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Back to Ecuador, 2011

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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 11:59   #1
ovenbird43
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Back to Ecuador, 2011

So here I am, back at Tiputini Biodiversity Station for another 2-month field season. My husband and I flew out on Christmas day and spent a few days exploring the west slope. We stayed in Pululahua Hostal in the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, basically inside the crater of an extinct volcano. We spent a few day exploring the reserve on our own, and then I hired the guide who runs the hostal (Renato) to take me to a few places that would be hard to reach by public transport, namely Yanacocha Reserve and a place called 23 de Junio. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos, I stored my gear for field work at the hostal in Quito and forgot to remove the battery chargers... maybe I'll post some of Tom's photos.

My field season is off to a rough start, Tom picked up some intestinal bug the day before we arrived to Tiputini, accompanied by severe cramps and high fever. Then after a few days I came down with it, and boy is it awful! At some points we had to sit in the shower stall covered in wet towels to try to get our temperatures down, which sometimes reached or surpassed 40 degC. But we went to the clinic (about a 2-hour trip from here) and got some medication, and although we are both very drained and still can't eat much we are getting better.

So, since I'm not out working today, I'll work on a report of our travels before arriving to Tiputini.
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 12:17   #2
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26 and 27 Dec - Pululahua

Renato had arranged for someone to pick us up from Quito on the morning of the 26th to take us to Pululahua. It's not far outside of the city, but of course the drive through the city itself took quite a while. We arrived around 12:30 and had the rest of the day and the next to ourselves to explore the area.

There were a few hummingbird feeders outside, visited mainly by Black-tailed Trainbearers and Sparkling Violetears. We hiked a nearby trail, which turned out to be full of stunning Golden-rumped Euphonias, with many Azara's Spinetails skulking in the brush. The calls of Chestnut-crowned Antpittas rang from the crater walls all day. I not infrequently heard Undulated Antpittas, but try as I might I couldn't approach one or call it out. There were Stripe-headed and White-wined Brush-Finches, and a foraging flock containing Rufous-chested Tanager, Cinereous Conebill, and Tufted Tit-Tyrant. A Russet-crowned Warbler occasionally sang its haunting melody.

On our second day at the hostal Tom and I went for a long hike, which was mostly quiet birdwise although we did find a few good ones. We got quite good looks at a male Blackish Tapaculo, and later flushed a Band-winged Nightjar from its daytime roost in the grass. Familiar American Kestrels hunted in the agricultural fields.
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 12:37   #3
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28 Dec - Yanacocha

On this day Renato took us both to Yanacocha Reserve, on the northwest slope of Volcan Pichincha. The day started off clear and sunny but quickly became overcast with occasional light rain. On our way up the volcano and before we entered the forest we spotted a bird sitting on a wooden fence- a great look at a Paramo Pipit. We arrived at the reserve and began hiking the wide, level path through the forest. High up on a ridge we saw our only raptors for the day, 2 unmistakable silhouettes of Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles. Rufous Antpittas called from everywhere, but it wasn't until we were on our way back to the car that we saw one, I happened to look at just the right spot where one was sitting in a relatively open space under some huge Gunneria leaves. We also spotted a pair of Barred Fruiteaters in flight after hearing one call.

We encountered a few flocks, containing various combinations of White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets, Spectacled Redstart, Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, Pearled Treerunner, Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercers, and the occasional Superciliated Hemispingus and Blue-backed Conebill. We spotted two Andean Guans feeding up in the trees along the edge of the path.

Located maybe a kilometer into the trail is a set of hummingbird feeders and a roofed seating area. It was buzzing with activity, with some truly stunning hummingbirds: Sapphire-vented and Golden-chested Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, Buff-winged Starfrontlet (this was the most common), a single Sword-billed Hummingbird, a Great Sapphirewing and a Mountain Velvetbreast. As we watched the feeders, 3 Rufous Wrens came by right under the feeders, probing into dead leaves, one even coming out onto the path right next to us to investigate a small pile of thatch.

