Thursday, 27 March 2014

Evening counts bag tricky birds!!

My project is taking shape using the McKinnon method but there are still some species that I believe are present in each area that have not made the lists. This week I have turned my attention to completing evening counts in an attempt to achieve the above.
(Rusty Margined Guan)
Tuesday I ventured into the Atlantic Forest and the switch in tactic appeared to be paying off. Sooty fronted Spinetail was the first species of note on the list. The next new entrant was a bird that is guaranteed to scary the life out of you if you hear it particularly around dusk. I refer to the Rusty Margined Guan which I saw jumping along a thick branch close to the canopy. Next came a bit of a standoff. The bird had its eyes firmly fixed on my every move. This gave me the perfect picture taking opportunity.
(Juvenile Barred Forest Falcon)
As I was walking along the track from the gates to the South forest I saw a bird which I initially thought was a Trogan as it was sat on the forest edge with its back to me. It was getting dark so the colours of the bird were not immediately obvious. As I crept closer I saw a small a Barred Forest Falcon which froze on seeing me. I took a few pictures and left the bird to carry on with its routine. This is a new bird for Paraguay for me. I saw an adult at Iguazu Falls Argentina two years ago.

Wednesday I ventured out into the Cerrado but only managed one list. I did however hear Small billed and Undulated Tinamou both of which are life birds. I will attempt to see both species so that they can be added to my life list.

An evening expedition out into Nightjar land with the gang produced a Striped owl along the airstrip. What a magnificent bird this is it was a shame the moment was not captured but I hope the bird will re appear another time. Scissor tailed Nightjars have been seen more frequently this year a male and a female made an appearance on this occasion.

Today I completed two lists at the lagoon. The surprise bird a Red winged Tinamou which was flushed by two fishermen as they made their way along the East bank. Fortunately I was being nosy (this end of the lake does not normally have visitors) and caught the bird in flight in the scope! 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

White winged Nightjar Update!

Joe and I have been taking regular trips into Nightjar land in an effort to band (ring) all the White winged Nightjars. This will result in a calculation of the size of the population. Thus far we have ringed nine birds which include three males and a juvenile.
(White winged Nightjar)
Last night we found two birds one being a re-capture (Band 4) 200m from the original point of capture. This re capture shows that Joe’s methology is working. This bird was weighed again to monitor weight change.
(White winged Nightjar)
A very small piece of tape has been attached to a feather so that there will be a reflection of light when the searchlight beam follows the bird. The shape will identify the bird in flight / perched and reduce the amount of times the bird is handled minimizing stress to the bird.

This process involves working late into the night but the results with provide valuable data on this critically endangered species.
(Common Potoo)
Another species I have been able to have close contact with is the Common Potoo. I was within touching distance of this bird when these pictures were taken. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Cool Characters along the track!

Thursday was another stormy day with another stake out of the Lagoon which only produced a single Barn Swallow. Southern Lapwing numbers were up with a count of 17.

Friday I was back in the Cerrado on the quad bike. This enabled all Cerrado types to be covered which is not possible on foot due to the size of the area. White tailed Hawk, Blue black Grassquit and Tawny headed Martin were the latest additions to the list in this habitat.

A small group of Snowy Egret appeared during the afternoon at the beach end of the Lagoon.
(Little Woodpecker)

Saturday started out overcast with low cloud which I must say looked promising but did not turn out that way for birds anyway. I completed two lists in the Atlantic Forest and added a Little Woodpecker to the list. I await confirmation from Paul as to the id of the bird.
During my walk I noted two unusual characters along the road from the Urukurea path at the North down through the South forest to the Corn Field.
(Grey Brocket Deer)
First up was a Grey Brocket deer who seemed as shocked to see me as I was to see it. Some slow moving camera work captured the moment before the deer disappeared back into the forest.
The second character a Tayra wandered up the track oblivious to my presence until finally the penny dropped and even then it was not sure what to do. Run away or creep a bit closer to get a better look at the strange human in birding gear!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Stormy Weather!

Wednesday’s weather was variable enabling me to carry out a survey on the Lagoon. The cloud moved in later on in the morning and a storm looked imminent as the cloud rolled in.

