The Galapagos Islands with Tandayapa, Ecuador

Cruise on the Cachalote around

THE ENCHANTED ISLANDS

This is an abridged version of a report sent to clients of

CRUISES FOR NATURE (www.cruisesfornature.co.uk)

and

ORNITHOLIDAYS (www.ornitholidays.co.uk)

11 September to 24 September 2007

Swallow-tailed Gull

A Personal Diary

Tuesday 11 September

It was an autumn night, pitch black with the sky full of stars, when I left my house in Wiltshire for Heathrow. It was 0345 and the drive to the airport was easy and stress-free at this time in the morning.

At Heathrow, most of the group was already at the Iberia check-in desk, and by 0525, the appointed time for meeting, the entire group were accounted for and had checked in. Our group size was twelve, including myself, the maximum number for this cruise on the chartered boat.

The first flight was to take us to Madrid where we transferred by bus to another terminal for the long flight to Ecuador. Boarding was immediate and we were soon on our way, a ten-hour flight lay ahead. We landed in Quito just after 1700 local time, in the afternoon. The immigration was in turmoil, as landing cards had not been given to many passengers aboard the aircraft, and the baggage took an age to arrive.

Fatima, from our ground agents, was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and we loaded our bags onto the bus and left for our very nice five-star hotel. A welcome drink of Pisco Sour was served on arrival, a fine introduction to South America! After a shower and quick brush up we met for dinner. A lovely meal…but too much food for most.

After a long day travelling everyone looked forward to getting some sleep in a comfortable bed.

Wednesday 12 September

An early morning start for our onward travel to the Galapagos Islands. Breakfast was served at 0500 and at 0550 Wendy from our agents arrived and we loaded the bus for the airport. Eagerly anticipating what lay ahead we were issued with boarding cards, and airport staff asked the necessary questions to ensure we were not taking any foreign seeds or fruit into the islands. Our spirits were a little dampened when informed that our flight was delayed for two hours (and we could have had longer in bed!)

The flight left at 0945. We stopped at the city of Guayaquil on the way and another hour-and-half later we touched down on Baltra. At last we were on the Galapagos Islands. Juan, our naturalist guide was waiting for us. Outside, from the open airport terminal building, it was hot and we had time for quick purchases of the customary T-shirts, and more sunblock, whilst Juan sorted our luggage for its direct transfer to the boat.

We travelled by local bus to see the Cachalote at anchor in a lovely bay. Squadrons of boobies, in neat formation, were flying past and Brown Noddies patrolled the water. We boarded the zodiacs for the first time, which took us across to the boat. A couple of Black Turtles raised their heads from the water and we could hear them exhale, to then take in air.

We were briefed about the boat and life aboard and Juan outlined the plans for the coming days. We set sail immediately; our cruise of these fantastic islands was underway. Many Galapagos Shearwaters accompanied us as outriders, as well as the occasional Swallow-tailed Gull, as we made our way to South Plaza.

Our first landing was on South Plaza. Here was the Galapagos that we had come to see - sea lions played in the blue crystal-clear water and, on the rocks, piles of Marine Iguanas absorbed the sun's rays. The larger Land Iguanas were impressive primeval mini-dinosaurs – the old maps of these islands surely were marked ‘here be dragons’? (See cover photo). Our first views of finches were a pair of Cactus Finches. These small birds belong to ‘Darwin's Finches’, observed by Charles himself, though their significance not realised in The Origin of Species, his theory of evolution. We would be studying more of these dull-coloured birds over the coming days and noting their bill sizes, food and habitat preferences.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

    - Charles Darwin

Our walk took us through an arid region of cacti to a coastal watch point where shearwaters and elegant Red-billed Tropicbirds were in numbers. At one point the sea could be seen ‘boiling’ with Yellow-finned Tuna, accompanied by thousands of feeding Galapagos Shearwaters. We transferred back aboard and started sailing. The last minutes of daylight produced four Galapagos Petrels; rare, dynamic and endemic gad-fly petrels that arced across the water ahead of us.

The Captain and crew, smart in their white formal dress, were introduced prior to dinner. Juan ran through tomorrow’s programme before we all retired to our cabins.

Thursday 13 September

We had travelled through part of the night to the main town of the islands, Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Breakfast was served at 0700, and we prepared for our day on this, the main island. The zodiacs took us ashore where we disembarked at a wooden quay. Three pickups had been prearranged to take us through the main street to the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Juan explained the purpose of the station, the monitoring of the unique wildlife and the captive breeding programmes, and told us about the volcanic origin of the islands using wall maps. From the walkway we viewed the tortoise pens. We could see the differences in these primitive reptiles from the various islands, primarily in the shapes of the carapace. We saw poor ol' Lonesome George, the last of his kind, a tortoise from Pinta Island and probably close to 100 years old. Deprived of all company early in life, he was now condemned to a loveless old age (though, just maybe a Pinta tortoise is still out there, moved by early sailors or buccaneers between islands?) We saw Galapagos Mockingbirds around the buildings and took time sorting some of the various finches to species, particularly Cactus Finch, Vegetarian Finch and noting the differences in the bill shapes of ground and tree finches.

 

We left the National Park Headquarters and travelled by bus into the interior, the highlands in the centre of Santa Cruz, for a pleasant lunch. Our first walk took us to sink holes that had been created by collapsed magma cones. We saw many finches and were soon on ‘finch species number six’ for the day, adding Warbler Finch to our lists.

We drove to a farm, known for a population of wild tortoises and found 15 of these massive and venerable living relics. We had great views of a Woodpecker Finch as it gleaned for beetles and grubs from the bark of an old tree. A small flock of White-cheeked Pintails flew around us to land on a small flooded area but, the real bonus, was a Galapagos Rail, seen by a lucky few as it scurried into cover. This is the most difficult of the endemics to see (after the now ultra-rare Mangrove Finch).

