Ecuador is a relatively small South American country of about 115,000 square miles, less than half the area of Texas, that sits on the west (Pacific) coast of South America south of Colombia and north of Peru. The capital, Quito, is at 9,350 feet in the volcanic Cordillera Real of the Andes, but the terrain drops down to the Pacific coast at Guayaquil in the west, and down to a series of Amazon feeder tributaries in the east. The country is named after the equator, which runs just north of Quito.
Ecuador has, despite its small area, among the most diverse avifauna anywhere. Mainland Ecuador has over 1,550 species, but only seven endemics as most species spill over into Colombia or Peru. (This does not include the Galapagos Islands, also part of Ecuador, that have an additional 30 endemics.) Notable among the bird species are a large number of hummingbirds and many tanagers. In addition there are "specialty" species such as the Cock-of-the-Rock and the Andean Condor.
The program will illustrate a selection of the birds on the eastern side of the Andes taken during a trip in February 2017 to the Tandayapa area, northwest of Quito and the higher altitude area around the Antisana volcano, southeast of Quito.
We will plan on having the doors open by 6:00 p.m. and the program will start at 7:00 p.m. sharp. A light supper will be available from 6:15 p.m
Our leaders will be there from about 8:30 a.m. Hopefully, this will be close to a peak in this year's Broad-winged Hawk migration, but there will always be some hawks. Any day from mid-September through mid or late October should produce a good number of migrating hawks.
FM1985 is likely to be still closed at East Bay Bayou. To reach the Smith Point Hawk Watch site from Winnie, take (or continue on) IH-10 west for 16 miles, then take Highway 61 south for about 3.7 miles, continuing straight (south) on FM562 from that intersection for about 8 miles. At the intersecion with FM1985, follow FM562 to the right (south) another 14 miles to Smith Point. At the end of FM562, there are usually signs to the Hawk Watch. Continue straight until almost reaching the bay, and turn left, bearing left again to the parking area next to the Hawk Watch Tower on the Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area. It takes at least 90 minutes from the Golden Triangle to reach the site. This Field Trip is much more a come and go as you wish trip, and help on hawk identification is always available on the tower during Hawk Watch season!
Our leaders may lead a group into the nearby woods looking for migrants, but you may stay on the tower if you wish. Mosquitoes are not normally a problem on the tower, although they almost always are in the woods. Availability of food and fuel is limited or non-existent in Smith Point, so bring your lunch!
The Smith Point Hawk Watch is conducted every day from August 1 through the end of October by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.
Historically, the peak of Broad-wing Hawk migration is September 25, although in recent years at Smith Point, it has been later. In recent years there has often been a brief one-day spike in the September 20-24 time frame, followed by a higher and often multi-day peak. Last year the peak day was October 1, although there were a large flights on September 20 and each day from September 27 through October 1. The exact peak day probably depends more on the weather on the migration path from Pennsylvania down to east Texas, and particularly on the two or three days prior. Should a cold front pass through, the days immediately following usually have a north wind, and there tend to be more migrating hawks of all species on those days. You may want to pick a day to visit accordingly!