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Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Feb 5, 2011, 12:14 PM by Arie Gilbert
Chapter 3: No Really, I’m Always this Pasty White Color

    The next morning, due to a worsening chest cold and a serious lack of sleep due to incessant hiccuping, I declined to go out on the day’s adventure. Jean, and Alison who also felt ill, stayed behind as well.

    In the afternoon, Renato called into his very pleasant wife Paola to check on me, and they conspired, er -  arranged for me to be seen by a doctor in the town of San Antonio, outside of Quito. All I wanted was a prescription for antibiotics which I knew I needed at that point, and something to make me stop hiccuping. The doctors had other ideas. Low oxygen due to the altitude and the congestion and hiccuping...The doctor explained to me his findings, all of which I already was aware, but his English was worse than my Spanish. Suffice it to say he strongly suggested I stay.  I was admitted, put on oxygen, given IV antibiotics, and mercifully, a sedative for the hiccups. Shortly thereafter, I was seen by the doctor’s wife, also a doctor, who came in to see me and discuss my condition. She being able to converse in a broken English slightly better than my broken Spanish. As we spoke, I detected some odd pronunciations, and following a hunch asked: “Parlez vous français?” and it turned out that she did in fact speak french. So here I am in a Spanish speaking country being explained things in French. Odd, though it made for a more pleasant experience.

    The next day I awoke feeling much better, so despite the doctor’s advice to stay another day we left. Renato arranged for a car to pick up our luggage at the hostel, and then pick us up at the hospital, and take us out to Mindo where we would join up with the rest of the group. Mindo, is quite interesting as it appears to be a Mecca for bird guides: store fronts offering tour guide services were all about town. Arriving at our lodging, the Yellow House Inn, one of the first birds we saw was the brilliantly colored Lemon-rumped Tanager, and the Pterodactylesque White-collared Swifts. They are huge!

    But the others were out enjoying killer experiences with Giant Antpittas and Cock of the Rock. Superstitiously, I have observed in the past that one can jinx themselves by getting a t-shirt that depicts a bird they have not yet seen on the trip. In this case I chose for the cover of the checklist booklets I made,  the Giant Antpitta, an otherwise “gimme” bird if one goes to Refugio Paz de las Aves. And I missed it. No wonder I had to spend a day in hospital! Grrrr.

    We headed in to town, passing a Tropical Gnatcatcher in a hedgerow on the way. A pleasantly immediately identifiable bird. As far as I know, we were the only ones to have it on the trip. In town, a very accommodating Squirrel Cuckoo afforded us great views and posed for pictures. After this we settled into a vista behind a hostel that had a stream behind it, and a whole lot of birds.  In the yard we were thrilled by a cooperative Rufous Motmot, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow , Southern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Ecuadorian Thrush, and the always gorgeous Troperula {Tropical Parula },White-lined Tanager,  Blue-gray Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Golden Tanager, and Andean Emerald. What a nice little spot!

    The proprietress of the hostel saw us standing there looking into her yard, and came out to inquire what we were doing. In my best broken Spanish, I explained that we were looking at the birds. This older woman preceded to prattle on in Spanish, and once again I detected some odd pronunciations, and sure as sugar, this woman spoke French too. What are the chances? So now she preceded to prattle on in French, where at least I was able to understand what she was saying, though after she made some good recommendations for where we might see more good birds, she preceded to tell us about her parrots, the ones that died, how she missed them, the new ones... We smiled, thanked her for the info, and then made our escape.

    Some notes on birding in places one has not been before. When I saw the Tropical Kingbirds, I immediately identified them correctly, as well as the Squirrel Cuckoo. But when I saw another Flycatcher, I was not so sure. It looked like a Kiskadee to me, but there were so many choices in the book.... Later on, when we walked through town, we stopped into one of the many storefronts offering birding guides. I discussed this bird with the guide, who told us that Kiskadee is not found anywhere near there, but narrowed the choice to two other birds. A return and relocation cinched the ID as Rusty-margined Flycatcher. A valuable lesson learned was that it pays to know what birds are possible in a given location - changes in altitude have a dramatic effect. Also, many of the birds are resident, not migratory, so they will also be found in specific habitats, and thus help to narrow down the choices for the inexperienced

    Upon return to our lodging, the Yellow House, we were informed and treated to views of Common Potoo obligingly sitting on a stick right behind our room! Jean spied a Masked Water-Tyrant, and I got a nice look at the Black-throated Mango coming to the owner’s feeder.