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A lazy bird photographer’s guide to the mammals of Ecuador- November 2022


kittykat23uk
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My friend Eric and I were meant to be going to Sri Lanka in March 2023 but we decided to postpone it when the FCDO declared an advisory against travel in the early part of 2022. So I’ve ended up planning a trip to Tasmania for that period (which I’m very much looking forward to) and, after Svalbard, I still had a desire to go somewhere else in the autumn. I did also look at Belize but the timing for a trip there didn’t seem great. So with Eric still keen to go somewhere this year we settled on a couple of weeks in the cloud forests of Ecuador. 

 

I got quotes from a few reputable companies and settled on a guide, Francisco Xavier Munoz through Neblina Forest. I had used a guide through them before in the Canastra and Caraca section of my Brazil trip. We decided to only focus on the West and East cloud forest slopes plus a few nights in the high Andes, saving the rainforest and Galapagos for another time. 

 

Francisco worked directly with us to come up with an itinerary, asking us first if we were birders or bird photographers. I kind of scratched my head at this question really as I’m probably both, plus a keen mammal watcher as well as having an interest in photographing most things that creep, crawl, walk or fly that I come across. Eric is more interested in birds, but this being his first trip to South America he had very modest expectations of seeing “a green hummingbird” , whilst I had a reasonably short list of things that I wanted to see, notably toucans, especially the Plate-billed mountain toucan, Toucan Barbet, Andean Tapir, Olinguito, spectacled bear, cock of the rock and lots of hummingbirds. So “are you photographers or birders”  didn’t seem to be an either/or kind of question to me. But this did have wide-ranging implications for the type of trip we ended up with and in the end the itinerary was definitely angled more towards the photography side than the birding side. 

 

We roughly ended up with the following itinerary ( I say roughly as there were some sites we didn't do, some sites we did twice and some sites that Francisco substituted based on our targets, latest information and so on) :

 

DAY

DATE

DETAIL

HOTEL

WEB PAGE

INTERESTS REQUESTED

DRIVE TIMES

Day 01

5-Nov

Arrival to Quito 1615 PM flight

Mercure Alameda

https://mercurealamedaquito.com-hotel.com/en/

Settle down from flight day and little acclimatisation to altitude

approx 40 mins/40 km to hotel

Day 02

6-Nov

Departure to Zuroloma and Nono Road late arrival to lodge

Sachcatamia Lodge

https://www.sachatamia.com/

Andean Cock of the Rock Lek, San Tadeo Tanagers and Sunbittern Reserve. Night Olinguito and Kinkajoo Feeders.

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan Reserve and Milpe Birding Sanctuary

Umbrellabird Lek and Suamox Woodpecker Feeders

Mashpi Amagusa Reserve & Alambi Hummingbird Paradise

approx 1 hr 10 /36 KM to Zuro Loma reserve.

Approx 2 1/2 hs to Sachatamia from Zuroloma.

approx 1hr 30 to Mashpi from Sachatamia

(other sites seem to be short drives from Sachatamia or Bellavista)

Sachatamia to Bellavista approx 40mins drive.

Day 03

7-Nov

North west area of Ecuador where we will visit various private reserves to get most of the species required between hummingbirds, tanagers and toucans and more.

Day 04

8-Nov

Day 05

9-Nov

Day 06

10-Nov

Bellavista Lodge

https://www.bellavistacloudforest.com/

Day 07

11-Nov

Day 08

12-Nov

Day 09

13-Nov

Arrival to Quito in the afternoon

San Jose de Puembo

https://www.sanjosedepuembo.com/

Papallacta Pass & Guango Torrent Duck and Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan Reserve, Night Owl Walk. Giant Hummingbird Reserve & Penas Blancas "Rainbow Bearded-Thornbill" Birding Road

Antisana Andean Condor & Wildlife Reserve, La Mica Lake, Ecuadorian Hillstar

bellavista to San Jose de Puembo 2h 23 mins

Day 10

14-Nov

Antisana full day with objectives of high altitide Hummingbirds, birds and mamals such as spectacled bear and Andean Fox.

