Birding Antisana feels a lot like Scotland. Yes, really.

We were right on the equator but if I didn’t know any better I would have thought we were in the Scottish Highlands. It was as though we had been swept away to Scotland—that same country where Steve and I first met and rendezvoused seven years ago.

But no, we were still in Ecuador, at Antisana Volcano Ecological Reserve. Where I should have been hearing Andean flutes in my mind I was instead imagining bagpipes.

Entrance to Antisana Volcano Ecological Reserve

Entrance to Antisana Volcano Ecological Reserve

Antisana Ecological Reserve

Antisana Ecological Reserve. Admit it. It looks a little like the Scottish Highlands, no?

So as my mind was playing back our first romantic rendezvous from seven years ago, I took in the pristine landscape, the sweeping gorges and the mountains (and volcanos, of course) jutting up from the earth. Ah, Scotland, how come you never told me you had a cousin called Ecuador?

And with mountains and valleys you’ll also find a lake with waterfowl that you would never think to find at 18,000 feet. Like these Silvery Grebes. Grebes, I tell you! At 18,000 feet!

Silvery Grebes

Silvery Grebes (click to enlarge and get a closer look)

And Andean Coots. And the Andean Ruddy-duck. It almost seemed crazy to see these guys clear up here.

Andean Coot

Andean Coot (click to enlarge and get a closer look)

Andean Ruddy-duck

Andean Ruddy-duck (click to enlarge and get a closer look)

We drove along in the van with our guide and driver from Tropical Birding, and in the distance we saw the beautiful Carunculated Caracara. It was exciting finding him. We turned the corner and there was another about 50 feet away, and again we were thrilled. After every turn in the road we saw a Caracara and then it seemed like there were dozens of the raptors. It’s funny how it happens that way. You get a little giddy by seeing one, maybe two or three and then they seem to be everywhere. (You just feel a little stupid once you realize they’re all over the place at Antisana. But then again, as the Accidental Birder, most of my experiences birding make me feel sort of stupid.)

Carunculated Caracara

Carunculated Caracara hangs out at Antisana for the worms. Yes, he’s a worm-eating raptor.

It didn’t stop there. Also dining on the worms are the Black-faced Ibis, which were found at every turn, and there were also Andean Gulls, which I think are pretty cool looking with their black masks. Antisana is such a birdy place that it almost felt too easy to go birding. (Can’t all birding excursions go this well?)

Black-faced Ibis

Black-faced Ibis

Andean Gulls

Andean Gulls (They look a little like bank-robbing gulls with their masks, no?)

Know before you go

We were able to drive through all of Antisana when we visited, but that’s not always the case. It seems as though when we visited that the Reserve didn’t want cars going through. We made a clever convincing argument and they allowed us to drive through to the lake and back. Hopefully the Reserve will change its policy regarding cars, especially for birders who often are the most conservation-minded folks on the planet.

Also, when you go to Antisana, be sure to dress appropriately. You might be near the equator and think that all of Ecuador is hot, but you are at 18,000 feet and it gets cold up there. You know, a lot like Scotland.

It's cold up there, so make sure you bundle up!

It’s cold up there, so make sure you bundle up!

More photos!

Click on any photo below and it will take you to a gallery of more photos from our trip to Antisana Ecological Reserve, include a couple more birds I didn’t mention above.

Other posts about this trip