December 25, 2009
Christmas day in Ecuador
Papallacta - Cayambe/Coca Ecological Reserve - Papallacta Lake and Side Road
We met Alejandro at 06:30h and birded the grounds at Termas for a half hour before going in for breakfast.
An extensive buffet featuring fruit juices, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, fruits, cereal and a variety of breads were offered, along with dark, rich coffee.
We returned to our room for a few minutes and then were on our way to the ecological reserve at 07:45h. We parked at the entrance and walked in a way finding a stunning Red-crested Cotinga, looking for all the world as though it wore a pony tail. Viridian Metaltails danced in the gloomy light of a misty morning and a couple of Andean Gulls were spotted flying over a ridge. Many White-collared Swifts were flying around and were quite low due to the dense low cloud. We really could examine their plumage and appreciate just how big they are.
We worked our way back to the ranger station where we took advantage of the washroom and then wended our way downhill. Augusto picked us up at 11:20h. The weather was cool and heavily overcast, but the rain held off.
Arriving back at the lodge there was time to spare before lunch, so Miriam and I relaxed on lawn chairs in emerging sunshine while Alejandro and Augusto once again took advantage of the hot springs at the spa.
Lunch consisted of spinach and potato soup with chunks of cheese; then beef stroganoff with fettuccine and cream-filled chocolate cake for dessert. I passed mine over to Augusto. Miriam had a glass of blackberry juice, I enjoyed soursop. The juices here were quite incredible, about the same consistency as a smoothie and utterly delicious.
We relaxed in our room for a little while, following which Miriam and I birded the grounds by ourselves. It was fun to be compelled to identify species without having Alejandro to call on. We had intended to buy postcards but Alejandro had kindly purchased some for us earlier, taking advantage of the fact that the gift shop was open.
Augusto was ready to drive us to Papallacta Lake at 15:00h and we all left. When we arrived at our destination a gate was locked, blocking the road in. Alejandro mentioned that entry had been barred in this way recently, although there appeared to be no consistency in whether the gate was open or not.
We walked in for quite a distance up a steady incline, when finally loud claps of thunder convinced us to head back. By 17:00h we were safely ensconced in the van and heading to Termas.
We returned to our room and got ready for dinner at 19:00h. It was Christmas Day so we bought a bottle of Castillo del Diablo white for us all to share with our dinner. The soup was, as usual quite delectable, and we were offered a choice of entree. Grilled chicken, beef or local fresh trout were available; Alejandro opted for the trout, the rest of us had chicken. The entrees were served on a bed of red cabbage with potatoes, broccoli and carrots. Dessert was a choice of mousse or fig pie - Alejandro and Miriam had the pie, Augusto and I chose mousse.
We did our lists and returned to our room at 20:30h.
All species December 25 - Plain-breasted Hawk, Roadside Hawk, White-rumped Hawk, Andean Gull, White-collared Swift, Shining Sunbeam, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Tyrian Metaltail, Viridian Metaltail, Red-crested Cotinga, White-throated Tyrannulet, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Paramo Tapaculo (heard), Rufous Antpitta (heard), Tawny Antpitta (heard), Crescent-faced Antpitta (heard), White-chinned Thistletail, Brown-bellied Swallow, Sedge Wren (heard), Mountain Wren (heard), Great Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Black-crested Warbler (heard), Rufous-collared Sparrow, Pale-naped Brush Finch, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager (heard), Cinereous Conebill, Black-backed Bush Tanager.