Tinalandia Pre-trip Feb 25—Mar 02, 2008

Posted by Paul Greenfield

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Paul Greenfield

Paul Greenfield grew up near New York City and became interested in birds as a child. He received his B.F.A. from Temple University where he was an art major at the Tyler S...

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Morning walks before breakfast at eight, relaxing around the dining terrace while watching birds at the fruit feeders, and one mid-afternoon overlooking the Río Baba—these were all part of this year's Tinalandia Pre-trip. We took advantage of the opportunity to see many bird species under varied conditions—walking forest trails, birding forest edge habitat along pastures, roadsides, gardens, and even an old golf course—to familiarize ourselves with many Neotropical bird families, and see several avian specialties, while enjoying excellent food and comfortable accommodations.

Tinalandia is the ideal place to begin one's incursion into the complex world of birding in Ecuador (and South America, for that matter), and is the perfect complement to our Northwestern Andean Slopes tour. We ultimately saw many species that were not encountered on the main tour, and saw, repeatedly and closely, many other species that were seen briefly or heard only on the Northwestern Andean Slopes tour. Our spectacular sighting of White-throated Crake is a good example; one beautiful individual came out and fed leisurely in the open for nearly 10 minutes at the edge of Tinalandia's tiny lily pond, offering the best views of that species anyone could ever hope for.

Our first pre-breakfast walk amassed over 50 species before we even took our seats at the table! And actually enjoying our excellent meals was a constant challenge, as Red-headed Barbets, Lemon-rumped and Dusky-faced tanagers, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Ecuadorian Thrush, Green Honeycreepers, and Orange-billed Sparrow came to the feeders just below us, and mixed feeding flocks foraged through the trees above. We were thrilled to watch a close pair of Guayaquil Woodpeckers working over bamboo on our first morning, and a pair of Rufous Motmots that flushed from their nest-building activity each time we walked to the dining quarters. We saw many species well, including superb views of a pair of Collared Trogons, Masked Water-Tyrant, Pacific Hornero, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and Chocó Warbler, not to forget the spectacular Blue-necked Tanagers and Yellow-tufted Dacnises among the many other colorful species seen.
 
Our day at Río Palenque brought a new set of good things, and one of our first sightings there was of an excellent family group of Rufous-headed Chachalacas, affording us, as the morning's mist withdrew, wonderful studies of this threatened Tumbesian endemic species, as a threesome sat quietly in a nearby fruiting tree. Minutes later we were enthralled by a foraging pair of Chocó endemic Orange-fronted Barbets as they fed on fruit, unabashed by our closeness to them. We watched a pair of Golden-hooded Tanagers building a nest in a small, close palm, just as Baron's and Stripe-throated hermits visited nearby Heliconia flowers and Western White-tailed Trogon hawked fruit from a nearby tree.

In addition to enjoying these two sites, our transects up and down the western slope of the Andes en route to and from our prime destination brought new Andean species, including an impressive Giant Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Hooded Siskin, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch among others. During our stops along the lower Andean slopes we picked up beautiful close pairs of Ornate Flycatchers and White-capped Dippers, enjoyed excellent views of Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant with exposed crest and all, and had great and close looks at Russet Antshrike, along with some impressive mixed foraging flocks.

As we climbed the winding highway on our final ascent to the interandean valley and towards Quito, anticipation was building for what was to come, while many fine memories of a successful pre-trip flashed before me.