Cotopaxi National Park: August 9, 2009

The weekend crowds at Cotopaxi National Park have been growing steadily over the past few years, but the birding remains outstanding. My father and I had plans to climb Ruminahui today, but we made sure to scan the various highlands habitats we passed through for interesting bird activity. No sooner had we stepped out of the car at Limpiopungo, the park's principal wetlands, then we spotted an Andean Condor soaring close overhead. I raced to set up my camera while my dad tracked its progress with his binoculars, remarking on the bird's striking white colar and splendidly splayed primaries. Amazingly, we would later encounter a group of four Andean Condors near the summit cruising along the ridge almost at eye level.

The bird of the day, or at least the most remarkable to me, was the single Curve-Billed Tinamous that crossed our path through the paramo as we approached the peak. I was busy running my mouth when my father pointed out what he described as a quail out in the open a few meters ahead of us. Indeed, a Curve-Billed Tinamous, its head raised high on its long neck, was cautiously striding about, this making only the second time I had encountered this bird despite being in its habitat well over a hundred times. Our incredible streak of seeing scarce birds on this trip would continue later that evening as we completed the long hike by circling the wetlands: two Aplomado Falcons were busy hawking the area, perching on the ground and then flying low directly overhead in the dying light.

Notable birds seen: Curve-Billed Tinamous, Yellow-Billed Pintail, Andean Condor, Variable Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Ground-Tyrant.

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