19 June 2011

Cloudforest Tales...ECUADOR (18 June)

Desperate to get out of the city and into the jungle I caught a ride over to Tandayapa Bird Lodge and spent a very enjoyable five hours on the trails.

I walked in from the secondary forest surrounding the lodge (putting to flight a Slate-throated Whitestart from near ground level that led me to its tiny nest), quickly into the primary cloudforest and soon after was rewarded with a beautiful Rufous-breasted Antthrush strutting, chicken-like, across the trail. It had been an age since I had seen this cloudforest denizen and it was good to see this "old friend" again. I had only just had the chance to take in this furtive bird when some loud staccato calls coming from my right led me to a navy-dressed Beautiful Jay (just one of several "beautiful" jay species in the valley). An often difficult local specialty (confined to this Choco region).

I continued along the Potoo Trail with little action, and so turned up the Antpitta Trail. No sign of any antpittas but a flurry of activity in the understorey brought views of the common Three-striped Warbler, and the less common Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant. Walking slowly on I was stopped in my tracks by a large movement overhead, and I turned my eye to the large green form of an Olivaceous Piha plucking fruits from high in the trees. All too soon it glanced down at me and fled the scene. As I had been watching this mute cotinga (it hardly ever calls) I was vaguely aware of some frog-like noises behind me. With the piha wiped from my attention I noticed these more clearly and realized that several of the male Golden-winged Manakins that hold court in this area were in the midst of display. I searched for a while and finally found this black-and-gold gem perched in the shady understorey, which it brought instant color to when it stretched out its wing revealing a large flash of yellow.

Continuing up the trail and merging onto the Nunbird Trail it wound up, getting steeper, and the forest fell silent save for the odd Crested Quetzal that taunted me regularly but remained steadfastly hidden from view. Eventually with little activity after the mornings flurry I began my journey back and soon caught a movement in the corner of my eye which trained me onto a large ceropia tree bearing fruit that had attracted four Toucan Barbets to gorge on its crop.

All too soon I was back at the lodge reflecting on a wonderful morning in Tandayapa's cloudforest with some top draw sightings. Although I decided to check in at the Lower Deck before I was finished as I heard some evidence of action coming from that direction. So I walked on up, passing the docile female Andean Cock-of-the-rock as I did so (that is nesting on the side of the building right now). Once up "on deck" a feeding flock was clearly passing through that yielded the largest woodcreeper in the valley: Strong-billed Woodcreeper hugging a trunk nearby, and the most colorful woodpecker in the valley, with a pair of feisty Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers. Some nervous excitement in the trees further back drew me to a feeding flock that also held the badly named Metallic-green Tanager. I am not sure quite how you describe the color of the green but it is far from metallic! All this and I failed to mention the continuing nesting pair of Golden-headed Quetzals that fuss around their cavity close to the lodge.

I feel lucky to live so near a treasured piece of Andean forest that can bring me such sights whenever I wish!

No comments: