Ecuador - October 21-30 2012: Gran Yasuni: Last Record of the Fiery-tailed Awbill

Published by Jarol Fernando Vaca (shiripuno2004 AT

Participants: Mike Tidwell, Ronald Dale Hoff, Dollyann Myers, Fran Lee Bills, Sharonanne Bostick & Duncan Ritchie


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Fiery-tailed Awbill
Fiery-tailed Awbill

Our destination was the center of the Gran Yasuni Important Birding Area (IBA). In fact, it is the largest IBA in all of Ecuador with more than 1.6 million ha. It holds the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve (Yasuni National Park, The Waorani Ethic Reserve), and The Limoncocha Wildlife Refuge. These reserves harbor an impressive number of bird species.

On my last bird trip to this area, Gary Rosenberg and I encountered Fiery-Tailed Awbill, a rare hummingbird with an uncertain population status.

The Yasuni Biosphere Reserve sits in the eye of a storm. Its resources, economic and ecological, are the subject of an intense conservation and political debate. In this debate, the conservation of the extraordinary diversity of the Yasuni is pitted against the development of its huge underground oil reserves.

On this occasion we share the journey with my friend Mike Tidwell, who has a record of seeing seven Salvin’s Curassaws in one day! This marks his 20th trip to our lodge in the last 10 years.

We met at the Coca Airport. Coca is a typical amazonian boomtown. It crackles with a crazy energy. Ecuadorians from all walks of life are here in the intense jungle heat, and money is exchanging hands everywhere. Its old, its new, its dynamic and its tearing a hole in one of the greatest wildernesses left on our planet. Geographically, Coca sits at the juncture of three major rivers: the Napo, the Payamino and the Coca, the same spot from which Francisco de Orellana sailed downstream and to discover the Amazon River back in 1542.

The great avian diversity of the Napo River makes it a very interesting river to explore. One can’t help but wonder how its diversity will fare under the relentless development schemes hatching along its shores.

We leave Coca, cross the Napo River, and drive south along recently paved Auca Road, The road was constructed in the early 80’s to allow for the extraction of hydrocarbons.

The oil industry is a major threat to the diversity of life in this area. It is forever constructing new roads into virgin forest in its relentless search for hydrocarbons. A typical example is Maxus Road. The birdlife shown in the original survey declined shortly after this road was built. Other threats are: hunting (thousands of unregulated shotguns), habitat destruction, and population growth.

There was a time when indigenous people lived in equilibrium with the forest. We heard a couple of weeks ago that the Taromenane and Tagaeri People still living in the Yasuni IBA were on the move. The truth is that they are now surrounded by the modern world and there is no escape. They are cornered, and in a sense trapped in their own forest.

We drove for 2 hours until we reached a set of buildings known as the Shiripuno River Check Point, a United Nations project aimed at protecting the people still living in isolation in the forest. The staff of the Shiripuno Lodge began to unload the supplies and gear from the truck and place them into the canoe. We paid our $20 entrance fee to the Waorani, got in the canoe, and began the four-hour trip downstream to the lodge. The water level was low, reminding us that it was October, an expected dry month. This usually means that the rip will take longer than expected.

Part of our arrangement with The Waorani People from Neoñeno is that a large area of forest around the lodge be off limits for hunting. They have kept their agreement, but given that their entire culture has traditionally relied upon hunting and gathering, it is sometimes not easy for them to be disciplined in this way.

The further we navigate down the Shiripuno River, the more we forget about the modern world. A tremendous pleasure comes over us as we leave behind the world of the internet, and the power of the Yasuni wilderness takes over. Blue-and-yellow Macaws, White-throated Toucans, Many-banded Araçaries are everywhere. We spot Bare-necked Fruitcrows lekking in the golden canopy of the emergent trees. We see Piping Guans, Russet-backed, Crested, Casqued, and Olive Oropendolas, and Capybaras crossing the river.

On the last 45 minutes of our journey, the sun sets behind us as the moon rises in front of us, welcoming us to the forest. As we step off the boat, Nocturnal Curassaws call from the back of the lodge. As evening falls, a Common Potoo begins to call from the other side of the river. It feels good to be in a wild place.

Shiripuno Lodge is excited about going green. In the near future, solar energy will power the entire camp, and charge the batteries used in all our equipment. Recently, the romantic palm thatch roofs on the lodge were replaced with long-lasting metal roofs. Not only did this stop the roofs from leaking, but this also eliminated the need to cut hundreds of slow growing palms for roofing material Over 900 palm trees are needed every two years just to keep a small lodge such as ours supplied with thatch! Worse, it can take each palm tree 150 years to reach the correct size. Our next move is to substitute the use of rainwater for bottled water. It is important to eliminate as much waste and environmental damage from operations as possible.

Shiripuno Lodge maintain about 30 km of trails. Each trail has its own personality and collectively they cover every major habitat. We also have three salt licks. But what really makes Shiripuno Lodge special is the abundance of large mammals. Once you have experienced it, a forest without its great mammals is just another empty forest. We noted signs of Tapir, Peccaries, Deer, Jaguar, Puma, and Ocelot on the trails. We ran into Gaint Anteater and Brazilian Tapir in the forest. Wooly, Spider, Squirrel, Red Howler, and Monk Saki were common.

One night we understand why the land is called a Rainforest. Around midnight it started with the distant sound of rain striking millions of leaves in the canopy. As it got closer, it sounded like a locomotive heading toward us. And then it hit, lashing us with heavy wind and rain all through night and into the next morning. It was intense. By mid-morning the storm had pretty much passed, but we knew that the interior of the forest would be flooded and that the Shiripuno would soon flood its banks. What a perfect time to float down the Shiripuno! Soon we had a pair of Salvin’s Curassaw drying out by the river

We had good luck in the forest except with the Army Ants. Try as we might, we couldn’t find a decent ant swarm and so missed out on Lunulated Antbird. Despite the big rain, only a few days of hot and dry weather had dried out the streams and swamps in the interior of the forest, and made the leaf litter crackling dry. The Yasuni rainforest is an amazing place full of remarkable surprises.

Species Lists

Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) H
White-throated Tinamou (Tinamus guttatus)
Cinereous Tinamou (Crypturellus cinereus)
Little Tinamou (Crypturellus soui) H
Undulated Tinamou (Crypturellus undulates) H
Variegated Tinamou (Crypturellus variegates)
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
Rufescent Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma lineatum) H
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Striated Heron (Butorides striatus)
Green Ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis)
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Gray-headed Kite (Leptodon cayanensis)
Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus)
Plumbeous Kite (Ictinia plumbea)
Black-faced Hawk (Leucopternis melanops)
Riverside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris)
Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus) H
Black Caracara (Daptrius ater)
Red-throated Caracara (Ibycter americanus)
Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon (Micrastur mirandollei) H
Collared Forest-Falcon (Micrastur semitorquatus)
Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)
Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis) H
Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata)
Spix’s Guan (Penelope jacquacu)
Common Piping-Guan (Pipile pipile)
Nocturnal Curassow (Nothocrax urumutum) H
Salvin’s Curassow (Mitu salvini)
Marbled Wood-Quail (Odontophorus gujanensis)
Black-banded Crake (Laterallus fasciatus) H
Chestnut-headed Crake (Anurolimnas castaneiceps)
Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajanea) H
Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias)
Sungrebe (Heliornis fulica)
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia)
Ruddy Pigeon (Columba subvinacea)
Plumbeous Pigeon (Columba plumbea)
Gray-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla)
Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana)
Blue-and-yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna)
Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)
Chestnut-fronted Macaw (Ara severa)
Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata)
Maroon-tailed Parakeet (Pyrrhura melanura)
Cobalt-winged Parakeet (Brotogeris cyanoptera)
Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet (Touit huetii) H
Black-headed Parrot (Pionites melanocephala)
Orange-cheeked Parrot (Pionopsitta barrabandi)
Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus)
Yellow-crowned Amazon (Amazona ochrocephala)
Orange-winged Amazon (Amazona amazonica)
Mealy Amazon (Amazona farinosa)
Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana)
Black-bellied Cuckoo (Piaya melanogaster)
Greater Ani (Crotophaga major)
Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani)
Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)
Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl (Otus watsonii)
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)
Crested Owl (Lophostrix cristata) H
Black-banded Owl (Strix huhula) H
Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)
Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus) H
Rufous Potoo (Nyctibius bracteatus)
Short-tailed Nighthawk (Lurocalis semitorquatus)
Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis)
Ocellated Poorwill (Nyctiphrynus ocellatus) H
White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris)
Short-tailed Swift (Chaetura brachyura)
Gray-rumped Swift (Chaetura cinereiventris)
Neotropical Palm-Swift (Tachornis squamata)
Pale-tailed Barbthroat (Threnetes leucurus)
Great-billed Hermit (Phaethornis malaris)
White-bearded Hermit (Phaethornis hispidus)
Straight-billed Hermit (Phaethornis bourcieri)
Reddish Hermit (Phaethornis ruber)
Gray-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis)
White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora)
Fork-tailed Woodnymph (Thalurania furcata)
Fiery Topaz (Topaza pyra)
Black-throated Brilliant (Heliodoxa schreibersii)
Black-eared Fairy (Heliothryx aurita)
Pavonine Quetzal (Pharomachrus pavoninus)
Black-tailed Trogon (Trogon melanurus)
Amazonian White-tailed Trogon (Trogon viridis)
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus)
Blue-crowned Trogon (Trogon curucui)
Amazonian Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus)
Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona)
Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana)
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher (Chloroceryle inda)
Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum)
Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii) H
Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota) H
White-eared Jacamar (Galbalcyrhynchus leucotis)
Yellow-billed Jacamar (Galbula albirostris)
Great Jacamar (Jacamerops aurea) H
Spotted Puffbird (Bucco tamatia) H
Collared Puffbird (Bucco capensis)
White-chested Puffbird (Malacoptila fusca) H
Brown Nunlet (Nonnula brunnea)
Black-fronted Nunbird (Monasa nigrifrons)
White-fronted Nunbird (Monasa morphoeus)
Swallow-winged Puffbird (Chelidoptera tenebrosa)
Scarlet-crowned Barbet (Capito aurovirens) H
Gilded Barbet (Capito auratus)
Lemon-throated Barbet (Eubucco richardsoni)
Golden-collared Toucanet (Selenidera reinwardtii)
Chestnut-eared Araçari (Pteroglossus castanotis)
Many-banded Araçari (Pteroglossus pluricinctus)
Ivory-billed Araçari (Pteroglossus azara)
Lettered Araçari (Pteroglossus inscriptus)
Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus)
White-throated Toucan (Ramphastos tucanus)
Spot-breasted Woodpecker (Chrysoptilus punctigula)
Yellow-throated Woodpecker (Piculus flavigula)
White-throated Woodpecker (Piculus leucolaemus)
Golden-green Woodpecker (Piculus chrysochloros)
Chestnut Woodpecker (Celeus elegans)
Scale-breasted Woodpecker (Celeus grammicus)
Cream-colored Woodpecker (Celeus flavus)
Ringed Woodpecker (Celeus torquatus)
Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus)
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus)
Red-stained Woodpecker (Veniliornis affinis) H
Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos)
Red-necked Woodpecker (Campephilus rubricollis)
Speckled Spinetail (Cranioleuca gutturata)
Eastern Woodhaunter (Hyloctistes subulatus) H
Chestnut-winged Hookbill (Ancistrops strigilatus)
Chestnut-winged Foliage-gleaner (Philydor erythropterus)
Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner (Philydor pyrrhodes)
Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner (Philydor ruficaudatus)
Olive-backed Foliage-gleaner (Automolus infuscatus)
Slender-billed Xenops (Xenops tenuirostris)
Plain Xenops (Xenops minutus)
Short-billed Leaftosser (Sclerurus rufigularis)
Plain-brown Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla fuliginosa)
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus)
Long-billed Woodcreeper (Nasica longirostris)
Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper (Dendrexetastes rufigula)
Amazonian Barred-Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes certhia)
Black-banded Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes picumnus)
Straight-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus picus)
Striped Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus obsoletus)
Ocellated Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus ocellatus)
Buff-throated Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus guttatus)
Lineated Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes albolineatus) H
Fasciated Antshrike (Cymbilaimus lineatus)
Undulated Antshrike (Frederickena unduligera)
Great Antshrike (Taraba major)
White-shouldered Antshrike (Thamnophilus aethiops)
Plain-winged Antshrike (Thamnophilus schistaceus)
Mouse-colored Antshrike (Thamnophilus murinus)
Spot-winged Antshrike (Pygiptila stellaris)
Dusky-throated Antshrike (Thamnomanes ardesiacus)
Cinereous Antshrike (Thamnomanes caesius)
Pygmy Antwren (Myrmotherula brachyura) H
Moustached Antwren (Myrmotherula ignota) H
Amazonian Streaked-Antwren (Myrmotherula multostriata)
Plain-throated Antwren (Myrmotherula hauxwelli)
Yasuni Antwren( Myrmotherula fjeldsaai)
Ornate Antwren (Myrmotherula ornata)
Rufous-tailed Antwren (Myrmotherula erythrura)
White-flanked Antwren (Myrmotherula axillaris)
Long-winged Antwren (Myrmotherula longipennis)
Rio Suno Antwren (Myrmotherula sunensis)
Gray Antwren (Myrmotherula menetriesii)
Dot-winged Antwren (Microrhopias quixensis)
Dugand’s Antwren (Herpsilochmus dugandi)
Chestnut-shouldered Antwren (Terenura humeralis)
Gray Antbird (Cercomacra cinerascens)
Blackish Antbird( Cercomacra nigrescens)
Black-faced Antbird (Myrmoborus myotherinus)
Warbling Antbird (Hypocnemis cantator)
Yellow-browed Antbird (Hypocnemis hypoxantha)
Spot-backed Antbird (Hylophylax naevia)
Scale-backed Antbird (Hylophylax poecilinota)
Banded Antbird (Dichrozona cincta)
Spot-winged Antbird (Schistocichla leucostigma)
White-shouldered Antbird (Myrmeciza melanoceps)
Sooty Antbird (Myrmeciza fortis)
White-plumed Antbird (Pithys albifrons) H
Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys leucaspis)
Hairy-crested Antbird (Rhegmatorhina melanosticta) H
Reddish-winged Bare-eye (Phlegopsis erythroptera)
Wing-banded Antbird (Myrmornis torquata)
Rufous-capped Antthrush (Formicarius colma)
Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis)
Striated Antthrush (Chamaeza nobilis) H
Ochre-striped Antpitta (Grallaria dignissima) H
White-lored Antpitta (Hylopezus fulviventris) H
Thrush-like Antpitta (Myrmothera campanisona) H
Ash-throated Gnateater (Conopophaga peruviana)
Rusty-belted Tapaculo (Liosceles thoracicus)
White-lored Tyrannulet (Ornithion inerme) H
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet (Tyrannulus elatus) H
Forest Elaenia (Myiopagis gaimardii) H
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus)
Ringed Antpipit (Corythopis torquata)
Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant (Myiornis ecaudatus) H
Double-banded Pygmy-Tyrant (Lophotriccus vitiosus)
White-eyed Tody-Tyrant (Hemitriccus zosterops)
Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum chrysocrotaphum) H
Rufous-tailed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon ruficauda)
