Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Laguna Blanca Plumage tick!

After a cold night locked up in my sleeping bag I ventured out in the fog / mist to carry out my last survey in the Atlantic Forest. The temperature was 9C rising to around 12C during the course of the morning.

Birding in the forest was slow with very few birds showing themselves early on. An adult Barred Forest Falcon was the first bird of note sitting in a dark recess of the forest watching my every move.
In the south Atlantic Forest I bumped into Carter and Anna two of the monkey interns. Both had seen the Capuchins nearby earlier in the morning. Just as they were departing I spotted a male Band tailed Manakin on an exposed branch by the road. The bird posed for a few pictures before disappearing back into the forest! This was my first sighting of a male of this species!

A Chestnut-eared Aracari was the next species of note to put in an appearance before hopping out of view into the forest. The remainder of the mornings walk was pretty uneventful until I returned to the base.

A Cliff Swallow had been found on the sand by Jorge and was looking exhausted having most likely been brought down to earth in the storm. The bird did not have enough energy to fly off and was duly taken into care and monitored for signs of improvement in a wool laden box which sadly did not come about!

The weather is not looking good for the next couple of days I wonder what else will seek refuge at Laguna Blanca during this period!

Shiver me timbers!!

Storms have been the norm over the past few days and with this came a plummet in the temperature from 35C to 9C which has left everyone wrapping up head to toe in winter clothes.

Once the rain had eased off late on Tues 26th I took a brief walk along the beach to see if and migrants had fallen fowl of the weather and sure enough they had.

Hirundines have been few and far between so far but a flock of Brown-chested Martin were seen clinging onto a bush at the waters edge. Every so often the group would fly out a few metres to catch a few insects before returning to their original position.

Also noted nearby was a Vermilion Flycatcher who was seizing every opportunity to increase its body fat levels so that its migration could continue. This bird was still present in the same area Wed morning 27th.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Stormy Weather and Laguna Blanca tick!!

The last couple of days have been stormy and this always raises the chances of a rarity on the reserve. A flock Neotropical Cormorant were forced to consider the lagoon as a temporary haven prior to the storm action on Thurs 21st.

Friday 22nd was Earth Day and the plan was to visit two schools as part of Para La Tierra’s Community Outreach programme to engage with local children by playing games that teach them about the importance of protecting their environment.

Unfortunately the weather took its toll with most children not making it to school due to hazardous roads so the event was re-arranged for another day!

Once the rain had stopped I took a walk around the tourist area, lagoon and Seasonal Pond (which is not very seasonal anymore!!) in the hope of connecting with unexpected visitors. The journey to the seasonal pond was pretty uneventful but the return was more productive!

As I walked towards the beach I thought I had stumbled onto an airfield with lines of nightjar like birds all sat in formation along the edge of the lagoon. A closer look revealed eighteen Nacunda Nighthawk that were subsequently disturbed by a drone that came hurtling towards me!

What an amazing sight the disruption turned out to be as the birds wheeled round over the reeds showing their black tipped wings with white panels. I am glad to say the birds settled again on the lagoon edge. I put the camera to work and passed on the news to the other housemates.

I continued to chip away at the Laguna Blanca all time list which currently stands at 321 having spied a group of Maroon-bellied Parakeets in the trees in the tourist area. My Laguna Blanca life list now stands at 216!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Lifer back on the Rails!

I have been looking through my photos and have identified a Blackish Rail that was flushed into a bush as Lobo and I walked the Lagoon edge. The picture was taken on the morning of 6th April 2016 and this species was a life bird for me....

This species is more often heard than seen and two birds have been recorded at the Seasonal Pond several times since. The latest sighting was Mon 18th April 2016 on the Seasonal pond where the bird showed well between the sunken trees and flooded grass.

This is my third lifer since returning to Laguna Blanca Woo Hoo!!!                                                                                                                                                                       

Friday, 15 April 2016

Laguna Blanca MEGA bonanza!!!

Friday 15th I had no idea when I woke up this morning that the day would turn into a MEGA bird crazy bonanza! Paul had arrived the previous evening with his tour consisting of David and Elizabeth from the UK. A plan was made to maximise the birding potential over the next couple of days but neither of us could have predicted what was to happen next....

