So, Rafael Luck, José María "Chema" Loaiza, Washington and me already were having a great time finding great birds around the paramos of the Papallacta Pass and the Antisana Ecological Reserve, in Ecuador, but we still had to visit some others places around. We eventually reached a huge andean lake, called La Mica, and Chema managed to get us in with the car all the way to the shores of it in the far side. Our main target was the resident Silvery Grebe, and as soon as we got there, we spotted a pair of these lovely birds, swimming along dozens of Andean (Slate-coloured) Coots.
In the way out, we follow a secondary road that reached the shores again, but this time closer to the gates. The wildlife around this spot was great: hundreds of Andean Coots and many Andean Teals were present, but also got a group of Andean Ducks and even a lonely Yellow-billed Pintail. However, this part of the lake was off-limits, and soon a pair of park rangers riders kindly ask us to leave the place, so we did.
In the way out through the paramo, we saw again the Andean Gulls, Carunculated Caracaras, Black-faced Ibises, Paramo Ground-Tyrants and an Andean Lapwing. We saw also Peregrine Falcon, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Variable Hawk high in the sky. But the king of these paramos definitively is the Andean Condor. We saw many individuals, both adults and immatures, at least 21 different birds... only got some distant, flying shots.
It was getting late, and we followed Chema to a nice "hacienda" (the Guáytara Inn) close to the reserve in order to have a late lunch (or an early dinner?). The long entrance road crossed a field with tons of flowering Chuquiraguas, and the hummingbird activity was simply great: many Black-tailed Trainbearer, more Shiny Sunbeams and a female Ecuadorian Hillstar were around... but it was the Sparkling Violetear who allowed photos... sparkling indeed!
At the restaurant, a Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant welcomed us sitting at the warmer place... in the top of the chimney.
We enjoyed our meal while watching videos about the wildlife of those paramos, specially about the Condors. We were watching also the activity at the several hummingbirds feeders around the property... specially Sparkling Violetears, but also an impressive Giant Hummingbird through the windows... notice its size in comparison with the feeders... it looked more like a swift!
Suddenly, the cooker and the manager of the restaurant went out saying "the condors are passing!"... we grab our binoculars and ran to the garden and there they were... at least twelve Andean Condors ascending in a thermal, flying to their roosting places. Chema knew a cliff were he had seen before roosting condors, so we headed that way, saying good bye to all the restaurant staff.
We stopped in a stretch of road facing directly the cliffs... and we were able to see the condors circling above it. We chose our seats and waited. One by one, the condors started their fly to the cliffs... what a show! To see them approaching rapidly to the rocks, landing on them after a huge aerial "U", was incredible! It seemed that a young condor flew to close to the nest of a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, who chase it for a while, but then an adult condor flew so close to the buzzard-eagle that it had to make an acrobatic maneuver... amazing! The photo shows the cliffs where the condors were roosting... and trust me or not, that white dot right in the center of the photo is an adult Andean Condor! That day had officially two birds-of-the-day: the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe at Papallacta and the Andean Condors at Antisana... a show that I will remember forever!
This trip was not over, the next destination was simply magical!