East Slope tour with Bradley Hacker and Mary Wenzel 25 Aug- 1 Sep 2009 guided by Charlie
Headed up the old road to Papallacta Pass we had an early surprise with a Curve-billed Tinamou hunkered down on a roadside cut which eventually flushed with a heartstopping explosion of wingbeats. Two adult Andean Condors graced us with a glide-by and later views of Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Variable Hawk, Carunculated Caracara and American Kestrel completed a good sampling of raptors for a sunny, dry season morning on the interandean side. Another gift was a small flock of White-browed Ground-Tyrants, an austral migrant and uncommon visitor here. A Giant Hummingbird helicoptered nearby while Tufted Tit-Tyrants eventually gave us an endearing show of their delicate crests. High above at the antennas a brutal, sodden gale cut short our Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe hunt but lower down we did manage a Blue-mantled Thornbill, Bar-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, as well as Tawny Antpitta.
Spending two nights at Guango allowed us to clean-up even with the persistent rain eventually producing Viridian Metaltail, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant and Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant. Eventually we encountered some flocks which yielded Scarlet-bellied, Hooded and Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager as well as Black-backed Bush-Tanager and the spectacular, rare Masked Mountain-Tanager. In the same area we had an unexpected appearance of the scarce and local Rainbow-bearded Thornbill. Unfortunately, the Crescent-faced Antpitta, recently discovered above the Papallacta Hot Springs did not appear for us. (This is a coveted antpitta, normally sought by stalwart martyrs up the muddy strenuous Cerro Mongus trail). Guango feeders rounded up the usual suspects including the fantastically foiled Sword-billed Hummingbird, the aquiline Mountain Velvetbreast, the jabot-adorned Collared Inca painted like a Dutch Master. Also the bejeweled Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed and Chestnut-breasted Coronet, the ember-rumped Glowing Puffleg and the dainty, coppery-tailed Tyrian Metaltail.
Along the Baeza bypass near 1800m we observed some low elevation Amazon species moving into the deforested corridor including, Southern Lapwing, Black-billed Thrush (normally below 1200m), Red-breasted Blackbird (known to 400m, previous record published by Charlie), Vermilion Flycatcher (a rare austral migrant to eastern Ecuador with only 3 previous records according to Birds of Ecuador). Rufous-bellied Nighthawks greeted us that evening at San Isidro during a break in the rain. Early morning there was great activity around the parking lot with Masked Trogon, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Inca Jay and Subtropical Cacique. On the Cock-of-the-Rock trail we flushed a White-throated Qual-Dove and noisy flocks of Barred Parakeets flew by but frustratingly out of view. At the feeders we added the subtly hued Fawn-breasted Brilliant and Bronzy Inca as well as the Green Violetear. This widespread hummingbird is found from Mexico to Bolivia and the species name thalassinus means sea-green, from thalassa - the Greek sea goddess. Water was the theme as we had a washout that afternoon and the next morning as we attempted the Guacamayos trail with virtually no bird movement.
Still pouring rain on the Loreto road we managed to scope the Cliff Flycatcher and finally the rain cleared as we neared the rio Pucuno valley near the Wildsumaco turnoff. A lunch break along the Napo Galeras park road yielded Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Buff-throated and Grayish Saltator as well as a new species for the Wildsumaco list, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, an austral migrant. Later a burst of roadside bird activity greeted us and we had great views of Guilded and Red-headed Barbet, Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Golden-collared Araçari, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, tanager flocks as well as a Fiery-throated Fruiteater. We had success teasing out skulkers like Dusky Spinetail, Blackish Antbird and White-backed Fire-Eye. An afternoon visit to the Coopmans Trail produced Golden-winged and Blue-rumped Manakin, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer in the melastome grove and later the most spectacular tanager highway I had ever seen! While the flock of 7 species was not that diverse, it was HUGE with hundreds of individuals streaming along the forest edge and continuing for what seemed like half an hour; with Guira, Orange-eared, Golden, Paradise, Green-and-gold, Spotted and Bay-headed Tanagers.
Visits to the Piha trail yielded singing Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-throated Spadebill and Gray-tailed Piha but alas these difficult elusives never showed. On this and other trails we did have success with views of Collared Trogon, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Many-banded Araçari, Black-streaked Puffbird, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpecker, and the scarce and local Crimson-bellied Woodpecker. Difficult skulkers that eventually showed were Chestnut-crowned Gnateater and Short-tailed Antthrush. Relaxing on the lodge terrace we had the incredible luck to see a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle glide overhead with its immaculate white underparts, a lifer for me! Somehow I have missed this rare impressive raptor over the years, being much rarer in Ecuador than in Central America. Other raptors seen included Swallow-tailed Kite, Short-tailed Hawk and Barred Forest-Falcon which after persistent playback gave us a quick fly-over. On the F.A.C.E. trail we had good views of Black-faced Antbird, heard another Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant and the great luck to rustle up a Gray-throated Leaftosser, another lifer for me!
At the hummingbird feeders we cleaned up on Green Hermit, Gray-chinned Hermit, Napo Sabrewing, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Black-throated Brilliant, Goulds Jewelfront, and Booted Raquet-tail, while Wire-crested Thorntail and Gorgeted Woodstar, including some rare males, cruised the porterweed hedges. Parrots seen included flocks of Chestnut-fronted Macaw, White-eyed and Maroon-tailed Parakeet and Blue-headed Parrot. Along the roadside we lucked out on Rufous-breasted Piculet, Spot-breasted Woodpecker and White-tipped Sicklebill. Winding up the East slope trip near Coca we had luck with a cute pair of Blue-winged Parrotlets.
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