Reserva las Gralarias: May 22, 2010

I had originally planned to visit the southwestern lowlands during this holiday weekend in search of birds endemic to the Tumbes bioregion, but I was soon overwhelmed in planning the logistics of the trip, as buying airline tickets and renting a car proved cost prohibitive considering the few new species I would likely encounter. Then, I strongly considered driving south to visit Cajas National Park and Jocotoco's Yunguilla Reserve in search of two Ecuadorian endemics, the Violet-Throated Metaltail and the Pale-Headed Brush-Finch, but this seemed a long and exhausting trip for a three-day weekend. Ultimately, Aimee and I settled on a simple getaway to Mindo, visiting several sites in the area while staying at the excellent El Monte Lodge, and considering the nice handful of new birds seen, I'm happy the weekend worked out the way it did.

Reserva las Gralarias, located a half hour outside of Mindo, is a reliable site for several difficult Choco endemics, including the Beautiful Jay and Hoary Puffleg, both of which I've failed to track down over the last several years. I missed them again this morning, but Aimee and I delighted in two large groups of beautiful Plate-Billed Mountain-Toucans and a pair of excitable Rufous-Headed Pygmy-Tyrants. Another Moustached Antpitta nest was found recently on the reserve; although the nest was empty, it's still remarkable to consider that this species was only discovered just over a decade ago in Ecuador, before its call was recorded, and before the northwestern slope was crawling with birders. A female Scaled Fruiteater was another nice highlight, but I was really hoping to spot the Barred Hawk that was calling periodically throughout the sunny morning.

Notable birds seen: Brown Inca, Velvet-Purple Coronet, Plate-Billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Strong-Billed Woodcreeper, Scaled Fruiteater, Uniform Antshrike, Flavescent Flycatcher, Rufous-Headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Gray-Breasted Wood-Wren, Three-Striped Warbler, Russet-Crowned Warbler, Golden-Naped Tanager, Beryl-Spangled Tanager, Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanager, Dusky Bush-Tanager.

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