Trip reports are simply that, documentation of someone’s birding vacation. They are the best, cheapest, and most useful tool for trip planning that I know. Available at a variety of websites, they provide a range of useful information including where, when, and what a birder saw, as well as comments on trail conditions and lodging. Provided by professionals and amateurs, they are priceless for travel planning.
I’ve been told it’s a bit cheeky, but the first reports I use for travel planning are those of the leading international bird tour companies (e.g. Bird Quest, Victor Emmanuel, Wings, Bird Tour Asia, and many more). There are also lots of local tour companies that a quick search around the internet will reveal. These professionals have lots of expertise about when and where to see birds, and service a demanding clientele. Even if they don’t have actual trip reports (some do, some don’t), they often include itineraries divulging names of the primary sites and nearby cities or towns. Reading the itineraries gives a feel for if it is a one day site, or a multiple day site, and may include some guidance on travel time between sites. Because tour companies are concerned for their customers’ safety, they are typically pretty clear on the level of travel difficulty. What they keep to themselves is specific local information, and that is where the private trip reports (and local guides) come in.
Private trip reports are available on the web in many locations (see below). They are my second stop in planning a trip because they supply what the tour companies leave out, specifically where and when the bird was seen. They are great for sorting out the endemics and other important species for your target list, and categorizing which are easy or difficult to find. Reports may contain a variety of additional notes like which birds responded to play back, what trails are most productive, and what are the local conditions. Quality and quantity of information will vary as will style, but overall, they are priceless for travel planning. Keep in mind that reports over a few years old may be a bit out of date, so try to find the most recent reports. Here are some links to sources for trip reports in no particular order:
- Cloudbirders (new as of March 2013)
- Fat Birder (these are links to trip reports)
- Bird Forum
Don’t ignore in-country or local internet sites, they often contain a lot of useful information on locations, birds seen recently, and local conditions. Fat Birder also does a fantastic job of maintaining links by country to local birding groups and park web sites. Here are a few regional sources I’ve found useful.
- Eremaea Birds (Australia)
- African Bird Club
- Oriental Bird Club
- Ornithological Society of the Middle East
- Neotropical Bird Club (Central and South America)
- Bird Life International
- American Birding Association