Ecuador Part 1. – Mindo

I woke up early hoping to see a few lifers before we set out to any other location. I began to look out from the balcony at the Yellow House a very nice place to stay for any birder. I saw more and more lifers some of them I did not see again during the trip such as the inquisitive Chocó Tyrannulet that flew into the tree below me for a few seconds, and the Crimson-mantled Woodpecker pair that were perched in a tree along the driveway.

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Chocó Tyrannulet

 

We wandered the garden for around twenty minutes adding bird like Rufous Motmot and Orange-billed Sparrow to our lists before breakfast at the feeders. I saw many new species of Hummingbirds and Tanagers. that visit the feeders regularly.

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Blue-gray Tanager

After breakfast we went on what was supposed to be a short hike but it ended up taking close to four hours! We saw more species along the trail along the way up we found Squirrel Cuckoo, Swallow-tailed Kite and Collared Araçari to name just a few. The way down however was much better and we had some great luck with mixed flocks adding many  more species of tanagers. We made it back to the Yellow House with just enough time to go into town to get some groceries and do some birding. We saw variable Seedeater, Buff-rumped Warbler and a small group of Grey-breasted Martins.

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Bananaquit

The second day of our rip involved visiting Refugio Paz de las Aves, a world renowned location famous for Antpittas and the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek. We left the Yellow House at five and were in the car for half an hour before we made it to the entrance road. Along that road was the lek with twelve male Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks at their usual display sit along with some other local species.

– Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks displaying

We continued along seeing more lifers including Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon and Rufous-banded Nightjar.

We drove further to a small concrete bride that supported the nest of Lyre-tailed Nightjars.  We added some more lifers here with species such as Zeledon’s Antbird, Torrent Tyrannulet and Golden-crowned Flycatcher. Only a couple hundred meters down the road from this productive spot was a location for a very secretive species, Dark-backed Wood-Quail. There was not just one either two family groups of these seldom seen species!

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Dark-backed Wood-Quail

We drove further up the winding steep road until we got to the Hummingbird feeders and the home of Angel Paz the owner of the reserve. There were many species of Hummers that frequented the feeders, Gorgeted Sunagel (presumably and Ecuadorian endemic), Violet-tailed Sylph, and Booted Racket-tails buzzed around our breakfast table while Tanagers fed on bananas on the railing.

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Golden-naped Tanager

We rode in the back of a pickup to the top of a road where we looked for Plate billed Mountain-Toucan. As we were about to leave to the feeding station one goofy looking colorful bird poped out of the thick leaves, a Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan! With the excitement from the Toucan we walked down the well maintained trail to the first feeding station for Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. After patiently waiting for upwards of twenty minutes we saw it briefly before it went back into the cloud forest. The next ant pitta was a special one that I had been hoping to see at this location a Yellow-bellied Antpitta. It is a very attractive Anpitta with a brown back and a lemony coloured breast. It was more corporative that the first one coming out for worm in the right away! We returned to the feeders for a few more minuted before setting out for our next Antpitta the Ochre-breasted. Not only was there one but two a mother and a young Ochre-breasted Antpita!

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Chestnut-crowned Antpitta

After we were done with Paz de las Aves we went to Alambi also known as Hummingbird Paradise. We saw fifteen species of Hummers and other lifers that visited the fruit feeders. The highlights included: Red-headed Barbet, Silver-throated Tanager, White-winged Brushfinch, and Flame-rumped Tanager.

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White-necked Jacobin
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Red-headed Barbet
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Silver-throated Tanager

After our time at Alambi we went back to the Yellow House and birder around there for the rest of the day.

The next morning we walked the Tarabita Road in search of a few species we had not yet seen in the mindo area. It was slow at the beginning but eventually we ended up getting more than what we expected. We saw Choco Toucans, Rufous-throated Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Spotted Woodcreepr and the rare Rose-faced Parrot.

