With just a handful of difficult birds left to see in the Mindo region, or the subtropical zone of the northwestern slope, I contracted a birding guide for the weekend to help me track down a few elusive species, including the Crested Guan, Sunbittern, Cloud-Forest Pygmy-Owl, and Black Solitaire. Tom Quesenberry, the affable and insightful owner of El Monte Lodge, recommended Julia Patino, one of the few female birding guides in the country and among the most knowledgeable and experienced guides in the area (she freelances as well and can be reached at 086162816). Indeed, she proved to be an excellent guide and an affable birding companion as we spent the morning along the ridge road bordering the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve, picking up some great species like the Green-Fronted Lancebill, Rufous-Breasted Antthrush, and Tiny Hawk, the latter of which she spotted at an immense distance, perched up high and in the open in the bare crown of a tree.
Later in the morning, we tried for the Crested Guan at a finca further down in the valley. The sun was blazing by then and birding activity was low, but we did track down a calling Barred Puffbird and spotted a female White-Winged Tanager in a mixed flock. Despite the abundance of fruiting trees on the property, we only heard Crested Guan way down the ridge in the forest below, although a nice surprise was a Gray Hawk that alighted momentarily in front of us. Julia was definitely dogged in her attempt to located my missing birds, calling Angel Paz throughout the weekend for updates on the Cloud-Forest Pygmy-Owl that is occasionally seen on his property, and taking us to a little-visited site on Sunday to try for Black Solitaire. Surprisingly, I found the Sunbittern on my own, crossing the Rio Mindo one afternoon in the tarabita that provides access to the lodge. There I was swinging over the river in a small cart while trying to photograph this scarce bittern as it flashed its gorgeous wings angrily along the shore.
Notable birds seen: Tiny Hawk, Gray Hawk, Sunbittern, Green-Fronted Lancebill, Barred Puffbird, Rufous-Breasted Antthrush, Club-Winged Manakin, White-Winged Tanager.