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Ten weeks in Ecuador, 2010

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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 21:38   #1
ovenbird43
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Ten weeks in Ecuador, 2010

I'm currently at Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Amazonian Ecuador, working on a dissertation project on Wedge-billed Woodcreepers and mixed-species understory flocks. I've been here 5 weeks, with 3 more to go. What an amazing place! But there is more to it- I got married in late December, and since I was going to be flying down to Ecuador for field work anyway, we decided to spend our honeymoon in this beautiful country. So, for the two weeks prior to my arrival in the Amazon we traveled around the country visiting a number of different places in the Andes. It was a blast- although I have to say that it was rather heart-wrenching to say good bye to my husband for two months so soon after our marriage and after such a great trip together- the day he left, not even the Sword-billed Hummingbirds at Guango Lodge could console me for long.

Since there's so much to tell, I don't know yet how I'm going to do this- I may just give current updates on Tiputini as time, energy, and internet connection allows, and when I return home go back and tell all about the honeymoon.... we'll see. For now, here's a little bit about Tiputini and some of the birds I've seen here:

This station is located on the Tiputini River, a small tributary of the Napo, itself a major tributary of the Amazon. The rainforest here has received minimal impact from humans and is for the most part as pristine as can be, and in the absence of hunting a lot of the larger birds and mammals are relatively common and unwary. The banks of the Tiputini are steep, and so most of the area is terra firme forest unaffected by flooding, although there are a few narrow strips of varzea (and associated birds). There is a canopy tower and a lagoon, providing more good birding opportunities- a number of Hoatzin reside at the lagoon.

A few of the common birds here, often seen or heard right from the station grounds:

Salvin's Curassow
White-throated Toucan
Mealy Parrot
Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper - and other typical mixed-flock species
Warbling Antbird
Gray Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Thrush-like Antpitta
Blue-crowned Manakin
Orange-bellied Euphonia

well that's just a smattering of them... here are a few of the rarer species that I've been fortunate enough to see, that I've seen no more than once or twice so far:

Lined Forest-Falcon
Mottled Owl (supposedly rare in these parts, but I've flushed 3 different ones)
Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo
Ruddy Spinetail
Reddish-winged Bare-eye
Black Bushbird
Lunulated Antbird
Black-necked Red Cotinga

More later! (<--- no beer here though, bummer.)
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Old Wednesday 17th February 2010, 12:21   #2
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I got a much-wanted life bird yesterday: Banded Antbird. I heard one calling not far from where I stood, so I decided to try to track it down (not the first time I've tried, but this was the first time I was successful). Its ventriloquial voice led me around in circles, and when I finally found the bird I realized its voice wasn't as loud as I had imagined- what was right in front of me still sounded like it could be 20 meters or more away. But there it was on the forest floor! It sang a few more times, flicked its wings once, allowing me to see its white rump band, and then started foraging, walking slowly through the leaves. Beautiful!
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Old Wednesday 17th February 2010, 18:58   #3
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Congrats on getting married! Yes, such a great place to be for an extended period of time- way to go with the ground cuckoo among other good birds.
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Old Wednesday 17th February 2010, 22:00   #4
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Congrats with Banded Antbird - it's a little beauty isn't it?
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Old Wednesday 17th February 2010, 22:49   #5
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I took today off to get some data entry done, but I went for a short hike in the late afternoon. The prize today was a Collared Puffbird. Stunning! It flushed up to a perch just above eye level and sat there, allowing me a good long look. It didn't even move as I slowly walked by afterward.
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Old Sunday 21st February 2010, 15:09   #6
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Big Day

Every now and then I do a "big day", where I bird from dawn to dusk and try to get as many species as possible. I've done three now since I've been here, and each time the totals jump by quite a bit, mostly as a result of improved identification skills and familiarity with the local birds (especially as I learn more voices). I did one yesterday, combined with my field work- I just kept track of everything while I was working, and in late morning just continued on with plain old birding. I spent the morning working/birding in terra firme, then made my way down to the lagoon, came back along the river trail, and wrapped up the day at the canopy tower, for a total of 170 species. Two weeks ago my big day total was 144 (the day was interepted by a storm for 3 hours). I counted heard-only birds as long as they were already on my life list: thus, for instance, although I heard and identified Cinereous and Variegated Tinamous, since I have yet to see either species they didn't make it onto my day list. Here is the list, with lifers in bold:

Great Tinamou
Undulated Tinamou
Black Vulture
Black-faced Hawk
Lined Forest-Falcon
Black Caracara
Red-throated Caracara
Speckled Chachalaca
Spix's Guan
Salvin's Curassow
Plumbeous Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon
Gray-fronted Dove
Ruddy Quail-Dove
Cobalt-winged Parakeet
Dusky-headed Parakeet
Black-headed Parrot
Orange-cheeked Parrot
Mealy Amazon
Yellow-crowned Amazon
Orange-winged Amazon
Scarlet Macaw
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
Squirrel Cuckoo
Greater Ani
Hoatzin
Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl
Crested Owl
Black-banded Owl
Ocellated Poorwill
Great Potoo
Short-tailed Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Neotropical Palm-Swift
Great-billed Hermit
Straight-billed Hermit
Gray-breasted Sabrewing
White-necked Jacobin
Gould's Jewelfront
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
Black-throated Trogon
Collared Trogon
Green Kingfisher
Black-fronted Nunbird
White-fronted Nunbird
Swallow-winged Puffbird
Blue-crowned Motmot
Rufous Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
Brown Jacamar
Purplish Jacamar
Gilded Barbet
Lemon-throated Barbet
Golden-collared Toucanet
Many-banded Aracari
White-throated Toucan
Channel-billed Toucan
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Chestnut Woodpecker
Crimson-crested Woodpecker
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper
Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper
Ocellated Woodcreeper
Striped Woodcreeper
Long-billed Woodcreeper
Plain Xenops
Eastern Woodhaunter
Rufous-rumped Foliage-Gleaner
Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-Gleaner
Olive-backed Foliage-Gleaner
Brown-rumped Foliage-Gleaner
Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner
Black-tailed Leaftosser
Fasciated Antshrike
Plain-winged Antshrike
Spot-winged Antshrike
Mouse-colored Antshrike
Cinereous Antshrike
Dusky-throated Antshrike
Warbling Antbird
Gray Antbird
Black Antbird
Chestnut-shouldered Antwren
Dugand's Antwren
White-flanked Antwren
Long-winged Antwren
Gray Antwren
Plain-throated Antwren
Rufous-tailed Antwren
Yasuni Antwren
Pygmy Antwren
Amazonian Streaked-Antwren
Black-faced Antbird
Spot-backed Antbird
Scale-backed Antbird
Sooty Antbird
Spot-winged Antbird
White-plumed Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Rufous-capped Antthrush
Striated Antthrush
Thrush-like Antpitta
Ochre-striped Antpitta
Rusty-belted Tapaculo
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Spadebill
Ringed Antpipit
Brownish Twistwing
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Tropical Kingbird
Piratic Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Lesser Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Bright-rumped Attila
Screaming Piha
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
Golden-headed Manakin
Wire-tailed Manakin
Blue-crowned Manakin
White-crowned Manakin
Blue-backed Manakin
Striped Manakin
Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin
Violaceous Jay
Gray-breasted Martin
White-banded Swallow
Tawny-faced Gnatwren
Thrush-like Wren
Coraya Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Southern Nightingale-Wren
Dusky-capped Greenlet
Yellow-green Vireo
White-necked Thrush
Lawrence's Thrush
Blackpoll Warbler
Buff-rumped Warbler
Black-faced Dacnis
Green Honeycreeper
Purple Honeycreeper
Swallow Tanager
Paradise Tanager
Green-and-gold Tanager
Opal-crowned Tanager
Opal-rumped Tanager
Turquoise Tanager
Yellow-backed Tanager
Yellow-bellied Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Masked Crimson Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Gray-headed Tanager
Fulvous Shrike-Tanager
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
Flame-crested Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Slate-colored Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak
Red-capped Cardinal
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Crested Oropendola
Russet-backed Oropendola
Green Oropendola
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Rufous-bellied Euphonia
White-lored Euphonia
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Old Monday 22nd February 2010, 15:59   #7
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Pretty awesome! Isn't Amazonian Ecuador just fantastic? I got the chance to bird around the Yasuni Research Station for less than a week some years ago. How I would love to go back there! Thanks for these posts about birding Tiputini.
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Old Thursday 25th February 2010, 15:42   #8
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I was quite excited the other day as I was watching an understory flock and found a Rufous-breasted Piculet. I just love piculets, they are so cute, and this guy was doubly handsome with reddish all over and flecks of shining ruby red in his crown. Wow!

