Birds Dominated the Month of May!  

May is a big birding month not only in North America, but across the world. ACA took part in some major birding activities throughout the month and we were excited to meet old and new birding friends!

The Biggest Week in American Birding took place in early May, to much success. The 10-day annual festival was organized and hosted by Black Swamp Bird Observatory and featured workshops, guided birding activities, half-day birding bus tours, keynote speakers, and more. Thousands of birders descended upon northwest Ohio to participate in the festival and observe the spring migration of songbirds. ACA marked our presence with a table and chatted with birders about our recently-renovated birding lodges in Peru.

We also participated in the Global Big Day, an international movement for participants to catalog as many bird species as possible in one calendar day. To raise awareness about bird diversity and conservation in Peru, our biological research stations participated in the Global Big Day, with impressive results! Our Los Amigos station recorded 246 bird species while our Villa Carmen station recorded 257 species – the second highest in the world!  All of our stations were in the top 20 in the world in terms of number of bird species recorded.

ACA’s sister organization in Peru, Conservación Amazónica (ACCA), along with other local partners, held in May the first bird-banding course in southeast Peru at our Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station. Instructors included ACA staff, representatives of local organizations, and graduate students from the University of Florida. Thirteen Peruvian students participated in over 60 hours of instruction. The course was offered in coordination with the Tenth National Ornithological Conference, held in Chachapoyas, Peru. 

Global Big Day 2015 at Los Amigos

A collared puffbird at Los Amigos on last month's Global Big Day. Photo by Jorge Valdez.
A collared puffbird at Los Amigos on last month’s Global Big Day. Photo by Jorge Valdez.

Wow, the results are in! Los Amigos Biological Station participated in this year’s Global Big Day on May 9th in a big way. Global Big Day a day on which birders worldwide attempt to record as many species of birds as possible within a 24-hour period.

The 4-person team at Los Amigos included University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Sean Williams. “My backyard in the Peruvian Amazon held more than 500 species in an area the size of Central Park, and I could not extinguish the blazing thoughts of the species I would encounter that day,” he wrote in a blog about the experience. 

By the end of the day, birders had seen a total of 308 species at Los Amigos—the fifth highest recorded site total in the world! Peru was also the country that saw the most bird species, totalling 1177 in all, almost a hundred more than the next closest country. (By the way, the two southeastern regions where we work, Madre de Dios and Cusco, saw the most bird species within Peru!)

ACA’s Third Birdathon Prepares to Take Flight

Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis ctanea) perched on a branch, ready for the Birdathon. (Credit: Glenn Bartley)

Birds at both Wayqecha and Villa Carmen are getting ready for their closeup. From October 1 to 11, 2014, a group of Wisconsin birders will have their binoculars at the ready to spot species like the giant hummingbird (“the Schwarzenegger of hummingbirds”), the cock-of-the-rock, the gray-breasted mountain toucan, or even the undulated tinamoubut how many will they see in total? That’s the question we all want to know! [Left: Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis ctanea) perched on a branch, ready for the Birdathon. Credit: Glenn Bartley]

The group will journey all the way from Wisconsin to southeastern Peru, along a high- to low-elevation route that includes multiple days at ACA’s Wayqecha and Villa Carmen Biological Stations. This area, located where the eastern slopes of the Andes meet the Amazonian lowlands, is one of the world’s most incredible biodiversity hotspots and hosts an exceptional array of unique and endangered bird species. Group leader and lifelong conservationist Craig Thompson has been leading Birdathons here since 2011.

Through this event, Craig and his group are also raising money for the conservation work at the core of ACA’s mission. Want to join in? You can make a per-species pledge, with a correct guess qualifying to win a copy of the Birds of Peru field guide. You can also make a fixed donation to ACA online or via check (make sure to note your donation as “Birdathon”). Thank you for your support and stay tuned for this year’s species total!

What Kinds of Habitat Will the Group See?

