Rio Nangaritza: August 2-5, 2008

For birders in Ecuador, this destination is truly the end of the road. Located on the southeast border with Peru, the Cordillera del Condor is a modest but unique mountain range, isolated from the eastern slope of the Andes. Like the Sumaco-Galeras region and the Cordillera de Cotucu, this isolated habitat supports a few species and races not found anywhere else in the country; on the other hand, many of these species and races can also be found in Peru. How important is it, then, for a birder to see and identify as many species in one particular country?

The Orange-Throated Tanager is the target species for most birders in the Cordillera del Condor. From what I've read and heard from other birders, it is a large, heavy-set tanager with a spectacularly colored orange throat and a thick bill. It forages in monospecific flocks high up in the canopy, searching among bromeliad-laden branches for good things to eat. It's supposed to be more or less quiet in Ecuador but still easy to see in the right place and time. The easiest way to encounter the bird is to voyage into Shuar territory after establishing a base at Cabañas Yankuam, which is about three hours southeast of Zamora.

Unfortunately, the Orange-Throated Tanager ruined my trip to the Cordillera del Condor. I spent all my time and energy searching for it, and I let the anxiety of missing it keep me from enjoying not only the other birds present, but also the spectacular scenery of the cordillera itself. Typically birding helps me appreciate and understand a place better, but here it turned me into a pouter and a royal pain in the ass. I could have cared less whether I had I seen the Orange-Throated Tanager before coming to the Cordillera del Condor, but once I arrived it seemed like it was the only thing that mattered. Should you come this far yourself, I'd encourage you to work these issues out beforehand.

Notable birds seen: Lined Antshrike, Violaceous Jay, Yellow-Tufted Woodpecker, Long-Tailed Tyrant, Purplish Jacamar, Chestnut-Crowned Becard, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-Throated Toucan, Great Antshrike, Oilbird, Black Caracara, Black-Faced Dacnis, Yellow-Rumped Cacique, Wedge-Billed Woodcreeper, Black-Capped Donnacobius, Magpie Tanager, Crested Oropendola.

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