22 December 2014

It don't matter if you're black-and-white...ECUADOR (1st Nov.)

I had been way too long this year, following hip surgery, office-bound, and city-bound. By November I was free to return to normal life, such that it is. And so, I set out on tour with a person that I had guided before, from Sri Lanka, who also brought his good friend from Malaysia. Two remarkably different looking Asians, being guided by an "Englishman abroad", in Ecuador; we must have looked quite an odd crowd! My Sri Lankan friend had been with me photographing birds in northwest Ecuador, and this time he was interested in sampling the very different avian riches of Ecuador's "deep south". We started out in the city of Guayaquil, set out on a boat trip through the Manglares Charute shortly afterwards, but by the end of the day had climbed out of the coastal plain and up into the foothills of the Andes, and the wonderful Buenaventura reserve.
The mangrove boat trip was not particularly impressive, and was a bit of an experiment to see what we could photograph. We had some successes, with close ups of Snail Kite, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibises, and numerous Cocoi Herons, South America's answer to the Great Blue Heron/Grey Heron. On the way out from the boat trip a roadside Peruvian Pygmy-Owl had us out of the car, and brandishing cameras in a heartbeat. We also got to see the area star attraction, Horned Screamer, for which the bird is most famous for among birders, being rare and local in Ecuador. 
After the long journey from the coast, we pulled into the Buenaventura reserve, an area of foothill forest run by the excellent Jocotoco Conservation Foundation. This reserve was set up principally to save much needed habitat for the rare and endemic El Oro Parakeet, and other rare species found within its boundaries like Long-wattled Umbrellabird, El Oro Tapaculo, and Ochraceous Attila. As we bumped along the entrance road, with heavy rain coming down in the late afternoon, we noticed a bedraggled figure perched, unwisely, on an open dead branch, where a Bat Falcon, had clearly taken the full force of the downpour. Before we sat down for lunch we were adding another bird to the trip list and photography list, when one of a regular pair of Black-and-white Owls called repeatedly with the sense that it was trying to make absolutely sure we could locate it.
A great end to good opener; 2 owls, 1 day, I like those numbers!!!

More from Buenaventura to come...

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