Thursday 3rd December. My last day at Sani Lodge saw a dramatic change in the weather, clear skies and bright sunshine. I only had the morning to spend birding as after an early lunch I would head back to Coca and the return flight to Quito. Because of this we stayed local and birded from the canopy Tower, but this was a dead loss, the hot sun had driven all the birds down below the forest canopy and there was virtually nothing to see from up here, so we decided to bird the creeks and ponds from the canoe instead.
Better light gives better images. These two Kingfisher shots are more vibrant and detailed than my previous efforts. The Green Kingfisher is nice and sharp, but In fact the Pygmy Kingfisher shot is my personal favourite from Ecuador. The colours blend nicely and complement each other, the picture really works and is the most aesthetically pleasing.
Ospreys are quite common here and we had a couple scouting around the backwaters of the Lodge today.
Orange Winged Parrots were flying around and I caught a couple of nice shots, one perched but the other flight shot just coincidentally caught a Fork-tailed Palm Swift in the frame. Two for the price of one.
Two Lesser Kiskadees looked good in the sunshine....
...and the clear skies meant we could see the raptors overhead for a change. I captured a King Vulture, Slender Billed Kite and a Gray Headed Kite amongst others.
A pair of Rufescent Tiger Herons showed well near the Lodge..
....but the Least Bitterns were harder to find. Playback eventually coaxed one into a visible spot although still partially obscured. Then I spotted a nice Yellow Bellied Dacnis on an overhanging branch.
A very good sighting across the lake was this Black-Fronted Nunbird perched on an old tree stump, the first and only one I saw in Ecuador.
The best birds however we saved until the last. In a narrow creek we called out a lovely Dot Backed Antbird, one of those small, hard to see forest dwellers. Superb.
But while Domingo was trying to coax out the Antbird I spotted another LBJ (Little Brown Job). I wasn't going to mention it while he concentrated on the Antbird but I took a photo. When he saw the shot he became unusually animated. This was a Cocha Antshrike, a very rare bird endemic not only to Ecuador but only ever really seen right here, and then rarely. Domingo told me that none of the other Lodges in the area ever recorded it. I found out that it was once only known from an old collected specimen until its re-discovery in 1991.
The Cocha Antshrike is a very intriguing species in the genus Thamnophilus that, until relatively recently was only known from a single female specimen from northeastern Ecuador. Then the species was “re-discovered” and the male, which had been un-described to science, was found for the first time. It is now considered uncommon and very local along slow-moving streams and flooded forest in extreme northeastern Ecuador. Males are entirely black, females are entirely chestnut brown, with a black hood and breast.
After my first sighting we called the bird out and had even better views. This is a female, we did not see, or at least did not notice a male which is perhaps less conspicuous being all black. I was very pleased with this sighting, just about my last, and the best bird of my Ecuador trip. A good way to finish. The Cocha Antshrike.