Birding Northern Ecuador
|Milpe Bird Sanctuary
Altitude 3,350 feet
|05 Feb 09 - Hotel Sebastian, Quito, EC
Up at 5:30 AM for breakfast at 5:45 AM, then on the road to Milpe Bird Sanctuary. Which turned out to be pretty close to H. Mirador Rio Blanco. This is the lowest we've birded so far, but it was still very much in the cloud forest, and still in the deeply incised stream valleys. Somewhat different vegetation, though. It seemed to be patch of surviving, mature primary forest surrounded by regenerating younger forest and overgrown pastureland.
The birds were similar to Rio Silanche, but the lower canopy made birding a bit easier. Very good variety, and we picked up several Choço endemics, including Swallow Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager and Choço Toucan. Very good sight lines.
We birded until 1 PM, longer than planned, and then headed back to H. Mirador Rio Blanco for lunch. In serious rain, we drove one more time on the Old Nono-Mindo Road. The increased traffic had pounded it into a soupy mess. Heavy traffic, scary washouts and limited visibility; not fun. Following the load of cut bamboo was especially nail-biting.
This was out last day with Roberto, who heads home tomorrow. And, thank heavens, it's our last day with this wretched bus. The thrill of compression starting has paled. The bus made the trip, but didn't by much. Roberto deserves a lot of praise for his exceptional driving skills.
Once we hit paved road, it was pretty good driving to the outskirts of Quito. We went through a smaller town called Mitad del Mundo, which seems to be constructed in a volcano crater, and not an ancient crater, either. Massive ash deposits everywhere, and huge lahars as we dropped down into the mountain valley. Cinder block manufacture - using volcanic ash - seemed to be the primary industry. "Mitad del Mundo," José told us, means "middle of the world." Because it is on the equator.
Not lot of photos today; the 300mm f2.8 is out of circulation and I'm making do with a 70-300mm backup lens. It's not very sharp...
From there it was rush hour traffic back to Quito and Hotel Sebastian.
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