Birdwatching for Beginners: Where to Start

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Welcome to your ultimate guide to the enchanting world of birdwatching, a hobby steeped in relaxation, education, and an intimate connection with nature. Not only that, but birdwatching is also a fascinating dive into natural history, especially when we think about the fact that birds—the stars of our birdwatching adventures—are actual living descendants of dinosaurs!

From the Amazon jungle to Andean peaks, from the Pacific coast to the enchanted Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is a paradise for bird lovers and wildlife explorers. The country ranks third in the world for being home to the most significant number of observed bird species, so get ready to discover the wonderful world of birds like never before!

Mashpi Lodge offers a unique gateway into this beautiful world of birds. Whether you’re a novice eager to start or an experienced birder seeking new horizons, this blog will equip you with essential knowledge, tools, and techniques. And did you know? At Mashpi Lodge, you’ll connect with and discover the serene beauty of birdwatching in the company of expert guides, too! So, let’s embark on this exciting journey together and embrace the wonders of birdwatching, where nearly every chirp and flutter comes from a different species!

Mashpi Lodge
Mashpi Lodge

Birdwatching for Beginnersat Mashpi Lodge

With its lush landscapes and expert guides, Mashpi Lodge offers you the opportunity to discover and appreciate the unique beauty of birds in their natural habitat. Unique birdwatching experiences await here, where every corner reveals the majesty of the feathered wildlife surrounding us. So, allow us to prepare you to explore, learn, and immerse yourself in the natural wonder of birdwatching at Mashpi!

1. Basic equipment required

To embark on this unique experience at Mashpi Lodge, it is essential to have a few key elements that will allow us to enjoy Ecuador’s winged diversity to the fullest. Here’s a look at what you’ll want to have and take into consideration as part of your birdwatching experience with us:

2. Binoculars

10×42 binoculars are a versatile and powerful choice for birdwatching. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits offered by this type of binoculars.

The 10x magnification means that objects will appear ten times closer than they would to the naked eye. This is ideal for birding at moderate distances and for sharper detail.

The number 42 refers to the diameter of the front lens. A larger diameter allows light to enter, which is beneficial in low-light conditions, such as at dawn or dusk. It also contributes to a brighter and clearer image.

3. Local Birding Guides

A local bird guide is an invaluable tool for new or seasoned birders. In the case of birdwatching at Mashpi, your experience is greatly enriched by having specialized local guides—who know the wildlife in the region inside and out—accompany you. At Mashpi Lodge, we proudly offer highly qualified and passionate wildlife guides who are happy to share their knowledge with our guests while on excursions. While exploring alongside them, your birding adventure will become an educational and exciting journey.

Their knowledge will also facilitate accurate identification of the birds you happen upon, helping you to distinguish between similar-looking species. Our guides, too, will provide details of the specific habitats where each species can be found. This will come in handy for planning your excursions and directing you to areas conducive to spotting any particular birds that interest you.

Birdwatching for Beginners
Birdwatching for Beginners

4. Smart Phone and Essential Apps

In this digital age, your phone can become a helpful window into the fascinating world of birds, especially when paired with applications designed to enrich every moment of your birding experience. We always recommend two essential apps that will help you in your birding exploration at Mashpi Lodge:

  • eBird app

eBird is an application developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Its primary purpose is to allow birders to record and share their bird sightings, thus contributing to citizen science and monitoring bird populations worldwide.

With eBird, users can quickly enter bird sightings and indicate the species, number, and location of their sightings. The application uses interactive maps to show the distribution of bird species in different regions. Users can create customized lists of observations for specific areas. They can also generate detailed sighting reports and contribute to regional and global reports.

  • Merlin Bird ID

Merlin Bird ID is a magical app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, designed to take you on an exciting bird identification adventure. With access to an extensive database, Merlin covers many bird species worldwide. From Ecuador to almost every other corner of the globe, Merlin’s magic unfolds to help you identify the birds you find. Merlin allows users to identify birds using photos or descriptions. Just upload a picture or answer a few questions about size and color, and Merlin will show you a list of the best possible matches. In addition, the application offers valuable tips on birdwatching and fascinating facts about each species.

5. Timing

Birdwatching can be especially rewarding during the early hours of sunrise and sunset. Many birds are most active at these times of day, and the light is conducive to birding.

  • Sunrise

In the early morning, birds are usually at their most active. This is when they forage for food and sing to establish territory and attract mates.

  • Sunset

Some birds, especially raptors and nocturnal birds, may become more active at dusk. Hearing their songs or calls may be easier at this time.

Sunset at Mashpi by Anderson Medina
Sunset at Mashpi by Anderson Medina

6. Appropriate clothing and comfortable footwear

Choosing the proper clothing and footwear is essential for enjoying birdwatching, especially in natural environments.

  • Clothing

Opt for neutral or muted colors like browns, dark greens, and greys. This helps you blend in better with your surroundings and reduces the chances of scaring birds away. Depending on the weather, bring a light windbreaker to protect you from the rain or wind.

