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September 2009 Ecuador Bird Watching Trip Report

Author: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2009

We spent 18 days in Ecuador in September 2009 bird watching in 3 locations; i.e., Quito metro area, the Galapagos Islands and the Tandayapa Valley.

On our first morning in Quito, we walked around the hotel and were surprised to see a very long-tailed hummingbird nesting outside the Quito Marriott Hotel (0.197S 78.489W). Our tour guide that day confirmed that it was a Black-tailed Trainbearer. We also saw a Sparkling Violetear hummingbird in the bottle bushes by the pool. Rufous-collared Sparrows were flying in the lobby, and several Glossy-black Thrushes landed on the roof outside our room.

We took a bus tour of Old Town Quito. We visited the World Heritage Sites including the Church of the Company of Jesus where they had used animals from Ecuador like penguins, condors, tortoises, iguanas, etc to decorate the exterior, instead of Gargoyles. Hundreds of Rock Pigeons and a few Eared Doves were in the plaza outside the church. We also stopped at the Independence Plaza, Presidential Palace and Zócalo (center of town plaza), before heading to the Pululahua Crater 16 Km outside of town for lunch. In the afternoon we stopped at the Middle of the Earth Monument, where we saw a Vermilion Flycatcher in the flowers.

We flew from to the Galapagos Islands on Sept 6 for a 7-night cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition. See http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=58637. for the review. On September 13 we flew back to Quito.

On September 14 we walked to the Hilton Hotel Colon (0.208S 78.497W). In the sprawling Parque de el Ejido across from the hotel we saw a Zone-tailed Hawk flying. Hawks are not usually seen in Quito. Later we went shopping at the Mariscal Market close to the Hotel Colon (intersection of Jorge Washington & Juan Leon) for scarfs and Coca Tea.

On September 15 we drove from Quito down to the Tandayapa Valley with Jairo Sanchez (alambicloudforest@yahoo.com), our birding guide for the next week. Along the road we saw an American Kestrel sitting on an electric line just outside the NW Quito metro area and a Variable Hawk flying, along with some White-collared Swifts, and a flock of Hooded Siskins. Closer to our destination an endemic Dark-backed Wood-Quail flew across the road, bringing us to a sudden stop for a look.

In Ecuador, it is usually cheaper and better to hire a car and driver, than to drive a rental car yourself. There are virtually no road signs anywhere in the country, which makes getting from one city to another very challenging, especially if you don't speak Spanish well enough to ask people for directions. It would be impossible for most tourists to find their way out of town from the Quito Airport, unless they were following a taxi they had hired to lead them.

alambi cloudforest resort ecuadorWe arrived at the Alambi Cloudforest Resort (http://www.alambicloudforest.com/) around 11:30am. Alambi is 4 Km south of Nanegalito on the paved road that runs from Quito to Los Bancos and on to the coast. The resort is located 2.5 miles North of the Equator at 0.041N & 78.678W. The elevation is around 6000 feet (2000m), which puts you near the top of the Cloudforest.

Maria, Jairo's Mother, was working on lunch when we arrived. Every day we had a typical Ecuadorian Lunch at 1pm and Supper at 6:30.

I had eaten something in Quito on September 14 that had given me diarrhea during the night. I mostly rested after we arrived, but got sicker and developed a fever after dark. Jairo took me to the local free clinic - they referred me to a hospital in Quito. At the hospital they gave me some antibiotics and saline solution. After a few hours I was OK. The hospital gave me a prescription for antibiotics to take at home. The total cost was $66 for the hospital and $13 for the antibiotics and 2 bottles of Pedialyte. Something similar happened in Florida last year and the hospital bill was $5601.

We rested at Alambi on September 16 watching the hummingbirds and tanagers at the feeders. Alambi goes thru 1 to 2 gallons of sugar water every day in the hummingbird feeders, which is enough to feed 1000 to 1500 hummingbirds a day. This is by far the most active hummingbird feeders we saw in Ecuador, with more species.

violet tailed sylph ecuador bird watchingAt any time during the day we could see 30 to 50 hummingbirds feeding from the 7 feeders – sometimes 4 hummingbirds would be drinking out of one orifice. We saw 16 hummingbird species, including the Andean Emerald, fascinating Booted Racket-tail, Brown Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Green Violet-ear, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Purple-throated Woodstar, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Sparkling Violetear, long-tailed Violet-tailed Sylph, the hard to find Western Emerald, White-necked Jacobin, and mobs of White-whiskered Hermits.

wedge billed hummingbird ecuador bird watchingThe Wedge-billed Hummingbird was also present, but feeds at the white Trumpet Trees instead of the feeders. We could see the Wedge-bill making a hole in the top of the white trumpet flower in order to get at the nectar.

To help with my recovery, Maria fixed me a mint and oregano tea the locals use to get over stomach problems. The meals today also contained local fruits that are good for the stomach.

Traveling birders and photographers can stop at the resort for a small fee. In the afternoon Jairo's Father brought a Dr from Chicago to the resort to photograph the hummingbirds with his very expensive camera & lens. The Dr told me he always carries antibiotics whenever he travels – just in case he should get an ameba.

The resort also has a banana feeding station that rivals Asa Write's porch in Trinidad, with Blue-gray Tanagers, Golden Tanagers, mobs of Lemon-rumped Tanagers, Orange-bellied Euphonias, Silver-throated Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonias, White-lined Tanagers, Bananaquits, Buff-throated Saltators, and White-winged Brush-Finches. Fortunately, Jairo raises his own bananas.

We had a room with a private bath and patio overlooking the back yard. We could regularly see an Ecuadorian Thrush and a pair of Pacific Horneros in the grass, with White-sided Flowerpiercers, several tanagers, and Red-faced Spinetails in the trees.

We brought The Birds of Ecuador field guide with us, but at 2” (50mm) thick and 4 lbs, it is too bulky to carry in the field. Fortunately, Jairo had a slimmed down version they sell in Ecuador with just the picture plates and index.

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