Ecuador: Tinalandia Pre-trip Nov 06—11, 2013
Posted by Paul Greenfield
This November’s Tinalandia Pre-Trip lived up nobly to its expectations as a solid complement to our Northwestern Andean Slopes tour and brought us several unexpected surprises, t’ boot! Our first day’s slow, winding drive along the “Old” or Chiriboga Road offered the opportunity to experience the diversity of Andean birding as we descended from the capital city of Quito through various montane bio-zones en route toward the Pacific coastal lowlands. We sampled our first species of highland hummers, including Speckled Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, and Collared Inca; initiated our incursion into the world of Neotropical tyrant flycatchers with close views of White-tailed and White throated tyrannulets and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant; and reveled in some spectacular tanagers, most memorably Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-black and Beryl-spangled tanagers, and our first Glossy, Black, and Masked flowerpiercers. Other highlights, including a wonderful family of Torrent Ducks, a White-capped Dipper threesome, characteristically perched Red-crested Cotingas, and small bands of Rufous-naped/Yellow-breasted Brush-Finches were also enjoyed by all. The following two-and-a-half days, based out of classic birding site Tinalandia, presented two different tropical lowland experiences, each focused on somewhat different birds.
Tinalandia presents a really great birding “workshop” environment, and we explored the grounds in an easy manner, first with a leisurely pre-breakfast walk, and then spent the rest of the day hanging out at the dining room terrace with its productive fruit feeders, and working forest edge, open trails, and gardens. A wide spectrum of bird species from a broad array of Neotropical avian families were encountered—notably, Neotropical Cormorant; Pale-vented Pigeon; Squirrel Cuckoo; White-collared and Gray-rumped swifts; White-whiskered and Baron’s hermits; Green Thorntail; Green-crowned Brilliant; Western Emerald; Long-billed Starthroat; Crowned Woodnymph; Rufous-tailed Hummingbird; Rufous and Broad-billed motmots; Rufous-tailed Jacamar; Crimson-rumped Toucanet; Pale-mandibled Araçari; Black-cheeked, Red-rumped, Golden-olive, and Guayaquil woodpeckers; Chestnut-backed, Zeledon’s, and Bicolored antbirds; Plain-brown, Spotted, and Streak-headed woodcreepers; Scaly-breasted and Band-backed wrens; Ecuadorian Thrush; and a whole slew of tanagers—Lemon-rumped, Blue-necked, Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Dusky-faced, and Swallow tanagers among them—not to mention Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Black-winged Saltator, and Yellow-tufted Dacnis along with Purple and Green honeycreepers.
We spent the following day exploring lower elevation Río Palenque Tropical Forest Reserve, about one hour south of Tinalandia. The overcast weather turned out to be quite favorable and here we walked trails and birded edge in this isolated island of remnant lowland forest. It was pretty birdy and we were able to observe quite a few specialties (including both Tumbesian and Chocó bioregional endemics) at this classic site: a pair of Little Cuckoos; Spectacled Owls (in broad daylight!); Ecuadorian, White-tailed, and Collared trogons; White-necked Puffbird; at least eight Orange-fronted Barbets; Red-headed Barbet; Olivaceous Piculet; Great Antshrike; Dot-winged Antwren; Red-billed Scythebill; Olivaceous Woodcreeper; Sooty-headed Tyrannulet; Common Tody-Flycatcher; Ochraceous Attila; Sooty-crowned Flycatcher; Streaked Flycatcher; Snowy-throated Kingbird; Rufous-browed Peppershrike; Long-billed Gnatwren; Gray-and-gold Warbler; White-shouldered and Golden-hooded tanagers; Slate-colored Grosbeak; Orange-billed Sparrow; and Yellow-rumped Cacique were memorable.
Our last morning was slotted as a final “clean-up” around the Tinalandia grounds. We retraced our steps and checked out at least one area we hadn’t visited before to see a few “old” friends and to hopefully find whatever we might have missed earlier. We added some good sightings: a nicely perched Laughing Falcon, bands of Maroon-tailed Parakeets, perched Bronze-winged Parrots, a lovely pair of Pacific Antwrens, Pacific Hornero, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, good views of Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, a nice pair of Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireos, a female White-lined Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager in superb light, another Orange-billed Sparrow, Yellow-tailed Oriole, and a male Orange-crowned Euphonia, but our best bird, and most probably, the bird of the trip, was a female Esmeraldas Woodstar! This tiny species (an Ecuadorian endemic species) is range-restricted to Ecuador’s coastal cordillera which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean, and has only rarely been recorded away from that area—the female of the species (what we saw!) was only correctly described a few years ago, in 2008! This was a tremendous find!