Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Overdue blog – Part 2 (Bosque Unchog and the north)

Back on a bus in the morning, another 10 hours or so to Huanuco, the city that boasts “The best climate in the world” on the city limits signs when you enter the town. They actually could be right, it always seems to be the perfect temperature there. It’s a nice town, I enjoyed our stay there both times that we were there. Huanuco was our base to get to Bosque Unchog, one of the more famous locations in Peru.
Bosque Unchog, meaning Unchog Forest, is an area with elfin forest right near treeline on the eastern slope of the Andes. It has many very rare and local birds that are only known from a few locations in the entire world, and Bosque Unchog is the easiest place to get to where you have a good chance of seeing Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager, Bay-vented Cotinga, Rufous-browed Hemispingus, and Pardusco. The only way to get there on public transport is to take a collectivo to a small town called Cochabamba, about 90 minutes from Huanuco, and then hike 8k at 3000m (10,000’), while gaining 650m (2,100’) in those 8k (5mi). It was sunny as well. About 4k in we met a guy heading up as well on a motorcycle, and he offered to come back and take our bags up. We gratefully said yes, and he said he would return after dropping off the stuff he was already carrying at his home at the end of the road, which was our destination. We hiked about 1.5k more before he returned, and sadly he was only able to take two backpacks. Chris held on to his and Andrew and I got ours strapped on the back of his motorcycle, fairly sketchily, and he vanished around the corner with our worldly belongings. I took Chris’s camera bag, and now that all of us were carrying less we felt like new people, and the last few k were a piece of cake in comparison. When we arrived at the end of the road our motorcycle-owning friend was there with our bags, and after paying him ten soles we crested the pass and simply reveled in the beauty. Right at the end of the road there is a small valley with marshy grassland at the base, elfin forest coating both slopes, and the glorious Unchog Mountain standing tall on one side. We made camp above the marshy area and just below the forest, and that would be our home for the next couple nights. Goods had been purchased back in Huanuco, namely spaghetti, rice, onions, tuna, Tang, and tomato sauce. That first night we got some birding done before dark, and I got terrible distant backlit looks at a Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Little did I know that that would be the only one that I would see during our time there. For dinner we made spaghetti, which we overcooked, but simple pasta with tomato sauce from a packet has rarely tasted so good. We had a small amount left over which would end up being brunch the next morning. After a mediocre nights sleep we saddled up and headed out. There are three main forest patches at Bosque Unchog, #1 is right by the camping area, and is most known for Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager, while #2 is 1.5 valleys away, and has Rufous-browed Hemispingus, and #3 is even more distant, but is best for Bay-vented Cotinga, as well as lots of good flocks. Two and three turned out to be the best areas by far. On the first day Andrew split off from me and Chris early on, and while we birded the first forest patch thoroughly he headed on down to 2 and 3. We spent most of the morning seeing almost nothing, and we somehow picked up a ~12 year old kid who told us that he knew where the mountain-tanager hangs out. Having seen nothing but a few Parduscos, the easiest specialty to get, we decided to head down towards where we suspected Andrew of having headed, and also that was where the kid said the tanagers were. We picked up a few more birds on the walk down, the best being a heard-only Bay-vented Cotinga. We got to a small area of forest where the kid said he sees the Ave de Oro, or “Bird of Gold” regularly. Despite his assurances we spent a long time watching this area and never ended up seeing the tanager. While birding this patch Andrew came back up the path from the other direction, and of course had seen every single target bird except the tanager. Bay-vented Cotinga he had heard only, lots of Parduscos, Golden-collared and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers, both gorgeous and rare tanagers, and Rufous-browed Hemispingus, the supposed rarest of all of the specialties, a bird that most groups that visit here miss. Saddened, Chris and I could not come up with anything at all that Andrew had not had. We blame it on the fact that he had a pygmy-owl tape to call birds in and we didn’t. We spent the rest of the day looking for the mountain-tanager, nobody had seen hide nor hair of it except my brief crappy look, and we got nothing more except some noise that Andrew and I heard that was most likely it. He got a recording and has yet to compare the sonograms on the computer, so I’m not 100% sure yet.
The second night we attempted to make rice. I mean seriously, how hard can it be? After a meal of slightly undercooked rice that tasted like burning, and a packet of four Oreos each, we called it a night for another mediocre night of sleep, at least for me.
Up just before dawn, we headed out as a pack today, Chris and I hoping to recoup our losses. We went to a spot where you can stand on a rock and look out over the canopy of some forest, a great spot, and had THREE Bay-vented Cotingas feeding, calling, and generally being awesome within as close as 30 feet. Spectacular. While there a mixed flock moved through that contained at least three Golden-collared Tanagers. Two down. Back at the spot where the kid said there were mountain-tanagers, there were no tanagers. However, while Andrew was recording a Tschudi’s Tapaculo, he spotted another (!!) Rufous-browed Hemispingus just sitting in the undergrowth! Most groups don’t even see one, and between us we had seen two by now. It wandered around in the semi-open for a while before disappearing as suddenly as it had been spotted. Now all we needed was Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager and Yellow-scarfed Tanager and everyone would be on the same page. We proceeded on down to patch three, and had a couple small flocks with some nice things like Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager in them, but nothing stupendous. We heard some faint calls coming from the underbrush in front of us, and upon close approach, I saw another hemispingus, this one moving around a bit and calling. Chris and I were able to get nice photos of this one, amazingly the third one of our time there. A little ways further down we ran into a couple flocks that held Yellow-scarfed Tanager, so every goal had been met except the holy grail, Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. We decided to wander back to the rock outcropping near good forest in the hope that some mountain-tanagers would just wander by, and on the way back stopped at a Swallow-tailed Nightjar nest that we had found earlier in the day by flushed the parent off of it. It had one chick, and when we went to photograph the adult on the nest, instead of the female from earlier there was a nice male! A lifer for both Chris and Andrew, it was quite a way to get such a spectacular nightjar. We all spread out near the rocky area in various states of tiredness, and Andrew definitely picked the best spot. After about 30 minutes of waiting a flock came through, and all of a sudden, from about 30m away, Andrew yells “GOLDEN-BELLIED MOUNTAIN-TANAGER!” No such bird exists, but we both knew what he meant. We made our way there as fast as we could, but it was in vain. The bird had made a cameo appearance, and was never seen again. Some Golden-collared Tanagers within 15 feet were nice, but could not console us. The flock was gone in a matter of minutes, and hope left with it. It was about 12:40pm then, and we decided that we wanted to spend that night back in civilization. After a little bit of searching for the flock we headed back to camp in order to pack up and hike back down to Cochabamba. Of course, the only time that it rained during our time at Bosque Unchog was when we had to pack up. Everything to do with a tent got wet, but we just wanted to get back down at that point. After an 8k hike downhill in rubber boots with a full pack, I was feeling a bit the worse for wear. The only nice part about the hike down was a small group of Brown-flanked Tanagers, and back in the land of internet, as far as my Blackberry was concerned. It’s a scary world when you have internet in places such as that.
A few hours later when we got back to Cochabamba, the problem was then to find a car. Little did we know that what was about to follow would be the most memorable taxi hailing ever. We went to the little store in town to ask when cars left for Huanuco, and they just pointed down the road and said that way. We went around the corner and asked again, and the ladies that we asked pointed across the fields downhill. At first we didn’t get it, but then we saw the last car of the day, about ½ mile away, across the valley that we were in. Our hearts sunk with the realization that we would be spending a night camping on the soccer pitch in town, when all of a sudden one of the ladies started whistling. You have never heard a whistle like this, it could shatter glass from a hundred yards, I swear. After a couple whistles, the car unbelievable slowed and then stopped. While driving, half a mile away, across a small valley, the taxi driver had heard this lady whistle through his open window. Absolutely amazing. We started almost jogging in order to get to the car ASAP, after thanking the “whistle-lady” for her help. In retrospect I wish we had given her money, a skill like that should get recognition. When we made it to the car it turned out to be empty, and we gladly got in and collapsed into the seats, and a couple hours later were in a hotel room. Once in the hotel room we strung up lines to hang our wet tent stuff from, which made the room decidedly humid upon our return from eating copious amounts of food, and drinking liters of juice. Life was good.
The following morning we started what ended up being a bus-saga, the first leg of which was to Lima, at least originally. We had been in the bus for about 9 hours and all of a sudden we just came to a halt. Traffic was not moving at all. We were in an outskirt of Lima, called Chosica, and apparently someone had hit a 5 year old kid, and the road was cordoned off or something. In any case, we would have had to wait 3 or more hours until we would have been able to continue. It was 9pm or so, and we got off the bus, got on a little minibus back to Chosica, and spent the night there. The following morning we took a taxi into Lima to get a bus to Trujillo, another 10 hour bus ride, and this one through one of the driest deserts in the world. It was 3 hours of being stuck in cities and 7 hours of feeling like you were in Saharan Africa, except for the occasional paralleling of the Pacific Ocean. However, all ten hours were comfortable, because of the fact that we had gotten a little bit crazy and spent about $3/hour for a VIP bus instead of $1.50/ hour for the economic version. We also got the front seats on the second floor of a double decker bus, so it was a great ride with floor to ceiling windows, frequent refreshment, and copious amounts of bad movies. The first bad movie was Inkheart, which was pretty terrible, but it looked like a marvel of cinematography next to the two that followed it. After Inkheart was something that we think was called Firehouse Dog, which had a terrible plot that was complimented by bad acting, and the terrible trio was rounded off by some movie that doesn’t even deserve to be called a chick flick, if I recall correctly it was called Aquamarine. We don’t speak of that movie. The first two were watched because there was nothing else to look at but sand, but the final televisional travesty was worse than looking at sand. We arrived in Trujillo after dark, per usual, and took a taxi to a pretty crappy hotel which was overpriced, lessening our already low opinion of the city of Trujillo. We went out for dinner at a Chinese place, something Andrew would do every meal if he had his way, and it was fairly good, except for what we think were guinea pig bones in Chris’s noodles and vegetables. No meat, just bones. That is bad enough as it is, but it is worse considering that Chris eats no meat except fish. He also had his shin viciously attacked by the corner of my bed, so it was not his best night ever.
Our plan the following morning was to go to a spot called Sinsicap, but there is only one bus daily going there, and for some reason it wasn’t leaving that day. So it was 6am, we couldn’t go to where we wanted to go, and overall the day wasn’t so good. We decided the only way to make use of the day was to get on another bus. So we did. This time for 16.5 hours. We ended up traveling over 700 miles in two days, and that is not including Huanuco to Lima, which surely puts the total over 1,000 miles in three days. The 16.5h drive took us through some nice habitat, and I managed a few lifers, namely Savannah Hawk and Pearl Kite, two raptors that I very much wanted to see. Our destination was La Florida, a small town that has a small bird nearby, but undoubtedly one of the coolest birds in the world, at least in my opinion. The bird I am speaking of is the Marvelous Spatuletail. The Marvelous Spatuletail is a hummingbird, and arguably the most amazing of the family, which is saying something. It has a small body, only a few inches, smaller than your garden variety hummers in the US, more like a woodstar body size, but its tail is what sets it apart. It has evolved to have only four tail feathers, as opposed to the usual 10-14 of most birds. The central pair of feathers are like long pins, more than twice as long as the body, and extending straight out from the back. The outer two are a whole different story. They are at least 5 times as long as the body, and curve out like a bow in a semi-circle from the tail base. At the tips they have large round “spatulas” feather tips about half the size of the body of the bird itself. This outer pair of feathers moves independently from the rest of the bird, so when it is perched at rest, they kind of wander aimlessly. Such a wonder to watch. We went to the spot for them this morning, after arriving in La Florida last night, and had at least nine individuals, with at least three and probably four adult males in one spot. They were, dare I say, marvelous? We are going to go back this afternoon to watch them again for a while, because this valley is the only place in the world where they occur, and who knows when we will be back here next?
Other good birds at the spatuletail spot included Purple-throated Sunangel, Buff-bellied Tanager, Purple-collared Woodstar, and Rufous-capped Antshrike.
I write this now sitting on the bed in our hostal, with Andrew asleep on the next bed, and Chris out getting money. I will have been here for a month tomorrow, and depending on how well we do birding tomorrow, I may break 500 species in this first month. Tomorrow we are heading to the Rio Chido trail, a place where the target is Pale-billed Antpitta, one of the coolest antpittas in the world, and a spot that also has good birds such as Straw-backed Tanager and Chestnut-crested Cotinga. From here we head farther east to Abra Patricia, then down to the Tarapoto area, and retrace our steps back through Abra Patricia and the Maranon Valley to Lima on January 20th, where we will take a pelagic before doing the final month in the southern part of the country, the Manu Road, Machu Picchu, and the Cuzco area.
Hope everyone is well and that you have a great holiday season.

Take it easy,

Overdue blog – Part 1 (Amazonian lowlands)

I really should have written this quite a while ago, but somehow life always ended up intervening. Many things have happened in the past two weeks, some good, some rather bothersome, but overall they have been two joyful weeks to be a part of.
After I last posted, we spent a great night in Lima, eating a delivered pizza from Pizza Hut, a slice of heaven, or eight slices you could say. Chris Nunes, the third member of our intrepid group, arrived at about 1am in the dorm room that we were staying in, and after groggy greetings we all went back to the land of sleep. That following morning we got on another bus, this time headed to Tingo Maria, a 12 hour ride. Our goal was to get to Pucallpa, an Amazonian city in east-central Peru, and from there go to progressively smaller towns until we were in the wilderness. After spending a night in Tingo, being unable to take an overnight bus to Pucallpa as the road is unsafe, we headed east into the true lowlands, out of sight of the Andes for the first time since I have been in the country.
Pucallpa was a fairly nice city, with fleets of mototaxis outnumbering real cars. Mototaxis, for those of you who don’t know, are small three wheeled contraptions that are basically the front half of a motorcycle with a bench seat in the back over two wheels that complement the front wheel of the motorcycle, and a roof. They travel slowly, and you get dirt blown in your eyes, but it is an enjoyable ride nonetheless. Their most redeeming quality is the price, a 10-15 minute ride tends to cost about a buck.
After asking our mototaxi driver for a hotel with internet, we arrived at La Suite de Petita’s Inn, a nice little place with included breakfast, and wifi that worked intermittently in the rooms. The next day we checked out travel options to our next destination, a small down called Contamana, and ended up flying out in a small six seater airplane for $50 each, after indulging in ice cream, wifi, and air conditioning in the surprisingly modern airport. Chris and Andrew did rock-paper-scissors to determine who got to ride up front with the pilot, somehow I failed to be in the game, but ah well, and Chris won. Lucky devil. It was an awesome experience flying in this little plane, and I no longer consider commercial airline flights real flying. It was about a 30m ride across rivers and pristine forest, as opposed to the other way of getting to Contamana, a 6h+ boat ride, and that would be a fast boat!
Once in Contamana we bought supplies for our upcoming trek, the aforementioned barbet hike, and managed to hire a boat to go down the river just as the light was fading, to Pampa Hermosa, the place where one makes arrangements for guides and boats to get to the Cordillera Azul where the Scarlet-banded Barbet makes its home. Going down the river as the sun was setting was spectacular, and birds abounded. Some of the more interesting ones included a large flock of Canary-winged Parakeets, over 75 each of Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Green Oropendolas, and a few Chestnut-fronted Macaws. After 90 minutes in a “peque peque” pronounced peki-peki, which is just a dugout canoe with a small motor on the back, we arrived at the boat landing for Pampa Hermosa, where there were surprisingly two mototaxis, one of which took us through the gathering dusk for about 30 minutes on a rutted logging road to the town. It being a small town, the taxi driver knew the people that we wanted to talk to about guiding, and he took us right to their house. A knock on the door brought out a shirtless man who we had interrupted from watching his soap opera, but after asking about the barbet, we were invited inside their house. What happened after that was kind of a pow-wow, we all stood around and talked prices and logistics and how many people we would need to help clear the trails, and whether we needed porters, etc etc, and after coming to decisions about all that, an unexpected question was broached. “So you have permission from the park people, right?” Apparently, unbeknownst to us, you have to get permission from the organization that regulates entry to the Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul. We said no, and not thinking it a big deal, set up our tents on their floor, and went to sleep.
When we awoke the next morning, our future guides, Carlos and Arnoldo Ruiz, said that we needed to get permission to be able to go, that there is a checkpoint on the river and nobody is allowed in without the right papers. The organization, CIMA, had a representative in town, so after talking to him, we found out that we needed to go back to Contamana to ask. Chris decided to stay and go birding, and Andrew and I went back, in a more primitive peque peque that took three hours, being upstream and with a weaker motor. More good birds on the way back, Pied Lapwing, Muscovy Duck, Red-and-white Spinetail, and Pied Water-Tyrant to name a few.
After getting back in Contamana we went to the CIMA office, where we were told that we would have to officially submit a written proposal, and it needed to be notarized and faxed to the main office. After going to a notary across the street, we managed to get this proposal for entry written, in Spanish, and get it faxed off to the boss in another town. We were told that by 5pm that day we would hear what we needed to do to be able to go. Already getting pretty pissed and fed up with bureaucracy, we got a hotel room in town, knowing that we couldn’t get back to Pampa Hermosa that day. Of course, Chris was still there, and given the fact that he doesn’t speak that much Spanish, I’m sure it was quite an experience. We managed to call and speak with Chris and tell him what was up, and that we would call back again after we knew what was going on with the permits.
Come five o’clock we went back to the office, and were told what we had to do. It was ridiculous. We had to go to LIMA, and give them 22 days notice before we would be in the park, and we had to have something from Colorado College explaining what we would be doing there, because we had decided to put down that we were all from Colorado College to simplify things. Our chances at seeing the barbet before the rainy season began were out the window. We called Chris and gave him the sorry news, and made arrangements for him to come back the next day.
While in Contamana we had heard from the locals about a macaw clay lick, a place where macaws come to line their stomachs with clay to absorb the toxins in the seeds that they eat, and so Andrew and I decided to investigate the following morning while Chris was coming back by boat.
We ended up taking a mototaxi for a few kilometers, walking for a few, and then repeating that, and ended up only getting about 2/3 of the way to the forest that the lick is actually in, but by lucky change we got a ride back to town by the very people that take tourists to the clay lick. So for the following day we arranged to be picked up at 0430 to go see this spectacle. Chris nor Andrew had ever been to a lick before, and I had only seen parrots and parakeets in Ecuador, no real macaws. Chris arrived back safely that afternoon, and after food and sleep, we were up at 0430, and back in a mototaxi. About an hour later we got to the end of the road, and started hiking. At the beginning it was a nice trail, but as we kept going the trail got more primitive, and then became a streambed, which was slightly treacherous. Nobody got hurt, but Andrew fell and got the battery for his recorder wet, which was almost disastrous. After 90 minutes of walking we made it to the small hide across the stream from this clay bank, and started to wait. It was about 7am, and the guide said that they get there at about 8. It was pretty slow just sitting there, so we played some chess on my iPod, one of the best apps I have, and waited some more. The macaws slowly started to trickle into the trees above the lick, and at first we were excited to see about 12 of them, then 30, then 50, and then it was just deafening. Almost exactly at eight the noise maxed out and all of the birds descended on the clay bank. It was a chaotic swirl of red green and blue, as over 100 Red-and-Green Macaws swarmed over the clay, fighting over the best areas, and generally squabbling. We watched in awe for over an hour, taking hundreds of photos, and this was something that you didn’t need a telephoto lens for. Chris has the new Nikon mid-level SLR, and one of its nice features is HD video, and he got some great footage of the birds feeding on the clay.
After feasting our eyes on this colorful phenomenon, we slowly worked our way back towards the road, through an incredibly unbirdy forest, the most dead for birds forest that any of us has ever been in in the Amazon, and Andrew has spent over 4 months in the Amazon. A few nice birds showed themselves, Short-billed Honeycreeper, Slender-footed Tyrannulet, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, and flyover Jabirus and King Vulture, but mainly it was just eerily quiet.
After a long ride back to town we made arrangements to fly back to Pucallpa the following morning, having spent enough time in Contamana already. The following morning when we got to the airline company that we had made “reservations” at on the previous night, we were notified that there was no plane that day. We went to the other company in town, and their morning plane was, of course, full. So we waited until the afternoon, and at about 1:30pm we finally got back in the air to Pucallpa. Andrew beat me in rock-paper-scissors. Maybe someday I will get to ride in the front.
Back in Pucallpa we went to the same hotel, and had some great internet and some not so great Chinese food. Our last place to visit in this part of Peru is a lagoon just 10k from Pucallpa called Yarinacocha, a nice place with some very cool birds. We got up at dawn again, and back in a mototaxi, headed to Yarinacocha. Upon arrival the local boat owners started clamoring for our business, and picking a boat that looked nice, we headed out across the oxbow lake to the good forest on the other side. The main target bird here is called Black-tailed Antbird, a rare and local antbird, and Yarinacocha is one of the best places to get it. We ended up with over a dozen, so much for rare and local. We also found a Red-and-white Spinetail nest with two parents in attendance, over 10 Purus Jacamars, Slender-billed Xenops, Hooded Tanagers, Pied Water-Tyrants, Cinereous Becard, and many more birds as part of a few nice flocks.
We returned to Pucallpa, bought bus tickets to Huanuco, our destination the next day, and had another nice afternoon of internet and rest.

