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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Milpe Bird Sanctuary

Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii)

I had not visited Milpe Bird Sanctuary in about a month so I decided to make a trip down to see if there were any migrants passing through. MPS is one of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation properties located just south of the town of Mindo.

I got up early so that I could get to the reserve at a decent hour. It is about a 2-hour drive from my house, or about 1 ½ hours from Quito. From the city you travel north past Mitad del Mundo, the monument and park marking the equator. You will pass Pululahua, a dormant volcano which I will report on in a later blog. After passing through the town of Calacalí you will stop at a tollbooth. ($.80 per car). The only major town you will pass through will be Nanegallita where you can pick up some snacks for your trip. Continue past the turnoff to the town of Mindo (Km 78) until you see the Km 91 marker. Watch closely on the right for a bus stop and a sign that indicates the road to Milpe Bird Sanctuary. Travel .7 km on this road until you reach the entrance to the reserve on your right.

Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii)
I arrived at MPS around 6:30, sunrise in this part of the world. The gate to the reserve was closed but I was greeted by a small pup followed shortly by Luis Yanez, the manager of the sanctuary.  Luis and his family live in a small house on the property and he is always happy to receive visitors.

When you enter the reserve you will see several buildings housing the registration office, gift shop and restaurant. Behind the office there is an area set up as a feeding center for tanagers and in front of the restaurant there are several hummingbird feeders. They have just recently installed some special lighting to attract butterflies. Entrance to the park is $6, regardless of nationality.

Upon entering, Luis asked me if I would like him to put out some plantain to attract the tanagers. I nodded approval as I prepared my equipment for the day. Immediately you could hear the trees come alive with activity in anticipation of the morning feast. When I reached the feeding area there were already several birds attacking the breakfast snacks. In attendance were Blue-necked, Flame-faced, Blue-gray, Lemon-rumped, Golden, Palm, Silver-throated, and White-lined tanagers. In addition there were Thick-billed Euphonia, Black-winged Saltator, and both Black-cheeked and Golden-olive Woodpeckers. To add just a little extra splash of color a Red-headed Barbet joined the feast. Meanwhile a Rufous Motmot watched from a safe distance.

After spending some time watching the breakfast activity I decided to head out onto the Manakin Trail, one of many trails that navigate the reserve. The paths through the park are well maintained and could be ranked as easy to moderate. Some of them travel down to the river and can be a little strenuous on the return trip. A good pair of hiking boots would be recommended for the trip.

Pale-mandibled Araçari (Pteroglossus erythropygius)
There is a Club-winged Manakin lek at the reserve and today it was active. There were several males doing their song and dance in the trees; a very entertaining display for me and hopefully for the females. It was a pleasure to see them back as I had not observed this ritual since a trip I made in February. After watching for several minutes I continued along the path to see what else was happening.

Along the way I encountered a Pale-mandibled Araçari feeding on fruit about 7 meters above my head. He did not appear to mind my presence as I took some photos and moved around below him. He was enjoying a breakfast of bananas and berries from many trees that are present throughout the reserve.
Also along the path I spent some time watching a White-whiskered Hermit enjoying the nectar from the flower of a banana plant. His long decurved bill was easily penetrating the blossom to reach the treasure hidden inside.

A few hours later I again arrived at the entrance. Here I observed the hummingbird feeders for a while, seeing if there were any that I had not observed on my previous visits. Today it was mostly a combination of Green Thorntail, Green-crowned brilliant, Rufous-tailed hummingbirds and White-whiskered Hermits. There was, of course, a couple of Bananquits that are always anxious to share the booty with the hummers.

At about 12:30 PM the clouds were starting to roll in and I decided it was time to make my way back to Quito. It was a good day for birding and I was able to observe well over 30 species in my short visit. Here is a list of what I encountered on this short day-trip to Milpe Bird Sanctuary:

Bananaquit, Black-Cheeked Woodpecker, Black-Winged Saltador, Blackburnian_Warbler, Blue-Gray Tanager, Blue-Necked Tanager, Cinnamon Becard, Club-Winged Manakin, Common Tody-flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Ecuadorian Thrush, Flame-Faced_Tanager, Golden Tanager, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Golden-winged Manakin, Great Thrush, Green Honeycreeper, Green Thorntail, Green-Crowned Brilliant, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Orange-Bellied Euphonia, Orange-billed Sparrow, Ornate Flycatcher, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, Palm Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, Rufous-Collared_Sparrow, Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird, Rufus Motmot, Silver-Throated Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Thick-Billed Euphonia, Tropical Kingbird, White-Lined Tanager, White-Whiskered Hermit

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