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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Ecuador, Feb. 14 - March 06 2008,
As the name indicates, Ecuador is situated right under equator. Ecuador has more species of birds than any other country, except Costa Rica, taken into consideration the square km. It can boast of about 1630 species, and is the fourth richest bird country in the world. It has a great bio-diversity from sea level and up to more than 6000 m.
Two of my sons – Erlen and Aleksander – and I had been thinking of visiting for a couple of years, but the fact that we don’t speak Spanish and very few in South America speak English, it had been postponed until Feb. 2008. Through a friend in USA, who had a bird-friend in Costa Rica who again had a bird-friend in Ecuador, we managed to arrange with a driver who was one of Juan Carlos Cavalchis employees. He didn’t know much about birds and the only English words he knew was birds and mixed flocks. But he knew all the good bird locations in northeastern and northwestern Ecuador.
It is not recommendable to rent a car by yourself because of bad roads and unsufficient traffic signs. After being driving on Ecuadorian roads for a few days, I promised myself not to complain about Norwegian roads, but I must admit that that is a promise it is impossible to keep. It costs almost the same to rent a car than the way we did it. The arrangement we chose is definitely much better as you don’t waste time finding the locations and if something happens you get free of the responsibility and have less unpleasantness.
Today most birders travelling to countries like Ecuador use a guide or go with a group. To travel like that gives you a guarantee of seeing many species of birds, but it seems that we saw just as many (600 in 16 days) for less than half the price. If you have a good guide – like Juan Carlos – you are sure to be able to identify more species, but there are far from every guide that is better than Erlen and Aleksander. We met birdwatchers that were not satisfied with their guide. By not using a guide we have at least not wasted money on something that we manage well ourselves, and there is a great satisfaction finding birds ourselves. But normally this is a question of price and not principal.
We came to Ecuador from Costa Rica where we had been travelling around for three weeks (see my report from there), so we limited ourselves to the northeastern and northwestern parts. We spent most of the time at locations close to Quito, down at the Amazon basin and around the “bird capital” Mindo. You do not find the same species on the western side of the Andes as you do on the eastern side, so it is recommendable that you visit both sides. As in Costa Rica birds are becoming big business in this country and Ecuador is well known for its eco-tourism.
Ecuador is one of the safest countries in South America, especially in the countryside. But we also felt safe in Quito where we stayed for 4 nights. It is easy to find a place to sleep in this country and the prices are low. We slept for about 5-8 dollars a night and we never booked in beforehand. They use American dollars as their national currency with its advantages and disadvantages. Everything has been more expensive after they changed to US dollar.
The climate varies with the elevation. Daytemp. in Quito is always between 13-19 while it is around 10 during the night. In the eastern parts it is both humid and hot – around 30. In the western parts it is the rainy season at this time of year and daytemp. is around 25. But normally it doesn’t start to rain until after one/two o’clock. But it has to come a lot of rain in this country as I witnessed more landslides in a couple of weeks than I have seen in my whole life.
In my day to day itinerary I will as a rule skip which birds we saw the different places as it takes too much time. I have chosen to do so after having written a similar report from our trip to Costa Rica prior to this one. Only a few species will be mentioned. But I will make an exception a few places, especially when it comes to Tandayapa valley (Mindo area) as we visited 4-5 places here and all of them are mentioned under J in the species list.
Day one – Friday Feb. 15
We started our trip up at the foot of mount Antisana (the fourth highest 5753 m) at about 4600 meter. This area is located only about 50 km from the capital Quito (2800m). It turned out to be a fantastic experience, especially because we had such great weather today. This nice weather should turn out to be an exception on our trip. We had a lot of rainy days, but we were well prepared for it. Not without reason it is claimed that there are two things that are important in this country if you are going to watch birds – wellingtons and raingear.
Ecuador is a beautiful country, even if a lot of it are covered with forest. On our way up we got a rare glimpse of the worlds highest active vulcano, Cotopaxi (5890 m). Up here on the plateau we were impressed that the Indians were doing agriculture, even using a tractor on 4000m. But else they were doing things the old or primitive way.