Here we left the main trail and began to climb steeply up to some Polylepis forest, in search of Giant Conebill. We failed with the conebill, but managed some spectactular views of a pair of Ocellated Tapaculos, probably my most-wanted bird of the day.
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 13:08   #4
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Thanks for all the updates - I'm just planning a trip to Ecuador and your reports are very useful. As well as the Pulu hostal which I had already earmarked I was also thinking of going to the Amazon region. I read your earlier amazing experiences at Tiputini research station - not sure if I'm quite adventurous enough to go there on a first visit, but maybe will try Liana Lodge as an easy alternative, I don't know if you've heard of it?
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 13:52   #5
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Glad to hear that you are back in Ecuador and looking foward to more updates! Hope you and Tom are feeling better.
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 15:29   #6
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Thanks for all the updates - I'm just planning a trip to Ecuador and your reports are very useful. As well as the Pulu hostal which I had already earmarked I was also thinking of going to the Amazon region. I read your earlier amazing experiences at Tiputini research station - not sure if I'm quite adventurous enough to go there on a first visit, but maybe will try Liana Lodge as an easy alternative, I don't know if you've heard of it?
I haven't heard of Liana Lodge, and haven't yet been able to visit any of the other lodges in the area. Tiputini sounds like a great adventure just to get to, but I've found it quite easy to arrange- they make all of the transportation arrangements and meet you at each step of the journey- and it's certainly a cheaper alternative to most other lodges. But, as I say, I have nothing else to compare it to, and certainly the journey here is tiring if nothing else.

Feel free to ask or send a PM if you have more questions.
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 17:24   #7
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Thanks for the reply ovenbird. Decided I'm being a bit wimpish here so have now written to them asking about availability, also found out no parrot lick at Liana. Coupla questions. 10 kilo baggage allowance to Coca, is that a strict limit or can one pay for extra? Anti-malarial, do you use it, if so which? Parrot licks, any around? Samsonite 4-wheeler, completely impractical or good because waterproof? Thanks!
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 22:31   #8
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Thanks for the reply ovenbird. Decided I'm being a bit wimpish here so have now written to them asking about availability, also found out no parrot lick at Liana. Coupla questions. 10 kilo baggage allowance to Coca, is that a strict limit or can one pay for extra? Anti-malarial, do you use it, if so which? Parrot licks, any around? Samsonite 4-wheeler, completely impractical or good because waterproof? Thanks!
Hi George, to answer your questions:

1) I think the 10 kilo baggage must be an error- I have carried way more field gear than that. I believe the correct limit is 50 lbs, whatever that is in kilos. regardless, it's not a strict limit, they would just charge extra. It's a very short flight but these are typical passenger jets, in fact larger than most that visit my home airport!

2) Nobody here uses anti-malarial, so I have decided not to take it. In the past I have been prescribed doxycycline, but apparently due to its remoteness the risk of malaria here is very small. However, you do need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination, although I gather you probably read that on the website.

3) Strangely I'm actually not sure if there is a clay lick or not, but I think I've overheard that there is one reachable by boat, all you'd have to do is ask a guide to take you. Ask in your next email to Tiputini, or if I get a chance I will ask and let you know.

4) you won't be able to roll your samsonite to your cabin, nonetheless water proof is a big bonus. Depending on how many other people happen to be arriving or departing that day, you may be transported on the Tiputini River either by the big covered canoe or the smaller, uncovered canoe. In the latter case, if it rains, that's just that, stuff gets wet, and sometimes there is water in the bottom of that boat anyways. So, as long as you can pick the suitcase up and carry it a couple hundred meters I would say use it.
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Old Tuesday 4th January 2011, 22:55   #9
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29 Dec - Mindo and Milpe

This day it was just Renato and I, Tom wanted some time to relax and explore some more areas of the crater, and then take a bus to Mindo to meet us at the Yellow House where we would be staying for the night. We left before dawn, spotted a couple of Band-winged Nightjars sitting on the road as we drove up to the rim of the crater. Our first stop was Sachatamia Lodge, located on the main highway right before the turnoff for Mindo. The flurry of activity at the parking area kept us busy for quite a while. Apparently the big light that they leave on all night attracts a lot of insects which in turn attract a lot of birds in the morning. There were lots of tanagers: Golden, Flame-faced, Black-capped, Lemon-rumped, and Blue-gray Tanagers, plus Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers. Both Montane and Strong-billed Woodcreepers also joined in the feast. Several beautiful Blackburnian Warblers flitted about, and of course there were flycatchers: Tropical Kingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, and Golden-crowned Flycatcher. Red-faced Spinetails foraged in the trees and a Slaty Spinetail skulked in the grassy edge.

Next we walked to the canopy tower on the lodge grounds, which was quiet other than a Swainson's Thrush and another Golden-faced Tyrannulet- of course, all the birds in the forest must have been at the parking area! We returned to the lodge to view the hummingbird feeders. They were absolutely swarming, with Purple-bibbed Whitetip, White-bellied Woodstar, Empress and Fawn-breasted Brilliants, Violet-tailed Sylph, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Booted Racket-Tail, and several others, 12 species in all.

