Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary: October 9, 2009

Ecuador celebrates a number of holidays throughout the year commemorating its independence from Spain, recognizing the date in which each major city liberated itself from colonial rule. Thanks to the bravery of early 19th century Guayaquilenos, then, Aimee and I had a three-day weekend in which to bird the northwestern lowlands. Our primary destination was the Jocotoco Foundation’s Rio Canande Reserve, one of the premier sites for observing Chocó endemic bird species, but also one of the most difficult to get to. To break up the arduous drive over two days, we spent the night in San Miguel de los Bancos, stopping at the Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary outside of Pedro Vincente Maldonado for a warm-up session on Friday morning.

This modest 80 hectare reserve is owned and managed by the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, which also has two other reserves in the Mindo area. With a well-constructed canopy tower, wide trails, and relative proximity to Quito, it’s a popular destination for independent birders and included on every birding tour of northwestern Ecuador. It doesn’t hurt that this small patch of forest is dramatically packed with birds, either. That being said, I rarely encounter other birders out here, especially during this time of year, which is traditionally considered the end of the dry season in this region. For six dollars, then, you can usually have the site to yourself, leaving your scope up in the tower as you circle the trails for skulking birds and understory flocks.

Aimee and I didn’t see much of note this morning, missing in particular the mega flock of over fifty bird species that sometimes passes by the tower. Some common Chocó endemics that did make an appearance included the Orange-Fronted Barbet, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, and Purple-Chested Hummingbird, and I stumbled across an antwren flock that contained the White-Flanked, Dot-Winged, and Checker-Throated Antwrens as well as the Western Slaty-Antshrike. Our finest observation from the tower was a male Scarlet-Browed Tanager and a pair of beautiful Cinnamon Woodpeckers all clinging to a cecropia tree in the distance, although I failed to capture a decent image of either of them with my new digiscoping apparatus. I also trolled for the Stub-Tailed Antbird along the road leading up from the river to the reserve entrance, but the roadside vegetation has recently been cleared back and there was no response.

Notable birds seen: Maroon-Tailed Parakeet, White-Whiskered Hermit, Purple-Chested Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Orange-Fronted Barbet, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Black-Capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Scale-Crested Pygmy-Tyrant, One-Colored Becard, Dusky-Faced Tanager, Scarlet-Browed Tanager, Orange-Billed Sparrow.

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