At such heights the variety of birds arent as great as lower down, but the species that are found here, are normally only found here, like the Andean Condor. That bird was on top of our list, but we were taken by surprise when it suddenly was gliding very low straight over our heads – a male together with a juvenile. We were so taken aback that we werent able to take a photo of it. A couple of days later we saw another individual lower down. When the sun disappeared behind a cloud, it became rather cold, but many species warmed.
You don’t expect to find a colony of gulls at 4500 m, but the Andean Gull breeds here below the mountain of ice and snow together with Andean Lapwing, Black-wingd Ground-Dove, Black-faced Ibis, Carunculated Caracara (60), Paramo Pipit and a few Hummingbirds among others. Up here you also find a big lake and birds like Silvery Grebe, Andean Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Andean Ruddy-Duck and Andean Coot. We were absolutely not acclimatized for this kind of heights, so that any effort from our side led to the fact that we had to take pauses in order to catch up with our breath. We experienced how it must feel when you are in bad shape.
Before we reached the plateau we found a pair of White-capped Dippers and different species of Hummingbirds, like the Black-tailed Trainbearer, Giant Hummingbird and the Shining Sunbeam.
Beautiful morning, more cloudy during the day and about 10 degrees at the plateau.
Day two – Saturday Feb. 16
Yanacocha/Jocotoco is another location just outside Quito. We visited in rainy and foggy weather, but it was still a success as we were able to see a lot of birds. The rainforest is found as high up as 3500 m here, but often it seems like it is “dead” – without life. What we all dream of is to find so-called mixed flocks searching for food. Then everyone really gets excited. The pulse starts to beat faster and the adrenalin increases. But it is important that you stay calm because you often have just a short time to identify all the birds before they move further into the forest. After some hectic minutes it gets quiet once more and no birds are to be seen.
Up here far into the forest there are feeders. Many species spend all day and some also all their lives here where there is such easy access of food, making it much easier for us to identify the restless Hummingbirds. We got very good observations of the Swordbill Hummingbird – the only bird in the world that has a beak about as long as its body. In Ecuador there are now registered 133 species of Hummingbirds. During 20 days we saw half of them, while we in Costa Rica saw 41 of 48 (52). To identify the different Hummingbirds is difficult and demands experience.
Close to one of the feeders we were excited to find a Rufous Antpitta strolling on the path. But no sign of the Jocotoco Antpitta – of course not as it is only heard and we don’t know how it sounds, but it is heard here from time to time.
Rain and fog all day – about 10 degrees.
Day three – Sunday Feb. 17
Papallacta-pass met us with rain and fog. We went to the top where the masts are at 4200 m in order to check out the much sought after Rufous-bellied Seed-Snipe. Unfortunately we searched in vain. Also ten days later we were there in the same kind of weather – without any luck. But at the entrance we were lucky enough to see a Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant and lower down my sons walked on a marsh and up flew a Noble Snipe, just as we hoped.
Our next stop was Guango Lodge (2700m). All the feeders that are put up here makes the place a paradise for Hummingbirds, which makes it much easier to take pictures of them, even if some species also here are relatively shy. The small Mountain Avocetbill was cute and exotic, but we thought that the much bigger Collared Inca was the most beautiful of them all. In the strong stream behind the lodge a family of three of the Torrent Duck sat waiting for us before they disappeared down a waterfall – a really nice experience.
Because of the rain we drove down to Baeza (1900 m) where we were staying for 4 nights checking the surroundings for birds. In the evening we went down to a restaurant owned by a Dutch guy married to a local girl, where we ate burritos for 5 dollars.
Rain and fog and only about 5 degrees at the pass – warmer lower down of course.
Baeza area (Guango Lodge, San Isidro, Guacamayos Ridge) – See map
Day four – Monday Feb. 18
This morning we went back to Guango Lodge for all the birds we didn’t see yesterday. The lodge has its own guide and he went with us on the different tracks to show us what might pop up in the drizzle. The highlight was when this young guide patiently called the very shy Chestnut-crowned Antpitta out of the bush and tempted it with worms – very fascinating. It turned out to be a good morning with many new species added to our list.
The rest of the day the driver took us around in the Baeza area. In the evening we went once again down to the restaurant and ate our burritos.
Cloudy in the morning and afternoon and rain in the middle of the day - 20-24 degrees.
Day five – Tuesday Feb. 19
We went down to Lareto Road (800-1200 m) and Coca Falls early in the morning. Lareto Road is famous for its variety of birds and we were not disappointed. Many of the birds you find in US and Canada spend the winter here, so I was meeting again quite a few of them – especially Warblers. The driver stopped at different places along the road and we walked a distance before he picked us up again. We enjoyed the day and plenty of birds around.
Another evening with burritos. The owner tipped us about the Cock of Rock down at the waterfall at Baeza and one of the guests (an American) said he had seen them there today as well as yesterday. We decided to go down there the next afternoon.
Cloudy but warm and one shower – 26 degrees.
Day six – Wednesday Feb. 20
On our way this morning to San Isidro (about 2000m) – not far from Baeza – a Nightjar/Nighthawk was crossing the road, but we were unable to identify it. Irritating. We wanted to be there before daylight in order to see the Highland Motmot close to the cabins, which we did after a while. San Isidro is an excellent place and very often visited by birders. Here you can also stay overnight as well as rent a guide for a day or more. We spent most of the day here walking around on different tracks and the road that goes here. Many birds were seen – both the Crested and the Golden-headed Quetzal, Southern Lapwing, White-capped Parrot, White-chested Swift, Masked Trogon, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Antbird, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Flavescent Flycatcher, Handsome Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Inca Jay, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Russet-crowned Warbler, Bluish Flowerpiercer, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Bronze-green Euphonia, Golden-naped Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, White-capped Tanager, Plushcap and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch. Most of these birds were only seen here, and many of them are quite common, so that gives a good indication what kind of place this is, even if it didn’t start so well for us. All in all we observed about 90 species here.
Before we ate our burritos tonight, we went down to the waterfall at Baeza to check out the Cock of the Rock. It took a while before we saw one, but when we first saw one about ten appeared very close to the waterfall – flying to and fro. It was such a good feeling to see this much sought after species. It was the orange one, not the red. When walking up again – which took less than ten minutes – we were lucky enough to see one bird sitting along the track only less than 10 m away from us. Unfortunately we didn’t bring the camera.
Cloudy today and a little more than 20 degrees.
Day seven – Thursday Feb. 21
Guacamayos Ridge (about 2500 m) is situated not far from San Isidro, and we were here by daylight. It goes a fairly steep track down here, but in order to visit this place you should be familiar with the vocalizations or use a playback of the bird sounds because many species are difficult to spot in this dense forest. We heard a lot of birds, but as we didn’t know any bird sounds we were not able to identify that many birds – only those we saw, like Andean Guan, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Olivaceous Piha. On our way back we met Jonas Nilsson – a Swedish guy that has settled down in Ecuador and made a living out of his hobby. He was guiding one Swedish birdwatcher, who mentioned us in his Swedish report from Ecuador. Jonas is rather well-known among birdwatchers – at least here in Scandinavia. He has also built himself a nice place called Wild Sumaco not so far from here. We visited his place a few days later and had a kind of appointment with him, but we didn’t see him. A great place. Lately he has also built new bungalows together with a couple others for those who are not on a low budget – about 150 dollars 3 meals included. But why he is accompanied by an armed guard, we never got to know exactly.
Obviously we should have spent more time here, but we were unpatient and wanted to go further down to Tena – a town before the interior of Ecuador, which was our destination for today. We stopped several places along the road before we reached Tena early afternoon. Black-streaked Puffbird was seen along the road on our way down. Here we found a place to eat and a place we could call home as well as using Internet. In the species list you find both the Guacamayos Ridge and the area from there down to Tena under G, which is not such a great idea. So I am a bit sorry for that.
Mostly cloudy, a little sunshine and a few showers – about 25 degrees lower down.
Day eight – Friday Feb. 22
We had to wait until after noon in order to pick up a guide that also is a co-owner of Gareno Lodge (about 500 m above sea leavel) which was our destination today. But first we were driven out into the bush not far from Tena in order to do some birdwatching. But it was difficult in the rain, so we didn’t see that much. Unfortunately we were not able to go from Tena until half past two. It is about two hours drive from Tena to the lodge. The lodge is nice, but primitive - no electricity, simple food, simple rooms and we used the river to clean ourselves. Therefore it is one of the cheapest in this area. Here we were going to stay for three nights. We were not the only guests, but it was far from crowded. The kitchen wasn’t a closed room with four walls, so both cats and apes had access to it together with insects. We never felt that they were bothersome, as we almost didn’t see a mosquito. Surprisingly enough this area is free of malaria like the rest of the other places we visited, which is a very good thing as we then don’t have to eat tablets which we know have their side-effects. One evening we found dozens of insects in our soup, which made us loose appetite, especially so when you are a vegetarian. The expression: “what you don’t see wont bother you” normally holds good (like for instance the insects in the chocolate we eat, something which is easy to understand when you see how they dry the cacao – openly along the road or in the bush), but here we saw them and it became too “strong” for us.
We were very keen to bird the area as soon as possible. Especially the road shortly before the lodge is very good – a high variety of species. You should be able to see close to 200 species in two-three days including a visit along the Napo river, which is included in the price together with the guide.
Rain until 1 p.m. and sunny in the afternoon – more than 25 degrees.
Day 9 – Saturday Feb 23
Today was the day – the day when we together with our guide were going up to the Harpy Eagle’s nest. We started 4 a.m. and walked for five quarters in complete dark – an interesting experience in itself. But the guide easily found the way - all of the 4 km. It is important to reach the nest before sunrise as the Eagle then usually flies away. When the light came, we were so happy to find it in its nest – a really big bird.
On our way back our guide heard the sound of an Ornate Hawk-Eagle, and it didn’t take long until he found the bird itself – good job. Two raptors in a few minutes and the day had only just started. Our guide was good at identifying the sounds we heard and he also found most of them for us to see – great job. Not far from the lodge he led us to the place where the Rufous Potoo is roosting every day, and we got very close to this rare and strange bird. Its camouflage is fantastic and therefore difficult to see. We did some birdwatching around the lodge until 2 p.m., when it started to rain and thunder. Then we were forced indoors, lying in the bunk on the porch. Here the boys found a tarantella, which didn’t frighten us.
But when we came down from the nest, we met with an Indian couple that used to visit the lodge from time to time. They belong to the Huaorani tribe. They were willing to be photographed for five dollars. He was “dressed” like all men in this tribe – naked with his penis fastened to a string around his waist. He turned out to be a funny guy – smiling a lot. He was doing some handicraftwork and he allowed us to test his weapon – the one he uses to hunt with ( a long tube/pipe or whatever you call it in English). He hit what he aimed at, so he was good, but we were rather close ourselves. His weapon was really heavy, so it was hard to hold it still. We felt it was very special to meet this Indian couple and so unexpected.
Cloudy and rain in the afternoon – about 30 degrees.
Day 10 – Sunday Feb. 24
A boat-trip on Napo River (which becomes a part of the great Amazonas further east) was expected to be the highlight of the day. Unfortunately very few birds were seen along the river (a few Herons and Plovers and a Drab Water-Tyrant, but no Cocoi Heron). Nonetheless the boat-trip was nice. Our guide knew about a place 20 minutes walk from the other shore where there is a colony of Hoatzins. It was really fascinating to see these prehistoric looking birds. There were about 20 of them here, and if we hadnt been so stupid not to bring our camera equipment, we could have got good pictures of them as we came very close. At the very same place we also saw Greater Ani – the only place on our trip. At an open place (a soccer field) we found a Slender-billed Kite in a tree and in another tree there was a Bare-necked Fruitcrow.
