Botrosa Road: June 19, 2009

As you cross the Rio Canande, you step back into time where you can watch the remainder of the Choco lowlands in the early stages of their destruction. Here Endesa-Botrosa, one of the largest logging companies at work in Ecuador, reigns, as colonizers from Manabi province scramble to convert the selectively-logged hillsides into modest farms and pastureland. The hills ring with the sound of chainsaws as Botrosa rips out the choicest timber and the settlers clear the rest. It´s a wild scene and a painful one to contemplate from the noble heights of the Jocotoco Foundation´s Rio Canande Reserve, which seeks to buy up remaining forest to expand eventually to 10,000 hectares in size. While the ultimate fate of the region is only too clear, for now the foundation maintains an amicable arrangement with the logging company, in which birders are free to pass many kilometers beyond the reserve birding the excellent forest along the road. Here, in foothill forest above 500m, it´s likely you´ll find the Scarlet-and-White Tanager, Black-Tipped Cotinga, Rose-Faced Parrot, and Scarlet-Breasted Dacnis; there´s a small chance you´ll encounter the Blue-Whiskered and Lemon-Spectacled Tanagers, Baudo Guan, and rare raptors as well.

On the second day I was staying at Rio Canande, Galo and I spent the morning along the road, heading out early enough to consider whether the nightbirds sitting along the road were Pauraques or Choco Poorwills. With his local knowledge of the best lookouts along the road, it didn´t take long for us to find a few mixed canopy flocks, two that contained a pair of Scarlet-and-White Tanagers, the male of which is one of those jaw-dropping neotropical birds that birders travel thousands of miles to see; the name basically says it all as they´re aren´t a lot of birds that contrast more strikingly with the many shades of green found in Ecuador. Other good tanagers in the flocks include Guira, Emerald, Gray-and-Gold, Golden-Hooded, Rufous-Winged, and Scarlet-Browed Tanagers. Sifting the roadside flocks for rarities wasn´t as idyllic as it sounds as loaded logging trucks frequently rattled by, and several times I had to scramble out of the way with my scope.

Throughout the morning we scanned the treetops looking for the ethereal male Black-Tipped Cotinga, a huge pure-white bird with a speck of black at the end of its tail that is usually found perched high in exposed branches along the road. Oddly, I was able to line up several females, which are much less spectacular, in the scope and saw only one male as it flirted about, moving like a ghost in the canopy many meters above. The most exciting moment of the morning was just before lunch as one last flock poured past Galo and me. Passing from one Tawny Crested Tanager to another I let out some incomprehensible exclamation as my binoculars settled on a large olive-colored tanager with a small but clear yellow ring around its eye. Foraging at eye-level just a few meters away, the Lemon-Spectacled Tanager was positively identified by Galo, who had seen it just a few times before himself. We located it one more time before the flock moved on, leaving us giddy and light-headed as we turned to our boxed lunch.

With three terrific target birds already seen, it made little sense to linger any longer along the road, but before we headed back to the reserve we stopped to admire a Black Hawk-Eagle soaring majestically way overhead. Shortly afterward several Barred Puffbirds were heard calling nearby, their rising and descending whistles easily identifiable; we found them perched on some power lines along the road, although the backlighting didn´t make for very good photographs. Usually, I´d rather spend the morning birding inside the forest instead of along the side of it, which is what road birding usually amounts to, but this morning was different. Although the quantity of birds seen is always higher in these situations, the quality in this case is what draws birders out here. While there are several viewpoints along the ridge trails within the reserve, the chances of finding good foothill canopy flocks are simply too low.

Notable birds seen: Swallow-Tailed Kite, Black Hawk-Eagle, Laughing Falcon, Blue-Headed Parrot, Bronze-Winged Parrot, Pauraque, Bronzy Hermit, Purple-Crowned Fairy, Western White-Tailed Trogon, Barred Puffbird, Orange-Fronted Barbet, Choco Toucan, Lita Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Scale-Crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-Tipped Cotinga, Red-Eyed Vireo, Yellow-Tufted Dacnis, Scarlet-Thighed Dacnis, Guira Tanager, Scarlet-and-White Tanager, Gray-and-Gold Tanager, Golden-Hooded Tanager, Rufous-Winged Tanager, Lemon-Spectacled Tanager, Scarlet-Browed Tanager, Slate-Colored Grosbeak.

1 comment:

Pat O'Donnell said...

Keep up the good posts. Those greedy bastards continue to rape the land even though they have already destroyed so much. I wonder if there is a way to boycott that lumber?

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