Montane Ecuador with Field Guides

Montane Ecuador with Field Guides

Mitch Lysinger as guide

31-July-06 to 9-August-06

 

31-Jul-06 – 9:00 Mora picked me up and we headed over to get Lynn and then went straight to the airport. There was no traffic and Lynn and I made it through the security checks without any difficulties and were sitting at the gate by 10:00 waiting for the boarding call.  Our flight took off about 25 minutes late but the Captain announced “he had made way good time due to a tail-wind” so we would have been landing just about on time until the tower in Miami announced that all air traffic into and out of the airport was put “on hold” due to a VIP that needed to leave the area. Now the only VIP who needs that type of special attention is a head of state and it just so happens that “good old, GW” was in south Florida today and just happened to be heading back to Andrews Air Force Base as we were arriving. Fortunately, he didn’t screw things up too badly and we had plenty of time to catch our flight. Truth be told, our connecting gate was only across the terminal and the flight was initially delayed 45 minutes and ultimately delayed 75 minutes. This delay had nothing to do with GW but is he really innocent of anything?

 

Anyway, enough Bush-bashing, this is a vacation journal. We arrived in Quito at 21:15 local time. There is a one-hour time difference (they are on what would be Central time for the US). Gathered our bags, made it through Customs and found our ride to the Four Points Sheraton. We were in our room by 22:00. Mitch called and filled us in on the plan for our first day. This was to meet for breakfast downstairs at 05:30 and to have our bags packed and outside our rooms. He’d have the bellhops pick them up and have them loaded onto the bus. That being taken care of, it was a rather uneventful travel day and it was lights out at 23:00.

 

1-Aug-06 – Breakfast was at 05:30 and we left our main bags out in the hallway as instructed. We left our day bags in the rooms and would get them after breakfast. The group slowly met in the lobby although four of the eight of us had just done a Galapagos tour together, Lynn and I had met one person the night before when we checked in and we already knew Mitch. Anyway after a quick buffet breakfast of we loaded up the bus and headed to the Yanacocha Reserve. We departed at 06:20 and arrived at the turn-off for the reserve at approximately 07:45. We birded there mostly on foot until 12:20 when it was time for our box lunch. Carmen’s sister was responsible for our lunches out of Quito and they were quite good.

 

Once we left the bus, we slowly walked the road at Yanacocha looking for flocks of birds and checking out the hummingbird feeders that are maintained along the road. It is about a two kilometer, one-way trail till it ends overlooking the Pichincha Volcano. Birds seen along the walk included: Andean guan, buff-winged starfrontlet, sword-billed hummingbird, great sapphirewing, sapphire-vented puffleg, green-tailed trainbearer, black-capped tyrannulet, brown-backed chat-tyrant, blue-backed conebill, black-chested mountain-tanager, and glossy flowerpiercer. We had lunch in the reserve along the road from 12:20-13:00.

 

After lunch we headed to the Tandayapa Bird Lodge (TBL) along the Nono-Tandayapa Road. The road parallels the Alambi River and we made a few stops along the way when we heard or saw new and interesting things. We birded along the road until about 16:30 when we made the final push to TBL. In our time on the road some of the new birds we picked up were: plate-billed mountain-toucan, Andean cock-of-the-rock, white-tailed tyrannulet, slaty-backed chat-tyrant, turquoise jays, beautiful jays and white-capped dipper.

 

We arrived at TBL at 17:00 and for the next 60 minutes or so enjoyed a “power hour” of hummingbird watching at the feeders on the balcony. In the wet season the feeders regularly attract 20 species of hummingbirds a day and 31 species have been recorded here with some consistency. Mixed flocks pass through the canopy above the balcony each morning. Within 15 minutes we easily had all of the following species in good quantity: Brown, violet and sparkling violet-ears; western emeralds; green-crowned woodnymphs, rufous-tailed hummingbirds, Andean emeralds, fawn-breasted brilliants, buff-tailed coronets, brown incas, purple-bibbed white-tips, booted racket-tails, and violet-tailed sylphs. Cameras were clicking and jaws were dropping in amazement. Before the evening was over a velvet-purple coronet came into the feeders although not everyone saw it and the next day at lunch a white-necked Jacobin was seen at the feeders adding to the TBL-alone hummingbird list. What a place!

 

We settled into our rooms and had dinner at 19:00.  TBL is 90 minutes from Quito and is located at an altitude of 1750 meters (5750 feet). It is located in the midst of the subtropical cloud forest of the Tandayapa Valley.  It is perfectly situated so that daytrips give you access to lowland rainforest at 400 meters or paramo grasslands at 3500 meters.  The grounds of the lodge itself have a trail system that provides you with plenty of opportunity to sample some of the 295 species of birds that make the Tandayapa Valley home.

 

2-Aug-06 – Breakfast was at 06:00 and the plan was to bird from the balcony until the sun got high enough to reach the trails and then walk the trails of TBL until lunch. While eating breakfast I noticed a streak-capped treehunter, golden-capped flycatcher and slate-throated whitestart visiting the feeding table. It turned out to be the only look at the treehunter we would have this day. In the tropics, one should always bring one’s bins to meals, especially when you have a view of feeders. I had asked Lynn if she was going to bring her bins to breakfast and she said “no it was still too dark” but soon was off to the room to fetch hers.  After a simple breakfast of eggs, toast, juice, coffee and tea we were standing on the balcony scanning the trees for activity and watching those wonderful hummingbird feeders.  We spent about an hour here until 07:15. There was a small flock of birds working the treetops in dawn’s first light. The flock included several golden-crowned flycatchers, golden tanagers, fawn-breasted tanagers, a female black-capped tanager, and orange-bellied euphonia. Also working the trees above the lodge were white-winged tanagers, brown-capped and red-eyed vireos, blue-winged mountain-tanagers and an Ecuadorian thrush.

 

Once the sun had risen enough we headed onto the trails and had great fortune to see tricolored brush-finch, marble-faced bristle-tyrant, smoke-colored pewee, scaled fruiteater, red-faced spinetail, and smoky-brown woodpecker.

 

We followed the Potoo Trail to the Antpitta trail to where there is a golden-fronted manakin lek and actually followed the Nunbird Trail to where we finally found the manakins. On the way back to the lodge for lunch we came across a young sickle-winged guan and a masked trogon. We also did battle with a toucan barbet that was positioned so high up in the canopy that even with a scope you only could see about half the bird, if it wasn’t so brightly and distinctly colored you wouldn’t have been able to make it out. As it was, you could barely do that!  Just before returning to the lodge we did have wonderful looks at crimson-rumped toucanets. While eating lunch a white-necked Jacobin made a brief appearance at the hummingbird feeders. I was fortunate to be at the right end of the dining room table so I got a quick look as it darted in for a meal.

 

At 13:15 we headed out for Milpe Road. It is about a 60-minute drive from TBL. It is foothill habitat at 3700 feet on the western slope. It was our only chance for this habitat and therefore club-winged manakin. We birded along the road, on foot from 14:30-18:15. Our initial goal was the manakins and after getting them actively displaying on the lek, we picked up Choco toucans and started searching for a flock. We found a nice one and immediately started searching for “the heart” as Mitch liked to say. We found it at least once and really had some great birds along the road including: swallow tanager, guira tanager, red-headed barbet, crippling looks at perched bronze-winged parrots, green-crowned brilliant, wedge-billed hummingbird, purple-crowned fairy, broad-bill motmot, collard aracari, and black-winged saltator. On the way back to TBL, we stopped for diesel for the bus and a pit stop for those of us who need it. While waiting, Mitch played a tape for pale-legged hornero and had a pair pop-up perfectly for us. Then for SGGs, he tried for masked water-tyrant and had a pair of them pop-up in the same tree as the honeros. It was a perfect daily double ending for the day. It was back to TBL for dinner and to pack up, as tonight was our last night there. We would be leaving in the morning and birding our way back to Quito for the night before moving on to Cabanas San Isidro (CSI).

 

3-Aug-06 –Today we would be leaving TBL and heading east back to Quito for the night. Breakfast was at 06:00. We would make a quick check of the action on the balcony before making the walk down the path to the bus and ultimately the road. We were on our way on the Tandayapa-Mindo Road at 06:30. Our first stop was at 07:00. It was a short one and we probably had our best birds of the day with a pair of toucan barbets. They came into a tree just over our heads and were coaxed into duet calling in plain sight. It was a significant improvement over our barbet sighting of the other day. We also had a minor flock of birds in this area that included barred becard, golden tanager, crimson-mantle woodpecker (a real stunner of a bird) and white-sided flowerpiercer.  Another stop along the road produced a pair of russet-crowned warblers.

 

Around 08:30 we reached a pull-off for the Bella Vista Lodge and we walked the road here. Even though it was early and there still should have been bird activity, things had already started to quiet down. Still we managed to pull some birds out such as capped conebill, grass-green tanager, dusky bush-tanager, western hemispingus, flame-faced tanager, yellow-bellied chat-tyrant, green and black fruiteater and gorgeted sunangel.  A tanager finch had been nesting along this road but the nest had either been disturbed or the young fledged as we found the nest site but no one was home. By 10:30 we decided to keep moving down the road, as it really was very quiet. We tried a few times for some tapaculos without luck and didn’t even have much luck with wrens except for an extremely cooperative plain-tailed wren. Still what was a comparatively quiet day did have some excellent birds and Lynn was in butterfly heaven.

 

After our box lunch along the side of the road we kept moving on towards Quito. We made a stop at Mindo Lomo from about 15:00 to 16:00 for hummingbirds. This was a bright spot of the day as any stop with active hummingbird feeders picked up our spirits (the tea and coffee didn’t hurt either). Although not as busy as TBL, these still were very active with: brown and sparkling violet-ears, western and Andean emeralds, fawn-breasted and empress brilliants, buff-tailed and velvet-purple coronets, brown incas, speckled hummingbirds, long-tailed sylphs, and purple-throated woodstars.  It was a nice way to end the day.

 

We were back at the Sheraton close to 18:00 and met for dinner at Cook’s restaurant at 19:00.

 

4-Aug-06 – Breakfast was at 05:30 with a 06:15 departure. The plan was to bird a stop or two in the central valley then work our way up through paramo to the Papallacta Pass then back down to Guango Lodge before reaching San Isidro. Our first stop was in Tumbaco. Here we got hooded siskin and southern yellow grosbeak and dipped on scrub tanager. We made a pit stop where we picked up another grosbeak and several female blue and yellow tanagers. A quick stop along the highway yielded black-tailed trainbearer, red-crested cotinga, and rusty flowerpiercer. This was a busy stretch of roadway so we didn’t linger and we pulled off onto the old highway near the community of Mulauco. The wind was blowing so we had to work a bit but we still managed black flowpiercer, band-tailed seedeater, and giant hummingbird. We also started to get some true birds of the paramo bar-winged and stout-billed cinclodes, Andean tit-spinetail, Andean gull, carunculated caracara, Andean teal and yellow-billed pintail. We just kept climbing higher and higher, knocking these birds off and hoping for the condors. As we got higher, the wind just kept blowing and the occasional rain shower kept falling. At the top, 14,300 feet the rain was more like sleet and the conditions were down right nasty! There were no seedsnipes to be found. We drove down a bit to get out of the worst of it, had lunch and then walked into Saco Lake to pick up silvery grebe, Andean coot and Andean duck. We made the clean sweep of the paramo waterfowl. Back along the road we kept our streak intake with white-chinned thistletail and many-striped canastero.

 

We had done very well getting most everything we should have considering the wind and even had a few surprises such as great looks at blue-mantled woodstar and white-browed ground-tyrant. From there were crossed over the continental divide and headed towards Guango Lodge. We ran into a “slight” delay as a bridge construction project had traffic stopped. Seems, one of the many bridges over one of the many rivers in Ecuador needed to be repaired and today was the day. So for 90 minutes we sat while the decking was replaced. After the traffic snafu was un-snafued, we still had 45 minutes of power hummingbird watching at Guango. In that time we had 13 species including some new ones for the trip list: long-tailed sylph, gorgeted woodstar, white-bellied woodstar, glowing puffleg, collared inca, and chestnut-breasted coronet. Since we had lost time thanks to the bridge we had to leave sooner than we would have liked. Just outside of Baeza, we started to scan the Cosanga River for torrent ducks and with did manage to find one before making the final push for CSI. We arrived at 18:15 and had our first gourmet meal there at 19:15.  CSI is a set of cabanas near 7000 feet. Owned by a nature lover who welcomes birders and who also happens to be Mitch’s wife, the hacienda provides a home-style setting and fantastic meals. Set on a re-growing pasture now surrounded by secondary forest the cabanas are only a short 5-minute walk from a large privately owned tract (approx. 1000 hectares) of superb primary forest that connects to two larger national reserves.  Other patches are 5 to 20 minutes away by car. This offers tremendous birding opportunities. The weather in this cloud forest dictates one’s final destinations but with so many possibilities, there is always a viable option!

