Global BirdFair and South American BirdFair 2023
By Iván Rocha
2023 was a year that will mark my life for many reasons, especially for all the experiences I have had. The unique natural places visited, the biodiversity, especially the different bird species encountered, and the new friends I made in the communities visited during the bird whatching trips. One of the most memorable events of that year was attending the Global BirdFair and the South American BirdFair.
These bird fairs bring together bird enthusiasts, conservationists, and experts from around the world to celebrate and raise awareness about the beauty and importance of birds in our ecosystems, landscapes, and cultures. But this year will be especially marked for me because I was invited to go for the first time to the most important bird fair in the world, held in England, and the most important bird fair in South America, held in Ecuador, as a representative of Manakin Nature Tours.
I’m a new in the world of birdwatching and nature photography. I started back in 2019, and since that year, both have become a passion for me. However, it was not until a couple of years later that I started working at Manakin Nature Tours, where I entered the world of bird tourism and began to learn about it and discover the potential we have in Colombia and how it can contribute to the conservation of nature and the development of a sustainable economy in the territories.
My first Global BirdFair
On July 14–16, 2023, the Global BirdFair was held in the city of Oakham, England. As Manakin, we were present with a stand of our own, but also as part of the committee in the Colombia stand.
It was amazing to see so many people from all over the world visiting the BirdFair, to see the interest they have in traveling, and to meet some friends and new people in love with birds. It was great learning from specialized nature tourism destinations, attending talks on conservation and bird tourism topics, and seeing companies, organizations, and destinations from all parts of the world, as well as the best brands of accessories for observation and nature photography, such as Swarovski or Sony.
It was three days with a lot of work, talking with many people who are interested in traveling to Colombia, and I think that it is my best memory of the fair. See how Colombian perception and fame have changed, from being a country that was only associated with war or drugs to becoming the country with the most bird species in the world, the country where the Andes mountain range is divided into three ranges, where you can go from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, where you can visit the magic of the Orinoquia or the Amazon, and because we are the second most biodiverse country in the world, THE COUNTRY OF BIRDS.
My trip in England ended with a visit to the Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve, an amazing place to see seabirds and where I was able to fulfill my dream of seeing the stunning Atlantic Puffin in person. It was an awesome day that made this experience unforgettable.
My first South American BirdFair
The 2023 version of the South American BirdFair was held in Mindo, Ecuador, from October 26 to 29. We did not have a stand at the fair, but as Manakin Nature Tours, we attended to learn about nature tourism in Ecuador. We also had the opportunity to network with bird experts and tour operators.
This has been one of the best trips and one of the most enriching things I have done related to birdwatching tourism. It’s incredible to see all the work that Ecuador has been doing to develop nature tourism and to visit Mindo to see all that they have accomplished in bird tourism. Mindo is no doubt a top destination in South America, from the restaurants and hotels to the streets with their graffiti and statues and the many specialized natural reserves for birdwatching and photography that you can find in the area.
I had the opportunity to visit some of the nature reserves with incredible people, nature lovers, and photographers from around the world.
My favorite visited place in Ecuador is Mashpi Amagusa, a natural reserve created with the work, effort, and love of Sergio, Doris, and their family. An ideal place for photography of birds such as the Moss-Backed Tanager, Glistening-Green Tanager, Flame-Faced Tanager, Rose-Faced Parrot, Scaled Fruiteater, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Golden-Collared Honeycreeper, or the Indigo Flowerpiercer.
An amazing place for bird photography is Birdwatcher’s House. Vinicio has built perfect spots to take unique photographs of birds such as the Plate-Billed Mountain-Toucan, Turquoise Jay, Masked Trogon, Chesnut-crowned Antpitta, Toucan Barbet, or the Gorgeted Sunangel.
Refugio Paz de las Aves:
A nature reserve and a beautiful place that Angel Paz and his family built through many years of forest conservation and care. Angel has managed to develop a special connection with some species of Antpittas, and in one day in the reserve, you can see and photograph five of these. It is an amazing experience to be able to see and photograph species such as the Giant Antpitta, Yellow-Breasted Antpitta, Moutached Antpitta, Ocher-Breasted Antpitta, Chestnut-Crowned Antpitta, or the Rufous-Breasted Antthrush.
Another wonderful place that specializes in nature photography and has good spots to take photos of species such as the Plate-Billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Golden-Headed Quetzal, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Black-Chinned Mountain-Tanager, or the Gorgeted Sunangel.
San Tadeo Birding:
A house close to the center of Mindo with a natural balcony is perfect for taking great photos of tanagers and hummingbird species such as the Beryl-spangled Tanager, Golden-Naped Tanager, Black-Chinned Mountain-Tanager, Black-Capped Tanager, Flame-Faced Tanager, White-whiskered Hermit, Violet-Tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Purple-Bibbed Whitetip, or the Empress Brillant.
I want to thank the Manakin team for this unforgettable year. Their support, trust, company, and teachings have truly transformed my experience into a lifelong passion.
Additionally, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the individuals who have warmly embraced me, assisted me, and generously shared their wisdom throughout these incredible journeys. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to capture these stunning bird species.
I wish you all a 2024 full of good vibes, birds, nature, travel, and happiness.