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Homestretch naturalist Brian Keating visits Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Homestretch naturalist Brian Keating visits the Valley of Longevity in Ecuador, where it's not uncommon for residents to live past 100, and he meets some exotic birds like the barred fruiteater and an ovenbird.

Podocarpus National Park known for its biodiversity

This plump green bird is a barred fruiteater. (Brian Keating)

Brian Keating has had an eventful week.

The Homestretch naturalist's flight from Calgary to Ecuador was diverted to Panama in the midst of a devastating earthquake. Once he arrived safely at his destination, he spent five days in Ecuador before heading to the Galapagos Islands. 

Keating spent his time in Ecuador near Vilcabamba, also known as the 'Valley of Longevity,' where it's not uncommon for residents to live past 100.

The town is located about 80 kilometres north of the Ecuador-Peru border.

"It's one of those unique places in the world where people seem to live to ripe old ages in a very healthy way," Keating told the Homestretch's Doug Dirks via satellite phone while he sat on a catamaran.

"The locals tell us that there are many people who are still working their field at 80 years of age."

To the east of Vilcabamba is the Podocarpus National Park, which measures a whopping 1,500 square kilometres in size. 

Keating hiked up about 300 vertical metres to just below 2,900 metres above sea level, where he saw some of the almost 600 different species of birds in the park, including a barred fruiteater.

As its name suggests, the nest of an ovenbird looks like an clay oven. (Brian Keating)

He also came across a type of ovenbird, called a hornero. 

The hornero is a type of "ovenbird" found in Ecuador. (Brian Keating)

"The nest itself looks like a brick oven," says Keating.

"What a unique bird, they strut like a chicken on the ground, a very pretty brown bird and we enjoyed seeing their nests all over the place."

The park has been categorized by international conservation organizations as a "mega-diverse zone," said Keating.

"It's an area with a high level of endemic species and it's basically a meeting point for four ecological systems — the northern Andes, southern Andes, the Amazon and the Pacific Ocean."

"When we walked the trail I felt like I was walking in a green tube," he added. "It was absolutely beautiful. When we got dropped off there it was pouring rain and it rained all day, but we had the right clothing and it turned out to be an incredible day."

Keating continues his adventures in the Galapagos Islands.

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