The next day (yesterday) got me another woodpecker lifer, this one a Yellow-throated Woodpecker excavating a nest hole, surprisingly low: just above eye level, allowing excellent views. Too bad I didn't have my camera with me!
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Old Friday 26th February 2010, 01:23   #9
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Congratulations on your marriage ! This will be (..alllready is) quite an exciting trip report !! thanks for the updates !
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Old Friday 26th February 2010, 01:25   #10
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wow Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo !!
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Old Friday 26th February 2010, 17:05   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephennj View Post
wow Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo !!
Seconded! Could you give us some details on this? Was it with an antswarm? Peccaries? Just hanging out in the woods?
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Old Saturday 27th February 2010, 22:48   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Birdingcraft View Post
Seconded! Could you give us some details on this? Was it with an antswarm? Peccaries? Just hanging out in the woods?
Just hanging out, apparently. It was quite a surprise (of course), it crossed the trail right in front of me, and while I didn't get to study it in detail I was able to note the crest and long tail, overall color and general roadrunner-like aspect. I couldn't believe it- rather literally, but it crossed the trail again in the other direction, and yep, it sure was a ground-cuckoo, and with something in its bill. I took off after it, trying to crash through the forest quietly, but I didn't get any more views.

Strangely I haven't been coming across many antswarms, not since the first couple weeks, and the few I do find have been rather small, apparently attended only by Bicolored and White-plumed Antbirds... not to complain about "only" seeing those guys, mind!
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Old Wednesday 3rd March 2010, 19:05   #13
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Things have been rather quiet lately. Few birds are singing at all, and even fewer sing past about 8 o clock. Mixed-species flocks are still active, but my wedge-billed woodcreepers aren't singing anymore, making it more difficult to get resights of banded individuals.

However, yesterday evening things sure were hopping at the canopy tower! There is usually a canopy flock near the tower, and after a good afternoon rain many of the tanagers were taking turns bathing in a bromeliad: absolutely stunning Paradise Tanagers, Green-and-gold Tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager, Opal-rumped Tanager, and Opal-crowned Tanager. Foraging nearby were other species I frequently encounter up there, such as Lineated Woodcreeper, White-lored Tyrannulet, Purple Honeycreeper, and a visitor from North America (or a South American that visits NA to breed, depending on how you view it), a Blackpoll Warbler. Some sort of woody vine is in bloom on the ceiba tree holding the platform, which has attracted all sorts of hummingbirds, including some rather rare and/or sporadic species: a male and female Fiery Topaz (wow!!), several Black-bellied Thorntails (also wow!!), Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Gould's Jewelfront, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango. There are reputed to be 10-12 species visiting these flowers, so undoubtedly in the poor light yesterday I missed some. But this afternoon is sunny, so I'm going to return, this time with my camera!
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Old Thursday 4th March 2010, 01:47   #14
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The wiring in my brain is going into overload just thinking about some of these species !
You must be having the time of you life ...

Firey Topaz !
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Old Sunday 7th March 2010, 14:52   #15
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My two months here is almost at an end, tomorrow morning I begin the long journey back to Quito, and then the next day off to the states- and at long last back to the arms of my new husband! As exciting as that is, I feel more than a little sadness about leaving this place- but I will be back next year for more research.

