Dodging Landslides

To find more of the Choco endemics, we left our lodge very early one morning for a two-hour drive to the Mashpi-Amagusa Reserve. The specific location of this forest makes it special since this area is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador, and the change in altitude provides habitat for different species than those found in higher altitudes. 

Twenty minutes before we reached our destination, we came to an area of the dirt road that was flooded and appeared to be impassable. Just as we were about to turn around, a truck came from the other direction and navigated successfully through the muck and mire. So, happily, on we went, only to arrive here:

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Luckily, we had just reached the boundary of the private reserve, and the owner and our guide for the day, Sergio, was there to meet us. We only had to walk up and around the landslide; our van and driver remained behind.

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Our birding adventure began with beautiful views as we walked along the road.

And it wasn’t too long before we were rewarded with a sighting of our first target bird of the day – the Orange-breasted Fruiteater.  Our guides, Andreas and Sergio, heard it first, and then we caught click glimpses of its bright colors as it hopped behind the thick foliage. Finally, we were treated to wonderful clear views of it.  He almost appeared to be showing of its dining area of fruit.

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After about a mile of walking down the road with various other bird sightings, we arrived at the banana feeders – jackpot time!  We were able to see a number of colorful tanagers at a very close range. This is probably the best place in the world to see some of the Choco endemic tanagers so easily!

My favorite was the Moss-Backed Tanager:

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The Glistening Green Tanager was another, certainly living up to its name!

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The Black-Chinned Mountain Tanager was also striking.

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The Rufous-throated Tanager is a little more subtle in its coloring, but another endemic we were happy to find.

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The hummingbird feeders here were also extremely busy, and we saw at least 40 other species of various kinds – hummers, becards, parrots, guans, wood-creepers, flycatchers and more on our outing to Mashpi.

The landslide had been cleared by the time we were ready to leave, so our return walk was a little shorter. A group of happy campers returned to our lodge late in the afternoon. At dinner, we were reviewing all of our great finds, when the lights suddenly went out. Nonplussed, we assumed it was a power surge that would be quickly remedied.  That was not to be the case! Our waiter soon arrived with the news of a major landslide just beyond the lodge entrance that had completely covered the road and had taken out the utility pole servicing the lodge.

But more about that in Choco Endemics- Part III!