Report 4. Thursday, September 6, 2007. Birding Day 3. Another Shot at Papallacta Pass. To San Isidro.

Note: Sharon's notes are in {green curly brackets}. Information added to the original reports will be in [red].

I order two eggs over easy for breakfast, plus we get juice and rolls. Some fresh fruit. Coffee for those who want it. Oh, on the way to breakfast, we took note of a fellow sitting in the hot pool, up to his neck, holding a newspaper out of the water and reading intently. Nice.

We are going to have another go at Papallacta Pass and the seedsnipe, so we take off early.

As we go, I read Steven the 30 birds in my "top 10" list. He either says, "guaranteed", "you've got a shot", or something like "you don't have a prayer".

Later, I'll give you the status of that list and update it from time to time.


I try to evaluate the chances of seeing each bird that's possible on our big trips, then add up the probabilities to get a figure for expected number of species for the trip, but I don't have a good feel for how to do this for Ecuador. I just don't know that much about the birds there.

In what I call the "details" section of our field guide, each species' range is shown in Ecuador. I know our approximate birding path, so based on the overlaps of these two, I make my estimate. If our path is solidly in a bird's range, I give it a rating of 9 or 10. If it's on the edge, but definitely IN, I give it an 8. And so on. If a bird's range doesn't include any of our path, I give it a zero. Barely touching is a 1, or 10%.

Anyway, IF I had read the TEXT, I could get better information. Like "rare" or "local" or "abundant", etc. I didn't take the time to use this more accurate method because of the time it was going to take to analyze all 1600 birds or so.

This results in some pretty wild predictions, and Steven loves to jump all over them. For example, tropical kingbird, a species we see all over the place I have rated as a 4. Steve slaps his knee. A bird that's a LIFER for him, for someone of his world experience, I have as a 9. He almost has to take a separashun he's laughing so hard.

Rather than try to explain all this, I let it run. Steven's great fun to entertain.

OK, enough of Lutman's prediction system. Except I add up the numbers and get about 300. In the past we've always beaten my predictions, but I don't know about Ecuador and my graphical mapical system. I'm hoping...


I can't help thinking how cold it was yesterday. We are to the top at about 900 am, having followed a giant bus which gave up and turned around, due to the bad weather, before it reached the top.

Incredibly, birders from Quito sign up for a bus tour that takes them to try and see the seedsnipe. BUSES!! ON THIS TINY ROAD!!

Anyway, we get to the top, and the wind is blowing so hard and it's so cold that Wilson and Steven tell us to stay in the van while they look around. Listen to me and listen to me good. When they open the doors at the same time, in the front seat, the wind almost sweeps Magda out of the van. She holds on till they close the doors.

They aren't gone long.

"Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. It's too harsh," they shiver, and we go back down.

We drive back down to our lodge, and Steven says we are going to bird the road above the lodge again, but we're driving this time. I hope they aren't pulling any calves out into the world up there.

This is my favorite kind of birding right now. We drive to a new location, Wilson parks and we get out, then continue in the same direction but walking on the road while Wilson waits. After twenty minutes or so, while we're walking and birding, Wilson pulls up behind us and parks again. Then Steve either continues birding, if conditions are good, or we load up to drive to some other spot.

Since this was our last night here, we have packed up our suitcases but we don't load them into the van yet. Wilson drives us up the hill, into the biological reserve.

Before we leave, we get a black-chested buzzard-eagle, with its wings having a pinched-in appearance where they join the body. It's flying over the hotel. We head up the hill. A BLACK-BACKED BUSH-TANAGER makes an appearance, followed by a male great sapphire-wing. We saw the female earlier.

Steven sees a white-throated tyrannulet, but it escapes the area before anybody else can get on it.

We arrive at a building, serving this ecological reserve. It's pretty basic and has no rest room, but it looks inviting in the foggy morningl. Two WHITE-CHINNED THISTLETAILS bounce around the shrubs and we see lots more black-backed bush-tanagers. We get an excellent look at a pearled treerunner.

It's now about noon. We get a MASKED MOUNTAIN-TANAGER, and WHITE-THROATED TYRANNULET. The flycatchers abound, even in this cold, foggy environment.

We finish up and head back down the mountain, to the inn. We use the rest room and while we're waiting, I go over and get a photo of a beautiful gate, opening to a covered bridge, over a rushing stream.

Covered Bridge Gate

While I'm over there, Wilson thinks he sees an aplomado falcon, one of my top 30 birds, but I don't see it, he's not sure, and Steven's inside, so I guess I wouldn't have been certain even if I'd have seen it. Sharon says she barely saw it.

Attendants come to our room and take our luggage out to Wilson, who packs it into the back of the van. We head out, through the town, past the chemical plant, on our way to San Isidro, where we'll spend the next two nights.

