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Always something new…

October 4, 2019

Not quite sure how this has happened already, but our time managing Las Tangaras has come to an end…time flies in the rainforest! As we reflected on our past few months of looking after the reserve, we both had the same revelation – every single day, we have each noticed something new. Perhaps it was a cool new butterfly that hadn’t made an appearance before, or a plant that had suddenly flowered and was then unrecognisable – it was clear that no two days are the same at Reserva Las Tangaras.

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There were many beautiful species of day-flying moth

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These unidentified grasshoppers were stunning

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We couldn’t even begin to identify the flora!

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The forest is full of a huge diversity of flowers

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Western Basilisk were common along the river

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Green Sipo – our only encounter with this stunning snake

For instance – we were walking the Bosque trail early September, high in the primary forest at around 11am, something we had done many times before without really seeing much. Then suddenly, a group of 6 White-faced Capuchin monkeys come crashing through the trees above us! These elusive animals are a threatened species and seeing them well is very rare, so we were absolutely spoilt when this group decided to stick around and forage, effortlessly leaping around in the canopy whilst keeping an ever-watchful eye on those weird, tall monkey-things gawking at them from below. Surprise encounters like this ensured that no matter how well you think you know a trail, something unexpected will always come along and prove you wrong!

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We had also been seeing regular changes in the hummingbird species present at the feeders over our last month. A female Empress Brilliant FINALLY made an appearance, having not seen one for 3 months whilst a number of males show up daily – reassuring to see that females do indeed exist! Perhaps an even nicer (and much more unexpected) visitor to the feeders was a stunning male Collared Inca, a species only recently added to the reserve list and thought to inhabit much higher elevations than the cabin. Maybe he was lost – but hopefully he’ll start to be a regular visitor! We also started to get daily visits from a very aggressive (yet very impressive) male Violet-tailed Sylph, who seems more interested in picking a fight than using the feeders. These few interesting changes, along with many others, kept us on our toes as we never knew exactly what the daily hummingbird count would bring.

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Collared Inca

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Violet-tailed Sylph

Along with amazing rare mammal encounters and ever-changing hummingbird species diversity, there were plenty of other things constantly evolving at the reserve. Maybe it was a new leak in the water system, or a changing weather pattern, or visitors asking questions that you hadn’t even thought about the answer before, there is always something new at Reserva Las Tangaras. Due to this, we felt like we were also constantly learning and adapting to life at the reserve, as it presented its new challenges along with new species to look at and in Alex’s case, get that perfect photograph!

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Fixing the water system was a tough (if very picturesque) job after some heavy rains shifted the intake

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Living without mains electricity meant lots of candlelit evenings

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Bird ringing (banding) in the rainforest was a clear highlight of our time at RLT

So from us this is farewell, as we return back to Scotland and having seasons again, where autumn (the BEST time of year) will be in full swing. We have left the reserve in the extremely capable hands of Guillermo y Ayla, who we’re sure will soon found out about the unexpected nature of life at RLT!

Alex and Georgia

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Bird Banding in the rainforest!

August 31, 2019

Another few weeks have flown by here at Las Tangaras since our last blog, which included having the Life Net Nature August bird banding expedition come to the reserve! As avid banders ourselves, we were more than happy to get stuck in and help to monitor the avian life at the reserve, which happens twice a year during these projects. We and the Ecuadorian staff greeted Kevin (the project leader) and three keen volunteers at the cabin after their journey from Quito, then it was straight into orientation before dinner and our first of many nightly bird lists – better known as La Lista! This consisted of going through the reserve bird list and recording what everyone had managed to see and hear each day. Our highest single day total was an impressive 129 species!

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Watching a Chocó Toucan

Next morning was an early start to do our first of three walking surveys around the reserve, followed by setting up 30 mist nets around the secondary forest and riparian habitats near the cabin – all set for the next couple of mornings of bird banding. We caught an interesting variety of species, from tiny Wedge-billed Hummingbirds to an impressive Rufous Motmot, as well as some rarer birds such as Olive Finch, which are known to be declining here.