To be continued in Part 2 (Bosque Unchog and the north)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marcapomacocha and Lima

After leaving Huancayo we headed via bus to a fairly small town called San Mateo, at about 3500m (11,500'), right along the main highway from Lima to the highlands. It was to be our base to bird a place called the Milloc bog, a spot that has some very range resticted and habitat specific birds. Upon arriving in the little town we tried to find a taxi diver to hire for the day to take us to the bog, which is also known as Marcapomacocha for a nearby town. We promptly found someone and gave him a downpayment of 20 soles to assure our commitment. After a night in the comfiest beds so far this trip, at 0515 or so we headed onward and upward.
Our main two target birds were Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, a very unique bird with a tantalizing name, and White-bellied Cinclodes, an incredibly range restricted bird, with only 28 individuals known, but the population is extrapolated to 200 or so from likely habitat that has not been seen by birders. One of the things that these birds share is habitat, they need a certain type of bog that only occurs over 15,000' in the Andes. In order to get to the place to see them we crossed a pass that was over 16,000', the highest I have ever been. The scenery on the rutted dirt road to get to these remote valleys was absolutely spectacular, with fog laying like a blanket in the valleys, snow-capped peaks rising over red, green, and gray colored rolling hills and cliffs, as far as the eye can see.
We got to the bog just as the fog was burning off, great timing, and started walking around at about 15,500', something easier said than done. After about 5 minutes of walking around in this strange terrain, we heard something interesting sing, and the second that Andrew yelled "WHITE-BELLIED CINCLODES!" I had just gotten my binoculars on the singing bird. There was a pair of them, and we followed them around for the better part of an hour, getting photographs of the birds doing a song-display, where they wave their wings while singing from atop a rock, and getting recordings of them singing, possibly the best recordings ever gotten of this species. Some other nice birds in that bog included White-winged Diuca-Finch, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, and three species of ground-tyrant. But that was only the small bog!
We went further on down the road to the top of this talus slope (talus is kind of like shale, but more sketchy to walk on), and down at the bottom, a few hundred feet, there was an expansive bog, taking up an entire valley between a large mountain and some hills, over a mile long.
We made our way down the slope, and told our taxi driver, surely convinced as all others are that we are certifiable, to wait for us at the other end of the bog, where a different road conveniently transects the valley, so that you never have to walk uphill if you have a driver. Right at the bottom of the slope, only a few hundred feet in, all of a sudden there it was. Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. One of the birds I have wanted most in the world for a very long time, almost since I started birding. We ended up having three individuals, two adults and a juvenile, and we continued the tradition of recording and photographing these as well. We spent a few hours at this bog, and the other most interesting thing that happened didn't involve something rare, but something simply aweing.
We were down at the marshier end of the bog, where water was about ankle-calf deep, and since Andrew only had hiking boots he was hopping from hummock to hummock, while I tromped through mindlessly. I had stopped to photograph a Puna Snipe that had been flushed, and while I was looking through the viewfinder, all of a sudden I saw a blur and the snipe was gone. Then the screaming started. Three Aplomado Falcons had appeared out of nowhere, and one had attacked my snipe, and the snipe narrowly escaped with its life. All three falcons were wheeling around within 30 feet of us, screaming their heads off, periodically diving on Andean Lapwings or Andean Gulls, which were also flying around in a panic, and it was just complete chaos. The falcons seemed completely unaware of us, and they were too close to get the whole bird in the frame of a picture most times. One ended up landing on a small hummock about 40 feet away and hung out there for about 5 minutes while we watched it, and then they disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived. Very cool. We thought we had seen the end of it, but about 15 minutes later we heard the calls again, and this time all three of them were way up in the sky, at least 1/2 mile, and all had their talons locked into some bird, and were spiraling down, screaming at eachother, fighting for the bird. One of them broke off a few hundred meters from the ground, but the last two didn't split until they were within a hundred feet of the ground. The victor flew off and landed with his prize, and proceeded to eat it while the other two went hungry.
From there we headed to a nearby lake, saw some of the same stuff, Giant Coots, over 150 Andean Geese, Chilean Flamingos, etc, and then headed back to San Mateo. On the way back, right at the top of the 16,010' pass, we had to stop and pull entirely off of the road for a giant tractor trailer, which happened to be trailing a tractor. Go figure. I tried to use my Blackberry while I was up there, and something happened to it and the screen dimmed and then went blank, and nothing I could do could turn it back on. I thought that I was a goner, until I managed to get it to work again down here in Lima yesterday, not sure what went wrong, nor how I fixed it, but I'll take it. Once the truck and its cargo had passed, we proceeded on our way, stopping at one place for Junin Canastero, a small brown bird that just happens to occur in Peru and only in Peru in the whole world. While searching for this bird, which we found, another car pulled up, and a birder got out, and he happened to be from Colorado! He and Andrew had a great time talking about birding his part of Colorado, a place which apparently has no birders, and marveled at the chance meeting. Unfortunately he was heading in the other direction, so we wished him luck and continued on our way.
When we got back to San Mateo we decided that we didn't want to spend another night, and despite it being after checkout time, the owner let us go, and we got a bus to Lima. They made us take our backpacks on the bus, and I got stuck in the doorway with mine and had to be helped by the salesman on the bus, haha. A few hours later we were securely back in the Lion Backpackers Bed and Breakfast, a decent enough place that has redeeming qualities such as breakfast and wifi. We went out in the local area to eat, and had great trashy American food, I got some pizza from Pizza Hut and Andrew got some monstrous burger from Burger King. It was glorious.
When I woke up this morning, I was sick again. Great. More food poisioning. And I never get sick at home! Hopefully this isn't a trend that will continue. I've been taking some medicine, and am feeling better now, here is hoping that I'll wake up tomorrow all better.
Today, after being lazy all morning and hanging out on the couches on the internet, we took a break from our laziness and headed to a spot in the city limits of Lima, Pantanos de Villa. It's a marshland with a beach next to it, and we had some nice birds. The best bird that you can get there is Peruvian Thick-Knee, a spectacular shorebird that stands about knee-high. We had two pairs of them, and got very close to one pair. We also had Great Grebes, old hat for Andrew but a coveted bird for me. The gull show was also great, with over a thousand Franklin's Gulls and hundreds of Belcher's and Kelp Gulls, and a smattering of Gray-hooded Gulls, a really gorgeous gull.
Now we are back at the hostal, being lazy on couches with internet like we do when we can. Tonight Chris, the third member of our party, comes into town, and he should arrive here by taxi sometime after midnight. Tomorrow we head over the Andes again to spend the night in Tingo Maria, and then travel to road to Pucallpa the day after, a road that is unsafe at night. Pucallpa is a truly Amazonian town, the first time I will have really been in the Amazon so far this trip. Our goal there is to find the right people to set up a trip to the Cordillera Azul, a very remote place. The target bird there is called Scarlet-banded Barbet, and is one of the more remote birds in South America, if not the world. Only three groups of people have EVER seen this bird, and it is one of the focal points of the trip, hopefully. Its world range is 25 sq kilometers, and only on the peak of one mountain, in one mountain range. It is such a special and gorgeous bird that it, out of all the fantastical birds of Peru, graces the cover of the field guide. If we are able to see it, an expedition that involves 1-2 weeks of hiking and camping, we would be only the fourth group in history. The trouble is finding the right people to contact to get the boat to the trailhead, and then getting the local guides and such. That is our main goal in Pucallpa, and hopefully one that we will succeed in. I should be able to post from Pucallpa before we head to the mountains, but we shall see.

Take it easy,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Satipo Road

The past few days were quite memorable, with many things seen and heard that will be remembered for a long time.
We ended up hiring a pick-up truck for three days, which came with its own driver, and at the end of three days of constant togetherness, we still never knew his name! He was nice, probably thought we were crazy from the music that we played over the radio in the car, via the very modern MP3 hookup for our iPods, not to mention the fact that about every 500m we would yell "STOP!" to get out and run around in the puna grasslands above treeline, looking for some small brown bird with a name like Creamy-breasted Canastero, or something of that ilk. In any case, he drove well enough, helped communicate with the locals, and tolerated us enough. We also paid for his food during our time together, and he was particularly keen about eating as much as possible, as often as possible.
The road itself wasn't that bad, but it was definitely a long haul. We probably spent more than 20 hours in the car during the few days. On our way over we got caught in an epic hailstorm too, only about the size of tic-tacs, but so much that it covered the ground with about two inches of ice pellets. Very cool. The scenery was breathtaking, with knife-edge peaks, plunging river valleys, and cloud enshrouded ridges everywhere you cast your eyes. The birding was also spectacular, with lots of flocks at the temperate forest we birded near the Puente Carrizales, in english the Bamboo Bridge, and a very high endemism rate, as well as some species that just aren't official yet, being discovered so recently.
The first day our goal was to get to what we thought was the town of Carrizales, in order to camp there in preparation for birding the next morning. Well, after asking many locals for directions, and going by the crude maps that the bird finding guide to Peru gives, we ended up driving in the dark, over an hour past the location of the supposed town. Of course, nobody who gave us directions to "Carrizales" thought to tell us that it was just a bridge and a locale, and nobody actually lived there. We ended up staying near the next town down from there, Calabaza, where we ate in a subterranean restaurant, almost completely in the dark, along with about 5 locals and a TV blaring latin american music videos at deafening volume. It was one of the more interesting meals I've ever had. We camped just up the road, and by we I mean Andrew camped on the side of the road and I slept in the trunk of the pickup, diagonally, and not very well. As we drifted off to sleep we were heralded by a screech-owl, which turned out to be a Koepcke's Screech-Owl, a Peruvian endemic, and not the easiest bird to get.
We woke up at about 0430 the next morning, and proceeded to drive an hour or so back up to Puente Carrizales, hearing Chestnut-breasted Wren along the way, along with Andean Solitaires and Glossy-black Thrushes. Once up at the top, the birding commenced for real, and it was quite superb. Some of the highlights included Fire-throated Metaltail, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Paramo Seedeater, Tschudi's Tapaculo (seen), a male Purple-backed Thornbill, both on our list for one of the best birds of these few days, over 35 Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, Drab Hemispingus, and tons of more common hummingbirds, including Tyrian Metaltail, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, and Amethyst-throated Sunangel. As we proceeded down the road to a lower elevation we hit some more flocks, and at one point a Barred Fruiteater flew by and perched near the road. Playback wouldn't bring it in, but it brought another one in, and we got gorgeous views from about 15 feet away at eye level of a female Barred Fruiteater. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, a male came in and started FEEDING the female, right in front of us. The light was bad, so the pictures aren't crystal clear, but I managed to get a bunch of pictures of the male feeding her. Sometime soon I need to upload some pictures.
After walking the road we got back in the car and headed to higher elevations, hoping for some of the more local birds, but first we needed a stop for lunch and gas. This involved picking up some Quechua woman from the side of the road, giving her a ride to the town nearby, a town of about 15 buildings, and then her manually pumping gas from a barrel into a metal pitcher, which she then covered with a cloth, because of course it was pouring down rain, and running to the car where our driver was covering the opening to the gas tank with a jacket, and pouring the pitcher of gas in, then repeating. This happened about 5 times, and only amounted to about 1/4 tank. Since the town didn't have a restaurant, we shopped at the little store, which had about 8 items, all of them either canned fish, drinks, or crackers. We got some peach nectar, soda crackers, and for the other two meat-eaters, sardines. It tasted great. After a little more birding in the pouring rain, when we got Tit-like Dacnis, we started the journey to our destination that night, the town of Acobamba, above which reside the incredibly local Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, described to science in 2002, and two yet undescribed species, "Mantaro Thornbird" and "Mantaro Wren". En route, during the 6 hour drive, Andrew pulled out his laptop, saying "I bet this is the last thing that our driver just expected me to get out", and checked spots for the third undescribed species in this area, "Millpo Tapaculo". It turns out that the spot was only a few hundred yards down the road from that point, so just in time! We got out, played the recording once, and boom, a few hundred feet away one responded. Of course it was on the top of a 60' cliff, so we just had to get up there. We went up a sloping pasture that took us to the top, and after some effort and playback, saw the bird out in the open from less than 15 feet away, photographed well, and recorded incredibly well. With that under our belt we headed down into the Mantaro River valley, where Acobamba is located. Gorgeous scenery going down all of it, and Creamy-crested Spinetails were the nicest birds we had. We arrived at Acobamba after dark, and were surprised to see a military checkpoint at the entrance to the town, with a gate and four guys with guns standing around, none of them seemingly older than 25. They checked our passports and let us in, per usual, and it turns out that this town has a large military presence, and an outpost that was just swarming wth cadets. We found out why later. We went to the only restaurant in town, which was owned by the same people that had the only hospedaje in town, and we patronized both that night. The meal was quite nice for $1 per person, a plate with tons of vegetables and rice, and no meat! Might be the only time this trip that happens. While waiting for our food, we could see the military building, and also one of the funniest sights I've ever seen. There were a couple cadets out front, and they took turns posing with their guns in heroic poses, while the other one took their picture with a nice digital camera, and then they would huddle over the camera to check out the picture, and usually take some more. So hilarious. More than just a couple people did it too, we figured it must have been a new shipment of soldiers, straight out of school.
After a night at the hospedaje, which was five beds on the second floor of someones house, accessed by steep stairs in a dark alley, we headed up the mountain directly above Acobamba, to a little town called Chucho Acha, above which are "Mantaro Wren" and Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, or so we hoped. We really had no idea where to go, but after asking the store owner in the three-building "town" where the previous gringos with optics had gone, he took us on a trail further up the mountain to a large patch of bamboo, exactly what we wanted. We only had a 20 sole note to pay him, so he was very grateful, 20 soles being at least twice what we would have paid otherwise, and he headed back down to the village, while we hung around and birded. The bamboo patch turned out to not have much of anything, but we struck paydirt on a trail leading downhill past it. At least three Black-spectacled Brush-Finches were singing, and responded to playback of their song for about 30 minutes, while we had gorgeous looks at this perhaps most beautiful of brush-finches, and continued the trend of photographing and recording it. Now we only needed the wren, but they are a bamboo obligate, and things were looking grim in the bamboo department. We walked a bit further town the trail, and while looking through a small flock, we heard a pair of wrens singing! This was great, because it means we could cut another day at our backup spot for the wren and brush-finch. We eventually managed to get incredibly close to the wrens, a pair and a juvenile, and photographed and recorded them as well, partially in the pouring rain. Joyful at our success, we headed back to the car and proceeded back down to Acobamba. On our way back down we picked up a couple locals to give them a lift back to town, and one of the even spoke a small amount of english! One of the surprises of the day, but not as surprised as we were about to be. Tired of the ominous foreshadowing yet?
On our way back into town we passed a small group of soldiers, and out of curiosity asked the locals what they were here for. They replied "For safety". Safety from what we naturally asked, and got the answer "Terrorists". Turns out after some more questioning, that there is a decent terrorist faction in that area, both for political reasons, drug reasons, and some of them are even leftovers of the Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso. That was slightly sobering.
Glad that we had learned about this on the last day, we started making our way back, with a few stops for the endemic "Mantaro Thornbird", which we finally heard distantly at one place, breaking our streak of photographing and recording every rare species in this area. What can you do. After a lunch of potatoes and rice at a small town, we started the 6 hour drive back to Huancayo. I managed to sleep a bit, but was still awake when we had Giant Hummingbird from the car, and also woke up to take some pictures of the gorgeous vistas. We had one bird that we still wanted to see well, and decided to stop at this likely looking spot for Eye-ringed Thistletail, another endemic to just this area. We almost immediately had one, and eventually got within about 8 feet of this bird, having it singing, walking on the ground, and all in all performing wonderfully for us, and this one caved to the formula of great pictures and recordings. We ended up having a few thistletails at this spot, as well as many "Millpo Tapaculos" and a Fire-throated Metaltail.
The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, just long. A nice Aplomado Falcon spiced things up at one point, and getting cell service to check my email again was joyous. We made it back to our hotel at about 7pm, and after trying to get charged $70/day for the car instead of $50, we managed to haggle him down to about $20 more than 50 a day. Ah well, we just wanted to get fed and sleep. We went back to the same hotel and restaurant as we did last time we were here, and had a great meal of french fries and salad for me, and fries and steak for Andrew. My parents kindly treated us to this Thanksgiving dinner, and also kindly reminded us of the fact that it was Thanksgiving indeed! Thanks Mom and Dad!
I write this from our hotel room, as we prepare to eat and then head to the Ticlio Pass/Marcapomacocha area to bird tomorrow, hopefully for Diademed Sandpiper-Plover and White-bellied Cinclodes, two very special birds.

Also, as a footnote, here are some things that I didn't cram in the above writings, but deserve mention nonetheless:

A herd of llamas charging down the road towards us, about 35 of them, taking up the entire road.

An old Quechua lady walking calmly down the side of the road, knitting as she went.

A roadblock that was done by three kids that were about 6-8, asking for money. Our driver talked them out of it and let us pass.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Villa Rica and Huancayo

As I write this I am in my bed in our hotel in Huancayo, not to be confused with Huanaco, the last city I updated from. We are currently living in the lap of luxury, and only for a measly 80 soles per night, which equates to $13 per person per night, for a nice hotel with cable TV, hot showers, and wifi in the rooms. Gotta love it.
The past few days were spent in a small town called Villa Rica, which was accessed from Huanaco by a 5 hour bus, a 3 hour collectivo, and another 1.5h collectivo. It's a big country with bad roads. Villa Rica was a surprisingly large town for being in the middle of nowhere, with at least a few thousand people living there. It was also at the lowest altitude that we had stayed at so far, at around 1400m (about 4600'), and the habitat there is more upper foothills and lower subtropics, as opposed to the drier high elevations that we had been at. It was great being at low elevations, no altitude sickness of any sort, but of course I couldn't possibly be well for more than a couple days, so I just had to get food poisoning. The main suspect was a juice I got that was mango with milk. I was a bit tentative about the milk anyways, and now I will avoid it like the plague. Plus it didn't even taste good..!
We had two main target birds while at Villa Rica, namely Creamy-bellied Antwren and Scissor-tailed Nightjar, both birds we had no chance for on the rest of the trip. I'm a huge fan of spectacular nightjars, so I was really hoping to be able to get that bird. We went to the spots at dusk where they are supposed to display, and had no luck. Ah well, some other trip I guess. We were more lucky with the Creamy-bellied Antwren, hearing and seeing that Peruvian endemic, but Andrew was unable to get a recording sadly. There were other good birds around too, many of them Andrew had already had in the south when he was here in Peru two weeks before me, but many were new to me. There was a good tanager show overall, with Turquoise, Paradise, Spotted, Blue-necked, Yellow-throated, Silver-backed, Golden-eared, Saffron-crowned, Flame-faced, and Swallow Tanagers leading the charge, along with many Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, and a couple Scarlet Tanagers. Who knows, maybe I saw the same Scarlet Tanagers this summer in MA? No way to know. Some other nice birds included White-eared Solitaire, a stunning member of its family, and some great marshbirds at the marsh right near town. The marsh is fairly large, and at 1400m is kind of an interesting habitat. We had great luck there in the late afternoon, SEEING at least 5 Rufous-sided Crakes, hearing Blackish Rail, getting to see Least Grebe in flight, and having an interesting elevational record of two Yellow-billed Terns, normally a bird that hangs out in the Amazonian lowlands.
Of course, when I was sick I had to miss a couple birds that I wanted, but that is just a given. Andrew went out birding the afternoon that I was far gone, and had two birds that I was hoping to get, namely Bicolored Hawk and Lanceolated Monklet, which he had a family group of, four in total, so close that he was unable to focus his binoculars. Ah well, you can't get them all.
It was quite rainy down in the Villa Rica area, where it rained two of the three mornings that we were there, letting us get out for dawn chorus only once.
Yesterday we headed to where we are now, Huancayo, via a 1.5h collectivo and then a four hour bus. Pretty unexciting for the most part, but a juvenile Band-bellied Ow roostingl in a banana plantation between Villa Rica and La Merced was a nice thing to see, and a life bird. Now we are waiting to get a rental car to be able to bird the Satipo Road better than we could be able to if we camped, which was the original plan. The Satipo Road is a very interesting place, with the elevational range from 4500m (about 15,000'), to just a few hundred meters (less than a thousand feet), making it a very diverse and interesting place to bird. So interesting in fact, that there are at least three and maybe four species on this road that have yet to be described to science! They are recognized as seperate species, but someone has yet to study and officially describe them. There are also some local Peruvian endemics, such as Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, Fire-throated Metaltail, Eye-ringed Thistletail, and Koepcke's Screech-Owl, in addition to many other good birds.
I doubt I'll have internet access for the next few days, but when we come back to Huancayo after birding the road for 4-5 days I should be able to update again.

