Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Laguna Blanca - Hummers in the nets!

I began mist netting in the Transitional Forest along the Arroyito trail which is situated behind the house and have recently moved into the Cerrado at the NW end of the old airfield.

A family of birds I had reservations about when removing them from the nets was the hummingbird. These delicate birds require extra care and attention which includes carrying a vile of sugar water with me in case such a bird requires an energy boost once processed.

To date there have been two species caught in the nets Glittering-bellied Emerald and Gilded Sapphire and both have been incredibly easy to take out of the nets. Handling them has also been easier than I expected after a lesson from Jeremy in the correct techniques. These birds just wait patiently and certainly do not try to lance me with their pointed beaks.

As a result I can marvel at these enchanting tiny creatures with their multitude of hidden colours when viewed in the hand. I have not had to offer the vile as both species have been alert on release and have whizzed off moving their wings at an incredible rate of knots.

The hummingbirds have joined my short list of favourite family groups after the Owls naturally!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Laguna Blanca - Mist netting in the Cerrado!

The nets were moved yesterday from the Transitional Forest into the Cerrado with the help of Jorge and his net moving magic!

We cut two sets of runs the first at the NW end of the airfield and the second at the SW side of the airfield. Both areas were Sensu Strictu Cerrado which is a mix of scattered tall trees and low scrub. The area beyond the nets was flooded Campo Limpio which is tall grassland with Cerradon trees and high shrubs and bushes on the other side. This area looked perfect for birds to funnel through the Sensu Strictu into other areas of Cerrado.

The first morning produced six bird’s two pairs of Rusty-backed Antwren who rarely feature on my Cerrado bird surveys keeping low in the scrub rarely calling. This species is seen more often during my Transitional Forest survey close to where the Mboijaguar trail divides the Cerrado and the transitional Forest.

A Narrow-billed Woodcreeper gave itself up to Net 2 and seemed very relaxed as it was removed from the net and taken to the picnic table where I had set up the morning’s operations. It did however quietly leave its mark as I held it in my hand!!

The last of three birds in Net 2 was a very lively Shrike-like Tanager which is one of the Laguna Blanca Cerrado specials. This species moves around the Cerrado in small groups and is very vocal to any kind of intruder taking up positions on exposed branches to maximise their presence.

The morning had finished with both nets taking three birds each and with the sun making its presence known the nets were closed at 1030hrs.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Laguna Blanca - Storms shake the skies!

This time the storm hit Laguna Blanca and continued throughout the night and as a result the nets were not opened this morning. Instead I took a walk around the lagoon and through to the Seasonal Pond which is rapidly shrinking despite the rain!

As I walked into the small clearing I disturbed three Black-crowned Night Heron who sought refuge in the trees on the far side of the pond.

The Masked Duck were still present and I then heard Grey-necked Wood-Rail calling away to my right. After sneaking through the vegetation I waited behind a tree for the birds to re-appear. There were three in total and there seemed to be a battle over territory going on with one bird chasing another around the water’s edge. Once the commotion had stopped I seized my opportunity and took some pictures as one of the birds approached me.


There has been more movement in the skies after more rain and plummeting temperatures around Laguna Blanca. A Long Winged Harrier juv/fem and five Pied-billed Grebe have arrived at the lagoon. Five White Woodpecker and the Masked Duck is still on the Seasonal Pond!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Laguna Blanca - New bird for the reserve hits the nets!

Yesterdays Flycatcher has been confirmed as a Highland Elaenia from morphametrics which is a new bird for the reserve and a life bird for me. Thanks Paul!

Today's bird of the day in the nets was a Gilded Sapphire and what a delicate bird this was to handle but it was very easy to get out of the net. This was my first hummingbird in the hand and I did not need to use the vile of sugar water either. This bird was a very energetic character that declined this offer before release!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Laguna Blanca - Mystery over!

The majority of the storm seemed to bypass Laguna Blanca in the night. I was relieved to awake to no rain and partially cloudy skies. The nets were opened before dawn but the morning started slowly with no early activity around or in them.

The first two birds were worth waiting for. The first because this was the bird I had named Voice4 during survey days and just to confirm itself it called in the hand but I don’t think it was so glad to see me as I was to see the bird. What a relief that the mystery call had finally been solved!

The second bird a Ruby-crowned Tanager seemed to be a bit of a trick artist. As I approached the net I saw the bird bounce of the net back into the scrub. I took a few steps backwards and watched the bird repeat the action landing in the same area of scrub. Not to appear defeated the bird climbed higher in the scrub and made a third attempt to clear the net which it failed to do finally getting caught. The bird was quickly rescued from the net and taken back to be processed. The white under arm patches and the ruby crown were evident in the hand. This was a new bird for my Laguna Blanca list.

A Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant was next in net one and was a different bird from the previous day.
The last two birds came at the end of the morning session at 1030hrs after this time it is usually too hot to continue mist netting. The micro haul consisted of a bird in each net!

