Monday, December 29, 2008

West Slope

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager

After spending a few days in Quito, the last time that I was able to update this, last Monday, a week ago today, we hired a driver to take us to Mindo via Yanacocha Reserve and a few other places. I dont know if my mom will ever forgive me for that drive.
The birding was great, starting off up around 12,000 fasl I believe, with lots of high altitude birds, with gaudy names such as Supercillaried Hemispingus and Undulated Antpitta. The prize for there though has to go to the absolutely stunning Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (above), one of the birds of the trip for sure. From there we headed down the western slope of the Andes, on the worst road either of us had ever been on. Some parts of it were basically mud puddles up to 1.5 feet deep that enveloped the whole road, for up to 15 feet at a stretch. We were thankful that we had a great driver and a nice big 4x4. Other times the whole road was rutted out a few feet deep except for two raised areas where your tires would go, and if you deviated slightly, you'd be there for a while. But hey, the birds were good.
After a couple hours more on the "road" we got to our second stop, Tony Nunnery's house/feeders, which are unbelievable for hummingbirds. I got 13 life hummingbirds at this one stop. Booted Racket-tails, one of the cutest little hummers, were beyond abundant, with at least 30, and they were joined by Violet-tailed Sylphs, a hummingbird with a, get this, violet tail that can be up to a foot long, compared to their little 3 inch body. These were my first real superb hummer feeders, and they were a sight to remember. Highly recommended.
We proceeded on with a quick stop at Bellavista Lodge, where we found food and lodging to be too expensive for our tastes, and then after another hour or so on the bumpy road, we were onto blessed pavement. Joyous times. Our driver had arranged a snack for us at this lovely little place called Mindo Loma, a restaurant and hotel, and we feasted on cheese and fried plantains there while the feeders abounded with Velvet-purple Coronets, one of the most beautiful hummingbirds, in my opinion. Of course it had been raining by then for a few hours, but when we got to Mindo, our spirits were undampened.
Also, I would really like to recommend our driver and his company, Fausto Gómez of Tzanza Tours, for their great service and very reasonable pricing. He only charged $90 for what ended up being over 8 hours, and that included a four-wheel drive car, birding stops at which he let us take as long as we wanted, and even a little snack break at Mindo Loma.

Since then I've been birding as much as possible, big surprise there, and luckily on the first night we were introduced to some local birders by the owner of our hotel, Susan of Caskeffesu, and they've kindly driven me around pretty much every day since then. We've visited Rio Silanche, Mirador Rio Blanco in Los Bancos, Milpe Reserve, Bellavista, and many places in between in the last week. Thank you so much Gary and Karen Schiltz.
Highlights have been many, but Rio Silanche and Milpe Reserves, both owned by the Mindo Cloudforest Association have been the best birding so far. Our visit to Silanche was nothing short of spectacular, where from the canopy tower there we had a flock come through that had almost all the specialties of the area, and almost all of them beautiful birds as well. Blue-whiskered, Scarlet-browed, Emerald, Bay-headed, Blue-naped, Golden-hooded, and Gray-and-gold Tanagers, as well as Scarlet-breasted, Scarlet-thighed, Yellow-tufted, and Blue Dacnises. At times the colors were almost enough to make your eyes hurt. The best Ecuadorian bird though was a Bay-breasted Warbler that we had on the entrance road, not thinking of it much, but when we looked in the field guide, there are only three records listed for Ecuador! :O Quite a surprise, but I'm 100% sure thats what it was.
Our visit to Milpe was almost equally birdy, albeit without so many glamour birds, even though there were more then a few. Some of the better birds included the lekking Club-winged Manakins there, always hard to beat, Golden-winged Manakin as well, Brown-billed Scythebill, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Rufous-throated Tanager, and the always nice Ornate Flycatcher, even if it is common. The best part of Milpe was this absolutely huge flock that we hit, that we were able to bird for over two hours, while only having to move down the trail a slight ways. I'm sure we only began to tap into the diversity in that flock, especially without knowing many of the calls.
Another good time was when while driving up to Bellavista we ran into Kai and Phil, a couple of friends of mine who some of you may know, and we ended up picking them up and birding with them for the rest of the afternoon. Lots of fun.
One of the better places we've been while we've been in Mindo, and a place that my mom actually came with me to, was Angel Paz's antpitta show. Some of you may have heard of this, but if not, it is this reserve that a native, now former, rancher made, where Angel has three species of antpitta that he has taught to come in for food on a daily basis, and one of them to actually eat out of his hand. Couple that with a dawn trip to a Cock-of-the-Rock lek, and you have another memorable day. When we were there we were lucky to be able to see all three species of the antpittas that he has there: Giant, Yellow-breasted, and Moustached. To be more specific, we saw Maria, Cariño, Willie, and Susan. One of Angel's quirks is that he has named the antpittas, and so Maria and Cariño are Giant Antpittas, mother and son as a matter of fact, and Willie is a Yellow-breasted, while Susan is the shy and retiring Moustached Antpitta. You've got to see it to believe it.
For all you listers out there, my species total is just under 700, with 691 now, and if I can make it to the south of the country, with some luck I might be able to make it out of here with over 900 species. To put that in perspective, in two months of not-so-hardcore birding here, it is possible to see as many or more species then have ever been recorded in all of continental North America. It is truly amazing. It's getting hard to find species here around Mindo though anymore, I need truly hard stuff now like Yellow-collared Chlorophonia and Long-wattled Umbrellabird for the most part. Today I managed to scrape up a Double-toothed Kite and a couple Olive-crowned Yellowthroats however.

