In November 2016, I visited the northern part of Ecuador with my wife and two friends, to explore the wildlife and the landscapes. Starting in Quito we spent the first week on the western slopes of the Andes and then moved across to the eastern side where we spent three days at the San Isidro Lodge.
Photographing birds in tropical rainforest conditions is always a challenge. Particularly as the best opportunity for observing the birds is first thing in the morning as the sun is rising. There is limited light in the forest at the best of times, but as the sun is trying to break through the clouds, a flashgun is essential equipment. At the Lodge, they keep some of the lights illuminated throughout the night to bring in the moths and the early birds take advantage of the moths as they go to rest in the foliage, moss and bark in the nearby trees. Watching the tree creepers probe the crevices with their beaks pulling out their breakfast is a great spectacle. The Lodge also illuminate a white sheet during the night where moths come to rest and these are an easy meal for other birds. Two Inca jays seem to realise that this is a good source of food and they were picking the moths off the sheet.
On our second night at the Lodge, a group of Canadian cyclists arrived. We learnt that they were a group of friends who turned their enjoyment of cycling into a means of raising money for charities. Their journey in Ecuador across the Andes and into the Amazon basin was raising money for the International Justice Mission (IJM), an organisation that advocates and legally fights for poor people and victims especially of sexual abuse. The IJM works with local law enforcement and with the local judiciary as well as government. It provides street level support to vulnerable people. In conversation with their leader, Frank de Walle, I talked about my own work in South America with psychologists, judges, prosecutors and NGOs to improve the effectiveness of investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse. After dinner, Frank invited me to talk about these issues to give his colleagues some insights into the pattern of child sexual abuse in South America. This work is supported by the British charity, The Child Protection Development Trust.
I subsequently learned from Frank that they raised over $100,000 for the International Justice Mission to support their work in Bolivia.