Report 9. Tuesday, September 11, 2007. Birding Day 8. To Mindo.

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

Reminder: New life birds for us will be in UPPER CASE. New trip birds, but not life birds will be in Initial Caps. Birds in neither category (we've seen them on the trip already, or just talking about them) will be in lower case.

A shout out to sister Shirley Lewis and Sharon's mom Gretchen, whose birthdays are today.

It's 636 am, and we're at the Bella Vista Research Station again. You know, it's ok that we're here… On our way here, we stopped at a covered viewing post, one of my favorites so far.

Another spectacular Andes scene. Can you tell I like to frame scenes?

We bird a bit, possibly hearing a powerful (that's its name) woodpecker, but not certain at this point.

I've not heard what they're hearing, regarding the woodpecker, so I do the Lutman audio ID test. "Hold your hand up, like a gun, and the instant you hear the bird, 'shoot' your gun at the sound," I say. Then I listen intently and watch. Magda and Steven raise their weapons. The guns go off simultaneously after a few seconds, and that time I heard it too. A three-note rap on a tree, very rapid and across the huge valley. All right! POWERFUL WOODPECKER, though with that awful asterisk, "heard-only." Maybe we'll see it later.

Wilson bangs three times on various hollow things, trying to imitate the typical rap-rap-rap of the woodpecker, with limited success, since the bird doesn't come over.

We hear DARK-BACKED WOOD-QUAIL, and they have a wonderful song. Steven hears a crested quetzal, but I didn't hear it. Dang. Then he hears, and we do too, OCELLATED TAPACULO. This is a very nice bird and I really hope we get to see some of these new heard-onlys.

We're walking the tough Heliconia Trail now, and Steven gets us on a RUFOUS-HEADED PYGMY-TYRANT. More black-and-green fruiteaters. Steven tells us to check out the swifts overhead, and to look for the white spots on their front. We get the SPOT-FRONTED SWIFTS he's talking about, as well as some White-collared Swifts. Way up in the sky. Flying so high. I don't know why. Oops, slipped into Napolean Dynamite there. Sorry.

We finally get off of the hellish Heliconia Trail, listed as "pansy", er uh, "Moderate/difficult."

We go back to the lodge and have breakfast, then are back birding again by a quarter till nine.

A monster butterfly lands on Wilson's arm and begins to eat him. Well, more like tasting him really. He seems unconcerned.

Breakfast this morning was cereal with yogurt poured over it, watermelon and papaya, bread, then the question, "How do you want your eggs?" Como ce dice, "Over easy?"

We get STRONG-BILLED WOODCREEPER, and a caterpillar just attaching itself to the underside of a leaf. Setting up to spin its cocoon.

Woodcreepers often flick their wings. Steven said he saw one in an ant swarm one time. There were ants all over the bird. As Steven was watching, the woodcreeper flicked its wings and so many ants flew off that he could HEAR the ants hit the ground.

As we are walking the trail, I begin to see tiny white flies, incredibly tiny, and each has two small strands like hairs, hanging down below the body, from near the head, maybe 1/8 inch long. These flies are what I'd call "cute." I try to get some photos, but they are just too small and the camera won't focus.

Here is one photo, to which I "emphasized" the white "feelers" with Photoshop.

Magda points to a plant with huge green leaves, but with a red tip, covering maybe a quarter of the leaf. Hummingbirds see this red, and know that there are flowers underneath, she says.

The now-familiar chestnut-crowned antpitta walks along the trail ahead of us, doing its call. While we're waiting for a flock to appear, Steve bounces among three different bird songs, hoping to "hit" one of them.

A russet-crowned warbler shows up and it's about 10 am.

We finish up this bit of birding, load up and work our way down from Bella Vista, now being at 6500 feet. We are on our way to the next destination.

We do another park-and-walk after a bit and get RUFOUS-CHESTED TANAGER and a WHITE-WINGED BRUSH-FINCHES, followed by a common but gorgeous bird, a GOLDEN TANAGER.

Golden Tanager (photo taken at Mirador del Rio)

We're continue on our hot streak. We get smoky-brown woodpecker, then a tiny rufous-headed pygmy-tyrant. An azara's spinetail, with the black chin patch, a beryl-spangled tanager, and a beautiful GREEN VIOLEATEAR are added to my voice recorder. We're smokin'.

Things slow down and we get in the car for some rapid navigation. I look forward to these van trips, because somebody, either Steven or I will soon be telling a story. I love to hear his, and tell mine. Wilson tosses in a good one now and then. When I tell one, we get to hear Steve retell it in Spanish to Wilson and Magda. It's a great time.

So here's this hour's story. He said he and his brother and father, as I recall, made this trip to South Africa to see an endangered bird, the Cape Parrot I think. Now it's not just a small amount of money you have to spend to get from Kenya down to South Africa, and there were three of them. You get the idea that they were serious. The catch was that in order to see the parrot, you have to stay in this one particular hotel. It's sort of like holding you for ransom. I can't picture the details of why there would be such a restriction, but I accept it. Maybe the birds are on private grounds or something.