Christmas was kind of anticlimactic here, it's kind of hard to believe that its actually December 25th when you're up to your ears in tanagers and it's in the 70s. In any case, Feliz Navidad and a happy new year to all!

I'm still unsure what I'm going to be up to for the last couple weeks here, my mom and her friend Janet are going to be doing touristy stuff in Quito and Otovalo, which is famed for its native market, and that is not my cup of tea at all. Right now I'm hoping to be able to take a 15h+ bus to the southern part of the country and go to a couple Fundacíon Jocotoco reserves, on my own, but as of yet nothing is concrete, and we'll see how that goes. If I manage that, 900 is for sure attainable, if not, I'll be lucky to end with 750.

As usual, photos are up on my Picasa, the link is:

Good birding,
Ian Davies
Currently Mindo, Pichincha, Ecuador

Species from the west slope:

Sickle-winged Guan
Dark-backed Wood-Quail
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Hook-billed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Laughing Falcon
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon
Eared Dove
Pallid Dove
White-throated Quail-Dove
Maroon-tailed Parakeet
Pacific Parrotlet
Rose-faced Parrot
Red-billed Parrot
Bronze-winged Parrot
Little Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo
Striped Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Cloudforest Pygmy-Owl
White-collared Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
White-whiskered Hermit
Tawny-bellied Hermit
Stripe-throated Hermit
White-necked Jacobin
Brown Violetear
Green Violetear
Sparkling Violetear
Green Thorntail
Western Emerald
Green-crowned Woodnymph
Violet-bellied Hummingbird
Andean Emerald
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Speckled Hummingbird
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Green-crowned Brilliant
Empress Brilliant
Buff-tailed Coronet
Velvet-purple Coronet
Brown Inca
Collared Inca
Buff-winged Starfrontlet
Great Sapphirewing
Gorgeted Sunangel
Golden-breasted Puffleg
Purple-bibbed Whitetip
Booted Racket-tail
Black-tailed Trainbearer
Tyrian Metaltail
Violet-tailed Sylph
Wedge-billed Hummingbird
Purple-crowned Fairy
Purple-throated Woodstar
Little Woodstar
White-tailed Trogon
Collared Trogon
Masked Trogon
Blue-tailed Trogon
Golden-headed Quetzal
Crested Quetzal
Rufous Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Red-headed Barbet
Toucan Barbet
Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan
Collared Aracari
Choco Toucan
Olivaceous Piculet
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Scarlet-backed Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Choco Woodpecker
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Powerful Woodpecker
Guayaquil Woodpecker
Pale-legged Hornero
Azara's Spinetail
Rufous Spinetail
Slaty Spinetail
White-browed Spinetail
Red-faced Spinetail
Spotted Barbtail
Pearled Treerunner
Streaked Tuftedcheek
Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner
Lineated Foliage-gleaner
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner
Uniform Treehunter
Striped Treehunter
Streak-capped Treehunter
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner
Plain Xenops
Streaked Xenops
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Strong-billed Woodcreeper
Black-striped Woodcreeper
Spotted Woodcreeper
Montane Woodcreeper
Brown-billed Scythebill
Uniform Antshrike
Russet Antshrike
Pacific Antwren
Slaty Antwren
Immaculate Antbird
Black-headed Antthrush
Rufous-breasted Antthrush
Undulated Antpitta
Giant Antpitta
Moustached Antpitta
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
