Whos keeping an eye on me....

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Couldnt resist ........

Another trip out f county for the Red Footed Falcon in Staffordshire. Its a stunning bird, First Summer Male that is in a good state of moult.

The previous two visits were early morning, today I went in the evening and caught some lovely sunshine and a rather active bird...... Loved it!



Sunday, 26 July 2015

Red-Footed Falcon - Falco vespertinus

A first summer male. Only 45 minutes drive over the county border into Staffordshire. It has now been on site for around three weeks. I have made two trips to see it, the first trip we had four flyovers but each time in poor light and the bird was mostly in silhouette when it did fly over. It then preceded to sit partially obscured by leaves very high up in an Oak tree for well over an hour.

The second trip proved more fruitful with some stunning viewing while it sat in a Hawthorn bush and fed on the ground near dung piles.

Lovely bird.



Saturday, 11 July 2015

Colombia 2015 - Pt 12 Mitu Cachiveira - Ceima Cachiveira and the final day in Colombia

Mitu Cachiveira
This area holds the white sand specialities, Jose, Jeff and myself set off and met our guide Miguel at the bridge of the 2 de Octubre village where the road ends. From here we explored the Mitu Cachiveira trails. Even before we had left the village proper we found a Speckled Chachalaca and roosting Plumbeous Kite, and with the frustrating numbers of Tropical Kingbirds that need checking out "just in case". There was plenty of bird activity to get us going, the first bit of dense forest produced a pair of Amazonian Antshrikes and a bird we had heard but missed seeing a few days earlier, Pectoral Sparrow, really good views of two birds unfortunately they didn't hang around (typical of most of the Amazon birds.... it doesn't take much movement in the dense undergrowth to lose them and not catch back up with them).

Miguel is another local guide who does his spotting with his ears and he is very very good. He tips his head to one side and points, Jose then translates for us! it worked very well and something that happened a lot today with some fine birds being seen from the direction of his pointed finger.

One of the good birds pointed out was a male Red Necked Woodpecker, the only one of the trip and a great looking bird. A few regular species were added to the day list, Blue Crowned Manakins, Cherries Antwrens, Purple Honeycreepers, the inevitable White browed Purpletufts etc.... seems hard now but these sort of birds became easily overlooked as they were numerous and were often seen more than several times a day, what would we all give to have a regular Purple Honeycreeper or Cherries Antwren visiting our gardens back home!

Cherries Antwren

Collared Gnatwren, Great Billed Hermit and Brown Headed Greenlet all became lifers in a small mixed flock before a little searching and perseverance got us a Spot Backed Antwren, the lifers and skulkers just keep on coming.

Miguel led us to a clearing in the white sand forest where we would settle down for breakfast. We soon picked up another lifer with a  Plumbeous Euphonia perched out in the open, then while unpacking his rucksack Miguel heard a Black Manakin.  We looked a little but decided to eat as it called not too far away. Without warning it popped out and perched at virtually ground level 20ft from us, then a fumble of hard boiled egg while stretching for the camera resulted in a stunning view but no image. The bird decided to tease me for the next 10 minutes by flying to every bush in the clearing without actually stopping long enough to get a photo. Its a huge bird compared to the other Manakins that I saw and a great bird for the day, trip and life lists!...... oh but things would get better, and by some way.
Plumbeous Euphonia
Jeff had a hope and a not too confident hope of adding Pompadour Cotinga to his life list. As we finished packing up breakfast we all had a scan of the surrounding area where I cant remember who saw it and grabbed the scope (Either Jose or Jeff) when I was told "turn round, quick, Scope... look".

Pompadour Cotinga, perched. Some distance away, so we headed off to get nearer views. Miguel was excited too, its not a common bird here and people normally have to travel some way from this area for them. Things got better as the day wore on saw at least 4 individuals (inc a pair in the same tree....).


The good birding continued with White Fringed Antwrens, Yellow-Green Grosbeak, Blackish Nightjar that we accidentally flushed from a fallen tree and it took shelter behind it, Blue Crowned Motmot and an incredibly hard to get onto Buff Rumped Warbler, this bird took nearly half an hour to find as was one of the hardest of the trip.

White Fringed Antwren
Plain Brown Woodcreeper, Epaulet Oriole and a Chestnut Woodpecker the days total was becoming rather respectable.

