Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guayaquil to Puerto Lopez

Our trip extension would last three days and two nights. Since we would be returning to the Hotel Continental one more time, we stored the bulk of our luggage at the hotel and took only what we needed. Niko was pleased. It also seemed strange to look at the seat on the bus formerly occupied by Jim and Naomi and see it empty.
Leaving Guayaquil behind, our route to the coast would take us through Salinas (140 km) before turning north along the coast toward Puerto Lopez (90 km). A long travel day but as we would be traveling on relatively flat roads for a change, we might make better time?
Roughly two-thirds of the way to Salinas, Niko turned off highway 70 and took Ancon Road. It was raining on and off so when we stopped for short roadside hikes, it made walking off the pavement an exercise in navigating slippery mud. Recent rains had also formed large puddles. At times we waded through near boot top high levels. Worth the effort, though, as we picked up Burrowing Owl, West Peruvian Dove, Short-tailed Woodstar, Necklaced Spinetail, Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Snowy-throated Kingbird, and Collared Warbling-Finch.
Signs that we were approaching the coast took the form of circling Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans. The temperature had also spiked after being in the mountains the day before. Humidity, absent during days in higher elevation, had also kicked in.
Along the coast we stopped at a few locations to explore the both the seashore and salt ponds. There was a definite uptick in both waterbirds and shorebirds. Of note: Peruvian Pelican, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Chilean Flamingo (stunning!), Wandering Tattler, Willet, Whimbrel, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Wilson’s Phalaropes (thousands!), American Oystercatcher, Gray Plover, Collared Plover, Kelp Gull, and Gray-hooded Gull.
We continued up the coast passing through numerous small coastal towns before arriving at the Mantaraya Lodge late in the afternoon. As we walked through the hotel’s main entrance, staff greeted us with a cooling tropical drink.  During a brief welcome and orientation, our luggage was taken to our assigned rooms and another life bird for the day flew past: Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts.
Rather than numbered rooms, they were identified with a small painting on each room door representing the room's theme – ours was “Shark”. Keys were attached to hand-painted wooden key fobs (the fobs also represented a room's theme). Don't lose the fob, though, for it would result in a fifty dollar charge. Rooms had large screened windows that offered a dramatic view of the pool and/or the ocean beyond. Most rooms also had small private verandas.
We had time for drinks poolside before dinner. Aside from another couple we seemed to be the only guests at the hotel. After completing our daily checklist and getting our birding itinerary of the next day, we were off to bed. A few of the group took to the pool. I have to say we could easily get used to spending more time around the hotel grounds. However, no different from any of our other lodging locations, most birds were to be found elsewhere.