Milpe Road: January 31, 2010

After a thrilling morning at Mangaloma, I returned to San Miguel de los Bancos to have lunch and weigh my options for the afternoon. Given that the weather was wet and visibility low, I decided to return to Quito to meet Aimee the following morning, who was finally returning from her six-week research trip in Brazil for Lonely Planet. On passing the Milpe road just outside of town, I noticed that the weather was starting to clear and decided instead to drive the road to see if any unusual birds were drying out on the treetops. This well-known road passes by at least three birding reserves, including Mindo Cloudforest Foundation's Milpe Bird Sanctuary, and is a good site for mixed flocks of subtropical and foothill species, parrots, toucans, and the occasional raptor. It used to be a reliable site for Moss-Backed Tanager as well, which seems to have disappeared for the last few years until very recently. Guide Jose Illanes reported seeing one just last week, as well as a Scaly-Throated Leaftosser feeding nestlings somewhere along the trails.

Driving slowly and stopping whenever I encountered bird activity, I spent the rest of the day observing through my scope Bronze-Winged Parrots and a variety of toucans, at point noting a group of fifteen Chestnut-Mandibled Toucans hanging out in the same tree. There wasn't much mixed flock activity except for some common tanagers and foliage-gleaners, but I did note several large Roadside Hawks and a solitary Plumbeous Kite perched in a treetop far in the distance. Stopping by the office at Milpe Bird Sanctuary to buy a tanager t-shirt, I met the founder Brian Krohnke and asked him about the new MCF property, which indeed runs along the Mindo Pipeline starting at the Tandayapa pass. Having birded this site myself earlier this month and seen some terrific temperate forest birds, I thanked him for opening up access to the area and then made the return trip to Quito in the dark.

Notable birds seen: Roadside Hawk, Plumbeous Kite, Bronze-Winged Parrot, Maroon-Tailed Parakeet, Choco Toucan, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, Buff-Throated Foliage-Gleaner, Blue-Necked Tanager.

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