Eddleman Gets Bird’s-Eye View of Ecuador

by News Bureau on Thursday, Mar. 01, 2012

Bird-watching group

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 1, 2012 – Dr. Bill Eddleman, vice provost and dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, has now seen more than 800 species of birds in his lifetime.

He recently added 280 birds to that list after a birding expedition in Ecuador, a South American country home to 1,600 different bird species.

“Ecuador has more recorded birds than anywhere else in the world,” said Eddleman, former chair of Southeast’s Department of Biology and also professor of biology. “That’s about one-sixth of the birds in the world.”

He joined a group of men, primarily from Jackson, Mo., on the adventure in January. The group included Dennis Wheeler, a retired teacher; Mike Kahle, a taxidermist; Matt Kahler, a nurse from Arkansas; and Dr. Ken Detring and Dr. Eugene McDonald, both eye doctors.

Wheeler began planning the trip in September and compiled a list of birds they hoped to see in Ecuador. The group saw many of those and more — 336 bird species in all, said Eddleman, as he displayed hundreds of digital images he assembled from the trip and an eight-page spreadsheet noting the species identified and the date and location where each was spotted.

“Originally, we thought we’d see 250 to 300 species,” he said. “We exceeded that.”

Black-chested Buzzard Eagle

The bird watching expedition was a success thanks to the assistance of trained guide Renato Espinoza, who the group hired for the week. Espinoza, educated in the United States as an engineer, led the men to locations both east and west of the Andes Mountains and at different elevations, offering them the opportunity to explore varied habitats with differing species in each location.

The group got up with the birds, beginning each day between 3:30 and 5 a.m. and arriving at watching sites by daylight. Armed with binoculars, they walked and cruised roads as Espinoza assisted them in identifying hundreds of birds.

Eddleman said they saw birds both large and small – including 26 species of hummingbirds up to condors and Black-faced Ibis. He recalled spotting Sword-Billed Hummingbirds and recounted watching them feed on native flowers. Many of the hummingbirds were viewed at feeders, he said.

Eddleman marveled recalling the sighting of a Crested Guan, calling it “one of the neatest birds we saw.” He also particularly enjoyed seeing 42 colorful and different kinds of tanagers and four Long-wattled Umbrellabirds.

“The tanagers were the prettiest,” he said, liking their striking color to children engaged in an art project.

Two of Eddleman’s “goal birds” on the trip were the Andean Condor and the Torrent Duck, both of which he had the fortune of seeing. The highest elevation to which the group drove was 14,000 feet, where they spotted the Andean Condors.

Golden-tailed Sapphire

During the trip, the group stayed in Quito, capital city of Ecuador just south of the equator, and at the Pululahua Hostal, an eco-tourism lodge just north of the equator. Eddleman recalled one of the most interesting villages as “23 de Junio” – The 23rd of June. There they stayed in a cabin recently built by a local to attract those on birding expeditions. During the course of their trip, they crossed paths with German, British and other American birders.

In addition to spotting hundreds of colorful species of birds throughout the trip, the group also had the opportunity to see the dormant Antisana Volcano, a Three-Toed Sloth, capuchin monkeys and a Black Agouti.

“I got to learn a lot about Ecuador,” Eddleman said. “I got to see something I’ve never experienced before. It was very different than anything I had ever done before. It was fun.”

Birding is nothing new to Eddleman’s group, although bird-watching in Ecuador was for all except Wheeler. He says the group has been to Panama, Mexico and the Caribbean in the past, although this was the first time he had the opportunity to join them.

The group regularly participates in a “Christmas Bird Count” locally between Dec. 14 and Jan. 3, Eddleman said, in which they record bird species they spot in a 15-mile diameter either at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Trail of Tears State Park of Big Oak Tree State Park, all in southeast Missouri. Eddleman says he serves as the group’s official recorder.