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Old Sunday 2nd April 2017, 11:56   #1
kitefarrago
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Ecuador - from the high Andes to the Amazon basin

This was a trip that didn't have a lot of planning put into it. I had originally planned to travel elsewhere, but two trips were cancelled one after the other due to a lack of participants, and by then I was tied into travelling between mid July and mid August. That's not the easiest time of year to find suitable offerings for.

In the end I decided to go with a group trip offered as a photography tour by Tropical Birding with some individual add-ons. We would be exploring both slopes of the Andes not too far from Quito, and I would then travel on to the Amazon basin for a few days, with the drive back to Quito interrupted by a few more days at a lodge in the Andean foothills.

All accommodation, transfers, internal flight and guides were ararnged by Tropical Birding. They provided an excellents service which began with a conversation about my requirements and I received a detailed itinerary from them with contact details as needed.

I arrived into Quito in the afternoon local time on the 9th of July and was transferred to my accommodation for the night. This was becoming a very long day for a traveller from Europe and I didn't do much more than arrange my stuff to be ready for an early morning departure before falling into bed.

Andrea

Some birds from the trip

Barred Fruiteater
Violet-tailed Sylph
Amazonian Umbrellabird
Greyish Mourner
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
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Old Sunday 2nd April 2017, 13:00   #2
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I'm following IOC taxonomy in this report, which may be useful to know.

The next moring we were scheduled to leave before the hotel's scheduled breakfast, but they do supply coffee an biscuits to go, which I grabbed before meeting up with Pablo, our guide for the next week or so. Around 6.30 we were off.

We followed the comparatively dry valley in which Quito is located for a while, and I was keen to get a better idea of what Ecuador looks like. For a South American country it is comparatively small, but due to the fact that it spans elevations from sea level up to above 6000m it has a lot to offer to the visiting birder.The country has been safe for a long time and the infra-structure is comparatively good - this is about all I knew when I booked this holiday rather late. I can now add that the people are very friendly, that the birding habitats are rather more wide ranging than I had realized (and I only saw a tiny part of the country), and I get the impression that it is maybe becoming a bit more of a birding destination. I can whole-heartedly recommend it!

Our first destination was Guango, which is situated on the Eastern slope of the Andes at around 2400m elevation. The landscape had certainly changed from the bare hills around Quito to steep forested slopes, and it was also rather wet. There had clearly been quite a bit of rain over the last few days, and during our three night stay there was rather more rain to come. July is supposed to be during the dry season, but we certainly had a number of showers and I never found out whether this was expected local weather, or slightly unusual.

We arrived istill quite early in the morning, and after dumping our luggage it was time to explore the surroundings. Pablo had asked me what I was particularly interested in, and hummingbirds featured very highly on my personal agenda. There were a large number of humming bird feeders in the forest around the lodge, and it was time to get to grips with the local selection of species. By far the most common hummingbirds wre Buff-tailed Coronets, which seemed to be enjoying posing for the camera. Also common were Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Speckled Humminbird and Chestnut-breasted Coronot, with Tourmaline Sunangel and Tyrian Metaltail also seen regularly.

Some noisy arrivals proved to be [b]Inca Jays{/B] as well as Turquoise Jays, which turned out to be rather less common than I had thought based on this encounter, and I have no photos of these. Also found were Mountain Wren, Hooded Mountain-Tanager and Great Thrush.

Luis, our driver, and Pablo busied themselves with setting up the very impressive flash quipment, consisting of vour flashes per photographer on tripods. I was a concerned that the flash trigger wouldn't work on my camera - Sony isn't the most common make for wildlife photography, but I needn't have worried. It all worked splendidly.

A Japanese tour bus comes in for a brief stop, and covered with mostly clear plastic ponchos its passengers venture forth, presumably to see some hummingbirds. This seems a very odd stop on a general interest tour!

We did some test shots, but Pablo declared that due to the wet and cold weather there wasn't enough activity here to justify spending the time to just sit here and wait, and suggested we go for a walk instead. The lodge provided rubber boots, which given the state of the trails were very useful to have, and off we went for a leisurely amble down to the river, with Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dipper the main target (neither of which we found).

Nonetheless we do find some birds and almost everything here is new for me. While we're still in the forest there's a Montane Woodcreeper and, rather supririsngly, a female Barred Fruiteater just sitting there and rather patiently allowing us to take photos, even letting us change angle to have fewer branches in the background!
.
As we leave the trees there's a distant Masked Trogon, a somewhat closer Cinnamon Flycatcher, but activity isn't very pronounced. As we reach the river it becomes clear that there has been quite a bit of rain lately, and the Torrent Tyrannulet Pablo finds seems very topical. A small flock appears in a tree giving us [b]Spectacled Whitestart[/B, and we find more flycatchers in the form of White-throated Tyrannulet and Smoke-coloured Pewee. After 2 and a hlf hours or so we make our way back to the lodge where we find both Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercers before we go in for lunch. Since I haven't actually eaten a proper meal for quite some time now I'm rather hungry, and the lentil soup, followed by chicken with rice and fried aubergine is very welcome.

Andrea

Barred Fruiteater
Cinnamon Flycatcher also illustrating the weather (gllomy and rainy)
Buff-winged Starfrontlet illustrating where it got its name
Tourmaline Sunangel
Buff-tailed Coronot
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Old Sunday 2nd April 2017, 13:28   #3
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I'm going to enjoy this report, thank you.

Phil
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Old Sunday 2nd April 2017, 13:34   #4
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Me too, especially if you keep coining terms like "gllomy". Very evocative!
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Old Sunday 2nd April 2017, 17:46   #5
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I can't promise future entertaining typos but I'm glad that one amused!

After lunch we go for another walk, still looking for Torrent Ducks and dippers, but again without success. It's still drizzly, and everything's quite wet. We pick up Northern Mountain Cacique at a distance, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, and White-bellied Woodstar.

We return to the lodge for something to drink and find out the result of the Euros, which our driver Luis has been watching while we were traipsing around. After a shortish break we go out again, in the opposite direction across the road and up a hill, still on lodge paths.

A Tyrannine Woodcreepr is briefly observed, and over the course of the afternoon we pick up more flycatchers: White-banded Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-Tyrant and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant. A Plain-tailed Wren puts in an appearance. I regret not being able to spend more time with the guide book before coming here, and I note that my eyes have got worse since last year. Poor Pablo has to work rather hard to get me onto some of the birds (I now at least have a diagnosis with a treatment plan, so hopefully this will be much better on future journeys).

We also pick up some additional tanagers, such as Black-eared Hemispingus, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager and Red-hooded Tanager. These birds bring a bit of much needed clour into our days. On the way back to the lodge there's a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta in front of us on the trail. Unfortunately now that it's quite close to dusk it is definitely much too dark for photography, so we just look at the bird leisurely making its way in front of us.

We get back to the lodge at 17.45, and since dinner is supposed to be just fifteen minutes later there's just enough time to clean up a bit. There's a fire in the room where we take our meals, and it's appreciated. Again there's a soup as a starter - this turns out to be a very common feature everywhere I stay, and in my two and half weeks that I stayed I don't think there were any repeats. Quinoa soup tonight, and I find out how Ecuasorian people eat popcorn - the way Europeans eat croutons!. Chicken again for me while the others have fish, red cabbage and roast potatoes. Very tasty. A bit of time is spent with list and guidebooks in front of the fire before it's time for bed.

I don't have any pictures of the birds we saw during our walks - the views weren't good enough for pictures, so I'll instead supply some more hummingbirds.

Andrea

Collared Inca
Buff-tailed Coronet on typically mossy branch
Buff-tailed Coronet posing
Chstnut-breasted Coronet
Buff-tailed Starffontlet
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Old Monday 3rd April 2017, 11:46   #6
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Our first full day at Guango starts at 6.30 with breakfast consisting of fruit, fruit juice, cereal, and fried egg on toast, with departure at 7.00 It's drizzling outside with low cloud - no change there! The plan for this morning is to drive to Papallacta Pass and see what we can turn up.

Along the way we stop at a lake, but there are no birds to be found. The weather is still not looking promising. When we arrive at our destination at 4400m and there we find wind that is driving fog/drizzle (it has the low visibility of fog and and the wetness of strongish drizzle - frizzle?) that makes bird watching a hopeless proposition. We leave the car and walk around to see whether it is as bad as it looks, and the answer is yes.

We wait a while to see whether the weather shows any signs of shifting, which it doesn't. Then we drive down a bit to see whether a slightly more sheltered area will give better results. We try again, but we give it up as a hopless job before too long and are back at Guango around 10.00. It is raining there as well, so hot drinks all round are the order of the day for the moment.

Eventually it brightens up and I go out to take some more pictures of hummingbirds. Pablo joins me after a little while and we have a conversation about settings, and whether using the on-camera flash in the gloomy surroundings fo the lodge trails would do any good. He wants to try something with my camera and so it happens that I don't have my camera when one of the star attractions of Guango perches almost above our head: A Sword-billed Hummingbird! Pablo gets in a couple of shots at the current settings before it flies off - the only time I see one of these birds perched.

It starts to rain again and so we go back to the lodge and I try the coca tea that is highly recommended. It doesn't taste of much... Then there's lunch starting with cucumber soup, then ragout with rice and beetroot.

Andrea

Mostly moving birds - given that it was fairly dark and fast shutter speeds weren't possible I think these aren't bad!

Buff-singed Starfrontlet
Collared Inca
ditto
Buff-tailed Coronet trying to dry out
Sword-billed Hummingbird (haven't got anything better of this one)
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Old Monday 3rd April 2017, 17:37   #7
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At 1400 we are off again, once more to Papallacta but to a different part of the area this time. The weather still isn't promising, and as we park the car at some kind of visotr centre/ranger station at 3300m it's drizzling again. The visibility is much better than this morning though, and there's not much wind, so we decide to go for a stroll.

We follow a track not expecting too much, but stretching our legs feels good. The track rises gently, and when we can look into a little dip we totally unexpectedly find ourselves looking at an Andean Tapir! By the time my hands have started to move and I've wrestled my camera from under its protective cover it's ambled away into dense brush, never to be seen again. Certainly something toher than the altitude to get the heart pumping a bit faster!

There are a few birds now as well, a quite confiding Pale-naped Brushfinch and then there's a Chstnut-winged Cincludes on the ground. We can hear a Paramo Tapaculo but it seems at some distance, and we never get to see it. A Tawny Antpitta also makes itself heard. We try to see that one, but the grass is quite tall and while the bird seems to be taunting us it doesn't want to be seen.

Then we hae a brief encounter with a Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant We reach a lake that is devoid of avian life and turn aronda gain, reach the car around 16.30. As we slowly drive down we get to see a Tawny Antpitta on the road! It's with us for a little while, now apparently not minding being seen.

I ended up not taking any photos during this outing because of the weather, and there weren't too many opportunities, but certainly some quality encounters in this location.

We get back around 1730 which allows time for a shower before the eviening meal is served. Pumpkin soup, followed by chicken with tomoatoes and plantain. I must say I find the food tastier than in Brazil. Maybe it just suits my palate. Pablo promises me better weather tomorrow - there's another excursion planned, and apparently the weather there is always good. We will see....

Andrea

Running a bit low on photos to illustrate this post.- I promise there will be rather different ones in the next instalemnt.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet
Buff-tailed Coronet
ditto
and again (these guys love to pose, it seems!)
and a non-bird
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Old Tuesday 4th April 2017, 10:13   #8
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Another not too early start, with braekfast at 6.30 and departure at 7.00. The weather is as it has been all along, low clouds and more rain, but Pablo is adamant that as we drive round the main mountain in the area and then the weather will change.

Where the terrain is steap the forest remains since farming would be too hard. For some reason in the area around Guango one sees quite a lot of cattle, and Pablo explains that at some point there was a government incentive to get people to move to this area by providing them with cattle. Apparently this wasn't thought through too well, and there isn't too much of a market for the produce, but what people own is tied up.

Where the mountains are more rounded they are typically bare. One can easily imagine their former history as volcanoes, and there is are of course still some active volcanoes left in the Andes. The weather brightens considerably ajd visibility has improved dramatically as a result. We enter the Antisana reserve, and the sun is out occasionally. Nice change!

As we enter the park we get out and walk occasionally - clearly Pablo knows the most promising spots. There are new hummingbirds, high altitude specialists such as Shining Sunbeam and Ecuadorian HIllstar, as well as a fly-by Sword-billed.

We find Tufted Tit-Tyrant in Pablo's spot, as well as Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant. Eared Dove and Black-winged Ground Dove add some variety, as does a Cinereous Conebill. A Black Flowerpiercer allows us to watch it for a short while.

An early highlight is an Andean Condor flying over - a bird I really had wanted to see. While I know it has an enormous size this somehow doesn't make an impression when I see the bird. Nonetheless there's a sense of awe among us. The only other raptor we see is a quite distant Variable Hawk.

It is lovely to have some sun as we explore, looking along a stream and finding Stout-billed Cinclodes. We stop off at a restaurant that hs some hummingbird feeders to see what we can add here, and a Black-tailed Trainbearer even perches long enough for a distant photo. A Rofous-collared Sparrow doesn't quite have the same glamour, but poses nicely among some flowers.

As we reach a grassy area we see a few birds dotted around on the short grrasss - Andean Lapwing. We take photos from the car since Pablo thinks they'll take off if we get out - and indeed they do when we try that to get a better angle. A Plumbeous Sierra-Finch is also seen.

The road winds its way higher and higher into the mountains. What else is waiting for us here?

Andrea

Andean Condor
Black-tailed Trainbearer
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Andean Lawping
Flower by the wayside
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Old Tuesday 4th April 2017, 18:01   #9
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Up in the Paramo we are now, and the road is now climbing only slightly. Occasionally we stop when something appears worth stopping for.

The first is a Caranculated Caracara preening itself close to the raod side. The bird is completely unconcerned as we roll to a stop quite close, and even opening the sliding door doesn't bother it at all. It's almost as if it's been hired to be here at a given time to serve as a photo model.

The next birds we espy certainly are not posing for us - they are two Black-faced Ibises working their way through the grass, rather further away than I would like them to be. There's a gentle breeze moving the grass, which doesn't help with the focussing. We get out and walk parallel to them, trying to change the angle a bit before they are even further away.

The Antisana volcano briefly allows itself to be seen before it wrapts itself up into its own cloud system once again. The sun has gone, and the wind is freshening. Clearly we're not destined to complete this day in mild weather.

Andrea

Caranculated Caracara
same again
Black-faced Ibis
Paramo landscape
Antisana volcano
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Old Tuesday 4th April 2017, 18:16   #10
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We reach the end of the road that is, as far as one is allowed to drive. We park the car at the shores of a lake that makes our final destination. High altitude waterbirds are what we're looking for here.

No ducks anywhere, but an Andean Coot is quite close when we first arrive, only to make its way rapidly away from us. More cooperative is an Silvery Grebe that even shows itself with a catch. It dives unconcerned by our presence, feeding with good success.

But the weather really isn't on our side, it's starting to rain again and the drops are becoming bigger, the wind freshens up noticeably, and having seen what there is to see we return to the shelter of the car, making our way down once again.

AS we come to lower elevations the rain stops again, and we stop once more at a spot where Andean Condors like to perch we find two birds that prefer sitting in the wall to looking for food.

We follow an interesting route through a little canyon to a restaurant for a late luhch. We are the only guests there, and I'm amazed the place is open under the circumstances. The place is a bit off the beaten track, and the park certainloy wasn't at all busy while we were visiting. The owner is apologetic about the fact that it'll take a while to cook the food, and he brings one of those heaters I'm more used to seeing outside since it's quite cool. The hummingbird feeders are not being visited, and it's quite windy which may have something to do with this.

As we leave the park the weather is quite bright again with the sun out, but as we drive around the mountain back to Guango we can see more low threatening clouds. There's a blazing rainbow before we are swallowed up again in the grey and wet weather.

When we get back to Guango it's clear that it's been raining here as well during, but it has stopped. Being very aware of the fact that we are leaving tomorrow and this is my last chance to photograph the hummingbirds here, so I walk around near the lodge until, at around 17.30, it just gets too dark for this to be productive.

There's time for a quick shower before dinner, and then our final day at Guango draws to a close.

Andrea

Andean Coot rapidly moving away
Silver Grebe
ditto
Andean Condor wall (there are two in this picture)
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Old Friday 7th April 2017, 12:47   #11
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The next day it was time to move on from Guango. I couldn't help but wonder what this place might be like when the weather is more cooperative. Certainly a nice introduction to Ecuador we had so far. Easily an area in which I'd have liked to spend more time.

