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January 6, 2011 / stephanie

Ecuador Adventures 3: La Casita

December 7. Day 4 in Ecuador. La Casita.

We woke around dawn, the birds had already started their morning chorus and the rumble of howler monkeys echoed in the hills. We were miles from civilization in a rustic cabin, surrounded by mossy trees and mud. No running water, no electricity. But water had been collected from a nearby spring and a gas stove was set up and running, so we had a warm breakfast ready for us by 5:30am.¬† We then split into groups and hiked into the woods to conduct a survey of the birds in the area. Another volunteer, Will, and I had the job of pointing out species and madly flipping through our massive copies of the Birds of Ecuador, while our leader Dusti expertly taught us the various species and their vocalizations. The further we climbed up the hill, the muddier it got. It was squishy, sticky mud and it liked to suction on to my rubber boots to the point where I tripped and fell out of them a couple of times. But that didn’t matter. I think we were all quite happy to be there, watching Chestnut-mandibled Toucans as they flew in to the treetops with a crashing flight that made them sound like mini-helicopters. Male White-bearded Manakins were hiding in the dense brush, buzzing and clicking with their wings in an attempt to lure in females with their mating display. Bananaquits and Gray-and-gold Warblers were fervently foraging in the mid-canopy, while a lone Thrush-like Schiffornis shyly hopped in the understory. And at the top of the hill, 5+ beautifully iridescent species of hummingbird were hovering and fighting over a few temporarily-placed sugar-water feeders. I will explain more about why we had hummingbird feeders later…

After a lovely morning of birding, lunch was waiting for us. The awesome cooking helpers, Jessica and Alicia, served us each a hot bowl of soup. The air temperature was pretty cool at this elevation, so a hearty bowl of soup was more than welcome. But after we finished, we also got a full plate of rice, meat and vegetables. Apparently, lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Ecuador, and I was able to accept that, especially since their food is also delicious! The other tradition I was able to accept, was the siesta. We pretty much had time to rest everyday between noon and 2pm. OK, honestly, I’m not sure if that was really an Ecuadorian tradition as much as a “bird work” tradition. If you are getting up at dawn to do physical work everyday, you are typically exhausted by lunchtime.

Anyway, after siesta we got right back to work and set up our 20 mist nets. The nets would be closed though, so we could reopen them the next morning and start to catch some birds!

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