Ecuador: Tinalandia Pre-trip Nov 11—16, 2009
Posted by Paul Greenfield
The Tinalandia Pre-trip is a perfect complement to our Ecuador: the Northwestern Andean Slopes tour. The main area of focus during our four-day excursion centers on the Pacific coastal lowlands and lower foothills, but it all begins with a long winding drive down the "Old" Chiriboga Road, which meanders its way capriciously down from a relatively high (10,000+ft.) pass just southwest of the capital city of Quito, to our final destination in the lush and warm "Tropics."
Our first day offered a pleasant orientation to Ecuador's renowned biodiversity. We enjoyed great scenery and an interesting selection of Andean birds which included Torrent Duck; Tawny-bellied Hermit; Collared Inca; Gorgeted Sunangel; Tyrian Metaltail; Violet-tailed Sylph; Masked Trogon; Crimson-rumped Toucanet; Bar-bellied Woodpecker; Pearled Treerunner; Streaked Tuftedcheek; Strong-billed Woodcreeper; Red-crested Cotinga; Cinnamon Flycatcher; Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant; Smoky Bush-Tyrant; White-capped Dipper; Mountain Wren; Black-crested Warbler; Scarlet-bellied, Blue-winged, and Buff-breasted mountain-tanagers; Metallic-green Tanager; and spectacular looks at Plush-capped Finch.
As we battled a bit with uncharacteristic drought-like conditions that have been pounding Ecuador over the last few months, Tinalandia still held up to its reputation and even brought us a few surprises. A set of fruiting trees kept us busy on two mornings, and we came up with a first record for the area of a female Golden-headed Quetzal that was hanging out there. We also found a Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, a Tumbesian regional endemic that may well be a new record for the area. Additional species of interest include Swallow-tailed and Plumbeous kites, White-throated Crake, Pallid Dove, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Pacific Parrotlet, Spectacled Owl, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Chocó Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Plain-brown and Streak-headed woodcreepers, White-backed Fire-eye, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Masked Water-Tyrant, Piratic Flycatcher, Band-backed Wren, Dusky-faced and White-lined tanagers, Orange-billed Sparrow, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Black-winged Saltator, Scrub Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird, and Yellow-tailed Oriole.
Our visit to Río Palenque Scientific Center, which is located at a lower, even more tropical elevation, was fairly active as well. We came across three species of trogons that were apparently attracted to the same fruiting tree and, along with excellent looks at both Collared and Western White-tailed, we were able to get fine scope views of another Tumbesian endemic, an Ecuadorian Trogon. Other species of interest there include Ecuadorian Ground-Dove, Baron's Hermit, Pied and White-whiskered puffbirds, Orange-fronted Barbet, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Red-billed Scythebill, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, White-bearded Manakin, Ochre-bellied and Vermilion flycatchers, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Gray-and-gold Warbler, Blue-necked Tanager, Crimson-breasted Finch, Dull-colored Grassquit, and Blue-black Grosbeak.
Possibly most important about these two locations, and this pre-trip, has more to do with the general bird activity and the local and common species that are found regularly, as this serves as a tremendous learning tool—familiarizing oneself with the basics of Neotropical birding. This is one of the best areas in Ecuador to really get a handle on these interesting and challenging bird families, and to have a chance to see a good many species under often optimum conditions.