Northern Ecuador Hummingbird & Tanager Extravaganza Mar 15—24, 2018
Posted by Paul Greenfield
COLOR—all varieties and qualities of color: bright, glistening, shimmering, glowing, shining, iridescent, opalescent, glossy, velvety, opaque, pastel, gaudy, subdued, contrasting, blended, primary, secondary, terciary and on and on—could well have been the underlying theme of this year’s first Relaxed & Easy Northern Ecuador Hummingbird & Tanager Extravaganza. During this weeklong Andean adventure, we found ourselves fully immersed in a spectacular feathered festival of hummingbirds and tanagers. The superlatives are hard to match…what could be better!
Our rather comfortable itinerary took advantage of Ecuador’s compact size and birder-friendly infrastructure as we ventured up and over the Andes first east then west, initiated by a morning just below Antisana National Park—spying a Giant Hummingbird before even disembarking from our bus! Hummingbirds everywhere, in brilliant light—Sparkling Violetears, Shining Sunbeams, a stunning male Black-tailed Trainbearer, the oversized Great Sapphirewing with its shining blue wings, the pint-sized Tyrian Metaltail… each as incredible as the next! Then, a pair of huge Andean Condors showed up above the horizon in graceful buoyant flight, only to touch down on a rocky cliff-face and proceed to copulate! WOW! And our journey had barely begun! We eventually continued on to Papallacta Pass for a brief visit along the ‘old’ road there, spying a soaring Puna Hawk and a Carunculated Caracara, along with a Viridian Metaltail and Blue-mantled Thornbill perched up on the same Polylepis shrub (these two species in obvious competition for the same food sources), before advancing to Guango Lodge for lunch—and more birds. At this renowned site, the hummers were buzzing and combative all around us: Tourmaline Sunangels everywhere, Speckled Hummingbirds, Long-tailed Sylphs (can’t you just hear the “oohs’ and the “aahs”), “snappy” Collared Incas, Buff-tailed and Chestnut-breasted coronets (so cool but aggressive), bee-like White-bellied Woodstars, and a “Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not” Sword-billed Hummingbird (OMG!). We then took a short walk down to the nearby river where 2 Torrent Tyrannulets and a Spotted Sandpiper awaited, along with a fairly large band of noisy Turquoise Jays that marauded about; an Andean Motmot surprised us, allowing for brief but excellent scope views before disappearing—this may well be a first record for the species at this site and this altitude! Alas, it was time to head for our first lodge, Cabañas San Isidro, in time to add a few more species to the day’s tally, including Bronzy Inca, Fawn-breasted Brilliants, and a minute female Gorgeted Woodstar. But our day’s birding would not be complete until we secured excellent, after-dinner looks at the enigmatic ‘San Isidro Mystery Owl’—an as-yet-to-be fully identified taxa that has the scientific community still guessing!
Read Paul’s full report in his Field Report.