Take it easy,

Friday, November 20, 2009

First few days

The flights went well, I met Andrew at the airport, and after spending a night in Lima, we headed up into the mountains, with our final destination being Lago Junin. The 5 hour bus ride up the Junin was gorgeous, going through gorges with sheer rock faces sometimes thousands of feet high, and the pass over the western side of the Andes, Ticlio Pass (16,000 feet), was surrounded by gorgeous snow-capped mountains. Some of the bird highlights of the bus ride included Andean Goose, Andean Swift, White-winged Cinclodes, and Plain-breasted Earthcreeper. After getting to the town of Junin we walked through town until we got the the 'collectivo' area, the place where taxis hang around and charge a minimal fee to take you to a certain town, but you have to wait for the car to fill all the way up with random people. In this case, 6 of us were in a station wagon, with two people riding in the trunk. Luckily we got the back seat. For this 45 minute ride to Ondores, it cost 3 soles each, or $1. Once at the almost deserted town of Ondores, which is quite close to the Lago de Junin, we made our way to the only hospedaje in town, which cost us 5 soles ($1.66) a night per person.
I had never had any problems with altitude in Ecuador, but I think going from sea level to 13,500 feet, the altitude of Junin, in one day, was just too much for my body. I had a headache basically the entire time we were in the area, wasn't able to sleep, and got short of breath very easily. Our goal bird here at Lago Junin was the Junin Grebe, one of the rarer birds in the world, with only 200-300 left in the world. They are flightless, and only occur on this one lake in the entire world. The normal way of seeing them is hiring a boat, but the office where you do so never opened while we were there. Such is life. However, we managed to find a guy who knew how to walk to the edge of the lake, which was 4 kilometers each way, through mostly shin-deep water, chest high reeds, and mud. I only managed to make it about half of the way out, and by then I was just so spent that I wouldn't have been able to make it back had I continued all the way. I ended up making a small bed out of the reeds, pulled more of them overhead for shade, and slept there for close to an hour. Andrew and our guide continued on to the edge of the lake, and when they got there they still had to walk another kilometer along the edge of the lake until they found a Junin Grebe. But they did, and I'm glad that my infirmity didn't keep Andrew from seeing the bird. After a long walk back all of us were completely exhausted, even our guide. Following a quick lunch, where I actually got a small salad rather than the usual vegetarian fare here: potatoes and rice, we headed back to our room for a nap. When I woke up from the nap I felt completely miserable, and despite wanting to stay around to try for the grebe again in the morning, I really needed to get to a lower elevation. So we packed up, and headed back to the town of Junin, seeing a very cool Short-eared Owl on the way, so different from ours up here. In Junin while waiting for a bus to take us to Huanaco, our lower elevation destination, I had some matte de coca, or tea made from coca leaves, which is the traditional way of curing altitude sickness, at least temporarially. I felt better almost immediately after having it, and that managed to keep me going until the end of the 3 hour bus to Huanaco, which we arrived in at 9:30, not the optimal time to get to a new city. We got a nice hostal right on a nice plaza, and I finally slept, first time since Lima, and now we are at an internet cafe in Huanaco. That pretty much sums up the trip so far!
My phone hadn't been working until now, but after getting some tech support, aka my parents calling the Verizon people and then emailing me the answer, I am back online! Hopefully I'll be able to update this more often now.
We're leaving shortly for Villa Rica, a place that is mostly coffee plantations, but has some really cool birds, including Lanceolated Monklet, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Creamy-bellied Antwren, Cerulean-capped Manakin, and White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant.
I'll try to post a bird list sometime soon.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Last day in the first world

Well this is it, I just had my last home-cooked dinner for a while, am about to sleep the last night in my bed, and tomorrow night I'll be in a plane, and then in Lima, Peru. It'll be a bit different, but I'm looking forward to it more than just about anything.
As some of you may notice, there is now an option in the upper left-hand corner of this page to subscribe to this blog via email. If that is to your liking, the option is now there!
I also made a map for the places that we will be visiting, and you can see that at this link: map.
I'll try to update as often as I can from down there, I'll be at a place with wifi on the first night, so hopefully I'll post something quickly before I collapse.
In any case, I hope all of you have a great winter, and take it easy.

Good birding,
Ian Davies
Manomet, MA

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Peru primer

Some of you may know, and some of you may not, but in nine days I am going to be going to Peru. For three months. A lot of people may consider that a bit extreme, but after two months in Andean South America last winter, I wish I could go for four! There will be two of us for the entire trip, Andrew Spencer, a friend that I went to Panama with, and myself, and a third guy, Chris Nunes, will be joining us after a couple weeks, and staying for the remaining couple months.
Our goal, per usual, is to see lots of birds. Really imaginative, I know. However, if that is your goal in life, there are few better places than Peru to see hundreds upon hundreds of species of birds. In fact, we expect to see over 1,000 species during our time there, which is to say more than have EVER been seen in continental North America.
I'm hoping to be able to visit a lot of internet cafes while I'm down south, and I also recently got a new phone that will have internet and email capabilities as long as I have cell service down there, so I will be able to update from the field as well!
I will post again soon before leaving, and then hopefully every few days I'll be able to get some blurb on to the internet.

Take it easy,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Extreme Pelagic

The first Bridled Tern with his fish

White-faced Storm-Petrel

Every late August for about five years now there has been a deep-water pelagic trip, which is to say a birding boat trip, that heads out to the Gulf Stream waters more than 100 miles south of Nantucket. It, along with a couple other such trips in June and July, have been dubbed the "Extreme Pelagics." They leave at 4am and get back at 9pm, and its a long day on a boat. This year, just for the August one, a new twist was put on the whole trip, by making it an overnight trip, from 5am the first day until 6pm a day and a half later.
I was scheduled on the one in late August, which I've gone on for four years now, and was slated for the weekend of the 22nd-23rd, originally anyways. Of course, the first hurricane of the season that made it up our way rolled through that weekend. So then it was the 29th-30th. And the second storm of the season came through, postponing it yet again. Well, this time the captain couldn't give us another weekend slot, so it was planning on going out on September 3-4th, a Thursday-Friday gig. The only problem for me is that weekdays don't quite work, there being the slight issue that I have to work dawn-dusk 5 days a week, so I had to drop my name from the passenger list with regret. And I thought that was the end of that, that they would go out and find tons of amazing birds and I would be sad that I missed it and cry myself to sleep, all that good stuff. (Note: Crying would not have really happened)
But then while hanging out in the banding room on Wednesday, my phone rang with a call from Rick Heil, one of the leaders on the trip. The trip normally has four leaders, three spotters and a guy on the mic, calling the birds out to the 50-80 birders on the boat. Because of the repeated rescheduling, two of the leaders were unable to make it, and I was offered the position to be one of the leaders! As a couple of my friends kindly put it, "Wow, they must have been desperate." The only slight hitch was that I would be working both of the days. Normally I could have just asked Trevor, our head bander and reigning deity, and I'm sure that he would have said yes and I could have gone. It just so happened that Wednesday was the only day so far in the entire season that Trevor was gone the whole day, at a conference up in Newburyport! No cellphone to contact him by, no number to reach him at, and as a bonus the power was also off on the premises, and there was nobody in the office building at Manomet.
My only method of contact was his home number, which I called and luckily his wife, Linda Leddy, another great human being and former president of Manomet for longer than I was alive, answered. I hung up that phone call with a wifely assurance that it would be it would be fine, and I should just go along with it. Well, a wifely assurance counts for a lot, and despite my agony at not being able to get in contact with Trevor, I part regretfully and part happily called Rick back and accepted the leader position. I still have not seen Trevor, and won't until Tuesday! We'll see how it goes.
As it turns out, the other replacement leader was Mark Faherty, a birder and friend who lives less than 1/2 mile away, the only other birder in White Horse Beach! What are the odds.

Thursday the third:

So after finishing the rest of the banding day on Wednesday, I went to bed early, set the alarm for 3:15, and got as much sleep as possible. A few hours later pre-dawn saw me standing around with about 35 other birders in downtown Hyannis, all of us preparing to be extreme. After leaving a little bit later than scheduled we were on our way, with a couple flyover Black-crowned Night-Herons and a few Least Terns, getting late for the terns, spicing up the harbor area. An hour or so later as we started rounding Nantucket we started getting into some Black Terns, and we saw over 90 Black Terns in the next few minutes, in flocks from 2-20 or so. Nice start. Not much else of interest until we got onto the Nantucket Shoals, an area that can be very productive, and after seeing a small pod of Harbor Porpoises, a life mammal for me, a large cloud of birds was spotted on the horizon, seemingly mostly terns from a distance. As we got closer, it turned out that they were indeed mainly terns, and estimates varied from 2,000-6,000. There were also some shearwaters scattered under them, with the bird highlights from the beginning of the flock being Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, as well as Forster's and Roseate Terns. Just as we were wondering where the jaegers were, a small grouping of them were spotted in the distance, and as we watched they landed on the water. What choice did we have but to head over there as quickly as possible? As we neared the group of birds on the water, a bunch of shearwaters with seven jaegers mixed in, they were originally called out as Parasitic Jaegers, with a couple birds that seemed to be Long-tailed as we got closer. In the initial hour or so after seeing these birds, at different times the flock was thought to be all Long-tailed, no Long-tailed, or any mix of in between numbers. After review of pictures, I think that there were five Long-tailed and two Parasitic, some others think the same, and some think four Long-tailed and three Parasitic. In any case, they put on an AMAZING show after they took off, as they repeatedly made passes at the bow of the boat, coming within 25 feet quite often. It's always a good thing when you can't fit an entire Long-tailed Jaeger in the frame of the picture.
After a nice show on the Shoals, we resumed steaming south, with not much new or different on the way out, a couple Minke Whales, some Short-beaked Common Dolphins, and pretty much the same birds. A couple more Long-tailed Jaegers made appearances, including one dark juvenile.
Our first destination was Hydrographer Canyon, a deep-water canyon that cuts into the continental shelf off of the Gulf Stream, our ultimate destination. I don't remember the exact locations of the best birds, everything got lost in the excitement, but the majority of good birds were had once we got out into the Gulf Stream proper, where there was water that was consistently 79.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and deep too. The birding was really good out there, and of course got good late in the day, when we were running out of light. The undisputed highlight of the first day were THREE White-faced Storm-Petrels, a bird that shows up in the US only a handful of times annually. Four Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were also really good, as well as being a state high count, and a final daily tally of 25 Audubon's Shearwaters was also a state high count. For mammals, there were Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins (also known as Grampus), and my personal favorite, a Cuvier's Beaked Whale that breached a couple times off of the bow before surfacing once, and then never being seen again, another life mammal. I had also been feeling a bit under the weather as the day progressed, and had to spend some time on the stern during the afternoon. I was feeling better as darkness approached, and thought that I was fine. As soon as the sun set, I knew I was wrong.
Apparently, once I lose sight of the horizon, I'm a goner. It was my first time being seasick. I ended up being the sickest person on the boat that night, and didn't make it inside until almost 11pm. The fact that it was pouring, POURING rain didn't help very much. I ended up sleeping fitfully on a bench with my legs hanging off of the end. What a night.

Friday the fourth:

Dawn, well, dawned. It was still drizzling, so no epic ocean sunrise, nor sunset the night previously, it was kind of damp and gray. I was still feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges in the morning, so I spent a bit more time on the stern in the morning. We woke up in the 79 degree water this day, so the good birds started right off of the bat. By mid-late morning or so I was feeling a bit better, and a phenomenal three MORE White-faced Storm-Petrels and four MORE Band-rumped Storm-Petrels helped for sure, as well as kind birders gifts of scopolamine patches, ginger pills, oyster crackers, and water. Once I felt good as new again I started making my way back up to the wheelhouse on the upper deck, and WHILE I was walking through the boat, a "tropical tern" was announced over the speakers. "Tropical tern" means either Bridled or Sooty Tern, both of which only breed off of the Florida Keys in the United States, and either of which would be a lifer for me. Needless to say, I started almost running on the pitching boat, and was lucky to make it topside alive.
Sure enough, just off of the bow of the boat there was a Bridled Tern sitting on a piece of wood, a typical behavior of this species, and the only piece of wood we saw the whole time we were out there! What are the chances. The captain skillfully maneuvered us within about 40 feet of the bird, a worn and molting adult, and great looks and photos were had by all. The most amazing part of the whole experience was that while we were watching this bird at one point it calmly bent its head, stuck its bill in the water, and came up with a fish! A fish! Apparently this one small fish had chosen the wrong piece of wood to hide under. Eventually the bird flushed and we gave chase, when all of a sudden the captain, not a birder, and without binoculars, goes "hey, there's another one!" and points out the right window. Sure enough, a second Bridled Tern. Seconds later someone calls out another one off of the bow. Three. In the next couple minutes we ended up with a total of five Bridled Terns, yet another high count for the state. Incredible. When it rains it pours.
After this wonderful experience it was getting time to head back for the six hour ride back to port, so we sadly left the warm waters and headed back across the continental shelf through Muskeget Channel, the passage between Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Birding was very slow on the way back, but it frankly didn't really matter any more. A Pomarine Jaeger that flew with us right off of the bow for a while was great for photo opps. As we were passing through the channel, there was an exposed sandbar with some Gray Seals on it, another mammal for the trip list, and there was a Parasitic Jaeger harassing some Laughing Gulls nearly.
I think everyone was happy with the trip, I don't see how you couldn't be, and most people got at least one new bird I believe! I for one was partially glad to be back on land, but I will look forward to the next trip out there. It sure was one Extreme Pelagic.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I still exist!

