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Ecuador - the West Slope

Part 7: Tinalandia

When I first got to Tinalandia I was kinda tired and grumpy (after three weeks of non-stop birding, that's understandable), but that changed fairly quickly!  Sergio Platonoff and his crew were there to meet me, and they got me settled in right away, in a spacious room in a little two-room bungalow up on the hill and just down from the main lodge!  The dining area was down at the bottom of the hill, and I was a little concerned about the logistics at first, but they had arranged for Pedro to give me a ride back up after each meal (making my own way down was no problem, of course, and it was quite birdy as well, with Buff-rumped Warblers, motmots, Gray-capped Flycatchers, wood quail, and antthrushes either seen or heard regularly)!  They had hummer and fruit feeders there by the dining area which attracted tons of Orange-fronted Barbets, and regularly hosted a family of Pale-mandibled Aracaris, a Crimson-rumped Toucanet, a Rufous Motmot, Ecuadorian Thrush, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, several tanagers (Blue-gray and Lemon-rumped being the most common, with the occasional Silver-throated), and Green Honeycreepers and euphonias rounding out the dickey bird department.  The hummer variety was leaner, but you got in-your-face looks of the White-whiskered Hermit (literally--he WAS in your face at times!), Green-crowned Brilliant, and Green-crowned Woodnymph.  You have a great view of the Toachi River from up there (and the main highway), and if I was conscientious about checking the river I would often find a Spotted Sandpiper in there.  Dina and her crew were great (although fair warning: Sergio is the ONLY one who speaks English!) and the food, as always, was superb!  (Be sure Sergio serves you his garlic soup!!  Yum!!)


My bungalow at the top of the hill and view of my "front yard", with Dina sweeping the road 


Dina poses with an Orange-fronted Barbet that slammed against the window, while another Owl Butterfly tries to get into my bathroom!  In the afternoons, the huge White-collared Swifts soar right along with the vultures!


Dining hall at the bottom of the hill (with Daj the Dog, Sergio, and the kitchen crew)


While Sergio readies for a field trip, Dina dutifully stocks the feeders! 


Myra and her helpers cook yummy meals for the guests, like "Charlie" (at the head of the table), a guide with Neblina Forest, and his group of Americans that he's leading all over Ecuador!


There was great habitat walking down the "hill road" to meals, but it also entailed skirting the "car wash"...

There was basically one main trail (not counting the golf course), and in the morning I would take it through a variety of habitats, which is what allowed me to log on average over 100 species per day, just on the grounds!  There were a few of those barbed-wire/wooden post-type gates you had to negotiate, but the trail (which was nice and wide) first started out through what I would call "open" woodland with some stands of that big bamboo, which the Yellow Tyrannulets really liked.  Slaty Spinetails liked this area, too, and there was a small lily pond that often had a Striated Heron and White-throated Crakes (had a Snail Kite once, which isn't even supposed to be here according to the book)!  The trail then would take you through several pastures, where Sergio's very docile horses would sometimes come say hello (they even followed me up the hill once, and scared the snot out of me on another occasion when they decided to graze and clip-clop around my room in the middle of the night)!  The cattle are fenced (except for three steers that were also pretty docile), and that's where the Cattle Egrets and Smooth-billed Anis would always be hanging out.  (Groove-billed occurred here also, but they tended to hang around the golf course...)  The bird of the trip showed up here as well: a RED-BREASTED BLACKBIRD which ordinarily is strictly an east-of-Andes bird!  (I was told that my sighting, since I had managed to photograph the bird, might well be the first "believable" record!)  This was also good for grassquits, seedeaters, and other open-area flycatchers like Yellow-bellied Elaenias.


The main trail starting out, with bamboo stand at right.


Left:  The Pond   Right:  The "open woodland"


Cow pasture, along with a view of the wrong turn I initially made...


One of Sergio’s friendly horses comes over to say hello and then accompanies me up the trail!


