Tuesday 10 December 2019

Birding Guayaquil - Parque El Lago

Late on November 10, following a great day in the páramo, Laura and I dropped Mark off at the airport and found a nearby hotel. The following morning we were meeting up with friends David Bell and Siobhan Darlington and flying to Guayaquil. We would be renting a car for just under a week, with a goal to see as many of the endemic Tumbesian birds as possible!

David and I have traveled together internationally on several occasions. Our first trip was a whirlwind tour of southern California and Arizona (and even part of New Mexico), over our university's "reading week" back in February of 2011. Then in 2014 we joined forced once more, this time in Panama with Steve Pike. The following year we visited Colombia with several others, and then in 2016 we backpacked across southern Chile and Argentina along with good friend Adam Timpf. It had been a few years since our last international trip so we were due. It was great to have the opportunity to travel with Siobhan and Laura as well. Surprisingly, Laura had never met Siobhan or David before!

Our flight had no issues, we quickly picked up the rental car and had soon hit the road. Our destination was Cerro Blanco, a protected area of dry forest located just west of Guayaquil. We stopped at our AirBnB first (about 10 mins from Cerro Blanco), met our host and unloaded some bags. Then we were off, eager to fit in some birding before sunset.

Unfortunately the gates were closed at Cerro Blanco and a discussion with the guard indicated that we would only have just over an hour to explore before we had to leave for the evening. We elected against this, saving our hard-earned dollars for the following morning when we could maximize our time here. In the meantime, I contacted one of the administrators of the reserve via WhatsApp, acquiring permission for us to visit at 6 AM the next morning.

With daylight hours dwindling, we drove just up the road to a place called Parque El Lago, a hotspot that David had heard of. This proved to be a good decision since the birding was excellent and there was no entry fee - you just had to show your passport to a guard manning a gate.

Birding Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Since we had never visited this part of the world before, the lifers were practically "dripping off the trees" as soon as we got out of the car. Fasciated Wren. Scarlet-backed Woodpecker. White-tailed Jay. Amazilia Hummingbird. This was fun!

Scarlet-backed Woodpeckers - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Pacific Horneros patrolled the dry ground, while Long-tailed Mockingbirds and White-edged Orioles preferred the thickets. Meanwhile, the lake edge was very busy with the standard heron-types while Magnificent Frigatebirds cruised overhead. A strange sight in such a dry environment away from any coastline.

Pale-legged (Pacific) Hornero - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Long-tailed Mockingbird - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

White-edged Oriole - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

It is funny how excited I was to come across my first Ecuadorian Ground-Doves in Colombia a few weeks earlier. Here they were vermin as our eBird checklist contained 100 individuals (and there could have been even more than that!).

Ecuadorian Ground-Doves - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

The hits just kept on coming. A large-ish flycatcher caught my attention and I was thrilled to see that it was a Baird's Flycatcher, one of the specialties of the region.

Baird's Flycatcher - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

The Tumbesian Bioregion is an area of relatively low rainfall that occurs from southwestern Ecuador to northwestern Peru. Within this area, the habitats reflect the often xeric conditions. Scrub, Acacia thorn forest, semi-evergreen Ceiba forest, and even desert can be found. This region also happens to be extremely threatened and only a small fraction of the natural areas remain, largely due to deforestation. Of interest to birdwatchers, over 50 species are classified as Tumbesian restricted-range species and many of these are found in the Guayaquil area.

Baird's Flycatcher - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Near the Baird's Flycatcher we spotted a Striped Cuckoo. We watched it forage for insects, flaring out the black alula feathers to presumably assist in scaring up insects. A neat behaviour that we had never observed before.

Striped Cuckoo - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Pacific Parrotlets were foraging on roadside weeds, basically acting like how American Goldfinches do back home.

Pacific Parrotlet - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Pacific Parrotlets - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Speaking of finches, we also enjoyed watching many Saffron Finches along the roadsides.

Saffron Finches - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

The afternoon just kept getting better as we scared up a few more great birds including a Gray-and-gold Warbler and a Harris's Hawk. Dave picked up on a Snowy-throated Kingbird and we watched it snag a huge dragonfly!

Snowy-throated Kingbird - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Guayaquil Squirrel was a new one for us. Fortunately they were not very shy, allowing us to have some great viewing opportunities.

Guayaquil Squirrel - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Around dusk some Red-masked Parakeets and mixed blackbird flocks flew over, signalling that the day was nearly over. We also noted a few Chestnut-collared Swallows go over - a species we did not think that we had a chance at given our itinerary.

Red-masked Parakeets - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Despite having our attempts at visiting Cerro Blanco thwarted, the afternoon turned out to be a huge success. We were all in the double digits for "lifers" and we finished with around 70 bird species. We bought a few drinks and headed back to the AirBnB, enjoying an evening on the balcony while anticipating what the next few days had in store.

Sunset - Parque El Lago, Guayaquil, Ecuador

No comments: