Mindo Cloud Forest, Ecuador. For two days, we took early morning hikes with our superb birding guide, Lucia, who pointed out numerous species of tanagers and other birds.
After two days, Lucia told us about the Cock of the Rock. But in order to see the bird, we had to do the following:
4am Get out of bed
4:30am Cross the river on the trolley
4:45am Take a taxi with Lucia
5:15 am Get dropped off on a remote dirt road in the jungle
5:20am Be completely stunned when three other taxis arrive -filled with 10 serious birders.
Shortly after 5:30 the owner showed up and opened the gate. The group hustled down to the bird blind and jostled for a viewing position. The blind fit around 6 people comfortably, but on this morning there were 13 people and many of them had huge cameras with 3 foot lenses.
Listen to the cacophony of Cock of the Rocks calling :
Cock of the Rocks do not pair up, like most birds. Every day the males come to the same location (lek) and display (head-bobbing, and wing flapping) Their goal is to attract a female and then be chosen to mate with her.
Finally, it was light enough to see the birds and get a photo. But first, I had to stake out a spot in the crowded bird blind.
This was a surreal experience: seeing these unusual birds in this remote area. Sharing the space with all the birders. The friendly and helpful owner, collected $10 from each person. Lucia said that he fills up every morning (over a $100 a day).
Reader Jim Evrard shared his adventure with the Cock of the Rock:
While serving in the Peace Corps in Peru in 1965-66, I had an opportunity to see the Cock of the Rock along a wild, rapid-filled stream in the high selva on the eastern slope of the Andes. I served as a technical advisor to the Peruvian Wildlife and Forestry Service based in Cuzco and saw the bird while on a working expedition involved in evaluating private land with the ideal of possibly establishing a sawmill.
P.S. Just so you know, that area was a hotbed of communist activity led by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro’s second in command. I was hauled into an army checkpoint along a road because I couldn’t produce my identify card (stolen by a pick-pocket). The soldiers had machine guns and had grenades strapped to their chests. Since I spoke Spanish with an accent, they thought I was a Cuban until I could identify two other Peace Corp Volunteers who were working and living in that area.