A birdwatching trip to Ecuador in October 2001 - Andes to Amazon! The humming bird here is the Andean Emerald. On the left is a view of  Volcanes Illiniza (5,266m) and on the right is Gorzacocha, an oxbow lake off the Rio Napo, in the Amazon basin. All photos (C) Ruth Traynor.

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Home -> Diary -> Highlands -> La Cienaga

The grounds at La Cienaga. Photo: Ruth TraynorAndean Highlands Diary
10 - 12 October 2001
2. Hosteria La Cienaga and Lasso Marsh

The hotel is a minor birding site in its own right, with three different habitats:

  • The formal gardens, immediately surrounding the buildings - good for humming birds.
  • The less formal grounds, with open, cut grass and a 200-year-old avenue of huge Eucalyptus trees. These held thrushes, conebills, tanagers and the ever-present sparrows.
  • Lasso Marsh - sedge and coarse grass - noted for the Subtropical Doradito, occurring here near its northern limit.

The formal gardens
Very pleasant, but, not surprisingly, no great bird density. However, the garden was the place for Giant Hummingbird. This remarkable hummer, the largest in the world, is the size of a small thrush. When we watched it (on several occasions), it behaved more like a flycatcher than a hummer. It favoured the tops of trees and bushes in the inner courtyard. The gardens also held Sparkling Violet-ear and, of course, Rufous-collared Sparrow.

The grounds
These are dominated by an impressive 200 year-old avenue of Eucalyptus trees, which were favoured by a variety of birds. Great Thrushes were in good numbers, and two humming birds, Black-tailed Trainbearer and Sparkling Violet-ear were seen on several occasions. We looked, however, in vain for Sword-billed Hummingbird. These, apparently, favour the small trees with long trumpet-shaped flowers. There were quite a number of them in flower, and we watched some of the bushes for quite some time without success.

Nearer to the house we had good views of Vermillion Flycatcher, a common enough bird, but brilliantly plumaged.

The most activity in these tall trees seemed to be where they border Lasso Marsh. We had glimpses of Blue-and-yellow Tanager high in the branches, and, lower in the trees, several Cinereous Conebills. Hooded Siskins flew regularly from the trees across the marsh to a narrower belt of trees near some habitations.

Lasso Marsh
This is just beyond the hotel's boundary. We decided not to view it from the road, but to walk through the grounds (turning right out of the main gates), and walk up and down the boundary fence. We were there early on two mornings to try to see Southern Doradito.

After about an hour on the first morning, we got very brief (1-second) glimpses of this elusive flycatcher in the coarse grasses at the end of the marsh furthest from the road. That was the only view we had, because the second morning produced nothing.

Other birds around the marsh included Black Flowerpiercer (quite approachable), Azara's Spinetail, a distant, scoped view of Chiguanco Thrush (much paler than Great Thrush) and an American Kestrel in flight. All the doves in the area, incidentally, seemed to be Eared Doves.

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