03 September 2011

Rare "rims" indeed...ECUADOR (31 August)

After returning from my native Britain, and spending a little time in Quito, I was desperate to get back in the field, birding in the Andes. A generously lent car to use (thanks Iain), and another birder desperate to get back in the field, Andrew Spencer, led to a plan hatched to return to the La Bonita Road that skirts the Colombian border. Since I last went there a few exciting new discoveries had been made in the area: the very rarely seen White-rimmed Brush-Finch had been discovered there, and a "new" road to la Sofia had been "discovered" and yielded a first for Ecuador, Yellow-throated Brush-Finch for the discoverer. Clearly there was much on offer up there near the frontier with Colombia. Fruthermore, there was a grudge I needed to settle with the local Bicolored Antpitta. This largely Colombian species just creeps over the border into Ecuador there (Colombia can actually be seen looming just across the valley from the road), and I had tried unsuccessfully two years ago to see it there . So desperation to get back in the field, a car to ensure we can, exciting new discoveries to chase after, and old scores to settle...plenty of reasons to visit the province of Succumbios in Ecuador.

Andrew and I spent a night in Santa Barbara and awoke to strong winds and heavy rain, not the usual weather pattern one associates with the tropics, even up here in the temperate zone of the Andes. We set out anyhow, searching "the spot" where the brush-finch had been seen a year previously and chasing unsuccessfully after calling Bicolored Antpittas, which would quickly turn mute thereafter! Indeed, the birding was so bad it was hard to believe we were in one of the World's megadiverse countries, and one that boasts one of the highest bird lists in on Earth. In fact, it got so bad that we even contemplated abandoning this area for another far, far away. However, after a hearty soup to warm the bones and rejuvenate us, we returned to the La Bonita Road where an unusual brush-finch call attracted our attention, and changed our fortune in an instant. A quick play of one of the few recordings of White-rimmed Brush-Finch available brought a pair of these beautiful, bespectacled birds right out in the open. Described as "rare and inconspicuous" and "shy", when they soon disappeared we thought that was that, a brief but nice view but who could expect more from a species with this reputation. However, we moved in closer, Andrew played a burst of playback, and these timid brush-finches defied their reputations, responding explosively, and regular came with in just a few feet of us, and often posed unashamedly in the open. Their devilish reputation was looking shakier all the time. Our decision to stay on for another night in Santa Barbara was looking better all the time!

Great views, of a great lifer...


Unknown said...

Nice shot. They really do look like they're wearing glasses:)

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Great story and so glad that you all were able to catch a few close glimpses and have something to share. What a great looking chap, this bird is too, looking like it is wearing white rimed glasses alright~

JRandSue said...

Fantastic to see,lovely colouring.
Love your Header Sam.