Paul and I walked over the small bridge turning left towards the beach. Paul said there is a Black crowned Night Heron at the back of the small pool by the reeds. I fired off a few pictures as it walked across into the reeds. Laguna Blanca tick number one!

I then looked through my bins and spied a Green Kingfisher sitting on the small tree. Two Laguna Blanca ticks in less than two minutes!! What is going on!!

We joined David and Elizabeth and took a short drive to Urukurea trail which took us down to the seasonal pond via the non swampy route. On arrival at the pond Paul raised his bins and exclaimed Green and Rufous Kingfisher which incidentally was the first record for Laguna Blanca and deserved its MEGA rating!!

After capturing the first record on camera I caught sight of a small crake in the reed-bed to my left. I tapped Paul and whispered for him to look to his left. The bird was a Rufous-sided Crake another first record for the reserve. This bird gained confidence amongst the now statuesque birders and slowly wandered out into the open coming within touching distance walking through the legs of my telescope at one point. Total amazement and excitement all round and it hadn’t even reached eight o clock yet!

After a breakfast break David joined us for a walk into the Cerrado to find some of the specials which were proving tricky to find. White rumped Tanager was the first species to reveal itself followed by a White-tailed Goldenthroat which was Laguna Blanca tick number five of the day for me! The Shrike like tanager eventually revealed itself.

 A walk though a sodden area of campo limpio produced a Great White Egret feeding amongst the grass and a flushed Scissor tailed Nightjar as we walked through the shrubs in search of Black throated Saltator which eventually gave itself up.

The rest of the day proved more difficult in search of species for the group’s trip list but I guess after a mornings birding like that the afternoon was going to be a tough act to follow!

Two life ticks, two new birds for the reserve list and five reserve ticks for me! Woo hoo!!!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A day in the Transitional Forest!!

Wednesday 13th was survey day in the Transitional Forest. I started at the Base then along Arroyito trail which runs by the stream into the Lagoon.

My first point count proved to be interesting with Blue Fronted Amazon Parrots landing in the tree on the other bank of the stream. This species is regularly seen in flight over the reserve but rarely seen in the trees. Next up were a pair of Swallow Tanager that made a brief appearance in the same tree before being chased off by a Pale-breasted Thrush.

The Arroyito trail which is the smallest trail on the reserve produced twenty two species in just over an hour but I guess the stream plays a big part in birds gathering in this area. A Striped-backed Puffbird and Red Eyed (Chivi) Vireo were other species of note in this area.

Mbopi trail which runs parallel to the Lagoon on the NW side was not as productive so I made my way to the Mboijaguar trail which is where the Cerrado meets the Transitional Forest. I made steady progress along the trail managing to creep up on a Pale-vented Pigeon that was feeding on the ground.

I continued into the narrow corridor which separates the bushes and scrub. This is one area where creeping along can pay dividends. A Tataupa Tinamou was spied in the distance and watched from a safe distance away.

I took a short stop at the top of the slope into the heart of the forest to witness the Plush-crested Jays chasing of a couple of Chestnut-eared Aracari. A Toco Toucan had recently been seen in this area by Peter and Marnix and I had vague hopes of capturing this magnificent species on camera but it was not to be.

I did however attract the attention of a group of Curl-crested Jay who went on the offensive ushering me along the path as they squawked in my direction. The remainder of the forest was fairly quiet so I returned to the Base and prepared myself for a return to the forest after dark for the night species.

Jorge, myself, Alicia, Constance and Marco set out at 2000hrs in search of Owls, Nightjars and anything else that may grace us with their presence. There was a couple of surprise additions to the days total as a group of Guira Cuckoo and a Picazuro Wood-Pigeon were disturbed as Jorge scanned the trees with a torch.

As we made our way along Mboijaguar trail a flash of a pair of eyes in a tree revealed Tropical Screech Owl and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl were heard but not seen on this occasion.

The final sighting of the day was along the path in the form of a couple of Pauraque a large nightjar which took a great deal of stealth to creep up on.

Two circuits of the Transitional Forest later and I had logged thirty four species. I was definitely ready for my bed!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Laguna Blanca Rarities from the Residents!

