I have never been particularly interested in birding, although I like to look at birds, and I am always intrigued when I encounter a group of birders, with their high powered binoculars and telescopes, their song recordings and lists. During our Johns Hopkins course, one young man in particular was compiling his 'life list' and hoped to improve his number substantially while in the Galapagos and the rainforest. Whenever and wherever we stopped, he was out looking, watching, referring to his bird book and adding to his list. Two of the professors joined him each time, and a few more students participated in the bird group and worked hard to help Derrick add to his list. I believe he saw over a hundred birds during his two weeks, and I found myself cheering him on quite regularly. I was impressed with his persistence, his focus, his enthusiasm, and wondered why I had not started a list years ago when I first began coming to Ecuador.
I have run into birding groups who can be a little preoccupied and entirely uninterested in the plants and animals around them. Birds take precedence, and anything that interferes with birding (like loud students or children) are despised. I noticed that most birders I see are older (that's me!) and clearly comfortable socioeconomically.
Debra is interested in birds and has joined the Audubon society and is very active in Salt Lake City, She likes to go to the lake and watch and identify birds, and in Yasuni she poured over the Ecuadorian bird book and focused on the many birds that we saw. She has her binoculars on her constantly and her eyes are always skyward. During our time in Yanayacu, I decided we would direct our energy toward birdwatching, because although there are mammals there, they are scant and difficult to find. There is a bird lodge a couple kilometers from Yanayacu called San Isidro. I emailed them originally to try to arrange a guide for us while in Yanayacu, but we were too late arranging one, so we were invited to stay at the lodge to see the birds that gather nearby. Birders from all over come to the area to see the birds, and perhaps we will be able to see something too..
We woke up early in Papallacta for a dip in the hot springs, and after our generous buffet breakfast, Maya and I returned to the steamy water before our second massages in 24 hours. I felt entirely indulged. Maya was in heaven. The mountains all around were covered in clouds and only very gradually did the mist rise and the greenery become more visible. The view from the hot tubs was spectacular.
We headed for the road and waited for our bus to Cosanga. Maya snacked on boiled corn on the cob and I ate her farmers cheese. Our bus was full, and we watched a loud and violent movie rather than look at the scenery. The bus drives fast, and on one side of the road, the mountain plunges far below to the river, and we pass cars and tankers and trucks and buses as we careen around the corners. I see Maya turning green and hold a bag nearby just in case. It starts to rain heavily and the bus does not slow down. He drops us off on the side of the road with the rain pouring down and we get thoroughly wet before Eric picks us up in the truck.
Rain Pouring down in Cosanga
We drove to San Isidro for a look, and were immediately convinced we could not stay anywhere else. It is designed for birders and birds and there are hummingbirds and hummingbird feeders everywhere. They set up lights through the night to attract the moths, so that in the morning the birds come to feed. We will wake up at 6 to see them.
After installing ourselves, we joined Eric and Sarah and Mel on a walk through the bamboo forest to hear the plain tailed wrens that he is working on. He has a recording of their song and we listened to the birds responding to the calls. We saw a few in the bamboo and found a nest that is being recorded by another student. The cloud forest is wet and misty and magical, and we found a rushing stream which we crossed and all of us got wet. We saw a few birds, but returned too late to the lodge for any real birding.
I plan to be a birder tomorrow with my list and my field guide and my binoculars and my cameras. I will be one for a day and plan to enjoy myself thoroughly.