White-Headed Brush-Finch proved common and several pairs responded inquisitively to my pishing noises. I also had a series of quick encounters with several male Saffron Siskins, looking vibrantly yellow-colored in comparison to the familiar Hooded-Siskin of the highlands. A Pacific Pygmy-Owl piped away in the distance reminding me that I hadn't seen one yet on this trip. Although I had received a lot of advice, the trick to seeing the Tumbes Hummingbird was simply to be patient.
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I walked the road back and forth along several sections, scanning low shrubs for a feeding hummingbird. After an hour I finally found one, and later in the morning I was buzzed by another as it crossed the road zipping uphill. With that tick finally out of the way, I was free to focus on a more photogenic bird, the Elegant Crescentchest, whose congener, the Collared Crescentchest, graces the header of my Birding Brazil blog. In my experience, crescentchests rarely fail to respond to playback, although they often remain deep in cover and are slow to call in response.
This one behaved similarly, but I was surprised to see it approach so close on the ground until it eventually found the right bush in which to escond and reply. Another puzzling bird also came in when I played tape for the crescentchest. After some debate, I decided the relatively featureless bird in question was an Ash-Breasted Sierra-Finch.
Despite the high-speed traffic and the general weirdness of birding alone on a highway in the middle of nowhere, it was a productive and enjoyable morning. At this point in the morning, I had exhausted my potential for lifers and sped north myself to Buenaventura Reserve. Jorupe Reserve: April , Jorupe Reserve is one of the most unique places in Ecuador, offering first-rate lodging in the surprisingly diverse Tumbes Region, the tropical dry forest that spans Northwestern Peru and Southwestern Ecuador. The landscape is subtly dramatic, with bottle-trunked ceiba trees springing out from the hillsides over deciduous scrub and woodland.
Since then the Jocotoco Foundation has substantially improved the infrastructure of the reserve, constructing a marvelous lodge specifically designed for birders. My plan here was to spend a minimum of a full day and a half birding the lower section of the reserve, staying at least one night at the lodge depending on my success the habitat of the upper section overlaps with that of Utuana, which has better infrastructure.
I arranged my reservation well in advance with Jocotours , and when I arrived at midday after my visit to Utuana Reserve in the morning, the staff rolled out the red carpet for me even though I was the only guest. Leo is the senior park ranger at Jorupe, and we birded together all morning, afternoon, and evening this is standard practice at Jorupe unlike at other Jocotoco reserves.
While I typically bird on my own, I enjoyed his company immensely, as he is knowledgable, determined, and enthusiastic — and generally quiet. The lodge was constructed in the middle of mature deciduous forest with an intact understory. There are nearly a dozen beautifully crafted and well spaced cabins, each with a patio from which you can see any bird you might encounter out on the trails. The dining hall opens out on a flowering garden with several bird baths, as well as a grain feeder that regularly attracts different parrots, pigeons, and jays.
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There is also a hide from which you can photograph some of the more timid species that occasionally visit the feeder, such as the Pale-Browed Tinamou. Trails branch off in different directions from the cabins as well. Although at Utuana I had already made a dent in my list of target birds for Southwestern Ecuador, there was still plenty of new species for me to record at Jorupe. We walked a wide dirt track that slowly climbed back into the reserve, picking up both the dove and the spinetail as well as more typical birds of the region, including White-Tailed Jay, Scarlet-Backed Woodpecker, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, and Collared Antshrike.
Not hearing the tanager along the track in its usual haunts, we set out across some neighboring rice fields, where Leo had seen it before. It was now late morning and getting hotter by the minute. While we kicked up a mixed flock of seedeaters, including Parrot-Billed Seedeater, there was no trace of the Black-and-White Tanager, which prefers choked ground cover found along roadsides and riverbanks, at least at this time of year in the Tumbes Region. Leo assured me we would find one later in the day at another site, and we made a long loop back to the lodge, first bushwhacking down to the highway and then heading back up the dirt track.
