Thursday, 2 September 1999

ECUADOR August 1999: Podocarpus National Park

Part two of a blog recounting a trip to Ecuador with Michael Grunwell.  Michael did a successful 4 day/3 Night "Northern circuit" cruise on MV Santa Cruz.  I couldn't really afford it and stayed at Loma Linda but when I met him off the plane in Quito I was rather envious to say the least and did wonder if I'd made the right decision - on best birds Ocellated Tapaculo or Waved Albatross was a close call but after that I was well behind.  Back in Quito we were heading south to Podocarpus National Park ...
Cajanuma (27-29 August).  Michael and I caught the early morning flight from Quito to La Toma airport and a shared taxi into Loja where we stayed in the Hotel Acapulco.  This was reasonably priced, very clean, quiet and friendly.  One of the receptionists ran us down to the southern taxi terminal where we negotiated a charter to Cajanuma the higher section of Podocarpus National Park.  We arrived at the ranger station mid-morning and obtained a permit for a week.  We spent the next two and a half days commuting from Loja to Cajanuma.  The journey took about 45 minutes and on subsequent days we arrived soon after dawn (once having to wake the guard at the entrance to release a chain across the road) and left just before dusk.  This prevented us from trying for any night birds and we may have been better served to have taken a supply of food with us and stayed in the basic accommodation at the ranger station but it would have been cold.  On 29th we just had the morning at Cajanuma, before returning to Loja.  The cloud forest at Cajanuma was very nice to walk in and we spent a lot of time on the Antejos loop and the first km of the other trails.  We were generally lucky with the weather, but bird densities seemed extremely low (as the following list indicates).  The road below the ranger station was particularly disappointing.  The sunangels caused particular confusion, is more than one species present?

Birds seen included  Band-tailed Pigeon (flocks totalling 75 one evening), Chestnut-collared Swift, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, purple/flame-throated Sunangels (some with iridescent blue-purple throats and others similar but with iridescent yellow-orange-red throats), Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Purple-backed Thornbill, Tyrian Metaltail, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Azara’s, Rufous and White-browed Spinetails, Mouse-coloured Thistletail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Flammulated Treehunter, Chestnut-naped (3 seen well) and Rufous Antpittas (5), Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted and Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrants, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Barred Fruiteater, Turquoise Jay, Great Thrush, Rufous, Plain-tailed and Mountain Wrens, Spectacled Whitestart, Citrine Warbler, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Lacrimose and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus, Plushcap and Pale-naped and Rufous-naped Brush-Finches.

the view from our room
view from the entrance track to Cajanuma

Michael on the track

above Cajanuma with the clouds coming in

Zamora (29 August).  Returning to Loja we investigated buses to Zamora but rather than wait a couple of hours for the next one we decided to take a taxi (which wasn’t actually much more expensive).  We arrived in Zamora mid-afternoon and immediately noticed the difference in temperature.  We were visiting the lower section of Podocarpus and it was rather hot.  After checking into Hotel Gimyfa International (nothing like as grand as the name suggested but perfectly adequate for our needs) we walked the short distance down to the river and birded along its banks to the road bridge until dusk.  We saw a number of birds that were new for the trip, but all were fairly common ones.  Michael revisited the area on the morning of 31st but saw little that was different.  Highlights were Mottle-backed Elania (Michael only), White-banded Swallow, Thrush-like Wren, Yellow-bellied Dacnis and Blue-necked Tanager.

Rio Bombuscaro (30 August to 1 September).  The entrance was reached each day by taxi (in under 30 minutes) which we then arranged to collect us just before dusk.  This worked very well and the one occasion our driver couldn’t make it he sent a friend instead.  Most of our time was spent between the entrance and the ranger station, in the forest immediately behind it and along the river just after it.  On one occasion I spent all morning walking 3-4 kms along the river to a clearing (where it promptly started to rain, wet weather not being unusual at this site).  We were not asked for our permit until our last morning.  The ranger didn’t seemed concerned that it seemed that it was only valid for Cajanuma. Maybe I’d misunderstood it but I wasn’t convinced that he could read very well!  We took a taxi back up to Loja intending to stop in suitable habitat on the way.  In the event we made a couple of stops which produced little and just seemed to hit the best looking habitat when the heavens opened and we opted to continue to Loja.  We again stayed in the excellent Hotel Acapulco.

Birds seen included Plumbeous Kite, Barred Forest-Falcon, Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail (1 hurried across the trail near entrance), Military Macaw (Michael saw 6 flying over entrance), White-eyed Parakeet, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Highland Motmot, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Black-streaked Puffbird, Red-headed Barbet, Ash-browed Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Scale-backed Antbird, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill 1 (Michael only), Ornate and Tawny-breasted Flycatchers, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Lemon-browed and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Andean Cock of the Rock, Blue-rumped Manakin, Striped Manakin, Green Jay 14, Andean Solitaire , White-necked Thrush, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Tropical Parula, Orange-eared, Golden, Golden-eared, Blue-necked, Paradise, Green and Gold, Spotted, Yellow-bellied and Bay-headed Tanagers, Olive Finch, Crested Oropendola and Subtropical Cacique.
Michael at Rio Bombuscaro, similarly dressed despite it being at least 20 degrees warmer

returning to Loja
La Toma airport (2 September).  We arranged a shared taxi to take us from Loja to La Toma airport early on the morning of our departure.  We wandered around the scrub outside the airport before and after check-in seeing a few dry country birds that were new for the trip including Pacific Parrotlet, Peruvian Pigmy Owl, Pacific Hornero, Vermillion Flycatcher, Long-tailed Mockingbird and Fasciated Wren.

leaving La Toma, through  a dirty window

over the Andes

over Quito

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