Anyway, they got there, and the entire hotel was booked. They had no rooms for them. Of all crazy things, Oprah Winfrey (I added the Winfrey in case you know some other Oprahs and are wondering if it was one of them) had come to South Africa to video some activities involving her charity with South African children, and she had booked the entire hotel, for security reasons I guess. Now the thing about it is that she wouldn't just stay in the hotel as it was. She had a room remodeled at a cost of $10,000 to her, so the room would be acceptable.

Steven was steamed. I asked if he saw the parrot, and he just glared back at me from the front seat. Then I asked him if he thought Oprah saw the parrot. That got him good.

We're back out of the van and walking again. It's about 1115 am, and we hear toucan barbets for about the tenth time, way down in the valley. Steven lines the iPod up on that bird and begins playing. HOLY MOLY! Two were perched right over our heads and they light up, so to speak. We get great looks at the toucan barbets, an upgrade from its previous heard-only status.

Check out the beak on that guy. I know, it's hard to appreciate it looking straight on. So just enjoy the colors.

{I read (somewhere, I can't remember where) that the bird is named "toucan" barbet, not for the large beak, but because the colors mimic the colors of many of the toucans here. Bob says I'm always reading obscure things and he's right!}

We walk on and Sharon finds what looks like a giant, flattened Ecuador worm of some kind, but then realizes it's the shed skin of a snake. She immediately tags it as a Black Mamba. It's not very big. But now she gets to say we saw a snake, keeping quiet her definition of a snake to include dead ones. {I tuck the skin into my book to bring home for the grandsons who don't want t-shirts anymore, they want gross things.}

We get Turkey Vulture off to our right, then we take off in the van again, and see a truck, whose back is filled with sugar cane.

We drive by a place that says Sachatamia, and Sharon says, "Sock it to Mia?" Then Steve says, "Sock it Maria." We arrive in the town of Mindo, and get Rock Dove, or pigeon, as we say in the U.S.

Mindo Main Street

We park and Steve told Sharon we could do some shopping for touristy stuff in Mindo. We agree to meet here for lunch in an hour. Sharon and I walk around, visit several stores, but can't find anything cool enough to buy as a souvenir. I love the rooster, tied by one leg to the front of a store, like a pet dog.

We're starting to lose hope when we spot a young man setting up some crafts at a booth. We go down and talk to him. He says they are open on weekends, but we say we'll be gone in an hour or so.

He really wants our business so we agree to come back in an hour, after he has time to make his display presentable. I work out that we can go to an internet store I saw, check emails and football scores (you know me), go back to the restaurant, order our lunch, then go over and shop, then go back and eat. His booth is pretty close to the restaurant.

I try an internet store. It's full, but we learn of another one around the corner. I go to that one, and check emails and football scores (They seem to operate at 1 baud) and we learn again that Sharon's mom is ok, and her dad is being evaluated for Alzheimer's and medication levels. Sharon gets off an email to Sharon's sister Jeane. So again, we feel ok to be here right now and must thank Jeane and Red for helping salvage our Ecuador trip.

We finish up and leave the internet store in time to see three boys with sticks, smashing them down onto the sidewalk. Checking more carefully, we see that they're trying to kill an enormous spider, but can't seem to hit it. Then they do, and this bright red color splats onto the sidewalk. Arrrgh! I grab Sharon for support and we get out of there.

We check out another store or two, finding nothing interesting, then see Steve and Magda sitting on a park bench. Steve points to a bird and says it's a PACIFIC HORNERO. Excellent! A lifer while shopping.

Well, we go back to the restaurant after a bit longer, order steaks for lunch, then go to check out the young man's booth. He has some nice jewelry pieces and Sharon loads up. Every time she asks about a new thing, I tell her to get it, and get two more besides.

The kids are great

We pack up our newly acquired stuff and go back to the restaurant, called Restaurant Chef, or something like that. Our food is on the table, and unbelievably, this nice lunch costs $5.80, another score for Ecuador!

OK, I had a nice, tender juicy steak on a hot plate, itself on a wooden platter. French fries, a carrot salad, sliced tomatoes and a piece of broccoli. Sharon and I each had one of those, plus we each had a coke, plus I ordered an extra plate of tomatoes. Plus we bought Wilson's lunch, something Steve had to tip me off about, regarding who normally pays for what in a private tour like this one. The entire bill was $18. Amazing.

We finish our lunch and head out in the van, park, and are birding again by 230 pm. We get a beautiful pair of WHITE-WINGED TANAGERS, then a SLATY SPINETAIL, followed by RED-FACED SPINETAIL, who gets into our action.

Male White-winged Tanager (In the female, the red is replaced with yellow)

We hear, then see what I think of as a Missouri bird. It's a Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and has the most plaintive, saddest call. I get the same feeling listening to this bird as I do listening to a common loon. He seems to be calling, "I'm out of York mint patties. Oooooh Noooooo." I can just feel the heartache.

