Monday, March 30, 2020

turtle rodeo

After the long walk we boated back downstream often seeing turtles.  And frequently seeing butterflies.  So it would make sense that we would sometimes see turtles and butterflies

Of course the problem with enjoying a turtle's eye view is that turtles generally dunk into the water when boats go by...

Both the 88 and the white one seemed no worse for wear though

This butterfly was on the trunk shading the landing, not sure what it is but it looks to be a similar species to the Association of Tropical Lepidoptera's twitter handle...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Best mammal of the trip...

... but no pic.  We'll get there.

The last full day at Shiripuno was a LONG walk.  I'm not complaining.  But we covered some ground.  The first few birds were tough, a Scaly-backed Antbird here, a Long-winged Antwren there, a manakin.  The advantages of birds low in the forest was that you didn't get warbler neck trying to find them.  The disadvantage ... it was dark!  I got pics, but they're grainy.  After a couple hours of walking we started gaining elevation which was good, since the trail was quite muddy in places, but meant we were going uphill.  For a while.  Fito found probably his best bird for us, a Golden-collared Toucanet.
The similar Golden-eared Toucanet is uncommon throughout Central America, but I'd never connected with either and this bird was on my top 5 most wanted for the trip ... it turned out to be a bit on the ugly side honestly.  Ah well.

After about 2 or 3 hours of walking we got to the top, which gave a pretty magnificent view of the forest.  Great Black-hawk, Plumbeous, and Swallow-tailed Kites were at or below eye level, though distant.  Some bugs on the other hand were quite close.  They, coupled with the lack of canopy flocks, drove us back down.

And on the way down we started finding birds!  A White-chinned Jacamar drew Jason's attention.
We spent a bit of time with a treetop flock which had some decent diversity, Green and Purple Honeycreeper, a female Scarlet Tanager, a few trogons and other tanagers, but they stayed high and were difficult to reliably get people on.

A Chestnut Woodpecker excavated along the trail.

A Brown Nunlet appeared quite close, probably one of my favorite pics from the trip.

Jason spied an Ecaudor Poison Frog, and actually dived into the leaf litter to snag it.  It didn't go far.

But it was hot, we were running low/out of water, and the group got a little spread out along the trail.  Unfortunately when a Giant Anteater walked across the trail only a couple people saw it.  It was such a strange creature I couldn't really get my head around what I was seeing as the giant tail materialized in the trail.  I first thought it was another tapir based on size before the incredible hairiness of the beast became clear.  About the time my brain registered what it was, it disappeared.  Fito has seen more Jaguars than Giant Anteaters, so this was unexpected.  And consistent with the wildness of a place big enough to hold a Giant Anteater even Fito and Jason got lost on the way down and Dota had us backtrack a bit.  Jason macheted down a couple snags to bridge us across an underwater section before we eventually found the river and the waiting boat.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Eye of the Black Hawk

Continuing on the Topaz afternoon boat ride we drifted along the river.  At one point we passed a Great Black Hawk.  The boatman cut the engine and we let the current drift us silently back past the bird.  It paid us zero heed as it looked intently about the tree for lizards or who knows what.
You can see some light coming through the mottled canopy reflecting in the upper part of the hawk's eye.  I'm pretty sure the lower horizontal pale reflection is our boat.

Of course hawks weren't the only big birds.  Here was our (near) daily Great Potoo.

If I remember correctly only New World monkeys can have prehensile tails (though not all of them do).  These Squirrel Monkeys were certainly using their tails in that fashion however.

I had expected to see more kingfishers on this trip, I think the muddy water probably made it hard for them to forage along the Shiripuno River at least.

Lesser Kiskadee had no problems with finding bugs though

And then there's this little bastard.  It's a young Spectacled Caymen.
About a second after this pic was taken the two and a half foot long little beastie made a flying leap into the water jumping about a foot in the air in the process... and dove into the water about a foot short of the boat.  Let's just say it drew a reaction from the crowd.

Reactions to a teed up Chestnut-fronted Macaw were a little more muted, though I think this was the closest I saw one perched (the similar Red-bellied Macaws were more common)

Here's two Blue-and-Gold Macaws, ahem, mutually preening?  I'm not sure I've seen birds preen each other, certainly not for any lengthy period.
 The post pic could probably function as a caption contest if I added some thought bubbles for the birds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fiery Topaz

I'd pretty much assumed we were going to see a Fiery Topaz.  I'm not sure why, since it turns out they don't come to flowers (or presumably feeders either, though lowland hummingbird set-ups mold so quickly that I haven't been to many lowland locations with feeders), and according to the book are actually pretty rare.

So we were pretty fortunate on the 2nd full day's afternoon boat trip on a couple of levels.  First of all, we stayed dry, which after the monsoon we'd experienced the first day was something just in and of itself.  Second, we found a Topaz.  Some people I think saw it pretty low down, but in glaring sun I wasn't able to pick it out until it flew up and teed up on a little branch.
 The tail was unique for me with the two long central feathers.

The iridescent green throat patch was reminiscent of some of the Thornbills we've seen on previous trips.

I held on the birds long enough that my shoulders started knotting up hoping to capture the bronzy brick red upperparts

And while I may or may not have really captured the look I was going for, it did get added to the peeBird list!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

the Birds and the Bee(tle)s

We nearly had possibly the highlight of the trip when a herd of trumpeters went galloping past on our way back from the long walk through the forest.  Trumpeters are a cross between a kiwi and a crane, colored like a black-throated blue warbler that mixes in some cream highlights, and bolt through the forest garrulously yelping.  I don't know how we couldn't see one, it sounded like there were a hundred of them and close, too, but they Just. Kept. Going.  Another bird for the Maybe Next Time file.

We got back for lunch and I walked the grounds, getting a much better look at Green-backed Trogon.

The heat of the day was very much up and I didn't find much as I re-walked some of the same trail we did as a group had done the previous morning.  A couple of humping beetles was about the extent to what I saw.

I bailed on the forest and returned to the grounds.  A White-throated Toucan presumably on its way to a nest teed up holding a wild avocado.  I think this is the largest toucan I've ever seen.

The last bird was another that was uncommon enough (and easy enough to look up) that I didn't learn the name prior.
It's a Moriche (previously known as Epaulet) Oriole, the only oriole I saw the entire trip

Monday, March 9, 2020

The hotspot tree

Our second full day at Shiripuno found us motoring down the river at daybreak.  We went a few miles and then disembarked up a muddy bank so that Jason and Tota could machete their way to the trailhead.  We surprised one of the locals on the way...

 You know you're in a big chunk of forest when you're seeing quality mammals.  This Tapir literally lost its shit when we came around the bend.  He spun his wheels in the mud for a second or so cartoon-style, and then bolted into the underbrush.  And you know the jungle is dense when a 3 to 400 pound animal disappears immediately.

While waiting for the trail to cleared/found a few birds appeared at forest's edge.  A Lettered Aracari was probably the toucan class bird I was most looking forward to.

There's a number of Oropendolas that the book lists as rare.  I didn't learn many of the rare birds, so when the guides noticed an oropendola that one called Green and one called Olive-backed I wasn't in much position to figure the answer out.

But for once the Two Bird Theory was a solid one; it turned out they were on different birds.  The Green is the flyby with the blood-tipped bill, the Olive-backed is about to display launch on the right.

And with that we disappeared into the forest.  It was muggy and still and we worked to find any birds at all.  Jason impressively identified a fairly non-descript high-pitched note as a Dwarf Tyrant-manakin, and then even more impressively found the tiny green bird amidst multi levels of dark green foliage.

You can tell by how pixelated the photo is that it was Dark.

Fito and Jason tried to tape out a couple antbirds with limited success, but the frantic pressured calls of a pair of White-fronted Nunbirds (imagine a pair of cardinals singing after doing a few lines of meth) drew our attention to a big open dead tree that actually had birds!

We struggled to find flocks on this trip so a trio of Paradise Tanagers (they were joined by a larger Opal-rumped for a bit) who appeared next were very much a relief.

I glimpsed this species once last year, and they're still on the Better View Desired list, but just a reason to go back!

On the opposite side of the color spectrum a Grayish Mourner had none of the black, green, azure, or scarlet of the Paradise Tanagers.
Mourner translates loosely as "dull unicolored bird."  There's 4 mourners in Equador, but only 2 are actually related to each other.  If you go by the taxonomy they're about 20 pages apart in the book since some are flycatchers and the others closer to tityras.

A Female Green-backed Trogon split the difference between the mourner and the tanagers color-wise.

Finally a couple woodpeckers, first Lineated, a bird widely distributed in the tropics...

and finally Yellow-throated.  There's a few yellow or yellowish woodpeckers in Ecuador and we saw a couple, but this was the only one that was even semi-cooperative.

We spent probably 30 minutes just watching the birds come and go from this tree given how hard we'd been working to see a bird here or a bird there in the forest interior.  Someone commented the tree should be an eBird hotspot.  Fito thought the name could be "tree in the Amazon." He maayyyyybe was unconvinced.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

the white witch and BOOMS in the black

We did more post dinner walks on this trip than previous ones I've done, and there were things to see.  We'd walk some of the trails with flashlights canvassing leaves and the ground turning up various big bugs, but also some larger creatures.

This is the biggest frog I've ever seen, note the boot on the right side of the pic...
(per my go-to resource on non-bird neotropical life forms, Josh Vandermeulen says this is a Smoky Jungle Frog ... and not even all that large of one!)

It easily could have gobbled up this snake, which while 3 feet long, was only millimeters wide
(Josh tells me something in the Imantodes genus, probably Blunthead Treesnake)

A sleeping malachite butterfly pretended to be a leaf.

Cookie picked up some eyeshine with her flashlight.  I was expecting a rodent of some kind, but we moved around the tree and saw an enormous moth.  A quick google search implies this is a White Witch, which apparently can grow to be a foot across.  This one was probably closer to 7 inches, but still huge.

We listened for night birds.  We were so far from civilization that no tapes were needed.  Tawny-bellied Screech owls both tremolo'd and hooted.  Pauraques called of course.  Great Potoo screeched their yowling cry while Common Potoo sang a descending minor key descant.  But distantly at dinner we'd started hearing one of the specialty birds of the Shiripuno River.  Boom Boom, boom-boom-boom ... BOOM.  Not a grouse, not a large owl, but Nocturnal Curassow.  A different group's guide said this bird's call could be heard from 2 miles away.  While that might be true this one, while distant, didn't seem more than a couple hundred yards.  And Jason, somehow, found the bird.
The pic is beyond terrible, it's up in the canopy walking right, heading down the branch.  You can see a bit of the pink bill and the blue skin around the eye to the right, as well as lighter brown undertail to the left under the bend of the branch.  Tired as we were, it was no joke hard to sleep with so many really unique sounds to listen to.