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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Yellow House Trails - Hacienda San Vicente

I have been very busy lately and haven’t had much time for writing so I have gotten behind on my blog updates. I hope to remedy that over the next few weeks.

I just completed an article on Yellow House Trails (Hacienda San Vicente) in Mindo Ecuador. In that article I concentrated on describing how to reach the area and the birding trails available. I try not to promote any particular lodge in my articles as they are more for general information, but here I can express my personal opinion.

Yellow House has become my place to stay when in the Mindo area. The rooms are very spacious and inexpensive and you cannot beat the Garzon family for hospitality and friendliness. I recommend it to everyone who asks me for a place to stay in the area and I have never heard a complaint about the accommodations or the birding opportunities.  I know of no other place that can be beaten for price and comfort.

Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)
The few articles that I have seen concerning the Yellow House trails state that they see more birds on the walk up to the main primary forest than they do once entering. To some extent I can agree with them but I have to explain why I believe this to be the case. You can, on average, see over 50 species of birds around the lodge itself on a daily basis. There are several Squirrel Cuckoos that visit the trees in the early morning and there are also Rufous Motmot on a regular basis. Many people spend time observing these beautiful species before setting out on the 20-minute walk up to the forest.

The problem is that the hike up the hill has such an abundance of birds that the 20 minutes turns into an hour or more. By the time most visitors get to the main trail it has become late morning and the activity has slowed down considerably. You also have the fact that more species are observed at the forest borders than in the dense foliage. However, if you take the time to search the understory you can be rewarded with some great discoveries.

There is a Cock-of-the-Rock lek on the reserve but this requires an early morning start time and a walk through the darkness to get there at the proper moment. If you have to have breakfast before starting your day then this is easily remedied. If you mention this to Maria Elena the night before she will prepare you a bag breakfast to take with you and will set it out on the porch for you to carry along.
Be prepared for biting insects, whether at Yellow House or any other area of Mindo. The mosquitoes are not as much of a pest as the no-see-ums. The itch from their bite can last a week or more. I suggest long pants (no shorts) and long sleeve shirts in addition to some form of insect repellent.

Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua jardini)
The charge for taking the trails is minimal if you do not stay at the lodge, and access to the reserve is included in the price of lodging if you do spend the night. I find that this is a great place to set up a base when birding the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest. When I return to my room at night I still have the opportunity to see various species from the porch or go out in the evenings in search of owls or the Common Potoo that frequents the area around the main house.

If you can speak a little Spanish I recommend spending a little time talking with Maria Elena, her sister Inez and her mother Carlotta. They are wonderful people and will make you feel like one of the family. Even if you don’t speak Spanish you will still enjoy sitting with them and smiling. They serve breakfast in their home and this is a great way to start your day. They grow fruit on the property and they serve fresh fruit juice any time of the day. Sit down, savor the sweet nectar and enjoy a wonderful time in the rainforest. 


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