04 February 2013

4 February 2013

One word can sum up today: wet!

I knew things were bad when I started the day by sleeping in. In my of spending the previous day travelling with virtually no sleep, I set the time and alarm in reverse am/pm. So the alarm was set for 5:15pm, and the clock, at the time was set at 9:15am. I only woke when light shone into the room. I got up in a panic, with a few choice words thrown into the mix, looked outside, and went back to bed. Thick gray cloud shrouded the city, and as far as I could see, it was raining. I only stayed in bed for 45 more minutes, by brain churning, convincing me that somewhere else it isn't raining. Ok then, I'll get up, have some breakfast, and see where the road leads.

By 8:30am I was on the road, slowly working my way through Quito traffic and trying not to sit behind an excessively bad, smog-polluting bus. I made my way toward Yanacocha, and after getting a bit lost, did find myself on the right road. The drizzle had subsided, and although patchy the fog was low. Bumping along the access road to Yanacocha I picked up very little, but did add a few new trip species: Black Flowerpiercer, Cinereous Conebill, Plain-colored Seedeater and Black-tailed Trainbearer.

Before reaching the entrance to Yanacocha the sky opened up fully, and a downpour made any hope of birding in this area impossible. Given the state of the road, I had no choice but to turnaround and head back to the Nono-Mindo Road where I had started. Looking at the sky, it made sense to head farther north, as the clouds were a slightly lighter shade of gray, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, it might not be raining toward Tandayapa. Soon after heading down the Nono-Mindo Road I picked up an American Kestrel, but that was about it as the rain pummeled down. I passed several great spots that had been very birdy on my previous trip.

About 6kms south of Tandayapa the rain had stopped, and no sooner after could I hear the sounds of birds. I pulled over and immediately began scanning. The first highlight was two Turquoise Jays, followed by a pair of Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrants. I also picked up a Golden-crowned Flycatcher, and my second lifer for the trip, a Streak-necked Flycatcher. A little further along the road and I ran into a fairly decent mixed-species flock. Of the 16 species seen, some highlights included Blue-capped Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, and White-sided Flowerpiercer.

The next stretch of birding was from Tandayapa to Bellavista, about 6km. Right at Tandayapa I picked up Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Tropical Parula, Black-and-White Seedeater, and Turkey Vulture. The remainder of the road was pretty quite, and as the road ascened ever higher, the fog grew thicker. At about 600m from the Bellavista lodge I could hear from the car a fairly good-sized feeding flock. I jumped out and immediately started to glean what I could. One of the first birds I saw was a Moss-backed Tanager, my third lifer for the trip and second for the day. Next I picked up Red-faced Spinetail, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-headed Barbet, Montane Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Antbird, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Northern Shiffornis and White-tailed Tyrannulet. By now, about 20 minutes had passed, the fog was thick, and the rain had begun again.

I drove to the Bellavista lodge and contemplated stopping, but the rain was so heavy I decided to cut my losses and head back to Quito. It was now 3:30pm. I decided to take the back way to the highway via the Bellavista research station, hoping the rain would subside and a few more birds could be had. But it wasn't to be. It poured all the way back to Quito - the only new bird I added was Band-tailed Pigeon, six of them sitting bedraggled in a snag. Plodding through Quito during rush hour in the rain is no fun. I got back to the hotel at about 5:45pm.

Total species today: 44
Total cumulative species for the trip: 54
Total lifers today: 2
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 3