Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ecuador December 20, 2009

December 20, 2009
Yanacocha Reserve (4,200 m.), Old Nono-Mindo Road to Tandayapa.

Breakfast at Sebastian is getting more meagre! Today there was only coffee, toast and strawberry jam.
We returned to our room to finish packing our suitcases and met Alejandro and Augusto in the lobby around 06:00h. We headed to Yanacocha under a mix of sun and cloud.
On the way we passed by a couple of ovens where traditional clay bricks are made for housing. Apparently they are more durable and have better insulation qualities than commercial bricks.
We entered the old Nono-Mindo Road on cobblestones which were installed at the time of the original Spanish conquest of Ecuador. There were many introduced Eucalyptus trees and numerous small subsistence plots with local farmers tending their crops and livestock.
We headed off towards Yanacocha passing through extensive grasslands which had been temperate forests before the time of the conquistadores, when they were cleared to permit cattle grazing on the mountain sides. The scenery was quite spectacular.
We passed an area where a large sign declared that a carbon sequestration project was underway.
Upon arrival at Yanacocha we parked the van at the trail head and headed off with Alejandro. The weather was sunny to begin but the clouds soon rolled in making visibility somewhat more iffy. The singular highlight of the long walk was stunning and prolonged looks at a Barred Fruiteater. Alejandro had been hearing it for a while and finally was able to get it in the scope. Wow! What a magnificent bird.
There were a couple of hummingbird feeders along the trail, but very little action. How different it was when we arrived at the end of the trail. The hummingbird feeders there were bombarded with birds, both hummingbirds and flowerpiercers and we gasped at the stunning display of Speckled Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, the Sword-billed Hummingbird which virtually defies belief, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Tyrian Metaltail, as well as Masked, Glossy and White-sided Flowerpiercers.
The presence of so many hummingbirds prompted Alejandro to tell us a story which we found fascinating. Obviously Ecuador is part of South America, but there is a strong feeling among South Americans that since the term "America" was adopted from the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, following which only discrimination and persecution ensued, it is an inappropriate designation. Furthermore, "America" has been pretty much appropriated by the United States to mean only citizens of that country.
Therefore, since hummingbirds are the jewels of the continent and, other than relatively few species, are found only in South America, a prominent and well-respected biologist is making presentations to the governments of all South American nations that the continent be renamed Colibria. This idea was first advanced by the legendary Ecuadorian biologist Ortiz-Crispo. Sounds like a fine and worthwhile idea to me, but I wonder how much serious consideration it will receive.
It is perhaps interesting that I have mentioned this proposal to the South Americans who work for me and to a man they are in favour.
Before leaving to return to the van a Rufous Antpitta gathering nesting material delighted us for about ten minutes. Prior to coming to Ecuador we had encountered but one antpitta and now we had increased our total of species seen to three, with an Undulated Antpitta calling loudly, but remaining hidden. This was merely the start of what would be an antpitta extravaganza!
We walked back to the beginning of the trail where Augusto was parked and enjoyed lunch al fresco with a couple of friends of Alejandro, American biologists who have lived in Ecuador for a considerable number of years. That day they were engaged in a search to find the nest of Undulated Antpitta and were happy to report that they thought they had succeeded. Our lunch box was pretty much the same as yesterday but instead of meat balls there were chicken and beef kebabs and breaded zucchini.
We left for Nono, heading for the Tandayapa Valley, taking a paved road alongside a fast-flowing river with rapids that seemed to be ideal habitat for White-capped Dipper. We walked in the rain for a while but had no success. We reboarded the van and stopped shortly thereafter when Alejandro spotted a Sickle-winged Guan in a silver-leafed Cecropia. The sharp eyes of Augusto, who had disembarked along with us, spotted an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock fly into the forest on the other side of the stream. We waited patiently and finally, much to our delight, it flew out.
It was raining steadily and fairly heavily, but an additional stop on the edge of a small town yielded a better look at Sickle-winged Guan, Powerful Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Slate-throated Whitestart and several other species.
By 16:45h the rain had become a veritable downpour and we drove on towards Sachatamia Lodge, our dwelling for the next three nights, arriving at 18:00h. The lodge is rustic and charming, but it appears that a little work is needed on the roof. In our room there were two beds but the rain was steadily dripping on one of them. Fortunately the second bed was a queen size bed so the drip didn’t bother us. I am sure it was not a thrill for the owners of the lodge, however! When we went down to dinner at 19:00h there were a couple of areas where water was coming in through the dining room roof, one of them right onto Alejandro until he moved to the side a little!
Before dinner we were served a traditional welcome drink made of heated fruit juice and sugar cane alcohol. It was a lovely gesture and very tasty indeed. Dinner was a fine affair - a vegetable soup with popcorn (popcorn is routinely served with soup in Ecuador), local trout, mixed vegetables, a sort of "stacked" potato cake and rice. A slice of a very tasty cake served as dessert.
We did our lists with Alejandro and retired to our room. We were in bed a little after 21:00h. I suspect that there is no soundproofing in the lodge and we could easily hear other people’s conversation and even someone snoring in an adjacent room. We were tired, however, and it didn’t prevent us from enjoying a good night’s sleep.

Accommodation: Sachatamia Lodge. Rating: Four stars.

All species December 20 - Sickle-winged Guan, Plain-breasted hawk, Roadside Hawk, Eared Dove, White-capped Parrot (heard), Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Sierran Elaenia, White-throated Tyrannulet, White-banded Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Ocellated Tapaculo (heard), Spillmann’s Tapaculo (heard), Undulated Antpitta (heard), Rufous Antpitta (carrying nest material), Spotted Barbtail (heard), Turquoise Jay, Blue-and-White Swallow, Grey-breasted Wood Wren (heard), Great Thrush, Glossy Black Thrush, Slate-throated Whitestart, Spectacled Whitestart, Russet-crowned Warbler, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Rufous-naped Brush Finch, White-winged Brush Finch, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Blue-grey Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Black-chested Mountain Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Cinereous Conebill, Blue-backed Conebill, Glossy Flowerpiercer, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Plain-coloured Seedeater.

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