Friday, 30 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Patience pays off!

The storm was not due to arrive until Sunday but they weather had other ideas! I got up at even stupider o clock so that I could get into the Cerrado before daylight and it turned out this was a good move. The birds were very vocal which made the survey a lot easier. But a phone call from Becca at just past seven had me in a state of flux!

A Macaw had been heard over the Atlantic Forest and I was a million miles away in the middle of no-where (or it seemed that way). The Macaw was not heard again but it could still be tucked away in the Forest!

After completion of the survey I made my way in that direction and stomped into the area of the seasonal pond like a small herd of elephants flushing a Spotted Sandpiper which promptly exited stage left! 

I wandered around the North forest for a while and then decided to return to the base. As I was making my way I heard the Pavonine Cuckoo calling. This was the first time in a long while therefore I seized the moment and with the assistance of some playback had good views of this fantastic bird.
The storm was now well and truly upon Laguna Blanca and it was not long before the heavens opened and the thunder roared overhead. Thank goodness for an early start and hopefully the Macaw will stick around!! 

The Lagoon was the subject of the day’s survey. A group of nine Fork-tailed Flycatcher and a couple of Tropical Kingbird got things off to a good start at stupid o clock. There was a trickle of Hirundines the best of which a Barn Swallow turned up later on in the morning.

A Streaked Flycatcher snuck onto the edge of the lagoon thinking it had gone unnoticed, This was the first record of my trip I think I must have just missed them earlier on in the year.

The fourth Osprey of the year appeared over the lagoon but did not make it into the frame. A couple of Swallow tailed Kite sailed over taking a brief drink from the surface of the lagoon as they passed through. A third bird passed through the lagoon later on in the day.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Sunny days bring a few raptors!

The sun has continued to beam down on Laguna Blanca. With temperatures rising every day there is always a chance of a raptor taking the opportunity to thermal over the reserve. An Osprey did exactly that but stopped briefly to take lunch from the lagoon. This is the third bird of the year and is always a magnificent sight over the reserve.

Plumbeous Kite has also been present over the last few days. A couple have been found resting in trees in the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado. An additional group were seen thermalling over the forest one evening.

A Black-collared Hawk has also been present favouring the lagoon edge early morning. 

I also caught up with a pair of Spotted Nothura that Jorge had seen a few days earlier in the cornfield.

I have found another Tropidurus lagunablanca which brings my total to three. But they still don't stay out for long at the moment!

There is cloud and rain forecast over the weekend but will it make it to LB and provide another surprise!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Small-billed Tinamou finally makes my LB list!!

Every birdwatchers dream is for cloudy overcast and even showery weather at this time of the year. But it does not matter where in the world you are the weather seems to conspire against you. The skies at Laguna Blanca have been cloud free and the sun has been getting up very early indeed!
This however does not stop migration as there has been a trickle of migrants on the reserve but the majority of birds pass over without stopping as they take advantage of the favourable conditions.
I have been wandering around the reserve with Catherine one of our new interns and sighting the odd Tropical Kingbird and hirundine as they pass over the lagoon.

A Pearl Kite was spied whilst we were fighting our way through the Sensu Strictu Cerrado along with a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

23rd - I started my seventh round of surveys today and bumped into a Small-billed Tinamou as it was rummaging through the leaf litter on the edge of the Transitional forest. I hear this species regularly on the reserve but have not had a confirmed sighting to date despite using sneaky tactics to lure one into view. Not so much of a woo hoo but an at last moment!! There are still two more species on this short list Undulated Tinamou and Collared Forest Falcon! 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Another Woo Hoo Moment!!

20/09 – Hi light of this morning walk around the lagoon was a Limpkin which was flushed by horses charging through the swampy SE corner. This was the third record for the reserve! A few Grey breasted Martin and a Brown chested Martin made up the hirundine movements. A Cattle Egret joined the Snowy and Great White Egret on the lagoon. A Tropical Kingbird was also present on the lagoon.

The afternoon was more productive at the Lagoon with a Plumbeous Kite, Black-collared Hawk and the return of the Limpkin allowing me to get some pictures of this bird.

