Report 7. Sunday, September 9, 2007. Birding Day 6. To Bella Vista.

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

We wake up in our room in the guest house, and all is well. What a great sleep. We get ready for the morning, then head over for breakfast.

As we get almost to the main house, I turn and look back towards the new building with our room, across the lawn and through some trees, past the brick walkway.

Juan Carlos' Guest House Property, Quito Suburb of Sangolqui

Last night we turned our laundry in, and it's supposed to be ready when we leave this morning.

As we walk over for breakfast, we get a Black Vulture flyover. There are a couple of Saffron Finches working a feeder at the corner of the main house, as well as eared doves around. I have lugged a couple of bags over to the main house, but then I learn that Wilson has driven into the OTHER driveway and is parked over by our building. So now I get to take the luggage back over there. Sweet.

There are several of Juan Carlos' horses at the feeding station, having been brought into the main yard from an adjacent field. {Steve says they snuck up on him and he was was surprised to say the least.}

Sharon and Horses are Mutually Attractive

Steven and Magda join us and we bird the property. A sparkling violetear zooms up in the air, hovers, then comes crashing down towards the ground, over and over. An airplane flies over, beyond our view of a black-tailed trainbearer in a tree. We get SOUTHERN YELLOW GROSBEAK in a tree in the front yard. Also a pair of Cattle Egrets fly over.

Blue-and-white swallows fly overhead, as we wait for our laundry, which is taking a long time to dry. It's about a quarter till 8. Sharon spots BLUE-CAPPED TANAGER with the saffron finches. Steven does the ID.

We load up and head out. We are headed west now, to get the birds on the western slope of the Andes. Wilson drives us through Quito and we get interesting views of lots of parks and statues, one set of statues is in a tug of war. Occasionally we see a sky-blue heart painted on pavement, with "motion" marks, as they might do in newspaper cartoons to indicate motion of an object

When we ask about this, Steven says it indicates where a fatality occurred. Like when people lay flowers on a dangerous corner of a highway, where a friend or relative has died.

A sign says we are headed for the Bolivia Tunnels. We're a long way from Bolivia, so I don't know what this is about. Quito, like San Francisco, is a city built on hills, but Q seems much larger in area.

The highway has circled around the airport and begun to climb in altitude. We can see the runway far below now, off to our right. After a bit, driving through slower roads, after leaving the highway, we come to realize that some sort of festival is going on.

Wilson stops for doughnuts. Then we drive by a band playing and I ask to stop so I can shoot some video. Dancers are in masks, and one man has a "gorilla" on a leash. They are both dancing. The "man" sees me, points to the gorilla, points to me, and motions for me to come over. I don't, of course. What am I gonna do with a gorilla? A woman who at first I thought was trying to get donations from the dancers, I now realize is offering them a drink of a liquid in a cup.

Monkey Dance

The band has trombones, tubas, drums and more. It's nice and loud. I finish up filming and we take off again.

Sharon is saying Magda's name is interesting. Sharon's grandmother's name was Magdalena and she was called Lena. Magda's name is also Magdalena. I ask what Magda's mom calls her. "Magda," she says, but goes on to say that family members call her "Tita" for chiquitita. Mom is Mita, for momita. Dad is Pito for papito. I say Sharon's name, using the same system, would be shita. Sharon says, "Oh yeah, first you call me SLUTMAN on the internet (counterpart to my BLUTMAN. I DID change it to SHLUTMAN), and now you're calling me Shita."

I say, "There's a great view off to Steven's left." He's like another genius friend of mine from the past, Eric Dean, who couldn't tell left from right without working through it. Even Steve will say about a bird, "He's off to the left," and we can see he's looking to the right. Then he'll say, "My other left."

Then Sharon tells son Matt's saying, "If left isn't right, then right's the only thing that's left. Right?"

We drive along, with the most amazing view of high Andes farmland.

High Andes Farmland

Steven says we're at 11,000 feet and still climbing. Actually he says we're at so many meters and I convert. I converted? Mom and Dad never wanted me to convert. I think sister Shirley would have preferred it.

It's a little after 930 am.

We come to the turnoff to Yanacocha. I've heard this name many times and it always hits me with a kind of magical something. We drive up and up, and get to the parking lot. It's five bucks per person to enter, so I owe Steven ten bucks, as he paid for both of us.

There is another group here, being led by a tall, easy-going guy. I hear him say, with a southern American drawl, "Now we're just gonna dawdle our way up this trail."


It's a beautiful, clear day, as a variable hawk flies over. The trail is actually a road cut into the side of the mountain, and it winds in and out, like Highway 1 between Northern and Southern California, hugging the coastline.

It feels like we're walking near a volcano, and I guess maybe we are. Here's Sharon during a break. {Look at me still bundled up. Where is that Equatorial weather?}

Yanacocha trail

We come to a place where they have put out hummingbird feeders, and we get a SAPPHIRE-VENTED PUFFLEG, a nice little hummingbird. We also get a buff-winged starfrontlet...

Buff-winged Starfrontlet

... and a female Swordbilled Hummingbird.

