All Birds Are Brilliant But Some Families Of Birds Go The Extra Mile

One of my favourite places to watch hummingbirds - Yanacotcha in Ecuador.

As a kid I used to avidly watch any TV programme that was associated with wildlife two amusing examples of my obsession were, sitting down to watch a special programme on The Budgie only to be dismayed to find it was all about the financial state of the nation…the budget! Being dyslexic can be frustrating! Secondly being very upset listening to Angela Rippon report that forty gorillas had been killed in Rwanda but turned out they were guerrillas! But one other happier memory was seeing film of hummingbirds and being totally amazed at their beauty and the fact they could fly backwards and hover! Of course as a kid I never dreamt that I would ever see one, travel in those days was strictly UK only and even that very limited.

Bee eater Spain 1

Seeing birds such as European Bee-eater in Spain just made me hungry for more.

Fast forward a lot of years and I was now a keen UK birder and had even ventured to the exotic destination of Spain to see birds. These first two trips overseas were as someone once said “like taking the lid off a box of chocolates, you just can’t put it back and you want more” you were right Hannu Jannes!

So the lid was off which chocolate would be next? As it happened three friends Simon, Clive and Owen were all at the same stage of birding and had taken a few chocolates too and we were all keen for a bigger adventure! South America was calling us we knew even way back then that was where the most birds were and we wanted to see lots of birds. There were very few field guides available to the many countries of Latin America but one country did have a newly published book “The Birds of Venezuela” so that was the only reason we plumped to go there – we figured a bird guide would be very useful as first timers on the bird continent!

Long haul flight was a new experience and it was pretty awful back then, very cramped, terrible food, hardly any sleep, some things don’t change much! But we landed safely in the capitol city Caracas and stumbled out into the hot very humid dark night, long queues to get through customs with many heavily armed soldiers giving us a hard stare, there had just been a coup in the country, just our luck, and everyone was very tense indeed. Outside in the hot pre-dawn we could hear lots of birds and even see some jumping around in the trees by the exit gate, we had no idea what they were! Oh dear.

Palm Tanager 1 Day 1

The long-tailed black Palm Tanager according to "The Birds of Venezuela

Well things got worse, we were totally ripped off at the hire car company leaving with a car barely big enough to squeeze us in and hundreds of dollars each worse off, then we nearly crashed into a military check point which our driver failed to notice until the last second! We were hauled out at gunpoint and searched with our hands on our heads, welcome to Venezuela! Oh yeah and we got hopelessly lost trying to find our way out of the city…any way back to birds! Venezuela has lots of birds sadly our field guide was next to useless and we really struggled to identify anything that was not big and colourful and even then tricky the plates in the book were just shockingly bad! A quick example the Palm Tanager, a common and widespread bird that I have now seen thousands of across Latin America was impossible to identify from our guide it looked black and very long tailed in the illustration – it is grey and not particularly long tailed! About a week in, seeing this mystery bird all over the place, we stumbled on some bird trappers, probably illegal, and they had many tanagers in their cages and pointed to the book to show us which was which! Not a great way to learn bird identification but Palm Tanager was now on our list!

But for me one of the most memorable things about that crazy first trip to South America was the hummingbirds just mind-blowing and beautiful in equal measure and ever since they have had a special place in my heart. I love hummingbirds and the places you find them.

A celebration of some of my favourite hummers….

You probably knew hummingbirds were amazing right? Here is Sword-billed Hummingbird, Ecuador.

Buff-winged Starfrontlet - quite a name - the one that was sharing the feeder above.

Fiery throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird from the mountains of Costa Rica.

Sword-billed Hummingbird

Another of the bonkers Sword-billed Hummingbird from Ecuador.

Violet headed Hummingbird 1

Not only beautiful looking but lovely names too for hummingbirds - Charming Hummingbird.

Bee Hummingbird Cuba 1

The smallest bird in the world the Bee Hummingbird - endemic to Cuba.

Swallow tailed Hummingbird REGUA

The magnificent Swallow-tailed Hummingbird from REGUA in Brazil.

Buff tailed Coronet 1

Buff-tailed Coronet at Tandayapa Bird Lodge in Ecuador a paradise for hummingbirds.

Western Emerald 1

Another of the gems of Tandayapa the Western Emerald a real wow bird!

Coppery headed Emerald 1

Coppery-headed Emerald from Costa Rica such a stunning bird.

Green breasted Mango female 1

Female Green-breasted Mango from the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

Snowcap hummingbird CR 2016 1

The wonderful Snowcap Hummingbird in a flower garden in Costa Rica.

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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