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Urraca Lodge and Bosque de Hanne

ECUADOR | Thursday, 21 March 2019 | Views [42]

Spectacled Owl, fully recovered

Spectacled Owl, fully recovered

IF CASA SIMPSON IS A SKI CHALET, URRACA LODGE IS summer camp.  The simple, yet comfortable cabins are spaced along a forest trail — ours is 150 meters from the open-air dining area.  This habitat is called “tumbes,” a new term for us.  It consists of dry forest dominated by spectacular kapok trees at about 2000 feet elevation, we can see Peru through the clouds — when it isn't raining.


     Birding by Ear

We spent the morning looking — or listening — for ant pittas and other skulking species but were surprised when a spectacled owl, pursued by white-tailed jays, crash-landed into a trailside bush.  He appeared to be seriously injured, perhaps dead, but he was just entangled in the branches.  The others watched as Dusan began cutting away the branches while I belayed him with my belt.  Once free, the owl perched on a nearby snag, in thanks we’d like to think, for our help.


   Gray-capped Cuckoo

It’s impressive when your guide gets excited about a sighting.  Sure, everyone wants to see colorful trogons and toucans and we saw several.  But when we were treated to multiple views of a gray-capped cuckoo, Dusan went crazy.  It is rarely seen, seldom photographed and little is known about its habits except that it nests in the forest around Jorupe in March.


   Pacific Pygmy Owl — the real deal

When things slowed down, Dusan resorted to the old pygmy owl call trick.  Birds began to flock towards his speaker, including a real pygmy owl.  The other birds began attacking the owl, eventually following it away.


    Combed Duck

With time to kill before dust owling time, we drove to the Ecuador-Peru border at Macare.  We left the van in Ecuador and walked across the bridge into Incaland and were rewarded on the return with five comb ducks.  No luck with the owls, however.


   Bosque de Hanne

IT SEEMS LIKE WE CAN’T GET ENOUGH of the higher altitude species.  We left this morning at 5:30 for Bosque de Hanna, climbing to 8500 feet around countless switchback curve and more than a handful of landslides.  “Derumbres” are a possiblity after every heavy rainfall — and we have had our share.  Anyone with a backhoe or front-end loader is guaranteed steady work here in the mountains.


    Steady work

Our first stop was above the picturesque town of Sabiango where Dusan hoped to find several highly coveted species.  Each one, in turn, responded to its species playback and most posed for photos.  No pygmy owl trickery here — the owls are content to remain below.


    Sabiango from above

The Jocotoco-managed Bosque de Hanna was purchased by the parents of Hanne Block, a German conservation biologist who died in a plane crash while working in Ecuador.  We grabbed our cameras, binos and umbrellas and climbed the slippery 2 km track.  The antpita continued to elude us but Connie spotted a pretty black-crested tit-tyrant and a black-cowled saltator that captivated us until the rain began.  That’s when we realized that Stan — no surprise there — and Dusan — big surprise — had forgotten their “paraguas.”


    Black-crested Tit-tyrant

Never-the-less, we all detoured up the hill to the hummingbird feeders where rainbow starfrontlets and purple-throated sun angels seemed oblivious to the rain.  Connie and I left with Stan and Dusan after a few dozen photos.  We were damp and a little muddy but Stan and Dusan looked like drowned rats when we reached the van.

nn     nn

  Purple-throated sun angel                Rainbow Starfrontlet

The return trip was just as long and winding with an extra landslide or two.  The fog was so thick in places it’s a wonder Nestor could see the yellow line.  And when we returned to the lodge, there was no electricity.  Bienvenidos á Ecuador



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John and Connie, Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

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