A walk through the Atlantic Forest with Catherine (Can) late afternoon had me guessing at a chatty call between two small flycatchers and set the camera too work. The result was Yellow Tyrannulet which is a new bird for my Laguna Blanca reserve list. Thanks Paul!

Another good day at LB and there is plenty of migration days left! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Shorebird downed by a storm!

19/09 - I managed to sleep through a storm that nearly bought the roof in according to my housemates. But these storms do tend to have a silver lining and more often than not force birds to suspend their journeys if only temporarily!

This morning was no different as I took a stroll along the lagoon and ventured through to the seasonal pond, A Snowy Egret, Great White Egret, an additional Pied-billed Grebe and Masked duck were the only species of note.

The return journey was a slightly different matter as a Lesser Yellowlegs landed on the lagoon edge just in front of me. I am not sure who was most surprised but both of us made a slow retreat before I secured the moment for the second record this year of this species.

The afternoon was spent nest checking with activity noted at two of my growing list of plots. A Great Kiskadee was on sentry duty at the latest addition. Southern Lapwing, Rufous Hornero, Thrush like Wren, Purplish Jay and prospecting Green Kingfisher make up the list. I am certain this list will grow as the housemates keeps their eyes peeled when they are in the field.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Double migration woo hoo!!

The children from Hunab Mexico arrived yesterday evening for a five day stay at Laguna Blanca where they would take part in Para La Tierra outreach programme engaging with the local children during Eco cine and the Eco Club activities. Pablo a group member is a keen ornithologist and naturalist with an incredible mind for information. Paul Smith and his son Sean arrived for a holiday on the reserve. With spring migration entering a key period there was plenty of opportunity to connect with passing migrants or birds just taking advantage of the conditions to move to more favourable feeding grounds.

A group of Grey-breasted Martins were hawking insects from the roof of the boathouse. Snowy and Great White Egret were also present on the lagoon. They were to be joined later by more of each species a small indication that there was movement in the area.

At 0735hrs a flock of birds appeared from the S heading directly N over the lagoon. My first thought was these aren’t cormorants OMG Ibis!! I fired off a few pictures to secure the moment also realizing that the legs of the bird did not extend beyond the tail and there was a small patch of red behind the bill. 

A look at the pictures later with Paul confirmed Bare faced Ibis a first record for the reserve!! Five birds were seen later in the morning by Paul.

There was time for a quick celebration and breakfast with our new arrivals, then out again for a walk around the lagoon. A Plumbeous Kite was seen thermalling over the S corner of the lagoon.

The group was making its way towards the Seasonal Pond so I went on ahead to set up my telescope so that the children could have a good view of the birds on the pond. As I was setting up I saw an Anhinga in the corner of my eye flying across the pond. This bird was the second record for the reserve.

The Masked Duck were still present along with Least Grebe, Common Gallinule and Brazilian Teal. The next couple of weeks will be interesting!! Woo Hoo!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Business as usual and a new bird for my reserve list!!

A return to more familiar ground and more signs of spring migration were evident this morning. Grey-breasted Martin was hawking insects over the reed-beds on the lagoon. The lagoon edges are beginning to dry up but there is still plenty of suitable habitat for passing migrants, who can take a well earned rest and feed before continuing their journeys.

A Bran Colored Flycatcher was spied perched on the edge of the Atlantic Forest which borders the Lagoon. This species was the bird of the morning and a new bird for my Laguna Blanca life list!

A Plumbeous Kite was also observed in flight and resting in a tree in the SE area of the lagoon. The roufous patches on the primaries distinguishes this species from the Mississippi Kite which is seen at LB but usual passes through only using the lagoon as a navigational point!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Bolivia Los Volcanes Part Two!

Forest birding is never going to be easy with many species preferring the canopy or skulking around in the understory. Learning the calls is a huge bonus but for life birds they have to be seen and playback is not always guaranteed success.

The bird of the day was seen last of all but is well worth mentioning first. It was seen on a small trail on the other side of the river. My guide for the afternoon spotted the White-throated Toucan perched with its back to us. The camera captured the rest before the bird sailed away into the forest. Woo hoo!

The area around the accommodation block was alive with Parrots / Parakeets this morning. The noise was almost deafening in parts but what an amazing site as flocks wheeled from tree to tree on the side of the volcanoes. A Black-chested Buzzard Eagle braved the early morning fresh air soaring above the tops of the volcanoes.

