A forest of Ceibos – (Ceiba_trichistandra)

(Header image, Black & White Becard, male) 

La Tomatera Cyclists Trails – Portoviejo/Ecuador –  Today is the final day for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, and this past weekend I’ve been in (almost) total immersion in a magical realm – as if stepping back in time and viewing the dry forest through the eyes of the original explorers.   The best part is that this is a cyclists’ paradise, so there are trails for an intrepid birder to navigate while always being on guard for a cyclist to be careening around a curve at any moment.  

Respecting this ultra-quiet area, I try to step way off the trail when the bikers approach.  Usually there is a low ‘roaring’ sound as they race downhill or along the flat stretches, but sometimes there’s a near miss — but their reactions surprise me.  Look at this candid response:

He zoomed past, I exclaimed, “Per-DON!’ and he braked to a stop at the next ‘Y.’

Instead of snarling and grumbling about an unexpected birder in his path, he offered a refreshing respite for both of us and posed before departing.

Jorge (Jurg) Arnet from Poza Honda has accompanied me in the past week, as has Luis Saltos from Chone.   They both brought good luck, as we’ve seen two new species of Cuckoos (for us and for the area) as well as appreciating the beauty and serenity of the area.

Here’s a pictorial of a tiny slice of this refuge:

With Luis’ help, the list for la Tomatera is around 95 species, and we never visited this area until mid January.

Yes, magnificent Ceibos preside over the landscape, but a human in the photo always helps establish the scale…

Very near this powerful tree was one lone migratory – and impressive – bird, the Black-billed Cuckoo.   “Get a photo of it’s tail – it’s tail!” Luis kept whispering, and I marveled that its color and eye ring were much like an Ecuadorian Thrush.

From January – Ecuadorian Thrush

Ignoring the drizzle, we attempted to get clear images of a rare bird that seemed oblivious that we were present.  This is the best I could do, but with a video, we were able to analyze and confirm, yes, it is the Black-billed Cuckoo.   

Only thirty or so yards away we had seen and photographed its cousin, the Gray-capped Cuckoo:

and another bird – not yet identified by me – allowed a fast photo – before the rains sent us in retreat.

A rain-soaked bird can be a challenge for me to identify. That’s when the network of friends can help!

The two images below are labeled, ‘Mystery Bird’ – only a fast glimpse and then they are gone.

a female seedeater?

—-? —-

The Yellow-rumped Caciques remain in nesting mode – always a great photo op:

White-edged Oriole

Vasconcellea parviflora  (Ancient relative to the papaya) see iNaturalist

Just higher than a meter from the ground, this nest captured my curiosity. Two small birds zoomed in two different directions.

Henna-hooded Foliage Gleaner (Photo by Luis Saltos)

Golden Grosbeak, in perpetual clear-pitched harmonies

Ecuadorian Trogon with its stylish red-framed eyes.

Birding along the main (and only) road, which is a semi-private road for landowners and cyclists, at times a group of walkers or joggers – and with permission, an occasional birder!

The Laughing Falcon often offers its nervous and jittery chatter.  It’s great to locate the raptor, acknowledge its presence, and admire it for a while.

This Laughing Falcon provided countless poses.

To this group I pointed to the falcon and mentioned that its preferred food was snakes.

They continued, as did the falcon.

But the falcon made one more surprise visit, sweeping low and into the scrub – and emerged with a snake in its talons.   Indeed, I followed it!

Ten or so minutes later a jaguarondi slinked through the same area.

For Linda and Steve, here is some eye candy to prove that it’s not just birds that capture my interest!

Hummingbird (Amazilia?) visiting a mystery plant far off the trail.

“…Hibiscus escobariae is a species of flowering plant in the Malvaceae family. It is found only in Ecuador. ” Montúfar, R. & Pitman, N. 2004. Hibiscus escobariae. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

On Saturday we admired an extremely petite hibiscus…


The Ceibos are watching…


To be indoors and safe – or outdoors and soaked, hmmm, for me the best choice is outdoors!  One never knows what surprises await!



Today is the final day for the Backyard bird count – perhaps you have half an hour to report your special feathered friends.  If so, start here: Great Backyard Bird Count