Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Confessions of a bird nerd

"Any luck?" I said to the Swedish gent cloaked in safari suit, binoculars glued to his face with tape recorder playing the mating call of the dusky capped flycatcher.
"There´s no luck involved" he replied with a wry smile.
I suddenly realised I was talking to man who had spent the better part of his life roaming the forests of the world looking for creatures of the winged variety. I had finally infiltrated one of the strangest subgroups on the planet. In fact it´s become the biggest hobby in the USA, overtaking gardening 6 years ago. All over the world there are thousands of older folk tramping thru the forest in attempt to catch a rare glimpse of the scale breasted pygmy tyrant, amongst others. In fact these ornithologists as they like to be called ( bird nerds) are much more interesting than the plain small grey bird they often look for. But how to watch the birdwatchers?

We made our way to a spectacular resort up in the cloud forest near Mindo called Bellavista. Mindo is one of the best places in Ecuador to go Birdnerding and Ecuador is one of the best places in the world for the sport, if that´s what you can call it. Basically it´s all about increasing your life list, the amount of different species of bird you have seen in your lifetime. There are 9000 different species of bird in the world and once you hit about the 4000 life list you´ve hit the big time. The guys who take it seriously can also recognise about 3000 different calls. Usually they spend lonely nights listening to cds! The big problem with the sport of birdnerding is that it´s mainly done by older folk. So as the eyes get worse, the ears get harder of hearing and the bones refuse to climb the hill is usually when that Tawny breasted tiramou is chirping away. Most of your time is usually spent looking at empty branches of trees thru $2000 swarovsky crystal binoculars pretending you´ve seen something more interesting that the person next to you.

The highlight of our trip up to the resort was our room in the very unique birdwatching dome. In true backpacker style we opted for the dorm room which ended up being the best room in the house especially as we were the only ones up there. With 360 degree views and southern rough winged swallows to greet us in the morning we were in heaven. Yes this bird nerd thing is infectious , if only I could have spotted the scaly throated foliage gleaver, or the crimson mantled woodpecker, or the Andean cock of rock... now theres a name for a bird

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