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Ecuador - the West Slope

Part 2: Yanacocha

Had QT and packed the next morning, checked out, and went out to wait for the Tandayapa-provided bird guide for the trip to Yanacocha and then down to Tandayapa.  He was an upbeat guy named Sam Woods (I told him later he looked like a young Alec Baldwin—I think that made his day), and off we went to Yanacocha!  I was feeling a little better (had taken some Dayquil), and I was in pretty good spirits the whole day and had the energy to hike the trail, which was great once you got past the initial hump!  On the way in we spooked a Short-eared Owl, but once on the trail, right away a Unicolored Tapaculo sang for us, and Rufous-collared Sparrows hopped along the trail.  A nice Rufous Antpitta sang unseen, and the trail was full of Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercers (mostly the latter).  At the first set of feeders my first Sapphire-vented Pufflegs flitted around, and a curious bird in a ground-level bush turned out to be a Golden-crowned Tanager!  A family of Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers came into view, and as we were enjoying them, a sharp “Eeeer!” got our attention: an Ocellated Tapaculo was right next to the trail!  Wouldn’t come out, of course, but Sam gave it a valiant effort (I think he wanted to see the thing worse than I did, because it was right there!)

 

   

Left:  Sam Woods leads the way!   Right:  Entrance to the preserve

 

         

The trail is great: wide and flat!

 

       

The weather here can sometimes be as bad as Papallacta, so we were really blessed!

 

       

More scenes...

 

        

They have many feeders and benches strategically placed along the trail!

We came across another set of feeders where a local guy was helping some tourists digiscope the hummers there (more pufflegs joined the Buff-winged Starfrontlets, which also chupped incessantly along the trail), and past that we ran into a group of Rufous-naped Brush Finches.  Sam heard a White-browed Spinetail who responded enough to give us a good listen, but that was it.  I was also delighted to hear a pair of Rufous Wrens break into song, sounding just like the recording!  (And, no, it wasn’t someone else with a tape, unless they were hunkered down in the bushes!)

 

At one turn in the trail Sam spotted a Shining Sunbeam down the hill on a bush, and a Mountain Velvetbreast went tearing by as well.  A little guy turned out to be a little “girl”, a female Plain-colored Seedeater who gave great looks through the scope of all her streaks!  Not far from there Sam had a Paramo Seedeater, and when a bird did indeed pop up, it looked paler gray with a pink (or light, anyway) bill, so I wasn’t convinced it wasn’t a male Plain-colored (Sam didn’t see the particular bird I was looking at).  A Brown-backed Chat Tyrant called in the middle of all this.

 

The next set of feeders (they had several stations along the trail) had the awesome Great Sapphirewings fighting for a spot, and the first of several Tyrian Metaltails horning their way in (and I could see the copper this time)!  Another Black-crested Warbler sang and chinked behind us, and further down the road a larger bird flew into the canopy and sat: a Barred Fruiteater!  We got marvelous looks (and a few shots) as he sat and looked around!

 

 

I should also say the weather was 1000% better this day than the day before (while cool; I donned all three jackets this time) and we had marvelous views of the mountains!  (And there was no wind, thankfully!)

 

Moving on, a Stripe-headed Brush Finch sang unseen, and a Blue-backed Conebill finally showed itself (flowerpiercers had been singing, which confused me).  We also had another mountain tanager singing that I recognized but couldn’t place (and never got around to checking it).  We heard a Crowned Chat Tyrant, and eventually he gave great looks (even singing), as did another later.  While we were enjoying him another White-banded Tyrannulet gave its wheezy call.  A pair of Black-chested Mountain Tanagers gave great views, and in one tree a skulky pair of White-throated Tyrannulets gave brief views.  Then Sam found me another dream bird: a Pearled Treerunner!  He was awesome!  (And I’m glad I got a good look there: Sam assured me I’d see lots from the trails at Tandayapa, but I never made it past the water tank…)  We also had a BVD of a Mountain Wren, but that was ID’d by a process of elimination (what else would be all rusty-brown with a dinky tail?)

