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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Simple Beauty of the Blue-gray Tanager

Blue-gray Tanager of West (Traupis episcopus)

The Blue-gray Tanager is probably one of the most commonly seen and easily recognized birds of the Andes foothills in Ecuador, whether it is the western or eastern slope. It can be observed foraging in trees and gardens and predominates the activity at many fruit feeders. It is a ubiquitous passerine with a pleasant personality and a charming grace.

This is one of those birds that you can tire of seeing because of its simple colors and constant presence. Although it has a strikingly beautiful bluish gray hue, it is not as stunningly marked as other tanagers that frequent the area. One has to get over the unpretentiousness of it appearance and appreciate its classic allure.

In the Mindo valley the Blue-gray Tanager can be seen nervously gleaning the fruit trees in search of berries and other suitable morsels. But they are particularly susceptible to the siren’s call of the fruit feeders at Milpe Bird Sanctuary and Mirador Rio Blanco. Here you can see them dominating the various species as they forage for some delectable offerings. It is also quite common in the gardens of Hacienda San Vicente in the town of Mindo.

Blue-gray Tanager of East
On the eastern slopes the Blue-gray Tanager can be observed along the Loreto and Archidona Roads, traveling from Baeza to Tena. In Misahualli they can be seen frolicking in the trees along with various Squirrel Monkeys that inhabit the park in the center of town. I find the white coverlets of the eastern species of Blue-gray Tanager to give them a more striking appearance that the western race.

This beautiful passerine can be seen in large numbers as it travels in groups throughout its regions. It is also often seen in mixed flocks, foraging with other tanagers such as the Palm and Lemon-rumped on the western slope. When in gatherings they appear to blend in quietly but reveal a certain territorial aggressiveness around feeders
For more detailed information on the Blue-gray Tanager go to my HubPages article here. Also see blog articles on Hacienda San Vicente, and Milpe Bird Sanctuary for locations to observe this beautiful species. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Black-cheeked Woodpecker

Female Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus)

I have been categorizing the thousands of photos that I have taken over the last few months trying to decide which bird to write about next. It is not an easy decision as there are so many species and each has a uniqueness that can only be revealed through close observation. I settled on the Black-cheeked Woodpecker for its beauty and the abundant opportunity for encountering this amazing bird.

The Black-cheeked Woodpecker is most often seen in the humid forests below 800 m (2,600 ft.) but it can also be observed locally in the Mindo area up to 1,500 m (5,000 ft.). It darts behind tree trunks and gleans the larger branches of tall trees but it will come out in the open for a good view and some decent photos. It can be seen in mixed flocks with tanagers and is not extremely aggressive, allowing the other species to bully them.

Male Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus)
They are a colorful bird with the males and females fairly similar in markings. Look for the mid-crown to tell the difference, the male being red while the female is off-white.

The Black-cheeked Woodpecker is pretty much an insectivore but will eat fruits and berries when available. Small flocks have been known to cause significant damage to banana plantations and are considered a bane to farmers. There are tanager feeders at Milpe Bird Sanctuary and Mirador Rio Blanco and this lovely bird is known to frequent them along with the tanagers and other species.

While out walking in the lowlands and foothills of the western Andean rainforest be watchful for this magnificent woodpecker. Take a little time to observe its habits and idiosyncrasies to enjoy the full wonder of this wonderful species.