Birding Northern Ecuador
Altitude 983 feet
|12 Feb 09 - Sacha Lodge, Rio Napo, EC
Up at 5 AM and on the trails - very muddy trtails - at 5:45 AM, walking through the gloom to the canopy towers. Birded a bit along the way, with Oscar calling in ground birds. But the real treat was the towers. There are three towers, 36 meters above the ground, connected by suspension bridges. We went up the steps on Tower 1, but pretty quickly walked the first suspension bridge to Tower 2, and spent most of our time there. Outstanding birds. Parrots at eye level! Tanagers from above! Rarely had to look up. Note to photographers: Tower 2 is the first choice. Few crossbars to obstruct viewing angles, largest platform, best habitat.
At a guess, we got 50-60 species from Tower 2. Nice views, too. Notable species included Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Tody-Flycatcher, the over-the-top Paradise Tanager and Green-and-Gold Tanager, and Black-headed Parrots. A bit foggy and grey at first, but the weather improved all morning. But it was never hot. Walked a long loop going back, picking up a Musician Wren, a drab bird with an outstanding song, and a Screaming Piha.
Cleaned up, enjoyed lunch and then had a siesta through the hot part of the day. At 3:30 PM loaded into the pirogues for a paddle/walk. But about ten minutes in, we had a series of drenching showers, much like yesterday's, that made birding impossible. We ended up with a long, muddy slog back to the Lodge. We did pick up a soggy Brazillian Cardinal, but it wasn't even a lifer; it's a exotic breeder in Hawaii.
Very good food; the trip is not a net weight loss experience.
13 Feb 09 - Sacha Lodge, Rio Napo, EC
Our last day at Sacha Lodge, and our last real day of birding. Up early for a walk for ground birds. It was frustrating. After 2.5 hours, we had four species. They were good birds but it couldn't get much slower without stopping entirely.
Things picked up when we went back to the canopy towers, this time to Tower 3. It was a bit cramped with seven people, three scopes, cameras and two guides, but the birding was wonderful. Tanagers, Elainas, Woodpeckers, Cotingas, Hawks; oh my. But we were in full sunlight, and for the first time it got seriously hot. There was an occasional breeze, enough to cool things down, but you knew it was going to be brutal down on the jungle floor. Finally, Oscar dragged us down, and we birded back towards the Lodge. But Oscar got locked onto some Antbirds, and we finally had to drag him back to the Lodge.
Cold showers, lunch and then a siesta. We met again for a paddle /walk, and this time the weather cooperated. Under clear skies, we saw both Pygmy and Green-and-Rufous Kingfishers, and fine views of a Rufescent Tiger-Heron. We walked from the landing to the Treehouse, a canopy tower built part way up a magnificent Kapok tree, which itself is on one of the higher hummocks. The steps wind around the massive trunk, and are somewhat decayed. I think it is the nature of the jungle that stuff rots no matter what you do. The viewing platform is some 40 meters above the jungle floor. Even at that height, the branches going on up are three feet in diameter. Whole micro-ecologies grow on some of the branches. Some of the epiphytes are as big as Alaskan alders.
But it's the view that is really impressive. Rio Napo in one direction; the small blackwater lake at Sacha Lodge in the other. Fine views of Many-banded Araçari, Purple-throated Fruitcrows and, down in the leaves of an epiphyte, a female Opal-crowned Tanager on a nest.
We finally descended at sunset, and did some owling in the almost instantaneous darkness. We find a Tawny-bellied Screech Owl. We could hear others, but they didn't come in in response to tapes.
We paddled back to the lodge along a slough. We held our flashlights so the guides could see. Clouds of moths were attracted to the light, flying so close they tickled my wrist. Larger black shapes flitted through: bats eating the moths. We saw at least four species of bats, in fact: Fishing, Long-nosed, Fruit-eating and Amazonian. Fishing bats are huge.
Out on the small lake, under bright equatorial stars that we can see for the first time. It's still strange to see stars and be warm; that doesn't happen in Alaska.
A near-perfect day.
All content ©2009 Jim & Nancy DeWitt - All rights reserved