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Nature Reserve & Biological Station

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From east to west: The X-mas bird counts 2014 -- Part 1 Cosanga

Dear Amigos_as,

After three exciting weeks with the Banded Ground Cuckoo temporarily came to an end, the period of the Christmas Bird Counts began for the current “Un poco del Choco – Crew”.

What are Christmas Bird Counts? And what is their purpose?

Ok, therefore it’s important to know that the counts take place every year around x-mas in actually the same locations in several countries (including Ecuador). Even if I personally think that every participant has its own aim, the main goal for the counts is to register as many bird species as possible in a given count circle. Furthermore the counts provide data for population trends, which is important for science and research. And for this reason we wanted to be a part of this special event. So we decided to go first to the Cosanga count on the eastern slope of the Andes and participated a week later in the Mindo count, which is situated on the western side of Ecuador.

For the Cosanga count we planned to have a longer weekend trip. So apart from the “bird count stuff” (binoculars, “bird bible”, rubber boots, rainproof clothes, insect repellent, sun screen) we all packed our swimming suits, because on the first evening we stopped in Papallacta for taking a bath in hot volcanic water. After we spent the night in Papallacta, we visited the Guango Lodge on the next morning. And besides all the other hummingbirds there we luckily got to see the Sword-billed Hummingbird; this species has the longest beak of all hummingbirds; the beak of this bird is even longer than the bird itself. Unfortunately we couldn`t take a picture. So therefore you need to believe me ;-)

After that exciting morning we finally arrived in Cosanga in the afternoon. In Cosanga itself we were greeted by sun and a welcome fiesta with a friendly atmosphere next to the River. Later we settled down a bit in our accommodation at the Yanayacu Biological Station. In the evening we met with all the other participants of the bird count in the community hall of the village. Once a couple of people had their speeches we started to arrange groups. So finally, the “Un poco del Choco Crew” split up into three groups and we got up at different times the next morning . Nicole for example got up at 1:30 am in order to search for owls ;-)

The right foot wear
Bird count fiesta in Cosanga with rafting, rapelling and lots of local food

While Wilo and Oli’s group walked the lowest altitude (Route Narupa 900m), Mandy and my group had to manage one of the higher altitudes (Route Yanayacu 1900m) and Nicole’s group took the Route Cocodrilos, which is about 1500m above sea level. Consequently, it is not really surprising that after 12 hours of bird counting every group had different highlights. Meanwhile Nicole luckily saw a Harpy Eagle for the first time in her life, which was also the first record for this bird in this altitude; Wilo saw a Blue-rumped Manakin for the first time. Well, and Olli, Mandy and me, we saw several birds and other stuff for the first time in our lives. And therefore in the evening while drinking beer and wine Oli could add 40 new species to his Birdlist. Exhausted but satisfied from the day all participants went early to bed on this night.

Intern Mandy with group leader Augustin in Yanayacu and on the Yanayacu route
Waterfall on Wilo and Oli's route
Harpy Eagle
Compiling the bird lists

On the next day we had a sleep in before we drove back home ;-). On the way back we stopped shortly to observe a group of Inca Jays, a common but beautiful bird in this region which Oli hadn’t seen the day before. Furthermore we enjoyed the view of the volcano Antisana (5704m) from the Papallacta pass and although this spot has the highest population of Andean condor in Ecuador, unfortunately we didn’t get to see any.

On the relaxing way back
Volcano Antisana (5704m)

Overall we had an exciting, impressive and successful weekend with a lot of new impressions and birds. On this weekend during the whole Cosanga count more than 500 bird species were recorded by walking and checking 14 different routes in an altitude between 900 and 3500m above sea level.

Intern Vivian in front of the Antisana

This blog post was written by: Vivian Welzel 3. Semester BSc. Landscape Management and Nature Conversation at the University for Sustainable Development in Eberswalde

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