There’s nothing wrong with easy birding

The toughest days of birding were behind us on this Southwest Ecuador custom* birding trip. We suffered through the high elevation two days earlier and nearly passed out from heat exhaustion a day ago, so on this day we were refreshed from a dip in the pool and a good night’s rest at the Mantaraya Lodge

Plus, all the plantain chips and Coke Lite I could put into my body helped. I’m certain of it.

I could live on this diet for quite some time, I'm sure. I could live on this diet for quite some time, I’m sure.

So I nearly gave José, our guide, a hug when he said, “Today we are taking it easy. We’re going to hike along a river in the Machalilla National Park and then later walk along the beach at Ayampe and see what we find there.”

A walk on the beach? Bless that man.

Machalilla National Park

Machalilla National Park is a preserve near Puerto Lopez and includes beaches, cloud forest, and dry forest, as well as two islands, Salango and Isla de la Plata. The area has drawn tourists–both local and from abroad–and the impacts of tourism as well as over fishing and deforestation has had dismal impacts on the area. At one time, western Ecuador, claimed most of the tropical scrub desert and forest (25%) but now only 1%, can be found in the park.

Sobering, disheartening, concerning.

Tough versus easy

Some birding days are tough. It could be the altitude, the weather conditions, the steep, muddy, slippery hikes, the long hours on your feet. or the bugs (followed by weeks of itching). I don’t mind those tough days. I’ve learned to hang back if I think I’m going to slow down the die hards or I just know it’s going to be too treacherous for me.  Or I just soldier through it, because nearly every time I surprise myself and do things I didn’t think I could do.

Birding at Machalilla National Park Birding at Machalilla National Park

But then there are the lovely, easy days where you get to stroll on a fairly flat trail by a river and come upon a bird you’ve never seen before, like the Masked Water-Tyrant.

Masked Water-Tyrant Masked Water-Tyrant

Or the dapper Great Antshrike, who we’ve seen before in Panama, but we got better looks at him here as he flitted around the branches.

Great Antshrike Great Antshrike

And even though the Tropical Kingbird might seem a bit of a yawn for most birders because he’s seen practically everywhere, it’s always nice to be greeted by such a royal fella.

Tropical Kingbird Tropical Kingbird

So, I’m not going to lie. I love those easy days.


During the walk on the beach at Ayampe I did get my first look—though at a distance—at the Blue-footed Booby in flight. It felt like such a tease, but I knew I would get good looks at more during our Galapagos adventure that was only a few days away.

Steve and I were more amused by the Ghost crabs, which were 2-3 inches in diameter You’d see them in the distance, but as you approached they would scurry into a hole–the whole beach was pock-marked with these holes. Having ticked Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Black-bellied Plover, American Oystercatcher and Whimbrel on the day’s list, we then turned our amusement toward the crabs. We were like a pair of 10-year-olds trying  to catch them with no success.

Grey-headed Gull (photo by José Illianes) Grey-headed Gull (photo by José Illanes)

We ended the day again at Manataraya Lodge and spent the afternoon sharing the pool with the Brown-chested Martins and Grey-breasted Martins that were taking turns swooping around the pool and diving toward the water just enough to skim it with their beaks to steal a sip of water.

Sure, I’ll share my pool time with the birds.  After all, that’s why we were in Ecuador.

Brown-chested Martin Brown-chested Martin
Not a bad place to end the day--relaxing in the pool with the Martins. Not a bad place to end the day.

The list

So, if you look at the previous day’s list (see previous post) we got roughly the same count. So tougher day versus easy day? Same, same.

  1. Rufous-headed Chachalaca (heard only)
  2. Blue-footed Booby
  3. Brown Pelican
  4. Magnificent Frigatebird
  5. Great Egret
  6. Showy Egret
  7. Black Vulture
  8. Turkey Vulture
  9. Pearl Kite
  10. Gray-backed Hawk
  11. Black-bellied Plover
  12. American Oystercatcher
  13. Black-necked Stilt
  14. Whimbrel
  15. Rock Pigeon
  16. Pale-vented Pigeon
  17. Eared Dove
  18. Ecuadorian Ground Dove
  19. Croaking Ground-Dove
  20. White-tipped Dove
  21. Squirrel Cuckoo (heard)
  22. Groove-billed Ani
  23. Peruvian Pygmy Owl
  24. Long-billed Hermit
  25. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  26. Long-billed Starthroat
  27. Green Kingfisher
  28. Black-mandibled Toucan (heard)
  29. Choco Toucan (heard)
  30. Ecuadorian Puculet
  31. Guayaquil Woodpecker
  32. Red-masked Parakeet
  33. Pacific Parrotlet
  34. Gray-cheeked Parakeet
  35. Bronze-winged Parrot
  36. Great Antshrike
  37. Collared Antshrike
  38. Plain Antvireo
  39. Slaty Antwren
  40. White-backed Fire-eye
  41. Watkin’s Antpitta (heard only)
  42. Olivaceous Woodcreeper
  43. Plain-brown Woodcreeper
  44. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  45. Montane Woodcreeper
  46. Streaked Xenops
  47. Pacific Hornero
  48. Slaty Spinetail
  49. Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
  50. Yellow Tyrannulet
  51. Pacific Elaenia
  52. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
  53. Sooty-headed Tyrannulet
  54. Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
  55. Bran-colored Flycatcher
  56. Tropical Pewee
  57. Vermillion Flycatcher
  58. Masked Water-Tyrant
  59. Snowy-throated Kingbird
  60. Tropical Kingbird
  61. Red-eyed Vireo
  62. Lesser Greenlet
  63. Blue-and-white Swallow
  64. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  65. House Wren
  66. Gray-breasted Martin
  67. Fasciated Wren
  68. Superciliated Wren
  69. Tropical Gnatcatcher
  70. Plumbeous-backed Thrush
  71. Ecuadorian Thrush
  72. Long-tailed Mockingbird
  73. Tropical Parula
  74. Gray-and-gold Warbler
  75. White-lined Tanager
  76. Lemon-rumped Tanager
  77. Blue-gray Tanager
  78. Black-faced Dacnis
  79. Guira Tanager
  80. Saffron Finch
  81. Variable Seedeater
  82. Yellow-bellied Seedeater
  83. Crimson Breasted Finch
  84. Bananaquit
  85. Buff-throated Saltator
  86. Black-capped Sparrow
  87. Southern-yellow Grosbeak
  88. Scrub Blackbird
  89. Yellow-tailed Oriole
  90. Yellow-rumped Cacique
  91. Orange-crowned Euphonia
  92. Thick-billed Euphonia
  93. Saffron Siskin
  94. House Sparrow

 * This was a custom trip we designed with Tropical Birding. We had a week on the mainland of Ecuador before we were to go on our Galapagos trip with National Geographic Expeditions and the nice folks at Tropical Birding helped us design a trip for us and arranged for the guide and driver.