Monday, December 31, 2012

Screech-Owls on my mind...

I've been home briefly over Christmas, and every morning I've been checking the usual snag for my resident backyard Eastern Screech-Owl that has showed up in previous years.  Last night, I even had a dream that I saw two screech-owls, I think I have screech-owls on my mind...  I still have not seen this backyard friend this season yet, but hopefully he or she is still around!  Here's a photo taken back in November 2011. 

Eastern Screech-Owl
Eastern Screech-Owl, Megascops asio
Happy winter birding and Happy New Year!

~ Jenn

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Honduras photos

Here are a few more of my favourite photos from Honduras this past November.  Enjoy!  
~ Jenn
White-crowned Parrot
White-crowned Parrot, Pionus senilis
Cabin Pico Bonito
Cabin at The Lodge at Pico Bonito
Collared Aracari
Collared Aracari, Pteroglossus torquatus
Helmeted Iguana
Helmeted Iguana, Corytophanes cristatus
Northern Jacana
Northern Jacana, Jacana spinosa
Long-nosed Bat
Long-nosed Bats, Rhynchonycteris naso
Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge
Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge
Oropendola nests
Oropendola nests, Lancetilla Botanical Gardens

More highlights from Honduras

In addition to birding around the lodge grounds at The Lodge at Pico Bonito, we visited some other places in Honduras that are great birding and wildlife watching locations: 

Rio Santiago
James at The Lodge at Pico Bonito told us about this great place not far from the lodge.  This is a new place that offers cabins and a restaurant, and is about ready to open to the public.  Its a beautiful property that extends through various elevations and forests and has some nice trails.  Here we found our Keel-billed Motmot and Rufous-tailed Jacamar, as well as Blue-crowned Motmot, White-collared Manakin, Spot-breasted Wren, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Rufous Mourner, Long-billed Gnatwren, Great Tinamou, Olive-backed Euphonia, Golden-crowned Warbler, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Black-faced Grosbeak & Worm-eating Warbler.  The owner (who is Canadian) has also manufactured over 100 hummingbird feeders that attract huge numbers of Violet-crowned Woodnymphs, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, White-necked Jacobins, Violet Sabrewings, Long-billed Hermits, and even a Band-tailed Barbthroat.
Keel-billed Motmot
Keel-billed Motmot, Electron carinatum
Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge sits along the Caribbean coast and is a matrix of rivers and waterways that supports extensive mangrove ecosystems.  To get here, we took a narrow-gauge rail train from the town of La Union for 9 km into the refuge, and then hopped into a motorboat to head out into the rivers.  From here we spotted an abundance of waterbird life, including several species of herons, anhingas, kingfishers, some raptors including Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and Bat Falcon, and Sungrebes!  A very enjoyable afternoon.  
Mantled Howler
Mantled Howler, Alouatta palliata

Rio Aguan Honduran Emerald Preserve

Honduras has one endemic species of bird - the critically endangered Honduran Emerald hummingbird.  The preserve is located directly south of Pico Bonito National Park and is a dry forest habitat.  Our day started out very early (4:00 am!) but it was well worth it.  Once we got to the preserve a short walk into the protected area turned up several Honduran Emeralds, which feed on the tiny cactus flowers in the area.  Other highlights included Lesser Nighthawk, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Turquoise-browed Motmot in the preserve, and Altamira Oriole, Painted Bunting, White-fronted Parrot and a very cute pair of White-lored Gnatcatchers en route to the preserve.  Well worth the long trip!

Honduran Emerald
Honduran Emerald, Amazilia luciae
Lancetilla Botanical Gardens
One of the largest botanical gardens in Central America, Lancetilla Botanical Gardens is a nice greenspace in north central Honduras.  We started out walking this short trail off to the right just past the entrance into the gardens, which was abundant with bird life.  Raptors were a common sight overhead, including Short-tailed Hawk, Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Common Black-Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and in the forest we spotted a Laughing Falcon and Black Hawk-Eagle.  We had a quick glimpse of a Ruddy Crake as it darted across the path.  Other highlights included Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Black-headed Trogon, Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Yellow-winged Tanager.  
Keel-billed Toucan
Keel-billed Toucan, Ramphastos sulfuratus
We got a nice taste of Honduras and its wildlife during our time there.  I already look forward to going back, visiting the areas we have been to again and exploring new areas - Copan Mayan ruins and the cloud forests in western Honduras, as well as the islands.  Check out Natura Tours for information on tours to Honduras and other destinations!

~ Jenn 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Highlights from Pico Bonito

I think it goes unsaid that I love to travel, especially in Latin America.  I recently had the opportunity to visit Honduras, a spectacular and rather under-traveled country in Central America.  Honduras has a lot to offer - beautiful island paradise off a biologically and culturally diverse mainland that is bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea.  So in late November, Kristen Martyn and I headed down for a short visit and we could not wait to set foot and start exploring.

Our "home" for our stay in Honduras was at The Lodge at Pico Bonito - this ultra-luxurious eco-lodge sits at the base of the impressive Nombre de Dios mountain range in Pico Bonito National Park. This area is home to a great diversity of wildlife, including cats (there has been a Margay spotted at the lodge in recent weeks as well as Puma and Jaguar in camera traps along the trails) and great bird life. 

Lovely Cotinga
Lovely Cotinga (Cotinga amabilis)
On our first full day of birding, our fantastic guide, Elmer, took us around the lower property of the lodge.  We walked to the toucan tower with a beautiful vista of the Coloradito River, only minutes away from the lodge.  Within seconds it seemed he had the scope on a stunning Lovely Cotinga in the distance - spectacular!  I'm sure the sight of any cotinga, let alone this one, would awe even the least enthused individual.  The Lodge at Pico Bonito is the best place to see this species.  We had quite the cotinga day, with the mistletoe fruits just turning ripe, we saw close to 2 dozen of them!  In addition to the cotingas, we also were delighted to see Gray Hawk, Red-billed Pigeon, White-crowned Parrot, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Purple-crowned Fairy, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked & Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Jay (the "bush policemen" as they are called by the locals), Melodious Blackbird and a plethora of migratory warblers.  We were also thrilled to see a Royal Flycatcher, a rather uncommon and exciting bird!

Great Potoo
Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)
Another highlight for us was a roosting Great Potoo.  The Great Potoo is a relative of the nightjars & nighthawks that is best known for its outrageous bellowing call.  They are fairly common and quite widespread throughout central and south America, but its that call and its impressive size that keep people in awe.  I have heard and seen this species in other countries, but they never cease to impress me.  It was roosting in a large-branched tree so we could see it clear as day.  This one in particular seemed quite rufous compared to others I have seen.  

The Lodge at Pico Bonito does a wonderful job at keeping the local hummingbirds happy.  In addition to beautiful gardens full of tropical heliconia flowers (among others) perfect for hummers, the lodge has a dozen feeders that attract them close.  At night, when the hummingbirds retreated to their roosts, nectar-feeding bats buzzed around and fed from the hummingbird feeders.  Kristen got some great video!  Twice we spotted a Mottled Owl on the beam at the conference centre when the bats were feeding, I can only imagine that owl has a taste for bats!

Vermiculated Screech-Owl
Vermiculated Screech-Owl (Megascops guatemalae)
On our last night, Elmer took us out on a night walk to find some owls.  From the first night on, we had heard both Mottled and Black-and-white Owls around our cabins.  The Mottled Owl made regular appearances, but it was the Black-and-white Owl that I really wanted to see.  Almost every night I woke to the call of the owl, and looked around outside my cabin without luck.  Even on our night walk, which turned up nice views of a Pauraque & Vermiculated Screech-Owl, we were teased by the Black-and-White Owl as it called and flew around us but never gave us a view.  That night, around 4:40 am, I woke up and heard it calling outside the cabins again.  I got up and stepped outside to find Kristen searching for it as well.  After about half an hour we finally got a good look at this beautiful owl.  A nice treat before saying goodbye to Honduras! 

More to come from Honduras...

~ Jenn 

Hummingbird Heaven at Guango Lodge

My time in Ecuador this fall was closing in, and I managed to squeeze in one more day of birding before my flight back to Canada.  There are some great places to visit within a couple hours of Quito, but some present a challenge in how to get there if you are using public transportation.  I also wanted to visit somewhere I hadn't been to yet.  So I decided to visit Guango Lodge for a day.  This beautiful little lodge is located approximately 2 hours east of Quito, along the main eastern route that heads towards Baeza & Tena, just beyond the town of Papallacta.  On November 16, I grabbed a bus from central Quito and arrived at the lodge in good time.  

Sword-billed Hummingbird
Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)
Guango Lodge is nestled high in the eastern slope of the Andes at about 2700 metres.  The property has some trails and has a nice riverfront location (great place for Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dippers).  However the main attraction at Guango Lodge is the hummingbirds.  It is one of the best places for the magnificent Sword-billed Hummingbird, which is a regular visitor at the feeders.  As soon as I stepped off the bus, I was greeted by a flurry of activity at the feeders in front of the lodge.  This is the best place to see Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Long-tailed Sylph & Tourmaline Sunangel, which were all plentiful among other high-elevation species.  I was met by the friendly staff, who gave me a bird list and a trail map, and I was set for the day.  

Long-tailed Sylph
Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi)
 After acquainting myself with the hummers, I headed out along the Torrent Duck Trail that follows the river beside the lodge, in hopes to find the ducks, but with no luck (always a good reason to go back!).  However, I got a great view of a White-capped Dipper along the rocks, among other birds along the trail, including Andean Guan, Black-headed Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Northern Mountain-Cacique and Mountain Wren.  I spent my day birding the trails near the lodge and enjoying the hummingbird feeders.  

While spending time at the lodge with the hummers, I met a lovely group of birders/photographers from Spain and after some nice conversation, we realized that our travel paths have been quite similar - through northwestern and eastern Ecuador, Panama, and even in Canada.  I enjoyed a delicious lunch with them at the lodge and swapped stories.  They also got some fantastic photos that day, quite impressive.

Turquoise Jay
Turquoise Jay (Cyanolyca turcosa)
Before catching the bus back to Quito in the afternoon, I found a group of Turquoise Jays along the trail.  These beautiful, curious birds provided great views but did a good job at shying away from the camera, always managing to hide behind a stick or a leaf! 

I'm already looking forward to my next visit, and next time I'll plan to stay at the lodge or closer at least so I can catch some of the early morning birds.  But this trip did not disappoint with 12 species of hummingbirds and 10 lifers I was a happy birder!  

~ Jenn 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mindo Birding - Antpittas & more!

Before heading home briefly to Canada I decided to take one more trip back to the Mindo area to get in some final days of birding.  In particular, I planned on visiting the Refugio Paz de las Aves, the famous reserve where Angel Paz has been attracting rare antpittas and other skulky forest species be viewed by the eyes of excited birders. 

Bothrocophias campbelli
Ecuadorian Toad-headed Pit-viper, Bothrocophias campbelli
When I arrived in Mindo on Sunday night, I spoke with the woman who runs the hostel where I was staying and arranged my plans for transportation to the reserve for Tuesday morning, which gave me Monday to do some birding around town. I got up early Monday morning, planning to head to the trails at Mindo Gardens.  There was a few people birding around the hostel, so I checked out the birding in the area before heading out.  The tree behind the hostel was full of pairs of beautiful Swallow Tanagers, gulping down the fruits from the tree.  I recognized one of the people there that morning, and as we started talking we realized we all went to university together!  Its great seeing familiar faces so far away from home!  Surprised and happy, my friends were interested in doing some hiking and birding for the next couple days which gave us an opportunity to spend some time together and catch up from years ago.  After a nice breakfast of french toast at Caskaffesu in Mindo, we set out towards Mindo Gardens.  Among many birds and insects seen that morning/afternoon along the road and on the trails, a highlight was an Ecuadorian Toad-headed Pit-viper that the gardener turned up at Mindo Gardens.

The next morning we started out super early - we left Mindo at 4:45am to head up to Refugio Paz de las Aves, approximately 30 minutes away.  The first attraction of the day at Paz de las Aves is the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek, which had been recently starting even earlier than usual.  We arrived at the reserve by 5:30 and walked 20 minutes to reach the location of the lek, and by that time the birds had already begun their song and dance.  It was still early dawn at that point, but we got nice views of these impressive birds!  

Giant Antpitta
Panchito, a Giant Antpitta, Grallaria gigantea
Angel then took us on a walk along the trails, calling for Giant Antpitta and the family of Dark-backed Wood-Quails.  Without much success at first, we carried on to where there is a seating area along the trail where within a minute Angel had located and called out "Panchito", a male Giant Antpitta, who came darting onto the trail and over to eat the worms.  

We enjoyed incredible up-close views of Panchito for 10 minutes, and then continued onto the next seating area along the trail.  Here Angel had located the family of Dark-backed Wood-Quails, 3 adults and 2 chicks, who voraciously ate up the worms and banana provided for them.  

