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Friday, May 6, 2011

Visiting Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary

Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata)

Over the past month I have made a couple of trips to Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary. (Follow link for specific details on the reserve.) It is not a place I normally try to tackle on a day trip from Quito but it can be done. One of its strong points is its canopy tower allowing for a more comfortable view of birds that inhabit the canopy and understory. Due to the deforestation of the surrounding area the reserve encounters many flocks and wanderers looking for a place to rest.

Aside from the viewing advantage of the tower, it is a great place to meet people who share the same interest. On my first visit to Rio Silanche this past month I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Jean Paul Perret, founder of Neotropical Birding Tours based in Peru. He was spending some time in Ecuador, scouting the various birding areas. We had several hours to photograph and discuss the various bird species visiting the trees surrounding the tower that morning.

Bronze-winged Parrot
(Pionus chalcopterus)
It was a great morning for birding as there were several flocks passing through during our stay. Chocó Toucans were quite prevalent and the eye level vantage point made for some great photos. Of course, where there are Chocós, you will also find the Pale-mandibled Aracari. (Also called the Collared or Stripe-billed Aracari). A small group of Bronze-winged Parrots perched near the tower and a male White-tailed Trogon paid us a visit and stuck around for a few pics.

One of the highlights of the morning was an extended visit by a White-necked Puffbird. It perched in a nearly bare tree a short distance from the tower. It was an impressive sight as it sat proudly on the limb perusing the countryside. We could hear some White-bearded Manakins clacking away in the forest below but they never showed themselves. All in all it was productive morning and especially so because I met a new friend in Jean Paul.

My second visit to the tower was with Pearl Jordan, the young lady who came on a mission of seeing 8,000 birds by her 80th birthday. (You can read the full account of her trip here.) We arrived early in hopes of seeing some new lifers for her. Along with the species that I had encountered on my previous visit we were able to see the Masked Tityra and the Rufous-winged Tanager. (I saw the Bay-headed Tanager, which is more common, on the first trip.) Unfortunately we had to cut our time in the tower short because it was a clear day and the intense heat of the sun was making our stay unbearable.

We took the main trail around the property in search of the Brown Wood-Rail. We heard one clamoring in the forest near the creek but were unable to get it to show itself. We did, however, encounter the Purple-chested Hummingbird, a Chocó endemic and not very common. Since this was one of Pearl’s target birds it made for a productive day.

Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary, a property of the Mindo Cloud Forest foundation, is a great place for the visiting bird fancier. It canopy tower lends itself to wonderful views of many species and a great place to meet new friends. I would recommend adding it to any northwest Ecuador birding adventure.

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