Antisana Reserve: September 27, 2009

On Sunday afternoon, Mark and I took the South American Explorers group up to the parasitic lava flow that formed Laguna Papallacta over three hundred years ago. There's a gravel road that leaves at the beginning of the new section of the highway to Baeza, heading south towards Antisana reserve. From the end of this road, we hiked up the andesitic lava flow, which is now blanketed in lichens and flowering shrubs. Here, Mark explained the geology of the flow, and how it was easier for the high-pressure lava to burst out of the side of Volcan Antisana, forming a parasitic crater, instead of coming out of the peak of the mountain itself. Fascinated more by the craggy landscape itself than the discussion of silica content, the group wandered about in awe as Lou and I tried to point out various orchid and bird species.

So far on this trip, it had been a frustrating experience trying to point out birds to people without binoculars, so I decided to go off on my own and photograph some of the birds on the flow and then show these around on my digital camera. Fortunately, it took very little time to coax out into the open a pair of charismatic White-Chinned Thistletails, which seemed to be in almost every dense cluster of plants. Indeed, the bird's remarkably long and graduated tail seems an unlikely adaptation for its environment, as it spends much time inside clusters of low shrubs. Perhaps the long tail is used for balance as the bird occasionally gleans for insects out in the open, where high winds often create a dynamic and unstable environment. At any rate, everyone seemed amazed that such a delightful bird was omnipresent on this strange and rocky plain.

Notable birds seen: Andean Teal, Glowing Puffleg, Viridian Metaltail, White-Chinned Thistletail.

No comments:

Fatbirder's Top 500 Birding Websites