It was quite a start to the day, and around mid-morning we continued down the road towards Milpe. Our main target here was quite easy to find. Not far down the trail we began to hear the ringing buzzes of displaying Club-winged Manakins. There were easily 15 in the vicinity and we got great looks at the males as they leaned forward and raised their wings up to produce the noise, vibrating them so fast you couldn't see the movement. As we watched one male with a female nearby, a male Immaculate Antbird snuck by nearly at our feet, pumping its tail furiously up and down in alarm.

Just a little farther down the trail we encountered a mixed-species flock, with Ornate Flycatcher, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Spotted Woodcreeper, and Yellow-throated Bush-Tanagers. We puzzled over a small brownish bird foraging above our heads, it looked like a female manakin, and we had just concluded that it was likely a Golden-winged Manakin when the stunning male appeared- very nice!

We left to have lunch in Los Bancos, and then it started to rain. We stopped by a place in Mindo to watch some hummingbird feeders while we waited out the rain, and eventually gave up and checked into the Yellow House for a nap. The weather didn't improve much, although a drive later in the evening along a forested road that leads to El Cinto produced Golden-headed Quetzal and Crimson-rumped Toucanet, plus Masked Water-Tyrant in Mindo itself.

Last edited by ovenbird43 : Tuesday 4th January 2011 at 22:58.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 15:17   #10
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30 Dec - Recinto 23 de Junio

A strange name for a town, but there you go. Somewhere along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere is a family that owns a few sizeable parcels of intact forest in a sea of agriculture. One of these forest patches contains a lek of Long-wattled Umbrellabirds, our main target for this day. We arrived just after dawn, parked along a stream and got ready for the short hike up to where the umbrellabirds are usually seen.

First bird of the day was a handsome Fasciated Tiger-Heron standing on a boulder in the middle of the stream. Two or three Pale-mandibled Aracaris then flew into a nearby tree. We hiked up a slope through a grassy field, and scanned the tree snags of the forest on the ridge opposite us. It wasn't long before we spotted the unmistakable silhouette of a male Long-wattled Umbrellabird, who was soon joined by a female. This greatly excited the male, and he distended his wattle to ridiculous proportions, equaling or exceeding his own body length! After a few moments of showing off, he flew to her perch but she promptly took off. What a sight! We waited a few moments, and then several began flying into a tree much closer by, so despite the fog we got quite good looks- there were at least 6 in one tree, apparently only one female, amazing!

When the umbrellabirds flew on out of sight, we returned to the car and continued up the road to another, larger patch of forest. The owners of the land took us through the trails that they had built in the forest. Things were quiet at first, but soon we were shown a real treat- a female Scaled Fruiteater sitting quietly in a fruiting palm. Not a bird I had been expecting, terrific! Next up, we began to hear Rufous-breasted Antthrushes, and soon spotted one walking about near the trail. Golden-headed Quetzals called from a number of distant perches though we never spotted one. There were a few small flocks including such species as Ornate Flycatcher, Three-striped Warbler, Dusky Bush-Tanager, and Lineated Foliage-Gleaner.

On our way back out to the main road, we saw many Yellow-bellied Seedeaters and several Chestnut-mandibled Toucans. Then we heard a different toucan call, stopped and got out of the car, and found a group of 5 or so Choco Toucans.

We returned to Mindo for lunch and to retrieve Tom, and made one last stop before heading to Quito. We visited Milpe Gardens, a parcel of land adjacent to the main Milpe reserve. As soon as we entered one of the trails, we encountered a very agitated flock of birds, with Ochre-breasted Tanagers, Orange-bellied Euphonias, some honeycreepers, and probably others, but then something darted through the trees and all the birds dove for cover and fell silent. I looked at where I had seen the movement, and to my astonishment there sat a Tiny Hawk! What a prize! It sat for a moment and flew off, disappearing into the forest. The rest of the trail was fairly anticlimactic after that, quiet except for Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrants, and one tanager flock to far above to make much out. We left just as it started to rain and headed back to Quito.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 16:44   #11
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If anyone is interested, the website for Recinto 23 de Junio is http://www.23-de-junio.com/. The owners have plans to remodel their house to incorporate a little cafe area for guests and possible a couple rooms with beds if birders wish to stay overnight.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 16:50   #12
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Thanks for keeping us updated and anwering my questions above. Just looked up the l-w umbrellabird - what an extraordinary bird! - and adding the site i'll definitely try to make a stop there.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 16:58   #13
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Tiputini

We flew from Quito to Coca on 31 Dec and made the day-long journey to Tiputini. A few of the birds seen include Collared Plover, Great Egret, Cocoi Heron, Black, Turkey, and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures.

