Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Sunday, 3 April 2022

Ecuador – Milpe & return to Quito

18th March 2022

I arrived into Milpe and grabbed a few supplies before heading for Milpe Bird Sanctuary. I didn't park in the main area as you had to pay a small fee so I drove a short distance to a lay-by and walked back. The place was devoid of anyone so it wouldn't have been an issue. Anyway, it was clear from the off that this area was excellent for birding. I was pleased to see more Choco Toucans and some Collared Aracaris. In the car park, and as I was watching these two species, chaos unfolded as a sublime Ornate Hawk-eagle flew in and landed in plain sight and stayed for about five minutes. An amazing encounter and certainly a highlight of the trip!

After this excitement, it was just a matter of filtering through the tanager flocks, but no new additions here. Just as I was starting to enjoy myself, a lengthy rain shower arrived so I decided to drive back into Los Bancos and find my very nice, and cheap, hotel. I had two days to cover Milpe so it wasn't a hard to decision to stay dry. The rain continued to late afternoon so I called it a day and had another relaxation session, but after an ultimate day, I think it was deserved. 

The next morning I arrived at first light and decided to park in the car park this time. I took the long circuit which takes you all the way down to the river – part of this trail involved a pure balancing act over a slippery log above a mini canyon... certainly the most adrenaline-fueled moment of the trip. The walk however was excellent with a wealth of new birds seen and some class ones at that.

The hummingbird feeders attracted a few new ones, with White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail and Crowned Woodnymth, while on the trail a White-tipped Sicklebill hovered around my head as I encroached its presumed territory... amazing moment! The trail was alive with birds and at times it was hard to know where to look, there were either flocks high above, myriad woodcreeper/foliage-gleaner flocks, or the odd antwren which are always a joy to see. The trail kept descending and eventually I reached the river and spent a lengthy time here chilling and watching the world go by. It was a stunning place and with no-one around it was even more special. 

Anyway, afterwards I hiked back up on a different section and this time I put more effort in going through certain recordings of birds I still needed to see. One bird in a dense valley was giving off a lovely song, and I just happened to have Esmeraldas Antbird on my phone ready to hit play, and by jingo, it was the bird! It wasn't long before this cracker came in close, and as antbirds are always in mixed flocks, further psshing resulted in a superb Zeledon's Antbird too.

The walk sadly came to an end, so I quickly headed back to Luis and picked up my number plate (ten dollars for the privilege of some dude holding onto it for me!), but along the way were two Hook-billed Kites and a Laughing Falcon.

Upon returning to Milpe, I again parked up and this time walked the upper trail to the northern car park. It was excellent but rain showers had me scarpering a few times. I assume the rain had prompted several Speckled Nightingale-thrush to sing and one fortunately showed well. Tanager flocks held some Dusky-capped Flycatchers and Sooty-headed Tyrannulets amongst many other species, and when the rain absolutely lashed down, I had thankfully arrived at the northern headquarters, and being sheltered, I put my feet up and watched the hummingbirds only metres away! A Tayra also came in for some seed that two Orange-billed Sparrows were munching on. That was about it for today and I walked back to the car via the road and got soaked for it.

This unbeknown to me at the time was to be my last effort of birding, as sadly that night, I stupidly had a chinese meal and some re-heated rice caused a major night of chucking up. This meant the next day I was absolutely out of it. I did attempt Milpe, but all I succeeded in was getting a flat tyre, and fixing it nearly made me faint two or three times. I did eventually get it sorted but gave up on birding and decided to return to Quito early. 

However, I had fortuitously looked on e-bird during my spell of non-vomiting and found a semi-reliable location on the return for Torrent Duck. This was at Alambi Lodge and after a refreshment stop and a blackberry smoothie, I arrived but felt proper grim. I had a nap and felt better so I drove down to the lodge and asked whether I could go for a walk. The owner was brilliant and very accommodating and after paying a small fee I was trundling down to the river. I looked upstream and nothing, looked downstream, and balancing on a rock amongst the white-water rapids, was a stunning drake Torrent Duck! I suddenly felt on top of the world and I enjoyed half-hour with a pair of these incredible ducks; watching them swimming in the rapids was mind-blowing and they came so close to me... I couldn't have asked for better views. I walked a short way downstream but failed on finding any dippers, so I returned to the lodge and spent an hour at the hummingbird feeders, with new birds here including the following: Purple-throated Woodstar, White-lined Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Rufous Motmot, Black-capped Tanager and Western Emerald. A young lad there even made me a coffee and this was my final bit of birding of the trip.

So, other than a few Tropical Mockingbirds and a Vermilion Flycatcher on the way to the Holiday Inn at Quito Airport, there was no more birding to be had. I just needed some rest and recovery before my long flight back. It had obviously been an amazing first visit to Ecuador and I can't wait to go back and do the east slope and the south. 

My flight back the next day went via Panama, which resulted in me seeing a Magnificent Frigatebird on the final descent and some Greater Antillean Grackles around the terminal. 

Milpe Highlights:

White-whiskered Hermit - 3
White-tipped Sicklebill - 1
Green-crowned Brilliant - 5
Ruddy Pigeon - 1
Hook-billed Kite - 2
Ornate Hawk-eagle - 1
Laughing Falcon - 1
Smoky-brown Woodpecker - 1
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper - 1
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner - 5
Spotted Barbtail - 1
Slaty Antwren - 4
Zeledon's Antbird - 1
Esmeraldas Antbird - 1
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet - 4
Dusky-capped Fluycatcher - 3
Club-winged Manakin - 2
Bay Wren - 2
Orange-billed Sparrow - 2

Collared Aracari

Choco Toucan

Ornate Hawk-eagle

Club-winged Manakin

Golden-winged Manakin

Slaty Antwren

Crowned Woodnymth

Green-crowned Brilliant

Hook-billed Kite

Laughing Falcon

Speckled Nightingale-thrush

Spotted Barbtail

White-whiskered Hermit

Torrent Duck

Rhodirphia carminata

Milpe Bird Sanctuary... I wonder
if a Banded Ground-cuckoo is in that view

Breakfast stop at Milpe

It wouldn't be an Eade tour without...

River Alambi