  • Footwear

Opt for boots or shoes that are sturdy, waterproof, and comfortable for walking. This is especially important if you plan to explore areas with uneven terrain. Try to choose footwear that does not make noise when walking, as this is useful for approaching birds without disturbing them.

Birdwatching techniques for beginners

Identifying birds by color and size is an effective strategy for beginner birders and can provide valuable clues for identifying species.

Hummingbird Buff-tailed Coronet
Hummingbird Buff-tailed Coronet

Identification by color

  • Observe color patterns on the body, wings, and head. Pay attention to color combinations and distributions.
  • Look for distinguishing features, such as spots, stripes, or stripes of specific colors. These markings can be vital in differentiating between similar species.
  • Learn about the specific colorations of the species you are interested in. Some birds have distinctive colors that make them easily recognizable.
  • Be aware that some colors may vary between sexes and ages. Young and adult birds often have different plumages.

Identification by shape

  • Look at the proportions of the body, such as the length of the bill compared to the head or the size of the wings about the body.
  • Use the environment as a reference to assess size. For example, compare the size of the birds to branches, leaves, or other objects nearby.
  • Observe the size of the birds when they are in flight. Differences in wingspan, wing shape, and flight speed can be helpful indicators.

Active Listening

Identifying birds by their songs and calls is a valuable skill for birders. Here are some tips on how to improve your skills in this area.

  • Break songs and calls into more superficial elements. Often, vocalizations consist of repetitive patterns you can identify more quickly if you break them down.
  • Join local birding groups. The collective experience can be invaluable for learning about local sounds and getting practical advice.
  • Mobile apps, such as eBird and Merlin Bird ID, offer birds an identification function by bird calls and songs. Record the sound, and the app will try to identify the species.
Toucan Barbet Bird
Toucan Barbet Bird

Responsible Bird Photography

Photographing birds responsibly is critical to help minimize the impact on wildlife and not disturb their natural behavior. Here are some tips on how to practice responsible bird photography.

  • Respect the distance experts and local regulations recommended to avoid unnecessary stress on the birds.
  • Minimize noise and speak quietly. Sudden and loud noises can frighten birds and affect their natural behavior.
  • Avoid using flash near nests or at night, as this may cause a visual disturbance and negatively affect the birds.
  • Try to avoid catching or touching birds to get a better photograph. Doing so can cause them physical harm and increase the risk of disease transmission.
  • Do not chase birds to get a photo. If a bird seems uncomfortable or moves away, respect its space and leave it alone.

Additional experiences at Mashpi Lodge

Bird-related activities

Beyond the exciting world of birdwatching, Mashpi Lodge offers several activities that will immerse you in the richness of this Reserve’s unique ecosystem.

At Mashpi, you are invited to discover the lushness of the rainforest through exciting, guided walks, where every step reveals the magic of the local flora and fauna. Embark on canopy adventures aboard our famous aerial gondolas, which lift you into the treetops for a privileged rainforest view.

  • Night Walks

At Mashpi Lodge, the magic of the jungle does not fade with the coming of night; rather, it intensifies in a symphony of mysterious sounds and nocturnal creatures dancing in the darkness.

During these night walks, your ears will become the primary instrument for detecting the call of tree frogs, the distant song of nocturnal birds, and the rustle of the breeze through the leaves. On these exciting walks, you will encounter extraordinary insects, amphibians, and nocturnal mammals that awaken as the jungle plunges into darkness.

Night Walk
Night Walk
  • Dragonfly

One of the best ways to experience the most incredible and enchanting moments of the Mashpi Reserve is to choose the Dragonfly Canopy Gondola. As you rise gently among the treetops, a natural environment where birds soar freely and you can observe other animals from an elevated perspective will surround you. The breathtaking panoramic view makes for truly captivating viewing.

  • Sky Bike 

The sky bike can accommodate two riders at a time. One person pedals along a cable stretched between two points in the forest, passing through a beautiful river between the rocks and trees below. We offer guests the most exciting way to soar above the natural world while doing this fun and recreational activity. The Sky Bike is conveniently located close to Mashpi Lodge in terms of getting there.

Sky Bike Mashpi
Sky Bike Mashpi

We hope you feel inspired and well-prepared to embark on your birdwatching adventures. Mashpi Lodge, with its rich avian diversity and unique ecosystems, offers a splendid backdrop for novice and experienced birders. From understanding the basics of bird identification to exploring the depths of the rainforest on night walks and sky bikes, the opportunities for discovery and connection with nature are boundless here. Remember, birdwatching is more than a hobby—it’s a gateway to appreciating the intricate beauty of our natural world. So, grab your binoculars, download those helpful apps, prepare to tag along with our expert guides, and step into the enchanting world of birdwatching at Mashpi Lodge!

Tourists observing a yellow land iguana in its natural habitat at Finch Bay, Galapagos, included in Mashpi package tours.
Our Premier Ecuador Experience: The Golden Triangle
A Complete Experience that brings you the very best of Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands. With a stint in the Heart of Quito, The Mashpi Reserve, and a stay at The Galapagos Islands most lauded Hotel, Finch Bay.


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