Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Band-tailed Seedeater

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't post last night, and the reason was that nothing interesting happened in my life yesterday. I woke up with a sore throat, headache, chills, fever, etc etc. I never left the hotel all day. However, I did get one bird, a Rufous-collared Sparrow chipping outside, heard through the window. Hooray.

Today however was much better, mainly because I could function without eminent danger of collapse. We went to the forest that we've been meaning to go to for a couple days now, Parque Metropolitano Bellavista, just 1/2 mile from the hotel. It was a really cool forest, almost exclusively Eucalyptus trees, with some occasional patches of low scrub mixed in. Whatever was there made it a hummingbird HAVEN. I had no less then 22 Black-tailed Trainbearers, and 43 Sparkling Violetears. And those were conservative counts, there could have been more of each, easily, and I bet there were. At all times, from all directions, the high pitched noise of hummingbird song was deafening. Made it hard to hear the Hooded Siskins singing! My personal favorite bird of the day was a very confiding male Band-tailed Seedeater that flushed up from the path, and proceeded to feed on grass right out in the open, a little over 10 feet away. Later on, on the way out, near where I had seen the male Band-tailed earlier, at this powerline cut, I had 3 female Plain-colored Seedeaters, and another or the same Band-tailed. I'm assuming the same.

After hiking for two hours uphill at a little under 10,000 feet of altitude, as you can imagine, we were slightly tired out. So we figured we'd take a cab to our next destination, Hotel Quito, where we were doing a little bit of reconnoitering for a place to stay later on in the trip. Well, we got a cab, but to this moment I'm not sure it was a good decision. 

We flagged a guy down, checked to make sure he had the number and was a licenced taxi, like all the guidebooks say, and asked him the fare. He decided that it would cost us the princely sum of $1.50 for a ~10 minute cab ride. Needless to say, we said sure. As we got in and started to pull away from the curb, we reached for seatbelts to put on. Haha, as if. THERE WERE NO BACKSEAT SEATBELTS. That has got to break so many safety rules its not even funny. The front seats did, but not the rear. I guess we were expendable. The next 10 minutes could be described as harrowing, to say the least. In traffic, our driver had this wonderful habit of hitting the gas, and then almost immediately slamming on the brake. Repeatedly. Once we got out of traffic he speeded up to about 50mph, which was great fun on abrupt s-curves going downhill. 
My mom, not one for hairpin turns, sat through most of the drive with her eyes closed, probably wondering why she ever agreed to come to this country.
We made it though, and a Blue-and-white Swallow at the hotel was a trip bird, so that was nice.

An incredible 23 species for the trip so far now.. Day lists from today below!

Location: Parque Metropolitano Bellavista
Observation date: 11/19/08
Number of species: 9

Eared Dove 4
Sparkling Violetear 43
Black-tailed Trainbearer 22
Great Thrush 28
Cinereous Conebill 2
Band-tailed Seedeater 1m
Plain-colored Seedeater 3f
Rufous-collared Sparrow 22
Hooded Siskin 5

Location: Hotel Quito
Observation date: 11/19/08
Number of species: 5

Black Vulture 3
Sparkling Violetear 6
Black-tailed Trainbearer 1
Blue-and-white Swallow 1
Great Thrush 3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Band-tailed Seedeater with seed husk in mid-fall

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quito - Day two

American Kestrel

My mom and I spent the day meandering around Quito again, but today there were actually some birds! :O
Our goal for the day was to join the "South American Explorers Club", an organization with a name straight out of a bad movie. They offer reference materials, free internet, discounts on places to stay, and overall good information about most things Ecuador.

We took the thrilling buses again today, and discovered on our way back that school gets out sometime between 1:30 and 2, and all the school kids take the bus home. It was a living tide of Ecuadorian teenagers for a while. We waited at the bus stop through four buses, without being able to board any of them because of the press of humanity inside.

Lunch was about $2.70 a head today, for a veggie burger and fries with guacamole for me, and a four course meal for my mom, coming in at $2.80 for a soup, an entree with rice, false meat, a small salad, an eggplant dumpling swimming in sauce, and a slice of carrot cake for desert.

Another thing that was rather noticeable today was the fact that persons of authority seem to carry as large of a gun in as open of a way as possible. We saw two cops riding around on dirtbikes downtown, one of them carrying a submachine gun about as long as his leg. Also, there is a casino that we've walked by both days, which is always guarded out front by a man holding a shotgun across his chest, with his finger on the trigger guard at all times. It's rather unnerving, but hey, we haven't seen any crime, so I guess it works!

Anyways, enough about the city. On to birds. We visited the same place as yesterday: Parque El Ejido, seeing more Trainbearers and all that, but the best spot of the day was the Quito Botanical Gardens, located in Parque La Carolina. It was an excellent spot, and I only got to bird it for ~90 minutes, in drizzle, in the late afternoon. Not optimal conditions. 
However, some of the birds at the gardens included 3 Black Flowerpiercers, 2 Cinereous Conebills, 3 Golden-bellied (Southern Yellow) Grosbeaks, and a couple reminders of home, namely one each of Swainson's Thrush, Black-and-white Warbler, and Blackburnian Warbler.
It's kind of surreal to be listening to Sparking Violetears singing all around, and then all of a sudden you hear this little chip, and you're like "Wait, I know that", and all of a sudden a little Black-and-white Warbler pops into view, soon followed by a Black Flowerpiercer. Very strange.

