I just returned from a wonderful birding trip to northern Ecuador and I discovered something truly remarkable! A farmer named Angel Paz has become a local hero and is helping birders from around the world see some of the rarest birds in South America.
Also in this eNewsletter, "The Big Year" is coming to movie theaters on October 14th. Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson headline a star-studded cast in a movie about competitive birdwatching!!! Really!!
|Ecuador - Antpittas and More|
Angel Paz shows us Ecuador's rarest birds
|Dave Stejskal, Pete Thayer, Angel Paz in Ecuador|
You know you are on an unusual birding trip when your experienced guide, veteran of over 300 tours, is able to see five "lifers" in one day! Well that is what happened when Dave Stejskal
brought our Field Guides
Tour to Angel Paz's ranch on the west slope of the Andes mountains.
Angel Paz and his family were poor farmers living in the Cloud Forest in northwest Ecudaor. They cut trees to make space for grass and cows and sold some of the bigger trees for lumber. But in 2004 Angel discovered a Cock-of-the-Rock lec on his property. He learned that tourists would pay to see these strange birds, so he built a trail down the steep hill to the spot where the male birds displayed.
Angel soon discovered that Antpittas were showing up to eat the worms that were excavated as he built the trail. He usually hunted these birds for food, but a friend named Richard Parson told him these birds were in danger of extinction and tourists would pay to see them as well.
|Giant Antpitta by Dave Stejskal (copyright 2011)|
Over time, Angel and his brother worked with the Antipttas by calling them by name (!!) and then feeding them worms when they appeared. Angel has become friends with Maria (a Giant Antpitta), Willie (a Yellow-breasted Antpitta) Jose (a Moustached Antpitta) and Shakira (an Ochre-breasted Antpita.)
|Moustached Antpitta by Dave Stejskal (copyright 2011)|
Angel Paz and his family are a shining example of how sustainable tourist development can benefit the birds as well as change the life of local farmers.
|The Big Year|
A new movie about competitive birdwatching
Who would have thought that Mark Obmascik's book
would become a movie staring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson? Three avid birders compete to spot as many birds as they can in North America in one year.
The movie is a comedy and opens in theaters on October 14th. [See the trailer
.] The book is based on the 365-day marathon undertaken by Sandy Komito, Greg Miller and Al Levantin in 1998.
I got to know Sandy Komito when we birded together in 1992 on Attu, Alaska, the last island in the Aleutian chain. He really is every bit as "colorful" as the book describes him! In the movie, Sandy is portrayed by Owen Wilson.
In May of this year I birded with Al Levantin around my home in the Naples, Florida area.
|Pete Thayer and Al Levantin|
He is an excellent birder and quite a gentleman. (He saw seven new birds for 2011 that day.) In the movie, Al is portrayed by Steve Martin. Al told me he got to meet Steve Martin during the filming of the movie in Canada.
State/Province Hot Spots
Check out new links at WildBirds.com
If you have explored the WildBirds.com web site, you know that there is a huge amount of information about birding in each state and province.
Click the Find Birds tab and select State by State Information or Canadian Province information. Each area has its own web page with dozens of helpful links to birding hot spots and more.
We just spent a few months updating these pages so check it out! If you have any suggestions for new web sites we should add to these pages (or any corrections to existing links), please send me an email.