Tuesday, 14 November 2017

14th November 2017 Guango Lodge, Papallacta Antennas and Baeza

We walked to the Guango footbridge for dawn and whilst on our way saw what we considered was a Peregrine-sized Falcon in flight over the forest. Knowing the rare status and the difficult identification challenge posed by Orange-breasted Falcon, I quickly tried to obtain some images. Fearing the images would all be silhouettes, I then over-cooked the settings succeeding in over-exposing the rest of the images but nonetheless the results are interesting. We then walked the Torrent Duck Trail and then the Pipeline Way, where on hearing a Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, after playback, we were soon enjoying excellent views of a pair - no identification challenge there! Pleased with this success I headed back to the Waterfall Trail flowers but managed the usual disappointing result although an intriguing Pale-naped Brush-Finch was encountered on my return. It was a clear day with blue skies and there seemed little activity in the forest so we decided to make an attempt for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe at the Papallacta antennas. On our final ascent from the shrine along the main road at the pass there seemed to be Tawny Antpittas calling from virtually every sizeable bush and a good range of high-altitude species were seen including a juvenile Andean Condor over the antennas themselves. On reaching the antennas there was an obvious trail so I set off along it looking for Seedsnipe. It didn't take long before I was feeling quite breathless so regularly stopping and scanning seemed the best/only option. I chanced upon an Andean Jackal that I assumed might be looking for Seedsnipe too. It seemed to take a liking for me and followed me the whole time, and on the onset of rain, virtually the whole way back to the car. The weather deteriorated really quickly and the rain soon became torrential so we decided to make our way back down to the main road. The rain had eased by the time we reached Papallacta but we decided to continue onwards to Baeza and found the Kopal Pizzaria and cabins. On seeing that we were birding, the owner Koos, quickly suggested that we might want to walk the waterfall trail that starts at his entrance gate as it leads to an active lek of Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks. Being an Inca cobblestone pathway it was very slippery in places, but we made the lek prior to dark, hearing the lekking males but actually only seeing a single male.  

Torrent Duck 1
Andean Condor 1
Variable Hawk 3
Falcon sp. 1
Speckled Hummingbird 1
Mountain Velvetbreast 2
Collared Inca 1
Buff-winged Starfrontlet 2
Buff-tailed Coronet 2
Chestnut-breasted Coronet 6
Tourmaline Sunangel 2
White-bellied Woodstar 4
Masked Trogon 1
Chestnut-winged Cinclodes 4
Stout-billed Cinclodes 8
Andean Tit-Spinetail 1
Many-striped Canastero 1
Tawny Antpitta 1
Torrent Tyrannulet 1
Cinnamon Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 1
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant 1
Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant 1
Paramo (Plain-capped) Ground-Tyrant 4
Tropical Kingbird 1
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock 1 male
Turquoise Jay 1
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush 1
Swainson's Thrush 1
Great Thrush 10
Black-billed Thrush 1
Brown-bellied Swallow c.20
Mountain Wren 3
Blackburnian Warbler 6
Spectacled Whitestart 6
Citrine Warbler 2
Three-striped Warbler 2
Russet-crowned Warbler 2
Black-and-white Seedeater 1 male
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch 6
Pale-naped Brush-Finch 1
Slaty Brush-Finch 1
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch 1
Yellow-browed Sparrow 1
Rufous-collared Sparrow 5
Northern Mountain Cacique 6
Russet-backed Oropendola 2

Forest edge on the walk to Guango footbridge

Falcon sp. at Guango Lodge
No species of Falcon are included on the checklist for Guango Lodge. Guango Lodge is at an elevation of 2,700m. Birds of Ecuador includes the following elevations for the three most-likely species. Aplomado Falcon mostly 3,000 to 4,100m, very rarely wandering lower, Bat Falcon mainly below about 1,000m, in smaller numbers as high as 1,200-1,500m, Orange-breasted Falcon recorded up to as high as 2,000-2,500m on the east slope of the Andes, but perhaps ranging this high only while feeding; usually found below 1,400m. Based on the silhouetted images the large-billed, large-headed, broad-based wings and slightly graduated/rounded tail make a compelling case for it being an Orange-breasted Falcon (and the forest habitat would seem correct too) but do the over-exposed images hint at it having pale head-sides and a black moustache, when Aplomado Falcon would seem the only option, or is the angle misleading, as structurally it didn't remind me of that species at all?

Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant at Guango Lodge

Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush at Guango Lodge

Female Masked Trogon at Guango Lodge

Mountain Wren at Guango Lodge

Pale-naped Brush-Finch at Guango Lodge
On encountering this Brush-Finch by virtue of its rich cinnamon forecrown I wasn't immediately sure which species was involved. Whilst it sports an obvious pale hindcrown stripe it didn't remind me of the Pale-naped Brush-Finches seen at Papallacta. The Birds of Ecuador only includes the form papallactae as occurring in the Country but the Birds of Northern South America reveals the species is comprised of two forms being the nominate pallidinucha and papallactae and helpfully illustrates both. Whilst the birds seen at Papallacta clearly conform to papallactae the above individual appears closer to the nominate in showing a cinnamon forecrown, yellow extending to belly and washed greenish-olive on flanks. Hence, is pallidinucha being overlooked in Ecuador or is papallactae more variable then illustrated? 

Pale-naped Brush-Finches of the form papallactae at Papallacta

Mountain Velvetbreast at Guango Lodge
Ever-present at the Avocetbill flowers I can't help but wonder if this species chases off other would-be feeders?

White-bellied Woodstar at Guango Lodge

Orchid at Guango Lodge

View of the Andes from Papallacta Antennas

Tawny Antpitta at the Papallacta Antennas

Juvenile Andean Condor over the Papallacta Antennas

Variable Hawk over the Papallacta Antennas

Andean Tit-Spinetail at Papallacta Antennas

Many-striped Canastero at Papallacta Antennas

Chestnut-winged Cinclodes at Papallacta Antennas

Stout-billed Cinclodes at Papallacta Antennas

Paramo Ground-Tyrant at Papallacta Antennas

White-tailed Deer at Papallacta Antennas

Andean Jackall at Papallacta Antennas
Working as a team we still failed to find any Seedsnipe!

Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant at Papallacta Antennas
in the now pouring rain