Vayun and I just got back from an amazing trip to South Ecuador in search of rare and recently described species. The undoubted high-point (literally) was finding and photographing the Blue-throated Hillstar at 12000ft on Cerro Arcos, an Andean ridge at the border of Loja and El Oro provinces. Hillstars are amazing in themselves since the are the highest elevation hummingbirds and have evolved to survive in their harsh environment, but this hillstar is really special since it was discovered less than an year ago and is already considered Critically Endangered. (Please read below on how you can help save it).
It was Vayun's main target and we planned our itinerary around it. It was touch and go for a while as this was a remote location that our driver had not been to before (we had to stop and ask for directions every time we saw someone who looked like they may know something). What was expected to be an hour and a half became over four on Andean rural dirt roads with ominous clouds looming in the distance. Eventually the broken sign saying Cerro Arcos was a huge relief and even more so the welcome sight of the Casa Refugio build into a rock outcrop and our home for the night. The next morning things got bleaker with low clouds, cold and rain on the windswept high ridge. The idea of trying to scout some locations using our van proved to be a bad idea as the van slipped back into a ditch on a steep section of the track and we had to abandon it there and hike back on foot in the rain and mud. The next few hours we were hunkered down around the warmth of the stove at the casa, but that proved to be a blessing too as we spent time with members of the local Andean community who had come out there to spend their Saturday on the Cerro as well. Eventually there was a brief lull in the rain and we headed out again and this time to our immense delight we found the hummingbird in a patch of native vegetation and despite the tough conditions and bad light, Vayun managed to get a great shot. Thanks to Pablo Andrade https://exploraves.com/ for organizing the trip.
There are only an estimated 150-400 individuals and the status beyond Cerros Arcos is not fully known and even here the patch of habitat is under threat. Just $300,000 with buy 616 acres that are likely to be the core of the species' entire range and may provide hope for its survival and the chance for others to experience this unique location and amazing bird. Please visit https://www.jocotoco.org/wb… and make a donation to save this species.
A brief photologue follows.