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Ecuador - the West Slope

Part 5: Milpe

(I took this narrative directly from my journal, seeing as it was a special trip; I'm including the excursion to the Lower Level as well...)

That morning we were all up early and heard all about the bats Tim and Cathy had netted (they only netted one bird), and then Jane and I took off.  The first stop was to be at the bottom end of the property, that we got into via Mindo Lindo.  We had great White-collared Swifts on the way down, and another White-tipped Dove strutted in front of us along the road.  Down at the bottom the trail was manageable for me (i.e., flat), and we heard that mystery yowling I had heard the first day, which turned out to be a Strong-billed Woodcreeper!  (Goes to show how a description doesn’t cut it: you really have to hear it for yourself…)  We shortly ran into a feeding flock that included Golden-naped, Metallic-green, Flame-faced, Beryl-spangled, and Golden Tanagers!  She played the Moustached Antpitta tape with apparently no response, but as we were searching for an Orange-breasted Fruiteater that was singing overhead, the antpitta sang back!  Another Hook-billed Kite called in the distance, and Jane spotted a Masked Trogon on top of a tree.  I got a glimpse of a Lineated Foliagegleaner as he sang (I saw his tail bounce in time), and an Ornate Flycatcher perched overhead.  Jane played the Giant Antpitta tape as well with no response, but as we circled the Antpitta Trail, suddenly one flew up and perched on an exposed stump next to the trail!  Unfortunately I only saw his back half before he took off, but there was no mistaking that guy—he was huge!  On the way back we had a female One-colored Becard and a roller-coaster Red-faced Spinetail.


Jane drives us to the Lower Level entrance via Mindo Lindo; we have to pass through a neighbor’s pasture to get to her property...


Once inside, Jane is surrounded by impatiens!    And the woods along the Antpitta Trail is thick!


Jane assesses the condition of the trail while also pointing out a Bicolored Impatien and Japanese Lantern.


Slug, both top and bottom (Jane claims that if someone could market the goo they produce as a super glue, they’d make a mint…)


After dragging ourselves back to the car we headed on to Milpe, where we stopped in the little village of Los Bancos to get some fruits and veggies.  I enjoyed people-watching and seeing how they went about their business!  At one market I broke down and joined Jane while she bantered with the Indian ladies over the price of a watermelon and marveled at the open-air butcher shops (at one place the guy was shooing away flies with a fly-swatter)!  After that we headed to the famous restaurant for lunch (which was excellent), but their feeders were jumping with goodies: besides the ubiquitous Golden Tanagers and Orange-bellied Euphonias, we also had Rufous-throated, Silver-throated, Lemon-rumped, Blue-gray, Palm, and Blue-necked Tanagers, and at the hummer feeders we got a whole new set of diners, including lots of woodnymphs, White-whiskered Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant, and my personal favorite, the little Green Thorntail (never did see a male, but the females were cuties)!  We enjoyed our lunch and I got a quick look at the Long-billed Starthroat before we left!



In the colorful village of Los Bancos, Jane looks over the produce while an Indian woman and her granddaughter check things out...



...then they all head over to the meat market across the street!  A bigger market has a more extensive butcher shop, and Jane banters with the locals for a good price on the produce!


In town there’s a restaurant with great food,  a great view, and great feeders, especially out on the deck!

Then we were off to the famous road, and it was terrific, with open areas, scattered trees, and patches of woodland (and only about four miles long)!  Variable Seedeaters showed up right away, as did Shiny Cowbirds (funny I didn’t remember I had seen them when I got that one at Tinalandia—I thought it was a new trip bird!).  A Yellow-bellied Siskin sang in a tree, so that was nice to see.  We ran into another feeding flock, and while Jane spotted gobs of stuff, I was only able to get onto a female White-shouldered Tanager, a Buff-throated Saltator, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, some more becards, and the best one, a Black-crowned Tityra!  Continuing on, a Golden-olive Woodpecker crossed the road and attached itself to a stump, and a couple of Sooty-headed Tyrannulets zipped into a tree, thankfully calling.  The Rough-winged Swallows looked huge against the Blue-and-whites, and we also spotted the little White-thighed Swallows among the dozens of Gray-rumped Swifts.  At one stop a Ruddy Pigeon sang in the distance, but about that time the rain came, and we had quite a downpour (which led to a conversation about storm-chasing)!



The famous Milpe Birding Road and typical habitat


An owl butterfly of some kind poses while an Indian family comes down the road

After the rain we spotted a little bird bopping around in a bush which Jane ID’d as a Moss-backed Tanager, but I just couldn’t see any detail on it (I was pretty convinced, as was she, that that’s what I heard along the trail back at her place, anyway).  Once the rain quit we added Slaty Spinetail and a cute little Olivaceous Piculet by the road, but Jane was delighted by the Bronze-winged Parrots that flocked in and hung upside-down in the rain with their wingpits open, taking their little “showers”!  She also spotted a Buff-fronted Foliagegleaner, and something sang that sounded like the recording to me, so that was good enough!  A couple of Social Flycatchers fed in the road, and I snuck out to try and shoot a couple of fairly close Ornate Flycatchers.  A pair of Thick-billed Euphonias showed up, and finally got to see a male Yellow-bellied Seedeater.  A pair of Pacific Horneros strutted around in someone’s little garden plot, and while watching them on the road later they were joined by a Black-striped Sparrow!  An aracari came tearing in, and while we were enjoying him a cuckoo suddenly appeared right next to the car, which turned out to be a Dark-billed, which isn’t even supposed to be here!  That was definitely the highlight of the day, and the confirmation that there was a good reason why the trip from Tandayapa didn't go: we would have missed THIS bird!


We headed home after that, sharing more stories, and just delighting in the great day!  Jane was knocked over when I told her that we logged over 100 species for the day!


Link to Bird list and Photo Gallery


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