Atacazo: February 6, 2010

Reaching almost 4500m, Atacazo is part of a larger volcanic complex located immediately south of Pichincha, making it easily accessible from Quito. On Saturday Mark Thurber and I had planned to hike around the backside of the main peak towards Ninahuilca, a sizable volcanic dome, passing through temperate scrub, woodland, and forest along the way. Unfortunately, it was a miserable day of weather in the highlands and visibility was extremely low in the paramo, making our descent down the western slope of the mountain nearly impossible. Although this isn't a proper birding site, the rare and endemic Black-Breasted Puffleg has been recorded here, and the paramo and woodland patches on the eastern slope of the mountain offered plenty of fine birds, whether seen or heard, including Ocellated Tapaculo, Andean Guan, Andean Snipe, Paramo Pipit, and Curved-Billed Tinamou. The latter was flushed along the roadside towards the end of the day as we finally reached our car after hiking for hours in the pouring rain.

Notable birds seen: Curve-Billed Tinamou, Variable Hawk, Andean Snipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Blue-Mantled Thornbill, Many-Striped Canastero, Bar-Winged Cinclodes, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Paramo Ground-Tyrant, Grass Wren, Tawny Antpitta, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager, Paramo Pipit.

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