Today, Valentines Day, we departed the Sheraton in Quito at 6:30 am and began the eastern swing of the trip. Our first day though we headed up to Antisana reserve, a high altitude paramo about two hours from the city. We had great weather and many great birds. As a testament to the role of elevation in diversity, we had only 44 species of birds today, BUT 34 of them were new for the trip (even though we already have nearly 300 species!). This was definitely a quality day.
Here are some of my top photos from Antisana... First a shot of the group taken at 13,500 feet with the snow and glacier covered slopes of the volcano behind.
One of the neatest things today was watching a female Andean Hillstar at her feathered lined nest. This is a hummingbird endemic to the high Andes, and it was nesting on an old shepherd shack (which also had a roosting Barn Owl!).
Next a truly stunning bird of prey, the Carunculated Caracara (great name too). This adult was one of over a hundred we say on the high paramo. Unlike most birds of prey, they love to walk around and dig for large insects and mice.
Our local guide Galo noted that the last time he had seen the globally threatened Black-faced Ibis was a year ago when he and I visited here. He said the birds had been absent in his subsequent visits and all the groups since had missed them. However sharp eyed Paul found one walking right near the road, and then we found another group of twelve and another singleton.
Many of the birds here are brown or gray and often hard to see and photograph. This Paramo Ground Tyrant (a type of flycatcher) was an exception. This was techinically probably by best image of the day.