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Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Apr 16, 2011, 2:57 PM by Arie Gilbert
Chapter 6: I’m On Top Of The World!

    The next day, our target was Andean Condor, usually looked for at the Papallacta Pass where we were scheduled to go. Our guide Renato suggested an alternative where it would also be possible, but where we might see some other high altitude specialties not found at Papallacta.

    This alternative is called the Antisana Paramo Preserve. It is above tree-line and approx 14000' + with spectacular views of the distant volcanic peaks all covered in snow.

    On the way up we were treated to Black-winged Ground-Dove
and Aplomado Falcon that we spotted as it caught a small bird, and
then alighted upon a post in plain view allowing us all to savor this rarity.  What a majestic bird, and now I can “legitimately” count it as opposed  to the ‘released’ ones seen in Texas.

    In the air above us were raptors such as Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Variable Hawk, while walking about on the tundra were Carunculated Caracara everywhere! And ‘carunculated’ is fun to say, as evinced by all the comments we collectively made about it. 

    Our first destination was at a mountain top lake, but on the way we were treated to a small flock of the rare and declining Black-faced Ibis made all the more sweet by getting there ahead of two other groups of birders we had passed on the way to the area. After viewing them, and in our haste to get to our next location, Renato beckoned us to leave, with the result that I left my scope behind. Panic!
 { an understatement }

    We dropped the others off, and we went back for my scope that Renato assured me would still be there. It was not there! But Renato then inquired of the other guides, and they told us that driving down the road, they spotted my scope and stopped to see why it was left there, only to discover the Ibis. Graciously, they returned the scope to me and we went on our way. Phew!

Joining the others at the lake, we saw up close Silvery Grebe {cute!} Slate-colored { aka Andean} Coot , Baird's Sandpiper { who needs Jamaica Bay?} and  Andean Teal. Off in the distance were Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck { looks like a Ruddy}, and Andean Gull.  The waterfowl were wonderful, all obligingly being located on the one large lake. Though in keeping with the “universal laws” most were on the farthest shore. Scopes helped to cinch the IDs.

Along the roadway and at various stops we had Andean Lapwing {neat!} Bar-winged Cinclodes, Stout-billed Cinclodes , Paramo Ground-Tyrant ,Brown-bellied Swallow, Great Thrush , Plumbeous Sierra-Finch , and Plain-colored Seedeater  which upon getting home and entering my sightings into the computer, and figuring out which birds were seen when, turned out to be my 1000th lifer.

    Our final stop upwards was on a pullout along the road where there was patches of orange flowers. With a spectacular snow covered volcanic peak in the back-ground, and as if on cue, the breathtaking Ecuadorian Hillstar made a bold appearance and gave us all great views. 

    On the way back down, we got additional views of the same species, as well as the opportunity to puzzle over the ID of the female Hillstars. We also stopped at a fishing pond, where we got close-up looks at the Andean Teal and the Andean Gull, and then tried to coax Tawny Antpitta out of hiding. Several responded to Renato’s calls, but none favored us with a view. As did the Condor.

    We finished the day with a stop at Guango Lodge. All you do is pull into the parking lot and the Hummingbird feeders are all about. Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird , Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph! Many of us succumbed to multiple eyegasms.

    Were that not enough, when sated with the hummers we walked down the path to the river, where we were greeted in rapid succession by Masked Trogon, Inca Jay, and Turquoise Jay. Inca Jay looks just like the Green Jay that can bee seen in Texas, but in S.A it’s a different species!

    Following the trail down river, we went in search of Torrent Duck. We found Spotted Sandpiper, Torrent Tyrannulet { a mere speck of a bird that makes it’s living catching flies from within the spray, }, Black Phoebe , Brown-bellied Swallow, White-capped Dipper { something very likeable about these Dipper birds } and Mountain Wren.

   Renato heard a Toucan, so we stopped to call it out. He did not have its call in his player, but once again “Loretta” came through and we got nice looks at  a Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan. What a great bird! In return for my contribution, Renato tried to call out a Cinnamon Flycatcher for me that I keep missing, [ but everyone else managed to see repeatedly ] while Corey went back down to the bridge we surveyed earlier and he found the Torrent Ducks!

    We all got scope views, then made are way back up river hoping to get a better and clo ser lo ok. Thankfully, not only were we not disappointed, but we saw both the male and female who are quite dimorphic. Then we returned to the lodge, where we enjoyed coffee and hummingbirds in the fading light. Our final stop was for dinner where a Black Phoebe was making good use of a light in the dark to catch some extra insects before it went to sleep.