Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Driving the Nono-Mindo Road to Tandayapa

Thursday, April 8, 2010
Nono-Mindo Road to Tandayapa


Mucho muy early start today. We woke at 4:30 am, had breakfast at 5 and hit the road around 6 a.m. A milder bout with vertigo gave us a slight delay on our start; but, once again, the dizziness cleared up as the day progressed.

We joined Jorge Cruz, owner of the three San Jorge properties (Quito, Tandayapa and Milpe) for a day-long birding trek, and what a trek it was, with fortuitous and fruitful stops, turning a 32 km. trip along the Nono-Mindo road into a full day on the road.

Quite honestly, we saw so many species of birds today I can't even remember back to the early stops to list them. The day was filled with continuous pull-offs yielding, at times, dozens of species. In fact, there was one stop where we kept calling out bird names/descriptions nonstop, each of us seeing different birds at the same time.

We stopped at a spot where Jorge knew there was a pair of Burrowing Owls. Sure enough, he was able to find them in the scope, where Avi digiscoped a few shots. Then he and Avi went hiking down to where the burrow was and got some excellent photos of one of the owls perched on a low branch. (As an owl fan, finding one is always a highlight of my day.)

As we drove we descended in altitude. As we descended in altitude, the habitat became more and more verdant, reminding us of the rainforests of Panama.

We stopped for a box lunch at a stream that ran in tandem to the road. Rather than watching birds, we were amused by a cow that had wandered by and decided to graze on grass growing on small “islands” in the middle of the stream.

Possibly the most bizarre sighting today was a Sword-billed Hummingbird, with its incredibly oversized bill which it uses to access the nectar in Trumpet Flowers. A great example of adaptation.

Our final destination today: Tandayapa Lodge, one of Hosteria San Jorge's sister lodges located in the world famous Tandayapa Valley, well-known by birders for its variety of hummingbirds. The lodge is located 100 meters up from the road, perched on the side of a mountain. This facility is not a “drive-up” – it's a “hike up” with a sometimes steep switchback trail. The hike is about 20 minutes and finishes at the communal area with dining table and about a dozen hummingbird feeders – all in constant use by the 22 species of hummers in that region.

Upon our arrival lemonade and popcorn (something we see with each dinner) were offered and gratefully accepted. We sat and watched the myriad of hummingbirds at the numerous feeders around the outdoor dining area. Sadly, it was late and getting dark. But I look forward to breakfasting with these little jewels tomorrow morning.

The list:

Band-tailed Pigeon
Plumbeous Pigeon
Eared Dove
White-capped Parrot
Burrowing Owl
Green Violetear
Sparkling Violetear
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Andean Emerald
Speckled Hummingbird
Empress Brilliant
Green-crowned Brilliant
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Brown Inca
Collared Inca
Sword-billed Hummingbird
Buff-tailed Coronet
Booted Racket-tail
Long-tailed Sylph
Purple-throated Woodstar
Red-headed Barbet
Azara's Spintail
Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner
Uniform Treehunter
White-crested Elaenia
Sierran Elaenia
White-banded Tyrannulet
White-tailed Tyrannulet
Smoke-colored Pewee
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Barred Becard
Turquoise Jay
Great Thrush
Brown-bellied Swallow
Blue-and-white Swallow
Plain-tailed Wren
Blackburnian Warbler
Slate-throated Whitestart
Spectacled Whitestart
Black-crested Warbler
Masked Flowerpiercer
Black Flowerpiercer
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Golden Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Flame-faced Tanager
Golden-naped Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Black-capped Tanager
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
Northern Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Blue-capped Tanager
Blue-and-Yellow Tanager
Flame-crested Tanager
Black-winged Saltator
Southern-Yellow Grosbeak
Rufous-naped Brush-Finch
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Hooded Siskin

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