Yanacocha: January 25, 2009

Another Sunday morning at Yanacocha Reserve, and at first I couldn't help feeling a little unmotivated given my familiarity with the site and the usual birds present. But birding is unpredictable, if anything, and I've never failed to observe something interesting on even the most cursory and casual of birding trips. Plus, there was always the chance that I might finally encounter the Noble Snipe, Ocellated Tapaculo, or Andean Pygmy-Owl, all rarities which are sighted on occasion along the trails.

Although the drive around the northern flank of Volcán Pichincha was clear with good views of Cotocachi, an extinct volcano, to the north, the clouds rose up the northwest slope quickly and by eight in the morning visibility was quite poor. With a tour bus full of wizened birders just behind me, I figured I'd spend my time trolling along the Masked Trogon Trail looking for antpittas and tapaculos. Before descending though, I was struck by the quantity of tanagers moving about the slopes: Scarlet-Bellied, Hooded, and Black-Chested Mountain Tanagers were all calling and flying about the canopy.

On the lower trail, I spent a fair amount of time in the small Chusquea bamboo stand hoping for something special, and I did have exceptionally close looks at the Unicolored Tapaculo, a tiny and featureless skulker that is usually identified, like most tapaculos, by voice. My good luck with Barred Fruiteaters continued as I crossed paths with a large male several times. A nice mixed flock also moved through the subcanopy, including the Blue-Backed Conebill, Superciliaried Hemispingus, White-Banded Tyrannulet, White-Throated Tyrannulet, and Pearled Treerunner, one of my favorite temperate forest birds.

With four species of antpittas clearly vocalizing this morning, I wasn't surprised to see both the Tawny and Rufous Antpittas again; the Undulated and Chestnut-Naped remained elusive. There's a nice set of hummingbird feeders just a few meters down the Black-Breasted Puffleg trail, and I stopped there to have breakfast for a few minutes. Both the Sapphire-Vented and Golden-Breasted Pufflegs were in attendance, and the Great Sapphirewing, Tyrian Metaltail, and Sword-Billed Hummingbird all stopped by, each having to duke it out first with the ubiquitous Buff-Winged Starfrontlet.

With another bus load of cranky old birders arriving, I decided to call it a day a little earlier than usual. Despite the foggy conditions, I had still had a few uncommon to rare encounters with the White-Capped Parrot, Paramo Seedeater, and Smoky Bush-Tyrant. These modest birds are unlikely to overwhelm anyone looking for more stereotypical neotropical exuberance, but they were good company nonetheless and definitely better than the birds in my backyard.

Notable birds seen: Andean Guan, White-Capped Parrot, Black-Tailed Trainbearer, Great Sapphirewing, Sword-Billed Hummingbird, Sapphire-Vented Puffleg, Golden-Breasted Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, Azara's Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous Antpitta, Tawny Antpitta, Unicolored Tapaculo, White-Throated Tyrannulet, White-Banded Tyrannulet, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater, Glossy-Black Thrush, Rufous Wren, Blue-Backed Conebill, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-Chested Mountain-Tanager, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Paramo Seedeater, Hooded Siskin.

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