A Little More from Ecuador Part 2

Golden-tailed Sapphire 11-24-2017-1724

Golden-tailed Sapphire

Here’s the other half of my previous post. Maybe it doesn’t hurt to remember there is still a lot of beauty left in the world. Hummingbirds are a good place to start. A Golden-Tailed Sapphire above and a Many-Spotted Hummingbird below.

Another beauty is the White-Tailed Hillstar.

In my next life, if I return quickly, maybe I can study butterflies.

Perhaps less spectacular but still interesting, a Western Wood-Pewee, Barred Antshrike and Deep Blue Flowerpiercer.

Another unique species below: the Thrush-Like Wren.

I have seen Cliff Flycatchers before but do not remember seeing the gray on the face like I did on this bird.

We were lucky to see a Chestnut-Eared Aracari which was not on our list.

Reality check. Tomorrow I am going to what promises to be a colder-than-last-year Gull Frolic, as we have chilled down again after two rather balmy days. With any luck I will get some fun photos to share with you. Fun as in Frantic Gulls. Until then, I wish you peace, safety and beauty wherever you are.

Many-spotted Hummingbird 11-24-2017-1784

Many-Spotted Hummingbird

P.S. A Blackburnian Warbler on the left (“distracters” on this trip!) and a Social Flycatcher on the fly.

More From Ecuador

Fork-tailed Woodnymph 11-24-2017-1810

Fork-tailed Woodnymph

After shoveling snow all weekend, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the rest of the winter if I run out of pictures from Ecuador…

Since my head is still full of snow, I won’t try to remember exactly where these pictures were taken, so my comments will be few. Don’t you love my disclaimers?

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Blue-Crowned Trogon

It was a good day for tanagers. Below is a distant Blue-Browed Tanager which was a new one for me.

The Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanager below refused to reveal much of itself. I love how these birds with such bright plumage manage to blend in with their surroundings: “maybe I look like another yellow leaf.”

It was nice to get good looks at a Blue-Necked Tanager, below.

And then we found a Speckled Tanager, which I have seen elsewhere, but I can’t remember. Maybe Costa Rica or Colombia…? One of these days I’ll get my list together.

I’m sure I was always trying to get a halfway decent photograph of a Paradise Tanager. Any part of the bird you might see is spectacular but it often proved difficult to capture the entire bird at any one time. These two were far away but otherwise not camera-shy.

Not a lot of parrots sitting still, most of the time they were flying over in pairs, their calls to be identified by our guide often before we could see them. This Blue-headed Parrot was the exception.

I remember we went up a trail in search of the Powerful Woodpecker. It was thrilling to find a pair noisily knocking about the trees.

I have too many pictures from this one day! I will be back with the rest soon. I think I’m still mentally tired from shoveling, so “less is more” right now. I’ll close where I started, with a couple more shots of a Fork-Tailed Woodnymph.

 

Back to Ecuador…in Pictures

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Crested Quetzal

How I wish I could be in Ecuador today! We are in the single digits which presents a challenge even for hardy Midwesterners. Revisiting the trip through these photographs is only a little bit more frustrating than trying to take the pictures themselves, but I am grateful for the escape on a day like today.

The two pix immediately below represent two frequent quandaries: one, a lot of vegetation, but where was the bird, and two, we can see the birds but they are far away and have their backs to us. The Crested Quetzal at the head of this post was the only one that ventured to turn around.

Above, three views of a Black-Crested Warbler. Below, a Scarlet-Rumped Cacique.

I think the best looks I got at the Mountain Wren below were outside my back porch.

Also in the “yard”, an Azara’s Spinetail. And a Cinnamon Flycatcher.

Cinnamon Flycatcher San Isidro 11-23-17-0697

The Green Jays are…also yellow and blue and black.

Green Jay 11-23-2017-0613Sometimes I got a good picture in a less-than-attractive setting, like the Chestnut-Bellied Seedeater below.

Southern Lapwings…

A Strong-Billed Woodcreeper…

While we were grateful for sunshine, sometimes its intensity interfered with images. Below, a Streaked Xenops, Squirrel Cuckoo and Red-headed Barbet.

Anytime we encountered rushing water we were looking for Torrent Ducks. We did finally find this male.

A Tropical Kingbird on the left, a Short-crested Flycatcher on the right.

Woodpeckers were seen infrequently. Below, the best I could manage of a Yellow-Vented Woodpecker.

I am grateful for any Mountain-Tanagers I managed to capture. Below is the Blue-Winged.

Also directly around the room, a beautiful butterfly and a hairy but flashy-looking fly.

Of course the ubiquitous Chestnut-Breasted Coronets insisted I pay attention to them…

Chestnut-breasted Coronet 11-23-2017-0629And this Green Jay was reminding me he too can be camouflaged. Somewhat.

