Whether or not bird watchers are listers -- that is, they are among those who keep track of how many species they have recorded -- they enjoy seeing birds they have never before observed. And the best way to see new birds is to travel to places where different species are found.
As it happens, we have one of those attractive locations here. Birders come from all over the world to visit the Niagara Gorge to see the many gulls that winter in our region. Those mostly white birds are not just seagulls. It is not unusual to see fifteen or sixteen different gull species there.
But local birders have seen most of those gulls and are eager to explore new areas. Some go on their own but many also join groups to travel to exciting locales.
For anyone who can afford those trips, that is the way to go. Your host takes care of all the logistics. This includes travel arrangements, sleeping accommodations, meals, even restroom breaks. And most important, your host helps you find and identify the birds.
Brett Ewald, with a major assist from his wife, Sheryl, operate Lakeshore Nature Tours from their home base in Lyndonville. Ewald, a native of Western New York, is a Buffalo State biology graduate with 30 years birding experience. His credentials also include his experience as former Director of the Hamlin Beach Lakewatch for Braddock Bay Raptor Research, and his published research about waterbird movements on Lake Ontario. Local birders know him as a gifted teacher.
This spring and summer Ewald will be leading tours to a number of birding hotspots. I'll identify the locales as well as some of the so-called target birds he will seek out for those joining him.
February 18-20: A Taste of the North Country - Amherst Island, Ontario and Cape Vincent, New York. Boreal owl, Northern hawk-owl, and great gray owl, rough-legged hawks, Northern goshawk and gyrfalcon, Northern shrike, gray partridge and pine grosbeak.
March 22-31: The Wonders of South Texas - The Gulf Coast and Rio Grande Valley. Whooping crane, plain chachalaca, fulvous whistling-duck, green and brown jays, great kiskadee, hook-billed kite, tropical parula and white-collared seedeater.
May 20-25: Hooked on Shorebirds - Cape May, New Jersey and Bombay Hook, Delaware. American avocet, black-necked stilt, American oystercatcher, godwits and phalaropes, ruff, and curlew sandpiper, as well as various rails, herons, egrets, gulls, terns, sparrows, migrant songbirds and raptors.
June 25-30: The Maine Event - Birding the Coast from Bar Harbor to the Bay of Fundy. Atlantic puffins, common murres, razorbills, Arctic terns, shearwaters, petrels and nesting thrushes, vireos, and warblers. On this trip participants will go whale-watching as well.
July 31 - August 11, 2012 - Sky Island Jewels - The Birds of Southeastern Arizona. Five-striped sparrow, Mexican chickadee, eared trogon, and Beryline hummingbird among 15 hummingbird species, 11 species of owls, nightjars, trogons, southwestern raptors, flycatchers and other grassland sparrows.
Although I know and have birded with Brett, I have never gone on any of his tours so I asked some of my friends about their experiences on his trips. Here are a few excerpts from their comments:
Celeste Morien: "You will hear nothing but positive from me regarding Brett. As a birder, top-notch, he spots and IDs with precision and accuracy, making it a joy to be on one of his tours. Tom and I went to Texas with Brett last April. The trip was so well planned and executed. Every detail was thoughtfully arranged, down to where we ate at places that provided very good local cuisine. Brett chooses nicer digs for us to stay in than I probably would have allowed myself."
Don Cowley: "My wife and I have been on trips led by Brett to many of the great birding sites, including the Rio Grande Valley, coastal Maine, Cape May, the Olympic peninsula and Point Pelee. We spend much of our vacation time with him. He makes sure that everyone sees the special birds. He provides helpful identification tips and his eyesight and hearing are off the charts. He and Sheryl are two of the nicest people I have ever met."
For more information about these tours, visit www.lakeshorenaturetours.com or call 716-628-8226.-- Gerry Rising