Zumba: July 29, 2008

Zumba is a remote town in southern Ecuador near the border with Peru. It is accessed by a long and tortuous muddy road that can take as many as six hours to navigate from Vilcabamba, the nearest tourist outpost just over 100km to the north. I can't imagine why anyone besides a travel guide writer or a birder would want to visit this part of Ecuador. Neither can the townfolk, who frequently asked us why we came all the way down here if we weren't just passing through to Peru. As it so happens, Aimee and I are a travel guide writer and birder, respectively.

Zumba, of course, is the base of operations for birders looking to witness the Marañon specialties, that is, the handful of endemic bird species that occur only in the Rio Marañon drainage, a small area located in extreme southern Ecuador and northern Peru. There are no reserves or infrastructure for birders, just basic hostals and restaurants that only serve almuerzos and meriendas. Birding consists of driving around Zumba and stopping at patches of roadside forest and scrub while trying to pick out the desired specialties among a spectacular array of more common eastern slope and lowlands birds.

This was particularly difficult for me as I'm relatively unfamiliar with eastern lowlands birds, and I was routinely distracted by mixed flocks containing marvelous but common birds, including the Inca Jay, Golden-Headed Manakin, Paradise Tanager, and Red-Headed Barbet. Still, I managed to see a decent number of specialties in the area, including the Black-Faced and Buff-Breasted Tanagers, Marañon Thrush, Marañon Spinetail, Rufous-Fronted Thornbill, and the race of Speckle-Breasted Wren unique to the region. Other impressive birds included the Yellow-Cheeked and Black-and-White Becards, the latter individual being the more beautifully colored female, the Grayish Saltator, the Blue-Black Grosbeak, and the White-Necked Thrush. Somewhat obviously being that they're both skulkers, I missed the Marañon Crescentchest and Marañon Slaty-Antshrike.

It should be noted that the area is being deforested quite rapidly and that the endemics will no doubt decrease in number and kind as their habitat is diminished. You can still see Marañon and White-Necked Thrushes in the road, but that would likely change should it ever be paved.

Notable birds seen: Marañon Thrush, White-Necked Thrush, Marañon Spinetail, Rufous-Fronted Thornbill, Yellow-Cheeked Becard, Black-and-White Becard, Black-Faced Tanager, Buff-Bellied Tanager, Dull-Colored Grassquit, Blue-Black Grosbeak, Speckle-Breasted Wren, Slate-Colored Grosbeak, Golden-Headed Manakin, Grayish Saltator, Spotted Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Blue-Necked Tanger, Red-Headed Barbet.

No comments:

Fatbirder's Top 500 Birding Websites