March 15, 2015, Papallacta, Ecuador — About three years ago, a new lodge called Mashpi was built in northwest Ecuador. Mashpi is about as fancy as it gets: Daily massages, a cable car, glass walls…the place is self-described as “a luxury cocoon in the clouds.” A room with a single king bed starts at US $1,470 per night (according to their website).
We didn’t go there—Mashpi doesn’t bother with bird feeders, and the fee just to walk around the grounds is $70. Instead, Edison and I birded the entrance road to Mashpi, which has become known in the past couple of years among Ecuadorian birders as a good place to find several specialties.
The two of us were joined for the morning by a man named Sergio who owns the land along Mashpi’s entrance road. When the lodge went up, Sergio saw an opportunity and put a couple of banana and sugar water stations along the road. For a minimal charge, you can sit and watch the action: Dozens of hummingbirds swarm the hummer setup, and we saw a kaleidoscope of tanagers, euphonias, and even a Crimson-rumped Toucanet coming for the bananas.
Sergio also took us down a steep, slippery machete trail to find a Choco Vireo, which is known from only this spot and one or two other sites in all of Ecuador. Along the way, we saw some other key targets: Black Solitaire, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Glistening-green Tanager…the birds were as colorful as their names!
Edison and I continued on our way after lunch, crossing Quito from west to east (and the equator from north to south), and ended the day at Papallacta Pass at just over 14,000 feet. We nailed a few more good birds (Giant Conebill, Ecuadorian Hillstar, and Blue-mantled Thornbill) before a relaxing, end-of-the-day soak in the Papallacta hot springs.
New birds today: 23
Year list: 1670