Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bulletin 274 - Ecuador #8 - Cotingas, Trogons and Jacamars

These are the places visited. At the end of each bird description, I will give the 2 letter code where the photo was taken.

Shiripuno Lodge in Amazon  (SH)
Mindo area on west slope has several close reserves that we visited (MI)

The cotingas are a diverse New World family of 66 songbirds. Overall they are rather difficult to find. The 12" male Andean Cock-of-the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is red on the west slope of the Andes where we saw several at a lek. He has a large crest and black wings with large white patches.The males on the east slope of the Andes are orange as seen here.  MI


Andean Cock-of-the-Rock - male west slope
Another group of cotingas are called fruitcrows for their overall black color. We saw 2 species on the trip but I only got photos of the 11" Purple-throated Fruitcrow (Querula purpurata)  MI


Purple-throated Fruitcrow

We also got a distant view of the 7" male Purple-throated Cotinga (Porphyrolaema porphyrolaema). Although the purple throat cannot be seen, the black back, white underside and white wing patch is diagnostic for this bird. It is listed as scarce in the Ecuador Guide book.  SH


Purple-throated Cotinga - male
The trogons are worldwide family of 43 species with 2/3 in the New World. They are medium sized colorful fruit eating birds that are easy to photograph when you find them as they usually sit still. The 10" male Blue-crowned Trogon (Trogon curucui) has a blue head, red belly and yellow bill.  SH


Blue-crowned Trogon - male
The 11" female Green-backed Trogon (Trogon viridis) has gray head and chest and yellow belly. She has a blue eye ring and black bill. The male would have a blue head and chest. This bird was formerly known as the Amazonian White-tailed Trogon. SH


Green-backed Trogon - female
The 11" male White-tailed Trogon (Trogon chionurus) has bluish purple head and chest, yellow belly, pale bill and solid white tail. This individual is missing some of his white tail feathers (probably molting). This bird was formerly called the Western White-tailed Trogon.  MI


White-tailed Trogon - male
The quetzals are 6 larger birds in the trogon family with fancy plumage such as epaulets, crests, long tails etc. The 13.5" male Golden-headed Quetzal (Pharomachrus auriceps) has green back and red underparts, golden green head and black undertail. I only got a single photo of the bird before he flew.  MI


Golden-headed Quetzal - male
The jacamars are a small family of New World birds (18 species) most of which are found in Amazonia. I got 2 new ones for the trip. They resemble large hummingbirds as the have long tails and long pointed bills. The 7.5" Yellow-billed Jacamar (Galbula albirostris) is the only jacamar in Ecuador with a yellow bill.  SH


Yellow-billed Jacamar
The 7.5" White-eared Jacamar (Galbalcyrhynchus leucotis) is brown with a white cheek patch and pink bill.  SH


White-eared Jacamar
I have photographed 14 of the 43 trogons now and they can be seen here.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bulletin 273 - Ecuador 2016 #7 - Antbirds and Woodpeckers

These are the places visited. At the end of each bird description, I will give the 2 letter code where the photo was taken.

Shiripuno Lodge in Amazon  (SH)
Archidona a town on the east slope  (AR)
San Isidro Lodge at a higher elevation on east slope (SI)
Guango Lodge even higher on east slope (GU)
Antisana reserve on the paramo    (AN)
Mindo area on west slope has several close reserves that we visited (MI)

I think the most amazing development in neotropical birding in the past 20 years was the ability to attract antpittas to feeders. When I went on several trips in the 90s, antpittas were shy retiring birds that might come close with a played tape, but they always were skittish when they saw people, and I never saw a single one. 

Well progress occurred when someone discovered that they could be attracted with earthworms and a lot of patience. Now many locations have an antpitta that will come to a location each morning when called and chopped worms are provided. The fortunate birders just have to stand quietly and watch and photo them. But they are in the wide open and close (20 feet away). However, it is a labor of love to train the antpitta. At San Isidro lodge, they said it took 8 months before the bird came reliably every morning.

I got photos of 5 species on this trip, 4 of them were at feeders. The absolute highlight is the 9.5" Giant Antpitta (Grallaria gigantea). Antpittas are long-legged almost tailless birds. This one is dark brown with black streaking on the breast. The guide book lists this bird as rare. The man whose place we visited calls the bird Maria and it took about 20 minutes of him calling before the bird showed up.  MI

Giant Antpitta
The same man also showed us the 6.75" Yellow-breasted Antpitta (Grallaria flavotincta). In fact, he had 2 birds trained in 2 different locations and we saw them both. This is even more rare as it has only a single dot on the Ecuador map where it is found.   MI


Yellow-breasted Antpitta

At San Isidro Lodge, the local bird is the 6.75" White-bellied Antpitta (Grallaria hypoleuca). 


White-bellied Antpitta
Guango Lodge also had a trained bird, the 7.25" Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (Grallaria ruficapilla). This one is quite attractive with the rufous head, cream throat and streaked breast.


Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
The final one was in the open at the treeline above Guango Lodge. The 6.5" Tawny Antpitta (Grallaria quitensis) is listed as common and easy to see. He was right beside the gravel road we were on.
Tawny Antpitta

The only antbird for the trip was the 3.75" male Amazonian Streaked-Antwren (Myrmotherula multostriata). Like most antbirds, the males are black and the female is brown.  SH


Amazonian Streaked-Antwren - male
Several cool looking woodpeckers were found on the trip as well. The 10" Crimson-mantled Woodpecker (Colaptes rivolii) is mostly has mostly red upperparts and yellow underparts. The is a female with the black crown.  GU

Crimson-mantled Woodpecker - female


The 8" Spot-breasted Woodpecker (Colaptes punctigula) is brown above with a spotted yellowish breast. This is also a female with the black crown.  AN

Spot-breasted Woodpecker - female
The 8" Cinnamon Woodpecker (Celeus loricatus) had been photographed before but this one was much closer. This is a male with the red patch on the throat.   MI

Cinnamon Woodpecker - male
The campephilus genus are the largest woodpeckers. There was only one in North America, the extinct Ivory-billed woodpecker. I got 2 new species on this trip. The 13.5" male Guayquil Woodpecker (Campephilus guayaquilensis) has a red head and large crest.  MI

Guayaquil Woodpecker - male
The female 14" Powerful Woodpecker (Campephilus pollens) has a black crest. The male would have a red crest.  SI

Powerful Woodpecker - female
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bulletin 272 - Ecuador 2016 #6 - Water Birds and Night Birds

These are the places visited. At the end of each bird description, I will give the 2 letter code where the photo was taken.

Shiripuno Lodge in Amazon  (SH)
Archidona a town on the east slope  (AR)
San Isidro Lodge at a higher elevation on east slope (SI)
Guango Lodge even higher on east slope (GU)
Antisana reserve on the paramo    (AN)
Mindo area on west slope has several close reserves that we visited (MI)

These birds are associated with water - lakes, rivers etc or are nocturnal.

This is the first trip where I saw several ducks. The 16" Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata) is a resident of swift flowing rivers in the mountains. They stand on rocks in the river and dip their head under the water to look for fish. When one is sighted, they dive in to pursue it. How they survive being bashed around in the rapids is a miracle. The male is mostly white with a brown back and a red bill.  SI


Torrent Duck - male
The female is all brown.   SI


Torrent Duck - female
The lakes on the paramo (tundra) host some resident ducks. The 16" Andean Teal (Anas andium) is a plain brown duck. We found a family group.  AN


Andean Teal - family
The 16" male Andean Duck (Oxyura ferruginea) is almost identical to our Ruddy Duck, but the breeding male has an all black head and lacks the white patch below the eye.   AN


Andean Duck
As one would expect, there is also a coot there, the Andean Coot (Fulica ardesiaca) is identical to the American Coot. However, it is the only coot in Ecuador, so the ID is easy.  AN


Andean Coot
The 12" Silvery Grebe (Podiceps occipitalis) is a rare resident of highland lakes. It is gray and white and has a red eye.  AN


Silvery Grebe
Dippers are are the only aquatic songbirds. Watching the tiny 6" White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) buffeted by waves and spray as they pick food washed onto the rocks is an amazing experience. The sexes are similar and the ID is easy as no other small bird is in that habitat standing on the rocks in a swift flowing stream.   GU


White-capped Dipper
The last water associated bird is the strange huge (25") Hoatzin (Opissthocomus hoazin). This spiky crested prehistoric looking bird lives along slow moving oxbow streams in the Amazon. The sexes are similar and it is the only member of the hoatzin family.   SH


Hoatzin
We only saw 4 nocturnal birds for the trip. The only owl was the mystery San Isidro Owl. It is a mystery bird as it is identical with the Black-and-white Owl of the western slope, but this bird is at San Isidro Lodge on the east slope where it is not supposed to be. The similar bird on the east slope is the Black-banded Owl which is more black than white on the underparts. Here is a discussion of the bird. Perhaps time will tell if it is a new species.  SI