 

5-Aug-06 –Breakfast was at 06:00 and it had rained much of the night and was rather drippy as we walked to breakfast. The plan was to bird the road between the main road and the cabanas in the morning, have a sit down lunch, then see what the weather was before determine where we would bird in the afternoon.  After breakfast, Diane, Lynn, Regina and I all had a highland motmot right outside the dining room. Score one for the good guys! Lynn, Diane and I then made rather slow progress back to our cabanas as we were distracted by birds, go figure that one out? We had the resident group of Inca jays and subtropical caciques causing a racket just outside our cabanas. We have the two cabanas just above the main group of cabanas.

 

The group finally congregated at the bus and Mitch got everyone caught up on the jays and caciques so we hadn’t missed anything when it was time to go after the resident chestnut-crowned antpitta. We hadn’t had much luck yet with antpittas but we had a trump card working here. This guy was used to being feed worms so Mitch already had one of the staff, stoking the fires this morning and this guy was waiting for us. We got in position and he was coaxed back into view and sure enough we all had our first antpitta for the trip. Say what you want, but I defy anyone reading this to not put it on his or her list!

 

We returned to the car park and spent about an hour there birding with good stuff: white-crested elaenia, pale-edged flycatcher, barred becard, black-billed peppershrike, and blue-naped chlorophonia. From here we hopped on the bus and drove a short way down the rode and when we got off the bus we walked right into a great flock of birds. While there were some tanagers we had to let them go because, there were lots of woodcreepers including at least one olive-backed and two strong-billed among numerous montane. The flock also included several pearled treerunners that we were to find in just about every mixed flock (they were to become favorites of just about everyone). Making stops along the way we managed to pick-up Azara’s spinetail, russet-backed oropendola, mountain cacique and the real surprise of the trip: semi-collared hawk. To quote Mitch, “this is a bird that has to come to you, you don’t go looking for it”. It is only the 3rd time he has ever seen in on CSI property. He noticed it perched, as it was being harassed by hummingbirds and assumed it was a plain-breasted hawk until he put his bins on it. It was the first time in 18 months he had seen one anywhere. No one knows if it is rare because there aren’t many of them in existence or because it typical inhabits remote areas? It is just one of those infrequently seen birds.  We were just plain dumb lucky! 

 

We continued to bird in and out of light rain for the rest of the morning and were piecing together a nice day when around 11:30 it started to rain more steadily. So we got on the bus, headed back to the cabanas for lunch but first we would check out the hummingbird feeders for bronzy inca and male gorgeted woodstar. Both are more common here than at Guango. Just as promised, even with the rain falling, we got both and an Andean solitaire to boot. It was then time for lunch, which was big slice of veggie lasagna. We had a 2-hour break before heading out to do some more roadside birding if the rain let up.

 

At 15:00 we met as the skies had cleared. We birded along the “Cosanga River Road” for the next 3 hours. The best birds for me were Andean toucanet and chestnut-breasted chlorophonia (this bird was in perfect sunlight and just spectacular!). It just jumped off the branch to be seen. WOW! We also continued on our “Better Living Through Tyrannulets” theme with black-capped and sulphur-bellied added to the list. It was getting late and we needed to be in rufous-banded owl position so we had to leave the road. The owls responded to the tape vocally but didn’t want to let us see them. We gave it ‘ye olde college try’ but in the end it was owls-1, field trip participants-0. We made it back to CSI in time for a late dinner. So far we had been served two wonderful dinners and one great lunch. CSI was living up to all its advanced reviews and a return visit for the holidays may well be in order!

