Old Loja-Zamora Road
Early one morning we headed out towards Zamora to the east to bird the old road. There are several waterfalls along the new road and we had to stop near one of them while a crew cleaned a landslide off the road. We ended up getting all the way to Zamora without ever finding the old road. So we stopped in a bakery and bought some “balones de yucca” for a snack. They were kind of like corn fritters and very good! Then we asked directions and found the road, totally unmarked.
We crossed a fast flowing river and found a couple of White-Capped Dippers that were fun to watch. We were attracted to one spot that had a lot of Tropical Kingbirds and were really excited to spot some very colorful birds right away. The Inca Jay is awesome! But then we saw some Cock-of-the-Rock which were quite active in a nearby tree and we forgot about the Inca Jay while we were watching him. The ones we had seen in the Mindo area are red and the ones in the south are orange. How fun that we got to see them both!
We had read that there was practically no traffic on the old road so were surprised to see a number of trucks going by. And we had thought that we would work our way back to Loja on this old road. However, part way along there were large piles of rocks for construction blocking the way. So we went back and approached the road from the other end. We stopped at various places along the way stalking bird sounds. Sometimes we were rewarded and sometimes not. At one stop a Crimson-Mantled Woodpecker showed up. It was really pretty!
We had to get back to Loja so we turned around. On the way back to Loja we crossed a really high place where we stopped to check out the possibilities there. We did get to see a Rufous-Naped Brush-Finch, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Green-Gorgetted Hummingbird, and Pale-Naped Brush-Finch. Three of the four birds were new to us.
Road Past Wind-Mill Farm
Another day we went out another side of Loja to the road that goes beyond the wind-mill farm. We parked and walked the dirt road for a long ways. There were a lot of treats for the eyes along there. Only Dave saw and photographed this Plushcap. Unfortunately, Jen and I had gone on ahead and missed it.
Deep into the gorge on one side of the road there was a place that attracted hummingbirds. It was a bit hard to see them, but we were able to identify the Green-Tailed Trailbearer among others.
On our return trip we stopped to photograph our old friend the American Kestrel.
Next blog: Copalinga
We spent some time in Loja where our daughter lives and works. She is involved in training Sunday School teachers and others who are teaching children about God. It was a privilege to meet her friends and coworkers and attend a Kid’s Club, a Sunday School, and a couple of teacher training sessions. We are proud of her and pleased with all that is being done to reach the children of that area for Jesus Christ. Learn more about Jennifer by following her blog: Kid’s Kaleidoscope (see sidebar for link).
One of Ecuador’s most famous National Parks is near Loja, Parque Nacional Podocarpus. One morning we went to the Cajanuma entrance, not deterred by the rain which is pretty constant there. Concerned about some recent landslides, we left the car on the road and walked. As it turned out, most of the birds we saw that day were along the road.
We arrived at the official shelter, ate our sandwiches, and headed up one of the trails. As we were going along, Jennifer spotted a little brown bird just ahead of us on the trail. It was a Tawny Antpitta! We were really excited! Previously, we had seen antpittas only because someone had sought them out for us. This one was unsolicited.
It was a good thing that the day before Jennifer and Dave had obtained some rubber boots. The trail was very muddy! I ran out of oomph to keep going all uphill, so headed back down while they went on through the muddiest parts to the lookout. The clouds parted just enough for them to see the town below. Then the clouds closed in again.
Meantime, on the trail down, I saw a Masked Trogon. Dave and Jennifer got to see it too when they caught up with me. What a thrill!
We were soaked by the time we got back to the car in spite of our rain gear, but happy for all the birds that we saw and for the adventure of hiking in a new place and in the rain.
In Podocarpus, Cajanuma: Slate-Throated Whitestart, Rufous-Naped Brush Finch, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Great Thrush, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Montane Woodcreeper, Blue-Black Tanager, Rufous-Bellied Euphonia, Spectacled Whitestart, Collared Inca, Grey-Headed Bush Tanager, Tawny Antpitta, Masked Trogon, Hooded Siskin, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Brown-Backed Chat-Tyrant, Grey-Hooded Bush-Tanager
Next blog: Birding Roads near Loja
One day, Dave and I decided to go to Catamayo to see what is there. That is where the airport is that serves Loja. It takes nearly an hour to get there, but Loja is such a hilly place that you have to go a way to get to a flat place. But the fact that it is a flatter, more arid place makes it attractive to different birds. We read that the road to the dump above Catamayo was a good place. And sure enough. There we saw Croaking Ground-Dove, Tumbes Sparrow, Groove-Billed Ani, Dull-Colored Grassquit, Pacific Parrotlet, Long-Tailed Mockingbird, Pacific Hornero, Eared Dove. While along that road some friendly folks invited us to their place on the top of the hill. They wanted us to see the town and airport from a good vantage point. They gave us each a really sweet local fruit called a zapote. They were different from the zapotes in Mexico. Meeting those folks was truly serendipitous.
We drove to the airport which we read was a good spot, but since they were doing construction on the parking lot we gave it up. We did go down a little country road. But there we didn’t see anything new. And after a quick drive through the town and a bite of lunch, we returned to Loja.
One morning we went to a little park in town named Daniel Alvarez. It was surprisingly full of birds: Fasciated Wren, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Saffron Finch, Pacific Hornero, Groove-Billed Ani, Black Phoebe, Tropical Kingbird, Eared Dove, Spotted Sandpiper, Amazilia Hummingbird, Shiny Cowbird, Scrub Blackbird, Sparkling Violetear, Peruvian Meadowlark, Blue and White Swallow.
One of the most fun was the Fasciated Wren. There were a bunch of them and they were all very busily building nests. Another fun bird to see was the Saffron Finch. It very boldly sat on the fence or ran along the path not mindful at all that I was there taking his picture.
The Japiro Park was large and quite full of people when we visited it late one day. Even though there are signs telling of all the birds that can be seen there, we didn’t see very many. But we did get a good look at the Golden-Olive Woodpecker.
They had parked some cattle there as lawn mowers and we saw a Shiny Cowbird or two hanging around. No wonder they are called cowbirds! We enjoyed walking around the park and people watching. People are fun to watch too!
That morning we had gone to the Jardín Botánico Reinaldo Espinosa or the Botanical Gardens. At first, we saw surprisingly few birds, but lots of plants and flowers. However, we were excited to see a Streak-Headed Woodcreeper running up the trees looking for bugs. A new bird for us was a nesting Smoke-Colored Pewee. We watched the nest until we got a good look at the bird.
As the morning progressed we saw: Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Fasciated Wren, Pacific Hornero, Scrub Blackbird, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Great Thrush, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Eared Dove, Smoke-Colored Pewee, Amazilia Hummingbird, Slate-Throated Whitestart.
See my next blog for more on Loja.
Extra thought: The following birds are the same species Sayornis Nigricans. Look how different they are on different continents.
Our first day in Cuenca we joined a tour group headed to Aguarongo. We were interested in the tour because it included a birding walk, which we looked forward to. The tour included a bus ride up the mountain, coffee and snack, a guided tour telling about local plants and a lunch featuring local food. It was very interesting, but we were disappointed in the birding walk. We enjoyed the people on the tour, but there were just too many for good birding. It still was a pleasant day and something different to experience.
At Aguarongo: Brown-Bellied Swallow, Great Thrush, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Green-Tailed Trainbearer
Did you know that the Panama hat originated in Ecuador? Cuenca was one of the first places to make them. Apparently, they made lots of hats which were shipped to Panama to then go to world markets. People passing through Panama would purchase them, so they have been called Panama hats ever since. We went to a factory where one could buy every sort of straw hat.