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Wedge-billed Hummingbird (female)

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Rufous Motmot

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Olive Finch

After a couple of sessions around the cabin, it was time to do our second walking survey and then hike all the gear (30 nets and 60 poles) up to the primary forest. What a workout! It’s always worth the effort though, as we found out over the next two mornings of 4:15am starts and 30-minute treks up the hill. In the upper forest we caught some AMAZING species! Colombian Screech-Owl was an unexpected find in the net and a species that we hadn’t detected at all on our surveys – a gorgeous bird to say the least. A fierce female Barred Forest Falcon was also amongst the highlights, as well as a beautiful Beryl-spangled Tanager and probably the most unexpected, a White-throated Quail-Dove! These birds are large, round and have very soft feathers, so typically do not catch well in the passerine mist nets, however Pascual (one of the Ecuadorian staff members and banding expert) was there fast enough to get to it! We also caught a new male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, which was colour-banded as a contribution to the ongoing project at the reserve. Overall a great couple of sessions, proving the age-old theory of high effort leading to high reward.

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Colombian Screech-Owl

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Barred Forest Falcon

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Beryl-spangled Tanager

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White-throated Quail-Dove

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Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

After a day off consisting of a hike (birding all the way of course) into Mindo for some well-earned beer and pizza, we all went up at dawn to see the spectacle of the Cock-of-the-Rock lek, and then set up our 30 nets in our final sampling habitat, the recovering pasture across the river. This is usually the busiest place for banding, so we spent three sessions there to get a decent sample of new and recaptured birds. This pasture brought us some weird and wonderful species; a male Golden-winged Manakin was an incredible find in the nets, as it is a rarely seen species on the reserve and they are probably the most adorable yet bizarre birds ever! We got some unusual hummers for the reserve too, including Buff-tailed Coronet (usually a higher elevation species) and the endangered and rarely-seen Hoary Puffleg. Another treat to see up close was a Pale-mandibled Araçari, a banding first for Kevin who has been coming to the reserve for many projects now.

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Golden-winged Manakin

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Hoary Puffleg

After all our banding sessions, we just had our final walking survey to do and then it was time for some reflection on our work during the project. The volunteers put together some great presentations using the data we’d collected, and Kevin gave us an interesting overview of our captures and sightings over the two weeks. We ended up banding just over 400 birds, with around 150 recaptures of birds banded on previous projects. During the two weeks we collectively detected 178 species of birds around the reserve and Mindo – a fantastic effort!

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A typical scene of the 2 week expedition…

It’s always a privilege to be able to safely capture and handle such amazing species, whilst contributing to such a worthwhile cause and collecting some great data. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the tireless efforts and enthusiasm from our volunteers, the excellent organisation of basically everything from finances to fieldwork from project leader Kevin, the expertise of the local staff and not forgetting the delicious food made by local cooks, who made sure we were always well fed. We had a brilliant couple of weeks and banded some amazing species with some great company. Thank you all!

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A birthday celebration thrown by our wonderful Ecuadorian staff!

If you would like to come on one of these fantastic banding expeditions, there is one coming up from the 2nd – 15th December 2019 which still has a few spaces available – contact Dr. Dusti Becker – dustizuni@yahoo.com – for details and application form from Life Net Nature.

A Birder’s Paradise!

August 3, 2019

We have been managing the reserve for over a month now – high time we introduced ourselves! We are Alex and Georgia, a couple from Scotland, both graduates in biology and lovers of wildlife, particularly birds, and therefore in paradise at Reserva Las Tangaras! Our first month has gone by in a whirlwind, with the steep learning curve that comes with managing this amazing place and being thrown into rainforest life on the other side of the world.

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A little more colourful than the birds we’re used to catching at home!

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Always scanning… but we’ve seen Torrent Ducks, Sunbitterns and a Ringed Kingfisher from that spot!

