Lev Frid

Lev was born in St. Petersburg, Russia but now resides in Huntsville, Canada. He has a keen interest in all forms of wildlife that began with looking for insects at the family cottage near the Finnish border when he was a young boy. He started working as a ranger for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in one of Canada’s most famous parks – Algonquin, shortly after finishing high school.  He spent nearly a decade educating thousands of visitors about various aspects of the park’s ecology, as well as maintaining and contributing to the extensive collection of records and specimens in the archives.

As this was mostly a warm-season endeavor, he spent his free months working at birdwatching lodges in Central and South America, on a boat in North Carolina spotting seabirds, and as a biologist conducting bird, plant and ecosystem inventory all over Ontario – anywhere where he’d be able to get outside with birds and people. His pursuit of birds and wildlife brought him to many different countries. He is particularly fond of the American tropics, where he’s spent many months leading tours and seeking birds on personal trips.

  • What got you into birding

    My parents, while they were not birders, were outdoorspeople and supported my constant need to be outside. On one excursion to a local zoo when I was about ten years old, they bought me a pair of binoculars. They were massive prism-type things – but they got the job done, and while the zoo was interesting, I got more enjoyment from using them afterwards in the field. I remember it being an autumn day and there was a large passage of wood-warblers in my local woodlot. I knew a few birds then, but these were unfamiliar to me at the time. Seeing them up close with binoculars and being able to tell them apart using features I’d never seen with the naked eye really appealed to me – and it was all uphill from there!

    What attracted you to a career in tourism

    I’ve always obtained a lot pleasure from showing people things they have not noticed or seen before – even as a kid I would proudly show off my haul of scarabs or tadpoles if any passerby was interested. Once I started really getting into birding and seeing how popular it was, I realized that this positive attention is what is going to save these animals. As a ranger, I learned a saying – “hearts first, then minds” – which means that once somebody develops a personal connection to something, they are more likely to learn more about it, and ultimately more likely to think in favour of conservation. While I enjoy surveying in the field, I believe that the most effective way to save the things we love is to help others love them – and that’s what I enjoy doing most!

    What are some of your other hobbies

    Birding is number one for me, but I also have a large place in my heart for other wildlife – especially insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, and fishes. Insects are what I started with and I still maintain a photographic and a specimen collection today – I’ve found many new records for my district that way. They’re just so cool, and many species are largely unknown – plus there’s something about running around with a net that makes studying them very fun. Mammals and herps take a lot of wit to find – and often a long time – so it’s especially satisfying seeing particularly tough species. I enjoy SCUBA and snorkeling immensely and especially enjoy it in freshwater, where some of the species are just as beautiful as in the sea but go largely unnoticed.

    Are you a lister

    I am! I keep a world list and an American Birding Association Area list, as well as a variety of lists for non-birds.

    Are you a keen bird photographer?

    I’m an amateur photographer, and I’ve been lucky enough to have photographed some species that have only rarely been documented this way. I’ve been published a couple handfuls of times – mostly obscure mammals or insects. I am not one to spend many hours trying for the perfect shot, but I do enjoy photography and believe it’s a powerful tool for conservation – especially for those cryptic species unlikely to be seen by most.

    What are your strengths as a tour leader

    My years of working with children from elementary to high school level have given me infinite patience, which has proven to be a virtue when I’m guiding. I enjoy the challenge of finding specific target species as much as I enjoy observing interesting behaviors of common species. I believe it is important to see the big picture when visiting a new ecosystem, so I point out unique plant and non-bird species and their relationships to some of the birds we’ve been seeing during the slower parts of the day. I plan my days to be where the birds are at the best possible times of the day and like to use local intel to help us find them.

    I’m pretty easygoing and easy to talk to, and enjoy answering people’s questions to the best of my ability – about birds or anything else that we might see. I’m proud to have amassed a lot of knowledge on various subjects concerning ecology in my travels – and enjoy sharing it whenever I can!

  • KB, Jamaica 2023

    Lev Frid is an excellent leader. With his keen ears and eyes, no bird on our Jamaica tour went undetected or unidentified, and with his judicious use of tapes and a laser pointer, the entire group got to see each bird, too. Lev is also able to answer almost any question.about any bird anywhere in the world, and is very enjoyable company. I plan to travel with him again.

