22 November 2012

Tandayapa Valley...ECUADOR (9 & 12 Nov)

My tour with the folks from the Cape Bird Club in South Africa continued, which I co-guided with fellow Tropical Birder Jose Illanes. The first part of the tour was based out of Tandayapa Bird Lodge, central to many key locations in the endemic rich Choco region of northwest Ecuador. We birded both the Upper Tandayapa Valley, where the flagship bird, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, was seen with ease, and the Lower Tandayapa Valley with its subtly different avifauna. Although, one of the other stars of the the upper zone of the valley, the endangered Tanager Finch, was much trickier than the aforementioned toucan, needing three attempts to track it down. Third time lucky though, when a wonderful pair of these oddballs was seen very well indeed during one late afternoon in the cloudforest. 

Other highlights included a polka-dotted Ocellated Tapaculo, which surprised us all by jumping up into full view when least expected, and we also found a Toucan Barbet or two, and a treetop pair of Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers, to add to the long list of Choco specialties we amassed on the tour. Some orchids were also in glorious bloom in the cloudforests up there, which made for good photo subjects and were very popular among the South Africans who boast quite a flora of their own in the Fynbos region of Southern Africa they originated from.

At Tandayapa Bird Lodge itself there were the usual long list of hummers buzzing around their constantly active feeders, with at least 14 species visiting in our time there, including the ever-popular Violet-tailed Sylph and Booted Racket-tail. The usual pair of tame Masked Trogons were also noted around the lodge (sometimes visible from the restaurant), and the regular female Andean Cock-of-the-rock had returned to nest again, ON the lodge! We also enjoyed extreme close-ups of Immaculate Antbirds picking off moths in front of the forest blind/hide, along with a White-throated Quail-Dove which paced around the festering compost heap there.

All in all a good few days at this long-established birding area....next up was a trip downslope to the foothills and lowlands of the Choco...

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