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Winter Birding in Ecuador – 2015 – Part 7. San Isidro – From Phil’s Journal

January 26, 2017

DAY 5 – JAN. 22, 2015. GUACAMAYOS/ SIERRA AZUL ROAD 

It is cool this morning, and Ann reaches for her LLBean warm puffy jacket and it is not to be found anywhere. In the rush to get loaded at Guango, with rain falling and threatening to get worse, we must have left it draped over the back of a chair, and because it is black, failed to notice it (See, I’m making excuses already.) So now, how to retrieve it? When Mauricio leaves us and returns home, he will go right past the place. Can he pick it up and leave it for us at Puembo to grab on our last night? But Mauricio says he saw it draped across one of our carryon bags, through the handles, and I remember that, too. So a last look in the SUV to see if we left it there. No dice. I walk the back trail to our cabin and there, soaked and forlorn, lies one black, silky LLBean puff where it must have slipped through the handles of that bag. Relief!

 Well, it rained all night, and between the hammering on our metal roof and the head congestion that clears in the morning and returns to plague my sleep at night, neither of us got a lot of sleep. It’s pouring when we rise, and Mauricio announces a reversal of plans for the day. He does not feel that it will be safe or productive to try Guacamayos Ridge in the pouring rain or while the trails are sopping wet.

So we drive up the Sierra Azul Road, a scenic drive that takes us up, up, up through mostly farmland.The road itself was gravel and well-maintained, and the only scary part was crossing a deep ravine on what Mauricio called the Indiana Jones Bridge. The showers are very light through the morning and only sporadic, so we have great birding. Highlights are Southern Lapwing, new for Ann, and which Phil has seen only from a distance at the Panama airport a few years ago. Our best bird will end up being the Black-billed Mountain-Toucan and we’ll have a total of 5 lifers (6 for Ann) for the morning.

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The Indiana Jones Bridge on the Sierra Azul Road

After lunch, Ann has the good sense to take the afternoon off for reading, napping, and hanging out at the feeders . Mauricio and I drove up to Guacamayos Ridge and walked about half of its 4Km length. Rocky and narrow along a very steep slope, we never did reach what we in North Carolina would call a ridge trail. The footing was seldom sure, the surface was rocked with stones that mostly had keen edges sticking up, and the boots I’d borrowed had thin soles and a place that rubbed my left ankle with every other step and not enough room for my toes, especially on down grades. We actually looked at only two birds and heard a half dozen others; the one lifer I got Ann will get two days hence.

Back at the car, I observe a small shrine to the Virgin del Quinche. It’s a glassed-in cubicle in a white-washed concrete block structure placed, like several others we have seen – usually at a pass or blind curve of the highway combined with a hairy drop off. Inside, a lovely ceramic statue of the virgin looks over her children as they drive wrecklessly up the hill and around the curve, and perhaps helps those who don’t make it on their way to their place in heaven.

While we are standing there, a large panel truck pulls part way around the blind curve and stops on the pavement. The driver climbs out and, standing nearly on the centerline of the highway, walks back to his left rear tire and anoints it right there in the road, in front of God and the Virgin and everyone. I guess he figured the Virgin Del Quinche didn’t have enough looking over to do.

Mauricio and I hang around until almost seven, hoping to see Swallow-tailed Nightjars with their huge showy tails swooping just over the trees in the pass. A couple of females zoom by, too fast and too dark and too far to show any field marks. And then two large pale gray birds ascend into the sky directly overhead. Mauricio ID’s them as Andean Potoos, and though I do not get a countable view of their field marks, I am still thrilled to see them. Every other time (3 – 4 in all) I’ve seen a Potoo, it has sat motionless at the tip of a broken snag, looking for all the world, and to any potential predators, like just so much more of the snag. Now I am actually seeing them move, a lovely fluttering moth-like movement ascending higher and higher above me in pursuit of diurnal insects carried up from the forest canopy by the wind through the pass.

Then a third species swoops overhead. His size is larger, his flight is slower, and I can distinctly make out a white necklace against a blackish head and a very dark tummy and a short squared-off tail; those are enough field marks for me to count him as a Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, even though I’d like to see the rufous color some day.

We return for dinner to find as I suspected, Ann, starting to get worried about our late arrival.

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Sparkling Violetear

From Ann’s field notes: We turned in our laundry this morning and it would be returned to us nicely washed and folded that evening. Breakfast was fresh pineapple, toast and scrambled eggs and donuts. The food at both Guango and San Isidro (owned by the same family) is freshly and lovingly and creatively prepared. Always delicious and enjoyable. One fruit/vegetable I had to get translated turned out to be a tree tomato – naranjillo, tomato de arbor. Lunch was soup, ceviche, pork sausages, bean tamale, naranjillo, baked potato, and watermelon.

Sixteen lifers today, including such lovelies as Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Barred Becard, White-bellied Antpitta, Crested Quetzal, Sub-tropical Cacique, Golden-naped Tanager, and the Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher.

 

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Ann under an umbrella.

Ann under an umbrella – Glumeracia.

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3 Comments
  1. Sandi Pray permalink

    Oh the adventures you’ve had! Maybe someday . . . Thank you for sharing 🙂

    >

  2. Denise Clarey permalink

    Adopted an owl from the wildlife sanctuary in the florida keys. Thinking about you two friends and missing your faces at John G’s on Saturday mornings…..🌻💕

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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