We walked back towards the bus and what came next was even more surprising! One of the farmhands was walking to his car and we had a short conversation, just being polite. He told us he knew where there was a nest of a Galapagos Rail, and that he would show it to us! It was just a short distance away and the bird was so camouflaged as to be impossible to see….but it then flew and was seen by all. The nest contained five eggs. So, today, not one Galapagos Rail but two! Suffice to say that the farmhand was suitably rewarded!

We drove back to town where we had time for shopping, with scheduled zodiac transfers back to the boat.  After dinner we discussed and called the bird list. The boat began sailing at 2300.

Friday 14 September

We were underway sailing when we had our early morning calls. We dropped anchor at Gardener Bay, at the island of Española (or Hood). The zodiacs were lowered to the water to take us to a long sandy beach where it was a 'wet landing', into the surf. The resident, inquisitive and ridiculously tame Hood Mockingbirds came rushing over to greet us, to walk brazenly between our feet and peck at anything interesting, even our shoelaces.

Our walk along the beach took us through copious dozing sea lions. Large Cactus Finches fed at the vegetation edge. In the water we could see a number of Black Turtles, this being one of the many bays that had the sea grasses they feed on. A summer-plumaged Wandering Tattler, still with its heavily-barred underparts, flew ahead of us and an uncommon migrant, a Barn Swallow, flew repetitively up and down the beach feeding up on small insects.

On our return to the Cachalote we found a small group of Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels around the boat and a lone Madeiran Storm-Petrel made a pass. The boat cruised for twenty minutes to a spot for snorkelling. Those that didn't want to swim went on short zodiac cruise to a rocky islet seeing Blue-footed Boobies and Swallow-tailed Gulls.

The call went up 'whale', and in the distance a Humpback mother with calf surfaced to blow. Both the zodiacs moved closer to the leviathan but kept a respectable distance. We had wonderful views as this whopper raised its back to show the typical dorsal fin of this species.

After lunch we cruised to Punta Suarez, another bay on Española. The circuit walk was fabulous with Blue-footed Boobies displaying within touching distance - swaying their bodies and deliberately lifting the bright coloured feet, one after the other, to attract a mate. They were so tame that we needed to step backwards as some were too close to photograph. A colony of Nazca Boobies was nearby; again we had birds walking between members of our group. Swallow-tailed Gulls were along the cliffs and masses of Galapagos Shearwaters passed out at sea.

 

             

                                                                       Blue-footed Booby

We arrived at the edge of the Waved Albatross colony to find birds ‘pair-bonding’ with loud ‘bill-clattering’ and ‘sky pointing’ going on. The display included grunting with heads down, then sky-pointing with bills vertical, then bills clattered and opened wide, and then ‘fencing’ with their bills. An adult, just returned from sea, was seen feeding a large chick on regurgitated squid. Watching these enormous and majestic birds must surely be a highlight of this holiday.

We returned to the ship and had time to relax before dinner. Whilst Juan was explaining the plans for tomorrow one of the crew came in with a storm-petrel found on deck. Surprisingly, it was the species least expected, Madeiran Storm-Petrel. We put the bird into a box to keep overnight and release tomorrow. In cloudy or misty conditions it is not unusual that seabirds are attracted to the boat’s lights but this one looked fine, was not injured, and I was sure would be alright once rested.

Saturday 15 September

Our morning calls were at 0530, with breakfast served at 0600. We checked the storm-petrel, took a few photographs and released it to see it fly off strongly further out to sea.

The island of Floreana was in sight and we made a zodiac landing close to the lagoon. This brackish water held a number of waders: Least Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts and Semi-palmated Plovers. On the water we counted 19 Red-necked Phalaropes, spinning like clockwork toys. Bright pink-and-red flamingos were very colourful and came close, ideal for the photographers amongst us. A trail took us to a viewpoint overlooking the lagoon, from there leading to a sandy beach. We stood barefoot in the surf watching Diamond Stingrays that could clearly be seen underwater, moving over the sand, and experiencing them actually passing over our feet!

We returned to the Cachalote. There was a strong sea current so the proposed snorkelling was aborted but we did have a good alternative, a birding one also. The Captain agreed to sail around the tiny island of Champion, close to Floreana. On this small speck of land, and found only here, there is an endemic, the Charles Mockingbird. It didn't take us long to find the first bird. The views were distant but reasonable enough and before leaving we had seen at least six birds.

 

We sailed to Post Office Bay, still on Floreana. This island has an interesting history of buccaneers, whalers, convicts, and colonists and in 1793 British whalers established the Post Office Barrel to send letters to and from England. This tradition has continued over the years, and today visitors drop off and pick up letters, without stamps, to be carried to far destinations. Paraphernalia left by visitors, boats and ships surrounded the barrel. We continued the custom and left postcards in the 'barrel', also taking some mail that could be delivered by hand. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before the posted mail is delivered!

 

We were underway again at 1500. From the upper deck we watched as Galapagos Petrels soared by and various storm-petrels danced on the water. We knew that a drop-off was shown on the charts where there was a sudden change of depth from 300 to 1200 metres. This produces upwellings where birds and cetaceans gather to feed. We were not to be disappointed as firstly a Minke Whale surfaced, though too briefly for most, then there was a blow from a probable Bryde's Whale but, best of all, a very tall blow was seen. We turned off the engines to find a mother and calf Blue Whale. She was more than 70 feet in length, with a large youngster at about 40 feet. They continued feeding without concern, the boat had no impact on their behaviour, and even the baleen plates could be seen as they surfaced. This Blue was a 'fluker', not common with Blue Whales overall, and three times on the terminal dive the tailstock was raised high into the air. The classic photos, always wanted, are the huge tail flukes before the final dive. The group had been lucky to see this one – this is the largest animal the planet has ever had, larger than the biggest dinosaur.

