Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Paz de las Aves, Bellavista and Tendayapa (NW Ecuador) – 7th May (Day 13)

After a sound night sleep in the bamboo house at Bellavista Lodge we were up at 05:30 and headed down to the water tank on the road below the lodge to try for Tanager Finch once more at dawn but sadly with no luck. We then dropped down through the forest on gravelled roads to Paz de la Aves arriving at around 07:00. Here we met the amazing Angel Paz and his brother Rodrigo Paz. The Paz brothers are famous for having 'tamed' a number of Antpitta on their family farm. Their website can be viewed here.

One of my priorities here was to see Giant Pitta and so I was a little disappointed to hear that the tamed bird was not being shown to visitors at present due to the difficulty in the terrain that she was frequenting. Gabo spent some time talking to Angel who eventually agreed to take us. It was a little bit of a slog through a wet, rutted and sometimes steep cattle field and down a barely discerned trail to a small outcrop in the steep forest. Here Angel placed some chopped earthworms on a log and began to call. Within around 10 minutes there was a very soft called response and suddenly there on the trail in front of us was a stunning Giant Antpitta looking somewhat like a football on legs with round body and no tail its stunning rich rufous underparts and face almost gleamed in the dark forest understorey. We watched the bird for around 10 minutes before she eventually disappeared downslope and we left her in peace. We retreated  and on the forest edge came across two Cloudforest Pygmy-owl and further down a Dark-backed Wood-quail.

After a coffee at the Paz's cafe where we enjoyed the feeders with their attendant Toucan Barbet, Emerald Toucanet and various Hummingbird species including at least three Purple-throated Woodstar. We ascended further to a small patch of forest where within a short space of time the Paz brothers had found, and tempted in to close view, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and Yellow-breasted Antpitta. After spending some time here we headed back to the cafe area and walked the trail behind the buildings, here we soon found our fourth species of Antpitta, the stunning little Ochre-breasted Antpitta. This species has an odd habit of rotating its body while holding its head still - the Paz brothers nickname the bird Shakira after the singer because of this 'dancing'. Here we also heard Moustached Antpitta but unfortunately the bird was too distant to be able to approach.

Giant Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Giant Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Giant Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Dark-backed Wood-quail - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Toucan Barbet - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Toucan Barbet - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Plate-billed Mountain-toucan - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Plate-billed Mountain-toucan - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Flame-faced Tanager - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Purple-throated Woodstar - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Yellow-breasted Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Ochre-breasted Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Ochre-breasted Antpitta, this image captures the still head and sideways rotation of the body - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Ochre-breasted Antpitta - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Angel Paz - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Golden-headed Quetzal - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Golden-headed Quettzal - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

Purple-throated Woodstar - Paz de la Aves, Mindo, NW Ecuador

We birded at Paz de la Aves until around 11:30 before descending back to the main road and driving back up the old Mindo Road to try for various species. As we drove Gabo suddenly picked up an odd call, brought the car to a halt jumped out and announced that he had a Beautiful Jay, hardly compromising what had happened I jumped from the car and there it was, one of my target birds making a beautiful metallic racket in the misty forests. We watched the birds for around 20 minutes as they showed well although it was very difficult to gauge any plumage colour in the fog of the cloud forest. We drove onwards checking various flocks for White-faced Nunbird but with no luck as the rain and fog increased. We stopped for Plain-tailed Wren in almost torrential conditions but despite a short response from the bird, unsurprisingly we saw nothing but a fleeting shape.

After a quick lunch of lentil soup in Bellavista Lodge we packed the car and headed back down the road for our drive to Nono. The weather had begun to clear and so stopped at a bamboo thicket for Plain-tailed Wren which after some playback eventually responded and three birds came in. We then stopped at a garden that Gabo knew where he had previously seen Rufous-gaped Hillstar and walking to the feeders we quickly found the bird perched beneath the veranda of the house.

We drove onwards along the gravelled road flanked by beautiful cloud forest occasionally stopping but seeing little. We made frequent stops in the area around Tendayapa village for Wattled Guan but with no luck. The highlight was a small lek of three Andean Cock-of-the-rock which glowed in the dark forest. We eventually arrived in the quaint Andean town of Nono and stayed in a small bed and breakfast on the edge of the village. We went for dinner in  the town where we had a stupidly large steak and went to bed feeling overly full.