Antisana Refuge/lodge

https://www.tambocondor.com.ec/

San Jose de Puembo to Tambo Condor 1hr 10

Day 11

15-Nov

Termas de Papallacta

https://www.termaspapallacta.com/

Tambo Condor to Penas Blancas 1hr 13

Penas Blancase to termas Papallacta 35 mins

Day 12

16-Nov

This will be the Eastern slope of the Andes, we will find some other species of birds and hummingbirds, also we can try for the Tapir (very difficult). Visit to Wild Sumaco

Termas de Papallacta

San Isidro Reserve, Guacamayos Ridge Black-billed Mountain Toucan, and Las Brisas Hummingbirds

Termas Papallacta to Cabana San Isisdro 1hr 30

Day 13

17-Nov

San Isidro Lodge

https://www.cabanasanisidro.com/index.php/2013-03-19-22-37-56/accommodations

 

Day 14

18-Nov

San Isidro Lodge

Cabana San Isisdro to Wild Sumaco 1hr 30 each way

Day 15

19-Nov

Return to Quito arrive airport 1430 for 17.30 flight back

 

arrive airport 1430 for 17.30 flight back

 

Cabana San Isisdro 1hr 30 to Quito airport. 2hrs

 

Being both located in Norwich we booked with KLM and expected to fly from Norwich at 0615 on the 5th, which should have got us into Quito at 1615 on the same day. Our flight back was then scheduled for the 19th November at 1730 with an arrival time of 1620 on the 20th. Unfortunately for us, KLM had other ideas and both our outward and return flights were disrupted. First on 23/9 our flight on the 20th from Schipol to Norwich was cancelled, so we had to move that flight back a day to arrive on the 21st, not a big deal as we thought as we could add an extra night in Ecuador. Then on the 14/10 we received word that the outward journey from Norwich to Schipol on the 5th was also cancelled. They initially rebooked us for the 1655 on the 4th to Schipol which would have connected with the same 1015 flight on the Saturday. But that would have required an overnight in Schipol so we decided to rebook on the 0615 flight on the 4th so that we could connect with the equivalent flight on the Friday and get to Quito a day earlier than planned. 

 

On the night of the 3rd, I went to put the bunnies to bed and noticed it was a bit foggy. It had been raining heavily that week and I believe a lot of the weather had moved east towards the continent. Having fallen foul of the weather with domestic flights before, I headed to bed with a sense of trepidation. At about 2230 I was in bed when I got a call from Eric, asking me if I’d received notification that our 0615 flight had been cancelled. I checked immediately and yes that was the case. We both received emails updating us on the new schedule which was basically the 1655 on the 4th connecting with morning flights to Quito on the 5th. So we would need that night in Schipol after all. 

 

The worst of it was that they had put us both on different flights! Eric, being a tall lad, had booked economy plus and I had just booked economy as I don’t really need extra legroom. So as economy was apparently full, they had routed me via Bogota whilst Eric was on the direct flight from Schipol to Quito. I updated Francisco as to the issues and spent a fruitless night trying to get somewhere with KLM’s what’s app and messenger service, since the helpline with real actual people was closed at that time of night. .

 

Here's what I have learned, there is absolutely no point trying to get any help either from KLM's online what's app or or messenger service or even via their customer service line (which I tried as soon as they opened in the morning). I was up all night on Thursday trying to get the flight sorted with no luck. So if anyone ends up in the same situation, my advice is don't waste your time. 

 

What I did in the end was ask at Norwich check-in if there was any chance they could get me on the same flight as Eric. Thankfully the check in assistant was really helpful and after a quick phone call everything was straightened out. The flight was pretty much full so I think I was lucky to get a seat!  

 

When we got to Schipol we booked into the closest hotel and got some dinner before heading to bed. The next day we connected with our flight without incident and arrived in Quito on time. Francisco was waiting for us at the airport and took us to the Mercure Hotel for the night. By the time we cleared the airport and got to the hotel it was already getting dark and there wasn’t really much to report in terms of birds for that first night. The Mercure was chosen as it is logistically closer to where we needed to be to head out to the west slopes but it is a city hotel so not a birdy place at all. Francisco arranged to pick us up early the next morning.

Edited by kittykat23uk
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  • kittykat23uk changed the title to A lazy bird photographer’s guide to the mammals of Ecuador- November 2022

Your detailed table allows us to be lazy.  How extremely helpful!  Sorry about your stressful start.  Hope your "interests requested" were fulfilled for the most part.

 

Can you elaborate on this?:  "I went to put the bunnies to bed"

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A very useful table for your itinerary. Very helpful details.

What a stressful start for you

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7 minutes ago, Atravelynn said:

Your detailed table allows us to be lazy.  How extremely helpful!  Sorry about your stressful start.  Hope your "interests requested" were fulfilled for the most part.

