Monday 3 November 2014

Gracias Ecuador Part 8

11th October 2014

Refugio des las Aves - Un Poco del Choco

Leaving the Refugio des las Aves was difficult but we now had another long drive to our next destination Un Poco del Choco. We regained the main highway and travelled this for a short distance before turning off onto yet another dirt road and enduring more tossing and jerking around in Rolando's pickup. Dusan and myself retired to stand in the back of the vehicle  and as before when we encountered a feeding flock of birds we would indicate to Rolando to stop and we would jump down to try and identify as many of the birds as possible in the flock. It worked well and we gained a number of obscure but new species for my ever growing list. The highlight for me was getting very close and personal with a male Masked Trogon which in true trogon fashion sat silent and still on a branch slowly moving its head around seeking out its next insect victim.

We bounced along on the increasingly bumpy and narrowing road, noting a magnificent Barred Hawk cruising around above the forest, until we got to a wooden sign in the middle of nowhere saying 'parking' and we stopped at a small layby and a gate which in turn opened onto a muddy path leading into the grounds of Un Poco del Choco.

Un Poco del Choco is a private conservation project founded in 2008 by Nicole Buttner a young German biologist and her Ecuadorian husband Wilo Vaca to promote conservation education and research. They own 15 hectares of the endangered Choco Forest and make a living from offering biological internships to degree level and taking in tourists such as me. There is a small separate lodge for the students whilst tourists stay with Nicole and Wilo in their private house which is separate from the student's lodge. Both buildings are entirely wooden and have been built by Wilo, a master carpenter and incidentally a very fine cook as we found out when we ate that evening. Their house where I stayed was beautifully constructed with the furniture inside also made by Wilo from various woods. Wilo did not speak English but Nicole did and it transpired she had spent some time in Sussex training to be a bird ringer so we had a lot in common and talked long into the afternoon about bird ringing and related matters.

Dusan got the short straw and had to stay in the student's lodge but we met up later once we had settled in and on Nicole's advice went down into the forest later, to a rudimentary hide, to stake out a site for Rufous fronted Wood Quail which are very hard to see. Wilo put out some ripe bananas on a track in front of the hide and we sat and waited. An hour passed with only some smart Orange billed Sparrows visiting the bananas, a few of the sparrows bore coloured rings courtesy of Nicole. 

Orange billed Sparrow c Dusan Brinkhuizen
It was dark and gloomy in the forest, almost oppressive as we sat in the heat and waited. A brown shape materialised from the undergrowth, very wary and alert, then another three came out onto the track. They were Rufous-fronted Wood-Quails. Two adults and two young birds.They set about the bananas, stripping the skin off with powerful bills. Ever alert, they were constantly looking out for danger. The slightest sound sent them scurrying into cover and soon they were gone across the track and into the forest. Really pleased with this we returned to the house for a fine dinner of homemade soup followed by pasta and then after a final cup of tea it was bedtime. It had been a long day.

12th October 2014

Un Poco del Choco - Mashpi - Maquipucuna Lodge 

We only had time in the early morning for another brief sortie into the forest, visiting a second hide to see if we could see another species of Wood Quail, Dark backed Wood Quail, a Choco endemic species. More banana's acted as bait and three quail duly showed up to take advantage of the fruit. It worked like a charm and we watched the quail for fifteen minutes before they walked back into the forest. 
c. Dusan Brinkhuizen

Dark-backed Wood-Quail
Dusan's phone rang. It was Nicole telling him she had found three Crimson bellied Woodpeckers, a really rare, huge woodpecker, on another part of the reserve. We raced off to where she was and soon saw them clinging to the trunks of the huge trees in the misty forest. A South American Red Squirrel was a surprise running along the branches of the same tree.

That was the finale to our stay, our time was up and it was now time to leave so we bade farewell to Nicole and Wilo. 

Nicole outside her house
Today Rolando had remained at home as it was his daughter's birthday so his father Jorge came to collect us in the faithful white pickup and take us on the long drive to a place called Mashpi and then onto Maquipucuna Lodge for the last night of the trip.

I was looking forward to visiting Mashpi as I would get my best opportunity of photographing hummingbirds. The place we planned to visit was a little area of land set up for birds and birders by yet another enterprising Ecuadorian farmer called Sergio.  Dusan phoned him en route and found he was away in Quito but he said that was not a problem and we should just turn up, put out some banana's for the birds on the feeding stations and leave $5.00 in the box! Excellent as we would have the place to ourselves.

Mashpi which is high in the cloud forest is also notorious as a prime example of greed and corruption. A huge Eco Lodge has been built at vast expense, allegedly costing $7 million, with rooms costing $650 a night and attracting very rich people such as Russian mafia and the like. This is according to Dusan and Jorge. Not content with this the Lodge also charges $120.00 for any birder or tour company who wishes to bird the long road leading to the Lodge. This road used to be free to everyone before the Lodge arrived and a favourite location for bird tour companies and birders generally but Sergio the local farmer realised no-one in their right mind would pay such a price so set up a small reserve on his land right next to the Lodge so everyone goes there now, pays $5.00, has a great time, sees really good birds and Sergio makes a very nice living without ripping off anyone and there is nothing the avaricious Lodge can do about it.

We drove for a long time, gradually ascending in elevation and stopped in a small town called Pacto, a jumble of houses with a small central square, shops, the usual loud music pulsing out and people shopping, standing around talking or just looking on as the world went by. It was all very relaxed.

We needed bananas for Sergio's place at Mashpi hence the reason for stopping in Pacto and we bought twenty ripe bananas for $1.00 from a local store. Jorge tested them by eating another two from a bunch outside without paying and confirming they were up to standard and the birds would like them! We drove on uphill, coming to Pacto Loma which means Upper Pacto and was a small village of basic wooden houses lining the road. I got the impression people were a lot poorer here than in Pacto.

Jorge told Dusan a tale about the local priest some years ago which Dusan translated into English for me. Apparently this priest was a German who was paid in gold by the residents everytime he performed a baptism or christening for them. Being a Catholic country there was no shortage of demand for his services. He made so much in gold he resigned as a priest, bought two large haciendas, opened a factory manufacturing gold products and has never looked back! There is a moral in there somewhere I am sure. There was no word about the current priest.

The road turned into the usual rutted, uneven dirt track and we rolled slowly onwards. As we ascended ever higher the sun disappeared and the cloud took over. It is not cold nor unpleasant but more like warm steam, as it drifts through the forest trees and across the road. Visibility is reduced slightly but not drastically but I couldn't help thinking it would not be great for photography. We followed the road and came to Sergio's little reserve which is nothing more than a couple of wooden shacks, a small pond, some hummingbird feeders and a couple of frames where you can impale bananas on nails for the birds. There is a table with a roof above where you can sit, watch the birds and eat your lunch.

Dusan and Jorge at the picnic table. Note the ever present bottled water
The hummingbird feeders were surrounded by dozens of hummingbirds of a variety of species and of all shapes and sizes. I could stand close to the feeders and the hummingbirds would show no fear. Indeed some would come right up to my face, hovering before me, their wings audibly whirring and then flit around me as if curious as to what I was doing. To feel the breath of wind on my face from their purring wings was a charming and unique experience.

I was in dream land but Dusan called me to come over to where he and Jorge had staked out the bananas on the frames.

Sergio's feeding stations with our bananas
It had instant results as tanagers and toucanets descended on the fruit and got well and truly stuck in.

Crimson rumped Toucanet
I did not know where to look or what to photo first. Dusan and Jorge had of course seen this all before, so they relaxed and had their lunch whilst I set about photographing first the Crimson rumped Toucanets, there were at least three, and then the hummingbirds, whilst diving into my lunch when time permitted.

Green Thorntail - female
Green Thorntail male
Little and Large - Purple bibbed Whitetip and Green Thorntails

Empress Brilliant
Brown Inca
This is a curiosity as we can find no illustration that matches this bird
We think it is a Violet tailed Sylph possibly in immature plumage

Velvet Purple Coronet
Sergio had told Dusan there was a very good bird in the form of a scarce Black Solitaire visiting his little reserve and Dusan found it feeding in a tree above the hummingbirds. In the end he found no less than three of them in the same tree, feeding on the fruits and we got really good views of them.

Black Solitaire c Dusan Brinkhuizen
I could have stayed here for a very long time but after a couple of hours we needed to move on so it was back the way we came and then heading for the Lodge at Maquipucuna where we were to stay one night and spend the next morning doing a final birding round up before we headed for Quito and my hotel. Here I would say farewell to Dusan and Ronaldo and spend my last night in Ecuador before leaving for the long haul home at 4am the next morning.

