11 October 2017

A Taste of Tandayapa (Ecuador)...4 Oct 2017

When a journalist come to visit, they rarely have time to stop for too long, so my objective for the day was to give him a taste, a big, bursting mouthful of a taste, of the joys of birding both the lower and upper Tandayapa Valley (which are quite different in the nature of birds found there)...
We started out in darkness, and with headlamps lit, walked into the forest surrounding Tandayapa Bird Lodge, to see what would come into the purpose built forest blind, best visited at the crack of dawn. We might have arrived a little before the crack, but with some patience the birds started showing up. The first one to creep into view was a Streak-capped Treehunter, furtively approaching then dropping down right in front of the hide to pick off some of the moths attracted by the nightlight alongside. The the jangling sound of warblers approacgung could be heard, with Russet-crowned and Three-striped Warblers being typically confiding, if hyper active (think American warblers on speed). Then, one of the other blind regulars turned up, and were as confiding as ever, a pair of Zeledon's Antbirds (formerly known as Immaculate Antbirds before taxonomists spliced that species in two); which appear rather like they are wearing blue eye shadow, as with many antbirds their eyes are surrounded by bare skin (in this case sky blue in colour). Slaty Antwren also betrayed its presence by calling to let us know it was coming, and a female was seen, and then a pair of Uniform Anthshrikes followed the same routine. 
Within 40 minutes of dawn, activity was waning and stomachs were rumbling, so we returned to the lodge for breakfast. Breakfast is not always an easy affair at Tandayapa though, as this is also the peak time for birds to come around the lodge picking off the various insects forms that have come to sit on the lodge and moth sheet during the night. On this day, the procession opened with the star species, a pair of Toucan Barbets, and also included the normally timid Rufous Motmot, giving the performance of a lifetime. Chestnut-capped and White-winged Brushfinches, were also seen on the fringes of the feeding areas. Somehow, in the midst of all of this avian activity, we squeezed in a breakfast, and then set off for the higher cloudforests in the upper Tandayapa Valley. We opened at a traditional spot for the rare Tanager Finch, and less predictably opened our visit there with a pair of Tanager Finches, which were rather easier than usual, and were a mighty first bird on site! The sublime really did turn into the ridiculous, when we next focused on an Ocellated Tapaculo that screamed at us (as they do), from the nearby hillside. I noticed, that rather fortuitously an indistinct trail snaked its way right towards the loud sound of the bird. This bird is very easy to hear (you would need to be near totally deaf to be able to miss the call of this bird within sight of you!), but can be exasperatingly difficult to put binoculars on. And that is exactly how it played out initially with mere glimpses of its polka-dotted form. But then we stepped off trail just a fraction, and the bird was there in full glory for all to see. Our second bird of the morning at this site; we were walking on water!
The rest of the morning up there was understandably not so outstanding, but with some effort, we finally tracked down one of its most famous residents, the endemic Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, which is daubed in so many colours it could have been designed for a clown (one of the non scary ones). Other finds included Streak-headed Antbird, Turquoise Jay, Masked Trogon, Green-and-black Fruiteater, and  4 more Toucan Barbets in the middle of all this. Finally, lunch beckoned, and we headed down the forested valley in readiness to eat, but were abruptly stopped in our tracks, when we noticed an impressive Barred Hawk staring down at us from above the car, where it lingered for longer than a sharp-eyed raptor would be expected to do...
With rain coming in with force in the afternoon, and having admired the hummingbird feeders at Tandayapa Lodge, we opted for birding undercover elsewhere, at the nearby San Tadeo feeders, which were buzzing with activity, and highlights included Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Flame-rumped, Black-capped, Golden-naped and Golden Tanagers. Meanwhile, a study of the hummingbird feeders brought regular interactions with Velvet-purple Coronets, Empress Brilliants, and even led us to a treetop Yellow-throated Toucan, yelping its heart out in the afternoon rain. A taste of Tandayapa finally came to a regretful close.

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