Sunday, September 4, 2022

Blue-billed Curassow and Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant

 September 2021: A Continuation of a Target Birding Trip in Colombia

Phase 2 of the trip started out with a traffic jam.  Our route to Tolima was a bit of a slog and we ended up sitting in traffic for hours while landslides were cleared and roads were opened up again.  It's one of the inevitabilities of traveling in the Andes.  The roads snake through river valleys and regularly get blocked by falling trees or mud-slides or get washed out by floods.  Everyone here is patient, there really isn't much of a choice and certainly no sensible alternative routes, and so there really isn't much to do but look at the birds and relax.  Eventually we made it to where we needed to get to, a little later than planned, but both in one piece.

Thursday, September 2 - Cañon del Rio Combeima / Ukuku Rural Lodge.

If you want to see doves you need to drive the roads early in the morning or be prepared for a long hard slog later in the day.  This maxim has been a fixture on so many trips I've been on, that it hardly seems odd to get up early and fret about being the first car to dive up a road before others have flushed the doves back to the forest.  The doves for their part often seem to oblige, toddling along on the roadside in the early low light and allowing for unobstructed views before slinking off into the undergrowth to hide for the rest of the day.  So at dawn on Tuesday we were driving up the Combeima River Canyon, hoping to beat any other traffic, with doves on our mind.

In the end we saw quite a few Tolima Doves, or at least birds we assumed were Tolima Doves.  We needed to get a good look though, see eye color, for a confirm on what was a life bird for me.  So we pushed up the valley, stopped when we saw a dove ahead of us, and tried to get scope views.  In the end we were also able to play a little tape and had one come crashing in close to us, giving us the necessary reassurance views.  One endemic down, two to go ...

Yellow-headed Brushfinch

With doves in the bag, the focus turned to Yellow-headed Brushfinches, a little tape was played, and a pair came storming out of the forest to see what was going on.  Well that was easy.  Back to the lovely hotel for more coffee and breakfast.  Two lifers before breakfast, every day should start that way.

Payback came quickly though.  Daniel gently broke the news to me that the road to our next destination, the Ukuku Rural Lodge was not wide enough to allow us to drive up.  So we had a walk ahead of us and the lodge it seemed was always located just a few hundred yards ahead, around the next bend.  We made it eventually, but it did seem that the initial estimates of the distance and steepness of the path might just have seen a little optimistic to encourage me along.  Still we made it there safely and there were hummingbirds and coffee waiting for us when we did.

I'd seen Santa Marta Blossomcrown with Daniel a few years before so I was curious to complete the set as it were and see the Tolima Blossomcrown too.  Now all that we had to do was find one among the 15 species of hummingbird that buzzed around the lodge's feeders and ornamental plantings.  There really were a lot of birds, Sparkling and Lesser Violetears, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Buff-tailed Coronets, Booted Racket-tails, Fawn-breasted Brilliants and White-bellied Woodstars, the list went on and on.  The blossomcrown made it's appearance of course just after someone from the lodge had handed me a cup of coffee, making me spin around looking for a level place to put it down then rush over just in case this was it's only visit of the morning.  In the end we needn't have worried though as 2 or 3 birds snuck into the plantings fairly regularly (but never to the feeders) and fed low down in the flowering shrubs many times over the next few hours.  A truly lovely spot.

Red-billed Emerald and Tolima Blossomcrown

Friday, September 3 - Puerto Salgar

Today was a travel day as we came down from the mountains into the heat and humidity of the Magdalena Valley.  We didn't really have any birding planned but we did choose a random side road and spend an hour looking at the locals just to break the journey and start to get to grips with some more 'lowland' species.   The road we chose wasn't particularly special, just a farm track that ran along some flooded ditches and through some thorny hedges and field borders.  Nevertheless, an hour or so there gave us 45 species of bird and a family group of Night-Monkeys sp. (not sure which one).  I'm used to seeing night-monkeys peeping out of holes in tall trees in dense forests so this was a very different habitat but they seemed happy enough, just curious as to who was passing by.

Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Night-Money sp.

Saturday/Sunday, September 4/5 - RNA Paujil

The highlight of the whole Colombia trip for me was a chance to go to this reserve.  We started early and had to drive a long and winding road through farm fields in order to get there, but we made plenty of stops and got some good birds.  

First decent bird of the day was a lifer for me, a Large-billed Seed-Finch which we found just outside a small village in roadside grasses.  As we made our way towards the park, the birds kept coming and by the time we got to the forest proper we had seen 60 or so species before we'd even reached the reserve.

The reserve HQ entrance though presented another challenge.  Two rangers had ridden out on dirt bikes to meet us at the nearest village and escort us in.  The road was narrow but passable but as we peeled off the main road to get down to the lodge the track narrowed until we eventually reached a place where the track had recently washed out all together.  To patch it up the rangers had assembled a sort of dam of sandbags and filled in an improvised roadway behind them.  Between the somewhat soft and unstable wall of sandbags, and the sheer sand cliff on the other side of the new 'road', was a muddy runway perhaps 7 feet wide.  We were traveling in Daniel's brand new, very shiny, very expensive Toyota LandCruiser, which coincidentally was roughly 7 feet wide.  To drive across the 'road' Daniel had to put one wheel on the sandbags, which visibly sagged and separated under the weight of the car, and have one wheel pressed up against the cliff.  Six inches the wrong way and he'd be scratching up one side of the car or sending it tumbling into a morass of mud and jungle vegetation in the stream bed below.  I got out of the car and walked (!), Daniel, looking cool and calm but with decidedly white knuckles, edged the car delicately between destruction and disaster and somehow managed to bring it through.  Nerves of steel ... 

Blue-billed Curassow

When we arrived at the lodge, still a little shaken up, the rangers quickly and excitedly called out that there were Blue-billed Curassows visible.  The star bird and my main target!  The roadway was forgotten and I rushed over to see the birds and get a photo just in case it was my only chance to see them.  This is a rare bird, endemic to Colombia and severely endangered with a population of perhaps only 1,500 birds.  Surely it was a real treat to see them so easily and I was thinking how lucky we were as we checked in a the lodge and sat down in the dining area for lunch, where we were joined by ... the curassows.  Turns out they were quite habituated at the lodge, came readily for kitchen scraps, and were very tame here.  Still, for a bird this rare it wasn't at all a disappointment to be able to spend time up close and personal with them.  Truly spectacular creatures.

After lunch and a siesta we did some afternoon birding and chose a spot where we had a good view of the surrounding forest from a somewhat rickety canopy tower and some nearby benches on the safer and more stable adjacent ground.  It truly was a very birdy place, particularly one tree where a huge mixed flock seemed to be mobbing something.  Search as we might though, expecting and owl or a hawk or perhaps a mammalian predator, we couldn't see what was driving the birds insane.  Only after detailed searching, and following the chachalacas to try to see what they were looking, at did we find the culprit, or rather the victim, a small Boa Constrictor dangling from the very end of a thin branch trying to avoid the murderous pecks of dozens of angry birds.  The poor thing looked as terrified as a reptile can look and had clearly had a very rough day but it got no quarter from the birds who continued to shriek angrily at it and try to reach down it's branch to continue the attack. 

Somewhat traumatized Boa Constrictor and the
Colombian Chachalaca intent on murdering it

After dinner we decided to do a little owling and set out in search of Choco Screech-Owl.  We weren't technically in the Choco but on many range maps there's a little 'hook' where Choco specialists spread up into the Magdalena Valley.  The screech-owl was one of those and also, luckily for us, a curious creature who came in close to check us out in the darkness.

Choco Screech-Owl

Next day we had a few target birds I wanted to see so we focussed on them.  Black Antshrike was easy to hear but took us a very long time to see and we ended up devoting a fair amount of the morning to it.  Russet-winged Schiffornis was my other target and, after hiking up a trail to a known territory we were able to get one to call but again had to work hard to see it sitting still in the dark understory of the forest.  Through the morning though we kept adding species and in the evening went back to the tower, racking up a really nice list of birds for the day.

Bare-crowned Antbird and Purple-throated Fruitcrow

Black-chested Jay and Orange-winged Parrot

Monday/Tuesday, September 6/7 - RN Cañon del Río Claro

All too soon it was time to leave one wonderful place, only to swap it for another.  Maybe COVID ironically helped us here because at peak season, in normal times, I bet the Rio Claro Canyon is a zoo filled with crowds of tourists walking the trails, swimming and tubing on on the clear waters of the river.  As it was, the resort was reasonably quiet while we were there.  There were a few tourists but the trails weren't crowded and we were able to bird comfortably without dodging crowds of shrieking kids.

Out main activity for out first evening there was to look for the endemic Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, a tiny yellow flycatcher that likes the canopy of tall trees and is generally rare and difficult to see even where it does occur.  Then, having failed in our first attempt there, we went to a cave a mile or so up river and waited for the Oilbird spectacular, eventually seeing hundreds of them emerge and whirl over the river as the light faded away (it sounds touristy but it was very cool).

Fasciated Tiger-Heron

Next day we tried again twice for the bistle-tyrant (nope) and birded some local trails, cobbling together a nice mix of locals and adding some things to the trip list.  Then, just as I'd given up on the little bugger, attempt number 4, just as we were leaving, and the bristle-tyrant surrendered.  Sweet victory!

Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant in all it's glory ...

Wednesday, September 8 - Vivero Cantos de Agua

After two plus weeks you really get into the routine of a birding trip but all good things come to an end even if it felt like a surprise to realize that the last day had arrived and I was less than 24 hours from my return flight from Medellin to New York.  With few targets left, Daniel suggested we try maybe for the Red-bellied Grackles that seemed regular at a relatives garden/nursery.  So we went along and spent a morning in a beautiful garden seeing lots of birds but no grackles.  As so often is the case though, the change of scenery made the difference and we went off, up the road to some higher elevations, before returning to the garden.  Just before we got there, two things happened quickly ... two Tyras, oversized weasel relatives, crossed the road in front of us and then ... we found the grackles and got to spend some quality time with them.

Red-bellied Grackle

And so the trip ended.  Roughly 400 species, roughly 40 of them lifers for me.  Wonderful country, wonderful company and zero COVID-related hassles.  Pretty much the perfect trip.  Can't wait to get back to Colombia one day.

Andean Motmot

Back to the Colombian Andes

 August 2021: A return to birding as COVID seemed to be ebbing

After nearly 18 months with no real travel, the Summer of 2021 seemed at the time to be something of a return to normal  The first waves of COVID appeared to be subsiding, most people I knew had been vaccinated, and it felt like perhaps the worst was over.  In the birding world there were signs of life; people we starting to travel again and certain birding destinations were 'opening up' for business and restrictions of travel were generally easing.  In that context I decided to take a trip to Colombia, a country that some of my friends had successfully visited earlier in the Summer and so planned a two week private trip with the great Daniel Uribe focussed mainly on some target birds I needed in the Northern Andes and the Magdalena Valley.

Tuesday, August 24 - Arrival in Bogota

Traffic in Bogota is legendarily bad.  Tonight it was worse.  I'd arrived at the airport after a hassle-free flight from New York, met up with Daniel and we'd hopped in a cab for what should have been a relatively quick ride to our hotel.  The traffic just wasn't cooperating though, and so when we came to a complete stop a quarter of a mile from our destination, we decided that we'd get out and walk to the hotel.  A few minutes later we arrived but had to detour around police tape and parked police cars that were blocking our way.  On the street in front of the hotel entrance was a dead body lying sprawled in a large pool of blood.  It seems that there had been a traffic accident and a motorcyclist had been hit and killed right there in front of the hotel.  No-one seemed in any rush to move the body, no ambulance was on the scene, and no-one had covered the body in any way, so to access the hotel we had to step gingerly around the blood and scuttle up the steps.  Welcome to Bogota.

Wednesday, August 25 - Laguna de Pedro Palo / Parque Natural Chicaque

Putting thoughts of last night aside, we got up early to avoid traffic and headed out to chase some specific targets close to Bogota.  First stop was Laguna de Pedro Palo where we birded along a dirt track through a mix of fields and woodland edges up to the lake and surrounding forest.  After 18 months with no Neotropical birding, this was my gentle re-entry to unfamiliar birds, so we took it slow and build up a nice list of mixed field and forest edge birds, making the time to see the Spinetails (Slaty, Striped-breasted and Ash-browed) and get back in the swing of the Neotropical birds.  

The target here was a low probability but Daniel had previously had Turquoise Dacnis in the canopy of some trees near the lake.  We thought it unlikely that the bird would be there again but found a nice vantage point where we could look down on the trees from the road, set up the scope, and started to scan.  A half hour later, Daniel did come up with the dacnis, almost exactly where he'd seen it the prior year.  A neat, colorful little bird, a Colombian endemic, and a good one to get on the list.  Not a bad start to the trip.

Contrasts ... Plain Antvireo and Golden-bellied Starfrontlet

Despite our fear of traffic, after lunch we plunged in again and skirted around Bogota to get to PN Chicaque, a small park with a hummingbird feeder and hopefully a life hummingbird for me.  The weather wasn't great when we arrived, the feeders looked somewhat neglected, and so we decided to go into the restaurant for the first of what would become innumerable cups of strong black Colombian coffee consumed on this trip.  Thus fortified we came back out into the cold and resumed our hummingbird vigil, enjoying Tourmaline Sunangels, Sparkling and Lesser Violetears, and Collared Incas before the star bird, the Golden-bellied Starfrontlet swept in to make an appearance.  Found only in Colombia and Venezuela, this bird really does have a golden belly, it looks like it has gilded chain-mail on it's bottom half.  This bird was coming infrequently to the feeders though so after a couple of visits and some decent views we decided that it we'd call it a day and head back to the hotel for a hot meal and some sleep.  No point rushing things, there were plenty of birds ahead of us.

Thursday/Friday, August 26/27 - PNN Chingaza

I'd birded Chingaza before, in fact I'd birded the entrance road, but a quick look at my needs lists showed that there were still a handful of species that justified a repeat visit.  So we spent another day in the first few miles of the park road and enjoyed a huge variety of species.  The vegetation is low here so birds are relatively visible and by slowly working up and down the road all day we got to grips with the various tanagers, conebills, flowerpiercers, hummingbirds, and brushfinches that dominate the habitat.  

Golden-crowned Tanager and Black-headed Hemispingus

Three of the 'tanagers' were life birds ... Golden-crowned Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, and Black-headed Hemispingus and, after a fair amount of searching, we managed to get all three.  That left us free to focus on my other target, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, which eventually surrendered on day 2, and to focus on some specific locations for Ochre-breasted Brushfinch and the rare Brown-breasted Parakeet.  Basically, everything fell into place over the course of the two days; a tribute to Daniel's knowledge and persistence, and we were able to move on, on schedule, for the next target birds.

Habitat shot ... lots of Thornbills here ... probably

Saturday, August 28 - Laguna de Fuquene / Reserva Rogitama

The next day's target was one I was really looking forward to.  Apolinar's Wren is another localized Colombian endemic that lives in reed beds surrounding Andean lakes and while it looks a bit like a sedge wren it has all the cachet if a localized endemic and so was high on the list of birds I wanted to see.  We had a date with them at Laguna de Fuquene and the plan was to scan the reeds from a convenient hotel parking lot, grabbing the bird then moving on quickly.  The problem of course was that the birds had other plans, and so it seems did the local residents ... there simply were no accessible reed beds that we could view from the shore of the lake as they'd all been cut down.  Never daunted though, Daniel negotiated with some local boatmen and in no time at all we were off across the lake in a small fishing boat, heading for intact reed beds and wrens.

Apolinar's Wren (autofocus hates reed beds)

With the wrens seen well and photographed poorly it was back on the road for an early arrival at the charming private Reserva Rogitama where the owner and his family welcomed us, fed us, and got me three life birds in the garden of the house.  Black Inca came to the feeders on the terrace, Short-tailed Emerald came to the flower gardens but we had to walk literally yards down the driveway for Moustached Brushfinch.  In addition we got some good local intel for the next day, so a quick change of plans, and drifted off the sleep with dreams of grackles.

Black Inca and Moustached Brushfinch

Sunday, August 29 - Paramo la Rusia 

While we were at Rogitama we got some really useful information that prompted a bit of a change of plan.  Mountain Grackle is a difficult bird, a nomad that wanders through the high altitude oak forests looking for seasonally available food.  Every now and then though they stop to breed and the locals had a lead on a group that was breeding and thus potentially a lot easier for us to see.  So next morning we climbed up to the oak forests and made our way to an area of mixed woodland and farms where we connected with researchers who confirmed that the birds were still in the area.

Now all we had to do was find the birds and it took an hour or so of patient wandering through the oaks before we started to hear them and were able to work down the valley to get a look at the group.   Grackles in the US are not exactly star birds (I have a hate-hate relationship with the hordes of Common Grackles that pillage my feeders) and these, apart from a small chestnut patch on the wings, were pretty much generic grackles.  Their rarity made them special though, and their unusual habitat.  So definitely a bird we were happy to see.

