10 January 2010

Raining Tanagers...(Macas area, Central Ecuador): January 9 - 10, 2010

A quick interlude from writing up my Xmas-New Year trip to the Amazon, to update with sightings from my last few days here in Ecuador. Nick Athanas, another Tropical Birding guide, and I decided to escape Quito for the weekend, and scout out the Riobamba-Macas Road, that passes through Sangay National Park. Our first day there was active with birds right from the temperate forest at the top end, down into the patchy foothill forest much lower down near Macas. Unfortunately though, the weather was not too kind on our first day (when we had the most bird activity), and we endured over 8 hours of heavy and persistent rain! Still in that time we managed to rack up 26 species of tanager between us. Proving that in Ecuador, even in harsh weather, anything is possible. Highlights among the tanagers were a pair of very showy Golden-crowned Tanagers (see top photo) in the temperate zone near the top end of the road, that also had some Black-backed Bush-Tanagers for company too. Lower down in the foothills we also got a very confiding pair of Blue-browed Tanagers, that really should have been photographed were it not for an extremely heavy bout of rain putting paid to that idea! Also in the temperate zone were a pair of approachable White-chinned Thistletails (see second photo), and other temperate flocks on our second day held a noisy party of Agile-Tit-Tyrants hanging out in a flock with a bunch of Citrine Warblers.

Lower down (sandwiched between the foothills and the temperate zone), in the
subtropics several productive flocks on our first day held Barred Becards, "teary-eyed" Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, gaudy Saffron-crowned Tanagers, several Variegated Bristle-Tyrants (a new Ecuador bird for me), and a few vocal Rufous-breasted Flycatchers. The subtropics also bought us a fine pair of Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatchers (see bottom photo). Most of this action came within our first rain-drenched day. The rain had us retreating to a welcome resort on the edge of Macas, where we birded the grounds late on, once the rain had finally abated. Highlights there included more tanagers (surprise, surprise), with the electric blue Black-faced Dacnis, the multicolored Guira Tanager, and a roaming group of Turquoise Tanagers too. Best of all though was a Spangled Coquette (a dinky hummingbird), that popped in to feed on some blossoms right near our room. All in all a good few days, although no big surprises that we had been secretly hoping for from our first jaunt into the area! My Xmas Amazon trip write up will follow again after this...

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