Green Jay in palm 11-23-2017-0479

Spider in web 11-22-2017-0270As hard as it is to sit inside with the sun shining brightly today, I know that clarity comes at a price… We are due for a slight warm-up tomorrow, just enough to turn cloudy and start snowing. Hey. The days are getting longer. Spring is coming. Keep thinking Spring. It will happen. Have faith. And I have yet more tropical diversions in store for this page.

 

More Birds from Ecuador

 

Emerald Toucanet 11-21-2017-0001

Emerald Toucanet

The days are getting ever-so-slightly longer and the angle of the sunlight is inspiring spring longings (my Black-Capped Chickadee burst into song a couple frozen mornings ago as I was filling the bird bath with clean water). But green is still a couple months away. And I still have many more memories of Ecuador to share.

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Andean Motmot

After traveling over the continental divide we finally arrived at Cabanas San Isidro and spent the rest of our time there. Surrounded by birds on the grounds, we had several trails to explore on the property and beyond, as San Isidro is situated between two national parks.

Green Jays were predictably around the dining hall making raucous comments.

The Black-eared Hemispingus above was seen only once. Just barely.

We likely would never have seen the White-bellied Antbird above if we had not visited a location where insects have been collected for its consumption. This is becoming a more common practice as more people travel to see these birds. Every bird loves a free meal.

Frequently seen birds above: Montane Woodcreeper, Russet-backed Oropendola and Mountain Wren, were still challenging to capture.

Identifying flycatchers is always challenging, but I love the variety and the personalities of each individual. On the left is a Pale-edged Flycatcher, and the bird on the right is a Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant, which is a lot of name for a small bird.

Invariably there were Rufous-Collared Sparrows everywhere, which made them nearly ignorable, except for the fact that their marvelous Towhee-like song which I have recorded and inserted right under the pictures made me think that if House Sparrows had an equally beautiful vocalization maybe we would tolerate their numbers better. Rufous-Collared Sparrows are not an invasive species in Ecuador but their numbers are reminiscent of House Sparrows in my neighborhood. Come to think of it, even when we were in the cities, I don’t think we had one House Sparrow the entire trip.

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Masked Trogon

It was wonderful to see this Masked Trogon well, although I did not want to startle him by trying to move to a better angle so his image wouldn’t be bisected by the wire he was sitting on.

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Crested Quetzal female

It was even harder to get a Crested Quetzal, let alone one that would turn around all the way and face me. Still, she sat there long enough, I really can’t complain.

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Blue-Gray Tanager

Not a lot of tanagers from this day, but I was able to capture this Blue-Gray.

The Bluish Flowerpiercer above was another species we added to this group. I’m sure there are times it looks bluer in better light.

The Cinnamon Flycatcher above was looking for insects outside my back porch. My cabin was amazing. A few photos below.

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Sparkling Violetear

There were plenty of hummers around the dining hall where several feeders hung from the veranda. I will likely have more feeder pictures to post but for the time being I cannot resist sharing this Sparkling Violetear in a moment of repose.

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Emerald Toucanet

I will be back again with more from Ecuador. It’s hard to go back to my normal life even after sitting here composing a blog post about this place.

 

Tripping Back to the Andes

Andean Tit-Spinetail 11-19-17-8004

Andean Tit-Spinetail

I suppose it’s only fitting I started writing this post today while the outside temperature in Chicago (55 deg. F.) was just two degrees cooler than Quito. We won’t stay here long, though. By tomorrow morning we will have dropped back into the 20’s F.

Birders 11-20-2017-0966We weren’t all that warm up in the higher elevations as the above picture indicates. In any event there was a lot to look at and these pictures are from our first day trek through the mountains from Quito to Guango Lodge.

Masked Mountain-Tanager 11-20-2017-8681

Masked Mountain-Tanager

Tanagers proved to be challenging subjects, often too far away to even try for. I think I’ve been spoiled by other trips where invariably some species came to feeders. But I am happy for the pictures I did get, which were without human enticement of any kind.

Summer Tanager 11-19-17-7701

Summer Tanager, a species that migrates to North America

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Scrub Tanager

There will be more tanager species to come in future posts. Below, flowers and a fungus that appeared to branch out with its own petals.

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We were fortunate to find these Rufous-Bellied Seedsnipe not far from the guard station. A somewhat elusive species, they blend in perfectly with the ground.

Below on the left is a Pale-naped Brushfinch, a bird we saw only in this habitat. The Orange-bellied Euphonia on the right was at various other elevations but I continually struggled to get a halfway decent photo of the male.

The Giant Conebill below seems like it’s worthy of a better name, it’s really quite striking.

Tufted Tit-Tyrant 11-19-17-7913

Tufted Tit-Tyrant

Below are two species of Flowerpiercers. We did eventually see all six species on the list. The one on the left, the Masked Flowerpiercer, was common and quite a willing subject at Guango Lodge. The Black Flowerpiercer on the right was a little harder to capture.

Whenever we found a river we were looking for the White-capped Dipper below and we got lucky the first day.

