March 6, 2015, Quito, Ecuador — I landed in Quito at 2:30 a.m., and a local birder named Xavier Munoz was waiting at the airport. He took me straight to the Puembo Birding Garden, an accommodation he runs with his wife Mercedes, where I grabbed two hours of sleep before Mercedes was up with breakfast and coffee at 5:15 a.m. Xavier had arranged for me to spend the day with a sharp, thirty-something Ecuadorian birder named Manuel Sanchez, who arrived at Puembo with a driver named Jose at 5:30, and we headed off to explore the cloud forest.
I have been fortunate this year to connect with birders like Xavier and Manuel who go out of their way to help with the big year project. Two days ago, I realized that I had inadvertently planned nothing for my first full day in Ecuador, and contacted Xavier in desperation. He stepped in and hooked me up with Manuel, and today turned into an awesome day: Manuel, Jose and I visited Yanacocha and Bellavista on the cloudy slopes northwest of Quito, adding more than three dozen new birds—including a bunch of hummingbirds at an active feeder setup. Late this afternoon I passed the 1500-species mark when Manuel spotted a Red-headed Barbet in a fine drizzle.
My next two weeks will be spent in Ecuador, with several days in the Amazon lowlands (starting tomorrow) followed by a week covering both slopes of the Andes. Of all the countries I will be visiting this year (except the U.S.), I know Ecuador the best: I’ve been here three times before, and spent about eight accumulated months in various parts of the country. It’s good to be back!
New birds today: 39
Year list: 1507
Editor’s Note: Noah will be out birding and away from Internet for the next three days. We’ll update the blog as soon as we hear from him.