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We didn’t know leaves came this big

At home, we are used to life on the Scottish coast, with its unpredictable (but usually cold…) weather, views across the sea, and all the home comforts of electricity, WiFi and the luxury of travel by car. It’s safe to say that life at Las Tangaras is a little different! The constantly pleasant temperature, predictable daily weather pattern, and distance from ‘civilisation’ have made for a stark and refreshing change. Our alarm clock is now a chorus of Brown Violetears and Wattled Guans, and waking up to that sound after 10 hours of sleep, in total darkness and with only the sound of rainfrogs and the rushing river, is an amazing feeling.

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Brown Violetears make up the bulk of our dawn chorus

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Dawn breaking from the lodge

As keen birders back home, where we’re used to being absolutely familiar with every bird that flits across in front of us, or sings from the trees, being tossed into the rainforest was quite a shock! The diversity and density of species here is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and the initial feeling of not knowing a single species that we were listening to was daunting. However, you quickly become familiar with what you regularly see and hear, and we’ve now racked up well over 160 species of bird since arriving, in just the small area of the reserve and the road to Mindo. In the forest, many of the birds are just as likely to come to you as you are to find them yourself, so birding from the porch over meals can be highly productive as flocks move through. From the gaudy Tanagers and Barbets that flit through the treetops gorging on fruit, to the more subdued but equally characterful Foliage-gleaners and Woodcreepers that methodically work the lower branches and trunks, searching out caterpillars and insects, or if you’re lucky, a roving group of Toucans calling from the treetops, there is always something to see while you eat your breakfast!

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Red-headed Barbet

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Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner

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Choco Toucan

We couldn’t talk about the birds without mentioning the hummingbirds of course. The feeders outside the lodge that we dutifully fill each morning attract a huge variety of these amazing birds, and their chases and squabbles over sugar make for endless entertainment. As Matias and Facundo said in their previous blog post, it is impossible not to anthropomorphise them. Our current favourite is a newcomer – a female Purple-throated Woodstar that has appeared here in the last week, joining the two males already visiting.  She’s the smallest at the feeders, at only around 6cm long and weighing as little as 3 grams, it’s hard to convey just how tiny she is. Despite her tiny stature, she takes no nonsense from the Brown Violetears that try to bully her away, and doggedly returns again and again, flying in like a chubby feathered bumblebee, until she gets a chance to dip her bill in and take a drink.

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Our female Purple-throated Woodstar

At the moment, we’re making the final preparations for the arrival of our bird banding team, who will stay for 2 weeks and gather some fantastic data on the species using the various habitats across the reserve. We’ll be back with another blog after the expedition has finished, hopefully having banded plenty of amazing birds!

 

Learning at Las Tangaras

July 13, 2019

When we applied to be managers at Las Tangaras we had to logically describe our previous work and research experience. In other words, like any other job, we had to say what we knew and why we were qualified to run a place like Las Tangaras. However confident we were, we had no idea how much we would learn in only three months. At Las Tangaras not only do you learn a lot, but you learn fast. And so, with our tenure coming to an end, here are just a few of the innumerable things we’ve learned:

You learn that the weather in Mindo is delightfully comfortable year-round, rarely dropping below 60 ºF or going above 80 ºF.

You learn that the rainy season is, well, rainy. It rains every single day in the afternoon. You’ve been warned.

You learn about “Ecuadorian time” and that the very concept of time is different here. 20 minutes will likely be an hour or two and “two days from now” really means “sometime in the next week”.

You learn that over 350 bird species have been seen at Las Tangaras. And you obsess about seeing them all.

 

You learn that Andean Cock-of-the-Rock males congregate in a specific location twice a day every day (a lek). And you learn that they are LOUD.

You learn to recognize the Chocó Toucan and the Yellow-throated Toucan by their calls. The Chocó toucan has a croaky call, giving a series of croaking “grrrack…grrrack….grrrack….grrrack”  calls. In contrast, the Yellow-throated Toucan yelps, a far-carrying “keyeeer, te-deo, te-deo” that sounds quite different. Easy, right?

