December 19, 2009
Antisana Ecological Reserve
Approximately 4,000 m.
We had been advised that our guide would meet us at the Sebastian Hotel at 06:00h so we went downstairs a little after 05:30h to get breakfast, only to discover that the hotel does not begin breakfast service until 06:30h. Coffee was ready so we served ourselves and went back to our room. A little while later I went down to recheck and there was cereal and fruit available so I returned to get Miriam and we breakfasted accordingly.
Our guide, Alejandro Solano-Ugalde (about whom more later) was there to meet us and by 06:15h we were outside greeting our driver Augusto Molina Palma, and we set off for the Antisana Ecological Reserve. We were so happy to have a driver in addition to a guide, unlike the idiotic situation with Rockjumper in South Africa last year when the guide did double duty as driver; hence was often unable to spot birds and keep an eye on the road at the same time, and wound up many days totally exhausted.
As we approached the high altitude of Antisana the clouds started to roll in over the paramo, but an early clear sighting of a Tawny Antpitta made us feel quite elated. We scanned the cliff faces for Andean Condor; there was much evidence of roost sites but no birds, unfortunately. It started to rain a little as we entered the grasslands where there were many Carunculated Caracaras, truly an interesting-looking bird. Pretty soon we saw about twenty-five Black-faced Ibis, rare and very local in the paramo, and were advised by Alejandro that it was the largest flock he had seen in quite a while. They were joined by Andean Lapwings so we had the exhilaration of literally about a hundred Carunculated Caracaras, the Black-faced Ibis and the Andean Lapwings spread before our eyes. Then, as I glanced at the grass at the side of the road, the highly localized Paramo Pipit presented itself in full view.
To cap off this regal panoply a Cinereous Harrier zoomed across the grasslands and faded into the distance.
A little while later we located Stout-billed and Bar-winged Cinclodes in the same location.
We stopped at Mica Cocha (Lake) and scanned for Silvery Grebe, Andean Coot, Andean Ruddy Duck, Andean Teal and Yellow-billed Pintail. There were none of the expected Andean Gulls, although we did see three flying a little later.
We ate our boxed lunch overlooking the lake and enjoyed it very much. It consisted of meat balls, salad, green plantain chips, juice, fruit and an assortment of candies and gum.
The Antisana Volcano was shrouded for most of the day but we did get fleeting glimpses through the clouds.
On the way back to Quito we had the great fortune to get an Ecuadorian Hillstar in the scope for very prolonged looks. What a gorgeous bird! Earlier we had also seen a Giant Hummingbird and were astounded at its size.
As we alighted from the van at the Sebastian Hotel Mercedes Rivadeneira of Neblina Forest stepped forward to greet us and after shedding some of the heavy clothes we had worn for the cold of the high paramo we were joined by her and her husband, Xavier Munoz, for a cup of tea in the lobby.
We took dinner at the hotel and the food was adequate but certainly not exceptional. We shared a a shrimp cocktail, quite different from a North American shrimp cocktail - the shrimps were steamed in tomato sauce and served with popcorn and roasted corn nuts. For the main course Miriam chose Esmeraldas coconut shrimp sauteed with onions, tomatoes and coconut milk. I selected Quintenian-style beefsteak, grilled and served with potatoes, fried plantain, a fried egg, rice and salad. We each had a glass of the house red wine.
We were back in our room by 19:30h where we read for a while and turned in for an early night to get ready for the trip to Yanacocha the next day.
All species December 19 - Andean Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Ruddy Duck, Silvery Grebe, Black-faced Ibis, Carunculated Caracara, American Kestrel, Cinereous Harrier, Variable Hawk, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Common Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eared Dove, Black-winged Ground Dove, White-collared Swift, Sparkling Violetear, Shining Sunbeam, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Blackish Tapaculo (heard), Tawny Antpitta, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero (heard), Azara’s Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, Barn Swallow, Sedge Wren, Great Thrush, Paramo Pipit, Hooded Siskin, Spectacled Whitestart, Black-crested Warbler, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Rufous-naped Brush Finch, Black Flowerpiercer, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Grassland Yellow Finch.