White-capped Dipper 11-20-2017-9227Also hanging out by the river was the Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant below.

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Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant

Eared Doves were most common but they rarely posed in good light. This one struck a fortunate pose.

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Eared Dove

A sign and a vista that caught my eye…

When we got down to Guango, we went for a little walk around the property and found one of the Mountain Tapirs that have been seen lately. Our guide Mitch declared her a youngster. We found her adorable.

I’ll be back soon with more magic from Ecuador.

Humming into 2018

Bronzy Inca 11-21-2017-9822

Bronzy Inca

Happy New Year. Here we are, 2018, we made it out of 2017. I made bread last night and I’m making quinoa pumpkin soup today. Some things never change. Beyond that, almost all my resolutions are on ice until I feel like I’ve thawed out enough. I’ve had my long underwear on all day to deal with the sub-zero wind chills every time I visit the backyard. Perhaps due to the severe cold, it’s been a fairly relaxing weekend, mostly indoors, with time to revisit the pictures from Ecuador, and when reflection or identification becomes too cumbersome, I happily doze off under the comforter.

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Sword-billed Hummingbird

I’ve decided to devote this post to some hummingbirds seen on the trip. The Chestnut-breasted Coronets were everywhere and often bullies at the feeders, which made it easy to try to ignore them, but on the other hand they made themselves available for a lot of pictures, so I obliged.

The Fawn-Breasted Brilliants were not so easy to intimidate, like the one in the top left picture of the mosaic above.

I had almost forgotten the Buff-tailed Coronets but was happy to find pictures of them from the beginning of the trip, several of which are below.

Collared Incas were common and holding up their own at the feeders too.

The White-Bellied Woodstar is just plain cute, and I think he knows it.

The female of the species is charming as well.

White-bellied Woodstar11-19-2017-8441

Female White-Bellied Woodstar

Not all the hummers were at feeders, like the next three below.

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Viridian Metaltail

Shining Sunbeam 11-20-2017-8645

Shining Sunbeam, not so shining in the rain

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Sparkling Violetear

I love the Speckled Hummingbird too. Its facial markings make it easy to recognize.

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Speckled Hummingbird

Stumped 11-21-2017-9386

I can’t figure this guy out unless it’s a Long-tailed Sylph without the long tail.

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Black-tailed Trainbearer

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Buff-tailed Coronet

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Two Buff-tailed Coronets getting feisty

Two more feeder shots with a nice flower that was also hard to ignore.

More colorful photographs from Ecuador to come. This is turning into the perfect antidote to a harsh winter.

Flowers 11-21-2017-0152I hope you are safe and warm wherever you are and may your year be off to a good start.

Embracing Zero

NOCA 12-25-17-3476Well, maybe more like Enduring Zero. Sitting inside reliving Ecuador did not seem to be the best way to spend Christmas Day, so I went out for a walk through the Portage and later visited with the yard birds. We had snow on Christmas Eve so the setting was perfect, and if a little cold, at least the sun was shining in the morning. Little did I know at the time that Christmas Day’s weather would be considered balmy by the next day’s standard. And this morning I walked to the train in -4 degrees Fahrenheit, before the wind chill.

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Deer tracks in the snow at the Chicago Portage

I drove around for 40 minutes to various Cook County Forest Preserves beyond the Portage, all with closed parking lots. I am not fond of driving but it was pleasant enough listening and singing along with a Peter Mayer (from Minnesota) CD, and there were hardly any cars and the sun was shining brightly. When I did returned to find the Portage parking lot open, I was the only visitor. The trails were covered the deer tracks.

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White-Throated Sparrow

When I did find a few birds, for the most part they were half hidden.

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The most commanding presence was snow covering everything. Beyond that, I found a few geese and ducks on the Des Plaines River.

Just as I was leaving, an adult Bald Eagle flew over. I didn’t get a picture, but below is a juvenile from last week’s Christmas Count on the Fox River.

BAEA 12-16-17-3400I decided to go home, fill the feeders and hang out with whoever showed up in the yard.

HOSP 12-25-17-3648

House Sparrows have learned to hang upside down if necessary…

There were a number of House Finches, and although the light was waning, I was surprised to see the males looking as red as they did.

 

HOFI 12-25-17-3667I am always happy to see Mrs. Cardinal and any hardy little Dark-Eyed Junco.

NOCA 12-25-17-3632DEJU 12-25-17-3562My male cardinal swooped in for a remaining hawthorn berry and posed with it. As if to verify his supreme redness.

NOCA 12-25-17-3657I still have the weather for Quito on my phone. The temperature seems to stay around 58-60 degrees. I think it’s time to go back to the pictures from Ecuador. If you made it this far, your reward is three pictures of Long-Tailed Sylphs. More to come in the next post.

Long-tailed Sylph 11-25-17-0813Long-tailed Sylph 11-25-17-0817Long-tailed Sylph 11-25-17-0801I find some satisfaction in knowing the days are already getting longer.