Gray Breasted Mountain ToucanThe landscape shifts dramatically between Wayqecha and Villa Carmen, which means the birds who live in each habitat zone will change, too. Driving between the stations, the elevation drops from 9,875 to 1,700 feet. The birders will pass through puna, cloud/elfin forest, cloud forest, lower montane forest and premontane rainforest in the span of a day.

These videos from Wayqecha show a taste of the bird diversity found at the station, which lies in the buffer zone of Manu National Park. Manu is a colossal protected area twice the size of Yellowstone and world-renowned for its off-the-charts biodiversity (it’s home to ten percent of the planet’s bird species!). As the birders make their descent toward Villa Carmen, they will travel along the Manu Road. 

Hoatzin Bird

According to Craig, the gray-breasted mountain toucan (Left: Andigena hypoglauca) is one of the birding stars at Wayqecha. Other favorites to spot at the station include the golden-headed quetzel, and more than 25 species of tanagers. (Photo credit: Rick Stanley)

Did you know that that biological station is one of the most concentrated sites for viewing or studying bird diversity in the world? There are over 500 species known in its immediate area; all of North America has just north of 700 known bird species. The hoatzin (right) (Opisthocomus hoazin) is one of Craig’s star birds to see at Villa Carmen. (Photo credit: Daniel Huaman)

ACA holds its third Birdathon

Martin Pescador BirdNext month, a group of Wisconsin birders will trek to Peru to participate in 9 days of bird counts and tallies, all in the name of fun and conservation. And they could use your help!  

Since 2011, Craig Thompson has been leading groups of birders from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area to southeastern Perubirding paradise. The group will spend time at Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station and Villa Carmen Biological Station; the stations’ distinct habitats provide an opportunity for even more species sightings.

But the birders aren’t only trying to best previous Birdathon counts for bragging rights. Through this event, they are also raising money for the conservation work at the core of ACA’s mission. Want to join in? You can make a per-species pledge, with a correct guess getting the chance to win a copy of Birds of Peru. You can also make a fixed donation to ACA online or via check (make sure to note your donation as “Birdathon”). Thank you, and stay tuned for this year’s species total!

Left: Martin Pescador by José María Fernandez

Rain Forest Birding: An Experience to “Crow” About!

Group of BirdwatchersArticle contributed by Connie and Peter Roop, participants on ACA’s 2012 Birdathon and authors of over 100 children’s books including their most recent titles, Tales of Famous Animals and Penguins are Cool!]  

“Andean Gull!” Eric cried as he exited the Cusco airport. Amazon Conservation Association’s (ACA) Birdathon had just taken flight.

A mixed flock of Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, and California birders, from fledgling to expert, arrived in Peru for a ten-day birding adventure, traveling from the dramatic Peruvian 11,000-foot highlands to the lush Amazon lowlands. 

“Never go anywhere without your binoculars,” warns group leader, Craig Thompson.

At dawn, sleepy-eyed birders don their binoculars to peer into the brush for a glimpse of an elusive Rufous-tailed Antwren.

“Is that colorful, long-tailed hummingbird a Long-tailed Sylph?” asks a “binoculared” birder at breakfast.

Tayra WeaselCameras clicked as a sleek and swift Tayra, a South American weasel, stole to the same feeder to grab mouthfuls of a Red-Capped Cardinal’s bananas.

“Look at that soaring Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle!” cries a trip member as others drop their sandwiches to grab binoculars at lunch.

Even after the sun sets, these dedicated travelers have birds on their brains and are out trying to spot owls.

Rewards are handsome for both participants and the Amazon Conservation Association. Each day birders could count on seeing a rainbow of colorful birds, butterflies, and flowers.

Each evening at science research stations, they shared local food and learned from scientists conducting projects in these biologically rich and diverse habitats. These avid birders spotted 400 birds and heard 22 more with the assistance of Peruvian expert guides, Alex and Percy. These efforts raised $34,000 for ACA to protect bird habitat in the region. 

Thompson’s two trips have this mission: to create flocks of birders devoted to protecting biological hot spots in Peru’s Amazon Basin and in Costa Rica’s pristine Osa Peninsula. Since 1992, Craig has used his vacation time to gather friends of feathers together to personally experience tropical rainforests.