Net1 featured another Flycatcher (id to be confirmed) which I found very useful to examine in the hand and good to compare with pictures of the earlier Fuscous Flycatcher.

The reserve list up until end March 2016 can be found on the Para La Tierra website having recently been published in a scientific journal entitled:-

Rev. Biodivers. Neotrop. ISSN 2027-8918 e-ISSN 2256-5426
Enero-Julio 2016; 6 (1): 55-67
DOI: 10.18636/bioneotropical.v6i1.173
Birds of Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca, departamento San Pedro, Paraguay and the imminent threats to their conservation
Las aves de la Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca, departamento San Pedro, Paraguay y las amenazas inminentes para su conservación
Paul Smith1,2, Hugo del Castillo1,3, Kevin Guest2

Net2 completed the mini flycatcher haul with a Brown crested Flycatcher which landed just as I was about to close this net. This net has caught 2 birds 6 behind net 1 and I was beginning to wonder if the recent fire in the adjoining Cerrado was the cause of the lack of productivity.

Thanks go to Paul Smith (Fauna Paraguay) for his assistance with the flycatcher sp.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Laguna Blanca - Birds in the nets!


I spent yesterday looking for suitable sites to set the mist nets. I decided to start with an already tried and tested location at the back of the house along the Arroyito trail. I set three nets along the narrow path (Net1). The remaining two nets I would place in a run I had cleared at the top of the small hill above the stream (Net2).

With the nets closed in place I got up at stupid o clock to open them and then played the waiting game. Net2 was the first to catch a Creamy-bellied Thrush which was slightly not pleased to see me!

As I walked back to the house passing by Net1 again it too had caught birds with two Flavescent Warbler. This species is a particular favourite of mine with its orange coloured legs which complement the yellow under parts and olive green upper parts.

The next hour was quiet but then bird of the day graced the Net1 with its presence a Tropical Parula. What an amazing little bird this is and very co-operative too.

A Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant made up the mornings catch from Net1 with a Pale-breasted Thrush escaping the lower part of Net2 as I approached it. Net1 takes a clear lead into the second day 4 – 1 but the weather forecast is not looking great! Fingers crossed the rumbling storm will pass us by!

Monday, 11 July 2016

Laguna Blanca Masked record number two!

11th July

I was having a wander around the reserve this morning looking for suitable mist netting sites. I noticed an increase of Common Gallinule on the Seasonal pond and then spied a couple of Masked Duck in the surface weed on the far side of the pond.

This is the second record of this species on the reserve and a new Laguna Blanca tick for me. Woo hoo!

Paraguay Laguna Blanca Time!

7th July

I completed the fourth round of surveys in the Atlantic Forest on a chilly morning which had a sluggish start. Once the sun had risen the birds were in fine form with a full complement of lists completed alongside the transect walk.

An Eared Pygmy-tyrant was the bird of the day. Not for its rarity factor but I have had little opportunity to get photographs of this fascinating little bird. This species is found in subtropical lowland forests in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

A Grey-necked Wood-rail and a sighting of the now infamous voice4 completed the birds of interest. Voice4 is still being scrutinized and I hope to get some pictures of this mystery caller in the forests of Laguna Blanca.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Paraguay Chaco Expedition Laguna Capitan Final part!

3rd July

This was the group’s final day at Laguna Capitan. The trip had been a success with over thirty birds being caught in the nets and processed. Saffron Finch and numerous Red crested Finch had featured over the last few days.

A pair of Chotoy Spinetail flirted with the nets on the last morning strategically flying over them several times only allowing them to be caught on camera.

A Straneck’s Tyrannulet was the prize of the mornings mist netting followed by a Crested Hornero. Several snakes had been collected as a result of road-kill with numerous insects photographed during our stay.

The next morning the team would be up at even stupider o clock to make the long trip back to Laguna Blanca!

Paraguay Chaco Expedition Chaco Lodge Part 4

2nd July

Today the team would venture away from Laguna Capitan and make its way to Chaco Lodge. The purpose of the trip was to count the Chilean Flamingos on the salt pans along the route. A grand total of 1324 birds would make it into my notebook the majority being present on the pans of Riacho Yacare Sur.

Before departure a Rufous browed Peppershrike found the net and was in no mood to be handled taking every opportunity to bite down on my hand with its powerful bill.  left a few scars as it was processed before release. A second bird was caught and a pencil was used to distract this birds attention until it bit that and demanded that it filled in its own data!

En route to Chaco lodge a juvenile Great Black Hawk was observed making a swooping dive having been disturbed by the truck but did not stick around for long as it sailed away into the horizon. A Brushland Tinamou made a roadside appearance allowing some record shots to be taken from the guys in the back of the truck. A Chaco Earthcreeper was to be my only other lifer of the day. 

