Merlin Birding & Nature Tours LLC was launched in early 2017. Our two US-based leaders, Steve Hoffman and Steve Eshbaugh (Esh"), have decades of guiding experience, primarily in Mexico and Central America. During the past 20 years Steve Hoffman has led eight 12-day tours to Veracruz, MX, and Steve Eshbaugh has led birding expeditions to Costa Rica on nine occasions during the past 15 years. Please note that we always choose the best, most knowledgeable local guides. We always limit the size of our tours (typically no more than 12 individuals), ensuring a client-to-guide ratio of 6-to-1 or better, thus providing a personalized experience for everyone. We shall make every effort to choose clean, comfortable accommodations (but not always luxurious!).

Tour prices are given “per person, double occupancy” and will generally include a tax-deductible donation to BOTH Montana Audubon (Steve Hoffman’s former employer) and a local nonprofit bird/habitat conservation organization working in the area(s) we visit. Our tour fee includes the following (unless otherwise noted):

  • All trip materials, including detailed daily itinerary, list of what to bring, recommended field guides and pre-trip reading materials, checklist of likely birds & other noteworthy wildlife, etc.
  • All services of the leaders and guides
  • All transportation upon arrival to destination city
  • All accommodations during tour dates
  • All entrance fees to museums, parks, etc.
  • All meals (except alcoholic beverages) are included, typically from breakfast on the first full day through breakfast on the last full day

Tour prices DO NOT include round-trip airfare, passport/visa fees, departure taxes, baggage fees, single-supplement fees, telephone calls, laundry, room service, souvenirs, and tipping of the guides & drivers (optional but highly recommended).

PLEASE NOTE:  Tour costs, itineraries and dates are subject to change. Prices may be affected by international currency exchange rates, fuel costs or itinerary changes.

TRAVEL INSURANCE:  We strongly suggest all participants purchase trip insurance to cover unforeseen circumstances that may interfere with their travel plans.  We have found the website to be quite helpful when shopping for travel insurance that meet your specific needs.

IMMUNIZATIONS:  Prior to your departure each participant is responsible for any necessary and appropriate vaccinations/immunizations. We recommend you consider visiting the Center for Disease Control website ( for specific guidance on trip-appropriate vaccinations/medications.

LIABILITY WAIVER:  ALL participants are required to sign a Liability Waiver when registering for any of our tours. The waiver is included in the tour registration PDF.

Steve Hoffman

Tour Leader and Owner

In January 2017, after 10 years as Executive Director of Montana Audubon, Steve Hoffman retired to start his own birding tour company, Merlin Birding&Nature Tours, LLC. As founder of HawkWatch International (in 1986), and one of the co-founders and science advisors of the Veracruz River of Raptors Project (VRR), Steve offers VRR tour participants a unique scientific and historical perspective about this project's 25-year effort to monitor and protect this globally significant raptor flyway. Steve has been leading group birding tours to central and southern Veracruz since 1994 (and never tires of watching the migration!).

Over the past 15 years Steve has also led or co-led many National Audubon Society and Montana Audubon birding tours to Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico's Copper Canyon, Oaxaca & Baja California regions, and throughout Montana.

Steve grew up in suburban Philadelphia, and received his Master's Degree in Wildlife Ecology from Utah State University in 1979. Steve currently resides in Bozeman with his wife Lisa and their 23-year old son Merlin.

Steve "Esh" Eshbaugh

Tour Leader and Naturalist

Steve Eshbaugh became hooked on birding at an early age; when he was 8 years old he stumbled upon an American Woodcock incubating eggs on her ground nest. From there it was Christmas Bird Counts every year (with his father). Steve's interest in birding was heightened from much international travel (& birding!) with his family, visiting over 30 countries on five continents. Steve led his first international nature-guiding trip to Costa Rica in 1999, and over the years has led eight other groups there.

Steve grew up in Oxford, Ohio and received his Master’s degree in environmental education from Miami University. “Esh” moved to Bozeman in 1993 with his wife Elisa, where they now live with their son Hayden.