    GM, Peru 2023

    This tour and the extension tour were exceptional. Of course the birds were a real pleasure to view, scenery was unbelievable, food and lodging were excellent. The main highlight were the people. A wonderful, fun group to be with. Hope I see everyone on another trip. The driver not only carried us many miles safely, he did so many other things for us, making certain getting out of bus safely, setting up for meals, and on and on. The local guide got us onto so many birds with his x-ray vision (seemed that way) and was helpful in so many ways. He and the driver were simply put, very nice people. I addition to his obvious bird locating and identification skills, Lev has exceptional people skills with his attentiveness and humor. I had a problem with the altitude one day. I wa., to put it simply.. very slow..lots of breaks. Lev was with the whole way and made certain I was OK. I am very appreciative for that. Thanks again. Its things like that, to me, that makes a guide exceptional. Lev is an exceptional guide. Now to the office team. Wow. Tia and Sarah were so helpful to me with all the questions I had. Not only do they have the answers. the answers come quickly. And I thank them for their patience. As usual, a wonderful job. Thanks again. Lastly, to the Peruvian people, the tour group, the guides, drivers, cooks, office staff and to many others. Thank you. Take care everyone.

    AJ & TJ, Guyana 2019

    We enjoyed our tour to Guyana. We were particularly impressed with Lev’s enthusiasm and interest in wildlife in general.

    BS, Guyana 2019

    Lev Frid did a fine job. He is an excellent spotter, quick with ID's and very good at getting folks on the bird. His enthusiasm was infectious and he has extraordinary knowledge of a wide range of natural history subjects. It's an understatement to say Lev is into snakes ... he's the pied piper of snakes. We saw more snakes in two weeks than all our other trips combined. Lev found them, handled them and explained their natural history ... fascinating.

    JK, Cuba 2020

    Lev was an excellent guide

    JH, Cuba 2020

    Lev worked hard and did a really fine job of finding the endemics and lots of other interesting birds. He maintained good humor and was very pleasant throughout the trip.

    EF & AF, Dominican Republic 2020

    Lev is top notch in identifying birds, pointing them out and trying to give everyone a good look

    PW, Dominican Republic 2020

    "May I say Lev and his team of guides and drivers where excellent in every way, nothing was too much trouble. Their knowledge of the birds and their patience and good humour made this trip memorable. And to top it all I saw all the endemics. Thanks Pete"

    DL, Canada 2023

    The accommodations, locations and especially both guides were excellent. Both Amanda and Lev are great birders and have totally complementary skills and managed the group outings in such a competent and enthusiastic manner.

    SH - Canada 2021

    The fall colors were spectacular. Lev allowed photo stops to take in the scenery. We had perfect weather for touring, but migration wasn't at a peak on the windless days. I appreciated Lev's eBird talents. We e-birders received all the lists promptly. Despite Lev's characterization of himself as being hindered by his age (!), we found he had boundless energy and was hyper-alert to all bird activity. His enthusiasm for every sighting, new and ""old"", was passed on to all of us. He geared the descriptions of each species to the level of expertise of our amicable group and when I had a taxonomic question, he had detailed answers. He had the birding knowledge of an older leader, but the energy of an almost-30-year-old. I hope to join another Rockjumper trip with him and watch the grey hairs come in.

    AB, Ecuador 2021

    Lev is a consummate professional. Excellent ability to do his job of guiding, getting on birds, identifying birds-- what we all came for. I would be delighted to travel with Lev again.

    GS, Ecuador 2021

    I had a great time on the two Ecuador tours. I have been wanting to bird with Lev Frid since I viewed his webinar on Mexico, and he was every bit as fun and as good a guide as I thought that he would be. Lev's cheerful energy and care for his tour members were always evident, and his bird finding and identifying skills were superb. He worked hard to make sure that everyone was able to see the birds whenever possible, and he dealt with the varying experience levels of the various tour members very well. The list of tour members changed from tour to tour, with a wide range of ages, birding agendas, and personalities. Lev took it all in stride and provided what I considered to be an excellent experience for all. He worked particularly well with the local guides, with whom he shared friendship and respect, and his ability in speaking Spanish was an excellent asset. The local guides were all excellent, and worked hard to give us the best birding experience possible. Our driver kept us safe on the road and got us where we needed to go. The lodges were all great, with comfortable accommodations and excellent food. I picked up several birds that I had missed on an earlier tour through the area, and got a good look at a Mountain Tapir, as a rare bonus mammal. All in all, it was an excellent trip, and I look forward to future trips with Rockjumper.

