Report 10. Wednesday, September 12, 2007. Birding Day 9. PVM Birding Area.

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.

(Sorry, not many photos today).

The alarm fires off at 5 am this morning. We're in the van, doing an early morning run to PVM (Pedro Vicente Maldonado), a famous Ecuador birding area. This will be about as far west as we go -- well, I think tomorrow's hike will actually take us the farthest west.

One major feature at PVM is a birding tower, so you are at the level of the forest canopy.

It's foggy and misting, the windshield wipers are doing their thing. I have my trusty, broken umbrella, and everybody's ready for a rainy day.

We zip past a billboard, and I do a double take, because I think it said "vote only once" in Spanish. We know that Ecuador is in a political election period, and each person is associated with their own particular number, in the voting brochure, I presume. So the sign may have said vote for number 1. Hey, wouldn't that mean everybody would just vote for himself? Or herself?

Sharon is thinking, "I go home and just LAUGHHH."

We're out of the car now, walking and avoiding a millipede in the road. We hear RUFOUS-FRONTED WOOD-QUAIL, and then Steven gets us on a WESTERN SLATY ANTSHRIKE. A BLACK-WINGED SALTATOR moves around in the branches above Wilson. Steven spots us an OLIVACEOUS PICULET, a tiny forest woodpecker.

A flock is moving through. GRISCOM'S ANTWREN is one of them, and PACIFIC ANTWREN is another. RUDDY PIGEONS are high in the trees. We begin to get Red-eyed Vireo, lots of them, and we start calling them "revs". We get a female GWUIRA TANAGER. We begin to see lots and lots of LEMON-RUMPED TANAGERS. We move on a bit, then get PACIFIC PARROTLET, about half a pixel on your HD TV. This is the cutest bird.

Common Tody-flycatchers are everywhere it seems. A single-note call attracts our attention to a GOLDEN-FACED TYRANNULET, and a bonus BLACK-HEADED TODY-FLYCATCHER. We get an amazing RED-BILLED SCYTHE-BILL, and it's almost impossible to accept this bird's bill. Sharon gets good binocular looks, but I only get naked-eye, and STILL I could see that huge hook.

A little Blue-black Grassquit shows up, and Sharon correctly recalls that this is the bird that does a flip in the air from a perch, landing back at the exact same spot from which it takes off. Like Olga Korbet or Nadia Comanech.

We load up into the van again, and take off, coming to what appears to be a big mining operation. They've finished up on one side of the road and moved to the other. We scan the old, finished side, where Steven gets us on a Bright-rumped Atilla, a type of flycatcher.

The pronunciation of the grassquit (say GRASS-key) throws me off. I want the 'quit' to be pronounced 'kwit' as in halt. But then I think of Chiquita banana. Chuh-KEY-tuh. So now it makes some sense.

We exit the van in a small parking area next to what looks like a ranch house, but is also the beginning of the short trail to the lookout tower.

Steven spots RUSTY-MARGINED FLYCATCHER and points out gray-rumped swifts, over the forest. It's not even 8 am yet. Golden-hooded Tanagers are next, reminding us of Asa Wright Lodge in Trinidad, where we first saw them. Steven gets us on a Whistling Wren, also called Scaly-breasted Wren.

I find I left my recorder on again. Dangit. I stop it and hit record again. We hear Striped Cuckoo, then get a very nice Collared Trogon.

Sharon asks about the palm trees, which appear to be being (..be being? Is that kind of talk allowed?) raised as a crop. Wilson says the larger ones are used to extract palm oil, while hearts of palm are taken from the smaller trees.

Steven says, "Did you hear about the idiot and the deaf guy?" "No," I say. Then he says, "What?" I say, "Huh-whut?" We "whut" each other a few times, me trying to be the deaf guy, but not doing it. Dangit.

Now Sharon tells Magda that when we go to parties, and people are laughing at my jokes who've never met me before, they say to Sharon, "You must go home and just laugh all the time." She now just gives a, "Yes, all the time." Meaning in woman language, "Are you kidding me? Day after day after day. All the time. One joke after another. I just stop listening, to keep my sanity." In woman language.

So for the rest of the time, Sharon and Magda say to each other, as Steve and I are cracking each other up, "Magda, you must just go home and LAUGHHHH!"

Good one, Sharon.

