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

Scrub Tanager 11-19-17-7712

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.

Rufous-Bellied Seedsnipe 11-19-17-8050

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.

Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant 11-20-2017-9271

Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant

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

Eared Dove 11-19-17-7691

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.

Where to Start? The Panama Pictures

Keel-Billed Toucan 3-13-17-0788

Keel-Billed Toucan

Finally getting around to those Panama Pictures! Life keeps getting in the way, and of course with spring migration just starting there have been other distractions. But I keep thinking there’s a better solution to my madness somewhere. Maybe that’s what keeps me going. The madness, I mean. If I find the solution, it might all come to a halt.

Ah the Tanagers. Above, probably one of the most common we saw, the Crimson-Backed Tanager, with the male lower left and the female on the right, showing her crimson back. Lucky for me there were only a few possibilities to worry about. The tanagers in some places, especially if they are traveling in a flock, can be confounding.

From gaudy to drab – below, the Plain-Colored Tanager on the left and the Palm Tanager on the right. But I think they have their own subtle beauty.

And below, a White-Shouldered Tanager and the ubiquitous Blue-Gray Tanager which always makes me have to decide whether to spell it Gray or Grey.

All these photos were from the first full day of the trip. Which means there are more days to come (and for me, more pictures to process). We did not travel far from either lodging location, spending four nights at the Canopy Tower and another two nights at the Canopy Lodge in El Valle, the days and locales having blended into a continuum in my head by now, so I won’t have a lot of commentary to contribute. Now that I’ve decided to leave the monster lens at home next time I travel, maybe my dream companion would be a scribe instead of a sherpa.

Both locations had feeders which made it easier to see some of the birds, particularly hummingbirds. White-Necked Jacobins dominated the feeders but you don’t always see the white neck they were named for, so there it is in the picture below. The hummingbird on the lower right is a White-Vented Plumeleteer. Unfortunately the white vent isn’t very easily distinguishable but I like the illumination on the throat.

Elusive antbirds are always a challenge to see. We got lucky with the two below. A Fasciated Antshrike and a Dot-Winged Antwren.

Black-Crowned Antshrike 3-13-17-1366

Black-Crowned Antshrike

The two puffbirds below look almost identical except on very close inspection, which likely kept me poring over the field guide for several minutes. On the left is the Pied Puffbird which I saw last year in the Amazon in Ecuador, and on the right, Black-Breasted Puffbird.

Two flycatchers, the Black-Headed Tody Flycatcher, which is a new one for me, and the Dusky-Capped Flycatcher.

Below is a Streaked Flycatcher, not usually seen from the back, but after 20 or more shots he still wouldn’t turn around so I gave up.

Streaked Flycatcher 3-13-17-1678

Streaked Flycatcher

The Rusty-Margined Flycatcher below can be confused with Greater Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, until you get the hang of telling them apart.

Back to the elusive with a fairly common but hard-to-get-a-good-photo Squirrel Cuckoo. The picture on the lower right gives you more of an idea of how far away it was.

Green Honeycreepers below.

Blue Dacnis 3-13-17-0864

Green Honeycreeper

Blue Dacnis Female 3-13-17-0882

Green Honeycreeper Female

Below, a Red-Legged Honeycreeper is the bright blue guy, and the green bird is a Blue Dacnis female.  I’m starting to get these guys confused!

Below, a Pale-Vented Pigeon and a Gray-Headed Chachalaca. Click on the pictures if you want a better view, especially of pigeon colors. I love this pigeon. You will see it again in a later post.

Two more for the trying-to-be-elusive list. Cocoa Woodcreeper on the left and Cinnamon Woodpecker on the right.

There’s a lot more but I think I better give us all a break. Which means I can be back that much sooner! Thanks for stopping by!

Night Monkeys 3-13-17-1411

Night Monkey

Back to the Amazon

Gilded Barbet 7-5-2016-4578

Gilded Barbet

These pictures are from two days at Sacha Lodge in the Ecuadoran Amazon. The first day we spent time at the wooden tower. There were two towers available to us, the wooden and the metal. The wooden tower was the oldest and construction had already begun to replace it while we were there. The climb up the narrow steps all the way to the top was excellent physical therapy. This tower was built around a huge tree, part of which you can see in the pictures below. A canopy view is a mixed blessing sometimes. While you can see birds on the very tippy-tops of trees, they are often too far away to photograph well. So generally the more detailed photographs were taken on the ground either on the way to the tower or on the boardwalks. Below pictures are one of the entire tower from the bottom, and what it was like to be on the top.

I added two new parrot species to my life list that first day we spent at the wooden tower. Below, on the left is a Black-Headed Parrot, Scarlet-Shouldered Parrotlets on the right.

