Blue-necked Tanager (Tangara cyanicollis)

The Blue-necked Tanager (Tangara cyanicollis) is a species of bird in the Thraupidae family.  I’m not sure how it gets its name as the whole head is blue, not just the neck but they sure are beauties!

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They have a pretty large range that encompasses a lot of prime reserves in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Brazil so I am not going to say that Podocarpus (where I saw them) is the BEST place, but it’s a good option!

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LEARN MORE ABOUT BLUE-NECKED TANAGERS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEO

This is a fantastic mini-doco of a Blue-necked Tanager family raising chicks.  There is one sad event but nothing graphic is shown and there is a happy ending!

 

Birding In & Around Zamora, Ecuador

After a successful birding walk in Podocarpus National Park, we moved on to the small town of Zamora because the flowers in the town garden are a favourite spot for Spangled Coquettes.  The Coquette family of hummingbirds is quite unique with their brilliant crests and bright colouring.  They are really fast so not easy to capture in a photo!  You can also see some beautiful butterflies and different hummingbirds in the gardens.

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Female Spangled Coquette.  IMG_2051a IMG_2054a IMG_2056a IMG_2057a IMG_2061a IMG_2068a IMG_2069a

Yellow-tufted WoodpeckerIMG_2071a IMG_2047a IMG_2074

We then headed out of Zamora to the surrounding countryside to try our luck. It was around noon by now so not the best time to go birding but we found a few birds and some Blue Morpho Butterflies which are even harder to photograph than hummingbirds!  Our guide hired a camioneta taxi as the road was pretty rough in spots.  It wasn’t too expensive, maybe around $15 for an hour and if the birding had been better we could have kept him longer.

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The highlight was the Blue-necked Tanager.  We also saw some other tanagers like Green & Gold Tanager (no photo), Blue-grey Tanagers and Palm Tanagers.IMG_2115a IMG_2116 IMG_2119a

Now we were pretty hungry so the camioneta dropped us back in town.  I had asked for empanadas as I had read that they were a specialty of Zamora and I was expecting a savoury meat & cheese filled dish but we somehow ended up at a bakery (miscommunication with non-English speaking guide) but the sweet empanadas were tasty and they had nice cakes too!

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There’s some amazing graffiti/art around the town, many of which feature birds and wildlife.DSCN0518 DSCN0519 DSCN0521 IMG_2039

This statue of a lady is kind of a landmark and you may see directions saying “turn left at the statue” or similar – this is her!DSCN0520

Our guide (I forgot his name but Catherine at Copalinga can book him) dropped us back at Copalinga and it was the end of a great day of birding in Podocarpus and Zamora.DSCN0529

Green Jay aka Inca Jay (Cyanocorax yncas)

The Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) is a bird species of the New World jays, and is found in both North and South America.  The taxonomy is a bit confusing.  They are usually lumped with Inca Jay (C. yncas yncas) of South America. Adding to the confusion in classification, the Green Jay is then used as the species name, even though the Inca Jay is the nominate subspecies.

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They have a large range extending from the southern tip of Texas down to Bolivia.  Depending on which source you read, the Inca Jay subspecies is the South American range.  I saw them in southern Ecuador in the Podocarpus National Park near Zamora and further north at Wildsumaco and Cabanas San Isidro.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT GREEN/INCA JAYS

Wikipedia Green Jay

Wikipedia Inca Jay

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEOS

An Inca Jay with something to say.

And here’s a Green Jay with a song of his own!

 

White-breasted aka White-necked Parakeet (Pyrrhura albipectus)

The White-breasted Parakeet (Pyrrhura albipectus) or White-necked Parakeet, is an exquisite species of parrot in the Psittacidae family.  They live in montane tropical forests in southern Ecuador and extreme northern Peru and normally stay within a flock between four and 20 parakeets.

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They have a limited range in southern Ecuador and northern Peru.  The most reliable place to see them is the Podocarpus National Park near Zamora and Copalinga Lodge nearby where they sometimes visit the garden.

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I love seeing the local taxi drivers embracing their native bird in their logo!

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LEARN MORE ABOUT WHITE-NECKED (WHITE-BREASTED) PARAKEETS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEOS

I couldn’t find any videos of this beautiful little parrot that can be embedded but there are a few clips on IBC.

Visiting Podocarpus National Park

Podocarpus National Park in southern Ecuador made it onto my itinerary because it is a reliable place to see White-breasted (white-necked) Parakeets and a host of other amazing birds.  A good guide to help plan your visit complete with maps is here.  The amazing Copalinga Lodge is only a few km from the Bommuscaro entrance and the owner, Catherine can arrange a birding guide and transportation.

My eBird List for Podocarpus

Gotta love the logo on this taxi!

