Galapagos Cruise: Tandayapa Pre-trip Oct 29—31, 2014
Posted by Paul Greenfield
Northwest Ecuador’s incredible biodiversity and endemism offers the perfect “recipe” for a wonderful introduction to the birds of the Neotropics, as well as presenting travelers who will visit the renowned Galapagos Islands an interesting opportunity to compare one of the world’s few megadiverse ecosystems with that of a relatively austere and isolated one. This October 2014 Tandayapa Pre-Tour was designed to achieve these goals and more. We visited three main sites: Pacha Quindi in the Tandayapa Valley; our lodge—Séptimo Paraíso —in the Mindo Valley; and nearby Milpe Bird Sanctuary.
Violet-tailed Sylph— Photo: Paul J. Greenfield
Pacha Quindi is the private residence of VENT leader Tony Nunnery and his lovely wife Barbara Boltz; our first morning was spent at this idyllic spot, overlooking the forested mountains that carpet the Tandayapa Valley. Hummingbirds (17 species in all—Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown and Collared incas, Buff-tailed Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, White-tailed Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Fawn-breasted and Empress brilliants, Western Emerald, along with Purple-throated and Little woodstars among them) buzzed and whirled everywhere, beaming every combination of colors imaginable! The activity was dizzying to say the least, and only relieved (?) occasionally by a bout or two, or three, of non-hummer entrances: a cooperative pair of Crimson-rumped Toucanets; a family group of Toucan Barbets; a male Black-and-white Becard; Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers; and Blue-capped, Metallic-green, Golden-naped, Flame-faced, and Golden tanagers to mention just a few of the species that we enjoyed. We reluctantly departed from these unforgettable gardens after enjoying a packed lunch, as the afternoon rolled in, and continued towards our day’s final destination—Séptimo Paraíso Hostería and Cloudforest Reserve.
En route we made a brief roadside stop along what is now well-known as the “Paseo del Quinde” Ecoroute in hopes of finding one of this region’s flagship species—the multicolored Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan. No photograph or painting can do justice to this spectacular crowd-pleaser, and as a responsive and vocal male flew towards us, we realized it held a round fruit in its long, colorful bill; to our surprise and joy, apparently somewhat wary, he rapidly swooped down to a dead tree trunk where he disappeared into a nest hole—we decided that that was a sign that we needed to move on. We settled into our rooms, but not before checking out a nesting Common Potoo that Jon located; it seemed glued to a cut-off stump in one of the patio’s trees. We then met for our nightly birdlist and sumptuous dinner before turning in for the night, heads filled with images of splendid birds and scenery.
The following morning began with a pre-breakfast walk around the hotel grounds. Most everything was new to everybody, so it seemed easy to please, but we came across some real specialties—among them were great views of a beautiful pair of Yellow-collared Chlorophonias in perfect light…it’s hard to beat that! Though there were quite a few runners-up and tough contenders, like a super-close Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Ornate Flycatcher, and a classy male Red-headed Barbet, followed by Fawn-breasted, Beryl-spangled, Black-capped, Blue-necked, and Swallow tanagers. After fueling-up (breakfast) we headed to Milpe Bird Sanctuary, just about 20 minutes to the west. This key foothill site was quite birdy indeed, starting with busy nectar feeders and several new hummingbirds: White-necked Jacobin, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Brilliant, and Crowned Woodnymph. Broad-billed Motmot, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Club-winged Manakin, Chocó Warbler, Rufous-throated and Silver-throated tanagers, and Purple Honeycreeper come to mind. We returned to Séptimo Paraíso for lunch and some additional birding before heading back to Quito—Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Tricolored Brush-Finch, and Black-winged Saltator bid us farewell and set the stage for our upcoming adventure in The Galapagos Archipelago.