Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Podocarpus National Park from Vilcabamba

Remember that Podocarpus National Park is very big, and can be accessed from either east or west? Earlier, we explored the eastern Bombuscaro sector. Now it's time for the western Cajanuma Sector! This region has easy access by road to the páramo and elfin forest of Podocarpus, at the highest elevations, above about 10,000 to 11,000 feet. (In the east, we hiked at lower elevations.)

Montane cloud forest at Podocarpus National Park, just below the páramo
(Photos by Narca)

This western part of the park is often misty, too, and we spend much less time here, but it's a very worthwhile region to explore.

We can't leave Podocarpus National Park without showing you a Podocarpus tree, South America's only native conifer (though it looks nothing like our more familiar pines and spruces).

Podocarpus tree

Podocarpus foliage

The Plushcap is a bamboo specialist, living at high elevations in the Andes. For a long time it confounded taxonomists, and was placed in its own family of passerines. Recently, ornithologists have moved it to the tanager family.


We are most interested in finding a small, high-altitude hummingbird, the Neblina Metaltail, but weather conspires against us. We do see several Glowing Pufflegs, another beautiful hummer, as well as Pale-naped Brush-Finches and lots of Band-tailed Pigeons, flying over the crest.

Once again, páramo flowers are lovely.

Melastomes are easy to spot by their leaf venation

Another beautiful flower of the páramo

Leaving the wind-buffeted, misty heights, we descend toward Vilcabamba, but before we leave the park a few other species catch our eye.

A migrant Broad-winged Hawk, here on its wintering grounds

Perky Cinnamon Flycatchers are fairly common

A very striking pierid, Catasticta susiana, one of the dartwhites

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