San Isidro Owl
The next 2 were real treats as the guide knew where they were roosting or nesting so they could be seen in the daylight. This 8" Blackish Nightjar (Nyctipolus nigrescens) has been roosting during the day at this same location for 2 years! He sits on a rock just 20 feet from a fairly busy highway.  AR


Blackish Nightjar
The other is the Lyre-tailed Nightjar (Uropsalis lyra). This is another rare find as the range map shows only 6 dots on the map of Ecuador. The female is 10" long, but the male has 25" long tail feathers. This female is actually on her nest. The two babies were not visible when I was there. The rufous collar is the ID mark for this bird.  MI


Lyre-tailed Nightjar - female on nest
The last night bird is the 21" Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis). Potoos are a 7 species family of nightjar like birds. They roost during the day in trees such that they resemble a broken limb and become nearly invisible. This whitish bird is only the second potoo I have photographed. With his large head, he almost looks like an owl.  SH


Great Potoo


Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bulletin 271 - Ecuador 2016 #5 - Hummingbirds

These are the places visited. At the end of each bird description, I will give the 2 letter code where the photo was taken.

Shiripuno Lodge in Amazon  (SH)
Archidona a town on the east slope  (AR)
San Isidro Lodge at a higher elevation on east slope (SI)
Antisana reserve on the paramo    (AN)
Yanacocha reserve   (YA)
Mindo area on west slope has several close reserves that we visited (MI)

Hummingbirds are one of my favorites and are the most amazing birds with their ability to hover and fly backwards and upside down. I photographed about 2 dozen new species on the trip. The rarest of the hummers on the trip was the 7.5" male Fiery Topaz (Topaza pyra). The range map just shows a few dots in the Amazon region where one might find it. However, at Shiripuno lodge, a pair roosts on a branch over the water at night and you can go about 100 yards from the lodge by boat and just wait until they fly in at 5:30. Amazing. The unique tail with crisscrossed extended feather is the ID mark.  SH


Fiery Topaz - male
Several others had interesting tails as well. The 9" male Black-tailed Trainbearer (Lesbia victoriae) is green with 2 long tail feathers.   AN


Black-tailed Trainbearer - male

The 7" male Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii) is green with 2 long shimmering blue tail feathers.  SI


Long-tailed Sylph - male
His cousin, the 7" male Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis) has a purple tail.  MI


Violet-tailed Sylph - male
The cute 4.5" male Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) looks like he has white fur boots on along with the racket tail.   MI


Booted Racket-tail - male
Pufflegs are hummers that have boots like the racket-tail above. The 4.5"  Sapphire-vented Puffleg (Eriocnemis luciani) is green with blue under the tail and white leg puffs.   YA


Sapphire-vented Puffleg
The 4.5" Golden-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis mosquera) has gold breast, green body and white leg puffs.   YA


Golden-breasted Puffleg
I like the name of this next one. The 4.5" Shining Sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis) is a rich coppery brown.    YA


Shining Sunbeam
The 4.75" Sparkling Violetear (Colibri coruscans) is green with a blue belly and violet on the sides of the face.     AN


Sparkling Violetear
The 4.5" White-tailed Hillstar (Urochroa bouqueri) is green with a blue throat, bronze rump and white tail underneath.   AR


White-tailed Hillstar
I have updated my hummingbird family photo and now have 111 species of the 348. You can browse them all at this link.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Bulletin 270 Ecuador 2016 #4 - Birds and Mammals of the Paramo

These are the places visited. At the end of each bird description, I will give the 2 letter code where the photo was taken. All these birds were from either of these locations.

