March 11, 2015, Near Quito, Ecuador — I had hoped to see 50 new year birds in five days at Shiripuno Lodge in eastern Ecuador, and I ended up with exactly 50. Today was mostly a travel day to get back to Quito, and our group retraced the route from several days ago: Several hours in an open motorized canoe, an hour and a half in a 4x4 taxi, then a quick flight over the Andes. The rain held off until we were in the canoe, then soaked us for two hours—it’s been a wet four days! Still, we saw some fun stuff along the river, including some titi monkeys and a roosting Common Potoo.
My gear is all damp, slimy, and increasingly moldy, so it was nice to return to Quito’s cool, dry climate at 9,000 feet this afternoon. I said goodbye to the Rockjumper group at the airport (they will continue on to southern Ecuador for a couple more weeks), and met a friendly local birder named Edison Buenano who will spend the next week with me in northern Ecuador. It was getting dark as the two of us left the airport, but Edison pulled over at a pond just outside the entrance and jumped out—a vagrant Herring Gull, very rare anywhere in South America and the first one ever documented in Ecuador, has been hanging out here since December. Sure enough, it was sitting nonchalantly on the pond alongside an Andean Gull—quite a combination!
We are spending the night at a place called Pululahua Hostal near Quito, surrounded by cloud forest. My room looks like a detonation zone with clothing spread on every available surface to dry out and air out, and it was great to get a real, hot shower this evening! Pululahua is said to be a good spot for Buff-fronted Owl (which I heard, but did not see, in Argentina in January) and some bamboo specialties, so I'm looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.
New birds today: 6
Year list: 1559