 

We arrived at the potty and sat for awhile at the feeders there; we had run into the caretaker who said he had a Black-breasted Puffleg, so we were checking everything carefully!  Something called that neither of us recognized at first (sounded like the “falcon” call of the Paramo Tapaculo), and when an Azara’s Spinetail started calling, we thought it may have been an odd call of that species.  But then it clicked that it could have been a woodpecker, and sure enough, when Sam played back the Bar-bellied Woodpecker call, he eventually came in; what views!  (Sounded like he was drumming on the moss, too…)

 

 

We finally made it to the feeders at the overlook, which Sam said was the best, and indeed it was: in addition to the old favorites, we had Sword-billed Hummer (one female really looked comical from the back, like one of those fighter jets being refueled from a tanker plane in mid-air) and a female Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, who unfortunately only gave backside views.  But it was a photographer’s dream: Glossy Flowerpiercers came in close, and had good comparative views of Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs.  More Shining Sunbeams came in as well.  As the clouds rolled in we heard White-crowned Parrots down below, and Brown-bellied Swallows darted around as it warmed up enough for bugs.

 

We finally tore ourselves away from there, spending extended time at each feeder, hoping the Black-breasted Puffleg would show, but the only thing that did was an odd-looking metaltail that had quite an extensive white crissum, so we were wondering if people were mistaking that for the puffleg (the alleged puffleg was reported as a young male).  Nothing new popped up on the way back, so we had lunch in the parking lot, which included a weird fruit ("granadilla", I guess it's called) that had seeds like a pomegranate but had the consistency of snot, so I couldn’t handle much of it (tasted okay, though).  

 

      

Scenes on the way back

    

 

Presently we started down towards Tandayapa, picking up a kestrel on the way out (which Sam said they might split).  At one point he spotted a Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, so that was great!  We followed the Abarro River (I think) and stopped at several points to search for White-capped Dipper, and he actually spotted one at 30 mph!  Great looks!  We heard a Slaty-backed Chat Tyrant later, whose high-pitched song carried surprisingly well (I guess it would have to to be heard above the water).  The first of the “confusing wrens” sang, which Sam assured me was Gray-breasted Wood Wren (Bay didn’t make it up here).  We stopped at a spot where traditionally the cock-of-the-rocks came out to lek about 4:00, but Fabian (the driver) hadn’t seen them the day before, so Sam was worried.  But he did hear a Beautiful Jay, so we trekked down the road to find that when he stumbled upon a group of Tricolored Brush Finches!  The tape got them all riled up, of course, and all I saw was a darting body here and there, but what also responded was a gorgeous Russet-crowned Warbler!  I also got a glimpse of what looked like a Three-striped Warbler, but I couldn’t be sure, so I didn’t count it.  Back at the car, some Red-billed Parrots called in the distance, and Sam played the two together so we could hear the difference (between that and the White-crowned).  In the background of all this an Andean Solitaire sang its ethereal song!

 

      

Left:  Old Nono-Mindo Road.   Right:  Sam checks for goodies along the road

    

Abarro River

 

Sam was disappointed in the no-show, but we stopped at a couple of spots where you got a distant overview of the river, and thankfully he found Torrent Duck at the second stop!  They kept diving so he had a hard time getting the scope fixed on them, but he finally just had me look, and I found the beautiful male on a rock, and then the female hopped up!  Even a youngster went spattering across the river!  Sam was very happy to get me one of my “dream birds”!  Shortly after that he spotted a Golden-crested Flycatcher on a wire, and I was shocked that my flash was able to illuminate it at that distance!

 

View of the river where we had the Torrent Ducks

Link to Bird list and Photo Gallery

 

Click here to continue to Tandayapa, or here to go back to Papallacta.

 

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