The group arrived at Chaco Lodge around 1600hrs which gave us enough time to take a walk to the salt pan and watch the sunset.A group of Nanday Parakeets flew over as we walked towards the pan. The viewing tower provided excellent views of the sunset prior to our night drive back to Laguna Capitan.

A few road kill snakes were collected en route to Laguna Capitan. A Chaco Owl watched our every move as it moved from a fence post to higher ground and the safety of a telegraph pole. I am slowly chipping away at the Paraguayan bird list which stands at 381 species to cement 6th place on the Surfbirds list! 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Paraguay Chaco Expedition Laguna Capitan Part 3

1st July

My only other life bird for this trip a Giant Antshrike would be seen today. It was a female with its splendid rufous brown upperparts white front and a striking red eye. I would have to wait another day to see the male which was caught in the mist nets.

A Dull coloured Grassquit found the net which provided a good opportunity to study its plumage and take metamorphic data from. This species was also a new bird for my Paraguay list having seen this species in Libano Colombia in 2010.

A White crested Tyrannulet was the last of the Paraguay ticks of the day. Eleven birds had been caught in the nets including Red crested Finch, Picui Ground Dove, Sooty fronted Spinetail, Narrow billed Woodcreeper, Many coloured Chaco Finch and Black Capped Warbling Finch.

An evening walk down to the pans produced a Black Skimmer a group of Nacunda Nighthawks that were feasting on the swarms of insects.

A Jabiru seemed undisturbed by my presence stopping briefly as it walked slowly across the shallow water. I never tire of seeing this magnificent bird which is more impressive as it takes flight.

A Southern Screamer closed the days birding and all that was left was to get back to the accommodation block without being eaten alive by the flying insects!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Paraguay - Chaco Expedition Laguna Capitan Part 2

30th June

The group set camera and pitfall traps around the shallow lagoons and the bird nets were set and opened each morning to enable morphometric data to be taken for each species caught. A regular walk was taken around the lagoon to record bird species and look at footprints left in the mud at the water’s edge.

Two life birds were recorded on the first day. The first Coscoroba Swan which looks more like a cross between a swan and a goose and had incidentally turned into my Paraguayan bug bird and had recently eluded me whilst I was visiting Argentina.

The Chilean Flamingo was on my to see wish list and did not disappoint at the first attempt with a small group swaying their heads from side to side filtering algae in the shallow water.

A Stilt Sandpiper was amongst the mix of White-backed Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs and Collared Plover feeding along the edge of the lagoon. Ringed Teal were also numerous in the deeper water and numbers would increase over the coming days.

A Cream-backed Woodpecker was seen in flight. A group were photographed on a dead tree a few days later.

Lark-like Brush-runner was present in the grass around the accommodation block and what a splendid looking bird this was with its erect crest complimenting the appearance of the bird.

Buff-necked Ibis were probing the soft ground as they patiently waited on the soccer pitch for the referee to arrive.  

There were also the odd small Cayman lurking around the water’s edge but they slipped quietly into the water on the approach of any of the group.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Paraguay - Expedition to the Chaco Part 1

Akron zoo in Ohio USA are funding a programme which would include a series of expeditions to San Rafael and The Chaco. Laguna Blanca Para La Tierra base is the third study area. The purpose of the trips were to record the species of bird and wildlife in these areas.

The Para La Tierra six day expedition led by Joe with myself and Jeremy as support staff and interns Kelly, Stuart, Sam and Nori set out at stupid o’clock from Laguna Blanca to venture North into the Chaco. The Chaco is the South American equivalent of the African Savannah and the destination was Laguna Capitan where the group would explore the area recording all wildlife in this area.

The object of this trip were to record Chilean Flamingo numbers on the salt pans, compile a bird list and record all other wildlife in the area. The journey was to take most of the day but the recording would begin once we had crossed the Rio Paraguay at Conception.

The Trans Chaco highway from Conception to Filidelfia was not in the best condition but the flooded grasslands and areas of palm trees supported an abundance of bird life including Bare Faced and White Faced Ibis, Limpkin, Great White Egret, Ringed Kingfisher, Jabiru and White Monjita. A less welcoming site along this route was the occasional road kill usually a snake which was collected if in reasonable condition. A Tropical Screech Owl and Pauraque closed the day list at thirty two species as the evening closed in. 

Laguna Blanca - Motmot caught on camera!


The team had spent time preparing equipment for a trip to the Chaco which was leaving the next morning but I had time to complete a survey of the Transitional Forest before departure. This would add a new bird for my Laguna Blanca year list in the form of a very shy Rufous capped Motmot. This bird was noted along the Arroyito trail behind the stream. This species is present in this and the Atlantic Forest but is seldom seen.

The remainder of the survey was pretty uneventful apart from the presence of mystery bird along the route named voice 4. I had managed to creep into the undergrowth and get within a few metres of one bird but my birding friend Lobo appeared from nowhere obviously excited at finally getting a chance at seeing this species and flushed it from the area! After a few seconds I had to chuckle at his oblivious happy face at finding me in the scrub!