My First International Bird Trip – Lessons Learned

Introduction and Initial Trip Preparations

Between February and March 2020 I went on an 18 day birding trip to Thailand and it was my first organized international bird trip.  I took some notes about my experiences during the tour and I thought that those experiences might help others as they prepare for their first international bird trip.  Let me emphasize that because this was my first trip, my perceptions about the trip were much different from the seasoned bird tour travelers I accompanied.

A bit of context to begin with.  Birding Thailand was not on my wish-list of places to bird but when Denis, a birding teacher and colleague whom I respect, sent out an email inviting people to join the group both my wife and I signed up (Karen, due to family obligations, had to back out but graciously allowed me to go).  My friend arranged the tour through Field Guides, one of the premier bird tour companies.  The itinerary  was their standard Thailand tour but it was a private tour in that the participants were limited to only those invited by Denis.  I found Field Guides to be easy to work with, they made all the airplane and hotel arrangements, and provided helpful information beforehand.

The group of ten participants included seven people who had traveled together many times before on international Field Guide birding trips.  Many of these people had amassed over 4000 Lifers (I entered the trip with 730) and all had been birding/traveling companions for many years.   Then there were the three “rookies” in the group.  We three rookies had never been on an overseas bird trip before.  Although we were welcomed into the group the camaraderie (and expertise) of the seven veterans was evident.

We met together at Denis’ house six times before the trip to share a meal and to study the Thailand bird field guide book we all obtained.   Field Guides provided us with a Field Checklist which contained 571 species of birds seen in Thailand and if each was seen on one of their tours over the past four years.  We cross referenced the Field Checklist with the Birds of Thailand field guide book.   Over the six study sessions we worked our way through all 571 species in the field guide book.  I was overwhelmed after the first session!  There was no way I could remember anything about all 571 birds so I didn’t do much more preparation than the study sessions.  This was my first rookie mistake.

Given that my seven experienced companions had been to Cambodia recently and had seen some of the same birds, they had fewer species to concentrate on – they certainly didn’t try to learn about all 571 species.  I could have gone back and limited my additional study to those birds that had been seen in each of the four previous years.  Given that there was a high likelihood that I would see them too, it would have made sense  to concentrate on those.  My experienced companions were doing Google Searches of birds they were interested in and using the QR code shown next to each species in the field guide book to do additional research beyond the study sessions.  This allowed them to identify new birds once we were in Thailand more easily.  Could they name every one?  By no means, but they were certainly more familiar with the common ones than I was.

So even before we touched ground in Thailand I was intimidated by the expertise of the seven and underprepared for seeing the birds there.  Not a good combination to start a trip with.

Being Ready – Bird ID and Physical Fittness

My lack of preparation became quickly evident before our tour really started!  We were staying at a hotel in Bangkok surrounded by several acres of grounds and even though we arrived at midnight there were four of us who were birding those grounds at 8 AM the next morning (without our guide).  My experienced companions could name just about every bird we saw – I could name two of them (Rock Pigeon and House Sparrow).

At first glance this didn’t appear to be a problem – there was somebody around to tell me what type of bird I was seeing.  However as time went on I became embarrassed to have to ask a fellow traveler or the guide what the name of every species was.  I felt I was being a bother to others.  Even though it’s the guide’s job to identify the birds we were seeing, at times I felt reluctant to ask him to repeat the name for me (I’m hard of hearing and didn’t always catch what he said the first time).  I even missed a few Lifers because I didn’t know the name of a seen bird.

There were times when we were surrounded by a wide variety of birds.  In those situations I found myself looking at a bird I didn’t know but others were looking at other birds.  I would be looking at a beautiful bird and not know the name of it and missed the opportunity for a Lifer. I realize that it would have been impossible for me to memorize the traits of all 571 birds we hoped to see (even more if you separate the male and female of many species) but being familiar with some of the more common ones would have been very helpful.  Like back at home, you know what a Robin or Cardinal looks like so you often spend less time looking at them, giving you more time to view other birds.  The same in Thailand – if I had been more confident about identifying the Common Myna, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Spotted Dove, and Black-Crowned Bulbul I would have passed over them quickly to get a longer view of the Small Minivet or the Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker.

