Galapagos Cruise: Tandayapa Pre-trip Oct 15—16, 2009
Posted by Paul Greenfield
Our Galapagos pre-trip down the northwestern slopes of the Andes west of Quito took us along the lower sector of the renowned Paseo del Quinde Ecoroute and to the Tandayapa Valley. This is a spectacular, species-rich area of lush cloudforest that would serve, not only as an enjoyable orientation to Ecuador's rich biodiversity, but most importantly, as an interesting basis of comparison between areas of similar looking, but biologically markedly distinct highland habitats found along the earth's equator—one on the continent of South America, the other on a distant, isolated Pacific Ocean archipelago found several hundred miles to the west.
We made a few pointed stops along the way to take some time to walk along the Ecoroute, feel the cool mountain air, admire the epiphyte-laden tres, and listen to the sounds of the forest; we came across a small mixed foraging flock of birds, wrestled with a sneaky Spillman's Tapaculo, and began to see a bit of the color that has drawn so many visitors to this wonderful area. The excitement became evident as we found one of the most enigmatic species of this area—the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan—and began to see a variety of Andean-slope specialties. By midafternoon we had worked our way to Pacha Quinde, the private residence of Tony Nunnery and Barbara Bolz, where we reveled in an explosion of some 17 or 18 species of hummingbirds and the spectacular montane scenery that surrounded us in their impressive garden.
Our day brought with it a diversity of experiences and some special birds too, among them: Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle; Variable Hawk; Green and Sparkling violetears; Western Emerald; Andean Emerald; Fawn-breasted and Empress brilliants; Buff-tailed Coronet; Brown and Collared incas; Gorgeted Sunangel; Booted Racket-tail; Violet-tailed Sylph; Wedge-billed Hummingbird; Purple-throated, White-bellied, and Little woodstars; Crimson-mantled Woodpecker; Cinnamon Flycatcher; Gray-breasted Wood-Wren; Slate-throated Whitestart; Russet-crowned Warbler; Masked Flowerpiercer; Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager; Golden, Golden-naped, and Beryl-spangled tanagers; along with White-winged and Chestnut-capped brush-finches. It turned out to be a very satisfying day for all and a fitting initiation to what would be an unforgettable week among "Las Islas Encantadas"—The Galapagos Islands.