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Black-capped Tanager
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Crimson-rumped Toucanet

We left before dawn something that we had done almost every day on this trip. This time our destination was the Birdwatcher’s House, a superb birding location with a blind and moth sheets that attracted insects, wich inturn attracted lots of birds. We saw and hear many species that were new to us the highlights included Turquise Jay, Streak-capped Treehunter and Golden-crowned Flycatcher.

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Golden-crowned Flycatcher
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Streak-capped Treehunter

After the activity at the insect feeders began to slow down, we walked up the short trail to where the resident Plate-billed Mountain Toucan came to feed at the fruit feeders. We waited for close to fifteen minutes before this shy Choco endemic decided to show.

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Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan

After we had our incounter with the Toucan we watched the very busy hummingbird feeders. We managed to see 14 different species of hummers including the endemic Gorgeted Sunagel.

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Gorgeted Sunangel

We made our way further up the infamous Nono – Mindo road in search of some high elevation cloud forest specialties. We saw many of our targets including Green-and-black Fruiteater, Red-crested Cotinga, and Capped Conebill. We even saw a species that is also common in Calgary, Western Wood-Pewee!

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Western Wood-Pewee

 

We again woke up early to hmake the hour long drive to Rio Silanche. It was a cool and cloudy morning with lots of bird activity before we even got to the entrance gate we’d tailed more than eighty species of birds. The highlights includes Red-billed Shythebill, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Masked Water-Tyrant and White-throated Crake.

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Masked Water-Tyrant

When we finally areived at the actual bird sanctuary we instantly spotted a White-whiskered Puffbird. We made the short walk to the tower where we got stellar views of some high canopy species. We  continued along the very birdy trails of Rio Silanche hearing many species of Woodcreepers and Flycatchers.

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Orange-fronted Barbet

We left to drive to Milpe Bird Sanctuary at noon and arived shortly after one. We walked the trails and we saw a few more lifers including Esmeraldes Antbird, Russet-crowned Warbler, and Green Throntail. We also saw three different species of toucan at the feeders.

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Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled)
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Choco Toucan
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Collared Aracari (Pale-mandibled)

We drove back to Mindo hoping to finish off the day with a White-capped Dipper and Possibly a Sunbittern. After some effort we managed to see two White-capped Dippers moving up the river and a Sunbittern dart into the brush beside the road.

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White-capped Dipper
  • Stay tuned in the next few weeks for part two detailing our adventures in the High Andes and Eastern Slope  and three about our journey into the Amazon.

 

 

Birding in the Okanagan 

We arrived in Kamloops after a bumpy flight over the mountains from Calgary. It was raining lightly on the tarmac when we got off the small propeller plane that we had flown on. We picked up our rental car and drove to Rattlesnake Bluffs in search of a Chukar. I scanned the cliffs and along the roadside with no luck although, we did get a Pygmy Nuthatch. We eventually decided to continue along to Kelowna. The landscapes were spectacular noting like the flat prairie land near Calgary. Logan Lalonde who we spent the evening birding with was not able too meet us for a few hours we decided to drive down Beaver Lake Road in search of Western Bluebirds we saw eight of them including a fledgling. We saw Lazuli Buntings, a very beautiful male Cassin’s Finch and two Say’s Phoebes.

We were required to check into our hotel in Kelowna before seven which gave us a reasonable amount of time to get to the Fatburger where we were going to met up with Logan Lalonde. Logan directed us to Bear Lake Road a small singing road used almost exclusively by reasearchers.  We drove the road for about two hours where we racked up a decent amount of species highlights included White-throated Swift, Lazuli Bunting, Nashville Warbler, Common Nighthawk and Dusky Flycatcher.

On the way down we at least twenty Common Poorwills am all time high count for the Central Okanagan region. Although we searched for quite a long time we could not find Flammulated Owl one of the main targets for the trip.

The next morning we woke up at 4:30 to meet Logan unfortunately he was unable to join us due to an injury but, he gave us directions to the location we were going to visit. We walked into the park/construction site we heard a few species singing including a Rock Wren. We walked I. Rutherford where we saw three Vaux’s Swifts and a small covey of California Quail.

