South America, A Birder’s Paradise -Winter 2019

by: Virginia Andrews

photography by: Virginia Andrews

Like a lot of Nantucketers, birders migrate when raw winds blow and brochures beckon. For truly astounding beauty, color and diversity of species, south America is a birder’s paradise. but birding travel is a specialty of its own, requiring more than just a hotel reservation and a plane ticket.

Yes, birds are everywhere. But Ecuador is a very bird-rich and eco-tourfriendly country, with a variety of habitats ranging from lowland Amazon tributary, to cloud forest, to high-altitude grassland.

Jacobin

“Did you go to the Galapagos?” That’s a question non-birders always ask. The Galapagos are on many a bucket list and their wildlife is deservedly famous. The associations to Darwin and the Galapagos finches, specimens of which contributed to his development of the theory of evolution, are of course of interest.

Those islands also have a deep connection to Nantucket’s history as a stop-over for whaling vessels. Post Office Bay was a popular port of call where a box nailed to a tree provided a place to leave and receive mail from home. As a side note it’s worth remembering that six out of 15 species of the giant tortoises for which the islands were named have gone extinct thanks to human consumption and ancillary ecological destruction from invasive species.

As year-round residents of Nantucket know, tourism can have costly impacts on fragile environments, which require protection to maintain. So that’s another reason to spread our tourism dollars among other equally-interesting locations, with which Ecuador abounds.

With a group of friends, I traveled to Ecuador in April. Landing at night, our driver took us from the Quito airport to our first birding stop, a small “Bird Garden” lodge.


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