Report 6. Saturday, September 8, 2007. Birding Day 5. East to West.

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

Good morning. It's 609 am, and the alarm went off at 540 again. We're beginning to dream of sleeping in.


Steven does several Kenya trips a year, and one or two of the trips are British. He says the Brits call a sleep-in a lie-in. "Are we going to 'ave a lie-in tomorrow?" He does British perfectly -- both high British and the rougher one that no one can possibly understand, Cockney I think. My favorite is when a Brit is taken aback with something Steve says, and responds with "What?" Only he does the fantastic -- "WOT?" The 'wot?' is drawn out in a singsong way, but definitely non-musical. And the 't' is silent.

We are doing a San Isidro trail this morning, and there's a light rain. We quickly get HIGHLAND MOTMOT, then GOLDEN-CROWNED FLYCATCHER. Continuing down the trail, we get poor views of one of my top 30 birds, the GREEN-FRONTED LANCEBILL.

We head deeper into the forest on the trail. Steve gets handsome flycatcher, but we can never get it because it's pretty high up and moves around quickly. {So frustrating, Magna and Steve are so good at spotting and identifying these quick-moving birds and I see a bird flitting, or I don't see it so we don't get it. Steve is so patient to put up with these "misses" and sometimes I'm not so patient with myself when everyone else is seeing it and I'm not. "Oh, well..", as Bob says.}

We hear white-bellied antpitta, then gray-breasted wood-wren, with its beautiful song. I see the wood-wren rear-end.

Sharon gets a Slate-throated Whitestart, which we've seen in Costa Rica. It's a beautiful bird, but we see it several times during the hike, in addition to spectacled whitestart.

Steve hears a toucan, and while we search for it, we get GLOSSY-BLACK THRUSH high in the canopy, after which we get the EMERALD TOUCANET, which Steve says has been split off, this one now called andes toucanet.

It's 830 am.

A flock moving through provides us with a fantastic BLUE-NAPED CHLOROPHONIA.

Blue-naped Chlorophonia

Steven hears the trill of a tapaculo and plays its song. It responds and we eventually get poor views of it darting across an opening. It's an ASH-COLORED TAPACULO, Steve finally works out.

We walk under a fallen tree, which came to rest on other trees and stumps during its fall, and so hasn't gone all the way to the ground. It has fallen long ago enough that branches have grown down to the ground from the tree, which is obviously still alive. We pass under the tree, between branches. In a bit, after some cogitation, Steven changes a pale-edged flycatcher to a SULPHUR-BELLIED TYRANNULET.

We finish up the trail and go back to the lodge. Sharon and I visit the top of the viewing building and get a nice long-tailed sylph close up, with its tail hidden by his perch.

Then we do a drive in the van, again out to the end of the road at the seemingly non-existent SierrAzul.

We see a couple of birds flying back and forth across the road, and Steve locates the nest of a pair of Barred Becards. It's about 10 am. Next comes a nice BLACK-CAPPED TANAGER. Several OLIVACEOUS SISKINS are pecking at things in the road ahead of us.

Steven chases another handsome flycatcher (that's its actual name), but can't get any of us on it. We begin to cross a fast-moving stream in the van and, holy moly, there's a WHITE-CAPPED DIPPER, another of our top 30 target birds. Woo-hoo! After enjoying this bird, we continue on to the end of the road again, near the SierrAzul sign.

After enjoying the new-life-bird feeling, we finally turn around and head back to the cabanas, crossing the rickety bridge I'm mentioning just now for the first time. Sharon gets a roadside hawk high overhead, ID'd by Steven.

Steven records, then plays back the call of what turns out to be a northern mountain-cacique, causing it to pop out to see who has such a wonderful voice. This is a classic thing one does when there is a singing bird you can't ID, but it won't pop out.

We get a SOLITARY EAGLE way overhead, after Steve and Wilson looked at each other and said, "What's THAT?"

We go back to the cabanas and turn our packed luggage over to the staff, who lug (get it? Lug? Luggage?) it out to the van. We head out, on our way back to Baeza, Papallacta Pass again (3rd try) and the Juan Carlos' guest house tonight. It's about 1230 noon.

Wilson gets us out to the paved highway and off we go, but stop pretty soon at a side gravel road, going beside a deep forest valley on one side. We get BLUE-NECKED TANAGER, then Olive-sided Flycatcher.

As we work our way along the road, we notice a power plant off to the left, in the distance.

Ecuador Power Plant

A black-capped tanager and some mosquitoes join us, followed by what Steven calls a Tropical Wood-pewee, also known in the U.S. as Western Wood-pewee.