We stop along the way and get Blue-and-white Swallows, then a nice CHESTNUT-BREASTED SEEDEATER. We come into a village and Wilson pops into a service station to fill up with diesel.

I can't help noticing that the diesel is $1.03.7, regular is about $1.48 and premium is about $2.10 or so. Venezuela is a huge oil producer, and maybe this is the reason for the cheap fuel.

As we're filling up, we get Torrent Tyrannulet and Tropical Kingbird, which Steven teases me about because it's so common and I ranked it a 4 or 5, meaning not very likely to see only a 40 or 50% chance.

We also get Social Flycatcher over the service station. Additionally we see blue-gray tanager. Now we've seen this bird already, but the ones on the west side of the Andes have a white patch on the side. Steven says he is told that it is almost certain that this bird will be split off to a different species, but we don't count it as a new species yet.

We head on, but stop where we get a large, sweeping view of the river. We get both male and female torrent duck here, using the scope for great looks, plus we get a Black Phoebe. {It's unbelievable to watch these birds that prefer the fast-moving water. They just dive into the water and are strong enough to swim upriver through the water that looks like it would drown any animal.}

Male Torrent Duck. See why birders need scopes?

We eventually arrive at San Isidro, where we meet Rho Ann, the manager. She asks if we have any allergies to food and I say no. She says that Steven told her that I HATE green peppers. Did I say that? I thought I only thought it.

A group of parrots fly over, but are too fast for Steven to get a definitive ID. He eliminates all but scaly-naped amazon temporarily, but still is not sure. He'll check further a little later.

We bird the area and get a beautiful butterfly, on the road. {Any ID for us, Loretta? Our sister-in-law the butterfly expert.}

One of many beautiful butterflies of Ecuador.

This is one of the places where they do a daily feeding of antpittas, and we are in time to see if they can entice what would be a life bird out into the open for us. And there's even some regular birding time first.

The San Isidro Courtyard leading to the Dining Room

Birding some more, we get FAWN-BREASTED BRILLIANT on a hummingbird feeder. STREAK-NECKED FLYCATCHER finally shows itself enough for Steven to identify, as well as WHITE-CRESTED ELAENIA. We can hear BLACK-BILLED PEPPERSHRIKE, but can't get a look at it before it's time to get a good spot to see the antpittas.

We go down to watch the antpitta and get great views of CHESTNUT-CROWNED ANTPITTA. Antpittas have long legs and stand tall.

After watching the antpittas a while, we go up on the roof of a round viewing building, where Magda points out a fantastic, tiny GORGETED WOODSTAR perched low, in front of us. There is a great view of the surrounding forest and mountains in the distance.

Surrounding Forest and Mountains at San Isidro

Steven wants to bird one of the trails a little, and we add a heard-only Yellow-billed Cacique to our trip list.

645 pm. It's an exciting time for us because we're heading out to do some night birding, using a brilliant spotlight. We get a female MASKED TROGON before it gets too dark.

Then we get in the van and start driving. Unknown to us, Wilson is taking us to an exact spot beside a road where a life bird awaits us.

By the time we get there, it's still not quite dark. We park beside the highway pavement, with the road angling up somewhat. Fireflies wink at us from all around. Steven starts playing the call of this bird, and in very short order... THERE IT IS!! Wilson and Steve take turns shining the spotlight on it, as it flies overhead, then returns to one of its several perches. Steve's first and somehow, he can keep the light on the bird even when it's flying, without losing it. It's a LYRE-TAILED NIGHTJAR, with a huge long tail flying behind it, like a piper cub pulling a banner over Stanford Stadium during a college football game. Awesome! I remember when Stanford used to be good. Oh well...


Lyre-tailed Nightjar

We drive back to San Isidro, in time for our 730 pm dinner. We get good views of the Black-and-White Owl that some claim is a different species.

Our dinner is fish with a green sauce, twice-baked yucca with cheese and some other vegetarian fare. Gimme my meat!

After dinner, we review the birds to make sure I write them all down. Then it's back to the room, a bit of a comedown from the great lodge we were in the last two nights. However, it's right in the forest, and you can get a life bird by sitting on your patio, if you're a little lucky. {As in Africa, we tramp around so much each day, following our 30 year old guide, Stephen, and his 23 year old wife, Magda, that at night it's about all I can do to get into my PJ's, read a little bit and fall asleep. It was cold here at San Isidro, so it took a while and piling coats onto my feet before I fell asleep}


Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 28
Total Trip Birds to Date: 104

Life Birds Seen Today: 20
Total Life Birds to Date: 91

Best Birds: Black-chested Mountain-tanager, Masked Mountain-tanager, Inca Jay, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Gorgeted Woodstar, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Black-and-white Owl.

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