Another aspect of preparation is you need to be in good shape.  Crawling in and out of the van 10 times a day, standing motionless for 20 minutes or more, walking down an uneven steep path, and just being up at 4:30 AM and birding till 6-9 PM every day requires a fairly fit body and stamina.  All but one of us on the trip were able to keep up and go wherever the birds took us.  The other person had broken her leg and was hoping it would be sufficiently healed by the start of the trip – it wasn’t.  As a result she was unable to join us any time there were extensive stairs, an uneven path, or a trail.  Anyone who has difficulty walking or standing for long periods of time should realize that they will miss many opportunities to see birds during the trip.  Even though I consider myself in pretty good shape I became fatigued by the end of the trip and missed a few Lifer opportunities because I wasn’t up to standing around for 20 minutes waiting for a bird to appear (due to some discomfort in my back it was actually easier for me to wander around the area looking for other birds than to stand in one place for long periods of time).

Working with a Professional Guide

We’ve all been on bird walks led by a local volunteer who knows the area.  Dave was our Field Guide professional for 19 days of birding in Thailand.  Dave said that this was his twentieth tour in Thailand so he knew where to look and what to look for.  He was the best birder I ever met.  We could be riding down a noisy, bumpy road in the van and he could hear and identify many birds out his window.  On the trail, he heard even more birds and could zero in on their location.  Similarly, he could spot a bird a mile away and then focus his scope on it in no time flat.  He was aware of any bird in our vicinity.  Here are some things I leaned in my three weeks with a Professional Bird Guide:

It’s all about birds

I’ve been on tours before (Road Scholar is my favorite tour company) where the emphasis is on the sights of the region, the history of the county, and the culture of its inhabitants.  This trip was about the birds.  As many Lifer birds as possible.  There was no stopping at a beautiful scenic outlook at sunrise, lingering in fascinating temple grounds, slowing down to watch an elephant in the wild, or hearing about the people of Thailand and their customs.  This may have been Field Guides’ expectations but to me it seemed disrespectful to the country and its inhabitants to spend three weeks there and leave with only a list of Lifer birds.  If this is typical of professionally led bird tours (remember, this was my first) then I would encourage you to learn about the country before arriving.

The guide will see more birds than you, Part 1

Dave could identify just about every bird sound he heard.  He could spot a bird buried in the forest.  He (thankfully) provided an Ebird Checklist to us after leaving each location and I always had to delete many species from the checklist that I hadn’t heard or seen.

The guide will see more birds than you, Part 2

Dave’s job after spotting a bird was to help the 10 of us see it too.  This was harder than it sounds.  He could give an accurate description of where to look (i.e. “Look just above the horizontal vine to the right of the biggest trunk”) but unless I was standing right inline with him I often couldn’t see the bird.  Sometimes just being a yard or two away from him changed my perspective enough so that I couldn’t look where he was directing.  So one piece of advice is to stay near the guide (with the caveat that you shouldn’t, which I’ll cover later).

The guide will see more birds than you, Part 3

There was nothing more frustrating to me than having the guide point out a bird and having 9 of my companions see it yet I couldn’t.  Perhaps it was because they were more experienced birders, or heard the directions better, or just luckier but it drove me crazy to hear them talk about how beautiful the bird was and I couldn’t find it.  A couple of takeaways from this.  First, it’s your right and responsibility to tell the guide you haven’t seen the bird.  At first I was embarrassed when it seemed obvious where the bird was and I couldn’t see it but then I realized that I paid good money to see that bird and it was the guide’s responsibility to show it to me.  Yes, it’s a little embarrassing to admit to the group you can’t see what they seemed to find easily, but I got over it.  Second, it’s not the responsibility of the other members of your group to help you find the bird.  They each have their own agenda (to find Lifers) and they don’t often take time from seeing that new bird to help you see it.  To be fair, someone in the group helped me spot a bird perhaps once a day, but helping me to find a bird is not what they paid their good money for.  Third, don’t get frustrated if you miss seeing a bird – more than likely you’ll see it later.  I saw 350 species along with everybody else but I didn’t see 46 species the first time the others saw them.  I did see those later.

You must use precise descriptions in your what and where

When there are many birds around you so the guide may be focused on one or two species that might be Lifers but you will see other birds in a different direction and want to know what they are.  In order to do so you must be able to give accurate instructions on where to look for the bird you’re seeing.  “Up in that tree,” and “By the greener leaves” are not accurate directions.  It’s your responsibility to give specific instructions on where to look for the bird you’re seeing.  You must also give an accurate description of the bird if it has flown away before others have located it.  Several times on the trip I saw a bird and then tried to describe what I saw to Dave and he looked at me like I was crazy – no bird he knew looked like what I described.  I didn’t do a very good job of noting the primary traits so I never found out what type of bird I saw.

The guide’s job is to find you birds; can you keep up? 

Perhaps a corollary of the first point, but we put in long hours searching for birds.  Up at 4:30 AM, in the vans by 6.  Back to the hotel sometime between 6-8.  Then occasionally out after dinner looking for Nightjars and owls.  They were long days and I was in bed by 9 most nights feeling exhausted.  You can always opt out, but you will miss some Lifers.

Unwritten Rules While On An International Bird Trip

Going on an international birding trip is different in many ways from a bird walk with a local volunteer. Below are some of the unwritten rules we followed while birding Thailand for three weeks.

Rotate Seats

We had two vans and although they were comfortable they were not well-suited for viewing birds (low windows with curtains). Every drive was an opportunity to see birds on the road ahead or flying by but the people seated in the front had a better opportunities because the could see out the front windshield. Also they could quickly exit the van while those in back had to squeeze out (which took enough time that they occasionally missed seeing a bird). If you were in the same van as our guide Dave, you had the benefit of hearing his observations, asking him questions, and knowing what to expect before those in the other van. As a result we rotated which van we were in and rotated which row of seats we sat in each day.

Rotate on the Trail

We didn’t take many hikes down narrow trails, but when we did we rotated our proximity to Dave (who was always in the lead). When Dave spotted a bird you had a much lower chance of seeing that bird if you were at the end of the line. Of course everyone wanted to be close to Dave but it just wasn’t possible so we rotated our position.

Look Through the Scope Quickly

Many times Dave would find a Lifer that was so far away it was only viewable through his scope and all ten of us would queue up for a look. It would have been nice to leisurely observe the bird but if each person took only 7 seconds at the scope it would take over a minute before the last person in line would have their turn – chances are the bird would have flown by then. I tried to limit myself to 3-4 seconds at the scope.

Queue Courtesy is Nice, But it May Cost You

On the trail and when Dave would announce he had a bird lined up in the scope people would begin to queue up. My natural tendency was to invite the ladies to go ahead of me. Or when one of the guys had that one of those, “I’ve GOT to see this Lifer” look in their eyes I would let them go ahead of me. As previously stated, the farther back in the queue you put yourself, the less likely the bird will be in the scope when you get there. So if Lifers are a priority to you, jump in line as fast as you can and let the others get behind you.

Be On Time

Anyone who has been on a group tour knows how important it is for everyone to be on time. In our case, a person who took their time getting back to the van may have prevented 9 other people from getting to see their next Lifer.

Bird Photography is Not a Priority 

Karen and I were looking for birds recently and it was slow (not many birds) and I was getting a little bored.  Then a bird flew in and it turned out to be our first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the year and I spent 10 minutes trying to get a good picture of it.  Photographing the birds adds a lot to my enjoyment of birding.  I get a thrill out of getting a GreatBirdPic – trying to find the best position and light, getting the camera settings just right, and then viewing the images on my computer at home.  I actually learn a lot about the birds when I study their pictures on my computer.

Photography greatly enhances the birding experience for me so  I was excited about the 18-day birding tour of Thailand because it gave me an opportunity to photograph lots of birds I’d never even heard of before.  Here are some of the lessons-learned during my first birding tour:

The Tour’s Goal Reduced the Opportunity to Photograph Birds

It’s all about the Lifers

The tour’s goal in Thailand was to get us to see as many Lifers as possible and I suspect that is true of most tours (unless billed as a bird photography trip).  This meant that there wasn’t much time to pause along the way to get a good shot of a bird.  As previously mentioned I spent 10 minutes the other day trying to get a good picture of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but that isn’t possible on tour.  See a bird, check it off the list, move on to see the next bird.  If I lingered just a couple of minutes to take pictures I found myself alone and behind the group as it traveled onward.  Don’t get me wrong – I took over 4,000 pictures there.  But I believe I would have taken more and would have come home with higher quality pictures if I would have had more time.

If you stop to take pictures, you’ll probably miss a Lifer (or two or three) – when there were a lot of birds around us, our guide Dave would be pointing here and there and ticking off the species rapidly.  To pause and photograph one bird would mean that I would miss seeing other birds.  I developed an attitude of “Look first and shoot later.”  This meant that when Dave sighted a bird I would look with my binoculars first to see the bird (and add to my Lifer list) and then if time permitted, try and take a picture.   I found out early on that trying to “shoot first” might even cause me to miss seeing the bird I was trying to photograph altogether.  The bird would take off in the time it took me to get my camera in position, locate the bird, achieve focus, and make sure the camera settings were right – so I wouldn’t even get that bird at as Lifer.