 

Can you elaborate on this?:  "I went to put the bunnies to bed"

:lol: They live outside in a kennel and aviary but most of the time are indoors with me. So before I go to bed I put them outside and give them their dinner.

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6 November  Yanacocha road & Zuroloma

 

We were out early and we began winding our way up into the forested mountains of the Andes. We left the main road and started up a farm track past ranches towards Zuroloma reserve. On the drive up Eric spotted this very handsome Aplomado falcon which posed well for photos.

 

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PB060041 Aplomado Falcon by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

This was followed by a small flock of Scarlet bellied mountain tanagers in some bushes, which were a little less accommodating, but with patience we managed to get a few (almost) sharp shots. 

 

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PB060108 Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

A  Red-crested cotinga perched up in a bush as we arrived at Zuroloma.

 

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PB060934 Red-crested Cotinga by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Zuroloma Reserve is located on the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano about 1 hour northwest of Quito, along the famous Hummingbird Route in the old Nono-Mindo Road. There seem to be many of these little reserves set up to provide birders and photographers with great views of different bird species. A  visit to these reserves supports a sustainable alternative income for the local people who run a variety of conservation initiatives. This reduces the pressure for agricultural conversion and other ways of habitat degradation. This reserve has become the best and the most reliable location to photograph the rare and elusive Chestnut-napped Antpitta, Rufous (now Equatorial) Antpitta, and a variety of other birds. 

 

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P2360159 Zuro Loma sign by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

As with many of the places we visited, hummingbird feeders and banana feeders were ever-present and attracted a diverse assemblage of species including one that has to be a contender for one of the most ridiculous looking birds in the world, the absurd Sword-billed hummingbird. This bird’s bill is a thing of wonder! It is among the largest species of hummingbird, and is the only bird to have a beak longer than the rest of its body, excluding the tail. It uses its bill to drink nectar from flowers with long corollas and has coevolved with the species Passiflora mixta. While most hummingbirds preen using their bills, the sword-billed hummingbird uses its feet to scratch and preen due to its bill being so long.
It also can’t escape notice that this hummer is also green, so that was a tick for Eric.   

 

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PB060825 Sword-billed Hummingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060779 Sword-billed Hummingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

One Swordbill in particular stuck to the same perch, making sorties to the feeders from time to time and also hawking for insects like a bee-eater. 

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PB060133 Sword-billed Hummingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We also enjoyed our first views of Masked flowerpiercer, Blue capped tanager, Tyrian metaltail, Black crested warbler, Yellow breasted brush finch, Yellow bellied chat tyrant, Black tailed trainbearer (a mostly green hummingbird) which has a tail as absurd in length as the Swordbill’s beak, the sparkling Sapphire vented puffleg (a green hummingbird), numerous Buff-winged starfrontlets (also green- so I think we’re good for green hummingbirds now) and a glossy flowerpiercer having a little bath. A Golden grosbeak also made a brief appearance.

 

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PB061204_01 Masked Flowerpiercer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060540_01 Blue-capped Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2370779_01  Tyrian Metaltail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060233_01 Black-tailed Trainbearer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060254 Black-tailed Trainbearer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060457 Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060463 Rufous-collared Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060476 Sapphire-vented Puffleg by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060496 Yellow-breasted Brush-finch by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060620_01 Tyrian Metaltail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060710 Buff-winged Starfrontlet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060866 Buff-winged Starfrontlet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2390367  Sapphire-vented Puffleg and Tyrian Metaltail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

It was very easy to get up close and personal with the hummers by holding out a cup of sugar water. They never failed to pass up an opportunity for a free energy drink. I took tons of photos and mostly tried to get ones of the hummers going after more natural food sources. 

 

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the hummers, but we had a date with an Equatorial Antpitta. I have to say these birds are generally a lot more accommodating than the Bornean pittas, if a lot less colourful and our first antpitta didn’t disappoint us (although we did fail to see the Chestnut-naped antpitta which was the other likely one to be found here).

 

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PB061091 Equatorial Antpitta by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061094 Equatorial Antpitta by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

The antpittas are attracted by worms that are put out for them. It has, however, taken a long time for them to become confiding enough to be reliable photographic subjects. 

Now sufficiently overwhelmed already by the variety of birds, I was pleased to note that Francisco was already keeping a list of any new ones we would see at each site and I guess we managed to photograph around 80-90% of the birds that we saw. This was mostly because we spent a lot of time at feeders and on trails seeking out specific targets rather than doing deep forest birding and this is where his question to us became quite significant. Well we were certainly more than happy to spend our time relaxing at the feeders. 

We had a bit more time back at the main feeders, adding Mountain velvetbreast,  Gray browed brush finch, Andean Guan and on the way to the next site American kestrel and 
Smoke coloured pewee.
 

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PB061166 Glossy Flowerpiercer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061320 Andean Guan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061277 Mountain Velvetbreast by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061287 Mountain Velvetbreast by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061308 Grey-browed Brushfinch by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061385 America Kestrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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What a brilliant start to your birding- a fantastic collection already 

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Fantastic birds.  That sword-billed hummer seems to be the avian equivalent of Edward Scissorhands!

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such a stressful start. i think this is going to be the norm for next year as well, until the airlines return with their pre-covid numbers of planes, staff, and flights and routes. 

 

but wow what a fruitful first day!

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9 minutes ago, Kitsafari said:

such a stressful start. i think this is going to be the norm for next year as well, until the airlines return with their pre-covid numbers of planes, staff, and flights and routes. 

 

but wow what a fruitful first day!

 

Yes I can't say I'm looking forward to flying to Australia, but at least I have a few days contingency before meeting up with @ElaineAustfor the onward flight to Tassie. 

 

That was just the first stop @Kitsafari!

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Towlersonsafari

what a splendid collection of colourful birds!

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Mirador Guyacapi

 

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IMG_20221106_100535 Views around Zuro Loma by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20221106_125053 Feeders Guyacapi by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We spent most of the morning at Zuroloma so our next stop was for lunch. But just because we were having a lunch break didn’t mean the birding stopped! We actually ate at a lovely restaurant called Mirador Guyacapi. The restaurant is located just off the E28 close to Alambi reserve which was our planned stop for the afternoon. It’s surrounded by trees and overlooks a collection of feeders on the edge of the hills. 

 

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IMG_20221106_125103 Eric & Francisco having lunch at Guyacapi by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The restaurant has an impressive menu. The food throughout our time in Ecuador was mostly delicious but I would say we ate the best on the west slopes and this would be our first taste of that. But it was quite hard to focus on our delicious meal when there were so many beautiful birds to see and photograph! 

 

Here we had Andean Emerald- a sparkling green hummer with a belly as white as snow, Blue-grey tanager, Crowned woodnymph- which quickly became one of my favourite hummingbirds, along with the diminutive Purple-throated woodstar. Other birds seen included, Orange bellied euphonia, Palm tanager, White-lined Tanager, Green crowned brilliant, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Thick billed euphonia, Swainsons thrush, Bananaquit, White-whiskered hermit, Rufous tailed hummingbird, White necked Jacobin, Silver-throated tanager, Fawn-breasted brilliant, Black-capped tanager and the much sought-after White-booted racket-tail.

 

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PB061440 Andean Emerald by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061542 Crowned Woodnymph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061596 White-lined Tanager (Female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2410250_01 White-necked Jacobin, Andean Emeralds, and Red-tailed Hummingbirds by C. Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

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P2410504 Violet-bellied hummingbird by C. Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

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PB061738 Thick-billed Euphonia by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061768 Silver-throated Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061806_01 Green-crowned Brilliant by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061826 White-necked Jacobin by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061842 Purple-throated Woodstar by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061868 Purple-throated Woodstar by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Alambi Reserve

 

Our next stop was Alambi reserve. The Alambi Reserve is a family project for the conservation of the cloud forest in the famous Tandayapa Valley. Located in the Andean Choco ecosystem between 1450 and 2200 metres above sea level, with an area of more than 120 hectares of which more than 90% is of primary forest, its role is essential for the protection of species of high importance, including some endemic species. There's a handy display board setting out what one might see there.

 

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P2420138 Alambi reserve sign by Jo Dale, on Flickr


 

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PB062011 Golden Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062014_01 Rufous-tailed Hummingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062040_01 Andean Emerald by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

The reserve had a number of trails, but we spent our time around the hummingbird garden, where there was plenty to see. The garden has a border of flowering shrubs and bushes, with a whole row of hummingbird feeders. These were interspersed with banana feeders to attract barbets and tanagers. The male Red-headed barbets were surprisingly well camouflaged against the bright red and green Heliconias. 

 

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PB060058_01 Red-headed Barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060065_01 Red-headed Barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060042 Red-headed Barbet (female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Yet more green hummingbirds were to be found, including Sparkling violetear alongside the duller Brown violetear.

 

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PB061974_01 Sparkling Violetear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061928_01 Brown Violetear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB061947_01 Brown Violetear (With Sparkling Violetear) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Tanagers were also present, including  Lemon rumped tanager, Golden tanager and a very shiny Blue necked tanager- which I think we saw here and nowhere else. Red faced spinetail was another new bird. Other birds seen were White-necked jacobin, Buff-throated saltator, more Violet bellied hummingbirds and  White-lined tanagers as well as Western emerald and Brown inca (yet more hummers!).

 

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PB060132_02 Blue-necked Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060079 Lemon-rumped Tanager (female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062087_01 Buff-throated Saltator by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062099_01 Violet-bellied Hummingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062166 Bananaquit by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062199_01 Red-faced Spinetail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062246 Crowned Woodnymph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB062271 White-whiskered Hermit by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060003 Rufous-tailed Hummingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060086_01 Purple-throated Woodstar by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060162_01 Swainson's Thrush by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We also saw our first mammal of the tour, a Red-tailed Squirrel. 

 

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PB060263 Red-tailed Squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060271 Red-tailed Squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060352 White-booted Racket-tail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Sachatamia Lodge

 

Our final stop would be our base for the next few days, Sachatamia lodge. This lodge sits at 1,700 metres above sea level and is located right off the main road, above the town of Mindo, so it felt less “wildernessy” than I had expected. Nevertheless, this private reserve consists of 120 hectares of cloud-rain forest, although we didn’t explore much of that ourselves during our stay and Francisco had other places that he wanted to take us to. 

 

The accommodation in cabins was comfortable with a rustic feel and there was a lovely restaurant which served up excellent three course dinners and three course lunches (on the days that we ate there). There is also a small swimming pool which I made use of a couple of times during our stay. I was a little surprised at how expensive the drinks were, as a Cuba Libre was in the region of $8-9 USD at most of the places we stayed. 

 

There are two sets of feeders. One set is within a little pergola that is set up for the hummingbirds with a water feature and the other set is a few banana feeders overlooking the road and out across a vista of cloud forest. There is also a large pond and I believe there is a waterfall, but we didn’t visit that. We also never saw the canopy tower, I think Francisco said it wasn’t open yet. 

 

As seemed to be the norm, we didn’t need to go far to see some new birds. Violet tailed sylphs whizzed around with their bright blue streamer tails, Velvet purple coronets bickered with each other over the feeders and we got further views of the White-booted racket-tails alongside another new hummer, the cute little Purple-bibbed whitetip. Empress brilliant was another beautiful green hummingbird that sparkled when the light caught it. 

 

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PB060483 Violet-tailed Sylph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

A Golden-headed quetzal perched high in a tree briefly, which I was delighted to see as it was one of the birds I most wanted. Later we managed to view our first toucan, the Collared Aracari - very similar to the aracaris that I saw in Brazil. The light was getting worse as the clouds rolled in.

 

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PB060487_01 Golden-headed Quetzal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060562 Purple-bibbed Whitetip and Brown Inca (with female White-booted Racket-tail) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060564 Purple-bibbed Whitetip by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060580 Purple-bibbed Whitetip (Female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060639_01 Collared Aracari by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

Tropical kingbirds and Golden crowned flycatchers perched on the telephone wires and Shiny cowbird, Dusky chlorospingus and Chestnut capped brush finch hung out in the bushes close to the banana feeders.  We added a second mammal to the list in the form of Central American Agouti.

 

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PB060670 Central American Agouti by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060689 Shiny Cowbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060708 Central American Agouti by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060735 Golden-crowned Flycatcher by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB060739 Black-capped Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Compared to other holidays, we did not do a lot of spotlighting or night activities. Francisco had warned me that there were very few mammals around. Most of the forest here is secondary regrowth, the areas having been mostly cleared in the past for farming and so many of the mammals have been extirpated. This surprised me, as I hadn’t realised how little there was left of the primary cloud forest- looking across the mountains you’d be forgiven for thinking a lot of it was still pristine wilderness.  I then became a little dubious about the claims that a lot of these lodges make about the mammals that can be found around them. For example Sachatamia mentions that it’s possible to see armadillos and giant anteaters, but I’m not sure how often these occur- Francisco has never seen them here. There must also be a lot of pressure from predation as Ecuador seems rife with feral dogs. Everywhere we went we would see lots of feral dogs along the roads. 

