Saturday, October 31, 2015

Birding in Ecuador: Part 4 - Antisana

One of my favorite parts of trips to the tropics is the opportunity to visit high elevation areas, especially páramo. Since the Antisana is one of the best páramo habitats that can be visited, I was especially excited to get to the park. It was a beautiful drive from Quito over to the park and we had the added bonus of being able to take some photos of the erupting Cotopaxi since it was a beautiful clear day.

Cotopaxi Volcano - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Just before arriving at the park, we stopped at a roadside restaurant that had a few hummingbird feeders and is a great place to look for Andean Condor. We had good but distant views of the condor and enjoyed watching Giant Hummingbirds and Shining Sunbeams come in to the feeders.

Although these high elevation sites don't tend to have huge species lists, the quality of the birds you see more than makes up for it! Some of our highlights included Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Teal, Silvery Grebe, Black-faced Ibis, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Tawny Antpitta, Chestnut-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Many-striped Canastero, and Paramo Pipit.

Andean Lapwing - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Black-faced Ibis - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Carunculated Caracara - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Paramo Pipit - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Tawny Antpitta - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
After spending the whole morning birding and photographing at Antisana, we started our long drive back towards Quito and then up through Papallacta Pass to Guango Lodge. Although we had planned to bird near Papallacta Pass, the fog was extremely thick making birding impossible. Check back soon to read about the rest of our awesome trip to Ecuador.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Birding in Ecuador: Part 3 - The Rest of Our Time in Mindo

After our incredible visit to Refugio Paz de las Aves (read about this part of the trip here), we spent a few more days birding around the Mindo area.

Flame-faced Tanager is one of the most common birds that visits banana feeders in this area. Photo by Brian Zwiebel
The next day, we started early so that we could get to Rio Silanche early in the day. Since it's at a significantly lower elevation, there were many new birds to be seen! Highlights included Little Cuckoo, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Red-billed Scythebill, Masked Water-Tyrant, and Blue-whiskered and Scarlet-browed Tanagers.

In the afternoon, we headed back up the mountain and made a stop at Milpe Bird Sanctuary. Although the afternoon birding was a bit slow, we did find Guayaquil Woodpecker, Clue-winged Manakin, and Golden-bellied Warbler. Hummingbirds were also very active at the feeders.

Green-crowned Brilliant - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Velvet-purple Coronet - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
The next day, before going back to Quito, we had a few more stops to make. The first was at a couple feeding stations in the Mashpi area. The main highlight of the feeders is the wide variety of tanagers that are attracted to the bananas! Some of the best that stopped by for a bite to eat were, Moss-backed, Glistening-green, and Beryl-spangled Tanagers and Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager. In addition to the tanagers at the feeders, we saw a few other incredible birds in the area including, Uniform Treehaunter, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Andean and Black Solitaires, and Swallow Tanager.

Glistening-green Tanager - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
Moss-backed Tanager - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
We had one more special stop to make before we went back to Quito for the night, an Oilbird roosting site. When we pulled up, the location sure didn't seem like much but everything changed once we walked back into the gorge. There were 18 Oilbirds visible and they allowed Brian to get amazing photos.

Oilbird - Photo by Brian Zwiebel
We made it back to Quito late in the day and enjoyed another night at Hotel Quito including dinner on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the city.

Check back soon to read about our time at Antisana and on the Eastern Slope.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Whitefish Point Vagrants

We've had a recent surge of vagrants to Whitefish Point.  Within the last week Hepatic Tanager (1st state record), Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Cave Swallow have all been seen.  And, the point is an area less than one square mile; it's pretty unbelievable.  Other rarities this season include 4 Western Kingbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Lark Bunting, 3 Townsend's Solitaires, at least 3 Harris's Sparrows, and Common Ground-Dove.

As I am the waterbird counter, I should mention some waterbirds.  The highlights have been Pomarine Jaeger, Arctic Tern, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Pacific Loon.  Now, if only the next couple weeks can produce an eider or alcid.

The first Michigan record, Hepatic Tanager
A tail-less Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Birding in Ecuador: Part 2 - Refugio Paz de las Aves

To read about the first day of the trip, please click here.

Rob writes: Our day started before sunrise as we had to arrive at the famous Refugio Paz de las Aves before the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock started displaying. The birds put on quite a show although photography was rather difficult in the low light. We did have spectacular looks at two Cloud Forest Pygmy-Owls!

Cloud Forest Pygmy-Owl
Once the cock-of-the-rock stopped displaying, we moved on the see Angel Paz's real show, the antpittas. Our first stop was for Yellow-breasted Antpitta. These birds sure are loyal to Angel's feeding schedule!

At the next feeding station, we were entertained by many hummingbirds and a family of Dark-backed Wood-Quails before a Giant Antpitta arrived.

Dark-backed Wood-Quail
The next targets took a little more hiking to get to but we found a feeding flock along the way and added a bunch of new species for the day including Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner and Russet-crowned Warbler.

Although it took a long time for the Rufous-breasted Antthrush to show, it was worth the wait. We snapped dozens of photos as it perched and strutted along a log! As we watched, another Giant Antpitta made an appearence and I was able to get down to where the Ochre-breasted Antpitta feeds just before it flew away.

Rufous-breasted Antthrush
We ended the morning with a wonderful breakfast while watching tanagers, toucanets, and barbets. There were still a ton of birds to find so Edison and I pulled Brian away from the easy photography at the feeders and moved on to Tandayapa Pass.

While the photography wasn't as good for Brian, the birding was fantastic! We added a ton of new species including one of my most sought after birds, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan. We also hit several flocks of tanagers which adds a lot of excitement to the birding.

The remainder of our day was spend watching and photographing hummingbirds at a couple of different feeding stations. While at our final stop, a pair of Masked Trogons decided to be very cooperative for photos.
Masked Trogon - Male