Saturday, 31 October 2015

Birds Snakes and Spiders!

There have been regular sightings of raptors around the reserve. Plumbeous Kite have been observed flying over and perched in trees in the Atlantic Forest. Swallow tailed Kite numbers have reached eleven in one group passing over the Atlantic Forest.

I spent some time Tuesday on a lagoon watch and Jorge pointed out a pair of Crested Becard in a tree near the entrance to the Arroyito trail.

I returned to the base and began scanning the sky I noticed a high raptor which I identified as a White tailed Hawk circling above the house. This species is resident in the Cerrado area of Nightjar land.
Wednesday morning I was up early and set off with Al to check the pitfall traps at the seasonal pond. Frogs were our intended quarry and there were plenty of them with over thirty five in one bucket. After returning to base the remainder of the morning was spent helping Al and Stephan processing and photographing frogs. 

The afternoon was spent in the corn field with Becca and Jorge searching for the Capuchin Monkeys. The larger of the two groups were heard approximately 100m into the Forest. A single Capuchin was observed briefly as it walked along a branch briefly looking at us as it passed by.

Thursday morning I returned to the Atlantic Forest to look for Magpie Tanager. I had a brief view of a single bird the day before. My trusted bird watching friend Lobo joined me to scare off the horses and some of the birds too! I was fortunate to find a group of three birds which were very obliging. I also heard the Capuchins whilst walking the path.

I returned to the base and was sitting on the porch when the Jays started a frenzy of noise and swooping at the ground. This was a clear indication there was a snake in the vicinity. Al entered stage left and he was off into the scrub by the pitfall traps in search of the intruder! The rest of us followed on gathering the snake catching equipment (which included a pillow case). A short struggle later and Al had bagged the two metre long serpent with the assistance of Matt and Akira. “El hombre serpiente” has experience of handling snakes and this should not be attempted at home!!

The afternoon progressed into evening and I was just beginning to think that the day could not get any livelier a Brazilian Wandering Spider had decided to visit the house. This magnificent spider was removed by Jorge and was put into a jar and taken and released along the Mbopi trail close to the base.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Laguna Blanca Paraguay Night Bonanza!

Sunday was spent looking around the lagoon and its environs. The most notable movement of birds were eleven Swallow tailed Kite that were hawking insects at the SE corner of the lagoon and Atlantic Forest.

Monday started with rain and a sighting of a small flock of Egret sp on the seasonal pond by the Frog Squad (Caroline and Rachel).

The rain cleared by lunch therefore I took to the Arroyito trail (which is at the back of the base) with Stephan Rachel and Caroline. The birds were particularly active as a result of the drop in temperature and humidity. A Pearl Kite carrying prey and a Black throated Mango were the hi-lights of this walk.
Later on in the afternoon Victoria (UK) informed me that she had seen a Fork tailed Flycatcher near the tourist area. Stephan and I decided to investigate. We did not find the Flycatcher but continued our walk to the seasonal pond which was alive with birds.

I noticed a group of birds squabbling at the far side of the pond a Greater Ani then emerged at the front of the small tree parading itself as if it had been the victor in battle!

A careful search along the margins of the pond produced a pair of Brazilian Teal along with a Wattled Jacana. The Ringed Kingfisher made infrequent visits to the pond.

The Least Grebe and their chicks were busy feeding amonst the reeds and sunken branches. There was a continuous chatter amongst the chicks but all was gather and head for cover at the call of a parent.

A pair of Common Moorhen emerged from dense cover later on into the afternoon. One strayed too close to our position and quickly turned scuttling back towards cover.

Stephan and I completed our circuit around the pond stopping to admire Social Flycatchers as they hawked insects from regular perches.

After dinner I joined Jorge Victoria (Can) and Caroline on a journey into Nightjar land. Jorge has been monitoring the radio tagged birds as a part of the White winged Nightjar project. This was to be a productive night under a full moon.

We had not ventured too far out into the area when I caught the red eye of a Potoo. A fix on this amazing bird was maintained as we cautiously made our way closer to the bird. A few pictures later and the bird was left to continue its statuesque pose.

Several White winged Nightjar were located and each birds position was noted on the GPS. We had just settled down to observe the courtship dance when a deep barking noise was heard. Jorge reacted stating the call was from a Maned Wolf. This was heard four times in the distance and the decision was made to go and try to find the wolves.

The search was in vein so we made our way to our next stop to monitor more White winged Nightjar.

As we passed through the disused airfield two Nacunda Nighthawk was busy hawking insects. Both birds landed on the red soil near the truck and another photo opportunity was taken.

The journey back to the base produced Burrowing Owl, Potoo, Pauraque and a very obliging Little Nightjar.

A fantastic day in the field..!!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Laguna Blanca Paraguay - Kites and Frogs!!

The journey to Laguna Blanca is always a lengthy one but the rewards are obvious once you enter the reserve gates. Victoria and I were lucky enough to hitch a lift from Asuncion with Karina, Joe and Becca. First off was a stop at the Benjamin Franklin Science Corner to watch Becca give a presentation (in Spanish) at a conference. We arrived at Laguna Blanca at around 10pm Friday.

Saturday morning I was awake early and I joined Al and his volunteers to check the pitfall traps at the seasonal pond. A couple of the buckets were alive with frogs. These were collected and taken back to the base in buckets for photographing.

After my induction I noticed a Swallow tailed Kite high above the Atlantic Forest side of the lagoon. The bird disappeared into the cloud and was lost sight. I decided to take a look in that area of the lagoon hoping I would catch another glimpse of the bird.

I was not to be disappointed not one but four birds appeared low over the lagoon and seemed to be hawking over the seasonal pond.

I walked through to the seasonal pond where I saw a couple of new birds for my Laguna Blanca list Common Moorhen and Least Grebe. Both species were particularly weary of my presence moving into the far corner of the flooded area.

This was a good start to my stay. I have only seen Swallow tailed Kite on one previous occasion at LB and this was a fly through over the lagoon.

During the afternoon I assisted Al with photographing the frogs. I was surprised at the level of compliance of these amphibians especially the sitting on a leaf pose.

The Speckled Bellied Frog (Leptodactylus podicipinus) was first for the paparazzi.

I found (Eupemphix attereri) particularly interesting as it changed colour from a brown to a green during its stay. The markings on its back are as unique as a fingerprint.

The most interesting frog which Al aptly named “Kermit” was saved until last and this species (Hypsiboas rubrolineatus) is a rarer find on the reserve.

The day rounded off with a game of volleyball with the housemates and an evening with Becca, Joe and Karina. It feels great to be back!!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Winter is on its way!

The Farm has ticked over nicely recently so I decided to spend my last weekend before I venture back to Paraguay staking the place out. With weather deteriorating in Europe and a steady run of NE winds with early morning cloud raised the bar in hope of a rarity. 
There has also been a small passage of Fiedfare, Redwing, Siskin and Redpoll with Wigeon numbers increasing on the Farm.

There are two Cetti’s Warblers on site which probably explains the amount of calling from the birds in and around the South end of the North lake. This species has become more common in the Surrey Vice County over the last few years.

Goldcrest numbers have been high in the country with several birds hitting the mist nests on ringing days.

Tank and Glenn had a Bearded Reedling beyond the Northern end of the North lake. This bird was very obliging to the birders in the hide as it performed a fly past before continuing its tour of the Farm.

Short Eared Owls have made a regular appearance of the last few days. It is not certain if it is the same bird as all have been observed as flyovers. Today the bird appeared with a couple of gulls that were using the thermals to gain height. The bird slowly made its way South as it sailed away.

This time next week I will be enjoying a 40c heatwave and no doubt be hoping for rain to bring in late migrants. If I see a gull this will certainly be a MEGA and duck numbers at Laguna Blanca are limited to the passing visitor. All in complete contrast to the Farm!!