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Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Dec 15, 2010, 3:18 PM by Arie Gilbert
Chapter 2: You Want To Get Up When?

    Day one of birding for every one except me and Alan began with a hike up the road in the caldera that is the Pululahua Geobotanical Preserve. We stayed behind and enjoyed a cup of coffee and the Rufous-collared Sparrows, my first Ecuadorian bird! And I might add, what a well named bird! Seeing it, I made a mental note of some field marks while I retrieved a guide, only to find that it was the only sparrow - an easy tick for the groggy. Yipee! The next few delights were not quite as easy, but oh so pleasing to the eye.

    Black-tailed Trainbearer flitted about the flowers draped in front of the rooms that a number of us quartered in, posing seductively for photographs. That is when they were not being chased away by the Sparkling Violetears who were more interested in laying claim to the flowers and hummingbird feeders, than in allowing me a decent shot of them.

Eared Doves were everywhere as one would expect Mourning Doves to be here. Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, a cute little gray bird tried to inconspicuously drink from the fountain near our tables, while a Southern Yellow Grosbeak bombastically made an appearance just outside my room.

    The others returned some time after 8:30 and we ate breakfast, and prepared for our first outing!

    Other birds seen at breakfast were Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, American Kestrel, Blue-and-white Swallow, Cinereous Conebill,, Hooded Siskin, and Great Thrush.

We then boarded the van for our first excursion!

    A short distance away, we took a walk in a new park in the Pululahua preserve, and added Unicolored Tapaculo, Azara's Spinetail, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Stripe-headed Brush-Finch, and Variable Hawk.

    Next we went to the Yanoacocha cloud forest. For the uninitiated, this is a west facing mountain at 11500' that catches the clouds and their humidity that comes from the Pacific coast. Though it was nice and warm and dry when we left Pululahua, the weather here was quite different.

    Alison who was also nursing a cold, and I, were not dressed properly for the conditions, and the combination of the cold, damp, altitude, fatigue, and less than 100% health made both of us very ill by the time we hiked up and back down the trail.

    The birding was quite unusual: we were in a cloud, and most of the color of the birds we were looking at was washed out. But we did see lots and lots of great stuff, especially hummers such as the Sapphire-vented Puffleg and Sword-billed who were both quite the sight to see.

    Other birds seen in the mist and at the feeders were Andean Guan { which we all heard, but only Jean saw } Buff-winged Starfrontlet,, Tyrian Metaltail, Pearled Treerunner, White-banded Tyrannulet, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Great Thrush, Blue-backed Conebill, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, and Spectacled Redstart.

    Also seen were interesting flora that lived in the wet conditions like this presumed fern species. Somehow, I think this is what attacked me!

    At the top of the trail, both Alison and I had endured enough, and headed back to the car. We both felt like crap. Not only was I coughing, but I started hiccuping uncontrollably. Oh what fun!

My only consolation was seeing a Rufous Antpitta that deigned to land in front of me on the trail. 

Unfortunately nobody else saw this bird, a shallow consolation.

    Making our way back to our lodging, on the long winding bouncy dirt road,  we capped the night with a Band-winged Nightjar. I snapped a poor photo through the windshield recording this lifer for us all. 

    Instead of joining the others for dinner, I opted to turn in early, with accompaniment of a hot water bottle for my chest and throat, and a generous supply of Nyquil pills from Renato; precious because they are only available by prescription in Ecuador! End of birding day one. Phew!