Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Peru Birding Trip Day 7 - July 14, 2018

If you want to catch up on previous posts about this trip, go to the following links:

Peru Trip Day 1            Peru Trip Day 6              Peru Trip Day 11
Peru Trip Day 2            Peru Trip Day 7              Peru Trip Day 12
Peru Trip Day 3            Peru Trip Day 8              Peru Trip Day 13
Peru Trip Day 4            Peru Trip Day 9              Peru Trip Day 14
Peru Trip Day 5            Peru Trip Day 10

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This morning, we had an early breakfast so that we could drive back east about 15 kilometers to spend the day at Fundo Alto Nieva. This is a private reserve that has sprung up, as several have in the past decade or so, as ecotourism becomes more widespread as more birders come to visit this area to see its special birds. Fundo is a term used locally to refer to land as a ranch, or something similar. Alto Nieve refers to the fact that the land is at the headwaters (upper reaches) of the Nieva (also spelled Nieve, or Nieves) river.
Fundo Alto Nieva entrance sign

















At an elevation of about 6300 feet (1939 meters), the birds here were mostly different from our previous days on the trip. We had arrived early (7 a.m.) so that we could go straight to an area where we could see an endemic Peruvian species, the Rusty-tinged Antpitta.
Fundo Alto Nieva


















Over the past 10 or 15 years, eco-lodges in South America have learned how to "train" the normally elusive and difficult to see antpittas, by luring them in with worms tossed into the trails. I had never seen an antpitta this way because the last time I was in South America was in 2002. Nearly every antpitta on my life list represents a long wait, while playing tape, for a glimpse of a shape in a dense tangle. I was looking forward to actually being able to photograph any antpitta species. After a short walk up a trail, we stopped at an unremarkable spot in the trail, and got our cameras set up. Within minutes, after whistling and calling the birds by name, one came out into view on the shady path.
Rusty-tinged Antpitta

















It was odd seeing a bird with a body the size of a quail, on such thin, long legs, hopping along the trail like a big thrush. The light wasn't great, and we were all crunched into a portion of the trail where we could all get a good view. I was trying to stay out of the way of the big lenses and ended up smashed against a  mossy rock wall. But the views were good for everyone even though the situation could have been a little more comfortable.
Rusty-tinged Antpitta
















Rusty-tinged Antpitta

















After several minutes, a second individual came in to check out the free worms.
Rusty-tinged Antpitta

















The choices for photography were either slow shutter speeds, or high ISO settings on the camera, but I think that it worked out quite well as these are by far the best antpitta photos I've ever taken...so far.
Rusty-tinged Antpitta
























After about 20 minutes, the antpittas went back into the forest, mainly because our local guide had run out of worms. They do not give them too many at a time, because they don't want to alter their natural behavior too much. We then headed back along a different, short, and level trail to an area where hummingbird feeders had been set up.
Fundo Alto Nieva


















We sat down on the benches provided, under a steel roof, and waited to see what would show up. It was foggy off-and-on over the 3-4 hours we were here. What appeared to be a round hill behind feeders looked like it had a human sticking out of it, pointing toward the sky.
Fundo Alto Nieva


















When the fog cleared, we could see that it was just a large tree with a snag sticking out of it.
Fundo Alto Nieva

















The hummingbirds were coming in fast and furious, and it was a challenge at times to know where to aim the camera. Fog kept rolling in and out, and even though the feeders were only about 10 yards away, the murky conditions added another challenge to obtaining good photos. A fairly large, long-billed species was the Bronzy Inca, which only made quick visits to the feeders and rarely perched in vegetation.
Bronzy Inca

















Not a colorful species, and fairly shy considering its size, best views were when they stopped at the hummingbird feeders.
Bronzy Inca
























Flight shots were especially challenging, but I did manage a couple that I'm willing to share publicly.
Bronzy Inca

















One species we had seen at lower elevations, the Violet-fronted Brilliant, was here also.
Violet-fronted Brilliant
























As before, they most often looked like large, dark hummingbirds with short, straight bills and a flat-headed appearance. Quick reflexes were needed to get photos of them showing off the iridescent blue-violet crown and green throat.
Violet-fronted Brilliant
















Violet-fronted Brilliant

Violet-fronted Brilliant














































The individual above may be an immature male because of the white tips on the tail feathers, and the narrow white "whisker" on its face. It had been notable, to me at least, how few female hummingbirds we had seen. Perhaps it was the peak of the breeding season and the females weren't coming in to the feeders. I really don't know. But there were a couple female Violet-fronted Brilliants here. Females of all species of Brilliant have white whisker marks (immature males have buffy whiskers), and they can be difficult to identify to species.
Violet-fronted Brilliant, female
























