A Bird Whisperer, Butterflies and Many New Species

June 21.

First, a report on last night’s anniversary dinner. Food (and company) were terrific. The restaurant comped us on champagne cocktails and dessert, which was nice. Very good view of Independence Plaza. We had not anticipated that a husband and wife operatic duo would serenade the guests with a (too wide) selection of arias. They weren’t bad, and had a nice presence, but there was too much of them for the talking we wanted to do about the many highlights of the fifty years we’ve spent together.

Up at 3:30 for our 4AM pickup by Josue.  We continue to find Josue completely delightful, amazingly mature (he’s 22 years old), knowledgable on and interested in a wide array of topics and completely committed to do whatever it takes to make our trip enjoyable.  We definitely would not trade him for a more experienced guide.  When we get home, Carol,and I are going to contact an ornithologist we know at The Field Museum to see whether there’s any possibility of making an arrangement for Josue to spend some time at the museum.  Probably a big long shot, but worth a try.

We  drive a couple hours to Paz de las Aves Reserve, where we are led by the amazing Angel Paz, whose reputation as a “bird whisperer” we’d heard from three sources and was fully confirmed by our morning with him. There were two other couples, one from Barcelona and one from England with us. Angel led us on hidden, muddy paths to see the spectacle of male cock of the rock birds screeching and showing off to try to attract the female. This lasted for over half an hour as we watched and tried to find spots to take photos of the red, weird-looking birds.

After this, Angel led us to other spots we knew, where he called three varieties of Antpittas by the names he’d given them, and coaxed them out of hiding. Some of the hiking was a challenge and, in fact, one was steep and muddy enough that I stayed with Josue and looked for birds (a good decision, Carol said, though she liked what the group saw.  Carol took video throughout the day.

After three hours, our group went up to a spot that was the headquarters of Angel’s birding operation, where we had breakfast, chatted and saw an amazing array of Tanangers, Hummingbirds and some other birds. After lunch, Carol, Josue and I drove to the Sachatamia Lodge, where we will spend the night. Our room is not ready, but we drop our bags and drive on to Mindo, where we visit a butterfly preserve (two photos, of us and Josue, below), then have lunch at the restaurant attached to the preserve. From the restaurant window, we are able to observe more species (we are up to fifty for the trip, so far) and photograph them.

We drive back to the lodge, wait for Carol and my large third-floor room to be ready, check in and spend three hours getting settled, emailing, blogging, etc before going down to meet Josue and the couple from Barcelona we met this morning for dinner at the lodge.  Luis is a biologist who spent years putting a world bird guide together and painting birds.  He now runs small trips all around the world.  His wife, Cecelia, is a gastroenterologist.  That just spent 19 days in the Galápagos.

This was a long, successful and fun day of birdwatching. Though I haven’t yet learned the ins and outs of my new camera and there is one significant problem with it–it is slow to focus (which I’d read about in the comments on the camera)–on balance, I am very glad that I bought it, as I’m able to take photos of birds that I simply could not have taken with my regular camera. Though I’m not about to become a committed bird photographer, taking photos adds a big element of pleasure for me, and some of the photos I’ve taken are not too bad. Here’s a rather large sample from today. 


8 comments to A Bird Whisperer, Butterflies and Many New Species

  • Wendy

    Wow! Pretty spectacular! I love the picture of your guide, too. I wouldn’t trade him either.

  • lauri pollack


  • Jean Zunkel

    Fantastic shots with your new camera….

  • Paul Woo

    Congratulations on your 50th anniversary Arnie ( please share with Carol). Let’s get together when you get home. Melanie and I would live to see you both.

  • Kathy Hornsby

    What a special trip to celebrate your 50th. Congratulations, Arnie and Carol. And I’m enjoying your photos. I’m actually feeling more positive about birds, thanks to your blog! (OK, just a little.)

  • the gigantic butterflies!! Sounds like a great anniversary too.

  • Wonderfully feted anniversary! And appropriately
    special, to reflect your uniqueness. As individuals
    and a long, still standing couple.

    Birds were interesting to view. I’m sure that little LouE will love seeing them. She’s quite the birder these days.

    Enjoy your remaining trip.

    Love, Barbara

  • Arnie and Carol,
    these birds are spectacular.
    Wonderful to learn that Carol has been doing video, can’t wait to see the whisperer in action!
    congratulations on your 50th,
    you are the best,

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