Oooh, we hear White-bearded Manakin, and these snappy little birds perform endlessly on leks, hopping from branch to branch, snapping their wings so fast, that they pop because of the wingtips exceeding the speed of sound. Really! When a female comes by, they sound like popcorn. We want to see them, but they won't come out for us.

We resume walking a trail, now going away from the tower, and my feet are killing me. The peripheral neuropathies, you know. I wish it had some other name, like bad footbottoms or something. Actually when they hurt is when I have the Neo overshoes on, with my shoes on inside them. I now think my shoes slip and slide in the overshoes, and this puts added pressure on my feet.

I wonder if I have bunions, and I say to Sharon, "Tonight I want you to look at my feet and see if I have bunions. The pain seems to be mainly in this one particular area, on the outside of my big toes." She says - - - NO, wait a minute. I didn't come to bird the forest trails of Ecuador and talk about bunions. BUNIONS!!?

We climb the tower, and check out the view. Man, we are way up here. I don't know how tall it is, maybe 50 or 60 feet. There are about six or eight flights of steps to get to the top. Dang me for not taking a picture of the tower from the ground.

Birding from the Tower

A Barred Forest-falcon has a mouse or a bird, and moves from perch to perch. A WESTERN WHITE-TAILED TROGON lands in a secropia near us, calling softly. A pale-mandibled aracari shows up, and there are gray-rumped swifts overhead.

A number of BRONZE-WINGED PARROTS fly over, and you have to get on them fast. Several Scarlet-rumped Caciques seem to play leap-frog through the trees. A Piratic Flycatcher comes through on a scavenger hunt. Palm tanagers are around. I get scarlet-browed tanager, but can't get Sharon on fast enough to count it. Dangit. It's beautiful. Steven gets a rufous-winged tanager, but neither of us gets on it. Then a beautiful Blue Dacnis comes through. Sharon gets on a bay-headed tanager just before a turkey vulture flies through.

Male Blue Dacnis

The movement isn't always birds, as we get a red squirrel. A scale-crested pygmy-tyrant sounds like a truck backing up. Beep beep beep. This is followed by a CHECKER-THROATED ANTWREN, and if you get at just the right angle, the checker pattern on the throat is amazing, geometrically speaking.

We hear RED-HEADED BARBET, but can't find him. A Little Tinamou calls from far off.

We break for lunch, and enjoy the box lunches Wilson has brought for us. My notes are poor here, but I think we get Black-headed Antthrush before we go up to the tower, but after lunch.

We get a pair of Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, then Sharon directs us to a pair of BLACK-THROATED TANAGERS in a palm tree. Steve is fantastic at the huge number of flycatchers, and gets us YELLOW-MARGINED FLATBILL. He points out the bill as the bird moves around. {Oh, yeah, I see the bill color} We get BLACK-CAPPED TYRANNULET, then BLACK-CAPPED PYGMY-TYRANT, an attractive little bird. Using triangulation, advanced calculus and geometry, I calculate the pygmy-tyrant to be 3 millimeters tall. Wow. Hmmm, maybe I should check the math on that one...

Steven gets us a Streaked Flycatcher, then a fantastic CHOCO TOUCAN. Choco is the name of the region that spans northwest Ecuador and part of Colombia. Steve hears or sees something and plays the call of this bird we've been hoping for. Several PURPLE-THROATED FRUITCROWS fly in, looking for their cousin. {During displays, the fruitcrow male flares out that red throat dramatically to attract the females, kind of like wearing your sliderule on your belt.}

Purple-throated Fruitcrow

While we've been on the tower today, we've had sunshine, rain, fog, overcast and it's all been fine. We give it up though, and head down. It's about 2 pm.

We're all ambling towards the van when we hear white-bearded manakins popping and cracking. Sharon and I stop while the others go on, and we get glimpses of the bird, puffing up its throat when it calls. FANTASTIC!

We come to the parking area and a flock is moving through. We get BLACK-STRIPED WOODCREEPER, an annoying (the call) SLATY-CAPPED SHRIKE-VIREO, and then Sharon and I both finally get on the beautiful SCARLET-BROWED TANAGER.

We're chasing the flock, and Steve asks permission of the people at the house to walk the trails behind their house, which they give. We are off, getting CHOCO WOODPECKER behind and fairly close to the house. Steven tries to keep us ahead of the flock and gets STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER, then a better look at the choco woodpecker.