We enjoyed seeing the center of town and walking along the river. We saw the unfinished bridge and a museum in a bank. Outside of the museum are some ancient ruins and some caged birds like toucans, parrots, and guacamayas. We saw some new birds that we could hope for, and others that we had seen in the wild, up close and personal. But it was even more fun to see some of the uncaged birds.
Our hosts had a hummingbird feeder that was frequented by only one hummer, a Sparkling Violetear. He was gorgeous and knew it!
In Cuenca: Scrub Blackbird, Great Thrush, Southern Yellow-Grosbeak, Vermilion Flycatcher, Fulvous Whistling Duck, American Kestrel, Sparkling Violetear, Blue and Yellow Tanager
Another morning in Cuenca we went with our hosts to Cajas National Park. It was raining off and on but we had fun birding anyway. We circled a large lake and saw both forest birds and water birds. The exciting bird there was the Grey-Breasted Mountain-Toucan! We were hearing it earlier, but Jennifer spotted it near the end of our walk. I imagine several trips to that park would not exhaust the bird sitings. But we only had a morning, and a rainy one at that.
We saw some alpacas pasturing at Cajas. We didn’t want to get too close to them lest they spit at us. However, it was a Kodak moment that we had to take advantage of.
In Cajas we saw: Great Thrush, Slate-Throated Whitestart, Andean Teal, Black-Napped Tyrannulet, Black Flower Piercer, Masked Flower Piercer, Andean Coot, Ruddy Duck, Speckled Hummingbird, Hooded Siskin, Rainbow-Bearded Hummingbird?, Grey-Breasted Mountain-Toucan, Paramo Seedeater
After visiting Cajas we went to a restaurant where we got to taste cuy, a guinea pig that is considered a delicacy in Ecuador.
Next blog: Loja
Volcanos make up much of the Andes mountains. Our drive from Quito to Baños was gorgeous! We were able to see several volcanos playing peek-a-boo with the clouds.
Baños, a little tourist town known for its thermal waters, is situated on the “safe” side of Tungurahua. Tungurahua is a volcano that spewed forth ash as late as January. (I see that it has continued to spit ash since then.) That afternoon we drove up the mountain a little ways and from there got a good view of the volcano.
We saw a few birds too, including the Great Thrush, and the Glossy-Black Thrush. We were to see the Great Thrush again and again as we headed south. But we never again saw the Glossy Black. Nor did we ever see again the Hooded Mountain-Tanager, a beautiful large tanager which we also got to see on that short drive up the mountain.
The next day we went to see an awesome waterfall called the Pailón del Diablo. On the way we stopped by the side of the road to take a picture and saw several birds there, including Russet-Backed Oropendola and Inca Jay. It was a fortuitous stop.
As we started down the trail to the waterfall we were entertained by a little Yellow-Browed Sparrow that was singing its heart out beside the path. We followed the river as we went further down the trail. Eventually, there were a couple of swinging bridges that crossed the river deep in the gorge bringing us to the waterfall. It was awesome to be so close to it!
In the river that fed the waterfall we saw a female Torrent Duck. It is a duck that thrives on rough water. It is the original white water rafter. She was totally in her element as she swam upstream through the rapids!
We also saw the Pied Water-Tyrant, a little black and white bird that dashes in and out of the rocks on the edge of the river.
That afternoon we left the Baños area and headed for Cuenca. It was a slow and foggy drive on curvy roads through the Andes.
In the Baños area: Montane Woodcreeper, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Great Thrush, Glossy-Black Thrush, Blue-Grey Tanager, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Palm Tanager, Eared Dove, Russet-Backed Oropendula, Magpie Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-Bellied Seedeater, Blue and White Swallow, Inca Jay, Blue-Necked Tanager, Yellow-Browed Sparrow, Pied Water-Tyrant, Torrent Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Olive-Spotted Hummingbird
Next blog: Cuenca
Julia Patiño was an excellent guide who charged a reasonable price, so we hired her to take us around the Yellow House trails (http://ecuadormindobirds.com) early the next morning. (See previous blog.) Again, we were seeing and hearing lots of birds. In a land where everything is new a good guide is indispensable. And frankly, I am not good at recognizing bird song. It is embarrassing to admit, but I still don’t know the time by the bird songs on my clock at home.