Dark-backed Wood-Quail
Dark-backed Wood-Quail, Odontophorus melanonotus
The next exciting bird was "Jose", a mid-sized Moustached Antpitta.  Jose met us not far from where the wood-quails were, and as the group there that morning was large, Angel split us into two groups.  When it was our turn, Jose's worms had been overtaken by the family of wood-quails and Jose had been scared off.  With some patience Angel called him back and we got some nice looks at him, although he was too timid to come out to the path with the aggressive wood-quails around.  Our last antpitta of the day was "Shakira", a tiny Ochre-breasted Antpitta - so cute!  And while we were watching little Shakira, another Ochre-breasted Antpitta came in to meet the group as well.

The rest of the morning finished up with a visit to the hummingbird feeders where we saw Booted Rackettail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Andean Emerald and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.  Before heading back down to Mindo, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of bolones (fried green plantain balls with chicken inside) and cheese empanadas.  It was a memorable visit with lots of exciting birds to see, and I know for sure I will return in the future.

~ Jenn 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eastern foothills of Ecuador - Sumaco Biosphere Reserve

Sumaco Volcano
Sumaco Volcano
I continued my travels in eastern Ecuador into the foothills of the Andes.  On November 5-7, I visited a community called Pacto Sumaco, located approximately from Tena by bus.  Pacto Sumaco is a small community of farming families, and is surrounded by extensive protected areas including the Sumaco nearby Napo-Galeras National Park and the Gran Sumaco Biosphere Reserve (400-3900 masl) surrounding the Sumaco Volcano, a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  Prior to my visit, I had only passed through this area numerous times by bus, always wanting to return to do some exploring and birding.  The environment is is very biologically diverse, and is home to a multitude of plants and animals, including the rare and vulnerable Military Macaw, and includes areas of primary forest, extensive secondary forest and intermixed with open areas from the local farming communities surrounding the area.
Pacto Sumaco Forest
Lush humid secondary forest at Pacto Sumaco
Getting to Pacto Sumaco was an adventure all together.  The community itself is located 8 km off the main highway that goes from Tena to Coca, at the end of the road, less than a kilometre past WildSumaco Lodge.  I met my friend David Ortega, the director of the Turismo Comunitario in Pacto Sumaco, in Tena and we headed by bus to the community later that afternoon.  Usually this is a rather uneventful and easy trip; however, there is currently a bridge along the highway that is under construction for the next several months, and requires a transfer of vehicles as the bridge can only be walked across at the moment.  By the time we got to the bridge, it was dark and raining very heavily.  We crossed the bridge by foot and not too long later were in the back of a truck headed to Pacto Sumaco.  All seemed great until the truck headed out on the highway, and stalled almost immediately.  Starting up again, the truck drove a little further and stalled again.  There appeared to be a poor connection between a cable that connected the headlights to the engine, so after several stalls on the main highway, we finally made it to the road to Pacto Sumaco.  Very dark and very rainy, and in order to get enough engine power to make it up the road the drive needed to turn off the lights, and we guided the driver with headlamps and cellphone lights and by voice "por la derecha!", "por la izquierda!", and eventually made it safely to the community, a little wide-eyed and a little later than expected! 

Pacto Sumaco Sunrise
Sunrise over the Sumaco landscape
The next morning we started out early.  David showed me the cabana they have built near the community that has an incredible view of the surrounding environment and is in the perfect location to watch Chestnut-fronted Macaws flyby at sunrise.  The community's tourism initiative at the moment has 1 cabana that can accommodate up to 8 people, and have just received funding to build 4 more cabanas, which should be completed in the near future.  The Turismo Comunitario de Pacto Sumaco offers excursions to the crater of Sumaco Volcano, a 3-4 day round trip hike from the community.  In addition to visiting the volcano, the area is rich in birdlife and attracts visitors, birders and biologists from all over the world. 

Squirrel Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo, Piaya cayana, drying out after a rainstorm.
My interest in visiting Pacto Sumaco was to go birding; and David, a budding naturalist with an excellent knowledge of the plants of the area, is interested in learning more about the birdlife in the area as well.  The surrounding area is home to approximately 500 species of birds, where impressively 224 of them are regional specialties.  The area spans varying altitude ranges, and therefore there is a nice mix of upper eastern slope, cloud forest species and amazonian lowland species.  Highlights included Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Wire-crested Thorntail, Gorgeted Woodstar, Black-billed Thrush, Spotted Tanager, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Olivaceous Siskin, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Lined Antshrike, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Bronze-green Euphonia, Golden-eared Tanager and Grayish Saltator.  It is also an important destination for boreal and austral migrants, and we saw no shortage of Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Western Wood-Pewees, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warblers and lucked out with 2 (possibly 3) Cerulean Warblers. 

Packing naranjillas in Pacto Sumaco
In addition to being out on the trails and birding, there were opportunities to help out in the community as well.  David's family farms naranjillas and were doing a monthly harvest while I was there, so when not out birding, I helped with packing naranjillas and preparing them to be taken to market in Ambato!

Thanks to the friendship and hospitality of David Ortega and the community of Pacto Sumaco for a nice visit!  If you are in eastern Ecuador and interested in birding at Pacto Sumaco, you can check out their website for more information. 

~ Jenn 

El Oriente

As I headed into my 3rd month in Ecuador this fall, and finished paying up a month's rent in Quito, I headed out to eastern Ecuador (known as el Oriente).  With only 2 weeks left in Ecuador before heading home for a bit, I wanted to get out of Quito, go somewhere warmer and do some more birding!  Being back out here for a week brought back a lot of memories from time spent here while working with GVI in 2010, and it was so nice to be back!  Here are a couple photos taken in Tena, province of Napo, Ecuador.
Amazon Kingfisher
Male Amazon Kingfisher, Chloroceryle amazona, along the river in Tena
Tire Parrots
Cute parrots made out of times hanging out in Parque Amazonico in Tena - great idea! 
Tire Parrots
Tire macaw.  They have decorated the footbridge that passes over the river in Tena with these parrots as well!
More to come from eastern Ecuador!  
~ Jenn

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Orchids of Ecuador

Ecuador is an incredibly biologically diverse country.  Compared to its surrounding countries in South America, it is rather small - Ecuador has a land surface area of 272 045 km2 and represents only 0.17% of the earth's surface area.  Despite this, Ecuador is one of the top 10 most biodiverse countries on Earth, especially when it comes to plants (its #1!).
I recently visited the Botanical Gardens in Quito, located in Parque La Carolina in the centre of the city.  I am constantly wanting to learn more about the natural world, especially plants, my weakest link.  The Quito Botanical Gardens are a wonderful place to learn about the vegetation zones of Ecuador and get a glimpse of the incredible biodiversity of the ecosystems and plants found within this beautiful country.  The walk through the gardens takes you through a majority of the vegetation zones found within Ecuador, including high Andean wetlands, cloud forest (exhibiting a diversity of palms, bromeliads and ferns), paramo, dry thorny shrub zones and the Amazonian lowlands.  In addition to highlighting these zones, there are also theme gardens and exhibits including the rose garden, carnivorous plants, exterior orchid gardens and many more.

The main attraction however, are the orchids.  There are several small outdoor exhibits for orchids, and a large greenhouse-type building located in the centre of the gardens filled with an incredible diversity of these spectacular plants.  The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is one of the largest families of flowering plants on the planet, with approximately 25 000 described species.  Orchids are cosmopolitan - virtually found just about everywhere on earth except in glacial zones.  In Tropical America, there are up to 250 genera of orchids (compared to approximately 25 genera in North America).  Orchids are the dominant plants in Ecuador; 1 out of every 5 plants in Ecuador is an orchid!  Ecuador has over 4000 described species of orchids, and hundreds more in the process of classification.  On top of that, over 1700 species of orchids are endemic to Ecuador. 

Approximately 67% of Ecuador's orchids are mostly found in the highland regions (sierra & cloud forest), 17% are found in the Amazonian lowlands, and 16% are found in the coastal regions.  When walking through a humid forest in Ecuador (or anywhere in the tropics), keep an eye out not only on the ground for flowering plants, but up in the trees - 82% of orchids are epiphytic, growing off of the trees, branches, vines and other plants found above the forest floor.  Orchids, bromeliads and other ephiphytic plants essentially drip off the trees in these environments and provide homes for an abundance of animals, including frogs and insects.  The presence of orchids indicates the health of primary forests.    

Almost 20% of Ecuador's land mass is covered by protected areas, but that being said, the deforestation rate is still quite high.  This has a huge impact on endemic species in Ecuador.  A majority of Ecuador's endemic orchids are at risk.  Of 98% of the endemic orchids in Ecuador, 2% are critically endangered, 11% are endangered and 87% are classified as vulnerable.  It is so important to protect the fragile forests and all natural environments from loss of biodiversity.  These orchids are not only beautiful to see, but are carefully weaved into a very interactive ecosystem of plants and animals that depend on each other for their survival and well-being.  

