Ecuador….a country divided by the Equator…bathed in cloud forest…the Andes…the Amazon. Obviously a place for short pants and t-shirts for the hot…humid…tropics…right? Not! Quito, the capitol city, is 9,350 feet in elevation, the highest capitol city in the world and surrounded by a number of volcanoes, some reaching well over 20,000 feet in elevation. But, this country with over 2,300 bird species is certain to attract any biologist/photographer.
Quito is a modern city with a population of over 2 million
Antisana Volcano (18,714 feet) towers over the area
Accompanied by my grandson, Jesse, we joined a 5-person photographic tour that took us from 9,000 feet to 14,500 feet; from cool damp cloud forest to blistering cold icy winds and fog at summits. We hiked down steep trails through jungles of tropical plants and on treeless grasslands and mossy tundra looking for birds to photograph.
At 10, 250 feet this felt more like Alaska than on the Equator.
Here’s the quarry up here…a Seed Snipe. Jesse got the shot; it flew before I arrived (gasping for breath!)
Carunculated Caracara on the plateau
When The Creator molded the Andes he only had defined 2 words…”up” and “down.”
There’s water running everywhere, from numerous rivulets and waterfalls along every slope to rushing rivers.
Torrent ducks brave the rapids in the rivers
The bird-life is spectacular and well worth the temperature and elevation extremes, cold winds and very steep muddy trails and the pain in my rapidly failing ankle.
Going through the forest.
The birds ranged from Andean condors soaring over the cliffs…
It was a half-mile away…but seeing an Andean condor was a lifetime thrill for an old condor biologist.
…to secretive antpittas hiding in the forest floor vegetation.
Moustached ant pitta
The tanagers, barbets, acaris, motmots, trogons, etc. are as colorful as the many flowers and fruits on which they feed.
Blue-winged Mountain Tanager
Black-chested Mountain Tanager
Black-chinned Mountain Tanager
Yet it’s the 132 species of hummingbirds that we bird photographers to Ecuador, A few of the over 30 hummingbirds we encountered included:
Great Sapphirewing (about the size of a sparrow)
The ten days went fast…too fast.
Relaxation in Quito at the end of the tour.