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WildlifeKate in Ecuador: Day 2 – We head to Maquipucuna Reserve

It was a 5am start this morning and, after a good sleep, I felt much refreshed and ready to face another exciting day. Heaving all my gear downstairs, I was soon loaded into Danny’s truck and we headed out of Quito. It was good to get out of the city and start to see the landscape change. I was excited about the day and, with binoculars on my lap, Danny always had his eyes peeled for species along the way. Once off of the main roads, the bumpy forest tracks were good for birding and we stopped frequently to make a scan of the surroundings.

Danny stopped off at a location that he explained was often good for birding. Bumping down a narrow track, we pulled up above a fish farm in the valley below. There were  lots of large pools, where fish were being bred and grown on. None of the pools were covered, so  it was  a bit  of  a magnet for a range of species. Scanning with his scope, Danny called me over. There, sitting on a wire above the pools was the largest kingfisher I’d ever seen!   Sadly, it was too far away to photograph, but I was happy to watch it until Danny spotted another species, this time the Green Kingfisher. There were a couple of these, sitting right on the edges of the pools. These were smaller, but still larger than our UK kingfisher. #gallery-21638-17 { margin: auto; } #gallery-21638-17 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-21638-17 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-21638-17 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

Not only did we see a huge number of birds around these pools, but also in the trees nearby. Some of these, I was able to photograph. This beauty is the Common Tody-flycatcher; one of about 30 species of flycatcher! It flitted around in the trees close to the track, so I was able to get a few shots of it…..

Everywhere I looked, I could see birds; each one a lifer! It is strange to be in a position where every bird you see is  a ‘lifer’ and when you simply can’t ID anything! A good guide is pretty much essential here as the Equador Bird Book is epic and I would never have seen, let alone be able to identify, all the species around.

Many are SO brightly coloured…… it just blew me away!

This is the swallow tanager…

… and the Golden tanager….

and a Tropical parula…..

We had soon got an impressive number of species…. all from a forest track overlooking a Fish farm!!

We continued on our way, heading to a Lodge that would be our home for the next 24 hrs. We were heading for The Maquipucuna Reserve.

“The Maquipucuna Reserve is the closest pristine rainforest from Quito. It spans over 14,000 acres of privately protected cloud forests at the heart of the Chocó Andean Corridor, one of the earth’s top three biodiversity hotspots. The reserve covers a vast diversity of ecozones between 900m (2900 ft) and 2785m (9100 ft), meaning you can find a huge diversity of wildlife that call Maquipucuna home. Maquipucuna is a unique spot in the Andes because a large population of the endangered Andean Spectacled Bear migrates annually to feed on its ‘Pacche’ trees. These trees bear lipid-rich wild avocado like fruits which are an important nutritious delicatessen that attract old and young bears as well as females with bear cubs.” You can find out more about the lodge by visiting their website. Click on the image below.

This video explains a little more about the reserve and its eco aims for the future…. Maquipucuna Foundation: Preserving Ecuador, From Mangroves to Mountains from GLP Films on Vimeo.

The approach to the lodge was incredible…. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie. The scenery was unreal… thick jungle and a stunning river, tumbling over rocks. The lodge is accessed via a beautiful fern covered bamboo bridge walkway…..

I could not quite believe how stunning the location was. We were pretty hungry by now, after our early start and bird watch session at the Fish Farm, so breakfast and a coffee was very welcome. Sitting in the dining area, open to the forest, I was somewhat distracted by the hummingbirds on the feeders in front of my table and their antics as they flew in and out, right above my head!

A delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, granola and pancakes and I was absolutely raring to get out and explore!

There are a huge number of extensive trails cut and marked, so visitors can follow them to explore the site safely. You still need to be aware that you are in an area where snakes and other such creatures live and, in fact, we saw a huge black snake whilst out walking some of the trails.

One of the Maquipucuna guides joined Danny and I as we walked some of the trails. The forest was full of incredible orchids, insects and birds…. all a bit overwhelming! #gallery-21638-18 { margin: auto; } #gallery-21638-18 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-21638-18 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-21638-18 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

This lodge is famous for its Spectacled bear visits. They come to eat the fruit of the Pacche trees, which are a lipid-rich avocado-like fruit. There are a number of these trees on the site and the bears gather from around September and it may be possible to see them for 8-10 weeks, depending on the availability of the fruit. Sadly, I was a bit too late for that wonderful experience. The BBC filmed here for Seven Worlds, One Planet and this wonderful film, which shows these elusive  and rare bear species, can be seen by following this link

I loved my walk though and there was just so much to see…..

We returned to the lodge for lunch…. I just couldn’t sit still as the light was pretty good (difficult to achieve in these forest conditions) and the place was buzzing with hummingbirds!

I was taken to my room before we started the afternoon walk….. oh my goodness!!!

What a shame I was only staying for one night….. I could really have done with a few more nights at this paradise!

Lunch was delicious! I especially loved desert… cocoa beans, with a brown sugar accompaniment! #gallery-21638-20 { margin: auto; } #gallery-21638-20 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-21638-20 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-21638-20 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

After lunch, we headed up the track, out of the lodge, to see what we could see. These tracks are often a good place to bird watch and there are many vantage points where I could see the landscape when the cloud parted a little. Although it often rains in the afternoon, the temperature was very pleasant, round the 20 degree mark. A few biting insects, but nothing major.

Again, loads of birds to see and these rather impressive mating moths, that were about 15cm diameter!

Again, Danny kept tack of all the species we’d seen and we got an impressive 37 species!

Another wonderful evening meal watching the light begin to fade and with hummingbirds still flitting over my head, fighting over the feeders and I really was in heaven! All was not over though…. #gallery-21638-21 { margin: auto; } #gallery-21638-21 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-21638-21 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-21638-21 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

As the light faded, the forest came alive with frog calls and the lodge lights attracted in some insects. I was up and down from the table, especially when this HUGE moth appeared! I think it is a kind of silk moth. What a stunner! Those round markings were transparent, like little windows. I just could not stop looking at this beautiful specimen.

I had had an incredible day. I fell into bed quite early, the sound of the frogs and the river washing over me. With a 5am start again, I needed to recharge my batteries.

I have fallen in love completely with Ecuador and its wonderful cloud forests and biodiversity………


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