At 5.30am M, Jairo and I head off to the special bird hide at Refugio Paz de las Aves. It’s dark, and the road is wet. Jairo drives cautiously as there have been reports of landslides on the same road which heads back to Quito in the other direction – when there’s a lot of rainfall it’s a regular occurrence. At least it’s not raining now. After about 25 minutes we head up a boggy track and park in what seems like the middle of nowhere. We head down a narrow, steep and muddy track to the bird hide. As we head to the hide we can hear a loud racket – the male cock of the rock birds (Gallo de la Peña) are in their lek, the place they gather to carry on in an attempt to attract a female.
From time to time the birds are close enough that you can see them without binocs. They are such unique looking birds, it’s fantastic to see them in the wild. We also see Quetzals and a Trogon. We’re lucky that most of the time we have the hide to ourselves – only one other couple with fancy cameras and their guide are there for part of the morning. We get to meet the owner of the place, Angel Paz, aka the bird whisperer, an ex-logger who now realises the value of conservation. His neighbours still can’t believe that people pay money to come and see birds. On our drive out of the reserve we stop to admire a number of other birds easily seen on the property. A great way to start the morning and all before breakfast.