Tandayapa Pre-trip Galapagos Cruise Jul 08—10, 2015
Posted by Paul Greenfield
I am always surprised (perhaps reassured) by just how many (cool!) bird species one can find on a relatively short outing out of Quito. Our Tandayapa Pre-trip to our Galapagos Cruise was originally designed to offer a sort of avian “snippet” of the full potential that the western Andean slopes possess. As with all encounters with nature, conditions are always varied, one never really knows what will happen, and birds actually do have their own minds and needs—and are not obliged to fulfill our desires or fall into line with our plans. Nevertheless, it seems that the mere venturing out in the field gets some sort of serendipitous ball rolling.
We initiated our adventure by heading out to the northwest from the Hotel Quito lobby after a leisurely buffet breakfast and worked our way out of the city through the ever-increasing traffic. Once on our way we made an official “pit-stop” at the Calacalí gas station, complete with distant views of a soaring Variable Hawk and a family (?) group of resident American Kestrels. We then continued to our first destination—Pacha Quindi, the home of VENT leader Tony Nunnery and his lovely wife, Barbara Boltz—where we hunkered down for some serious hummer and bird watching. It was dizzying right from the get-go—wings whirring, colors flashing everywhere! We reveled in the presence of White-necked Jacobin; Wedge-billed Hummingbird; Brown, Green, and Sparkling violetears; Speckled Hummingbird; Green-tailed Trainbearer; Brown and Collared incas; Buff-tailed Coronet; Booted Racket-tail; Purple-bibbed Whitetip; Fawn-breasted Brilliant; Purple-throated Woodstar; Andean Emerald; and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird…not bad for one garden! This show was seconded by views of White-throated Hawk; Band-tailed Pigeon; White-tipped Dove; White-tipped Swift; Red-headed Barbet; Red-billed Parrot; Montane Woodcreeper; Streak-capped Treehunter; Streak-necked, Flavescent, and Golden-crowned flycatchers; Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager; Blue-capped, Golden-naped, Metallic-green, and Golden tanagers; White-sided Flowerpiercer; and Orange-bellied Euphonia.
By the time we moved on, after a filling packed-lunch (thanks to Juan!), we might have already been questioning this idea of the “snippet.” We wound our way up the cloud-enshrouded ridge, along the Paseo del Quinde Ecoroute, to a roadside clearing where we attempted to call in one of the region’s most emblematic species—with good and bad news to report. The solicited bird responded enthusiastically and came into view (that was the good news); the bad news was the thick fog that afforded us a mere vaguely-patterned silhouette, and after some patient waiting but no improvement we moved on towards our final destination, making one final stop as we descended out of the the brume; a second attempt at calling in “our” bird brought much better results—4 beautiful Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans showed themselves generously…man, now that’s what I’m talking about! Our day now seemed complete, and we made the final dash to our lodge. At Séptimo Paraíso, as we awaited room assignments and the moving of our bags, part of the group decided to walk about the grounds nearby—not much time, but “what-the heck,” right? Within just a few minutes, a Golden-headed Quetzal sounded off and, shortly after, came into view in response to my acceptable (it seems) whistled imitation of its call…great way to end the day!
Our following morning began with a customary pre-breakfast birding walk just around the lodge grounds, and by the time hunger struck, we enjoyed a variety of both new and familiar species, including: a Common Potoo on its day roost; another Red-headed Barbet; a spectacular pair of Toucan Barbets; Red-faced Spinetail; Ornate Flycatcher; Tropical Kingbird; Gray-breasted Wood-Wren; Brown-capped Vireo; Lemon (Flame)-rumped, Blue-gray, Palm, Metallic-green, and Blue-necked tanagers; Buff-throated and Black-winged saltators; and more Orange-bellied Euphonias.
After breakfast we took a short drive to Milpe Bird Sanctuary to close out the morning. Memorable here were the nectar and fruit feeders along with some pretty exciting forest and edge bird activity—Swallow-tailed Kites, a Barred Hawk, and a “kettle” of White-collared Swifts graced the skies above, while several White-necked Jacobins, White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntails, Green-crowned Brilliant, Crowned Woodnymph, an Andean Emerald, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, along with a Bananaquit attacked the nectar feeders; the plantain banana feeders brought in plenty to see—Rufous Motmot; another pair of Red-headed Barbets; Pale-mandibled Araçari; Chestnut-mandibled and Chocó toucans; Lemon-rumped, Blue-gray, Palm, Golden-naped, Blue-necked, Rufous-throated, Golden, and Silver-throated tanagers; Green Honeycreeper; and Orange-billed Sparrow were among the highlights. The nearby woods were also jumping, and we managed to locate a male Chocó Trogon; Smoky-brown, Golden-olive, and Lineated woodpeckers; Spotted Woodcreeper; Buff-fronted and Scaly-throated foliage-gleaners; Slaty-capped Flycatcher; Tropical Parula; Chocó and Three-striped warblers; Slate-throated Whitestart; Flame-faced Tanager; and Yellow-throated Chlorospingus—nice morning!
We headed back for a very satisfying lunch and some final birding (even a second Common Potoo on its day roost!)—before heading back to Quito for our farewell dinner and time to prepare and change gears for the Galapagos cruise adventure to come…a nice snippet to say the least!