As we walk the dirt road, local residents can be seen taking their dog for a run…

Steven and Magda are attached to each other

We get Squirrel Cuckoo, which is so large that it's impossible to miss. The action is picking up again. We get PALE-MANDIBLED ARACARI, SCALE-CRESTED PYGMY-TYRANT before Sharon gets us all on a CRIMSON-RUMPED TOUCANET. Steven chases down a Chestnut-backed Antbird for us, then a SPOTTED WOODCREEPER.

Sharon gets an Orange-billed Sparrow, but I don't get a look. GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER is a nice addition to our list, followed by a gorgeous, tiny WHITE-THROATED SPADEBILL. Fantastic.

While we're playing around trying to see a White-breasted Woodwren, a PALLID DOVE flies in. I hear the orange-billed sparrow, then we get pretty good looks.

We load into the van and do some driving. We come upon an ECUADORIAN THRUSH in the road, and while we're stopping to admire it, we get Bananaquit. I almost knock Sharon over when a RINGED KINGFISHER flies over and I spin around, slightly out of control.

Don't stand. Don't stand so. Don't stand so close to me-ee. --The Police.

We are starting to get so many new lifers because we are at lower elevations on the western slope of the Andes, and the lower you go, you keep running into new birds adapted to the lower elevation range. We win.

We get Palm Tanager and a beautiful Variable Seedeater. Lots of these birds are trip birds, because we already have a bunch of them from our trips to Belize and Costa Rica. We see blue-necked tanager, then Tropical Gnatcatcher and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.

Steve gets us on a ONE-COLORED BECARD, and then a Cinnamon Becard, over a nest. Next is juvenile male THICK-BILLED EUPHONIA. It's about 430 pm, and the lifers keep falling.

After some time, we arrive at our hotel for the next two nights, Mirador del Rio, which I think translates to something like River View. It's small, right on the edge of Mindo, and you would not guess in a thousand years, standing in the flat, dirty street in front, that this neat little hotel sat on the edge of bluff that looked down over the view we have. Spectacular. But that's not even the good part.

View from Mirador del Rio deck

A House Wren sings his little heart out, on top of a TV antenna, over the hotel. No, that's not the good part either.

The good part is that there are bird feeders everywhere, and you can sit in the dining room, with your binoculars, field guide and camera and tick off life birds. Fantastic.

We load our stuff into the hotel room, and hit the dining room. Silver-throated Tanager at the side feeder, making a snack out of the bananas that the hotel has placed on many feeders. An orange-bellied euphonia likes the bananas too, and then we get GREEN-CROWNED BRILLIANT, a magnificent hummingbird.

{I spot an unusual colored hummingbird and ask Steve about it. Steve gets tremendously excited over what looks like a partial albino rufous-tailed hummingbird}, and he shoots some video. "I've never seen anything like that before," he says. "I never had $20 before," I say, referring to an old joke about a talking dog. Sharon gets flame-faced tanager on a banana feeder

I go back and forth between the hummingbird feeders in the back, overlooking the bluff, and the fruit feeders on the side. We get Green Thorntail, both male and female, in the back, and then on the side a GREEN-CROWNED WOODNYMPH (hummingbird).

I try to order a rum and coke, but can't get through to the bad girl what I'm after. Wilson walks in and with his help, I get a double jigger of rum, a coke, a glass, and ice in a dish. There. That was easy. Sharon takes a break. One of the reasons we're birding and not taking showers is that the electricity is off in all the rooms. A check by the staff shows that somebody shut off the main breaker, which is open and anyone can just walk up and turn it off, like a prank.

When they get the electricity back on, we go down and find out that they locked our room, and I have to go back to the office (which is the bar) and get the key again. Which I do. Then I unlock the door.

Sharon showers while I go to the bar and borrow a chair to set my laptop on while I work later, in the room.

We're in a great mood at dinner because there's a big-screen TV, and a Mexican soap opera is on. Wilson is transfixed. Sharon is transmogrified.

We order dinner, and I have the most delicious pollo al mango you can imagine, with a side of faux French fries (made from some strange thing -- maybe Sharon will remember) {They say "Yucca," which they also call Manioc}, then a whipped-cream-topped fruit cup. MAN, was that mango chicken great! I think it's the best of the trip.

The room layout is interesting. It's deep but narrow. The bathroom is in the middle, splitting the room into two different areas, with a twin bed in each. Feels weird and there's not a lot of space, so this wins "least favorite" of the places we've stayed. Wait, what about those cool bird feeders?

This low elevation has some bad news. Mosquitoes. And the windows don't have screens, so we have to close the windows. The good news is that the evenings are cool.

As is Ecuador.


Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 44
Total Trip Birds to Date: 248

Life Birds Seen Today: 22
Total Life Birds to Date: 194

Best Birds: Rufous-headed Pygmy-tyrant, Golden Tanager, White-winged Tanager, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, White-throated Spadebill, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Woodnymph.

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