01 March 2009

El Empalme... (Ecuador): 8 February 2009

We then made our way south towards the frontier with Peru, staying close to the border in Macara. Before we hit that town though we had an hour and half birding the usually dry arid scrub and deciduous woodland of El Empalme along the road to Celica. The stark change in habitat from our morning venue was immediately obvious – huge ceiba trees and low scrub dominating the landscape. The scrubby habitat is good for some special Tumbesian birds, although proved challenging initially for us due to thick greenery covering what can often be open dead trees and scrub, making finding the skulkers within a little tricky. The first good bird was a male Black-and-white Tanager, that came up briefly in response to a Pacific Pygmy-owl tape, although chose just to show to me and not the two other people on the tour. After a lot of waiting around, with nothing but the odd Tumbes Hummingbird to show for it all, I spotted a couple of passerines perched in a tree, with glowing white heads, the White-headed Brush-finches we were after. I had just barely registered what they were, when they shot across the road and buried themselves in the scrub once more. Another ten minutes went by and finally one emerged to scold the pygmy-owl tape we were playing affording us the views we required. Not long after our final one of the ‘Tumbes trio’ we were looking for began calling up the hillside and we went off in pursuit of the Tumbes Sparrow. A quick burst of tape and the bird came screaming in and landed right next to us, a perfect finish to our afternoon.

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