Tropical Conditions

The conditions reduced the opportunity to get good photographs – not a limitation of the tour, per se, but more of birding in sunny tropical regions. We were in a variety of habits in Thailand and each of them presented their own set of challenges to get good pictures.  In the lowlands, along the salt farms and marshes, the shorebirds were far away and the light off the water often reflected a bright white, making it very difficult to get a good picture.  Being with a group, it wasn’t possible to try and get closer or change my approach angle because the group didn’t have time to wait for one or two of us to go off on our own.  Up in the northern region of the country it was tropical and mountainous.  I like birding in the spring and the fall because the leaves on the trees are sparse and you can see the birds.  In tropical Thailand unless the bird was on a limb overhanging the trail or on a dead tree it was difficult to see, let alone photograph.  I can’t tell you how many times we could hear a bird and see a blur jumping around right in front of us but so buried within the bush we never really saw it.  My arms would get tired holding up my camera in hopes that it would pop out long enough to snap a few pictures.  We also saw a lot of birds high up in the canopy, with a white sky backlighting it.  Tough to see, tougher to photograph.

Know your camera

The lighting conditions could change in a second and I had to make quick camera setting adjustments.  One second I would be taking pictures of a bird sitting on a branch with a dark forest background and then I would swing up to catch a bird sitting on a bare branch against the white, bright sky.  Each of these situations require a very different camera setting to get the best picture.

Take notes of what you shoot

Here in the states, I pretty much know what birds I’m photographing and have no problem identifying the images when I get home and put them on the computer.  In Thailand I didn’t know the names of the birds and even when I was told the name of the species on location there was no way I was going to remember it three weeks later when I began my post-processing.  So I began to write down the species of every bird I saw and then circled every one I photographed.  Writing down all the species helped me amend my Ebird checklists (Dave shared his but I didn’t see or hear all the birds that he did, so checklist had to be modified).  I would regularly write down the time of a stop or significant sighting so I could easily compare my notes to the timestamped images back home.  Of course in order to do this I had to adjust my camera’s clock to local Thailand time.

Did I take over 4,000 pictures?  Yep.  Would I have liked to have taken more?  You bet.  Perhaps there are other birding tours that emphasize photography or maybe it’s necessary to hire a private guide to take you out to get good pics (I saw a number of these while in Thailand).  When I post-process pictures on my computer at home I usually have a 10-15% keeper rate.  That means that I keep about 10-15% of all the pictures I take and then throw the rest away.  I’ll be curious to find out what my keeper rate is for Thailand.


I’ve written about Lifers before and when to count an observed bird as a Lifer in particular.  To quickly summarize, a Lifer is a personal record of a new species observed.  Most birders keep track of the number of Lifers they have as it’s a reflection of their expertise and commitment to birding.

Most of the birds I see now in Illinois I’ve already recorded as Lifers (Robin, Cardinal, Goldeneye, Common Merganser, etc.).  Sometimes (like when we drove to Grand Haven, Michigan) Karen and I will take off in search of a Lifer.  We know what we are looking for and when we see it, it’s easy to record it as a Lifer.  It wasn’t that easy in Thailand.

The main difference in Thailand is that practically every bird is a Lifer.  At first glance this may not appear to be a problem, but in reality it was. Our guide Dave would send an Ebird checklist of what he observed at each stop.  The first couple of days it was so convenient to just accept his checklist into my Ebird records (which automatically records my Lifers).  I could easily amend the checklist to remove the few birds I did not observe.  Those first two days were light as we were birding around the hotel and the city of Bangkok, but then the trouble began once we went out into the countryside.

When we left Bangkok to begin birding out of the city all of a sudden the checklists grew longer and longer with more birds seen and heard.  After the first day in the field I realized I couldn’t rely on my memory to determine which birds on Dave’s checklists I actually saw.  Dave is the best birder I’ve ever met and he observed and recorded many more birds than I ever could.  He identified hundreds of species only by their song and recorded them on checklists.  Now I’m deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other.  It would have been disingenuous for me to accept a bird Dave heard or saw that I didn’t as a Lifer.  It would have been an easy way to bump up my Lifer numbers, but I couldn’t truthfully say I observed the bird.

The solution for me was to write down every bird I saw each day.  I had a little spiral notepad and I frantically wrote down each species as we went along.  At the end of the day (after deciphering my handwriting) I would review Dave’s checklists and remove any species I did not write down.  This made me more honest about my lists of birds seen.

As I went along I revised my personal definition of a Lifer; this was forced by our use of the scope.  As I previously shared I tried to limit myself to 3-4 seconds at the scope out of consideration for those queued up behind me.  Is it OK to record a bird as a Lifer if you’ve only seen it for 3 seconds?  Here’s what I decided: if I could walk away from the scope and then note several distinctive characteristics of the bird, it was a Lifer. There were several times when all I could see through the scope was a blob behind a branch – I didn’t record that sighting as a Lifer.  If it was a Lifer I wrote it down on my notepad and left it on the checklist.

Out of the hundreds of Lifers on this trip I only accepted one that was only heard.  We sat in one spot for 20 minutes trying to call in a bird.  Dave would play its song and the bird would respond.  Again and again the bird sang – I have that song burned into my memory.  The bird never made an appearance, but I did record it as a Lifer.  I will know that bird if I ever hear it again!

I ended our trip with 343 Lifers.  Is it an accurate number?  Probably not.  I bet there were some birds inadvertanly left on the Ebird checklists that I didn’t see and others that I did see that didn’t make it onto the checklists.  “Lifers” is an arbitrary concept, one which you must define.

My Lifer is (Almost) as Important as Their Lifer

I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about Lifers (14 Personal Quarantine days will do that).  There are many ways to define yourself as a birder – number of checklists submitted, number of species seen in your county/state/country) – but Lifers is perhaps the most common.  Checking out some stats on Ebird (which is not universally used) Bruce Barrett has the most Lifers in the U.S. with 941 (I have 344 ranking me at #12,358).  For worldwide ranking, Peter Kaestner is #1 with 9,528 Lifers (which is 88.1% of the 10,505 possible bird species) whereas I have 1,078 species and rank #4,423.

Recognizing that the number of Lifers is a rather arbitrary reflection of a birder’s skills, it does a better job of representing the birder’s commitment.  You could become a great birder by going out and walking around your neighborhood twice a day looking for birds – and amass 50 or so Lifers.  The people I went to Thailand with have made a serious commitment to their birding; they have traveled to places like Ghana, Columbia, Equator, Jamaica, and Cambodia to collect their Lifers.  That’s why several of them have 4-5,000 Lifers.  It’s a commitment of time, money, and putting yourself into some primitive locations (some of the bathrooms in Thailand consisted of two raised foot-shaped platforms with a hole between them).  I have a great deal of respect for anyone who makes that kind of a commitment to this, their chosen hobby.

Which brings me back to today’s Topic – My Lifer is (Almost) as Important as Their Lifer.   When we were in Thailand everyone wanted to see as many Lifers as possible – including me.  However some of my companions’ commitment to the trip were much higher than mine.  They spent much more time studying and preparing for the trip.  Some used almost all of their vacation time for the year to go to Thailand (I’m retired).  I’m guessing that the financial requirements were difficult to meet for some of them (over $7,000).   At one point while walking down a road one of our drivers, who was 200 yards behind us, signaled that he had seen a good bird (read “Lifer”).  We all turned around but three of my companions started to run (no they aren’t spring chickens).  I did not run to see that bird (and as a result did not see it) but it showed me once again their commitment to getting the Lifer.

So when we were out and someone spotted a good bird everyone wanted to see, the natural tendency is to try and see it yourself.  Others who couldn’t find it made themselves known and those that had already spotted it would curtail their viewing in order to help those who hadn’t.  When queued up for the scope, someone would come rushing up to get at the end of the line with a desperate look in their eyes.  You could tell that this was probably their only hope of ever seeing that bird and adding it to their Lifer list.  It was at those times that I realized that their Lifer was more important than my Lifer.  Their commitment to birding was so much greater than mine.  I would invite them to step ahead of me so they had a better chance of getting their Lifer.  I share this not as a reflection of my generosity but as a measure of my respect for those who are so committed to birding.  I hope they reach 9,529 Lifers some day.

