23 March 2010

Andes Custom Introtour Day 3 (Milpe, NW Ecuador): 27 Feb 2010

Our third day of this 6-day introduction to the wealth of birds in the Tandayapa region of NW Ecuador involved a venture down slope. A short drive down from Tandayapa Lodge brought us into the foothills of the Andes to Milpe, and with this significant change in altitude (dropping from 1750m to 1100m) came a whole swathe of new and exciting birds.

Road birding in this area was superb, with
4 species of toucan found within the forest patches along the Milpe road, including Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan (here at a much lower elevation than is normal for this subtropical species), and the endemic Choco Toucan and "target-chested" Pale-mandibled Aracari. Also just off the highway we found a Golden-headed Quetzal to add to the bonanza of birds easily seen from this dirt track. A late afternoon forray along the road also saw us manage to tape out several White-throated Crakes that hurried across the traffic-less road in response to tape (much to my and the groups surprise!), and get up close and personal with the wheatear-like MASKED WATER-TYRANT (top photo).

Such foothill forests are some of the richest in terms of boreal migrants, many of these "northern" species wintering at these altitudes in the Andes. On this day we bumped into an immature male American Redstart flitting around cecropias in the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation (MCF) sanctuary, fiery faced male Blackburnian Warblers were found in some of the mixed flocks roaming the area, and several Swainson's Thrushes were seen taking advantage of the fruit available in this tropical area during the boreal winter.

A short hike into the forest was necessary to pick up the sanctuary's most famous resident, the rusty, red-capped
Club-winged Manakin that were observed giving their strange and absorbing displays at the forest edge (see here for more information on this fantastic little manakin). Once we tore ourselves away from the "manakin show" we hung around the forest taking in the crazy mixed flock that was swirling around the reserve, that held all manner of tanagers, foliage-gleaners, woodcreepers, flycatchers, euphonias, and even a couple of the scarce and vividly colored Yellow-collared Chlorophoinia. In all 17 species of tanagers were recorded this day including the endemic Rufous-throated & Glistening-green Tanagers, striking Purple Honeycreeper, and the "Blackburnianesque" Flame-faced Tanager too (one of my favorite Andean tanagers). On top of that, 10 species of hummer were seen at the busy feeders by the sanctuary cafe, that pulled in the audacious Velvet-purple Coronet, the endemic White-whiskered Hermit, and the glistening, gem-like GREEN-CROWNED WOODNYMPH (bottom photo).

Next up was a venture to the exciting new birding spot of Mashpi, in the western foothills of the Andes...

No comments: