02 March 2009

Surfbirds on the Santa Elena…(Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador): 19 February 2009

The last few days involved our Pacific Coast extension, a combination of birding ‘arid’ coastal scrub on the Santa Elena Peninsula (in the newly designated Santa Elena province) for a special group of passerines and a host of shorebirds, with more birding in the deciduous woods of the Tumbesian realm. We began on the Santa Elena, where as with elsewhere areas that would normally and often appear arid were far from that in this wet year in Ecuador. A carpet of green covered this coastal peninsula that was packed with birds in the full throws of breeding. Crimson-breasted Finches were frequently heard ‘jangling’ from the tops of the bushes, and frequent parties of Parrot-billed Seedeaters were encountered. Other specialties included a Short-tailed Woodstar or two, some smartly-dressed Collared Warbling-finches, four or more Short-tailed Field-Tyrants (a strange ‘leggy’, ground-dwelling flycatcher), noisy Necklaced Spinetails, Tumbesian Tyrannulets, white-winged West Peruvian Doves, a glaring Pacific Pygmy-Owl, and a few ‘horny’ Grey-and-white Tyrannulets. The place was just alive with birds at the height of the breeding season, and just a quick burst of a pygmy-owl tape bought in almost all our target species in one fowl swoop. On one particular occasion all the main species (with the exception of the owl) were gathered around angrily scolding the unseen owl.

With time to kill before a steamy seafood soup in Salinas, we scoured the salt lagoons for wintering shorebirds from the north. Numbers were not high for many of the species, although one lagoon with around 500 or more Wilson’s Phalaropes was quite a sight. Other shorebirds included Wilson’s Plover, Stilt Sandpipers, and a group of three Surfbirds roosting on some rocks along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. A large pink number in the centre of the lagoon though was what most caught the eye, a lonely looking Chilean Flamingo still hanging on in the area. A roadside wire produced a Pearl Kite clinging onto a recently caught lizard.

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