Guacamayos Ridge Trail: February 8, 2009

Easily accessed from a base at Cabañas San Isidro, the Guacamayos Ridge Trail starts below a large group of antennas just where the Quito-Tena road turns from pavement to dirt and gravel, about thirty minutes after the small town of Baeza or ten minutes after the smaller town of Cosanga. Although there are small patches of unpaved road before this, the trailhead is difficult to miss as it's marked famously by a shrine to the virgin as well as less iconic signs marking the Antisana Reserve. The trail is frequently rocked by storms and high winds, and in clear and sunny weather is often unearthly silent; however, it has reached mythical status among birders for being home to some of the rarest and most difficult birds in Ecuador, including the Masked Saltator, Barred Anthrush, Andean Potoo, Greater Scythebill, and Andean Pygmy-Owl.

I tried explaining all this to Aimee as we marched rather fruitlessly along the trail's slippery stones this morning, but I don't think she was very impressed. Despite the sunny weather, we still encountered several flocks, including the typical Masked Flowerpiercer, Pearled Treerunner, Lacrimose and Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanagers, Blue-and-Black Tanager, and Montane Woodcreeper, but they were moving fast and furious through the canopy. We also encountered the more sedentary Masked Trogon, Powerful Woodpecker, and Green-and-Black Fruiteater, the latter of which we spied feeding two juveniles. The highlight for me was hearing the Moustached Antpitta calling from below the trail, although there was no chance of seeing it without rappelling equipment. Chestnut-Crowned, Chestnut-Naped, and Slate-Crowned Anpittas were also vocalizing this morning, but all went unobserved as is common with antpittas.

Surprisingly the best part of the expedition wasn't birding the trail itself. Early that morning while crossing the bridge over the Rio Cosanga, I finally spotted the Torrent Duck perched on a large boulder in the middle of the rushing river. We stopped the car and climbed down the river bank, where we had terrific looks at an attractive male as it first preened and then dove into the rapids to feed (this is the best photograph I could manage in the low-light dawn). This crazy duck is a remarkable swimmer and regularly braves turbulent rapids while searching for invertebrates. Supposedly, it's widespread at Andean streams, but despite Aimee being on regular "Duck Duty" during our many bridge crossings over the last few years, we've never lucked onto one before. On the way back to San Isidro, I glimpsed the White-Capped Dipper in the same area, but wasn't able to relocate it after stopping the car.

Notable birds seen: Torrent Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Band-Winged Nightjar, Masked Trogon, Powerful Woodpecker, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Montane Woodcreeper, White-Tailed Tyrannulet, Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Rufous-Breasted Flycatcher, Handsome Flycatcher, Green-and-Black Fruiteater, Andean Solitaire, White-Capped Dipper, Orange-Bellied Euphonia, Saffron-Crowned Tanager, Flame-Faced Tanager, Beryl-Spangled Tanager, Blue-and-Black Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Grass-Green Tanager.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I just want to know, how I can make by myself the tour in the Papallacta pass, all the people say to me "go to the Virgen" or take a bus to Papallacta, but I never birding and visit before that place...

Which bus I need to take??, when I need to get of the bus....How many time to walk??.

I know Yanacocha and the road in Guacamayos near San Isidro... but I don't know the old road in Papallacta..

Sorry for my questions but I need to know this famous andeanbirding area.

please send me a mail to:

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