Other Animals

Chical Road and Awa Road (NW Ecuador)

We awoke at 05:30 and then headed the short distance from Casa de Eliza in Limonal, northwards, to the start of the Chical Road. After a wrong turn into a dead-end street we were on our way up the gravelled road, as the light increased we passed through small homesteads, banana and cassava plantations with associated barking dogs. As light increased Gabo picked up a distant raptor and we identified the bird as a displaying Black-and-chestnut Eagle. Our first birding stop proper was on a sharp bend in the road soon after we entered the cloud forest.

We had a quick out of the back of the car breakfast while birds called around us and we quickly picked up Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Violet-tailed Sylph, AndeanSolitaire, Russet-crowned Warbler, Western Hemispingus and Three-striped Warbler, the highlight of this first stop was a stunning pair of Plushcap which showed exceptionally well for a prolonged period. We headed up-hill stopping for occasional birds until we heard a flock at a point where Gabo was hoping for Beautiful Jay.

Plushcap – Chical Road, Ecuador

This flock contained Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Metallic-green Tanager,Golden-naped Tanager, Toucan Barbet, Montane Woodcreeper with a massive katydidand a calling Uniform Antshrike which refused to show itself. Best bird for the area though was Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, a speciality of the Chical Road. We then drove onwards towards the summit onto the plateau where we hunted high and low for the scarce Hoary Puffleg but with no luck.

Highlights in this area were a flock of 15 Choco Parakeet, Rufous Spinetail and a very obliging Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant. We drove as far as the bridge over the river where we scanned for White-capped Dipper which Gabo picked up distantly, eventually we had fairly good scope views of this bird before we turned and headed back.

By 11:00 fog began to descend and so did we, we tried for Beautiful Jay at a few locations along the road but with no luck and actually saw little although we had good views of Yellow-bellied Chat-tyrant and a female Andean Cock-of-the-rock.

Back at the Casa de Eliza we birded the grounds of the hotel from the balcony seeing a few common species such as Scrub Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Buff-throated Saltator, we packed our gear and began the 1.5 hour drive to the Awa Road.

Plushcap – Chical Road, Ecuador

Common Squirrel Cuckoo – Chical Road, Ecuador

Metallic-green Tanager – Chical Road, Ecuador

Yellow-vented Woodpecker – Chical Road, Ecuador

Golden-naped Tanager – Chical Road, Ecuador

Toucan Barbet – Chical Road, Ecuador

Green-and-black Fruiteater – Chical Road, Ecuador

Montane Woodcreeper – Chical Road, Ecuador

Fulvous-dotted Treerunner – Chical Road, Ecuador

Fulvous-dotted Treerunner – Chical Road, Ecuador

Slay-backed Chat-tyrant – Chical Road, Ecuador

Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant – Chical Road, Ecuador

Yellow-bellied Chat-tyrant – Chical Road, Ecuador

Gabo birding the pass on the Chical Road

Chical Road, Ecuador

Dracula Orchid Reserve – Chical Road, Ecuador

Tropical Mockingbird – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

Buff-throated Saltator – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

Lemon-rumped Tanager – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

Social Flycatcher – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

Scrub Tanager – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

Blue-and-white Swallow – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

House Wren – Casa de Eliza, Limonal, Ecuador

We arrived at our next birding destination, the Awa Road, at 15:00. The Awa Road is situated at an altitude of around 200m and as such it was considerably warmer than the Chical Road, in fact it was hot and humid and not my ideal climatic conditions. Our first new bird was the appropriately named, and not very exciting,Dusky Pigeon. A shortway on a bird flew over which we were puzzled by until it landed and there was one of my wants of the trip, a stunning Golden-breasted Tanager.

Although a little distant the black plumage with the bright golden chest were diagnostic and its habit of sitting stationary for long periods was typical of the Genus Bangsia. We continued birding along this road through rather cut-over lowland forest as the sky blackened.

The road was meant to be almost impassable due to thick mud but we walked the first 2-3km and encountered very little mud. The birding was fantastic and we recorded Choco Toucan, Yellow-throated Toucan, White-bearded Manakin, Long-tailed Tyrant, Blue-chested Hummingbird, a pair of stunning Orange-fronted Barbet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Acadian Flycatcher, Stripe-billed Aracari, Pacific Cacique, a further three Golden-chested Tanager and, another highlight, two stunning snowy white Black-tipped Cotinga.

As darkness began to fall the rain began and we headed back to the car. We drove to the most unfriendly hotel of our stay the El Pedregal Hotel in San Lorenzo, we arrived at 19:30 but all the staff had gone home and so we had to head into town to find somewhere to eat, we drove around for almost an hour before we found an acceptable eatery and were served a massive chicken and rice dish. After gathering bread, milkshakes and cakes (lots of cakes for Gabo!!) for tomorrows field breakfast we headed to bed and crashed at around 22:00 in a rather steamy room with no working air con just a very noisy fan.

Golden-hooded Tanager- Awa Road, Ecuador

Black-crowned Titya – Awa Road, Ecuador

Golden-chested Tanager – Awa Road, Ecuador

Golden-chested Tanager – Awa Road, Ecuador

White-thighed Swallow – Awa Road, Ecuador

Stripe-billed Aracari – Awa Road, Ecuador

Bronze-winged Parrot – Awa Road, Ecuador

Common Squirrel Cuckoo – Awa Road, Ecuador

Black-tipped Cotinga – Awa Road, Ecuador

Choco Toucan – Awa Road, Ecuador

Gabo birding the Awa Road

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Simon Colenutt

Simon Colenutt

I began birdwatching at the age of nine when living on the Isle of Wight. After obtaining a copy of the Isle of Wight Bird Report from 1976 I realised that Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua and Black Tern were regularly seen at St.Catherine’s Point, only five miles from my home village of Chale Green. To a nine year old these birds were near mythical and so I just had to go and try to see them. Little did I know that these birds were seasonal and after a long winter of seeing nothing I eventually started to bump into other birdwatchers as March drew to a close. It was then that Dave Hunnybun, Dave Wooldridge, Paul Castle, Peter Gandy and Audrey Wilkinson introduced me to the art of seawatching and the joys of bird migration, I have not looked back since.

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