Yanacocha: September 14, 2008

I've been to Yanacocha Reserve over ten times now, and although I've only seen about 50 species of birds there, I still love coming back. Part of the attraction is, of course, the hummingbirds, which congregate madly at the many feeders, but there is also something thrilling about birding so near to civilization, with the outskirts of Quito being just minutes away.

The original plan this morning was to drive partway down the Paseo del Quinde, Ecuador's first Ecoruta, but there were too many hummingbirds at Yanacocha to leave only after after a few hours. Ten species were seen from the entrance road to the feeders near the first tunnel on the Trocha Inca, including the Gorgeted Sunangel, which was almost a kilometer above the limit of its normal altitude range. Maybe its appearance was due to the sunny, dry weather this past week, or perhaps it was simply lost. All I can say is that it was definitely a sunangel, looking almost exactly like the Amethyst-Throated Sunangels I saw earlier this summer at Tapichalaca.

Of particular interest this morning was the abundance of the Shining Sunbeam, a tough, territorial hummingbird, the male of which displays a beautiful rainbow of color on its back between its wings. This is one of my favorite highland birds, and as it had been around a year since I had such a good look at it, I made sure to savor the view. While I watched, the hummingbird spent an enormous amount of energy defending its territory from much larger birds, including the Great Sapphirewing and the Glossy Flowerpiercer, while rarely stopping for nectar.

While the reserve was unusually quiet in terms of mixed flocks, the Black-Chested Mountain-Tanager crept up in the canopy near the feeders as Aimee and I ate lunch. This usually solitary tanager is strikingly colored and uncommonly encountered. We had great views of the bird, though, even without using binoculars. Happily, on the way out of the reserve we encountered a massive mixed flock, containing perhaps fifteen different species, including the White-Throated Tyrannulet, Superciliaried Hemispingus, and Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager.

Notable birds seen: Shining Sunbeam, Black-Tailed Trainbearer, Sapphire-Vented Puffleg, Golden-Breasted Puffleg, Sword-Billed Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, Gorgeted Sunangel, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-Winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-Chested Mountain-Tanager, Andean Guan, Blue-Backed Conebill, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Pearled Treerunner, White-Throated Tyrannulet, White-Banded Tyrannulet.

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