It had been another great day. There were many highlights to talk about over dinner this evening!

Sunday 16 September

By 0130 we had arrived along the western coastline of Isabela. After breakfast at 0600 we transferred across to Punta Moreno. A few Flightless Cormorants were along the coastline. They held out their vestigial wings to dry (like other cormorant species), which looked a little pointless but a trait from when their wings were of ‘normal’ size.

 

Ahead the vista was lava, and more lava; some flat, other areas razor sharp, some wavy looking much like rope, and here and there huge lava openings below foot – I remembered Darwin’s comment ‘these islands born of fire’. Juan told us something about the active volcanoes that surrounded us, dominated by Cerro Azul, directly in front of us, and Sierra Negra to the north. A couple of Galapagos Martins put in a brief appearance though one did give close views. They breed here, in the lava field.

We walked across this inhospitable landscape to a freshwater pool where flamingos and a couple of Black-necked Stilts were in the shallow water. In another pool there were a couple of turtles, two White-tipped Reef Sharks and many colourful fish that had an entry and exit to the sea through the submarine lava tubes.

At the zodiac boarding point we stopped for a very large Marine Iguana, here on Isabella they are the largest in the archipelago, and to watch a Striated Heron stealthily catching fish. As we motored towards the boat we came across a large party of Galapagos Penguins on the sea. There were more than twenty – relatively, a large party of this endangered species, now considered to be the rarest of the world's penguins. Some of the group went snorkelling, wearing wetsuits for the cold water, and were lucky to swim with a turtle.

After lunch we cruised to Elizabeth Bay, which took an hour. Galapagos Petrels and Blue-footed Boobies were observed whilst seawatching, and within the bay a group of penguins could be seen out on the rocks. A zodiac cruise was planned that would take us through the mangroves. Many sea turtles were seen extremely well in the clear water, some passed right under the boats, and penguins came shooting by as they chased fish, lifting their heads to honk and bray. Two Dark-billed Cuckoos moved furtively through the mangrove trees. We turned off the engines and paddled through; it was very still, the occasional call from a bird, breath from a turtle or splash from a fish.

As the sun was setting we returned to the Cachalote for dinner. Back aboard we relaxed with a glass of wine or the now regular Pisco Sour, as Juan outlined tomorrow’s plans.

Monday 17 September

This morning's landing was at Urvina Bay, still the island of Isabela. We walked a circular route where large Land Iguanas blocked the path. A vocal young Galapagos Hawk was unperturbed at our presence, even flying down onto the track in front of us, to stroll off into the scrub. We had our only Vermilion Flycatcher of the trip on this walk, but it was a rather drab female. Juan explained the geology as we strolled to the beach for a swim. A lone penguin was on the rocks.

We sailed to Fernandina in the afternoon, the most westerly of the large islands, landing at Punta Espinosa. This island had sizeable concentrations of Marine Iguanas and a colony of Flightless Cormorants. Along one of the ridges we admired the larva cacti.

We sailed north, soon finding three whales at another underwater ledge. The whales were either Sei or Bryde’s, they can only be identified with certainty if the ridges on the rostrum can be seen and counted. An impressive volcano, Volcan Ecuador, was to our starboard and, now and again, small puffs of steam or gas could be seen coming from one of its vents. The group were called to the wheelhouse to count down the GPS to the latitude bearing of 0° 00´ 00´´; we were on the equator! A shout went up, with spontaneous clapping, and Richard from the dining room served us with cocktails to mark sailing from the southern hemisphere into the northern.

Tuesday 18 September

We had sailed through the night and arrived at James Island. Our landing was at Puerto Egas. The trail took us past the wooden foundations of buildings, the remains from the days of the salt mining industry. We walked along the rocky coastline where Turnstones and American Oystercatchers were common. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was found roosting against the lava at one the tidal flows. These birds are much darker and duller than their companions on the mainland, likely an adaption to living within the lava.

 

We were now getting accustomed to the various seabirds as we sailed to Bartolome: Magnificent Frigatebirds, Galapagos Shearwaters, White-vented and Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels, Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies. A short walk on Bartolome led to a beach for swimming. Boobies plunged from height, entering the water like javelins, whilst sea lions played in the surf, the bull beachmaster constantly patrolling and barking to keep his harem in check.

 

The options this afternoon was to walk the summit trail (an interesting geological lesson, and to take in the view) or take a zodiac cruise, specifically looking for penguins. The zodiac cruise succeeded with very close views of three groups totalling sixteen birds.

This evening there were informal evening cocktails with the Captain and crew where we had the opportunity of thanking those that had made the cruise so special.

Wednesday 19 September

We had sailed to Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz and following breakfast took the zodiacs into the mangroves. On the way inshore there was an remarkable spectacle, a large feeding frenzy, as some 1400 Blue-footed Boobies dived synchronously, hundreds upon hundreds of birds folding their wings to plummet into the ocean after fish. The fish school must have been considerable. Overhead cruised the piratical Magnificent Frigatebirds, looking for any morsel left over, and Brown Noddies rushed to join the action.

 

           

                                                                                Brown Noddy

Inside the mangroves, no engines running, we paddled in the stillness. Many White-tipped Reef Sharks and Black Turtles were in the clear water and Spotted Eagle Rays winged past the boats. We returned to the Cachalote and sailed to the small harbour on Baltra. It was time to say goodbye to the Captain and crew and we took some photos on the upper deck.

 

                          

                                                          Black Turtle and White-tipped Reef Shark

Juan came with us to the airport before saying farewell. We had an excellent naturalist whom we thanked for his enthusiasm. There was some time available for shopping for souvenirs before our plane left for Quito. We dropped in to Guayaquil for twenty minutes en route and then flew on to Quito. Our new specialist guide, Olger, was waiting for us. The bus was loaded and we started the drive out of the city to Tandayapa, about one-and-half hours distance.

It was dark when we arrived at Tandayapa. There was quite a walk uphill from the car park to the lodge where we were checked in by Annabel. Dinner was served virtually straight away. We celebrated Gary's birthday with a cake (and a toast of wine, of course). Many happy returns again!

I outlined the plans for tomorrow, and it was to be a very early start and so to bed.

Thursday 20 September

The morning call came at 0400 and we gathered in the lounge for hot coffee before leaving. Our drive in the dark was with purpose though - we had a special bird to see and it would only be possible at dawn.

After an hour, the road became a dirt track and we parked. We started a walk, taking us downhill. A chap named Angel, whose farm we were now on, came and escorted us. He has become a celebrity in the birding community, for a reason to come later.

Angel took us down a small steep trail, with a rope handrail, to a hide. We could hear the commotion coming from the birds. In front of us in the early morning light were gaudy Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks and this was a display area for the males, an active lek. Bright red with their rounded crests and black and silver wings these spectacular birds would jump from branches and lianas to bow and strut and squawk and grunt, the ruckus often rising in volume.

Further along the trail came Angel's next surprise, and what he has become recognised for. He started calling out names…and birds would appear to be fed with earthworms! Firstly, Dark-backed Wood-Quails came, a pair with three well-grown young, to devour the free handout. This bird can be decidedly difficult to see usually, as it inhabits the dark forest floor!

Next, we walked a little further and Angel started calling out ‘Willy, venga, venga’ (‘Willy, come here, come here’) and out popped a Yellow-breasted Antpitta, another difficult species of the forest. Unfortunately it didn't work with ‘Maria’, a Giant Antpitta, nor another, a new one he's been trying to train, a Moustached Antpitta. Remarkable…. I’ve never heard of this before with forest skulkers like these, and there is no one else I know who can achieve this personal contact.

On the way to breakfast with Angel we stopped at his hummingbird feeders, marvelling at the iridescent colours of treasures like Booted Racket-tail, Purple-throated Woodstar and Violet-tailed Sylph. We had breakfast at the farm edge, served by Angel's family, and then began the return to the lodge. After a short siesta we sat at the balcony watching as dozens of 'hummers' came to the sugar water – they have such lovely names; emeralds, violet-ears, brilliants and coronets amongst them.

Our afternoon walk started at 1530. We took one of the tracks from the lodge. The birding was hard going and for little reward overall, but we did find one particularly scarce bird of the montane forest, White-faced Nunbird. Once tracked down these birds remain motionless for long periods and we were able to get the scopes locked on for excellent views.

Friday 21 September

We met for breakfast at 0530, leaving the lodge at 0600 for the Mindo Road. We stopped the bus as a female Masked Trogon was in full view. We were at the upper levels of the valley and our walk took about four hours. The birding was good, as always in the cloud forest, and the weather was on our side – this area is regularly cloudy and rainy.

The nasal far-carrying calls of Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans grabbed our attention immediately on exiting the bus and soon we had found two in the trees. Great Thrushes momentarily sat for us atop the bushes. We walked a trail leading from the road. Flocks of Band-tailed Pigeons exploded from the trees and a Golden-headed Quetzal flew in front of us to disappear into deep cover. We started to list the tanagers, six or seven on this trail alone. Various tapaculos were calling, including the rarely-seen Ocellated Tapaculo, but you need a lot of patience for these jobs.

We found a mixed feeding flock on our return to the bus. It contained Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Montane Woodcreeper and, for some lucky people, a Green-and-black Fruiteater. A conspicuous Cinnamon Flycatcher was much appreciated by the group.

We returned to the lodge, had a short siesta before the afternoon birding walk. The hummingbirds at the feeders kept everyone happy with their agility and vibrant colours. Mid-afternoon, we drove down through the village and out towards Quito on the old road. This was the lower valley and another great birding place.

We began walking and the bus followed later to pick us up. Sickle-winged Guans crashed through the trees to then become motionless for scope views (for a huge bird did they really believe we couldn’t see them?) Three-striped Warblers, Lineated Foliage-gleaners (you simply had to see this bird if only to say the name!) and White-sided Flowerpiercer were active in the lower vegetation. A superb Crimson-mantled Woodpecker was a real beauty, admired by all. A group of swifts came lower down as the cloud descended and included both White-collared and Chestnut-collared.

We were really spoilt on the way back along the road. The treat was three Lyre-tailed Nightjars, which included a fully-tailed male that put on a star performance above our heads, flying with tail streamers curved and outstretched. What a remarkable bird to end the day.

Saturday 22 September

It was the day to checkout and leave Tandayapa Lodge. The luggage was carried down to the bus during breakfast. We set off for Yanacocha at 0700. Along the lower valley we stopped for two Andean Guans alongside the road. Typically they flew into cover but soon we had full views as the moved around in the branches. Another stop was for White-capped Dipper that was at one of the trout farms. By following this bird along the fast-flowing river we found a further two more.

The bus turned onto the track for Yanacocha. At times we wondered if it was going to make it, as the trail narrowed and became a dirt track with some precarious bends. It was scenically brilliant even if the road was bumpy in places (and the drops at some places demanded full faith in our driver). We stopped and gave two farmers a lift further up the mountain and wondered how long it would have taken them to walk? At the higher level, in the alpine zone, an enormous Andean Condor was seen as it circled on a thermal.

