20 July 2013

10 February 2013

Mid-trip tiredness was definitely starting to set in today, and no doubt was related to yesterday's drenching. This morning however, the sky was clear and it looked as though we might have a good day, provided it didn't get too warm or start raining. I woke at 5:15am, and by 6:30am we were birding the trails around the lodge. Green [Inca] Jay was the first bird of the day, followed by other good sightings such as Blackish Tapaculo, Long-tailed Antbird, Powerful Woodpecker, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Golden-crowned Tanager, Pale-edged Flycatcher, and Masked Trogon. At 7:30am we headed to the antpitta feeding stations, where at the first one we had a good display of two White-bellied Antpitta's. At the Peruvian Antpitta feeding station we had a no-show.

Continuing along the trails we found Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Flavescent Flycatcher (lifer), Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet (lifer) and Barred Becard. By now the forest was becoming muggy, and cloud was starting to build with imminent rain on the horizon. Still, we pushed forward and picked up more great birds such as Capped Conebill, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Pale-eyed Thrush (lifer), Spotted Barbtail (lifer), Yellow-vented Woodpecker (lifer), Golden-headed Quetzal, Squirrel Cuckoo, and Andean Motmot. After completing a large circuit we arrived back at the lodge and picked up some common birds around the feeders and gardens. We then headed down another trail, which was relatively short and unproductive, yet yielded a couple of excellent birds such as Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia (lifer), and Long-tailed Tapaculo (lifer).

After a nice lunch and a bit of a rest we finished the day working the road where we went yesterday evening. As a group we seemed a lot less focused on birding, and actually spent some time talking to each other more than usual. And perhaps not surprisingly, we saw several good birds in what I saw as a more "relaxed"stated of mind. Species included Slate-crowned Antpitta (lifer), Crested Quetzal (lifer), Striped Treehunter (lifer), White-capped Parrot (lifer), Golden-collared Honeycreeper, and Golden-naped Tanager (lifer). After dinner we ended the day with fantastic views of Black-banded Owl.

Total species today: 70
Total cumulative species for the trip:  239
Total lifers today:  11
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 63

9 February 2013

There's only one way to describe today - wet!

At 4:50am I woke to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the rooftop of the lodge, and with a hope and prayer I had hoped it wouldn't last. As I made my way outside to grab breakfast in the mess hall, I could also see that thick fog enshrouded the forest canopy. Thee were not ideal conditions for birding, but the team pressed on.

At 6:00am we boarded the bus and headed west again, this time to Caymbe-Coca National Park where we decided to drive as far along along the road as we could and gradually walk down hill. The birding was extremely slow, with target species being extremely elusive. When we did see something, keeping rain of the binoculars was a challenge. Our first bird of the day was a Rufous Antpita, a species that had frustratingly dodged our view just yesterday. Next we saw Viridian Metaltail (lifer), followed by White-throated Tyrannulet, Spectacled Redstart, and Pale-naped Brush-Finch (lifer). Continuing down the road, with fog coming and going in globulous balls of visual impediment, I managed to see just one more lifer on this road, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager. Other birds seen included Stripe-headed Brush-Finch, Golden-crowned Tanager, Rufous Wren, Black-crested Warbler and Blue-backed Conebill.

After about three hours of gradually becoming a human sponge, we decided to head back to Guango Lodge in hopes that the weather might be better elsewhere in the valley. At the lodge we had a quick bite of lunch, packed our gear, and slowly made our our way toward San Isidro Lodge. At the Guango feeders we had the usual suspects, including a good look at Sword-billed Hummingbird and a couple of Collared Inca's. As we drew nearer to Baeza the rain gradually subsided, and eventually ended as we headed south. Between Baeza and San Isidro we spotted four Red-billed Parrot's (lifer) perched atop some palms.

At San Isidro we birded the grounds of the lodge and then took a walk down the gravel road that had lead to the lodge. Finally the birding had improved, and we quickly 47 species. The omnipresent Green Jay's were all around the lodge, and amongst the diverse vegetation we also spotted Fawn-breasted Tanager, Sierran Elaenia, eight Blackburnian Warbler's, Brown-capped Vireo, and Streak-necked Flycatcher. Other good observations included  Bronzy Inca, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Russet-crowned Warbler, Russet-backed Oropendola (lifer), Black-capped Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, and Black-billed Peppershrike (lifer). As the light gradually disappeared, birding continued to be very good, and in the final hour of daylight we added species such as Azara's Spinetail, White-throated Quail-Dove, Emerald Toucanet, Andean Solitaire (lifer), Rufous Spinetail (lifer), White-chested Swift, Golden-rumped Euphonia, and White-chinned Swift (lifer).

We ended the day at 6:15pm, happy in the fact that the rain had subsided, we saw numerous great birds, and had a wonderful dinner at San Isidro. After compiling the days notes, it was once again time for bed at the late hour of 8:30pm. Today we broke 200 species for the trip!

Total species today: 72
Total cumulative species for the trip:  207
Total lifers today:  9
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 52

19 July 2013

8 February 2013

Another early rise, but such is the price for getting to see good birds. Today I woke at 5:00am, and after a quick breakfast in the lodge we were on our way at 6:00am. We headed due west, back toward Papallacta Pass, where we would spend about half the day searching for high elevation specialities. Our first bird of the day was a Tawny Antpitta, which stood in the middle of the gravel road that would take us to the famous "antennas" where we had high hopes to see Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe.

The morning weather was perfect for birding, as it was cool, crisp, calm and clear. Rather than spend time birding up to the summit, at the risk of the weather changing as it does so often in the Andes, we made an essential bee-line to the summit (4300 m) and would gauge our pace of birding downward as conditions permitted. On the way to the top we spotted Brown-bellied Swallow, Stout-billed Cinclodes and Andean Tit-Spinetail. Once at the summit the five of us split up in hopes of finding the elusive seedsnipe - a bird I missed in 2011. My path was to head up - up to the highest point to gain the best vantage point for scanning. And it paid off, as in just a few minutes I located the first of three Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe (lifer). The bird I found appeared injured, as evidenced by a drooping wing and its preference to remain still or to walk slowly away. The other two birds, seen not much further from the first bird, remained close only for a few minutes before bursting down the mountain slope in full flight.

From the summit we began our gradual descent, but not before taking advantage of the brilliant photo opportunities. Soon after starting our way down the mountain we spotted Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, White-chinned Thistletail, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Many-striped Canestero, and Grass [Sedge] Wren. Once back near the highway we took a small gravel road west to search for a few other specialities, namely Giant Conebill and Paramo Tapaculo. We did get the latter (lifer) after "working" the bird for nearly 30 minutes for everyone to get a good look, but missed the conebill. Along the highway we tried for Giant Conebill again, but had no luck; sadly, the widening of highway had removed a substantial piece of the species' habitat. We then stopped at Papallacta Lake and birded the gravel road east of the lake. It was fairly unproductuive, yielding only six species - the most bothersome of all was a Rufous Antpitta that literally was less than five feet away and we couldnt see it nor coax it into view with playback.

Back at Guango Lodge we worked the feeders for a few minutes before having lunch. In only a few minutes we numerous hummingbirds, including Buff-breasted Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird and Mountain Avocetbill (lifer). After lunch we worked the trails around the lodge, still on the hunt for Torrent Duck. Highlights included Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager (lifer), Pearled Treerunner, Slaty Brush-Finch (lifer), Torrent Tyrannulet (lifer), Plain-tailed Wren (lifer), Barred Fruiteater (lifer), Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager (lifer), Scaly-naped Amazon (lifer), Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Dusky Piha (lifer) and Mountain Velvetbreast (lifer). We ended the day, just as it was nearing dark, with a pair of Torrent Ducks on the river with one baby.

After a delicious dinner, a wee bit of conversation, and a plethora of daily notes to compile, it was time to hit the hay. Tonight I was sharing a room with Howard (due to space limitations), and for days preceding this evening there was near-constant warning and teasing that I wouldn't sleep a wink because of Howard's tendency to snore...and so I was told...quite loudly. Time would tell.

Total species today: 66
Total cumulative species for the trip: 179
Total lifers today: 12
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 43