Zimmer’s Flatbill (Tolmomyias assimilis) H
Gray-crowned Flatbill (Tolmomyias poliocephalus) H
Olive-faced Flatbill (Tolmomyias viridiceps)
Golden-crowned Spadebill (Platyrinchus coronatus)
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher (Terenotriccus erythrurus)
Black-tailed Flycatcher (Myiobius atricaudus)
Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens)
Western Wood Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)
Drab Water-Tyrant (Ochthornis littoralis)
Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus)
Citron-bellied Attila (Attila citriniventris)
Cinnamon Attila (Attila cinnamomeus)
Grayish Mourner (Rhytipterna simplex)
Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer)
Short-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus ferox)
Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)
Lesser Kiskadee (Philohydor lictor)
Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua)
Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)
Gray-capped Flycatcher (Myiozetetes granadensis)
Dusky-chested Flycatcher (Myiozetetes luteiventris)
Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus)
Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius)
Crowned Slaty Flycatcher (Griseotyrannus aurantioatrocristatus)
Sulphury Flycatcher (Tyrannopsis sulphurea) H
Yellow-throated Flycatcher (Conopias parvus)
Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
Chestnut-crowned Becard (Pachyramphus castaneus)
White-winged Becard (Pachyramphus polychopterus) H
Pink-throated Becard (Pachyramphus minor)
Black-tailed Tityra (Tityra cayana)
Cinereous Mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra)
Screaming Piha (Lipaugus vociferans)
Plum-throated Cotinga (Cotinga maynana)
Spangled Cotinga (Cotinga cayana)
Bare-necked Fruitcrow (Gymnoderus foetidus)
Purple-throated Fruitcrow (Querula purpurata)
Golden-headed Manakin (Pipra erythrocephala)
White-crowned Manakin (Dixiphia pipra)
Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata)
Blue-backed Manakin (Chiroxiphia pareola)
White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus)
Western Striped Manakin (Machaeropterus regulus)
Green Manakin (Chloropipo holochlora)
Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin (Tyranneutes stolzmanni)
Wing-barred Piprites (Piprites chloris)
Thrush-like Schiffornis (Schiffornis turdinus) H
Violaceous Jay (Cyanocorax violaceus)
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
Dusky-capped Greenlet (Hylophilus hypoxanthus)
Lemon-chested Greenlet (Hylophilus thoracicus) H
Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps)
Black-billed Thrush (Turdus ignobilis)
Lawrence's Thrush (Turdus lawrencii)
White-necked Thrush (Turdus albicollis)
White-banded Swallow (Atticora fasciata)
Black-capped Donacobius (Donacobius atricapillus)
Thrush-like Wren (Campylorhynchus turdinus)
Coraya Wren (Thryothorus coraya)
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
White-breasted Wood-Wren (Henicorhina leucosticta)
Southern Nightingale-Wren (Microcerculus marginatus)
Long-billed Gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus)
Tropical Gnatcatcher (Polioptila plumbea) H
Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)
Buff-rumped Warbler (Basileuterus fulvicauda) H
Purple Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes caeruleus)
Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)
Black-faced Dacnis (Dacnis lineata)
Yellow-bellied Dacnis (Dacnis flaviventer)
Thick-billed Euphonia (Euphonia laniirostris)
Orange-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia xanthogaster)
Rufous-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia rufiventris)
White-lored Euphonia (Euphonia chrysopasta)
Opal-rumped Tanager (Tangara velia)
Green-and-gold Tanager (Tangara schrankii)
Swallow Tanager (Tersina viridis)
Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus)
Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum)
Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo)
Masked Crimson Tanager (Ramphocelus nigrogularis)
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager (Habia rubica)
Flame-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus cristatus)
Fulvous-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus surinamus)
Magpie Tanager (Cissopis leveriana)
Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus)
Grayish Saltator (Saltator coerulescens)
Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) H
Yellow-browed Sparrow (Ammodramus aurifrons)
Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela)
Red-rumped Cacique (Cacicus haemorrhous)
Solitary Cacique (Cacicus solitarius)
Casqued Oropendola (Clypicterus oseryi)
Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus)
Russet-backed Oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons)
Green Oropendola (Psarocolius viridis)
Olive Oropendola (Psarocolius bifasciatus)
Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis)
Giant Cowbird (Scaphidura oryzivora)
Moriche Oriole (Icterus chrysocephalus)
Orange-backed Troupial (Icterus croconotus)