Sunday, June 30, 2019

Best buglites ever

A lot of lodges in the neotropics use white or blacklights behind sheets to attract moths, and therefore birds, that otherwise would be very difficult to see well.  The bug lights at Wild Sumaco were the nicest set-up I've seen.  They sheet (and light) were out of sight below eye level of the blind.  This meant that our eyes were able to adjust to the dark while light was being cast upon the birds.

There was nice diversity at their light, (and we would see none of these birds elsewhere in the woods), but Black-faced Antbird was the most prominent species.

 Here's the female.

Black-billed Treehunter made several appearances.

There are several red-eyed antbirds classed as Fire-eyes, this is White-backed Fire-eye (the white is a tiny spot right where the black of the nape meets the brown of the back).

Slate-throated Redstart added a bit of color.

And finally a personal favorite, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

an accidental umbrellabird

Have we established that there's LOTS of birds in Ecuador?  The book has about 1000, and obviously they're not evenly distributed; I focused my study on the 300-400 birds that eBird deemed most likely.  The problem with that strategy is that it assumes you know where you're going!  On the way from San Isidro to Wild Sumaco we visited Loreto Road, situated at an elevation band between the two main stops.  And with a different elevation come some different birds, some of them very specialized.  I didn't study Loreto Road.  There aren't very many places you can see Cliff Flycatcher in Ecuador, but this is one of them.  Most of us had to take a quick peek in the book on the way to this site to figure out what a Cliff Flycatcher even looked like.

A lot of the tyrants in South America have more colorful wings than our flycatchers do.  These birds soared when they would sally out, acting as much like martins as they did flycatchers.

We stopped at a little waterfall garden whose feeders attracted White-tailed Hillstar, another bird with a very narrow elevation band.
It'd be nice to just use the pic with no feeder, but given you can barely see the blue and the white without the bird being head-on we'll go with both. This was the only time we saw this species.

Admittedly I cheated on this Many-spotted Hummingbird.  It started with the same feeder as the Hillstar has, but was far enough from the feeder that I photoshopped in the flowers from the bush the feeder was in...

While some of the group waited by the feeders, given the so-so at best lighting some of us wandered back down to the waterfall where birds would filter through the treetops.  Violaceous Jays, some distant Aracaris, and a few tanagers appeared, and then Irene started calling out a bird, questioning if it was an Umbrellabird.

I honestly had no idea.  The umbrellabird that can (rarely, and never by me) be found in Central America has a dark eye and a dark bill (and an entirely different adornment of head feathers).  I thought this was some kind of fruitcrow I hadn't studied ... turns out umbrellabirds and fruitcrows are both weird cotingas and are relatively closely related!  Long story short, it's an Amazonian Umbrellabird.  I felt a little sheepish that I didn't know what an UMBRELLABIRD was, but what are you going to do.

Aside from take pictures of orchids (you're not supposed to know what those are)...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

a moth mustache

Pre-dawn at San Isidro would bring a parade of birds into the trees next to the deck.  Why?  Moths of course!  Blacklights and sheets attracted moths, which in turn would attract the birds.

Check out the moth wing dust on this Summer Tanager's bill...

and a Common Bush-tanager, moth in hand

I was pretty excited to see a Black-billed Shrike-vireo the first time we were in its habitat.  It was present pre-dawn both mornings.  To put that in context it took me several trips to see Chestnut-capped Shrike-vireo in Central America (despite hearing it several times); I've never seen Green Shrike-vireo, though you can hear it in a lot of lowland areas of Central America.

Hemispinguses are tanagers that function more like warblers; they're hard to photograph.  This is Black-eared.

But they weren't all exotic birds, you know Ecuador is a cool place when the dominant wintering warbler is Blackburnian

Finally a look at some of the moths the birds didn't get!

Friday, June 14, 2019


Green-fronted Lancebill is a bird that's been possible on a bunch (if not most) of the trips I've taken to Central and South America.  Afternoon at San Isidro however was the first time I've ever seen one.  The classic habitat is little snags along rapidly flowing streams or small waterfalls;  this one was away from the water though.

Really it ought to be named sword-billed and the sword-billed hummingbird (whose bill is double in length) ought to have the lance-billed moniker, but who's keeping score.  Honestly I expected the bill to be longer, but sword-billed probably spoiled me.  Some of the starthroats have similar length bills to the lancebill too. 

 The sun got up pretty well this afternoon (a nice respite from rain), but it did slow down activity a fair bit, but we did find some high tanagers.  This is my best pic of Saffron-crowned Tanager. 
We saw them a bunch of days but they tended to stay pretty high and move pretty fast.

Green Jays were common as well.

Finally a look at "San Isidro Owl", a bird intermediate between the Black-and-white Owl of Central American and Black-banded Owl of South America.
Some believe it to be a distinct species, others simply an intergrade.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

the Quetzal's cousin

A Collared Trogon!
Trogons were pretty common at San Isidro and this pair was pretty tame, teed up along the trails between the cabins and the cafe

Bluish Flowerpiercer was also a (somewhat random) common species as well.

As I mentioned in the last post we did fairly well with flycatchers on our morning walk, but photos were hard to come by.  I was pretty pleased to see this Flavescent Flycatcher at fairly close range since it has a couple of similar species which I'd spent some time studying pre-trip.  It's always rewarding when studying pays off.

A (considerably easier to identify) Cinnamon Flycatcher was on the other side of the road.

Finally a couple non-birds, first another of the glasswing butterflies

And finally the only snake we saw on the trip
It was about the size of an earthworm.  I'll reach out and see if I can get lead on its name... (Josh V???)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

back to Ecuador ... Quetzals!

With the rush of spring over and the trees leafed out (at last), time to return to the winter trip to Ecuador.  We started way above the treeline and worked our way down the mountains slowly.  San Isidro is a similar elevation to the areas around Tandayapa that we visited last year, but on the Eastern side of the mountains.

We spent a lot of time (A LOT) listening to Jose whistle for quetzals in 2018 so it was nice to have a few appear for us on this trip.  When a person mentions quetzals we tend to think of Central America's Resplendent Quetzal, but there's South American species too (though to my knowledge they lack the flowing tail coverts of their more famous cousin).  These are Golden-headed Quetzals.

We saw a number of small forest flycatchers, tyrannulets and bristle-tyrants, but none were particularly cooperative from a photo standpoint.  This Rufous-headed Tody-flycatcher was an exception, though it was extremely flighty and zipped from perch to perch, usually well before people could get their cameras raised, much less focused.

We also spent a lot of time working a roadside bamboo thicket for Stripe-headed Antbird.  The color is off in this pic since I'm shooting almost entirely through a big green leaf and had to futz with it a bunch with photoshop.

The butterflies were easier.  The Kaufman guide has some long-winged skippers along our southern borders; I think this is the first of that group I've encountered.

And who can resist butterflies with see-through wings?
I still don't know this one's name