An uneventful drive brought us to the Lodge at Maquipucuna in steady rain. We crossed the bridge over the river to the Lodge, parked, got out and Jorge managed to lock his keys and consequently all our luggage in the car so we were now stuck. Fortunately Ronaldo lived close by so a call brought him complete with his three children to rescue us with a spare set of keys. In the meantime we checked in to the Lodge and for the one and only time, I complained about the accommodation. My room although stating single occupancy was in fact a dormitory room with four bunk beds and no en suite bathroom and toilet. I did however have it to myself. It was also uncomfortably close to the bar so therefore noisy and the walls were not only paper thin you could see through gaps in the wattle walls into the next room both to the side and above. The Lodge claimed to be ecologically sound but from a comfort point of view left a lot to be desired. The toilets and showers if I had to use them were 100 metres away through the bar and were also open to the elements.Nice.

Dusan's accommodation was even worse, just four concrete walls and a bed and he was put in an annexe ten minutes walk away from mine. Our complaints could not get any change of rooms however because the Lodge was full with a party of twenty or so Dutch tourists on their way to Galapagos. In fact the manager was a bit of a pain as he was a stickler for rules and when we asked if we could have dinner thirty minutes earlier, before the Dutch contingent  descended, that was, in his opinion, not possible. When he had gone Dusan spoke to the kitchen staff and we got our dinner thirty minutes earlier.

We were philosophical about the accommodation as it was only for one night after all so we bade farewell to Jorge, Rolando and his family, drank some tea, stuck our possessions in our rooms and had dinner. The rain continued falling relentlessly.

While we were at Refugio des las Aves Dusan had spoken to two Ecuadorian birders who told him they had been here two weeks ago and they had seen a Spectacled Bear, in fact they had seen three. Dusan spoke to the staff again, leaving the manager out of things and found out that a local guide called Arsenio would be here tomorrow at 9.30am and we could get him to take us to where the bears were but they had not been seen for some time, so we were probably wasting our time. Neither of us takes no for an answer so we asked the staff to tell Arsenio we wanted him to take us into the forest tomorrow and we would meet him at 9.30 in the dining area. This, they said, would not be a problem.

The meal that night was perfectly adequate and afterwards neither Dusan or myself wanted to spend any more time than was necessary in our rooms so spent a convivial hour or two chatting about birding and general business matters. Dusan is considering forming his own bird tour company. Finally we had to face up to the fact we needed to get some sleep as we were getting up at 5am tomorrow to go birding before meeting up with Rolando and later Arsenio.

It was still raining and as we left the dining area the Dutch, all kitted out in wellingtons and ponchos were off out into the night with a guide looking for frogs, heaven help them. The bed linen in my room was damp and cold so I put another blanket on top and slept in my clothes. I emptied a water jug out of the window onto the earth below. It would come in handy if I needed to spend a penny during the night. There was no way I was going to walk 100 metres to the toilets in the middle of the night.

13th October 2014

Maquipucuna Lodge - Quito

A fitful night of sleep thankfully came to an end as my phone alarm rang out and in a damp grey dawn Dusan and myself rendezvoused in the dining area. In truth it was a relief to get out of my miserable room and go birding again. The Dutch tourists to my surprise were also up and preparing to look for birds with a guide from the Lodge. Dusan and myself went in the opposite direction as it would be quieter and more relaxed. Almost immediately we heard a Crested Guan and shortly afterwards two massive black birds (the guans) flopped clumsily out of the top of a very large tree, showering down rain drops as they thrashed through the leaves and away. We found a flock of tanagers feeding in the canopy of another tree, mainly White winged Tanagers and many of them males, resplendent with red bodies and black wings showing two prominent white wing bars. In another tree a little further off a female Golden headed Quetzal sat quietly.We looked more closely and found a male and then another.Three in one tree, amazing and so beautiful. The Dutch party had by now almost caught up with us and we called to their guide and pointed out the quetzals so they could enjoy them too.

We headed back for breakfast watching a Rufous Motmot carrying some unidentified fruit in its bill. 

Rufous Motmot
Then having finished breakfast we crossed the river that runs by the Lodge to bird the road on the other side, planning to meet Rolando further down the road as he came to pick us up at the agreed time of 8.30am. Crossing the river bridge from the Lodge we saw two White capped Dippers exploring the rocks in the river downstream and a Smoke colored Peewee flycatching from the same rocks. The rain, by now had thankfully ceased as we hit the road. We found a lot of birds on the road just by walking and looking with undoubtedly the best being a brilliant Wattled Guan which is not seen that often. Dusan heard it first and it was calling from the other side of the river gorge. Dusan said it would be in the top of a tree and doubtless well hidden. He played a tape of its call and it called back.We scanned the trees on the opposite bank. Some were enormous. We could not see the guan but then Dusan found it perched right out in the open below the tree line which was totally unexpected. We could easily see the pale blue bill and long flesh coloured wattle on its otherwise featureless black plumage. It called and then flew along the tree line. Huge, black with outstretched neck and a long black tail it flew into the wood and was gone. What a great start to the day. As we walked on various flocks of tanagers passed through the trees with several Red eyed Vireos associating with the flocks.We taped out a Whiskered Wren and found another North American migrant in the form of a Swainson's Thrush in some tall bamboo.

