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December 7, 2013


While our lunch was being prepared, we were treated to glasses of fresh lemonade and sat in the lovely forest setting watching the birds come and go to the feeders. What an Eden it is there. Since we stayed there in 08/09, George Cruz, the owner, has added a two-story lodge, which adds several rooms to their facility. The grounds around where the construction took place have been filled with flowering bird-attracting shrubbery such as huge flowering bushes of blue Porterweed. They’ve done an excellent job of adding accommodations, but still retaining a totally natural feel to the place. Beyond the nearby forest, valleys and mountains are visible through the clouds with tall Cecropia trees shining gray against the many shades of green. Eden.

Our lunch began with a delicious shrimp gazpacho appetiser, filled with onions and other fresh vegetables, followed by a yummy potato soup. The entrée was grilled tilapia with a cucumber salad and a lentil side dish. Dessert was a fig in some kind of sweet sauce. On our previous stay, Senora Cruz (Erina) had come to  Tandayapa to cook for us, and we knew she was an expert chef. So, this trip, when I had a chance to speak to her, I asked if she was still the “head chef” and meal planner and she said she was. (Vicente’s wife, Rosa, was cooking for us at San Jorge de Quito.) I complimented Erina profusely on all the food we had been served. Not only that, they had gone the extra mile for me in making sure my meals had no wheat in them. Once in a while my soup would be specially made and my dessert would be different from the rest. I really appreciated them taking care of me in this way.

During lunch, David and Paige told Julio that they wanted to try to photograph the spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.  Julio said that there was a place not too far away where we might have a chance to see one, if it was OK with Phil and me to take the time to do it. The only other thing on our itinerary for the rest of the day was making our way back to San Jorge de Quito by way of the famous Nono-Mindo Road – mainly to look for Torrent Ducks. We had seen Cock-of-the-Rock before – in fact on each of our previous 2 trips to Ecuador, but we were up for anything, and there was always the possibility of adding others birds to our list – perhaps even new ones. So we packed up, added two more lifers to our list at the dining cabana (the Russet-backed Oropendula and a Wedge-billed Hummer) and hiked back down to the car. Phil observed something he had always wanted to see: the Wedge-billed Hummingbird piercing the base of the flower, rather than reaching in through the top of the blossom. This enabled the bird to access the nectar without picking up any pollen, and so that means that this bird is considered to be a parasite rather than a helpful pollinator like most hummingbirds are. We would have to return David and Paige to the lodge when we were finished, since they were spending another night there, before they went on to the Galapagos.


We drove toward Julio’s Cock-of-the-Rock spot along a dirt road and on the way  stopped and birded several times and found Strong-billed Woodcreeper and Beautiful Jays (That’s their real name – and they are!). Both of them were new for us. We also saw a Toucan Barbet, a Crimson-Mantled Woodpecker, and Spotted Woodcreepers. At another stop Julio found a Sickle-winged Guan, Tyrinine Woodcreeper, which was new for Phil, and a Hooded Mountain-Tanager, which was new for both of us. So we added several new birds!


At the place where Julio had been seeing Cock-of-the-Rock, we watched and waited for the bird to appear across a deep ravine. This was the location of a lek where the male birds show off to each other, and for a couple of days a year the females come and watch and select a mate from among the show-offs. We stood around for about  half an hour, watching and waiting, scanning the trees for this fabulous large scarlet red/orange bird with huge white patches on its back.  Wandering back and forth on the road, Julio finally heard one calling. He had his scope ready, and suddenly out popped the bird, a beautiful Andean Cock-of-the Rock, who was calling for someone – anyone – to come look at how spectacular he was. So we gladly obliged, and in a minute or so, he was gone. Poof. Paige and David got some great photos – her telephoto lens really was terrific. We were all exhilarated!

Nothing left to do then but return them to the lodge and head for “home”. We had spent a great day together, we exchanged email addresses, wished them well on their Galapagos adventure, took photos together, and said goodbye – to our first Chinese friends. We hoped we would see them again one day.


By this time we were losing daylight. We only had a couple of hours left to find more birds and get back for 7pm dinner. So we headed down the old Nono-Mindo Road, east toward Quito, stopping at places Julio thought might produce some birds. The road follows the Alambi River, a rushing, tumbling narrow waterway coming down from the mountains, and every place where we could see the river, we pulled over and searched assiduously for our target bird – the Torrent Duck – a bird we had failed to find on previous trips. These birds are similar in habits to our North American Harlequin Ducks that live around rushing mountain streams out west. We stopped at bridges, getting out of the car to look upstream and down, searching around the trout farms we passed, watching at every place close to the river, and finally found them, almost at the last spot where we could see the river.

There were 2 males (uncommon to see males together, Julio said) standing on a rock in the river, and while we watched them from about 100 feet away, they ducked into the water, reappeared and arched their backs and spread their tails, and disappeared. Got ‘em! They are such beautiful ducks, the males with long necks, white on the sides of the face with two thin black lines coming from the eye and going down the neck. Very distinguished-looking. It was getting darker so the only other bird we stopped for was to get a good look at a White-capped Dipper, also on a rock in the river, just like our North American Dipper.

Torrent Duck Photo by Adam Ripley,

Torrent Duck Photo by Adam Ripley,

Then we high-tailed it for home to make it in time for dinner, going through the small but tidy town of Nono. When we went through there in 08/09 I was impressed to learn that it had been designated a “Red Zone” – known to be in the path of volcanic earthquakes and rainstorm landslides and mudslides. Chaos! I had to remind myself that more than 10 peaks in Ecuador were over 15,000 feet high, and several of the 28 volcanoes in Ecuador were still active! I remarked then that “ Nono was the cleanest, nicest-looking village we had seen, with freshly painted houses, a Rotary Club meeting place, a huge school, Catholic church (of course) and lots of smiling, friendly-looking people – many of them looking very Indigenous – right off the Incan carvings.”

I wonder if we could stay in Nono some day . . .



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  1. Sarah Davis Dean permalink

    This was an awesome article. Thanks! Xoxo, Sarah

  2. I can’t believe you saw the scarlet bird. It seems incredible to also get a shot of him. How wonderful!

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