I took the same trail as the previous afternoon due to the fact the trail was so quiet the previous day. I found three locations that had clear areas two were by the river and the third was a clearing which had the most bird activity of all. Birds were difficult to find but some species were not adverse to paying me a visit as they whizzed past my head landing on a nearby tree. A Planalto Woodcreeper had me spinning around as I felt the rush of air as it passed.

The next entrant was more subtle entering quietly then shuffling its way up the trunk of a tree. This Red necked Woodpecker “pajero de carpintero” was a spectacular mix of colours that complemented each other perfectly. I was glad it smiled for the camera as it went about its business.

There were several Slaty-throated Redstart in the area and again I was the one being scrutinized.
A Blue-crowned Trogon arrived unannounced and perched above me inspecting my every move.
A Slaty Capped Flycatcher was next onto the list as it made itself busy hawking insects.

The afternoon was a case of allot of birds heard and pursued without a great deal of success even when we ventured off trail in an effort to see a bird. Parrots were not in short supply as well as some amazing scenery as we traversed the sides of the forest.

Another great day spent in a truly amazing place. What will tomorrow bring?!!

Bolivia Los Volcanes Part Three!

Every trip I take I set myself a target bird. My visit to Los Volcanes had a family of birds that I had not seen before and this group was high on my wishlist to see! Only one species of Macaw has been recorded at Los Volcanes the Military Macaw and there was a fair chance of seeing one too. I saw a bird in flight on the first day I arrived but I had not taken any pictures of this amazing multi coloured bird.

During lunch I noticed a group of four Macaws head into the trees near to the Lora trail. That at least decided my plans for the afternoon a stake out along that trail. Finding the noisy birds was not a problem but getting in position to get a reasonable shot was going to be trickier and somewhat time consuming. But I had plenty of that so the stake out began!

Some forty minutes later having watched these birds crashing about in the canopy my opportunity arose and was duly taken despite the bird being in partial shade! This bird ticked me off and then joined the other three further back in the canopy.

After that bit of excitement I must have had a rush of blood to the head and decided to walk to the top of this steep winding trail. The views along the way were amazing and at one point I was at eye level with a flock of Mitred Parakeets who were also semi interested in the human below.
The view at the top of the trail was amazing and a couple of Macaw performed a flypast similar to the Red Arrows. Fantastic!

Now came the tricky bit getting down the trail before it got dark. As I got lower down the trail the vegetation changed from dry grass Cerrado to bamboo lined forest. The trails were fairly narrow in places therefore there was no time for any slip ups!

I happened to make it back in good time well before the lights were turned out! Another great day spent where quality made up for the lack in numbers of species seen. 

Bolivia Los Volcanes - Part One!

The journey to Los Volcanes Bolivia was longer than it should have been. My fault totally! But I finally made it to a truly amazing site with the accommodation surrounded by volcanos. The reserve is a national park and is therefore protected. Visitors are restricted to twenty persons which made this a perfect choice to chilax and do some birding during my visa run!

Once I had got over the initial wow factor I had to focus my mind on the birds who wasted no time in announcing themselves. A Military Macaw was first squawking away as it flew from tree to tree. The only downside to this was the lack of photos as this was my first Macaw but I have a feeling this bird will be here for a few days.

I saw a few Turkey vulture thermalling above me when a large black monster made the vultures look like dots entered the fray. An Andean Condor soared between two peaks wow this was going to be birding on a crazy scale! What an amazing bird!

Just as I thought the rush was over an adult King Vulture floated effortlessly into view. My camera was on fire and my mind was buzzing!

After lunch I went for a walk with one of the guides and some guys I had been talking too. The trail was fairly quiet for birds but it was mid afternoon. Two Banded Warbler featured en route that oddly enough reminded me of the Golden crowned Warblers at Laguna Blanca.

The next call I picked up on was the Yungas Manakin which was pretty good considering I had only downloaded the calls that morning in my hotel room. This bird was difficult to see in the canopy despite the red cap and aluminous blue wings. This bird has a great call which sounds like "Frio, frio!!" (cold in Spanish)

Some Laguna Blanca regulars made an appearance including Plush-crested and Purplish Jay, Sayaca Tanager, Blue Fronted Amazon, Glittering bellied Emerald and Rufous bellied Thrush. A very tame Giant Cowbird came up to the group to say hi as well.

