A Visit to Frog Heaven

Barking Treefrog, Hyla gratiosa in a seasonal pond

Barking Treefrog, Hyla gratiosa, in a seasonal pond

It’s been a while since I visited my favorite ponds in Delaware where I have spent many hours photographing.  Carlos Martinez Rivera, herpetologist and frog conservationist with the Philadelphia Zoo, wanted to see Barking Treefrogs, so I was inspired to return at the end of May. These ponds fill with water in the fall and dry out completely most summers. Such seasonal ponds are called vernal pools and are known locally on the Delmarva Peninsula as Delmarva Bays.

Barking Treefrogs amplexus

Barking Treefrogs in amplexus

Barking Treefrogs come down out of the trees in May and June to mate. When a male finds a female he climbs on her back and holds on tight. This nuptial embrace is called amplexus. He will stay with her until she lays eggs in the pond while he fertilizes them.

Barking treefrog

Barking Treefrog calling in pond

Most males do not find mates until they reach the pond. Note the difference in color between this frog and those in the previous photo. When they enter the water (perhaps due to temperature?) they change to a duller, greenish-brown hue.

male barking treefrog

Male Barking Treefrog with vocal sac extended while calling.

The advertisement call that male barking treefrogs broadcast from the pond is “toonk, toonk, etc.” When they are in the trees they bark.

Cope's Gray Treefrog male

Cope’s Gray Treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis,  male between calls

Another one of the ten species of frogs breeding in this pool is Cope’s Gray Treefrog. This one is puffed up and ready to call.

Cope's Gray Treefrog calling

Cope’s Gray Treefrog calling

Cope’s Gray Treefrog calls with a fast, high pitched, unmusical trill.

Eastern Gray Treefrog,

Eastern Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor, male calling

If it wasn’t for the slower, lower-pitched, more musical call of the Eastern Gray Treefrog, it wouldn’t be possible to tell them apart from Cope’s Gray Treefrog in the field. Eastern Gray Treefrogs are tetraploid, meaning they have four sets of chromosomes instead of two like Cope’s Gray Treefrog or most other animals. Apparently they evolved from Cope’s Gray Treefrog. This type of evolution from diploid to tetraploid is more common in plants.

Northern Cricket Frog

Northern Cricket Frog, Acris crepitans, male calling on floating Polygonum leaf

Knock two pebbles together and you can imitate the call of the Northern Cricket Frog. Males often call from floating leaves. This tiny member of the treefrog family lacks the expanded toe pads that allow other treefrogs to scale trees.

Bull Frog

Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus, male floating in pond

Danger lurks in the dark waters. Bullfrogs, the largest of our frogs, may make a meal of any of the above frogs.

Frog Heaven children's book

The best book about vernal pools

I love these ponds so much, I wrote a whole book about them. Frog Heaven: Ecology of a Verna Pool follows a pond from the time it fills in the fall until it dries out in the summer. Vernal pools are critical to amphibians as well as many aquatic invertebrates, ironically because they dry up for part of the year. This keeps fish, major predators, out of the ponds. Find out more about Frog Heaven here.

 

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Yanacocha

Sitting high above Quito, Ecuador, Yanacocha Reserve is a convenient place to visit a temperate Andean forest.  Being so close to Ecuador’s capital, Yanacocha is the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation’s most visited reserve.

Since clouds frequently envelope this forest, epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants without harming them) abound.

Temperate Andean forest

Epiphyte-covered trees in this temperate Andean forest

For us flatlanders who visit for only a couple of days, climbing hills at 3,200 m (10,500 ft) can literally be a breathtaking experience. Fortunately, the main trail though the reserve, the Trocha Inca, is a flat and easy hike.

Inca Trail, Trocha Inca

Trocha Inca (Inca Trail)

Nectar-eating birds are the most conspicuous birds at Yanacocha. One group, the flowerpiercers, cheat flowers by using their hooked beak to pierce the base of the corolla (flower tube). In an instant they drink the nectar without touching the pollen. Consequently, the flower gets nothing out of the deal.

Glossy Flowerpiercer

Glossy Flowerpiercer

More than 30 species of hummingbirds inhabit the reserve, though only about one third of them regularly use the feeders. The beautiful vent of the Sapphire-vented Puffleg can be hard to see behind its bright white booties.

Sapphire-vented Puffleg

Sapphire-vented Puffleg

Perhaps the most common species at the feeders is the Buff-winged Starfrontlet.

Buff-winged Starfrontlet

Buff-winged Starfrontlet

With a beak longer in proportion to its body length than any other bird, the Sword-billed Hummingbird can gain exclusive access to long tubular flower such as certain passionflowers.

Sword-billed Hummingbird

Sword-billed Hummingbird

The Imperial Snipe is a difficult bird to see, but Yanacocha is one of the best places to find one. It inhabits Polylepis forest and wet paramo (high elevation Andean grassland). It is most reliably found at dawn and dusk when it calls during its display flight, but we were lucky to find it during the day in the forest.

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe foraging

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe scratching

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe

Don’t worry; they don’t bite.

Imperial Snipe

Imperial Snipe yawning

Just outside the reserve we flushed this Short-eared Owl.

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Forests of Polylepis grow at high elevation in many parts of the Andes. Unfortunately they have been severely depleted over much of their range.

Polylepis forest

Polylepis forest

Another typical plant of the high Andes, Gunnera, is noteworthy for it huge leaves.

Gunnera leaf

Gunnera leaf

As the young leaves expand, they take on some amazing forms.

Young Gunnera leaf

Young Gunnera leaf

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Young Gunnera leaf

Young Gunnera leaf

Jocotoco Conservation Foundation has built a beautiful interpretive center at Yanacocha Reserve with engaging displays. A cozy cafeteria sits on top of the center. The center is particularly busy on weekends since it is just a 45-minute drive from Quito.

Yanacocha Interpretive Center

Liliana and Ximena at Yanacocha Interpretive Center

This ends my Jocotoco posts for the season. Many thanks to all of the employees and board members of Jocotoco Conservation Foundation and Jocotours for making our work possible and enjoyable. And thanks to you readers for vicariously coming along on the adventure.

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Narupa – Hidden Treasure

An inconspicuous trail in a bend of the road leads to Narupa Reserve, one of Jocotoco Conservation Foundation’s ten reserves. Narupa is located between the towns of Baeza and Coca where the Andes approach the Amazonian lowlands. A ten minute walk down the trail brings you to a hummingbird garden and a casita (little house), the only building in the reserve. Here at an elevation of about 1,000 m, elements of tropical and subtropical faunas mix.

Narupa trail

Narupa trail

Though I had only two days to explore this reserve, I got a good taste for the rich diversity of life there. Mixed bird fl0cks include a variety of tanagers, migrant warblers (including Cerulean), furnariids, and more. Beautiful forests clothe the hillside.

Foothill forest

Foothill forest at Narupa

A visit to the hummingbird garden was a great place to begin. Several of the hummingbirds here are foothill birds that live primarily at the lowest part of the eastern Andes. Golden-tailed Sapphires are most common in foothill forest but are also found in the Amazonian lowlands.

Golden-tailed Sapphire

Golden-tailed Sapphire female

Golden-tailed Sapphire

Golden-tailed Sapphire male

Golden-tailed Sapphire

Golden-tailed Sapphire male

Another foothill species, the Many-spotted Hummingbird is a feisty bird, frequently chasing other hummingbirds from flowers or feeders.

Many-spotted Hummingbird

Many-spotted Hummingbird attack

At this altitude (1,000 m) there is a good mix of Amazonian and Andean faunas. Gould’s Jewelfront is primarily a lowland species, but it also gets up as high as Narupa’s hummingbird garden.

Goulds Jewelfront

Gould’s Jewelfront

The bridge over the Río Hollin Chico is a good place to spot river-dwelling birds and takes you over to beautiful forest. Birders on the bridge are Gabriela Silva, our friend from Jocotours, and Geronimo Tanguila, one of Narupa’s forest guards.

Birders on hanging bridge

Birders on hanging bridge

Forest trail Narupa

Forest trail Narupa

Tree buttresses

Tree buttresses

A nighttime walk just outside the reserve is a rewarding experience. Here are a couple of gems I spotted in my headlamp beam.

This Somber Stream-Lizard was roosting peacefully on a twig.

Somber Stream-Lizard

Somber Stream-Lizard, Galenesaurus cochranae

Stick insects (Phasmidae) are generally nocturnal and are much easier to spot at night.

Phasmid stick insect

Phasmid stick insect

The restaurant “Susanita,” just a 15-minute walk down the road from the reserve entrance, has typical Ecuadoran food as well as two beautiful rooms overlooking the Cascada de Hollin, where guests can stay.

