09 October 2014

Don't Cry for me Peru!...9th Sept.

We awoke at the wonderful Waqanki Lodge, full of excitement at the enormous avian potential for our day. By the day's end, potential had become reality, with some 150 species recorded; an impressive haul considering we lacked for any waterbirds as we spent the day inside the forest. The name Waqanki is a Quechua, and means "You will cry", and by the end of the day we were nearly weeping with joy. Simply put, it was a mega day, from start to finish. The finish was late, as we could not resist trying to track down some of the best owls in the area.

The day dawned gloomy, with the real threat of rain. However, here in the Andean foothills, the worst weather that you can have is hot and dry days, when birds are usually not too active. Our day unfolded with spells of rain interspersed by overcast weather. The rain was never too troublesome and the regular grey skies kept it not only cool, but active through the day. Andean birds simply love this weather. On this day we were accompanied by Carlos, a superbly talented local guide for the lodge, who I would highly recommend to anyone visiting there. Shortly after entering the forest we tracked down a calling Wing-barred Piprites (a type of manakin), before Carlos put us on to a local endemic flycatcher: Mishana Tyrannulet (which was later photographed much better later in the day). 

Working our way further up the trail, the ante was upped, when a male Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher was reeled in; a smashing looking flycatcher that puts all those dowdy empidonax to the shame! Then Carlos pulled a real corker out of the hat, when he stated "Fiery-throated Fruiteater!" This caused me to almost fall off the trail in my hurry to get to Carlos and the bird. I have lived in Ecuador for nigh on 9 years, and had longed for this bird, which had masterfully eluded me thus far. I wanted it bad, and I was within touching distance of it. I looked to the place indicated and, honestly, was a little disappointed! I was ready for a visual feast, a tiny lime green bird with a burning red ember for a throat. However, all I saw a an all green female; I was unsatisfied momentarily, until I glanced up and saw the male, ember in place, sitting just above her; satisfaction complete. Instantly, a real contender for bird of the trip had honed into view. 

We continued up the trail, pushing on with the promise of rarer birds still on ahead. A clearing brought us a pair of Red-billed Tyrannulet, a miniscule White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, ad an equally tiny Speckle-chested Piculet (a Peruvian endemic). The Andean foothills are graced with a swathe of colourful tanagers, and another clearing brought stark evidence of this, with Green-and-gold Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, and the endemic Black-bellied Tanager all sharing the same trees.

After this point our continuing climb became tough; the trail was steep and energy was sapping as we neared a 3km walk from the lodge. However, we pushed on, birds like Gilded Barbet, and a perched party of Swallow-tailed Kites giving us a welcome boost as we continued up. I nailed another nemesis from my Ecuadorian birding, when we tracked down a Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant. Finally, we reached the ridge, with the forest seeming all but quiet. However, Carlos gestured us onto a side trail, where we played the call of Ash-throated Antwren, a scarce endemic, and waited. Not long after a clear response from an antwren was heard, and we legged it down the trail towards the sound. A little more playback, some slipping sliding in the mud, and we were all looking straight at up at a male Ash-throated Antwren, a lifer for all concerned, even Nick Athanas, for which it had been a bit of a nemesis. A fabulous surprise came up the trail, as the lodge staff walked our cooked lunch to us on the trail, which tasted all the sweeter for having just added a certain antwren.

Coming down the trail in the early-mid afternoon was predictably much quieter than the way up, during the traditionally least active time of day. We did see a pack of Saddleback Tamarins on the way down, and also recorded a new bird for the reserve in the form of a flock of Band-tailed Pigeons (a common species at higher altitudes). We closed the afternoon (but not the day), back at the hummingbird feeders, where, once again birds like Rufous-crested Coquette and White-chinned Sapphire were the standout attendees, along with Black-throated and Great-billed Hermits, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Black-throated Mango, and Gray-breasted Sabrewing among 13 species present that afternoon.

Our day did not end there though, as we got out in the field again, post-dinner (actually near 10PM), as we went out for one of the stranger sessions of owling that I have ever experienced...


Sheri Fresonke Harper said...

Sounds like a fabulous trip, love your photos

Sam Woods said...

Thanks Sheri, it was a fantastic trip, with much luck along the way!