Camera trap glimpses a rarely-seen forest falcon in our Machay “Forests in the Sky”corridor

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Our rangers have reached 3200m, high above the clouds, in our “Forests in the Sky” reserve. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

Happy 2017! We wish our readers a productive and fulfilling year.

As regular readers know, we have been constructing a 13 kilometer long corridor of protected forest between Ecuador’s Llanganates and Sangay National Parks, by purchasing the intervening properties one by one. The project has been supported for almost ten years now by the World Land Trust and their donors, including long-term patrons Puro Coffee, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Naturetrek. The idea is to maintain a forested link between the northeast Andes and southeast Andes, which are separated by the very vulnerable low valley of the Rio Pastaza, a tributary of the Amazon. The valley is becoming densely populated and has a major highway running through it. Luckily the highway goes through some big kilometer-long tunnels, and our corridor goes over one of those tunnels. Our hope is that the corridor will maintain the connectivity between the north and south populations of large Andean birds and mammals such as Spectacled Bear, puma, Mountain Tapir, and Black-and-chestnut Eagles. This  is important for the long-term genetic and demographic health of those species. Some of these are “keystone” species that play major roles in the ecosystems they inhabit, so maintaining these species is necessary for the health of those ecosystems.

Juan Pablo Reyes and our rangers Luis, Fausto, Santiago, and Jesus Recalde have been exploring our latest purchases on the north side of the Rio Pastaza, starting at about 1500m elevation. In late October they reached 3200m elevation near the transition between cloud forest and cold alpine shrubland. They put up a camera trap  on the new trail they have built, and they recently brought the memory cards back down the mountain.

It is always a thrill to look at our camera trap images and videos for the first time. It feels like we are spying on the animals. We never know what we’ll be seeing. This time, we were amazed to see a secretive Collared Forest-falcon half-flying, half-running down the trail, a quick dash through the  camera’s field of view, hoping to surprise some bird or small mammal. We’ve never seen this bird in any of our reserves, and never imagined we would catch it on video like this.

 

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Collared Forest-falcon captured by our camera trap. This camera takes three still frames before the video starts. This is one of them, enlarged.

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Here’s a better look at a Collared Forest-falcon (Micrastur semitorquatus), this one photographed in western Ecuador by Roger Ahlman.

Of course one of the main purposes of the corridor is to facilitate movement of large mammals. Other videos from this camera trap show that animals are already using our new trail. Here’s a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)  captured at dusk in the same spot as the previous video:

A small cat also made an appearance the same night as the bear:

Edit 8pm Jan 1: Spectacled Bears often mess with our cameras. We’ve had to put them in heavy metal housings to protect them. After the above videos were taken,  a bear came to adjust this camera’s field of view to his liking:

Then he left the camera with the lens covered by a large leaf, as seen in the still shot following the video.

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The bear left the camera covered by this leaf.

 

We’re glad to see that animals are using our corridor’s trails, but we wish they would leave the camera adjustments to us!

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

 

 

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