Mashpi Reserve: November 27, 2009

The endemic birds species of the northwestern foothills are fast becoming my favorite in Ecuador, but it's not easy to find good habitat that supports them. The huge Mindo-Nambillo and Maquipacuna Reserves are mostly subtropical forest; Milpe Bird Sanctuary, while at the appropriate altitude, doesn't have much flat forest habitat; and the sites along the Ibarra-San Lorenzo road are fast becoming either obsolete due to illegal logging or unsafe due to the influx of refugees from Colombia. Rio Canande Reserve and the Botrosa Road are excellent sites for lower foothill species, but classic northwestern foothills birding is growing harder to come by each year. The Pacto Road, which leads out to the new Mashpi Reserve, is now almost entirely deforested, and only one modest hilltop remains, uniquely swathed in rich mossy forest.

Although colonists are moving into the area and rapidly cutting timber and clearing land, the birding continues to be outstanding. Aimee and I visited this site a few months ago as I had received word that the rare and local Indigo Flowerpiercer was being seen regularly at a certain road cut that was covered with dense flowering shrubs. On that morning we found the flowerpiercer without any trouble but were more impressed with the prevalence of the Moss-Backed Tanager, Black-Chinned Mountain-Tanager, and Glistening-Green Tanager, all Choco endemics. Still short a few northwestern foothill species on my life list, I returned the day after Thanksgiving arriving in the late morning and birding in heavy fog until the early evening.

True to the site's reputation, the endemics were omnipresent in the roadside forest despite the late hour and the recent low precipitation levels. At several different stops I totaled an impressive number of endemics including, Orange-Breasted Fruiteater, Brown Inca, Toucan Barbet, Moss-Backed Tanager, Glistening-Green Tanager, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Yellow-Collared Chlorophonia, Club-Winged Manakin, Choco Warbler, and Violet-Tailed Sylph; another pair of birders reported they had Indigo Flowerpiercer as well, although I didn't look for it again. To find all these species at single unprotected site is simply remarkable; should it eventually be cleared, then hopefully Mashpi Reserve will carry the fire of northwestern foothill birding.

Notable birds seen: White-Whiskered Hermit, Brown Inca, Violet-Tailed Sylph, Golden-Headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Smoky Brown Woodpecker, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Spotted Barbtail, Scaly-Throated Foliage-Gleaner, Spotted Woodcreeper, Slaty Antwren, Slaty-Capped Flycatcher, Fulvous-Breasted Flatbill, One-Colored Becard, Orange-Breasted Fruiteater, White-Bearded Manakin, Club-Winged Manakin, Black-Billed Peppershrike, Sepia-Brown Wren, Gray-Breasted Wood-Wren, Choco Warbler, Three-Striped Warbler, Yellow-Collared Chlorophonia, Glistening-Green Tanager, Flame-Faced Tanager, Moss-Backed Tanager, Summer Tanager, Tricolored Brush-Finch.

1 comment:

Zuri said...

Ecuador is such a diverse and peaceful country. The weather, the colonial cities and the people are just fantastic. Nothing compares to the landscapes of the Highlands, the lush of the Amazon Rain forest, the exotic Beaches of the Coast and the mystery of the Galapagos Islands.

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