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Entrance is now free!  Although it says it’s open at 8am, most birders arrive around 6:30 and there is no problem.IMG_1970 IMG_1971 DSCN0448

The well maintained trail winds slowly uphill.DSCN0452 DSCN0455

Beautiful Inca JayIMG_1978a IMG_1984a

Squirrel CuckooIMG_1988a

Our first glimpse of White-breasted Parakeets on the road and the rock face.IMG_1997

A curious little Parakeet inspecting usIMG_2000a

Could they get any cuter?IMG_2002a IMG_2005a

And then they took off.IMG_2006

Ornate FlycatcherIMG_2017a IMG_2021 IMG_2025a IMG_2026a

More White-breasted Parakeets!IMG_2034 IMG_2035a IMG_2038a DSCN0466 DSCN0467 DSCN0471

Eeeeek, a school group!  Luckily this was on our way out after seeing our target birds as a large school group is not conducive to peaceful birding!DSCN0456 DSCN0457 DSCN0459 IMG_2020 IMG_2019

The Hummingbird Effect

Whenever we visit the Americas, hummingbirds are always a highlight.  They dazzle us with their beauty and brilliance and I could spend hours sitting on lodge verandahs watching them dart to and fro.  A world without hummingbirds would be sad indeed.  The American Bird Conservancy is trying to save their habitat so any help you can give would be appreciated.  And remember that hummingbirds share their habitat with many other birds and mammals so save one, you save them all!

For now, enjoy this compilation clip of some of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world.

 

Lost Birds – Can You Help Find Them?

No, I am not talking about pet birds that have flown off, I am talking about entire species that haven’t been seen in the wild in many years.

ABC is mobilizing resources and partners to conduct searches for some of South America’s lost birds. We’re starting with three: the Tachira Antpitta, the Turquoise-throated Puffleg, and the Kinglet Calyptura.

It could be that these species still survive but are simply in locations not frequented by birders because of remote locations or difficult terrain.

I was recently in Ecuador but not in the area where the Turquoise-throated Puffleg was last seen around 70 years ago.  They are quite beautiful, the drawing below comes from Wikipedia.

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The search is on for these unseen species and several others.  Occasionally bird species do resurface when researchers or even normal birders stumble upon them.  Wouldn’t it be great to be the one who proves a species is still alive?

Read more…..

Lodge Review: Copalinga Lodge, Zamora, Ecuador

Copalinga is a real treat and I highly recommend it for bird-lovers and eco-tourists!  It is surrounded by lush tropical gardens with hummingbird feeders in the bar and around the garden.

In the daylight, it is easy to see the entrance but arriving after dark as we did because of the mudslides enroute was another story!  It wasn’t until the next day I could fully appreciate the beauty of the grounds.

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The entrance leads to the restaurant/reception/bar area.  Meals are available but must be booked in advance.DSCN0528

We had a beautiful little cabin with great views over the garden.  It really breaks my heart that we had to cut our stay short so we couldn’t enjoy it more.DSCN0555 DSCN0556 DSCN0558 DSCN0559

The room is a good size and quite comfortable with an ensuite bathroom.DSCN0443 DSCN0445 DSCN0444 DSCN0446

The restaurant and bar.DSCN0580

Local artisans provide some really cool handicrafts for sale.  I bought some earrings and keychains (which I convert to Christmas tree ornaments).DSCN0579

The bar serves both humans and hummingbirds!  I’ll do a separate post just to focus on the many stunning hummingbirds.DSCN0561

You can book Copalinga via their website.  Catherine, the extremely helpful owner can arrange anything you want in terms of transportation to/from airport, bus stations and Podocarpus.  She can also organize a birding guide for a very reasonable price.  In April 2016 it was $80 for a Spanish speaking local guide who knows the birds very well.  You can also book an English speaking guide from Loja for a bit more plus his room and board. Copalinga is very concerned with minimizing their ecological footprint.

Catherine goes out of her way to look after her guests.  I had booked for 2 nights with the intention of leaving early in the morning to Loja for the bus to Pinas.  Because of the landslides, there was no way we would have made it in time so Catherine let us off the 2nd night so we could stay in Loja.  I really hated to leave Copalinga as it is so nice there and I could have stayed hours just watching the hummingbirds but the alternative would have been about $170 for a combination of taxis to our next destination.

 

Getting From Loja Airport (Catamayo) To Zamora (Podocarpus)

Arriving at Loja’s airport in Catamayo was quite an adventure.  I had toyed with the idea of renting a car but there are no car rental companies there.  You simply walk from the plane across the tarmac, through the tiny arrival hall where bags are delivered and straight out to the parking lot where LOTS of taxi drivers are competing for your attention.

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The battle of the yellow vs the white taxis!  I didn’t know which one to go for.  Prices are pretty much fixed as the owner of Copalinga Lodge had told us at around $35-38 USD.  Ecuador uses the USD as their own currency.  DSCN0432 DSCN0433 DSCN0435

Finally we were off!  It was a smooth trip from the airport at Catamayo to Loja city, just under an hour away.

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The road from Loja to Zamora is beautiful and scenic but it does have problems with mudslides.  We were delayed about 2 hours stuck in traffic while one mudslide was cleared and the two lanes of traffic (inbound and outbound) took turns passing through.  DSCN0440 DSCN0441

The distance in kilometers isn’t far, it’s the mudslides that get you!  It was well after dark by the time we arrived at Copalinga.  This is something to consider if you have bus connections onwards.  Theoretically a taxi should get you from Copalinga to the Loja bus station in 2-2.5 hours but the mudslides can push you way back so if you have an early flight or bus it’s best to spend the last night in Loja.