BACK IN QUITO - Feb 3
Finally back in Quito after a long bout without email. Here is a brief update on the last few days which have been great. We wrapped up the southern trip today and I am heading to the Atamari resort on the beach for a few days r and r, then back for a tour of the north next week.
COPALINGA - Feb 2
My final full day here began with a real exciting find. Spotlighting before breakfast produced a life mammal - a tiny tree possum. I managed to get decent enough images to hopefully identify it with the help of Catherine, the property owner.
We spent the morning at the national park and although we picked up some specialties we got rained on and were pretty much soaked. In fact the heavy rain had brought down a tree across the road so we all had to tug and pull to get it off the road. Here is a photo of our driver Luis, who clearly does not like the rain!
We dried off back at the lodge and spent several hours just enjoying the steady parade of birds at the feeders. One of the neatest birds that visited occasionally was this Orange-billed Sparrow.
Another surprising visitor for some of the group was the Swainson's Thrush. This bird is a common migrant in southern Ontario in May but spends winters here.
COPALINGA (near ZAMORA) - Feb 1
We arrived at the comfortable and birdy Copalinga lodge mid afternoon yesterday. This site is on the east slope of the Andes at around 1000 m and offers a totally new set of birds. Catherine and Baldwin, the owners, have done a superb job of catering to the needs of birders and ecotourists here - one of the best places I have ever visited. The birding on the grounds is superb, with fruit and nectar feeders, plantings around the grounds and trails on their extensive property - it is pretty much paradise. In fact it was hard to pull the group away to bird the nearby national park.
This stunning Green and Gold Tanager is one of the host of colorful species that are regularly seen here.
The planted verbana hedges here provide feeding sites for several scarce hummingbirds including the Spangled Coquette. This was a new bird for me.
In addition to hummingbirds the plantings attract many insects including a wide variety of butterflies. This skipper is not one of the most colorful but I liked the image because you see the butterfly nectaring.
TAPICHALACA - Jan 30th
Today was to be one of the earliest and most memorable days of the trip. We left the Tierra Madre at 5 am and headed south to the Jocotoco foundation reserve of Tapichalaca. Our target here was the bird that changed the face of ecotourism forever in Ecuador - the Jocotoco Antpitta. This distinctive species rocked the birding world just ten years ago when it was first discovered in southern Ecuador. The Jocotoco foundation was created to save this globally rare species. Since then the foundation has grown in just ten years to hold 50,000 acres in eleven reserves in some of the most important habitats in the country.
We made the forty minute difficult hike into the area where the antpittas are regularly fed with worms collected by foundation staff. It was a magical experience as both Jocotoco Antpittas and Chestnut-naped Antpittas fed at our feet... something we will never forget.
Here an adult (known as Panchita) stands waiting for a worm!
Here is a close up of the adult taken with the G9 point and shoot!
Here is a juvenile Jocotoco which is fully grown. Note the fine brown barring on the crown and less distinct while cheek patch.
Here is the happy group of Jocotoco watchers at the feeding station.
After viewing the antpittas we enjoyed some great birding on the road down to the town of Valadolid. At the foundation lodge we enjoyed coffee and some great hummingbird viewing at their feeders. This male Flame-throated Sunangel was one of my favourites.
MACARA to VILCABAMBA Jan 29th
After leaving Buenaventura we spent two nights in the crusty border town (with Peru) of Macara. Luckily we were booked into a brand new hotel which was spotless and roomy (good rooms are impossible here). We birded Jorupe reserve and did well with most of the local specialties. The highlight for me was the day we left though, when we ascended through the fog in early morning towards Utuana reserve. We began at 500 m elevation in Macara in rain and fog, but when we reached about 2000 m elevation above Sorozanga we emerged from the fog and below us lay a magical layer of clouds and early morning light. Simply breathtaking. If Ethan was here he would have done it true justice, but even the little G9 gives a good image.
We arrived in the 'blue zone' town of Vilcabamba (known for the longevity of its residents) in late afternoon, and checked into the Tierra Madre spa and hotel. It was a great base for accessing the Jocotoco foundation reserve about an hour to the south. Here some of the ladies enjoy a nice glass of white wine in the bar (who says we only watch birds?)