A good guide not only spots birds in the deep forest, but can tell you what is singing. Then, to be able to remember 1,600 species by their English name, when English is not their native language, is incredible. Also a good guide carries a spotting scope, binoculars, and a book, and is able to hike the slippery muddy trails without any effort. It’s impressive.
Well, we were on the trails when Julia heard a Barred Puffbird. It was nearing the time when we had to head back, but since she was hunting for him we kept on. We went down one trial to no avail. Then, when she was about to give up, she spotted him. Wow! We all got a good look at him and I even took some pics, they’re backlit, but pics nonetheless. Julia explained that he was a particularly hard bird to see and it was really special that we got to see him.
On the trails: Yellow-Bellied Seedeater, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Red-Faced Spinetail, Red-Billed Parrot, Golden-Headed Quetzal, White-Winged Tanager, Dusky-Faced Tanager, Golden Tanager, Bay-Headed Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, Fawn-Breasted Tanager, Scaly-Throated Foliage-Gleaner, Spotted Woodcreeper, Western Wood-Pewee, Blue-Black Grassquit, Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-Throated Bush-Tanager, Ornate Flycatcher, Roadside Hawk, Tropical Kingbird, Swallow Tanager, Blue-Necked Tanager, Buff-Breasted Saltator, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, White-Collared Swift, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Strong-Billed Woodcreeper, Acadian Flycatcher, Orange-Bellied Eufonia, Grey-Headed Kite, Barred Puffbird, Thick-Billed Eufonia, Yellow-Bellied Siskin, Rusty-Margined Flycatcher, Flame-Faced Tanager, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Variable Seedeater, White-Shouldered Tanager, Swainson’s Thrush, Ruddy Pigeon, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, Golden-Naped Tanager, Black Phoebe, Buff-Fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Plain-Brown Woodcreeper, Shiny Cowbird
Back at the Yellow House we enjoyed a special breakfast made by the ladies that run the place. They had more hummingbird feeders there and we were able to add a couple to our list. They told us that a motmot comes there every evening. If only we had known! Next time…
When we weren’t trouping around various trails it was very pleasant to hang around the balcony of our rooms and… what else? look at birds! There, and in the town of Mindo, we saw: Blue and White Swallow, Rusty-Margined Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Masked Water-Tyrant, Roadside Hawk, Pacific Hornero, Blue-Grey Tanager, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Cattle Egret, Black-Winged Saltator, Palm Tanager, Shiny Cowbird, Bananaquit, White-Whiskered Hermit, White-Necked Jacobin, Golden Tanager, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Becard, Blue-Necked Tanager, Brown Violetear, Green-Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird, Yellow-Bellied Seedeater, Andean Emerald, Green-Crowned Brilliant
We had to get back to Quito because we were looking forward to visiting some friends there that evening, and the following day we were going to head south.
Next blog: Baños, Ecuador
“See you at 5:00 am and we’ll go to Río Silanche”. If you know us very well, you know that for us 5:00 am is in the middle of the night! But we sacrificed in order to see some wonderful birds.
At the Yellow House http://ecuadormindobirds.com they made us sandwiches to take along for breakfast, and arranged for us to have a local guide, Julia Patiño. She led us to Río Silanche which is an island of natural habitat in a heavily farmed area. There we climbed a canopy tower in the dawning light and waited for something marvelous to appear. And appear it did. From the canopy tower we saw and heard a White-Bearded Manikin, Pale-Billed Aracari, Dusky-Headed Flycatcher, and the back of a White-Tailed Trogon! Our morning had begun in an amazing way.
We hiked the trails of the forest and looked out over the pasture land. We saw tanagers, toucans, and woodcreepers. On the way out of the preserve we observed holes in the bank and stopped to have a look. We learned from Julia that both motmots and jacamars nest in holes like the ones we saw. With her help, we found a well hidden Rufous-Tailed Jacamar. Amazing!
At Río Silanche we saw 66 species of birds, the biggest day on our trip: Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Yellow-Bellied Seedeater, Masked Water-Tyrant, Chestnut-Backed Antbird, Rufous Wood-Quail, Pale-Billed Aracari, White-Necked Jacobin, White-Bearded Manakin,White-Shouldered Tanager, Dot-Winged Wren, Chocó Toucan, Blue-Necked Tanager, Turkey Vulture, Southern Nightingale Wren, Rufous Motmot, Green Honeycreeper, Grey and Gold Tanager, White-Tailed Trogan, Buff-Throated Saltator, Blue Dacnis, Social Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Bronze-Winged Parrot, Boat-Billed Flycatcher, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Blue-Headed Parrot, Golden-Faced Tyrannulet, Scarlet-Rumped Cacique, White-Whiskered Hermit, Maroon-Tailed Parakeet, Tawny-Crested Tanager, Plumbeous Kite and family, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Black-Cheeked Woodpecker, Smooth-Billed Ani, Palm Tanager, Rose-Faced Parrot, Southern Rough-Winged Swallow, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Ruddy Pigeon, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Becard, Bay-Headed Tanager, Black-Striped Woodcreeper, Black-Winged Saltator, Spotted Woodcreeper, Golden Tanager, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Mealy Amazon, Plain-Brown Woodcreeper, Blue-Grey Tanager, Orange-Fronted Barbet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Wedge-Billed Woodcreeper, Slaty-Capped Flycatcher, Blue-Chested Hummingbird, Rufous-Tailed Jacamar, Black-Capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Variable Seedeater, Lesser Seed-Finch, Blue Seedeater, White-Lined Tanager, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Summer Tanager
For lunch we stopped at a place that Julia told us about in the town of Bancos. It overlooked the Río Blanco and had hummingbird and banana feeders. I think the food was good, but the birding was even better. There we saw: Thick-Billed Euphonia, Bananaquit, Golden Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, Swallow-Tailed Kite, Broad-Winged Hawk, Green-Crowned Brilliant, Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird, Green Thorntail, Andean Emerald, Green-Crowned Woodnymph, Booted Raquet-Tail, Orange-Billed Sparrow, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Black Vulture, Green Violetear, Green-Crowned Brilliant
Next blog: The Yellow House and trails
Our second day in Ecuador we were inducted into the Ecuadorian world of birding at Refugio Paz de las Aves http://www.refugiopazdelasaves.com. Since we had to be there before dawn, we looked closely for the turnoff from the highway. What a relief to find the little wooden sign! What we didn’t realize was that once on the little muddy track there were options that would lead us on past Angel Paz’s place. We wandered around for an hour and a half seeing no one, just some lonely houses. We had given up and headed back when we were stopped by a friendly couple who led us to the right place (where we had been earlier, but seen no one). Angel showed up and led us running down a path to see the last of the Cock of the Rocks’ performance before they disappeared into the forest for the day.
We were very impressed with Angel Paz and his brother who went out of their way for us. Most people arrive there in a tour with a guide that knows the way. They didn’t dream that we would make a reservation and show up without a guide.
The Cock of the Rock was just the beginning of a “show” that was put on for us and three others, as we saw, very hidden in the forest, María, the Giant Antpitta. Later we got a good look at Shakira, an Ochre-Breasted Antpitta. He was very cute, dancing on a log for us. We also saw a Rufous-Bellied Antthrush, and three Dark-Backed Wood-Quail. While waiting for the Wood-Quail to show up, we got to see a Crimson-Rumped Toucanette and a Sickle-Winged Guan! They came to the banana feeders that were put out.
Next, we got to feast our eyes at the hummingbird feeders. It was really fun to watch the “policeman”, a Velvet-Purple Coronet, that was sitting as guard between two of the feeders. He was busily trying to keep other hummingbirds from enjoying the nectar provided for them. Fortunately, hummingbirds are a determined lot, and they didn’t let him keep them away.
Finally, Mr. Paz led us back to his home where strong coffee with warm milk was waiting for us. We enjoyed “Bolon de Verde” and “empanadas” for a typical Ecuadorian breakfast.
As we drove back to the highway we saw lots more birds, including the Ornate Flycatcher and the Red-Billed Parrot, without the benefit of a guide. No doubt that with a guide to tell us what we were seeing and hearing, we would have doubled our list.
Before leaving the “Refugio”, Angel told us where to find a nightjar. Fortunately, he happened to be coming along the road and led us to it. We would never have found the sleeping Lyre-Tailed Nightjar on our own. We were wowed by it’s long tail feathers! What a privilege to see and experience God’s creation in this way.
All together we saw: Cock of the Rock, Giant Antpitta, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Grey-Breasted Wood-Wren, Golden Tanager, Metalic Green Tanager, Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanager, Beryl-Spangled Tanager, Golden-Naped Tanager, Slate-Throated Whitestart, Crimson-Rumped Toucanette, Dark-Backed Wood-Quail,
Sickle-Winged Guan, Olivacious Piha, Ochre-Breasted Antpitta, Rufous-Breasted Antthrush, Flavescent Flycatcher, Empress Brilliant, Booted Racket-Tail, Andean Emerald, Violet-Tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Buff-Tailed Coronet, Velvet-Purple Coronet, Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird, Fawn-Breasted Brilliant, Purple-Throated Woodstar, Speckled Hummingbird, Purple-Bibbed Whitetip, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Red-Billed Parrot, Lyre-Tailed Nightjar, Swallow-Tailed Kite, Ornate Flycatcher, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, White-Winged Brush-Finch
Next blog: Río Silanche and the Yellow House trails
We just returned from a month in Ecuador where we visited our daughter, Jennifer. Now, because we are birders, and Ecuador has 1, 600 amazing species of birds, we just had to see some of them. Jennifer was happy to go along with us and turned out to be an awesome spotter, as well as secretary. The next few blogs will be about our trip and some of the birds we saw.
We helped make history as we flew into Quito’s new airport. They had just opened it that day. Of course, inaugurating something new also means inexperience for many workers as they try to get the kinks out of their system. So it took 1 1/2 hours to get out of the airport. Also, the airport is 1 hour from town, at least in the middle of the night. By day, no doubt longer. So beware of the time difference if you are planning a trip to Ecuador and have read previous accounts of Ecuadorian birding trips.
We began our trip the very next day as we went to Mitad del Mundo. (I should insert in here that we had the use of a car for our trip, for which we are extremely grateful.) My husband went wandering around with his GPS and found that the “middle of the earth” isn’t quite spot on. But it is very close, and close enough for most of us.
There, we excitedly identified our first Ecuadorian bird, the Rufous-Collared Sparrow. He was very cute, which is a good thing, since we were to see him at nearly every place we went. We also saw: Brown-Bellied Swallow, Vermilion Flycatcher, Eared Dove.
Heading west, we stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant called Los Armadillos. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they have hummingbird feeders which were constantly visited by gorgeous hummingbirds. I could barely eat (as good as the food was) as I took lots of pictures for later identification.
There we saw: Buff-Tailed Coronet, Andean Emerald, Green-Tailed Trainbearer ?, White-Bellied Woodstar, Purple-Bibbed Whitetip, Violet-Tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Gorgetted Woodstar, Green-Crowned Brilliant, Piractic Flycatcher, Empress Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-Breasted Brilliant, Purple-Throated Woodstar, Band-Tailed Pigeon.
The rain chased us inside, but we kept on birding from a covered porch as we sipped our coffee. That evening we arrived in Mindo where we stayed 3 nights at the Yellow House.
More on that in a future blog.
? = Still checking this out
Any comments or corrections to the labels on the pictures are welcome.