Yellow-breasted Antpitta
Rufous Antpitta
Tawny Antpitta
Blackish Tapaculo
Nariño Tapaculo
Spillmann's Tapaculo
Ocellated Tapaculo
Brown-capped Tyrannulet
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
White-tailed Tyrannulet
White-throated Tyrannulet
Rufous-winged Tyrannulet
Tufted Tit-Tyrant
Yellow Tyrannulet
Gray Elaenia
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Streak-necked Flycatcher
Slaty-capped Flycatcher
Golden-faced Tyrannulet
Ornate Flycatcher
Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher
Tawny-breasted Flycatcher
Bran-colored Flycatcher
Smoke-colored Pewee
Western Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant
Masked Water-Tyrant
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Cinnamon Becard
Black-and-white Becard
One-colored Becard
Masked Tityra
Green-and-black Fruiteater
Orange-breasted Fruiteater
Scaled Fruiteater
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Olivaceous Piha
Golden-winged Manakin
White-bearded Manakin
Club-winged Manakin
Brown-capped Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Lesser Greenlet
Turquoise Jay
Beautiful Jay
Blue-and-white Swallow
White-thighed Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Band-backed Wren
Bay Wren
House Wren
Mountain Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Scaly-breasted Wren
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Andean Solitaire
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Bare-eyed Thrush
Great Thrush
Glossy-black Thrush
Tropical Parula
Blackburnian Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Slate-throated Redstart
Spectacled Redstart
Golden-bellied Warbler
Russet-crowned Warbler
Three-striped Warbler
Superciliaried Hemispingus
Cinereous Conebill
Dusky Bush-Tanager
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager
Guira Tanager
Ochre-breasted Tanager
Scarlet-browed Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Summer Tanager
Flame-rumped Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Blue-capped Tanager
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Grass-green Tanager
Fawn-breasted Tanager
Black-capped Tanager
Gray-and-gold Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Blue-necked Tanager
Rufous-throated Tanager
Blue-and-black Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Metallic-green Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Blue-whiskered Tanager
Golden Tanager
Emerald Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Black-faced Dacnis
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis
Blue Dacnis
Scarlet-breasted Dacnis
Green Honeycreeper
Purple Honeycreeper
Swallow Tanager
Blue-black Grassquit
Variable Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Plain-colored Seedeater
Rusty Flowerpiercer
Glossy Flowerpiercer
Black Flowerpiercer
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Masked Flowerpiercer
Tricolored Brush-Finch
White-winged Brush-Finch
Rufous-naped Brush-Finch
Orange-billed Sparrow
Stripe-headed Brush-Finch
Black-striped Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Buff-throated Saltator
Black-winged Saltator
Golden-bellied Grosbeak
Scrub Blackbird
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Thick-billed Euphonia
White-vented Euphonia
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Yellow-bellied Siskin


Liam said...

Beautiful picture of the Tanager. How do you control the depth of field so well? Manual? I know you have a long lens. And what field guide are you using? How do you know what you're looking at? Or hearing?

Good luck getting to 900.

Luke Seitz said...