The next morning I planned to do a short hike just for fun and then do all the necessary preparations to begin field work the following day. Well, the hike is the only thing that actually occurred, since by that afternoon Tom was quite ill and needed looking after, and the next day I came down with it too. And now here I am, feeling rather better but Tom is worse again. But about that one hike....

I walked the short trail that leads from the cabins to the canopy tower, and thoroughly enjoying the outing I took the long trail back that winds towards the river and exits at the dining area. Things were very quiet at the canopy tower, except for a nice view of a Bare-necked Fruitcrow, but the trails were pretty active. I encountered several mixed-species flocks, containing Cinereous and Dusky-throated Antshrikes and various Myrmotherula antwrens, particularly White-flanked, Long-winged, and Gray Antwren. A smart little Lafresnaye's Piculet was foraging among one of the flocks. The sounds of White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans rang from the canopy, and large flocks of Cobalt-winged Parakeets flew by frequently. I had a nice view of a male Crimson-crested Woodpecker and even better views of a Golden-collared Toucanet at eye level. Of course, I saw plenty of Wedge-billed Woodcreepers, easily the most common understory bird here. Crossing a bridge over a stream, two birds flushed up from below- Sunbittern! Neat, the first I've seen here. Back at the station just before lunch, a group of birds consisting of Violaceous Jays, Yellow-rumped Caciques, Channel-billed Toucans and Many-banded Aracaris were all calling furiously, it seemed as though they were mobbing something but I never could find it.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 19:07   #14
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really enjoying reading this. brings back good memories of manu road and amazonia lodge in south peru!
hope you and Tom feel much better soon
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Old Thursday 6th January 2011, 16:35   #15
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[b]Things were quiet at first, but soon we were shown a real treat- a female Scaled Fruiteater sitting quietly in a fruiting palm. Not a bird I had been expecting, terrific!
Super birds aren't they? I'm enjoying this thread already.
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Old Sunday 9th January 2011, 22:42   #16
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Well, my field work is not progressing at all! We were quite seriously ill, there were some moments when I was afraid I would lose my husband... very terrifying. But we made it back to Quito on Friday, went to the hospital, and are finally getting better. We've done pretty much nothing for the past few days. I've added the usual downtown Quito birds to my year list, in fact there are several Eared Doves that roost right above the window of our hostel room, they've been fun to watch. Also seen Great Thrush, Sparkling Violetear and Rufous-collared Sparrow. I can't make it back to Tiputini until Friday, so I'm working on plans to visit San Isidro for a couple days now that we're somewhat better- it will be very relaxed birding, due to weakness and the fact that all I brought to Quito were sandals.

Some other good birds lately- during one of the boat rides along the Tiputini River I saw both Sunbittern and Sungrebe, the first I've seen along that stretch. At one point we had three Snowy Egrets fleeing in front of our boat for a good 10 or 15 minutes, even when they would lag behind and find themselves flying astride the boat they would redouble their efforts to get ahead of us. Eventually though they figured out that all they had to do to escape us was fly the other direction...
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Old Monday 10th January 2011, 00:01   #17
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Crikey, what a nightmare. Anyway glad to hear you are both back on the mend!
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Old Monday 10th January 2011, 14:06   #18
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hope you both get well soon!
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Old Monday 10th January 2011, 15:49   #19
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Well, my field work is not progressing at all! We were quite seriously ill, there were some moments when I was afraid I would lose my husband... very terrifying.
Goodness! Is everything ok now?
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Old Monday 10th January 2011, 17:15   #20
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Yes... besides not having much energy we are both doing much better now. And even that is improving, we've been out walking around Quito today, only walking up the 3 flights of steps to our room is still hard. It's difficult to imagine that only a few weeks ago I was in marathon condition!

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Goodness! Is everything ok now?
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Old Wednesday 12th January 2011, 19:38   #21
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Hi ovenbird,I hope youll get fit for birding again soon.
Could you give some advice for my first trip(10-13 days) to Ecuador next month?Ive been birding in the brazilian amazon for sometime,also camping.
I thought about birding in these 5 places:Napo River,Mindo,Cuyabeno Reserve,La Selva Lodge and Podocarpus national park.
- the weather of the southern ecuador this time of year will compromise my birding ?
-do you know a trustworthy birding tour companie?

Take Care,Marcos
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 01:37   #22
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Hi Ovenbird!
I sent you a message a few minutes ago, and had not read this yet!
I hope you and your husband are well. We will be in Quito on January 18th to January 23rd, so if you would like to do some easy birding with myself and my partner, let me know! Or, we can even meet for dinner and talk about birds!
Also, if you need anything from North America, let me know and I'll pack it in my suitcase!