Breakfast at 6.30, off back towards Quito by 7.00. The weather is once again wet with low visibility around Papallact, but once we get closer to Quito it improved dramatically.

Our next stop on the official two centre tour is Tandayapa Lodge. This is owned by the owner of Tropical Birding, and features in all their Ecuador tours. We're back in a foresty part of the country, with steep wooded mountains. The very final part of the drive to the front of the lodge turns out to be too much for our vehicle. This seems to be a very common occurrence, hence there is a place to park before the last very steep bit. We all get out, enjoying that we're out of the rain. It's only around 10.20.

This is a very nice lodge, with a much more generous sitting area than Guango. It's also warmer here, and we're not so high up, only around 1700m. Now we're on the eastern slopes of the Andes there's a quite different population of birds to be discovered.

Inspecing the hummingbird feeders gives a first idea of just how much of a real divide the central Andes are. Buff-tailed Coronet is the only species that we've seen before, everything else is new. The feeders are on a terrace that allows for views over the steeply dropping hillside.

Slowly we're beginning to sort out the new hummingbirds. Very common are Western (Andean) Emerald, Purple-throated Woodstars, reminiscent of giant bumblebees in the way they fly, and Booted-Racket=tails. But there are a lot of other species as well: Three Violetears in the form of Brown, Sparklingand Lesser (Green) which are reasonably common. Then there are Rufoust-tailed Hummingbirds quite distinctive with their stoutish red bills, and Fawn-breasted Brilliants, large and aggressive.

Pablo brings up the multpile flash setup, which lives in a large suitcase. We start to put it all together - there are, in fact, two such set-ups for two photographers to work in paralell. So, eight flashes, and an additional tripod to hold a hummingbird feeder where it suits us. Eventually everything is assembled and working, once some batteries have been replaced. In Guango we ended up only taking a few test shots with this rig, but this afternoon is to be mostly devoted to that pursuit.

We sit down for lunch at 1.00, but are soon interrupted since it starts to rain. We collect all the photo gear from the terrace before we resume eating. And then it rains, and rains, and rains. People wonder off, and I spend some time looking at various books that are here for people to pursue. Then I make myself a hot drink. Then it stops raining for a while and my spirits rise.

There's a fruit feeder on the opposite side of the lodge to the terrace with the hummingbird feeders, and at last it is possible to do some actual bird watching! A Red-headed Barbet comes to the feeder, as do Thick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonias, staying long eonough to allow a thorough look. A troop or Russet-backed Oropendolas arrives,, their calls to each other alerting everybody to their presence quite some time before they decide that it's safe enough to descend to the feeding station.

There are is also the occasional Golden and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, as well as a Black-capped Tanager a bit further away. Other birds we find around the lodge during the course of the day are Zeledon's Antbird and Streak-capped Treehunter. It's a bit too dark for photography, with the clouds still looming overhead. And indeed, before too long it stars to rain again.

At 17.00 it finally stops, and we do get to have a short session with the flash photography set-up until it becomes too dark to continue. The idea is to use the flash in such a way that the bird is illuminated from all sides, and for some reason this does not give the artificial effect that one can easily get when trying to photograph hummingbirds with just one on-camera flash (I carried out some experiments with this at Guango because it was so dark under the trees near the lodge, and I can post an example if people would like to see that).

Pablo has even found me a tripod since I neglected to bring one. I'm a birder who likes to take pictures, and unlike those for whom photography is the main concern I want something that is portable, even if it means my pictures aren't quite in the same quality range.

The idea of this exercise is quite simple: The hummingbirds approach the feeder that is at the centre of the group of flashes. The camera is on manual focus because the idea is to only press the shutter when the bird is flying through a well-specified area just before it gets to the feeder. But, of course, one doesn't want the feeder in the picture, nor yet the hummingbird on the feeder - the idea is to capture flight shots, which is possilbe because while the hummingbirds don't have to approach our small feeders from the desired corridor, this is the side facing the only feeding station, and a fair number of the birds do what we would like them to do. The problem is hitting the shutter at the right time! Because the birds are small and fast ths is a bit harder than one might think, but thanks to the wonders of digital photography, taking umpteen shots doesn't cost us more than a bit of battery charge.

This is good fun, and we're starting to get the feel for it, but all too soon we have to stop because it is getting too dark. We come in to review what we've got so far, and at this point it becomes clear that there is a lot of scope in capturing hummingbirds in unuusal flight positions as they maneouvre to get to the feeder, or stop in the air because another bird got there first.

I'm afraid this report will now in part become a bit of a photo blog - I really did fall in love with the opportunities this offered, and on all three afternoons that we had left at Tandayapa we spent a significant amount of time on this. Sorry for those of you who would prefer just the stories of new birds seen.

Andrea

From that first afternoon:

Booted Racket-tail explaining its name
Purple-tipped Whitetip - my best shos of this species occurred on this first afternoon
Same again - this species rather less common here than many others
and once more - all the same individual
Briwb Violetears squaring off
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Last edited by kitefarrago : Friday 7th April 2017 at 12:59.
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Old Friday 7th April 2017, 12:55   #12
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And a few more:

Sparkling Violetear
Two Booted Racket-tail, thwarted by another bird blocking the feeder
Lesser (Green) Violetear
Buff-tailed Coronet
ditto
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Old Friday 7th April 2017, 12:56   #13
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Sorry, I can't resist. Because of the longish rainy period in the afternoon the hummingbirds were very keen to feed because it got too dark for them, and activity was amazing.
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Old Friday 7th April 2017, 13:05   #14
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Sorry, I can't resist.

Because of the prolongued period of rain that afternoon the birds were very eager to feed, and activity was crazy at times.

Sparkling Violetear
Green-crowned Brilliant
Sometimes the smaller bird will take on a larger one - Buff-tailed Coronet and Purple-throated Woodstar
Buff-tailed Coronets might be very common, but they also give a lot of great photo opportunities
Purple-throated Woodstar showing how the tail is used when stopping
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Old Friday 7th April 2017, 14:31   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitefarrago View Post
Sorry, I can't resist.
No need to apologise, I doubt I'm the only one enjoying the fruits of your labour, keep 'em coming.
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Old Saturday 8th April 2017, 11:51   #16
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I hope you won't come to regret your encouragement, James! It is very gratefully received.

This trip was advertised as a photography-focussed one, so its main purpose isn't to visit lots of locations nnd see as many species as possible, although there were some excursions planned from this base. Because we had had so little birding time at the lodge on the previous day we decided to stick to the area for this first full day at Tandayapa Lodge.

Breakfast at 6.30, and after a look at the not so very busy hummingbird feeders Pablo suggests a walk. It's sunny and generally very pleasant, so we begin by ambling down the access road. Time to find some of the more common birds of the area! Photography wasn't good since most birds were distant.

We pick up a distant Golden-tailed Quetzal,Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Black Phoebe, Smoke-coloured Pewee.
We find new warblers, Blackburnian, Russet-crowned, and Three-striped flitting in the trees a Slate-throated Whitestart. A Rufous Motmot is another nice bird to see.

There's a White-winged Becard to be seen, and a Red-eyed Vireo as we leave the forest behind. A House Wren tells us about its presence, and a House Sparrow is seen as we come down to where there are a few houses. A Russet-collared Sparrow reminds us that we are in South America after all, and it is supported in thsi claim by Chestnut-capped and White-winged Brushfinches, and we also find a Yellow-bellied Siskin, and a Buff-throated Saltator. Our tanager collection is boosted in the course of this walk by finding both Metallic-green and Rufous-throated.

It's quite warm now and we see Blue-and-White Swallows overhead. A raptor turns out to be nothing more exciting than a Roadside Hawk. The only photo I take is a butterfly rather than a bird. An unexpected Ringed Kingfisher flies by.

We hadn't realized that Pablo mobilized Luis to drive us back up the hill, and since it's getting rather warm now this is appreciated. On the way from the car park to the lodge we find a Powerful Woodpecker
- nice bonus. We have some water and take a little break before setting off again on the lodge paths, making our way to a hide. But it's pretty quest now. We find a Grey-breasted Wood Wren and a Montane Woodcreeper and one new hummingbird in the form of Tawny-bellied Hermit. Pablo is glad about this since this one doesn't come to feeders.

We make our way back to the lodge since activity is not encouraging, and have lunch at around 12.45. Turkey and Black Vultures are seen flying over the valley.

The afternoon is mostly devoted to more hummingbird flash photography, and this time we're only interrupted by rain for an hour ro so. While the rain lessens a bit there's a chance to observe birds at the feeders. New for the trip there are Lemon-rumped, Blue-grey and Silver-throated Tanager as well as a Crimson-rumped Toucanet. A Red-tailed Squirrel drives away the birds for a while. It's quite dark under the trees with the heavy cloud overhead and photography doesn't give good results. This also holds for the photos I take walking about the hummingbird feeders.

But the flashlight session gives me some more results that I really enjoy. The distotions the birds go through when they're manoeuvering into position are amazing, and I think it's impossible to see this when they move in real time. It's the freezing of the action which allows us to see this at all. This also means that one really can't tell what photographs one has until reviewing them later. There is a distinct element of luck involved, although with practice it becomes easier to press the shutter after the bird has entered the frame and before it has hit the feeder.

unknown Butterfly
typical hillside in the area
Red-tailed Squirrel
Western (Andean) Emerald - attention on the feeder
Brown Violetear emergency brake
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Old Saturday 8th April 2017, 12:05   #17
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As the afternoon progresses Pablo has a surprise for us. He has collected a cuople of wild flowers, and after a while we replace the feeder by these (with sugarwater replenished frequently to ensure the birds are rewarded for coming to our lure).

This changes the nature of the photography, which is no longer so much about catching the birds in flight but leads to more static pictures as they feed from the flower. Because this is now a natural looking feeding occasion the need to cut the feeder out of the picture has been eliminated.

Andrea


Booted Racket-tail (female)
Western (Andean) Emerald
Booted Racket-tail arriving, settling, feeding
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Old Saturday 8th April 2017, 12:13   #18
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It's perfectly possible even with the flowers to get `action shots' though. Birds still have to maneouvre, and if there's more than one of them at a time this can lead to interesting interactions.

Andrea

Buff-tailed Coronot braking,
claiming ownership,
challenging a Fawn-breasted Brilliant
coming in to land (twice)
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Old Saturday 8th April 2017, 12:22   #19
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And the last few with the banana flower.

Sparkling Violetear
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
again
Purple=throated Woodstar (female)
with a Fawn-breasted Brilliant coming from the `wrong' direcition
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Old Sunday 9th April 2017, 13:01   #20
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Pablo had picked up another lfower, much smaller, and one with less storage for sugar water, nonetheless proved to be very attractive for some of the birds.

By now we were looking either for the less common birds (but as they were zooming through the viewfinder it wasn't always easy to tell what they were), or for the one that came through regularly, but not all that frequently, the Violet-tailed Sylph, because we all wanted to have that glorious tail I'd missed Long-tailed Sylph at Guango, and I certainly wanted some pictures with its cousin as a subject.

These sylphs are puzzling in that only males seem to visit feeders, so the females aren't seen very often. It doesn't seem to be known why exactly that is, but we did indeed see only males.

I think this one deserves a post to itself.

Andrea
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Old Sunday 9th April 2017, 13:10   #21
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For some reason these fuchsia-type flowers really did attract hummingbirds in no proportion to their size. Could it be because they're red?

Fawn-breasted Brilliants havne't featured a lot so far, so here's one bird showing off that even large hummingbirds get drawn to small flowers - and have to do some clever maneouvering to get themselves into position.


Andrea
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Old Sunday 9th April 2017, 13:17   #22
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Buff-tailed Coronots going for the same flower.

Andrea
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Old Sunday 9th April 2017, 13:37   #23
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And a few mixed ones. We swapped over again, so I was back to the banana flower flor the last few pictures of the afternoon.

Andrea

Lesser (Green) Violetear
Brown Inca (the only time one of these joined our photo sessions)
Purple-throated woodstar (showing how tiny these are)
again
Fawn-breasted Brilliants always perched if there was any chance to do so while feeding. (They also had an interesting technique for grabbing the hummingbird feeder.) None of this strength-sapping hovering!
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Old Monday 10th April 2017, 13:39   #24
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The next morning we did go for an excursion away from the Tandayapa valley, to Milpe. This is a small reserve that's quite a bit lower down on the slopes of the Andes.

