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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yanacocha Reserve

Spectacled Whitestart (Myioborus melanocephalus)
Yesterday I made a trip up to Yanacocha Reserve, about an hour outside of Quito. (Lat: 0 06’ 42”, Lon: 78 35’ 05”, Alt: 3,500 m) If you are traveling on a budget you will have to spend a little extra cash to get there as transportation from the main road is a must. A bus can take you to the lower entrance, but from that point you have a 10 km hike to the Reserve.

From Quito you would go north on Ave. Mariscal Sucre until you see a sign that indicates the Ecoroute to Nono and Tandayapa. The name of this street is Machala. It is 8.5 km from Mariscal Sucre until you reach the road to Yanacocha. About half way you will run out of paved road but the way is well marked. About 300 yards before you get to the road to Yanacocha you will come across a couple of stop-lights that seem to be out of place as they are in the middle of no-where. The entrance road to Yanacocha is well marked.

It is 10 km from the road to Nono up to the reserve. However, take some time to bird this area as there are many species that are active along the way. Once you get to the ranger station you will have to pay a fee of $10 for foreigners, $3 for locals and $2 for children. If you get there early and there is no one there you can enter the reserve and pay on your return. There is only one way in and out.

Most people come to Yanacocha because it is one of the few spots in the world where you can see the rare Black-breasted Puffleg. They are most prevalent in April – August. However, there is such a diversity of birds in this area it is a great place to visit at any time.

Turquoise Jay (Cyanolyca turcosa)
When I arrived the sun was shining and I had the reserve to myself. I recommend getting there early as the clouds will start rolling in early afternoon and once they are covering the mountain it is difficult to see much of anything. The temperature was about 8 degrees C (46 F) but the sun kept me plenty warm.

Turquoise Jay were very active this morning and they were a beautiful sight as they played around in the trees. There were also a lot of Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager as well as Black, Glossy, and Masked Flowerpiercers. To add a little more color I came across a flock of Spectacled Whitestart, about 10 of them.

As you go down the main path you will come across some side trails that lead down the mountain. This morning I decided to take the Masked Trogon Trail. If you take one of these paths keep in mind that you are at 3,500 meters above sea level and whatever goes down these trails must come back up.

Along the path I encountered some more Turquoise Jays squawking their heads off. As I was taking pictures of a female Barred Fruit-eater a Buff-winged Starfrontlet decided to check me out. It flew down to within a few centimeters from the front of my lens and looked at it first. Then it came to within 30 cm of my face and just stared me in the eye, daring me to move. I stood perfectly still while he then went around the back of me to check me out further, coming back around to the front and looked at me again as to say “Don’t mess with me” and then he flew off. It was kind a fascinating and scary at the same time since hummingbirds can be very territorial and aggressive when some one gets too close.

After a little more time along this trail I decided to return to the main path and head back to the refuge where they have several hummingbird feeders. On the way I came to a large mixed flock of White-banded and Black-capped Tyrannulet. After spending a little time taking pictures I moved on and found that there was a lot of activity at the feeders. Ecuadorian Hillstar, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, and Sword-billed Hummingbird, just to mention a few, were busy trying to get their place in line.

Sapphire-vented Puffleg (Eriocnemis luciani)/Buff-winged Starfrontlet (Coeligena lutetiae)
After about a half hour at the feeders the clouds started rolling in and I decided it was time to head back to the ranger station. Along the way I stopped to watch an Andean Guan try to hide in the trees. They are a very skittish bird but they make so much noise trying to hide from you that it is funny.

I arrived back at the ranger station to see a Tawny Antpitta feeding on some seed nearby. All-in-all I spent about 4 hours at the reserve. It was a productive morning. Following is a list of the birds that I encountered:

Andean Guan, Barred Fruiteater, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Golden-crowned Tanager, Great Sapphirewing , Masked Flowerpiercer, Mountain Velvetbreast, Purple-backed Thornbill, Rufous Wren, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Spectacled Whitestart, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tawny Antpitta, Turquoise Jay, White-banded Tyrannulet, Yellow-breasted Brush-finch

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