The last evening was to be at the B&B owned by Richard Parsons (owner of Bellavista) in Quito, since our flight left the next morning just before 9am. This opened the possibility of covering the Old Nano Mindo Road as part of the journey back, taking the whole day to do so. It is incredible to think that this more or less one way track was the main highway to Quito only 20 years ago. The main target was to be Yanacocha, which is in the highlands at around 10000 feet, but some excellent stops were made on the way.
After making one or two brief stops to investigate bird activity on the descent from Bellavista, the car was parked at Tandayapa Village, and the first part of the Old Nano Mindo Road walked for an hour or so. Many Blue-and-white Swallows were on the wires over the village, and closer examination revealed their nests to be in many of the eaves of the buildings. Black Phoebes utilised the wires for their favoured water based feeding location. A flock of common tanagers was seen a little way up the road, but closer inspection unearthed a brilliant red White-winged Tanager.
After one or two brief stops for more birds, including a much sought after Beautiful Jay, we pulled up at a trout farm sporting a sign with a picture of Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. This active farm is well known for regulars of this species, with a makeshift hide next to a feeding area. However, the morning feeding had come and gone, as had the antpittas. Adequate compensation came in the form of a very light coloured (juvenile?) Common Potoo a little further up the trail, sleeping motionless at the apex of a dead tree stump. The word was that Torrent Ducks could also be spotted on the rocks in the river here, but not during our visiting time.
After ascending for some time and passing through spectacular scenery in the highlands, we eventually reached the outskirts of the Yanacocha area. This was a fairly open, cultivated environment, and a stop was made for a pair of Red-crested Cotingas. A study of these unearthed a dazzling Purple-backed Thornbill, with stunning looks even at some distance.
Just before the entrance to Yanacocha itself, the car was pulled up at the sound of calling Tawny Antpitta, which was quickly located, and eventually appeared in trees close to. There then followed the finding of two stunning hummingbirds. A Shining Sunbeam looked a little bedraggled, but a Sword-billed Hummingbird was an impressive site when perched against the skyline, and perhaps even more so when flying overhead.
This was to be the highlight of the trip, with a walk of over 4 hours along a track to hummingbird feeders not only finding impressive birds, but also by being accompanied by breathtaking mountain scenery. The weather is generally predictable at these high altitudes, being clear in the mornings, and clouding over (or more precisely around and below) at lunchtime. Today was no exception, with rain accompanying the misty surrounds in patches throughout the afternoon.
The trail follows the wooded hillside to the left and steep valley to the right for about 2-3km, terminating in a couple of hummingbird feeding areas. Before this, a few mixed flocks and individual birds were encountered. One contained Golden-olive Woodpecker, White-throated Flycatcher, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Rufous Wren, and Streaked Tuftedcheek. Hummers were also evident here - a nice change to see the first ones away from feeders - with particular mention of a pair of Rainbow-bearded Thornbills, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Great Sapphirewing, another Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, and a Sapphire-vented Puffleg building a nest. One of the feeder areas had passing White-banded Tyrannulet, Spectacled Whitestart, and a Pearled Treerunner.
The main feeder area consists of three small sections, and while there is not the manic frenzy of the busy feeder areas encountered at other sites this week, there was certainly plenty of activity from a variety of highland specialities. Only new species added was Golden-breasted Puffleg, but the most numerous was Buff-winged Starfrontlet. Sword-billed Hummingbirds made occasional appearances, and were an odd site when hovering while sipping from the artificial receptacles. Also here were many Masked Flowerpiercers, interspersed by the occasional Glossy Flowerpiercer.
The rain continued to fall as we returned to the car. A straightforward return journey to Quito should have followed, but a small landslide a short way down forced the use of a less well maintained secondary route. The rain had caused some mini-landslides along here, which didn't prove any great problem. However, some deep and muddy ruts in the track caused problems with the 4x4 vehicle, and at one time we had to make temporary wedges to stop the wheels from being trapped in deep mud fissures.