 

I had hoped we might see at least some nocturnal birds such as owls and nightjars, but even those were supposedly difficult (although we did have some luck later in the trip). 

 


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PB060753 Central American Agouti by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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wow on those wide varieties of hummers!

 

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7th November Sachatamia

 

We were up at dawn and were rewarded with sightings before breakfast of a Crimson rumped toucanet in the early morning murk.

 

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PB070052 Dusky Chlorospingus by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070082_01 Rusty-margined Flycatcher by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070171 Crimson-rumped Toucanet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20221107_061835 View from Sachatamia by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Over breakfast we enjoyed views of squabbling velvet purple coronets before we headed off to our first stop of Milpe Bird Sanctuary, run by Milpe Cloud Forest Foundation. Created in March 2004 the reserve sits at 1150 metres above sea level and covers 100 Ha of Montane Evergreen Forest of the Western Andes Range. It is located in the Birdlife International defined Important Bird Area Los Bancos-Milpe.

 

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PB070204 Velvet-purple Coronets by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070220 Green Thorntail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The intention here was to have a walk and look for some of the manakins that were to be found here but the weather had other ideas and it was pissing it down for quite a lot of out time here. No problem, we just waited it out and were entertained by some hummingbirds and other birds around the feeders including Green thorntails, and more of the sparkling Crowned woodnymphs. 

 

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PB070283 Crowned Woodnymph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070290 Crowned Woodnymph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070303_01 Green thorntails by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We were able to head out along a trail once the rain eased off a bit and were rewarded with mostly glimpses of silhouetted birds in the shade of the forest. We did manage brief views of Club winged manakin and better views of White bearded manakin as well as an impressive-looking moth. We also added  range billed sparrow and Yellow throated chlorospingus. 

 

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PB070330 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070362 (2) White-bearded Manakin by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070388 Orange-billed Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070499 (2) masses of hummers by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

As the walk was still rather gloomy and damp we returned to the feeders in fairly short order. Eric called Francisco over to a bird that he’d spotted by the car park which turned out to be a lovely male Blue-tailed (Choco) Trogon and the female was then located closeby.

 

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PB070469 (2) Blue-tailed (Choco) Trogon by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070456 Blue-tailed (Choco) Trogon by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We added Green honeycreeper, Crested guan (in terrible light) and Ruddy pigeon before heading about 20 minutes back down the road past Sachatamia to our next stop at San Tadeo Feeders.

 

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PB070585 Green Honeycreeper by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070600_01 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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San Tadeo Gardens

 

San Tadeo is a  beautiful tanager and hummingbird garden owned by Rolando, a member of the local community who has worked very hard to transform the northwest into a birding epicentre. Here we added Black striped sparrow, Black chinned mountain tanager, Blue winged mountain tanager, another Crimson rumped toucanet and Plain brown woodcreeper.  

 

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PB070630 Crowned Woodnymph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070647 Green-crowned Brilliant by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070654 Green Thorntail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070657 Crowned Woodnymph by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070669 White-necked Jacobin by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070711 (2) Crowned Woodnymph (female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070727 (2) Crowned Woodnymph & Green Thorntail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070756 Black-chinned Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070775 Black-striped Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070797 (2) Crimson-rumped Toucanet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070814 (2) Black-chinned Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2430896 Black Vulture by Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

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PB070881 Rufous-collared Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070893 (2) Hook-billed Kite by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20221107_122126 beautiful vista by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070920 Ecuadorian Thrush by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070926 Brown Inca by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070933 Palm Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070940 Shiny Cowbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070945 Anole by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070970 Anole by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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It's interesting how many new reserves there are in that area now! We've been twice to that same area and the only reserve I recognize that you mentioned is Milpe. Of course the last time we were there was around 15 years ago! Its' good to see that at least some of the locals are preserving whatever habitat is left for nature tourism. We send support to a reserve in Mindo called Las Gralarias, where we stayed and know the owner well.

 

You've certainly got a great variety of birds already!

 

 

 

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Balcon Tumpiki

 

We enjoyed lunch back at Sachatamia, sighting the resident blue and white swallows, before heading out again for our afternoon. This time we climbed up a dirt road to Balcon Tumpiki to hopefully see two of my most sought after bird targets, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and Toucan Barbet. 

