Morning Glory : featuring Cock of the Rock

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
The birdwatchers house

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The alarm went off at 04:30, it's quite frightening because I was already awake. The rain was still coming down in buckets and to be quite frank it just felt ridiculous getting up at this time to go bird watching. Thankfully we managed to get out of the hotel this time and left our bags downstairs as the place was full tonight so we had to move on. After sitting in a doorway trying to shelter for about 10 minutes the guide turned up and went to find a car. We are not sure if he stole one because after about 10 minutes he turned up in a 4x4 and quickly ushered us into it and set off into the night. We drove up to the "Y", it is actually just the turn off for Mindo, and took the road towards Quito, after about 15 minutes we came off the road, not at a junction but up and embankment, and started following a grass track for a couple of minutes which was exceptionally bouncy.

We jumped out of the car and started walking in the rain and pitch black darkness into the forest with only a couple of torches. Jonathan (our guide) also had a birding scope (oh I can’t believe we are using these words), our first serious obstacle of the day was a river and from what we could understand the bridge had either been washed away or some kind of landslide had ended the bridges life. After a couple of minutes pondering Jonathan made the decisions then started trying to collect large boulders and throw them into the river trying to create stepping stones. What we soon realised is that Jonathan had made man size strides between the stepping stones and despite a stick and me trying to pull Erica and steady her she fell in soaking her shoes and trousers, a quality start to the day. We then hiked through the jungle for what seemed like a couple of km continually climbing up very muddy and slippery trails.  We finally arrived at a small bird-watching hide and sat and waited until first light arrived while Jonathan sat up his birding scope and we got our binoculars and camera ready.

We were joined by another 'group’ which consisted of two Canadians with a birding guide and another guide who it turned out their job was to book guides in each place the couple went to. She had all her hotels paid for it just all seemed a little over the top to be honest anyway they were proper bird enthusiasts you could just tell. At about 5:45 or 6:00 it was light and we heard the first birds coming in (the very loud squawk told us that).  I suppose we must tell you where it is we have come and why. We are at a Lek, a place where male birds come to put on a show trying to entice a mate in whatever way they do before choosing a partner, mating and disappearing in opposite directions leaving the mother to raise the young, it’s a bit like Leigh on a Friday night really. This Lek is known for the Cock of the Rock display, the Cock of the Rock being the type of bird which got its name from its pre-mating display, all the males squawk and puff out their chests, flapping their wings and making the oddest bird calls you have ever heard.

Anyway we saw lots of them, often obscured by trees, branches and leaves etc, although we did manage to get some half decent photographs, check them out this bird is so strange looking with a tuft of feathers on its head which kind of hides its eyes and beak. Jonathan was taking pictures through the birding scope, we have even started to look like twitchers now I think, I just need a new / grey beard! The birds are beautiful, so brightly coloured and with an odd shaped head they are just so distinctive. By about 08:00 we were all ready to split back to Mindo so we walked the trail back which both downhill and in the light seemed much easier and shorter than it had in the dark, the river crossing was also much easier. Erica edit:  Have to mention though that I was savaged again by the huge mosquitos, I managed to get a massive bite on my ear which swelled up in to a hard ball straight away.  Add this to the large amounts of sand fly bites that I had got yesterday in the forest and I was one very itchy girl - if I could dispense one word of advice insect repellent would be it.

We got back to town by about 08:30 and had breako at the Descanso watching perhaps the best hummingbird show yet before grabbing our packs and moving on to the ‘Birdwatchers House’, now we are starting to worry ourselves. We dumped our bags and headed straight back out to walk some more of the local trails from the Yellow House. It is private land so a small entry fee had to be paid. We walked for quite a few hours covering the trails, we got some great views of Mindo and lots of birds, flowers and butterfly’s. Of particular note were more Cock of the Rocks and we also saw four Toucans (all separately not together) however due to the speed that they take off no pictures, sorry. We also followed two horses carrying the old fashioned milk pales to the ‘milker’ who was milking the cows by hand. On the way back we ran into lots and lots of small calves blocking the trails who were probably less scared of humans than any cow I have ever seen.

By the time we got back we were knackered again not surprising considering what time we got up, but our legs were aching so we stopped and had a couple of beers in one of the local restaurants, before walking back and sitting on the porch drinking and reading (with a bag of crisps which contained sachets of Mayonaise inside). We were joined by four lovely ladies from Canada who had done a cruise of the Galapagos and were spending their last few days in Mindo. They wanted a taxi to Quito for tomorrow so we agreed to jump in the back of the truck that we had booked with all the luggage and let them have the seats.  The plan was also to stop at the centre of the earth, i.e. the Equator before we head off to Colombia.

Due to the fact the local shop had lots of cold beer we didn’t run out of beer and when the afternoon rain finally calmed to a shower we went for a quick meal and an early night.
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