Papallacta Pass: October 19, 2008

Recently the weather in Quito has been gorgeously clear to the east at daybreak while growing increasingly tempestuous in the afternoon, so birding the 4000m pass to Papallacta seemed like a relatively safe bet for a Sunday morning. Still bundled up for protection against the cold, Aimee and I observed a host of high-altitude specialties, hardy birds that have evolved to thrive in the rugged paramo and elfin forest environments where the temperature often drops below freezing during the night.

With the sun shining intermittently, the birds were out in full force, and I almost ran over a Tawny Antpitta with the car as we were heading up towards the antennas. Stopping along the way, we watched the rabbits scurry in alarm as several Variable Hawks patrolled the area from a nearby cliff. The area around the antennas clouded over soon after, so we abandoned our search for the Rufous-Bellied Seedsnipe and focused instead on the many furnariids present; the Andean Tit-Spinetail was particularly active, and we watched one individual insulate a nest in a burrow near the roadside.

In a nearby patch of polylepis forest, we encountered the Red-Rumped Bush-Tyrant as well as the Glowing Puffleg, a striking hummingbird that is found around treeline on the eastern slope. Several White-Tailed Deer were also present and perhaps a little too cavalier in our presence (animals are frequently hunted in the private reserves bordering the Coca-Cayambe National Park).

Notable birds seen: Tawny Antpitta, Variable Hawk, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-Chinned Thistletail, Blue-Mantled Thornbill, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Glowing Puffleg, Stout-Billed Cinclodes, Red-Rumped Bush-Tyrant, Brown-Backed Chat-Tyrant, Cinerous Conebill, Many-Striped Canastero, Spectacled Whitestart.

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