AKA - dreaming of the tropics. You see, I am currently sitting at home here in New England while yet another snowstorm dumps the white stuff outside, and although by 6am I have already shoveled over 8-9" of the stuff so my wife can get to work, I refuse to do any more until it stops. I'm sorry if I sound a bit bitter - I had scheduled today off from work so that I could do a last scouting and timing run for our our Superbowl of Birding competition on Saturday, but the weather has pretty much put an end to that. Instead, I am daydreaming about being someplace warm and tropical. What a better time to finally blog about the trip we took to Ecuador in November?
I should start with a bit about logistics. First and foremost, I should say that we did this trip with the fine folks at Tropical Birding. The trip that we took was their "Andes Introtour" which took place from Nov 20-27, based at the very comfortable Tandayapa Lodge, where we also stayed for an extra two nights after the tour ended. Dominique from Tropical Birding was very helpful, professional, and responsive to my e-mails inquiring about the tour and in setting up things for the extra few nights stay.
The first day was simply a travel day. We flew to Quito, Ecuador via American Airlines with a several hour stopover in Miami - in all a rather long but uneventful trip. We made it through customs without a problem, met our driver and were transported to the Hotel Sebastian in Quito. I can't tell you much about Quito as we arrived well after dark and had a quick meal at the hotel before going to bed.
Early on the 21st, we showered and went down to breakfast at the hotel where we met Sam, our guide for the trip, our driver Nico, and the other folks on the tour. We packed out things on the bus and headed off to our first destination - Yanacocha Reserve with a quick stop on the way for everybody to get a look at the nearby Pichincha Volcano...
Buff-winged Starfrontlets were common, and we saw quite a few on the walk in to the feeders, but here there were photo opportunities rather than just buzzing by us...
Sapphire-vented Pufflegs were pretty easy to see and identify:
Easily though, the stars of the feeder show for me were the goliath Great Sapphirewing:
and one of the birds that had been on my "top ten list of birds to see in the world" - the aptly named Sword-billed Hummingbird:
By the time we arrived back at the lodge, it was starting to get dark, and although some made it to the porch for their first looks at the hummingbirds at Tandayapa - I was trying to recover from climbing the stairs to the lodge. Not sure if it was not being used to the elevation (I tend not to notice elevation problems until I am out of breath and on my knees from trying to go too fast) or if I was just feeling the fatigue more than I expected - but either way - I learned that for the next several days, when we returned to the lodge to take it much easier doing the last climb of the day.
We had out first of many excellent meals, and that evening a few of us headed out to see if we could find an owl, and were rewarded with excellent looks of Columbian Screech-Owl - a great way to end a spectacular day of birding.