Heading up the hill you make a turn and come upon the quaint little cemetery, and just beyond is an orange grove which was almost always good for feeding flocks: Maroon-tailed Parakeets were regular here, and stumbled upon such goodies as Scaly-throated Foliagegleaner, Fawn-breasted Tanager, and Russet Antshrike, among others!  Just beyond this is the gate to the "Forest Trail", which takes you into deep forest on a good trail, where the heliconias are supposed to be good for attracting White-tipped Sicklebill (although I never saw any--DID see a short-tailed White-whiskered Hermit poking around them, though, which got the blood going at first...).  Both Lineated and Guayaquil Woodpeckers were here, as well as both the big toucans and any number of woodcreepers and antbird-type things (the young Red-faced Spinetails threw me for a loop at first).  A Stripe-throated Hermit had a lek right along the trail, and he sang every time I went by, but I could never spot him!  (Got a quick look once...)  One of the highlights on this trail was the pair of Parauques I flushed!


Left:  Cemetery at the top of the hill.   Right:  View from the top (and the wrong trail I took earlier…)


Interesting sights along the Forest Trail, including another Giant Snail (this one didn’t have its owner…), Leaf-cutter Ants, and an odd flower

Afternoon siestas were spent sitting on the porch watching the world go by (and occasionally "Daj the Dog", a black setter mix, would keep me company): the dirt road to the upper lodge goes right past my  front door with a rather "barren" open area, off to the right is a big stand of bamboo, the golf course is next to that, and a tall, skeletal tree is right in front, with more leafy trees lining the road going downhill.  I was very surprised at the variety of things that came through that little area in the course of the afternoon: Masked Water Tyrants regularly came right up, as well as Orange-billed Sparrows, House Wrens (of course), and even a Buff-rumped Warbler!  The scrawny tree across from me hosted Swallow Tanagers (in addition to the regular Blue-grays and Palms), Blue-necked Tanagers, Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Band-backed Wrens, euphonias, and even a Lineated Woodpecker!  Squirrel Cuckoos and parakeets liked the thicker foliage, and if the air currents were right, I could enjoy dozens of White-collared Swifts thermalling right along with the vultures, while Gray-rumped and occasionally Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts darted around along with the swallows!

When it wasn't raining (or threatening to) in the late afternoons I would walk the perimeter of the golf course.  A Common Potoo had a day roost in back of the main lodging (a guide who came with a Neblina Forest group later in the week pointed that one out to me), and Rufous-tailed Jacamars called from the edges.  Unlike Furnace Creek, I don't think you have to worry about getting in the way of the golfers here: the horses (and sometimes the steers) were the only ones utilizing the fairway, and birdlife included three species of kingbird (Eastern, Tropical, and Snowy-throated), the anis and grassquits, and the water tyrants and ubiquitous Pacific Horneros.  Scrub Blackbirds were all over, doing their funny little dance when they sang!


Left:  The old lodge building (he had a more modern facility directly behind it).   Right:  Stands of bamboo along the golf course


Left and center:  More views of the golf course   Right:  "Well, did I make par?"

    There's a great birding road nearby that goes all the way to Quito, but Sergio ran me out there a couple of times to try for Torrent Duck where the road crosses the river.  We dipped on that (the Torrent Ducks, that is), but regularly saw Black Phoebe and White-capped Dipper, and on one occasion a knockout Choco Trogon!  One evening we all headed up to get the Lyre-tailed Nightjar as well (which we did get fleeting looks at).  The "off-campus" trip was to Rio Palenque, a fabulous lowland rainforest preserve where I picked up several new species for the trip (which I'll list at the end of the illustrated bird list); Sergio dropped me off and I basically picked one trail and hiked that till noon, had lunch, and then headed back to Tinalandia (I find I can't do these all-day excursions like I used to!).


"Off-campus" trips included the road over the Toachi River to look for Torrent Ducks (left), and the Rio Palenque Field Station (with map on right)


The trails are well-marked!


Scenes along the trail I took, with exotic-looking flower at right.


Left:  Moths on a leaf    Center:  Gas station with attendant chicken...    Right:  Waterfall on the way to Quito

Link to Bird list and Photo Gallery


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