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August 16, 2015

WINTER IN ECUADOR – 2015 – PART 1

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Helpful signage at Cabanas San Isidro

For many months prior to Phil retiring from teaching high school last year, we had been planning our fourth trip to the magical country of Ecuador as his retirement celebration. Located in South America on the Pacific coast, bordered on the north by Colombia and by Peru on the east and south, with the Galapagos Islands way offshore, Ecuador is a land of friendly people, delicious food, many volcanoes (some active), the Andes, the extensive rainforests and cloud forests, unexplored jungles, steep canyons, waterfalls, and rivers leading down to the Amazon – and of course 1600 species of birds. How could all this not lure us to visit there – again and again?

But we asked ourselves – could we really see that many birds in this tiny country? How could we ever sort them out? Why would we keep doing this to ourselves? Why would we insist on going to a place where the birding is so confusing and frustrating and challenging?? And for the fourth time??  And yet we continue to be lured to spectacular Ecuador – from the near-sea-level Amazon to the top of the Andes Mountains at about 16,000 feet. And we continue to be astounded by the super abundance of birdlife – 1600 species of birds possible to see in a country the size of Nebraska or Colorado. And the total of birds in all of North America? About 800 species. Also overwhelming are those chilly Andean peaks, misty cloud forests and dripping, sweaty rainforests and jungles – teeming with thousands of species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, vines, airplants, orchids – all guaranteed to continually hide the birds from view!

For our fourth trip Phil contacted one of the very popular birding ecolodges we wanted to visit – at San Isidro, about 2 hours east of Quito, and thus began a wonderful relationship with Carmen Bustamante at cabanasanisidro.com. He gave her a list of all the birding ecolodges where we wanted to stay, how long we wanted to stay at each one, what birding we wanted to do, and Carmen and her sister Irene Bustamante took over our desired itinerary, made a few recommendations and adjustments, and organized a trip that would exceed our expectations. This was also to be a trip that – based on our previous at-times harrowing  experiences – would NOT leave the driving to us! We would have a driver part of the time and a driver/guide part of the time so we could concentrate on birds and scenery – not maps and traffic! A big relief – for both of us!

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Phil sitting on the porch at Cabanas San Isidro

NOTE: Why we don’t just make things simple and go with one of the many excellent birding tour groups such as Field Guides or VENT Tours and leave all the travel details, the finding and identifying of birds to them?? And get their group rates! First of all, we like to do things at our own pace. Our tendency on trails is to dawdle – taking time to look at wildflowers, insects, trees, etc. and take pictures. That isn’t always easy to do if you’re with a tour group that has deadlines to meet and the next lodging to get to. We like to select the places we stay and spend several nights in one place – more than most tour groups are able to do, since their time is more restricted. We also enjoy identifying the birds ourselves, and on occasion, we even prefer the casual, laid back, chilled out method of birding –just sitting on a porch watching birds come to feeders rather than the frantic pressure of following a guide and being part of a group. And at the birding ecolodges, sitting on the porch is always an option. And most of these lodges have easy-to-use self-guided trails available.

The trade off of doing things our way precludes getting a chance to know and meet other birders who tend to be the kind of people we would like to know and spend time with. It can be fun to work together with others on bird finding and identification, and when you are with other birders there are more sets of eyes to help find the birds. However, that said, when you stay at a birding lodge, there are usually other birders and guides available to compare notes with or to answer questions.

So, come along with us on another fantastic Ecuadorian adventure. I’ll try to post a segment of our 25-day journey each week and hope to inspire you to take your own trip to this beautiful country.

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One Comment
  1. Margery Eaton permalink

    Thanks, Ann, loved your report. I promise To get in touch with you SOON. I don’t space my time very well, but I do want to keep in touch. I miss you!

    Love, Marge

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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