Saturday, February 29, 2020

Bailing the boat

Our typical pattern at Shiripuno would be to walk in the morning, siesta during the midday, and then as the heat started to fall off in the later afternoon bird the river by boat.  The sun started out bright enough that the butterflies were out in force.

This one is on guide Fito's hat...

Others (the black and green ones are Uraenia moths and the brown one some flavor of daggerwing) found salt and minerals from more traditional locations, like the mud at waters edge.  (Note how it's now somewhat overcast)

We kept heading down river and found birds.  The quickest way to ID the aracari toucans is to count the belly bands, this one is one-banded making it Chestnut-eared.  (It's even more overcast...)

Overcast gave way to rain and rain gave way to one of the more torrential downpours I've ever experienced.  It was dumping down in rivulets, just pouring out of the sky.  The bottom of the boat and was honeycombed  by inch and a half tall partitions of steel welded to the bottom of the narrow but flat-bottomed boat.  Let's just say the water level rose.  And rose.  And rose some more.  Eventually the water started cresting over the partitions in the back half of the boat.  If it had gone up farther the water could have flowed from one side of the boat to the other and swamped us going around a corner as 100's of gallons of water flowed to just one side.  We stopped and passed a bail bucket (err cutout milkjug) around.

The rain stopped eventually, but my shoes were SOAKED.  I'd kept my feet perched up on the partitions and partially shielded by my raincoat, but water pouring down my pants filled them with enough water I could pour it out once it finally stopped as we neared the lodge.

So needless to say not a ton of pics that afternoon, though this Bare-necked Fruitcrow flew up the river as we landed and then teed up in a snag above the lodge, one of the more unique birds I've encountered

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Monk Saki at lunch

After a long morning walk through the jungle we took a break at lunchtime for a few hours to let the heat of the day pass somewhat.  Of course breaks are ... relative.  I headed back into the woods.

Black Caracaras were very vocal, yelping and shrieking through the siesta time ... fortunately for the group they mostly hung around the guide's cabin. 

I looped around the grounds and a Black-fronted Nunbird flew into the trees in front of me.  Nunbirds have been possible on most of the trips I've done, but this was the first time I'd seen one.

Closely related to the widely distributed Squirrel Cuckoo, this Black-bellied Cuckoo was probably the prettiest cuckoo I've ever seen.

I honestly thought there would be more antbirds on the trip; certainly a lot were possible.  This Mouse-colored Antshrike was fairly vocal.

Walking further into the woods some rustling in the treetops revealed an impressive monkey, this one is a Monk Saki, my first saki monkey of any type.  Fito, our main guide, had never seen one.

Drab Water-tyrant on the other hand EVERYONE saw.  They were common flying along the river's edge and seen on every boat trip.  It was a lot easier to photograph from shore though

Finally a view of Striped Woodcreeper, which was part of one of the few small flocks we encountered.  It was joined by a pair of White-flanked Antwrens as well as a Plain-winged Antshrike which unfortunately I couldn't quite snag a pic of.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

the Tiscornia Scoter show

All 3 species of scoter have been seen on the pier the last couple days (though I didn't see the Harlequin Duck this morning).  But if you want to photograph black and white birds, what better time than first light?

The light gets away from you quickly...

While the White-winged's are the dominant species there were a few Surfs about.

And given that I forgot to eBird Black last year, I couldn't make the same mistake twice!  These guys almost lined up for a really nice composition, but that White-wing in front started banking a moment too soon

The "dark-winged" scoters, from the above shot wheeled past, if I only had the close-up pic below to go on, I might call them 2 blacks and 2 surfs... but studying the bill shapes of the top pic makes me think they're all black ... but I could be wrong.

And who knows, maybe the ice will soon be melted enough to let the algae get slick!

Friday, February 21, 2020

into the Shiripuno jungle

After spending Day 1 of the trip getting to Ecuador, and Day 2 getting into the Ecuadorian Amazon, Day 3 dawned with great promise.  We headed (where else?) into the woods.  Led by our guide's guide's guide (more on her in later posts) we started working the jungle.  The birds came in ones and twos, a few antshrikes and medium-large woodpeckers, before we rounded a corner and our guide's guide spied this Yellow-billed Jacamar.

It was fairly cooperative, and a lot lower and closer than just about anything we found on this walk.

No need for our guide, guide's guide, or guide's guide's guide for this one, Spangled Cotinga was spotted by one of the group as we searched for a calling woodpecker.

Tota, the guide's guide's guide, (or Dota? we were never quite sure) spied this White-crowned Manakin.  Given that she spoke mostly Wauroni (and honestly I think less Spanish than I do), figuring out what or where she was looking took some doing, but most of us got there in the end for this bird at least.  She seemed to know the trails well though.

This was the biggest glasswing-type butterfly that I've come across.

And this seemed to be in the wood-satyr class, but again twice as big.

Finally a minute waxy flower whose relation I won't even attempt to guess

Monday, February 17, 2020

Down the Shiripuno river

I can comfortably say that the Shiripuno lodge we stayed at for the first few nights in Ecuador was the farthest I've ever been from the classical definition of civilization.  We flew from Quito to Coca (I never could get a straight answer with regards to whether it was that kind of coca), then took a 2.5 hour truck ride to a landing in Wauroni lands.  From there it was a mere 3 hour motorized boat trip down the least developed river I've ever seen.  We would occasionally see a thatched dwelling, but for the most part it was just trees.

I should have taken more scenery pics on the way in.  Our boat was about double the length of this one, but it gives you a sense of our long and narrow conveyance.

But it was hard to take scenery pics when there were birds!  You know you're far afield when Great Potoo is a bird you see most days.

Piping-guans were also quite visible from the boat.

This tree probably contained more macaws (Red-bellied in this case, and as aptly named as our woodpecker) than I'd seen in my entire life combined leading up to this trip.  It was really remarkable to be in a place where macaws were common.

Blue-and-yellow Macaw was one of my most wanted birds for this trip (and benefitted from being one of the more possible ones on that list), and we saw them on the first afternoon.  It was clouding up prior to a decent downpour; some blue sky would have been a nice background for these, though the rain we experienced then was just a prelude to one we'd experience later...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Back to Ecuador!

The best week of the year, the annual-ish visit to the tropics.  Goodbye Michigan winter grays and browns, hello green.  It took the pilot a bit of persistence to land us in Quito; fog aborted 2 landing attempts and ended up with us re-routed to Guayaquil for a 90 minute rest on the tarmac before we were allowed to return and land in (marginally) improved visibility.

Dawn came early the next morning and I struggled to get up on 4 hours of sleep, but the chittering of Blue-and-white Swallows beckoned and I walked out along the boulevard to see what I could see.  The road ran immediately beside a deep canyon so there was a narrow strip of habitat that I took advantage of.  Sparkling Violet-ears were chip-chupping from atop favored perches between sallies to chase away rivals.  Rufous-collared Sparrows were common.  I did manage my best photo yet of Golden-bellied Grosbeak teed up on an aloe.

Agaves (I think) were blooming.  The hummingbirds weren't the only thing attracted by them however.  Scrub Tanagers were a lifer for me that I had to look up when I got back to the hotel

No need to look up a wintering Vermillion Fly, another common bird in Quito.

And lest you think that all the birds were yellow, green, orange, or red, this forgettable little gray guy was probably right behind rufous-collared sparrow in terms of the most common passerine, an Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch