Cayambe-Coca Reserve: February 3, 2008

The antenas above the Papallacta Pass, as it's sometimes called, is another popular birding stop for those looking to bird the upper eastern slopes. Only an hour from my house, I've been there many times to bird, hike, or just enjoy the views. On a clear day, you can see up and down the Eastern Cordillera, including the impressive glaciered peaks of Cayambe, Antisana, and Cotopaxi. The rugged paramo terrain is pockmarked with lakes and patches of Polylepis forest, which can be accessed by a multitude of trails, be they maintained by park rangers or tapirs.

The birding is varied and terrific: furnariids dart among low bushes and elfin forest, snipe and wrens lurk in the grass, raptors and vultures soar above the cliffs, ducks and grebes inhabit the lakes, and several varieties of hummingbirds patrol the flowering plants. While I've become quite familiar with the usual species, I've yet to see such rarities as the Black-Faced Ibis, the Cinereous Harrier, the Rufous-Bellied Seedsnipe, or the Giant Conebill. Happily, there's plenty of time.

Notable birds seen: Tawny Antpitta, Grass Wren, Red-Rumped Bush Tyrant, Carunculated Caracara, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Blue-Mantled Thornbill.

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