17 March 2010

El Cajas to finish...(Ecuador): 18 Feb 2010

The final day of this short tour was spent amongst the magnificent scenery of the high Andes, in the national park of El Cajas, just outside the colonial city of Cuenca. It was another full on day, with a bounty of birds for us in this markedly different environment from what we had experienced previously. A foray into an area of cloud forest bought us a pair of Rufous Antpittas hopping boldly along a trail ahead of us, and an Andean Guan hiding out in the low trees.

As we ascended up towards the paramo grasslands that dominate this vast park, we made several roadside pit stops. First for an obliging Violet-throated Metaltail, then for an even more obliging Andean Tit-spinetail (third photo), in addition to our fifth and final antpitta of this 8 day trip-Tawny Antpitta (to add to Rufous, Jocotoco, Watkins's, Slate-crowned seen earlier). Up on the open paramo we found a pair of strutting Carunculated Caracaras, and a small group of Andean Lapwing.

However, the star performers were hiding out in the flaky red polylepis woodland. This tree is the highest growing of any in the world, and supports few birds. However, the ones it does support are very special indeed. First we found the tame, glowing blue Tit-like Dacnis working the woods at the edge of a scenic lake (fourth photo), and then a movement caught our eyes and we homed in on the nuthatch-like Giant Conebill gleaning from the trunk of a
polylepis. Try as I might I just could not get a shot. Then amazingly, after lunch we wandered into another polylepis patch and chanced upon another of these magical Andean birds. This one was way more helpful and my camera went into overdrive (top two photos). A great way to end this fast-paced, bird-packed, short circuit of the south.

1 comment:

Shorebirder said...

Looking Good, Looking Good!!