Laguna San Marcos: March 21, 2010

Laguna San Marcos is a paramo lake located northeast of Volcán Cayambe on the eastern slope. It's a favorite haunt for trout fisherman and folks looking for a scenic place to picnic, although I've never heard of anyone birding here. The lake is surrounded by temperate and elfin forest habitat as well as marsh and paramo, and there is a poorly maintained trail around the lake offering the bold birder access to this rather wild environment. I visited the lake last Sunday with intrepid Mark Thurber, author of Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador, with plans of circumambulating the lake and more. While we eventually grew tired of crawling through tapir tunnels and turned back, I did manage to see a Paramo Tapaculo and a nice mixed flock including Black-Backed Bush-Tanager and Golden-Crowned Tanager. On the lake itself were plenty of ducks, especially Andean Coots, and we must have flushed at least a half-dozen Noble Snipe in the marsh on the south side of the lake, most of which flew off spectacularly into the sky. Leaving the lake, which is located on the edge of the Cayambe-Coca Reserve, we had quick looks at an Andean Condor in the far distance as well as great views of a pair of Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagles being hawked by two Carunculated Caracaras.

Notable birds seen: Andean Ruddy-Duck, Yellow-Billed Pintail, Andean Teal, Andean Coot, Andean Condor, Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle, Carunculated Caracara, Noble Snipe, Glowing Puffleg, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, White-Throated Tyrannulet, White-Banded Tyrannulet, Brown-Backed Chat-Tyrant, Grass Wren, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager, Golden-Crowned Tanager, Black-Backed Bush-Tanager, Pale-Naped Brush-Finch.

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