24 Feb 2018

24 Feb 18 - Colombia: Breakfast With Pacho & Juanita

We left the hotel early for the thirty minute drive back to Rio Blanco. Unfortunately, there was no access before it got light, so we missed out on any early morning opportunities for Owls. We had at least had good views of a couple of Lyre-tailed Nightjars on the main track within the water reserve the previous evening. It wasn't a Tick, but I'm always happy to see Nightjars & Owls. Our first stop was the accommodation block where an early morning breakfast had been arranged for us, as well as, their other guests.
Blue-winged Mountain-tanager: This is a widespread species which occurs from Colombia & Western Venezuela to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
Blue-winged Mountain-tanager
Summer Tanager: Male
Red-tailed Squirrel: This was the widespread & only Squirrel we saw in Colombia
Breakfast for us over & it was time to leave the accommodation & head out with one of the local guides. However, there was a staggered breakfast schedule for the morning. After a few minutes of walk, we left the main path & headed down a small track to where there was a viewing area, overlooking a small area of cleared ground. Unfortunately, there was already another group of four birdwatchers there & standing in the best place. So, myself & some of the others ended up standing on the hillside above them: which wasn't an ideal viewpoint. Some of our group weren't that good at standing still in the forest when Janos was trying to call something interesting in, but this other group had even less patience. Within about fifteen minutes, they had had enough & left. The guides had brought along a bucket of worms they had dug out from the accommodation & were offering them around. Fortunately, this wasn't a bush tucker challenge for us: but the next event on the daily breakfast schedule which happens if there are any visiting Birders or not. The first Bird to arrive was my first Bicoloured Antpitta. But it only appeared briefly & didn't want to reappear: perhaps not helped by the disturbance caused by the other departing Birdwatchers. We then moved onto another feeding station. Once we were settled, the guide whistled in Pacho: who was a lot bolder & more confident.
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta: Pacho. The species ranges from Colombia & West Venezuela through Ecuador to North Peru
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta: Pacho
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta: Pacho. Happiness is a worm for breakfast
Slate-crowned Antpitta: This species has a similar to the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Unfortunately, it only showed on a couple of occasions & this was my best photo
Antpittas are one of the key Neotropical families many Birders are keen to see. I've made quite a few trips to the Neotropics over the last twenty years on my own or with a small group of mates. Generally, we didn't have guides & were reliant on our own abilities to find Antpittas, not helped by not always having recordings. But we had the advantage of having a small group of competent Birders & being capable of going off the main tracks without making a lot of noise. But times have changed & there are now a number of locations in South America where feeding stations have been set up for Antpittas where individuals are fed daily at set times. In some ways, it feels like cheating to see a tamed Antpitta, compared to trying to locate one yourself in the forest. But there are still wild individuals & it's their choice of whether they wish to respond to whistles or even a nickname being called. Overall, I'm in favour of this approach as it allows visitors to have a chance of seeing tamed individuals, with little disturbance & the fees charged to visitors for these sessions, have helped to preserve the forest. Anyway, it was time to move on. We still had one more Antpitta site, but feeding time wasn't for another hour. We walked along the main track to the top of the forested section of the reserve. The track then turned & ran level through the forest. We had visited this area during the previous afternoon & were shown a nest hole for a Flammulated Treehunter. There had been no sign of the occupants & we hadn't lingered.
Flammulated Treehunter: Nest hole next to the main track (23 Feb 18)
Flammulated Treehunter: Fortunately, one of the adults was nest building & this was my second Tick of the morning
For obvious reasons of not wanting to disturb the Flammulated Treehunter, we didn't linger. But it was also time to feed Juanita: the Brown-banded Antpitta. The established feeding site was fairly close to the Flammulated Treehunter nest site, but fortunately, not too close. The previous Antpittas had been whistled in, but Juanita was called in by name.
Brown-banded Antpitta: Juanita. This is a Central Andean endemic
Brown-banded Antpitta: Juanita
Brown-banded Antpitta: Juanita
It had been a good morning & it was time to slowly wander back to the accommodation block for lunch.