Report 14. Sunday, September 16, 2007. Birding Day 13 and Last.

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.

520 am and the alarm goes off for the next-to-last time on this trip. Tonight we'll be at Juan Carlos' guesthouse, then tomorrow we'll fly out.

Sniffle.

We semi-pack for now, then go over to meet for breakfast at 600 am. Today we're going to bird the place where the coati attacked Wilson. By coincidence, we're going to let him off there, because it's also a bus stop. He'll take a bus into Quito, where he lives.

Breakfast is relaxed. We put all our belongs into the van and take off, with Wilson in the back and Steven driving. Steven gets us over to Sachatamia. So THAT'S where we're going - where the coati socked it to Wilson.

That blue food dish probably belongs to the coati mundi. Maybe it IS a pet! Nice pet...

There is a strange man here, with white hair, fairly old. It turns out he's our new driver. Sharon likes this part, because first we bird the parking lot, and maybe we can add more birds to our parking lot list, though we haven't officially started one yet.

A nice toucan barbet is eating fruit, plus we get a female black-capped tanager, then golden tanager. Still in the parking lot, we get scrub blackbird.

A young man comes out from the back, and he's our local guide, and the man who Wilson was looking for last night. Wilson knocks on a door, and a man answers. They talk a bit and we deduce that if this were the U.S., this is the guy Wilson would sue.

We say goodbye to Wilson for the last time and head down the trail.

Wilson is an awesome person.

We hear a single note call, with Steve using the finger-pointing, pistol-shooting method to get me the sound and the direction of the bird. It's a heard-only CLUB-WINGED MANAKIN for now. We're going to be going near its lek, and we hope to see it.

The trail descends fairly steeply to a dammed up stream. We go below the dam and walk across the active stream on big rocks in the stream, which itself is shallow but fast moving. The idea is NOT to step into the water, filling our shoes up.

Everybody makes it, then we begin a strenuous climb up the other side. It's a real workout. I begin to see nice little blue barred-shaped fruits of some kind, but we don't know what they are.

After what seems like 20-30 minutes, we come to a thick rope hanging from an extremely high branch in a very tall tree.

Our young guide says something, and Steven takes off his gear, then steps into the loop of the rope. Holy Cow, he's going to swing out on the rope, like Tarzan. Well a little safer I think.

Swingin' Steve

I get photos of his turn, then video of Magda and Sharon, while Sharon gets me during my swing.

Me, trying to touch the tree at the far end of the arc.

 

Sharon's looking good.

We put our gear back on, and resume walking. It seems like we walk for another hour when we come to an enormous ravine with a rope going across it, and a slider on the rope.

The young kid takes off his backpack and pulls a harness out for us. Huh? Through some miscommunication, the young guide thought we wanted to zip across here and resume our birding on the other side. We, on the other hand, thought he was nuts.

We win.

He says ok, we'll go a different way, and we start walking again. Hmmm. Maybe that zip line would have been ok, depending on where we are supposed to wind up.

Steven asks where is the umbrella bird, and the kid says ok, he'll take us there. Well, where WAS he taking us?

We head back up the trail, getting Spotted Barbtail on the way. We walk and walk and walk, finally getting back to a wide, open area we came through on the way in. A scaly-throated foliage-gleaner gleans some foliage. We learn that the open space is a very wide swath in the forest that was created to lay down a huge oil pipeline across Ecuador.

While we walk, and just before we get to our spot, Steve plays the two sounds the umbrella bird makes. The first one is like a foghorn. The second is like the staccato of a machine gun. What a cool combination. Well, we never see this bird, which would have been pretty spectacular, but it's exciting nevertheless, hoping.

We head out then, working our way back up the trail, the last bit being like my 1971 Mt. Fuji climb. Relentlessly straight up, but broken into a zigzag path. I can feel the calories burning.

Burn baby burn. At last, we're back up to the parking lot, where we do a semi-collapse on some benches. A very weird bug makes its way up the back of my vest.

A couple of attractive golden tanagers have two bananas each.

Our new driver drives us towards Quito, and Steven has him pull off the road near a bright pink building. The Sunday traffic is thick and quick, on the highway. We have to look for an opening, and make our way across the road.

The wind is howling here, and there is a light sprinkle happening. We finally make it across, and we follow a narrow dusty trail along the side of a steep mountainside. When I look down to our left, I see what looks like an abandoned horserace track.

The cool air totally changes to hot, just in this short distance, and we take off our cool weather shirts and jackets and tie them around our waists. We get Common Ground Dove, with its scaly throat and neck, who must love this hot dusty weather.

A hawk hovers above us, and Steven says he thinks it's a young variable hawk. Sharon scans the old race track below and finds that its active. There are a few vehicles, goats and a man washing a horse down. The track is perhaps 3-500 feet below us.

Come on, Secretariat!