At the reserve entrance a trail led away and followed a mountain ridge. This fantastic reserve has been newly set-up by the Jocotoco Foundation. By means of donations they have bought this area from local people to preserve the forest forever, and particularly to save the Black-breasted Puffleg, an endangered hummingbird. The entire world population inhabits only this site, on the northern slope of Volcan Pichincha.

We were at 3500 metres altitude (just under 11,500 feet). Our walk took us to a number of feeders for hummers, and we added new ones at this altitude: Great Sapphirewing, Shining Sunbeam, Buff-winged Starfrontlet and the dramatic Sword-billed Hummingbird.

  

                                  

The remarkable Sword-billed Hummingbird

 

A flash of harmless lightning,
A mist of rainbow dyes,

The burnished sunbeams brightening
From flower to flower he flies.
      - John Banister Tabb, Humming Bird

Our walk gave us views of a flock of Cinereous and Blue-backed Conebills and gorgeous Scarlet-bellied, Hooded and Black-chested Mountain Tanagers in the elfin forest. The walk was long and took more than four hours for the return trip. We ate our packed lunches at the reserve entrance, at the picnic tables there, and then began the drive to Quito. We did stop a couple of times but the birding was slow and few species were tallied before we decided to head to the hotel.

We checked in, partook of a refreshing Pisco Sour, and then headed to our rooms. Dinner was at the small restaurant next door to the hotel. It was our farewell meal and we toasted the success of the tour with a few bottles of wine, courtesy of Cruises for Nature. Our last birdlog was called in the lounge area of the hotel.

Sunday 23 September

We had a relaxing morning as our city tour was scheduled to begin at 0900. The guide was Fatima once more, who took us firstly to the viewpoint at Guapulo. This overlooked the valley and there were many traders here selling their wares. Many items were of good quality and were very cheap indeed.

Our route took us past the Congress building and into the old quarter of the city where most buildings were 16th and 17th century. We parked the bus to walk, firstly to the Presidential Palace and on past the Cathedral. One particular church, La Compania de Jesus was extremely ornate, the interior full of gold plate. We went into the museum of St Francis and saw some of the many paintings and sculptures before boarding the bus once more to be taken to the Panacillo, another viewpoint with a large statue of the winged Virgin.

Lunch was at a nice restaurant, our table having a wide view over part of the valley. We drove back to the hotel to collect our luggage before leaving for the airport. We bid farewell to Umberto, our driver, and Fatima, the city guide, and went through the check-in, passport control, and security. The plane left some ten minutes late; first stop Guayaquil before heading then east on the long haul to Madrid.

There was a further delay for the take off as this time the Captain announced a dog had escaped from the hold! (Never heard that one before!) The flight took us ten-and-half hours to Madrid. We had to transfer from one terminal to the other using the monorail to be at the gate for London. This last flight was to take one-and-three-quarter hours.

In Heathrow, we said our goodbyes to each other at the baggage carousel. Only the final leg, to our homes, now remained.

Tony Pym

Ornitholidays and Cruises for Nature

29 Straight Mile

Romsey

Hants

SO51 9BB

Tel: 01794 519445/01794 523500

Email: info@ornitholidays.co.uk

          info@cruisesfornature.co.uk

October 2007

Postscript

Since writing this report I have been informed that Angel Paz agreed this year to train one of the staff from the Jocotoco Foundation in his methods to attract antpittas. Franco Mendoza spent a month at Angel’s farm and, on returning to the Tapichala Reserve in the south of Ecuador, has now successfully trained two Jocotoco Antpittas (a rare and recently discovered species, and another deep forest denizen) to come to the sound of his voice and be fed earthworms.

Itinerary and Weather

11 September

Departed Heathrow for Madrid. Flew Madrid to Quito. Arrival Quito, Ecuador

12 September

Flew Quito to Baltra, Galapagos Islands (via Guayaquil). Transfer to Cachalote. Embarked Cachalote. Sailed to South Plaza Island.

Breezy yet hot 27°C

13 September

Santa Cruz Island. Puerto Ayora. Charles Darwin Research Station. Excursion to highlands.

Very slight mist, damp becoming warm though overcast 25°C

14 September

Española (Hood) Island. Gardner Bay. Punta Suarez.

Garua mist, overcast, slight rain, warm 24°C

15 September

Floreana Island. Punta Cormorant. Sailed to Champion Island. Floreana Island. Post Office Bay.

Overcast but warm. Hot during early afternoon 29°C

16 September

Isabela Island. Punta Moreno. Elizabeth Bay.

Overcast early becoming sunny, hot with clear sky 29°C

17 September

Isabela Island. Urvina Bay. Fernandina Island. Punta Espinosa.

Pleasant becoming very hot 30°C

18 September

James Island. Puerto Egas. Bartolome Island.

Overcast, becoming hot with blue sky 28°C

19 September

Santa Cruz Island. Black Turtle Cove. Baltra Island. Disembarked Cachalote. Flew Baltra to Quito (via Guayaquil). Drove to Tandayapa.

Overcast becoming hot 27°C

20 September

Refugio de los Aves. Walks at Tandayapa.

Overcast but pleasant, warm 22°C

21 September

Upper level of valley. Lower level of valley.

Pleasant morning, low cloud late afternoon. Temperature variation 15-30°C

22 September

Yanacocha area. Drove to Quito.

Overcast then sunny, low cloud at times 19°C

23 September

Quito city tour. Transfer to airport. Departed Quito for Madrid (via Guayaquil).

Sunny and hot (Quito) 26°C

24 September

Flew Madrid to Heathrow. Arrival Heathrow, London.

              

                                                                                  Lava Gull

        TRIPLIST

                   Max no of days

                   seen and heard

                      Location

Islands recorded means species was seen

              from land or on land

      Abundance scale

Maximum 8

h = heard only

B = Baltra and South Plaza

S = Santa Cruz

H = Hood (Española)

F = Floreana (and Champion Island)

I = Isabela and northern Fernandina

SB = Santiago and Bartolomé

A = At sea

Maximum seen

(on one day)

             1 = 1-4

             2 = 5-9

             3 = 10-99

             4 = 100-999

             5 = 1000-9999

             6 = 10000+

 

The Galapagos Islands

                                                                              Days                       Location                         Abundance

Galapagos Penguin

3

I

SB

3

Spheniscus mendiculus

Waved Albatross

1

H

3

Diomedea irrorata

Galapagos Petrel

4

A

3

Pterodroma phaeopygia

Galapagos Shearwater

7

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

5

Puffinus lherminieri

White-vented (Elliot’s) Storm-Petrel

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

3

Oceanites gracilis

Wedge-rumped (Galapagos) Storm-Petrel

6

B

H

F

I

SB

A

3

Oceanodroma tethys

Band-rumped (Madeiran) Storm-Petrel

2

A

1

Oceanodroma castro

Red-billed Tropicbird

3

B

H

F

A

3

Phaethon aethereus

Brown Pelican

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

3

Pelecanus occidentalis

Blue-footed Booby

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

5

Sula nebouxii

Nazca Booby

6

B

H

F

I

SB

A

3

Sula granti

Flightless Cormorant

2

I

3

Phalacrocorax harrisi

Magnificent Frigatebird

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

3

Fregata magnificens

Great Frigatebird

1

B

A

2

Fregata magnificens

Great Blue Heron

5

S

F

I

SB

1

Ardea herodias

Great Egret

2

S

1

Ardea alba

Striated (Green-backed) Heron

3

I

SB

1

Butorides striata

Lava Heron

6

S

H

F

I

SB

1

Butorides sundevalli

Cattle Egret

3

B

S

I

4

Bubulcus ibis

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

2

F

SB

1

Nyctanassa violacea

Caribbean Flamingo

2

F

I

3

Phoenicopterus ruber

White-cheeked Pintail

3

S

F

I

3

Anas bahamensis

Galapagos Hawk

3

H

I

SB

2

Buteo galapagoensis

Galapagos Rail

1

S

1

Laterallus spilonotus

Common Moorhen

1

I

1

Gallinula chloropus

American Oystercatcher

3

H

I

SB

1

Haematopus palliatus

Semipalmated Plover

2

F

SB

1

Charadrius semipalmatus

Ruddy Turnstone

6

B

H

F

I

SB

1

Arenaria interpres

Wandering Tattler

5

B

H

F

I

SB

2

Heterosceles incanus

Least Sandpiper

1

F

1

Calidris minutilla

Semipalmated Sandpiper

1

F

1

Calidris pusilla

Sanderling

1

F

1

Calidris alba

Whimbrel

5

S

F

I

SB

2

Numenius phaeopus

Black-necked Stilt

2

F

I

1

Himantopus mexicanus

Red-necked Phalarope

2

F

A

4

Phalaropus lobatus

Grey Phalarope

1

A

4

Phalaropus fulicarius

Lava Gull

2

A

1

Larus fuliginosus

Swallow-tailed Gull

4

B

H

F

I

A

3

Creagrus furcatus

Brown (Common) Noddy

7

B

S

F

I

SB

A

3

Anous stolidus

Galapagos Dove

5

S

H

F

SB

3

Zenaida galapagoensis

Dark-billed Cuckoo

1

I

1

Coccyzus melacoryphus

Smooth-billed Ani

1

1h

S

SB

3

Crotophaga ani

Vermilion Flycatcher

1

I

1

Pyrocephalus rubinus

Large-billed Flycatcher

5

S

F

I

SB

2

Myiarchus magnirostris

Galapagos Martin

1

I

2

Progne modesta

Barn Swallow

1

H

1

Hirundo rustica

Galapagos Mockingbird

4

S

I

SB

2

Nesomimus parvulus

Charles Mockingbird

1

F

2

Nesomimus trifasciatus

Hood Mockingbird

1

H

3

Nesomimus macdonaldi

Yellow Warbler

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

3

Dendroica petechia

Large Ground Finch

2

S

I

3

Geospiza magnirostris

Medium Ground Finch

5

B

S

F

I

3

Geospiza fortis

Small Ground Finch

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

3

Geospiza fuliginosa

Cactus Finch

3

B

S

F

3

Geospiza scandens

Large Cactus Finch

1

H

1

Geospiza conirostris

Vegetarian Finch

1

S

2

Camarhynchus crassirostris

Large Tree Finch

1

S

2

Camarhynchus psittacula

Small Tree Finch

2

S

I

2

Camarhynchus parvulus

Woodpecker Finch

1

S

1

Camarhynchus pallidus

Warbler Finch

3

S

H

F

1

Certhidea olivacea

CHECKLIST OF MAMMALS SEEN ON OR AROUND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Californian Sea Lion

8

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

4

Zalophus californianus

Galapagos Fur Seal

2

I

SB

2

Arctocephalus galapagoensis

Blue Whale

1

A

1

Balaenoptera musculus

Humpback Whale

1

A

1

Megaptera novaeangliae

Sei/Bryde’s Whale

1

A

1

Balaenoptera borealis/edeni

Minke Whale

1

A

1

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

CHECKLIST OF OTHER WILDLIFE SEEN ON THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Giant Tortoise

1

   

S

         

3

Geochelone elephantopus

Black Turtle

7

 

B

S

H

F

I

SB

A

3

Chelonia agassisi

Lava Lizard

7

 

B

S

H

F

I

SB

 

