Tuesday, February 13, 2018

the Bird Continent

I returned a few days ago from a trip to Ecuador, my first ever experience with South America.  It was a fun trip, as always saw some great things, missed some others, would love to go back with more time blah blah blah.

We went with Tropical Birding, led by Jose Illanes who was one of the better guides I've worked with.  This trip focused on high elevations and the mid elevations on the west slope of the Andes.

We flew into Quito, which sits at 8000 feet of elevation.  What to do but start driving even higher the next day?

We started at a pull-off as we ascended a fairly rough rain-gouged road that the bus struggled to ascend in places.  The first chat- and tit-tyrants started appearing as did Plain-colored Seedeaters.  I had trouble learning the seedeaters and I was actually fairly proud that I was able to identify the first one I found (technically this is one from a little later in the morning who sang an electric little buzzing song that would have been fun to have recorded.)

Great Thrush is one of the most common birds just below the treeline.  They're about double the size of our robin, but shaped pretty identically.  Come to think of it they seemed a lot less vocal than our robins, but maybe I was too overloaded with new scenery/birds/sounds to really pick them out.

We broke above the treeline into the Antisana area, about 11,000 feet above sea level.  Carunculated Caracaras were quite common.

In some ways it felt kind of odd to start the trip with these birds; a person visualizes tanagers and hummingbirds and antbirds when they think of the tropics; the birds were much different here high above the tree line.  This is male and female Plumbeous Sierra-Finch

Cinclodes nest in burrows on the tundra, otherwise they seemed to fill even more of a robin niche than the Great Thrushes as they worked about the short grass probing presumably for insects.

Andean Lapwing was a neat little variation on the Southern theme.

Finally a fly-over Black-faced Ibis, another above-the-treeline Andean specialty. 
We saw a few foraging (like ibises) at a pretty good distance, but the two flyover birds came much closer.

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