ECUADOR December 2006
We drove straight to El Oro province for two nights at Buenaventura Lodge, owned and operated by Fundación Jocotoco - an Ecuadorian conservation organisation that in just a few years of existence has managed to save eight vital pieces of habitat for some of the country's most endangered birds (and plants). I really encourage all birders going to Ecuador to stay at their properties rather than just pay the day-visit fee - the money helps pay the salaries of the guards, allowing more of the Organization's funds to be spent on land acquisition. Those same guards accompany guests on the trails, and they really know the special birds and where in the Reserve to find them, dramatically increasing your chances of seeing the target species:
The large, covered outdoor dining area has great views of surrounding forest (with Plumbeous Kite nesting in a nearby tree) and of course hummingbird feeders:
Baron's Hermit: scarce, but one ot two seem to appear regularly thoughout the day.
Green Thorntail: common, with dozens visible at all times - a real joy to watch!
Violet-bellied Hummingbird: common, with many visible thoughout the day.
Emerald-bellied Woodnymph: uncommon - a few around most of the time.
White-necked Jacobin: scarce, but one or two males seen though most of the day.
Brown Violetear: uncommon, but up to four present throughout the day; this is the most reliable spot I've seen for this widespread yet thinly-distributed species.
Also visiting the feeders were a couple of Long-billed Starthroats and White-whiskered Hermits, plus, very occasionally, a female White-vented Plumeleteer.
There are two rare, range-restricted species at the Reserve; the ones that caused the Fundación to purchase land to protect their habitat (they are currently trying to raise money to extend the Reserve upslope):
Long-wattled Umbrellabird is quite simply jaw dropping! Watching the male - resplendent in his Elvis hair-do - posture such that the huge, inflated, feathered wattle sways and dances, is an unforgettable experience.
El Oro Parakeet was only discovered in the 1970s, and is still known to occur only along a narrow elevational zone in the foothills of El Oro and Azuay provinces.
Back at the Lodge, the bananas on the feeding table plus papayas growing next to the dining area attact very photogenic visitors:
Pale-mandibled Aracari - as with the Elo Oro Parakeet, this species is only found in Ecuador.
The dirt/rock road to the lodge goes for five kilometers downslope before meeting the paved highway, and for seven kilometeres upslope before meeting the "Upper Road" just yards from its junction with the paved highway. Both directions offer excellent roadside birding, with the lower section (where all the pics below were taken) being particularly productive during our visit :
Gray-backed Hawk is only found in the western foothills of Ecuador plus adjacent Peru; this was the first of more than ten sightings we had during our brief stay.
Ochraceous Attila is restricted to the western foothills of Ecuador plus neighboring bits of Peru and Colombia. It is regularly seen along the lower road.
One of the ubiquitous sounds of this area is the Fasciated Wren, and they are easy to see at the lodge and along the road.
Red-billed Scythebill - not a great photo, but any day with a scythebill is a Good Day.