 

 

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Jorupe Birds and More

In February my wife Debbie and I served as volunteer hosts once again at Jorupe Reserve.  The reserve, located on the southern border of Ecuador, is owned by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation. We noticed a number of changes since our time at the reserve the previous year.

Perhaps the most conspicuous difference in bird life was the huge flocks of Red-masked Parakeets. Last year we saw small groups with perhaps a dozen or so in each group. This year they numbered up to 100 in a flock.

Red-masked Parakeet

Red-masked Parakeet

Like most parakeets, Red-masked Parakeets are extremely vocal. But they can also be silent, then suddenly erupt raucously from a nearby tree.

Red-masked ParakeetRed-masked Parakeet

Red-masked Parakeet

Another interesting difference was the shortage of birds at the feeding station. The rains had produced a wealth of insect prey. With plenty of bugs, and breeding season underway, why would birds stuff themselves at a feeder on dry corn, even if it was non-GMO? An exception, though, were Blue Ground-Doves, which appeared in large numbers.

Blue Ground-Dove males and females

Blue Ground-Dove males and females

Raptors are particularly conspicous at Jorupe. This Savannah Hawk had just dived at a Laughing Falcon.

Savannah Hawk

Savannah Hawk

The Laughing Falcon had a nest tucked into a cavity of a Ceiba tree hidden behind epiphytes.

Laughing Falcon _F5A9464

Laughing Falcon peers out from nest cavity

Yawn!

Laughing Falcon

Laughing Falcon

Peruvian Pygmy-Owls can be seen and heard both day and night.

Peruvian Pygmy-Owl

Peruvian Pygmy-Owl

An Ecuadorian Trogon strikes a conceited pose.

Ecuadorian Trogon

Ecuadorian Trogon

Birders coming to Jorupe have Pale-browed Tinamou on their “must-see” list. But this year some birders “dipped” (Brit-speak for missed the bird) since the tinamous were not coming regularly to the feeding station.

Pale-browed Tinamou calling

Pale-browed Tinamou calling

Pale-browed Tinamou

Pale-browed Tinamou

Pale-browed Tinamous are notoriously difficult to see away from the feeding station, so I felt particularly lucky to photograph a nest that was discovered when the forest guards cleared roadside growth.

Pale-browed Tinamou nest

Pale-browed Tinamou nest and eggs

Pale-browed Tinamou on nest

Pale-browed Tinamou on nest

Unlike tinamous, gregarious Fasciated Wrens are not discrete in their nesting habits.

Fasciated Wren at nest

Fasciated Wren at nest

We had the pleasure of spending time with ornithologist Graham Montgomery, who is spending several months in Ecuador studying species boundaries. Here he is checking out birds in a Ceiba tree.

Ornithologist in Jorupe forest

Ornithologist in Jorupe forest

I resisted temptation to pick up this Black-tailed Indigo Snake. Last year I wrapped myself up in one for my Facebook picture, inadvertently letting it cover me with its strong defensive scent. I was reminded of the event for weeks every time I lifted my stinky binoculars.

Black-tailed Indigo Snake

Black-tailed Indigo Snake

Robber flies seemed to be abundant along the trail. This one grabbed a leafcutter ant. You have to admire its ability to eat while hanging on to a leaf with only one leg.

Robber Fly preys on male leafcutter ant

Robber Fly preys on male leafcutter ant

The comedor (dining hall) provides nice refuge during the six o’clock mosquito hour.

comedor

Comedor (dining hall)

At other times, the porch is a comfortable place to relax and bird.

Jourpe Comedor porch

Jourpe comedor porch

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Pecking the Pico-Pico at Buenaventura

Pale-billed Aracari eats pico-pico fruit

Pale-billed Aracari eats pico-pico fruit

It’s January and the pico-pico is fruiting at Buenaventura Reserve in El Oro Province of southern Ecuador. The reserve was created by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation primarily to protect habitat for the El Oro Parakeet, but another 350 other species of birds are also protected on the reserve.

The pico-pico (Acnistus arborescens) a member of the tomato family, produces a copious crop of pea-sized, orange fruits. These are sought after by a wide variety of birds and at least some mammals. I have personally tasted the pico-pico, but can’t recommend it unless you have nothing else to eat.

The list of pico-pico-eaters is long. Tanagers dominate in terms of number of species, but coatis consume the largest quantity of berries here around the Umbrellabird Lodge at Buenaventura.

Palm Tanager

Palm Tanager

Lemon-rumped Tanager

Lemon-rumped Tanager

 

Bay-headed Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager and Thick-billed Euphonia

Silver-throated Tanager and Thick-billed Euphonia

 

Silver-throated Tanager and pico-pico

Silver-throated Tanager perched upon pico-pico

Thick-billed Euphonia female

Thick-billed Euphonia female

Thick-billed Euphonia, immature male Ecuador, Prov. El Oro, Buenaventura Ecological Reserve,

Thick-billed Euphonia, immature male

Bananaquits

Bananaquits

 

Choco Toucan

Choco Toucan

Pale-billed Aracari

Pale-billed Aracari

Rufous-headed Chachalaca juvenile

Rufous-headed Chachalaca juvenile

White-nosed Coati _F5A9023

Coati, Nasua narica

White-nosed Coati _F5A8995

Coati, Nasua narica

When the pico-pico ripens it is a super-abundant resource and everybody partakes.

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Copalinga

Green Honeycreeper, male

Green Honeycreeper, male

Copalinga, a delightful ecolodge, sits above the Rio Bombuscaro near the eastern base of the Andes in southern Ecuador. The lodge is owned and run by Catherine and Boudewijn, who built it after moving there from Belgium in 1998. Debbie and I spent 16 days volunteering on various projects while enjoying its bountiful natural treasures.

Copalinga outdoor dining

Copalinga outdoor dining (photo by Debbie Carr)

Copalinga’s most famous resident is the Gray Tinamou. Elsewhere this bird is tough to see, but it appears daily near a viewing blind 10 minutes up the trail.

Gray Tinamou

Gray Tinamou

Copalinga is also known for its diversity of tanagers, many of which visit feeders at the lodge.

Green-and-gold Tanager

Green-and-gold Tanager

Ecuador, Prov. Zamora-Chinchipe, Copalinga

Golden-eared Tanager and Golden Tanager

Thick-billed Euphonia

Thick-billed Euphonia female

Thick-billed Euphonia

Thick-billed Euphonia male

This Thick-billed Euphonia may be doing its business, but it is also taking care of business for a mistletoe plant.

Thick-billed Euphonia

Thick-billed Euphonia

Mistletoe grows on tree branches, penetrating the wood to get its nutrients. It uses a special trick to get the euphonia to deposit its seeds in the proper place.

Mistletoe fruits

Mistletoe fruits

The slimy seeds stick to the euphonia’s rear end so that it must wipe them off on a branch just where the mistletoe needs to germinate.

Thick-billed Euphonia, wiping mistletoe seeds onto branch

Thick-billed Euphonia, wiping mistletoe seeds onto branch

There are plenty of other captivating birds flitting around Copalinga. These two vie for title of noisiest species.

Inca Jays

Inca Jays

Speckled Chachalaca

Speckled Chachalaca

The property has a high diversity of hummingbirds, with more species than the entire U.S.

Violet-fronted Brilliant

Violet-fronted Brilliant

I had the honor of documenting the 34th species of hummingbird for Copalinga with the following photograph.

Purple-collared Woodstar

Purple-collared Woodstar

The diversity of other animals is equally impressive. A few examples:

A cryptic katydid

A cryptic katydid

And a closer view of its face. Note the ear,  a tiny slit near the joint of its front leg.

A cryptic katydid

A cryptic katydid

My favorite insect, the machaca.

Peanuthead Bug or Machaca, Fulgora

Peanuthead Bug or Machaca, Fulgora

A member of the raccoon family, the coati.

South American Coati, Nasua nasua

South American Coati, Nasua nasua

While prowling about at night with my headlamp, I found this treefrog at the edge of a puddle.

Red-skirted Treefrog, Dendropsophus rhodopeplus

Red-skirted Treefrog, Dendropsophus rhodopeplus

The scenery from the excellent trail system beckons.

Mountains beyond Copalinga

Mountains beyond Copalinga

View from trail in Copalinga

View from trail in Copalinga

An added benefit, the Bombuscaro entrance to Podocarpus National Park is just a few minutes down the road.

