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Twitching a Spectacled Bear

Twitching a Spectacled Bear

Since 2019 I had not left Europa thanks to Covid, but in October 2021 I would finally travel a bit further away again! Sadly a trip to Asia did not go through 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 the destination to Ecuador and Bolivia. Ecuador mainly because I always had wanted to see a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and Bolivia to add three much desired cats to my list: Jaguar (Panthera Onca), Jaguarundi (Hepailurus yagouaroundi) and Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). First I went to Ecuador for two weeks.

My first dilemma was whether or not I should hire a guide for the bear. Travelling on your own it can get expensive quickly, but I also didn’t want to miss out on this species and not only wanted I to see it, but also see it well. However I understood that nowadays there are quite a few good places for Spectacled Bear which should make it possible for me to find one on my own. Apart from that it appeared that two weeks before I was supposed to go the bear season at Maquipucuna had started. 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. Now I wanted to go to Maquipucuna as quickly as possible after my arrival in Ecuador, because this appeared to be a very lucky coincidence, but sadly I was not able to make any clear arrangements.

So I went as planned to the lodge Bellavista. There I heard from others that the bear season at Maquipucuna had only lasted a week because heavy rainfall had made the fruits drop from the trees. When I was three days in Ecuador I had an extra day between Bellavista and Paz de las Aves. On that day I had planned to go to Maquipucuna and I just went there to see what was possible. So I drove with my rental car to the place. There I talked to someone and it turned out it was possible to sleep there for a reasonable amount 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 (Bassaricyon medius) and saw several Kinkajou’s (Potos flavus). The next morning however did also 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 a message through Whatsapp, but almost immediately I was called. They had found my boots, but also a bear! Dilemma! The bear was in a tree, but it was impossible to tell when it would leave from there. On the other hand I had a nice afternoon of birding waiting for me, while I was on the phone I already saw some nice species pass by me on eye level. 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 also turned out to be quite far into the area. As quickly as we could we ran towards it. Exhausted I arrived at the place after about 20 minutes 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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