Recently I read a blog that I want to pass on to you. The link is: http://www.hyattmoore.com/blank-slate/ It is something I needed to hear/read and maybe you need it too. Hyatt says it so well that I just wanted to give you the link.
Besides the main road that goes along the ridges of the Andes Mountains is another, less traveled, road along the east slope of the mountains. Our plan was to take that road north from Zamora to Quito.
After a leisurely morning at Copalinga, we headed north on the eastern route E45. Along the way we stopped at a bridge because we saw some large birds in a tree. It turned out to be a fun stop with a number of birds. We saw a few new ones there as well as old friends:
Violaceous Jay, Black Vulture, Silver-Beaked Tanager, Great-Tailed Grackle, Russet-Backed Oropendula, Black Caracara, Roadside Hawk, Social Flycatcher, White-Banded Swallow, Thick-Billed Euphonia
In the early evening we arrived in Macas where we stayed at Casa Upana, a bed and breakfast recommended to us by our hostess in Copalinga. There we enjoyed some hors d’oeuvres as we got acquainted with our hosts before we headed out for supper. The accommodations were very comfortable and our hosts were friendly. (http://www.realnaturetravel.com)
Early the next morning our host, who is a bird guide, took us into his large backyard where we saw the following species:
Ash-Browed Spinetail, Bananaquit, Black Vulture, Black-Billed Thrush, Black-Throated Mango, Blue-Black Grassquit, Blue-Grey Tanager, Blue-Necked Tanager, Blue-Tailed Emerald, Bran-Colored Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Golden-Faced Tyrannulet, Great Antshrike, Greyish Saltator, Lesser Kiskadee, Lined Antshrike, Palm Tanager, Red Pileated-Finch, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Silver-Beaked Tanager, Social Flycatcher, Spot-Breasted Woodpecker, Swainson’s Thrush, Tropical Kingbird, Tropical Mockingbird, White-Bellied Woodstar, White-Lined Tanager
We were all very excited to see the Red Pileated-Finch as it was a special find. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of him, but I was able to capture some other birds on camera which to us were also exciting.
After birding, his wife treated us to a fantastic breakfast served on a porch where eating was punctuated by bird sitings. We would have loved to stay longer and check out the birding possibilities there but we had to leave.
We set out for Quito, still on the eastern road. When we got to the Napo river we went along the facing road for a short ways and stopped. We walked down a trail towards the river. There our attention was drawn to some long-tailed birds that turned out to be Long-Tailed Tyrant. Then we saw a woodpecker with a yellow eye and red breast! It was Yellow-Tufted Woodpecker. Our quick stop there produced:
Blue-Winged Parrotlet, Greater Yellow-Headed Vulture, Least Sandpiper?, Lesser Seed-Finch?, Long-Tailed Tyrant, Masked Tityra, Magpie Tanager, Mottled-Backed Elaenia, Osprey, Russet-Backed Oropendola, Smooth-Billed Ani, Thick-Billed Euphonia, Tropical Kingbird, White-Throated Spadebill, Yellow-Browed Sparrow, Yellow-Tufted Woodpecker
We hurried back to the car and set out hoping to arrive in Quito that evening. An hour north of Tena we were stopped by some police who told us that a bridge was washed out on the road ahead. They said it wouldn’t be transitable for a week. The only way to Quito was back along the same road to Puyo and west to Baños. It was a long way back. We had a late supper in Shell then stopped in Baños at 10:00 that night. Needless to say, we were tired and couldn’t go on.
The next morning we made our way to Quito on the main highway. There we rested up during the afternoon and said goodbye to our daughter and Ecuador in the wee hours of the morning. It was a very special visit and one which will remain in our hearts and minds for a long time.
Just past Zamora is the Bombuscaro entrance to Podocarpus National Park, and a lodge called Copalinga. (http://www.copalinga.com) The lodge boasts some hummingbird feeders and some bushes that attract those beautiful little birds. We were told that a week or two earlier there had been a lot of different species of hummingbirds coming all day to the feeders. Unfortunately, bird life is unpredictable and so we missed out on some of the special birds that frequent the lodge. Nevertheless, we were able to see a few of the species that are often there.
The Copalinga lodge was a pleasant place to stay. We enjoyed resting in hammocks and overlooking the forest, when we weren’t out birding, and their breakfast was outstanding. Our hostess was very helpful with the birds too. One evening she took us, along with other birders that were there, to see a Blackish Nightjar that was nesting along the road to Podocarpus. That was a real treat that we wouldn’t have enjoyed on our own.
On our last morning in Copalinga we hiked one of the trails on the property, but weren’t able to see much. We had read glowing reports of this place, but I guess we were too far into Ecuador’s rainy season. I would still go back for the birds, perhaps at a different time of year. You never know what you will find, and that is part of the adventure that is birding.
Black-Throated Brilliant, Blue Dacnis, Blue-Grey Tanager, Blue and White Swallow, Blue-Necked Tanager, Canada Warbler, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Fork-Tailed Woodnymph, Glittering-Throated Emerald, Green Hermit, House Wren, Magpie Tanager, Orange-Bellied Euphonia, Orange-Billed Sparrow, Silver-Beaked Tanager, Sooty-Headed Tyrannulet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Swallow Tanager, Violet-Bellied Hummingbird, Violet-Fronted Brilliant, Violet-Headed Hummingbird, White-Lined Tanager, Wire-Crested Thorntail
Podocarpus National Park, Bombuscaro
From the parking area there is a long trail to traverse before you arrive at the official entrance to the park. Of course we started birding as soon as we left the car. Once in the park, there are a number of trails to choose from. One leads to a beautiful waterfall, another goes along a river, another goes further into the forest. We did not hike far from the offices in any direction because rain was a constant possibility. One time we were caught in a downpour and were able to find shelter until the worst was over. But most of the time there were only sprinkles off and on.
All was quiet on some trails. We were excited when we came across a mixed flock of feeding tanagers. Within a flock would be several types of tanagers as well as other species of birds.
Thanks to another couple that were there also we were able to identify a couple of birds that we couldn’t figure out on our own. There were no local guides to help us so encountering other birders along the path was very helpful.
Along the road and in the park we saw:
Ashy-Throated Bush-Tanager, Bay-Headed Tanager, Black Phoebe, Blackish Nightjar, Blue Dacnis, Blue-Grey Tanager, Blue-Necked Tanager, Blue and White Swallow, Canada Warbler, Crested Oropendula, Golden Tanager, Green and Gold Tanager, Grey-Hooded Bush-Tanager, Inca Jay, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Orange-Bellied Euphonia, Orange-Eared Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Red-Stained Woodpecker, Silver-Beaked Tanager, Slate-Throated Whitestart, Speckled Chachalaca, Spectacled Whitestart, Spotted Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Thick-Billed Euphonia, Tropical Kingbird, Wedge-Billed Woodcreeper, Wing-Barred Piprites, Yellow-Throated Bush-Tanager
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
“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”
” But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. ” –I Corinthians 15:3-4, 20
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