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GET TWITCHING - A Feathered Tour

“Plumas” is a photographic odyssey through some of the most spectacular subject matter imaginable in some of the most challenging conditions possible. Murray Cooper’s patience, care and creativity bring the world of Ecuador’s neo-tropical birds to brilliant, startling life. Using only natural light and shooting only in the wild, “Plumas” is a first in South American photography.

The book takes the reader on a journey across this small yet incredibly bird-diverse country: from the Amazon’s heart of darkness up to the peaks of the high Andes, before descending down through the Chocó cloudforests and on to the dry tropical forest and the Pacific coast. Here we find the country’s most sought-after bird species in their natural habitats, intimately captured by the lens and reproduced in stunning full-color plates. The photos are accompanied by introductory texts by the country’s leading ornithologists, including a foreword by Robert Ridgely.

Representing a year of hardship and surprise, disappointment and joy, drenching and devotion, “Plumas” is a labour of love by one of Ecuador’s most respected wildlife photographers in one of the world’s most beautiful environments. With over 250 images of birds from every ecosystem, the book not only sets the standard for neo-tropical bird photography but will remain an invaluable reference for decades to come.

It's a beautiful coffee-table book but also an impressive guide to the birds of the country. Dominic Hamilton edited some of the texts in English. It's available in good bookshops such as Libri Mundi in Quito and Guayaquil. You can view some of Murray Cooper's portfolio here.

Ecuador is considered by bird enthusiasts (nicknamed ‘twitchers’) to be the hottest spot for birding in South America. The country’s varying altitudes create a range of microclimates and habitats, from wild páramo and mountain forests to coastal plains and dense Amazonian jungles. Over 1,600 bird species have been recorded in Ecuador, about 18% of the world’s total and twice the number in Canada and the United States combined. And new bird species are still being discovered.

Such is the country’s wealth of birdlife, you don’t have to be a dedicated birder to catch the twitching bug. The sight of tree-fulls of vivid macaws and parrots in the Oriente, a cock-of-the-rock near the San Rafael Falls, or the comical boobies and swooping frigate birds of the Galápagos are enough to turn most people into bird enthusiasts overnight.

FROM QUITO TO MINDO
Birders arriving in Ecuador usually start with some of the lesser-used roads down the slopes of the Andes from Quito. The old Nono road towards Mindo becomes the Yes-Yes road when birders encounter a flock of a dozen or more species. The small town of Mindo is a mecca for cognoscenti birdwatchers. In the dense surrounding cloudforest some 400 species have been observed, including such trophies as the fabulous scarlet-crested, black-bottomed Andean Cock of the Rock, the toucan, golden headed and crested quetzals, the plate-billed mountain toucan, grass-green tanagers and velvet-purple coronet. In the rich subtropical forest there are also howler monkeys, many brilliant butterflies and hundreds of species of orchids.

Birders flock to one of the number of lodges that have sprung up in the Mindo area. If you want to stay in a tree house in Mindo, contact Hostería El Carmelo de Mindo www.mindo.com.ec, while more upmarket and expensive is the delightful Mindo Gardens Lodge www.mindo-garden.com. About 32 km (20 miles) north of Mindo, on the same western slopes of the Andes, the cloudforest of the Maquipucuna Biological Reserve is home to some 322 birds. For information about lodgings, prices and transport to the area contact Fundación Maquipucuna www.maqui.org.

Perched on the edge of a steep hill north of Nono, the futuristic geodesic dome of the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve commands superb views, best enjoyed from a hammock while hummingbirds flit between feeders. Prices range from moderate with three meals, but cheaper accommodation is also available in nearby houses. For more information see www.bellavistacloudforest.com.

There are also several less expensive, more basic places where you have to bring your own sleeping gear. Mindo shows all the signs of becoming increasingly popular with travelers and nature lovers in the years to come.

Close to Santo Domingo de los Colorados (the road to Pedernales on the coast), the 40-year old Tinalandia hotel has long been a favorite with birders. www.tinalandia.com.

SAN RAFAEL AND THE RAINFOREST
Another excellent area to spot the Cock of the Rock is in the vicinity of the Cascada de San Rafael — also known as the Coca Falls — on the road from Baeza to Lago Agrio. These are the biggest falls in Ecuador east of the Andes. Reports speak of dozens of these birds coming together and making a raucous racket to attract females. The male with the loudest call and brightest colors generally wins the lady. The most popular lodge in the area with birdwatchers is the Cabañas San Isidro Labrador www.sanisidrolodge.com, an expensive but very beautiful ranch with tasty cooking (meals included in the price) and friendly staff.

From Baeza, all roads lead to the Oriente, Ecuador’s Amazon region. Here, the jungle lodges outdo each other with bird-species counts — some are as high as 550. Among the best, who can organize specialist bird guides are La Selva Jungle Lodge  www.laselvajunglelodge.com; Sacha Lodge www.sachalodge.com; and Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve www.kapawi.com.

COAST
After the Oriente, many birders head to the coast. Probably the most popular haunt is Parque Nacional Machalilla, because it encompasses several micro-climates. The park includes the “poor person’s Galápagos” — Isla de Plata — home to all there types of boobie, frigate birds and waved albatrosses. Inland, the cloudforest up from the village of Agua Blanca also has good birding. Heading south of Machalilla, there are many rich salt ponds around Manglaralto and Salinas, the preserve of large numbers of seabirds.

HIGHLANDS
Of the other highland areas, the most frequented are the Páramo del Ángel, close to Tulcán; the Pasochoa Reserve, about forty minutes’ drive southeast of Quito, and the El Cajas and Podocarpus National Parks in the southern Sierra, home to many stunning hummingbirds.

 

 
To celebrate the deal, Guide2Galapagos is offering Ecuadorial visitors an exclusive offer: Book a Luxury class yacht with them, and they'll give you THREE AIRPORT TRANSFERS FOR FREE; two for first class and one for tourist-superior. So, what are you waiting for? Check out their highly-informative site. Blue boobies, giant tortoises, sealions and marine iguanas are only a click or two away!

SMALL PRINT: On the request page, you must state you came from Ecuadorial to benefit from the airport transfer offer.
>> Ecuadorial Galapagos Pages  >>
 

 

 

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