02 March 2009

Antpitta Antics with the ‘Pied Piper of Pichincha’…(Mindo, Ecuador): 25 Feb 2009

The Finnish 'team' await the arrival of our first antpitta (above)

On this day I visited the now infamous Paz de las Aves private reserve near Mindo in northwest Ecuador. For those who are not familiar with the story of this fantastic little reserve, I will recap. Around 4 years ago a fruit farmer, Angel Paz, and his brother decided to make a trail on their forested part of their property to try and encourage ecotourism. They found a lek of Andean Cock-of-the-rock on their land and soon visitors started coming to see these gorgeous red cotingas displaying at close range. While Angel was digging the trail he noticed every so often a large bird that would come in and take worms from the newly turned over soil, and initially thought little of it. When some birders came to see the cock-of-the-rocks he mentioned he had another bird coming in regularly and he took a group of stunned birders to the trail where he then proceeded to throw worms to an attendant, and very tame Giant Antpitta. Word spread of the ‘antpitta whisperer’ and Angel and his brother soon realized the huge potential from their small reserve, eventually habituating two other species, and laying out fruit feeders and quickly learning the birds of the area, and what birders were interested in seeing. The success of this amazing reserve has since led others to use his antpitta techniques, so that in some other areas of Ecuador now it is also possible to see other rare species up close and personal thanks to the phenomenon that began here in Mindo.

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