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Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Dec 7, 2010, 2:46 PM by Arie Gilbert   [ updated Dec 14, 2010, 1:24 PM ]
Chapter 1: The Definition of Inauspicious

    Back in September, Karlo Mirth innocently mentioned that he and his wife Alison were going on Corey Finger’s trip to Ecuador. News and solicitation for the trip had been sent out months earlier, but I must have deleted it. After Karlo mentioned what a bargain the trip was, the wheels started turning in my head, and Jean Loscalzo and I decided to go, if only Corey would permit us to crash the party.

    It turned out that the guide Renato Espinosa of the Pululahua Hostel was able to accommodate us, so we got busy getting field guides, and making other preparations. After perusing the dizzying amount of possible birds in Ecuador, I set about obtaining checklists for the places we would be visiting to make the daily checklists more manageable.

    What I found out is that it can be very frustrating to try to make sense of the name changes and differing opinions as to what is and isn’t a separate species. And this is with having the world supplement to Avisys! I wonder if “real” ornithologists despise birders so much that they keep messing with us by changing names, taxonomic order, splitting and lumping, and etc. Jeez!  All this frustration evaporated however, once we were enjoying the wonderful bird life in Ecuador.

    But that took a lot of evaporation.... Can you say inauspicious? To begin with, one month before our departure there was a short lived coup attempt. Thankfully, the unrest went as quickly as it came.

    So trepidations quelled and the big day arrived. Jean and I were the first on the scene at JFK, only to find a message board of all “on times” except for our flight which was delayed by over an hour and a half. And we were two hours early! Worse yet, this meant we were going to miss our connecting flight in Miami. She and I went to the ticketing counter, and were able to get ourselves onto the next flight from Miami, scheduled to depart at 6pm, not the 3pm flight to Ecuador we were booked on.

    As they arrived, we told the others, and Danny Melore and Alan Goodman, the two other participants,  were able to also get on this flight. There were not enough seats though, to accommodate Corey, Karlo, and Alison. They were told to try once we arrived at Miami.

    On the ground in Florida, and after some mis-communication, we all went to the re-booking counter to get new boarding passes, and those three were booked on LAN, another carrier’s flight,  that necessitated they run off madly to be able to get on it before it left. Prior to it’s departure, Corey sent a text message indicating they were taking off. We waited the extra hour or so to begin boarding our flight, and then waited to take off...

    And waited. Not surprisingly, this flight was over booked. There was confusion about seats and who should and should not be on the flight. A few folks were lead off the plane, possibly they had been paid to take a later flight, and tried to stay on anyway! And then we sat and sat. The crew attempted to play the safety video on how to put on a seat-belt, but it was damaged, so we were told we would be delayed until they could get another. Ugh.  And then a passenger was summoned from his seat to the captain’s cabin - we were told he was receiving a call patched through to the airline, due to a “family emergency”.

    An hour late, we finally left the gate. We slowly moved down the airport, but stopped in the middle of the taxiway and sat again. More “problems” and then another emergency call to the passenger. I asked the flight crew what was going on, especially since no one, and I mean no one is allowed into the captain’s cabin once the plane has left the gate. I was given answers that I felt were “curious” and finally the captain announced that we would be taking off soon, after watching more planes pass us by and take off ahead of our flight. Sheesh! We were taking off  hours late - the others would be at the airport waiting for us...

    So the rest of the flight was uneventful, and we landed at Quito, got our bags, and went out to try and meet up with our co-conspirators. Looking about the waiting area, I did not see anyone familiar, though I suspected that based upon the Ecuadorian diminutive height, and Karlo and Corey’s above average height, they should have stood out from the crowd. I even called out their names, should they be seated and obscured, but to no avail. Renato however, was spotted holding a sign that said [sic] and we said hello. The sign should have said, but it was strangely appropriate we would find, based upon Corey’s daily count-down to his 1000th lifer.

    Our relief at meeting him went poof though, when he informed us that the others had not arrived yet! It seems that their flight which took off before us, was diverted to Guayaquil, and was mucho delayed. Eventually, they were put on another flight back to Quito, and some time past 3am we all finally left the airport. Though they were sans luggage...and would be for three days!

    Corey, perpetually psyched and enthusiastic, was ready to go ahead as planned with the itinerary a few hours from when we finally arrived at our lodging, [ some time around 4 am ] but some of us prevailed upon him, and I for one decided to sleep in. As it was, I was up too late the night before - ...should have gone to sleep earlier... and I had been nursing a minor scratchy throat...