09 March 2012

Fun of the Flock (ECUADOR) 22 Feb.

We awoke in Guango Lodge to the sound of rain pouring down, although thankfully this was largely drowned out by the claming rushing sound of the Rio Guango below the lodge. I awoke specifically to a vociferous Turquoise Jay screaming-perhaps in protest at the rain-right outside my window. Sadly he vanished in the moment I reached for my camera!

So our initial morning walk behind the lodge had to be canceled, and so we set out a little later, when it was a little drier, although rain threatened the whole time. While we could not tempt Betty and her camera away from the myriad photo opps at the hummingbird feeders - this was to become a familiar theme - Laura and I went searching for non-hummingbirds. Walking the wide open track, created by the laying of an oil pipeline some years ago,it was typically quiet for long periods, punctuated by sudden bursts of activity as a massive feeding flock came through. Before we knew it we were in the midst of the flock and troubled by which way to look: left at the male Blackburnian Warbler showing the orange glow of breeding dress, or down in the brush at a family of Pale-naped Brush-Finches (below) that seemed completely unable to convince the juvenile in the group to keep within deep cover! A steady stream of birds came through the trees, with some like the Pearled Treerunners and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers preferring to forage within the wet mossy boughs of the canopy, while others like Slaty Brush-Finch, Black-capped Hemispingus, Canada Warbler, and Black-crested Warbler, although part of the same, mad feeding flock, preferring to stay in their own comfort zone: in the thick stands of chusquea bamboo carpeting the understorey. AGray-breasted Mountain-Toucan made all too brief appearance for my liking, although a noisy mob of Mountain Caciques popped up repeatedly to reveal their canary yellow rumps. The final flourish in the flock was provided by a pristine pair of Plushcaps, a deep maroon-breasted finch with a shining golden cap that was a late comer to proceedings, once much of the flock had worked its way down the hill. A quick check of the Rio Guango found it devoid of dippers, but a female Torrent Duck was seen riding the torrents as only they can do, a classic Andean scene.

Outside of the flock a pair of bold Powerful Woodpeckers appeared dramatically clasped to a sturdy mossy trunk, and on the way back to the lodge our first of many Masked Trogons made a startling appearance.

Back at the feeders, the usual suspects were there, such as Sword-billed Hummingbirds and Collared Incas, and also a Glowing Puffleg too came in a couple of times before vanishing back into the forest once more. My favorite hummer shot of the day though was this female Tyrian Metaltail (above) that revealed its bronzy tail to us well at the time...

Next up was a trip downslope into the subtropics of San Isidro...

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