Monday 23 December 2019

Cleaning up with Tumbes specialties at Las Goteras

Laura and I spent the night near Puerto Lopez and the next morning began our drive back to Guayaquil. We would spend the night in Guayaquil and jet back to Quito the next morning. I had done some eBird sleuthing and noticed an intriguing-sounding road located just north of Puerto Lopez, dubbed the Las Goteras sideroad. It would be a good location to explore for a few hours before our drive back to Guayaquil.

 Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

We had done quite well with the bird species endemic to the Tumbes bioregion but there remained a few gaps on my list. They included Plumbeous-backed Thrush, Saffron Finch, Watkin's Antpitta, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Little Woodstar, Pale-browed Tinamou, Scrub Nightjar and Blackish-headed Spinetail. Every other potential species we had come across, but those ones remained. It appeared that the Las Goteras sideroad had potential for some of these species, though there were not a ton of eBird checklists submitted from there.

Under overcast skies we pulled up to the beginning of this quiet dirt sideroad. These huge snails populated the dry landscape.

Porphyrobaphe iostoma - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

Not ten minutes after we had eaten our breakfast and began to explore, a few thrushes flew across the road, alighting in a nearby tree. Plumbeous-backed Thrushes! Collared Antshrikes and Elegant Crescentchests gave us the best views of these species yet, while we also found a South American Coati skulking deep in the shrubbery.

Collared Antshrike - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

The road climbed high into the hills and we noted the changes in vegetation as we walked. Soon, the cactus scrub had given way to dry deciduous forest with green plants becoming more populous with elevation gain. We heard a few Peruvian Pygmy Owls and finally were rewarded with good views of one along the trail.

 Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

By mid-morning we had reached a small ridge 300 m in elevation higher than where we started. Here the vegetation was very lush and with Watkin's Antpittas calling from all directions. Quite a drastic change over a relatively small altitudinal gradient!

 Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

On the ridge I noticed an interesting bird song, one that I had memorized in preparation for this part of the trip. Could it be, a Blackish-headed Spinetail?

Sure enough we managed to have satisfying views of this scarce species, one I had practically given up hope of seeing.  It superficially resembled the more widespread Slaty Spinetail but lacked red on the cap. Unfortunately this photo is the best I could accomplish - spinetails are tough!

Backish-hooded Spinetail - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

The birding remained strong with new species appearing one after the other. Red-masked Parakeets perched at eye-level and a few Rufous-headed Chachalacas furtively crossed the road up ahead of us.

Red-masked Parakeet - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

Rufous-headed Chachalaca - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

Eventually we turned around to begin our walk back to the car, happy that we had conquered the uphill portion of the road during the cooler hours of the morning. We were in for one last treat - a small flock of Saffron Siskins. It had been a very successful excursion to say the least!

Saffron Siskin - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

The butterflies were out in full force as well, including this beautiful Blurry-striped Longtail (Chioides catillus). We thoroughly enjoyed our walk - beautiful landscapes, great birding, and not a single other person. We began the drive back to Guayaquil, feeling satiated with what the previous week had provided. The next week would be another grand adventure which I will detail on this blog another time - a week with good friends David Szmyr and Jeremy Hatt to give them their first tastes of South American birding.

Chioides catillus - Las Goteras sideroad, Manabí, Ecuador

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