We continued on seeing more Lazuli Buntings and Warblers eventually making it to the location of the recently discovered Yellw-breasted Chat found by Logan a few days earlier. We heard the almost undicribable song of the male Yellow-breasted Chat. We finally located the bird singing on an open brand a few meters in.


We continued to bird all the way to the Parking lot where we got into our car and drove to Planet Mine Road our last shot to see Lewis’s Woodpcker we saw two! That was the last new bird we saw in the Okanagan Valley. I’m now off to Banf and Jasper before returning to Calgary.

Great Canadian Birdathon 2018

Our 2018 Great Canadian Birdathon was definetly an extrodinary one. We managed to see 127 species of birds and one lifer and 11 species of mammals.

Our 2018 Great Canadian Birdathon was definitely an extraordinary one. We managed to see 128 species of birds and one lifer and 11 species of mammals.

We left the house at 4:30 and managed to get to Horse Creek Road just after five where we added 32 species to our list. The next stop was the most anticipated location of the day, Winchell Lake. We sorted through the dawn chorus for about a half hour. Although, we didn’t get the number of species we hoped for most of them were new to our list and generally hard to find birds. We continued on our way to William J. Bangall Wilderness Area where we hoped to find a Lazuli Bunting a bird that has eluded me for years. When we arrived we the familiar call of the Black-capped Chickadee a new addition to our list. Many of the birds were the same as what was at Winchell but two species stood out, Pacific-slope Flycatcher which I had never seen in Alberta and Cassin’s Vireo somewhat of a rarity in the Calgary Area. As we walked in a bit further was added not many but a few species to our daily count one of them being Blue Jay a bird that I have not seen as much since I moved to Alberta. Our next species of the day was a Cape May Warbler a bird that we stumbled upon when we pulled over for a still unidentified Empidonax sp. We began the longish drive back to Calgary where we hoped to potentially add three species of hummingbirds and a few others to our list. While driving we saw some more species that we had not yet been listed American Kestrel, Franklin’s Gull and Lesser Scaup among others. We arrived at weaselhead with our list already at 75 species before nine we could not have hoped for better numbers. We walked fairly quickly to the known spot for Rufous Hummingbird and quickly saw it perched atop a dead tree. Walking to towards the bridge we heard the almost constant song of a Red-eyed Vireo, not a new bird but a very nice song. We quickly saw the Calliope and headed back towards the bridge where we dipped of the Eastern Phoebe on the way in. While walking he added a few birds including Merlin, Eastern Phoebe, and many Cliff Swallows.

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Calliope Hummingbird — Weaselhead Natural Area

As our list was only a few species away from 100 we drove out Southeast of the city to some wetlands closer than Frank Lake that has been more productive for me. We stopped at the first slough where we saw many species of waterfowl and a few species of shorebirds. We continued back in a circle and decided it couldn’t hurt to check out the first slough again. It was even better the second time around with a Hudsonian Godwit close to the road and a Black Tern of a floating log.

We had reached the 100 mark by eleven and we continued down to Priddis for Plummers Road and Brown-Lowry Provincial Park. We made a quick stop at Brown Lowry where we added Pacific Wren and Townsend’s Solitare to our list. On our drive towards Bragg Creek, we were stopped by a construction team that was paving the road for a seemingly endless time. Whilst parked we added Sharp-shinned Hawk and Northern Harrier bringing Our total to 110 species. After Lunch in Bragg Creek, we drove to Elbow Falls in hopes of seeing the breeding American Dippers.

We saw them and we saw another Pacific-slope Flycatcher. We began probobly the longest drive of the day out to Banff where we stopped at Seebe Dam wich had absolutly no birds on it. We made another stop a Lac des Arce where we did manage to see a Common Loon. I was looking on ebird to see what the best locations were and saw a report of a Dusky Flycatcher at Grassy Lakes in Canmore. We drove up the winding mountain road where a Bighorn Sheep decided not to move from the middle of the road causing a small traffic jam. When we arrived at the parking lot we had four Dusky Flycaycher calling along the slope with a few Hammonds as well. On the way down the mountain a Grizzly Bear crossed the road ahead of us it was the best look both my dad and I have had.

