Tandayapa Pre-trip Galapagos Cruise Oct 28—30, 2015

Posted by Paul Greenfield

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Paul Greenfield

Paul Greenfield grew up near New York City and became interested in birds as a child. He received his B.F.A. from Temple University where he was an art major at the Tyler S...

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They say that in order to embark on an exciting adventure you have to first step out the door—and that is what we confirmed, again, on our November 2015 Tandayapa Pre-trip. Just by stepping out the door during this relatively brief preamble to our upcoming Galapagos Cruise—along the Northwestern Andean Slopes of Ecuador—we managed to see and experience a whole lot. It’s actually amazing just how much. We descended from Quito and the interAndean valley down towards our initial destination in the misty, cloud-forested foothills of the Tandayapa Valley. It wasn´t seconds upon our arrival at Pacha Quindi before we were immersed in a frenzy of hummingbirds everywhere we looked! Amidst spectacular views of the densely forested mountain, we gazed motionless for a few minutes before reacting, and then exotic names were rattled off machine-gun style in an attempt to make some sense out of the avian chaos, as the different species filled the air with crazy pirouettes and acrobatics—Green Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Fawn-breasted Briliant, Empress Brilliant, White-bellied Woodstar, Purple-throated Woodstar, Western Emerald, Andean Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and Wedge-billed Hummingbird…what a display! Along with some birding along a forest trail and a filling field lunch, we enjoyed nice looks at a close Plumbeous Pigeon, a pair of the fabulous Toucan Barbet (!), Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Crimson-rumped Toucanets, beautiful Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, and Blue-capped, Fawn-breasted, Golden-naped, and Golden tanagers.

Booted Racket-tail

Booted Racket-tail— Photo: Paul Greenfield

We explored the Paseo del Quinde Ecoroute and eventually located a fine Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan—certainly one of Ecuador’s finest! Before heading to our hotel, we made a final afternoon stop at Casa Rolando, a newly set up local “garden” complete with plantain bananas and nectar feeders. Wow! It’s incredible what these simple “home-made” endeavors can attract: more special hummingbirds, including the stunning Velvet-purple Coronet; another wonderful (and close!) pair of Toucan Barbets; a pair of the special Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager; and White-lined, Lemon (Flame)-rumped, Blue-gray, Palm, Black-capped, and Flame-faced tanagers. Thick-billed and Orange-bellied euphonias also made stellar appearances. It was time to call it a day. As we pulled into Séptimo Paraíso, a Common Potoo was spotted on its nest, just outside the lodge’s dining room—a fitting end to a splendid day.

We met the dawn by stepping out the door for some leisurely pre-breakfast birding around the lodge’s grounds. A nice way to start the day, with a pair of Golden-headed Quetzals, Red-headed Barbet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, a flock of Barred Parakeets, Montane Woodpecker, Slaty Spinetail, Ornate Flycatcher, Ecuadorian Thrush, Tropical Parula, Blue-necked Tanager, Buff-throated and Black-winged saltators, Tricolored Brushfinch, Summer Tanager, and a juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak. But perhaps best of all were the great looks we had of a small group of Yellow-collared Chlorophonias! After breakfast, we drove a short distance to the Milpe Bird Sanctuary where we spent the remainder of the morning watching feeders and birding this rich protected area which is owned and managed by the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. Hummers were among the first birds to attract our attention, with White-necked Jacobins, 1 or 2 White-whiskered Hermits, Green Thorntails,  Green-crowned Brilliants, Crowned Woodnymphs (the male is a shocker!), Andean Emeralds, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds showing off in numbers, along with a Bananaquit. We even observed a Stripe-throated Hermit feeding on flowering shrubs right around the reserve station. The plantain feeders were somewhat active; though with lots of forest trees carrying fruit at this time, many species were too busy up in the canopy to bother to show up to check them out. At any rate, we got good close looks at several tanagers, including White-lined, Blue-gray, Palm, Lemon-rumped, Silver-throated, Golden, and Golden-naped. Perhaps the most exciting “visitor” was a beautiful Orange-billed Sparrow…now that’s a sparrow! We then came upon a mixed-species foraging flock with another Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Wedge-billed and Spotted woodcreepers, Cinnamon and One-colored becards, Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Whitestart, Yellow-throated Chlorospingus, and more Summer Tanagers. We also saw Ruddy Pigeon, Squirrel Cuckoo, Bronze-winged Parrots, a flock of White-collared Swifts, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Chocó Toucan, and a distant Bat Falcon, along with Acadian, Olive-sided, and Rusty-margined flycatchers.

We headed back to Séptimo Paraíso for a final lunch and some light birding in these avian-rich Chocó cloudforests before initiating our return to Quito. With a lot to think about, our heads filled with images of fabulous and exotic bird species and wonderful experiences, we wound our way back to “whence we came,” somewhat torn between embracing fond memories of our last two days of mega-biodiversity immersion and reforming our expectations for the days to come—in a very different realm, cruising the Enchanted Isles.