Ecuador: Tinalandia Pre-trip Nov 08—13, 2016
Posted by Paul Greenfield
Our November 2016 Tinalandia Pre-Trip accomplished its mission as a “warmup and complement” to our Ecuador: Northwestern Andean Slopes tour, and we enjoyed many special avian species, along with some interesting reptiles and amphibians. We began with a first travel day down the western slopes of the Andes along the “old” Chiriboga Road, through humid temperate, subtropical, and foothill life-zones, the scenery and habitats changing as we descended. Much of the day was sunny, which is often unfavorable for successful birding, but we did pretty well in spite of the conditions, tallying over 70 species for the day, including a family of Torrent Ducks; Violet-tailed Sylph; Crowned Woodnymph; an obliging Toucan Barbet; Crimson-rumped Toucanet; Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan; Pale-mandibled Araçari; Chestnut-mandibled (Yellow-breasted) and Chocó toucans; a pair of stunning Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers; Red-billed Parrots; Plain-brown, Tyrannine, Wedge-billed, Strong-billed, and Montane woodcreepers; more than 10 Turquoise Jays (!); White-thighed Swallows; Rufous Wrens; White-capped Dippers; Olive-crowned Yellowthroat; Tropical Parula; Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers; Fawn-breasted and Blue-capped tanagers; Tricolored and Yellow-breasted brushfinches; and Yellow-bellied Siskin…not bad for starters!
Tinalandia made a great base of operations for the next two-and-a-half days, where we concentrated on lower elevation birding, from about 800 meters (2,625 ft.) above sea level at Tinalandia and along what we call “Exploration Road” that runs parallel to our home-base, to about 250 meters (850 ft.) at Río Palenque Reserve. We birded along a few forest trails, at forest edge, and around clearings each day, and also enjoyed constant activity at Tinalandia’s fruit feeder from the dining terrace, with views over the valley and the boulder-strewn Río Toachi below. These are very birdy áreas and, with patience and some tenacity, we ended up making some great discoveries. Our second day was spent at Tinalandia and began with a morning walk around the grounds and along a main trail, only as far as the lovely Lily pond, before heading back downslope for lunch (and fruit feeder watching!). We returned to this área in the afternoon and climbed a bit higher, then descended a bit as foggy conditions made viewing conditions somewhat challenging, though we did receive some rewarding finds: Pale-vented Pigeon; Little, Squirrel, and Striped cuckoos; White-collared Swifts; Band-tailed Barbthroat; White-whiskered Hermit; Green-crowned Brilliant; Crowned Woodnymph; the common Rufous-tailed Hummingbird; Rufous and Broad-billed motmots; a pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamars; a “shocking” male Red-headed Barbet; more Pale-mandibled Araçaris; Black-cheeked, Red-rumped, Golden-olive, and Guayaquil woodpeckers; Bronze-winged Parrot; a female Pacific Parrotlet; a band of Chocó (Maroon-tailed) Parakeets; Pacific Hornero; incredible close studies of Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner; Red-faced Spinetail; Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant; Boat-billed, Rusty-margined, and Gray-capped flycatchers; Masked Tityra; Cinnamon and One-colored becards; Band-backed and Bay wrens; Ecuadorian Thrush; Chocó Warbler; a “pile” of wonderfully colorful tanagers; Yellow-tufted Dacnis; Black-winged Saltator; and Orange-crowned Euphonias among the prizes! As we scanned over the Rio Toachi, we spied, among other species, a Ringed Kingfisher, a small group of Neotropic Cormorants, Spotted Sandpiper, and a solitary Fasciated Tiger-Heron…a nice day in the Neotropics, indeed!
Our following full day was staged at the Río Palenque Reserve, about an hour drive to the south. Here at an even lower elevation, we birded this forested “island,” sadly surrounded by massive deforested, agricultural land that has left this birdy site isolated from connecting hábitat…but boy, it’s still chock-full of birds! We explored clearings and garden areas and a long central trail that wound its way through a variety of wooded and edge habitats, and we ended the afternoon by birding a stretch of tall forest before heading back to Tinalandia. Among the many species we encountered were Baron’s Hermit; Ecuadorian and Collared trogons; another Guayaquil Woodpecker; Black-crowned Antshrike; Dot-winged Antwren; Chestnut-backed Antbird; Streak-headed and Olivaceous woodcreepers; Plain Xenops; Greenish Elaenia; Ochre-bellied, Sulphur-rumped, and Acadian flycatchers; displaying White-bearded Manakins; Rufous-browed Peppershrike; two very responsive Long-billed Gnatwrens; and a nice pair of Tumbesian endemic Gray-and-gold Warblers. “Back-at-the-ranch,” so-to-speak, we enjoyed a late afternoon bout at the fruit feeders and overlooking the Rio Toachi, and after dinner the nocturnal amphibian choral arrangement got us “hunting” for frogs…not as easy as it sounds! But we eventually came up with three amusing species.
The following morning took us to a nearby side road which runs parallel and contiguous to Tinalandia, along which we walked slowly in search of mixed-species foraging flocks and whatever else decided to show itself along this very productive stretch. We located a soaring Hook-billed Kite, a pair of Ruddy Pigeons, a mesmerizing Purple-crowned Fairy, Chocó and Collared trogons, Crimson-rumped Toucanets, Chestnut-mandibled (Yellow-breasted) and Chocó toucans, Lineated and (a close) male Guayaquil woodpeckers, Spotted and Northern Barred-woodcreepers, a family of Sooty-headed Tyrannulets, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, Whiskered Wren, and a pair of Yellow-faced Grassquits among quite a few other species.
We returned to Tinalandia for our final lunch and were rewarded with super looks, in beautiful light, at a parade of species that decided to join our feast at the fruit feeder, including a male Red-headed Barbet; Pale-mandibled Araçaris; and the omnipresent Lemon-rumped Tanager; along with Blue-gray, Palm, and breathtaking Blue-necked tanagers; a female Green Honeycreeper (with her “spoiled-rotten” youngster!); Buff-throated Saltator; and a family clan of Thick-billed and a pair of Orange-bellied euphonias. Alas, this joyful farewell marked our departure back to civilization…well, not for long, as we were now well-prepared for our upcoming and highly anticipated weeklong adventure on our Ecuador: Northwestern Andean Slopes tour!