Sunday 10th was a very stormy day which was generally very quiet on the birding front. The rain started overnight and continued into the morning. 

Monday 11th The rain continued until around 1030hrs which had me itching to check the areas around the base for rarities! One thing I have been surprised about thus far is the lack of hirundines at the reserve. Could this be due to the vast amounts of water that covers Paraguay giving birds more feeding options.

Once the rain had stopped and the day had brightened up Alicia had me running from the house to see a vulture that was not acting in the same manner as the Turkey and Black Vultures that frequent the reserve.

The bird sat at the edge of the beach before behaving almost Marsh Harrier like over the reed beds along the southern end of the Lagoon. The primaries had a distinct paler brown colouring to them and the face was yellow blue red and grey..

The bird was a Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture which is a marsh vulture an uncommon but welcome sight at Laguna Blanca.

A Tawny-headed Seedeater was spied later on in the day sat high in a tree at the back of the Lagoon. Another bird that got caught up in the rain, this was a new bird for Laguna Blanca for me although I have seen this species on the road to Santa Rosa in the past.

Tuesday 12th I visited three habitats the most interesting species a pair of Magpie Tanager was seen in the Transitional Forest. Unfortunately my skills in stealth let me down on this occasion and the pair were not re-located!

Peter and Marnix (Netherlands) have been visiting the Cerrado and Transitional Forest every couple of days and today they added a Toco Toucan and a Red-winged Nothura to their growing list. Nice one guys!!

Lifer at Laguna Blanca!!

During my walk through the Transitional Forest on 9th April I saw a flycatcher that was hawking insects either side of the narrow path at the top of Mboijaguar trail. I took a single picture of this bird before it flew up over the shrubs out of sight.

The bird was very grey with two distinct wing-bars. I could not identify the species at the time and sent the picture to Paul Smith (Zoologist/ Fauna Paraguay) for his perusal.

The bird has been identified as a Fuscous Flycatcher which incidentally is a life bird for me. Thanks Paul. Woo Hoo!!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Laguna Blanca tick!!

Saturday 9th it was the Transitional Forest’s turn to have my undivided attention. The forest runs from the base along the eastern side of the lake and into Mboijaguar trail which has Cerrado on the left as you walk up the slight incline and Transitional forest on the right.

The morning was overcast but started slowly on the bird front with hardly any movement or calls from the trees and scrub. I noticed a small passerine flit from the Transitional Forest side of the path onto the Cerrado side. A bit of phishing later and my first Tropical Parula was caught on camera.
Flavescent Warblers lined the route almost equidistant from each other. This species is another favourite of mine and will travel in a circular fashion to check you out whilst you remain stationary on the path.

I stopped at the top of the incline to watch some Glistening bellied Emerald whizz about in the sparse scattering of trees. A small group of Purplish Jay took exception to my presence and started sounding alarm calls and bobbing their heads in my direction. This bought re-enforcements in a group of Curl-crested Jays who completed the circle. This species of Jay are one of the Cerrado specials and are resident at Laguna Blanca.

I continued walking along the path which was narrower and now heavily vegetated when I heard a contact like call from a White-throated Spadebill. The bird sat in the open posing for photographs before disappearing back into the shrubs. This species is new for me at Laguna Blanca. Woo hoo!!

With an extra spring in my step I headed back to the base noting White-tailed Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Pale-breasted Thrush, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, and had a second encounter with the Curl-crested Jays.

Cerrado in the Sun!

Friday 8th Getting up at stupid o’clock (5am) is the best thing to do if you want to see plenty of bird activity. This morning a walk into the Cerrado with Alicia (Switzerland) and Marco (Italy) was on the agenda. The general plan was to see some of the Cerrado specials on the reserve before the temperature soared in an area with very little cover.

The sun rose like it had been fired from a catapult and was soon obscuring good views of birds that all appeared to be on the trees and shrubs that faced the sun! We ventured into the scrub and waited a while for the birds to come to us.

White rumped and Shrike like Tanagers were their usual vocal selves which bought in a group of Chalk browed Mockingbirds who joined the chorus.

