Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ecuador December 28, 2009

December 28, 2009
Jumandi Trail, Guacamayos Ridge - Back to Quito

Breakfast at 05:30h - a buffet including quiche, sausages, fruit, bread, juice and coffee.
We left at 06:00h under grey skies with a light rain starting to fall.
Our destination was the Jumandi Trail where we were greeted by a Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant. A couple of White-throated Quail-Doves quickly flew up from the path, offering the merest of glimpses. Later we had extended, clear views of a Green-and-black Fruiteater, as well as Dusky Piha. We had a nanosecond look at Spillmann’s Tapaculo. Until this point I was convinced that no one ever actually saw a tapaculo, although they sure are vocal and there is no doubt about their presence as they skulk out of sight. It was a long trail with lots of uphill slogging - we walked in for three hours and ten minutes and "hurried" out in a mere one hour and twenty minutes! The rain stopped and it warmed up considerably so we shed a couple of layers of clothing.
We were back at Cabanas San Isidro by 11:15h which gave us time to get all our stuff together before heading in for lunch, our final opportunity to indulge ourselves in the culinary excellence at this lodge. We were not disappointed. We were served Mexican "sopas" with ranchero chicken and refried beans, yellow rice, guacamole and a lettuce salad. Dessert was black pepper ice cream with "babaco" and basil syrup.
Right after lunch we did our final list with Alejandro.
Augusto had the van ready and we departed for Quito. In a small village we passed through an army checkpoint where the authorities are looking for drugs. A small flock of Inca Jays flew over and Alejandro explained that this was our "Yapa," a term used to denote an extra little bonus. We passed by the three tall waterfalls known as the Three Marias.
We arrived at the Sebastian Hotel in Quito at 16:00h and bade farewell to Alejandro and Augusto. We were truly sorry not to be spending more time with them. We had become firm friends during our time together and each day had been a pleasure.

All species December 28 - Common Pigeon, Eared Dove, White-throated Quail-Dove, White-capped Parrot, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Sparkling Violetear, Collared Inca, Crested Quetzal, Powerful Woodpecker, Green-and-Black Fruiteater, Dusky Piha, Sierran Elaenia, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Handsome Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tapaculo (heard), Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Slaty-crowned Antpitta, Pearled Treerunner, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Brown-capped Vireo, Inca Jay, Blue-and-White Swallow, Rufous Wren, Plain-tailed Wren (heard), Mountain Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Great Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Spectacled Whitestart, Russet-crowned Warbler (heard), Russet-backed Oropendola, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-Black Tanager, Common Bush Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush Tanager.

The personalities on the Andean part of our trip.

Our guide

As I approach the inexorable and inevitable period of my dotage, it was exhilarating indeed to share this time with Alejandro Solano-Ugalde, Costa Rican by birth, but Ecuadoran by conviction and affection. He is truly dedicated to the avifauna of his adopted country and passionate about every aspect of it. He is constantly doing research into the status of breeding birds, nest construction, population dynamics and so on. All that he does is characterised by intense enthusiasm and a breadth of knowledge that belies his youth. I never had the good fortune to meet some of the legendary field biologists of South America but Alejandro strikes me as being fired by the same intense fervour that was the hallmark of their celebrity. His knowledge of the birds was simply fabulous and his sound recognition infallible and instant. If we were not discussing birds then he had a whole range of other interests to make for entertaining and lively conversation at all times. His command of English is excellent but he was constantly asking us to teach him new expressions and looking for advice on how to polish and improve his skills. He always amazed us with his ability to come up with puns in a language not his natal tongue.
In short our trip, indeed our entire experience of Ecuador, was enhanced greatly by Alejandro.
His own words, inscribed in our field guide, are eloquent testimonial to the philosophy of this fine young man.

Ojos para muchos pajaros,
Oidos para muchos sonidos,
Poco tiempo para una vida!

It has been our great fortune to have spent time with him. We hope to do it again.

Our driver

We were so fortunate to have Augusto Molina Palma as our driver. In looks he was a dead ringer for Anthony Quinn, and was a great, steady driver. We always felt secure in his good care, and additionally he was a terrific companion at all times on our trip. He was even responsible for finding a few birds for us.
Always cheerful, ever dependable, it was our pleasure to spend time with him.

The "angel" of the antpittas

Angel Paz confounded the ornithological world when he revealed his technique of calling antpittas out of the forest to be fed. His story is legendary and he has gone on to teach others how to perfect this practice.
It was a pleasure and an honour to meet him.

1 comment:

  1. How do I contact Alejandro? I worked with him in Arcata, California, in 2005. I will be in Ecuador this year and would like to met up with Alejandro. I agree with you, what a fine young man with a global ecological perspective.

    Chet Ogan
    Eureka, CA