Me with a Red-shouldered Hawk.

First off, my apologies for not updating this for, well, almost six months. I don't really have an excuse, I've been around and had time, but I just never quite got around to it, and I'm sticking to that story.
Since the first day of Panama, I got sick on the second day, spent the rest of the trip in a state of semi-sanity, and ended up missing about 70 species of the trip, getting 336 of the ~410 species that we three people saw.
Since then, I've moved back from DC to my normal home, in Mass, and have worked an entire spring banding season, April 15-June 15, as well as many other things. After banding this spring ended, I worked an internship for the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA), doing surveys of pelagic (ocean-going) seabirds out on Stellwagen Bank, an underwater hill off of Provincetown, MA, that is about 25 miles long, like a 100' tall hill of sand. This geographical deformity creates an upwelling of nutrients at the edges that attracts birds, as well as whales. Because of the whale angle, I was working on commercial whale-watching boats based out of Plymouth, Captain John Boats being the company that I worked on. It was lots of fun, and I got to do 22 whale-watches this summer, which was quite thrilling. As well as seeing about 40,000 birds during those trips, I got to see whales on every trip! For anyone who wants to see whales, Captain John Boats guarantees sightings of whales, and it's $40 for a ticket. Highly recommended. Some pictures that I took during my time on the ocean this summer can be seen at:
Although I did go out on the ocean a lot, I also had lots of time for birding this summer, much of which I spent on Plymouth Beach, mostly looking at shorebirds and terns. One of the cool things about Plymouth Beach is that it is the second southernmost nesting site in the world for Arctic Tern, and, starting this year, the northernmost nesting site in the world for Black Skimmer! Black Skimmers are incredible birds, and the beach was graced with one pair of them this year, the first nesting north of Cape Cod in over 20 years, when they historically nested here on Plymouth Beach back then. Other great shorebirds have been around, and I'm up to 31 species of shorebirds (sandpipers/plovers, etc) for Plymouth County this year. Great birds. Pictures from this summer in Plymouth are at:
I also made a few trips out to Western Mass, which was amazing, some really cool birds breed out there, and the habitat is like you're in northern New Hampshire. Some of the better birds included Olive-sided Flycatcher, Common Moorhen, and Black Vulture, all very rare and local in Mass. As a matter of fact, they were all my second personal records ever for the state.
The birding highlight of the summer though would have to have occurred at my feeder in Manomet.
I was sitting at the computer, checking my email, and when I'm at the computer I have a view of the feeders. The birds flushed, from what I'm not sure, but for some reason I happened to glance over. I saw the usuals, but one of the doves had white bars across the wings and a squared off tail. My reaction was "Oh hey look, a White-winged Dove....wait, I'm in Mass, OH MY GOD thats a White-winged Dove."
It was the 7th documented state record of White-winged Dove for Massachusetts, and my 159th species for my yard. It was found on August 6th, it stayed for 7 days at my feeders, and was seen by over 30 different birders who traveled from around the state to come see it. Very cool. Some pictures of it can be seen at:

Now, I'm back working at Manomet Bird Observatory, bandin' birds and takin' names. I'll be working here until November 15th (started on August 15th) with Jess Johnson and Evan Dalton, the same two banders who I worked the spring season with. I also worked with Evan last fall here. Great people, good birders, and two of my closest friends. That still doesn't stop us from competing to see who can see more species in Plymouth County this year though..! I'm going to try to keep the posts coming more regularly, such as whenever I find an interesting bird, or if we band something cool. So far it's pretty much all Gray Catbirds, our bread and butter species here, but we did catch a Red-shouldered Hawk here the other day! Only the third banded here in 40 years, and a bit of a difference from our usual songbirds. For perspective, an average catbird has about an 88mm wing, and weighs about 37g (we are metric here). So about a 3.5 inch long wing and 1.3 ounce weight. Well, this hawk had a 337mm wing (13.25in) and weighed 515g (1.14lb)! Slightly different. The header picture is this individual.

I was supposed to be going on a two-day long boat trip last weekend, but it got hurricaned out, and therefore postponed to this weekend, but it looks like we're going to get pounded again! Supposedly 15-18' waves, 50-75mph winds, and 3-6" of rain in the Plymouth area. Should make for good seawatching from land. Sooty Terns anyone? I'll let you know how it goes.

Take it easy, and good birding,
Ian Davies
Manomet, MA

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First day in Panama

My mom and I arrived in Panama last night with a mostly uneventful flight, only having a 30m delay in leaving Miami. As we stepped off the plane we were hit by a gust of warm hot air: welcome to Central America. As of 10am this morning the temperature was already over 85 and rising. 
After making it through customs we got a taxi to take us to our imagined destination, Luna's Castle, which we were mildly disturbed by, judging by the partially clad people hanging over the balcony on the second floor, playing on guitars, singing, and generally carousing. Not a bad place, but we imagined that the amount of sleep gotten wouldn't be as much as we required. So our very nice taxi driver took us to another place, Hotel Latino, which is pretty crude, but at least has wifi downstairs and hot showers. It worked for one night. Of course now, we had to meet up with Andrew and Ethan who were headed for Luna's, unknowing of our abandonment of that hostel. When I got online I found out that Ethan had been stranded in Atlanta by inclement weather, so all that we had to get was Andrew. Luckily he had his wits around him, and checked his voicemail when he got to Luna's, and managed to hitch a ride with the National Police to Hotel Latino for a cool $2. 
After all that was all gotten out of the way, and we were finally together, all was good. 
This morning we got up at 0645 to head off to the Metropolitan Park in Panama City, and got a taxi there, and after paying the entrance fee to the park, the fun started. We managed to tally about 60-70 species, not sure of the exact number, but we got some great stuff. Some of the tougher birds that we got were Crane Hawk, very rare in the canal zone, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Indigo Bunting, which is not on the list for the park, and Southern Bentbill. Some of my personal favorites, although not hard, include Green Shrike-Vireo, SEEN, Crimson-backed Tanager, upwards of 15 Bay-breasted Warblers, Lance-tailed Manakins, Slaty-tailed, Violaceous, and Black-throated Trogons all seen from one spot, and Rufous-breasted Wren wasn't too shabby either. There were some fun mammals too, we had Coatimundi, Howler Monkeys, and unidentified Tamarins, an Agouti, and some squirrel.
This afternoon we're heading off to pick up the car, enough taxis for now, and heading off for some more afternoon birding before picking Ethan up tonight at 7:15 from his rescheduled flight. 
After that, Pipeline Road tomorrow, most likely Nusagandi the day after, picking up Caity, and then off to the west and to Davíd!

Take it easy, 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

DC and Panama

I've been a bit lax in updating this blog recently, and that is putting it mildly. Since seeing the Ivory Gull in January, ANOTHER Ivory Gull showed up a few days later, on Inauguration Day in fact, and it happened to be in Plymouth, my local area! Needless to say, I saw that bird a total of four times during its stay, and at one point I had seen Ivory Gull 6 out of 8 days!

After those thrilling couple weeks it was time for me and my mom to move down here to Washington D.C., more specifically Arlington, VA, where all three of us have been living in a one bedroom apartment while my dad is working a temporary detail for the FAA in DC. 
It's been fun living down here, and birding in 2.5 states with a bunch of good birders and good people, but I will be glad to head back up to Massachusetts and to Manomet, where I will spend the spring banding at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, formerly known as Manomet Bird Observatory (MBO). Currently I'm mildly peeved that there is a male Tufted Duck having a blast with his friend a male Eurasian Green-winged (Common) Teal in Sudbury, not too far at all from Medford. All I can hope is that it will stick around until April 9th, when I finally return to where I normally belong!

Birding down here in the DC area has been lots of fun, and it would have not been nearly as productive without the nice and fun birders down here, especially Paul Pisano and John Hubbell, who have been kind enough to cart me around most weekends to god knows where, looking for various and sundry birds from DC to the Chesapeake. Thanks guys, you've really made my stay down here all the more pleasant. 
Some of the cooler birds that I've run into while I'm down here include my first Tundra Swans, terrible, I know, and my first Brown-headed Nuthatches, little balls of adorable squeakiness frolicking around on trees. Hard to beat. Other cool stuff, not so awe inspiring for a northerner, but pretty crazy for down here, include a Barrow's Goldeneye, a White-winged Crossbill, and and White-winged Scoter in DC. Slight contrast from seeing over 7,000 White-winged Scoter go by Manomet Point last fall in two hours. 

By now you're probably wondering where the "Panama" part of the title comes in. In 24 hours I will be on a plane headed to Miami, with a final destination of Tocumen International Airport, Panama! This all started when I was talking with Andrew Spencer, a mostly young birder from Colorado, who I met at the Ivory Gull, and we happened to be talking about international travel, always a fun topic of conversation. Just for kicks I checked the fares to Panama, and I found that I could get roundtrip airfare for $318! (!!) Needless to say, within three days we had booked plane tickets and were planning a ten day trip to Panama (March 16-26th)! In the next two days we managed to find two more young birders who could also swing a trip on less than two weeks of notice. So with our trip rounded out by Ethan Kister of Ohio and Caity Reiland-Smith of South Dakota, we're headed off for adventures of the birdiest sort. 
Our plan is to spend most of the time in "canal zone" as it's known, with 3-4 days over near the Costa Rican birder in the Volcán Baru area, and one day with a short venture east to Nusagandi/Bayano Lake area for some eastern species. 
My mom is also going to Panama, but not with us bird nuts. She is flying down with me, and we're all spending the first night together, with the exception of Caity who is arriving a few days later, and then we're splitting off the next morning, and will be apart until the last night, when we're meeting at the place where we spent the first night, Luna's Castle, for our last night in country.
Some of the cooler birds we're hoping for are Black-crowned Antpitta, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and Resplendent Quetzal, along with hordes of others. 400 species is our, mildly unrealistic, goal for the trip, at least from my perspective.
I don't know how much internet access I'll have during the trip, but I will try to stick in a quick post whenever I can. 

Take it easy, and good birding,
Ian Davies
Manomet, MA

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ivory Gull

Ivory Gull

Back in Massachusetts, after having most of one day to get my act back together, my young birder friend Luke, who some of you may know, came down from Maine to spend the weekend birding around MA. Little did we know that we would be in for one of, dare I say, the worlds most elegant birds. 
It was Saturday morning, and Luke and I had decided to head down to the Plymouth area with Jeff Offermann to see if we could find any interesting ducks, of something of that ilk. We had been having some good birds, found a couple patches of open water that housed collectively 108 Gadwall, 2 Lesser Scaup, 10 "American" Green-winged Teal, and 13 Northern Pintail, among other waterfowl, an Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Towhee, and a couple Harlequin Ducks were probably the highlights. And then, when we were doing some thicket birding along a little side street in Plymouth, Rick Heil called me. I figured that it must have been something good, but when he said "Adult Ivory Gull, Eastern Point", I really wasn't ready for that haha. Needless to say, we instantly decided that a chance at an Ivory Gull is much better then looking at Song Sparrows and Carolina Wrens, and headed up to Gloucester, making the normally 2 hour drive a bit faster then normal. 
When we finally got there, and had almost made it down to the parking lot at the end, near where there is a little cove on the right hand side of the road, for those of you not familiar with the area, and as we neared the parking lot, we noticed The Gull coasting around the little cove not 30 feet away at times. It was almost instant birdvana. 
We ended up staying there watching the bird for 2.5 hours, despite the negative temperatures, and Luke and I liked the bird so much that we went back this morning to see it again. 
Yesterday it had more varied habits, but today it was walking around on the ice about 15-20 feet away at times, so much closer. Yesterday someone went to the fish pier at the base of the harbor, got a couple gutted striper carcasses, and brought them back to throw out on the ice to try and bring the bird in for great views. 
Jeremiah Trimble, the finder of this bird, and the hero of the hour, chucked the ex-fish out on the ice, but the bird didn't pay any attention to the fish until someone played a quick Ivory Gull recording, which caused the bird to shoot across the cove to see the source of the disturbance, and when he found no rival, he decided that some fish was a good consolation prize.
In the time that we were there yesterday afternoon, probably close to 70 people came and went, from as far away at CT, and today we had close to 30 in ~90 minutes, and from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and who knows where else. I can only imagine that with this bird showing well two days in a row, the crowd will do nothing but grow.
More pictures of the bird can be seen at:
Lists from the last couple days below.

Good birding,

Plymouth (0800-1200):

Canada Goose 615
Mute Swan 10
Gadwall 108
American Black Duck 125
Mallard 237
Northern Shoveler 1f
Northern Pintail 13
Green-winged Teal (American) 10
Ring-necked Duck 3
Lesser Scaup 2
Common Eider (Atlantic) 52
Harlequin Duck 2
Surf Scoter 27
White-winged Scoter 21
Long-tailed Duck 8
Bufflehead 24
Common Goldeneye 27
Hooded Merganser 7
Common Merganser 13
Red-breasted Merganser 35
Wild Turkey 7
Common Loon 7
Horned Grebe 8
Red-necked Grebe 3
Great Cormorant 12
Great Blue Heron 3
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Killdeer 1
Sanderling 16
Ring-billed Gull 93
Herring Gull (American) 69
Great Black-backed Gull 18
Rock Pigeon 18
Mourning Dove 13
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 6
Downy Woodpecker 6
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 5
Blue Jay 61
American Crow 35
Black-capped Chickadee 14
Tufted Titmouse 7
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 3
Eastern Bluebird 7
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 85
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 35
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 9
Eastern Towhee 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 14
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 16
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 13
Snow Bunting 5
Northern Cardinal 11
Eastern Meadowlark 1
House Finch 11
American Goldfinch 8
House Sparrow 45

63 species

Cape Ann--Dog Bar Breakwater (1310-1540):

American Black Duck 8
Bufflehead 4
Red-breasted Merganser 6
Common Loon 1
Great Cormorant 2
Ivory Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 8
Herring Gull (American) 400
Iceland Gull (Kumlien's) 12
Glaucous Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 200
American Crow 4

12 species

Cape Ann--Dog Bar Breakwater (0900-1030):

Canada Goose 15
Gadwall 12
American Wigeon 1
American Black Duck 8
Mallard 5
Common Eider (Atlantic) 15
Bufflehead 35
Common Goldeneye 6
Red-breasted Merganser 28
Common Loon 7
Great Cormorant 4
Ivory Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 22
Herring Gull (American) 580
Iceland Gull (Kumlien's) 40
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Glaucous Gull 3
Great Black-backed Gull 285

17 species

These reports were generated automatically by eBird v2(

Ecuadorian conclusion

Sorry about the tardiness of this post, I never had time when I had internet access in Ecuador in the last two weeks, and since I've gotten back I've been busy as well!

The last two weeks ended up being spent in Otavalo, to the detriment of my birding. Although it's a wonderful city with the best native market I've ever seen, there isn't really much bird diversity. However, there are some nearby lagoons that ALMOST made it worthwhile from a birding perspective haha. 
Most of the time there we spent in town, with a few little excursions, most notably to the Cascada de Peguche and Lago San Pablo. Cascada de Peguche is this very cool waterfall about 15 minutes away from Otavalo, with nice woods on the fairly short path to it. Also, good birds, including Rufous-chested Tanager, Black-backed Grosbeak, and a nice Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a reminder of home! Lago San Pablo is an absolutely beautiful spot, and great birds. The number of waterfowl and wading birds is superb. We had about 250 Yellow-billed Pintail, and almost 150 Andean (Slate-colored) Coot. The scenery is spectacular, with hills rising up all around you, lovely patchwork farmland, and two 19,000'+ volcanoes guarding the valley. It is a place not to be missed. You can also see a bird there with one of the best names ever, that bird being the Subtropical Doradito. 
The highlight by far of the last couple weeks of my time in Ecuador was going to Antisana Ecological Reserve. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life, and the birds, although not diverse, were breathtaking as well. Staggering numbers of Carunculated Caracaras (207) and Andean Gulls (228) highlighted the day, as well as 4 Black-faced Ibis, one of the only two places where they occur in Ecuador, an adult Andean Condor, and other great paramo specialties with such vivid names as Streak-backed Canastero, Stout-billed Cinclodes, and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. Sadly Janet wasnt able to join us for the whole time, she started having altitude troubles when we got up near 14,000 feet, and so we had to take her down to one of the guard stations, where she befriended the guard and his dog during the time we spent up on the grasslands :D
The numbers of the trip ended up being 720 total species, of which 593 were lifers.
Undoubtedly the best experience of my life, and I cannot wait to return. My goal is to make it back sometime this summer, or perhaps winter at the latest, and to bird the southern highlands of Loja, and get down to the coast near Guayaquil as well. I would say to anyone who asked that Ecuador is my favorite place I have ever been, and I would recommend it without reserve. It's cheap, the people are unbelievably nice, it seemed just as safe as most places, and the birds and wildlife are seemingly unparalleled. 
My final batch of pictures can be seen at:
And the total list of species seen is below.