Guango Lodge even higher on east slope (GU)
Antisana reserve on the paramo    (AN)

The paramo is the term for the tundra above the tree line in the Ecuador Andes. The first location was a short drive from Guango Lodge where it is possible to drive up high enough to see one of Ecuador's target birds. There are some radio antennae on a mountain top and the access road is the only way to somewhat easily find this bird. The guide book says it is a bird of barren slopes at very high elevations on the highest volcanoes. We were at 14,500 elevation. The guide went ahead and searched on the tundra and found a pair and came back to get me. We had to walk about 300 yards up and down muddy hills and I did get the bird. There were a pair of these 12"  grouse like birds called Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe (Attagis gayi) Despite their grouse like appearance, the 4 species of seedsnipes make up a family of shorebirds. All are found in South America. They are brick red below with an elaborate scalloped pattern on the back and wings. This is without question the most difficult bird I have ever photographed due to the elevation, cold and wind. Two other cars were up there while we were there, but the birds were a long way from the parking area and the people didn't see them. At the lodge in Mindo, there was a couple from Great Britain and they had looked for the bird on 4 different trips to Ecuador and still had not found it. Thanks Pablo!  GU


Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe
We saw another bird at that location, but it is more common and was close to the parking lot. The 11.5" Andean Snipe (Gallinago jamesoni) is a sandpiper with a long bill for probing in the muddy wet tundra.   GU


Andean Snipe
Antisana Preserve is the place to see Ecuador's national bird, the 50" Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus). It is the largest bird of prey in the world and has the largest wingspan 10.5 feet of any land bird. Of course, as a vulture, it just eats carrion and doesn't kill any thing. However, it is persecuted through ignorance and is declining rapidly, but captive breeding programs are reintroducing this magnificent bird just like the California Condor recovery efforts. On the drive into the preserve, there is an observation deck where roosting birds can be seen on a cliff about 75 yards away. We watched about 6 birds perched and taking off in the morning as the thermals started up. I got some distant photos and figured this was about as good as I would manage. That bird in the center is an adult condor with the extensive white on his wings.


Andean Condor - adult
Once higher up at about 15,000 feet on the paramo, there was a condor sitting on a cow carcass about 75 yards away. Pablo, my guide, asked if I wanted to try and walk closer. Of course!.So we made our way across the wet tundra to about 30 yards from the bird. Here he is on the carcass. You can see a tag on his wing #6. Also look at his immense size compared to the 20" brown caracara on the ground.


Andean Condor - juvenile male
As we approached closer, he flew off, but we were upwind as he has to take off into the wind, so he came towards us. Even with the wind, he hopped on the ground twice before getting fully airborne. One can see the white ruff on the neck that is only in males. He was essentially at eye level here. What an amazing bird!


Andean Condor - juvenile male
The caracara above is the Carunculated Caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus). It is a bird of the paramo as well. The juvie is brown, but the adult is black and white with an orange face.  AN


Carunculated Caracara
Another extremely rare bird here is the 30" Black-faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis). In fact it is found at only 2 locations in Ecuador. It is a beautiful ibis with a buffy head and a black mask. We saw a flock of 6 birds.  I again had to walk across the flat tundra to get this shot. Even though it was higher at 15,000 feet, it was a warm sunny day and didn't seem as difficult as going for the seedsnipe.  AN


Black-faced Ibis

Of course, there were some small birds on the paramo as well and 2 of the more interesting were funarids or ovenbirds. The 8" Stout-billed Cinclodes (Cinclodes excelsior) is brown with a white eye-stripe, white throat and thick curved bill.   AN


Stout-billed Cinclodes
The 6.5" Many-striped Canastero (Asthenes flammulata) popped up from some shrubs when the tape was played. I found him to be an attractive funarid with his rufous cap, wings and the body completely streaked. Of course sitting on some flowers was great too.  AN


Many-striped Canastero

While walking out to see the condor on the carcass, several White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the same species as in North America. They must have migrated south once Panama connected North and South America.  AN


White-tailed Deer
This last is the absolute star of the whole trip. There is a single species of bear in South America which is mostly confined to the treeline and tundra areas of the Andes. The Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is still hunted and considered to be vulnerable. On the drive up to the paramo to see the seedsnipe, we kept passing signs saying Caution Bear Crossing. I just had a feeling we would see one. Well we rounded a curve and a van was pulled over and everyone was out with cameras and scopes. The people in the van had walked a trail over the tundra for 4 hours looking for the bear and seen nothing. but when they got back to their vehicle, he was there.The bear was in a valley below the road about 50 yards away. Pablo said later he sees it only about once each year! And we just drove up and there he was. He was walking away, but turned slightly here to see the side of his face and ear.


Spectacled Bear
Later he turned back and faced us. the light markings on his face can be seen.


Spectacled Bear
So the whole thing was a fluke and serendipity, as we got to Guango Lodge earlier in the day than expected, so Pablo said why not try for the seedsnipe this afternoon instead of tomorrow as planned. So we drove up and found the bear and the seedsnipe. I have the most amazing luck birding!

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.