Yanacocha: January 13, 2008

Everyone who comes to bird in Ecuador must visit Yanacocha Reserve. Located on the far side of Volcan Pichincha just an hour's drive from the Quito airport, it's a great first stop on the way to popular birding destinations lower down on the western slope. Since Aimee and I discovered it last summer, I've been have there six times at least, and each visit has offered new birds, whether on the Polylepis or montane forest trails or at the hummingbird feeders.

This is the habitat of the world's rarest hummingbird, the Black-Breasted Puffleg, although the last documented sighting was in the late 1990's, I believe. You can see plenty of other pufflegs, though, and on a good day there might be a dozen different species at the feeders, including the spectacular Sword-Billed Hummingbird. For me, spending a few hours in the hummingbird garden on a sunny Saturday morning with the impressive slopes of Pichincha in the background is the perfect counterpoint to a tough week teaching.

On this particular day, I was privileged to witness a Rufous Antpitta darting across the trail on several occasions, at the time only my second antipitta seen. Leaving the reserve in my car late that afternoon, I also startled a Great Horned Owl, which permitted me to photograph it upclose, glaring impressively at the camera. Another time, I caught fleeting glimpses of two Curve-Billed Tinamous crossing the road and darting into some potato fields. The lesson here being that the birds don't just keep to the reserve, I guess.

Notable birds seen: Rufous Antpitta, Black-Chested Mountain Tanager, Sword-Billed Hummingbird, Great Horned Owl, Barred Fruiteater, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain Tanager, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Rufous Wren, Blue-Backed Conebill, Shining Sunbeam, Rainbow-Bearded Thornbill, Unicolord Tapaculo, Andean Guan.

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