Andean-Cock-of-the-Rock at Angel Paz
The call came early, very, very early in the morning or maybe it was just really late at night. No matter, we were up and ready for another Ecuadorian experience.
Golden Tanager at Angel Paz
Leaving Bellavista in the dark, traveling down back roads into the Tandayapa Valley heading to Angel’s farm (Refugio Angel Paz). This is one of those “must do” things if you are a wildlife photographer or birder. Angel is a farmer that discovered that, when he plowed a field, a few Antpittas would follow and eat the exposed worms. This is a rare thing, Antpitas are difficult to see forest floor dwellers, not normally found out in the open.
Rufous-Breasted Antthrush at Angel Paz
With the tourist economy growing in Ecuador and people willing to pay to see wildlife Angel decided he might try to habituate some of these forest inhabitants by feeding them worms in spots where people could see them. His idea worked very well and now we were about to experience Angel’s Farm.
Giant Antpitta at Angel Paz
The bird viewing was excellent, several species of Antpittas and other difficult to find birds appeared at various sites, the Andean-Cock-of-the-Rock displaying at a lek being one of the highlights.
Thick-Billed Euphonia at Alambi
Flame-Faced Tanager at Alambi
We were startled by the number of people that showed up at the gathering point for the tour. Even after researching Angel’s place I had a vision of a few of us following this hill farmer around to the sites where we would view or photograph the birds. Not so much. Birders and other photographers crowded around waiting for instructions and as it turned out, division into smaller groups to make viewing more workable. Now we aren’t crowd enthusiasts, in fact we spend a fair amount of energy to avoid the hordes that seem to be the norm in popular parks and scenic areas. So we dutifully (after all we paid for this excursion and did want to see and photograph what we could) joined a queue and were sheparded to various locations where we had a few moments to photograph an Anthrush or Antpitta. Glad we went, not so thrilled with the conditions.
Green-Crowned Woodnymph Hummingbird, Alambi
Andean Emerald Hummingbird, Alambi
Red-Headed Barbet, Alambi
A day or two later we had the opportunity to head back down into the Tandayapa Valley to a small eco-lodge called Alambi, aka “Hummingbird Paradise”. It was, with 32 species of hummers listed here, 12 to 15 species easily seen at any time . We later learned that this small, laid back place was owned by our guide in the Amazon, Jairo and his family. He wasn’t there when we visited but we were gratified by the obvious care and concern they have for this area.
Purple-Throated Woodstar Hummingbird, Alambi
Western Emerald Hummingbird, Alambi
Purple-Bibbed Whitetip Hummingbird, Alambi
With a few days remaining in our trip we made one excursion into Quito. Not big, crowded city types we do like to visit places like Quito with their history and unique architecture. Our timing worked well, Quito has a few streets in Old Town (centro historico) that auto traffic is banned on Sunday and those streets fill with vendors, musicians and crowds of people. Kind of a street party and worth the time.
Old Town Quito, the hill, El Panecillo, with the Virgin of Quito in the background
Interior of Iglesia La Compania Quito’s “Sistine Chapel” said to have 7 tons of gold on the ceiling, walls and altars. Built between 1605 and 1765.
One last trip before we had to endure the hassle of flying home. Volcan Cotopaxi (Cotopaxi National Park) was calling, after all, we live near Cotopaxi, Colorado so we had to go (would have gone any way). A day trip was hastily put together, Lincoln, our guide and driver, picked us up and as we headed down the Avenue of Volcanoes he regaled us with stories of the land and its history.
Glaciers and clouds, Volcan Cotopaxi. No climbing needed if you have a decent telephoto lens.
Peracca’s Whorltail Iguana at 13,000 feet in Cotopaxi National Park. You will not find a lizard of any kind at 13,000 ft. here in Colorado, guaranteed.
Andean Lapwing, Cotopaxi NP
Cotopaxi the mountain proved illusive once we got near, clouds swirled across its massive glaciered face as we hiked along Laguna Limpiopungo. We had hoped to photograph the Ecuadorian Hillstar hummingbird visiting its major food source, the orange flowered Chiuquiraqua bush. We did see a few of the hummers around the laguna but Lincoln knew of a better spot so we moved on. Our luck ran out a short time later when the rain that had been threatening earlier made good on the threat. At 15,000 feet the rain was cold and constant so we relunctantly made our way back to Quito. For the past several months Volcan Cotopaxi has stirred from quietly steaming to erupting with some enthusiasm. Would like to be watching that!
Here’s the thing about travel “bucket lists”, at least for us, we have never gone somewhere that we didn’t want to visit again. So the list never gets shorter. One trip to Ecuador just barely scratched the surface. Everywhere we looked, everywhere we went, the abundance of beauty, of experience never diminished, gotta go back.