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Twitching a Spectacled Bear

Twitching a Spectacled Bear

Twitching is a verb known in the birder community which means going out to see a specific rare bird that someone else has found. For a while Covid made twitching pretty much my only way to see a new bird species. Since 2019 I had not left Europa thanks to the pandemic. Finally in October of 2021 I could set out again! Sadly I had to cancel a planned trip to Asia because the country I was supposed to go to remained closed due to covid. So a month before I was supposed to go, I decided to change my destination to Ecuador and Bolivia. Ecuador because it’s a good country to see Spectacled Bear and Bolivia to add three much desired cats to my list: Jaguar, Jaguarundi and Ocelot. First I went to Ecuador for two weeks.

For the bear my first dilemma was whether or not I should hire a guide. A guide would be a serious hit on my budget since I was travelling alone, but getting home without the bear was also not an option. And not only did I want to see it, but I also wanted to see it well enough for photography. I understood that there are quite a few good places for Spectacled Bear these days which should make it possible for me to find one on my own. Apart that luck seemed to be at my side since a few weeks before I was going to travel to Ecuador, I saw that the bear season had started at Maquipucuna. Maquipucuna is a reserve where Spectacled Bears can be seen in trees, but in order for that to happen the fruits in the trees need to have ripened and it is unpredictable when that happens and even then it is not sure how many bears will show up. The recent information made Maquipucuna a place I wanted to get to quickly, but sadly I was not able to make any clear arrangements with the lodge.

So I started my time in Ecuador instead at the lodge Bellavista. There I heard from others that the bear season at Maquipucuna had only lasted a week because heavy rainfall had caused the fruits to drop from the trees. I had an extra day planned between Bellavista and Paz de las Aves, my next destination. On that day I just drove up to Maquipucuna with my rental car to see what was possible. There I talked to someone and it turned out it was possible to sleep at the lodge for a reasonable price and look for bears with a guide on the same day as well as the next morning. The guide was excellent and pointed out many good birds for me. He also found bear tracks, but sadly we did not find a bear. We did see an Ecuadorian Capuchin however which is actually a very good mammal and a critically endangered monkey. At night we enjoyed great views of a Western Lowland Olingo and saw several Kinkajou’s.

Western Lowland Olingo

The next morning however also did not bring me a bear.

When the morning had passed I had to go to Paz de las Aves. After little more than an hour driving I arrived there and I met Rodrio Paz with whom I was going to watch birds that afternoon. However I found out that I had left my boots at Maquipucuna. I sent them a message through Whatsapp, but almost immediately I was called back. They had found my boots, but also a bear! Dilemma! The bear was in a tree, but it was impossible to tell whether it would stay there. On the other hand I had a nice afternoon of birding waiting for me. I already saw some new species while I was on the phone. I decided to take the leap. I went for it! Rodrigo wanted to come too.

I drove there as quickly as I could and managed to turn 65 minutes of driving into 45 minutes. This felt like a genuine twitch! At Maquipucuna they already waited for me. The animal turned out to be have been located quite far into the area. We started running. Exhausted I finally arrived at the place about 20 minutes later and the bear was still in the tree! For an hour the bear showed itself fantastically while it was feeding. Around five o’clock the bear climbed down. I was very happy that I had succeeded in seeing my main target so well!


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