Friday, March 22, 2013

Mixed flock at last

Following breakfast we bussed to the nearby Hanging Bridges site, a park with a series of suspension pedestrian bridges over gorges in the jungle.  It was heavily visited by various eco-tour companies, not just birders.  We didn't see a ton initially, until we took a "shortcut" bypassing a couple of the bridges to get to a quieter area.  We'd seen a White-faced Capuchin fairly quickly (it was raining and I didn't take the camera out for it), but one of the group spotted this Spider Monkey high above us.  It was feeding on some sort of pod and dangling by one leg and its tail.
I was surprised by its size, bigger than a Howler Monkey.

We didn't go much further before Steven heard a Green Hermit calling.  It took a little time to find to find a window for a view before he appeared in front of me.
This big hummer was high on my want list.  They're big enough to carry small geo-locators, an OSU group has used them to show how forest birds won't cross open areas to get to fragmented islands of habitat even if it means long detours through forested corridors to get to an area that could easily be reached by zipping across an open area. 
As part of its display it would open its bill to reveal a pink gape.
It reminds me of a Discovery Channel swordfish of all things.

A troop of Howler Monkeys provided a third monkey of the walk.

After seeing a high Rufous-winged Tanager the jungle suddenly erupted with birds working their way past fast and furious, the mixed species flock prized in the tropics.  Slaty Antwren held still long enough to get a remarkably sharp pic for 1/60th of a second.
Streak-crowned Antvireos are fairly uncommon, the pic's pretty mediocre at best.
Plain Antvireo and Tawny-capped Greenlet slipped past without a photo.  I was excited to finally see a Foliage-gleaner, this one's Buff-throated, a bird that materialized about 6 feet away.  For a bird that looked about the size of a catbird, it moved like a kinglet.
There were a couple Dusky Antbirds and the rest of us finally got reasonable looks at the puffs of smoke known as Tawny-faced Gnatwren.  They're so fast that Steven mentioned he's never managed a pic of one.  Warren and I took that as a gauntlet thrown down.  We tried hard.  Rhoda spotted some movement low in the brush moving towards us and I blasted away through the view-finder ...
... to find a Song Wren, another bird that's an iron-clad bugger to get a look at.  This pic is lightened a lot, it stayed deep in the gloom.

We got a much better look at Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, only glimpsed the day before.
It lowered its crest after a second or two.

A Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher came by as well.  It looks more like a warbler than a flycatcher.

Finally a Black-headed Nightengale-thrush, a bird I've actually seen in the Rio Grande Valley

This was a spot where having a guide very familiar with the birds made a huge difference.  Steven basically called them out immediately based on the call and feeding style.  It would have been hard to figure the birds out as individuals and many would have gotten by if I was by myself, but knowing what bird to look for made it much easier for the ID features to snap into place (and if you hadn't studied the book to know what to look for you were pretty much out of luck, there was no time for explanations of each bird).  I think this flock was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

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