Thursday, 21 February 2019

Birding In and Around Quito Ecuador, Part Two

Day 4, Exploring the Reserva Yanacocha and Even More Hummingbirds:

Along with a breakfast that we didn’t mind being a couple of hours late, we were treated to more roads that were as scary as they were bumpy.  I wore a motion sickness patch the entire trip to keep me from being sick out the windows of our guide’s car, so the sight-seeing out the windows was much more pleasant for me that most birding trips I have been on.  With my camera not working well, I didn’t get many photos, but the camera did manage to work just enough when it mattered.  My iPhone came in handy for videos and closer feeders.

Safire-vented Puffleg:

Shining Sunbeam:

Glossy Flowerpiercer:

Not Lifers, as I have seen Band-tailed Pigeons in flight in both Arizona and California, but I’ve never got a photo or seen them sitting still before, as we did with this large flock resting in trees just off the highway.

Booted Racket-tail:

Day 5, With a Name Like Cock-of-the-Rock it Better Be Good:

And the bird didn’t disappoint.  We had to be on the road at 4:00am so we could arrive before 6:00am so we would be at the mystery location where we could see the bird.  All of these trips we took over the week would not have been possible without the incredible help of the guides we hired through Ecuador Nature Tours.  This one was to a private area where the owner guides guests to a variety of very difficult to see birds, including the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.  It was still just past dawn and dark, so photographs were not easy, but digiscoping was the solution once the birds started appearing, heard before seen but what a sight when they appeared.  We spent an hour or so enjoying them, before setting off on an adventure for Antpittas.

These Andean Cock-of-the Rock digiscopes show the bird from behind:

Heavily edited from a darkened exposure of the bird from the front.  You never seem to see both eyes at the same time, from the front or back.

On the way to the Antpittas we stopped for a look at a Dark-backed Wood-Quail that feeds at the side of the road early in the morning:

After a brief stop for hummingbirds, where we would eventually have our late breakfast, it was on to finding the Antpittas.  The first two were coming close to the road, so after while the first two showed up, along with a bonus flycatcher.

Chestnut-crowned Antpittas:

Yellow-breasted Antpittas:

Golden-crowned Flycatcher:

The next two Antpittas were not going to be easy and I was once again lucky to have a walking stick. The destination was deep into the woods, down a steep and muddy tract.  But the walk was worth it for a few more Ecuador specialties.

Moustached Antpitta:

Ochra-breasted Antpitta:

And at the very end of the trail, having survived the mud-slopes, and in need of a rest, we were able to sit and enjoy the...

Toucan Barbet:

We ended the trip on a high note, visiting the equator.  We passed right through it on our way back into Quito, so it was a fitting end to our trip to Ecuador!

Birding In and Around Quito Ecuador, Part One

A dream trip of mine has always been to go to Ecuador and The Gal├ípagos Islands.  We didn’t have enough days to go to Galapagos this winter, but we did have a week to explore some of mainland Ecuador, specifically the areas within a few hours of Quito.  As I type we are flying down to Panama, to catch a connecting flight to Quito.  Maybe the birding will even start before we get there, with a few birds at the airport in Panama.  Tonight we are staying at a Holiday Inn Express in downtown Quito, but in the morning will be whisked off to out lodge for two days of guided birding, before heading back to Quito.  Our trip was made slightly more affordable using my points for 5 of the nights in Holiday Inns, with guides picking us up each morning.

Day One, and introduction to the birds of Quito:

Our first bird of the trip was an Eared Dove just outside our window at the Holiday Inn while having breakfast before our guides picked us up for our first day of birding.  We were then driven over some very bumpy roads to the Hotel Hacienda La Jimenita where we began our tour with Luis and Diago. Luis was, we thought, just the driver, but as we learned over the next three days he was every bit the birder as our official guides.  Over the course of our first day of birding within an hour drive of our hotel, we added another 32 Lifers, including the Andean Condor and seven Hummingbirds.  Hummingbirds and more hummingbirds.  In all shapes, colors and sizes.  Hummers with long beaks and short tails and some with tails so long they are called trainbearers.  We ended the day at the Hotel Hacienda La Jimenita, where we were treated to a few more amazing hummers and other small birds before enjoying a lovely dinner that evening. 

Andean Condor being chased by a Carunculated Caracara:

Sparkling Vilotear:

Ecuadorian Hillstar:

Black-faced Ibis:

Andean Lapwing:

Before heading to the lodge for the night we had one more stop, but it was so wet and cold my teeth were chattering by the time we headed back to the car, and was worn out for the day. Still it was worth it to see the Andean Duck, a split from our own Ruddy Duck, but with an even more striking blue beak.

Back at the lodge we had a few more treats, including...

Black-tailed Trainbearer:

White-bellied Woodstar:

Saffron Finch:

Day Two, Seedsnipes and hummers and bears, Oh My:

We were up early the next morning for a lovely breakfast and a longer tour of the hotel grounds before heading off to explore some fine birding locations within a couple hours drive of the hotel, exploring roads that seemed more like dry river beds at times, interspersed with beautifully paved modern highways.  The weather was cold and damp in the morning as we made our way up a mountainside to a radio antenna array, where the target bird was a Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe.  I expected a long snipe-like beak, but being a seed eater it had more of a Quail like body and beak, with quite fancy paisley plumage.