Alot of birds were using the Lagoon this morning allowing three lists to be completed. New species are becoming harder to find around the lake but the pair of Brazilian Teal put in another appearance. They seem to be using the N end of the lake visiting the S end when there are no tourists around.
(Blue Dacnis F)
Two notable species seen in the trees within the environs of the lake were female Blue Dacnis and an Elaenia which I have been unable to identify. Too many key features are concealed in the photos.
(Elaenia sp)
The storm got into full swing overnight and it is still raining now. I watched the Lagoon for a couple of hours this morning and saw a Barn Swallow flying low above the reeds. The rain has stopped but for how long. Keeping one eye on the lake is a must!

As I am posting this log a Great White Egret flew along the far bank of the lake. Lagoon watch for me this afternoon!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Birding with a bang!

Sunday was almost a complete washout after the party the night before.  I decided to keep a Kite watch during the afternoon which proved to be interesting with circa 50 Mississippi Kite flying N to NW at 3pm.
Monday I had a data catch up day as well as Kite watch which drew a blank.

Tuesday I was back in the Transitional Forest to carry out my third survey. I heard an Undulated Tinamou calling from the Arroyito trail but could not call it in. This is a life bird which has to be seen to go on the list.
(Blue tufted Starthroat)
The dried river basin came to life at around 0700hrs with hummers arriving in the area. A Blue tufted Starthroat was the first to land conveniently sitting on a branch close to where I was stood.
(Guilded Saphire)
A Guilded Saphire was next again sitting in the open enabling the photographer to get good shots of the birds.
(Swallow Tanager M)

The very same tree exploded with a small flock of Swallow Tanagers which included a splendid male.
(Swallow Tanager F)

I continued my walk along the Mbojaguar trail which has transitional forest on the right hand side and at the top of the hill the path leads into the forest. It was unusual to see a couple of Cerrado birds using the transitional forest to rest.
(Chestnut banded Aracari)
The only other sighting of note was a Chestnut banded Aracari which called from near the canopy. I managed to get some kind of a shot before it moved on.
(Swallow tailed Kite)

During the afternoon a front was moving over Laguna Blanca so I kept eyes on the lagoon. What I should have done is had all my equipment close by so that when the two Swallow tailed Kite arrived I didn’t have to leg it back into the house get my camera and lose a great opportunity for  pictures of the birds! This species is a Paraguay tick for me! 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Feliz Cumpleanos Joe!!

This blog entry has a PG rating. Please do not read on if you thought I was a sensible responsible member of society!!

Joe’s birthday is always a big occasion at Para La Tierra and having reached the ripe old age of 24 (Twenty Four). The supplies for the celebration had been purchased and pork was on the “asado” menu.

There had been talk of me taking part in a “Dunkaroo” the process was strangely enough not explained to me. However being a sport I agreed to take part. The birthday boy was first up to the mark to obviously demonstrate how the process worked.
Stage one: Fill a bowl of water and add ice. Stage two: Put a few beers in the freezer so that they will be as cold as the water. Stage three: When the beer is cold take one out the freezer cut a hole in the side and get someone to hold it for you. Stage four: Put your head under the ice cold water for ten seconds lift up and shotgun the beer...DUNKAROO!!
After surviving this refreshing experience I watched on as Becca, Karina and Sagi took the mark!
(The Waterfall)
Next up was “The Waterfall” this was far easier arms up a beer in each hand and pour into your mouth. This was easy right up until the point where you can’t swallow anymore and you get doused in beer!

In between the entertainment the asado was well on its way to being ready and the pork was really tasty . 
(Jorge DD)
A couple of beers later and we all piled into the truck with our DD (Designated Driver) Jorge and off we went to a charity event.

A local boy had been knocked off his motorbike and was critically ill in hospital. Money raised was to help pay for further treatment.
(Liberation of the Beer!)
During the party I decided to put a beer in my back pocket for safe keeping only to find that I had somehow locked the zipper and could not get it out. This caused a great deal of amusement within the gang. Minor surgery was performed by Joe enabling the now luke warm beer to be consumed. Well you can’t have good beer going to waste!!
At midnight it was Fatima’s birthday, therefore the celebrations would continue throughout the night!
(Fatima's dancathon!)
(Dancathon 2!)

Monday, 17 March 2014

Mississippi Madness!

Saturday 15th
(Cock tailed Tyrant)
Today was Joe’s birthday which is a time for celebration at Para La Tierra (Blog entry to follow). The morning was spent with Paul and Roberto  in Nightjar land topping up Roberto’s life ticks. The search for Cock tailed Tyrant ended with a female and a juvenile male found in the long grass.
(Chestnut Seedeater)
A male Chestnut Seedeater was a real bonus within the area search. A Wedge tailed Grassland Finch also made a brief appearance before the wind picked up. A search in the Cerrado resulted in Curl Crested Jay making the life list.
(Mississippi Kite)
The weather forecast was not looking good with storm clouds massing over the reserve. Paul and Roberto decided to take an early departure to avoid a potentially difficult journey along the mud road to Santa Rosa.
Before they departed a search of the Arroyito trail for the Band tailed Manakin. This bird did not oblige but as we exited the trail near the beach I spied a couple of Mississippi Kite above the lagoon. These birds were just the start of things to come as several groups appeared kettling moving N to NW.
(Mississippi Kite juvenile)
Paul and Roberto said their goodbye’s both had a eye on the skies as the Kites continued appearing. After around an hour watch 91 Mississippi Kites had passed through. The biggest group was 50 birds. As you can imagine this is a significant movement of birds through a landlocked country.
(Snowy Egret)
Just prior to the storm arriving, a Snowy Egret, a Fork tailed Flycatcher and two Sick’s Swift passed over the lagoon. Then the heavens opened up. A group of Neotropical Cormorants sought refuge on the lake.

Nightjar turns Dayjar!

14th pm

Paul Smith (Zoologist) founder of Fauna Paraguay and Roberto arrived mid morning. Roberto a photographer had not visited Laguna Blanca before therefore there were life birds to see on the reserve.

At around 3pm the truck was loaded with snacks and the gang for a trip into the Cerrado to see these birds. The first species to make his life list was the White banded Tanager. The ultimate destination for the group was the aptly named Nightjar land with a stop off near a disused airstrip for the Lesser Nothura. This species had been heard here but to make it onto my life list I had to see it.
(White winged Nightjar)
En route to Nightjar land a White tailed hawk put in an appearance. A Savanna hawk was noted on arrival in the area. The gang disembarked and began wandering around the area and what happened next was a surprise to everyone. A male White winged Nightjar seen in flight during daylight! This bird attracted the attention of a Aplomado Falcon which caused considerable anxiety from within our group.
(White winged Nightjar)
The position of the White winged Nightjar was noted as it came to ground and Joe Nightjar catcher extraordinaire set to work in netting the bird. Once caught the bird was banded and measurements taken for the log. The bird was then taken back to the point of capture (a point is recorded on the GPS) so that it could sit safely away from the eyes of predators.
(Joe, Sagi and I, banding team)
Some of the area beyond the third fire break had been cleared and all that remained were piles of wood scattered across the ground. A group of Plumbeous Seedeaters and a Blue black Grassquit took advantage of these high rise perches.
(Gray Monjita)
As the evening closed in the group moved to the grassland near the airfield and saw a Grey Monjita perched on a bush. This was a rare sighting and a new bird for my Laguna Blanca list. On arrival at the airstrip the search began for the Lesser Nothura. A couple of birds were heard calling but once again we could not get near enough to see a bird. Three Red winged Tinamous were flushed during the search.

After dark I took on searchlight duties during which a second White winged Nightjar was spotted in the area. The bird a female was caught, banded and processed. This find could prove significant if Nightjar land falls foul of future development.
(Common Potoo)
During the drive back to the base the regular night species were observed including a Potoo at very close range.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Rhealy Good!!

12th – 14th

(Southern beardless Tyrannulet)
Wednesday it was the Transitional Forests turn to be surveyed. The hi-lite of which was a Southern beardless Tyrannulet and the female Band Tailed Manakin re appeared forther along the dried river bed.

A pair of Lineated Woodpeckers were seen late morning in the area of forest at the NW end of the lagoon. Sadly there was no repeat of the King Vulture.

(White headed Marsh Tyrant photo James Dee)
During the afternoon the heavens opened up so I decided to have a nap. Whilst I was asleep the rain stopped and James found a White headed Marsh Tyrant on the reed-bed on the lagoon. This could be a new record for Laguna Blanca. Needless to say when I went looking for the bird it had gone. Note to self time!!
(Rhea photo James Dee)
Thursday it was back into the Cerrado with James. This area is hot at the best of times with little shade to shield anyone from the sun. Whilst walking around James spied a small group of Rhea so we both stood in front of a bush in order to hide our presence. The Rhea sussed this manoeuvre out but became curious and started creeping towards us getting within 15 metres of our position.

Friday I returned to the Atlantic Forest it was survey time and what a survey it turned out to be! It began slowly along the Urukurea trail so I made my way down towards the S forest. My birding friend Lobo in tow!

James had had a lie in but appeared on the back of the moto loco with Becca and Sagi. I joined them at the gate and noticed a small rail along the South path so up went the scope and low and behold along with the Slaty breasted Wood rail were two Grey necked Wood rail a lifer woo hoo!
(Red eyed Vireo)
James made his excuses with the girls (no chopping paths for him today!) and we both birded on down the S road. Next up were three Red Eyed Vireo. I have since learnt from Paul is a split in South America which means another potential life tick.

Whilst walking down the road I heard the briefest of calls which I recognised from my birding homework as a Rufous capped Spinetail. Some playback later and James had another lifer in the bag.
(Black crowned Tityra)
Last on the life list for James was Black Crowned Tityra. I must say these birds were very obliging almost posing for pictures. Needless to say we were both back late for lunch. But hey the birds stop for no-one!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The King of all Vultures!!

10th – 11th March 2014

Yesterday was a complete washout. Laguna Blanca had the mother of all storms into the early hours of Monday. I decided to dash to the small boat type house and pitch the scope for a Lagoon watch. The rain was so heavy at one point I could not see beyond the beach. A Streamer tailed Tyrant was the only bird to make an appearance in the reeds.

Following more rain overnight this morning I decided to carry out another survey around the lagoon. Then at least if the heavens opened up I could run for cover. This turned out to be a great decision. James a volunteer from Wimbledon joined me for the first part of the process.

 A small flock of Yellow rumped Marshbird had sought refuge in the reeds at the beach end of the lagoon. A lot of regular species were recorded at the South end of the lagoon. James went to join Becca for his induction and I walked the sandy path to the North end of the lagoon.

There was good cloud cover so I began scanning the sky with my binoculars. I saw a couple of Turkey Vulture circling beyond the lagoon. I could see a third bird lower down but still a fair distance away beyond the NE corner of the Transitional forest. I put the scope on it and I could not believe my eyes a King Vulture.
This was a life tick for me and naturally a tick for everywhere else. The only snag was the bird at this time was not within camera range but the bird was using the thermals to navigate its way towards the lagoon. The Turkey Vultures departed before reaching the lagoon.
(King Vulture)
The King Vulture crossed the lagoon and went out of sight. No! The next five minutes seemed like hours would the bird have another look at the lagoon! I have driven the residents of PLT crazy about seeing this bird and I had seen one but had no pictures to show anyone!! I put the word out via text messages and waited.
(King Vulture)
A few minutes later the King Vulture re appeared from above the Transitional Forest and I rattled off some shots on the camera. The moment had been captured. Thank goodness for that!! I had a bit of a celebration as I do and then continued watching the skies.
(Roadside Hawk)

About fifteen minutes later another raptor appeared from over the transitional Forest. This has been identified as a Roadside Hawk.
(Large Elaenia)
During the afternoon a lagoon watch produced another lifer a Large Elaenia which has been identified from photos.Thanks Paul.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Paraguay tick...Lifer for Joe!

6th – 9th March 2014

Over the last few days I have carried out two more counts. The first in the Transitional Forest the hi-lite of which was  a Toco Toucan that I had to have a mini stake out for having heard it call some fifteen minutes earlier. The bird eventually flew from the canopy over my head out of sight therefore once again I have not got any pictures of this fantastic bird.
(White backed Stilt)
The pair of White backed Stilts have re appeared on the lagoon along with the Brazilian Ducks. During a birding walk with two visitors I found a Dark billed Cuckoo in the transitional forest area off the Arroyito trail. This bird is a week later then the bird I found on Urukurea trail a year earlier.

Joe has started the next phase of his project which involves catching and ringing White winged Nightjars. The first nightjar was banded the other night and this has provoked discussion as to its identity having been re-caught yesterday.

During a night drive on the aptly named Nightjar land. Becca who was driving the Wingle (truck) called a Barn Owl which flew and sat on top of a tree. The importance of this sighting was that it was a new bird for Paraguay for me and a life bird for Joe. Mild celebrations were heard fortunately we are in the middle of no-where!!

Joe and I stayed on using a quad bike to negotiate the sand and grasslands in search of White winged Nightjars. The Quad bike is piloted by yours truly whilst Joe uses the searchlight to locate birds. Once found it is a mad dash over difficult terrain to catch the birds. Two more birds were processed in this way. I have now banded a bird myself after expert coaching from Joe. Thank Joe! We plan on going out most nights looking for more birds which means late finishes.
(Rufous Casiornis)
My first survey in the Atlantic Forest was tricky trying to identify canopy birds in mixed flocks. Some birds still require confirmation of identification. 
(White barred Piculet)
A pair of White barred Piculet was an interesting find amongst a couple of flycatchers / Elaenias.

I had a nap this afternoon (Which has caused amusement in the camp!) but awoke to cloud and sunny spells. Off to the lagoon for my first proper raptor watch. Five Black, two Turkey Vulture, a Mississippi Kite, and a Southern Crested Caracara, later and it was back to the computer to catch up on data input.!!

Evil Kneval and Joe are back out in Nightjar land tonight!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Nightjars Galore!

5th March 2014
Today it was the lagoons turn to be surveyed and the weather was very obliging with low cloud and mist early on.  The Brazilian Ducks were present for a third day. 
(Tropical Kingbird)
A Fork tailed Flycatcher seemed to be hanging around with a couple of Tropical Kingbird. I slowly made my way around the lagoon edges.
(Maguiri Stork)
The cloud was still low but it was brighter as I made my way towards the NW corner of the lagoon. I noticed three large storks flying W and got them in the scope to confirm their identity as Maguari Stork who appeared to be struggling to keep their long necks and equally long legs anywhere near parallel with their bodies. I took some shots of the birds but they were high and the results were far from perfect.

I completed three McKinnon list and made my way back to the base bumping into Sanji (Volunteer USA) Pequenita and my alternate birding friends (The dogs!).

After catching up with some computer work (after its crash earlier in the week), I caught up with the other days events. After dinner a trip to Nightjar land was planned with banding a White winged Nightjar and seeing a Lesser Nothura the main goals.

Joe led the party of four into a large area of grass and patches of long grass. This area was where Cock Tailed Tyrant had been seen in the past. As light faded away a Lesser Nothura was heard calling so Joe, myself, Tommy and Sagi spread out in an effort to improve chances of seeing the bird.
Three Lesser Nothura were heard in total but unfortunately none were seen. A Red winged Nothura made an appearanc on the return walk to the truck. 

The spot light was set up and the “hunt” was on for a White Winged Nightjar. As Joe drove along the red road/runway a male Scissor tailed Nightjar flew across the front of the truck. A Little Nightjar was next to put in an appearance. Then a third Nightjar that behaved like a White winged Nightjar. I got a fix on it as it perched itself up a tap on the roof and Joe stopped the truck and he was off into the scrub to catch the bird which remained on its perch right up until the net was cast.
(White Winged Nightjar)
Joe bought the bird back to the truck for banding and measurements to be taken. Care was taken not to keep the bird for too long. We ventured on into Nightjar land via the land owners house to search for more birds. Another bird was spied on the far bank of the old river which is now thick marshy grassland. Joe and I set of in persuit of the prize that promptly moved but Joe decided he wanted to reach the other side so we continued. Cutting a long story short Joe made it I sunk in the marsh a touch away was success. The return journey was a soggy one but two Potoo were seen along the way!