Yesterday I attempted one last big day. Despite the fact that many birds are calling much less frequently, I was on track to beat my last total, until the weather turned fowl in mid-afternoon. I waited out the storm, and climbed up the canopy tower when it was still thundering and drizzling. I had been expecting to get up to 20 additional species for the day here, but activity was dead- absolutely NO tanagers, no flycatchers, only one little Purple Honeycreeper and a few hummingbirds (but no topaz). Oh well... it had still been a good day, with 164 species. I'll post the species list soon.

Below are a few pictures I took earlier in the week at the canopy tower: male Fiery Topaz and White-necked Jacobin.
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Old Sunday 7th March 2010, 15:11   #16
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Wait, that's 165 species... I had forgotten Yellow-green Vireo. Strangely I managed to miss both Rufous-capped and Black-faced Antthrushes... and of course I've heard no fewer than 3 of the latter already today! I had a decent collection of woodcreeper species and the full set of Myrmotherula antwrens (not counting Rio Suno, which is exceedingly rare here). And for the first time ever I found more than 4 ramphastids (toucans, etc.) in a single day. One of the real highlights of the day though was at the very beginning- when an Ocellated Poorwill came and snatched an insect that was fluttering around in the light of my headlamp. Neat! Three lifers, in bold:

Great Tinamou
Undulated Tinamou
Plumbeous Kite
Double-toothed Kite
Black Caracara
Spix's Guan
Common Piping-Guan
Salvin's Curassow
Gray-necked Wood-Rail
Gray-winged Trumpeter
Plumbeous Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon
Gray-fronted Dove
Cobalt-winged Parakeet
Maroon-tailed Parakeet
Blue-headed Parrot
Black-headed Parrot
Orange-cheeked Parrot
Mealy Amazon
Yellow-crowned Amazon
Red-and-green Macaw
Scarlet Macaw
Squirrel Cuckoo
Greater Ani
Hoatzin
Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl
Crested Owl
Ocellated Poorwill
Paraque
Short-tailed Nighthawk
Short-tailed Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Neotropical Palm-Swift
Great-billed Hermit
Straight-billed Hermit
Black-bellied Thorntail
White-necked Jacobin
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
Amazonian White-tailed Trogon
Black-throated Trogon
Collared Trogon
White-chested Puffbird
Black-fronted Nunbird
White-fronted Nunbird
Rufous Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
Yellow-billed Jacamar
Purplish Jacamar
Gilded Barbet
Lemon-throated Barbet
Golden-collared Toucanet
Many-banded Aracari
Ivory-billed Aracari
White-throated Toucan
Channel-billed Toucan
Yellow-throated Woodpecker
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Scale-breasted Woodpecker
Crimson-crested Woodpecker
Red-necked Woodpecker
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper
Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Ocellated Woodcreeper
Striped Woodcreeper
Long-billed Woodcreeper
Red-billed Scythebill
Eastern Woodhaunter
Chestnut-winged Hookbill
Rufous-rumped Foliage-Gleaner
Olive-backed Foliage-Gleaner
Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner
Black-tailed Leaftosser
Tawny-throated Leaftosser
Fasciated Antshrike
Undulated Antshrike
Plain-winged Antshrike
Spot-winged Antshrike
Mouse-colored Antshrike
Pearly Antshrike
Cinereous Antshrike
Dusky-throated Antshrike
Warbling Antbird
Yellow-browed Antbird
Gray Antbird
Black Antbird
Dugand's Antwren
White-flanked Antwren
Long-winged Antwren
Gray Antwren
Plain-throated Antwren
Rufous-tailed Antwren
Yasuni Antwren
Ornate Antwren
Pygmy Antwren
Short-billed Antwren
Amazonian Streaked-Antwren
Black-faced Antbird
Spot-backed Antbird
Scale-backed Antbird
White-shouldered Antbird
White-plumed Antbird
Striated Antthrush
Thrush-like Antpitta
Rusty-belted Tapaculo
White-lored Tyrannulet
Gray Elaenia
Zimmer's Flatbill
Gray-crowned Flatbill
Orange-eyed Flatbill
Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher
Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher
Double-banded Pygmy-Tyrant
White-eyed Tody-Tyrant
Golden-crowned Spadebill
Drab Water-Tyrant
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Tropical Kingbird
Piratic Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Lesser Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Bright-rumped Attila
Grayish Mourner
Screaming Piha
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
Golden-headed Manakin
Wire-tailed Manakin
Blue-crowned Manakin
White-crowned Manakin
Blue-backed Manakin
Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin
Violaceous Jay
Gray-breasted Martin
White-winged Swallow
White-banded Swallow
Tawny-faced Gnatwren
Thrush-like Wren
Coraya Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Southern Nightingale-Wren
Dusky-capped Greenlet
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
White-necked Thrush
Lawrence's Thrush
Purple Honeycreeper
Green-and-gold Tanager
Yellow-bellied Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Masked Crimson Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Fulvous Shrike-Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Slate-colored Grosbeak
Red-capped Cardinal
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Russet-backed Oropendola
Green Oropendola
Orange-bellied Euphonia
White-vented Euphonia
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Old Tuesday 9th March 2010, 18:38   #17
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Pretty awesome day!
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Old Sunday 21st March 2010, 23:13   #18
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Ecuador Part II (well, actually Part I?)