The boattrip lasted about 4 hours. We spent the rest of the day along the road close to the lodge and around the lodge itself. In the afternoon we took a bath in the river just behind our cabin and later we were looking for the Cream-colored Woodpecker that used to be in a certain tree most days – by the neighbour cabin. Luckily enough we got good views and a good picture as well. There were some nice butterflies here, as expected, but we were surprised to find a species of the Swallowtail inside here.
Lovely weather, but some rain in the evening and very heavy rain the coming night – 32 d.
Day 11 – Monday Feb. 25
We had to leave Gareno today, but first we birded along the road and ticked several new species. We stopped along the way while driving back to Tena, which is very recommendable. We were lucky enough to see White Hawk at close range low in a tree, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Neotropical Palm-Swift, Violaceous Jay and Orange-backed Troupial to mention a few. At noon we ate at a restaurant in Tena and spent some time on Internet before we left for Sumaco – Jonas Nilsson’s place. The place we had planned to stay overnight was closed, so we had to drive quite far to find a kind of hotel in Loreto – 45 minutes away.
Cloudy, a little sunshine and 29 degrees.
Day 12 – Tuesday Feb. 26
Early in the morning we went back to Sumaco and paid 10 dollars for the entrance. This is a very good place for a variety of birds, and we ticked many new ones. Already before we entered we found the Great Potoo roosting, shining white high up in a tree. Unfortunately it started to rain heavily around noon, but from our car we witnessed a mixed flock in the neigbouring tree which kept us busy for half an hour identifying all the different species. We observed about 90 species in just a few hours. Don’t miss this place.
From Sumaco we went to Baeza – to the “hotel” where we had stayed four nights already. We got our dose of Internet and a new portion of burritos. Mostly cloudy and 24 degrees.
Tandayapa Valley (Mindo area)
Day 13 – Wednesday Feb 27
Today we had to move to the western side of Andes – to Mindo, so the day wasn’t the most exciting when it came to birds. Early in the morning we visited the Papallacta Pass again in order to see the Snipe. We werent that keen on another try, but the driver was, but no luck this time either. Well, you cant get them all! One of many reasons to come back one day. We changed drivers in Quito – got a younger one that spoke English, but neither he knew much about birds. He said he was interested to learn though.
At a petrol station between Quito and Mindo we met a young Canadian couple that worked in Ecuador a few months who we first met at Yanacocha. He advised us to take a dust road to the left just after a brick factory a bit further west where we could see four species: Harris Hawk, Common Ground-Dove, Vermilion Flycatcher and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch. All these birds we found in less than 20 minutes and this was the only place we saw them.
The Mindo area (Tandayapa valley), about two hours drive from Quito, can boast of having the richest eco-system and the largest biological diversity in the world, and they also have the highest density of Hummingbirds (27 species). It is registered about 650 species within quite a small area.
In Mindo (about 1400 m above sea level) we rented a place for 5 nights. We met a birdwatcher at Gareno Lodge, who owned this place in Mindo and wanted us to rent a room there, which we promised. We spent two hours at Internet and went early to bed – looking forward to tomorrow.
Cloudy and rain from 1 p.m. It is rainy season here, which means it rains in the afternoon.
Day 14 – Thursday Feb 28
At 5 o’clock we went to Rio Silanche and we were in the bird-tower by sunrise. This place is in the lowland – about 450 m above sea level. After some time we became impatient and wanted to look around, but then Juan Carlos Calvachi came with two Canadians he guided. So we went back to the tower where we spent quite a long time. Birds were flying to and fro all the time, but finally we went down a track together with this small group. Juan Carlos is the birdguide we contacted by mail before we left Norway. He runs a business – he owns a few cars and employs ditto drivers, so “our” car is his as well as the driver. The Canadians graciously allowed us to go with them here, which meant that we could see more species than if we were alone as he knows the sounds. We stayed here until 1 p.m. Before we parted we changed cars – from a brand new big Toyota 5 seats Hilux to a Hyunday.
On our way back we visited Mirador restaurant where they have a marvelous view of the valley and they also have many feeders attracting a lot of birds, especially Hummers. Here we met plenty of birders and a guide, so we stayed quite a while taking pictures. While here it started to rain.
Little Tinamou (heard), Hook-billed Kite, Plain-breasted Hawk, Bat Falcon, Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail (heard), Dusky Pigeon, Pacific Parrotlet, Blue-headed Parrot, Bronze-winged Parrot, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Little Cuckoo, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Stripe-throated Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Choco Trogon, Western White-tailed Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Choco Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Western Woodhaunter (heard), Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Checker-throated Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-headed Antthrush (heard), Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher, White-ringed Flycatcher, Cinnamon Becard, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Band-backed Wren, White-bearded Manakin, Bay Wren, Southern Nightingale-Wren (heard), Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Guira Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, White-lined Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Blue-black Grosbeak, Scarlet-rumped Cacique and Yellow-tailed Oriole were some of the many observations today at Rio Silanche and on the road leading to this place.
In the afternoon we spent another two hours at Internet and found a place to eat. The daily log always takes a long time – up to two hours. We are always tired after the log, but are seldom able to sleep before 10 p.m.
Nice weather until one o’clock, but rain from 1 p.m. – about 27 degrees. About 80 new ticks today.
Day 15 – Friday Feb 29
At 5 o’clock we were on our way to Angel Paz de las Aves (a private reserve). But first we met with the same group as yesterday, and Juan Carlos used playback to find Rufescent Screeh-Owl as well as Mottled Owl. We also saw Rufous-bellied Nighthawk and Pauraque. Then we were just in time to see the end of the show the Cock of the Rock puts up here every morning. You stand above the lek, so you see them rather well. We saw the orange ones at Baeza, but here they have the red version. It is quite spectacular to witness this bird.
After the lek Angel tried to call on some of the Antpittas that are found here. He calls them by name and uses worms to get these very shy birds out into the open. This turned out to be a test of our patience – it really took long. There are four different species of them here, but today he was only able to show us Maria – a Giant Antpitta. We got fantastic views of this bird, but were a bit disappointed that he wasn’t able to call forward the other species. But at least we heard Moustached Antpitta. And we also saw Dark-backed Wood-Quail very close. Wattled Guan, Red-billed Parrot, , Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Powerful Woodpecker, Spotted Barbtail, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Uniform Antshrike, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Narino Tapaculo, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Barred Becard, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Scaled Fruiteater, Olivaceous Piha, Brown-capped Vireo, Andean Solitaire, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Flame-faced Tanager and Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager were some of the other birds we saw or heard here.
This place also has feeders and we spent some time here to find “new” Hummingbirds before we ate our breakfast, which is included in the price (10 dollars). Andean Emerald, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-throated Woodstar are some that are easily found here.
Later today we were very motivated for another highlight. Quite recently a new cave where there are Oilbirds has been discovered, and we were on our way. It is private property and costs only 5 dollars. First we were taken by a tractor for a few minutes before we had to descend down some bambus ladders through a waterfall that made us totally wet, which was a fascinating experience in itself. Down here it was amazing to see at close range about 40 Oilbirds sitting on shelves or flying around – a spectacular sight. Unfortunately it was a bit dark, so therefore the pictures also got rather dark. This place is said to be the easiest accesible cave there is for this very special bird, and there have been very few people here before us because so few knows about it.
On our way back we found that the road was blocked with sand they had dug up from the side of the road, so we had to wait some time until they had cleared it. But they were empty of diesel, so they had to go and get some more before they could start the engine. You can expect many surprises in countries like Ecuador.
Cloudy, a little sunshine and rain from 4 p.m. – about 25 degrees.
Day 16 – Saturday March 1
We went at 6 o’clock to Milpe Road and returned back at 1 p.m. It didn’t turn out as successfully as we had hoped, but we got a few “new” ones: Tiny Hawk, Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Green-crowned Brilliant, Rufous Motmot, Red-faced Spinetail, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Uniform Treehunter, Spotted Woodcreeper, Brown-billed Scythebill, Slaty Antwren, Gray Elaenia, Ornate Flycatcher, Tawny-breasted Flycatcher, Pale-eyed Thrush, Pale-vented Thrush, Ecuadorian Thrush, Golden-winged Manakin, Club-winged Manakin (heard), Lesser Greenlet, Tropical Parula, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Rufous-throated Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Ochre-breasted Tanager and Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager.
