Thursday 27 November 2014

Outfoxed 26th November 2014

Just before eight o' clock this morning my wife told me to get out of bed and look out of the bedroom window. I know better than to ignore such a command as on previous occasions this has heralded sightings of such things as a male Brambling which I missed, Bullfinch, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and on one memorable occasion even a Black Redstart, all perched in the rambling roses and shrubs or sat on the dry-stone wall in this quiet secluded corner of our garden

Our bedroom window on this particular side of the house overlooks a small area of, at this time of the year, a much overgrown courtyard garden which is enclosed fifteen or so feet from our bedroom windows by the ancient wall of the house next door. The part of the neighbouring house our garden wall abutts has a flat roof covered in thick moss and lichens and lies just below the level of our bedroom window so we can look down on it. 

View from our bedroom onto the mossy roof
Incidentally all the houses here including ours are hundreds of years old, constructed of Cotswold stone and the house in question next door has been empty for a number of years.

'What is it?' I enquired, expecting to be told of some bird I would need to have a look at. 'A Fox. It's right here.' This was worth seeing so I got out of bed and looked down below onto the small area of garden expecting to see a fox nosing around in the shrubbery and roses but could see nothing. 'Where? I can't see anything.' I grumbled. 'Right there in front of us, look, on the roof!' I looked, amazed at this information and there sure enough was a fox, a beautiful dog fox not more than five or six metres from us, wandering around on the flat roof opposite. His coat was full, a delicate shade of chestnut orange  and he had a huge bushy tail and black tipped ears. A real dandy. Casually he sniffed around and then proceeded to scrape away the moss from where the flat roof joined an angled part of adjoining roof and curled up, winding his tail around his body. The bed of moss must have been nice and soft to lie on and the spot he had chosen was secluded and surely safe from any ground disturbance. With amber eyes his pointed face seemed to look straight at us through the rose fronds but a few seconds later he snuggled his nose into his tail and went to sleep.

How he got up there I do not know but foxes are resourceful creatures and he was most welcome. Foxes are still hunted around here by the hoorays and chinless ones who make up The Heythrop Hunt so I took great delight in knowing that during the time he spent here he was safe from their unwelcome attentions or any possible harm and could rest and relax as much as is possible for a wild creature. Even the arrogance of the hunt is restrained from trespass in the village and certainly they are banned from coming anywhere near our private drive.

When the wild comes within almost arms reach it is for me a thrill and privilege to have such an encounter, although I am aware that others feel differently about foxes. Looking at this beautiful creature, not harried and harassed by braying idiots on horses but relaxed and at peace I wonder, not for the first time, why we still find it acceptable to kill, for so called pleasure, creatures that have as much right as us to exist on this planet.

Saturday 22 November 2014

It is a Ring billed Gull 22nd November 2014

In January this year I went to Gosport in Hampshire to see the Ring billed Gull that has been spending its winters there for more years than I can remember. Gosport on that day, or at least the part that I visited, was probably looking at its worst, as was the weather and I found the whole experience thoroughly disheartening and depressing.

Today at the other end of the year the weather was equally awful. A grey murk had settled on the land erasing horizons, lowering visibility and imparting an almost claustrophobic feel to the countryside. Faced with the prospect of either wandering around the concrete wastes of an inevitably almost birdless Farmoor Reservoir or going to Otmoor RSPB which would also be similarly uninspiring but with a few more birds than Farmoor, I decided to go to a former haunt of mine, West Wittering in Sussex. It was beside the sea and with high tide at ten forty in the morning there would be lots of Dark bellied Brent Geese feeding on the farm fields and many waders of various sorts roosting  while they waited for the tide to turn.

I set off south and as I progressed down the A34 a soft mizzle descended around Newbury and I found myself driving with headlights full on into increasingly unfavourable weather. It became so bad that I was soon contemplating turning the car round and heading back for home but in the end decided to carry on in the forlorn hope the inclement weather and low cloud would lift by the time I reached the South Coast.

Turning onto the M27 it did not look likely as I drove through the clouds of spray issuing from the wheels of three lanes of vehicles moving at high speed on a very wet Motorway surface. Nearing Southampton a shaft of light radiated from the heavens, it stopped raining and indeed the clouds went from dark to an almost bearable whiter shade of grey. I was by now approaching the turnoff for Gosport and for some reason found myself boxed in on the inside lane of the Motorway and being a creature of impulse I took the slip road, deciding to forego West Wittering and revisit Gosport to see the Ring billed Gull which had returned for yet another winter's stay in Walpole Park near the centre of Gosport.

As I progressed in a long, slow moving line of traffic down the only main road into Gosport, through a thoroughly urban landscape of used car lots, garages, fast food outlets, dubious pubs and faded shop fronts I wondered just what had possessed me. Eventually I came to Gosport, which even though it had stopped raining was still looking singularly unattractive as I circumvented the huge towerblocks of flats and came to rest in the large car park by Walpole Park.