Swainson's Thrush c Dusan Brinkhuizen
Rolando, bang on time collected us and we drove back to the Lodge to meet Arsenio. He told us that the bears had been around a couple of weeks ago but he thought they had now gone.They were eating the fruits of a certain tree and you could see where they had been active by looking at the trees with the brown dead patches in their tops which were where the bears had broken the branches and the leaves had died. The brown patches in the vast forest when we went there shortly after were indeed quite distinctive even at a very long range.

Undaunted by the disappointing news about the bears we told Arsenio, before we set off, that we were still definitely looking for bears as well as birds and he should show us where they had been seen at the very least. You never know, there might be a chance one was still around. We drove up the road climbing quite high so we were now looking down over a deep valley to our right and the tops of trees in the valley, with myriad other trees carpeting the mountain slope on the other side of the valley. 

Tropical Cloud Forest - home for the bears
We stopped on two or three occasions to wistfully look at the trees but there was no sign of a bear, just the brown dead patches in the trees showing where they had been active. We drove on higher still and a strange electronic sounding beep coming from a large tree by the road signified a very good bird indeed and one we had been trying to find for some time on our trip. It was a displaying male Club winged Manakin. The noise is not vocal but is made by the modified secondaries on its wings. We could hear it but it took some time to locate but when we did we could watch it perched on a sturdy branch as it dipped forward and raised its wings  upwards over its back to produce the sound. There was more than just one male in the tree but a passing truck scared them off and they moved further away from the road to resume their displaying.

Displaying male Club winged Manakin  c Dusan Brinkhuizen
This was a really good find, we were happy and forgot about the lack of bears for the moment, deciding to walk down the road for a while. Arsenio came with us.We had got about two hundred yards down the road and were now sort of looking for a bear again. We were pessimistic as it looked like they had gone. We were just too late. So near and yet so far. If only we had known they were here at the start of the trip, which they were, we could easily have made a detour to see them. Arsenio told us there were up to twelve here for two weeks and they come every year when a certain species of tree fruits. Dusan gave him his email and told him to email him next year when the bears come as many people would want to see them and Arsenio could make quite a lot of money in tips from grateful tourists. Arsenio, up to now blissfully unaware of a potential goldmine was not un-naturally enthusiastic about this and promised to get in touch

I wandered further along the road with Arsenio who helpfully spoke good English, Dusan was some way back and Rolando was guarding the vehicle even further back.

Arsenio stopped and said he could hear a twig cracking. I listened and so could I. Several cracking and breaking noises were coming from deep down in the valley. Arsenio said it was a bear! Definitely! He told me to wait and he would go and investigate which meant he had to fight his way down an almost vertical slope consisting of a thick bed of slippery leaves and mud topped with a tangle of vines, wet leaves, branches, roots and tree trunks of varying sizes. He disappeared over the edge. Fifteen minutes later he was back, sweating with the humidity, hair plastered to his scalp and bits of leaf stuck to his clothing. 'Bear! Bear! There's a bear up a tree down the slope. Come! Come! Come quickly!

Spectacled Bear up the tree
I yelled to Dusan. 'Bear!!!' Dusan yelled to the distant Rolando. 'Bear!!! Bring the cameras Rolando.' He misunderstood and just came running. 'NOooooo!' we cried in unison. 'Cameras!' Rolando sprinted back to the vehicle and drove it fast down the road stopping just short of us.We grabbed the cameras from the pickup and all three of us followed Arsenio 'over the edge'. I had no idea what I had let myself in for. Virgin tropical cloud forest unsullied by any human footprint for years stood between me and a bear. A daunting prospect. I tried to follow Arsenio but he was already out of sight going downwards at speed, enveloped and hidden by the dense foliage and tangle of branches. The barely discernible track he had made plunged at a dizzying angle downwards. The ground was wet and slippery, a treacherous man trap of tangled roots and wet leaves. I inevitably lost my footing and crashed heavily on my already bruised back. F***. That hurt but there was no time to lose. Rolando took my camera so my balance was restored and I had two hands to steady myself. We plunged downwards, our faces and bodies whipped by twigs, branches and strap like wet leaves. A thorn, inches long missed my face by a fraction. I could hear Arsenio crashing down through the jungle but he was completely out of sight in the all encompassing vegetation. I was slowing up as my ageing body let me down. Dusan diplomatically suggested he should go in front and I could follow in his footsteps as it would be easier for me and this action probably saved my life. Yes, it really did. Ten seconds later Dusan went several shades paler and screamed 'STOP!! Oh my God look at that!'. 'What?' we queried. He was pointing at something on the ground. 'Don't anyone move. My God its huge!' 'What Dusan? What is it?' 'A snake. Can't you see it? A Ver de Lance. It's the biggest one I have ever seen. We have to go back'.  I still could not see the snake but he pointed it out coiled and wonderfully camouflaged just feet in front of us. My blood ran cold. I would never have seen it and would have stepped on it with no doubt the inevitable result of being bitten. Deadly poisonous, this snake kills more people in Ecuador than any other. We looked warily at this coiled menace sunk in the rotting leaves and with the adrenalin still running hard in my veins I suggested that we do not give up and retreat but beat a path round the snake and resume our plunge down the ravine to the bear. Rolando took the initiative and set off crashing a path through yet more dense vegetation on a wide detour around the snake. Dusan shouted to Arsenio about the snake and Arsenio shouted back that he had the bear trapped up the tree and if he left the tree the bear would come down and run off. 

Spectacled Bear  c Dusan Brinkhuizen
We told him to stay there and not to move on any account and we would find a way to get down to him. How had he managed not to get bitten by the snake as his trail went directly over where the snake was coiled? He must have stepped over it by sheer good fortune and the snake not taken alarm. We crashed and slithered downwards barely in control of our momentum and met Arsenio standing on a slightly less precipitous part of the slope. He pointed upwards above his head and there was a Spectacled Bear looking down at us from the top of a tree. It was not happy and was muttering away to itself in anxiety at our presence but undecided what to do. It clearly wanted to come down from the tree but was unsure about us. Constantly chuntering a low, subdued growling noise it walked along a large branch from one tree to another and deciding enough was enough started to descend the trunk of that tree backwards. 

It was chaotic. Trying to stand and balance on an almost sheer, slippery wet slope in a cloud forest whilst pointing a camera vertically at a bear descending a tree is not an everyday occurrence. I inevitably lost my footing as I adjusted my position and fell flat on my back but just lay there and kept shooting anyway. I got to my feet as the bear descended lower, coming down the tree backwards using its long claws as crampons. Its huge, black furry body and behind was now very close, seeming even closer in the telephoto lens and periodically it would stop to look at us and check what we were doing. Slowly and warily it edged down the trunk coming ever closer. It was now no more than twelve feet from us and still grumbling. One more look at us with its huge head and then it leapt from about eight feet up down onto the forest floor, landing with a huge Whumphh as it hit the ground and hurtled off into the undergrowth. The last I saw of it was a black squat behind and four sturdy, furry black legs propelling it to safety down the slope. It was all over in minutes and there was no time to be afraid.

We were on a high of adrenalin. What an experience. Handshakes and high fives all round. Well done Arsenio! The climb back up was arduous and long but we were propelled by sheer elation and adrenalin. We came to where the snake was still coiled and Arsenio said it would have to be killed as it was unsafe to leave it. I said I was happy to leave it in peace, as did Dusan but Arsenio was insistent. We concurred with him and he despatched the snake with several heavy blows of his stick. I know some will say this is a shame but we were in Arsenio's territory and he knew the dangers potential or otherwise far better than us so we went along with his decision.

Rolando, myself and Arsenio with the snake
Myself and Arsenio happy to be alive
We struggled the final few metres up to the top and Arsenio brought the snake with him and we spread it out on the road to admire it. The snake was over three feet long. A monster of its species. 

Dusan, Rolando and Arsenio examine the snake

Ver de Lance
Dusan and myself regarded the snake and it was then the realisation hit us at how close we had come to disaster. So many ifs and buts. What if Dusan and myself had not changed places on the descent? What if Dusan had not seen the snake? What if Arsenio had been bitten? What if any of us had been bitten? With a venomous snake bite, whoever suffered the bite would have to struggle up the almost vertical slope, heart pumping the venom rapidly through his system. The nearest hospital with anti venom was an hour's drive away on a dirt road. Too long a time to survive. We all knew it had been close, very close but we had lived to tell the tale and duly returned triumphant to the Lodge to relate our adventure to the staff and show them the evidence on our cameras. 

We all had lunch at the Lodge and then it was a two hour drive to Quito and my quaint but comfortable 300 year old Hotel called Su Merced near to the airport.

Lunch at Maquipucuna
Tilapia with rice and the ubiquitous fried plantains
I had been dreading this moment as I knew it was going to be difficult saying goodbye to Dusan and Rolando as we all got on so well together, had become firm friends over the fifteen days and had shared many a laugh and memorable experience such as with the snake and the bear. I felt bereft when they drove away down the hotel driveway leaving me feeling more than a little lost and tearful.

Together Dusan and myself saw or heard 461 species of bird (27 heard only)

Here is a list for those that may be interested

Gray Tinamou; Great Tinamou; Berlepsch's Tinamou; Little Tinamou; Least Grebe; Pied billed Grebe; Magnificent Frigatebird; Blue footed Booby; Peruvian Booby; Neotropic Cormorant; Brown Pelican; Fulvous Whistling Duck; Black bellied Whistling Duck; Muscovy Duck; White cheeked Pintail; Yellow billed Pintail; Blue winged Teal; Andean Ruddy Duck; Pinnated Bittern; Fasciated Tiger Heron; Cocoi Heron; Great Egret; Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron; Tricolored Heron; Cattle Egret; Striated Heron; Black crowned Night Heron; Yellow crowned Night Heron; Wood Stork; King Vulture; Gray headed Kite; Hook billed Kite; Swallow tailed Kite; White tailed Kite; Double toothed Kite; Plumbeous Kite; Barred Hawk; Harris's Hawk; Gray Hawk; Roadside Hawk; White rumped Hawk; Variable Hawk; Laughing Falcon; American Kestrel; Rufous headed Chachalaca; Crested Guan; Wattled Guan; Sickle winged Guan; Rufous fronted Wood Quail; Dark backed Wood Quail; Gray breasted Crake; White throated Crake; Uniform Crake; Ecuadorian Rail; Purple Gallinule; Common Gallinule; Andean Coot; Wattled Jacana; Greater Yellowlegs; Lesser Yellowlegs; Solitary Sandpiper; Willet; Spotted Sandpiper; Hudsonian Whimbrel; Sanderling; Semi palmated Sandpiper; Western Sandpiper; Least Sandpiper; White rumped Sandpiper; Baird's Sandpiper; Pectoral Sandpiper; Stilt Sandpiper; Short billed Dowitcher; Wilson's Phalarope; Black necked Stilt; Southern Lapwing; Gray Plover; American Golden Plover; Semi palmated Plover; Gull billed Tern; Royal Tern; Rock Pigeon; Band tailed Pigeon; Scaled Pigeon; Pale vented Pigeon; Ruddy Pigeon; Plumbeous Pigeon; Dusky Pigeon; Eared Dove; Ecuadorian Ground Dove; White tipped Dove; Pallid Dove; Indigo crowned Quail Dove; White throated Quail Dove; Chestnut fronted Macaw; Maroon tailed Parakeet; Barred Parakeet; Pacific Parrotlet; Rose faced Parrot; Blue headed Parrot; Red Billed Parrot; Bronze winged Parrot; Red lored Amazon; Mealy Amazon; Squirrel Cuckoo; Little Cuckoo; Smooth billed Ani; Striped Cuckoo; Choco Screech Owl;  Cloud Forest Pygmy Owl; Crested Owl; Common Potoo; Short tailed Nighthawk; Rufous bellied Nighthawk; Pauraque; Lyre tailed Nightjar; White collared Swift; Chestnut collared Swift; Band rumped Swift; Lesser Swallow tailed Swift; Band tailed Barbthroat; White whiskered Hermit; Tawny bellied Hermit; Stripe throated Hermit; White tipped Sicklebill; Tooth billed Hummingbird; White necked Jacobin; Green Violetear; Sparkling Violetear; Western Emerald; Green crowned Woodnymph; Violet bellied Hummingbird; Rufous tailed Hummingbird; Andean Hummingbird; Blue chested Hummingbird; Purple Chested Hummingbird; Speckled Hummingbird; Purple bibbed Whitetip; Empress Brilliant; Green crowned Brilliant; Fawn breasted Brilliant; Brown Inca; Buff tailed Coronet; Velvet purple Coronet; Hoary Puffleg; Booted Racket-tail; Violet tailed Sylph; Wedge billed Hummingbird; Purple crowned Fairy; Purple throated Woodstar; Golden headed Quetzal; Choco Trogon; Slaty tailed Trogon; Western white tailed Trogon; Collared Trogon; Black throated Trogon; Northern Violaceous Trogon; Ringed Kingfisher; Green Kingfisher; American Pygmy Kingfisher; Broad billed Motmot; Rufous Motmot; Rufous tailed Jacamar; Black breasted Puffbird; Pied Puffbird; Barred Puffbird; White whiskered Puffbird; Lanceolated Monklet; Orange fronted Barbet; Five colored Barbet; Toucan Barbet; Crimson rumped Toucanet; Pale mandibled Aracari; Stripe billed Aracari; Plate billed Mountain Toucan; Choco Toucan; Chestnut mandibled Toucan; Olivaceous Piculet; Golden Olive Woodpecker; Lita Woodpecker; Cinnamon Woodpecker; Lineated Woodpecker; Black cheeked Woodpecker; Smoky brown Woodpecker; Red rumped Woodpecker; Yellow vented Woodpecker; Guayaquil Woodpecker; Crimson bellied Woodpecker; Pacific Hornero; Azara's Spinetail; Slaty Spinetail; Rufous Spinetail; Red Faced Spinetail; Double banded Graytail; Pacific Tuftedcheek; Spotted Barbtail; Lineated Foliage Gleaner; Scaly throated Foliage Gleaner; Western Woodhunter; Buff fronted Foliage Gleaner; Streak capped Treehunter; Streaked Xenops; Plain Xenops; Tawny throated Leaftosser; Plain brown Woodcreeper; Wedge billed Woodcreeper; Northern barred Woodcreeper; Black striped Woodcreeper; Spotted Woodcreeper; Streak headed Woodcreeper; Montane Woodcreeper; Red billed Scythebill; Fasciated Antshrike; Great Antshrike; Uniform Antshrike; Western Slaty Antshrike; Russet Antshrike; Spot crowned Antshrike; Moustached Antwren; Pacific Antwren; Checker throated Antwren; White flanked Antwren; Dot winged Antwren; Long tailed Antbird; Dusky Antbird; Spotted Antbird; Immaculate Antbird; Chestnut backed Antbird; Stub tailed Antbird; Bicolored Antbird; Ocellated Antbird; Black headed Anthrush; Rufous breasted Anthrush; Scaled Antpitta; Moustached Antpitta; Chestnut crowned Antpitta; Yellow breasted Antpitta; Streak chested Antpitta; Ochre breasted Antpitta; Narino Tapaculo; Choco Tapaculo; Spillman's Tapaculo; Sooty headed Tyrannulet; Black capped Tyrannulet; Ashy headed Tyrannulet; Golden faced Tyrannulet; Brown capped Tyrannulet; Southern Beardless Tyrannulet; Yellow crowned Tyrannulet; Gray Elaenia; Greenish Elaenia; Yellow bellied Elaenia; Lesser Elaenia; White tailed Tyrannulet; Torrent Tyrannulet; Streak necked Flycatcher; Olive striped Flycatcher; Ochre bellied Flycatcher; Slaty capped Flycatcher; Marble faced Bristle Tyrant; Yellow Tyrannulet; Black capped Pygmy Tyrant; Scale crested Pygmy Tyrant; Black headed Tody Flycatcher; Common Tody Flycatcher; Yellow margined Flatbill; Golden crowned Spadebill; Ornate Flycatcher; Cinnamon Neopipo; Ruddy tailed Flycatcher; Sulphur rumped Flycatcher; Tawny breasted Flycatcher; Flavescent Flycatcher; Bran colored Flycatcher; Cinnamon Flycatcher; Northern Tufted Flycatcher; Eastern Wood Peewee; Western Wood Peewee; Smoke colored Peewee; Olive sided Flycatcher; Black Phoebe; Vermilion Flycatcher; Slaty backed Chat Tyrant; Long tailed Tyrant; Masked Water Tyrant; Bright rumped Attila; Rufous Mourner; Dusky capped Flycatcher; Boat billed Flycatcher; Social Flycatcher; Rusty margined Flycatcher; Gray capped Flycatcher; White ringed Flycatcher; Streaked Flycatcher; Golden crowned Flycatcher; Piratic Flycatcher; Tropical Kingbird; Snowy throated Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Fork tailed Flycatcher; Barred Becard; Cinnamon Becard; One colored Becard; Masked Tityra; Black crowned Tityra; Green and Black Fruiteater; Orange breasted Fruiteater; Speckled Mourner; Rufous Piha; Black tipped Cotinga; Purple throated Fruitcrow; Andean Cock of the Rock; Red capped Manakin; Blue crowned Manakin; Golden winged Manakin; White