II Travel Diary - p 5 of 5
Today Jorge drives us
down the mountain to San Isidro Lodge, owned by the same couple that
built Guango. Along with a restive flock of Russet Oropendolas, the lodge grounds feature a tame flock of Inca Jays.
In the dull light of late afternoon, I manage a photo using high ISO
(640) and low shutter speed: 1/60".
San Isidro is pleasant, but
has essentially the same assemblage of hummers as did Guango.
Carmen, the lodge manager, is kind enough to find a driver so that
after lunch, we continue on to WildSumaco Lodge a day early. Back into a pickup truck we go.
We pass through a sparsely populated and progressively poorer region of Napo province. After harrowing crossings of some one-lane bridges,
we arrive at WildSumaco, the last stop on our tour, in late afternoon.
Sure enough, the hummers here are quite different - many are
just spectacular. Naturally, there's one species that dominates, in this
case Sparkling Violetear. As if being the biggest hummer wasn't
enough, he raises the feathers of his ear-patch to show everyone he's
really mad now.
WildSumaco, at 3500' elevation, has comfy temperatures and of
course rain. How about 13 feet of rain a year? Its back deck is
great for both photography and birding. The tree that attracts the most
birds is Cecropia, found throughout tropical America. Its odd,
finger-shaped fruit is a magnet for every bird around, including Golden Tanagers
and Bay-headed Tanagers, along with both Gilded and Red-headed Barbets.
Unfortunately, the cecropias are too far away to photograph the small birds.
But Many-banded Aracaris, as well as Black-mandibled Toucans and
Channel-billed Toucans, make good subjects.
The sugar-water feeders on each
side of the deck also attract Black-breasted Mangos, Gorgeted Woodstars,
and Brown Violetears. This Golden-tailed Sapphire, which I
photographed years ago in Peru, scintillates when seen from the correct
Two elusive species, Black-throated Brilliant and Gould's
Jewelfront, dart out from perches in the thickest vegetation to sip
sugar-water, then are gone. The jewelfront was named for British
ornithologist John Gould, who in the 1800s collected specimens of just
about all hummers - 320 of them. But apparently he only saw one
live hummingbird in his life - our Ruby-throated Hummingbird of eastern
This morning a small flock of
Magpie Tanagers visited the cecropia. One then flew to another
tree closer to the deck, where I managed a photo. Although lacking
the brilliant colors of many tanagers, the Magpie does look snappy as he
spreads his tail for display. I wonder if this bird really is a
one of the most fascinating of hummingbirds:
Wire-crested Thorntail. We saw its cousin, Green Thorntail, on the
western slopes. Wire-crested is a dainty, mere slip of a bird, the
sort of oddity you'd expect among the myriad hummers in the tropics.
The female Wire-crested hummer lack the crest and long tail,
and is decorated with white. Several times we watch the mating
ceremony: the male hovers about a foot from a perched female and
swings back and forth, displaying his long tail and that amazing green
iridescence on his head. He's a smooth operator, his charm
irresistible. The object of his affection flutters her tail and
raises her feathers, a sure sign among thorntails that love is in the