08 January 2011

Hummingbird Royalty on the Tepui...ECUADOR (27 Dec '10)

This day was spent on the fantastic Tepui Trail, that leaves almost from the door of Yankuam Lodge. The reason for our visit there? It is home to many rare Ecuadorian species that are found largely only there in Ecuador and just over the border in Peru. I personally had five main targets on this intriguing trail: Bar-winged Wood-Wren, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Roraiman Flycatcher, Royal Sunangel, and Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant, all of which would be lifebirds, not bad after five years in country. The trail is steep and very tricky, with treacherous tree roots, and loose rocks creating a challenging route that is therefore rarely walked in this remote corner of Ecuador. Three hundred meters up the trail we ran into another male Zimmer's Antbird, and then things went real quite as we edged our way higher. We had the main objective of reaching the ridge-top that held the promise of a rare blue hummer, the Royal Sunangel. We were under the impression that this was at a substantial 1600m elevation (considering the starting point is a mere 840m this promised to be quite a climb for us). Unfortunately as we neared 1600m and there was no sign of the ridge top we discovered the ridge was actually over 1800m, and another steep climb lay in front of us! We stuck to the task though and were rewarded with four of my target birds. The first to fall was a Rufous-browed Tyrannulet that turned up at around 1600m near the upper camp, and then seven different Bar-winged Wood-Wrens were seen, including one very confiding bird (bottom photo). Pushing higher we eventually (some six or so hours later) reached the ridge top and collapsed in view of an intriguing looking set of red-and-yellow blooms, that as we'd hoped drew in first a male and then a female Royal Sunangel while we ate our lunch among the stunted shrubbrey up there. On the way down we found two more male sunangels (top photo), managed to get a great look at a Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant after it toyed with us for a while, and found a flock with a Vermilion Tanager glowing within. A memorable day with five lifers (that included a rather embarrassing "tart's tick"/nemesis bird: Northern White-crowned Tapaculo). The supposedly common Roraiman Flycatcher managed to avoid me all day, remaining unheard and unseen, meaning that someday soon I will have to return to the dreaded Tepui Trail!

Next up will be an early Jan visit to the high Andes of Antisana in Ecuador: Condors, caracaras and ibis...

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