Each “Thompson traveler” donates $500 to the Amazon Conservation Association or Osa Conservation. The cost of the trip is low. In the past six years, Thompson’s groups have donated over $100,000 to conservation efforts. 

 “Protection of Wisconsin birds’ breeding habitats is only half the conservation story,” explains Thompson, whose day job is at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

“The other half is in Latin American countries like Costa Rica. Without protection of migratory bird winter habitat in Latin America, our Wisconsin woodlands and backyards will become increasingly silent in the spring and summer,” Thompson warns.

Tropical forests on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula are the winter home to 55 species that breed in Wisconsin.  These include Peregrine Falcons and Worm-eating warblers, both of which are state-endangered as well as state-threatened Acadian flycatchers, Kentucky warblers, and Hooded warblers. 

Birdwatchers Group MealtimeTaking a trip to the Osa Peninsula or to Peru links Wisconsin and Michigan citizens and our avian denizens to our southern neighbors.  Projects supported include monitoring over-wintering survival of Wisconsin birds in tropical forests, purchasing property to enable construction of a field station and ecolodge, and cloud forest and dry forest protection and restoration. Investing in these projects has brought incalculable returns to “our” Midwest birds who migrate to Latin America each winter and return to us to breed in the Midwest each summer.

“Turkey vulture!” points out Peter as the newly-made friends say good-bye at the Cusco airport.

Bird by bird, birder by birder, interested citizens have two amazing rain forest trips to crow about. Each provides a unique opportunity to experience the rain forest, to make new “best” birding buddies, and to support conservation critical to Midwest and rain forest species.

If you would like to learn more about the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative’s International Programs, please visit To find out more about Thompson’s trips or make a donation, please visit for Amazon Conservation Association or for Osa Conservation. Interested in joining a future expedition to Peru? If so, email (Photos and text from Peter and Connie Roop)

Birders Give a Hoot! ACA’s First Birdathon Protects Critical Habitat Along Peru’s Manu Road

BirdwatchersFrom August 11th to the 22nd of 2011, the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) hosted its first-ever Birdathon to raise awareness about the diversity of bird species found in Peru and to help protect their imperiled habitat around Manu National Park.

Every year, millions of birds make the long journey from Wisconsin to their wintering grounds in the Amazon. This year, 13 bird lovers made the same journey, led by life-long conservationist and avid birder, Craig Thompson. With the goal of spotting as many species as possible during their trip, participants set out for the Wayqecha Cloud Forest and the Villa Carmen biological stations, both located alongside Manu and managed by ACA’s Peruvian sister organization, ACCA.

Travelling from Wayqecha to Villa Carmen, the climate changes dramatically as the landscape sweeps from snow-capped mountains to the treeless plains and dry valleys of the altiplano before making a sudden descent into steep cloud forests and the broad expanse of the low-lying Amazon floodplain. This topographic complexity has resulted in an exceptional array of habitats that sustain a vast number of bird species. According to Craig Thompson, “It was the greatest adventure weve had, nothing short of mind-boggling” and “a colossal hoot.” Birdwatcher Group

During this year’s Birdathon, Craig and his group saw a combined total of 348 species– not a bad number for less than two weeks! (In comparison, only 409 bird species have ever been seen in Wisconsin.) Moreover, the enthusiastic group helped raise more than $16,800 to support ACA’s work to protect bird habitat in this critical region. Watch a video of Craig Thompson talking about the Birdathon at Wayqecha here.

 We at ACA are working tirelessly to protect these valuable habitats through a variety of efforts, including sustainable livelihood and conservation initiatives with local communities, creation of new conservation areas, and conservation-focused research at our biological stations.  Over the next two years, we aim to protect another 476,000 acres of forest in this region.

“We were grateful for the opportunity to experience ACA’s project sites and meet the people making it happen. We’re also eager to continue to help save ‘the greatest rainforest on Earth.'” – Birdathon 2011 participant