Thursday, December 4, 2008

East Slope

Hi all,

Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been without communication to the world for some time now. And by no communication I mean it. No mail, no phone, no internet, everything is at least 30 minutes away. It's nice, in a different sort of way.

Anyways, the past two weeks or so have been spent at San Isidro, not at Yanayacu Biological Station as was planned.
On our travel day to Yanayacu, we arrived at Cosanga, the local town, as planned, only to find that the person who was going to pick us up had already been there, and had been told we had already been picked up and taken to the station! Well, the gas station owner there assured us that he would be back within an hour or so, for sure. We should have known better.
After 2.5 hours of waiting, we decided screw it, that I was going to walk the uphill 8km to the station and see if I could find anyone. It didn't take that long, only 80 minutes or so, but when I got there, of course it was deserted. My mom showed up about 20 minutes later, in a car, with the guy and all our luggage, so we did make it there.
However, the accommodations were not exactly what we had expected. I guess we should not have been surprised for $15/night, but for that we got two small beds, a bare bulb, and enough space to put our bags. Thats about it. Plywood ceilings contrasted strangely with the fact that we had electricity in our room, and wireless satellite internet!

The next morning when we woke up it was pouring. It poured all morning, and at about 2pm we decided we were going to walk to San Isidro, about 3km away down the dirt road. 
Well when we got there I found the birders to talk birds, and my mom went to find the proprietress, Carmen, to talk lodging.
Then was when the craziness started.
I had been sitting at the hummingbird feeders chatting with a British guy, who also happened to be called Ian, when my mom came back and informed me that Carmen had hired her to be "Carmen" and translate from the Spanish of the staff to the English of the guests. What that meant for us was indefinite free lodging at San Isidro!
So for almost two weeks now we've been living at San Isidro, with the great food, birds, and guests.

The best part of this all for me was being able to bird with Mitch Lysinger, Carmens husband, and also an absolutely top-notch birder, one of the greats of Ecuador and for that matter, South America. 
He happened to be leading a Field Guides tour for a week, based out of San Isidro, and he was kind enough to let me come with them every day birding, which was just fantastic. There were 8 participants, Mitch, and myself.
I think while I was with them we managed about 300 species in a week, which included: 23 Military Macaws in one morning, most of the population of Ecuador, Orange-breasted Falcon, about 35 species of hummingbird, including Sword-billed and Mountain Avocetbill, many tanagers: Paradise, Bay-headed, Orange-eared, Bicolored Antvireo, 6 species of swift in a morning, including the rare Spot-fronted and White-chested, Lyre and Swallow-tailed Nightjars, Buckley's Forest-Falcon, two Chlorophonias, Chesnut-crowned, White-bellied, Tawny, and Slate-crowned Antpittas, Giant Conebill, Silvery Grebe, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Ocellated Tapaculo (seen well!), and many more that I'm sure I've forgotten. 

San Isidro itself is great as well, you wake up every morning to the calls of Inca Jays, Highland Motmots, Black-billed Peppershrikes, and the everpresent Subtropical Caciques making a racket. On the trails themselves there is great birding, with the most common tanagers being Saffron-crowned, by far, Flame-faced, Blue-gray, and Black-capped. Other oddities creep in at times, a Golden-collared Honeycreeper here, a Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia there. 
Probably the best bird I've had on the property here was seen this morning, when I led a Dutch couple down towards the Cock-of-the Rock lek (they werent there this morning), and on the way back we had a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, only the second confirmed record for San Isidro! It's normally a bird of the lowlands, and very rare at the ~2000masl we had it at. 
I wish I could post photos, but this satellite internet I'm on is far too slow for that. 
I'm at Yanayacu now, and I will try to make it over here more often to update this blog.

Some other good birds had, not on Mitch's trip, were Andean Potoo, Plum-throated Cotinga, Flammulated Treehunter, and a vagrant Sunangel at Guango Lodge yesterday, either Amethyst-throated or Gorgeted, I'm waiting on Mitch's opinion on the picture I got. 

In conclusion, Ecuador is an awesome country and I recommend it to anyone who would ask. 
And come to San Isidro :p

Until later, 

P.S. I hear a Golden-headed Quetzal right now.

No comments: