathering, Stephen Greenfield will give a presentation on his 2016 birding trip to Taiwan. Though much of the island is densely populated, over half is still forested and wildlife is well protected, which is especially striking in a region that is largely deforested and where birds and other animals are widely threatened by trapping and hunting.
The island is only 1/6 the size of Minnesota, so would not justify a birding trip and the long flight on its own, but is a great addition to a business trip or a visit to other countries in Asia. It also has 29 endemic bird species. This visit was only 6 days, en route to mainland China, so this will be a shorter presentation than the others we have had.
August 25, 2020 7:00pm