20 December 2009

On the Flanks of Pichincha Once more...(NW Ecuador): December 15, 2009

Began a quick 5 day trip with friends from Texas around the NW Ecuador. Our whistle stop tour began as many do by exploring a highland site near to Ecuador's long thin capital, Quito. The site, Yanacocha, rests on the flanks of the Pichincha volcano that can be viewed from the capital, and is especially good for tanagers and hummingbirds. Mixed flocks along the "Inca Trail" produced some of the most spectacular of these, with both the striking Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, and scarce Black-chested Mountain-Tanager both putting in an appearance, along with the absurdly named Supercilaried Hemispingus (another distinctive highland tanager). However, before we got into them a bonus at the trail head was a very cooperative Rufous Antpitta that hopped in to check out my intrusive i-pod recording of its bouncing "falling ping-pong ball" song. At the feeders the action was constant and absorbing, never more so than when the peculiar Sword-billed Hummingbird made a "royal" entrance, displaying its remarkably long upswept bill. It also had a swathe of other highland hummers for company, including Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, Buff-winged Starfrontlets, and Tyrian Metaltails. The afternoon was spent birding our way along the forested Old Nono-Mindo Road, where we found a sprightly Black-crested Warbler (see photo), a perched on a spray-drenched boulder in the Alambi River, and the "riparian" White-capped DipperSlaty-backed Chat-Tyrant giving its high-pitched song from the streamside. Highlight along there though had to be our late afternoon visit to an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek site. We waicted for a time until the pig-like squeals and ugly squawks that floated across the valley towards us indicated the lek had sprung into action, and a little while later one of thee vermillion males flew onto an open branch where he remained in our scope, and indelliably printed in our memory for some time. At the end of the day we checked into Tandayapa Lodge where we hurriedly added 14 species of hummingbirds before the light failed and the hummers suddenly vanished for the night.

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