 

6-Aug-06 – It was a rainy morning as we met for breakfast and left for our trip up Guacamayos Road and the south slope. This trip took us up over 2100 meter and then down to about 1500 meters. Breakfast was early today at 05:30 and we were on the bus at 06:15. We hadn’t gotten very far from CSI when a truck stopped in the middle of the road blocked our way. Seems the truck driver was sleeping off the night before and he was hammered! After being rousted awake, he got his truck out of the way. He first tried to back it out of the way and almost succeeded in backing it into a ditch and not getting it off the road. He then barely pulled past our bus. We were glad to have that little adventure behind us. First the bridge, then this, we hoped to have no more vehicular issues on this trip.

 

The rain broke around 08:00 and we had our first nice flock of birds. It was one of those days were the birds kind of all ran into each other (okay, I stopped taking explicit note, truth be told) but the birding was really good on and off all day and we were out until dark so it was a very long and productive day! This first flock of birds did contain golden-olive woodpecker, ornate flycatcher (this is a beautiful bird), scarlet-breasted fruiteater (a real pleasant surprise), and golden-eared tanagers. We didn’t know it at the time but today would be a BIG tanager day. We also had yellow-browed sparrow and chestnut-bellied and black and white seedeaters. We kept working the road and soon had magpie, paradise (WOW!) and orange-eared tanagers, grayish saltators and greenish pufflegs.

 

A discussion arose about a “white-lined/white-shouldered” tanager; while we were enjoying the magpie tanagers. I was taking the white-shouldered identification stance while Mitch, who only eyeballed the bird, took the white-line position. When he took a good second look at the bird, he agreed with me. We were at a somewhat high elevation for white-shouldered tanagers and that clouded Mitch’s initial impression. Not knowing that, I went strictly on what I saw. Sometimes, not knowing what should be around can be helpful. Anyway, a short time later, a pair of white-lined tanagers allowed us to study them and we could see the differences and confirm our identifications of this first bird as a white-shoulder.  We also managed to add both yellow-vented and yellow-tufted woodpeckers to our list at various points during the day.

 

As I stated earlier, the flocks of birds blended together during the day and we had two different lined antshrikes and a visit from a white-tipped sicklebill. Late in the day, an Ecuadorian birder, Rick “Something-or-other” made a grand entrance as he came screeching up the hill as his right front tire blew out. Not content to merely blowout a tire, he continued on the bare rim until he had bent it. Mitch took offered him a ride to Cosanga, he was riding on his spare tire having already gotten one flat tire. To add insult to injury, he locked his keys in the car as he was gathering his belongings.  So he birded with us until he hitched a ride with a passing bus to Quito.  The day ended with black-billed mountain-toucans and then swallow-tailed nightjars at dusk. We returned to CSI for a late dinner, exhausted after a long but highly productive day in the field.

 

7-Aug-06 – Breakfast was at 06:00 and on the way to the dinning room we picked up 2-3 rufous-bellied nighthawks feeding just above the treetops. They were swooping after insects attracted to the lights that hadn’t been turned off just yet. After breakfast we jumped onto the bus and drove up to the trail on the Guacamayos Ridge. It was about 07:15 when we reached the trailhead at the communication towers and we would be on the trail about 5 hours. It was near the towers that we had the best birds (or at least the most activity) of the walk. There was a group of 4-5 smoky bush-tyrants and several hooded mountain-tanagers and 2-3 lacrimose mountain-tanagers as well as mountain wren and spectacled whitestarts. Our dream target for the trail was greater scythebill and white-capped tanager. The dream would need to continue after the walk but what would life be without dreams?

 

We did manage to pull out yellow-whiskered bush-tanager and fleeting looks at ocellated tapaculo. Earlier in the trip we established a pattern of hearing a tapaculo, playing calls to which they responded but never came into view. The ocellated tapaculo almost continued this pattern (heck for some of us it did continue the pattern) but for others we did manage to capture glimpses of this large and distinctively marked tapaculo. 

 

While trying for yet another uncooperative tapaculo earlier in the walk a bold and inquisitive slate-capped antpitta, snuck into our viewing stage and made for a very pleasant surprise. “Who needs tapaculos when antpittas want to be seen!”  In fact this cute little guy not only walked into view once but also walked away and then walked back into view as if to say, “hey forget those guys, look at me”.  Right after this moment that reminded us that sometimes birding is about being in the right place at the right time, a barred antthrush decided to slowly cross the path not 10 feet in front of the group.  In was a Bill Oddie CMF moment if ever there was one. Even Mitch was really excited about this one. He even commented, “usually all you do is hear these guys on this trail but to see it so darn well, wow!”

