23 January 2015

16 February 2013

Our last day in Ecuador, and what a long day it was going to be as we had to drive back to Quito before going our separate ways...Simon to the United Kingdom, myself back to Canada, and Howard and Malcolm to continue their extended tour to Tandayapa with Andrew. In good-ole birder fashion we weren't about to let a long day of driving, flying, and sitting in airports get in the way of a bit of early morning birding. Once again we awoke at 5:30am , had breakfast at 6:00am, and were on the F.A.C.E trail by 6:30am. I think we all somehow thought we had exhausted the possibility of adding lifers to our respective lists, and perhaps it was even a stretch to add new trip species at this point. I further supported this belief by the fact that we had already spent three days birding on this trail, and we only had until about 10:00am before we had to get in the van and start driving back to Quito.

Our first bird of the day was Violet-headed Hummingbird, followed shortly after by a Black-billed Treehunter, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, and Common Tody-Flycatcher. Once in the forest we added White-crowned Manakin, Ornate Flycatcher, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, and White-shouldered Antshrike. Following that was an immediate rejection of our speculation above, as Andrew Spencer lured out a very difficult to watch Musician Wren. Further along the trail we added Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant to the day list, followed shortly thereafter by a Golden-crowned Toucanet. This was soon followed by my next lifer for the day, Gray-tailed Piha.

By now it was close to 9:15am and it was time to make our way back to the lodge. We maintained a rather quick pace, so by the time we got near the trail head we only added Russet-backed Oropendola and Olive-striped Flycatcher to the day list. Just before the trail head Andrew pointed out a flycatcher, but before anyone could their binoculars on it the bird flitted left about 10 meters...I was the first to get on the bird, but it wasn;t the same bird Andrew had just seen. I immediately started describing the bird and its location. It looked like a fruiteater...yellow chest, black cap, dark green back, slight barring on the flanks. Andrew then yelled a series of expletives! It's a %$^$#! Andean Laniisoma. That was soon followed by a machine-gun-like firing of his camera...The Andean Laniisoma, now known as Shrike-like Cotinga, is a close member of the fruiteater family. At Wild Sumaco, and for that matter in Ecuador generally, Shrike-like Cotinga is a very rare east slope bird. I don't know exactly how many records there are of this species in Ecuador, but this one created a lot of excitement amongst our small group. We had heard earlier, while at Guango Lodge, that a Swiss birding group had found the bird in the same location, but we didn't think it would stick around long enough for us to see it. And, given we had spent three days on this same trail and didn't see it, we certainly did not expect to find it on the last morning. This bird truly was the icing on the cake for me...it was my last lifer for the trip.

Once we all had a great look at the bird, and eventually it flew out of sight, we headed back to the lodge, packed our bags, had a quick wash, and were in the van and on our way by 10:20am. I jotted a few bird records down during the return trip, but saw nothing terribly special. Two Magpie Tanagers on Sumaco Road, seven Smooth-billed Ani's on the way to Narupa, and a Black-billed Thrush and Blue-and-White Swallow in Narupa. Off-and-on we all dozed as the van bumped along the winding road while the rain fell almost constantly through the mountains. We arrived in Quito about 4 hours later where the last bird for the trip that I saw was an Eared Dove. Howard and Malcolm continued off with Andrew, and Simon and I began the long sit. Simon's flight was first to leave, and mine was about an hour later. What a fantastic trip, and one I won't soon forget...afterall, this final trip report post was written nearly two years after the trip ended.

Total species today: 36
Total cumulative species for the trip:  446 (443)*
Total lifers today:  3
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 155 (157)*

* Due to species' name changes and taxonomic splits and lumps, the totals in parentheses reflect current taxonomy (Clements World Bird Checklist, Version 6.9).

22 January 2015

15 February 2013

For our last full day in the Wild Sumaco area we decided the night before to head a little further afield, down toward the Amazon basin. We were kinda winging it so to speak, as we really had no clear plan on where we were heading or what we expected to see. The drive from the lodge to Lareto took about an hour, and in less than half that time we descended several hundreds of meters out of a landscape dominated by mountains and into one that was so flat that no end could be seen from an elevated vantage point. Along with the descent in elevation came a rapid increase in humidity and temperature, two of my least favourite things.

We woke at 5:00am and departed the lodge at 6:00am. The first half of the drive was in the dark, but as soon as the light was enough for bird activity, we soon began to see a variety of new species. The first bird of the day for me was a lifer, Black Caracara, just outside of the village of Lareto. Within the village were several Black Vultures, Tropical Kingbirds, Smooth-billed Anis, and a single Russet-backed Oropendola. At a small pool of water we added Spotted Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper to the day list, as well as Blue-and-White Swallow, Swallow-tailed Kite, and Black-billed Thrush.

Once through the village of Lareto we were on the lookout for a place to get off the main road and do some birding by foot. A few miles later we found what we were looking for - Suyuno River Road. Immediately upon starting to bird this road I got my second, third, and fourth lifer for the day: Solitary Black Cacique, White-shouldered Antbird, and Chestnut-eared Aracari. We then saw Short-tailed Swift and Gilded Barbet before adding my next lifer, Great Antshrike. I should note already that although it wasn't even 8:00am yet, the heat and humidity were starting to get to me. Thankfully, more good birds kept my attention diverted from the discomfort, such as White-fronted Nunbird and Black-capped Donacobius of which both were lifers. Shortly after those were three more lifers...Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Orange-winged Parrot, and Opal-crowned Tanager. How good can this place be?

As birds seemed to be everywhere in the morning, the temperature was gradually climbing and you could literally feel the bird activity starting to dwindle. Nevertheless, the birding was still quite good as we observed Giant Cowbird, Dusky-headed Parakeet (lifer), Crested Oropendola, Plumbeous Kite, and Yellow-billed Dacnis. By about 10:00am we had moved a couple of miles down the road where we located a small, yet muddy, footpath leading into the forest. At the entrance to the trail I added Greater Yellow-headed Vulture to my life list, and just inside the trail Andrew found Golden-bellied Euphonia and Ruddy Pigeon. We decided to hike further into the forest to see what we could find, but the hiking was slow going through the mud and the heat and humidity were quickly causing exhaustion. About 1000 m into the forest we found Dusky-chested Flycatcher along with four Black-mantled Tamarins and four Squirrel Monkey's, but otherwise the birding was slow. Howard and I were both feeling the struggle, and so decided to go back to the van before we became a health risk. Simon, Malcom and Andrew pressed on for about another hour or so, while Howard and I tried to lower our core temperature. We drank plenty of water and had a bite to eat and did begin to feel better. We did walk up and down the road a bit while waiting for the others, but we only managed to add a couple of birds, of which one, the Masked Crimson-Tanager, was a lifer for me.

Once the three amigos returned from the forest, with about 10 species that Howard and I didn't get to see, we continued the day walking along the road, slowly adding a few species here and there. Highlights included Orange-backed Troupial, Crane Hawk, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Bat Falcon, Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, and Rufescent Tiger-Heron. By now we had thoroughly exhausted ourselves during our few hours in the Amazon basin, and on the way back to the lodge we were excited to stop for ice cream, even if it only provided temporary relief from the heat. Back at the lodge, fully showered and resting on the balcony, we watched birds heading to their roosts as the sun set. Despite the heat and humidity, it was an excellent day of birding.

Total species today: 70
Total cumulative species for the trip:  442
Total lifers today:  17
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 152

14 February 2013

Our third full day at Wild Sumaco and we spent the entire time working the various trails around the lodge. Once again it was an early rise at 5:30am, and a departure from the lodge at 6:25am. As first light began to break, a small family of Speckled Chachalaca hopped about the large cercopias behind the lodge. At one of the feeders, a Golden-tailed Sapphire was the first of several hummingbirds to begin the daily routine. Around the bungalows was Canada Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, and Yellow-browed Sparrow. After leaving the lodge grounds we made our way to the F.A.C.E trail, which soon began to once again churn out good birds.

Near the entrance to the trail we saw Plain Antvireo and Linneated Foliage-Gleaner, followed shortly after by Linneated Antshrike, White-winged Becard, and four Chestnut-fronted Macaw's flying overhead. There were also several Yellow-tufted Woodpecker's chattering as they jumped among various snags. Once on the F.A.C.E trail I got my first lifer for the day, White-streaked Antvireo. This was immediately followed by my second lifer for the day, Yellow-throated Spadebill, a tough bird to get in the area and one that our tour leader Andrew Spencer was very excited to see and photograph. Further along the trail we added Paradise Tanager, White-crowned Manakin, Foothill Elaenia (lifer), Ash-browed Spinetail, Flame-crested Tanager (lifer), Buff-fronted Foliage Gleaner, and Rufous-tailed Foliage-Gleaner (lifer). The day was off to a fantastic start, especially with the addition of so many new species.

Following this surge of lifers was a lull. We saw several good species, such as Ashy-throated Chlorospingus, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Orange-eared Tanager, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, and Silver-beaked Tanager, but not were new for the life list. By now it was nearing mid-day and so we headed back to the lodge for lunch and a short break. While at the lodge I added several birds to the day list, including Black-mandibled Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Red-headed Barbet, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Gould's Jewelfront, and Wire-crested Thorntail. After lunch we walked the Piha trail, which was a short drive down the road and a long walk downhill...a very long walk, riddled with stairs. Going down wasn't so bad, but knowing I had to come back up was looming in the back of my mind. I was certain I had not done enough Stairmaster steps to prepare for this trail!

Along the trail we saw very little in the way of birds. Only when we got to the bottom was there a small hint of bird activity. My only lifer on this trail was Collared Trogon, but other good birds included Purple Honeycreeper, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Ornate Flycatcher, and White-backed Fire-eye. After climbing back up the stairs, all 719 of them, I was more than happy to sit on the benches at the top and watch the hummingbird feeders for an hour. Here we saw several good hummingbirds, including Blue-fronted Lancebill, Black-throated Brilliant, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Napo Sabrewing, and Ecuadorian Piedtail.

As the day began to wind down we slowly worked our way back along the road adding several birds to the day list, such as Military Macaw, Magpie Tanager, Olivaceous Siskin, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, White-collared Swift, and Green-and-Gold Tanager. My last lifer for the day was Black-banded Woodcreeper, and my last new bird before dinner was Blue-browed Tanager. Following dinner we decided to do a bit of night-birding. In the span of about an hour we added Common Paraque (heard only) and Band-bellied Owl (excellent views).

Total species today: 82
Total cumulative species for the trip:  407
Total lifers today:  7
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 135