07 February 2013

At the frontier...ECUADOR (20 Jan)

Moving on from Tapichalaca we undertook a monster long drive to get to our next spot-Yankuam Lodge, in extreme southeast Ecuador, within an area that casts shadows into Peru. The drive was made worse due to a recent landslide meaning we were diverted for one section of it, although that did yield us a pair of Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dippers as compensation.

At Yankuam the real prize is the rare and beautiful Orange-throated Tanager, for which this is the only reliable site in the World. However, on this tour Yankuam offers so much more, as we dipped our toe into the foothills of the east slope for the first time. As well as some cool foothill species the area holds a number of Amazonian birds that just creep into the Andes in this area. It was an exciting first morning there, when the activity was literally constant (it was genuinely difficult to make it back for lunch), and almost everything in our bins was new. We started well with a Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher, which was followed not long after by the striking Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher. The sound of an Orange-throated Tanager, and the sight of a flock moving at full speed overhead, had us excitedly scanning for that beauty. Unfortunately, despite adding many new birds within the flock, including the considerably less beautiful Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner, the tanager went unseen. We slowly worked our way along the road picking up new bird after new bird, including common fare like Paradise and Green-and-gold Tanagers, and even Yellow-backed Tanagers. After an audio duel we all finally managed looks at one of the special birds of the area, the tiny White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, only recently added to the Ecuador country list at this site. The same area yielded a clear look at the smart Hairy-crested Antbird, which revealed it to have a brown crest, unlike the other birds in Ecuador of the white-crested race, these appeared like the brunneiceps race of Peru. On the way back to lunch we were admiring a group of Turquoise Tanagers, when conveniently a Striolated Puffbird landed slap bang in the scope along side them.

Although it was a great day for birds, it was not a great day for bird photography, and so here are some of the frogs that the roadside ditches at Yankuam produced, and an image of their rather odd bridge which we had to cross to get into the birding areas.

More frantic searches for the Orange-throated Tanager in the afternoon yielded none, but did give us a very nice Purplish Jacamar as ample compensation. The next day was to be our final fling for the tanager before we moved onto Copalinga, near Podocarpus National Park....

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