Debbie and me on hanging bridge, Rio Bombuscaro

Debbie and me on hanging bridge, Rio Bombuscaro

It was great to witness this private conservation effort first hand and see what two people (with a great deal of help) can do to protect valuable habitat.

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Return to Tapichalaca

Tapichalaca Reserve

Tapichalaca Reserve

It’s great to get back to Tapichalaca Reserve of the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation on the eastern slope of the Andes in Southern Ecuador (map). Here in 1997, the Jocotoco Antpitta made its debut in the world of ornithology and birding. It was the discovery of this charismatic, ground-dwelling bird that sparked the creation in 1998 of the foundation, which now manages eleven reserves.

I have returned for my fifth visit to this holy site to photograph the cloud forest and its inhabitants. Debbie and I served as volunteer hosts in the reserve in December and occasionally took visitors to see the Jocotoco Antpitta at the feeding area.

The pair of Jocotoco Antpittas at the feeding area were being accompanied by a juvenile, which as you will see, has a brown crown and markings that are not quite as bold as the adult’s.

Jocotoco Antpitta juvenile _F5A2844

Juvenile Jocotoco Antpitta, Grallaria ridgelyi

Hooded Mountain Tanager, the largest member of the family was a regular along the Jocotoco Trail.

Hooded Mountain Tanager, largest member of the family

Hooded Mountain Tanager, largest member of the family

The soft rattle of the Cinnamon Flycatcher is a common sound around Tapichalaca.

Cinnamon Flycatcher _F5A3043

The bird that occupied most of my hours of photography was the Golden-plumed Parakeet.

Golden-plumed Parakeet

Golden-plumed Parakeet

They nest in wax palm stumps, but the number of wax palms has been reduced due to the practice of collecting leaves for Palm Sunday. The foundation cooperated with the government to curtail that activity. Many nest boxes have been placed around the reserve, but it’s good to see the parakeets using natural cavities as well.

Golden-plumed Parakeet at nest cavity

Golden-plumed Parakeet at nest cavity

December is the time to begin nesting, so many birds are busy investigating nest cavities. This pair apparently has a helper, perhaps an offspring from a previous season.

Golden-plumed Parakeets at nest cavity

Golden-plumed Parakeets in dead wax palm trunk

We were fortunate to see a Western Mountain Coati with two babies. They are much smaller and squatter than their lowland relatives. Evidence of their digging is conspicuous along the trail.

Western Mountain Coati, Nasuella olivacea

Western Mountain Coati, Nasuella olivacea

One of two babies.

Western Mountain Coati, Nasuella olivacea, baby

Western Mountain Coati, Nasuella olivacea, baby

 

I will close with views of the beautiful cloud forest.

Cloud Forest, Tapichalaca Ecological Reserve

Cloud Forest, Tapichalaca Ecological Reserve

 

Cloud Forest, Tapichalaca Reserve

Cloud Forest, Tapichalaca Reserve

 

Cloud Forests tree

Cloud Forests tree

 

Cloud Forest - Tapichalaca

Cloud Forest – Tapichalaca

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Antisanilla Reserve more highlights

In addition to condors and eagles mentioned in my previous posts, plenty of great birds inhabit Antisanilla Reserve of the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation.

Paramo pipits live in the high grasslands.

Paramo Pipit

Paramo Pipit

Another common bird is the Bar-winged Cinclodes a member of the neotropical ovenbird family.

Bar-winged Cinclodes

Bar-winged Cinclodes

Though I knew there are resident populations of Great Horned Owls in South America, I was still surprised to see one roosting in a small tree.

Great Horned Owl daytime roost

Great Horned Owl daytime roost

In the canyon below the cliffs where condors roost lies Laguna de Secas, a lake formed by a lava flow dam. Andean Gulls and Andean Teal use the lake. Not shown is a Muscovy Duck that also showed up at what, for it, is an unusually high altitude.

Andean Gulls and two Andean Teal

Andean Gulls and two Andean Teal

Many insectivorous species inhabit the wooded or brushy lower reaches of Antisanilla Reserve. These were more easily photographed at Tambo Condor restaurant and cabins just across from the reserve.

Flowerpiercers steal nectar by slicing into the base of the flower, thus shirking their pollination duties.

Black Flowerpiercer

Black Flowerpiercer

Giant Hummingbirds, the largest of all hummingbirds, are about the size of a sparrow.

