Quito Botanical Garden: October 2, 2009

Located in Parque Carolina in the center of a city of at least two million people, the Botanical Garden is a modest place with only a few mature trees and a handful of different small gardens. From the air, though, it must present a welcome sight, as a diverse array of migrating birds are often found here during the northern hemisphere winter. Last year, in fact, Roger Ahlman et al associated with Aves Ecuador recorded an impressive number of rarities for the highlands, including the Great Crested Flycatcher, Tennessee Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Prothonatory Warbler. As the boreal migrants are now beginning to arrive in Ecuador, I've decided to start visiting the Garden regularly in the afternoon, especially considering it's on the way to my new apartment in Quito.

Devoid of people on a fine afternoon, the Garden made for a perfect respite after a tiring week of work. I didn't see much out of the ordinary during the first hour that I walked the paths, noting the Black and Rusty Flowerpiercers, Black-Tailed Trainbearer, and Great Thrush, but as evening drew near the activity picked up a bit. The first migrant I spotted was an Olive-Sided Flycatcher perched high in a dead branch of a pine tree. Then, another migratory flycatcher caught my eye as it was sallying frequently from a perch up in a palm tree; I'm still not sure what it was, but I'm guessing Eastern Wood-Pewee as its wing bars weren't distinct enough to be an Alder or Willow Flycatcher. Roger recorded Eastern Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, Summer Tanager, and Eastern and Western Wood-Pewees here a few days ago, but either I overlooked them or they must have moved on.

A pair of American Kestrels were calling madly for a while until I finally looked up and spotted them harassing a massive raptor, which I first hoped was the Broad-Winged Hawk, another borreal migrant, but soon realized was a juvenile Harris's Hawk (it's not as if the two raptors look that much alike, or anything; I was just hoping to see a lot of migratory birds on my first visit to the Garden this winter). It's interesting, though, that Parque Carolina offers enough habitat to support at least one Harris's Hawk, as the field guide mentions it only is found locally in intermontane valleys of the northern highlands. All things considered, it was a productive first visit to the Garden, but an hour-long stay the following morning would have no doubt been better.

Notable birds seen: Harris's Hawk, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee.

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