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Noisy Minors

Notes from the guides of the future

Currently in Baton Rouge, Louisiana I stood awkwardly in the kitchen, leaning against a countertop, staring at the condensation rolling down the sides of my glass. My mother stood nearby, cooking, ignoring both me and my dad who were invading her personal space as usual. My dad shifted his feet slightly, and looked at me. “You sure you want to do this? Your mother and I cannot help you at all with this, and you know you have to get your college books and everything this fall as well. Is it worth it?” My mom continued to work, but I could tell she was waiting for my answer. I breathed deeply, and slowly responded. “I know that. And, yes, I believe it is.”I glanced outside at the red rock desert of Western Colo- rado where I was from. In just a few days’ time, I would be headed on the greatest trip of my entire life. I was nervous, but convinced myself that what I was doing was denitely for the best. And so began my rst- ever birding trip to the tropics. When I nally arrived in the Tropical Birding oce, I was awestruck and nervous beyond belief. Here were the headquarters for the bird tour company, and, truth be told, I was intimidated and scared. I was there to volunteer at the Tandayapa Bird Lodge, a short drive west of Quito, and was completely stunned by how amazing everything in South America was. Slowly, after Nick Athanas and Iain Campbell intro- duced themselves and got back to work, I relaxed but remained on the sidelines, staring at the maps of the world and incredible bird pictures. Shortly thereafter, though, I was on my way out to Tandayapa Bird Lodge with lodge manager Pablo Cervantes and new TB guide Andrew Spencer to begin my

volunteer work there. As soon as we arrived, we were given a few minutes to walk around on our own before the rst guests showed up. I glanced around the equatorial cloud forest that was enveloping me, and tried to learn as much as I possibly could. In our short little walk I saw my rst-ever quetzals thanks to guides Nick Leseberg and Andrew Spencer just a short walk from the lodge – a beautiful pair of Crested Quetzals. From here on I began to learn more and more about the birds of the cloud forest. Every day at the lodge I would walk the trails, either alone, with Nick or Andrew, or with guests, and bird. It was far and away one of the most rewarding experi- ences of my life. I am currently studying biology at Louisiana State

Young birder Jacob C. Cooper reflects on a season volunteering at Tandayapa Lodge in Ecuador

University pursuing my lifelong dream of becoming an ornitholo- gist, and desperately wanted expe- rience with all of the families and species in South America that I had never encountered in life before. At the Lodge I was able to learn more than I had ever desired. While volunteering, some of the guides would oer to let me tag along to nearby locales and from them I learned about vocalizations, habitat preferences and behaviors for the hundreds of amazing species in Western Ecuador. The guides in particular blew me away. The way they were able to nd and identify so many species in the eld




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