After recently finishing with some Scottish-based birders in Eastern Ecuador, I had a quick turnaround, and was soon at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, over on the opposite, western, slope of the Andes; this time to guide a South African family for three days. Our first day opened with a dawntime meeting, and a visit to a local forest blind/hide. There were plenty of birds calling in the area, like Toucan Barbet, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Golden-headed Quetzal, and Andean Cock-of-the-rock, although those striking species remained unseen. The forest blind overlooks a compost pile, and also possesses a powerful light that attracts insects through the night, and therefore birds the following dawn. The first to appear was a Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch hopping through the gloom, and was followed by a clearer view of a Spotted Barbtail creeping up a mossy trunk; and it was not long before the reliable pair of Zeledon’s Antbirds also appeared, hopping around on the floor and low branches, with their characteristic tail wagging behavior being observed at length. The same trunk that hosted the barbtail, hosted another from the same family of Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers, when a Strong-billed Woodcreeper appeared suddenly there too. These birds were followed by regular visits by both Three-striped and Russet-crowned Warblers, a pair of Slaty Antwrens, and a lone female Uniform Antshrike. We returned to the lodge for breakfast at around 7am, noting Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden-crowned Flycatcher and Streak-capped Treehunter right around the lodge itself.
The remainder of the morning was spent in the Upper Tandayapa Valley, which quickly brought success, with a pair of Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans, a species from a group that is confined to the Andes of South America, and a species only shared with Colombia. The morning was fairly slow going outside of this, but we did get another cracker, in the form of a Grass-green Tanager moving through with one of those dizzying feeding flocks that the Andes is famed for.
After lunch back at the lodge, we took a trip out to San Tadeo in the afternoon, where we were hooked on a series of feeders; the fruit feeders were busy with birds, like Red-headed Barbets (both male and female), 1 confiding Toucan Barbet, several Black-capped Tanagers, a pair of Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers, and both Flame-faced and Golden-naped Tanagers too.
We had been hoping for the Metallic-green Tanager too; a rare species to find at feeders, and so hard to photograph, although strangely the species did not visit, in spite of the landowner’s insistence it is usually both regular and reliable! Down at the hummingbird feeders, we were graced with visits from regional specialties like Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, and Empress Brilliant among others. At dusk our try for Lyre-tailed Nightjar in the lower Tandayapa Valley failed completely with nothing heard, but we were still excited by the prospect of our upcoming visit to the foothills of the Andes, and the Milpe Bird Sanctuary, the next day…