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. 

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