San Jorge Lodge came to us rather by surprise. We should have discovered it long ago. It’s on the route to our favorite Quito birding destination, Yanacocha Reserve. In fact, their trail system intersects with that of the higher altitude reserve. Because it is close to the city, it means only about a half hour to 40 minute drive to get there. Yeah! The less time I spend in the car, the better.
We have visited a couple of times, mainly to take pictures of the birds that come to the feeders. Once, we actually arrived early morning, around 7 am, hoping to catch hummingbirds in their morning rush to the feeders. In fact, we should have slept in. By 9 am we were ready to leave, after having seen only a few birds, when everything changed. Birds were suddenly everywhere.
A Shining Sunbeam Hummingbird owned one of the feeders and would repeatedly visit it and chase away anyone else who tried. But we had a hard time figuring out where he went in between sips. After diligent observation, my husband figured out that this bird was returning to a nest, high up in a tree just outside the main office door of the lodge. Hummingbird nests are incredibly hard to find so this was a treat indeed. Hopefully, on a future visit, we may be lucky enough to see tiny Shining Sunbeams.
A Sparkling Violetear held court at a different feeder across the small patio. And he kept guard by sitting on a small branch posted nearby. In fact, most of the feeders have great branches arranged so that hummingbirds will sit near the feeders rather than in the distance. It makes for great opportunities for more natural shots.
Another feeder in the distance was home to a Sword-billed Hummingbird. If you have never seen these birds sip from a feeder, it is an amazing sight. Their beaks are about 4 inches long, longer than their bodies, and are slightly curved. That means the hummingbird must be about 4 inches away from the feeder itself. It reminds me of watching a fighter plane refuel mid-flight except instead of a tanker there is a stationary hummingbird feeder.
The highlight of the morning, however, where the hummingbirds collecting fluff for their nests. A small, female Tyrian Metaltail made frequent visits to a dried, almost dead looking bromeliad, removing the seeds and attached cotton before taking off towards her hidden nest. And a female Green-tailed Trainbearer did the same with the tall feathery fronds of pampas grass. She looked so graceful, grasping onto the tall strand of grass while pulling at strings of soft down, her split tail alternating between supporting her and preparing to take flight.
We enjoyed this visit so much we returned for my birthday and stayed for lunch. If you would like to do the same, you must make a reservation as the restaurant is normally only open for overnight guests. The food was delicious and we ate outside, watching not only hummingbirds visit the feeders but tanagers fly from tree to tree, grosbeaks visiting a seed feeder, and small, bright yellow finch-like bird alight on a nearby fountain.
San Jorge Eco Lodge in Quito is one of several lodges of the same name. Together, they make the Magic Birding Tour and include visits to Milpe, Tandayapa, and Cosanga. If you’re interested in staying at one or more of the Lodges, or just making a reservation for lunch, you can call locally at 339-0403 or 224-7549 or send an email to [email protected] If you plan on doing one of the guided trips, consider asking for Luis Alcivar, one of the best local bird photographers I have yet to meet. His work can be seen on Flickr.
Mitad del Mundo, Quito
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