Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Night and a Day in Milpe

Saturday, April 10, 2010
Milpe, Ecuador

We arrived in Milpe late afternoon on Friday. It was drizzling for most of the drive over and for our arrival. We ducked under the overhang at the entrance building, which I believe was the residence for the family that worked there.

While waiting for the rain to subside, we watched the hummingbird feeders hanging nearby as well as birds scavenging on the ground nearby. Patience rewarded us with a new Ecuador bird, a Purple-crowned Fairy. We also saw a bird quite familiar to us, a Swainson's Thrush.

When the rain let up, we walked over to the lodge, about a 15 minute walk along an easy gravel-covered trail through a forest. For the sake of cleanliness (because of mud), you are requested to remove your shoes and leave them downstairs. Our room was on the second floor, though there are also first floor rooms. Once there we put our things away and went back down to the dining area for dinner.

During dinner we heard an owl nearby. Jorge got a spotlight and we wandered over to the area from which the sound seemed to be emanating. It was surprisingly easy to find the owl, perched nearby on an open branch. Identifying it was a bit more difficult, since it sat with its back to us almost the whole time. Finally, as the battery began to die, the owl faced us and Jorge used his camera (and flash) to get a few photos of the owl.

We went back to the table with the field guide and began to look, since Jorge wasn't sure what it was. It sounded like a Mottled Owl to him, but its face had a distinct Screech-owl look to me. After about 15 minutes we were all comfortable with the identification of a Choco Screech-Owl, a new bird for the property's growing list, as well as a fabulous life bird for our own.

We returned upstairs to a fabulous array of moths swirling around the lights and covering the walls and posts. I took a few "blind" shots of them to see what I could get. A few were lovely successes.

In the morning we had a hearty breakfast and hiked to a hilltop overlooking some canopy, the road, and an open field. It was quite birdy and we saw Swallows, Tanagers, Vultures, Parrots/Parakeets, and a couple of raptors. But, for me, the highlight wasn't a bird at all. It was a very handsome, large millipede I nicknamed "Harvey". I've yet to find what type it is, but I DID learn that it has a heavy carapace, is quite heavy for its size, and emits a mild form of cyanide as a form of self-defense. Unfortunately, Avi didn't develop the same fondness for Harvey that I had, so I left him on the hilltop where I found him, preserving his memory in photos.

After lunch we took another trail taking us through the Neotropical Cloud Forest. During our walk we came across several excellent mixed flocks, with spectacular birds such as the Glistening-green Tanager. We were also fortunate that our birding guide in training knew about an Ochre-bellied Antpitta nest that was right on the side of the trail.

Without going right up to it, we had excellent looks at the parent sitting on the nest. We were even able to digiscope a wonderful photo of him/her.

As we went to pass, the bird flew off the nest, trying to distract us on the ground nearby. After we passed the nest, the bird returned to continue taking care of business. The trail is a loop, and there were no other guests due at the lodge for several days, so s/he will have some peace while s/he takes care of her new chick.

After finishing the loop, we returned to the commons area/dining area to have a cold drink and a snack before leaving Milpe to drive back to the lodge in Quito, since we were leaving for the Galapagos in the morning. Unfortunately, the skies opened and it poured for well over an hour.

We used the time to do some birdwatching housekeeping, working on the day's list, uploading photos from the camera storage disc to the netbook, and watching hummingbirds bathe in the large drops that came down on them.

We arrived back in Quito in time for dinner, along with the opportunity to meet a few of the people who would be traveling with us on the tour of the Galapagos. After dinner we packed up our large suitcase for the week away, leaving some clothes and all of what we bought in the market in the room for our return to Quito before our flight back to the U.S.

Our time on Ecuador's mainland had been a whirlwind affair with more birds than I could name in a short window of time. We had also learned quite a bit about Ecuador's economy, politics, and geography, thanks to Jorge Cruz, the owner of the three properties we had visited, as well as our birding guide.

The list:

Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Semi-collared Hawk
Laughing Falcon
Ruddy Pigeon
Maroon-tailed Parakeet
Bronze-winged Parrot
Choco Screech-Owl
White-collared Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
White-whiskered Hermit
Green Thorntail
Green-crowned Woodnymph
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Andean Emerald
Purple-bibbed Whitetip
Green-crowned Brilliant
Booted Racket-Tail
Purple-crowned Fairy
Collared Trogon
Pale-mandibled Aracari
Choco Toucan
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner
Plain Xenops
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Immaculate Antbird
Chestnut-backed Antbird
Ochre-breasted Antpitta
Golden-faced Tyrannulet
Streak-necked Flycatcher
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
Ornate Flycatcher
Tawny-breasted Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Cinnamon Becard
Golden-winged Manakin
Swainson's Thrush
Ecuadorian Thrush
Blue-and-white Swallow
White-thighed Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Tawny-faced Gnatwren
Tropical Parula
Blackburnian Warbler
Slate-throated Whitestart
Choco Warbler
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Orange-crowned Euphonia
Glistening-green Tanager
Blue-necked Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Lemon-rumped Tanager
Ochre-breasted Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager
Buff-throated Saltator
Black-winged Saltator
Variable Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Tricolored Brush-Finch
Orange-billed Sparrow
Scrub Blackbird
Yellow-bellied Siskin

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