30 December 2010

El Cajas Part III...If you go down to the woods today...ECUADOR 19 Dec '10

Polylepis trees are some of the highest growing trees on Earth, growing well above the treeline in the Andes, and often surrounded by paramos, or high Andean grasslands. These distinctive, flaky, red-barked trees often seem devoid of life. Being well above 3000m, or even near 4000m, there is less life up there then at lower climes. However, this very special, and fast-disappearing habitat, is home to some very special Andean bird species. The remainder of our short time in El Cajas NP was about chasing down these specialties. The polylepis had been good to us so far-yielding my nemesis bush-tyrant after all, but now we were after the "nuthatch of the polylepis", actually a kind of tanager that does a good nuthatch impression, the superb Giant Conebill. However, before we tracked that one down, another blue vision was seen creeping through the polylepis, several Tit-like Dacnis, the female of which is pictured here (top photo).

Settling down at another polylepis patch for lunch, my sandwich was only halfway towards my mouth when a blue bird with a burnt red breast caught my eye that was creeping slowly, and deliberately up a flaky polylepis trunk, that had me dropping my lunch, and raising my bins: GIANT CONEBILL! (bottom photo) Lunch was abandoned all round, and after a few nervous moments while they melted back into the woods, we then lured them back out with a little playback, that brought these smashing conebills right into the tree overhead where they looked angrily down at us grinning back at them! The only other disturbance during lunch was to admire a male Ecuadorian Hillstar probing his beloved orange chuquiraga flowers, before we had to head to Guayaquil for the end of the tour (stopping momentarily for a Carunculated Caracara on our way out of the park).

Next up (after a brief rest for Christmas in Quito), was a venture to Yankuam Lodge in the far southeast of Ecuador, in the shadow of Peru, for some rare and little seen birds...

1 comment:

Lee Dingain said...

Really nice shot of the Tit-like Dacnis!!