13 February 2011

The Grand Daddy Antpitta...ECUADOR (8 Feb.)

We moved on to Tapichalaca in the wet temperate forests of the east Andean slope, which could only mean one thing: a date with a Jocotoco Antpitta. A true giant among antpittas for many reasons. One it is big, two it is seriously rare, three it is spectacular, four it is one of the most astounding discoveries of the 20th century (only recently brought to the birding world, when discovered in 1997 by Robert Ridgely and Co.), and five it has also become a great symbol for Ecuadorian conservation with all the great work of the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation. This rare grallaria has become obscenely easy since they started habituating a pair, so much so it could be referred to accurately as the easiest antpitta in Ecuador!

So we strolled up for our antpitta appointment at 08.00, greeted the local ranger who was whistling for one of them, and settled in for our scheduled short wait. We waited he whistled, then whistled again (a little more desperately this time), and the worms were laid out for them, but remained conspicuously untouched. After nearly 30 minutes of this unheard of torture my nails were worn down to the nub, and I played out back up plans in my head. We shuffled in readiness to leave, and then "Panchito" nonchalantly hopped in and plucked a worm off the path a few feet away (top). As if to make a mockery of my fretting then in came "Vivian" who was equally showy (bottom), and then up on the railing came their two-month old (ish) youngster noisily begging for attention (middle). They then fed the unnamed juvenile a worm in front of us and hopped all around us for the next joyous thirty minutes. Easiest antpitta in Ecuador? Yes possibly, but it might still give you a scare!

More to come from a night excursion at Tapichalaca shortly...

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