Now that I've returned home, it's a good time to backtrack a bit and write about the honeymoon travels. Tom and I flew out of the US and into Quito on Christmas day. Turns out we had a white Christmas in NW Arkansas, rather unusual, so the taxi ride to the airport was rather harrowing on snowy, hilly roads, and our flight departed an hour late. We took off on a frozen runway. We missed our connection in Houston, but after about 7 hours of suspense we boarded an afternoon flight to Quito. Whew! We landed in Quito, made it through customs, and took a taxi to our hostel without event.

Dec 26
We spent this day in Quito, so there isn't much to report in the way of birds. We stayed in a hostel named Casona de Mario, which had a small garden that attracted the typical downtown Quito species: Eared Dove, Great Thrush, Sparkling Violetear, and Rufous-collared Sparrow. We spent much of the day wandering around, getting supplies and food for the coming weeks, exploring, and meeting other people staying in our hostel. That evening some folks invited us out to a bar away from the main tourist area- unfortunately I didn't write down the name of the bar or the delicious drinks we had there. I also ought to have written down the name of the absolutely awful macaroni and cheese mix that we bought from the supermarket and cooked in our hostel- the better to avoid it in the future! Perhaps that's why the kids bagging our groceries laughed when they saw it among our purchases.

Dec 27
Two lifers greeted me this morning in the tree just outside our window- a couple of Cinereous Conebills and a Blue-and-yellow Tanager. Today we were to travel to Hosteria Papagayo, a hostel on a farm about an hour south of Quito, just south of the town of Machachi and in sight of Volcan Cotopaxi. Our intention was to take a bus south of Quito and hop off when we came to the hostel (right on the Panamerican highway), but the taxi driver taking us to the bus station talked us into letting him take us all the way to the hostel- apparently the south Quito terminal (Quitumbe I believe is the name) is quite far south, and Machachi not that much farther, so it didn't cost much extra for the convenience.

The hostel/farm is located along a dirt road 3 kilometers off the highway, winding through pastures and eucalyptus groves. The main building of the hostel had a nice porch on the back with a garden and hummingbird feeder. Tom and I settled into our rooms and then wandered around the grounds. At the hummingbird feeder were Sparking Violetears and a stunning Shining Sunbeam, along with several Black Flowerpiercers. We walked down the dirt road a bit, finding Southern Yellow-Grosbeaks, plenty Great Thrushes, Spectacled Redstart, Plain-colored Seedeater, and a Tufted Tit-Tyrant. I followed a skulking brown bird in the brush, getting separate glimpses of various body parts that I eventually managed to piece together- Azara's Spinetail. Back at the hostel, as Tom and I sat on the porch enjoying some drinks, I noticed a strange bird sitting on the top of a tree- a Red-crested Cotinga, wow!
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Old Monday 16th August 2010, 01:35   #19
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Hi Ovenbird43,
Your report left me positively drooling! I spent 5 weeks birding in Ecuador,including an al-too-short trip to Sani Lodge, this past winter. I will be back in Ecuador sometim ein the coming years and was wondering if you know how one would go about, as a tourist that is, organizing a visit to Tiputini Bio Station? Any idea of the costs involved? Also, how do you get there...I presume the final leg at least is by boat?
thanks for the fantastic reports!
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Old Tuesday 31st August 2010, 18:56   #20
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Originally Posted by power2thepeaceful17 View Post
Hi Ovenbird43,
Your report left me positively drooling! I spent 5 weeks birding in Ecuador,including an al-too-short trip to Sani Lodge, this past winter. I will be back in Ecuador sometim ein the coming years and was wondering if you know how one would go about, as a tourist that is, organizing a visit to Tiputini Bio Station? Any idea of the costs involved? Also, how do you get there...I presume the final leg at least is by boat?
thanks for the fantastic reports!
Hello power2thepeaceful17,

I made my initial visit to Tiputini in Jan 2009 essentially as a tourist, and although it is remote and difficult to reach- two legs of the trip are by boat- the station coordinates all the transportation and someone is there to meet you at each step. The transportation is as such: fly from Quito to Coca (a bus is also an option), then a 2-hour boat ride down the Napo River, then about a 1 to 1.5 hour drive south to the Tiputini River, and finally a 2-hour ride down the Tiputini (this is the nicest leg of the trip). Transportation costs are $120 round trip for the plane ticket, and $90 round trip for all the rest. The station fees differ for visitors and researchers - for visitors I think it is $65 a day (at least, that's what they are going to charge for my husband to visit me during my next field season). The station fees include three meals a day and laundry twice a week. It is a fantastic place and I am looking forward to going back this winter. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask here or send me a pm. Also for additional information and contact info for the station, the website is http://tiputini.usfq.edu.ec/.
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Old Thursday 2nd September 2010, 06:04   #21
power2thepeaceful17
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Thanks a lot Ovenbird!
Next time I am in Ecuador I will definitely spend some time at Tiputini.

Cheers,
Avery Bartels,
Guide
Ecoturs Colombia
www.ecoturs.org
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Old Sunday 12th December 2010, 17:00   #22
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I'm so bad about finishing these reports... I leave for Ecuador again in 2 weeks, so I'd kind of like to revive my thread and finish it before starting the next one. Not to mention it will help me review the birds that I will be seeing again!

Dec 28 - Cotopaxi

While at Hosteria Papagayo, we arranged a series of day trips within the area. This day we were taken to Cotopaxi National Park, for a little bit of hiking and downhill mountain biking. Before leaving, I wandered around the hosteria grounds, picking up Hooded Siskin, Southern Yellow-Grosbeak (now called Golden-bellied Grosbeak??), Tyrian Metaltail, and Green-tailed Trainbearer.

We joined 2 others (in addition to the driver) for the trip to Cotopaxi, 2 women from a European country whose identity escapes me almost a year later... our first stop was at the park's visitor center, well above treeline and my first experience in the paramo. While my husband and the others perused the museum and partook of some coca tea, I of course wandered the grounds in search of birds. It was fairly quiet, although I did score a dark morph Variable Hawk, a female Ecuadorian Hillstar, and 2 White-throated Tyrannulets. Soon we were back in the truck and continuing to climb, our next stop being at Laguna Limpiopungo. The lake was teeming with waterbirds, all bearing the adjective "Andean": Andean Gull, Andean Ruddy Duck, Andean Teal, Andean Lapwing (not on the lake itself), and Andean Coot. Too soon we were back in the car, although during our slow climb I managed to pick out both Stout-billed and Bar-winged Cinclodes and Torrent Tyrannulet.