We continue up the trails, and BAM, we run into a huge area where the forest has just been cut down. When the flock got to this point, they had to do a 90 degree right turn to continue moving and still stay in the forest. {This is a great problem, not only in Ecuador. A lot of the birds need "corridors" to move through and feed. When people cut down the forest, often they effectively cut the birds off from feeding easily and some populations are threatened. The conservation groups are trying to get landowners to preserve some forest corridors throughout regions.} Had the forest not been cut, we would be going straight through this patch.

The forest cutters left several secropia trees. They have planted other things -- Sharon thinks maybe coffee.

We arrive back at the van, and take off. We stop for better view of the cute pacific parrotlets. On the way home, we come to a fairly grassy area and stop for some bird hiking. We get Lesser Seed-finch. Sharon nails a tropical gnatcatcher, while Steve gets us a Yellow-bellied Elaenia and a YELLOW-BELLIED SEEDEATER, with a little work. We can hear a little tinamou off in the forest again.

Then we see, to our astonishment, a man ride by on a motorcycle, carrying no less than four passengers. Three rode behind him.

Room for one more?

We're back in the car and off again, and Steven has the floor.

Years ago, he and his brother and father went birding in Ethiopia, to the northeast of Kenya. They were very tired from a long, hot day of birding, and stopped in this little town. They asked in this hotel if there were any rooms, and the fellow said yes, they had three rooms. When asked the price, he said 75 cents. Huh? Steve figures he meant dollars, but they asked again, and again the price was 75 cents.

Well that's 75 cents each then, right? No, 75 cents total, 25 cents each. They got nervous trepidation, but paid for the rooms and went up. No elevator.

Steve said he went into the room, and here's what he found in the hot, hot room.

No air conditioning.
No bed.
No furniture.
No carpet.
No window.
No light.
No electricity (so of course HD TV was out of the question).
No lock on the door.
NOTHING.

An absolutely bare room, void of absolutely anything other than the walls, ceiling and floor. And the door. You have to get in, you know.

So Steve dumped all his dirty clothes onto the floor. He spread them out to make a sort of pad, then carefully lay down on them and went to sleep.

Suddenly, at about 2 am, there was an incredible loud banging and crashing noise. Steve jumped up and ran out the door, to a place where he could see the street. There in the street, marching and playing, was a complete marching band, in full uniform.

Hu-wut?

The manager told him that this was a custom, and not to worry about it. It'd soon be over, and they could go back to their comfortable 25 cent rooms and go back to sleep.

As that one guy said in the move "Fargo," End-o'-story!

It's about 5 pm, and we arrive back at the hotel. We go in, order some drinks, and sit down to watch the birds. I take several great photos of the birds on the feeders, and I can only imagine what Steven's capturing on his video camera. We get a very nice Green Honeycreeper on one of the side feeders.

I order pollo ala coconut and pineapple, but it's a far cry from the mango chicken I had last night. On my recommendation, Steve orders the mango chicken, but I notice he doesn't eat much of it. I don't think it is on his best-meal list of the trip. Sharon gives me a break by sharing her pork cutlet. After dinner we have a chocolate and fruit crepe for dessert. Hmmm.

Then we turned in, after watching some more Spanish language soap opera. I had a shower and updated my stuff. "Good night," I yell to Sharon. "Good night, hon," she yells at me. "Good night," yells Steven and Magda from through the wall. OK, I made up the part about Steven and Magda yelling, but they were on the other side of the wall.

Now what's funny is that at night, Sharon turns on her iPod, puts her Bose noise-cancelling headphones on, and proceeds to sing along with the music. Mostly harmony, so it sounds a little weird.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I periodically get her attention by waving frantically, at which time, she says, "What?" Then she finds the iPod, puts it on pause, takes the headphones off and I say, "You're being loud." She says, "You don't like my singing?" I say that it's lovely, dear, but I think others can hear it too.

One morning Steven and Magda let out the fact that they could hear Sharon singing through the walls, but got a big kick out of it.

 

DAY 9 TOTALS

Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 58
Total Trip Birds to Date: 306

Life Birds Seen Today: 36
Total Life Birds to Date: 230

Best Birds: Pacific Parrotlet, Red-billed Scythebill, Blue Dacnis, Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, White-bearded Manakin, Scarlet-browed Tanager.

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