Black throated Saltator was next up giving views from a couple of metres. Pairs of Blue fronted Amazon parrots flew overhead whilst making their way from roost sites to feeding grounds. A pair of American Kestrel were perched on top of trees waiting for an opportunity to pounce on breakfast.

A small group of Campo Flicker made their presence known with a noisy display of branch hopping. During the walk back Flavescent Warbler were engaged in a singing competition one on either side of the airfield.

I added another butterfly to my growing list. There are so many amazing colour combinations in each species. I will find out later the species name during the evenings id session.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Hummers at the Seasonal Pond!

Thursday 7th April I took Peter (Netherlands) and Malek (Netherlands) on a bird walk. A Great White Egret was the first bird of interest at first light flying over the lagoon. Whistling Heron and a Ringed Kingfisher followed making their regular trip across the lagoon.

The small group positioned themselves in the water at an opening giving a good view of most of the seasonal pond. The regular species were present on the pond. I noticed a bromeliad in flower within a few metres of our position. This plant was to provide us with fantastic views of three species of hummingbird, Planalto Hermit which is the largest of the three with its long white tipped tail made regular visits to this plant hovering within a few feet of us on a couple of occasions only to whizz off just as quickly as it appeared.

A Gilded Hummingbird and a Glistening-bellied Emerald played a game of cat and mouse in between fuel stops at the bromeliad.

The pond also has Great Kiskadee but it is always prudent to keep your eyes peeled as a Boat-billed Flycatcher with its heavier chest and boat like bill will appear at the top of a tree.Social Flycatchers which are also similar to the Kiskadee but smaller with a short bill are also present.

A personal favourite of mine a Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant added itself to the list having given a series of contact calls before flying into the tree giving the group excellent views.

During the walk back to the base a Cattle Tyrant a pair of Blue Dacnis and a Chestnut-vented Conebill gave good views along the forest edge.

A good couple of hours spent with excellent views of the hummingbirds.

Let the Birding begin!

One of the many advantages of living at Laguna Blanca is that bird-watching begins when you roll out of bed. I have been up at first light most days checking the lagoon and the seasonal pond for returning migrants. The weather has been consistent sunny with some cloud reaching around 35C.

A Southern beardless Tyranulet has been the hi-light of these visits so far. A pair of Brazilian Teal, Least Grebe and Wattled Jacana has also been regulars on this pond.

The Cerrado is still flooded beyond the picnic table which will make coverage of the four sub habitat types difficult to negotiate. During a scouting mission I connected with three Cerrado special in the same area. White-rumped Tanager was the first of these specials to announce themselves with a rally of calls.

A Black-throated Saltator joined the chorus on an exposed branch to compete with the Tanagers.

Shrike-like Tanagers are never too far behind when there is any type of vocalisation from the above species. 

Return to Laguna Blanca Paraguay!

The journey to Paraguay is always a long trip but on this occasion there was an unexpected extension at Sao Paulo. Having boarded the flight to Asuncion and sat on the plane for approx one hour at the stand. The plane taxied towards the runway and stopped to wait, next in line for take-off. There was a twenty minute wait with a couple of planes passing us for take-off. The Captain then announced that the plane was going back to the stand for technical reasons and the passengers would have to wait to transfer to another plane. Whatever the fault was I am glad it happened when it did because a few minutes later and the plane would have been airborne! I am glad to say the transfer and flight went without a hitch. The cab and bus journey to Santa Rosa were straight forward. Becca and Jorge picked me up arriving at Laguna Blanca around 2100hrs local time.

Laguna Blanca is a fantastic setting on the Eastern side of Paraguay. There has been a considerable amount of rain since my last visit in October / November 2015 which has re-ignited some of the streams that run from the Cerrado into the lagoon. Some areas of the Cerrado are still flooded and the seasonal pond will no longer be seasonal!

It has been warm and sunny for most parts with the threat of a storm on Sunday that somehow managed to miss LB and the local football match Jorge had taken us to Santa Barbara beat a team from Santa Rosa 4 – 0. The game was a one sided affair but had a healthy crowd from the local community.

The Para La Tierra house is full which has enabled me to assist in other project work as well as prepare my own bird projects. I wonder when the first fall of birds will be?!!