Because this is a photography trip the main cncern with deciding when to set out is what the light will do for photography, and it's 7.30 by the time we set off, to arrive about half an hour later. There's a feeding station that draws in some toucans and tanagers, and at first the light is quite gloomy. It doesn't really brighten up until 9.30 or so.

When the plantains are first put out there is allready a group of Pale-mandibled (Collared) Aracari waiting For a place where they are fed regularly, and also protected, they're quite wary,, always on teh look-out, and moving off if they feel that something isn't quite right. We're advised to keep our distance when photographing. The aracaris do have a way of monopolizing the food, and the tanagers and euphonias don't come in until after the food has been replenished, and the aracaris have had their fill. On the other hand there's a handful of them, so there is some interaction as they each try to secure the best spot near the food.

The species we see include Silver-throated Tanager, Golden Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Blue-grey, Palm and Lemon-rumped Tanager, and we just watch birds coming in, taking pictures and making sure we spot also those birds that stay in the background, such as a Rufous Motmot. A female Red-headed Becard makes a colourful subject, and it is joined by the male before too long.

After a while there's a single Choco Toucan, even warier than its cousins. Ad the name suggested this is an endemic to the choco region, and particularly welcome. There's some kind of work going on here and there are occasionally passers-by enganged in that which distube the birds a bit.

The challenge in photography here is a combination of the distance to the subject, the hard shadows, and trying to get natural looking pictures when the birds are here for the banana-type food affixed to spikes on a tree branch, but the site is quite active and the spread of species is pretty good.

After we think we have seen what we will here we decide to go for a little walk along the trails.

Andrea

Pale-mandibled Aracaris (note the harsh shadows)
again
Silver-throated Tanager
Choco Toucan
Rufous Motmot
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Old Monday 10th April 2017, 14:16   #25
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On our walk we do manage to see (but not photograph) the other species of toucan possible here: Yellow-throated (or Chocolate-manbiled or Black-mandibled, depending on which taxonomy you follow), flying high into a tree. A Squirrel Cuckoo is seen. We also find a Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Buff-fronted Foliagegleaner and Plain Xenopse giving identifiable but underwheldming views.

In the course of the walk we do find new flycatchers in the form of the expected Social and Dusky-capped the new for me Slaty-capped Flycatcher. A Bay Wren is idenfied by voice. and on the reserve we also see the fairly common Ecuadorian and Pale=vented Thrush.

There are new warblers as well on the walk, Olive-crowned Yellow-throat, the first Tropical Parula of the trip, as well as the prevoiusly seen Blcackburnian and Slate-throated Whitestart. An Orange-billed Sparrow plays hide-and-seek with us and holds out remarkably long given that it stays in the same smallish bush all along.

It is getting quite warm but nonetheless we do find new birds, such as Ruddy Quail-Dove and Pallid Dove and a Yellow-throated Bush Tanager as well as a Black-winged Saltator.

There are a few hummingbird feeders near the main building, and we find two new species that prefer to be a bit lower down, Green Thorntail, Crowned Woodnymph

We chedk out the feeding site again briefly before moving off, and find a White-lined Tanager sitting quietly in the background. Other tanagers seen here which I didn't mention in the first post are Bay-headed and Black-capped, Flame-faced and Rufous-throated Tanager as well as Green Honeycreeper.

We drive off to have a very nice lunch in a nearby town. There's a fruit feeder just outside the restaurant, and I'm keen to take more pictures since there's a very cooperative Crimson-Rumped Toucan. Unfortunately my fifteen minutes before we move off coincides with two girls wanting to hand-feed it, and I am not able to make the most of the opportunity. Also found here were Lemon-rumped and Blue-greyTanager.

On the drive we see some Cattle Egrets which are new for the list, as well as Shiny Cowbirds.


Andrea

No photos were taken during the walk, so what we have here is still from the feeding site, with the last two being from the lunch spot.

Flame-faced Tanager
Red-headed Barbet
Rufous-throated Tanager
Lemon-rumped Tanager (female)
Crimson-rumped Toucan
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