Ecuasal: July 15-16, 2008

Ecuasal is one of the stranger birding destinations in Ecuador. Located right behind Salinas, a coastal resort which is a trip in itself, these salt and fresh water ponds were once used for producing salt. Now, they are a major attraction to migrating shore birds from both the northern and southern hemispheres. Birding this industrial wasteland is not for the timid though, as the only real access is from a coastal road heavily trafficked by lorries most of the day.

With our expensive optical equipment Aimee and I failed to blend seamlessly into this environment, but we made the best of it and saw some great birds in the ponds and on the neighboring beach. In addition, at dusk we stumbled upon a large group of Anthony's Nightjars feeding in a vacant lot near town; using our car's high beams and fog lights we had great views of this local night bird.

Notable birds seen: Kelp Gull, Royal Tern, Black-Necked Stilt, American Oystercatcher, Chilean Flamingo, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Stilt Sandpiper, Red Knot, White-Cheeked Pintail, Wilson's Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Gull-Billed Tern.

2 comments:

Stuart said...

Hey Derek, just been reading your blog as we too are keen birders; i wondered if you could expand on your Ecuasal experience? Could you ride bikes into there? Do you have to pay? What time of year did you go?

Hope to find some answers here some time soon!

Thanks

Stuart

Derek Kverno said...

Thanks for your comment, Stuart. I only visited Ecuasal once, about five years ago. While it was an interesting site and worth a stop to add to my country list, it wasn't very beautiful, or even a nice place to bird. The environment there is very industrial, and I felt more than a little uneasy about straying too far from our car with the scope.

If you're still interested in visiting, yes, you can do it on your own and by bike from Salinas. Just head south and then east along the coast road, where you'll pass some shallow ponds on the left and the ocean on the right. There are lots of birds on both sides, but the salt pans are fenced off. There is no infrastructure for visiting birders, although you'll see a few road signs with the title "Observacion de Aves."

If you want to feel secure and get on the other side of the fence, you should arrange a tour with a Gringo-owner of a hotel in town. I don't remember the name of it, but he's in the Lonely Planet guide to Ecuador. I think his name is James or John. This is your best bet, I think. He can also direct you to other good sites in the area for shorebirds, such as La Chocolateria.

Good luck!

Derek

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