Gosport from across Walpole Park and the boating lake
Walpole Park
Still bearing the mental scars from my previous visit I nevertheless determined to see the Ring billed Gull and then leave as soon as possible. Unfortunately for me the gull was not there, just the usual flock of Black headed Gulls, a few Common Gulls, Mute Swans and a trio of sleepy Mallards, all hanging around waiting for someone to arrive to throw them bread. I therefore went on a walkabout to look for the errant Ring billed Gull.

Black headed Gull

Adult Common Gulls
I strolled around the lake not once but twice and then I walked around the edges of the adjacent Haslar Creek but could find nothing apart from a family of five Dark bellied Brent Geese feeding on the grass by the lake, two Little Grebes right out in the middle of the creek and a Rock Pipit which fled with a peevish squeak from the muddy foreshore below me and across the creek.

Adult Dark bellied Brent Goose
I walked back around the creek to the lower car park to be confronted by a mute line of white vans. So Gosport is also home to white van man. Suspicions confirmed.

White vans!
Gosport - a back street

My prejudice about Gosport was being rapidly enhanced with this depressing vision but then a chance encounter in the grey damp car park turned my perception of Gosport on its head or at least this part of it. I was taking a picture of the vans when an elderly couple approached and politely excusing their curiosity asked me why on earth I was taking pictures of a collection of non descript white vans. I explained about my blog and the Ring billed Gull, diplomatically neglecting to say what I felt about Gosport. We chatted inconsequentially about the technological wonders of the internet and they then proceeded to tell me how they had been the unfortunate victims of an online fraud, had their bank account hacked, resulting in them losing a thousand pounds and how it had been so traumatic they now had disposed of their computer and TV and would have nothing to do with technology.

Our conversation went on for quite some time and suddenly a ray of metaphorical sunshine lit up Gosport. I had viewed the place as an impersonal entity but here I was talking to two charming and friendly residents of Gosport. So fickle of me I know but the impersonable had now become the personal. So sorry Gosport, maybe you are not so bad as I thought. The couple then told me about a Glossy Ibis that was frequenting a place called Priddy's Hard which was not far away over The Gosport Millenium Bridge and I resolved to go there and look for the ibis hoping the gull would have arrived by the time I returned.

We parted and following their directions I drove the short distance to the Millenium Bridge by driving back into Gosport and away from Walpole Park, turning right by the Royal George Barracks and The Officers Quarters and arriving in a large free car park. The buildings around it were I believe a former huge military hospital but are now converted into what looked like an upmarket area of apartments with a totally different air about them to the rest of Gosport which lay on the other side of the main road. You could be in two separate towns so different was the ambience. I left the car here and traversed the pedestrianised Millenium Bridge which leads to The Explosion Museum, I kid you not, which is dedicated to Royal Naval Firepower and is housed in 18th century buildings that used to be where the Royal Navy stored their armaments and munitions. I love these old military buildings with their history and unique atmosphere so redolent of the years past - you could almost hear Dame Vera Lynn singing The White Cliffs of Dover. 

The Gosport Millenium Bridge
The path from the bridge leads through the Museum buildings and I passed some old naval guns by the Museum as I rejoined  the road on the other side of the Museum with yet more expensive apartments overlooking Portsmouth Harbour and the naval warships moored across the water at Portsmouth Dockyard. As I looked across, a huge warship arrived, grey and sinister, accompanied by a flotilla of fussy escorting tugs. Even though quite distant you could hear an officer barking out his orders over the tannoy as the vessel slowly moved in to its berth.

Royal Navy Warships
The Explosion Museum and some outside naval gun exhibits

Carols and Guns! Such a contrast!
I then walked a little way further up the road but as the tide was now at its highest saw no sign of the Glossy Ibis just a couple of roosting Little Egrets. On the way back I purchased a hot chocolate and a very tasty slice of coffee and walnut cake from the Museum cafe and made my way back to the car resolving to come back some day and look around the Museum. It had now begun to drizzle again. I drove back to Walpole Park and the lake but it was not looking good as there was still no sign of the Ring billed Gull. I decided to give it one more hour and then leave.

I wandered around on the bleak concrete surrounds of the lake, tip toeing through the swan turds and abandoned lager cans. The Black headed Gulls were now amassed on the grassy bank leading up to the road from the lake, waiting to mug anyone carrying anything remotely resembling bread. One unfortunate man departed Morrisons and crossing the road entered the park taking a sandwich from its wrapper as he crossed the park and was thoroughly alarmed when he was immediately engulfed by a swarm of squawking white gulls circling low over his head like giant snowflakes. After watching this sight with wry amusement I turned back to the grassy bank and the Ring billed Gull must have arrived un-noticed as there it was standing in splendid isolation on the bank.

Ring billed Gull
The Ring billed Gull allowed me to approach it closely and for half an hour I happily took its picture as it wandered around on the grass noting its subtle differences to the similar looking Common Gulls

A couple of dads and their offspring arrived to feed bread to the gulls and swans by the lake's edge and I watched the Ring billed Gull mixing it with the smaller Black headed Gulls as they squabbled over each slice of bread thrown to them. Things must be looking up in Gosport as the bread was now brown and wholemeal.

Feeding the birds

Sunday 16 November 2014

No alternative 15th November 2014

Saturday dawned grey with a cloying mist over my Cotswold home, the kind of day you feel like forgetting to bother about birding and stay in bed with a good novel and a cup of tea. The national bird news on the pager was uninteresting and I was faced with the fact that if I did go birding I may as well remain in Oxfordshire which then presented me with the dilemna of choosing between the RSPB's reserve at Otmoor or Farmoor Reservoir. Neither, frankly, held much attraction but I was determined to get out of the house and a required visit to the landfill at Dix Pit persuaded me to go on afterwards to nearby Farmoor, as it at least held the attraction of a wintering Red necked Grebe which if I got there early enough might, just might, be close enough to the bank to allow me to get some photographs before the fishermen arrived.

So it was that just after nine in the morning I parked the car at Lower Whitley Farm and made my way up to the western side of Farmoor Two, the larger of the two reservoirs. The visibility was now dire and the misty conditions were even worse than when I left home. A desultory almost melancholic feeling settled over me doubtless brought on by the gloomy weather that was now permeating the reservoir and its surrounds

The waters of the reservoir were flat calm as there was not a sigh of wind and assorted Tufted Ducks and Coots, separated in discrete feeding flocks, formed dark rotund dots on the mirror surface of the water. Great Crested Grebes sat further out, all asleep in that unique grebe shape where they contort their bill to the side of their retracted neck. It always looks so uncomfortable but obviously is not as far as a grebe is concerned. 

A slightly smaller and more active grebe was amongst them, preening enthusiastically and waving a huge lobed foot in the air as it rolled on its back, twisting and turning on its own axis whilst preening pure white belly feathers, This revealed itself to be the Red necked Grebe but it was a long way out from the reservoir's edge. Too far for my camera to be effective. Now in its winter plumage of grey and white there was no trace of the breeding finery of Spring and the only strong colour was the extensive bright sulphur yellow at the base of its bill. I decided to wait and see if the grebe would come closer once it had finished preening and sat on some metal steps leading down to the edge of the water with the wall at my back, hoping this would conceal my human silhouette.  After about thirty frustrating minutes the grebe commenced feeding and soon it came relatively close to the reservoir wave wall. This was my chance as I crouched low and uncomfortably by the wall and got some pictures. If only the light was better but if anything it was getting even gloomier and the grey cloud seemed to descend and merge like a shroud with the very surface of the water. The grebe untroubled by my presence continued feeding, catching several several small fish which it brought to the surface to swallow.

Red necked Grebe
The reservoir was deserted, not a soul seemed to be up and about and who could blame them on such a day but just as the grebe was coming ever closer another birder arrived and the grebe taking alarm swam steadily out to the middle of the reservoir. Why does it always happen this way? It was not the birder's fault. It was no one's fault but my chance had now gone. To add insult to injury the birder showed no interest in the grebe whatsoever and departed without saying a word. Frustrating in the least.

Never mind, the grebe was obviously making the reservoir its winter home and there would be other days to catch up with it. Philosophical in defeat I wandered along the reservoir's perimeter path heading towards the sailing club and shortly came across two Common Goldeneyes, my first of the autumn, feeding together reasonably close to the wall but they were very wary and no amount of surrepticious stalking could get me close to them before they saw me and swam rapidly away, further out into the reservoir. 

Common Goldeneye
At least with no one around I did not have to endure any feeling of self consciousness or embarrassment  due to my strange behaviour in trying to get close to the goldeneyes. A Common Chiffchaff sounded its plaintive note from the copse behind me as a party of Long tailed Tits straggled through the bushes.

I gave up the unequal struggle with the goldeneyes and strolled onwards past the sailing club noting four Little Grebes floating, rotund as brown powder puffs, in the lee of the pontoons. Further round the perimeter of the reservoir and by now venturing up the central Causeway I came across more Little Grebes either singly or as two together, until I had counted eleven. This is quite a good number for Farmoor. The Little Grebes for some reason are always on Farmoor Two which is strange as  in the breeding season they like exactly the opposite to the wide open expanses of Farmoor Two, preferring small, secluded and sheltered areas of water.