Wilson says that this huge valley is for sale for 30 million dollars. I try to take up a collection but a) nobody listens, and 2) we're about, um, 30 million dollars short, give or take a little.

We stop in Baeza for lunch, then take off again, driving by a building with "Dr. Polio, Distributor" on the signboard. Nice.

Suddenly I realize that I left my cap in the restaurant. We turn around and go back, where I find it on the floor, behind my chair, where I put it. Whew. I need that cap when it's raining, to keep my glasses from the rain. Steve laughs and says that this little episode of turning around will likely cost us the seedsnipe. "Dohp!" I say. Then, "No, it will GET US the seedsnipe!"

We can see cattle in the road ahead, and as we pass them, I see three little kids riding on a cow, whipping at it like a horse, and it's running kinda fast.

Well, we come to the Papallacta Pass road entrance, and up we go. Deja Dj vu. Up, up we go, and the weather is much better. No ice, no snow. Veritable springtime. The first time we drove up this route, it seemed like it took two hours to get to the top. Last time (the "ice" visit), It seemed like an hour. This time seemed like 20 minutes.

Again, we stay below while Steven and Wilson look for our target seedsnipe. Steve suddenly yells for us to follow him. Wilson has found the birds. We catch up, then stop, peering through the rolling fog with first naked eye, then with bins, now seeing, now fogged out, and then we spot a couple of birds pecking at the ground during a clearing moment. But wait! They're ANDEAN SNIPES, not the seedsnipes we are after. Steven is tickled because this is a life bird for him. He already has the seedsnipe. And they're lifers for us too.

Then Wilson and Steven go off again, looking for our target bird. Through the fog we hear Steven say Wilson has the bird. Again. But then he says the very un-magical words, "We have to go down there!" Pointing down the steep mountainside. How can we do THAT? "Walk on the plants," he says, "not the slippery mud."

He and Magda take off, down the slope. {Oh, to be 23 again!} Gulp. Then Wilson shows up and says he'll help Sharon and for me to go on, not realizing, or maybe forgetting, that Sharon and I must see the bird together. I go ahead, though, DOWN THE STEEP SLOPE, stepping carefully on the plants for footing. It's working! Wilson and Sharon follow close behind, as I'm going pretty slow. Through the fog I can see that the little valley here has somewhat of a level meadow-like area and a rise beyond that. I make it down to the flat part. How good it feels. Wilson and Sharon catch up. Wilson splits off now and races up a path.

Now we can occasionally see Steven, and we yell back and forth stuff like, "Do you have them?" "Yes, they were just here." "WERE? Do you see them right now?" "No, but they're close. We can hear them." Then we hear the whistling song, indicating that they are flying, and we see a number of them fly right over our head. Woo-hoo! There's our lifer RUFOUS-BELLIED SEEDSNIPE! Now we want to get a better look.

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe

{Magna and Steve are below us, but Wilson has gone up and begins to call to us. "Venga, venga" (Come here). So we start up. "Despacio, he says" I tell Bob, "I think that means slowly" so we creep up a little at a time.} Well, we climb all over that mountain, up steep trails, down steep trails, crossing from trail to trail, up angles we didn't think we could do, and get great looks at them, feeding. They are beautiful. Steven gets great video which he later shares. We are chuffed!

We head back down the mountain, feeling like we just conquered the world. Steven plays a Metallica version of a song called Astronomy, from an album called Garage Inc. This music we don't dig. But we don't care cause "we got the bird!"

It's Saturday night and as we come to the beginning of Quito suburbs, there is a huge festival going on, and traffic is stopped. Except for the right hand turn lane, which is the one we want. Excellent. But then it jams up again, and Wilson finally exits stage left, hits a dead end, U-turns, back to the main road, takes the next left, and uses the back streets to deliver us to the guest house. Wow, I had no idea we were this close. I thought we had another hour to go.

We unload, and are escorted to our room for the night in a new building on the premises. It's wonderful, new, comfortable, tasteful. But you STILL have to drop the toilet paper into the plastic waste can. It's OK, we got used to it.

We have dinner, then borrow the use of their internet hookup where I check emails and football scores. Then it's back to the room to upload photos and audio tracks. {It's great to hear from Jeane and Red that Dad is in an Alzheimer's assessment facility and Mom is doing well. So we can enjoy the second half of our trip. Thanks, guys!}

Ahhhhh. Good night and good birding.



Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 21
Total Trip Birds to Date: 157

Life Birds Seen Today: 16
Total Life Birds to Date: 133

Best Birds: Andean Toucanet, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, White-capped Dipper, Solitary Eagle, Blue-necked Tanager, Andean Snipe, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. Some great birds.

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