We drove into Banff and to the Cave & Basin Marsh where we saw a few new species such as Townsend’s Warbler, Virginia Rail, Willow Flycatcher and Dark-eyed Junco. At this point, we were very tired and we began the long drive back to Calgary. We saw a few more species along the highway including a surprise Rough-legged Hawk and Turkey Vultures as well as a Ring-necked Duck. We made it home and heard a Chipping Sparrow and House Finch two birds that were new for the day.

In total, we spent 16 hours in the field saw 128 species of birds and 11 species of mammals. You can view the taxonomic PDF list here. Birdathon List 2018

 

Planning a Birding Trip to Ecuador

 

Planning a birding trip anywhere is a daunting task especially when the it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet where almost every bird is a lifer. We had one thing we knew from the beginning, we wanted to go to Mindo. Other than that we knew very little about any other area. We began by planning the first part of the trip in Mindo. The specific birding lodges there are more expensive than we had hoped so we looked for alternative options. After surfing airbnb with no luck we learned about the Yellow House a birding hotspot with more reasonably priced accommodation.

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One of the marvelous locations we did not want to miss is Refugio paz de las Aves, famous for it’s Andean Cock-of the-Rock lek and reliable Antpittas. Another location I was exited for was the “Cueva De Los Tayos” or in english “Cave of the Oilbirds”. 

After Mindo we are planning to visit the Antisana Reserve where we hope to see an Andean Condor among many other new species we hope to encounter. We will spend the next nights in the small town of Papallacta. Although we had difficulty finding accommodation, airbnb proved to be helpful and we found a nice place to stay for two nights.

Probably the most difficult and logistically challenging part of planning was the Amazon. Many of the high end Birding lodges cost over one thousand dollars per person per night. We were looking for a Lodge at a lower price but we still wanted to see the same birds. We finally found one that fit that description, Shiripuno Lodge located in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve this Lodge has the birds at a reduced price.

Shiripuno Lodge

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Hopefully this trip will be a very rewarding experience with lots of lifers!

White-tailed Ptarmigan Trip

Got up at five this morning to drive out to the Highwood Pass in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan. We met up with Ethan Denton at the Stoney Nakoda Casino and continued on. It was not long after we spotted the first Ptarmigan followed shortly after by three others. In total there were four Ptarmigan present. Continuing on the way back we saw flocks of Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings. We drove out towards Longview and saw some Rough-legged Hawks and many Common Ravens. We continued back to Calgary where we stopped at Weaselhead Natural Area it was fairy quiet but we saw some Common Redpolls and a close flyby Bald Eagle

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The first out of fourWhite-tailed  Ptarmigan we spotted.

A Ruff Twitch

I  was sitting at home last friday browsing my emails when I saw a report of a female Ruff (Reeve). Unfortunately we had plans for that day so we could not make the two and a half hour drive to Barker. The next morning I set my alarm for 6:30 the problem was it was 6:30pm and not am. I woke up at 7:15 and we were on the road by 7:30. There was no traffic and we couldn’t ask for better conditions until we got to the U.S./Canada border. We were in line for at least an hour. Once we arrived in New York it was still a fifty minute drive from Lewiston to Barker where the Ruff had been seen. When we arrived someone told us that it had been seen that morning at seven on an organized birding tour and not been seen since. We scanned with our binoculars because we left our scope in Calgary. We saw many species of sore birds but not a Ruff. We had spent almost two hours there arready and I was starting to loose hope when a man from a scope motioned that we come over. “I’ve got it” he said we rushed over and got a look in his scope and saw theRuff number 478 on my life list. I managed to take some poor photos

Ruff, Lower Lake, Rd.

and then it flew an American Kestrel had scared all the birds luckily we crept our eyes on it as it landed in another pond. Soon after many more birders arrived we stood beside the head curator of the Macaulay Library the media collection run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He said that a new update in eBird was coming!!