Giant Hummingbird

Giant Hummingbird

One of the smallest members of the hummingbird family from this area:

Tyrian Metaltail female

Tyrian Metaltail female

Shining Sunbeams lack the colorful gorget of many other hummingbirds, but they make it up with the iridescence on their backs.

Shining Sunbeam hummingbird

Shining Sunbeam

Here is the world’s champion hummingbird species in tail length:

Black-tailed Trainbearer

Black-tailed Trainbearer

Sparkling Violetears are common birds, even in Quito, but who can resist those ears (actually feathers, but don’t tell anyone).

Sparkling Violetear

Sparkling Violetear

Sparkling Violetear shows off "ears''

Sparkling Violetear shows off “ears”

Sparkling Violetear shows off "ears''

Sparkling Violetear colors change with the angle of the light.

While photographing at Antisanilla, I stayed in a cabin at Tambo Condor with beautiful views. Just down the slope, their guesthouse on the cliff has an even more dramatic view. It’s that little square on the side of the cliff to the left.

Laguna de Secas with Tambo Condor perched left

Laguna de Secas with Tambo Condor perched left

Here’s a peek at the inside of the guesthouse. The porches and some of the rooms have breath-taking views.

Tambo Condor guest house interior

Tambo Condor guest house interior

Tambo Condor guest house interior

Tambo Condor guest house interior

Tambo Condor guest house interior

Tambo Condor guest house interior

hospedaje-tambo-condor-_f5a1692

Check out the view from the guesthouse porch:

Laguna de Secas as seen from Tambo Condor

Laguna de Secas as seen from Tambo Condor

The proprietors Vladimir and Veronica are not only gracious hosts, but good chefs.

Vladimir and Veronica proprietors of Tambo Condor

Vladimir and Veronica proprietors of Tambo Condor

And thanks of course to the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation for creating and maintaining this fantastic reserve.

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Antisanilla—Great Wildlife High in the Andes

I spent my first week back in Ecuador photographing in the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation’s Antisanilla Reserve. Just 30 miles SE of Quito, it sits on the western slopes of Antisana Volcano.

Most of the reserve is paramo, high-elevation Andean grassland. This reserve focuses on the habitat of the Andean Condor, but is home to other spectacular species, such as:

Doug Wechsler

A rare sight, Doug on horseback

Spectacled bears, the only south American bears, have been sighted regularly. They spend most of their time tearing apart large bromeliads, plants in the pineapple family, known locally as achupallas, or scientifically as Puya. They eat the sweet, nutritious heart where the plant stores its nutrients.

Puya sp.

Spectacled Bear tearing apart achupalla

spectacled bear Antisanilla

Spectacled Bear, adult male

You can tell individual bears apart by their facial markings. I sighted this new bear for the reserve area. This one doesn’t have spectacles.

spectacled bear

New individual Spectacled Bear

White-tailed deer also roam the paramo. Dogs running wild have been a problem for deer on the reserve and elsewhere.

white tailed deer Antisanill

White-tailed Deer, buck, on the paramo of Antisanilla Reserve

Raptors abound. Andean Condors are the flagship species in the reserve and the reason it was created. More than half of Ecuador’s 50 or so condors use the cliffs in Antisanilla Reserve to roost. At least two pairs nest on the cliffs.

female andean condor

Female Andean Condor launches from favored perch

 

male andean condor

Male Andean Condor sails over the reserve

The condors like to bath in a waterfall that cascades down their roosting and nesting cliff. This juvenile was tagged #12 as part of a study.

Juvenile Andean Condor bathing in waterfall

Juvenile Andean Condor bathing in waterfall

Most conspicuous of all the raptors in the reserve is the Carunculated Caracara, which spends much of its time foraging on the ground.

Carunculated Caracara about to take off

Carunculated Caracara about to take off

Another common raptor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, is easy to recognize by its broad wings and short tail.

Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle adult soars by

Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle adult soars by

Juvenile Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles are mostly brown. This one got too close to a female condor.

Andean Condor starts to chase juvenile Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

Andean Condor starts to chase juvenile Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

Where orange-flowered Chuquiragua bushes grow in the paramo, the Ecuadorian Hillstar is sure to be found.

Ecuadorian Hillstar on Chuquiragua

Ecuadorian Hillstar on Chuquiragua

Ecuadorian Hillstar on Chuquiragua bush

Male Ecuadorian Hillstars will often perch on the top of bushes.