We warmed up in the car as we made our way to the Guango Lodge where an entirely different habitat awaited us.  But before we even arrived we made a stop along the highway for a glimps of an often difficult to see Spectacled Bear.

From there we continued on to the lodge where we were treated to a hummingbird feast, including the famous Sword-billed Hummingbird, before being served lunch.  Afterward we hiked into the forest by a river, where we once again got rained on, but still saw some wonderful birds, before ending the day at the Holiday Inn back in Quito, where we enjoyed a traditional Ecuadorian dinner at at small restaurant where no one spoke a word of English, yet we all seemed to communicate just fine.

Long-tailed Sylph:

Tyrian Metaltail:

Chestnut-breasted Coronet:

Speckled Hummingbird:

Masked Trogon:

One last treat of the day was another look at the rare Spectacled Bear, this time with a surprise.  It was dragging a deer up the mountain slope.  No one knew if it had killed the deer or found it dead.  I guess this guy was going to eat for a nice long stretch.

Day 3, A Little Rain Can’t Hurt Us, but the Cameras, Not So Much:

The day started off okay,  warm enough and dry as we set out for a 3 mile hike to a magnificent waterfall and the target bird, the White-cappped dipper.  This time I remembered my walking stick, which I had forgotten on hikes the previous two days, and was glad I had it.  It was a tough, but fantastic hike, full of amazing scenery and fabulous birds.  Once we got to the waterfall, we had a well deserved rest and another picnic lunch.  But once we felt some light rain we made haste to get going, but with still two miles to go, the rain started coming down hard and both my camera and Sue’s suffered water damage.  Sue’s didn’t work for the rest of the trip, despite our use of hairdryers on it back at the hotel, and mine functioned just enough to get a few good photos the final days of the trip.  

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager:

Tufted Tit-Tyrant:

White-throated Tyranulet:

White-capped Dipper:

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Birding in 2019, and another Boreal Chickadee

A new year brings new birding goals, and once again, it’s all about exploring new places to go birding and adding new species to the Life List, both at home and, this year, in Ecuador.  We leave on February 5 for Quito and a week of birding some of the most incredible places on the planet.  We had originally planned just somewhere warm for our winter birding trip, say California, away from the frigid cold of Toronto, but I wanted Lifers, and since we are planning a trip to The Gal├ípagos Islands in November of this year, I figured that doing the mainland first would be an amazing appetizer.

Speaking of birding all over the hemisphere, in 2018 I took photos with my iPhone in every location I visited and ended up with a map of my entire year. From British Columbia in the North West to Trinidad in the South East and New Brunswick in the North East to Nevada in the South West, I certainly got around in 2018.  Cool!

Meanwhile, I am still here in Toronto and will limit most of my birding travel to chasing Lifers for both ABA and Ontario, but I still love to just go birding too and plan on continuing my everyday eBird listing, so chasing the more uncommon birds within a short drive is still always fun.  I began the year in a local haunt, James Gardens and Lambton Woods, where I got 21 species on Janauary 1.  But the very next day I heard of a Boreal Chickadee in Whitby, at Darlington Provincial Park, which is more of a paved path behind the GM offices, and went the next morning.

After getting the Boreal last year in Col Sam Smith Park, it was fitting that another one showed up in a park in Whitby at the end of Sam Smith Drive, near Oshawa Second Marsh, home of Little Gulls in the spring.  It wasn’t much of a walk, which was good, as it was a cold day, but after about 20 minutes some other birders found it up the path and we all had nice looks at another Boreal Chickadee that was far south of the Boreal forest.

A few days later a Ring-necked Pheasant was seen in Morningside Park, but I was too late and my consolation prize was a Wild Turkey:

Next up was a Northern Pintail.  I missed seeing one in 2018, so it was nice to get one early this year at Sedgewick Park, in the warm waters of the water filtration area:

A week later a huge flock of Common Redpolls was seen out near Whitby, not far from where the Boreal Chickadee was seen, but in a field in a housing development.  Amongst them, was a single Hoary Redpoll, that was easy enough to see with binoculars, but evaded my camera, as they were flying in a flock from place to place without sitting still very long.

Another species I haven’t seen much of in the past couple of years was Bohemian Waxwings.  I heard of a flock about an hour and a half from home at Fleming College in the town of Lindsay, so took the day to go and was rewarded with a flock of at least 37 birds, on a very cold day.

I even found a Redpoll as a bonus bird:

The past week, almost all my birding has been through my windows at the bird feeders, as it has been so cold in the minus 30’s Celcious with the wind!
I did have a little thrill at James Gardens, when an Eastern Towhee was coming to the Lambton Woods feeders.  And the one time I forget my phone and don’t birding my camera, so missed a nice photo opportunity.  But there were other birds.

Immature male, Common Goldeneye: