Cloud Forest Bird Monitoring in Ecuador

Project name:

Life Net Nature

Project purpose:

Although Ecuador covers only 1.6% of South America, it is home to more than 50% of the bird species on the continent (1570 of 3100), a quintessential “hot spot” of avian diversity. The montane tropical forests of western Ecuador are some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world because of human population growth and related deforestation. The Mindo area of western Ecuador, in the Chocó endemic bird area is one of the most species rich birding areas in South America. Christmas counts here tally more than 450 species of birds in a single 24-hour period and hold global records year after year. Our conservation research at Reserva Las Tangaras compares bird species in different montane forest habitats: primary forest, second growth, and forest edges, to determine bird species habitat preferences. Results inform conservation science, ornithology, and contribute to ecotourism and environmental education. As a volunteer you will help set up and manage mist nets, carry birds in cotton bags from nets to a banding station, and record data and enter it in a computer. We also teach volunteers who wish to do so, to extract and band birds.

Project activities:

  • animal interaction
  • data collection/analysis
  • teaching

Weekly cost (approx USD):

$

825

Terrestrial

Ecuador

South America

Direct benefits you gain:

  • cultural integation
  • data/statistical skills
  • field research skills
  • gain a qualification or credit
  • remote scenic location
  • report writing
  • undertake your own research

Noteworthy conservation points:

  • contributes to environmental policy
  • publishes peer-reviewed science
  • publishes work

Accommodation:

Lovely 2-story wooden lodge, dormitory, mattress with mosquito netting

When does the project run?

Summer (July) and Winter (December)

Facilities:

accommodation included, food included, cooking facilities, local shops, nearby medical facilities, refillable drinking water, hot shower, western toilet, solar charging station

The Las Tangaras Reserve's research cabin is large, and volunteers have the entire cabin to themselves during the project. Everyone on the team sleeps on the second floor, so it's a bit like a summer camp pajama party. The cabin has a large living room, dining area, and kitchen on the first floor, and a huge balcony where you can enjoy birding, reading, and relaxing. The reserve has miles of trails, beautiful swimming area on the Nambillo River, and access to dozens of waterfalls. The forest is dripping with orchids, bromeliads, monkeys, and over 300 species of birds!

How long can I stay?

2 weeks

Requirements:

  • Genuine interest in avian conservation
  • Skill with binoculars
  • Good physical and mental health

Details of the day-to-day life on the project:

Life Net Nature volunteer banding assistants help Dr. Dusti Becker and other scientists monitor birds at the Las Tangaras Reserve, Mindo, Ecuador. The team advances knowledge about tropical montane forest bird communities, including community and species-level responses to deforestation, forest recovery, forest fragmentation, and landscape and climate changes. Your participation also contributes to sustaining a special protected area in the biodiverse Andes of western Ecuador.

Reserva Las Tangaras, a 50-hectare nature preserve boasts more than 30 species of hummingbirds, dozens of colorful tanagers, the largest regional Andean cock-of-the-rock display lek, and over 300 tropical bird species, many of which are Choco and Andean endemics. The reserve is also home to endangered capuchin monkeys, spectacled bear, cougar, and myriads of other wildlife species, including several rare and endangered rain frogs.

Volunteers set up and monitor mist nets, help extract birds from nets, carry birds from nets to banding stations, and record ornithological and ecological data in the field. Training in handling, measuring and banding is included, but previous experience is desirable. The site is quite rugged, so volunteers must be able to hike on steep, potentially muddy and slippery terrain and cover 3-5 miles on foot per day. Volunteers will have time to explore the Mindo area, and the team will visit the higher-elevation Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve on the final day of the project. The December project includes participation in the famed Mindo Christmas Bird Count (CBC), usually either first or second in the world for number of species.

Accommodation is in a spaceous research cabin where each volunteer has a mattress with mosquito netting, a fitted bottom sheet, pillow, us of an indoor shower and flush toilet. Volunteers bring their own towel(s) and sleeping bag or warm quilt. Meals are delicious, home-style Ecuadorian, prepared by experienced cooks, and vegetarian and vegan options can be accommodated.

The cost-share donation of $1650 covers transportation in Ecuador, meals, and lodging during the 2-week conservation expedition, reserve fees, salaries for Ecuadorian cooks and para-biologists, and all entrance fees and special lunches and dinner in Mindo and lunch at the Bellavista Reserve. Airfare to and from Ecuador and expenses in Quito are not included.

Your cost-share donation contributes to stewardardship needs of the reserve, educational programs and materials about cloud forest wildlife, maintainance of trails and signs, repairs, preventing damage to the local ecosystem, and feeding resident hummingbirds. Cost-share donations provide around 35% of the annual funding to sustain this unique and important tropical protected area in the Andes.

This exciting conservation expedition begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador.

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