Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ecuador December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009
Sani Lodge and Parrot Licks

Our long walk yesterday must have tired us out because we both slept through the cacophony of kitchen noise. Miriam actually woke up briefly but was able to get right back to sleep.
The breakfast buffet was fundamentally the same as yesterday.
At 06:00h we left by motorized boat with Jason and Lindsay, Olger and Juan to head off for the parrot licks. It was a short walk in from the shore to the first lick, but the parrots were not coming in. There was lots of noise in the trees but few parrots were visible. We did get excellent scope views of a perched Mealy Amazon and a perched Blue-headed Parrot.
After about a half hour we left to try our luck farther up the river. The second lick we visited was seen from the boat and was quite active. Dusky-headed Parakeets were abundant and there were several Mealy Amazons and Yellow-crowned Parrots.
The third lick was quite a way in from the river but a cement path made the walking easy. It was very active and there were hundreds upon hundreds of Cobalt-winged Parakeets, about twenty-five very striking Orange-cheeked Parrots and many Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlets.
The parrots have been using this clay lick for so long that they have actually excavated a cave right into the hillside. We didn’t realize how many birds were inside until, on some signal undetected by us, all the birds left. Birds were streaming out of the cave. They all were headed directly for us at the hide but they banked upwards and flew off over our heads.
We waited a while longer to see whether the macaws would come in but other than two Scarlet Macaws at the clay lick and two perched in nearby trees there was no activity. Olger commented that the macaws are considerably more wary than the parrots.
We left the lick and ascended a very steep trail, quite slippery and a little treacherous, to search for Yellow-headed Manakin and Long-billed Hermit. We were successful in finding both species. Juan, as always, was there to offer a hand whenever we needed it and to assist us in any way that he could. He really was a pleasant young man. He carried a sack with mid morning snacks for us - a small sandwich and a piece of fruit.
On the way back to the lick Lindsay said that she could smell something that reminded her of a spice, curry perhaps. Olger advised that it was the odour of Squirrel Monkeys and within minutes we had found a small troop of them including one female with a baby on her back.
When we took up our positions at the lick Juan once again reached into his bag and came up with lunch. It consisted of a tasty breaded fish, potatoes and a bean salad. Sani Lodge is very much committed to sound environmental principles and the lunch was served on reusable plastic containers, as opposed to the throw-away items we had always received before.
We left and motored down river to the lodge, arriving at around 15:00h. We sat on our porch for a while, but it was blazing hot, so we went to the bar and shared a cold beer. Afterwards we went back to our cabin and took a short nap. Jason and Lindsay had gone back out on the river with Olger and Juan but we had decided to relax instead. I was left wishing that I had gone out with them when they reported having seen the only Agami Heron of the trip.
Dinner was late that night, so we sat in the bar chatting with Peter and Cindy, a couple from Ottawa. I tried to buy the last half bottle of red wine, but the guy behind the bar obviously had no idea how to use a corkscrew. I offered to open it for him, but he would have none of it. Finally he drove the cork down into the bottle. It was a comical performance but he was determined that he was going to open that bottle and no tourist was going to do it for him!
Peter and I split the cost of a bottle of cold white to share at dinner, which started just before 20:00h. The kitchen staff had prepared a festive New Year’s Eve barbecue for us and it was quite splendid. The barbecue with its hot coals was set up in the dining room where they offered us blood sausage, regular sausage, chicken and steak, with baked potatoes, yucca, many different salads each with its own salsa, and for dessert a couple of cakes with nice, cold jello.
All the staff and the guides were introduced and the whole evening had a decidedly celebratory atmosphere about it. It was interesting that Lelis Navarette, not from the community, but greatly appreciated for the number of people he has brought to Sani Lodge, was recognized also. At the end we were all served a locally-made drink, derived from sugar cane and ninety proof!
We returned to our cabin at about 21:30h and were asleep beneath our mosquito nets long before the new year arrived.

All species December 31 - Speckled Chachalaca, Cocoi Heron, Western Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Black Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Western Osprey, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Pied Plover, Large-billed Tern, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, red-and-green Macaw, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Orange-winged Amazon, Mealy Amazon, Hoatzin, Greater Ani, Grey-rumped Swift, Neotropical Palm Swift, Great-billed Hermit, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Golden-winged Manakin, Yellow-headed Mankin, Wire-tailed Manakin, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Drab Water Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Attila, Plain-winged Antshrike, Cinereous Antshrike, Stripe-chested Antwren, Grey Antbird, Spot-winged Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush, Buff-throated Woodcreeper (heard), White-banded Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Crested Oropendola, Russet-backed Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Giant Cowbird, Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager.

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