Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ecuador, here we go!

And the birding continues!!!  After birding in Colombia and Venezuela, Rafael Cortes and your blogger host landed in Quito, Ecuador, late in the night after arriving in a short flight from Bogota.  Our friend José María Loaiza ("Chema") was already waiting for us at the airport and left us at our hotel in downtown Quito.  We only sleep a couple of hours, and soon Washington (our driver and soon-to-be bird guide) picked us and we started our first birding day in Ecuador.  We took the Eco-ruta del Quinde, the old Quito-Nono-Mindo-Milpe road, ascending to our first destination for the day: the Yanacocha Reserve.  Administered by the Fundación Jocotoco, this reserve protects 1200 hectares of high andean forest and paramos, and is essentially an easy place to watch some key species.
The landscapes and the views are incredible... but more incredible is the fact that you bird along a well marked, FLAT trail... which is pretty rare at this altitude (more than 3200 meters above sea level).
Some of the birds appeared almost immediately... the Glossy Flowerpiercer seemed to be everywhere, we saw and, specially, heard it constantly... and it allowed some photos!
We found some mixed flocks with tanagers and brush-finches, among others... this Hooded Mountain-Tanager was part of a party of at least four of them accompanying a mixed flock.  They looked like the big fat clowns of the tanager family.
A flash of color turned out to be an electrical Masked Flowerpiercer.  It proved later to be a common inhabitant of those forests.
We identified most of the birds right away... after all they were easy and well marked: Barred Fruiteater, both Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, Blue-black Conebills, Rufous-naped Brush-Finches, Golden-crowned Tanager, and so on... but this juvenile Crowned Chat-Tyrant showed us why it is useful to carry huge texts with you, as Chema did!
The main stars of this reserve were the hummingbirds... but I'm reserving that story for another post.  After making some photos at the "Death Pass # 25", we started the descending along the Eco-ruta del Quinde, heading to the towns of Nono and Tandayapa.  
In the way, we witnessed how drastically changed the forests, becoming more and more exuberant.  We crossed a HUGE mixed flock, with such gems like Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Plushcrown (two of them), White-banded Tyrannulet, Barred Becard, and many more... plus a Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant at the river.
This is just beginning, so don't miss my next posts about this fantastic birding along the Eco-ruta del Quinde!

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