We drove up to a parking area, basically the end of the road, and now at a height just above the paramo vegetation. I can't remember the actual altitude, something like 15,000 ft. Here, we hiked up to the "refuge", a little hut that is just below the glacier and used as the starting point for climbers attempting to summit Cotopaxi. The hike to the refuge was only about a mile, but it was steep, often in loose sandy ash, and of course in very thin air, so it took about an hour. The views were spectacular. Birdlife was a scarce as the oxygen, I kept looking out hoping for condors, though I did see a few Plumbeous Sierra-Finches. My husband suffers in high altitude much more than me, so I arrived at the refuge well ahead of him, and not long after it had begun snowing. The snow turned to hail (small, but still stinging), and I turned back to accompany Tom- luckily he wasn't far away at this point. Soon we were all sitting at a wooden table inside the refuge, enjoying some hot chocolate followed by a delicious lunch of soup (and other stuff that I've forgotten). We hiked back down in a transformed landscape, fat snowflakes continuing to fall gently down. Back down at the cars, though, there was no sign of the storm just above.

Next on the agenda was a bike ride back down to the lake. The bikes were a little sketchy, I ended up with one with very poor brakes, and Tom traded me his bike- he was planning on flying down anyway. So off we went, this time Tom well in the lead, me gripping the brakes the whole way down, only partly because I wanted to search for birds. I was last in line, and with our vehicle following close behind I didn't feel right about stopping too long at any one spot to check things out. My hands began to ache from gripping the brakes so hard, but I just didn't have the guts to let go and fly. I was grateful to reach level ground, where Tom had to stopped to wait for me. We continued on to the lake together, and began to race as we watched a huge thunderstorm approach. It was an exciting end to the ride, both of us pedaling furiously toward our waiting vehicle, making it just before the heavens opened up. Though I had been much more worried about the lightning than about getting wet!
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Old Sunday 12th December 2010, 17:07   #23
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Couple views of Cotopaxi, and a Sparkling Violetear
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Old Sunday 12th December 2010, 17:13   #24
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Few more pictures... Southern Yellow-grosbeak, Laguna Limpiopungo, and Andean Gulls with Andean Coot.
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Old Sunday 12th December 2010, 17:49   #25
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29 Dec - Corazon

This day we had opted for a day of hiking, and we ended up being placed with a small group of people who wanted to climb nearby Corazon. Our agendas didn't quite mesh, although we all got along fine- but Tom and I had been hoping for something more leisurely, while several others in the group were on a mission to summit the mountain. We were driven in the back of a pickup through some winding back roads through farmland, eventually reaching natural paramo vegetation and getting dropped off by a gate where we began our hike up. I tried not to fall too far behind, so I let many tantalizing calls and rustles slip by. Hours into the hike we reached a plateau covered in a patchwork of grasses and puddles, and an Andean Snipe flushed- wow! A few Paramo Pipits flew by, and in the distance I saw large numbers of small birds moving about- how frustrating not to be able to stay and explore this area! At this point, Tom began to suffer altitude sickness and began to lag far behind. Even I was beginning to get a headache, have opted to carry the heavy Ridgley and Greenfield guide along with both our lunches and waters, and another man in the group was also feeling ill. Our guide was forced with a difficult decision, and later complained that there should have been at least one other guide for the trip. He split the group up- Tom, me, and this other dude were to wait while the rest went for the summit. I wasn't feeling too bad, so I took the opportunity to wander around leisurely in search of some birds. I found a few Paramo Ground-Tyrants, and watched a Stout-billed Cinclodes feed a fledgling. A Giant Hummingbird zipped by, and I got a good look at a male Ecuadorian Hillstar. My headache started to worsen, so I went to sit by Tom and wait for the group. As we watched the group summit in the distance and begin to descend, dark clouds began to roll in and thunder rumbled ominously. I began to feel impatient, wishing I could get Tom to a lower altitude (his rapid breathing worried me), and beginning to worry about the weather. Luckily the storm passed us by, and eventually the group reunited and we began our descent. Partway down I stopped and tried to find the source of a curious call- a hooting whistle, "Toot! toot-toot." I eventually gave up and ran to catch up with the group, but had I known at the time that it was a Tawny Antpitta, nothing would have torn me away without seeing it first!

Below, some pictures of Corazon and a sampling of the bizzare paramo plants.
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