An enjoyable moment was the finding of a Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin as it eventually gave up brilliant views deep in the forest off the track and after a fair bit of creeping over vines etc.....a nice moment. White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, Grey Bellied Antbird a large flock of Maroon Tailed Parakeets a Black Tailed Tityra, Wedge Billed Treecreeper, White Fronted Nunbird, Swallow Winged Puffbirds, White Crowned Manakins and Blue Black Grosbeak quickly followed, just before I had an episode with some seriously painful ants. I had sat down on a fallen tree not seeing the ants, wow the pain. Jose and Miguel smiled and I heard Jose say "Dancing ants". Blimey I had to drop the trousers to flush them out which kind of did the trick or so I thought! A while later while the 4 of us tried to get onto a Silvered Antbird the ants hit back, it was painful and I couldn't keep quiet as I had to take the trousers off ...... we all just about managed to get the bird.

Swallow Winged Puffbird
White Fronted Nunbird

We had walked a fair distance up this track and the elevation had started to get steeper, my thought were wandering between have I had enough of this clinbing and I hope something good is at the top...... oh boy was it. I was only a few paces behind Miguel when even I can understand in broken Spanish\English "Cock of the Rock" Effing hell, a Male Guianan Cock of the Rock perched a little distance away. Blimey I wasn't expecting that. It was brilliant, we all got onto it as it flew to a few various trees, it eventually perched near enough to allow me to get a prized image, not the best ever, but one that I will cherish for sure, what a bird and what a moment. Miguel said that we could climb for maybe 10minuted more..... we declined the offer and trudged back down in a jovial mood.

Guianan Cock of the Rock - male

A mixed flock gave us Green and Gold and Flame Crested Tanagers as well as a Black Throated Trogon, Grey Antwren, Long Tailed Woodcreeper and some other stuff that we all missed. We heard a Screaming Phia..... nothing unusual there then, and as we headed back to the village we got onto Fuscous Flycatcher, unfortuantly Jeff missed this as he was fending off Hornets which took a swipe at his ear and upper lip, Chestnut Bellied Seedfinch, Plain Breasted Ground Dove and more Squirrel Cuckoos. As a last hoorah, we drove a short way into the edge of Mitu and easily picked up a Point-tailed Palmcreeper, a very nice end to a great day.

I emptied the rest of the ants from my trousers, Jeff got a cool bear to ease the pain from the sting and we reflected on a great day with Miguel and seeing 4 Pompadour Cotingas and a Cock of the Rock.

One of the best bits today was Miguel. He took great pleasure in getting us good birds and genuinely looked please when we saw them, often resulting with a high five, great bloke.

Jose with the camera and Miguel with the scope

Ceima Cachiveira
In the morning after coffee we set off  towards the indigenous village of Ceima Cachiveira. Miguel couldn't make today so Agripino stepped in again. We had two choices, to go left and find Cock of the Rock again or go right and see what happens. We chose to go right and see what happens, we can look for COTR later.

A great start when we got two difficult bird in quick succession, a Pair of Black Throated Antbirds and our only Antthrush of the trip when we eventually got onto a Rufous Capped Antthrush. The morning eventually turned out to be very warm and very hard work, we still picked up most of the more common birds such as Cobalt Winged and Marooned Tailed Parakeets, Tanagers, and Tyrannulets, while some skulkers gave good views as well with Gray Antbird, Coraya Wren, we eventually got brilliant views of Bicolored Antbird and Jose and myself managed good but brief views of a White fringed Antwren.
Rufous Capped Antthrush

Marooned Tailed Parakeets

We decided to walk back and head for the COTR track. Surprisingly while walking back we got our only sighting of the trip of a single Rufous Browed Peppershrike, while adding even more Blue Crowned Manakins, Turquoise Tanager, Magpie Tanagers and a new hummer, Black Bellied Thorntail,  Black faced Antbird, Slender Footed Tyrannulet, Amazonian Motmot made the walk back more productive than the walk out....

Black Faced Antbird

Turquoise Tanager

We went off the main track and started to climb to the rocky area that should be good for the Cock of the Rock. We had to wait a little while when a Male Guianan Cock of the Rock showed really well high above us, Jose spotted a second bird as they both flew out of sight. Unfortunately they didn't show again.
We climbed down through a labyrinth of large boulders that had formed a sort of cave system, here we disturbed some bats. We came out the other side to come face to face with a female Guianan Cock of the Rock. It turned out that in the next ten minutes we saw 4 females including one sat on a nest.

The birding got harder as the day wore on so we decided to drive back and do the cerro Urania and the Urania bridge area again.

We stood for an hour in the cover of the bridge (out of the burning sun) and picked up Rusty Margined Flycatchers, Buff throated Saltators, a Chestnut bellied Seedeater, Rusty fronted Tody-Tyrant, the very smart Pygmy Antwren, Cherries Antwren and the usual mixture of the more common Tanagers, Palm, Silver Beaked, Blue grey etc. We also got the 60th species of hummingbird for the trip with a Green Tailed Goldenthroat.

Cherries Antwren

Pygmy Antwren

As the day got slightly cooler we climbed the cerro Urania to the top where the birding was virtually non existent but the views were impressive looking down on the expanse of forest only broken by the Vaupes river and the mountainous very distant skyline that marks the Colombia \ Brazil amazon border.


Back down at the bridge area we had just enough time to capture a few small flocks of Mealy Parrots and 4 Red Fan Parrots as well as a family party of Back Caracara flying over. a great end to a difficult afternoon in the baking heat.

juvenile Black Caracara

adult Black Caracara
A little sad that Agripino was "gently" hassled by a local who had too much to drink, I believe the locals don't like some people trying to earn an honest living by showing outsiders the wonderful birds of the area, they would rather get drunk and expect someone to give them money for doing nothing. Fair play to people like Agripino for getting involved and trying to make a difference.

A difficult day made a whole lot better with the brilliant views of the Cock of the Rock.

Tomorrow we have a few hours birding before we take a flight out of the Amazon and back to Bogota.

Day 18
Our final birding morning, we had 4hrs before we would have our final pack and head for the airport. Miguel too us down the short Bocotoma trail. We tried for a Spotted Puffbird but got no response so we carried on towards the trail picking up the usual Plumbeous Kite, Tropical Kingbirds, Epaulet Orioles but added a nice Channel Billed Toucan.

Epaulet Oriole
 Plumbeous Kite

We were soon back onto the Antbirds.... Blackish-Grey Antshrike, Scale Backed Antbird was new for the trip, as well as Amazonian Antshrike. A very brief glimpse of a flushed Umbrellabird followed by a pair of Ruddy Quail-Doves on the flooded tracks. A few new hummers for the life list came in quick succession with a Versicoloured Hummingbird and a Grey Breasted Sabrewing. We spent the next 30+ minutes chasing a Ringed Antpipit that gave us one hell of a runaround. I got at least 2 flypasses straight out infront of me while Miguel at least managed to see it walking the forest floor for a second, what a hard bird. Here is where we got our guaranteed Chestnut Woodpecker, taking away the doubt of whether to count the one a few days before that could have been a Scale Breasted! We now at last caught up with the very plain looking but needed Screaming Piha while it perched high above us and in a clearing we found our only Bat Falcon of the trip perched high and in the distance.

Birding Amazon style
somewhere in there is a Ringed Antpipit ...... and its probably walking on the floor

Blackish-Grey Antshrike

A nice moment for Miguel as we got him onto a lifer...... a party of Bobolink fed close to a bridge and as it turned out Miguel had never seen this species before. Everyone's happy now.

Cinereous Antshrike and Yellow Browed Antbirds were the best of the rest as we headed out of the forest and into open land towards the village. This time around Miguel heard the bird that we tried very early this morning for, Spotted Puffbird and very quickly we were onto it as it perched in just about the only place that wouldn't allow descent pictures. Great bird to end with..... or so we thought!

We had just enough time to find 3 Drab Water-Tyrants, although not the most inspiring species as the name suggests they became my last life bird of the trip.

Drab Water-Tyrants

And those two species just about sum up the Mitu experience...... some amazing birds and some very frustratingly quiet periods. Spotted Sandpiper and Yellow-rumped Cacique were the last birds seen in the Amazon.

the last hoorah....
This Spotted Sandpiper looks out onto the Vaupes River, it was a species that followed us around Colombia as it featured in just about every habitat.

Time eventually caught up and we headed back to town to pack up and head to the airport. A final night in Bogota and a long flight home.

 our route out of here and back to civilisation
Amazon Man

It had been an amazing experience taking in the diverse habitats of Colombia, the trip was planned that way to maximise these differing habitats. We have left enough untouched locations to make another visit one day.
Thanks to my companion Jeff for sharing the trip, it was amazing to have Noah Stryker with us for 6 days as we contributed a little to his world record attempt of 5000 species and to Jose and Gabo for guiding us around Colombia.

Chris Calonje at Colombiabirdwatch.com for organising this private trip.
Booked through this company

My personal trip total of bird species - 666 of which 464 were life birds.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Colombia 2015 - Pt 11 Mitu in Amazonia (Urania Bridge and MCH Santa Cruz Road)

After a comfortable night in Bogota , Jose, Jeff and myself  spent most of the day travelling to Mitu. Mitu is the capital town of the Vaupes department in South East Colombia and is in the heart of the Amazon Basin. This region contains a distinctively different topography and vegetation to most of what we regard as "the Amazon", and therefore the avifauna is different, it is mostly lowland forest, white-sand scrub and savannah.

The flight over the Amazon was incredible, seeing wide rivers and small channels weaving their way through the mile after mile of forest with only now and again a small hill rising above the trees. Even less frequent were areas of population, theset stuck out as square patches of farmed land.... these were few and far between. We arrived at the quaint Mitu Airport.

I am sure it was just a 2 man operation as we were made to waited eagerly to collect our bags, I got my first two Amazonia birds.... a little disappointingly they were Grey Breasted Martins and a few Blue Grey Tanagers.

Outside the airport  we were met by Jorge. Jorge turned out to be the best Mr Fix it you could imagine. He is the Amazon based contact that organises the hotels, food, guides, transport, Coffee in the morning at ridiculously early hours, etc etc... Great Man.

After a very large and late lunch which compromised 3 courses we met our guide for the afternoon, Agrapino. Jeff, Jose (who needed to be with us to translate as English isn't spoken by the local guides), Agrapino and myself climbed into the jeep with our driver Wilson. We were going to take it easy with just a short trip to the Urania bridge area only 10 minutes from town.
Urania Bridge

We started with some easy stuff, more Grey Breasted Martins, Yellow Rumped Cacique and more Blue grey Tanagers before I picked up my first lifers of the area, White Vented Euphonia, Bronzy Jacamar and Black Caracara.
My best views to date of Orange Cheeked Parakeets while another lifer showed really easily when we got onto a pair of Black Chinned Antbirds. In the same wooded area right next to the bridge Golden Headed Manakin, Yellow Bellied Dacnis.... my first ever species of this family of birds, Cobalt Winged Parakeets, Lettered Aracari, Cherries Antwren, while overhead flew 2 Scarlet Macaws, Short tailed Swifts and Fork tailed Palm swifts. All this in an area about the size of a postage stamp! Seriously we had stopped the jeep at the bridge and hadn't even got onto the bridge.
Orange Cheeked Parrot
Cherries Antwren

Bronzy Jacamar

Golden Headed Manakin

 From the bridge we picked up more lovely Cherries Antwrens while my first ever Green Ibis sat high up in a tree and the now ever reliable Spotted Sandpiper. The three hundred meter walk back from the bridge gave is a small mixed flock of Tanagers, Palm, Flame Crested, Silver Beaked as well as the areas default bird... Swallow-winged Puffbirds and a Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant.
As the sun started to set, a Plumbeous Kite, Lineated and Yellow Tufted Woodpeckers shared the same tree, as and what turned out to be our only trip sighting of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher made this very short walk very productive.

The highlight bird of the afternoon however were 2 Red Fan Parrott's that came close into a tree above us, not the best views but good enough to see a stunning bird and a nice end to out first afternoon in the Amazon. As we settled down for dinner the heavens opened Amazonian style, the towns roads flooded very quickly and my thoughts wandered to a very muddy walk through the forest in the morning.... we retired to bed as the torrential rain continued.
Red Fan Parrot

Next day Jorge brought us some much needed coffee before we set off early as we headed off to the MCH Santa Cruz road. After the nights heavy rain I feared for a muddy day as I turned out it wasn't too bad although a few Spotted Sandpipers found enough large track puddles to keep happy. A little bad news when one of our local guides failed to show up at the meeting point at Peublo Neuvo, so Jeff, Myself, Jose and Agrapino who had guided us on the first afternoon in the Amazon drove to a bridge about 30 minutes from Pueblo Nuevo. We got out when we heard a Coroya Wren calling, unfortunately we weren't able to get onto it (we did later), unfortunately we still had early morning gloom as this Channel Billed Toucan sat in the open and allowed a record shot.

Yellow browed Sparrows, numerous Rusty Margined Flycatchers and a single Short Crested Flycatcher was a new species. We then had great views of a pair of Dusky Antbirds in the undergrowth while the Lovely Reddish Hermits buzzed around any flowering bushes that were available. It was busy with numerous species in the early hours, more of the regular Silver beaked Tanagers, Swallow Tanagers, Yellow Tufted Woodpeckers and the odd Squirrel Cuckoo, but we were picking up more new birds too with Epaulet Oriole, Fork Tailed Woodnympth (this species turned out to be the default hummer in the area) and White Chinned Sapphire.

As we pulled over for breakfast Agrapino got us onto one of our trip targets (or maybe Agrapino told Wilson to pull over because he heard it....) . A male Fiery Topaz was feeding on a flowering bush about 40 mtrs away, unfortunately we couldn't get any nearer due to thick vegetation but it gave great views even though the light had become subdued due to the imminent rain. We had parked close to a flowering tree of the same species that it was feeding on and we hoped it would fly over the feed closer to us, alas it didn't.... but we got the bird and I got an image just before it wheeled away not to be seen again.

Fiery Topaz

We then went on a bit of an Antbird fest when we quickly picked up, and with good views of Imeri Warbling Antbird, Mouse Coloured Antshrike, Black Faced Antbird and Spot Backed Antbird. We didn't get it all our own way though as we tried hard for a Black Bushbird that called and came close and even closer and for the second time this trip the bird failed to show..... logged as a heard only for this one I am afraid as was a Black Throated Antbird and Black Headed Antbird (although these would be seen later on).

It wasn't all about the skulkers, Goulds Jewelfront was a lovely find, White fronted Nunbirds, Blue Crowned Trogan male, Plumbeous Kite, Plumbeous Pigeon and Green and Olive Oropendolas. A small mixed flock of Slender Billed Xenops, Wedge Billed Woodcreeper, Dwarf-Tyrant Manakin and Amazonian Banded Woodcreepers were the last before the heavens opened and sent us to the village to take shelter. It wasn't all bad as we were still able to bird from the cover of the village hall (straw covered tepee type building that doubles as a meeting place and breakfasts for the villagers on a Saturday apparently). Here we were able to pick out a fabulous Spangled Cotinga, a small group of the smart Magpie Tanagers and 2 large flocks of Bobolink.

Taking shelter
Flooded football pitch at Pueblo Nuevo
(no football at Stockport County today.... Hehe)
Blue Crowned Trogon
The guide the should have joined us in the morning must have predicted the rain as he appeared just as the rain disappeared...... So with Lorenzo now leading the way, off we went in search of more birds. He found a small clearing of disturbed forest where we had two species of Woodpecker in one tree, Yellow Tufted Woodpecker and Lineated Woodpecker and 2 juveniles peering out of a nest hole and a Little Woodpecker very close by. A mixed flock of Masked Tanagers, Yellow Backed Oriols, Blue Black Grassquits and a Slender Footed Tyrannulet appeared just before we settled for a roadside lunch.
This disturbed clearing held over a dozen species.....
While we took lunch at the clearing 2 White throated Toucans and 2 Many Banded Aracari flew into a tree giving good views before we headed into the forest proper. We had a surprise as 30 ft into the forest bathed in a little light and perched just above head height directly over the path sat a Great Jacamar! It sat and posed for about 5 minutes before being disturbed my a small mammal that got too close, but what a bird.

Great Jacamar

We headed off deeper into the forest and picked up another skulker with a White Shouldered Antshrike that eventually gave itself up after our perseverance, but other than that it was quiet, anyway we hit a flooded patch of forest that blocked our way so we decided to retrace out steps and head for the clearing again.

Agrapino, in search of..............
Back out at the clearing a Roadside Hawk perched while a Greater yellow headed Vulture soared above. A small mixed flock of Flycatchers, Orange Bellied Euphonia, White browed Purpletufts and Turquoise Tanagers appeared while we got fly over views of Cobalt Winged Parakeets.

Back at Pueblo Nuevo the sun had come out, we looked around the village and picked up Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, White shouldered Antshrike, Dusky Chested Flycatcher, Yellow Bellied Tanager and Sulphury Flycatcher.
Jose, Agrapino and Jeff at Pueblo Neuevo

Further birds showed really well, Gilded Barbet and Green Backed Trogon getting very close and a not so close but terrific bird was a lone Paradise Jacamar that perched 50mtrs away.

Green Backed Trogon female
Green Backed Trogon male

Before sunset we found a small holdings pond that held Little Blue Heron, Great and Cattle Egrets, Wattled Jacana, Lettered Aracari and Azure naped jays and we finished with a pair of Scarlet Macaw flyovers.

It had certainly been a tough birding day with one particular heavy downpour that made us take shelter but was eventually made good with some great Antbirds, Fiery Topaz,  Paradise Jacamar and Great Jacamar.