Beautiful Jay - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Beautiful Jay - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Wellies at Bellavista - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Forest below Bellavista - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Plain-tailed Wren - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Rufous-gaped Hillstar - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Purple-throated Woodstar - Mindo, NW Ecuador

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock - Tandayapa, NW Ecuador

 Tandayapa, NW Ecuador

 Tandayapa, NW Ecuador

 Tandayapa, NW Ecuador

Monday, 12 August 2019

Milpe and Bellavista (NW Ecuador) – 6th May (Day 12)

We were up at 04:30 and on the road in the dark by 05:15 to San Jorge de Milpe Lodge. This was a last minute arranged attempt at seeing Banded Ground-cuckoo which has been coming to insects attracted to lights on an occasional basis, it would have been remiss to have not at least tried for this enigmatic bird. We arrived in the hide overlooking the lights at 06:15 and soon after it began to rain and it from this point it rained pretty much all day, often with fairly thick fog. We started with a fair degree of optimism as our guide had said that he had seen the Ground-cuckoo earlier in the week. A covey of Rufous-fronted Wood-quail arrived in the semi-darkness and Northern Schiffornis, Bicoloured Antbird, Zeledon’s Antbird, Russet Antshrike, White-whiskered Puffbird and Spotted Nightingale-thrush all came and fed on the insects but as time went by our optimism for seeing the Ground-cuckoo waned. We waited in the hide until 10:00 but with no sign of the Ground-cuckoo so with other birds to see we headed off, disappointed but not surprised. I have to say that I was not very happy with the means of attracting birds, seemingly only for financial gain to the owner of the lodge who attracts people, like me, on the chance of seeing the Ground-cuckoo. Basically this is a large white sheet illuminated overnight and attracting large numbers of moths for birds, and particularly the Ground-cuckoo, to feed upon, this must have a negative effect on insect populations locally within the forest. We walked the trails through the forest of the lodge for an hour or so, the forest here was lovely but fairly quiet, possibly due to the rain. Highlights were Golden-winged Manakin, Orange-crested Flycatcher, Rufous-fronted Wood-quail and Rufous Motmot.

Rufous-fronted Wood-quail - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Spotted Nightingale-thrush - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Spotted Nightingale-thrush - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

White-whiskered Puffbird - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

White-throated Quail-dove - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Northern Schiffornis - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Bicolored Antbird - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Zeledon's Antbird - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Zeledon's Antbird - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

The light trap at San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Golden-winged Manakin - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Orange-crested Flycatcher - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

Rufous-fronted Wood-quail - San Jorge de Milpe Lodge, NW Ecuador

We headed back to the hotel where we gathered our bags and drove towards Bellavista. On the way we stopped at a small garden with feeders, San Tadeo, and saw a variety of now familiar species such as Ecuadorian Piedtail, Red-headed Barbet, Green-crowned Woodnymph and White-necked Jacobin and added Purple-throated Woodstar and Golden-headed Quetzal to our list. We stopped at the lovely Septimo Paraiso Lodge where Gabo had occasionally seen Rufous-gaped Hillstar but we had no luck here. The weather deteriorated and so we had lunch and then made a quick stop for Common Potoo, which sat drenched in the rain, before heading onwards. We tried once more for Beautiful Jay but the rain and fog prevented success. We paused and took shelter at the  Birdwatcher's Garden which we had visited yesterday, the Hoary Puffleg showed well once again as did a range of hummingbirds including Gorgeted Sunangel and Buff-tailed Coronet. The highlight here was a stunning pair of Plate-billed Mountain-toucan that came into bananas placed for them.  On the way up to Bellavista we made a stop for Tanager Finch again the rain and fog resulted in failure. We checked into Bellavista Lodge where, just before dinner,  we saw the recently described Olinguito accompanied by the similar looking Kinkajou - much as I try these furry mammal things don't get me very excited.

Black-chinned Mountain-tanager - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Thick-billed Euphonia - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Red-headed Barbet - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Blue-winged Mountain-tanager - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Golden-headed Quetzal - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Booted Racket-tail - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Ecuadorian Piedtail - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Green-crowned Woodnymph - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Green-crowned Woodnymph - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Purple-throated Woodstar - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Andean Emerald - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

White-necked Jacobin - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

White-necked Jacobin - San Tadeo Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Common Potoo - Septimo Paraiso Lodge, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Buff-tailed Coronet - Birdwatcher's Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Velvet-purple Coronet - Birdwatcher's Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Gorgeted Sunangel  - Birdwatcher's Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Masked Flowerpiercer - Birdwatcher's Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Plate-billed Mountain-toucan - Birdwatchers Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Plate-billed Mountain-toucan - Birdwatchers Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Ecuadorian Thrush - Birdwatchers Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Black-capped Tanager (left) and Golden-naped Tanager - Birdwatchers Garden, Milpe, NW Ecuador

Forest below Bellavista Lodge, NW Ecuador