Good birding and best of luck to all,
Ian Davies
Medford, MA

Highland Tinamou
Great Tinamou
Cinereous Tinamou
Berlepsch's Tinamou
Little Tinamou
Undulated Tinamou
Bartlett's Tinamou
Curve-billed Tinamou
Torrent Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Yellow-billed Pintail
Speckled Teal
Ruddy Duck
Speckled Chachalaca
Andean Guan
Wattled Guan
Sickle-winged Guan
Dark-backed Wood-Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Silvery Grebe
Neotropic Cormorant
Zigzag Heron
Rufescent Tiger-Heron
Fasciated Tiger-Heron
Cocoi Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Striated Heron
Capped Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Boat-billed Heron
Black-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Andean Condor
Hook-billed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite
Double-toothed Kite
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle
Cinereous Harrier
Semicollared Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Barred Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-backed Hawk
Ornate Hawk-Eagle
Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle
Black-and-chestnut Eagle
Collared Forest-Falcon
Buckley's Forest-Falcon
Black Caracara
Carunculated Caracara
Yellow-headed Caracara
Laughing Falcon
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon
Orange-breasted Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Gray-breasted Crake
Virginia Rail
Azure Gallinule
Common Moorhen
Slate-colored Coot
Pied Lapwing
Andean Lapwing
Collared Plover
Wattled Jacana
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
South American Snipe
Noble Snipe
Andean Gull
Yellow-billed Tern
Large-billed Tern
Rock Pigeon
Pale-vented Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Plumbeous Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon
Eared Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Black-winged Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Pallid Dove
Gray-fronted Dove
Sapphire Quail-Dove
White-throated Quail-Dove
Ruddy Quail-Dove
Maroon-tailed Parakeet
White-eyed Parakeet
Dusky-headed Parakeet
Chestnut-fronted Macaw
Military Macaw
Scarlet Macaw
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
Red-bellied Macaw
Barred Parakeet
Blue-winged Parrotlet
Pacific Parrotlet
Cobalt-winged Parakeet
Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet
Black-headed Parrot
Rose-faced Parrot
Orange-cheeked Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
Red-billed Parrot
Speckle-faced Parrot
Bronze-winged Parrot
Orange-winged Parrot
Scaly-naped Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Yellow-crowned Parrot
Little Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo
Striped Cuckoo
Greater Ani
Smooth-billed Ani
Tropical Screech-Owl
Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl
White-throated Screech-Owl
Spectacled Owl
Cloudforest Pygmy-Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Mottled Owl
Black-and-white Owl
Black-banded Owl
Rufous-banded Owl
Rufous-bellied Nighthawk
Sand-colored Nighthawk
Common Pauraque
Ladder-tailed Nightjar
Swallow-tailed Nightjar
Lyre-tailed Nightjar
Great Potoo
Common Potoo
Andean Potoo
White-chested Swift
Spot-fronted Swift
Chestnut-collared Swift
White-collared Swift
Short-tailed Swift
Band-rumped Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
Pale-tailed Barbthroat
White-bearded Hermit
White-whiskered Hermit
Tawny-bellied Hermit
Straight-billed Hermit
Great-billed Hermit
Stripe-throated Hermit
Gray-chinned Hermit
White-tipped Sicklebill
Green-fronted Lancebill
Napo Sabrewing
White-necked Jacobin
Brown Violetear
Green Violetear
Sparkling Violetear
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Green Thorntail
Blue-chinned Sapphire
Western Emerald
Blue-tailed Emerald
Green-crowned Woodnymph
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
Violet-bellied Hummingbird
Golden-tailed Sapphire
Olive-spotted Hummingbird
Andean Emerald
Glittering-throated Emerald
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Speckled Hummingbird
Ecuadorian Piedtail
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Green-crowned Brilliant
Empress Brilliant
Violet-fronted Brilliant
White-tailed Hillstar
Buff-tailed Coronet
Chestnut-breasted Coronet
Velvet-purple Coronet
Shining Sunbeam
Ecuadorian Hillstar
Mountain Velvetbreast
Bronzy Inca
Brown Inca
Collared Inca
Buff-winged Starfrontlet
Sword-billed Hummingbird
Great Sapphirewing
Giant Hummingbird
Gorgeted Sunangel
Tourmaline Sunangel
Golden-breasted Puffleg
Greenish Puffleg
Purple-bibbed Whitetip
Booted Racket-tail
Black-tailed Trainbearer
Tyrian Metaltail
Viridian Metaltail
Blue-mantled Thornbill
Mountain Avocetbill
Long-tailed Sylph
Violet-tailed Sylph
Wedge-billed Hummingbird
Purple-crowned Fairy
Purple-throated Woodstar
White-bellied Woodstar
Little Woodstar
Gorgeted Woodstar
White-tailed Trogon
Violaceous Trogon
Collared Trogon
Masked Trogon
Black-throated Trogon
Black-tailed Trogon
Blue-tailed Trogon
Golden-headed Quetzal
Crested Quetzal
Blue-crowned Motmot
Rufous Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher
Black-fronted Nunbird
White-fronted Nunbird
Yellow-billed Nunbird
Swallow-winged Puffbird
White-eared Jacamar
Brown Jacamar
Yellow-billed Jacamar
White-chinned Jacamar
Coppery-chested Jacamar
Scarlet-crowned Barbet
Gilded Barbet
Lemon-throated Barbet
Red-headed Barbet
Toucan Barbet
Emerald Toucanet
Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan
Black-billed Mountain-Toucan
Chestnut-eared Aracari
Many-banded Aracari
Collared Aracari
Golden-collared Toucanet
White-throated Toucan
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Choco Toucan
Channel-billed Toucan
Lafresnaye's Piculet
Rufous-breasted Piculet
Olivaceous Piculet
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Little Woodpecker
Scarlet-backed Woodpecker
Yellow-vented Woodpecker
Bar-bellied Woodpecker  (Western Hemisphere bird #1000)
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Choco Woodpecker
White-throated Woodpecker
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Spot-breasted Woodpecker
Scale-breasted Woodpecker
Chestnut Woodpecker
Cream-colored Woodpecker
Ringed Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Powerful Woodpecker
Crimson-crested Woodpecker
Guayaquil Woodpecker
Black-tailed Leaftosser
Stout-billed Cinclodes
Bar-winged Cinclodes
Pale-legged Hornero
Lesser Hornero
White-chinned Thistletail
Azara's Spinetail
Dark-breasted Spinetail
Rufous Spinetail
Slaty Spinetail
White-bellied Spinetail
Plain-crowned Spinetail
White-browed Spinetail
Parker's Spinetail
Red-faced Spinetail
Ash-browed Spinetail
Streak-backed Canastero
Many-striped Canastero
Orange-fronted Plushcrown
Spotted Barbtail
Pearled Treerunner
Streaked Tuftedcheek
Point-tailed Palmcreeper
Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner
Montane Foliage-gleaner
Lineated Foliage-gleaner
Chestnut-winged Hookbill
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner
Uniform Treehunter
Black-billed Treehunter
Striped Treehunter
Streak-capped Treehunter
Flammulated Treehunter
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner
Olive-backed Foliage-gleaner
Plain Xenops
Streaked Xenops
Tyrannine Woodcreeper
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Long-billed Woodcreeper
Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper
Strong-billed Woodcreeper
Amazonian Barred-Woodcreeper
Black-banded Woodcreeper
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Striped Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Black-striped Woodcreeper
Spotted Woodcreeper
Olive-backed Woodcreeper
Montane Woodcreeper
Brown-billed Scythebill
Fasciated Antshrike
Great Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
Lined Antshrike
Plain-winged Antshrike
Mouse-colored Antshrike
Castelnau's Antshrike
Uniform Antshrike
Russet Antshrike
Bicolored Antvireo
Dusky-throated Antshrike
Pacific Antwren
Plain-throated Antwren
White-flanked Antwren
Slaty Antwren
Gray Antwren
Dugand's Antwren
Gray Antbird
Blackish Antbird
White-backed Fire-eye
Black-faced Antbird
Peruvian Warbling-Antbird
Yellow-browed Antbird
Long-tailed Antbird
Black-and-white Antbird
Silvered Antbird
White-shouldered Antbird
Plumbeous Antbird
Sooty Antbird
Immaculate Antbird
Bicolored Antbird
Spot-backed Antbird
Dot-backed Antbird
Black-spotted Bare-eye
Black-faced Antthrush
Black-headed Antthrush
Rufous-breasted Antthrush
Striated Antthrush
Undulated Antpitta
Giant Antpitta
Moustached Antpitta
Scaled Antpitta
Plain-backed Antpitta
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
Chestnut-naped Antpitta
Yellow-breasted Antpitta
White-bellied Antpitta
Rufous Antpitta
Tawny Antpitta
Thrush-like Antpitta
Ochre-breasted Antpitta
Slate-crowned Antpitta
Ash-colored Tapaculo
Blackish Tapaculo
Long-tailed Tapaculo
Nariño Tapaculo
Spillmann's Tapaculo
Paramo Tapaculo
Ocellated Tapaculo
Brown-capped Tyrannulet
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
White-tailed Tyrannulet
White-banded Tyrannulet
White-throated Tyrannulet
Rufous-winged Tyrannulet
Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet
Tufted Tit-Tyrant
Yellow Tyrannulet
Subtropical Doradito
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet
Gray Elaenia
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
White-crested Elaenia
Mottle-backed Elaenia
Sierran Elaenia
Torrent Tyrannulet
Streak-necked Flycatcher
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Slaty-capped Flycatcher
Rufous-breasted Flycatcher
Variegated Bristle-Tyrant
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant
Ecuadorian Tyrannulet
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet
Ashy-headed Tyrannulet
Golden-faced Tyrannulet
Ornate Flycatcher
Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant
Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant
Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher
Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher
Spotted Tody-Flycatcher
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher
Fulvous-breasted Flatbill
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Orange-eyed Flycatcher
Gray-crowned Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Spadebill
Cinnamon Flycatcher
Cliff Flycatcher
Tawny-breasted Flycatcher
Flavescent Flycatcher
Handsome Flycatcher
Olive-chested Flycatcher
Bran-colored Flycatcher
Smoke-colored Pewee
Western Wood-Pewee
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Drab Water-Tyrant
Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant
White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant
Smoky Bush-Tyrant
Masked Water-Tyrant
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant
Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant
Long-tailed Tyrant
Cinnamon Attila
Citron-bellied Attila
Bright-rumped Attila
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Short-crested Flycatcher
Pale-edged Flycatcher
Lesser Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Lemon-browed Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Piratic Flycatcher
Sulphury Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Dusky Piha
Screaming Piha
Barred Becard
Cinnamon Becard
White-winged Becard
Black-and-white Becard
One-colored Becard
Masked Tityra
Black-tailed Tityra
Red-crested Cotinga
Green-and-black Fruiteater
Orange-breasted Fruiteater
Black-chested Fruiteater
Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater
Scaled Fruiteater
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Plum-throated Cotinga
Olivaceous Piha
Bare-necked Fruitcrow
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin
Golden-winged Manakin
Green Manakin
White-bearded Manakin
Club-winged Manakin
Striped Manakin
White-crowned Manakin
Blue-crowned Manakin
Wire-tailed Manakin
Golden-headed Manakin
Brown-capped Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Dusky-capped Greenlet
Olivaceous Greenlet
Lesser Greenlet
Black-billed Peppershrike
Green Jay
Violaceous Jay
Turquoise Jay
Beautiful Jay
White-winged Swallow
Blue-and-white Swallow
Brown-bellied Swallow
White-banded Swallow
White-thighed Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Donacobius
Band-backed Wren
Thrush-like Wren
Rufous Wren
Sharpe's Wren
Plain-tailed Wren
Coraya Wren
Bay Wren
House Wren
Mountain Wren
Sedge Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Scaly-breasted Wren
Wing-banded Wren
Chestnut-breasted Wren
White-capped Dipper
Long-billed Gnatwren
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Andean Solitaire
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Pale-eyed Thrush
Hauxwell's Thrush
Bare-eyed Thrush
Lawrence's Thrush
Black-billed Thrush
Chestnut-bellied Thrush
Great Thrush
Glossy-black Thrush
White-necked Thrush
Tropical Mockingbird
Paramo Pipit
Tropical Parula
Yellow Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Slate-throated Redstart
Spectacled Redstart
Golden-bellied Warbler
Black-crested Warbler
Russet-crowned Warbler
Three-striped Warbler
Buff-rumped Warbler
Magpie Tanager
Rufous-crested Tanager
Black-capped Hemispingus
Superciliaried Hemispingus
Oleaginous Hemispingus
Black-eared Hemispingus
Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager
Rufous-chested Tanager
Orange-headed Tanager
Cinereous Conebill
Blue-backed Conebill
Capped Conebill
Giant Conebill
Black-backed Bush-Tanager
Common Bush-Tanager
Dusky Bush-Tanager
Short-billed Bush-Tanager
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager
Guira Tanager
Ochre-breasted Tanager
Fulvous Shrike-Tanager
Scarlet-browed Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Flame-rumped Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Blue-capped Tanager
Blue-and-yellow Tanager
Hooded Mountain-Tanager
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Grass-green Tanager
Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager
Yellow-throated Tanager
Fawn-breasted Tanager
Orange-eared Tanager
Golden-naped Tanager
Black-capped Tanager
Gray-and-gold Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Blue-necked Tanager
Rufous-throated Tanager
Spotted Tanager
Blue-and-black Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Metallic-green Tanager
Blue-browed Tanager
Turquoise Tanager
Paradise Tanager
Opal-rumped Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Golden-eared Tanager
Saffron-crowned Tanager
Flame-faced Tanager
Green-and-gold Tanager
Blue-whiskered Tanager
Golden Tanager
Emerald Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Black-faced Dacnis
Yellow-bellied Dacnis
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis
Blue Dacnis
Scarlet-breasted Dacnis
Green Honeycreeper
Purple Honeycreeper
Golden-collared Honeycreeper
Swallow Tanager
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch
Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch
Blue-black Grassquit
Variable Seedeater
Caqueta Seedeater
Lesson's Seedeater
Black-and-white Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Chestnut-bellied Seedeater
Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch
Band-tailed Seedeater
Plain-colored Seedeater
Rusty Flowerpiercer
Glossy Flowerpiercer
Black Flowerpiercer
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Deep-blue Flowerpiercer
Bluish Flowerpiercer
Masked Flowerpiercer
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Red-capped Cardinal
Pale-naped Brush-Finch
Tricolored Brush-Finch
Slaty Brush-Finch
White-winged Brush-Finch
Rufous-naped Brush-Finch
Orange-billed Sparrow
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch
Stripe-headed Brush-Finch
Black-striped Sparrow
Yellow-browed Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Grayish Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Black-winged Saltator
Slate-colored Grosbeak
Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak
Golden-bellied Grosbeak
Black-backed Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak
Red-breasted Blackbird
Scrub Blackbird
Oriole Blackbird
Giant Cowbird
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Epaulet Oriole
Orange-backed Troupial
Mountain Cacique
Scarlet-rumped Cacique
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Russet-backed Oropendola
Crested Oropendola
Casqued Oropendola
Thick-billed Euphonia
Golden-rumped Euphonia
Golden-bellied Euphonia
Bronze-green Euphonia
White-vented Euphonia
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Blue-naped Chlorophonia
Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia
Yellow-bellied Siskin
Hooded Siskin
Olivaceous Siskin

720 species