Birding Northern Ecuador
|Antisana Ecological Reserve
Altitude 13,515 feet
|06 Feb 09 - Hotel Sebastian, Quito, EC
Up at 5:30 AM for a trip to Antisana Ecological Reserve. At 13,000 feet, on the slopes of Vulcan Antisana, it the second highest area we will bird. It's pretty close to Quito as the Andean Condor flies, but a long, twisty drive through a series of increasingly impoverished villages. I think it may be privately owned or administered: you go through three security gates to enter.
Unlike the high cloud forest at Yanacocha, this is drier (dry paramos, José called it) and a little higher. We travelled from trees through brush to mixed grasses and flat plants. It looks remarkably like the high country on the east end of the Denali Highway on the south slopes of the Alaska Range. The road goes past immense 'a'a lava flows. The lowest is being aggressively mined as a rock quarry. I can't date the flows because these are the only tropical flows I've seen. A little higher there were two immense lahars. The lahars are uneroded despite the tropical rains. They look very fresh. Vulcan Antisana is inactive but not dormant.
On the drive up, through a classic glacial valley with post-glacial volcanic artifacts, we spotted two Andean Condors. Too high for decent photos, but huge and utterly unmistakable. In the very high plain below the peak itself, in fine weather, we saw a strange, almost bizarre set of birds. Andean Gulls. Andean Teal. Carunculated Caracaras, scratching on the ground like chickens. Andean Lapwings.
At a reservoir, we lunched in fairly brisk wind, but still picked out Silvery Grebe, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and a nice selection of passerines. We may be adapting slightly to the altitude; despite being 2,000 feet higher, it was less of a struggle than Yanacocha was a few days ago.
After driving back down to Quito, we stopped at the Quito market. With José's help, I was able to find a camera shop and make at least temporary repairs to my 300mm lens, getting three of the four screws firmly tightened.
To conclude the day, in a little postage stamp-sized park near the hotel, I found and photographed both Sparkling Violetear and Black-tailed Trainbearer.
We will really, really miss Jeff, Dave and Nick, who leave us tomorrow morning, headed back home. We'll be off to the east side of the Andes, via Papallacta Pass.
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