Ecuadorian Hillstar male

Ecuadorian Hillstar male

Hillstars feed by landing on the flower rather than hovering.  Females are duller in color.

Female Ecuadorian Hillstar feeds from Chuquiragua bush

Female Ecuadorian Hillstar feeds from Chuquiragua bush

The Black-faced Ibis is endangered in Ecuador, though more common farther south. It feeds in grasslands of the Antisana Ecological Reserve and in the more distant parts of Antisanilla Reserve.

Black-faced Ibis in flight

Black-faced Ibis

The area of the current reserve was formerly home to thousands of cattle. Now only a few hundred graze in a restricted area to protect the paramo.  This herd is maintained to provide food for the condors that dine on new born calves and the deceased cattle.

Former wetlands lost to ranching activities are now being restored by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation.

Wetland restoration in the paramo

Wetland restoration in the paramo

These wetlands are home to Andean Teal, Yellow-billed Pintails, Andean Lapwings, and migratory species such as Greater Yellowlegs and Baird’s Sandpiper. The lapwing, known locally as “gigle” (that’s pronounced HEE glay) has more of a shrill cry than a gigle.

Greater Yellowlegs joins an Andean Lapwing

A migratory Greater Yellowlegs (right) joins an Andean Lapwing on restored wetland

Inside the reserve is the ‘office’ of the reserve guards. Would be a great location to stay, but it could use a little work inside.

antisanilla-casa-_f5a9834Actually, someone is doing work on the house right now–the Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant is fixing to move in.

Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant

Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant carrying nest material to the eves of the house

Muchas gracias a Pancho y Fernando. Sin ellos, no hubiera podido tomar esas fotos.

Pancho Cuichán separates out achupalla seeds

Pancho Cuichán separates out achupalla seeds to plant and restore the population

Fernando and horse

Fernando and horse

With special thanks to the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation for protecting habitat for all of these creatures in their Antisanilla Reserve.

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The Bird That Started It All

The discovery of a new species, Grallaria ridgelyi, set off a series of events that snowballed into  founding of the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation and the creation of eleven reserves (so far). The bird that started it all, the Jocotoco Antpitta, remains the flagship species of the foundation. It is the main reason so many birders visit the beautiful Tapichalaca Reserve.

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Jocotoco Antpitta at Tapichalaca Reserve

The jocotoco inhabits a wet, cloud forest at 2,500m elevation in Zamora-Chinchipe Province.

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Jocotoco Antpitta

The distinctive white cheek patches are unique among antpittas.

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Jocotoco Antpitta

Few jocotocos have been found outside of Tapichalaca Reserve.

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Jocotoco Antpitta

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Feeding Jocotoco Antpitta

Forest guards feed a pair of jocotocos every morning. This allows birders to see this rare bird without employing playback. Playback, the use of recordings of a bird’s song to elicit a territorial response, can be disruptive if over-used.

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Digging worms to feed Jocotoco Antpitta

It takes considerable effort to obtain the worms for the jocotocos. The pair eats about 1/2 cup of worms a day. The best worm collection site requires a walk down a steep hill.

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I sample Jocotoco feed

The Andean worms are quite large. Here’s one of average size.

 

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Locations of 11 Jocotoco Reserves  Base map: www.freeworldmaps.net/southamerica/ecuador/

Since the discovery of the jocotoco and the establishment of Tapichalaca Reserve in 1999, ten more reserves have been created by the Jocotoco Foundation, each centered around an endangered or threatened bird or regional avifauna. If you would like to help support this important conservation effort, tax-deductable donations to the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation can be made through:

Rain Forest Trust (US)

American Bird Conservancy (US)

Word Land Trust (UK)

Be sure to specify that the donation is for the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation and the entire amount will go directly toward bird conservation in Ecuador.

Jocotoco mural (1 of 3)

Jocotoco graces school wall

The image of the jocootoco appears in many places in southern Ecuador and is a source of regional pride.

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Jocotoco on billboard approaching Palanda

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“Let’s take care of nature; Let’s protect birds”

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Artwork on roadside shelter: Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Jocotoco Antpitta, Mountain Tapir

Jocotoco Antpitta sculpture on roundabout near Piñas

Jocotoco looms over traffic circle outside Piñas, Prov. El Oro

This sculpture of the jocotoco stands far from it’s native home, but near another Jocotoco Conservation Foundation property, Buenaventura Reserve.

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