You learn that different hummingbird species have very distinct behaviors and even individual personalities. Purple-throated woodstars are tiny, chubby, and adorable, while Brown violetears are aggressive, mean bullies that you want to shoo away. It’s very hard not to anthropomorphize them.

 

You learn how to do night hikes and find very cool nocturnal animals. They key is to walk slowly and look for the reflective eye-shine of insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

 

You learn that a sharp machetes is sharp and will cut through a whole lot easily, including your rubber boot and the water system hose.

You learn how to fix a gravity-only water system after you accidentally cut the rubber hose with your machete. Oops.

You learn how to cook and store food without electricity.

You learn how to make delicious Ecuadorian dishes like tigrillo and platanos fritos.

 

You learn how to harvest bananas! Did you know you cut the whole tree down?

You learn that getting birds to come eat the bananas you set out every day for them is pretty hard, but that bats and butterflies will find them immediately.

 

You learn that getting 8-9 hours of sleep with a rushing river as background noise feels amazing.

Finally, you learn that there’s no real way to list all the things you’ve learned in only three months and that an experience at Las Tangaras–be it one night or 90 nights–is one you’ll never forget.

 

For more amazing pictures, follow us on Instagram!

Visiting Las Tangaras

June 9, 2019

This month we received a special visitor…our dad! Fortunately for us, he volunteered to write a post about his experience at Reserva Las Tangaras from the perspective of a guest. After all, we’ve been here over two months and have a certain bias we cannot shake. So, want to know what it’s like to spend 3 days at the reserve? Read Eduardo’s experience below…

After a two-hour drive from Quito I arrived in Mindo.  Finding the main plaza was hardly a challenge in this remarkably small and cute little town.  My sons have told me “we will meet you in the plaza”, and immediately we did; a slow drive around was enough to spot them having lunch at one of the local restaurants.  I joined them for lunch eager to head to my final destination, Reserva Las Tangaras.

They suggested (more like they decided) to take a taxi to cover the 5km, uphill, from town to the trailhead leading to the reserve.  It did not take me long to appreciate their wise decision.  If this is your first day in the mountain, after an international trip spanning 12 hours, you may want to catch a ride and save your energy for the 2km walk from the road to the reserve.  An easy, downhill, pleasant stride, a wonderful warming-up to the nature wonders of the area.

After crossing the river over the recently renovated hanging bridge, we arrived at the lodge.  I was shown to my “quarters”, a comfortable mattress on the floor of an open area with absolutely fantastic views of the forest, the river and the birds.  I could tell right away that I had ahead some very relaxing days.

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I am writing this when I am about to leave.  During these 4 days we did some pleasant, yet challenging, walks along the trails; the best one started before dawn, heading up along the Bosques trail to the Cock of the Rock lek.  The opportunity to observe the lek and the males singing and displaying makes the visit worth it.  But it wasn’t just that.  I take home, and to be with me for the rest of my life, so many wonderful moments: having breakfast in the porch while observing up to 12 (yes, 12!) different hummingbird species a yard away, waking up to the first rays of light, laying on the mattress, watching the sky and listening to the river, enjoying some delicious candle-lit meals prepared by Matías and Facundo (disclaimer: my sons), going on a night walk to find a glassfrog, and not having internet or wifi (yes, try it, what if you realize it feels amazing?).

In conclusion, if you want to truly experience what it feels to be in a remote area, only surrounded by nature, it does not get any better than spending sometime in the reserve.  I hope you will visit!