 

Next we hit a small flock of birds and finally picked out a bluish flowerpiercer. Lunch was back at CSI. It was seafood ceviche appetizers followed by veggie burritos. A person could get spoiled real easily living like this although no one was complaining except about having to start diets when we got home. The food was excellent!  It was about 13:30 by the time lunch was over; we visited the boot wash to clean some of the trail off our boots and Neos. At 15:00 were going to meet to walk the trails of CSI before heading out at dusk for lyre-tailed nightjar.

 

The walk on the trails could be best described as quiet. We did get a nice look at a highland motmot and engaged in a losing battle with black-chest fruiteaters as well as more futility with tapaculos. I’m not even sure which ones we didn’t see this time although I believe it was two different species. After about 75 minutes of wandering the trails (they are well marked and the forest is lush) we had a little flock activity and I managed to finally catch up with a streaked tuftedcheek. As we were coming back to the cabanas, Mitch heard a white-capped tanager calling and we had to figure out where it was. Unfortunately, we were still very much in the forest and need to get out into the open. As luck would have it, it was calling from the forest edge, immediately where the trail emerged from the forest. Talk about catching a lucky break and talk about a great bird. It just sat in its treetop perch sitting, we scoped it, and the five of us left on the walk just cycled through taking looks. Apparently this bird, behaves like a cotinga, looks like a tanager and no one knew where to classify it for the longest time until DNA testing revealed that it is in fact a tanager.

 

At 17:30 we headed out for our nightjar adventure. We made two short stops on the way. The first was for torrent tyrannulets and second was for a flock of glossy black thrush feeding along the roadside. While looking at the thrushes we heard the nightjars, so we hopped on the bus and drove up to them. Mitch found a male calling from a perch; all one can say is wow. The tail is like that of a resplendent quetzal’s tail but on a much smaller bird. To see two males chasing a female was amazing.  If the swallow-tailed nightjar the night before was a special sight this was a really special sight. Having found the nightjars in record time it was back to CSI for dinner.

 

8-Aug-06 – Breakfast was late today 06:30 and we departed CSI at 07:15. We left our main bags in front of our cabanas and they were loaded onto the bus for us as we said our good-byes to Carmen and our home for the past 4 days and nights. With so many places to go a first time you never no if you ever will return to a place but CSI is definitely a place I would want to come back to. Besides, there is still that silly owl that I have to see! 

 

We made a stop just outside of Baeza that Mitch had had good luck with golden-naped honeycreeper and we walked the side road here for about an hour. Almost immediately, he heard a lemon-browed flycatcher. It was a long way off and even in the scope the one or two people who caught a glimpse of it really didn’t see it well before it dropped out of sight. We kept moving on, when Mitch heard the honeycreeper. It wasn’t as far off as the flycatcher was, but it wasn’t exactly a naked-eye view either. Fortunately, I was right next to him this time so I jumped in and looked through the scope once he got it on the honeycreeper. While it wasn’t the “CMF” the antthrush was, I did get all the field marks so it was good enough for me.  A couple other people got on the bird before a car came by and we had to move the scope. Unlike some of the people in the group, I took a quick look and didn’t hog the scope. I may have been next to Mitch this time and a few others but it isn’t my fault I had the 2nd youngest pair of legs in the group and could stay up with him. Even if I got the first look I would make sure I looked and got out of the way. While we tried unsuccessfully to hunt the honeycreeper down again, we did get some great looks at chestnut-collared swifts so that you could see the color of their collar.  We also picked up some tanagers: golden-naped, blue-gray, blue-necked and golden-olive woodpecker.

