21 March 2010

Papallacta (E Ecuador): 21 March 2010

Just a quick interlude from giving the daily highlights on a recent Andes Introtour, to upload today's birding adventure... Having finished a short tour yesterday, and now on "vacation" Nick Athanas and I decided to head to Papallacta in eastern Ecuador for a break from city life in Quito. The pass at Papallacta is at a heady 4,000m and so can often be cloaked in cloud and is prone to cold, wet and frankly horrible weather. Therefore as we approached the area and saw dark clouds gathering our hopes for the day were not high. Remaining lower down for a while as a result we found a shrub laden with red flowers that was buzzing with highland hummers: first a Shining Sunbeam attempted to stand guard, although had its hand full in trying to fight off regular visits from several awesome Rainbow-bearded Thornbills, Viridian Metaltails, and even a Golden-breasted Puffleg dropped in for a time.

Finally we pushed on into the paramo grasslands that swathe the scenic hillsides around the mountain pass. This area bought us some of the classic highland birds like Andean Tit-Spinetail (bottom photo), a mixed group of cinclodes, that held both the recently recognized Chestnut-winged Cinclodes (just very recently split from Bar-winged), and the distinctly butcher Stout-billed Cinclodes too. Some chuquiragua blooms also lured in an Ecuadorian Hillstar briefly.

However, the days highlight came in an area of elfin forest near the timberline, where as we crept in to try and find a calling Crescent-faced Antpitta (painful miss), Nick caught a shuffling movement on a wet mossy branch beside us that led us to this stunning Ocellated Tapaculo that shuffled clumsily around us for what seemed like an eternity. Exemplary performance. I am still reeling from the fantastic run I seem to be having with this often tricky species of late, my fourth sighting this year!


Lee Dingain said...

Your Ocellated Tapaculo photos are really quite annoying!

Sam Woods said...

I took you to see the bird, I mean what more can a friend do!!!