“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” — John Muir
Pachyramphus spodiurus (Slaty Becard) – From the IUCN RED LIST: “… This species qualifies as Endangered as it has a very small and severely fragmented range, which is declining rapidly owing to ongoing habitat loss. Although it may show some tolerance of degraded habitat, the species appears to be genuinely rare and to be undergoing population decline.”
Poza Honda/Manabi/Ecuador – With a sense of mysterious expectation, I left on a brisk walk to check on the Becard nest. It’s located very high in a treetop, and photos taken against the bright sky are very disappointing. Any photo, however, is better than none when trying to confirm that an endangered bird is nesting in the neighborhood!
According to Roger Ahlman of eBird, “…If one gray and one brown then definitely Slaty. If two brown then Cinnamon. And of course the song is different. Try to nail that and then input as many breeding details as possible including pictures in eBird even if it should turn out to be Cinnamon Becard.”
The first photo of the day captured the progress of the Scarlet Rumped Cacique’s nest, which pulls the branch of bamboo closer and closer to the road.
Yesterday the Buff-rumped Warblers guarded the pond, but today all was quiet.
Just around the bend are four ‘tunnel’ holes in the hillside, and I’ve been wondering, ‘Whooping Motmot or one of the resident Kingfishers?’ This past week the owner stopped and posed for a photo!
The kingfisher wasn’t home today…
Next door to the kingfisher’s quarters was the Becard’s nest; the entire area, quite active 24 hours ago, seemed to be taking a morning siesta – or maybe they were having a fiesta elsewhere! With mostly-blue skies overhead, I headed for the next lookout point for a good image of ‘The Poza.’
The white feather arrow nudged me to go this way!
The Calabash trees mark ‘Chachalaca Curve,’ which gives a view of the next switchback, home to the Rufous-headed Chacalacas and the empty nest of the Grey Hawk. The hawk always acknowledges my presence with a loud warning, ‘This is MY territory!’
Three groups of Chachalacas provided backup soundtrack; many people might find this intrusive, but their loud raucous squawking makes me smile! One seems to scream, ‘A-donde esTA?’ and the other replies, “ACA!” — Here’s a sample, recorded on this outing:
Perhaps today they were warning the Black Vultures to stay away from their territory…
The vultures and I departed about the same time. They resumed their patrol of the skies while I hoped to see the third group of Chachalacas. The equally-difficult to spot Grey Hawk squawked several times, a good clue that it would reveal its morning perch.
‘Chachalaca Curve’ often puts me close to those elusive Rufous-headed Chachalacas. I’d just left one group – probably laughing that I could not see them – and I hoped to see the third group which had been shouting a short distance up the road.
Movement in the shadows! What’s there?
“Don’t look at those hissing wrens!” the majestic Grey Hawk scolded, “Look on the other side of the road, and you’ll find me!”
Sure enough, far below and perched near its nest, the Grey Hawk allowed several photos, screamed with what seemed to be displeasure, flew a short distance and allowed a few more photos. A Groove-billed Ani dropped into the thick vegetation near the road as if to ask, ”What’s so special out there?”
Perhaps disgusted with my lack of attention, the hawk flew to its usual perch in the Cecropria tree.
Just as it landed, another large bird approached from below, and the hawk careened to the sky and out of sight.
My breath caught in my throat, and I froze, sure that any movement would cause the bird to fly for better cover….
For the next five minutes, I moved closer when the bird looked in other directions. Several different locations allowed for great shots and worthy reference material for future studies.
One last look over its shoulder seemed to be an unspoken message, ‘That’s enough.’
I retreated before spooking that bird and the others, although I nodded and thanked them in English and in Spanish! I also thanked my guardian angels, if they had by any chance played a role in this bird-viewing fiesta.
Unwilling to completely leave that particular spot, I lingered near the wild heliconias while savoring the Chachalaca experience…. When I returned to the road, the other view was a visual shock – reconciling Nature at its best vs the man-altered landscape…
Refusing to allow that view to taint my day, I focused on a few deep-yellow blossoms of a nearby tree. The same tree that gives the squirrel its daily snack….
A new bird sound distracted me, and I searched for the owner of the harsh explosion of wren-like retorts. It flew from behind and crossed to the tree on my side of the road.
Ha! An Orange-fronted Barbet dashed from one treetop to another and paused for a photo! He was definitely worth the distraction!
What’s next, I wondered as I perused that lovely yellow flower….
The Streaked Flycatchers did indeed streak through the canopy while squeaking and chattering, earning a second reason to claim their very-appropriate name.
Several Golden-olive Woodpeckers foraged along limbs and branches, while several Woodcreepers remained elusive…. An out-of-focus Becard taunted, ‘Hey! Have you been looking for me?’
As quickly as it appeared, it vanished, but a new beauty took its place:
The Gartered Trogon! While photographing the Trogon, I watched a ‘new’ Woodcreeper fly to a nearby tree. But wait – What was that gold and black bird that just zipped through the treetops? A Golden bellied Goldfinch!
But that woodcreeper… there was something special about that woodcreeper, and it returned for a better view! A Scythebill! All listed as ‘uncommon’ – but is it Red-billed or Brown-billed? I think it’s Red. Alas, those good folks at eBird will help clarify the identification.
A Black-cheeked Woodpecker dropped in to add its name to the census of birds for the day, as did the Blue-gray Tanager. The Guayaquil Woodpecker requested to be part of the count for the day.
As if to taunt me, a handsome Streak-headed Woodcreeper foraged in front of me. “Are you SURE that was a Scythebill?” it seemed to ask, ‘Or was it the ‘common’ Streak-headed?”
On the way back, I paused for a photo inspection of the hawk’s nest….
With the barren pasture of hillside behind me, I gazed across the contrasting vista of foliage-rich green, home to the Chachalacas, the Gray Hawk, the Scythebill and Streakfaced Woodcreepers, the Barbets….
The cattle silently watched, and possibly wondered who was the strange human….
Then I turned and drank in the view of the reservoir and contemplated how many people depend on that source of pure water…. it provides water for many cities as well as hydroelectric power.
Resuming my walk, I wondered which bird owned that small hole in the balsa tree…. One day will it pose for a photo at its doorway?
As I pondered, a majestic bird landed in the limbs. I laughed, “No, I don’t think you can squeeze your big foot into that little doorway!”
Black Vulture seemed to reply, “I can try!”
I scanned the horizon on the return trip and noted that the barren and scarred areas will look prettier once the rains return. There are patches of green and untouched areas, and for that I am grateful. It could be much worse.
One green switchback later, I approached the area of the Becard’s nest, the reason for my ‘short’ outing. But wait! More birds! Happy birds! Singing Birds! Colorful Birds! Whistling birds!
The Yellow-rumped Caciques swept the competition with ‘Happiest Song,’ but an often-silent feathered resident pulled a ‘finale’ surprise appearance.
Meet the master of ceremonies! The red eye rings shows that it’s the lovely Ecuadorian Trogon.
The next photo stop was the Becard’s nest, the reason for my short outing! Easy to spot, the nest will soon be shrouded with green leaves once the rainy season begins. (That should be any day!)
Escorting me on the final section of the road, the Swallow-tailed Kites sailed through the sky!
As lovely as my outings are, it’s a visual comfort to see the towering Cassia trees at the next switch-back in the road. The stream and pond mark the property line, and the short walk from there to the house takes most people about two minutes. Sometimes it takes me an hour to make that trek! Today’s ‘half-hour nest check’ lasted almost four hours!
Butterflies gather around the water, seedeaters and grassquits nibble the grasses, and the Cecropria tree hosts an ever-changing cast of feathered residents of the Poza Honda neighborhood.
Last and quite petite, the Pygmy Owl often perches in the sky-scraping trees, as if to ask, “Why are you trekking elsewhere when you have an abundance of special creatures in your own yard?”
“Why?” I shrug, “I suppose because…. I can!”