Glossy flowerpiercers are around the feeders also. Steven gets us a SMOKY BUSH-TYRANT, a little flycatcher, and a pearled treerunner, along the trail.

Scarlet-breasted mountain-tanager and cinereous conebill follow, and then a BLACK-CRESTED WARBLER. A nice RUFOUS-NAPED BRUSH-FINCH decides to add himself to our list, in with blue-backed conebill and a couple of whitestarts.

There are loads and loads of swifts overhead, some of them are White-collared Swifts.

We meet up with a couple -- a lawyer and social worker, whom we met at San Isidro, at dinner. He's got a powerful camera and is shooting photos all over the place. Nice camera. CAMERA! MUST HAVE CAMERA! Excuse me. I don't know what I meant by that.

The social worker lady is something of a flower and plant expert, and to show her how down I am with discussing plants, I say, "Like that Elephant Ear plant for example. I'd use it as a marker to get other people on a bird. I say something like, 'See the Elephant Ear? Go about ten feet to the right of---' "

Then the lady laughs loudly and says, "That's not an Elephant Ear. That doesn't look even remotely like Elephant Ear. Why an Elephant Ear has blah blah blah, and that one is blah blah blah. Can you imagine? Calling that an Elephant Ear."

Later, in the van, I describe an imaginary birding walk with this lady, as she's trying to get others on a bird (usually, you may have ten seconds to get another person on a bird). "See that elephant ear? Well, it's not really an elephant ear, it's more in the wild pea family. You know, like the mauranium or a chrysanthemamium? We saw one of those once in Hawaii, at our condo. I'll never forget it. We were visiting our son in Maui. It was raining and... Oh. Where did that bird go? Did you all see it?"

Dohp! Where was I? Oh yes...

We chat with them a bit more, then get the bird with my favorite name: SUPERCILIARIED HEMISPINGUS! {I don't know where the hemispingus name comes from but the "supercilium" is the place on the bird's head where an eyebrow would be. We will often say to each other, "see the white supercilium? That means it is an..." so I assume that this bird got the first part of its name from its white eyebrow.} What a spectacular name.

A flock moves through and we get flock excitement. STREAKED TUFTEDCHEEK is a bird we were hoping to see and BAM, here's one now. Then BLACK-AND-WHITE BECARD, still in the same flock. WHITE-TAILED TYRANNULET shows up and then Steve hears a call, whips out his iPod, spins to this bird and plays its calls. The BAR-BELLIED WOODPECKER can't stand it and swoops into a tree nearby. Excellent.

Steven plays the tape ("plays the tape" is a euphemism for "plays the iPod track") of the spectacular ocellated tapaculo, which brought in three UNICOLORED TAPACULOS. These birds are incredible ground skulkers, meaning their game is "don't let them see you."

It's about 1235 pm. Fascinating things, those bird call tracks. The people who recorded the call of the unicolored tapaculos also captured the call, in the background, by accident, of a white-browed spinetail. {Why not a superciliated spinetail?} And son of a gun if a WHITE-BROWED SPINETAIL doesn't show up too when Steve plays the tape, and not just in the background. We get fair looks at the spinetail.

We come to a toilet block near the summit, which I make use of, but before I go in, we check out another group of hummingbird feeders, where we get GOLDEN-BREASTED PUFFLEG for a moment.

It is an interesting experience, when I go to the restroom, and here, on this bench is a good demonstration. 1) First, I take my jacket off. 2) Next, I take my umbrella (yes, THAT umbrella) out from its pocket in the back of my vest and lay it down. 3) I unbuckle my fanny pack, with the field guide and my water in it, and set it down. 4) I take off my binoculars and put them down. 5), I take the still camera and the 6) video camera out of their respective pockets in my vest and set them down. 7) I take my vest off. Then I head into the toilet. {Whew! I'm glad he stopped there. I thought you were about to get a description of his toilet trip.} Sherilee!! What are you talking about???

The puffleg showed up about step number 5, so I had to get my binoculars quickly, and just did get a look before the hummingbird took off.

After going to the rest room, we do the last little climb to what's supposed to be the very best hummingbird feeder spot at Yanacocha, but there are thousands of tiny flies that drive us crazy. These may be what are called "no see-ums", because I've never seen 'em before. They might also be called "me bite-ums".

This morning at breakfast, I poured some corn flakes into a bowl and asked, "Is there milk on the table?" Magda passed the milk. I poured it on the cereal, then took a bite. IT WAS WARM! They put warm milk on the table so that when you put it in your coffee, it doesn't cool off the coffee. Great for coffee drinkers, not so much for cereal eaters. WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS? WHAT ABOUT ME? From now on, I'll ask for cold milk. Bob and weave. Adjust. Keep up. The world's changin'.

We head back now, back the same path we came, but the fog has moved in and it's cooler.

A nice soft fog

Sharon holds up a rock while we admire her strength

I am pooped, but soon delighted to see that Wilson has driven the van way up the road to meet us. My feet are killing, but some other people have a bird. I limp in fast enough to see that it is several andean guans. The people move down the road a bit and are looking at what I presume to be more guans, but I have to sit down. Ahhhhhhhh.

