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Ecuador - the West Slope

Part 4: Las Grallarias

I always referred to this as "Jane Lyon's Place", as when I first started researching for the trip, the website I initially found mentioned "The Birdwatcher's House" in Mindo, but over the course of making arrangements I realized that she had a brand new guest house up in this beautiful private reserve she had procured, and that's where I was going to be staying!  (For those of you who don't know, Jane's a transplanted Texan and speaks impeccable Spanish, at least what I could tell...)  Tandayapa made the arrangements to take me up there (Fabian was the driver again), and it was quite an adventurous road up to her home!  (She said they offered to improve the road, but she didn't want to make it easy for people to go barreling through there...)  But it's a lovely place, and the guest house is a separate building with two bedrooms (and with BIIIG showers!  Definitely handicapped accessible!) and a large dining/lounging area, tastefully decorated in (what looked like to me) a southwestern theme, but it was probably local indigenous design.  Another couple from Ohio (Tim and Cathy) was there at the same time, but they were "working", banding birds and mapping Jane's trail system with a GPS so she'd have something more than the hand-drawn maps she was embarrassed to give people!  But we'd all eat together and share stories, and Jane actually did most of the cooking (although her local helpers usually did the serving), and it was great!  She had a soybean salad that I even asked for the recipe!  The kitchen was huge (in fact, on cold days we'd often sneak in there...), and each bedroom had its own porch where you could sit and watch the hummers at your own feeders, as well as survey the "back yard" of open grassland and cloud forest (and it did indeed get socked in at times, and even downright chilly)!  You could rack up quite a list being lazy on the porch: the hummers weren't as varied as at Tandayapa, but they were entertaining: the Speckled Hummers liked to hang onto these little trumpet flowers and feed (as well as come in to the feeders), and one female woodstar sounded like she needed a tune-up!  Goodies such as Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and Yellow-breasted Antpitta could be heard (and sometimes seen) right from your chair!  My patio hosted a bird bath that was often visited by a female Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, and one morning the dining area emptied when Jane announced she had a Baird's Sandpiper wandering around HER patio!


Left:  Las Grallarias Guest House (aka "Jane Lyon’s Place").   Right:  The gang relaxes before lunch (L-R: Tim, Cathy, Alex the guide, and Jane


Left:  View of Jane’s house from my porch (note the inca…)    Center and right:  Alex dutifully waits for Tim and Cathy outside our rooms so they can go band birds...


Left:  The rooms in Jane’s guest house have a great view of her "back yard"!    Right:  View from my porch (complete with Collared Inca…)


Left:  When they weren't banding birds, Tim and Cathy were capturing bats and recording the data!   Right:  There were many feeders strategically placed throughout the "yard"...


Left:  Jane’s five dogs dutifully guard the place and let the household know when someone’s approaching!   Right:  Lucy, for whom "Lucy’s Trail" is named!

Her house sits up on a ridge with trails through the preserve on both sides of the main road, and these trails take you all the way down to the river (we figured later there's probably about a 1000' elevation gain/loss on these trails).  So they're steep for sure, but she had her trail-maker carve steps out of the hillside, so while steep, the trails (for the most part) were easily negotiable for me.  The only trail I wound up hiking consistently was the "Guan Loop" in the afternoons (it made for a nice two-hour hike), which left right from my back porch and followed several trails (Granny's, Parrot Hill, and Guan Gulch respectively), but the main one was Guan Gulch and went down into some luscious woodland that was supposedly good for Sickle-winged Guan (Cathy and I saw only two between us).  But the combination of grassland and woodland made for a good list: some of the regulars included Azara's Spinetail, Spillmann's Tapaculo (actually SAW this guy barrel across the trail), and any number of colorful tanagers!  I never did figure out a morning routine because I tried a new trail each morning, and attempted the whole "eastern loop" first (I don't know if it's actually the east side of her property, but looking at the map, it's on the "right hand" side), which included portions of "Mr. Weasel's Trail", the Brothers Trail, Lucy's Trail, and the infamous Puma Trail.  While it started out great (had a Giant Antpitta "doobily-do" at me from the woods here, and had a Powerful Woodpecker show off down in what's called the Lower Level), by the time I got to the Puma Trail (and really had to keep going) I realized I was in trouble!  THAT was rough!  (Even young and in-shape Cathy admitted that the Puma Trail was a challenge...)  It got to be known as The Death March (as they had to do it, too, to map it)...  Interestingly, it was the NARINO Tapaculo that occurred on this trail and the ones across the street.


"Granny’s Trail", the start of the Guan Loop



Left:  Guan Gulch Trail.   Center and right:  Spillmann’s Tapaculo country along the Parrot Hill Trail 


Left:  The complex from the loop.   Center:  Bizarre flowers along the trail (the one on the right is a heliconia of some sort, I’m told).  Right:  One of the spiders whose webs I was constantly knocking down (or running into…) 


 "Mr. Weasel’s Trail"


Left:  Along the "Brothers’ Trail".   Right:  Rocket Frog


Woodland shots along Lucy’s Trail


Left:  One of the deep-woods trails—I forget which...   Right:  Back up on the ridge, the clouds are coming in!

The trails across the street also went down into the canyon, but for the most part were staired (Jane steered me away from the ones that were Puma Trail-like...); one called the Peccary Trail makes a loop (that I didn't complete) where I found what was probably a Yellow-vented Woodpecker nest, but I didn't get a good enough look at the bird to tell.  Again, it's a good mixture of open grassy habitat and deep woods, and also along the main trail here (called the Santa Rosa Trail, for the river) is a primitive camping area that turned out to be a great place to sit and watch for feeding flocks!  I didn't make it down to the Santa Rosa River, but I was told that was a good place to try for Wedge-billed Hummer.  The Green-and-black Fruiteater was easier along this trail as well, and it was where I finally SAW a Toucan Barbet!  The entrance road was productive as well (I did that the last full day cuz I needed something relatively easy), where it was easier to see White-collared Swifts, and a good feeding flock happened by where the road cut through the forest that had me occupied for quite awhile!


Left:  Overlooking the eastern side of the preserve.   Right:  Jane has planted chairs at strategic points along her trails!


Scenes along the more open Peccary Trail


More scenes... 


Right:  Fungus


Scenes along the Santa Rosa River Trail   



    Scenes along the entrance road


Left:  View from the ridge.   Right:  Chunk of woodland

We took an "off-campus" trip to Milpe, but before we headed over there Jane drove me down to the lower section of the "eastern" loop (I was close to the area but didn't go on the same trails) where we hunted (successfully) for antpittas and other goodies; down here the trails are relatively flat, so it wasn't a killer!  Her comment to me was, "You CAN'T come to Las Grallarias and not see an antpitta!"  (That's what the name means in Spanish...) 

Click here to continue to Milpe, or here to return to Tandayapa.

Link to Bird list and Photo Gallery


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