If in Quito, check out the botanical gardens and the beautiful plants and vegetation zones that are featured.  If your visit to this spectacular country is short and you don't make it to cloud forest or lowland Amazonian rainforest, at least try to stop by the Quito Botanical Gardens to see and gain an appreciation for the incredible diversity that Ecuador has to offer. 

~ Jenn

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sunset Colours

Sunset on the Andes

I haven't seen anything quite like this before.  This is the projection of the sunset on the forested landscape west of Quito.  The photo doesn't really do it justice, it was beautiful!  It reminds me of the fall colours that southern Ontario is currently experiencing this month and made me think of home!  ~ Jenn

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Photos from Mindo

Mindo countryside
The beautiful Mindo landscape
Colombian Screech-Owl
Colombian Screech-Owls (Megascops colombianus), Mindo
Mindo Gardens Mirador
Mirador up in the cloud forest, Mindo
Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Crimson-rumped Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus), Mindo
Western Basilisk
Western Basilisk, Mindo
Masked Water-Tyrant
Masked Water-Tyrant (Fluvicola nengeta), Mindo
Scaled Fruiteater
Female Scaled Fruiteater (Ampelioides tschudii), Mindo

Some Favourite Photos

  I have been in Ecuador a month so far, and have enjoyed some stunning landscapes and beautiful birds & animals.  Here are some of my favourite photos thus far, more to come. ~ Jenn
Carunculated Caracara
 Carunculated Caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus), Antisana Ecological Reserve
Black-faced Ibis
Black-faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis), Antisana Ecological Reserve
Pichincha Volcano
Pichincha Volcano, Yanacocha Ecological Reserve
Sword-billed Hummingbird
Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera), Yanacocha Ecological Reserve
Looking up through the Cycads
Sunset at Atacames
Green Thorntail
Green Thorntail (Discosura conversii), San Miguel de Los Bancos
Green-crowned Woodnymph 
Green-crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania fannyi), San Miguel de Los Bancos

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Banded Ground-Cuckoo Video

I was very lucky to capture on video this Banded Ground-Cuckoo taking a grasshopper by hand for the first time ever!  What a magical experience!  Check out Sword Billed Expeditions for more information on seeing this beautiful bird  ~ Jenn

A Very Special Bird

Banded Ground-Cuckoo
The Banded Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus), a truly spectacular and stunning bird! This rare and endangered species is known from only a few reserves in Northwestern Ecuador and Southwestern Colombia. Not much is known about their ecology, and their conservation and the conservation of their restricted Choco ecosystem is of utmost importance.

Banded Ground-Cuckoo
Like some antbirds, Banded Ground-Cuckoos are known to follow large swarms of army ants, as well as groups of peccaries and monkeys, to snatch up whatever insects, lizards, amphibians and other food these groups disturb up off the forest floor. In the morning, we ventured out onto the trail at Un Poco del Choco Reserve with Nicole and Wilo, the property owners. They have had regular sightings for the past month and Nicole has had some success in feeding an individual as well. When we found the ants (not even 5 minutes after being on the trail), the cuckoo was there! Not long after we had our first looks of this incredible bird, a second individual came along, and a THIRD! This was the first time Nicole had seen THREE birds together on the reserve, very exciting! 

Banded Ground-Cuckoo
Nicole was attempting to feed one of the birds but it was not overly responsive and timid, unlike her previous feeding experiences. We waited for a while as it scurried off and would occasionally come into the vicinity. We were just about to head up to the cabins when a cuckoo approached closely to us, not timid at all. Nicole was sure this was the cuckoo she had been feeding in the previous weeks and proceeded to offer food, and the cuckoo was very responsive!
The cuckoo was rather bold this morning, and at one point it approached Nicole's hand, in which she immediately dropped the grasshopper out of surprise! On the next feeding attempt the cuckoo actually took the grasshopper from Nicole's hand for the first time ever! She is the first to attempt ever feeding a Banded Ground-Cuckoo, and the results have been incredible! So happy to have this experience!

Banded Ground-Cuckoo
A truly memorable experience with a spectacular bird!  Now, Edison Buenano and Diego Andrade will be offering special tour extensions to see this beautiful bird. Check out Sword Billed Expeditions or ask me for more information!

~ Jenn