Steven starts waving, "Get over here! It's a barred fruiteater." Dangit. I hustle over as best as my feet can get me there, but Sharon and I both miss the bird. Stupid feet.

Now it's about 3 pm.

We head down the other side of the mountain, continuing westward, and Steven points out some WHITE-TIPPED DOVES. It seems like the vegetation has gotten lusher. More lush. Lushier. Hmmmm.

A small river going down this side of the mountain supports a couple of trout hatcheries. One has a dammed up pool, where people are fishing, and others are eating what I'm guessing is their catch at the pool.

We get PLAIN-BREASTED HAWK on the way down, as we stop and walk a while. We can hear toucan barbets across the valley. Steven plays their call, but can't draw them in for a sighting.

We ride a while, then walk a while, and Steven says, "Hear that call like a pig squealing (yes)? Those are cock-of-the-rock calls. Steven and Wilson and Magda all are searching, and Steven says he has them. They set up the scope and there is probably my number one or two target bird of the trip, ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK. The males on the east side are dark orange, but these on the west side are bright red. Their call sort of pisses me off with disappointment. How can my number one target bird have such a ridiculous call? I get over it. We're on vacation.

As we're looking, Steven describes the leafy secropia trees. Whereas vines grow and cover most of the trees, the secropias have a symbiotic relationship with Aztec ants. The ants clip the vines off at the bottom, before they can grow up the tree. There is sugar in the trees and ants make their home in the hollow trees, using the sugar. Steve says tanagers like these trees too. They appear almost white in the overview of the forest from afar.

A fantastic bird is the oropendola. The males perch on a branch, do their incredibly raucus call, rivaling the pig-squealing cock-of-the-rock, and "fall" forward on the branch, but not letting go, so that they hang below, like a pendulum, then they swing back up.

The girl oropendolas seem to love this. I used to do this, but had trouble hanging onto the back of the chairs with my toes, in the bars. The shoe soles, you know.

Anyway Steven tells the following story. He watched a female oropendola build a nest. Their nests hang down, like oriole nests, only they hang WAY down. A male, which one would presume to be her mate, attacked her and beat "the crap" out of her, driving her all the way to the ground, where he continued pecking her.

He left her then, and she tore down the old nest, rebuilt it about six feet over, made it longer, and then the 'old man' was happy. They mated and produced a family of chicks. I didn't ask him, but how does he know it was the same creep she mated with in the end? Maybe it was a different bird. Yes, yes, lots of cool girl birds SAY they want the nice males, but when it gets right down to it, they mate with the hell-raisers.

Wilson, who seems to specialize in these raptors, finds us another roadside hawk, perched beside the, uh, road.

Steven spots another raptor and I can't begin to tell you how far away it is. It lands on a perch, and he gets the scope on it. He decides that it's a juvenile Double-toothed Kite. When it's my turn to look, I can just barely even tell that it's a bird.

Then, suddenly, we pull into Bella Vista (say BAY-uh VEE-stuh), our home for the next two nights. Before anything happens, we go and park ourselves in front of the hummingbird feeders. Oh my!

We get ANDEAN EMERALD, a spectacular green hummingbird with white chest and belly. A green violetear shows itself. We get several stunning PURPLE-THROATED WOODSTARS, reminding us of the white-bellied ones from Guango Lodge. When the light strikes their throats at just the right angle, it feels like I'm being hit with a thousand candlepower flare. Awesome.

Purple-throated Woodstar (lifted from video)

A GORGETED SUNANGEL also has a pinkish-purple throat. FAWN-BREASTED BRILLIANT is next, and then we get one of our top five target birds, the absolutely smashing BOOTED RACKET-TAIL.

Booted Racket-tail

It has white feathery "boots" and a long tail, terminating in two round paddle-like feathers, reminding one of tennis rackets perhaps. This bird is just unbelievable. I think the tail is longer than the bird.

We put our stuff in the room, then go on a walk down a gravel road. Magda gets us on the spectacular GRASS-GREEN TANAGER. You cannot possibly imagine the color of green this bird sports. We get a Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush on the road, then head back to the room.

Sharon showers while I start the day's entries. There's lots to do tonight. We meet for dinner in "the dome". This is a 360 degree walkaround building, with triangular windows, so you can see completely around the building, into the forest and mountains beyond.

We have dinner. Some sort of quiche, a great plain salad, fruit. Sharon has a coke and I have a Fanta orange.

After dinner, we get a Gray Potoo (old name "Common" Potoo), sitting on a post, trying to look like the top of the post. We go back to the room. I continue inputting the day's photos, wondering when I'm going to find an internet point, so I can get off Report #1. Not here.

Sharon has found a small, portable heater, and has it up on a ledge, like a bookcase in the wall, pointed right at our beds, right next to her bed. This afternoon I thought this was going to be silly, but I'll tell you, it feels great. It would be cold in the room without it.



Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 30
Total Trip Birds to Date: 187

Life Birds Seen Today: 23
Total Life Birds to Date: 156

Best Birds: Streaked Tuftedcheek, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Purple-throated Woodstar, Gorgeted Sunangel, Booted Racket-tail, Grass-green Tanager.

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