December 23, 2009
Sachatamia - Mashpi - La Mitad del Mundo - Quito
We had set our alarm for 04:30h and were downstairs for breakfast at 05:00h, our suitcases already packed. Breakfast was similar to our first morning at Sachatamia except that we had an omelette instead of fried eggs.
By 05:50h we were underway and encountered a herd of cows being escorted along the main highway. It had been clear when we awoke but clouds had moved in when we left the lodge.
We headed towards Mashpi Forest travelling through Santa Elena, Tulipe (where an ancient culture predated the Incas), Gualea Cruz, Gualea (the oldest village in NW Ecuador) and Pacto. Then we turned onto a gravel road.
Along the way we saw a Swallow Tanager perched in a tree near an area where a fire had recently burned due to the extremely dry conditions which had existed for some time.
At the pass we left the van and birded for quite a while, seeing a nice variety of species, with a great look at a rare and unexpected Black Solitaire. Alejandro’s main target was Indigo Flowerpiercer, a species he has located in this area previously, but despite an intensive effort we came up empty. Numerous Ornate Flycatchers were delightful companions.
Our box lunch contained breaded pork chop, pasta salad and canned peaches and a tetra pack of juice.
The weather had been mostly good with only sporadic patches of cloud rolling in. There was a brief period of misty drizzle.
We walked for a short distance after lunch and then climbed back into the van to retrace our steps back to the highway. By 14:35h we were heading for the monument at La Mitad del Mundo under steady rain. Around 15:30h we passed into the western range of the Andes and the climatic change was dramatic. Suddenly the landscape was semi-desert.
It was fun to stop at the middle of the world where the equator is marked on the ground. There are all kinds of monuments here and a church where couples can be married with one party in the northern hemisphere, the other in the southern hemisphere. Miriam and I had Alejandro take a picture of us, binoculars raised, each birding in a different hemisphere.
We did a quick tour of the area which is filled with restaurants and souvenir shops, bought a couple of postcards and then headed for Quito.
Traffic in Quito is insane! It would be a brave person who would rent a car at the airport and attempt to navigate the streets of Quito. It seems that when drivers need to make a turn they just cross their fingers, perhaps even close their eyes and go for it! Thank goodness for the steady hand of Augusto at the wheel.
We were deposited back at the Sebastian Hotel at about 17:30h and it almost felt like coming home! Miriam ran a bath and soaked for a while, we did a little laundry and relaxed until after 19:00h when we went down for dinner.
As previously, dinner was pedestrian in quality. We shared miniature corn tortillas filled with guacamole and choco beans. I chose chicken and rice with sauteed onions, bell peppers and peas. Miriam’s choice was tagliatelle with zucchini in a sauce served on a spinach pasta.
We each had a glass of the house red wine.
Returning to the room we watched television for a while and were fast asleep in bed before 22:00h.
All species December 23 - Dark-backed Wood Quail (heard), Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, American Kestrel, Hook-billed Kite, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Roadside Hawk, Common Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Plumbeous Pigeon, Ruddy Pigeon, Eared Dove, White-tipped Dove, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Green Violetear, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Speckled Hummingbird, Booted Racket-tail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Toucan Barbet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Barred Becard, Black-and-White Becard, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Ornate Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant (heard), Smoke-coloured Pewee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Slaty Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Narino Tapaculo (heard), Pacific Hornero, Red-faced Spinetail, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Lineated Foliage-gleaner (heard), Uniform Treehunter (heard), Montane Woodcreeper, Brown-capped Vireo, Blue-and-white Swallow, Sepia-brown Wren, Southern House Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Southern Nightingale- Wren (heard), Swainson’s Thrush, Black Solitaire, Great Thrush, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Whitestart, Choco Warbler (heard), Three-striped Warbler, Shiny Cowbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Tricoloured Brush Finch, White-lined Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Golden Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Dusky Bush Tanager.