28 November 2009

Cartoon Hummers and Highland Tanagers...(Yanacocha, NW Ecuador): November 2009

The first day of our Tropical Birding whirlwind tour around NW Ecuador hunting especially the regional endemics of the Choco, included a visit to Yanacocha a temperate reserve on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador's long, thin capital city. The reserve is famous for its hummingbirds, and particularly for the very rare Black-breasted Puffleg that all too rarely puts in an appearance there. We did not see that one (it has now been four barren years since my last sighting!), but we did pick up many, many other highland hummers, including the frankly ridiculous Sword-billed Hummingbird (see top photo), and Buff-winged Starfrontlet (see middle photo), in addition to many Sapphire-vented Pufflegs (see bottom photo), a few Golden-breasted Pufflegs, and a lone Mountain Velvetbreast. On the way to the reserve we also picked up the well-endowed Black-tailed Trainbearer, with its own impossinbly long appendage (this one being its tail). Away from the hummers Yanacocha brought us a bevy of colorful tanagers, with the Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager being the most numerous in the highland flocks that also produced both Hooded & Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers too.

For our usual late afternoon finale en-route to
Tandayapa Lodge we made some stops along the scenic Alambi Valley, where the rushing Andean river was home to several White-capped Dippers, and the riverside bamboo also held a fine Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant. They were all good of course, but it was not until the late afternoon, when we found two of the most stunning birds in the region, with firstly up to four bright scarlet male Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in the throws of their cllumsy displays across the other side of the valley. The finishing flurry was provided though by our first Choco endemic of the trip, when we made an emergency stop for a party of noisy, navy-blue Beautiful Jays. A beautiful end to a beautiful day, when we had seen some spectacular Andean vistas, superb hummers and much, much more besides. I hope for more of the same on my next tour to the area starting tomorrow...

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