Bird Holidays Conservation Awards



It is over ten years since we instigated a project to reforest a small plot of land in Ecuador, done to offset the carbon emissions associated with our tours. Although the project was based on carbon sequestration over a 20 year period (and no doubt beyond that time too), we thought it high time we should do something else.


Initially we looked for another grand project, but then settled on the idea of creating an annual conservation fund that could be awarded to a worthwhile cause either at home or abroad. Our hope is to find projects where we know that all the money will go directly to conservation, to get the most ‘bang for our buck’. We are thrilled to announce our first award, which will go to the Fundacion Imaymana, towards the creation of a green corridor between their reserves of Mashpi Shungo and Mashpi Protected Forest.


Fundacion Imaymana is an Ecuadorian conservation organisation dedicated to the sustainable management of natural resources and the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems in one of the richest places on earth, Ecuador’s Choco region. Our local guide in Ecuador, Alejandro Solano, lives on the Mashpi Shungo reserve, where he runs an organic cocoa plantation and artisanal chocolate factory.


The reserves are famous for their Choco endemic birds, the Rufous-crowned Antpitta and Banded Ground-cuckoo being the two most highly sought-after. Amazingly, Alejandro has managed to habituate an antpitta, which will occasionally come for food in the same way that a European Robin will follow a gardener who is turning the soil. Even if you fail to find these two ace rarities, there are very many birds to look for and no visitor to the area comes away empty handed. Grey-and-gold Tanager, Golden-winged Manakin, Choco Toucan and Long-wattled Umbrellabird are just a few of the many birds found here. Mammals too are well represented, but are, as always, much harder to spot.


Some of you will be familiar with Alejandro’s produce. He gave a lovely presentation about his chocolate farm to our NE Ecuador group last January, as well as some even lovelier tasters! Paul brought back some bars and shared them out at the Rutland Birdfair, where they went down a treat.


Currently, the land between these two reserves is owned by various local farmers, and the Fundacion Imaymana hopes to raise several thousand US Dollars to make the purchase. Bird Holidays is donating all of its first conservation fund to this project, and we would also like to encourage others to consider helping. If you would like some more information, or perhaps make a donation please get in touch with us.




John presents Alejandro with our donation towards their project, which plans to extend the existing reserve, creating a corridor between Mashpi Shungo and Mashpi Protected Forest.



Looking across to Mashpi Ridge you can see a patchwork of forest and degraded areas which are hopefully to become part of the regeneration project.






Much of the land now has little value to farming.







Alejandro explains about his project and his future plans.





Birding on the farm is very rewarding, since the shade-grown cocoa trees are planted amongst many larger trees.







Cocoa seeds being dried.







The finished product, artisanal chocolate boxed up and ready for sale.






Exploring the rest of the reserve, you enter an area where the forest has been allowed to regenerate.




Trails lead to the only place in the world where the Rufous-crowned Antpitta is reliably found.





Local guide Danillo has been trained by Alejandro to lead bird walks and show people the amazing Rufous-crowned Antpitta.


The star bird showed well for John when he visited in 2018. The Rufous-crowned Antpitta is endemic to the Choco region of northern Ecuador and western Colombia and is almost impossible to see anywhere else. Recently it has been established that it is not an antpitta at all, and is more closely related to the gnateaters.




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