25 October 2015

July 20, 2015

There is no better way to describe today than frustratingly-laborious. Today was mostly a "travel" day, but how that played out for us is nearly indescribable. In summary, we spent 9 hours driving, of which at least 6 hours were on extremely rough, narrow, and often unmapped roads. We wasted at least an hour back-tracking on roads we were not supposed to be on, and another hour wasted on replacing a flat tire and finding a replacement. We also spent the last hour and half of the day driving in the dark, at which point we hit a dog that leapt out from behind a parked truck. By the time we got to our lodge, I had enough tension built up in by back that it was difficult getting to sleep. And the payoff for the trouble? The lowest species count for the trip, at just 44, and only five lifers...I suppose it could have been worse, so an optimist would say.

We began our 'adventure' at 6:00am, and by 6:40am we had our flat tire. I helped the driver change the tire while Simon and Howard supervised my performance. After that the driver checked-in at a nearby construction site in hopes of acquiring a spare tire. While that happened, we did a bit of birding along the road and chalked up Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Scrub Blackbird, and Long-billed Starthroat. The driver later returned with no tire, so as a group we had a strategic decision to make...press on in the direction we needed to go and hopefully obtain a spare tire in the afternoon, or back-track to another town and cancel our planned route. Ignoring safety as a top priority, we opted to press-on and hope not to get another flat tire...I think however, as we spent the next few hours traversing some of the worst roads we'd ever been on, we were second-guessing this decision.

Our destination today was Tapichalaca Lodge, and there was only one location along the way that we were aiming to do some birding at: Utuana Reserve. We arrived at Utuana at 10:33am, nearly an hour-and-a-half after we had hoped to get here, thanks to the flat tire and taking two wrong roads. The cost of arriving late was two-fold: we had less time to spend birding here, and the morning bird activity window had been largely missed. Despite this, we did manage to find a good variety of birds including Silvery Tanager (lifer), Blue-and-Black Tanager, White-crested Elaenia, Rainbow Starfrontlet (lifer), Speckled Hummingbird, Purple-throated Sunangel (lifer), Red-crested Cotinga, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Chapman's Antshrike (lifer), and Rufous-crested Warbler. We dipped on a couple of targets here, including Black-crested Tit-Tyrant. While at the reserve we had a packed lunch, and at 1:40pm it was time to move along.

From 1:40pm to the time we arrived at Tapichalaca Lodge, I wrote just one bird down, an American Kestrel. The end of this travel day could not come soon enough, as we rolled into the lodge just before 8:00pm.