In the afternoon we relaxed and the boys even slept a little. After that we had the same procedure as always – Internet, food and the daily log.
Cloudy, showers and rain in the evening – 24 degrees.
Day 17 – Sunday March 2
Bella Vista is another “famous” place in the Tandayapa valley ran by an Englishman married to an Ecuadorian woman and is situated rather high up (about 2300 m). We spent the morning here, but it started to rain already at 11 a.m., so it didn’t turn out to be that profitable. Here there are many tracks to choose among, but it is also good around the house (the head quarter) where there also are feeders. We very much wanted to see the Toucan Barbet, but only heard a couple just outside the house. Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Azaras Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Striped Treehunter, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Streaked Flycatcher, Turquoise Jay, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Glossy-black Thrush, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Russet-crowned Warbler, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Dusky Bush-Tanager, Southern Yellow-Grosbeak and Tricolored Brush-Finch were some of the species we saw. On one of the tracks we found a worm of more than one meter that had come out into the open because of the rain – the biggest ever. I didn’t even know there existed worms that size.
We ate at Bella Vista and went quite early back to Mindo. The last days we have been birdwatching only half the day or less, mainly due to the rain as it is the rainy season in western Ecuador at this time of year. But after nearly 6 weeks I must admit that we were a bit tired of birdwatching. I didn’t think that was possible, but it was. It also takes its toll to be away from family so long. After a while you miss your wife (hopefully), your kids and grandchildren, but never the winter. At this time of year it is soon spring and then Norway is the right/best place to be.
Not many “new” species were added to our list today. In the afternoon we cooled down – not with a beer or two (we don’t drink alchohol), but with a phonecall home, Internet and a pizza. Mindo is a very small town and not very exciting – not much to do.
It started to rain at about 11 a.m. A little more than 20 degrees at Mindo.
Day 18 – Monday March 3
Today we were moving further south – down to the Rio Palenque area. We left Mindo at 6. We were not happy about driving in the morning without stopping to watch birds, so after a while we took a gravel road to the right – just at random – to see what we could find there. It turned out to be a very good choice, and we walked this road for a few hours before we were satisfied. Weather was lovely and warm, so we really enjoyed this morning. Black-throated Mango was rather common here. I can also mention that we saw Pale-mandibled Aracari, Olivaceous Piculet, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Pacific Hornero, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Pacific Antwren, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Masked Water-Tyrant, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, White-ringed Flycatcher, Cinnamon Becard, Red-eyed Vireo, Ecuadorian Thrush, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Blue-necked Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Black-winged Saltator, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Blue-black Grassquit, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Orange-billed Sparrow, Yellow-tailed Oriole and Yellow-bellied Siskin. It was a great morning – one of the best.
We found a hotel in Santo Domingo (see map) – a rather big town of about half a million. We looked around a bit, did some shopping, called home and wrote some E-mails.
Partly cloudy, a shower or two and about 30 degrees.
Rio Palenque area
Day 19 – Tuesday March 4
We were early up and drove down to Rio Palenque, where we spent a very pleasant morning and noon. The birdwatching was very good (see species list). The area is quite big consisting of several tracks and lower down the river was running big. We visited one of the worlds biggest trees here – about 25 meter all the way round it. It was wider than it was high.
Hot today and mostly sunny with a little rain late afternoon/evening – 32 degrees.