For our efforts, we found a pair of Henna-Hooded Foliage-Gleaners, seeing them briefly with the help of playback.
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Then we searched for a West-Peruvian Screech-Owl roost to no avail. Further ahead we stopped to locate the nest of a Rufous-Necked Foliage-Gleaner, which was located within a bromeliad that was affixed to the trunk of a tree. During my brief stay at Jorupe, which was just at the start of the dry season, it seemed like every bird species was raising their young and that I heard the cries of hatchlings all day long.
Suddenly, a dark shadow passed over us, and Leo and I both snapped our gaze towards the sky, where a Solitary Eagle was soaring overhead. We both had enough time to pick out features that distinguish it from a vulture, but the sheer size alone was a dead giveaway, even from far below. A few minutes later we had another look at it before it rose even higher on a thermal and disappeared behind the ridge.
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Leo explained that several groups had seen a Solitary Eagle this year and that one had taken a liking to a snag not far from the lodge. We headed back for lunch with a sense of accomplishment and planned to range beyond the reserve during the afternoon. After my repast, I first spent some time in the hide photographing White-Tailed Jays and then ticked the Gray-Breasted Flycatcher nearby on one of the trails.
Both Yellow-Tailed and White-Edged Orioles lingered near the nectar feeders; occasionally, an Amazalia Hummingbird would also dart in for a few seconds. Missing the duck, we then birded a few clearings on the other side of the highway in front of the reserve.
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We immediately flushed a mixed flock on the entrance track, and from the car we had great looks at a Dark-Billed Cuckoo perched just ahead. Leo encouraged me to play some tape for the Black-and-White Tanager, and after a while a male flew by us and across the road. The cloud forests of Ecuador's Andes are considered one of the planet's biodiversity "hot spots," with a greater diversity of birds than just about anywhere else in the world.
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The Oriente , or Amazon basin, is home to some amazing birds, including colorful toucans, macaws, and jacamars, as well as the unusual hoatzin. If you're serious about birding, you'll definitely want pick up a copy of the Birds of Ecuador Field Guide , by Robert Ridgely, Paul Greenfield, and Frank Gill, as well as a pair of gas-sealed binoculars. While the field guide is helpful, you'll get much more out of your time in the woods if you are accompanied by a naturalist guide, and fortunately Ecuador's best tour operators and nature lodges have some very experienced, dedicated birding guides.
The following specialty tour operators tend to use designated lodges, several of which organize their own tours. Exotic Birding tel. The company offers occasional 2-week tours in Ecuador that combine the highlands, cloud forest, and Amazon basin. Field Guides tel.
Birding Northwest Ecuador (Birding Areas of Ecuador)
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours tel. These folks offer a variety of tours, generally focusing on one or two bioregions.
Wings tel. It offers various 1- and 2-week packages with small groups at nature lodges in the cloud forest and Amazon basin. Andean Birding tel. They offer a 1-week cloud-forest and paramo tour, a day Amazon-to-the-Andes package, and 2 intensive weeks in northern Peru. Bird Ecuador tel. They offer various tours that combine stays at San Isidro, which is in the cloud forests of eastern Andes, with time at lodges in other parts of the country, including their new Guango Lodge, near Papallacta. Mindo Bird Tours tel. The Maquipucuna Foundation was founded in as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of Ecuador's biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Tapyanda Lodge -located to the north west of Quito, it describes itself as the only lodge in the world designed by birders, owned by birders, and run for birders by birders.
See also Eco tourism for more details on conservation organisations in Ecuador. General Birding information: Andean Birding -specialist birdwatching tour organiser based in Quito. Andes to Amazon -account of a trip made in by Ian and Ruth Traynor. Corporacion Ornitologica Del Ecuador -aims to protect the bids of Ecuador and their habitats. A total of species of birds have been registered in Galapagos. Tandayapa Valley and Yanacocha Reserve.
Related Birding Northwest Ecuador (Birding Areas of Ecuador Book 1)
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