In this piece, Jessie Williamson joins Peter Kaestner on an epic adventure to South America — all to try and spot some elusive birds. She is quick to realize the lengths that Kaestner will go to reach his target of 10,000 birds, writing that “for one of his top targets, the Ayacucho antpitta, he needed permission to navigate through an unstable area ravaged by Shining Path guerrillas.” Kaestner seems to take that sort of thing in his stride, in a tale that is bird watcher meets Indiana Jones.

In 1986, Kaestner became the first person in the world to see a representative of every bird family in existence, 159 back then. But the birding event that most changed his life was his 1989 discovery of the Cundinamarca antpitta, a species new to science. Kaestner had traveled outside Bogotá, Colombia, for work and was exploring a forested area up a newly constructed road. Suddenly, he heard a call he didn’t recognize.