01 March 2009

Home of the Jocotoco… (Tapichalaca, Ecuador): 13 – 14 February 2009

Our time in the now world famous Tapichalaca reserve (c.2400m), on the edge of the vast Podocarpus NP in Zamora-chinchipe province was one of the undoubted high points of the trip. Even on the first day with the light beginning to wane a pair of Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucans made a late guest star appearance right beside the lodge entrance. Our full day in the reserve was just magic though. The reserve is famed as it was the site of the original discovery of the fabled Jocotoco Antpitta, a very distinctive bird that was new to science as recently as 1997. Despite subsequent extensive searches the bird remains rare and poorly known. However, in spite of this due to the efforts of a local ranger who has been trained by the Antpitta Whisperer of Pichincha, Angel Paz, in the ways of habituating antpittas, this formerly almost mythical species is now straightforward and easy to see on a daily basis. Just to prove this point we made our way to the Jocotoco Knoll/feeding station and were greeted by the site of an immature bird and an adult awaiting us on the trail as we strolled up. We then settled into the seats and watched in amazement as three to four birds hopped around our feet and gorged on especially collected worms. A surreal and superb experience.

This day was a red letter day for the tour as we racked up some great species, including Chusquea Tapaculo, Orange-banded Flycatcher, Plushcap, Black-capped Hemispingus, Slate-crowned Antpitta, and Black-throated Tody-Tyrant. Late in the morning we heard one of the most evocative songs of the temperate zone, when the bubbling call of the Barred Antthrush was heard emanating from the bamboo, and eventually after a protracted game of cat and mouse we finally clapped eyes on this cool montane bird slinking through the undergrowth.

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