Mashpi: June 26, 2010

Mashpi is a recently popularized site in the northwestern foothills that is quickly growing renowned for its impressive collection of Choco endemic bird species. The wet mossy forest along the roads in the area boasts Moss-Backed Tanager, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Orange-Breasted Fruiteater, Black Solitaire, Glistening-Green Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, and Choco Vireo, the latter just discovered at the site by guide Dušan M. Brinkhuizen. Indeed, the news of the vireo, which is a very rare and endangered species and one of the most difficult of the Choco endemics to see in Ecuador, is bound to increase the site's fame even further, especially considering its proximity to Mindo (the vireo is known from one other remote site in Ecuador in Esmeraldas Province).

With little time left in Ecuador, I wanted to try for a few more unseen Choco endemics myself, including the vireo, of course, but also the Black Solitaire and a few hypothetical species to the area, such as Star-Chested Treerunner, Yellow-Green Bush-Tanager, and Purplish-Mantled Tanager. After taking Aimee to the airport in Quito for her own departure on an early-morning flight, I drove down to the site and shortly was observing a pair of Moss-Backed Tanagers at close range feeding on ants crawling along the roadside. Overhead, a pair of gorgeous Toucan Barbets looked on as I photographed the feeding birds, which were behaving more like flycatchers than tanagers. Further down the road that leads to the new reserve, I encountered a terrific mixed flock with both Glistening-Green Tanager and Orange-Breasted Fruiteater as well as Strong-Billed Woodcreeper and Smoky-Brown Woodpecker.

Approaching the section of the road where Dusan found the vireo, I laughed at my chances of actually finding the bird myself, as I was without playback and unfamiliar with the bird's habits and behavior. Happily, I met guide and conservationist Alejandro Solano along the road, who had just seen the vireo himself, and he led me exactly to the spot where we found the bird high in the canopy along the roadside. Looking and sounding like the common Brown-Capped Vireo, the bird behaved differently, defending its area territorially as mixed flocks moved through and staying behind as they left and growing quiet again. While it wasn't a spectacular sighting, it's always inspiring and poignant to witness an endangered species, and I'm grateful to Dusan and Alejandro for sharing their knowledge and observations.

Notable birds seen: Blue-Fronted Parrotlet, Purple-Bibbed Whitetip, Wedge-Billed Hummingbird, Brown Inca, Golden-Headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-Rumped Toucanet, Smoky-Brown Woodpecker, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Strong-Billed Woodcreeper, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Tawny-Breasted Flycatcher, Orange-Breasted Fruiteater, Choco Vireo, Andean Solitaire, Choco Warbler, Swallow Tanager, Glistening-Green Tanager, Moss-Backed Tanager, Black-Chinned Mountain-Tanager, Ochre-Breasted Tanager, Yellow-Throated Bush-Tanager, Black-Winged Saltator.


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si kendrick said...

great site i am from newcastle in the uk and now live in manabi ecuador, i love the place best move i ever made and enjoy learning more about the country new places to go!

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