10 August 2009

A Tale of Two Antpittas…(NW Ecuador): August 2009

Giant Antpitta is a very rare species that in recent years, with the advent of Angel Paz’s “antpitta farm”, Paz de las Aves, has become “gettable” as he has habituated several of them there. One of the Giant Antpittas at his site has been reliable (on and off) for the last 4 years and he has named that individual Maria. Away from there however, the bird remains extremely difficult to see or even hear, and encounters are very rare.

These photos were taken on a recent short “Introtour” of northwest Ecuador, with a group of seven people based out of Tandayapa Lodge. One of the biggest surprises of the tour was when we dropped in to check out the hummingbird feeders at Bellavista Lodge (that held Collared Inca and Gorgeted Sunangel and others), just up the valley from Tandayapa Lodge, and one of the group Harvey comes to me with the question “what is this bird?” and then proceeded to show me a full frame shot of a Giant Antpitta. This does not happen everyday! I frantically asked him where he had seen the bird and pretty soon we were all gathered around the public toilets while a very bold, fearless Giant Antpitta bounced around on the path beside us. Superb, and a very nice surprise. I since found out this particular bird has been visiting the lodge every day over the past month for no apparent reason. Someone did throw some rice out for it while we were there, although unsurprisingly this insectivorous bird showed absolutely no interest in it!

The bottom bird is the Bellavista bird, photographed on August 3rd. The top photo is “Old Faithful” Maria, Angel’s most reliable Giant Antpitta, shot at Paz de las Aves just a couple of days later on August 6.

It seems there has never been a better time to try and get this very rare species on your list.

01 August 2009

The Long Arm of the “Antpitta Whisperer” stretches far and wide…(E Ecuador): July 29 & 30, 2009

When a farmer near Mindo (Angel Paz) begun inadvertently feeding a strange bird (the rare Giant Antpitta) that hopped along the trail with him while he was building a new trail, few birders could have seen the far reaching consequences just a few short years later. He thus began a trend of antpitta feeding throughout this rich birding country. Antpittas are ordinarily shy and downright difficult creatures to see, and Angel’s innovative methods in trying to habituate several of his own west slope birds have now been replicated at other bird reserves in Ecuador, including Tapichalaca in the south (where the ultra rare Jocotoco Antpitta is now subsequently very “gettable”), and here on the eastern side of the Andes at both Guango and San Isidro Lodges. On a short whistlestop tour of the highlands on the east side of the Andes we visited both of these quaint lodges and experienced their own antpittas coming in for the feast. At Guango we had a very confiding Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (see bottom photo), and better still at San Isidro the ultra-shy White-bellied Antpitta (see top photo) did a nice turn of its own. It’s so much easier to see them like this! Also around San Isidro we managed to see a pair of Black-chested Fruiteaters, a number of Bluish Flowerpiercers, and Handsome, Rufous-breasted and Pale-edged Flycatchers among others.