Thursday morning, January 10, 2019
What’s a cloud forest? How does it differ from a rainforest? These were questions we had after coming to Mashpi. The area feels and looks like some of the rainforests we’ve visited. The difference is that a cloud forest is almost always covered in fog. Low-level clouds are frequently at the same altitude as the plants. We rarely see the sun here, and it rains most days for an hour or so. Since we are close to the equator, the temperature doesn’t vary much throughout the year, between 71-75 degrees. This provides a long growing season so the trees and plants grow quite tall and large.
This morning, we visited the Hummingbird Garden at Mashpi Lodge. Of the 130 species of hummingbird in Ecuador, 22 can be found here. Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of all warm-blooded animals, their hearts beating more than 1,200 times a minute. They can hover like a drone as well as fly in all directions – forward, back, side to side, and all around. This was the first time we had ever seen them perch, although they don’t sit still for long. When they do, they move so fast that they may already be out of sight by the time the camera fires.
We were told the names of some of the hummingbirds that came to the garden, but I don’t remember most of them. I can remember, however, how delightfully mesmerizing and beautiful they are. Unlike the mostly brown ones we see at home, these are blue, green, red, yellow, black, and all combinations of colors. As I watched them flit from tree to feeder and back again, I couldn’t help but wonder if they are the inspiration for fairies.
Besides filling the hummingbird feeders (which are quickly emptied), the staff put out pieces of banana, and where there’s nectar and fruit, there will be other creatures wanting to get their share, including a squirrel that grabbed an entire banana and took it up into a tree.