Eduardo Fernandez-Duque

Global Big Day

May 17, 2019

Millions of people around the world like to spend their time birdwatching and identifying birds as they enjoy nature. As a result, many different birding activities have arisen, including one for even the most competitive of people: The Big Day. A Big Day consists of identifying as many bird species as possible, either by sound or sight, in the span of 24 hours. One of the most famous Big Days is the World Series of Birding, a 24-hour birdwatching marathon that pins groups of avid birders against each other in New Jersey, USA. These Big Days also have the added benefit of helping the scientific community and, in turn, the birds! By recording the birds that are seen (usually in a website like eBird) people can help biologists get a better idea of bird diversity and population changes. So, being competitive and aspiring biologists, we decided to join the Global Big Day on May 4th.

We started our day by waking up at 5:30am and heading up the Barbudos Trail exactly at 6:00am. Our goal was to bird the higher elevation trails of the reserve—Bosque & Tucanes—in hopes of finding some trogons, toucans, pigeons, etc. At 6:00am, there was very little light in the forest and visibility is limited, so we spent the first half hour identifying species almost exclusively by sound. And so, our first few identifications, by call only, were:

  • Brown Violetear (#1)
  • Andean Solitaire (#2)
  • Red-headed Barbet (#3)
  • Choco Toucan (#4)

Up on the Bosque trail the quiet of the early morning quickly became a cacophony of Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (#7), as over 15 males displayed loudly and colorfully at their usual lek. Despite the busy show, we were able to spot a Crimson-rumped toucanet (#10), Chestnut-capped Brushfinch (#11), and a couple of Crested Guans (#19). We left the Bosque trail happy to have identified over 20 species but bummed to have missed out on the Masked Trogon and Pale-mandibled Aracari.

Next, we headed back to the lodge for a quick breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee, which we ate while counting the 12 regular species of hummingbirds that come to our feeders. To our surprise, we were visited by a Buff-tailed Coronet (#41), who has claimed a patch of flowers in front of the lodge ever since.

At 9:00am, as we head out on the entrance trail towards town, we had already identified over 40 species. Not a bad start, but we were missing many of the species we see every day!

Our entrance trail is one of our favorite trails, a beautiful winding path through the forest that connects the reserve to the famous via a las cascadas (the road to Mindo). We typically see dozens of species on the trail, most often in large mixed flocks. However, on this day, this Big Day, we could not find a single mixed flock! We had walked nearly half the trail without one, growing increasingly frustrated at what seemed to be an empty forest. But finally, as we neared the road, our perseverance paid off as we found ourselves in the middle of a huge mixed flock of over 20 species, some of which included:

  • Club-winged Manakin (#45)
  • Ornate Flycatcher (#46)
  • Tricolored Brushfinch (#47)
  • Flame-faced Tanager (#48)
  • Rufous-throated Tanager (#49)
  • Blue-necked Tanager (#50)
  • …and so many more!

Our next stop was Mindo, where we hoped—expected really—to see some “town birds” that are hard to see on the reserve. To our surprise and delight, we spotted an additional 22 species in town, including a Bronze-winged Parrot (#67), a Masked Water-Tyrant (#70), and a couple of Gray-breasted Martins (#74). The highlight, however, was undoubtedly the Hook-billed Kite (#75) that posed perfectly for a picture.

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Hook-billed Kite

After a quick lunch, we hurried back to Las Tangaras to look for some of the species that had eluded us thus far. Undeterred by the daily afternoon rain (it is the rainy season, after all), we headed towards the river where we saw a Torrent Tyrannulets (#96), a couple of Fawn-breasted Tanagers (#97), and several White-collated Swifts (#98). We also got lucky and spotted a couple of Torrent Ducks (#103)¸which we could not help but admire as they deftly swam upstream against the strong current.

Every Big Day has that one common species that for some reason refuses to show up all day. For us, that was the Smoke-colored Peewee. We had been seeing this bird in the same tree every day for a month, and yet today, when we needed it most, it was nowhere to be seen. It was 6:00pm and getting dark, as we sat patiently in our “Pewee spot” waiting for species #104. Finally, when we could hardly see anything and were getting up to call it a day, the Smoke-colored Peewee (#104) flies in, lands in its usual spot, and brings an end to our Big Day.