bearded Manakin; Club winged Manakin; Green Manakin; Broad billed Sapayoa; Beautiful Jay; Black billed Peppershrike; Red eyed Vireo; Brown capped Vireo; Lesser Greenlet; Tawny crowned Greenlet; Andean Solitaire; Black Solitaire; Swainson's Thrush; Pale eyed Thrush; Great Thrush; Glossy black Thrush; Ecuadorian Thrush; Dagua Thrush; Tropical Mockingbird; White capped Dipper; Gray breasted Martin; Blue and White Swallow; White thighed Swallow; Southern Rough winged Swallow; Sand Martin; Barn Swallow; Band backed Wren; Sepia brown Wren; Grass Wren; Bay Wren; Whiskered Wren; Stripe throated Wren; House Wren; Mountain Wren; White breasted Wood Wren; Gray breasted Wood Wren; Song Wren; Southern Nightingale Wren; Tawny faced Gnatwren; Tropical Gnatcatcher; Slate throated Gnatcatcher; Tropical Parula; Yellow Warbler; Mangrove Warbler; Blackburnian Warbler; Olive  crowned Yellowthroat; Slate throated Whitestart; Black crested Warbler; Choco Warbler; Three striped Warbler; Russet crowned Warbler; Buff rumped Warbler; Bananaquit; Purple Honeycreeper; Red legged Honeycreeper; Green Honeycreeper; Golden collared Honeycreeper; Blue Dacnis; Yellow tufted Dacnis; Scarlet thighed Dacnis; Scarlet breasted Dacnis; Capped Conebill; Masked Flowerpiercer; Indigo Flowerpiercer; White sided Flowerpiercer; Scarlet and White Tanager; Fawn breasted Tanager; Yellow collared Chlorophonia; Chestnut breasted Chlorophonia; Thick billed Euphonia; Orange bellied Euphonia; Orange crowned Euphonia; Fulvous vented Euphonia; Glistening Green Tanager; Rufous throated Tanager; Gray and Gold Tanager; Golden Tanager; Emerald Tanager; Silver throated Tanager; Saffron crowned Tanager; Flame faced Tanager; Golden naped Tanager; Metallic green Tanager; Beryl spangled Tanager; Black capped Tanager; Scrub Tanager; Blue necked Tanager; Golden hooded Tanager; Blue whiskered Tanager; Bay headed Tanager; Rufous winged Tanager; Blue winged Mountain Tanager; Black chinned Mountain Tanager; Golden chested Tanager; Swallow Tanager; Blue gray Tanager; Palm Tanager; Lemon rumped Tanager; Summer Tanager; White winged Tanager; Lemon spectacled Tanager; Ochre breasted Tanager; Dusky faced Tanager; White lined Tanager; White shouldered Tanager; Tawny crested Tanager; Scarlet browed Tanager; Dusky Bush Tanager; Yellow green Bush Tanager; Yellow whiskered Bush Tanager; Buff throated Saltator; Black winged Saltator; Slate colored Grosbeak; Southern Yellow Grosbeak; Blue black Grosbeak; Blue black Grassquit; Yellow faced Grassquit; Dull colored Grassquit; Lesser Seed Finch; Slate colored Seedeater; Variable Seedeater; Black and White Seedeater; Yellow bellied Seedeater; Chestnut throated Seedeater; Band tailed Seedeater; Tricolored Brush Finch; Chestnut capped Brush Finch; Orange billed Sparrow; Black striped Sparrow; Rufous collared Sparrow; Scarlet rumped Cacique; Chestnut headed Orependola; Shiny Cowbird; Giant Cowbird; Scrub Blackbird; Great tailed Grackle; Red breasted Blackbird; Peruvian Meadowlark; Yellow bellied Siskin; Saffron Finch; House Sparrow.

Mammals 6

Spectacled Bear
Howler Monkey
Ecuadorian Brown headed Spider Monkey
Central American Woolly Opossum
South American Red Squirrel
South American Dwarf Squirrel

Thank you also Dusan for allowing me to use some of your wonderful images to illustrate my blog.

If anyone wants to look at many more of Dusan's bird images please go to

Saffron Finch in the hotel garden - the last bird I saw in Ecuador


  1. very enjoyable read, sounds like a great trip

  2. This is fascinating Ewan, amazing experiences. I very much enjoyed reading them thanks to Isobel posting the link on facebook. Best wishes to you and family. Brigid
    Sivill (Smith)