We began the year in Trinidad & Tobago and ended it in Ecuador. Over Christmas we spent almost two weeks, first in Guango Lodge at about 2700 meters on the eastern slopes of the Andes and then Cabanas San Isidro, a bit lower at about 2000 meters elevation. We had some rain, but not enough to spoil a wonderful time birding, eating and relaxing with new friends. The humingbirds at both lodges were "thick as flies" and very convivial, such as the Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii) below.

Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii)
at Cabanas San Isidro, Cosanga, Ecuador.

Almost comical (or bizarrre) in appearace was the Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) with an incredibly long bill used to reach deep into large nectar-laden flowers that the other hummingbirds couldn't reach.

Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)
at Guango Lodge, Papallacta, Ecuador.

I photographed a very special and lovely bird, San Isidro Owl, at Cabanas San Isidro in the dark and pouring rain after dinner one night. It seems that this is a very unusual bird, only recorded at Cabanas San Isidro and similar to the Black-banded Owl (Strix huhula).

San Isidro Owl
at Cabanas San Isidro, Cosanga, Ecuador.

The San Isidro Owl in the photo above is just one of the many birds that feed on the smorgasbord of moths attracted to the pathway lamps. To name a few, Green (Inca) Jay, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Montane Woodcreeper, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Rusty Flowerpiercer and the Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus), shown in the following image.

Masked Trogon
at Cabanas San Isidro, Cosanga, Ecuador.

And last, but not least, the White-bellied Antpitta (Grallaria hypoleuca) was a bird I was keen to try to photograph. Being in the family of birds that follow army ant swarms they are usually difficult to find and photograph. One of those "more often heard than seen" birds, and when they are found, the conditions for photography are difficult to say the least. But at Cabanas San Isidro they have acclimated White-bellied Antpitta to a feeding station not far from the restaurant. Although still located under the dark canopy of the tropical forest, at least this bird is reliable, cooperative and somewhat tolerant.

White-bellied Antpitta
at Cabanas San Isidro, Cosanga, Ecuador.

Back home, I've spent a couple of Springs at Leesylvania State Park in Northern Virginia trying to photograph warblers and I was lucky to get a few fleeting minutes of quality time with both a Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) and a Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) in a blooming Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis).

Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)
at Leesylvania State Park.

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)
at Leesylvania State Park.

Over the 2018 New Year holiday we spent a week birding the islands of Trinidad & Tobago, where I discovered my new favorite bird, the Tufted Coquette. My humble photos don't do its beauty justice. Many hummingbirds have extremely colorful plumage that is more a refractive property of their feather structure than pigmentation. Therefore, their most spectacular colors are displayed when light strikes the feathers at just the right angle relative to an observer, which is very difficult to capture in photographs, especially when different feather regions are reflecting light in many different directions.

A Tufted Coquette feeding at Vervine (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).

I spent quite a bit of time shooting birds and drinking rum punch from the Asa Wright Nature Centre veranda and I can't tell you how much fun that was!

The veranda of the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Hummingbird feeders are suspended above the rails on the veranda and along the stone path of the backyard. There are also several fruit feeders in the backyard that entice birds to point blank range. To see a selection of the birds that got close enough for me to shoot, click here.

Gallery of Bird Images

A recent update to my gallery of bird images modifies Thraupidae, "true tanagers", within Passeriformes. According to Wikipedia, "Thraupidae are the second-largest family of birds and represents about 4% of all avian species and 12% of the Neotropical birds. [Burns, K.J.; et al. (2014). "Phylogenetics and diversification of tanagers (Passeriformes: Thraupidae), the largest radiation of Neotropical songbirds". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 75: 41-77. 2014.02.006. PMID 24583021]." I'm trying to "comply" with Clements v2017, 15 August 2017, but with all the ongoing DNA analyses to ascertain relationships within the avian class, the Clements taxonmic classification will be a work in progress for quite a while into the future and I'll be in a constant state of playing catchup.

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