That night, we excitedly counted and recalled what we had seen, checking off each species with glee. We were even able to identify 3 additional species whose calls we had heard but could not identify without comparing them to recordings. These last-minute identifications brought our grand total to 108 species, surpassing completely our goal of 90 that we had set the day before.

From celebrating seeing a Turkey Vulture to rolling our eyes at the ridiculous number of Yellow-throated Bush-tanagers, we had an amazing and fun day! We invite anyone (regardless of their skill level!) to discover the joys of a Big Day and help biologists worldwide.

Full list of birds seen on May 4th, 2019 (Global Big Day):

  1. Torrent Duck
  2. Crested Guan
  3. Dark-backed Wood-Quail
  4. Rock Pigeon
  5. Plumbeous Pigeon
  6. White-tipped Dove
  7. Smooth-billed Ani
  8. Squirrel Cuckoo
  9. White-collared Swift
  10. White-necked Jacobin
  11. White-whiskered Hermit
  12. Tawny-bellied Hermit
  13. White-throated Wedgebill
  14. Brown Violetear
  15. Purple-crowned Fairy
  16. Brown Inca
  17. Buff-tailed Coronet
  18. Booted Racket-tail
  19. Purple-bibbed Whitetip
  20. Fawn-breasted Brilliant
  21. Green-crowned Brilliant
  22. Empress Brilliant
  23. Purple-throated Woodstar
  24. Crowned Woodnymph
  25. Andean Emerald
  26. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  27. Black Vulture
  28. Turkey Vulture
  29. Hook-billed Kite
  30. Swallow-tailed Kite
  31. Red-headed Barbet
  32. Crimson-rumped Toucanet
  33. Yellow-throated Toucan
  34. Choco Toucan
  35. Smoky-brown Woodpecker
  36. Golden-olive Woodpecker
  37. Red-billed Parrot
  38. Bronze-winged Parrot
  39. Russet Antshrike
  40. Rufous-breasted Antthrush
  41. Montane Woodcreeper
  42. Pale-legged Hornero
  43. Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner
  44. Red-faced Spinetail
  45. Slaty Spinetail
  46. Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  47. Torrent Tyrannulet
  48. Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant
  49. Choco Tyrannulet
  50. Ornate Flycatcher
  51. Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
  52. Common Tody-Flycatcher
  53. Smoke-colored Pewee
  54. Black Phoebe
  55. Masked Water-Tyrant
  56. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  57. Social Flycatcher
  58. Golden-crowned Flycatcher
  59. Tropical Kingbird
  60. Andean Cock-of-the-rock
  61. Club-winged Manakin
  62. Cinnamon Becard
  63. Lesser Greenlet
  64. Blue-and-white Swallow
  65. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  66. Gray-breasted Martin
  67. Scaly-breasted Wren
  68. House Wren
  69. Bay Wren
  70. Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
  71. Andean Solitaire
  72. Thick-billed Euphonia
  73. Orange-bellied Euphonia
  74. Yellow-throated Chlorospingus
  75. Dusky Chlorospingus
  76. Orange-billed Sparrow
  77. Chestnut-capped Brushfinch
  78. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  79. Tricolored Brushfinch
  80. Shiny Cowbird
  81. Giant Cowbird
  82. Scrub Blackbird
  83. Tropical Parula
  84. Blackburnian Warbler
  85. Three-striped Warbler
  86. Slate-throated Redstart
  87. White-shouldered Tanager
  88. Flame-rumped Tanager
  89. Fawn-breasted Tanager
  90. Blue-gray Tanager
  91. Palm Tanager
  92. Rufous-throated Tanager
  93. Golden-naped Tanager
  94. Blue-necked Tanager
  95. Beryl-spangled Tanager
  96. Bay-headed Tanager
  97. Flame-faced Tanager
  98. Golden Tanager
  99. Silver-throated Tanager
  100. Purple Honeycreeper
  101. Saffron Finch
  102. Blue-black Grassquit
  103. Variable Seedeater
  104. Yellow-bellied Seedeater
  105. Bananaquit
  106. Buff-throated Saltator
  107. Black-winged Saltator
  108. Barred Becard

 

To see our latest sightings, check out our eBird Hotspot!

