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September 2009 Ecuador Bird Watching Trip Report

Author: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2009

Back at the feeding hide, the Toucan Barbets arrived to eat some grapes that Angel had put close to the hide. Next came the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers to get some bananas. Then Angel was able to call in a rare Olivaceous Piha – a robin sized bird that was olive-green all over with a yellow eye-ring and visible yellow on the underwing-coverts (shoulders). Finally, the Crimson-rumped Toucanet arrived for some grapes. It was fascinating to watch the toucan pick up a grape with its great beak, and then toss it back into its mouth to eat.

When Angel's brother arrived with washed worms and larva (Antpittas don't like dirt on their worms), we headed off to find the Antpittas. In 2005 Angel discovered 4 rare species of Antpittas in the forest of his family blackberry farm. Over time he has developed a special relationship with the birds. Now when he calls them by name, the Antpittas will usually come-out to be seen and fed. They won't come for any one but Angel.

While we sat on some rocks, Angel went off calling for Maria, the Giant Antpitta. She arrived, and proceeded to walk down a long flight of steps like Miss Ecuador. Maria is the most photographed Antpitta in the world, and has graced the covers of numerous wildlife magazines, and has been the star of several nature TV shows.

Next we found Jose, the Moustached Antpitta, down by a stream in good light for pictures. Esmeralda, the Yellow-breasted Antpitta, was a little further down the trail in a darker area, but we still got good pictures. Angel went calling for Shakira, the Ochre-breasted Antpitta, named after the famous Columbian singer & dancer with the wild hips; but sometimes she is too shy to come out when people other than Angel are present.

Caring for these birds has become Angel's passion. He calls the birds out to be fed twice a day whether or not there is any bird watchers around.

On the walk out of the forest we were able to photograph a Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl. All together we saw 37 bird species at the Paz del Aves Reserve.

After the walk, Angel's wife serves Breakfast – “Cock-of-the Rock eggs” with onion salsa & cheese empanadas. They aren't really Cock-of-the-Rock eggs, but a fried plantain ball with chicken inside. It's hard to imagine, I know; but you really have to try it to understand how “muy rico” it is!

We were back to Alambi by 11:30am and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.

On September 20 we left for the Milpe Road Bird Sanctuary (0.055N 78.849W) near Los Bancos at 7am. In addition to being in a very scenic location overlooking the Rio Blanco Valley, Los Bancos has the distinction of having the only ATM in the Cloudforest.

It was foggy this morning, but we still got good pictures of the endemic Choco Toucan, Golden-green Woodpecker, Streaked Flycatcher, White-bearded Manakin, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner. A Roadside Hawk flew over and landed near us.

Some new hummingbirds were the Green-crowned Brilliant, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Stripe-throated Hermit, and White-whiskered Hermit.

We saw 8 tanagers including the Bay-headed, Blue-gray, Ochre-breasted, Swallow-Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, and Orange-bellied Euphonia.

Several Blue Morph butterflies were around, but they never stopped to be photographed. Bronze-winged Parrots and Maroon-tailed Parakeets whizzed by.

Impatients and many other flowers were in this area. Impatients is known as Mira Linde here, or “Look at Me, I'm Beautiful” by translation. The giant mounds of Orange Impatients were certainly beautiful!

By 10am it was too foggy to bird here, so we drove to the Hostal Irador Rio Blanco in Los Bancos. The view at the hotel was also totally obstructed by fog, but there were some hummingbirds at the feeders, including a Green Thorntail. We stayed to enjoy the coffee & tea plus fried Yucca and onion salsa that came with the $3 admission fee.

We rested at Alambi most of the afternoon. Late in the day we walked down to the river in time to see the White-capped Dipper again.

Maria fixed Trout from the nearby farm for Supper with rice and veggies.

We left around 7am on Sept 21 for the Mindo area (0.006S 78.805W). The first stop was at the big faded Cock-of-the-Rock statue on the main road to Los Bancos. It doesn't look like much of a birding spot, but as soon as we arrived, we found a Golden-headed Quetzal (a very hard to find bird this time of year). It eventually moved to where we could get great photos.

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