“People people people!”


‘Meet the Energizer Birder’

I just flew back from Ecuador, and boy are my arms tired.

Well, maybe not my arms, but the rest of me is pretty darned tuckered out. Because, speaking of flying, we’ve just returned from another of our wacky birding trips.

Wayne enjoying every second of our latest wacky birding trip. That’s the Energizer Birder on the right

I have written about these trips many times before, of course. About how you get up really early, tramp around jungles in sweltering wet weather, eat strange foods (durian, anyone?) and feel darned lucky at the end of the day if you can manage to stay awake long enough for your hair to dry before your pillow can mold it into strange overnight shapes.

Or sometimes you freeze yourself at 14,500 feet. Doesn’t matter about your hair getting molded into strange shapes — it’s always crammed under a hat

This trip was to Southeastern Ecuador: fly to Quito, another flying hop to Loja, then the eight of us bumped and bounced in a van for hours in search of the elusive — and very rare — orange-throated tanager. Wayne took photos of this tanager, but I can’t show you one. It takes him ages to get the photos off his camera (if ever), so instead you can click here to see what one looks like.

We had the same guide that took us on our trip to Sacha Lodge and the Galapagos last summer. (See “Galapagone” for some of that story.) His name is Willy Perez, but on this trip we got to calling him simply The Energizer Birder. Seriously, this guy is so cranked up and “on” all the time. His pursuit of the birds, punctuated by his excited cries of “People people people!” kept us going morning, noon and night. (Yes, night. After a loooong day traipsing around hill, dale and trail, we would go out after owls and nightjars. No rest for the bird-weary!)

But, once in a while, there were restrooms for the weary. This one, along the road from Loja to our first lodge, was probably the cleanest, neatest one we encountered. Of course, you had to pay to get in

Willy is from Ecuador, is married to a Brit, and, it would seem, learned English from a German. (He speaks excellent English —  with a decidedly teutonic bent. His pronunciation of “hummingbird” is impossible for me to replicate here.) But it is Willy’s boundless energy — and relentless dogged pursuit of his feathery quarry — that make him truly special. We eight participants soon learned that “Let’s keep going just 15 more minutes” translated to “We’re not stopping till we get this bird.”

Some of the eight little Indians — er, birders — in hot pursuit of a target

As I mentioned, there were eight of us on this tour, not twelve like the last one. But my analogy — the one that compares birding to jury duty, which you can read about in “Jury Duty, Only with Feathers” — still holds. You know, random people who spend every second of every day together, bond, then leave and never see each other again.

Look closely and you’ll see a sign that means “No hunting.” Though I don’t think it applies to our kind of hunting

This was a pretty compatible group, though almost everyone had a Food Thing. There was a guy who didn’t eat red meat. A woman who couldn’t have gluten. Another woman who couldn’t eat eggs. Another who nixed refined sugar. And my favorite: a man who couldn’t eat potatoes. Who knew there were people who couldn’t eat potatoes?

Energizer Birder coming to load us all into that van back there. “People people people! Time to get going!”

And (also rather like jury duty), there was one, well, annoying person. Not deal-breakingly annoying, but the kind of person who, when not able to find the bird in his bins (birder lingo for “binoculars”) would get all querulous. Him: “Which palm frond? There are many palm fronds! Which one?! (splutter splutter)” Me: “Okay. See that lavender flower? The palm frond right behind it. The bird’s there.” (Silence.) Which meant that he found it.

No, that’s not the Annoying Person. That’s Dude Man demonstrating how he can eat an Oreo and keep both hands free for bin-holding

He also was the kind of person who did this. Matt, after we spent a whole morning freezing at 14,500 feet, and had bumped our way for two hours back down the mountain: “Did anyone, by any chance, see a glove up there? I think I dropped one of mine.” Him: “Oh, I saw a glove. I didn’t know who it belonged to, so I left it lying there.” Oh.

The Dude updating his bird count records. No, that’s not the Annoying Person. That’s Matt — he of the missing glove

But enough already. Enough with the Annoying Person, and enough with this post. I promise to pry some pretty bird photos out of Wayne — and his camera — before too much time elapses. In the meantime, here’s hoping your energy level stays birder-high. I’ll leave you with this parting shot. Not of a bird, but of a very friendly cat. I try not to think about his relationship with birds.

Our last hotel had a cat. A very friendly cat. Named Sylvester

New York City. February 2023

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7 thoughts on ““People people people!”

  1. Let me guess – the annoying guy is the one in the very first picture. What makes me say that? (1) He’s standing in the middle of the road. And not just momentarily standing there, he’s all firmly planted with his tripod. (2) He’s looking at a beast, not a bird!

    • Very clever deduction…but, alas, incorrect! That guy in the first picture is actually the Energizer Birder. Since he’s the leader, he gets the tripod (!) Interesting about that road. It was in terrific condition — doubtless the best road we encountered — but that’s because it dead-ended at a huge hydroelectric plant. It was only used by plant personnel, and us. So it was super-safe to plant oneself smack-dab in the middle, tripod and all. Oh — about those beasts. They were a couple of random donkeys. No idea who they belonged to, if anyone. They gave us the eye, cocked their ears back, then proceeded to ignore us and ingest large quantities of roadside grass. It just appears as though the Energizer Birder is looking at them; he was really on the track of some bird or another.

    • Hey Roy. In the jungle especially, you get what you pay for! Though once, in Uganda (I think) I waited in line to get access to a locked toilet that turned out to be a hole in the ground — but surrounded by porcelain (!)

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