 

 

 

 

Orchid Hunters

April 24, 2019

Local orchid hunter and bird expert, Rudy Gelis, and local herpetologist, Eric Osterman, and I went out for a hike into Reserva Las Tangaras. We trekked slowly through the forest to get to the reserve, listening to the birds enjoy the last rays of morning sunshine and searching for the local monkey troop as they paraded through the canopy. The purpose of our hike was to hunt down and photograph orchids to contribute to the extensive database that Rudy has been contributing to for the past year.

Ecuador alone contains 4,032 described orchid species, and 1,710 of those species are endemic to the country. These statistics help note the high diversity within this family and the rapid hybridization rates. Due to the epiphytic nature of orchids, deforestation jeopardizes their survival; 98% of the endemic species of orchids are threatened.

As an introduction to orchid anatomy, we’ll cover the most interesting and visible parts of an orchid. First, the sepals are located further back on the flower – analogous with the green structures beneath a rose but are much more predominant in the case of orchids. The petals follow and consist of two normal petals and one lip petal, the part that serves as a pollinator landing strip. In the center of the flower is the column, where all the magic happens. There are two types of root structure amongst orchids, the first hug the host tree and the second has roots that grow upwards and outwards posing as a baseball glove waiting to catch falling organic material.  For orchids to take root, a mycorrhizae fungal relationship needs to take place. This fungus attaches itself to uptake water and nutrients from decaying wood and other nearby organic material.

Continuing our walk, as we reached the footbridge leading to the reserve, Rudy spotted a pair of beautiful, creamy colored orchids, Trigonidium riopalenquense, dangling above the rushing Rio Nambillo in a flowering Sietecueros tree (Tibouchina lepidota). Continuing alongside the river, we encountered a delicate Stellis spp. with purple sepals and petals arranged along a beautiful flower stalk.

Following the Barbudos trail, we discovered an orchid heaven among the intersection of four of our trails. This point is located on a ridge which, as we learned from Rudy, creates a microclimate perfect for orchids. The ridge structure enables emerging clouds to shed moisture as they climb the mountains, and the angle of sunlight can filtrate easier through canopy vegetation to feed epiphytes.  In this spot, we discovered Scaphosepalum beluosum, a dramatic yellow and pink-spotted flower with basket roots. This is a species of orchids that continue to flower throughout the year regardless of seasonality. Our next encounter was a Pleurothallis conicostigma, a delicate translucent-yellow flower that looked like two Russian dolls. The Pleurothallis genus is identifiable by the flowers growing out from within the leaf base, rather than creating a long stalk for flowers.  Following that, we discovered a bundle of Onicidium hapalotyle. An orchid that sends out a long and large flower peduncle arranged with bright yellow sepals and petals.  The last orchid that we saw, Platystele spp., had flowers that were smaller than the metal tip of a pen. The genus Platystele, is famous for possessing microscopic flowers – most people while looking at a tree, would not even see this tiny plant.

The orchid family is far from being well-understood. Countless new species are being discovered, and with good reason – imagine climbing to the canopies of ancient trees to find a plant the size of a coin! By preserving 50 hectares of ideal habitat for epiphytes, Reserva Las Tangaras can be considered an orchid paradise – and an orchid-hunter paradise.

57987832_2115201948770036_1155851471166636032_n

Trigonidium riopalenquense

58616601_710255649390890_7053864028489121792_n

Stellis spp.

IMG-9197 (1)

Scaphosepalum beluosum

E817719F-9941-406F-B32B-004558D09C65

Pleurothallis conicostigma

58420214_409124703212650_6372259500367282176_n

Onicidium hapalotyle

54521932_1417692488383404_7901192412347760640_n

Platystele spp.