Little Grebe
They like to feed close to the shore presumably because they require shallower water to hunt their prey. Some are very wary and crash dive with an audible splash as you approach them, making their escape underwater and surfacing much further out on the reservoir but others are less troubled by a human presence, and unconcerned just carry on fishing.

I walked back to the car via the towpath by the Thames. Blackbirds were mobbing, with loud insistent chinking calls, something invisible in a dense tangle of willows in Shrike Meadow, probably it was the Little Owl which frequents here. The chacker chack cries of Fieldfares rang out and their bulky shapes, rendered monochrome by the mist could be seen high in the skeletal branches of the tallest trees by the river before, as one and with much calling to each other they all took off, a straggling flock widely spaced across the sky as they roved onwards. The quieter sibilant calls of Redwings came from hedgerow Hawthorns, leafless now but still heavy laden with this autumn's bumper crop of berries.The Redwings and Fieldfares will not go hungry for quite some time this winter. 

All was still about me. Birdsong is now absent apart from the wistful, trickling cadences of autumnal Robins proclaiming their winter territories. I became contemplative, musing on matters personal as I walked through the damp fields by the river. Many trees have finally lost their leaves with the recent windy weather but some bushes and the odd tree still glow orange, beacons in the dull light, a splash of bright colour in the grey world of this Saturday morning. Soon they too will be like all the other trees and bushes, nothing more than a shaped framework of twigs and branches standing sentinel and patient until they burst forth with fresh leaves into the frenzy and vibrancy of  next year's Spring. 

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Lights out 11th November 2014

My bedside light gave up the ghost last night and on examination it looked terminal. No way was it going to work again. Verbal threats, tapping various parts of the lamp and even a new light bulb did nothing to persuade the lamp to resume illuminating the dark recesses of my bedside.

You may think it unrelated that I now inform you that a female Ring necked Duck was residing on a lake at Wicksteed Park in Kettering which is located in the next door county of Northamptonshire but pray read on.

There was no other option today but to head for Banbury some fifteen miles away, from where the errant lamp originated some years ago. The upshot was I had to buy a replacement according to the man in the manufacturer's factory shop. I was advised that it would be cheaper than repairing the lamp even if that was possible.

Clutching my new lamp I returned to the car and Banbury, ahem, being sort of on the way to Kettering, give or take fifty miles, it was no surprise that I had the scope, bins and camera on the back seat of the car.

An hour later and I was driving into Wicksteed Park on the kind of grey and depressing day that only November in Britain seems to specialise in. Wicksteed Park is 147 acres of parkland surrounded by the unattractive sprawl of housing, industrial estates and busy roads that now constitutes Kettering, or at least that part of Kettering where the park is located.

Wicksteed Park was founded by one Charles Wicksteed, a wealthy local industrialist, in 1913 to provide a place for children and adults to have fun and is the second oldest Theme Park in the UK. It is divided into four main areas; Playground, Fairground, Lakeside and Arena and has an iconic miniature railway that over 15 million people have ridden on. Many of the attractions are almost as old as the park and therefore of antiquarian interest. There is even a collection of aviaries in one corner full of budgies, small parrots and doves.

I would imagine the place is heaving with visitors in the spring and summer and is vibrant and lively but now everything was closed and the whole park had taken on that air of sad, sombre desolation and abandonment that permeates such places at this time of year. Large though the park was there was hardly a soul to be seen, just the occasional dog walker and two groundsmen planting winter pansies as if that would make things any better.

I parked the car and wandered across the wide expanse of grass towards the distant lake and then walked along a circular path that took me round to the far side of the lake as this looked the most likely place to find the Ring necked Duck. 

The Lake

Circular path with railway on the right
A small island at one end of the lake sheltered the usual Mallard together with a couple of Gadwall and a handful of Common Teal snug and mostly asleep under the overhanging bank of the island but further on was a wider expanse of open water and here there were a few Common Pochard and Tufted Duck.

I scanned these ducks and soon found the Ring necked Duck amongst them, unusually active, preening and swinging about in the water as it adjusted its feathers. 

Ring necked Ducks seem to be asleep whenever I see them so this was a pleasant surprise. Understated in various shades of brown and somewhat drab in appearance the Ring necked Duck still had a certain charm about it as I watched and photographed it. It spent all its time with the Tufted Ducks and would indulge in a curious action of throwing its head up, closing its eyes and opening its bill wide as it swam with the Tufted Ducks.

The little group of ducks were relaxed, feeding, preening or just sleeping and I watched them for some thirty minutes before they showed signs of alarm and swam further out towards the centre of the lake. The cause of their alarm soon became apparent as two men in a small boat which appeared to be dredging the lake approached and with an audible pattering of feet across the water the ducks fled, taking to the air as one and circling the lake and flew high and far under the grey skies.

That was close. If I had arrived any later I would have missed seeing the Ring necked Duck.


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