Managed by the Ceiba Foundation, Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve is located in Manabí Province near the coastal town of Jama, just off the Ruta del Sol. While there is a lot of degraded habitat in the area, including many strange and beautiful Ceiba trees, few sites along this stretch of the coast offer the understory vegetation required to support a full range of bird species from the ground to the canopy, as on most private land domestic animals graze freely. In addition, as the reserve is located right between the Chocó and Tumbes bioregions, these modest 200 hectares contain a remarkable amount of plant and bird diversity, with both semi-humid and extremely dry micro-climates found all within the narrow confines of the property. Given that the Pacific Royal Flycatcher is on the reserve's bird list and that I was staying nearby at Canoa, a small but fun fishing village, for the holiday weekend, a half-day visit was definitely in order.
Having arrived in the morning before any of the guards, I made my way onto the trails cautiously, not wanting to overstep my bounds. Within minutes I had forgot that I was essentially trespassing, as a male Great Antshrike was moving through the dense understory. A huge raptor caught my attention next as it flew up from the ground into a mature Ceiba tree, whose green bark allows for photosynthesis even in the dry season when the tree has no leaves. Upon further inspection, the raptor was a male Hook-Billed Kite, its odd but impressive bill distinctly visible at a distance. Before plunging into denser forest, I took a few moments to appreciate a male Peruvian Meadowlark that was displaying and calling vigorously out in the open; these common but attractive birds are as characteristic of the region as the delightful Pacific Hornero and gregarious Pacific Parrotlet.
It wasn't long before I came across a nice understory mixed flock with Buff-Throated Foliage-Gleaner, Plain Antvireo, Western Slaty-Antshrike, and Olivaceous Piculet, the latter a diminutive woodpecker that I had never seen before. Slaty Antwren, Scale-Crested Pygmy-Tyrant, and Black-Tailed Flycatcher seemed to be everywhere I looked, too. A pair of Summer Tanagers moved overhead as I finally directed my gaze upwards, upon which I saw a large primate looking back at me. As it turns out, the reserve is literally crawling with monkeys, and I would be accompanied by a troop of Spider Monkeys for most of my visit. Usually animated to begin with, they appeared to be enjoying the fruits of the Cecropia tree in particular, and I took some good photographs of them really chowing down.
Ultimately, I didn't find many of the Tumbes bird specialists that I was hoping to see, as the more common birds were typical of more humid than dry lowland forest. Indeed, there was neither sight nor sound of the Pale-Browed Tinamou, Gray-Cheeked Parakeet, Baird's Flycatcher, or Pacific Royal Flycatcher. I did, on the other hand, get very close to a noisy group of Rufous-Fronted Wood-Quail, which was surprising given the bird's distribution in the field guide. At any rate, the reserve makes for a productive half-day visit should you happen to be in the area, and it's an interesting place for non-birders as well as many informative signs are posted along the main trails. Hopefully, I'll make a follow-up visit sometime during the rainy season between December and May.
Notable birds seen: Hook-Billed Kite, Ecuadorian Ground-Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, White-Tipped Dove, Pacific Parrotlet, Ecuadorian Trogon, Blue-Crowned Motmot, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Olivaceous Piculet, Buff-Throated Foliage-Gleaner, Plain-Brown Woodcreeper, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Olivaeous Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Plain Antvireo, Dot-Winged Antwren, Great Antshrike, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Black-Tailed Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, White-Bearded Manakin, Rufous-Browed Peppershrike, Lesser Greenlet, Ecuadorian Thrush, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Gray-and-Gold Warbler, Thick-Billed Euphonia, Summer Tanager, White-Shouldered Tanager, Yellow-Rumped Cacique, Peruvian Meadowlark.