Bosque Protector Jerusalem: September 12, 2009

Bosque Protector Jerusalem is a modest reserve in the interandean valley, located about an hour north of Quito. Despite living in Ecuador for almost six years, I had never heard about this site until last week, when a little bit of research on the Internet finally yielded the place where Charlie Vogt and Roger Ahlman found a Buff-Fronted Owl in May. Offering good arid scrub, cactus, and acacia forest habitat, the site is great for picking up interandean species such as the Scrub Tanager, Giant Hummingbird, and Southern Yellow-Grosbeak, and it supposedly boasts quite a few species of owls, including Great-Horned, Stygian, and Barn Owls.

Although I've been feeling under the weather recently, I dragged Aimee out there on Saturday afternoon in hopes of birding the last few hours of daylight and the first hour of darkness. After finally finding the reserve, which is located off the Panamerican Highway between the towns of Guayllabamba and Tabacundo, we only had an hour of light remaining, and rushed out onto one of the many trails to try and get a sense of the place. Happily, we encountered a handful of decent birds, including a singing female Golden-Rumped Euphonia, a pair of hungry Scrub Tanagers, a lone Giant Hummingbird, and a juvenile Harris's Hawk. We reached a lookout just as the sun was setting and stopped to admire the glacier of Volcán Cayambe to the east as the wind blew forcefully through the moss-laden trees.

Heading back to the car for sweaters and spotlights, we encountered a final few birds before the sun set: Black-Tailed Trainbearers sped away overhead while a huge group of Rufous-Collared Sparrows made off somewhere to bed down for the night; even in total darkness these sparrows can be heard calling sometimes. Not far from where the car was parked, we heard a pair of owls hooting away, probably Great-Horned Owls given the cadence of their profound calls. We stumbled around for a while, hoping to get closer to the trees they were calling from, but never managed to locate them. After poking around the camping areas, where Roger had reported a Stygian Owl, without any luck, we decided to hike deeper into the park, looking for a ravine where Charlie and Roger had seen the Buff-Fronted Owl.

The trail we chose was lined with foreboding cactus and proved fruitless in terms of owls; on the other hand, we did hear what was most likely a Band-Winged Nightjar calling, and after working the spotlight back and forth, Aimee had fleeting looks at the bird as it flew past us. The light revealed that the forest was literally clouded above with moths and insects, no doubt making for an ample repast for various nightbirds and owls. Given the promise of the site, I hope to make my next visit a two-day one, camping at one of the many safe and well-tended sites to allow for more time birding and owling in the late afternoon and early morning.

Notable birds seen: Harris's Hawk, Band-Winged Nightjar, Black-Tailed Trainbearer, Vermillion Flycatcher, Golden-Rumped Euphonia, Scrub Tanager, Southern Yellow-Grosbeak.

1 comment:

Fatbirder's Top 500 Birding Websites