2

Tropidurus sp

Galapagos Land Iguana

2

 

B

     

I

   

2

Conolophus subcristatus

Marine Iguana

7

 

B

S

H

F

I

SB

 

5

Amblyrhynchus cristatus

Galapagos Shark

1

             

A

1

Carcharhinus galapagensis

White-tipped Reef Shark

3

   

S

   

I

SB

 

3

Triaenodon obesus

Spotted Eagle (Leopard) Ray

1

   

S

         

1

Aetobatus narinari

Diamond Stingray

2

       

F

I

   

3

Dasyatis brevis

Marbled Stingray

1

         

I

   

1

Taeniura meyeni

Manta Ray

2

           

SB

A

1

Manta birostris

Sally Lightfoot Crab

8

 

B

S

H

F

I

SB

 

4

Grapsus grapsus

Ghost Crab

1

           

SB

 

3

Ocypode sp.

Hermit Crab

3

         

I

SB

 

2

Calcinus explorator

Further fish (seen from the boat or whilst snorkelling) included King Angelfish, Yellow-fin Tuna, Rainbow Wrasse and Cardinal Fish. Also a sea lion was seen eating a Tiger Snake Eel.

Insects seen in the Galapagos included Painted Locust, Carpenter Bee, Spotless Ladybird and two butterflies, the Sulphur and the Galapagos Blue.

                     

The (usually) skulking Dark-backed Wood-Quail

CHECKLIST OF BIRDS SEEN IN MAINLAND ECUADOR

         Max no of days

         seen and heard

                                                    Location

(and journeys to/from)

       Abundance scale

Maximum

h = heard only

R = Refugio Paz de los Aves

T = Tandayapa – the lodge, and the upper and lower valley                           

Y = Yanacocha

Q = Quito, city tour

Maximum seen

(on one day)

             1 = 1-4

             2 = 5-9

             3 = 10-99

             4 = 100-999

             5 = 1000-9999

             6 = 10000+

Mainland Ecuador

Species order follows Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide (Ridgeley, Robert S and Paul J Greenfield)

