Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mindo Birding - Antpittas & more!

Before heading home briefly to Canada I decided to take one more trip back to the Mindo area to get in some final days of birding.  In particular, I planned on visiting the Refugio Paz de las Aves, the famous reserve where Angel Paz has been attracting rare antpittas and other skulky forest species be viewed by the eyes of excited birders. 

Bothrocophias campbelli
Ecuadorian Toad-headed Pit-viper, Bothrocophias campbelli
When I arrived in Mindo on Sunday night, I spoke with the woman who runs the hostel where I was staying and arranged my plans for transportation to the reserve for Tuesday morning, which gave me Monday to do some birding around town. I got up early Monday morning, planning to head to the trails at Mindo Gardens.  There was a few people birding around the hostel, so I checked out the birding in the area before heading out.  The tree behind the hostel was full of pairs of beautiful Swallow Tanagers, gulping down the fruits from the tree.  I recognized one of the people there that morning, and as we started talking we realized we all went to university together!  Its great seeing familiar faces so far away from home!  Surprised and happy, my friends were interested in doing some hiking and birding for the next couple days which gave us an opportunity to spend some time together and catch up from years ago.  After a nice breakfast of french toast at Caskaffesu in Mindo, we set out towards Mindo Gardens.  Among many birds and insects seen that morning/afternoon along the road and on the trails, a highlight was an Ecuadorian Toad-headed Pit-viper that the gardener turned up at Mindo Gardens.

The next morning we started out super early - we left Mindo at 4:45am to head up to Refugio Paz de las Aves, approximately 30 minutes away.  The first attraction of the day at Paz de las Aves is the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek, which had been recently starting even earlier than usual.  We arrived at the reserve by 5:30 and walked 20 minutes to reach the location of the lek, and by that time the birds had already begun their song and dance.  It was still early dawn at that point, but we got nice views of these impressive birds!  

Giant Antpitta
Panchito, a Giant Antpitta, Grallaria gigantea
Angel then took us on a walk along the trails, calling for Giant Antpitta and the family of Dark-backed Wood-Quails.  Without much success at first, we carried on to where there is a seating area along the trail where within a minute Angel had located and called out "Panchito", a male Giant Antpitta, who came darting onto the trail and over to eat the worms.  

We enjoyed incredible up-close views of Panchito for 10 minutes, and then continued onto the next seating area along the trail.  Here Angel had located the family of Dark-backed Wood-Quails, 3 adults and 2 chicks, who voraciously ate up the worms and banana provided for them.  

Dark-backed Wood-Quail
Dark-backed Wood-Quail, Odontophorus melanonotus
The next exciting bird was "Jose", a mid-sized Moustached Antpitta.  Jose met us not far from where the wood-quails were, and as the group there that morning was large, Angel split us into two groups.  When it was our turn, Jose's worms had been overtaken by the family of wood-quails and Jose had been scared off.  With some patience Angel called him back and we got some nice looks at him, although he was too timid to come out to the path with the aggressive wood-quails around.  Our last antpitta of the day was "Shakira", a tiny Ochre-breasted Antpitta - so cute!  And while we were watching little Shakira, another Ochre-breasted Antpitta came in to meet the group as well.

The rest of the morning finished up with a visit to the hummingbird feeders where we saw Booted Rackettail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Andean Emerald and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.  Before heading back down to Mindo, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of bolones (fried green plantain balls with chicken inside) and cheese empanadas.  It was a memorable visit with lots of exciting birds to see, and I know for sure I will return in the future.

~ Jenn 

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