I returned to the accommodation block and wandered about the area keeping my eyes fixed on anything that moved! A Blue Throated Piping Guan was seen taking brief flights from tree to tree. A flock of Mitred Parakeets flew overhead. A pair of Thick-billed Euphonia made a short appearance in one of the trees.

A Black Phoebe was making itself busy hawking insects at low level before posing for a couple of pictures and then continuing with its programme.

A small flock of Blue Fronted Parrots flew low over the trees to close the days proceedings. What a fantastic day!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Lone Kite!

Another rain storm and low cloud over the Lagoon this morning have Alyssia, Sarah and I walking the Lagoon keeping our eyes to the skies. Even though the weather has taken a turn for the worst the birds are still busy nest building with new nests being found every day.

Whilst Alyssia and I were observing a newly found Rufous Hornero nest Sarah exclaimed I’ve got a raptor over the forest. The large broad winged bird was using the thermals to make its way towards the lagoon.

With camera at the ready I waited in anticipation for the bird to make it into camera range. Then I reeled off a lot of pictures as the bird gained height wheeling its way disappearing into the clouds! The bird was a juvenile kite but which species was the pressing question. A look at the pictures on the computer and consultation with Paul Smith (Fauna Paraguay) was the way forward with this bird.

A juvenile Grey-headed Kite was the final verdict once again my camera had preserved the moment allowing enough time to look at the bird closely! Thanks Paul!

A few hirundines were push down by the weather with Grey-breasted, Tawny-headed  and Brown-chested Martins all present. A Large-billed Tern was the next visitor to the lagoon which is distinguished from the Yellow-billed Tern by its larger size and the black primaries with grey to white on the coverts and secondaries. The bird was found by “El Magico!” Jorge as it quartered the margins before departing along the north side of the lagoon.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Laguna Blanca - Rain halts Hirundines!

The rain has returned but there was short respite for an hour this morning. This is a good time for migrating birds therefore every opportunity has to be taken to go out in the field. Alyssia and I were not to disappointed as two groups of Hirundines were picked up over the Lagoon.

A group of Grey-breasted Martin were clinging on to the radio mast taking short foraging expeditions before returning to their post. The smaller White-rumped Swallow was braving the elements hawking insects over the reeds just off the beach.

We continued our sloshy walk along the south edge of the lagoon noting Brazilian Teal who re-located in the marshier area of the lagoon. Two White-faced Whistling Duck then appeared from no-where and flew out over the Atlantic Forest giving me just enough time to get Alyssia onto them before they disappeared. 

This duck is common in Paraguay but was a new addition to my Laguna Blanca list. Woo Hoo! 

Laguna Blanca - All about the birds!

Another round of surveys has been completed and the reserve is preparing itself for Spring. The birds are far more vocal in the mornings but once the sun appears then you would think the reserve was a bird free.

The Rufous Nightjars and Pauraque are heard almost nightly with the latter remaining on the Arroyito trail beyond daybreak! The Pavonine Cuckoo has also been more vocal but is still very difficult to see preferring to remain in dense cover for most of the day.

The Black-collared Hawk has frequented the Lagoon and the Seasonal Pond but has managed to avoid the lagoon on survey day.

On 1st Sept a Yellow-billed Tern was observed fishing in the margins of the reeds near the beach.

A Scaly-headed Parrot was observed in the Transitional Forest during a walk to the North end of the lagoon. This species is regularly seen in flight on the reserve but is much more difficult to find in the canopy unless you find a fruiting tree where you will also see Blue Amazon and a chance of a Pileated Parrot.

Both the fields at the far end of the south Atlantic Forest have been harvested but the Yellowish Pipit remain with a sparse scattering of seedeaters in the patches of longer grass. A moulting Blue-black Grassquit posed momentarily for the camera.

The Atlantic Forest has been fairly quiet with Black-crowned Tityra being added to the yearlist. I have to catch up with the Magpie Tanager that has been seen by Joe on a couple of occasions.

The Cerrado is still partially flooded and with more rain today this situation is not likely to change much!