Seeing the violet crown patch is necessary to identify female Violet-fronted Brilliants.
Violet-fronted Brilliant, female

















One species that was new for the trip was the Fawn-breasted Brilliant. They are fairly easy to identify from other Brilliants by their buffy (fawn-colored) underparts, and slightly more curved bills.
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
























The males have a small iridescent pinkish-rose patch on the lower throat.
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
























A common and aggressive species at these feeders was the Chestnut-breasted Coronet, another new one for the trip.
Chestnut-breasted Coronet

















Somewhat similar in appearance to the Bronzy Inca, the generally uncommon Greenish Puffleg was an occasional visitor to the feeders. Perhaps because of its smaller size, it perched in vegetation fairly often, allowing for more natural photos. It was brighter green and had a shorter bill than the Inca.
Greenish Puffleg
















Greenish Puffleg

















Pufflegs get their name from the (usually) large white "puffs" on their legs. Most species of puffleg occur at higher elevations, and it is thought that this is an adaptation to the cooler temperatures, helping to keep their feet warm. But many other hummingbirds are here that do not have them, so it may be more important for courtship.
Greenish Puffleg
















Greenish Puffleg
























The small Booted Racket-tail has white leg "puffs" in Ecuador, but here in northern Peru they were buffy.
Booted Racket-tail
















Perhaps because they may not be closely related to the Pufflegs, their leggings are referred to as "boots" instead of "puffs". Otherwise, it seems that Racket-tailed Puffleg would be a great name for them.
Booted Racket-tail
















Booted Racket-tail
















Booted Racket-tail


















Their iridescent green heads, throats, and breasts were difficult to observe, perhaps due to the subdued lighting, as well as their constant and rapid movements.
Booted Racket-tail























Booted Racket-tail
























Only a couple females were seen, identified by their distinct green spots on the underparts, and white whisker mark. They are so much smaller than female Brilliants that there is no confusing them.
Booted Racket-tail, female

















This female-plumaged Booted Racket-tail below was growing in a long tail racket, so clearly it was an immature male. Many immature male hummingbirds look like females until their first molt.
Booted Racket-tail, immature male

















Another small hummingbird species, not very colorful but fairly common throughout the Andes, was the Speckled Hummingbird, which was new for the trip.
Speckled Hummingbird

















They are sometimes thought to be females of some other species, but both sexes are similar in the Speckled Hummingbird, with a fairly boldly marked head pattern and bronzy-green "speckles" on the underparts.
Speckled Hummingbird

















Not small, but tiny, the White-bellied Woodstar is a species that I'd seen before in Ecuador, but never an adult male.
White-bellied Woodstar

















There were plenty of females (and immature males?) around too, most often at the feeders.
White-bellied Woodstar, female

















Woodstars have an extremely fast wingbeat that makes it very difficult to get photos freezing their motion. But their flight style is not as darting as many other hummingbirds, and is more like a foraging bumblebee, making it easier to get flight photos of them.
White-bellied Woodstar

















Another long-tailed hummingbird species that is fairly common in Andean cloud forests is the Long-tailed Sylph. A few males were present at the feeders here, and were the first for the trip.
Long-tailed Sylph

















Some field guides illustrate their long tail feathers as being green, but clearly they are blue, and I've never seen them appear green when I've seen them in Ecuador.
Long-tailed Sylph
















Long-tailed Sylph
























It is a little disappointing seeing such graceful birds at feeders, but you do get good views.
Long-tailed Sylph























Long-tailed Sylph























Only one female Long-tailed Sylph was seen here.
Long-tailed Sylph, female

















The hummingbird that is most notable at this site was formerly a Peruvian endemic, until one location for the Royal Sunangel was found in southeastern Ecuador. We waited more than an hour at the feeders before one came in. Then, we had several fairly long visits to the feeders by this fork-tailed royal blue hummingbird. A spectacular life bird!
Royal Sunangel
















Royal Sunangel
















Royal Sunangel

















Royal Sunangel
















Royal Sunangel

















Royal Sunangel
















Royal Sunangel

















Royal Sunangel
























On a short walk by myself, behind the hummingbird feeders, I found a small flock of birds that had some Common Chlorospinguses. They were formerly called Common Bush-Tanagers, but recent DNA work has shown they are not tanagers at all, but belong to the same family as sparrows and towhees.
Common Chlorospingus

















Nearby, there was a Slate-throated Redstart. In the northern part if its range, they have red underparts, but in the Andes they are yellow.
Slate-throated Redstart

















We returned to the Owlet Lodge for lunch and a short siesta before returning to Fundo Alto Nieva in early afternoon. We spent some time watching the feeders near the main building, where they had put out some bananas to attract tanagers.
Fundo Alto Nieva, banana feeders (left)


