 

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PB070981 (2) Blue and White Swallow by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB070990 Anole by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071003 White-tipped Dove by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2450436 Velvet-purple Coronet by Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

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P2460543_01 Velvet-purple Coronet by Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

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PB080004 Central American Agouti by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Balcom Tumpiki has a narrow path up to the balcony/cafe which is festooned with hummingbird feeders, but being so narrow is a little tricky to shoot the hummers, although we did see our first buff-tailed coronets. Our main focus was on the balcony, which is a fantastic spot right on the side of the forested slope. Here we added Golden- naped tanager, Flame-faced tanager, Black winged saltator, Broad winged hawk, Hook-billed Kite, both black and Turkey Vultures, and then, the Best Bird in Ecuador, the Plate-Billed Mountain Toucan dropped in for some banana. 

 

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PB071038 Bufff-tailed Coronet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071046 Palm Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071076_01 Golden-naped Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071233 Plate-billed Mountain Toucan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071370 Plate-billed Mountain Toucan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071402 Plate-billed Mountain Toucan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071449 Plate-billed Mountain Toucan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071453 Plate-billed Mountain Toucan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon here hoping that a toucan barbet might appear but no luck on this occasion. 

 

I should note that, although it seems we have already seen a lot of spectacular birds, this is the driest Ecuador has been in three years, and Francisco mentioned that activity was quite low in comparison to previous seasons. To be honest I had expected to see larger numbers of e.g. tanagers, if not more diversity. But there was still plenty to see. 

 

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PB071457 Golden Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071471 Black-winged Saltator by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071501 Blue-winged Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071515_01 Blue-winged Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071542_01 Yellow-faced (Flame-faced) Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071553 Yellow-faced (Flame-faced) Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071588_01 Dusky Chlorospingus by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB071600 White-sided Flowerpiercer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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30 minutes ago, Wildship said:

Great Photo's Jo.

 

Thank you! They seem a bit soft compared to viewing directly on Flickr for some reason. 

 

I'm still using my EM1 mk2 and 100-400 Panasonic. 

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The Plate billed Toucan is certainly a star!

Your high iso shots are coming out really well, very impressive!

It is interesting that what you show is less variety than in a typical year as I thought the variety was amazing :D

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8th November - Sachatamia to Amagusa


Over breakfast we spotted a Golden-olive woodpecker. Breakfast usually consisted of eggs however you like them, any extras like ham, onion, bacon etc, fruits and juice served with coffee or tea. At most of the places we visited we were normally offered hot drinks. Drinking English-style tea appears to be a bit of a novelty and I usually had to request the milk. 

It was a bit of a drive up to Amagusa, in the Mashpi area but definitely worth it as we got a range of different birds there. We planned to spend most of the day there and so had a packed lunch organised for us to take with us.  On the way we spied a pair of ringed kingfishers on some telephone wires, as well as a Swallow tanager and numerous “TKs” aka Tropical Kingbirds. 

 

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PB080114 Ringed Kingfisher by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080127 Swallow Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080144_01 Tropical Kingbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

Amagusa is another privately owned reserve consisting of 130 hectares of recovering forest in the new protected important bird area (IBA) Mashpi-Pachijal.  This area is particularly special since it is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador.  It is particularly known for its choco endemic birds. The altitude range is 1700 to 750 masl, it begins at the higher altitude pass and continues to the upmarket Mashpi Lodge entrance gate. The reserve extends downward to the east of the road toward a river where the forest is best conserved. 

 

The Basantes family have been farming this area for 20 years and it is now managed by their inheritors: Sergio Basantes and his wife Doris.  They became very interested in conservation and birds from all of the frequent birding visitors.  Also this area was recently declared a newly protected  forest of Mashpi-Guaycuaycu-Sahuangal and logging is now prohibited.  The local people in this area have received education in conservation and also support from the local governments and by Aves y Conservacion which is the operating branch of Bird Life in Ecuador.

 

Sergio and his wife Doris are very excited about this new venture.  They have been working for the last two years to change their farming habits to include conservation ideas to improve and protect the habitat.  As part of this process they have registered their property to become an official reserve in the hope that an improved forest will bring more birders to their home.  Their plan is to improve the sustainability of their reserve and to provide a complete ecological birding experience which will include home grown food, lodging, trails, feeders, and guiding. We saw that they were in the process of building a new accommodation block. 

