16 March 2012

Easy Antpittas!...ECUADOR (25 Feb.)

We opened the batting at Sumaco that morning with a resplendent Golden-collared Toucanet watching croaking, and dipping, from the balcony of the lodge, and a Black-billed Treehunter hopping around the lodge driveway. Laura and I then waved Betty goodbye, who was by then rooted to the hummingbird feeders (and why not!?), and went off on our mission...A Scaled Pigeon posed above the trailhead and defied the idea that pigeons are dull and boring; this one is not. We then proceeded down the trail and got back on to our mission plan: Antpittas!

Antpittas used to be difficult birds that only the most hardened and dedicated birders could find, through persistence, a hell of a lot of patience, and a decent dose of luck. However, that has has all changed in recent years courtesy of an "outbreak" of antpitta feeding stations that have sprung up in Ecuador, and now neighboring Colombia too. And I for one am happy with this. Formerly dastardly species are now very gettable, like the Plain-backed Antpitta, formerly described by the great Robert Ridgely as the "hardest antpitta to actually see". Now Wild Sumaco have set up a feeding area in the forest, and a short, though slippery, stroll into the forest brought us up close and personal to this formerly elusive antpitta. A little further along the trail, and a good deal of slipping and sliding by Laura and myself, we were lined up for another antpitta. The local guide whistled, the rain fell, and the forest remained still with little sign of movement. Then suddenly, an Ochre-breasted Antpittapopped up and glared at us from its mossy perch. It was going to play after all! In the end a pair came in and gave us "walk away" views.

After all the antpitta action, and being rained on at regular intervals, we made our way back towards the lodge, picking up a Black-mandibled Toucan from a welcome bench, and lookout, near the end of the trail. Realizing that a handkerchief had fallen from Laura's possession and was lying forlorn on the trail somewhere, I backtracked, picked it up and turned around to see a Short-tailed Antthrush slowly creeping away from me-it was obviously not expecting me to return! A nice reward for returning. Once we finally dragged ourselves off the bench we found a pair of Collared Trogons on the way out.

After lunch we were captivated by their hummingbird feeders once more, which even offered me a rather belated lifebird...

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