Day 73: Short-Radius Birding

Even in the middle of cattle farms, a small reserve offers new species.

March 14, 2015, Pacto, Ecuador — Edison and I spent the whole morning at a 30-hectare reserve called Rio Silanche. This lowland forest fragment is within the so-called Choco region of northwest Ecuador and southwest Colombia, which hosts nearly 50 endemic bird species and, by some measures, is as biodiverse as the Amazon. Silanche is one of the most accessible places to look for the Choco endemics in Ecuador, and we racked up some good ones today: Plumbeous Hawk, Orange-fronted Barbet, Rufous-winged Tanager…as well as a bunch of more widespread birds, including an obliging Rufous Motmot. By lunch we’d seen an easy 130 species.

Rio Silanche has one short loop trail that covers the entire reserve, and a solidly built canopy tower for eye-level tanager viewing. Edison and I climbed the tower, then walked the loop, then walked the loop again, then climbed the tower again, then returned to the loop. Inside the forest, the vegetation is lush, leafy, and dense, and it’s easy to forget that Silanche is a green postage stamp in a sea of cattle pastures and oil palm plantations. Most of the bird specialties can still be found here in small numbers, but it’s not exactly a pristine environment.

We are heading east and will leave the Choco region tomorrow, but I’ll hit it again in Colombia in a couple of weeks. The birds we searched for today are generally more common on the Colombian side of the border, where large tracts of forest remain intact. So, even though I added a couple dozen new year birds today, I’m afraid that, strategically speaking, my upcoming route may be a bit redundant. Only time will tell!

New birds today: 25

Year list: 1647

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