 

When we arrived, after meeting the owners, we were directed to a flock of Rose-faced Parrots feeding on a big bunch of bananas. Unfortunately we seemed to be right at the cloud-level and the clouds rolled in for a while, reducing visibility for a time. We relocated to another set of feeders where we were able to view some spectacular birds, including Rufous-throated tanager, the neon Glistening green tanager,  Moss backed tanager, as well as familiar tanagers such as Golden, golden-naped, lemon-rumped, black-chinned Mountain, and the yellow-faced race of flame-faced. The choco endemic  Indigo flowerpiercer is one of the sought-after species here. We also scored House wren.

 

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PB080166_01 Rose-faced Parrot by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080195 Rufous-throated Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080221_01 Lemon-rumped Tanager (female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080299 Golden Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080426_01 Rufous-throated Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080435_01 Indigo Flowerpiercer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080448 House Wren by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080470 Moss-backed Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080486 Yellow-faced (Flame-faced) Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080562 Glistening Green Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080568 Rufous-throated Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080648 Rose-faced Parrot by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080692 Rose-faced Parrot by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080738_01 Black-chinned Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080745 Black-chinned Mountain Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080781 Lemon-rumped Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080804 Yellow-faced (Flame-faced) Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080856 Golden-naped Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

There are also a small hummingbird garden with a few well visited feeders that attract some of the sought-after choco endemic hummingbirds like the Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, and White-wiskered Hermit, we also had Green thorntail here.  The hummingbird garden also has a shelter where you can comfortably look at hummingbirds even if it is raining and it was a good sport for us to have our lunch :)

 

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PB080324 Brown Inca by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080358 Green Thorntail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

When the weather cleared, we went for a little walk.  There are some trails that can be visited but the Mashpi Lodge entrance road is the best source for easy birding and we took a walk along here after spending sufficient time at the feeders. Here we found White tipped sicklebill, which is a very specialised hummer that doesn't visit feeders, Ornate flycatcher, Slate-throated redstart with a fledgeling, Slate-coloured Grosbeak,  Tropical Parula, Three striped warbler, Orange breasted fruiteater, Our first Toucan Barbet, which was great to see but wasn’t a great view, Red-faced spinetail, Rufous rumped antwren, Pacific tufted cheek, Slaty antwren, and Scaly throated foliage gleaner. We also had quite difficult views of a golden-winged manakin. On the way back we also saw Variable seedeater.

 

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PB080871 Slate-throated Redstart by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080910_01 White-tipped Sicklebill by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB080937_02 White-tipped Sicklebill by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081094_01  Slate-coloured Grosbeak by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081185_01 Toucan Barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081199 Moss-backed Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081236_01 Orange-breasted Fruiteater by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081275_01 Variable Seedeater by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081312_01 Tropical Parula by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081350_01 Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

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P2480907 Golden-winged Manakin by Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

 

A bird that even got Francisco reaching for his camera was the Choco specialty the Black Solitaire. These are supposed to be easiest to see in August to September when the motilon tree - Hyeronina alchornoides  near the fruit feeders bears fruit that the solitaires love. As many as 12 Black Solitare come regularly to feast on the ripe fruit during that time, but surprisingly Francisco had never had a good view of one before so we felt really privileged. 

 

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PB081395 Black Solitaire by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081486 Black Solitaire by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Back at the feeders I was delighted when another Crimson-rumped toucanet put in an appearance and what a beautiful example he was! 

 

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PB081522_01 Crimosn-rumped Toucanet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081524_01 Crimosn-rumped Toucanet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081575 Glistening Green Tanager by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Punto Ornitológico Mindo 

On the way back we made a brief stop at Punto Ornitológico Mindo where we found Striated heron, Western wood pewee and Black faced dacnis aka yellow tufted dacnis. We didn’t have great views of the latter. We waited at an active Aracari nest for a while without success, and then tried to call a white-throated crake at a little pond, again without success, so with light failing it was time to leave for Sachatamia and Francisco suggested that we should make time for a return visit, maybe in the morning. 

 

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PB081617 White-necked Jacobin by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081653 Andean Emerald by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081669 Striated Heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081685  Plain-brown Woodcreeper by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081709 Rusty-margined Flycatcher by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PB081723 Black Phoebe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2490820 Black Vulture by Eric Sills, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk
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24 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

The Plate billed Toucan is certainly a star!

Your high iso shots are coming out really well, very impressive!

It is interesting that what you show is less variety than in a typical year as I thought the variety was amazing :D

 

Thanks Tony! Yes I can imagine it would be even harder to get my head around all the birds in a "normal" year..

 

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Here's a video from the 7th of some hummers and the mountain toucan. 

 

 

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