    DK & NK, Ecuador 2021

    We really enjoyed the tour. Lev did a great job. We will look forward to booking again

    NP, Dominican Republic 2021

    Lev Frid was outstanding. He is knowledgeable, capable, hard working, friendly, easy going and a super human being. I had a blast with him and can’t find enough positive adjectives to describe him.

    PK, Canada 2022

    I loved this trip! Owls, abundant photo ops, good food, great accommodations. Lev and Amanda did a superb job maximizing our birding time, in spite of some hurdles thrown at them by the weather. Both were extremely knowledgeable and were willing to share that knowledge. A special shout out to Lev who always seemed to remember little details or requests long after they were made.

    MW, Canada 2022

    Our guides, Lev and Amanda, are great and I hope to go on another trip with them in the future.

    CS, Canada 2022

    Birds aren’t exactly easy to find in Manitoba in the dead of winter, but Lev and Amanda had a great supply of “secret spots” and showed us birds I never would have seen on my own. Their knowledge of the ecology and wildlife of the region is encyclopedic, and their enthusiasm is infectious. This was a challenging trip, with temperatures between 0ºF and -25ºF (-15ºC and -30ºC) the entire week, but the two of them made the trip fun! Seeing my first Snowy Owl is something I will never forget.

    MR, Canada 2022

    Booking, registration, organisation of the tour were all very professional, well done Rockjumper. The highlights of the tour were the magnificent observations of the Hawk Owl and the Great grey owl, one great grey could even be observed when it was hunting. For my taste we spent too much time in the cars but I admit that this is largely due to the nature of this tour. Lev and Amanda were very good guides, both having a vast knowledge of the visited habitats and animals. I very much appreciated the very competent explanations and answers to my questions.

    PO, Dominican Republic 2021

    This was a very nice tour. Lev was very knowledgeable and friendly. Accommodations were good also. Overall a great trip and I would not hesitate to do another tour with Rockjumper as this was my fourth with them.

    GS, Guatemala 2022

    "Lev and our local guide did a great job with the tour. They were professional while keeping the experience fun and entertaining. They worked very well together, and with the other local guides, and the quality of their guiding was top notch. They worked hard to give everyone on the tour a great experience, and they pulled out a number of tough species with their patience and diligence that gave the group some truly lasting memories. Our driver was excellent, safely working our rather large bus through the city mazes and narrow country roads with skilful expertise. And the accommodations were overall very nice, even with the occasional hot water issue. I was glad that I did bring layers, though, since we spent more time at greater altitude than I had imagined, and it was quite cool at times. I definitely enjoyed the tour, and look forward to more Rockjumper trips."

    RL, Guatemala 2022

    "This was a good tour. We had a congenial group, and Lev Frid is an excellent guide, up to the high Rockjumper standard. He was a pleasure to travel with, and I would be happy to go on a tour with him again. Our local guide was also excellent. His knowledge of local sites and conditions really added to the tour, and he also was lots of fun to travel with. Accommodations on this tour were very nice. It was lovely to stay at the extremely charming Posada de Don Rodrigo in the old part of La Antigua Guatemala, where we could enjoy the ambience."

    MW, Guatemala 2022

    Very nice tour. We had a good group, and the local guides were excellent. Food, venues, and the birds were all top notch, and we were quite surprised how well-developed the infrastructure is in Guatemala. The birds were great, of course. We were asked what our target bird for the tour was, and I answered the Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, knowing that it is an extremely difficult bird to find (i.e., I was being a wise guy). What was one of the first birds we saw?: the wood-partridge. A fantastic display, with the birds in the open and within 10 meters of us.

    DA, Canada 2022

    Excellent tour for seeing birds of the boreal forest. Lev and Amanda were excellent in helping us get great views of the warblers. Accommodation was excellent. the choice of venues was well balanced so that it was easy to stay focused and alert for birding.

    YB, Canada 2022

    Lev and Amanda were exceptional guides. Very knowledgeable.

    KL, Papua New Guinea 2022

    I thought Lev Frid did a great job in managing the tour.

    DK - PNG 2022

    "Andre and Lev were excellent guides, and ensured we had a great time, even when birding, the weather, or the inevitable logistical challenges of travel within PNG seemed to do their best to thwart us. They did an excellent job of managing expectations, but also ensuring that as many people in the group got to see the birds, while also understanding that not everyone would see ingle bird. Difficulties, whether with accommodations, weather, or even participants, were dealt with quickly, and I have no doubt far more issues were cleared before the group was even aware they existed! I look forward to returning to New Guinea (including West Papua) with Rockjumper soon, and also exploring more birding destinations with Lev and Andre or the other excellent guides you have!"

    IC - PNG 2022

    Both Lev Frid and Andre Bernon were excellent guides. Lev was particularly emphatic about the vagaries of travel in PNG and the propensity for things to go wrong. Despite his warnings, the trip went extremely smoothly; the accommodation was all great be it the highly rustic (Kwatu) or high end (Walindi); the Papuan guides and ground team were very good; it was nice to see that Rockjumper was clearly supporting the local organisations; and overall both the Rockjumper guides and the Papuan bird guides were very knowledgeable. Overall, a really excellent experience on the ground.

    PJ - Pantanal 2022

    Lev was a well kept secret from Rock Jumper ....incredible birder , bird guide, and overall naturalist . Would book another trip with Lev

    LW - Pantanal 2022

    The tour was fantastic and both of our guides were excellent. We enjoyed traveling with Lev. He is so enthusiastic! He is an excellent birding guide and also very knowledgeable about the natural history of the animals we saw. That made the experience even more enjoyable. He worked very hard to enable us to see some of the trickier birds, like the Zigzag Heron that was hiding in the trees. It turns out, he even speaks 'zigzag', as he carried on a 10 min conversation (back and forth calls) with the heron, trying to coax him into a better view. It was wonderful having a local guide, Leo, on this trip as well. He added a lot to the birding experience, was essential for dealing with logistics, and had a wealth of knowledge about the history of Brazil and the places we visited, that made it an even more interesting trip. Well Done Rockjumper!!

    AS & FS, Indonesia 2022

    We had a fantastic time. Everyone looked after us so we’ll, very well organised! Many thanks for putting a together a brilliant birding tour. It was everything we hoped for and more

    EL, Indonesia 2022

    David and Lev are exception leaders and worked very hard to find the birds and get everyone onto them. A remarkable trip.

    MT, Indonesia 2022

    This is a fantastic tour and it gave us a rare, unique and unforgettable experience. We are in awe of the complex logistics required to make this tour run so smoothly. Everything ran like clockwork. The leaders, Lev and David, the ship’s crew, the local teams of guides and the lovely drivers were amazing. Everyone was so friendly. The efforts that everyone went to to find the special birds of these remote islands were above and beyond! The food was very good throughout, in summary the experience was amazing!

    JT, Indonesia 2022

    I was extremely impressed with the organisational skills of all involved in this tour. All the guides Rockjumper and local were highly skilled and completely considerate of the non birding needs of the participants. I would like to say that not having an upset stomach at any point during the tour was a big plus to my enjoyment. There were some safely issues that in such a remote part of the world can only be expected, I was very happy to be part of this exciting tour and not sure that it would be possible to micro manage all the safety issues.

    EL, Indonesia 2022

    This was an adventure to be sure. The places we traveled were indeed remote and with the exception of larger cities like Ambon & Sorong inhabited by few people. This was my first trip to Indonesia and was an adventure to even get to Ambon. However, the Indonesian people must be the kindest most helpful people in the world. The boat was lovely and this amazing trip had so many interworking pieces -- moving from the Indo Seamore to the shore for the next adventure, disembarking at various kinds of dock, piers, rocks, etc, meeting up with our vehicles for rides up into the hills -- everything worked like clockwork. We saw so many fabulous birds thanks to our super guides, David Hoddinott and Lev Frid. The two guides were so helpful and informative; I would gladly travel with either of them or both in the future. However, I have to say that this trip was just about at the limit of my ability. I would never have seen the birds I did without the help of David & Lev and our various local guides and drivers. I think only Rockjumper could have pulled this tour off.

    FH, Indonesia 2022

    Both my husband and I found Lev to be an excellent guide. He was both personable and knowledgeable. I especially appreciated his calm demeanor when I was unable to immediately get on a bird in the field. His photographic skills also assisted in occasionally clinching an ID of a far-off bird. And, I and others on the Tour appreciated his willingness and ability to digiscope special birds - to be be later airdropped with each other! Lev is a real, and multi-faceted, gem.

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