Ecuador II Travel Diary - p 4 of 5

11 November 2011
Yesterday Jorge Luna of Milmoon Transporte y Guias drove us in his van out of the Mindo highlands and down through the endless sprawl that is Quito.  Then we ascended the Papallacta Pass and crossed into the the eastern mountains below which is the Ecuadorian Amazon.  Our base for the next two nights is Guango Lodge.  At an elevation of 8800', it is even colder and more rainy than Las Gralarias.  The fire that was laid in at dusk was welcome - we huddled around it and drank Pilsener beer until the evening meal at seven.
    Here the Rio Papallacta is a wild, raging torrent.  Its feature bird is ... Torrent Duck.  We saw two males on our first walk to the river.  The next day I photographed this male (left) and female.  Later, at the evening meal, they served what we assumed was chicken breast.  But the next day, try as I might, I found no Torrent Ducks...  I'm just saying..  Duck or chicken, it sure was tasty.


Torrent Ducks
Chestnut-breasted Coronet

But seriously, the food at Guango is to die for.  For breakfast we drink jugo de tomate de arbol, the juice of a fruit that really is in the tomato and potato family.  No less divine is their tortilla de papas con queso.  And how about that platanos con queso for dessert!  
   But there are some birds here.  Another coronet, Chestnut-breasted, is the bully at the sugar-water feeders.  



You don't see this every day - a bird whose beak is almost as long as the rest of him.  This Swordbill is holding that beak in the upward position for a good reason.  It is so heavy that should he lower it, he would likely topple over.
   Amazingly enough, he's learned to drink from Guango's sugar-water feeders, and in fact is a frequent visitor.  But there must be co-evolution at work here.  Somewhere out there is a flower or two whose corollas are so long that only the Swordbill can reach the nectar and in drinking, effect pollination.  One good candidate is Brugmansia sanguinea, Red Angel's Trumpet.
    In fact, there's a video crew here, shooting footage for a BBC documentary on the evolution of hummingbirds.  They do set up some Red Angel's Trumpet flowers, which the Swordbill visits at rare intervals.  But like most hummers, he prefers the easy life - drinking sugar-water at the feeders.













Masked Trogon male


After  a morning walk to the river, it's back to photographing hummers like Long-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, and Tourmaline Sunangel.  Jorge's keen eyes spot a mixed feeding flock at the edge of an open area between the lodge and the river, and as well a Masked Trogon.  The handsome male lingers long enough for a few photos before moving on.






12 November 2011
One of the most handsome of Guango hummers is Collard Inca.  The bird is a challenge to photograph because it zooms in, drinks at the sugar-water feeders, then zips away again.  We finally get one who occasionally perches on an open limb.  This one was reacting to a threat by a Chestnut-breasted Coronet.


Collared Inca

Masked Flowerpiercer It's only appropriate that the common nectar thief here wears a mask!  It's the Masked Flowerpiercer.

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