Toucan Barbet. This species is a target of the area I was in, as the range of this species is restricted to the Choco region, extending from north-western Ecuador to south-western Colombia. The Toucan Barbet is placed in a family called Semnornis, which contains just one other species (the Prong-billed Barbet), and both species are thought to be intermediate between the New World Barbets and toucans
This is another target species of the Choco biogeographic region: the extremely handsome Plate-billed Mountain-toucan. Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the best places in Ecuador to find these fantastic birds, which tend to tour around the forest in flocks of as many as 17, feeding on a variety of fruiting trees. This species is classed as Near-threatened
Strong-billed Woodcreepers are one of the largest, heaviest woodcreepers. One pair spent most of their time hopping up and down the trunks of trees looking for meals whilst I was there. They consumed a variety of different insects whilst I was there, from massive Hercules beetles to the largest of moths. The range of this species extends from south-western Mexico through Central America and as far south as central Bolivia
Although not a common species around Bellavista, this Fawn-breasted Tanager can be found not far away, feeding amongst small flocks of tanagers on fruits of various kinds
Masked Trogons are handsome birds, and they can get very tame. This pair pictured above (female top, male lower two) would hang around the lodge car park most mornings, feasting on a whole range of insectivorous prey, usually taken whilst on the wing. The trogons such as this species possess a similar skill to Cuckoos in their ability of dealing with spiky and poisonous caterpillars, although they can also swallow such unsavoury things as large fluffy moths and hard-cased Katydids (top image)
Male Red-headed Barbet. This species was busy nesting and rearing chicks during my time in the Tandayapa Valley
A Black Vulture (top) and a Barred Hawk (lower) soar on some mid-morning thermals above the valley, as the clouds and mist gradually engulf the forest below. By 1100 most days the mist and cloud would have risen and completely blocked any views from the lodge. Light rain would often have set in by early afternoon
This handsome male Blackburnian Warbler was one of several species that were just visiting the tropics for the boreal winter. During my time in the country, I also saw other North American migrants such as Blackpoll, Black-and-white, Cerulean and Canada Warblers, as well as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Swainson's Thrushes. Blackburnian Warblers were a very common species at Bellavista, with two or three present around the lodge most days
This is a Great Thrush, which is a common species that was present in greatest numbers in the higher altitude areas such as Quito and Antisana. A touch larger than our Blackbird, they are otherwise more or less the same. A pair spent a lot of time during my visit gathering food for a chick they were rearing. They picked off anything from small insects and caterpillars, to large moths and small berries and fruits
There were two species of Quetzal present in the Tandayapa Valley: the Golden-headed Quetzal pictured above was by far the most common, and could be encountered along the road or in the forest trails in small flocks of three or four. Generally they are quite shy, and are hard to get very good views of. The second species is the Crested Quetzal, which can be found at much lower elevations (approx. <2000m), and one which I only saw once during my visit. The main difference between the two is that the Crested has a striking white undertail
Cinnamon Flycatchers were one of the commonest species of flycatchers around the lodge, with a pair present every morning in the car park. This species could also be encountered in mixed species flocks in the forest, but were much harder to get decent views of in their natural setting!
A Montane Woodcreeper- the other common species of woodcreeper at Bellavista, and a much smaller relative of its monstrous cousin
Two of the lodges most colourful tanagers: the stunning Grass-green Tanager above, and the bright Blue-winged Mountain-tanager below. The latter of these species is said to be the leader of mixed species flocks, and it is certainly true that their high pitched and excited calls are often the first thing that is heard before a flock is encountered. It is thought that other species such as warblers, furnariids, and woodcreepers follow the tanagers because of the increased protection they offer from predators. Tanagers such as the blue-winged mountain-tanager feed on fruits and berries in the forest canopy, and spend a much higher proportion of their time scanning the horizon and skies for predators; furnariids, woodcreepers and warblers on the other hand, spend a large amount of their time rummaging around in moss and with their heads in crevices and cracks, thus spending much less time on the look out. This is just reason why mixed species flocks are thought to exist in rainforests and the tropics.
HUMMINGBIRDSI have uploaded a small selection of hummingbird images taken whilst I was in the country, and virtually all were taken at Bellavista. Unfortunately I did not have the luxury of a multi flash setup whilst I was there, and so did not manage to obtain any picture-perfect flight shots with frozen wings and perfect lighting etc. Most of these images were taken with natural light, and a few with fill-in flash.
Here are a variety of images of insects that I took whilst at the lodge. With very little work done on any of the lepidoptera in the valley, there were no resources on any of the species, and so identification beyond family level was virtually impossible. I therefore just had to appreciate them without IDs, which was quite tough when every morning some of the most amazing-looking moths were devoured by a horde of different birds!