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Posts Tagged ‘Lined Tanager’

Going to Ecuador was an impulsive decision, but that’s how most of my trips start. For a year, I knew that I wouldn’t travel until I was vaccinated for Covid-19 and I didn’t make any plans. But, then after I was fully vaccinated, the travel bug suddenly hit me hard. The next thing I knew I was planning a private trip with Xavier Munoz of Neblina Forest Birding Tours. After exchanging a few email messages, we had an itinerary and I bought plane tickets.

My flights went smoothly and after a very long day, I arrived in Quito at 9:30 pm on April 19. Xavier and his son, Francisco, who would be our driver for the trip, met me at the airport and whisked me off to Puembo Birding Garden (PBG), a lovely little hotel surrounded by a natural garden, where I would stay on my first night. After a few hours sleep, I had coffee and breakfast and got ready to leave. I was relieved that Xavier was a bit late so that I had time for some birding. I started the day with two life birds, Saffron Finch and Scrub Tanager (pictured below), in the lovely PBG garden. Later I learned that Xavier wasn’t late at all; my phone had not adjusted to the local time as I’d expected and it was an hour ahead.

Life bird #3 appeared immediately after we left PBG, three Croaking Ground Doves near the road. We stopped the car to get out for a good look and I even heard one croaking!  

Xavier had known that I would be tired and planned the perfect first day with stops at multiple locations with feeders as we worked our way northwest towards Sachatamia Lodge. The day was filled with hummingbirds and tanagers. I had seen most of these species on my trip to Ecuador in 2013, but I didn’t have many photos from that trip, so a lot of birds felt like lifers. I frequently joke that when you have a bad memory, every time is like the first time. I found that I just didn’t remember the birds that I had not photographed on my earlier trip like this gorgeous Blue-necked Tanager; it felt like a life bird.

I especially enjoyed our visit to Mindoloma Bird Lodge where we were so close to a Crimson-rumped Toucanet that I got good photos and a video with my cell phone.

The male and female Red-headed Barbets at Alambi Cloud Forest Lodge were also nice to see.

A hummingbird that we saw frequently in the area west of the Andes was the pretty Andean Emerald.

We arrived at Sachatamia Lodge in time for some late afternoon birding. I loved Sachatamia because they had hummingbird feeders AND banana feeders. In Panama and Costa Rica they feed various fruits, but in Ecuador I saw only bananas and only on the west side of the Andes. A few of the birds enjoying bananas that afternoon at Sachatamia were the Flame-faced, White-lined, and Flame-rumped Tanagers and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager below.

A couple of Agoutis also came to forage under the feeders. I have always enjoyed all wildlife, but since I created an iNaturalist account last year (username shelleydee), I’m learning more. Agoutis are common in middle America and I thought they was a species of rodent, but nope. The name agouti refers to about a dozen species of rodents of the genus Dasyprocta, separated mainly by geographic range. All of those that I have seen are Central American Agouti, which ranges from southern Mexico to northwest Ecuador.

At dinner the first night, we realized that although I had been to Refugio Paz de las Aves on my 2013 trip, Angel currently had several cooperative antpittas that I had not seen. Xavier quickly arranged a visit for the next morning and we arrived a little after 7:00 AM.

Antpitta #1 was the famous Maria (probably the 6th generation since the original Maria), the Giant Antpitta that started Angel Paz on the way to worldwide fame among birders. Prior to 2005, Angel was logging the cloud forest on family property and hunting birds on the land for food. A Cock-of-the-Rock lek was discovered on the property and Angel began charging birders to see the birds. One day a normally secretive and elusive Giant Antpitta was spied eating worms on the path before it quickly disappeared into the forest. A friend suggested that birders would pay even more to see the antpitta. With tremendous patience, Angel was finally able to get the bird to take worms from him and even come when called. Since then, thousands of birders have been delighted to hear Angel call out “Maria! Maria! Venga venga venga!” It’s a major ecotourism success story with wins for everyone. Angel and his family have enough income for a decent life, the birds and their habitat are protected, and birders are thrilled to see these special birds. Noah Strycker visited Angel Paz during his world big year in 2015 and tells the story in more detail here Day 72: Birding With a Local Legend.

The previous day’s vacation from physical exertion was over. We climbed moderately strenuous trails into the rainforest to see the antpittas. The second one of the morning, a Yellow-breasted Antpitta, was even more shy than Maria. I was told that she had babies to feed since she was gathering worms rather than gobbling them up on the spot.

We had a little break at the banana feeders where I got another life bird, Toucan Barbet, one of over 50 endemic bird species of the Chocó bioregion of western Colombia and Ecuador. The Chocó bioregion is one of the most species rich areas on earth, supporting a total of over 900 species of birds.

Next we went in search of Ochre-breasted Antpitta, the only one of the day’s antpittas that I had seen in 2013. Angel names all of the birds that he feeds and he calls this one Shakira because it does a little dance, which was quite adorable.

The last antpitta of the morning was Moustached Antpitta. This one did not come when called. Finally, Angel’s brother found the female on the nest and set up a scope a respectful distance away. The half dozen birders took turns quietly walking up the hill to the scope, which was 30 feet or so off the path in the forest, to take a quick peek at the bird. I was last and just before it was my turn, Xavier saw another Moustached Antpitta on the other side of the trail giving us all a much better view.

These fantastic birds were enough to make this a wonderful morning, but they were not all it included. Snacks were served after viewing the antpittas, including the most delicious empanadas I’ve ever eaten. We had snacks at many of the places we visited; those at Refugio Paz de las Aves were the best.

There were a few butterflies in the garden and I was surprised to see a Monarch. Once again, submitting a sighting to iNaturalist sent me on a quest to learn more. Virtually everyone in eastern North America is familiar with “our” Monarch, a migratory butterfly that winters in Mexico. But, I had no idea that these migration super powers have led to the spread of the same Monarch species, Danaus plexippus, to Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Five non-migratory subspecies occur in the neotropical region with the nigrippus subspecies occurring on both sides of the Andes. No wonder the Monarch is the best-known and well-loved butterfly in the world! Xavier Munoz took the photograph below at Refugio Paz de las Aves on the day we visited.

Stay tuned, friends, for much more to come. This covers only the first two days of 14 full days of birding.

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