07 March 2012

Back in the Field! (ECUADOR): 21 Feb.

After a prolonged hiatus from the field, "wholed" up in cities, I got my first tour, and first birding of 2012...

I had been looking forward to this one for a while as it was to be with "old friends" and veterans of the High Island birding scene in Texas, Laura and Betty. We met as the sun began breaking the skyline in their Quito hotel, grabbed a cuppa (i.e. cup of tea), and were soon climbing up higher out of the already high capital of Quito (2800m/9185ft), into the high Andean grasslands around the base of Antisana Volcano.

Hummingbirds and tanagers were to be a big feature of the tour, and were serious targets for Betty and Laura respectively. However, our push for tanagers would have to wait for the next day, as little from that colorful group can be found at such high altitudes. Hummingbirds however, do, somehow eke out a living at these extreme altitudes (c.4000m/13,125ft). We found the largest of them all, the hard to fathom Giant Hummingbird, chasing another massive hummingbird away (a Great Sapphirewing) that dared to roam into it's territory. Streak-backed Canasteros and Many-striped Canasteros rummaged in the highland scrub too.

Climbing up onto the plateau we soon encountered up to four Andean Condors for the day, when a pair of whit-ruffed adults glided effortlessly overhead, and soon soared up to such high altitudes their massive shapes were completely engulfed by the powdery white clouds that loomed overhead. The plains were literally carpeted with Carunculated Caracaras prowling the plateau and digging for prey with their powerful claws. A conspicuous flock of Andean Gulls were disturbed from their rest as we drove past them, while a healthy flock of more than a dozen Black-faced Ibis "grazed" in the background, along with the ever-vociferous Andean Lapwings voicing their concern at our presence nearby. We ended our time in the shadow of the Antisana Volcano(that just managed to peek out from the clouds cloaking it summit for a short time), watching Andean Teals, Andean Coots, Andean Ruddy Ducks, and Silvery Grebes sheltering in the bay of a highland lake.

Later in the afternoon we traveled downslope to the quaint Guango Lodge, which promised hummingbirds aplenty, and the chance to explore the wet temperate forests that border the property...

1 comment:

john said...

Good to see a new post from you. I thought you must be locked up in a Mexican jail or something. Great photos.