In light of ongoing COVID-19 health concerns in the US and abroad, our team at Bird Watcher’s Digest is implementing new guidelines to ensure the health and safety of our attendees, guides, and hosts during Reader Rendezvous birding tours. We’ve made big, rather bold changes to the way we approach events and birding travel because you, our Rendezvous friends and family, are important to us! We believe these modifications will prove timely, appropriate, and effective. Our goal is to provide a healthy, comfortable, safe, fun, and rewarding experience for all involved. Please read the following carefully and completely.
- You will be required to sign a COVID waiver prior to each tour stating that you agree to forego involvement if you have any COVID symptoms, including a fever, dry cough, or other related symptoms that will be listed in the waiver. The waiver also states that BWD will not be held responsible if you contract COVID before, during, or after a Reader Rendezvous.
- Each attendee’s temperature will be taken in a sanitary manner at breakfast each morning. If an attendee has a temperature above 100.4, they will not be permitted to join the group that day.
- Should anyone become ill during a tour for any reason, we will make certain they receive appropriate medical attention, and they will (unfortunately) be required to remain quarantined for the remainder of the tour.
- Every attendee, guide, and host will be required to wear a mask when within six feet of another person. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL, and there will be no exceptions. (We will provide lovely new branded masks for each attendee at the start of each tour!)
- Staff members will be required to wear disposable gloves at certain times—when cleaning optics or using shared surfaces, when distributing food, or when touching any item that is shared among the group (e.g., clipboards, field guides, etc.). Attendees will not be required to wear gloves.
- We will sanitize birding equipment and any other shared items thoroughly each morning and throughout the day. Sanitizing tools and PPE will be provided to all attendees and will be available at all times.
- You must drive your own car or (or rental vehicle) when attending a domestic Reader Rendezvous. If you choose to travel with other guests in your personal vehicle, that is your prerogative. However, we ask that you keep your “vehicle group” together throughout the tour and not make changes to it. In an attempt to keep all attendees and guides from being together in small spaces, we will no longer provide group transportation in vans during our domestic tours. Our international tours will have modified group transportation accommodations where possible. We will work with our ground agents on international tours to keep group travel to a minimum, and in the most safe and sanitary conditions.
- On birding days, we will enjoy our mid-day lunch outdoors under shelter, giving each person six feet or more space between seats. Most dinners during the Rendezvous will be eaten on your own. We’ll provide a list of local restaurants to choose from, and you can decide if you prefer eating in a local COVID-compliant restaurant, or ordering carryout meals to be enjoyed in your room or at the outdoor location of your choice. We will no longer gather indoors as a group in the evenings.
- When conducting presentations, checklist review, or other group sessions, seating will be provided with six-foot spacing in a COVID-compliant indoor venue. Masks will be required during such sessions. We will also give attendees the option to stream every group session on their phone, tablet, or computer in the comfort of their hotel room.
- Beginning with our 2021 tours, our tour groups will have a maximum capacity of 12 people. Fortunately, birding is an outdoor activity that we can all enjoy at a safe, social distance. We will spend the majority of each tour outdoors in the field.
- Travel to and from Rendezvous has always been the responsibility of each attendee. This will not change, however, our staff members and guides will drive to and from each domestic Rendezvous (rather than using air travel) to reduce the risk of COVID exposure.
- In 2021, we will offer only two international tours, since we are making an effort to offer most tours within the continental US and within driving distance for those living in the Midwest. Our long-awaited Australia tour was rescheduled from September 2020, and will take place in September 2021. The Women Birder’s Colombia Tour will take place in early December 2021 and details for this tour will be coming in October 2020.
If you have questions or concerns about these changes, or if you have additional suggestions that might make our tours even more safe and enjoyable, we would love to hear from you! Please contact Emily Nichols with your feedback at [email protected].
An article by BWD President and Publisher Wendy Clark explaining our reasons for resuming Reader Rendezvous during these concerning times, and how we hope to discover a “new normal” in birding and birding travel: https://otwtb.birdwatchersdigest.com/traveling-for-bird-watching/birding-travel-in-2021-a-message-of-hope/
If you plan to invite friends or family to join you on an adventure with Bird Watcher’s Digest, please be sure to share Wendy’s forthcoming article with them, along with our tour modifications and requirements.