With the grackles in the bag and no other plans for the day we decided to keep climbing higher and look for Green-bearded Helmetcrest, a high altitude hummingbird I still needed for my list.  Here too the habitat was the star, with weird and very alien looking vegetation dominating the high altitude paramo it really did feel like another world.  Eventually, after a lot of scanning, we found a helmetcrest and got some decent scope views.  Then time to work our way back and retreat to more civilized altitudes.  Certainly a memorable day in the Andes though.

Monday, August 30 - Soata

We'd arrived in Soata the night before, climbed the steep narrow stairs to the hotel (hotels are often above store fronts in small towns, visible only as a sign and a gate at street level) and had a decent meal at a local pizza restaurant.  Soata is not exactly a garden spot but being here gave us the whole day to track down three local specialty birds, Nicifero's Wren, Apical Flycatcher and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird.  

As it turned out though, we really didn't need a whole day and managed all three within an hour or so along a road through local farm country.  The wren was easily called to tape from a scrubby ravine full of thorn bushes while the flycatcher and the hummingbird were both readily found in roadside trees.

Nicifero's Wren

Suddenly we found ourselves basically a day ahead of schedule and, rather than flog some low probability options nearby, decided to adjust the schedule to squeeze in a side-trip to Tolima and made calls to shuffle our hotels for the next few nights.  We ended the day in San Francisco de Sales and, after stopping by the Jardin Encantado to pick up Indigo-capped Hummingbird for the list, took a quiet night to take stock of the new plan.

Indigo-capped Hummingbird

Tuesday, August 31 - Laguna El Tabacal

We spent the morning in the forests around Laguna El Tabacal and, while we racked up a nice selection of species, bombed on our target birds.  After everything thus far performing so well, it was actually a bit of a let down to not get targets where and when we expected them to be, a indication perhaps of how spoiled we'd been so far.  The afternoon was quiet also, adding a few more species, but nothing too memorable, and making our way onwards to fresh forests for the next day.

Wednesday, September 1 - RN Bellavista

After the slow day on Tuesday, Wednesday looked very promising.   We had a list of target birds possible at the park and came in with a very optimistic sense that we were going to see good things.  The day stated well with several singing Magdalena Antbirds and then we got really lucky with the Colombia endemic White-mantled Barbet, all from the entrance road to the park.  The forest trails themselves yielded White-bibbed Manakin and Sooty Ant-Tanager along with a family group of White-footed Tamarins, one of the very few mammals we saw on the trip.  Then we spent some time at the edge of the park and added Beautiful Woodpecker for a fifth life bird.  Not a bad day at all.

Sooty Ant-Tanager

So, really at this point the Andes part of the trip was officially over and from here were were originally planning to drop into the Magdalena Valley to look for some very special birds I had long wanted to see.  With spare time in the schedule though we had the opportunity to make a side-trip and so from here planned to jig over into Tolima Province to look for three special endemics before heading down to the valley.  The trip thus far had been very much a run of specific, often endemic, target birds and we'd seen almost all of them fairly easily, a real tribute to Daniel and his local knowledge.  We still had a lot of energy for a few more though so we excited for what was ahead.

Monday, January 17, 2022

My 5,000th Species

 February 2020: A Week at Two Lodges in SouthEast Ecuador 

After a few days based in Quito, my plan was to join Mitch Lysinger and his Field Guides group for a week of birding in the very SouthEast of Ecuador, a trip anchored in a visit to the Maycu Reserve with the hope of seeing Orange-throated Tanager.  The tanager is a star bird, and historical border disputes in it's limited range had made it a very difficult bird to see until recently.  For me though, the trip was a bit of a 'low effort' thing ... the schedule worked for me, the price was right, and I had met Mitch before and liked him.  This was really meant to be a quick trip before a series of more extensive, expensive private trips and rarity chasing in Brazil ... little did we know at the time that COVID was about to change everything and it would be my last overseas birding trip for 18 months. 

At the time, I was getting very close to the 5,000 species mark in eBird and so it seemed likely that the milestone would happen on this trip.  I had not seen any life birds in my two days near Quito but there were quiet a few possibilities in the South.  Would it be a memorable bird?  Or a more common and widespread one?  My 4,000th species had been Apurimac Spinetail in Peru, a rare and range restricted species but also basically a 'little brown job'.  Wondering what would take the 5,000th slot was definitely part of the fun on this trip.

Monday, February 24 - Loja and the Old Loja-Zamora Road

After a quick flight to Loja we headed off towards Maycu and made our first real birding effort at the Old Loja-Zamora road.  A new road had been built leaving the 'old road' in a rough but passable state and with little traffic; an idea side-road for birders and a way for the group to get acclimatized to the local forest birds.  The birding was pleasant, no rarities here, but another chance to catch up with old friends.  Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dippers are always good value and were joined here by Fasciated Tiger-Heron.  We also had a nice mix of tanagers, a few ant-things, and a decent selection of flock-birds.  All very pleasant.

Fasciated Tiger-Heron and the ever spiffy Torrent Duck

The next stop offered a chance for me to finally get a lifer.  A small 'garden' called 'Mi Paradise' planted heavily for hummingbirds.  The natural plantings attracted a nice selection of smaller hummingbirds, the type that get bullied away from the feeders at the lodges by their bigger and more aggressive cousins.  Here there were Wire-crested Thorntails, Little Woodstars, Glittering-throated and Blue-tailed Emeralds, Golden-tailed Sapphires and a single male Spangled Coquette, a lifer for me.  A lovely little lunch spot to break the journey.

Wire-crested Thorntail

February 24 - 26 - Cabañas Yankuam and Reserva Maycu

A rustic lodge, but a comfortable one, and one with close proximity to the birding area, so we were all very happy to get out of the van and get settled in.  The cabins were close to the reserve entrance and overshadowed by the famous Cordillera del Condor, the sight of past military conflict between Ecuador and Peru along a disputed border line left unclear since colonial times.  These days the conflicts are over, in fact we wandered back-and-for across the unmarked border several times while we were birding along the road here.  We had two full days to bird the reserve and were looking forward to getting to grips with the mouthwatering list of goodies that had been previously reported here.  

Over the next two days I added 18 new birds to my life list.  Just a wonderful variety of new birds along a nice open road through beautiful forest.  Lovely birding.  Golden-winged and Black-and-white Tody-Flycatchers joined the list as did Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Gray-tailed Piha, Lemon-throated Barbet, and Foothill Schiffornis.  We took the time to track down Zimmer's Antbirds, stalked an unexpected Uniform Crake, and played hide-and-seek with a calling Slaty-backed Forest Falcon.  Wonderful stuff.

At some point on day one, keeping count, I realized that I was at 4,999 species and, not 10 minutes later, the star bird, Orange-throated Tanager, made an appearance, taking the 5,000th species spot.  I couldn't have planned it better.

Orange-throated Tanger (#5,000!)

While there were a few targets we (searched obsessively for and) missed, overall it was a wonderful visit.  And of course I have reasons to come again ... which is always the best way to leave a place.  All too soon though, we were off again.

Zimmer's Antbird and Ecuadorian Piedtail

February 27 - 29 - Copalinga Lodge

Our next destination was a much less rustic lodge, well situated near the Rio Bombuscaro section of PN Podocarpus and with a nice set of it's own trails and feeders.  No pressure for major rarities here but there were still some nice birds to be seen interspersed with lovely relaxed 'sits' at the feeders.  

A trip to the National Park produced an Amazonian Umbrellabird, Black-streaked Puffbirds, and the poorly named Orange-crested Flycatcher.  We also staked out a mineral lick and were rewarded with great scope views of the very local White-necked Parakeet.  

The poorly named Orange-crested Flycatcher
and the rare White-necked Parakeet

The feeders at the lodge were also very busy, with perhaps a dozen species of hummingbird and the occasional tanager or monkey.  Sitting and sipping coffee seemed like a very pleasant way to spend the time here.  

Fork-tailed Woodnymph and Booted Racquet-tail.

Violet-headed Hummingbird prefers natural flowers to feeders

We did once manage to tear ourselves away to walk the local trails and were rewarded with great views of a Gray Tinamou, a bird I had heard before but never seen.

Local miscreant (Capuchin) and Gray Tinamou

All too soon though our time was up and we birded out way back to Loja for our flights to Quito and onwards to home.  We did manage a few things en route, the highlight for me was an encounter with several breeding pairs of the nomadic Black-and-White Tanager in dry scrubby forest near Loja, but all good trips come to an end.  I expected to be back in South American fairly quickly, but the news was full of a new COVID virus in China that looked set to make it's way to the US.  As it turns out, it was already there, and all travel plans were put on hold for 18 months after our return ... my next trip to Ecuador was in January of 2022 ... and of course I contracted COVID while I was there ... but that's another blog post.