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ANNIVERSARY IN THE RAINFOREST – PART 3

November 19, 2013
Watching birds at lunch

Watching birds at lunch

 

 

The staff was waiting for us and served us a lovely lunch (soup, smoked ham chops, potatoes, etc) out on the patio so we could watch the hummers come and go to the feeders. It was after 2:30 when we finished and I was ready for a nap. Phil and Julio went on some of the trails around the lodge and up into the nearby forest, and of course he found a flock of Tufted Tit-Tyrants. I’ll never see that bird. And at this point, I don’t give a damn. Except that they’re so cute! After my nap, I took advantage of the hot water available and had a shower.

When they got back, nothing would do but Phil had to take me out to re-trace their steps and find me the Tufted cuties. We wandered around the nearby trails, going to the exact spot where they had seen them not a half hour before, and of course, they were nowhere to be found. The Tufted curse strikes again.

We went down to the lounge to find some hot tea and coffee and chat with some of the other guests before dinner. The Chinese couple had left during the day, but they had gone to the San Jorge de Tandayapa Eco-lodge, our destination for the next day, so we might see them again. They were a friendly young couple, not birders, but avid photographers and were headed for the Galapagos in a few days. They spoke fairly good English, he in the computer tech industry and she in banking.

Julio ate dinner with us and we discussed plans for the next day. He was going to have to go into Quito to pick up 3 people at a hotel who had arranged to go with us to Tandayapa. Then he would come back and pick us up. We’d have to be ready for 6am breakfast. I wasn’t too keen on having to spend the day sharing our guide, but we had known there might be others on our daily tours.
Day 4, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. San Jorge de Tandayapa Eco-lodge & Hummingbird Sanctuary
Vincente surprised us with a call at 5am and said we should be ready for 5:30 breakfast, so we had to hurry and get ready. For some reason, we were going earlier. Fruit, eggs, tea and coffee and we were on our way. Instead of Julio picking us up, Vincente was taking us part way to town to meet him. We weren’t sure why the change of plans, but we were putty in their hands. It was sort of nice in a way to be totally irresponsible. We met Julio along a roadside, and he and Vincente traded places. Julio was alone – the “townies” had cancelled on him, so there we were again, with our own private guide. Fine with us!

We zoomed through the streets and were soon on the “new road” to Tandayapa. This was a road we had driven on our first trip to Ecuador – on our way west from the airport to the town of Mindo, only this time Phil could actually watch the scenery, which is spectacular. Mountains covered by forests, valleys you can’t see the bottoms of, farms here and there on the steep sides – amazing to see it all. And Phil didn’t have to worry about the drivers, all of which he had named “Ecuadorio Andretti”.

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Crimson-rumped Toucanet

We turned left on a dirt road – unmarked of course – leading to the San Jorge de Tandayapa Eco-lodge and preserve high up in the cloud forest, elevation about 5500 feet – a little over a mile. On our 08/09 trip (without a guide) we tried to find that dirt road and ended up in Quito! I’m still not sure we could find it again even now. If we could master GPS coordinates maybe we could. We stayed at the Eco-lodge the previous trip and were their 2nd guests ever, and the lodge had not quite been completed at that time. But we loved it! We were looking forward to seeing it again, and trying out their new road up to the lodge. Previously, you had to hike about 30 minutes up their trails to get there, carrying your luggage.

The new road up to the lodge is as challenging as any steep dirt/rock road we’ve experienced in the mountains of North Carolina. And we still had to walk about 10 minutes up to the buildings from the parking area. But it is nice to be at the lodge and not look out on a parking lot. We got up to the dining cabana and there were our Chinese friends, David and Paige (Anglicized versions of their names)! They were so pleased to see us, and hadn’t known we were coming. I think they had only been expecting Julio and had been invited to hike with us. So they finished their breakfast, while we ogled all the birds at the many feeders hanging around the cabana and took loads of photo

 

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Booted Racket-tail

It’s incredible how many birds gather at the feeders – many designed specifically for hummingbirds, and in that brief time we saw Green-crowned Brilliants, Buff-tailed Coronets, Andean Emeralds, Booted Racket-tails, Purple-throated Woodstars, Brown Violetears and Violet-tailed Sylphs – all very fancy names for hummingbirds. And I’m sure we missed some! One tree was devoted to fruit-eating birds and while we watched, it was visited by Golden Tanagers, Orange-bellied Euphonias (which were new for us), White-winged Brush-Finches, Golden-naped Tanagers, Lemon-rumped Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonias and Flame-faced Tanagers. The display of colors would astound you. Another tree was draped with bananas and attracted the larger Red-headed Barbets and Crimson-rumped Toucanets. As with any experience like this, it’s hard to know where to look first! And what are they all? And where are they in the bird book? You have to look fast, and remember that any minute they’ll be back again, or something even more wonderful will show up! On the ground, maybe 50 feet away across a clearing, some kind of grain had been scattered, and there stood a bird we didn’t know. Obviously a ground-feeding seed-eater – a large quail-dove. We learned it was the White-throated Quail-Dove, another new bird for us.

We finally were encouraged (prodded?) by Julio to gather our belongings so we could get out on the trails in the forest. David and Paige didn’t have binoculars, but were laden with cameras with long lenses and a tripod. We learned quickly that whenever anyone found a bird, Paige was on it with her camera in a few seconds. She was a good spotter. David carried a video camera. They both smiled a lot and were very pleasant to be with, and very interested in the birds. We also pointed out plants, mushrooms, and insects for them. During the morning Paige expressed their wish that education in China could take students out of doors more. What an idea – field trips to teach natural history concepts!

The trails at the Tandayapa Eco-lodge are wonderful! They wind up and down, back and forth, switchbacks through the lush rainforest/cloud forest that surrounds you with endless shades of green. Occasionally, we could get glimpses of other mountains and forests in the distance. We were in the middle of nowhere, but in one of our most beloved places on earth. Nothing but jungle sounds, a watery dribble of a stream here and there. Julio said he heard a deer at one spot. He heard many things we didn’t, and those sounds usually alerted him to birds that were around. We would stop quietly, not talking much as we walked along, and he would make pishing noises to entice the birds closer. Or if he could identify the bird he was hearing, which was often the case, he would play the tape of their song to lure them closer. Usually, if we were observant enough and followed his directions, we got to see the bird. And David and Paige got photos and videos of them and were as excited as we were.

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David and Paige

We hiked for about 3 hours and added several birds to our trip list – Yellow-bellied Seedeaters (in a grassy area near the buildings), Montane Woodcreeper at the edge of the forest, a migrant Red-eyed Vireo in the trees nearby, a Barred Hawk soaring overhead, and as we got back inside the forest we found White-tailed Tyrannulet, Slate-throated Whitestart, heard and then saw a Plumbeous Pigeon (new for us). Julio made an odd noise and an Immaculate Antbird came closer, Phil saw an Ornate Flyctcher, and I found a Golden-crowned Flycatcher. Among the many tropical rainforest plants I enjoyed seeing was a ground cover that looked very much like Florida “Basket Grass” – a shade-loving ground cover. Of course, many red, orange, yellow, and purple gingers and heliconias were blooming.

There is a popular and famous birding spot near Mindo called Angel Pas Antpitta Farm, where Angel has managed to get several species of antpittas to come to worms he offers them. We visited there on our previous trip (future blog). He calls to them from the trail and they come out to get the tasty morsels. Julio is trying the same thing on the Tandayapa trails, and along the walk he picked up a couple of worms and carried them until he came to a place where he has seen antpittas. He called “Juanito”, we listened, we waited, he called several more times, but no antpitta appeared. Maybe the next time we go there, Julio will have them better trained. No matter – it was a wonderful morning!

Tandayapa Trails

Back at the cabana for lunch, we watched the feeders again and saw 4 more species of hummingbirds! Purple-bibbed White-tip, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, and a White-necked Jacobin. Don’t you love those names? And who thinks these things up? That brought us up to eleven species of hummers for the day! Overwhelming! Also, a Black-capped Tanager, a Palm Tanager and a Russet-backed Oropendola (new for us) showed up at the fruit feeders. What a day! And we weren’t finished yet.

NOTE: One advantage of spending the night at the San Jorge de Tandayapa Eco-lodge is that mammals frequently visit the feeding stations after dark. One animal that has been reported recently is the newly discovered Olinguito, a small member of the Raccoon family. This animal was previously thought to be an Olingo, which looks similar, but the snout shape and teeth are different. The zoologist who made the discovery, Kris Helgen, of the Smithsonian, said the new mammal had been mistaken as an Olingo for years. In fact, there had been one in U.S. zoos in the 1960’s and 1970’s and even though it had refused to breed or mingle with other Olingos, no one realized it wasn’t the same species! It lives in the cloud forests and is not considered to be endangered. And they may be living at Tandayapa!

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3 Comments
  1. Denise Clarey permalink

    You two rock! It was another great read on my day off from John G’s. Hope my love Doug will enjoy many “bird” adventures with me.

  2. Bruce & Joanne permalink

    We really enjoyed your report and I know the birds must have been spectacular. I can’t even visualize how pretty they were

  3. Wonderful report and long list of bird sightings. You must have been in heaven!

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