In Conclusion

As i write this it’s Day 13 of my Personal Quarantine, which means I’ve been back from Thailand for 13 Days.  The time after the trip as well as writing about it has changed my perspective about my First International Birding Tour experience.  When we were sitting in the Bangkok airport the guy who invited me to join the tour asked, “Did you enjoy the trip?”  and my reply was, “Ask me in a couple of weeks.”  It’s been a couple of weeks, so…

Did I enjoy my trip?  Going on an 19-day birding tour of Thailand was different from anything I’ve ever experienced.  Given my birding abilities and commitment compared to most of my companions I was prepared for a 10K run and then signed up for a marathon.

Did I enjoy my trip?  As an experienced overseas traveler I’ve been on many tours.  I love learning about the history of the country, seeing the people in their homes and villages, experiencing a different culture – being immersed in the sights, sounds and tastes of the country.  When I told a friend that I had just returned from Thailand she asked if I had been to Ko Panyi, the fishing village built on stilts?  Did I go to Kanchanaburi to see the Bridge on the River Kwai?  Did we go to Kui Buri National Park to see the elephants?  My response: “No, we went to see birds.”

Did I enjoy my trip?  I love to photograph birds but the purpose of the trip was to see as many Lifers as possible.  This decreased the time that’s often necessary to get good shots of birds.  I took 4,100 pictures so I did get some good ones.  Had the tour been a different format I probably would have come back with better pictures, but of fewer birds.  I would have missed many Lifers because it takes more time to photograph birds than it does to view them.

In conclusion, Did I enjoy my trip?  It’s not an appropriate question to ask for this kind of trip.  The trip was not designed to provide enjoyment – we put in long hours, did a lot of standing and walking, stayed in some places that were rustic, and had a singular purpose.  Did we see a lot of new and beautiful birds and get a lot of Lifers? – that’s the question this kind of trip demands.

Should you go on a trip like this? I would respond, “Yes” if you…

• Are willing to prepare by carefully studying the birds you might encounter.
• Are in good physical condition.
• Don’t feel that photographing birds is a high priority.
•Understand that seeing Lifers is the purpose of the trip.

Remember that this was my first and only experience on an International Birding Tour and not every tour is the same.  Karen and I signed up for a “Birds and Wines of Chile and Argentina Tour” next year.  I’m expecting that experience to be quite different from the one I went on in Thailand.  When considering a Birding Tour read the description and the trip itinerary carefully to determine if it would meet your needs.

Epilogue – My Kind of Birding Trip

GreaatBirdPics member Bajadreamer has posted some great pictures on our site and he recently emailed me about how he goes birding when he travels to other countries.  His version of a Birding Tour seems like a great alternative to what I experienced so I thought I would share his email here:

First, I have come to realize that it is more important to me to get a picture than it is to see a specific bird. Sure, I would like to have it all – get a great picture of every species of bird in, say Costa Rica, but I came to realize quickly that was not going to happen. As a consequence, once I realized that the picture was more important, it was very “liberating”.

We no longer go on tours with “birders.”  We also found out that bird photography tours were expensive, so we started “doing it ourselves.”  We confine ourselves to relatively small areas of a country, spend at least 4 nights in each lodge, and do day trips from the lodge. We often spend significant amounts of time on the lodge grounds as many of them offer feeders and even photography blinds.  When we are on the lodge grounds we do not need a guide. When we go off grounds we usually hire a guide but explain that he/she does not even need to take a scope; we are not interested in seeing a bird that’s across the valley. We tend to only be active during the prime times of the day – early morning and late afternoon when the lighting is best. Nap time in the middle of the day is a standard for us as is wine time in the late afternoon.

Second, although I take a lot of pictures (I usually average 1000-1250 per day and my wife takes another 500-750 per day) I have learned that there are many circumstances where a good picture is impossible. You have described several of them – too far away, backlit, too many leaves and branches in the way, etc.  I don’t even push the shutter button.

Third, because a good shot is important to me, I try to set myself up for the best opportunity.  In the rain forest, it is often dark! High ISOs and slow shutter speeds produce a lot of noise in the images.  I almost always use a tripod and I carry it extended, usually with the camera attached. Yes it is a pain and it certainly limits me. There are shots I miss because I cannot maneuver well but when I do get a shot at 1/30th of a second, I have at least a chance of a good, sharp one.

As a result of the DIY tours that we put together we have found it is far less expensive on a “per day” basis. We translate that into more days in the country we are visiting. More days means more opportunities.

So what do you think?  Does that sound like a Birding Tour you would enjoy?  I know I would.


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