                                                                                          Days                Location               Abundance

Andean Condor

1

Y

1

Vultur gryphus

Black Vulture

2

R

T

2

Coragyps atratus

Turkey Vulture

2

R

T

1

Cathartes aura

Barred Hawk

1

T

1

Leucopternis princeps

Roadside Hawk

2

R

T

1

Buteo magnirostris

Variable Hawk

1

Y

1

Buteo polyosoma

American Kestrel

2

Y

Q

1

Falco sparverius

Andean Guan

1

Y

1

Penelope montagnii

Sickle-winged Guan

1

T

1

Chamaepetes goudotii

Dark-backed Wood-Quail

1

R

2

Odontophorus melanonotus

Andean Lapwing

1

Y

2

Vanellus resplendens

Rock Pigeon

2

R

Q

3

Columba livia

Band-tailed Pigeon

1

T

4

Columba fasciata

Plumbeous Pigeon

1

T

1

Columba plumbea

White-tipped Dove

4

R

T

Y

Q

2

Leptotila verreauxi

Red-billed Parrot

1

T

1

Pionus sordidus

Pauraque

1

R

1

Nyctidromus albicollis

Lyre-tailed Nightjar

1

T

1

Uropsalis lyra

White-collared Swift

1

T

3

Streptoprocne zonaris

Chestnut-collared Swift

1

T

1

Cypseloides rutilus

Grey-rumped/Band-rumped Swift

1

T

3

Chaetura cinereiventris/spinicaudus

Tawny-bellied Hermit

1

R

1

Phaethornis syrmatophorus

Brown Violet-ear

3

R

T

1

Colibri delphinae

Green Violet-ear

3

R

T

Y

3

Colibri thalassinus

Sparkling Violet-ear

2

R

T

3

Colibri coruscans

Western Emerald

3

R

T

1

Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

3

R

T

1

Amazilia tzacatl

Andean Emerald

3

R

T

Y

2

Amazilia franciae

Speckled Hummingbird

1

R

1

Adelomyia melanogenys

Purple-bibbed Whitetip

3

R

T

1

Urosticte benjamini

Empress Brilliant

3

R

T

2

Heliodoxa imperatrix

Fawn-breasted Brilliant

3

R

T

Y

3

Heliodoxa rubinoides

Shining Sunbeam

1

Y

1

Aglaeactis cupripennis

Great Sapphirewing

1

Y

1

Pterophanes cyanopterus

Brown Inca

2

R

T

1

Coeligena wilsoni

Buff-winged Starfrontlet

1

Y

3

Coeligena lutetiae

Sword-billed Hummingbird

1

Y

1

Ensifera ensifera

Buff-tailed Coronet

3

R

T

Y

1

Boissonneaua flavescens

Velvet-purple Coronet

1

R

2

Boissonneaua jardini

Sapphire–vented Puffleg

1

Y

2

Eriocnemis luciani

Booted Racket-tail

3

R

T

3

Ocreatus underwoodii

Tyrian Metaltail

1

Y

1

Metallura tyrianthina

Violet-tailed Sylph

1

R

2

Aglaiocercus coelestis

Purple-throated Woodstar

3

R

T

Y

3

Calliphlox mitchellii

Golden-headed Quetzal

1

1h

R

T

1

Pharomachrus auriceps

Masked Trogon

1

T

1

Trogon personatus

White-faced Nunbird

1

T

1

Hapaloptila castanea

Toucan Barbet

-

2h

R

T

1

Semnornis ramphastinus

Crimson-rumped Toucanet

-

1h

T

1

Aulacorhynchus haematopygus

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan

1

T

1

Andigena laminirostris

Bar-bellied Woodpecker

1

Y

1

Veniliornis nigriceps

Smoky-brown Woodpecker

1

R

1

Veniliornis fumigatus

Crimson-mantled Woodpecker

1

T

1

Piculus rivolii

Powerful Woodpecker

1

R

1

Campephilus pollens

Azara’s Spinetail

1

R

1

Synallaxis azarae

Red-faced Spinetail

1

R

1

Cranioleuca erythrops

Streaked Tuftedcheek

1

T

1

Pseudocolaptes boissonneautii

Pearled Treerunner

1

T

1

Margarornis stellatus

Lineated Foliage-gleaner

1

T

1

Syndactyla subalaris

Streak-capped Treehunter

1

R

1

Thripadectes virgaticeps

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

1

R

1

Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus

Montane Woodcreeper

1

T

1

Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger

Immaculate Antbird

1

T

1

Myrmeciza immaculata

Yellow-breasted Antpitta

1

R

1

Grallaria flavotincta

Tawny Antpitta

-

1h

Y

1

Grallaria quitensis

Unicolored Tapaculo

-

1h

Y

1

Scytalopus unicolor

Narino Tapaculo

-

2h

R

T

1

Scytalopus vicinior

Spillmann’s Tapaculo

-

1h

T

1

Scytalopus spillmanni

Ocellated Tapaculo

-

1h

T

1

Acropternis orthonyx

White-crested Elaenia

1

Y

1

Elaenia albiceps

White-throated Tyrannulet

1

Y

1

Mecocerculus leucophrys

White-tailed Tyrannulet

1

T

1

Mecocerculus poecilocercus

Torrent Tyrannulet

1

R

1

Serpophaga cinerea

Flavescent Flycatcher

1

T

1

Myiophobus flavicans

Cinnamon Flycatcher

1

T

1

Pyrrhomyias cinnamomea

Smoke-coloured Pewee

1

R

1

Contopus fumigatus

Black Phoebe

1

R

1

Sayornis nigricans

Crowned Chat-tyrant

1

Y

1

Ochthoeca frontalis

Smoky Bush-Tyrant

1

Y

1

Muscisaxicola alpina

Tropical Kingbird

1

T

1

Tyrannus melancholicus

Red-crested Cotinga

1

Y

1

Ampelion rubrocristata

Green-and-black Fruiteater

1

T

1

Pipreola riefferii

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

1

R

2

Rupicola peruviana

Turquoise Jay

-

1h

Y

1

Cyanolyca turcosa

Red-eyed Vireo

1

T

1

Vireo olivaceus

Andean Solitaire

-

1h

T

1

Myadestes ralloides

Great Thrush

2

T

Y

3

Turdus fuscater

Glossy-black Thrush

1

T

1

Turdus serranus

Ecuadorian Thrush

1

R

1

Turdus maculirostris

White-capped Dipper

1

Y

1

Cinclus leucocephalus

Brown-bellied Swallow

1

Y

3

Notiochelidon murina

Blue-and-White Swallow

1

T

1

Notiochelidon cyanoleuca

Rufous Wren

1

Y

1

Cinnycerthia unirufa

Sepia-brown Wren

1

T

1

Cinnycerthia peruana

Plain-tailed Wren

1

T

1

Thryothorus euophrys

Grey-breasted Wood-Wren

2

R

T

1

Henicorhina leucophrys

Slate-throated Redstart

2

R

T

2

Myioborus miniatus

Spectacled Redstart

1

T

1

Myioborus melanocephalus

Black-crested Warbler

1

Y

1

Basileuterus nigrocristatus

Three-striped Warbler

1

T

2

Basileuterus tristriatus

Russet-crowned Warbler

1

T

1

Basileuterus coronatus

Cinereous Conebill

1

Y

3

Conirostrum cinereum

Blue-backed Conebill

1

Y

2

Conirostrum sitticolor

Capped Conebill

1

T

1

Conirostrum albifrons

Masked Flowerpiercer

1

Y

2

Diglossa cyanea

Glossy Flowerpiercer

1

Y

2

Diglossa lafresnayii

Black Flowerpiercer

1

Y

1

Diglossa humeralis

White-sided Flowerpiercer

1

T

1

Diglossa albilatera

Blue-capped Tanager

1

T

1

Thraupis cyanocephala

Golden Tanager

2

R

T

1

Tangara arthus

Golden-naped Tanager

1

T

1

Tangara rufivertex

Beryl-spangled Tanager

2

R

T

2

Tangara nigroviridis

Blue-and-Black Tanager

1

T

1

Tangara vassorii

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager

1

Y

2

Anisognathus igniventris

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager

3

R

T

Y

2

Anisognathus notabilis

Hooded Mountain-Tanager

1

Y

1

Buthraupis montana

Black-chested Mountain-Tanager

1

Y

1

Buthraupis eximia

Grass-green Tanager

1

T

1

Chlorornis riefferii

Lemon-rumped Tanager

1

T

1

Ramphocelus icteronotus

Dusky Bush-Tanager

1

T

2

Chlorospingus semifuscus

Superciliaried Hemispingus

1

Y

1

Hemispingus superciliaris

Southern Yellow Grosbeak

1

T

1

Pheucticus chrysogaster

Rufous-naped Brush-Finch

1

T

1

Atlapetes latinuchus

White-winged Brush-Finch

1

R

1

Atlapetes leucopterus

Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch

1

Y

1

Buarremon brunneinucha

Rufous-collared Sparrow

3

R

Y

Q

1

Zonotrichia capensis

CHECKLIST OF MAMMALS SEEN ON MAINLAND ECUADOR

Forest Rabbit

2

T

1

Sylvilagus braziliemsis

Red-tailed Squirrel

2

T

1

Sciurus granatensis