 

It was now time to move on to Guango Lodge in hopes of finding a flock and to check out the hummingbirds one last time. We were dropped off the bus just below the lodge and walked in one of the trails and while we had to circle back twice we eventually caught up with a fantastic mixed flock of birds. Our two hours at Guango were some of the best birding we had had, especially when you consider it was all part of our “mop-up day efforts”.  Besides the usual suspects of pearled treehunter, spectacled and slate-throated whitestarts and white-banded tyrannulets we nailed two brush-finches (slaty and pale-naped and just missed nailing striped-headed), two hemispinguses (black-capped and black-eared), black-crested warbler, buff-breasted mountain-tanager, gray-headed bush-tanager and rufous-breasted chat-tyrant. By the time we had gotten everything except that one brush-finch that came in once to the tape but then didn’t want to play anymore, it was noon and time for lunch. We head up to the Papallacta Lake area to find an overview area to eat and watch the sky for condors. Lunch was our last feast put together by Carmen and a vegetarian (and omnivore’s) delight.  Before settling on a scenic spot we had a look at a small flock of black-back bush-tanagers, yet another paramo specialty!

 

After lunch it was back up to the radio tower to look for seedsnipe. We were way-layed by paramo ground tyrant (the non-migratory split from plain-capped ground-tyrant according to The Birds of Ecuador). It took some searching and Mitch had just announced he was going to scamper up the hillside, which at 14,300 feet would have been worth watching when Diane announced, “I got one”. Sure enough she had found a rufous-bellied seedsnipe, truth be told, there were two there but they are so well camouflaged that it wasn’t till the second one moved that we realized it was there! Well that was a major success and we could then start down the road. We began picking off more paramo specialties such as viridian metaltail, tawny antpitta (another find by Diane), red-rumped bush-tyrant (instantly one of my favorite birds for the trip) and two black-chested buzzard-eagles. These were about the last two birds for the trip.

 

We then headed just about straight to the hotel in Quito, waiting only for the President of Chile’s motorcade. We arrived at 17:30, checked in, had our bags brought to the room. Well most of our bags arrived with us. Seemed Lynn’s bag was having such a good time it wanted to stay a little longer so it hid in the bus and wasn’t unloaded with the rest of the luggage. Fortunately, unlike the US where cell phone dead zones exist everywhere, once she told Mitch, he called Edgar, who found the wayward bag and brought it right away. Dinner was in the Sheraton at 19:00 where we all said our good-byes and named our favorite birds. The hummingbirds as a family ran away with the award.

 

9-Aug-06 – Lynn and I caught the Sheraton’s complimentary shuttle to the airport at 06:00 and it really was a 10 minute ride there. We hadn’t moved 10 feet in the check-in line when our flight had changed status from confirmed for its 8:23 departure time to delayed one hour. Ah the joys of air travel. This was to be a minor inconvenience compared to what we would have had to deal with had we traveled home tomorrow!!

Anyway, we checked in, I received a second customs form (since I had misplaced my “very important” form when we arrived) and we paid our exit tax. I later found the form safely tucked away in the shirt pocket of the shirt I was wearing when I arrived in Ecuador and that form didn’t seem very important to the Customs official. We’ll just see what happens when I return to Ecuador some day!

 

Anyway, we spent some quality time in the Quito airport before departing more or less an hour late as promised. Made it through customs in Miami, gathered our bags, threw them in the pile of luggage to be transferred and prayed to the “great baggage handler in the sky” that they would get to Philadelphia and then got back into a security line. Lynn picked a quicker line than I did and disappeared towards the gate. When I finally made it through I hurried to the gate, or so I thought. As I arrived at Gate D34, I heard an announcement, American Flight 1328 to Philadelphia in now departing from Gate A5. Damn! Miami Airport is not exactly small and I had about 20+ minutes to haul butt there. This could also explain why I didn’t see Lynn. A few expletives later I was off and walking briskly. As I was coming down the final escalator towards Gate A5 I saw Lynn, and with 10-12 minutes before our 16:13 scheduled departure I boarded the plane. They hadn’t made any final boarding calls and I wasn’t the last passenger on the plane.

 

I settled in to enjoy the flight home. We arrived safe and sound. Our bags arrived safe and sound. Mora met us and all was right with the world. Again as I heard about the terrorist plot unfolding on the 10th, I was really glad all I had to do was run through Miami and get slightly delayed. Had we been traveling on the 10th I know I never would have made my connections.

 

It was a great trip. We stayed at two wonderful lodges that cater to birders. Both lodges are very comfortable. Tandayapa has the most wonderful hummingbird feeders and San Isidro is everything anyone has ever said. Besides having wonderful birds all around you, the food was outstanding!