Around the main building, there were two butterflies. One of them was a dull, nondescript species that I thought I would never be able to identify, but based mostly on shape I was able to determine that it is Westwood's Mottled Satyr. It doesn't show well in the photo, but it had prominent but sparse hairs on the underside of its wings. Perhaps an adaptation to the cool temperatures at this altitude?
Westwood's Mottled Satyr (Steroma bega)

















The other butterfly was brightly colored above, and intricately patterned below, a Red Mapwing.
Red Mapwing (Hypanartia kefersteini)















Red Mapwing (Hypanartia kefersteini)


















A Pale-edged Flycatcher was seen easily, and repeatedly, near the main building. In the same genus as the Great Crested Flycatcher, it is much paler below with almost no rufous in the wings and tail, and bright white edges on its tail and wing feathers.
Pale-edged Flycatcher
















Pale-edged Flycatcher
















Pale-edged Flycatcher

















In the nearby stunted woodland, there was a Great Thrush, which is probably the largest in the family, looking the size of a male Sharp-shinned Hawk when it is flying through the trees.
Great Thrush

















And a bit of a surprise was a Green-and-black Fruiteater that posed briefly for photos.
Green-and-black Fruiteater

















After a while, a couple of Black-faced Tanagers approached the feeders and eventually gave good views.
Black-faced Tanager
















Black-faced Tanager

















The fog, and even a bit of light rain moved in, but that brought in a few Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers.
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagber

















It took a while, but eventually they came in close, and the moisture in the air cleared up some, allowing for a few decent photos.
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
















Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
















Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
















Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
















Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager


















In late afternoon, we then set off for about a 45 minute hike up a trail (yes, all the trails go up), to stop and see another endemic species of antpitta, and then after dark try for the mythical, recently discovered, and endemic Long-whiskered Owlet. Our guide, Fernando, pointed out the hill where the owlet was first discovered, so we were less than 1/2 mile away from that spot.
Fundo Alto Nieva, Long-whiskered Owlet hill in background


















Unlike the large (quail-sized) Rusty-tinged Antpitta we'd seen this morning on the ground, the Ochre-fronted Antpitta was smaller (small thrush-sized) and forages on mossy branches a few feet off the ground. The place where it was going to come in was much easier for our group to set up, with better views, and better light. And, after a lot of tedious positioning by the folks with the long lenses, the antpitta came in without even being called, to a branch way off to the side of where we were looking. My advantage with a shorter lens and a monopod got me some excellent photos.
Ochre-fronted Antpitta

















It appeared to be a female, darker on the crown and back with a duller ochre patch on the forehead than the males have, and gave us at least 20 minutes of great photo opportunities. There was not as much need for slow shutter speeds and high ISO settings as we had to this morning.
Ochre-fronted Antpitta
















Ochre-fronted Antpitta
















Ochre-fronted Antpitta
















Ochre-fronted Antpitta
















Ochre-fronted Antpitta


















We then moved on to a spot that was within a known territory of a Long-whiskered Owlet on the property. More hiking upward, but not too far. We set up at a spot with a view of some likely branches where it would show up, and we waited until dark.
Fundo Alto Nieva, Long-whiskered Owlet territory

















Our guides played the tape, and we waited. More tape. More waiting. Repeat. No response. We knew going in that there was only about a 40% chance of seeing or hearing a Long-whiskered Owlet, a very small species only the size of a sparrow. We had to give up, and walk all the way back down the trail in the dark. Back at the Owlet Lodge, I stopped at the wall of the dining hall and took some photos of a few of the many moths that were there. One resembled a species that we have in Michigan, in the genus Tolype.
Tolype sp.? Owlet Lodge

















Another species appeared to be in the Sphinx Moth family.
Sphingidae sp. Owlet Lodge

















Another species with large round spots is one that I'd seen before in Ecuador, but I still have not been able to identify it.
Moth sp. Owlet Lodge


















Two species were likely in the family Geometridae, one bright yellow and tan, and the other intricately patterned with green and gray.
Geometridae sp.? Owlet Lodge
















Geometridae sp.? Owlet Lodge


















These last two species are completely unknown to me. I don't even have a guess what families they might be in.
Moth sp. Owlet Lodge















Moth sp. Owlet Lodge


















On the sidewalk, there was a large (4-inch) beetle that was likely in the family Scarabeidae.
Scarabeidae sp. Owlet Lodge


















We had a very late dinner, and made plans for tomorrow, which will include exploring the hummingbird feeders and surrounding habitats at the Owlet Lodge, another hike to a different Long-whiskered Owlet territory in the evening at Fundo Alto Nieva.

2 comments:

Jerry said...

Brilliant stuff, Allen. I love that Sunangel!

Allen Chartier said...

Thanks. Very unusual color for a hummingbird.