Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ecuador December 26, 2009

December 26, 2009
Papallacta - Guango Lodge - Baeza Bypass - Rock Quarry - Cabanas San Isidro

Another lodge without soundproofing! The people in the adjoining room, who seemed to be part of a clan gathering, were in and out of the hot springs until midnight, laughing, drinking, talking loudly, slamming their doors as they went in and out. The door to the toilet was opened frequently, the toilet flushed and when they finally retired to their room the festivities continued and it seemed that everyone took a shower.
Consequently, we barely slept.
I went out at 06:00h to meet Alejandro, but Miriam opted to stay behind to try to get a little sleep before breakfast. We journeyed up to the entrance to the ecological reserve and walked downhill from there. The highlight was two White-capped Dippers "climbing" a waterfall. We had checked the same spot yesterday but Alejandro had commented then that the elevation was higher than where dippers are usually found. This represents the fourth of the world’s five dipper species, with only the Rufous-throated Dipper of northern Argentina/southern Bolivia remaining to be seen. Several Viridian Metaltails were chasing each other and positively glistened as they caught the few shafts of light knifing out from the clouds.
We went for breakfast at 07:00h and Alejandro called Miriam in our room and she joined us. The full buffet was again laid out and we enjoyed a hearty repast.
It was cool and cloudy as we set off for Guango Lodge. Upon arrival there we embarked on a trail that follows the top of the oil pipeline and leads to a surging mountain river, rock strewn with rapids. Immediately we saw two White-capped Dippers, followed by the marvellous spectacle of two Torrent Ducks, a male and a female, swimming in the foaming water. In these rapids we would be unable to stand, firmly planted with two feet on the river bottom, but these ducks navigate the rapids with ease. Both male and female of this species are extremely attractive. We stayed and watched for quite a while. Before leaving, three Torrent Tyrannulets were seen on rocks adjacent to the churning waters, whence they sallied out to catch insects in the spray. It was incredible to watch these tiny birds feeding in this manner.
With the Andes as a backdrop, a pristine mountain stream, clear water with limpid pools behind the rocks on the downside of the rapids, white water, foamy spray, and dippers, torrent ducks and tyrannulets, it was a moving experience to be there. One could forget the problems of the abuse of the earth and simply fill one’s spirit with the pure, unalloyed beauty of nature. It was quite magical and I was fully conscious of the privilege of being there. I was almost moved to tears.
We walked to another vantage point in the river where we saw yet a third dipper and Miriam’s keen eyes detected another pair of Torrent Ducks.
Our stroll back to meet Augusto took us along the pipeline and we were greeted by an army sargeant who wanted to know what we doing there. We could see other military personnel talking to Augusto. Alejandro explained that he was a guide and that we were visitors from Canada visiting Ecuador to see birds. I think this information seemed a little dubious to him, but Miriam showed him some of her photographs, and he seemed to be convinced. I imagine that there is always the potential for illegal acts on a pipeline and no doubt his suspicion had been aroused.
Upon our return to Guango Lodge we were served a delicious cup of hot chocolate which we very much appreciated given that our walk had been in cool weather with a little rain.
The hummingbird feeders at Guango were attended by numerous species and there was a constant buzz of activity. It was quite fabulous and I could even get some species to perch on my finger to feed from the sugar water feeders. A few species hesitated before alighting, but the Collared Inca would boldly fly right to my finger.
We tore ourselves away to have lunch. As usual there was soup to start - onion - and as usual delicious. We were then served roast beef with gravy, rice flavoured with cilantro, and green beans. Dessert was a sort of flan made from plantains - Torta de Maqueno.
Miriam and Alejandro enjoyed coca tea said to have all kinds of healthy properties, I had a regular tea and Augusto a coffee.
At about 13:30h we left the lodge and walked along the highway to a bird-filled path that led into the forest. The sun broke through and we were all shedding layers of clothing. This trail led us back to the parking lot at Guango and by 15:00h we were back on the road.
We took the Baeza Bypass, birding along the way. We stopped for a while at another fast-moving river and watched another two Torrent Tyrannulets sallying forth from rocks in the river. Ahh, contentment!
By 18:00h the light was starting to fade and fifteen minutes later we disembarked at a quarry where we hoped to see Lyre-tailed Nightjar. It was a bit of a wait until it got really dark and then we had the unalloyed joy of seeing at least three Lyre-tailed Nightjars in the beam of Alejandro’s flashlight. How incredible! The tail streamers on this species are sometimes as much as three to four times the length of the body.
We arrived at San Isidro Lodge at 19:00h, so went straight into the dining room for dinner. This lodge is renowned for its food, both quality and presentation, and we could see why. Soup was a delicious Aje de Carne followed by rolled beef with mango, arugula and bacon, a souffle of quinoa and rosemary, and green beans. Dessert was a banana crepe with anise sauce. A cup of lemon grass tea finished everything to perfection.
We were assigned our cabin and then returned immediately to the sitting area of the dining room to do our list.
Our cabin was new and perhaps unfinished - we couldn’t really decide. In any event there was not a hook on which to hang anything, nor a coat hanger to be seen. The lights were simply bulbs attached to wires hanging from the ceiling. There was nowhere to place a suitcase other than on the floor. The sink dripped water on to the floor when the faucet was turned on and we had no hot water. As far as showers were concerned it didn’t really matter - our shower had the volume and pressure of nasal drip.
We were in bed by 21:30h to get ready for an early start the next morning.

Accommodation: Cabanas de San Isidro
Rating: Our cabin: Two stars Food: Five stars Birding on the grounds: Five stars

All species December 26 - Highland Tinamou (heard), Andean Guan, Wattled Guan (heard), Torrent Duck, Western Cattle Egret, Sothern Lapwing, Spotted Sandpiper, Smooth-billed Ani, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Chestnut-collared Swift, White-collared swift, Green Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-tailed Coronet, Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Ince, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Booted Racket-tail, Tyrian Metaltail, Viridian Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, Sierran Elaenia (heard), White-banded Tyrannulet, Torrent Tyrannulet, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Blackish Tapaculo (heard), Tawny Antpitta (heard), White-chinned Thistletail, Pearled Treerunner, Montane Woodcreeper, Turquoise Jay, Inca Jay, Blue-and-White Swallow, Sedge Wren (heard), Southern House Wren, Mountain Wren, Pale-eyed Thrush, Great Thrush, White-capped Dipper, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart, Spectacled Whitestart, Black-crested Warbler, Russet-backed Oropendola, Northern Mountain Cacique, Red-breasted Blackbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Stripe-headed Brush Finch, Pale-naped brush Finch, Slaty Brush Finch, Blue-grey Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Blue-and-Black Tanager, Capped Conebill, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Summer Tanager (heard).

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