It's five minutes till noon. This is very much like a California desert. After getting rufous-collared sparrow, Steven plays the call of a particular bird that likes this habitat, and hot dog, we get a pair of TUFTED TIT-TYRANTS. Outstanding. I love the little swept up crest on these birds.

A couple of black-crested buzzard-eagles ride the wind above the ridge to our right. We turn around and begin our walk back to the highway. We can see and hear dirt motorcycles across the valley riding up and down big hills. Three of them line up to take their turns trying to make it up a huge hill, straight up. The first two do it, but the third one doesn't get enough velocity and gets stuck two-thirds of the way up. He gingerly turns the bike around, and returns to the bottom. Nass trah.

We make it back to the van and take off. Steven has asked the new driver to take us to what he calls the "Center of the Earth," a place where we can do our final shopping.

The driver agrees, and turns off the highway after a short time.

Steven tells us that this is NOT the road to that place, but it IS an outdoor shopping place. So Steven lets the driver go ahead, and we shop.

It's at this location where we begin to see traditional dress by the locals the jaunty looking hats and colorful sweaters.

Magda and Steven tell us about a custom in Ecuador called ilyapa (ill-YOP-uh, where 'yop' rhymes with 'stop'), or some spelling like that. Another term is "baker's dozen," but in Spanish, which means 13 for the price of 12, but is just the idea, you see, not actually 13 for 12.

Anyway, when you buy things at tourist shops and the like, they throw in extra goodies for free. Sharon digs this idea.

We purchase a number of items, and before the lady adds them up, Sharon says, "What about ilyapa? Ilyapa?" The lady grins and throws in a keychain thing, I think. Sharon is thrilled. It's like shopping in Turkey. Only in a closer time zone. {It's not so much that they give us something for free because it is just a trinket. But it is wonderful to see their faces when I say "Yliapa?" and they wonder "where did this Gringo learn about Yliapa (oh by the way, we have no idea how to spell this so are just guessing on how it sounded). But it looks like the culture is that if a person says this, they have to throw in something extra for you.}

We finish up and take off for the Center of the Earth. We arrive at this big parking lot, walk up to the entrance, and purchase tickets.

As we walk along, there are statues of past presidents. Steve points out what must have been the worst one.

There's a huge obelisk tower, decreasing in size as you go up, with a big globe on top. Closer observation shows that it's the earth, but it's lying on its side. In other word, the axis running through from the north to the south pole, is oriented to be horizontal. Another way to say it is that if the earth were turning, it wouldn't be spinning like a top, but rolling, like a ball.

Anyway, it's a clever idea.

As we get close, we see the orange line that is painted exactly on the equator. People do clever things for their photographers. Like this family.

And this couple, who seem familiar...

Steven and Magda meet in the middle.

Love the little tykies. Like this guy.

Sharon and I drop into several places, all of which see Sharon saying things like, "How about ilyapa?" and "Gimme my ilyapa."

She does great, asking every time for extras, and I think everybody gave her something except one place where she bought one item for $5 or so.

We exit one store, with Sharon wearing her Cock-of-the-Rock tee shirt.

Check out the two hotties in the background.

We can hear music and make our way to a large, open, central plaza, where a big party is happening, like a mardi gras.

I walk around taking shots of interesting things. I like this mural of a bullfight.

And this woman.

Sharon continues the tradition of writing the name of our friend Nancy Burlingame on the equator. Her name is now on the Equator in Kenya, the Tropic of Capricorn in Australia, and now the Equator in Ecuador.

Must do something about the Arctic Circle. Hmmm.

Sharon, enhancing the middle of the earth.

We break for lunch, back out in the park next the parking lot, then come back in for one last shopping whirl. Mostly so Sharon can get her ilyapa.

Unbelievably, we get one last trip bird, a Tropical Mockingbird, trip bird # 386, near the globe monument. Sharon says goodbye to shopping, and we head out to the van.

Our new driver delivers us to Juan Carlos' place, who welcomes us in. I take a night shot, just as Steve walks by. He tells me about a plug-in for Photoshop called Noise Ninja, which handles noise pixel problems of night shots.

I make a note [When I got back to San Jose, I bought this plug-in over the internet, and I've used it in the shot below].

At dinner we learn that Wilson went to the hospital today (or to HIS doctor), and the stitches he got earlier were already infected. So they removed them, began treating the infection, and restitched. Yechhh.

We finish dinner and are pooped, but I ask Steven to go through our book, and double-check the birds that we have seen or heard. It probably takes an hour, but I find that I missed perhaps 18 or 20, so I'm really grateful for this review.

We go back to the room. I update computer things, pack and set my cell phone alarm for 3 am. Yes, you heard me.

DAY 13 TOTALS

Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 5
Total Trip Birds to Date: 386

Life Birds Seen Today: 3
Total Life Birds to Date: 285

Best Bird: Tufted Tit-tyrant.

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