23 December 2012

Rosy Day in the Andes...ECUADOR (14 Dec)

Having enjoyed the paramo, above the treeline in the Andes, and the temperate and subtropical forests below that, it was time to drop further, into the Andean Foothills around the reserve of Mashpi. This particular area has risen to prominence as a hotbed for some rare and local Choco endemics, and has therefore developed into a "standard" stop on tours for endemic-hunters. The unusually rich and moist forest here is often draped in thick mist and cloud, making visibility difficult, but that is just the reason so many of these rare species are there. However, we were blessed on this day as we had good weather, and even better birds. A reserve has recently been set up in the area and a private lodge built, which is extremely expensive and excludes all but the most affluent people from staying there. Luckily, as this day proved, many (if not all) of the best birds can be found outside of the fenced property. 

The first of our targets to fall was Moss-backed Tanager, a species we were to see repeatedly and well throughout our day there. This must be the Moss-backed Tanager capital of the world, and this species is now genuinely expected at Mashpi. A fleeting moment with an Indigo Flowerpiercer frustrated for a while, but was more than compensated for later when we watched another feeding low in some flowers for 10 minutes. By the end of the day we had seen one or two more too. Shortly after the flowerpiercer (another Choco endemic and target), was in the bag, we nailed another of the specialties with the firs of four Orange-breasted Fruiteaters for the day, which always takes your breath away when you catch sight of a male and his gaudy breast that lends the birds its name. In between these sightings we enjoyed another Toucan Barbet for the tour, and also found another local specialty, the Pacific Tuftedcheek, which suitably had it cheeks puffed out. Sifting through flocks led us to another cool tanager, which from the name alone gives you the idea, the Glistening-green Tanager literally glows emerald green. The final of the many specialties we were to see that day was the most dapper of them all. Having the Tandayapa Bird Lodge volunteer James Harold Wickham along with us proved a boon for us as he is something of a "solitaire magnet" (this reputation comes from the last time we birded together and enjoyed Rufous-brown Solitaire and Black Solitaire within feet of each other in quick succession, AND from the fact that a few days later he found the first Black Solitaire at Tandayapa Bird Lodge for years!); and true to form up popped a Black Solitaire in front of him and he drew us all to this spiffy bird.

It was quite the day, splendid weather, lots of rare and local species, and a bunch of others in a supporting cast that included Broad-billed Motmot, Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Velvet-purple Coronet & more! However, perhaps the day will be best remembered for one of the late arrivals on the day: a group of delectable Rose-faced Parrots feasting on bananas-not good for the local farmer I am sure, but fantastic for us, we lapped them up!

No comments: