March 17, 2015, Quito, Ecuador — Edison and I started the day at San Isidro, on the east side of the Andes, with an interesting bird show. A couple of the lodge’s outdoor lights are kept on all night, and, at dawn, birds gather to pick off moths around the fixtures. Woodcreepers, warblers, sparrows, jays, flycatchers, oropendolas, caciques, peppershrikes, and even a little Mountain Wren joined in the feast at sunrise. Each bird had different table manners: Some thrashed the moths to pieces, while others delicately picked off the wings and ate with small bites.
After the moth-eating show had finished, one of the lodge’s workers took us to see a White-bellied Antpitta. In the spirit of Angel Paz, someone offers worms to this particular antpitta every morning at the stroke of 7 a.m. (whether there are guests watching or not), and the bird hopped out for its worms as it if had set an alarm for breakfast.
It was a good way to kick of my last day in Ecuador. These past two days on the east slope have been something of a cleanup mission, as I missed several dozen common foothill birds in northern Peru (which shares many of the same species with Ecuador), and it was satisfying to track down some of those misses today. Edison and I spent the afternoon birding around another lodge called Wild Sumaco, which offers an assortment of low foothill specialists, before making the four-hour drive back to Quito so I can catch a flight out in the morning.
Yes, Ecuador is a wrap! In just 12 days in this tiny country, I ended up seeing 625 species of birds, 249 of which were new for my big year. As birding destinations go, Ecuador has it all: The roads are good; the distances are short; there are lots of parks and lodges; the bird list is phenomenal; and you can get a plate of chicken, rice, and fried plantain for $2. I’ve really enjoyed my six days with Edison, too: He knows the terrain as well as anyone (he spends about 300 days a year leading bird tours), and, as guides go, Edison Buenano is among the very best (you can find him through his website, www.swordbilledexpeditions.com).
I have one more country to visit in South America, and it’s a big one. Tomorrow begins three weeks in Colombia, which has the highest bird list of any country in the world. Andale!
New birds today: 28
Year list: 1717
Editor's Note: Noah has been in remote areas of Colombia and has not been able to send over updates. We will update the blog as soon as we hear from him.