29 January 2013

Avian Procession...ECUADOR (14 Jan)

After our red letter arrival with the owl night before, it was hard to see how this can be topped right? Wrong; very wrong. The feeders at the Fundacion Jocotoco Jorupe reserve were on fire, and provided the perfect start to our day within this reserve. After a pre-dawn breakfast, myself, Pablo Cervantes (co-guiding with me), and the Houston Audubon Society group pulled up a chair, and watched the electric action unfold. Of course, one of the first birds to wander casually in was the abundant White-tipped Dove, of which 10 or so graced the feeding station. A Whooping Motmot was not far behind and glowed as he wolfed down the freshly laid out papaya. 

However, it was then the real stars showed up: the rare and normally shy Pale-browed Tinamou brazenly strolled out in the open, like tinamous are NOT supposed to do. It still showed signs of furtiveness whipping in and out of the surrounding forest to pick up corn. The procession of doves continued (white-tipped), when suddenly a couple of duller ones were in the midst and another shy rarity was on view: Ochre-bellied Dove, of which four turned up eventually, with a backdrop of Guayaquil Squirrels munching on corn. 

Others to show their faces at the feeders were a noisy mob of marauding Red-masked Parakeets, which were most amusing when they settled on the ground, begun munching corn and the clicking could be heard as their beaks cracked open the husks. All the while they were deadly silent bar this strange sound. 

Occasionally the rusty form of the Pacific Horneo homed into view, one of the most pleasantly common birds of southwest Ecuador.

There were even squabbles among the birds with a parakeet taking offence at a motmot that was perched on its favored fruits!  Arguably though the best looked in this choice crowd was a group of White-tailed Jays that came in for a while-resplendent in blue, white and black.

After the feeder frenzy had slowed, we took off into the woods for the morning to seek yet more birds special to this Tumbesian region, one of the most endemic-rich regions in South America...

28 January 2013

Into the Tumbesian region...ECUADOR (13 Jan)

We arrived at the Fundacion Jocotoco reserve of Jorupe, just as dusk was falling on the reserve, and so got little in the way of diurnal birds. However, after a fine dinner, at this wonderful new reserve, we went on the hunt for the Peruvian Screech-Owl which we were told was hanging around cabin 1 (ironically named "Peruvian Screech-owl"!). Unfortunately, though, despite hearing a few low purring calls from the owl, it remained unseen, and the tired group I was with from Houston Audubon, decided to retire to bed. I was still smarting from hearing this tiny owl so close and not being able to find it, that I lingered on a little longer, then finally decided it had beaten me and began walking back to my nearby cabin (number 2 - named "Red-billed Scythebill"), at which point I inadvertently flushed the owl which must have been sitting quietly closeby the track. I quickly scanned around for it, and my spotlight fell on this rusty bird sitting on an open branch, and glaring back at me with those angry looking owls, and that fierce stare that seems to be unique to owls. I was entranced with it for a moment, then quickly realised the members of the group were likely still up and awake. I ran to each cabin, reassembled the group, and again found this diminutive owl sitting quietly on its chosen branch, where it remained to ogle at length.

The next day we were to spend the whole day exploring the Jorupe reserve, which comes complete with a unique set of bird feeders, attracting species found at no other feeders in the country...

17 January 2013

LIFE HUMMER...Ecuador (12-13 Jan)

Could not, not post a photo of the wonderful White-vented Plumeleteer, and my lifer plumeleteer, from Zaruma in the "Gold Country" of southern Ecuador...After leaving with this hummer, umbrellabird, attila, and the parakeet in the bag, we travelled south towards the frontier with Peru. Here we stopped in at El Empalme (which seems to be little more than an intimidating looking military checkpoint), to pick up some Tumbesian birds, most notable among them being White-headed Brush-Finch, Tumbes Sparrow, and this Tumbes Hummingbird which took fierce objection to my playing a tape of Pacific Pygmy-Owl in its presence!

Next stop the Fundacion Jocotoco reserve of Jorupe, near the border/party town of Macara...

16 January 2013

Buenaventura...ECUADOR (12-13 Jan)

After stopping off near the coast in Guayaquil and getting a taste of the Tumbesian realm (a bioregion in Ecuador filled with endemic birds), we headed up into the wet foothills of the Andes, and the fine Fundacion Jocotoco reserve of Buenaventura. Our first stop of the morning, (after a night which had yielded a Black-and-white Owl hunting by the lodge-my long-time bogey bird/nemesis), was, of course for the bird for which the lodge is named, the umbrellabird. We started down the trail just after dawn had lit up the forest, if only slightly, and as we descended our ears were greeted by the low mooing sound of the Long-wattled Umbrellabird; they were lekking (displaying for females). On arrival at "the spot" there it was, sat at eye level with a huge wattle dangled to full length and spread-eagled to full width, every so often he would dip his head and emit the low mooing sound that drew us towards him. Fantastic. Next up was Ochraceous Attila, a ginger flycatcher, which flew in right on cue. Then a visit to an unspectacular looking next box brought us spectacular views of a group of 8 El Oro Parakeets attending the nest. This was followed by a visit to a town for lunch, but not just any lunch. Lunch with a plumeleteer, White-vented Plumeleteer, which clearly seemed to enjoy the attention. We finished off with further views of the rowdy mob of Rufous-headed Chachalacas that hang around the lodge and entertain listers hungry for this on their precious world lists! What a day.

More photos from Buenaventura to come...

12 January 2013

Heading south for the winter...ECUADOR (11 Jan)

After meeting a group of birding friends from Texas, (a group from the Houston Audubon Society no less), in Ecuador's big southern city, Guayaquil, we were soon on the road. The marshes surrounding Guayaquil were packed with birds: Snail Kites adorned many posts, Wattled Jacanas, Roseate Spoonbills, and White Ibis foraged in the ditches, Mangrove Warblers fed in the, ahem, mangroves, and some White-cheeked Pintails dabbled in the ponds. However, frankly, we were not there for them, fun as they were. We moved on to Manglares Churute, where their famous mangroves were avoided for the dry woodlands, which yielded Jet Antbirds aplenty, and a princely pair of Pacific Royal Flycatchers. While we feasted on the flycatchers, a troop of howler monkeys entertained us with their noisy vocals and comic antics too. After picking up some rather massive Horned Screamers and a Gray-capped Cuckoo en-route we were on our way to El Oro province to the south.

Next up was Buenaventura reserve, and the intriguingly named Umbrellabird Lodge....