Posts Tagged ‘Strong-billed Woodcreeper’

“Baby?” I was talking to the Moss-backed Tanager and he hopped onto the banana that I was holding in my hand. I didn’t realize it happened like that until I watched the video. But, I wasn’t surprised because I frequently talk to birds. It was my third morning in Ecuador on my Neblina Forest birding tour with Xavier Munoz and we were at Reserva Amagusa, about as close to heaven as a birder can get. The bird on my hand at the beginning of the video is a Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager.

There are not enough superlatives to adequately describe this place. We never even made it to the trails because the feeders were amazing and I was having so much fun. We saw species here that we did not see anywhere else, including #1 on my most-wanted list, Glistening-green Tanager. I would have been happy with one of these gorgeous birds, but we got an entire family and even watched the parents feed their babies.

The pretty little Rufous-throated Tanagers, another species that we did not see anywhere else, quickly became a favorite.

Have I mentioned that I love tanagers? Here are a few more beauties we enjoyed seeing at Amagusa – Golden, Golden-naped, and Flame-faced Tanagers. A Flame-faced Tanager ate from my hand in addition to the birds featured in the video.

I was also happy to see Toucan Barbets again. I wondered if this was a pair, but they look alike. The male and female Red-headed Barbet look quite different. These musings sent me on another quest for information and I learned some fascinating things about this iconic bird of the cloud forest. First, Red-headed Barbet is a member of the New World barbet family (Capitonidae), but the Toucan Barbet belongs to a different family (Semnornithidae) that may be more closely related to toucans. The sexes are the same except that the male has an “erectile black tuft on the nape.” Yeah, I didn’t notice that detail or lack thereof on either bird. These barbets may start their day singing a duet between the male and female before foraging for 12 hours. Also fascinating is that Toucan Barbets are cooperative nesters with offspring from previous years sticking around to help the parents care for their younger siblings. This does not occur in other neotropical barbets.

We spent a little time birding along quiet roads in the afternoons. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful Ecuadorian landscape.

The roadsides were filled with lush vegetation like this.

One afternoon, we had a very special treat. Xavier has friends everywhere and one alerted him to this magnificent bird, a Lyre-tailed Nightar, roosting in a steep wooded hill by the side of the road in a nearby small town. The spectacular white-tipped tail feathers of the male are over two feet long! He is well-camouflaged, though, and it would have been hard to spot the bird from the road without the white tips to the tail. This is not a common bird, so we were lucky to see it.

Each of our three nights at Sachatamia, we got back to the lodge early enough for some time at the feeders. I have seen Collared Aracari many times, but they are a cool bird and always fun to see.

Watching the many hummingbirds was fun, too, although I found most of them challenging to photograph. I was happy if I just got something interesting like this Fawn-breasted Brilliant trying to protect its feeder from a Brown Violetear.

Just like at home, squirrels loved the bird feeders, but the Red-tailed Squirrels did not seem as aggressive as our Eastern Gray Squirrels. A little research on these two species indicated that my impression was right. Red-tailed Squirrels are solitary and quiet; Eastern Gray Squirrels are described as aggressive and active.

I was a little sad when our stay at Sachatamia came to an end early on the morning of April 23. I loved the beautiful lodge with the wonderful feeders, good food including my favorite drinks and desserts of the trip, and the kind people who worked there. On one occasion it was raining when we returned to the lodge and a guy ran out to the car with an umbrella to greet me.

More adventures awaited on the other side of the Andes, but first we had one more stop in the area northwest of Quito. The Birdwatcher’s House is aptly named. It is a beautiful little lodge created by a birder for birders. Visitors may also visit the blinds and gardens during the day. It was here that I had my first experience with what I call moth blinds. The blind here is a traditional structure with a narrow window along the length and plastic chairs inside. Two large white sheets are placed at right angles to the blind about 40-50 feet apart. In between the sheets is a natural area with logs and low vegetation. Lights directed towards the sheets are left on all night. At dawn, this creates magic for birders when normally shy birds can be observed as they come for a breakfast of yummy moths. Below, a Strong-billed Woodcreeper plucks a month from the sheet. We also observed several species that are normally very difficult to see including Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Uniform Antshrike, and Streak-capped Treehunter.

After the “Moths for Breakfast” show, we spent some time watching the hummingbird and banana feeders. In addition to the five life birds that I got at the moth blinds, I also got my lifer Blue-capped Tanager. I love its cute yellow “pants.”

My favorite bird of the morning was another lifer, a spectacular Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan. eBird summarizes it as “Extraordinary and iconic toucan of Andean cloud forest in northwestern Ecuador, just barely reaching southwestern Colombia.” The Birdwatcher’s House is probably the best location to see this bird so well. The photo below was taken with my camera, but I also have cell phone photos that are nearly as good.

It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the Chocó cloud forest. We left The Birdwatcher’s House and started driving east towards Papallacta Pass.

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I really liked Sachatamia Lodge, but I think that dinner the second night made me sick. They tried to accommodate my request for low-carb meals by serving me asparagus in a rich cream sauce instead of the spaghetti main course. I had diarrhea that night which forced me to stay at the lodge the next morning while the others went to see the Long-wattled Umbrellabird.

Sachatamia Lodge

The bird feeding area at Sachatamia Lodge. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

I had tea and crackers, got some extra sleep, and spent a couple of hours alone at the feeders. I loved the luxury of indulging in long lingering looks at the gorgeous tanagers. I also saw a just-fledged Buff-throated Saltator right in front of the entrance to the lodge.

Buff-throated Saltator

Buff-throated Saltator fledgling

Buff-throated Saltator and

Buff-throated Saltator and Blue-gray Tanager

Blue-gray Tanager

Blue-gray Tanager

Golden Tanager

Golden Tanager

Dusky Bush-Tanager

Dusky Bush-Tanager

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

The rest of the group returned for lunch and Jeannie took this photo of the view from the lodge.

View from Sachatamia Lodge

The view from Sachatamia Lodge

Jeannie got photos of Golden-naped Tanagers and hummingbirds, too.

Golden-naped Tanagers

Golden-naped Tanagers. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

Violet-tailed Sylph (female)

Violet-tailed Sylph (female). Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

Booted Racket-tail

Booted Racket-tail. My favorite hummer of the trip! Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

White-necked Jacobin

White-necked Jacobin. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

That afternoon we headed to San Jorge de Tandayapa Lodge where we spent the night after birding the area.

Birding in the Tandayapa Valley

Birding in the Tandayapa Valley. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

Dinner at San Jorge de Tandayapa Lodge

Dinner at San Jorge de Tandayapa Lodge. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

Day five brought more wonderful birds in the Tandayapa upper valley, including this Powerful Woodpecker and the hummingbirds below.

Powerful Woodpecker

Powerful Woodpecker. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

Collared Inca

Collared Inca. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

Gorgeted Sunangel

Gorgeted Sunangel. Photo by Jeannie Mitchell.

We did not see many butterflies during any part of the trip, but there were a few like this beauty.


Photo by Jeannie Mitchell


Photo by Jeannie Mitchell


Photo by Jeannie Mitchell

The drive back to Quito for the night was quite interesting. While searching for a Giant Hummingbird, we met these two girls in a small village. The oldest girl appeared to offer us (or just show?) a bird nest with an egg in it. Ted, fluent in Spanish, taught Jeannie how to say “no más nidos” (no more nests) which she sweetly said to the girls. Jeannie then gave them a small toy that she had just bought and the girls appeared to put the nest back where they found it.

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