Galapagos Cruise: Tandayapa Pre-trip Nov 26—28, 2011
Posted by Paul Greenfield
The "pint-sized" South American country of Ecuador is by no means a "little" nation when it comes to biodiversity. On the contrary, Ecuador can (for example) proudly boast of holding over twice as many bird species as the entire continent of North America, even though it is some 87 times smaller! So in preparation for VENT's November Galapagos Islands Cruise, we offered a two-day visit to the species-rich northwestern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes as an opportunity to "see-for-yourself" and to establish an enlightening basis of comparison with the isolated Galapagos Archipelago and its rather special, but limited biological diversity.
This is supreme hummingbird country and a land of tanagers, quetzals, toucans, and a slew of other Neotropical bird families. We are always bound to see a great variety of species—we normally expect over 20 species of hummingbirds and a similar number for tanagers! This November 2011 trip took us along part of the Paseo del Quinde Ecoroute to Pacha Quinde (the private residence of VENT leader Tony Nunnery and his lovely wife Barbara Boltz), and onward along the Ecoroute to our lodging for the night at Séptimo Paraíso. The following day we explored the area around the lodge and then headed out for a short drive to Milpe Bird Sanctuary, then back to Séptimo for lunch followed by the drive back to Quito—a straightforward and pleasant itinerary with a good dose of fun birding!
This enjoyable 48 hours brought us lots of excitement. Being virtually "glued" to the hummingbird feeders at various sites, surrounded by the frenzy of dozens of species and hundreds of individuals at each location, rendered us more or less speechless but for the oohs and aahs and the rattling off of one descriptive name after another: Tawny-bellied and White-whiskered hermits; Fawn-breasted, Green-crowned, and Empress brilliants; Buff-tailed and Velvet-purple coronets; Green Thorntail; Gorgeted Sunangel; Purple-bibbed Whitetip; Booted Racket-tail; Violet-tailed Sylph; and Purple-throated and White-bellied woodstars to name a few. We tallied a respectable 26 hummers on this trip…all seen well! Birds were mostly close at hand, and we were kept on our toes with several large mixed species foraging flocks around Séptimo Paraíso and Milpe Bird Sanctuary. Watching the weird display of Club-winged Manakin, calling in a Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and admiring nearly two dozen dazzling tanagers added more and more excitement at every turn. By the time we pulled into the Hotel Quito drop off area, we had amassed quite a collection of bird species and vibrant memories, along with the thirst for more! Now to get ready for one of the unforgettable Wonders of the World, the famed Galapagos islands.