05 February 2013

War of Antpitta Attrition...ECUADOR (18 Jan)

Having settled in to Tapichalaca the night before, and already acquainted ourselves with the substantial downpours the site is famous for (ruining our chance of Swallow-tailed Nightjar), we were ready to hit the trail hard this morning. Luckily the rain had abated, although the construction along the road had not, and so we left very early to avoid delays in getting to the trailhead. Before we reached the main trailhead though we picked up some noisy and raucous Golden-plumed Parakeets which were loudly proclaiming the dawn as they emerged from their local nest boxes. The same area also produced the small though very impressive Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, and less impressive, for the group at least, Orange-banded Flycatcher, all major targets for us in this area.

However, what we were all really here for was a certain antpitta-Jocotoco Antpitta, which was discovered in 1997 at this site, and remains the only reliable site in the world for it, by virtue of a tamed group of them there. We arrived at the designated time-08:30-and within minutes of the local rangers whistles, there they were: 3 black-capped Jocotoco Antpittas which hopped about within literally inches of us for the next thirty minutes. We were also keen on seeing their other habituated antpitta, the considerably more common Chestnut-naped Antpitta, although knew the Jocotoco Antpittas were very protective over their worms, and may not let the other one get a look in. The ranger continued to whistle for the Chestnut-naped Antpitta, and then suddenly (and just as we were admiring a party of Red-hooded Tanagers) it appeared just behind my legs! We were greeted with incredible scenes that followed this, as the skittish Chestnut-naped tried to sneak in and steal the worms, only to be openly charged with extreme prejudice by one of the Jocotoco Antpittas. If only I had my video running! This did not deter the Chestnut-naped though, that merely waited in the shadows for the Jocotocos to seem to lose interest, when it would quietly hop in and gorge on the worms, while the Jocotocos were looking the other way. 

The rest of the day should, and could, have been a let down, but we simply scored so many great birds. On the way down to the lodge we notched up another antpitta-Slate-crowned Antpitta-a triple antpitta morning-never to be scoffed at! Also on the way down the ranger ensured we picked up their local Andean Potoo doing a marvellous dead snag impression, a roosting site which it had apparently been using on and off for the past four months. The day closed with a stunning White-capped Tanager that Bernice and I at least, got killer looks at before it upped sticks and left, flying directly over the lodge in the process. The final chapter of the day was provided by a female Swallow-tailed Nightjar doing sallies by the gate of the lodge as night fell over the Andes.

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