Monday, February 9, 2015

Experiencing "Un Poco del Chocó": Las Tolas Road

This is the third of a series of entries relating the experience both Rafael Luck and I had in the private reserve "Un Poco del Chocó" in northwestern Ecuador in mid-December of 2014 (you can read the second entry here).  For the last day of our stay, our host Wilo gave us a ride along the main road to the nearest town, Las Tolas.  This road reach an elevation of 2000 meters above sea level, thus offering a broader variety of birds species.  Wilo left us in a section known for mixed flocks and we waited for a while.
Las Tolas Road
The morning was chilly and foggy... we started to see shadows and movements through the folliage, but it was not until after a few minutes that the place was cleared enough to identify some species; however, we heard some key species in the mist: Toucan Barbet, Golden-headed Quetzal and Smoke-colored Pewee (we saw it later).
Smoke-colored Pewee
After a while, we started to see some mixed flocks of tanagers... but first a surprise for us.  Rafael found a pair of big woodpeckers downhill.  The expected species at that elevation was Powerful Woodpecker; however, a quick glimpse proved them to be a pair of Crimson-bellied Woodpeckers!  I don't know how, but Rafael got a single shot of his nemesis!
Crimson-bellied Woodpecker
I was relieved. The previous day I observed a pair of this species while walking the trails of the station with our guide Christian... Rafael stayed at the cabin.  That's an unofficial rule of birding: DO NOT quit the group while birding... your nemesis WILL show up!  I guess some good birding karma was with us.  Since then, everything was a bonus... colorful ones!
Golden Tanager
Flame-faced Tanager 
Rufous-throated Tanager
As you can see, we saw Golden, Flame-faced and Rufous-throated Tanagers feeding in some fruits, plus Glistening-green, Beryl-spangled, Golden-naped, Silver-throated, Blue-gray, Palm, White-shouldered and Flame-rumped Tanagers, Blue-winged and Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers, Tricolored Brush-Finch, Montane Woodcreepers and this male Black-and-white Becard.
Black-and-white Becard
We also saw some bigger species, like Maroon-tailed (Chocó) Parakeet, Chocó and Black-madibled Toucans and Pale-mandibled Aracari.  The last one is considered a subspecies of the widespread Collared Aracari; however, you can see the differences:
Collared (Pale-madibled) Aracari
We spent two and a half terrific days at "Un Poco del Chocó" and are more than pleased with the staff, Nicole, Wilo and Christian, for all the attention they had with us.  We are looking forward for our next visit to "Un Poco del Chocó".

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