Tandayapa Pre-Trip Galapagos Cruise Oct 25—28, 2016
Posted by Paul Greenfield
Our Tandayapa Pre-trip to our Galapagos Islands Cruise always offers a pretty impressive sampling of what the rich biodiverse country of Ecuador has to offer in preparation for a unique basis for comparison with the relatively austere and limited, but fascinating biodiversity found on the Galapagos Archipelago. As always, the results of this two-and-a-half day adventure brought many surprises and even some thrills!
We departed from the Hotel Quito after a leisurely buffet breakfast and headed northwestward, briefly stopping at a local Equatorial obelisk, complete with a pair of singing Tropical Mockingbirds, at the quaint Andean town of Calacalí. We then continued to our first key destination—Pacha Quindi, owned by VENT leader Tony Nunnery and his wife, Barbara Boltz. Upon reaching the pastoral gardens at Pacha Quindi, we were immediately mesmerized by the dizzying sights and sounds of whirring wings and screaming colors that flashed from over a dozen species of hummingbirds. Aside from a few “oohs and ahhs,” the group remained relatively speechless while I rattled off a litany of complex hummer names as we bathed in the presence of Green and Sparkling violetears, Speckled Hummingbird, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown and Collared incas, Buff-tailed Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Fawn-breasted and Empress brilliants, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-throated Woodstar, Andean Emerald, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird… a treasure-trove for sure! It didn’t take long for us to realize that hummingbirds were not the only creatures present in this special universe—tanagers, including Golden-naped, Golden, and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, began to show up at the plantain banana feeders, as did a Neotropical mammal, the Tayra, a fairly large member of the weasel family.
Pulling ourselves away from this idyllic spot was not easy, but it was time to move on; we continued our journey winding our way up the Ecoroute, which was thickly encased in fog. It seemed that our birding thrills for the day had ended until we pulled up to a rather unpretentious (to say the least!) rural building with a sign saying, “Birdwatching here.” As we peered around the back corner of the very basic abode, a charming wooded garden, teeming with bird activity, left us breathless…Crimson-rumped Toucanet; Black-capped, Flame-faced, Golden, Golden-naped, Palm, Blue-gray, Lemon-(Flame) rumped, and White-lined tanagers; Thick-billed and Orange-bellied euphonias; Montane Woodcreeper; and Ecuadorian Thrush paraded themselves in plain view! Just when we thought it could not get any better than this, in came the pièce de resistance—the multicolored (gaudy?) Toucan Barbet! Oh my… it was time to continue on a few minutes more to our lodge, Séptimo Paraíso.
We initiated our following day with an early morning walk around the lodge grounds before sitting down to breakfast; by then we had already compiled a nice list of additional species including Ornate Flycatcher; Golden-winged Manakin; Blue-necked, Beryl-spangled, and Metallic-green tanagers; and Black-winged Saltator. We were then ready to head out for a short ride to the nearby Milpe Bird Sanctuary where we spent the remainder of the morning, among Rufous Motmots, White-necked Jacobins, White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Brilliants, Crowned Woodnymph, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Swainson’s Thrush, Three-striped Warbler, Rufous-throated and Silver-throated tanagers, Green Honeycreeper, and Yellow-throated Chlorospingus. We returned to Séptimo for lunch and relaxation, with a final afternoon bout of birding to close out the day.
Our final morning began with another filling breakfast, followed by a look at a Common Potoo on its day roost and a morning departure from Séptimo Paraíso, backtracking, with a stop at the top of the Mindo Entrance road, and along the lower Paseo del Quinde Ecoroute to the ridgetop and a coffee/tea and hummingbird break at Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge. As we advanced, we came across some interesting species, including a pair of Hook-billed Kites; Roadside Hawks; Squirrel Cuckoo; White-collared Swifts; 3 Masked Trogons; 4 Toucan Barbets; Chocó Toucan; Red-billed Parrots; Streaked Tuftedcheek; Smoke-colored Pewee; Golden-crowned Flycatcher; a female Andean Cock-of-the-rock on her nest; Brown-capped Vireo; Gray-breasted Wood-Wren; Slate-throated Whitestart; Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager; Fawn-breasted, Beryl-spangled, and Swallow tanagers; Dusky Chlorospingus; and Scrub Blackbird. At Bellavista’s néctar feeders we were truly entertained by Green and Sparkling violetears, Gorgeted Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbirds, Violet-tailed Sylphs, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronets, Fawn-breasted Brilliants, and Purple-throated Woodstars, along with White-sided and Masked flowerpiercers.
It was now time to head back home, to the Rincón de Puembo located near the Mariscal Sucre International Airport, for our final dinner and checklist session before turning our thoughts from the color and diversity that mainland Ecuador’s birdlife flaunts so boldly to the weeklong seafaring adventure among the unique flora and fauna that adorn one of Earth’s most enigmatic ocean archipelagos—the Galapagos Islands.