Take care, and glad to hear you are on the mend :)
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 08:37   #23
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I'm in Ecuador last two weeks of Feb, first two of March. I've already booked some guides (usually local Spanish speaking), if anyone wants to meet up and share the cost, pm me. I'm going on the usual "around Quito" route - first two weeks north and west to Mindo, Milpe and a few areas around there, second two weeks the other side of Quito around Antisana, Tena, then upper Rio Napo.
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 21:53   #24
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Hi ovenbird,I hope youll get fit for birding again soon.
Could you give some advice for my first trip(10-13 days) to Ecuador next month?Ive been birding in the brazilian amazon for sometime,also camping.
I thought about birding in these 5 places:Napo River,Mindo,Cuyabeno Reserve,La Selva Lodge and Podocarpus national park.
- the weather of the southern ecuador this time of year will compromise my birding ?
-do you know a trustworthy birding tour companie?

Take Care,Marcos
I'm not too familiar with some of the places you mentioned, but I have been to Mindo and briefly to the Zamora entrance of Podocarpus National Park. The latter is very large- did you have an area in mind to visit? Last year Tom and I stayed at Copalinga lodge, right outside of Zamora and only about 2 km from the entrance to Podocarpus National Park, and I can highly recommend the place. The cabins were very nice, the owners were very friendly, and there is good birding right at the lodge. I would expect some rain this time of year, especially if you visit the higher altitude areas- we also visited Tapichalaca lodge which borders the west end of Podocarpus, the lodge was superb plus you get to see Jocotoco antpitta but it was very rainy and chilly. So plan a few days in case one is rained out.

I've really only been to Mindo the one night that I mentioned earlier in this thread, but it is a very nice area with a large variety of lodging options, from hostals to lodges. We stayed at Yellow House, which was nice and only $15/night. Many of the lodges have birding trails and/or feeders.

I don't normally use guides or tour companies, but this time I did hire Renato as a guide (can't remember his last name) to visit Milpe, Recinto 23 de Junio (both near Mindo) and Yanacocha Reserve. He is the owner of Pululahua Hostal, located in Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, and he does a lot of personalized birding trips on both the east and west slope. If you google Pululahua Hostal you will find his webpage and contact information. I was very please with his service and he is working to promote visitation to Ecuadorian-run lodges and the hiring of Ecuadorian guides.

Hope that helps... if you have any more questions feel free to ask!
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 22:10   #25
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Whew! Well Tom and I are very much better now. He has returned home and I arrived back at Tiputini on Friday, and have begun my field work in earnest. But with the rain this afternoon and the internet finally working I can do a little catching up on this thread...

11-12 Jan: Cabanas San Isidro

Tom and I were feeling well enough to get out and about, and I especially was itching to get out of Quito for a couple days, so I arranged for us a 2-night stay plus round-trip transportation at Cabanas San Isidro, 2-3 hours down the east slope. The van that picked us up on the morning of the 11th had also picked up a couple of guys who were going to Guango Lodge, right on the way to San Isidro, so our trip included about a half-hour stop at Guango for coffee and hummingbird feeders. I had visited Guango Lodge last year, and the feeders were as busy as I remember, with Tourmaline Sunangel, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Velvetbreast, and 2 Sword-billed Hummingbirds, among others. On the way out our driver stopped at a bridge to show us 2 Torrent Ducks foraging in the raging river below.

We arrived at San Isidro in time for lunch, after which I went for a couple of short hikes. The Antvireo Trail was fairly quiet, although I did score a nice male Green-and-Black Fruiteater feeding in a fruiting palm not too far above my head. Later in the evening I walked down the road and came across a large feeding flock, and I stood for probably 40 minutes watching the action: Streak-necked and Cinnamon Flycatchers, Ashy-headed and White-tailed Tyrannulets, Blackburnian Warbler, Smoke-colored Pewee, stunning Saffron-crowned Tanagers, Slate-throated Redstart, and Chestnut-breasted Coronet were just some of the participants. On the way back up I found both Pale-eyed Thrush and Andean Solitaire singing.

At night, not long after Tom and I had gone to bed we heard an owl right outside our cabin, and looking out we saw San Isidro's famous mystery owl perched right outside our window! It looks and sounds like a Black-banded Owl but with too much white and at an unusually high altitude. We got great views thanks to the light outside our cabin, we watched it sit there and preen for a while. We were both very excited!
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