The best bird of the day though was almost certainly a Tropical Mockingbird that I saw from the window at the South American Explorers Club, which should most certainly not be in Quito as far as I know. The Birds Of Ecuador says about the range of Tropical Mockingbird: "Very local in agricultural terrain in highlands of Imbabura, also a west Napo record." At the end of the species account it says "Only recently found in Ecuador; may increase?"
In any case, a bird I was sure not expecting in downtown Quito, in Pichincha province.

19 species today, almost double yesterday! Also, I'm putting up more pictures then I'm posting here at:

Location: Parque El Ejido
Observation date: 11/17/08
Number of species: 8

Rock Pigeon 5
Eared Dove 68
Sparkling Violetear 10
Black-tailed Trainbearer 4
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Great Thrush 33
Tropical Mockingbird 1
Rufous-collared Sparrow 13

Location: Quito Botanical Gardens, Parque La Carolina
Observation date: 11/17/08
Number of species: 17

American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Rock Pigeon 3
Eared Dove 34
Sparkling Violetear 24
Black-tailed Trainbearer 5
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet 1
Swainson's Thrush 1
Great Thrush 16
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Cinereous Conebill 2
Summer Tanager 2
Black Flowerpiercer 3
Rufous-collared Sparrow 26
Golden-bellied Grosbeak 3
Hooded Siskin 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(
Rufous-collared Sparrow

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First day in Ecuador

Eared Dove

Today was our first real day in Ecuador. We arrived last night around 10pm, always fun to arrive in a new country after dark, but it was extremely painless and easy to get out of the airport. 
Customs was a joke, they took our forms without even glancing at them, and the guy manning the computer at the x-ray machine appeared to be nodding off. 
We were in bed and asleep by 11:30, and glad to be there.

This morning we didn't make it out into the big world until about 1000, due to shower problems, which is to say nobody, including the staff, being able to figure out how to turn on the shower. At least we got a free breakfast for our trouble.

We opted not to get a car for the entire trip, and today we figured that we should give the bus a try, rather then the more conventional taxi. It was a great time, even though we stuck out like a sore thumb, being gringos amongst all the natives. The bus system was very interesting.
There are three bus lines that run through Quito, all down some of the more major streets for most of the length of the city. They have one lane going each way down the middle of the road, separated from the normal traffic by concrete barriers, with bus stations between the two one way lanes. The stops themselves are elevated and can only be entered from one direction, with the fare being a whopping 25 cents. Everyone uses the buses, and each one that we were on was standing room only.

It was a busy day in Quito today, with a market going on at the one park we went to, and a concert nearby, with drums that could be heard from about a mile away, a 'futbol' game at a stadium nearby, and overall just lots of happy people wandering around, being happy and

                     Black-tailed Trainbearer

The best part of the day for me was the park that we visited, which was the only place in the city that had birds other then Eared Doves, Great Thrushes, and Rufous-collared Sparrows. Not that I dont like those birds, but its nice to have some diversity.
Of course, diversity in Quito means 10 species in an entire day outside, but thats besides the point. The show stealer was for sure the Black-tailed Trainbearer, a hummingbird that has about a 3 inch long body, with up to a 7 inch long forked tail! There were at least 7 males in this park, I saw no females the whole time I was there. Also cool were Sparkling Violetears, a rather large and aggressive hummingbird that has an interesting display flight in which it fans its tail and twitters wildly.
Some other birds of note included at least one Vermillion Flycatcher and two Summer Tanagers, neither of which I was really expecting in this small urban park.

It started raining at about 5pm and has continued until now. Looking out our window in the daylight, between the concrete facades of buildings under construction, you can see Volcan Pichincha looming up, in the not so far distance, with the top always enshrouded by clouds. It reminds you that you're around 10,000 feet above sea level.
Speaking of that, altitude has been almost no problem. You get out of breath doing simple things, and breath more often, but other then that, perfectly fine.

Here's to hoping the rain clears up overnight!

Day list from today:

Black Vulture     1
American Kestrel     1
Rock Pigeon     11
Eared Dove     59
Sparkling Violetear     13
Black-tailed Trainbearer     7
Vermilion Flycatcher     1
Great Thrush     19
Summer Tanager     2
Rufous-collared Sparrow     12
10 species  This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


Black-tailed Trainbearer

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The purpose of this blog, for me at least, is to be able to share information about my upcoming trip with my mother to Ecuador for the next two months, from November 15th-January 15th.

A list of locations we will visit, although not limited to these, includes the Quito area, Yanacocha Reserve, Papallacta/Guango Lodge, San Isidro/Yanayacu Biological Station, Sani Lodge, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, and the Mindo area.

Although the primary goal of the trip is birds, another major objective is to keep my mom happy!

I don't know what my internet situation will be for most of the trip, but I will try to keep this updated with bird lists, pictures, and overall notes on the trip, as often as I am able to.

Elevations will vary from a few hundred feet, in the eastern Amazonian lowlands, up to around 14,000 fasl at Papallacta Pass, temperatures from the 40s to 80s (Fahrenheit), and with climates from treeless windswept Andean tundra, or "paramo", to humid jungle full of rivers and seasonally flooded forest in the east.