Here’s the only Attila of the trip.

Cinnamon Attila 7-5-2016-4493

Cinnamon Atrila

You never know who’s perched on a branch but in this case it was a lot easier to see the birds below: a Straight-Billed Hermit and a Russet-Backed Oropendola.

Trogons are so amazing. We saw both of these on the same day. I think a Two Trogon Day is exceptional.

Green-Backed Trogon 7-06-2016-5113

Green-Backed Trogon

Black-Throated Trogon 7-06-2016-5231

Black-Throated Trogon

We saw some other creatures too, of course, but the Squirrel Monkey was much more difficult to capture than the snake. Squirrel Monkey and Anaconda. Click on the picture to see the monkey a little better. I think our guide told us the Anaconda was a youngster…

The little bird below is a Slender-Footed Tyrannulet. Whatever possessed them to give it this name is beyond me. Slender-footed as compared to what? But it’s a lovely little bird. And you can see his feet.

I had an opportunity to try to capture the Black-Bellied Cuckoo below both days, first from the tower on the left, and the photo on the right was taken from a closer vantage point.

Below on the left is a Yellow-Tufted Woodpecker, and on the right, a Spot-Winged Antshrike.

It was very exciting to get a good look at a King Vulture, below. Although I think I have seen this bird before, I have never seen it so well.

King Vulture 7-5-2016-4871Tanagers were tough to get photos of on this trip. On the left, Silver-Beaked Tanagers which we saw almost daily, and on the right, a glimpse of a Paradise Tanager from the canopy tower.

You have to work a little bit at finding the bird below.

Speckled Chachalaca 7-5-2016-4961

Speckled Chachalaca

The bird below was not shy, and I am just now noticing how lovely his throat complements the fruit on his chosen plant perch.

Pink-Throated Becard 7-5-2016-4778

Pink-Throated Becard

Blue-Gray Tanagers look different in this part of the world, but they haven’t been split from the other I have been so used to seeing.

Blue-Gray Tanager 7-5-2016-4820

Blue-Gray Tanager

Birds by the water…the Blue-and-White Swallows that hung out around the restaurant by the Napo River and a Striated Heron.

Below is the female counterpart to the bird at the top of my post. She’s lovely too.

Gilded Barbet Female 7-5-2016-4770

Gilded Barbet (female)

I will be back soon with more from this trip! I still have some unidentified captures but none of them were great photos, so I can spare you the agony. 🙂

A Tanager Coloring Book

Blue-Necked Tanager

Blue-Necked Tanager

The idea occurred to me when I was going through these photographs and the field guides that if you had a coloring book with page after page of tanagers to fill in, you could never come up with all of nature’s possible combinations.

Bay-Headed Tanager 4-03-15-5732

Bay-Headed Tanager

We were very fortunate to be staying at the Chestnut-Capped Piha Reserve, where the feeders attracted a variety of tanagers. These are generally the photos taken with bananas in them.

Golden Tanager 4-5-15-8118

Golden Tanager

Crimson-Backed Tanager 04-3-15-6369

Crimson-Backed Tanager

Silver-Throated Tanager

Silver-Throated Tanager

Black-Capped Tanager 04-03-15-6101

Black-Capped Tanager

Speckled Tanager 04-03-15-6912

Speckled Tanager

Some of the tanagers were familiar, like the ubiquitous Blue-Gray Tanager, the Bay-Headed Tanager and the Speckled Tanager.

Blue-Gray Tanager 04-2-15-5077

Blue-Gray Tanager

Blue-Capped Tanager 03-31-15-2760

Blue-Capped Tanager

Hooded Mountain Tanager 03-31-15-2650

Hooded Mountain Tanager

I had also seen Palm Tanager before. It’s seems strange, though, to see a neotropical migrant species like the Summer Tanager on its wintering grounds.

Palm Tanager 03-30-15-2161

Palm Tanager

Summer Tanager 04-03-15-5838

Summer Tanager

I wish I had a better picture of the Beryl-Spangled Tanager, it’s so unusual. But then almost all of the tanagers are unusual.

Beryl Spangled Tanager 4-4-15-7331

Beryl-Spangled Tanager

Blue-Gray Tanager 04-03-15-6397

Blue-Gray Tanager

Black-Capped Tanager 04-3-15-6185

Black-Capped Tanager

Scrub Tanager 04-3-15-6347

Scrub Tanager

Hooded Tanager 04-03-15-6795

Hooded Tanager

Feel free to click on any of the pictures to get a larger view. This time I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. I am pretty worn out from work. Cold rainy weather afforded me an excuse to postpone the migrant hunt until tomorrow but we seem to have had a fallout of warblers with last night’s storm, and I want to try catching up with it.