Day 20 – Wednesday March 5
This was our last day in Ecuador and we were heading back to Quito. We skipped our original plan when we found out that we couldn’t get any new ticks and instead birded a small road to the right before a bridge. This also turned out to be a good detour. It was so good that we spent a few hours here before going over the pass (Andes) to Quito. Both Snowy and Cattle Egret we found here – birds we had seen only once before. Suddenly a White-throated Crake came out into the open – on the road itself. Spotted Sandpiper was also here. The first bird we found was the Olive-crowned Yellowthroat popping up from the grass and small bushes. Later we found birds like Gray-capped Cuckoo, Little Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Slaty Spinetail, Pacific Antwren, Gray Elaenia, Torrent Tyrannulet, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Gray-breasted Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Masked Water-Tyrant, Bay Wren, Buff-rumped Warbler, Green Honeycreeper, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Guira Tanager, Tick-billed Euphonia, Silver-throated Tanager, Streaked Saltator, Lesser Seed-Finch and Orange-billed Sparrow among others.
Soon after we found that there was a very long queue of cars in front of us, so we walked to the front of the line of cars and found that a trailer had gone outside the road and half of it hang down facing the river far below. It looked quite scary, but the driver was lucky not to have fallen down into the river to his certain death. People were working trying to get it back on track, but it took time. While we were looking, some small cars passed. So we hurried back to our car and tried to come through, and after a while we succeeded. Else we could have been waiting here for hours.
We drove straight to Quito stopping only a couple of times to take some pictures. When we came close to the capital the landscape was very similar to what you find in the Alps – very nice. The driver took Erlen and Aleksander to a dentist he knew, so that they could check their teeth. They wanted to do that in order to save a lot of money if they had some holes, which they had. It was only noon when we reached the capital, so we had plenty of time for whatever.
Mostly cloudy and 16 degrees in Quito – much warmer befored we reached Andes.
Day 21 – Thursday March 6
We left the hotel by taxi at five in the morning. The plane took us to Miami where we had to wait for our plane to La Guardia, New York, where we landed in the afternoon. We were in a hurry, so we had to take a taxi for 30 minutes (30 dollars) to John F. Kennedy airport where the plane from Air India left at 7 p.m. We landed at Heathrow, London early next morning and from there had to take the bus to Stanstead where we were going with Ryanair to Torp, Norway in the evening. There my wife picked us up. Looking at our travelling schedule you can understand why we got such a cheap one-way ticket from Ecuador to Norway. Originally we had also planned to stay three weeks in Peru after Ecuador, but we soon found out that that was too much – too long to be away from our wives. We were very happy to arrive safely back in Norway. In Ecuador we didn’t have a single accident or any kind of episodes, not even a little diarrhoea. Even if the distances are quite small where we were, still we drove more than 2000 km. Everything worked out to our fullest satisfaction. We really have to thank Juan Carlos Calvachi who arranged evrything for us. He put up our itinerary. So if you are going to Ecuador I can recommend him as a guide or to help you out with a car and a driver. His E-mailaddress is: firstname.lastname@example.org
We had a goal of seeing at least 600 species, which we reached with good margin. If we did, the father himself was going to shave his beard – for the first time since summer 1981. My sons have never seen me without a beard, so when at home I had to shave it off. Let me put it this way: It was not a pretty sight. I was glad when it was back again after a few days.
In 40 days we ended up with seeing more than 980 different species in Costa Rica and Ecuador. We had hoped to reach the 1000 limit, but too many of the species were found in both countries. Still I guess this is good enough for an unofficial Norwegian record. This wasn’t in our thoughts before we went or while we were there. It was something we came to think about many days after we were back.
We used Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield’s book: “The Birds of Ecuador”. There are two books actually, but you need only one of them – the field guide. It is very heavy and the maps arent always correct, even if they are pretty good. The overall impression is that it is a good book, and also the only one on the market so to speak.
We saw all the three species of the Quetzal, but none of them can match the one you find in Costa Rica – the Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds that exists. I can also mention that we saw more than 70% of all the Parrots and Parakeets, the Trogons, the Toucans, Toucanets and Aracaris, the Manakins and the Tanagers, and we saw all the Barbets and the Motmots.
Please take into consideration that this report is written exactly one year after we arrived back from Ecuador, so things are not so fresh in my mind as it should be, and therefore it is neither perfect nor as good as I had wanted. That goes for the species list as well. Please contact me if there is anything you wonder about or want to know about our trip.